Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The New Vocabulary

Tell Us How You Really Feel

I didn't know any of these terms 5 years ago. Some I have come up with myself, others have been given to me by equally frustrated co-workers. It hasn't been a terribly good week at the office. There is a lot of politicing going on becuase of looming budget cuts and case loads. Folks are jockeying for position, and not doing a lot of work in the interium.

I have learned that the best way to relieve stress is to jot something down, so here goes.

Bobblehead Manager
You have seen them. You have probably worked for them. No matter how bad things get, or how many mistakes are made, they just stand there moving their head like it was on springs. Their one saving grace as supervisors is that they always have a good attitude. Working with them is always a happy-happy, joy-joy experience. Upper managment likes these types. They promote harmony and make the CEOs feel safe. They rarely accomplish much in the real world though.

Playdough General
Some managers are made of iron some are made of playdough. They can be molded into the heroic figures of Geroge Patton or Irwin Rommel. While they look imposing at first, they just tend to stand there and do nothing. First impressions will only get you so far.

Definition: "The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the Adminisphere are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve." This one is so common, I actaully wrote a whole blog on it alone. This condition comes from two possible sources. The manager that is so focused on upward mobility, that they totally lose touch with what their underlings are doing, and those managers that move into a position from outside the organization, and have absolutley no practical knowledge of the organization that they have joined.

Rec-Centric [Recommendation Centered] This is a term I came up with to describe a particular problem in my office. Through the constant dumbing down of the office staff (see below), the actual work in the office began to center on the primary production unit, called the recommendation. All training eventually centered around this because it was the one thing management could hold in their hand and look at. It was tangible. Only problem was that all the other things we are supposed to do that didn't appear on the recommendation suffered terribly. Hence, the Rec-Centric point of view. Concentrating on the obvious and dismissing all the details that lay beneith it.

Dumbing Down (the process to the lowest common denominator, instead of training to the highest potential)..or the office is as strong as it's weakest link, so lets ALL be weak links.

The Seagull Manager They fly in, make a lot of noise, shit on everything, turn things over and fly away. They tend to look good on paper, but the reality is, they have little practical experience.

Pushing Paper
When Supervision and Management totally fail, it is important to look busy, so that if the higher ups actually find out how screwy things are, we can always claim it is because we are to busy to deal with the real problems. But it only looks like we are is just volume, volume, volume with no quality control.

Titanic Promotion Being made Captain of the Titanic 'after' it strikes the iceberg isn't really a promotion, they are looking for someone to take the fall for the previous Captain's mistakes (who has probably been promoted to a better ship).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Alternate Path

Bridge to Tommarrow / Bridge of Sorrow
(click picture for satalite view)

I am blessed in many ways. The older I get, the more I appreciate the little stuff that I used to take for granted. One of them is the fact that I get to walk to work. I don't commute anymore and the difference in the quality of life is amazing.

On my route to work I cross over Interstate 10 just before it runs into the Deck-Park Tunnel which goes under Margret T. Hance Park here in Phoenix. There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over this 6 lane freeway and I walk it twice a day, once on the way to work and once on the way back.

This bridge has come to symbolize a lot of things to me. The halfway point of the journey, solitude, beauty, simplicity and a host of other metaphors depending on my mood, the time of day, the traffic flow and the weather.

The bridge is almost always deserted. Phoenix, Arizona is a car town, nobody walks here. When I walk over it in the morning during rush hour; there is a sea of cars beneath me, all going about 10 miles per hour, bumper to bumper. On the other hand, I am high above them, in the sunlight, listening to my iPod, not a soul in sight, in my own little world.

Someday, I suppose they will all be up here with me. When gas gets to be $7.47 a gallon and they have all declared bankruptcy and had their Lincoln Town Cars and Ford F-150s repossessed, they too will be walking to work across the bridge. Change is inevitable. They will all have to change sooner or later, I like to think that I already have, but I could be wrong. Maybe I am just a freak.

Until they all catch up with me, the only others users of the bridge are the homeless. They often times spend the night on it because the police can't see them and it is relatively safe. It is a hard concrete bed above the Peterbuilt Diesels and speeding sedans. They must feel safe and hidden up here, huddled behind the freeway sign on bridge that acts as a wind break on the cold desert nights.

I rarely see them. They are gone before I cross on my way to the office. But I can tell they have been there. They often leave things behind. Things like beer bottles, pieces of clothing, empty food containers. Sometimes there are things that are more personal.

Once on my way to work, I crossed the bridge and found the remnants of someone’s backpack strewn all across it. I stopped to identify some of the contents; a booking receipt for an arrest, some brochures on services available to the homeless, some study books for a course they were taking. Had they left it? Had it been stolen, there was no way to tell. Some of the forms indicated they belonged to a young man in his 20s, but all the dates were old, going back to 2002 and 2003. It all added up to a small piece of someone’s life, a part of a vast jigsaw puzzle. It was a small segment of a vast picture that I could not comprehend, but it made me wonder.

Contained in the various pieces of paper were some hand written letters. I chased them down in the swirling air kicked up by the speeding semi-trucks that roared underneath me and started to read them.....


Dear Jesse & Crystal,

Just a few lines to say hello and at the same time to say we are as well as can be expected. Nikki has a big bad ulcer at the base of his tail bone and he is very sick his doctor said he needs a bubble mattress so his back can heal. Well here is the 10.00 dollars hope you guys can go and buy a burger or something and you guys better buy candles and go clean your apartment cause your case manager wants to go check on you and also how are you suppose to get a phone if you are never home? You guys better get on the ball, go home and clean that apt and refrigerator. I bet you guys have some spoiled food there. You both have to learn how to cope with the problems that come up same as I do and not go running to Mama’s house. You and Crystal are not kids any more. Well I better go for now I am tired of asking any one to come help me when I need help the most. So god bless and keep safe both of you – Also, receive best wishes from Pelon and Dona Vero and also from Mr. Jose and Ruth and from me and Nikki. Receive all our love and blessings take care and be sure you guys make time to come see us some time when ever it is convenient also don’t forget to come put your application in for section 8 housing before they stop having applications, okay this way you can be sure of getting even a 1 bedroom house and not have pay anything only your bills or an apartment with every thing included, please do it as soon as possible okay. Take care and god bless you both.

P.S. Crystal, take good care of yourself and may our Virgin Mary give you what you most desire. God Bless You.

Your Nana & Nikki


My Dearest Grandson

Here is the psalm I promised you. Read it when you feel all alone alike me.

The lord is my Shepard I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadth me beside the still waters, He restores my soul, He leadth me in the path of righteousness for his name sake. Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thau art with me, thy rod and they staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the lord forever. In Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

This is what I pray and he comforts me. I go in for x-rays on my right knee and to see the heart Dr also cause I don’t feel to well, to much worry I guess, but anyway, I want you to do your best and I am praying for you cause I know St. Jude and God will help you to over come obstacles that come your way so you can be a better man. I am so proud of you for doing the best you can and I know you will do better still, I have not heard from Crystal at all, I am hoping she will come see me, your cousins have not been able to find or see her. Lori Ann is in the hospital, she went to emergency cause she had a bad pain in her side and she was told she was eight months pregnant but the baby is not doing well cause he may have died while in her stomach. I spoke to her a little but she was going for some more tests and she had to hang up. Well, I guess I better go now cause I have to mail this letter and the other one I wrote to you before, but had no way to go to the post office. Excuse my writing but my hands are weak and my writing is awful. Well, take care and I will write again as soon as I have more news of Lori Ann. God bless and keep you safe all my love and kisses from me and Nikki

Love You

Nana, Nikki & Luis

I won't ever know who Jesse was, if Nikki is still alive, if Crystal was ever found, if Lori Ann's baby ever made it. There were a thousand questions on the bridge that morning. I have come to realize that there are always a thousand questions on the bridge, some are written down, some you just have to sense. The bridge tells me something every morning and every evening. It makes me think.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Orgainzied Religion


Click HERE

As I have grown older, I have come to distrust organized religion. It isn't the gods, or the ceremonies or the view of the afterlife that have bugged me. It is that word; "Organized".

Why do religions have to be organized? I can see having a shaman, or a priest, or a spiritual leader like a Rabi, but since when do people of the same faith have to come together to 'knock heads' so that other folks can see the one true way? All these folks claim to support peace and harmony, but all through the centuries, they just seem to keep racking up one hell of a body count.

I ran across this little presentation on the web recently, and it compliments this thought pretty well. We think of the Middle East as some place where we can walk in, throw out the bad dudes, and install a government to the peoples liking and everything will be hunky-dory. Only problem is, we don't really understand the mindset of the folks that live there. This isn't south Jersey. It is a battlefield that has been fought over for the past 3000 years. They see history in millennia, not in centuries. They see struggle over dozens of generations and not just the loss of their last son or daughter. We see the instant fix, they see the eternal struggle. Their concept of organized religion is a bit different than ours.

Imagine living in Baghdad and growing up knowing that your city has been over run by invaders for centuries. We aren't the first and certainly won't be the last.

The thought of giving 'democracy' to these people is somewhat humorous. It is like giving a big lollypop to a starving Darfur infant. It is a nice gesture, but it won't save their life. It will only give them a sugar buzz and diabetes.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Officer Friendly Is Bored

Selective Law Enforcement

I haven't really 'ranted' much recently so I feel that it is time to blow off a little steam. This all started about 2 years ago and it just seems to be snowballing. I am sure that it isn't over yet.

This has to do with the breakdown of American culture and society, and how it catches up with all of us sooner or later. The concept of law enforcement and equal protection under the law sort of left us somewhere between when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon and O.J. Simpson bought his way off death row. Laws have to do with money, and not controling the social fabric of a community anymore.

The fact that there is a stop light in the middle of no where, right next to a convience store, isn't to control traffic. It is to get you to stop, so you are more prone to buy something. If you run the red light......more money for the city.....IF THEY HAVE PHOTO RADAR!!!

For those of you that don't know what this is (it is common in the American Southwest), it is a way of giving out traffic tickets at random, with no human interaction. Traffic lights are rigged with radar guns and cameras, supposedly to catch cars that run the light when it is red. Sounds all fine and dandy on the surface. The radar sees you in the intersection when the light is red, it takes your picture (your face and the license plate of the car). The picture is run through DMV and they send a ticket to the registered owner of the car.

Only problem is, what if you aren't driving the car and the car is stolen? What if you are racing to the hosptial with your pregant wife? What if you entered the intersection on a yellow light and it changes red when you are in the middle (the latter is what happened to me).

You get the ticket anyway, and you have to go to court to explain it to the judge. Nice to know if someone steals your new Corvette, you lose your pride and joy, your insurance company only pays you 2/3rds of what it was worth...and THEN you get a ticket from the city becuase the theif ran a red light. You have to explain this all to the judge in person.

This is what happened to me. As I approached the interesection, the light turned yellow. I had a split second to either slam on my breakes (I was doing about 35mph) or roll through the intersection, which I knew from the drivers test was perfectly legal, as long as I entered it while the light was still yellow. Only problem is, the camera didn't know that. Off go the flashes and three weeks later I get a $180 ticket in the mail.

At this point I have two options. I can take a day off work and go to court and HOPE the judge is in a good mood and dismisses it, or he can be pissed off and let it stand in which case I have to pay the fine AND I get points against my driving record, which in turn would jack up my liability insurance.....OR....I can enroll in traffic school for $220, take an entire Sunday off, and sit for 8 hours in driving school and have the ticket 'expunged' from my record. It is obvious which one I chose to do. I would pay more and make sure my insurnace rates didn't go up. (the law is a matter of economics after all).

But dosent' end there.....ow no...not by a long shot.

Since I pretty much felt 'screwed' by the system at this point. I chose to make sure this didn't happen to me again. There is a way to combat the evil scurge of the Red Light Camera. It is call the license plate lens. A peice of plastic that goes over your license plate. Viewed from the back it looks normal. Viewed from the side, it blurs your plate so that the camera cannot photograph it. The laws in this state are ambigous about these lens'. The law states only that your plate has to be visible form a distance of 150 feet. It dosen't say from any angle. So they are not illegal per sae.

So a year after this red light incident, my wife and I are heading out to do some shopping. As we pull into a parking lot and police officer pulls in behind us and turns on his lights. I had been driving with the lens on my vehcile for over a year and have seen them on other much nicer cars than mine.

The following is a segment of the conversation that I had with 'Officer Friendly';

ME: "What did I do?"
HIM: "What do you think you did?"
ME: "I don't have a clue, what did I do?"
HIM: "Whats on your license plate?"
ME: "A lens cover?"
HIM: "You think that is legal?"
ME: "Can you read my plate from 150 feet away?"
HIM: "Sometimes when we are driving around in traffic, we get bored and run license plates at random to see if cars are stolen. I couldn't read yours. Wait here."

Officer friendly departs. Sits in his squad car for 10 minutes, then returns to my car and starts removing the lens cover from my car without even talking to me. He then comes to the window, explains that it IS illegal and confiscates the cover and gives me a $115 non-moving violation ticket.

End result, it has cost me over $300 so far. I didn't run a red light, and I didn't have an illegal cover on my license plate. But the city still 'extorted' $300 from me.

While officer friendly was writing me up. A Lexus drove past us in the parking lot with a cover over it's plate and someone could be heard 'peeling out' of the local intersection. But Officer friendly chose to write ME a ticket for having a lens on my 2000 Suzuki.

Conclusion_1: I will just replace the lens cover. A $115 non-moving violation ticket is still much cheaper than $220 and a Sunday in dentention.

Conclusion_2: Beware the bored police officer. If it is near the end of your shift and you have to write at least 20 tickets per day. Look for the white folks in the late model SUV that will be easy to write up. For god's sake, don't pull over the car full of hispanics that probably don't speak english, don't have insurance, and don't have drivers licenses. That would be too much work. Lets face it, I was an easy mark for Officer Friendly.

Conclusion_3: They are going to get you one way or another. There are hidden costs / taxes associated with living in the modern world. Better put together a rainy day fund for when the city comes knocking with it's hand out.

Ow, and one more thing. My other car is a Lotus Turbo Esprit. It will do 170mph. It has a lens cover on it as well. The next time Officer Friendly wants to pull me over....he is going to have to catch me.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Closer To The End....

The Maestro,
He walked with a purpose
Riding the Matterhorn,

Stories to tell
Projects to analyze
Live well
Laugh often
Love much

Gonna take
a Sentimental Journey
Iwo Jim Survivor
who never met a stranger

When flowers bloom
remember me,
and that I loved you
Our smile and music
will never end

I miss you so much
I love you a bushel
and a peck.


Last Call
Yours till the end
of life's story

Send In The Clowns

I have been going to a lot of cemeteries recently. Loved ones are passing on and it gives you a time to reflect. It is sobering to understand that in life's journey there comes a time when you realize that you are closer to the end than to the beginning. When this sinks in, you start taking stock of all the things you have done and all the things you have left to do.

In the older cemeteries the markers are pretty terse. They give dates and names. Sometimes they indicate children or a rank in life, but not much else.

As society has changed, so has our desire to leave a message to future generations that we were once here. But the messages have to be brief. Tombstones are expensive and don't have a lot of space to explain things to our children.

In wandering the Arizona Memorial I have been struck by some of the snippets of life that I have come across. They are three to six words carved in stone to sum up a lifetime of experience. Some of the words are profound, some of them funny, many of them a mystery.

While documenting these markers, it dawned on me that they were free form verse, where the lines could be interchanged. No matter how you arranged them, the meaning of the poem seldom varied.

As we get closer to the end we should pay attention to what they are trying to tell us.

The Maestro

He Walked With A Purpose

Riding The Matterhorn Forever

Stories To Tell, Projects To Analyze

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

Gonna Take A Sentimental Journey

Iwo Jima Survivor Who Never Met A Stranger

When Flowers Bloom, Remember Me And That I Love You

Our Smile And Music Will Never End

I Miss You So Much Sweets

I Love You A Bushel & A Peck, Hugs

Last Call

Yours Till The End Of Life's Story

Send In The Clowns

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Going To The Edge

One of my life time projects is cataloging all the film that I have shot since I was in college. There is only one problem. I tend to shot more film than I have time to catalog, so the backlog just keeps growing and growing. Most of this film is either Kodachrome or Ectachrome slides and I have been scanning quite a bit of them recently. Some of the images are approaching 20 years old and they bring back a lot of memories.

Santa Barbara Pier

Most of the pictures are landscapes. Places that I have been, things that I have seen. I keep meaning to delve more into portraiture, but it is hard to find folks to stand still and let you pose them.

Painted Desert

I suppose one of the benchmarks of our lives is where we have been and what we have seen. The images we take back with us from the places that were far away. I still yearn to see those places that I have only heard described in books and magazines (or the Discovery Channel). To date, most of the places I have seen have been limited to the western United States.

Monument Valley

I have never been a big vacation planner. I have always taken the term literally. Vacation means to 'vacate', or to leave. That is what I have done in the past. Unencumbered by children and spouses, I would get into my car, find a point on a map and drive till I got there. The destination was usually not that important. What I saw along the way was the important thing.

Southern Utah

I would usually drive for half the length of my vacation. Stop and then turn around and race back home in time to get back to my cubicle by the last day of vacation. I called this 'Going To The Edge'. Seeing how far away I could get, before reality snapped me back.

Redwood Stream

Looking back, these were the best vacations. I was alone with my thoughts and my camera in the vast emptiness of the American west. I slept in my car or in a tent and ate on the move, never missing a chance to stop the car anywhere I wanted just to take a picture. What remains of those vacations are some stunning sights, many that I have forgotten until I pulled them from their plastic sleeves to be scanned.

Crescent City

I never could understand the concept of the 'planned' vacation. Itinerary and schedule seem to be counter-productive to the concept of vacating. You are supposed to be set free, not tied down. We are supposed to be free-range souls, not pre-programmed thrill riders.

Superstition Wilderness

So do yourself a favor, pile the wife and kids in a car and just drive somewhere you have never been. Do it as fast as you can. Don't think before you go, just think along the way.....and take a lot of pictures. You will be rewarded handsomely in 20 years when you are going through those photographs in a shoe box you find in the closet.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Meet Mr. Stage

28 Years Later

You don't know him. Chances are you won't meet him. You will probably never run into anyone like him. But you should. He could teach you a lot.

Mike was one of my best friends in High School. He was funny, had a bit of temper and was going to take on the world. We all were back then. We thought we knew everything. He married his High School sweetheart; they had a child and drove off into the sunset to make their way in the world. That was the last I ever saw of them. That was 1975. As I write this, it was over a quarter of a century ago.

During that quarter of a century, I went to college, held down about six jobs, got married, got divorced, took some wicked vacations and learned some valuable lessons from the school of hard knocks.

About three years ago I bumped into Mike's ex-wife on the internet. She had divorced Mike and remarried. She was living in Los Angeles with her 5 daughters. To my surprise she still knew where Mike was and gave me his address. On my next trip out to Southern California, I made a point to stop by and see him. I thought it would be a chance to re-live our youth one more time, but instead it showed me just how much our paths had differed.

After getting lost several times in LA traffic I finally pulled into an apartment complex parking lot and there he stood waiting for me. He looked the same. The years hadn't changed him that much. He was a little more wrinkled, his hair was a bit thinner, but it was the same old Mike. His smile told me that. After 5 minutes of catching up, we were right back where we had left off 25 years before. We still had that connection.

At first it appeared that Mike had fallen on hard times. But times are relative to those that live them. It was evident that Mike was happy. He wanted for nothing but also didn't have much. He had a minimum wage job, no savings, no car, no iPod, no Plasma television or broadband internet. But he didn't want them.

Mike hadn't listened to the announcers that preached the American Dream when we were growing up. Over time, his focus had shifted. His passion had become righting the wrongs of society. He was determined to be the lone man railing against the machine. He was the one that would stand in front of the column of advancing tanks and scream at them to go home. His uniform was denim, his resolution knew no fear, he expected no rewards.

When he wasn't answering phones in a call center, he spent his time with other like minded adults planning protests. Protests against police brutality, protest against the Iraq War, protests against big oil and big chemical. He gleefully related the time he was just missed by rubber bullets or how he had felt the sting of pepper spray on more than one occassion.

While listening to him passionately talk of the time he was beaten by the Los Angeles riot police or handcuffed in front of the county courthouse, it made me wonder about my life. The life that I thought was so successful and happy. What was I proud of? Was it my credit rating, my new car, my new plasma television? The more Mike and I talked, the less wealthy I felt.

Mike confided that he had been diagnosed with epilepsy several years earlier. He couldn't drive a car anymore, much less afford one. He wasn't really diligent about finding ways to pay for his medication either. He had blackouts and memory loss, but he managed to get back on track, eventually. But the more he talked, the more I realized that he didn't have a care in the world. It was all good. Life was a challenge. He was a fighter. He loved his daughters and the children that his ex-wife had with her new husband and looked forward to the days he could visit with them. Despite the fact that he had nothing, he had a passion for life.

We walked around Griffith Park that evening and then went out to dinner. We laughed and joked liked Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. We were a team again, if just for that one night.

I said my goodbyes after dinner and drove back to Arizona the next day, but my time with Mike haunted me. I drove back to a rat race, where I wrestled with the pack and saved for that vacation in Mexico and the new car stereo. Meanwhile, in LA, Mike and his cohorts planned a protest against the death sentence of convicted teenage boy. Hard times are relative. The more I thought about it, the more I was envious of Mike's time.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

The Great Epithany

Open The Flood Gates

There are some things that you can't learn from books. You have to live through them and then look back with a critical eye. There are truths about the human experience, that no one ever talks about because we don't want to admit to them, but they are unspoken truths non-the-less.

I still remember the big truth that came to me as a young man. After years of being taught right and wrong by my parents and 5 years of college I still hadn't been taught this truth, because I had to live it first. Otherwise, I couldn't have really appreciated it.

When I graduated from college in 1982, it was in the middle of the 'Carter Malaise'. A period of economic downturn in the country when McDonald’s French fry cook was a hard job to get. The only job I could find that would pay the rent was as a janitor in a large manufacturing plant. So there I was, a BS in Management with a mop in my hand.

The company that I was working for had just taken over the contract for the cleaning of the manufacturing plant from an in house unit, in order to save the manufacturer some money. They had to retain all the old employees that worked for the manufacturer as part of the deal. I was hired after the change over.

After about 6 months, things started going screwy. Management started riding employees for the slightest infraction, and putting experienced people in no-brainer jobs and new people in the technical ones, which meant that nothing got done in any kind of efficient manner. There was chaos on the cleaning crew.

People got so fed up with the apparent lack of respect and management ineptitude that they just started walking off the job. The folks that they replaced them with weren’t any improvement and the spiraling turnover ratio only made cleaning the plant more laborious and tedious.

Having just gotten my sheep skin, I was perplexed that this company was breaking every rule in the book and appeared to be striving to fail. It was driving me nuts. After about 8 months of this chaos, I had had enough and walked out the door. This was nuts. But weeks later the problems with the job still perplexed me because there had to be a reason for all of this.

I lived in an old rented house with a leaning foundation and an old claw foot tub in the bathroom. My favorite pastime during those cold winter months was taking a long hot bath while reading War & Peace as Tchaikovsky played on the stereo. It was a heavenly escape. Three weeks after I quit the job, I was taking one of these prolonged literary baths when it hit me. It hit me like a bolt of lightning. Suddenly, it all made sense.

I had been looking at it from the wrong angle. I had made the assumption that the goal of the organization was to clean the factory. Boy was I wrong.

I got out of the tub. I was dripping wet with steam rising off my skin as I went to the dining room table, picked up a pencil and started to do the math.

The goal wasn't to clean the factory. The goal was not to be efficient and do a good job. The goal was to MAKE MONEY. The company WANTED to turn over the staff. By doing so, they could lose the $5 an hour staff and replace them with staff that made minimum wage ($3.25/hr). A quick calculation showed that by turning over all the inherited staff, they could pocket an extra $22,000 a year, not to mention the reduction in benefits.

Suddenly the clouds parted and a beam of light illuminated me from the heavens (figuratively). Doing a good job wasn't in the equation. Being efficient and having a good attitude wasn't in the equation. The bottom line was the money, and the corners you could cut to get more of it.

It dawned on me that there is profit in chaos and low moral. They told us the truth was hard work, honesty and commitment. They lied. The truth is, someone has a kid in college and they could pay off the tuition faster without you.

My parents had never taught me this. Five years of advanced business school had never taught me this. Life taught me this. Humans can lie to your face. If the truth is “we are out to screw you”; they won't tell you the truth. If you work for someone else, you are only office furniture. You are no different than a pencil, or a chair, or a desk lamp.

Ever since then, whenever an employer has used the word "Team Player", or "Office Morale", I have cringed. Because I know they are lying to me. I am either a profit maker or a loss center. But if they told me that, it would be the truth. They won't tell you the truth.

For those of you that have not been to business school, I just saved you $450,000 in tuition. No need to thank me.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Losing The Race

They gave us the option of taking the afternoon off and working from home in order to avoid the traffic hassles. The march organizers expected over 100,000 people to march through the streets of downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Immigration Rights is what it was all about, but must folks I know thought it was more of a protest for a free ride. The march route was going to lead right past my office window, so I was going to have a birds-eye view.

Imigration March, Phoenix, May 2006

I didn't take the day off like most of my co-workers since I only live a mile from work and usually walk home in the afternoon. (I hate commuting). The march started around 1am and when I turned around to look out my window at 2pm, there was nothing but a wall of white t-shirts and a little hispanic boy peering in through the window at me.

Imigration March, Phoenix, May 2006

I took the time to go up to the roof of the building and takes some pictures of this sea of humanity. This ocean of hispanics that were demanding inclusion, even though most of them had cheated in the process. In scanning the crowd, I noticed something that made me pause and think. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we had lost the race. America had screwed up, and it wasn't from not locking down the boarders.

Imigration March, Phoenix, May 2006

It was the baby carriages. The infant stollers pushed by a legion of hispanic women. There were thousands of them in the crowd. I was amazed at how many of these mothers could take the day off and bring their children downtown. I assumed that most of them did not work outside the home and were full time moms.

Imigration March, Phoenix, May 2006

This is what we had lost. The goal of the family and focus on the raising of the chld. While we were all off working two jobs to afford our lavish lifetyle, the hispanics have been concentrating on the basics. Family, home and hearth. The things we used to hold so dear. But we lost our way and they have came in to fill the gap.

Welcome to minority status White America. We screwed up.

Thursday, June 1, 2006


Night Train
I have been pondering the individuals that we are for some time now. What are those things that make us who we are? I have run down the list of things that are obvious, like genetics, and social background, peer interaction and societal pressure. In recent years I have blamed the media for a lot of the bizarre personality traits in folks under 40.

But the more I pondered what made me the person I am today, some little things kept coming to mind that were hard to categorize. Since I know I am not as much of an individual as I like to think I am (we all have shared experience, things don't' just happen to us) I wonder what the other 'intangible' events are that others have known that has helped mold them into who they are.

We easily forget these things, unless you really sit down and try to think about them. They get covered by cobwebs in the back of our minds, but they are still there. I believe that they are the foundation of a lot of the things we have become.

I wonder if there are so many screwed up people in this world because they didn't experience these things, or were never told to take the time to appreciate them. Some cases in point;

As a small child I took a train trip from the Midwest to the West Coast with my mother. Trains are the coolest thing in the universe when you are 5 years old. You can run all over the place and the scenery always changes. We had a sleeper car and the clickity-click of the rails lulled me to sleep at night. I had a small bunk that folded down by the window. In the middle of the night, as I was half asleep, I felt the train come to a stop. I rolled over and parted the curtains to look out. Outside there was snow falling and a station platform was illuminated by a single overhead light. Someone from the train walked down the platform, hugged a waiting relative and they both exited into the darkness. As the snow continued to whirl around in the night breeze, the train slowly pulled away into the inky blackness. I went back to sleep and the next day I wondered if it was all a dream. I still do.

In my school age years, we would take trips back to the Midwest to visit my maternal grandparents and spend a week on the farm while my parents were off pretending to be childless again, if only for a short time. Before puddle jumpers and airline deregulation, the only way to get there was by car down the back roads of America. The trips were so long that my father devised a way of making two bunk beds in the back of our Ford Fairlane, so that I could sleep on the floor (over the drive tunnel) and my brother slept on the back seat. There was a sense of security and warmth on the floor of that car as is it rumbled down state highways with my parents at the controls. In the early morning twilight I would wake up and peer out the side window to see the flashing yellow stop lights in some nameless little farm town as we drove through. Long before anyone had awoken, I went back to sleep, knowing that the back of that Ford Fairlane was the best place to be.

I spent the summers of my youth in Fort Dodge, Iowa with my grandmother. There was a park at the end of the street that had a miniature steam train. You could ride it for 10 cents and to a small boy it was the coolest toy in the world. One summer, when I returned to the park, the train was gone, only the indentation in the ground where the track had been remained. For the next 10 years, I would return to that park to see if the train had returned, but it never did. But the path in the ground that it had taken was still there. The last time I visited the park as a young man, I wondered if anyone remembered that the train had ever existed.

My grandmother in Fort Dodge used to save up the heels of bread in a special drawer in the kitchen. When we came to visit, she would give us the hard stale bread to take to the park so we could feed the tame deer that were in an enclosure there. It was a traditional thing. She didn't need to save old bread, but she knew that it made us happy. I would rather go back and feed those deer the stale bread for 10 minutes than spend hours on a Game Boy or watching television. (In my mid-thirties, I was told that some drunken teenagers had jumped the fence and killed most of the deer. I wonder if they know how many memories they erased that day.)

Growing up in the Dakotas during the 1960s, there was some cold weather. I mean really cold. Blizzards that would knock the power out for several days and make the roads impassable. I recall playing games with my parents by candle light, reading stories out loud and bundling up under 4 heavy blankets at night to fend off the sub-zero temperatures outside the window. Those were some of the warmest nights of my life.

My maternal grandmother had a farmhouse in the middle of Iowa where the only luxury was the water that you had to pump out of the well in the front yard. During the hot and humid summer nights I would sleep upstairs with the windows open hoping for a breeze in the 90 degree, 90% humidity heat. There were no screens on the windows and the bugs would fly everywhere. The only escape from the incects was to hide under the covers, where it was even hotter. Then in the distance, I would hear the clap of thunder and pray that the storm would come my way. If I was lucky, 30 minutes later there would be a downpour outside the window, the temperature would drop 20 degrees, the breeze would come up and the bugs would disappear.....if only for a little while.

During Christmas as a little kid, my parents always made me leave a glass of milk, some cookies and some carrots out on Christmas Eve for Santa and his reindeer before I went to bed. When I awoke the next day, giddy with the suspense of what Santa might have left for me, I always noticed the milk glass was empty, the cookies where gone and only the stub of the carrots remained. I suppose the key to making a small child believe in the impossible is to not leave out the little details.

I came home from college one year to visit my parents for Christmas. They lived in the desert southwest and before I returned to Oregon State University, they gave me a little Saguaro cactus that they had found in the desert. It was in a small pot, all wrapped up to survive the trip back to Oregon on the plane. I put it on my back porch in college and it lasted about a year. It seems that desert plants don't crave the moist and rainy weather like most plants do. But still, it was the thought that mattered. They wanted me to take a little part of home back with me.

During my honeymoon, my wife and I were visiting all the places in the midwest where we had grown up as children and visiting all the cemeteries where our ancestors lay. While walking through a cemetery with my video camera I spied my new wife lost in thought and focused the camera on her. As she stood in the Midwestern sun, bathed in light and surrounded by trees, the breeze blew through her hair and made it appear to float around her face and shoulders. I thought to myself, "Damn, what a beautiful woman."

These seem to be the small fragments of memory that hold together the families and the culture and the peer groups that make us who we are. I wonder if these sorts of memories and recollections haunt everyone, or are they just held by a select few. I certainly hope not.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Permanent Ink

The Rose Tattoo

It was never really planned. It just sort of came to me one day. Even as a young man that had just been let loose in the world, there were some things that I saw a bit more clearly.

After a very protective childhood and a loving home, I graduated from high school and unlike most of my friends, I went off to college. During my first year away from home I was a pretty good kid. I studied hard, I got good grades, and I partied a bit. This was all a new adventure for me. But I still kept in touch with my best friend from High School. He had joined the Navy and was training to be a submariner.

So at the end of my first year of college my friend called me up and said, "Fly out to Hawaii, I am stationed here for three months, we can party for a week.". I don't know of any normal young male that wouldn't jump at the chance to be 19 years old for a week in Hawaii. I hopped the first plane out.

My friend met me at the airport on Oahu and after some catching up regarding what we had been doing since High School we set out to have the time of our lives.

You have to put this all in perspective. I had about $200 in my pocket. I had a free place to stay in a condo on Oahu (with three of my friend's Navy buddies). Gas was about .75 a gallon and my friend had a spare Honda 360 motorcycle for me to ride around on. This all added up to free room and transportation. I was single, young, had a full head of hair and I was in paradise. I had no alarm clock and no cares. All I had to do was live and enjoy the coconut palms and azure waters that surrounded me. This was heaven.

I don't remember a lot about that following week. There was a lot of riding around the island, a lot of sunburn, drinking till the cows came home (mostly Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill, the precursor to modern wine coolers).

One morning I woke from a drunken night's debauchery and found myself on a beach on the north shore of Oahu. The sun was just coming up and the pacific waves were crashing a couple of yards from my feet. I had fallen asleep on the sand with the half empty bottle of Boone's Farm not far from me. I looked around and saw our motorcycles still parked in the parking lot and my friend asleep on a park bench several yards away.

The previous night was a blur, as most of them had been. But I didn't have a hang-over. When you live on wine you sort of build up a tolerance to it. I watched the sky lighten as the sun prepared to burst over the horizon. It dawned on me that this was it. Life wasn't going to get any better than this.

Seriously, what did I have to look forward to? There were going to be more classes in my sophomore year of college, graduation and getting a job. I knew that my future would consist of making rental payments, car payments, paying taxes, getting married, having children, growing old. Nothing was going to match this moment. This was the pinnacle of my youth. I was a young man with sand in his hair, lying on the beach, watching the ocean. I realized then that I couldn't forget this. I knew that the future would hold highs and lows, but in the long run it would wear me down, like the wind and the surf erode a stone. I had to memorize this time, so I wouldn't forget it. So I wouldn't forget how good life "could" be. I needed some sort of reminder.

After my buddy had awoken from his restful park bench, we rode back into town and had some breakfast. Thinking over the mornings events, I popped the question to him. "Hey man, let's get a tattoo." Without blinking an eye he said "Sure, I know a good place." That afternoon we were on Hotel Street in downtown Waikiki looking at tattoo designs. We settled on a black rose. He had one put on his left arm, mine went on my right. A half hour later and $25 poorer we walked out with bandaged arms.

It is the first bookmark in my life. It is still there. The only tattoo I ever got. The only one I ever really needed. Every once in a while I look at it and remember that time. I have grown older, my hair has thinned, and wives have come and gone as have the jobs and the cars and the houses. But the black rose lives on. I keep it sheltered from the sun so it won't fade, because if it were gone my memories might go with it. I look at it from time to time and wonder if I was ever really that young. I knew when I got it I would wonder if it was all a dream.

When I got the rose, it was not something that most folks did. It taught me a lot of things that I never thought it would. The four great questions it always generated were; were you in the Navy? (No), were you drunk when you got it? (No), did it hurt? (A little), and how much did it cost? ($25). How folks reacted to it taught me a lot about their personality. Woman loved it; some men couldn't figure it out. None of them could ever really understand why I got it. Today, toddlers get them and people cover their bodies with tattoos to make themselves 'different' and to 'express' themselves. I chuckle at these folks. You should get them for a reason, not to demonstrate your coolness or personality.

Many have said that we are just ghosts in the machine. The rocks and the forests and the ocean go on forever, but we only experience them for a short while on this earth. They are eternal; we are just flesh and blood. My flesh speaks to me sometimes, of worlds that I can no longer see.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Running Home In the Dark

There Are Monsters In The Woods

Changes in your life come at odd times. Often they are unexpected. Epiphanies that paint everything that comes after in a different light.

I don't recall the first one I had. But I recall one of the earliest.

I was living in Southern California in the late 1960s. We used to call it life in the fishbowl. My brother and I grew up on military bases. There wasn't any crime, political unrest, or domestic violence on a military base. Everything was orderly and neat. So we all got to stare out at the rest of the world as though we were in a fishbowl. The Vietnam War protests, the summer of love, Woodstock, Martin Luther King Jr., none of these things really had an affect on us back then. We were living in the last bastion of the 1950s. It was a place of cookies in the afternoon, sleepovers and playing hide and seek until long after dark.

When I turned 12 my parents decided to send me to a week long summer camp. I realize now that this was just an excuse for getting me and my brother out of the house so my parents could have some quality alone time. But for me it was a big step. I had never been away from family for that length of time. I was scared but at the same time I was also excited.

As it turned out, I really liked the whole camping thing. You got to stay up late and sleep in a tent. The camp counselors gave us all sorts of things to do to keep us busy. We were outside in the warm southern California weather, where the smell of the dirt and grass mixed with the coastal breeze and made a subtle perfume that I can still smell in my dreams.

There were about 30 of us. We were all young boys between the ages of 8 and 12. We didn't know each other, but we bonded pretty quickly like most kids do. We were living for the moment with a short attention span and lots of sugar and carbohydrates to keep us going. It was all a dreamy blur.

On the last night of the camping weekend there was a big jamboree. It was held near the center of the camping area and our tribe put on a skit that is so traditional when boys camp out in the wild. We had no television or radio, so we had to make our own entertainment. Lord, I would love see that skit on video tape (if it had been invented back then). When it was all over, the counselors told us that the first ones back to our campsites got to light the campfires and start cooking the smores. Smores are those chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow confections that every camping trip ends with. So we all scattered like rabbits and ran through the night back toward our tents.

I suppose that this was the height of childhood. Running like a pack of wolves through the cool evening air, heavily breathing in the summer night, flying through the darkness, not wanting to be the last one back to camp. As I ran through the trees and the tall grass I heard something. A faint scream. I slowed and turned my head and I heard it again. Even as a young boy I knew the sound or terror. It was a fearful scream and then sobbing. I stopped and started to walk back toward the jamboree area. My mind wrestled with the thought that I was going to be the last one back to camp, but I had to find something out. I was half curious, half afraid.

None of my other companions had stopped. Perhaps they hadn't heard the scream, maybe they were scared, maybe they didn't care. As I walked back a boy came stumbling out of the darkness, he was crying. When he saw me, he screamed and ran to me like a child lost in the woods. Which is what he was. He wasn't hurt, he was just scared. He had never been away from home. He was just a kid frightened of the dark. When everyone scattered toward their tents, he hadn't known the way and was left behind in his indecision.

To him, there were monsters in the woods. The Grimm's Fairy tales were still real. Some of us had learned to suppress our fear with bravado and logic. He wasn't able to do that yet. I put my arm around him and told him it would by OK. I knew what he felt like. Only a few months before I might have been him.

He tried to put on a brave face and not act scared while I walked with him back to camp, but the tears drying on his cheeks sort of ruined that charade. We were the last ones to arrive and the fire was already raging. The others were getting ready to toast their marshmallows. The frightened kid sat at the campfire and eventually joined in the comradery and laughter. We didn't speak of coming back last. He hadn't grown up as fast as the rest of us but he would catch up soon enough. He just wasn't going to catch up that night.

During that lazy California summer I realized there were more important things than running with the pack. That was a big step for a 12 year old boy. I think I understood compassion for the first time in the darkness under that starry night sky. It was the first time I started to become an individual and think for myself. After that week in the woods, I saw the world a little differently. I still do.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Everyone Needs A Family

Beach, Low Tide

The American Family is an ideal. Fostered by childhood images of 'Leave It To Beaver' and 'The Brady Bunch'. But in modern times it is more of a myth than anything else. With both spouses working, divorce, drug addictions, medical problems, peer group pressure and wanton consumerism there isn't a lot of time for family bonding these days. We all long for that place where we can go and be accepted, loved and happy but often times we lose it, sometimes when we are far to young.

As adults, we tend to find families whether we want to or not. It tends to be a subconscious thing, probably going back to the caveman days when we gathered around a fire at night for warmth and to scare away the prowling saber toothed tiger. Today, the families that we join are the ones that we are thrust into. Work clicks, the neighbors that we move next to, the military we join, or the church we might attend. Some we join of our own freewill, some we are thrust into be circumstance. Regardless, they provide us with a shared experience.

Cabana by Moonlight

The bond forged between two men in a foxhole while bullets fly over their heads has to be a pretty strong one. Two co-workers commiserating over an after hours beer lets them both know that they share the same experiences in the office. You look out for your neighbors toddlers while they play in their front yard and you hope that he does the same for yours.

But sometimes, you find family where you don't expect it. Through the shared experience that others can't know. Through shared secrets that everyone doesn't understand. Through guilt and fear.

Casa By The Sea

I am a member of one of these families. I group of friends that never intended to get to know each other. We all came together with a common theme, because not everyone could understand our past and the various journeys that had brought us together. I didn't know any of these people initially. I know them all pretty well now.

They are good people. They are honest people. They know pain, guilt and fear, and they have come through it. They haven't let it burden them. They are essentially optimists. They decided not to curse the darkness even though at times in their lives it enveloped them. They sought out others instead of a bottle or a pill.

Courtyard Fountain

When you find these sort of people, you realize it is a gift. I have known a multitude of folks that would lie to your face and steal your possessions. Folks that only cared for themselves and never really loved anybody. All of the people in this family have known them to. They have been touched by the callous and indifferent and have resolved not to let the same thing happen to others. If only the whole world could be like this.

Once a year, 40 of us gather. We all pool our money and head toward Mexico like migrating birds. There, in a lavish sprawling house on a beach, we spend 3 days, sunning, reading, eating and drinking with wild abandon. Some folks think it is just some sort of party club filled with drunken debauchery and lured behavior. These folks couldn't be more wrong. It is a time of acceptance without fear, of fellowship without hate. It is a big family where we all care about each other. A better family than many I have known.

Dining Room, The Morning After

The people in this family have all been in the foxhole. We have all had things stolen from us. When we are together, we won't let that happen again. Sometimes life takes us to unexpected places that we never planned to go to. At first we think the destination is a disaster. Until we find the others that have arrived at the same destination via a different route. Eventually, through that shared experience, we find out that it is the best place to be. A small harbor in a never ending storm.

Beach Sunset

I hope you all find a family like this someday.

All Photographs Taken in
Pureto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico, 3/16/06-3/19/06

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Doing the Right Thing....

Sometimes, Doing The Right Thing Just Sucks

I hate commuting. If you live in a major urban area you probably commute. Where I lived, it just kept getting worse and worse. The drive to work was usually around 45 minutes one way. So that is an hour and thirty minutes of my life sucked away from me just so I could get to an office and work for someone else. It was driving me nuts and the older I got, the more I felt that my quality of life was slipping away from me.

So I started taking the bus to work. This required a bit of a change in lifestyle but I found that the extra effort was well worth it. While I didn't get to work any quicker, I could basically 'zone-out' on the bus ride and just close my eyes an listen to my headphones. The reduction in stress alone was worth getting up earlier and making the mile long walk to the bus stop in the dark.

I enjoyed these walks. The path from my home to the bus stop wandered through a residential neighborhood. It was often cool and dark on my way there. There was no traffic noise or sirens and the news vulture helicopters had not yet left their launch pads. It was a quiet time when the world seemed much slower and more relaxed. During these walks I could be alone with my thoughts and contemplate my job, my marriage, my health, the whole meaning of life.

It was during one of these walks that I ran across him. Half way between my house and the bus stop he came scampering out of some bushes by the sidewalk. A little Labrador puppy. He couldn't have been more than 2 months old. I stopped in my tracks and smiled at him as he walked up to me with no fear and started to sniff my shoes. I stooped down and patted his head and his tail wagged as he slobbered all over my hand with his tongue.

He must have been lost or had escaped through an open back yard gate. I wondered how long he had been laying in the bushes, during the cold night with no one to play with. He rolled on his back and gently gnawed on my fingers as I rubbed his stomach. I must have been his savior that morning. The person that was going to make him wanted and loved again.

After a minute of bonding with the little fellow, I had to get back on my journey to the bus stop or I would miss the bus, which would make me an hour late for work. This is when the problem started.

You see, the puppy didn't know I had to go to work. He didn't have any concept of the world outside his back yard. He followed behind me, nipping at my heals and begging to be petted some more. This wasn't good I thought. If he follows me too far before getting bored with me, he will be too far away from home and will really be lost. And the closer we get to the main street where the bus stop is, the more likely he could be run over by a car. I stopped and pushed him away told him "NO" in a very firm tone. He just looked at me, cocked his head and continued to wage his tale.

As I started out again for the bus stop, he once again started following me, tail waging. "Jesus", I thought. If I picked him and took him back home I will be late for work. If I let him keep following me he could get killed. There was only one thing I could think of to do.

I turned around and kicked him. He let out a little yelp and sat down looking at me with those big puppy-dog eyes. "Why did you do that?, don't you like me anymore?" they screamed.

I started off again and once again he started to follow me, but his tail wasn't wagging as much. I stopped, turned and kicked him again. Again he yelped and sat down. "NO", I yelled.

I turned and starting walking again. After several yards I looked over my shoulder and he was still sitting there, looking at his savior disappear into the darkness.

I arrived at the bus stop just in time to catch the bus. I sat down, put on my head phones and thought to myself, "What a great way to start the day.".

All day long it nagged me and I tried to convince myself that his family had found him and that he was playing in his back yard somewhere while planting hundreds of puppy-dog kisses all the child that he had been purchased for. At least I hoped so.

I took the bus home that evening and walked the same route as I had done that morning. There was no sign of the little fellow anywhere. I arrived home and my wife asked me how my day had been.

"Great", I said...."It started off with me having to kick a puppy."

Friday, March 3, 2006

Nostalgia Nightmares

Was The World Ever Really Like This?

This is just a link. CLICK THE PICTURE to get to the site. It is called 'Plan 59' I don't really have much to say about it, since this site pretty much speaks for itself.

Every once in a while you come across an internet site that is more fun than a good television show or book. This is one of them. All it contains is advertising media from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. A simplier time, a happier time (at least that is what you would gather form the pictures). Everyone appears happy, affluent, they all drive really, really big cars and oddly enough, they all appear to be Anglo-American.

If you have some time to waste, check it out. It is updated almost daily and is well worth a look.

To Boldly Go.....

Surrender Your Garbage Pods

I was watching an episode of Star Trek the other day. I had seen it about a dozen times, but Star Trek never really gets old. Like Gilligan's Island or CSI, you can watch it over and over. Syndicators must love these shows.

I sort of questioned why I liked watching Star Trek so much. I know that originally, it was the science fiction, gee whiz, neato, gadgetry and action, but as I grew older, my fascination with the show shifted. I found myself being 'comfortable' on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

That is when it sort of dawned on me. This show was the ultimate escape. The reality of life, especially once we have grown up and flown the nest can be pretty harsh. Taxes, traffic, alimony payments, incompetent supervisors, dead batteries all tend to make the daily struggle in the modern world pretty bleak at times.

As I watched Captain Picard order Ensign Crusher to Warp 3, it sort of sunk in. This was the perfect office. Imagine it. Going to work in a place where everyone is competent, no one is ever late, everyone has a 'can-do' attitude, you do really important things (like saving whole civilizations) and in the end, the Captain usually gets to have hot sex with some gorgeous, albeit strangely alien heroin with no fear of sexual harassment.

In contrast to the real world, I realized that through some twist of fate, I have been assigned to the Starship Garbage Skow. That long forgotten Star Fleet tug boat where all the "C" students from Star Fleet Academy are assigned to. In my world, we struggle to get the warp engines on line every day, the Chief Engineer is usually drunk, the Communications Officer doesn't show up for days, the Science Officer secretly struggles with a Rubic's Cube in his quarters and the Captain has flaming gay tendencies.

The Star Trek on television is the ideal. That place that we all wished we could be assigned to and thrive in. But alas, it is just a fantasy.

I have learned that life aboard the Starship Garbage Skow isn't really all that bad. We rarely get attacked by fleets of irate Romulans or Klingons. The tasks that Star Fleet assigns to us aren't usually that difficult and I get to spend a lot of time looking out the picture windows (that need cleaning) and watch the planet we are orbiting rotate underneath me while the Engineer tries to jury-rig a fuse to get the impulse engines back on line.

I suppose that you have to find happiness regardless of what universe you get stuck in. Life is what you make it. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go program the replicator to whip up some more cannabis and Guinness Stout.

Warp Factor 7 Mr. Smith....Engage

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Throwing Rocks...

Throwing Rocks

I am going to make a departure for a while and we will see how this goes. I am going to try and veer away from the commentary blogs that I am so famous for and take off in another direction. My normal blog is mirrored on I have been reading, writing and commenting on some friends blogs in ( ) and some of the other stuff that my fellow bloggers have written has got me thinking. There is a bit more to life than pointing out the failings of society and the hypocrisy of the world. Mind you, I won't stop doing that all together, but expect the unexpected in the coming weeks.

But before I go, there is one little blog idea that has been rattling around my head for the past couple of months that I might as well spit out into cyberspace.

I suppose that it could be termed the loss of etiquette as a result of the mask of the internet, but I am wondering if it isn't a bit more than that. As though it were like shining a bright light into the darkened subconscious of society and finding things that we really don't want to admit to.

I will tell you how this all started. I have a bunch of bookmarks on my homepage.

I sort of use these bookmarks as my morning newspaper. I go in here and check out various news items, entertainment stories, my bank accounts, my ebay listings, stuff like that. One of these links is called Hedonistica ( ). This is a site that posts daily clips of the odd and bizarre. It is worth checking out if you like that sort of thing. The reason I keep looking in on it isn't necessarily for the content, but for the comments that are posted for each of the clips. There is a whole cast of characters that comment and leave opinions on these various articles and video clips, and the comments are not necessarily high brow or intelligent. Quite often they degenerate into shouting matches with a lot of finger pointing regarding politics, race relations, gender bashing and what have you.

In leaving comments for some of these clips, I have been slammed to the wall and flamed repeatedly by various folks that have a hair trigger regarding certain issues. Not that this bothers me much, since I have to assume that quite a few of these commentators still ride a school bus every morning. I still jokingly refer to myself as the 'racist' on this site since I have been accused of being such on more than one occasion. Which I suppose is better than the never ending accusations of being 'gay' that everyone else seems to get.

However, here is my concern. It is exactly this type of mud slinging that I see time and time again in many a forum or public discussion on the internet. It would appear that when someone can get the attention of others, but not fear immediate repercussions from them, the base nature of their personality comes out and in those base natures there is a lot of anger, bigotry, hate and fear that we don't see in regular 'face to face' society. So when the mask is off and we are in a large dark room, we can shout out whatever we want, because who ever else hears it won't know who is talking. When we turn the lights back on, we all smile, wave and say "good morning" and "thank you very much".

So basically, the internet can be a closet where the lesser angels of our nature take flight and become these little demons with pitchforks. A free-for-all where no rights are respected and no repercussions are likely.

Just like the unforeseen affect that television had on society in the 50s and 60s, there is an affect at work here with the internet and the compression of global time and space. I am not sure where it is taking us, but I have a bad feeling about this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Revisionist History

Only Leonardo Knows For Sure

I watched the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong the other night. It was a good movie although a bit depressing. Nothing like killing a helpless animal all because he falls in love with something he can't have (or society won't allow) but that gets totally off the topic.

While watching this film I noticed something that keeps popping up time after time in the current crop of entertainment from Hollywood. The studio executives are slowly changing history over time. Soon the past will be a fabrication and not the truth. But in a media society, I guess that is to be expected.

When I was a young man working in a classical radio station in Oregon back in the 1970 I read a book. The book was a little known science fiction novel called 'Choral'. It had to do with a society that had to travel back in time and 'relive' history in order to keep the present alive. The theory being, that if history no longer existed, neither would the present. Seems a bit far fetched, but I recall it being a rather interesting read. The fact that it also had to do with the classical music of Ludwig von Beethoven sort of connected it to my job at the time.

What I have noticed in the current output from the boys at Dreamworks and Universal/MCA is that they ARE changing history and passing it off as fact. I don't know where this is going but it concerns me. I will give you some examples of what I am talking about.

Movie: U-472 - Story of a bunch of sailors that highjack a Nazi submarine in World War II. Only problem is, one of the sailors is African American. Not going to happen folks. American society was highly segregated back in the 40s and blacks and whites didn't serve together on the same ships, EVER. So the fact that we have this token black as a part of this otherwise all white crew is sort of like putting a Japanese-American in Roosevelt's war cabinet. Just wouldn't have happened.

Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean - In the later half of the movie, Jack Sparrow (excuse me)...Captain Jack Sparrow is rallying his old crew to go after the bad guys that stole the Black Pearl. Among this group of rag tag lusty ex-shipmates is an African American woman in her 20s. Once again folks, it ain't going to happen. Women were not sailors in the 1600s. Women were not even allowed on ships back then, it was considered to be bad luck and against the current moral code of the time.

Movie: King Kong (remake-2005) - When onboard the 'Venture' on the way to Skull Island, the first mate is an African American. Excuse me? Back in the 1940s, there were NO blacks in the merchant marine of almost any navy in the entire world. In the 1940s, the number of African Americans that were literate and educated numbered in the thousands and most of them were servants. Most would not have been running a tramp steamer around the globe, the fact that he was an officer and in charge of lesser white crewmen makes it even more unbelievable.

What is going to be next? Is there going to be an openly gay George Washington at the battle of Valley Forge? Is Brad Pitt going to portray Martin Luther King in the Selma Bus Boycott movie?

It is nice to make believe that in the past we weren't prejudiced, or sexist, or racist, or cruel, but I am sorry folks. That is not what really happened. We got to where we are today, because we lived that way, changed over time and evolved into what we are now. The fact that there are Hollywood studio executives saying that we need to have a token black in this movie or make the next James Bond and Asian dude isn't serving any purpose except to make people assume the wrong thing about what actually happened in the past.

We need to be enriched by how far we have come and how far we have to go and not be ashamed about our past and lie about it.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Material Wealth

Sorry for the lack of posts. The end of the 2005 Holiday Season was a bit of a tumultuous affair. Between taking two trips out of state, hosting a holiday party and attending four others in the span of 4 days, there was little time left for working in the office or wrapping presents for that matter. However; look on the brighter side, the more time I spend away from writing these things, the more my head fills up with stuff to ponder.

Which brings us to today's topic. Toys....


I spent the first half of my life (like so many others) believing what I was told on television and on the radio and by pushy sales people and my peers. This belief was that material possessions would bring me happiness. At about the age of 40, it all started to fall into place and I realized that it was all a big lie. Material possessions only bring happiness to those that sell them because they make a profit. The stuff that we collect so greedily, ends up in a closet or a garage until eventually making its way to Goodwill or Savers...and from there it is just a hop, skip and a jump to the nearest land fill. Nothing lasts forever, except land, death and taxes.

Quarter Panel

Which is why this past holiday season really made this point pretty clear. I don't give 'things' as presents for the holidays. I gave up on that a long time ago. I give experiences as much as I can. Gift cards or certificates that require the recipient to 'do' something and not collect things. Sadly, I am one of the few. The amount of cheap presents I saw bestowed on folks by the truck load neither made me joyous during the holiday season, nor filled my heart with good cheer. I just thought of how big all the land fills were going to get and all those 50% off sales at Goodwill in July.


Even though I figured out almost a decade ago that I needed to start getting rid of all my crap, we always fall back into a slump once in a while. Like a recovering alcoholic sipping that glass of beer after 10 years of sobriety, or that reformed smoker puffing on a cigar on New Years, the pressure is always on us. Those Hollywood actors do make Hummer's look attractive and if Angelina Jolie wears Versachi, then I might look sexier in one of their gowns as well.

Door Latch

So thanks to a sudden windfall of cash at the end of last year, I let the lesser demons of my nature take control and started looking for what I planned to be the last great American toy. That one thing that I had always wanted, but could never afford. Something that had no real functionality and served no real purpose. Just something for me. The mid-life crisis possession. The different sexes go through this in different ways. Women usually think in terms of jewelry. Men think in terms of horsepower. After searching for almost three months, I settled on something that I had never planned on buying. The stars just aligned right and it sort of fell into my lap (with a hefty price tag).

Rear Deck

So that is the story of my fall from grace. Pictured here is the Red Rocket. A 1991 Lotus Esprit Intercooled Turbo. A rare car. Only 113 were manufactured in 1991. Not that it really matters. It will occupy a junk yard someday, just as my ashes will make up a beach somewhere before the turn of the next century. But I realized one thing while doing research on the car and going over the mechanics with a fine toothed comb. Something that I had forgotten about since riding that first bike without training wheels.

Engine Cover

Accelerating from 90mph to 130mph in 6 seconds while passing a semi on the interstate has a certain satisfaction that cannot be described in dollars. I am sure this car is going to be a sink hole of huge proportions. But while we last, I won't be forgetting what its like to be a kid again.

For those that want a better look at the Red Rocket, follow the "Material Wealth" link at the top of the blog to its temporary web page.