Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You Are Valuable!

Yet another great e-mail funnie:

The Senior T-Shirt!

Senior T-Shirt

We are Valuable!!

We are more valuable than any of the younger generations:

We have silver in our hair,

We have gold in our teeth.

We have stones in our kidneys.

We have lead in our feet.


We are loaded with natural gas!!!

I want ice water.


This movie has at least two of the most classic lines in movie history.

The first is by Bill Paxton’s character, Hudson, right after their first escape plan goes horribly wrong:

I used to have the audio clip of this as an icon on my Windows 3 desktop. When a later version allowed for it, I used it as part of my shutdown sequence.

The second is this short and powerful line by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ripley, when she decides to take on the Alien Queen:

If those aren’t enough, here’s a highlight clip for the entire movie:

A genuine classic.

I want ice water.

“Mission To Mars” – Inspiration For Humility

Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” An example of this came to me while watching Mission To Mars for the 3rd or 4th time the other day. Once again, I was struck by the awesomeness of it’s closing sequence.

I don’t care how “highly evolved” a person thinks he is, an encounter with beings that had supposedly caused our species to come into existence would have to be like encountering the Gods themselves. Talk about restoring your sense of humility! :shock:

While I haven’t exactly encountered any “Gods” lately, I have had a recent “humbling experience” that inspired me to write this article. I received an e-mail from a friend a while back describing an historic “close encounter” with the planet Mars that the Earth is supposedly about to have. I don’t recall what it was that reminded me of it, but I decided to look at it again so that I could mark my calendar. After all, who would want to miss such an historic event?

And that’s were I very nearly put my proverbial foot in my mouth – big time. I was so impressed with the images included in the e-mail, that it seemed as if I had found precisely the kind of “golden nugget” an astronomy geek “wannabe” like me should create a blog post around. So, with gleeful abandon, I rushed to get it published…

You know, I can’t really say what it was that inspired me to do the google search, although I tell myself it was to see if there were more interesting aspects to the story that I could have included. But the results of the search revealed “interesting aspects to the story” far beyond my expectations.

Apparently, this “hoax” e-mail gets updated and put back into circulation every year or so, just for the purpose of humiliating dumb-assed would be astronomy “know it alls” who fall for it. Imagine me screaming at my old hunk-o-junk to “Hurry up you slow piece of %&#$!” as I scrambled to delete the post from this blog. :evil:

I know my that friend had no knowledge of the illegitimate nature of the e-mail, but after all, the many “provocative” statements I’ve made here has already put my credibility on what some consider “shaky” ground. :-|

I want ice water.

Behind My Eyes

Can you see through my eyes? Can you feel what I feel? Can you know my history, my hopes, my dreams, or my pain? No? Then tell me, why would you expect me to be able to see the world as you see it? Why would you even pretend that I could? Do you remember that old saying that no man is an island? Well it’s just as true that no mind is a community.

I can’t “feel your pain.” I don’t “know what you’re saying,” I can only hear you speak. I really don’t “get it.” And you certainly ain’t “got me.” I can’t “lie in your bed,” or “walk a mile in your shoes.” There is no such thing as a “psychic connection.” If we really want to understand one another, then we must get down to the hard work of communicating effectively.

There are two things that I have believed for as long as I can remember. The first is that the root of all evil grows best in the soil of misunderstanding. And the second is that we can do better. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t try so hard to be a good writer. Hell, I wouldn’t try at all. But I keep on trying in the vain hope that, by effectively articulating the life-sustaining imperative that we live our lives as rational beings, my writing will help to inspire a new age of reason.

Unfortunately, all I seem to have achieved so far is an appreciation for the mentality of the sociopath.

The Who – Behind Blue Eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free

No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through

But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool

And if I swallow anything evil
Put your finger down my throat
If I shiver, please give me a blanket
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

I want ice water.

The Last Man Standing

As I grow older, and the count of those I’ve lost grows higher, I’m reminded of a frightening thought I had as a child.

I’ve seen them come, and I’ve seen them go
Yet I, alone, remain
Through all the pain and tragedy
The song remains the same

It echoed down through all the years
And through all the lands of man
That siren song that warned about
The coming of our last stand

But no one heard, and no one cared
Until it was all too late
Then came the time when hope was lost
And we accepted our terrible fate

So I’ve watched them go, friend and foe
Our numbers dwindling fast
’til the numbing pain of watching man’s end
Left me alone at last

Now all their ashes have blown away
Yet, somehow, I remain
With only the pain of tragic loss
And the song that remains unchanged

If you can’t quite imagine how a child could have such a vision, then you need to read more of my stuff. But I will give you a little hint:

I want ice water.

The Larger Picture

Ever get the feeling …

Your Move

… that you’re not the one calling the shots?

I want ice water.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Assembly Line Medicine

Here’s a new forwarded e-mail funnie:

Doesn’t it seem more and more that physicians are running their practices like an assembly line?

Here’s what happened to Bubba:

Bubba walked into a doctor’s office and the receptionist asked him what he had.

Bubba said, ‘Shingles.’

So she wrote down his name, address, medical insurance number, and told him to have a seat.

Fifteen minutes later a nurse’s aide came out and asked Bubba what he had.

Bubba said, ‘Shingles.’

So she wrote down his height, weight, a complete medical history, and told him to wait in the examining room.

A half hour later a nurse came in and asked Bubba what he had.

Bubba said, ‘Shingles.’

So the nurse gave Bubba a blood test, a blood pressure test, an electrocardiogram, and told him to take off all his clothes and wait for the doctor.

An hour later the doctor came in and found Bubba sitting patiently in the nude and asked Bubba what he had.

Bubba said, ‘Shingles.’

The doctor asked, ‘Where?’

Bubba said, ‘Outside on the truck. Where you want me to put ‘em??

I want ice water.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Dysfunctional Personality

The subject of Borderline Personality Disorder came up during a recent on-line conversation. That’s when I remembered finding out, to my surprise, that my complete diagnosis actually includes that one too. I’m not sure if it’s because my doctors just don’t have the time to go into all of their findings with me, or what, but I never would have known at all if not for having a “friend with access” who provided me with a complete printout.

Amazingly enough, I’ve never gotten around to dragging an explanation out of my doctors. Between the fact that there were more than one little “mystery” in that printout, and having to reveal just how I had come across the information in the first place, I simply could never figure out how to go about it.

Prior to this on-line conversation, I hadn’t thought about my “mystery” diagnosis for years. But once my curiosity was aroused I decided that I wanted to know more. So I finally clicked on a link in one of the e-mails I get on a regular basis from various mental health related sites, and after a little more clicking, came across an interesting New York Times article that provides some fascinating insights into an often misunderstood condition.

What I found so fascinating was the fact that the definition for Borderline Personality Disorder is so broad that it not only includes my symptomatology, but also that of other members of my own family that I wouldn’t have thought shared the same illness I did. If you’ve read the other articles in the My Life series, then perhaps you can understand my amazement.

For example, the article says:

People with the disorder are said to have a thin emotional skin and often behave like 2-year-olds, throwing tantrums when some innocent word, gesture, facial expression or action by others sets off an emotional storm they cannot control. The attacks can be brutal, pushing away those they care most about…


In an effort to maintain calm, families often struggle to avoid situations that can set off another outburst. They walk on eggshells, a doomed effort because it is not possible to predict what will prompt an outburst. Living with a borderline person is like traversing a minefield; you never know when an explosion will occur.

While the part about having a “thin emotional skin” may certainly fit in with my symptoms, there are members of my family that this entire description fits to a tee. To this day, I have a very difficult time being around them because the stress of having to “walk on eggshells” is just too much for my fragile mentality to deal with.

But “family history” plays such a large role in mental health issues that I have always wondered if there is a common link between my illness – that I have decided to recognize and deal with – and the obvious issues that my family has never even been willing to acknowledge. Fortunately, the article addresses that as well:

… affected individuals seem to be born with a quick and unduly sensitive emotional trigger. The condition appears to have both genetic and environmental underpinnings. Brain studies have indicated that the emotional center of the nervous system — the amygdala — may be overly reactive, while the part that reins in emotional reactions may be underactive.

As children, people who will develop the disorder are often “hyperreactive, hypervigilant and supersensitive,” Valerie Porr, a therapist in New York, said in an interview. Typically they receive a host of misdiagnoses and treatments that are inappropriate and ineffective.

“Some children need more than others in learning to regulate their emotions,” said Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington who devised the leading treatment for borderline disorder.

“These kids require a lot of effort to keep themselves emotionally regulated,” Dr. Linehan said in an interview. “They do best with stability. If the family situation is chaotic or the family is very uptight, teaching children to grin and bear it, that tough kids don’t cry, these children will have a lot of trouble.”

Finally, I’m beginning to see the whole picture. “Hyperreactive, hypervigilant and supersensitive” absolutely describes both myself and other members of my family. And if there was a picture of my family in some “encyclopedia of dysfunctional families,” the caption would read: “An uptight and chaotic situation, where children are taught to ‘grin and bear it’ and ‘tough kids don’t cry.’”

In the end, I guess the only thing that really distinguishes us is that part about “a lot of effort to keep themselves emotionally regulated.” While it has cost me more than I ever expected, I’m the only one out of my entire family who tried to model his behavior on the example set by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock. Of the limited choices my childhood provided to me, I’ve chosen to just be cool. 8-)

To read the full article: An Emotional Hair Trigger, Often Misread.

I want ice water.

The “Human” Stage

When Pink Floyd said, “I was just a child then, now I’m only a man,” they were hinting that we tend to dismiss our failings by minimizing our capacities. Being the idealistic fool that I am, it disturbs me when bad behavior gets written off as “merely human,” especially when the one doing the “writing off” is also the one who has behaved badly. Even when motivated by more “altruistic” concerns, I’m still disturbed that we demand so little from ourselves and each other. And no matter how good we’ve become at settling for less, I have to ask: How has our trying to cheat our way through worked out for us?

An unfortunate fact of reality is that our abilities to conceal, ignore, pretend, and steal help out a lot when dealing with those who would do us harm. And I’ll bet that those same abilities were very useful in all of those hostile environments that our species have had to evolve through. But another unfortunate fact is that those same abilities have also been the root cause of all human conflict. And while we may still face many “natural threats,” the most undeniable fact of all is that, in today’s world, we are our own worst enemy.

As I said in my article, It’s Nature’s Way Of Telling You Something’s Wrong:

But the laws of God or Science (your choice) use volcanism and weather to maintain the Earth’s energy balance. They also use famine and disease to maintain the Earth’s wildlife population balance. And despite our apparent belief that mankind is above the law, those same forces provide the means to keep us in check as well.

It’s called War….

The fact that we have such a knack for behaving badly, combined with that behavior having been so instrumental in getting us to where we are, might lead some to think that we’re locked into a fatal “Catch-22″ that will inevitably result in our destruction. I have to admit that I swing back and forth between excepting that we truly are fated to destroy ourselves, and what I’m afraid is a hopelessly idealistic faith that we can work things out. Considering the epic numbers of prescriptions being written for depression and other anxiety related illnesses, I think that I have more than a little company in that regard.

In a comment thread on What side of your Brian do you use?, I said (talking about yoga):

Building up my strength, balance and flexibility sounds good. Maybe it’ll ease my mind from thoughts like “Peace from the type of troubles we have is going to require another step in our evolution.”

Could it be that we must grow beyond the “Human” stage in our evolution in order to survive yet another great threat to our existence? We’ve done it before. Can we do so again quickly enough to avoid extinction?

Perhaps it’s as they say, “Timing is everything.” What do you think?

I want ice water.

The Woman of My Dreams?

So Hot… So Talented…

So Patriotic?

I want ice water.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Heroes: When A Soldier Comes Home

While this forwarded e-mail contains some pretty good humor, the content demands that it be placed in my Heroes Hall of Fame. Amidst all of the turmoil in the struggle for liberty going on in Iran and other places around the world, this e-mail serves as a reminder that we still have many of our own people up to their necks in the struggle too – overseas and at home.

The people ahead of me in the chain included some nice quotes before sending it to the next link. I’ve added my own in last-comes-first order.

“He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.” – Thomas Paine

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” – Unknown

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” – Bill Cosby

“We cannot all do great things in life, but we can all do small things with great Love.” – Mother Teresa


This email is being circulated around the world – please keep it going.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 01

When a soldier comes home, he finds it hard…

When A Soldier Comes Home - 02

…to listen to his son whine about being bored.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 03

…to keep a straight face when people complain about potholes.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 04

…to be tolerant of people who complain about the hassle of getting ready for work.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 05

…to be understanding when a co-worker complains about a bad night’s sleep.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 06

…to be silent when people pray to God for a new car.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 07

…to control his panic when his wife tells him he needs to drive slower.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 08

…to be compassionate when a businessman expresses a fear of flying.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 09

…to keep from laughing when anxious parents say they’re afraid to send their kids off to summer camp.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 10

…to keep from ridiculing someone who complains about hot weather.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 11

…to control his frustration when a colleague gripes about his coffee being cold.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 12

…to remain calm when his daughter complains about having to walk the dog.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 13

…to be civil to people who complain about their jobs.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 14

…to just walk away when someone says they only get two weeks of vacation a year.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 15

…to be forgiving when someone says how hard it is to have a new baby in the house.

The only thing harder than being a Soldier…

When A Soldier Comes Home - 16

…is loving and worrying about one.

When A Soldier Comes Home - 17

I was asked to pass this on and I will gladly do so,

Will you???

I want ice water.

Heroes: Thomas Paine – Our Forgotten Father

In today’s jargon, Thomas Paine would be called a right-wing hawk by those who disliked him for advocating revolution in France and later in America, and would be called a left-wing rabble-rouser by those who disliked his stances against slavery and organized religion, not to mention his advocacy of a social contract. Yet this country was founded upon the ideals of freedom from tyranny and oppression, and Thomas Paine was truly one of The United States Of America’s greatest founding fathers. It is an absolute travesty that we only hear about him these days when some politician borrows one of his powerful quotes to further his own political ambitions.

The intro on the Thomas Paine page of ushistory.org says:

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

This simple quotation from Founding Father Thomas Paine’s The Crisis not only describes the beginnings of the American Revolution, but also the life of Paine himself. Throughout most of his life, his writings inspired passion, but also brought him great criticism. He communicated the ideas of the Revolution to common farmers as easily as to intellectuals, creating prose that stirred the hearts of the fledgling United States. He had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly. But his radical views on religion would destroy his success, and by the end of his life, only a handful of people attended his funeral.

By the time Paine came under the tutelage of Benjamin Franklin in 1774, he had failed at just about everything he tried, with the one exception being the publication of The Case of the Officers of Excise in 1772, where he wisely argued for a pay raise for tax collection officers. But with the publication of Common Sense in 1776, in which he made a most persuasive argument for American Independence from England, and then The Crisis series of pamphlets from 1776-1783 to help inspire the Army, Thomas Paine became one of the most important figures of his time. According to ushistory.org, The Crisis series “as a percentage of the population … was read by or read to more people than today watch the Super Bowl.”

After returning to Europe and pursuing other ventures, including work on a smokeless candle and an iron bridge, he wrote The Rights of Man in 1791 and 1792 in defense of the French Revolution. This caused him to become an outlaw in England and to flee to France to avoid arrest. He was then imprisoned in France by 1793 for speaking against the execution of Louis XVI. He used his time in prison (1794-1796) to write and distribute the first part of The Age of Reason, in which he railed against organized religion. He narrowly escaped execution and was freed in 1794 thanks to the efforts of U.S. Minister to France James Monroe. He returned to America on an invitation from Thomas Jefferson in 1802, only to discover that his contributions to the American Revolution had been all but dismissed because of his religious views.

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right – Thomas Paine

Every science has for its basis a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as those by which the universe is regulated and governed. Man cannot make principles; he can only discover them – Thomas Paine

The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion – Thomas Paine

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself – Thomas Paine

To say that any people are not fit for freedom, is to make poverty their choice, and to say they had rather be loaded with taxes than not – Thomas Paine

Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one – Thomas Paine

If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately – Thomas Paine

I have chosen to include Thomas Paine in my Heroes Hall of Fame because, of all the founding fathers, the views he expressed in his writing most closely resemble my own. I fear that we, as a nation, have forgotten him at our own peril.

I want ice water.

The Sin of Sloth

I was channel surfing earlier this evening when I came across an episode of Biography’s The Seven Deadly Sins. This one was about The Sin of Sloth, and it revealed to me some things about my own condition that I was not aware of. As if I actually needed more reasons to feel pissed off and outcast in this Hell on Earth global nuthouse.

Never having been one for religion, I had always assumed that the sin of sloth referred to people being too lazy to work or to maintain good personal and household hygiene. But apparently that’s only part of it. The sin of sloth also has to do with the causes of such laziness, such as having a weak moral character and being depressed – which many today still think of as being synonymous – and the things those causes lead to, like criminal activity and suicide. Apparently this is the reason the religious folk claim that sloth is the second most deadly sin.

As one who has suffered from depression for many years, I can see how others can confuse my lack of motivation with laziness. After all, I make no effort to “get out and meet people” yet still complain about being so terribly alone. And since I don’t anticipate being around anyone I care to impress, I’m not exactly what you’d call “diligent” when it comes to personal hygiene (I can’t stand an unkempt house, however). But I challenge anyone to label what’s important to me, my writing, as the work of a “lazy” person. And as far as having “a weak moral character” is concerned, I think the subject matter of my writing speaks for itself.

Now I have known lots of people who, just like me, don’t work. And yet most of them have no problem whatsoever when it comes to taking care of their personal hygiene or “getting out and meeting people.” Hell, as far as I can see, there’s nothing in the world more important to them than “feeling good, looking good, and looking for love.” And yet few of them seem to give a damn about cleaning their house and taking care of the property they live in and depend upon. So while you could argue that neither of us have much to show for our time on this Earth, you certainly can’t say that that has anything to do with who we are inside. So much for depression being synonymous with having a weak moral character.

If you’ve read the articles in the My Life volume of this blog, you’ll know that I do have some experience with the subjects of crime and suicide. So the question becomes: was it depression or having a weak moral character that led me to those things? Or perhaps more fundamental questions should be asked: if having a weak moral character and/or being depressed are such horrible personality traits, then why is suicide considered to be the worst sin of all, and why are all those religious folk so determined to prevent it? Why on Earth would they want us to stay?

I have to admit that I really wasn’t certain of where this would end up when I started writing. But then I guess that’s why writing is so therapeutic for me. All I knew when I turned on my old hunk-o-junk was that what was said on the TV show pissed me off, and I needed to deal with it. But now that I’ve worked it through, I’m left with one inescapable, if sickeningly familiar, conclusion: The prohibitions against Sloth and Suicide are “moral” justifications for human bondage.

Every culture that has ever existed has had at least one thing in common: the need for an “underclass” who can be blamed for the all the failings of that culture and who can be forced to do all that culture’s dirty work. Who better to blame for a culture’s lack of success than those who are “unproductive?” And who better to force into menial labor than those who are “shiftless” and “lazy?” Is this starting to sound familiar yet? Haven’t we all been taught that religion is both the “founding” and the “civilizing” force of our societies? What could be better than a justification for slavery that only a “heathen” would argue against?

I’ve spent my whole life resenting people because they’re all too willing to let me do their thinking and their work for them, and resenting religion because it tries to rob me of my individuality and my self-esteem. The problem with this logic is that it has lead me to erroneously think that I’ve been waging a war of two fronts, when the fact that over 95% of people are religious means that I’ve actually been battling an enemy with two faces. Like the character “Two Face” from the Batman comics, who swung from being the best kind of person one moment and the worst kind the next, the real enemy is the one who wants to be the slave-master but is willing to settle for selling his brother into bondage instead.

Now I know that we’ve come a long way since the days of treating those who suffer from depression as if they were possessed by demons, but it’s clear that some degree of animosity, disbelief, and distrust towards those so afflicted still exists, especially within the “less enlightened” segments of society. And it’s also true that the current age of “enlightenment” has brought with it every manner of “snake oil” salesman promising a pricey cure to a very vulnerable group that includes both the afflicted and those who care for them. Perhaps the lunatics are indeed running the asylum.

And now I think that it’s only proper that I include some lyrics from Pink Floyd:

Brain Damage

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path

The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me ’till I’m sane
You lock the door and throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

“I can’t think of anything to say except…
I think it’s marvellous! HaHaHa!”

I want ice water.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert

Other than crude oil, which, in historical terms, only recently became of significant value, just what the hell is worth killing over in middle eastern countries like Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan? Do all of these countries even have significant oil deposits? And when you consider the environmental impact, perhaps the value of oil itself has become somewhat “crude.”

Just thinking about it makes me so angry that a little Pink Floyd has become an absolute necessity:

Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert

Brezhnev took Afghanistan
Begin took Beirut
Galtieri took The Union Jack
And Maggie over lunch one day
Took a cruiser with all hands
Apparently to make him give it back

The Fletcher Memorial Home

Take all your overgrown infants away somewhere
And build them a home
A little place of their own
The Fletcher Memorial Home for incurable tyrants and kings

And they can appear to themselves every day
On closed circuit TV
To make sure they’re still real
It’s the only connection they feel

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Reagan and Haig
Mr. Begin and friend
Mrs. Thatcher and Paisley
Mr. Brezhnev and party
The ghost of McCarthy
The memories of Nixon
And now adding colour
A group of anonymous Latin-American meat packing glitterati”

Did they expect us to treat them with any respect?

They can polish their medals and sharpen their smiles,
And amuse themselves playing games for a while
Boom boom, bang bang, lie down you’re dead

Safe in the permanent gaze of a cold glass eye
With their favourite toys
They’ll be good girls and boys
In the Fletcher Memorial Home for colonial wasters of life and limb

Is everyone in?
Are you having a nice time?
Now the final solution can be applied

Southampton Dock

They disembarked in 45
And no one spoke and no one smiled
There were too many spaces in the line

Gathered at the cenotaph
All agreed with hand on heart
To sheath the sacrificial knifes

But now
She stands upon Southampton dock
With her handkerchief
And her summer frock
Clings to her wet body in the rain

In quiet desperation knuckles
White upon the slippery reins
She bravely waves the boys goodbye again

And still the dark stain spreads between his shoulder blades
A mute reminder of the poppy fields and graves
And when the fight was over
We spent what they had made

But in the bottom of our hearts
We felt the final cut

I want ice water.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Heroes: Joan of Arcadia

As someone who has frequently railed against concepts like “God” in this blog, my choice of Joan of Arcadia for admission to my Heroes hall of fame will probably come as a surprise to many. Well, it’s like this: you don’t get to choose the source from which beautiful inspiration comes.

Like a powerfully deep and frequently humorous admixture of the mythology’s of Joan of Arc and Job, the character Joan Girardi suffers through more than the usual teenage high school misadventures while attempting to accomplish the missions she is sent on by a God that simply refuses to be ignored – and who just happens to appear to her in the guise of whatever incidental person she can be seen talking to without drawing the attention to her plight that she so desperately craves. All of the characters are soul-deep and brilliantly played.

And best of all, the fabulous assortment of God characters are stunning for both their “un-Godly” appearance and for their wonderfully insightful dialog. I tried, but was unable, to get an actual count of the many incarnations of God that appeared in the show. Trust me, there were quite a few!

When, in perhaps the most series-explanatory episode, Secret Service, principal Price discovers Joan holding an empty egg carton near his freshly egged car, he wrongly assumes she’s the culprit and punishes her with a weekend of community service. She can’t, of course, tell him that it was God as Goth Kid that suggested that she should help clean up to prevent anyone from getting hurt. With no more direction from God than to “rise above the injustice,” Joan tries to figure out if she’s meant to help a former girlfriend of her brother Kevin, a bitter former nun named Lilly who is overseeing the service project, or one of the social outcasts who are there serving as a result of their own offenses.

er reluctance to have sex with her boyfriend, Adam, is driving a wedge between them. Adam is afraid that his sexual interest in Joan has driven a wedge between himself and his art teacher, Joan’s mother. Joan’s mother is questioning her value as an art teacher after having had her department’s budget cut by the evil principal Price. Kevin, Joan’s wheelchair-bound bother, has withdrawn from any hope of a meaningful love-life after his breakup with the aforementioned Lilly. And Luke, Joan’s ultra-nerd brother, is devastated at not having won a much-coveted science geek award.

After all is said and done… Luke learns that the true reward for his efforts comes from the work itself when he meets another great but unrecognized mental giant while filling in for Joan at the bookstore. His girlfriend even takes him to the restaurant that he would have been taken to had he won the award. When Adam visits Joan at the community service center in an attempt to apologize for having lied to her in order to give himself space to think, he meets Bonnie, a troubled but talented young artist that helps to restore some meaning to both his and Joan’s mother’s life after he introduces the two and the girl is invited into their art class. And Kevin is reunited with Lilly when she runs into Kevin’s car while driving Joan home. Kevin’s brakes had failed because their father insisted that he could “fix” them, and Lilly broke the ice by wise-cracking “Whatcha bitchin’ about? You’re already crippled!”

Having no awareness of all the good that has resulted from her “weekend in purgatory” – or of the impending trouble caused by Adam taking a bite from the “apple” named Bonnie – Joan confronts God:

In the final two episodes, Common Thread and Something Wicked This Way Comes, God tells Joan that her last two years were just a kind of “boot camp” to prepare her for her greatest challenge, which is to go toe-to-toe with a man who also talks to God – and has a sinister agenda…

Ryan Hunter is mysterious, charming, wealthy and influential. The guy even saved Adam when he was lost in the woods during a storm. And he too talks to God. But the guy definitely has a dark side, along with a clear distaste for the almighty. And what’s up with the wind blowing whenever he’s around? And despite Joan’s stated misgivings about him, he somehow has managed to endear himself to those that she cares about – and without whom she feels helpless to fight back.

Call it God’s plan, or fate, or whatever, the fact is that the breakup with Adam, and the seismic shift that has occurred within her little circle in the aftermath, all came about because of Joan’s willingness to carry out God’s little assignments while keeping them totally in the dark. No matter how you slice it, Joan has been set up for the battle of her life – perhaps for all our lives – at a time when her faith, in herself, in her companions, and in her God, is at an all time low.

But while Ryan Hunter apparently has the newspapers, the police, and even the school board, in his pocket – even as he acts to destroy everything Joan and her friends holds dear – Joan is not without her own inner arsenal which begins to reveal itself just when she needs it most. And she is most definitely not alone!

I know that I’m not alone in regretting CBS’s decision to cancel this series. Perhaps the producers couldn’t find a way to convince the network that there was an audience for an apocalyptic battle between the “Antichrist” and a teen aged girl. I don’t know. What I do know is that this series has provided me with more opportunities than I can count for deep reflection about the relationships between people and the powerful, if hard to see, impact that all our actions have.

I try very hard to remember these lessons whenever I see this blog’s sorry statistics. :mrgreen:

I want ice water.

Watch That Doggy Door!

Another great e-mail funnie:

Way too cute not to post.

This hit the 6 o’clock news big time in Maryland recently. The owner came home to find a visitor had made himself right at home…

Deer and Dog 1

Deer and Dog 2

Can you imagine coming home from work to find this tiny creature napping on the couch with your dog? It followed this beagle home, right through the doggy door.

I want ice water.

“Supreme” Leader?

Mention of Iran’s “Supreme Leader” always

invokes my childhood memories of this guy:


But the sad reality is more like:

Rome Burning

I want ice water.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

As a follower of the Objectivist teachings of Ayn Rand, I naturally have an interest in what others are saying on the subject. And just as I have, there are many other voices pointing out how those teachings are more important now than they have ever been. That is because the Objectivist philosophy represents the only clear path to achieving a truly moral society, and I could not agree more with those other voices. However, those other voices also cry out for a strengthening and renewal of the so-called “Objectivist Movement.” On this point, unfortunately, I must beg to differ.

Just like every other attempt at “group-think” in history, the Objectivist movement is doomed to failure because, by definition, “group-think” is a collectivist endeavor. The real benefits to mankind from the Objectivist philosophy have come and will come in the form all such benefits have taken: as side effects of actions taken by individuals working for their own self interest. And while it may be comforting to have others with whom we can commiserate and share war stories, any attempt to forge a “union” from such a group of radical free thinkers is destined for a very embarrassing public failure.

One needs only to look at the current state of the Libertarian Party to see what I mean. I believe that the Libertarians are all good and well intentioned people, but an example of Objectivist thinkers working well together they most definitely are not. How does appearing to the world like a bunch of loonies help to promote the Objectivist philosophy? “Collective Individualism” is a contradiction in terms.

As has always been the case, it’s the “show me, don’t tell me” strategy that will get the job done. To emphasize this point, I submit the lyrics to Show Don’t Tell by Rush – one of the world’s foremost proponents of Ayn Rand’s teachings:

How many times do you hear it?
It goes on all day long
Everyone knows everything
And no one’s ever wrong
Until later…

Who can you believe?
It’s hard to play it safe
But apart from a few good friends
We don’t take anything on faith
Until later…

Show…don’t tell…

(Show me, don’t tell me) … You’ve figured out the score
(Show me, don’t tell me) … I’ve heard it all before
(Show me, don’t tell me) … I don’t care what you say
(Show me, don’t tell me)

You can twist perceptions
Reality won’t budge
You can raise objections
I will be the judge
(And the jury)

I’ll give it due reflection
Watching from the fence
Give the jury direction
Based on the evidence
I, the jury

Show…don’t tell…

(Show me, don’t tell me) … Hey, order in the court
(Show me, don’t tell me) … Let’s try to keep it short
(Show me, don’t tell me) … Enough of your demands
(Show me, don’t tell me) … Witness take the stand
(Show me, don’t tell me)

Show…don’t tell…

Show…don’t tell…

(Show me, don’t tell me) … Hey, order in the court
(Show me, don’t tell me) … Let’s try to keep it short
(Show me, don’t tell me) … I don’t care what you say
(Show me, don’t tell me) … Let’s see exhibit A
(Show me, don’t tell me) … You’ve figured out the score
(Show me, don’t tell me) … I’ve heard it all before
(Show me, don’t tell me) … Enough of your demands
(Show me, don’t tell me) … Witness take the stand
(Show me, don’t tell me)

I want ice water.

Products for the Deranged

This is an excerpt from a recent E-mail funny:

How’s about a new doorbell…

Dogsbutt Doorbell

To get into the place where they have this in the bathroom…

Crazy TP Dispenser

I want ice water.

Heroes: Pinky and The Brain

And now, in yet another example of my brilliant insight and over-arching good will Oh shut up!, I present the next nominee for my Heroes Hall Of Fame: The Brain and Pinky Shut up I say!.

First there is The Brain, who is without doubt the most intelligent mouse that has ever lived, and who just happens to speak in a voice not unlike that of the great Orson Wells. So what if he has a few issues of social dysfunction like wanting to take over the world. Don’t we all have our little follies?

And then there is his faithful sidekick, Pinky, who while not being quite the shining example of stunning intellect represented by The Brain, nevertheless manages to bring a certain human-like charm to this tail. And besides, he reminds me of that voice inside my head that helps prevent me from trying to take over the world. What? I swear that it’s my own voice! Oh will you please shut up! Sometimes I swear I’ll blow my own head off just to get some peace and quiet! Naarf!

And now I’m off to plan for our, er, my next great adventure! Shush! You know what I’m talking about. Of course I know they can hear me! And don’t call me Shirley! What do you mean that’s a whole other character? Oh shut up! Naarf!

I want ice water.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just Don’t Get It, Eh?

As self-explanatory as the title to this blog seems to me, I know that there must be those of you who wonder. Well I’m sorry, but I just don’t have it within me to make it any clearer. But fear not, for help is at hand.

While seeking support for my ailing vanity – which is, perhaps, a big part of the problem – I recently did a Google search for “I want ice water,” and amongst the zillions of unrelated listings I got back was this gem: People In Hell Want Ice Water

Please don’t misunderstand my reasons for providing this link, as I’m not looking to get into some insane conflict here and I have no more hard feelings for these people than I do for anyone else stuck in this global nuthouse. In fact, I love their logo and think that the group photo is quite appealing.

The fact is that living in a global nuthouse affects each of us in his own unique way. It’s just that, for me, this link seems to do what my own words cannot.

I want ice water.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

TV News Anchors

Have you ever noticed that, no matter how good your mood was when you started out, just a few minutes of TV News can bring you crashing down to Earth?


Perhaps I misunderstood what they meant by “Anchor”


I want ice water.

What Is Love?

What is love? Hell, just like everyone else, my life has seen me alternate between being absolutely sure that I’ve got a complete grasp of the subject to being absolutely, and very uncomfortably, convinced that I haven’t got a clue. In an effort to represent these extremes within myself, I present the lyrics from one of my all-time favorite love songs and a video that clearly speaks for itself.

The song is Nights Winters Years from the album Blue Jays by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. The music is on the associated playlist.

Pain, sorrow, tears
Long, lonely years
With love
Having passed me by
I could live a lie for you
But truth is the road I choose
Knowing all I need to do
Is give to you

Down, down down
Where your dreams are found
They’re sleeping inside of us all
They’re sleeping inside of us all

Nights, winters, years
Pain, sorrow, tears of mine
Cannot hold me now
I’m a fool to fall for you
But here
In the morning light
Tell me how can love be wrong
And feel so right

And from the movie A Night At The Roxbury:

I want ice water.


While politics is always in the news, these days the political news seems to be at a fever pitch. Even this far after the history making elections of last year, the so called “battle for hearts and minds” rages on – in this country and around the world. Lately it’s been about the “radical right” and it’s influence here in the U.S., the resurgence of the conservatives in Europe, and the recent elections in Lebanon and Iran.

More than ever, the news from the political front reminds me of the song Power by The Temptations. Here are the lyrics and, as usual, the song is on the blog playlist.

My hands are clean, my heart is so pure
The world is sick, I am the cure
I don’t want money, or golden gifts
Give me your minds and souls to lift

Put your faith and trust in me
I’ll move your mountains, part your seas

All you poor, all you needy
All you’re doing, is giving to the greedy
All you poor, all you needy
All you’re doing, is giving to the greedy

Get off your knees, believe in me, I’ll set you free
All I need is a little
I must have it

I have for you, a master plan, (tell it)
I’ll lead you to the promised land
I’ll give you peace (peace)
I’ll give you pride (pride)
I’ll save you from the suicide

I’m your hope
Your one salvation
I’m your one man united nation

All you poor, all you needy
All you’re doing, is giving to the greedy
All you poor, all you needy
All you’re doing, is giving to the greedy

Tell me your sins, I’ll be your friend, I won’t do you in
All I need is a little

I’ll make you all, the master race
Just put me in my guarded place
We must work down on our feet
In the fields of oil and the lands of wheat

I want it

One thing I must make perfectly clear
Nuclear weapons all men fear
Their hands sweat, their fingers itch
I’m the only one you can trust with the switch

Give it to me
Give it to me
Give it to me
I need It
Got to have it
I must have it
Give it to me
Give it to me
Oh Whoa!

I want ice water.

Reruns and Memories

I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason I find it difficult to watch re-runs of some of my favorite, if now defunct, TV shows. This is especially true for comedies. But sometimes there’s nothing else on so I watch one, and almost always end up wondering why I’d been denying myself the chance to renew a pleasure that I had sorely missed. A case in point is WKRP In Cincinnati. A ball game I was watching the other night was in a rain delay and I needed something else to watch that I wasn’t likely to get so wrapped up in that I forgot about the game, and WKRP was playing on the very next channel. Well I ended up watching two episodes back-to-back and missing the resumption of the game. I actually think the time was better spent.

Now I have no idea what the inner workings of a radio station are really like, but I do know that when I watched that show regularly I couldn’t imagine a better job than being a disc jockey. Getting to hear the latest releases before the world at large. Being myself before a huge audience while I’m actually alone in a protective shell of technology. Having an audience that actually wants to hear what I’m playing. What could be better than that? But watching WKRP In Cincinnati also brought back a great memory of an experience I had with a real, also now defunct, local radio station.

It was back in the late 90s and I was just beginning to come to grips with “my terrible illness.” Having been declared “unemployable” because of my reluctance to deal with the world outside my home, I had spent well over $4000 of my “retirement money” on computer equipment that I intended to use for a home-based business providing graphics and printing services to small businesses, as well as computer training to the neighborhood kids. Unfortunately, operating a business, any business, requires that you actually engage in an effort to gain clientèle, so I ended up mainly creating a lot of things to print out on my fancy new $750 color ink-jet printer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was quite proud of the philosophical pronouncements and song lyrics – with graphics – that I was producing, but they hardly justified the enormous expenditures required to produce them. And trust me, having only a dial-up connection to what was then a very primitive world wide web didn’t help when it came to doing research. Unlike today, there weren’t zillions of sites to go to to get the lyrics for songs, so I reproduced them mainly from memory. And when memory failed, I reproduced them by listening to my old vinyl records over and over again until I was satisfied.

But I was stumped when it came to Don McLean’s American Pie. Like so many other “one hit wonders,” I hadn’t bothered to actually buy the record, so I was attempting to reproduce the lyrics entirely from memory. Unlike the therapeutic value I had gotten from mentally working out the lyrics to other songs, my attempt to do this with such a long and complicated song had rapidly become an exercise in self-torture. But like the fabled monkey with his fist in the jar, I simply could not let it go. Which is what gave me the idea to call up a radio station for help.

I think the station was called “Arrow” or something like that. They specialized in playing classic rock from the 60s and 70s, and seemed the perfect place to call for help. Unfortunately, the guy I talked to told me that their broadcasts were pre-programmed and that they only did requests on an infrequent basis. I guess he caught the disappointment in my voice upon hearing that, so he asked me what was up. Without really meaning to go into such detail, I told him about the depression and how I used working through the lyrics to my favorite songs as a kind of therapy.

Well to my absolute amazement, the guy actually offered to play the song for me over the phone, using a cassette deck he had in his office. He went even further by offering to rewind and replay all or any part of the song until I was happy. Needless to say, I will never forget his understanding and his generosity. I only wish I could remember his name.

I’ve included the lyrics to this song below (downloaded this time – I lost the ones I worked out long ago). I’ve also included the song itself on the associated music playlist.

American Pie by Don McLean

A long long time ago
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Did you write the Book of Love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so
Do you believe in rock ‘n roll
Can music save your mortal soul
And can you teach me how to dance real slow
Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I digged those rhythm & blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died

I started singin’

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone
But that’s not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the King and Queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me
Oh, and while the King was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while Lenin read a book of Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died

We were singing

Helter Skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul out on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the Sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance
‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died

We started singing

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation Lost in Space
With no time left to start again
So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the Devil’s only friend
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

He was singing

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music woudn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

And they were singing

They were singing
Bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die

I want ice water.

I’m Not That Flexible

I’ve just finished watching a recording of this past Sunday’s episode of In Plain Sight. It was about a bridge designer who had to go into witness protection after testifying that a bridge that had collapsed and killed many had had it’s design changed by the builder. The sad ending to the story, and why it hit me so hard, was that the man realized that the collapse of the bridge had less to do with the changes the builder had made than it had to do with a logical error he himself had been making throughout his career.

In the end, he stood on the first bridge he had ever built – now packed with explosives and wired to a dead man’s switch in his hand – explaining to the shows stars why it had to end this way. He said, “I just can’t go from being a man who was never wrong to being one that was never right. I’m not that flexible.”

Man, I can relate to that. Pride is a very powerful thing.

I want ice water.

Speech Therapy

This article has been inspired by a rerun of Boston Legal where Alan Shore started having these bouts where his usually well conceived and colorful manner of speech came out of his mouth as pure gibberish instead. Being a lawyer renowned for his eloquent oratory, he was understandably concerned. While discussing the problem with his partner Denny Crane, he revealed that, other than Denny himself, his words were his only real friends. This struck me like the proverbial lightning bolt.

As anyone who has read my ramblings before would know, I have a certain fondness for using lots of words, in what I hope has been a well conceived manner, to precisely get across the ideas I want to express. My readers will also not be surprised to read that I have a rather large ego. The fact is that my large ego – the very essence of me – revolves around my love for using precise language to express my thoughts. So I hope you can understand why Alan’s problem struck home with me.

I had already been fascinated by the slow progression of Denny’s Alzheimer’s disease – what he calls his “mad cow.” As someone with a big ego and a history of mental illness, the idea of losing ones faculties is frightening enough. But to add in the prospect that I could be speaking with what I thought was my usual brilliance only to have everyone within earshot look at me as if I’d gone stark raving mad… Well that’s a truly terrifying prospect indeed.

The truth is that I’m no where near as good live as I think I am on paper (screen?), but I think you get what I mean. Since no one knows what the future will bring, I guess the thing to do is to speak (or write) about the subjects that are important to me while I can. And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

I want ice water.