3623– Friday, May 31, 2019 – The Old Library Guys

Did I tell you the story about?  What do old guys talk about when they get together?  I am part of a group of guys who meet each day at the library in Frederic from 10 AM to 12 PM.  There are some guys like Jerry and Dick who come in every day.  Then there are some guys who come in frequently but not every day.  Guys like Lowell, Reggie and Bill show up about half of the week.  More infrequently are Tony, Reid and Andrea, Reid’s wife.  Reid never ever goes anywhere without Andrea or perhaps it is the other way around.  We also have the very infrequent participants like Eddie (A writer for the local newspaper) whom I will talk about another time.  Eddie deserves a blog all by himself.  In fact, each of the people I noted are probably deserving of their own blog.

old men coffee club

Every day we gather for an informal talk about whatever is on anyone’s mind.  No schedule.  No agenda.  No leader.  Almost any subject is up for grabs.  Jerry is the intellect of the group and seems to be the best read with the exception of Tony.  Tony owned a bookstore and taught college for many years.  Dick is a retired mechanic and the most sensible and objective member.  Reggie is a nuclear physicist and that is the truth.  Lowell is a drug rehabilitation counselor now raising some type of legal hemp.  Reid is a former minister and Andrea is a retired lawyer.  Bill was a teacher and now does great wood working art.

We sit around a table, drink coffee, chat and on Fridays we buy cookies from a girl who brings them in each week for sale.  They are homemade and very tasty.  Sitting around talking for two hours can sometimes have its boring moments.  Not all of the conversations are equally interesting to participants.  Some of us ease these boring moments by playing on our smart phones or reading the local newspaper.  Others peruse the library stacks or stacks of movies for something to take home.  Eventually, the conversation changes and those who may not have been interested in a previous subject then find that the new topic is of interest to them.

I have attempted to diagnose the content of our conversations.  If you made a pie chart of the subjects of our conversations, I think it would look like this.

discussion topics

Old stories clearly dominate the discussions.  The bad part of this is hearing so many old stories over and over again can be beyond boring.  The good part is that since the majority of us are over 70 years of age, we usually do not remember much of each other’s old stories.  The exception to this is Jerry.  Jerry always seems to have a keen sense of when and how many times a tale has been told before.  Some of us are worse offenders than others in terms of repeating old stories.  It clearly does not matter to the person telling the tale.  I for one feel that my stories get better each time they are repeated. 😊

Cars are our next most popular topic.  I guess a bunch of old guys anywhere in the USA would find some common ground when it comes to cars.  I don’t think there is anyone in the group who cannot remember their first car.  Dick, the former mechanic, has the best knowledge when it comes to the inner workings of a car and anytime one of us is having car problems, Dick will have some good advice. Jerry who was never much of a motor head frequently zones out when the subject turns to cars.  However, bring up Jeopardy or any old Turner Classic movies and Jerry will provide a better summary of plots and cast than you can find on Wikipedia.

Now you may have noticed that certain topics seem to correlate with the skill sets of group participants.  However, when it comes to politics, we are all experts.  Nevertheless, since Trump was elected, the group has more or less toned down its politics.  I suspect that is because some of the group voted for Trump and some did not.  There is a great divide in our land between Trump supporters and Trump haters.  In the interest of harmony and civility our group has been shying away from discussions dealing with national politics.

More recently, our political discussions tend to focus on “local” political issues.  A current hot topic is the citing of a new CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feed Operation) in Trade Lake.  Trade Lake is a town just north of Frederic by about six miles.  The operation would involve the establishment of a large hog farm on some local farmland.  Many townsfolk are against it and a number of groups have organized to stop it from being built.  Reid and Andrea live on Trade Lake and have taken a keen interest in stopping the citing of the CAFO.  Numerous stories abound about horrible smells and water pollution from pig farms.  Eddie (our journalist) has attended many of the Trade Lake Council meetings where the discussions have often become quite heated.  Once known for his lack of objectivity, he has been working harder these days to “give us the facts and nothing but the facts.”

Once the CAFO becomes old news, there is sure to be something that springs up worthy of discussion.  When all else fails, we will fall back on discussing old movies.  The majority of the group seems to favor older movies as opposed to the newer genre of comedy, superhero or zombie movie themes.  Ask any of us how many times we have seen one of the Dirty Harry or John Wayne movies and it would probably shock you.  Jerry usually leads our movie discussions due to his prodigious ability to remember details from every movie he has ever seen.  As noted above, he is a walking encyclopedia of the old classics.

Well, as Porky Pig would say “Th-th-th-that’s all folks.”

“It was among farmers and potato diggers and old men in workhouses and beggars at my own door that I found what was beyond these and yet farther beyond that drawing room poet of my childhood in the expression of love, and grief, and the pain of parting, that are the disclosure of the individual soul.” — Lady Gregory

 

The Bar Room Bum

I did this story two years ago. I think I will repost it. A story of what we want in life versus what we need.

Aging Capriciously

man-in-bar

I’m sitting in a bar feeling shitty about my life.  I have an average job.  I have an average looking wife and average kids.  I’m feeling shitty about myself as well.  I have accomplished nothing beyond average in my entire life.  I had once thought I was destined for greatness.  I dreamed that one day I would have the best-looking wife on the block and make more money than I could count.  None of my dreams have come to pass and I am now sitting here in this average bar nursing a cheap drink and wondering where I took the wrong turn.

Suddenly, the bar room door opens and in walks this seedy looking bum.  You know the type.  Long stringy hair, dirty clothes, smelly and unkempt.  He has probably not bathed in a month.  I hope he will not come and sit down next to me.  I know he…

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3625– Wednesday, May 29, 2019 – Make Believe or Reality!

I have always loved music.  I am tone deaf.  I cannot sing a lick or carry a tune.  I don’t know a clef from a chord, and I cannot even play a harmonica.  However, I have never heard a genre of music that I did not like.  From Bollywood to Reggae to Funk to Hip Hop to K-Pop to Opera to Classical to Enka to Tex-Mex to Flamenco to African American Gospel, I love them all.  I do not love all songs equally of course.  In every genre, I have some favorites but just like I love trying a new food, I delight in finding a new genre of music.  Each genre has its gems and stars.  Each has something to offer us.

real or make believe

Music plays a special roll in my life.  Not only do I love to listen to music, but many songs have inspired me to write.  I often find a refrain or lines from a song that seem to cry out for a blog or for someone to say something about them.  If music is the sound of color, then writing about music is the voice of music floating on pages of white papyrus.  Each letter in the alphabet is a tone and when you string them together in words, and sentences and paragraphs, they want to be heard and they ask the reader to listen and to tap to their beat.  Words are melodies that can resonate just like the notes from a piano or a guitar.

One of my old standards is of course American Rock and Roll.  Growing up in the sixties, you would be hard pressed not to have listened to hundreds of the first rock and roll songs.  A singer that I loved back in those days was Conway Twitty.  Some lyrics from a song of his that are rolling around in my brain today goes like this:

But myself I can’t deceive
I know it’s only make believe

I am wondering how much of my life is make believe.  I doubt that 100 percent is, but I think some portion is.  Let’s say that 40 percent of my life is make believe, then I question what are those aspects that are make believe?  First of course, we must agree on what “make believe” is.  Without going to a dictionary, I propose that for something to be make believe it has to be a total fiction that is self-consciously induced.  Meaning, that I fabricate the make believe in my own mind.  Make believe includes fictions, lies, fables, delusions and fantasies that have no basis in reality but are things that I hold dear.  That can’t be me can it?  Can I the most rational logical unemotional person in the universe have any make believes?  Did you say bullshit when I said I was the most rational etc.?  Is that one of my “make believes?”  Well Sir, I am sure that is the only one I have.

“What” my wife Karen says, “about your ideas that men are inherently better drivers than women.”  “Hmm, okay, maybe I have one or two others.”  Still a long way to go until I reach 40 percent.

But myself, I can’t deceive,
I know my faults, my fantasies and my dreams are only make believe

Well, damn it.  Isn’t there a problem here then?  How much do I really know about myself versus how much do I not know?  Do you remember the model in psychology called the JOHARI Window?  There are four quadrants in this model:  As follows with some examples:

Known to others Unknown to others
Known to me I am an old looking guy Secrets about my family
Unknown to me I was sarcastic yesterday When will I die?

 

My “make believes” probably lie in the known to others and unknown to me quadrant.  A goal that psychologists say we should pursue is to increase our knowledge of the unknowns to us.  Some of these unknowns we can find by being more transparent and open to input and feedback from “others.”

Often though our make believes are an armor which protects us from the things we fear.  As life goes on, day by day, aging can seem to bring more and more things for us to fear.  Things we now fear that we never gave a second thought to when we were younger.  “I can’t do that because I might.”  “What if?”  Perhaps one of the worst things about growing old is to live a life that is the very opposite of the poem by Dylan Thomas.

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Ragerage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

Instead, we tread more carefully, we flicker and whimper and at the dying of the light we cower under the covers.  Easy to do.  I cast no aspersions against the hardships of aging.  For many, I am sure, much more difficult than it has been for me.  So, I go back to my make believes.  I am sure that today I am:

Twenty-two years old.  I am dashing and handsome and athletic.  All the men want my autographs and all the women want my hand in marriage.  I am a Nobel Prize winner and a Rhodes Scholar.  I have six Olympic gold medals and five bestselling books on the Times list.  Faust often confers with me and Socrates borrows ideas from me to use with his pupils.  Pavarotti takes voice lessons from me.  Kings, movie stars and rich people line up at my door each day and clamor for a visit with me.  I am gracious and kind and compassionate and spend time and money to help the poor and needy.

But its only, only Make Believe.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

3627– Monday, May 27, 2019 – Jesus Christ versus Donald Trump

Why do I get these crazy writing ideas when I am running?  I get some of what I consider my best ideas while I am out jogging.  Sometimes, my brain solves problems when I am running, sometimes it comes up with thoughts on things to do and other times I get ideas to write about. I was out running yesterday when the following thought flashed into my mind:  What if Jesus entered the presidential race on the Democratic side?  What would people say about this?  I assume that it would get attention from a wide range of commentators.  Just for fun, I decided to “put words into their mouths.”  The result is the following “Fake News.”  If you want to add your comments on what or how you would think about such an event, please do.  I always welcome comments.  So here we go!

News Flash!  Breaking news on CNN and Fox News.  Jesus of Nazareth, AKA, Son of God, Man from Galilee, Jesus Christ and King of the Jews has recently thrown his hat or crown into the ring to run for president against Donald Trump in 2020.  A quick Pew Poll shows him trailing Joe Biden and Sanders in popularity but leading the other 22 Democratic candidates.

jesuspresident

“We are bringing you some recent comments concerning this new event.  First, from the Republican side:”

Donald Trump: “Fake, Fake, Fake. I don’t believe it is the real Jesus.  But even if it was, I will kick his butt back to Crown Heights or wherever else he is from.”

Mitch McConnell: “This is another desperate gamble on the part of the Democratic Party.  I don’t care if he is the real Jesus or not.  There is no way that we are giving any of our hard-earned tax money to the poor people in this country.”

Lindsey Graham: “Well, you all know that I am a man of honor and integrity.  However, I do not think it is right that Jesus should try to stick his nose into something that should not matter to him.  We in the Republican Party have been doing a good job of running this country and I think Jesus would be better off working with the Pope to improve things in the Vatican.  Let us politicians run this country.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I know Jesus has quite a reputation, but I think he is a sell-out for joining the Democrats.  I am a Christian, but I will still vote for Donald.  He is the man.”

Devin Nunes: “I think there is some kind of a conspiracy afoot here.  I don’t know this Jesus guy very well, but I suspect that if he is a Democrat, he is also a closet commie and closet homosexual.  You can’t trust any Democrat.  I plan to head a committee to see if this Jesus has a bonafide birth certificate and is really an American.”

Bill Hannity: “Fox News says he is a fake and a charlatan.  Who ever heard of anyone in their right mind wanting to take money from the rich to help the poor, the lame and the sick?  Maybe he is Jesus, but this is the 21st Century and he is long past his prime.  He might have been able to sell that message in 20 BC, but this is 2020 and that dog doesn’t point any more.  If I were Jesus, I would go back to selling alms or something to help the poor and stay out of politics.”

“Now for some comments from the Democratic side.” 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “I have great respect for Jesus, but I don’t think he has a chance. First of all, he is a White guy.  Second, he is old.  I mean he is really old.  You put it all together and he is an “Old White Guy.”  Not enough Democrats will identify with him.  He is a nice guy, but you know what they say about nice guys.”

Nancy Pelosi: “I am not going to play any favorites here.  As long as he doesn’t push for impeachment and as long as he remembers that I run the Democratic party, I won’t have a problem with him.”

Ilhan Omar: “I want to know where he stands on Israel.  Is he for a two state or a one state solution?  These Jewish politicians are all the same.  Everything for Israel and nothing for Palestine.  If he wants my support, he is going to have to show his support for the Palestinians.”

Chuck Schumer: “I agree with Nancy.” 

Joe Biden: “I think Jesus could have a lot going for him, but he lacks my experience.  He might make a good Vice President, but he will need to pay his dues. I have been in the Democratic party for over thirty years and I have the track record that this country needs.  I will get behind Jesus if he is the party’s choice as I have got behind every other Democrat that my party chose.

Bernie Sanders: “I have said it once and I will say it again.  Election days come and go.  But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one percent – a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice – that struggle continues.  I have been on the forefront of this struggle for many years.  I have nothing against Jesus, but you did not see him on the Civil Rights marches when I marched along with Dr. Martin Luther King and you did not see him on the Vietnam War protest marches when I marched facing police batons and tear gas.  We need someone who will stand up to this corrupt government and I have demonstrated that I am willing to do that.”

“That’s all for now.  We will bring you updates on the Democratic nomination process as events happen.  Rumors are that Buddha and Moses are considering entering the race.”

“You’ll have a good, secure life when being alive means more to you than security, love more than money, your freedom more than public or partisan opinion, when the mood of Beethoven’s or Bach’s music becomes the mood of your whole life … when your thinking is in harmony, and no longer in conflict, with your feelings … when you let yourself be guided by the thoughts of great sages and no longer by the crimes of great warriors … when you pay the men and women who teach your children better than the politicians; when truths inspire you and empty formulas repel you; when you communicate with your fellow workers in foreign countries directly, and no longer through diplomats…”  ― Wilhelm Reich, Listen, Little Man!

 

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time Humans Created God in Their Image

Probably one of my least Christian blogs but one of my best in my opinion at dissecting this idea of a Christian god.

Aging Capriciously

god imageOnce upon a time, there was a group of creatures called humans.  They evolve and live out their lives on a place they call Earth.   Earth is basically a spheroidal rock that revolves around a Class 3 star (called a sun) in a galaxy named the Milky Way.  No humans know where they came from, how they developed or why.  This is a subject of endless debate and speculation that has led to a plethora of social organizations which humans call religions.

Humans have a limited capacity to think and a very short life span, given the eons that the universe has existed.  Most humans live less than 100 earth years.  A year is the length of time it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun.  Humans seem to have two major characteristics that are shared throughout all members, clans and tribes of the species.  The first is called

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3631– Thursday, May 23, 2019 -Am I Crazy or is the World Crazy?

There is a song called the “Long Black Veil.”  One of the refrains in the song goes:

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

original

Something about the last lines resonates with me.  “Nobody knows, nobody sees, but me.”  I often feel like that about the life I live and the people around me.  Sometimes, I describe it as feeling like Alice in Wonderland.  Crazy times, crazy people and we go on our daily lives just like nothing was happening.  There are a great many people who mistrust and even hate “Big Government” today.  I have argued that government is needed to counterbalance a naturally greedy and predatory economic system.  Nevertheless, I have worked as a consultant with many different levels of government and many different government agencies.  The stupidity and corruption that I have seen in government is mind boggling.  It would make Alice think that Wonderland was a normal rational functioning place.

I wander these hills, and nobody sees, nobody knows but me. 

I suppose the general populace should be forgiven for not rebelling.  But when they give their political leaders a vote of no confidence and still vote them back into office, you have to scratch your head and wonder if you are crazy or not.  Am I the only one that sees the links between the corruption and stupidity and the fact that our political system is no longer functioning as it should?  Why rail against your political leaders and vote them back into office?  I would like to see a political system as follows:

  • One term of six years for all political offices. No repeats!
  • Representatives selected at random from a pool of qualified candidates for all offices
  • Consolidation of government to represent districts and not towns, counties and states
  • More emphasis on national referendums
  • Supreme Court judges only selected by two thirds vote of the Senate

I can be arguing with Democrats or Republicans in the USA and almost everyone agrees that we could eliminate a great deal of greed and undue influence in our political system by term limits.  Yet, we now have over twenty Democratic candidates running for the Presidency and not one of them has mentioned term limits.  Nor will they!

Does anyone notice?  Does anyone care?  Nobody knows, nobody sees but me.

The problems underlying our political system of greed and influence seem to be beyond touch.  We go through the motions every four years of another political circus to elect someone that many of us hope will defeat Trump.  That person will get into office, no matter who they are, no matter what they say they will do, and in a short period of time they will be corrupted by a sick crazy system.  As we always said in Organization Development “You put a good person in a bad system and the system will win every time.”  It will not matter who we elect.  They will back the military; they will represent big business and they will find some country or war to get us involved in.

I wander this country.  I walk these lands.  Nobody knows, nobody sees but me.

I find myself time and time again, wondering and wondering and wondering.  Maybe everyone else knows and everyone else sees and I am the only blind person in Wonderland.

Last blog I said I needed to focus on characters more.  My favorite character in my life is my wife Karen.  She has a big heart and really cares about people.  She is my lodestone for happiness.  I have a deal with her.  She keeps me happy and I keep her healthy.  I am much better at being healthy than I am at being happy.  My mother always said that “ignorance is bliss” and I sometime wonder if I have the opposite problem.  But Karen loves me despite my many caustic and pessimistic moments.  She cooks, sews, cleans and works as a Nurse Consultant continuing to bring in extra income even though she will be seventy-five years old in July of this year.  She is smart and thrifty.  I don’t know how I got so lucky.

Karen has a BS in Nursing and an Masters Degree.  We met in 1983 when we were both going through a divorce.  Coincidentally we had each been married for sixteen years.  We married in 1989 after a pre-marriage honeymoon in China.  We will be coming up on 30 years of married life in September.  We are planning to go to Paris and Moscow in the spring of 2020.  My favorites times are when I am with Karen.

Karen enjoys traveling, reading, music and we share the same attitudes towards politics.  Karen is quite an accomplished musician and is multi-talented in this area.  When we are down in Arizona, she is part of a group called “The Tucson Dulcimer Ensemble.”  A coterie of mostly women and a few men who play a variety of acoustic instruments with a strong focus on the mountain and hammered dulcimers.  Karen’s discipline in practicing and learning to play several different instruments always amazes me.  I think if I had her discipline I could have been ruler of the known world. 😊

Karen is the first and most important among many in my cast of characters that continues to influence my life.  I could talk about the ones that are living but I should eventually note some of the “dead” characters who influence my thinking and decisions.  Foremost among these would be Socrates, but I will save that thought for another time.

“Our uniqueness makes us special, makes perception valuable – but it can also make us lonely. This loneliness is different from being ‘alone’: You can be lonely even surrounded by people. The feeling I’m talking about stems from the sense that we can never fully share the truth of who we are. I experienced this acutely at an early age.” — Amy Tan

 

 

 

 

3633– Tuesday, May 21, 2019 – How Does One Become a Great Writer?

Three things are said to be needed for a great story:  Interesting characters, a compelling plot and a narrative arc that keeps the reader interested.  I learned this formula from a Great Course on writing.  Karen (my wife) and I were discussing some problems with writing yesterday when I remembered these concepts.  We were talking about both Karen’s daughter Megan and my sister Jeanine.  Megan became interested in writing a few years ago.  She joined a writer’s group and read all she could about writing novels.  She published her first novel on Amazon and is now writing two more novels.  She had called to tell her Mom about a friend who was in her writing class.  This friend had just published her first novel with a major publishing company and had received a fifteen-thousand-dollar advance.  This event had caused Megan to rethink her idea about continuing to self-publish her own novels.  There are no doubt pro’s and con’s to self-publishing.  Making a great deal of money is perhaps not one of them.

snoopy-dark-and-stormy-night

My sister Jeanine has recently decided to write a blog on her adventures and adjustments to her new life change.  Jeanine and her husband John have just sold their house where they lived for nearly fifty years and moved into a “mothers-in-law” apartment with their daughter Jennifer and Jennifer’s husband Jason.  This change comes on the heels of Jeanine being retired for the past few years and her husband taking a new job.  Jeanine had thought the plan was for John and her to sell the old house, pay off the mortgage and John to find some part-time work.  Moving in with their daughter would involve quite a bit of downsizing but would also enable them to have a great deal more discretionary income and to be free of any major debts.  John would also be free to find part-time work and to retire.

I suggested to Jeanine that such a life change might make an interesting blog.  For myself, I cannot fathom the thought of moving in with anyone else, much less one of our children.  It is not the size of the home that matters to me as much as having my own freedom and not having other people constantly around.  Nevertheless, our current culture is finding more and more families going back to the old “extended family” model where grandparents, children and parents all live together or live in various combinations of extendedness.  I suppose that is great for some people, but not for me.

Getting back to the subject of writing and as they say “The cobbler’s kids always need shoes” I suddenly wondered if or whether I should apply these concepts to my blog.  I asked myself:  Do I have or create interesting characters?  I would probably answer no.  Do I have or create interesting plots with each blog?  I think my themes about greed, war and passion are interesting and even if they are not plots, they do provide some focus to keep a reader interested.  However, I cannot say I have a continuous plot that runs through all my “dated” blogs.  Finally, as concerns a “narrative arc,” my arc is the arc of the perhaps last ten years of my life (as ordained by actuarial tables).  While this arc might not really interest everyone, it is very interesting to me.  Furthermore, how many people have described the last ten years of their life in a daily or weekly blog?  My wife Karen thinks the idea is morbid and might in fact be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I have assured her; I will not hasten my end to match expectations.

My weak point as a writer, (I welcome comments and criticisms) seems to be my cast of characters.  In future blogs, I will try to put more flesh on these people so that you will know the people in my life and who they are.  This is not to say that I cannot improve in other areas.  In fact, my writing class starts in about two weeks and I will be able to get feedback from my instructor and other participants to see how they feel about this blog.  I love the challenge that writing provides to make it ever more interesting and sometimes informative for my readers.  If you have read any of my other blogs, you might see that I have always tried to take complex ideas and put them into common sense language, so that they are more understandable.  There are too many good ideas written in obscure academic language that no one can read or comprehend.  As an old writing instructor told me “Never say, ‘Up the proverbial estuary without means of locomotion,’ if you can say, ‘Up shit creek without a paddle.'”

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”  — Ernest Hemingway

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”  — John Updike, WD

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” — Samuel Johnson

 

 

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