Taken For Granted


Black Hole Sun
The same sun, yet
filtered by negligent eyes
renders darkly all that shines
 (X Teri)

It is our inevitable nature to marginalize and forget the people, ideas and things that we hold most valuable. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is a well-known cliche that I would modify: “Familiarity breeds neglect.”
Even when we think we are being mindful custodians of our lives, the fatigue and incessant throng of daily living distracts us. Sometimes, the distraction threatens to make us so inattentive that our lives begin to orbit eccentrically, threatening to hurl things and people away from us.

The above painting is one I asked a friend to paint for me as a surprise gift for my wife. It’s a woman in silhouette, sitting near the top of a hill on a bright, sunny day, near a gorgeous tree. Yet, to her, the sun is a black hole. Even she is black against the beautiful backdrop. In a similar fashion, we incrementally fail to appreciate things of beauty or exquisite nature, so much so that their presence seems to almost become the opposite of reality.

(Sidenote: my friend who painted the work doesn’t think of herself as a painter. It’s obviously not true. If it gave me an inspiration and I was willing to pay her for her time and effort, then by definition, she is a painter.)

08152013 First Time I Was Read My Rights

Another amusing hallmark in my distinguished life involves the first time I was read my rights.

I attended junior high school. Southwest, to be specific. Life was a mess. Another trailer had burned and so my family moved to Tontitown to live with a paternal cousin, Leta. I had left behind my best friend and his mom, who had saved me from my family more than once. I was still infrequently wetting the bed, mom and dad’s alcoholism was at a seeming crescendo, and my dad and his cousin Leta were having an affair, which they thought was secret. I was getting one horrible beating a week, minimum. (I think maybe my dad had a quota that only he knew about!)

I don’t remember which class it was but I was facing South, looking out the window and doodling. The classroom was on the outside of the building, on the front near those horrible holly bushes with thorns. (I was thrown into those horrible bushes more than once by bullies.) I was chewing grape Bubble Yum gum, which I had just bought on a payment plan from Bobby. Honestly, I was in a funk and not paying attention to anything. The teacher interrupted my thoughts by saying my name, evidently more than once. I was expecting to be in trouble for not paying attention and doodling. Instead, someone had knocked on the class door and asked to see me in the principal’s office.

I was confused. I didn’t know if meant I had done something bad. As I got close to the office, I could see a couple of police in the office. Due to my parents, my idea about the police up to that point was mostly distrust and anger. But what flashed through my mind was the hope that my dad was dead. I can’t help how that sounds -it is true. The image of the police officer almost convinced me that he had finally gotten so drunk that he had died driving. I knew that if dad were dead, I could get away from my mom, too. (Dad had been in several terrible drinking and driving incidents. He was driving the car in 1970 when my cousin was killed. He totaled a truck while we were living in Tontitown with Leta. Etc.)

When I was escorted into the office, they started asking me weird questions about my name, where I lived. They probably assumed I was an idiot at first because I didn’t want to answer questions without knowing where it was headed. I jumped to the erroneous hope that maybe someone had reported abuse at home. Instead, they started reading me my rights, one line at a time.”Do understand these rights?” No, I didn’t, but I said yes. I wondered where my brother was or where another adult might be. It seemed odd that no one on my behalf was present.

They began asking a lot of strange questions about checks, mailing addresses, alcohol, whether I had ever smoked cigarettes or anything else. There were a lot of questions. I could see that they were changing from aggressive to a little perplexed. They could clearly see that I was confused and way out of my element.

As they could see I was very confused, they finally told me that someone had stolen a stack of checks from my cousin Leta and had written several hot checks on the account. One of the police asked me, “Do you know who stole them or could have stolen them?” I looked right at him and said, “Probably (insert name here), she usually is at the bottom of everything like that. But it could be my mom and dad – they are always in trouble for drinking.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what I got out of it. The two police looked at each other in what I thought was surprise.

They then asked me at least 25 more questions about (insert name here), who her friends were, did she smoke, do drugs, etc. I was as honest as I could be. As the interview was about to end, one of the policemen asked me if there was anything else I wanted to tell them. I almost cried but instead of saying anything, I just said “no.”

I remember later mom and Leta have a screaming fight about the checks but I went out into the woods across the fence to get away from the nonsense. 

I felt dirty, like I had been accused of something horrendous. I doubt whether they thought I was really involved. I think it was more of a fishing expedition. But it was strange being questioned by the police without someone else present while I was still in junior high school.

“Free” Healthcare To Everyone…

Are you focused on who is getting ‘welfare’ and shouldn’t be – or who is getting ‘no care’ and should be? I’d gladly get everyone help, even the lazy (however you define it) if it meant no one had to agonize over access to assistance. 

My first draft of this blog post was VERY long, until I realized that I don’t want to change anyone’s mind about ‘free’ access to healthcare.

Rather, I would like to remind everyone what my opinion is on the matter. Simply put, less bombers and more focus on people, even if some of the effects of ill health were caused by voluntary behaviors.

We should be willing to give everyone access to health care, even if they can never pay a dime toward their care. 

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Dunning-Kruger Effect

Dunning-Kruger Effect (Click Here…)

I don’t know if you are familiar with this term. If you aren’t, I wish you would read the above wikipedia link and think about the implications.

Chances are that it will delightfully assist you in categorizing a few people in your life. We all know someone whose bulb is somewhat dim but doesn’t see themselves as less-than-capable.

Once you understand the Dunning-Kruger Effect, you will be able to see people in a new light, albeit one that might not be the most flattering to them. 

01052013 “Six Feet Under” TV Show

An Appreciation of “Six Feet Under” 8 Years After Its Death

“Six Feet Under” IMDB Page

My wife and I recently started watching this brilliant show – again.

It is one of the ‘perfect’ shows, taken as a whole. The series finale is certainly the best episode of television I’ve ever witnessed.

Below is Sia’s “Breathe Me,” the song that so eloquently accompanies the last few minutes of the show as it draws its final breath. Anyone who can watch the series and then the finale without tearing up is either subhuman or superhuman!

Life Is a “Frankenbite”

…Frankenbite (n): An edited reality show snippet, most often found in contestant testimonials, that splices together several disparate strands of an interview, or even multiple interviews, into a single clip. A frankenbite allows editors to manufacture “story” efficiently and dramatically by extracting the salient elements of a lengthy, nuanced interview or exchange into a seemingly blunt, revealing confession or argument. While the frankenbite’s origins certainly don’t reside in reality TV, this is a reality show editor’s most potent tool for manipulating viewer perception of a contestant...”  (From an article on Slate by Kevin Arnovitz)

Don’t we all do this, even with memories, recollections of conversations and the timeline of events?

As you would probably agree, some people are more likely to use frankenbites, as well as being more adept at it. Some people do it so convincingly that I think they might be unaware of their edits to real life. 

I know that I’m making a comparison to real life here, but reality television is terrible enough without learning all this cool lingo to state EXACTLY why some of it annoys me. (I’m looking at you, “Duck Dynasty” and any pawnshop show on television.)

Politics: Are You Happier?

(Update: I’ve backslid since writing this blog post. Arkansas politics has been brutal to liberals, secularists, or anyone interested in sensible government.)

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 Why aren’t I more interested in politics?

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(Note: politics and staying informed are not synonymous. Politics tends to focus on the demagoguery and platform ideals of our government’s working and influences. It is the quintessential “us versus them” or “right/wrong” system at work.)

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Years ago, I overheard someone asking another person the following: “Does knowing all that or worrying about it make you HAPPIER?” I didn’t hear what the other person said… and I had read and heard a million variations on the same sentiment. It never “connected” with me personally before. But the person being asked stammered and stuttered and probably realized that he had been called out to recognize the implicit truth in the question.
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Like so many other revelations, it struck me that the answer regarding politics was “no.” Just like that, I suddenly gave myself permission to stop worrying about whether I was informed politically enough. Politics is an infinite loop of entropy in action. Fix one problem, another arises; fix two problems and unintended consequences thrive. Politics tends to drain one’s energy toward reprisals and a “I’ll show you!” philosophy.
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Where once I felt obligated to stay informed and aware of issues and the points/counterpoints of the world, I no longer had the urge to feel like I needed or even wanted a ‘platform’ about every single subject or idea.
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All things being equal, honestly, who cares what I personally think? It’s not the most appealing conclusion to realize, but it is almost universally true – for everyone. (Even you, right now, the person reading this post: your years of thought and beliefs about how things ought to be are and will always be overshadowed by the millions of differing opinions working against you.)

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Due to being able to stand back from the fray for so long has given me the ability to appreciate just how obligated people feel to have an opinion and maintain it. And they never seem to think about the relentless obligatory fatigue of it.(I’ll let you in an open secret about politics: most people don’t want to hear your opinion – they want to express theirs. It’s selfish, I understand. But it is mostly true. As strongly as you feel sometimes that someone is an idiot about an idea they hold, rest assured that someone else you know feels that your opinion is just as ridiculous. I’ve often speculated that one attribute of a developed mind is to be able to know that this is true and still be able to listen to someones else give an opinion without attacking.)

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Try telling someone caught up in their own opinions and the maintenance of same that an obsession with politics isn’t making them happier or healthier. When their tirade starts, try asking the person the following: “Is the time you are spending trying to stay informed making you happier? Do you think your intensely voiced opinions have any effect on others? Is the world a better place?” Usually, you get dead silence. Once they start talking, pay attention to the level of defensiveness of the response.
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Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy politics to a degree. It can be fascinating. Do I feel defensive about political topics? No. Am I passively informed about a lot? Yes.
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Do I laugh a lot at people who get worked up, frustrated or angry about the current state of things? Sometimes, yes. It’s narcissism past a certain point. They are so convinced that their opinion makes one iota of difference. They also often feel that anyone who isn’t upset is either stupid or doesn’t care. This is ego in the most pure form. Almost NO ONE I know well takes direct action based on their political opinions – most people are passively trying to convince other people that their opinion is correct. It is mostly talk, chin music, and much ado about nothing. Political opinion is akin to sports to me – both keep a large segment of the population from ever really doing anything substantive in society.We are much too busy going about the business of developing and maintaining our own version of the political truth.The reality is that most people’s most ardent political opinions have no effect in the real world, nor do they make the person holding said opinions smarter or happier.

04232014 Backwards Clocks

Backwards clocks are a reminder to stop assuming that there is a “normal” orientation for things. Even if there such a thing, it is a poor reason to insist on conformity. A huge dose of craziness is what makes life interesting.

You can order one through Amazon, among other places.

Please keep an eye on your friends or family if they are drinking while looking at these clocks. They’ve been known to cause brain freeze and bewilderment.

Spider Salad, The N.R.A., World Cup FIFA, Pinterest and the NFL on Thanksgiving

Spider Salad, The N.R.A., World Cup FIFA, Pinterest and the NFL on Thanksgiving

Warning: this post is just plain weird… I apologize for the weird title, but it will likely drive in random traffic. Anyone coming to this blog post by accident needs a good surprise. Sometimes I like to unwind by writing creatively and coming up with purportedly clever things to say and then randomly call people and whisper the pithy quotes to them. Or put them on the internet, where time and human dignity intertwine to create something both interesting and horrifying simultaneously.

My new book, “Spider Salad” will be published soon, possibly the first ever to be printed in invisible ink on pre-recycled paper. (Is that joke too layered?) A lot people don’t know that I make a living writing. A terrible living, perhaps, but one not aspiring to glamor or box seats at some ignominious sporting event. True, I punch a clock daily to buy my daily bread; believe me, the clock deserves a good punch or two on a routine basis – and I owe it no loyalty for having conspired to steal my creative life in lumps of 8 hours at a time, year after year.

If I were going to write a book, I mean. The Braille edition might come out first. The plan is to pull a prank on those needing it and use small, sharp tacks instead of exclamation marks. As they read, their fingers tracing the bumps and indentations, they will involuntarily provide the “!” when the sharp points hit them. This might cause a problem in libraries, as random shouts of exclamation are generally met with disfavor there.

“Spider Salad” has all the suspense and vague implications that a great book should possess, minus all the words, plot and nonsense to get in the way. It could be a cookbook, a societal diatribe or even a murder-mystery.

This title has something for everyone, unless you are a nihilist, in which case it literally has nothing that will interest you.

It could be a book about self-reflection. I could put a small mirror on page 98 so that it could literally be self-reflective.

I could glue 4 or 5 coins to the inside cover, so it could literally bring change to your life.

“Spider Salad: A Recipe for Disaster”  (A FEMA manual.)
“Spider Salad: Oops, Sorry I Shot You Twice” (An NRA pamphlet.)
“Spider Salad: Why Teaching Isn’t a Real Job” (A Workaholic’s Daily Motivational.)
“Spider Salad:  Why Do I Bother With Rhetorical Questions?” (A Debate Guide.)
“Ensalada de Araña:Y Tú No Me Compras?” (A Marketing Book for Hispanics.)

This book is going to have everything – except a plot, words, or content. (The Republicans among you are already familiar with this glaring lack of substance and content. If you are Republican, please mentally go back and insert the word “Democrat” in lieu of “Republican.” If that’s too many steps, you probably are either a sports fan or management of some sort. We know who you are – you lips are moving as your read this. If you are a Tea Partier, then you are still staring at the first few words of this post, wondering where all the pictures might be.)

09272014 ‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”

‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’

Where was this idea when I was writing the Miley Cyrus-inspired diatribe?

Imagine having enough “talking back” money or the ability to live life exactly according to your own standards – a life without ethical compromise or stupid adherence to the idea that selling one’s personality in exchange for cash is a great way for all of us to squander our lives. I’m going out on a clichéd limb here and speculating that much of our lives would look nothing like what they currently resemble if each of us had sufficient “talking back” money.
(“Talking back” money is an old idea that indicates that you have enough resources to do what you want, despite circumstances trying to align to force you to do what you don’t want to do – usually associated with employment.)
My point isn’t so much toward what type of work we are doing, as work tends to be the unifying factor in our lives, whether we like it or not. It is the attitude that all mature adults must adopt, the attitude that forces us to swallow our natural instinct to not waste our own lives doing meaningless, unethical, or simply stupidly repetitive activity. 
Imagine if we could be honest with all of our friends and loved ones. Not cruelly honest, but respectfully honest. What would your social life look like? Who would you choose to be around? How would you spend your allotted time in life?