Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Weekend

The horrifying events in Connecticut were breaking as we waited to board our plane to Las Vegas. We were headed there to celebrate forty years of love, friendship, family, and community with those who hold special places in our hearts. We were going to reconnect with people we haven't seen for decades: old college friends, family, people we met along the way and who managed to stay connected even though our paths took us all over the planet. We went to celebrate old and new weddings, friendships formed in one place and finished growing in another. We went to share the gift of our love for each other with our friends and family who never met before, or who attended one of our long ago weddings, or who sat in college classes with us, or who lived in communal households during our formative and idealistic years. We went, more than anything else, to share the profound and deep love we've built together as a community. It was our gift to each other, our gift to those we loved and cherished the most.

And all over the country as we waited to board for one common destination, a horrible tragedy was unfolding. I know I wasn't the only one trying to block it out. The sound was off on the airport screens, but the images were impossible to shut out. Grief has a way of cutting through the silence, and even brief involuntary glances at the faces let us know this was a grief beyond words. It was a horror unimaginable to those of us in that waiting room together. It was the complete opposite of the reality we were living in, the life of tolerance, and love, and hope, and common dreams built and shared over decades of love and friendship.

And yet, we blocked as much of it out as possible. We were on our way to a different reality and topics such as death, dying, and tragedy were personalized to something we could take in wound by wound, sadness by sadness. There was an awareness of those in our lives who would not be there to share in this amazing adventure months in the planning. The dead had faces we knew, people we'd loved and said goodbye to in the last few years, some as recently as weeks before. We'd already shed tears for them before boarding the plane because they weren't able to board with us. To cry for strangers would have opened our own personal wounds again and we already put them on hold for the weekend.

We were also aware of the short time many of our group have left on this planet, us included. The youngest of us all have gray hair and gravity has definitely won. For some of us, it was clear that time was something we called "now or never." For every year we put this off, our group of friends and family would grow smaller. Mortality sort of creeps up on us. One day we think we have forever, and then so quickly we look in the mirror and see that forever has a shelf live and we're on the losing end of it.

As a group we have survived illnesses that would have killed the less strong. We are the ones left, the ones who get up from the chair more slowly and ache after a hike or a stroll through adult Disneyland. We are medicated, creaky, and definitely dancing on borrowed time. It's why events such as ours are so important. We are so aware they are now or never events and we hold them close to our hearts.

But the families who lost so much in that awful tragedy, they were in their forever times of life. They sent their children off to school as they did every morning and had no reason to  believe they wouldn't do the same next day and the days after for many years to come. They were parents who were giving their children a childhood, a memory to take forever into adulthood that would form the basic of bonds to come in later years.

We had that. No matter how horrible and dysfunctional our personal childhoods, we didn't fear someone coming to our schools and killing us. That was the only place we felt safe. It was a refuge. The teachers were our adult protectors. It is unimaginable to us as adults who grew up in that time, to think of our schools in any other way.

And yet, there's a whole generation of children who have grown up not feeling that sense of security,  that safe place of our childhood. The first school shooting students are now adults and it has happened so much that we now have several generations of children who don't believe they are safe at school. Sonja, one of the cherished friends who spent the weekend with us at our adult slumber party, returned home to her kids and I'm sure hugged them closer and tighter than ever before, and then she described how the world has changed in this very succinct and poignant way:

"I just demonstrated to my children what one does if one hears gunshots, and made them demonstrate what they had learned. I then gave them several boxes of Lego and instructed them to resume their childhood. I proceeded to the bathroom to cry until I barfed."

I can't imagine the grief of those parents. I have wept many tears at the loss of friends, but they were ill and their deaths were not unexpected, or they died in accidents after much of their lives were already lived. But when a group of children are murdered in such a horrible way, whether it is in war, or disaster, or murder, we lose a piece of our hope in the meaning of forever. We shut down a piece of ourselves that dares to dream of a better world, a safer and more tolerant planet, a more loving and sane humanity.

That is why it is so important to have weekends like we did where there was so much love that everyone who walked into that room was wrapped and cradled in it. It is the only way to fight back. As my young cousin Anna's shirt said: Love is the answer. We must fight back with love because that is the only power than means anything. We must fight back with tolerance because that is how we measure our personal worth as human beings. We must fight back with joy and happiness and acceptance of each other as imperfect and frail creatures doing our best to pass through this life with honor and integrity and a sense of fairness.

I really don't know how we can stop hurting each other, how we can stop killing each other. I have no answers for that. But I do know if each of us makes time to spend a weekend together with those we cherish the most, if we combine the best of our friends and family together in one place and share our love for each other without holding back, without expecting anything in return, without holding on to old wounds and stupid misunderstandings, then we create a force that can fight evil as one unified beam of love.

So send out those emails, make those calls, post it on Faceborg, tweet it until your fingers ache, but start planning your own weekend with each other. Don't tie it in with the holidays. Make it its own holiday. Celebrate being alive and loved and then take that feeling forward and help make a better world, because if we don't, then who will?



Friday, November 02, 2012

Obama, Marijuana, Braces, and the Issues Voter

I was catching up on some of my favorite blogs today and ran across a friend's entry that really bothered me for a lot of reasons. First of all, it demonstrates one of the divides many of the comfortable middle class don't realize is a divide, and second of all, it furthers the message that only appearance is a valid measure of worth. Here's the shortened version of the story:

About three years one of my friends wanted to move from a neighborhood that wasn't a good place to raise her daughter. It was a serious downgrade from a house to a tiny apartment but it was a safe middle-income neighborhood with a good school and she felt it was worth the sacrifice.

There hasn't been any money for extras. My friend is too proud to ever accept any kind of public assistance. She shops at garage sales and thrift stores for school clothes each year. Her daughter always had a lunch to bring, even when dinner was Top Ramen and a box of frozen vegetables. They've managed to squeeze by in three years with their power being turned off twice, and their phone once. They've survived. And they feel safe in their home.

But something happened the other day that sent my friend into a depression that she's having trouble shaking. As I said, they moved into a middle-income neighborhood, the kind of place where the standard of living is just a bit above what my friend raising her daughter alone can afford. It was fine until her daughter started middle school this year and became quiet and even sullen at times. At first my friend thought it was just the normal adjustment period of a new school, but then she began to understand it was more than that.

Her daughter who never asked for anything, who never complained about having to wear used clothing and live in a tiny apartment, came home one day and asked if she could have braces. Her daughter's teeth are not horrible by any means. She has the engaging grin of a young, pretty girl. But her teeth aren't perfect and now it's an issue all of a sudden.

It shouldn't matter but suddenly it's a big deal because all her classmates have braces. And being kids, they make fun of her lack of them. They tell her she will always have ugly crooked teeth if she doesn't get braces NOW! They make this lovely young girl feel ugly because her mother can't afford to have her teeth straightened until they resemble perfect little white picket fences.

It was heartbreaking for my friend to have to tell her daughter she can't afford to buy her braces. It was heartbreaking to watch the previously confident girl with perfect grades suddenly lose all confidence in herself. And it was especially heartbreaking for both of them to realize that no matter how smart a girl is, no matter how much she sacrifices along with her mother so they can both have a better life, she has just received her first lesson that she will go through life judged on her appearance.

There is nothing that can be done to fix this. My friend does not have the money and her daughter's classmates will never understand how something they take for granted--their perfect teeth, will one day be a symbol of class division to those who grew up in homes where braces were a luxury their families could not afford.

It is my sincere hope that by the time my friend's daughter goes to college,  she will have learned her advantage in life is what lives inside her, not what others see and judge on the outside. But I also know she will never forget how she was judged by her classmates who simply didn't understand there were some things that not everyone could afford, and in many ways their very appearance was a privilege others didn't get a chance to have. This lack of understanding is just another brick in the wall that continues to divide the people in this country from each other.

My other issue today came after a discussion with a man who has several post-graduate degrees. He was a radical in college, always up on the latest world events, always engaged and aware of the issues. He went on to the professional career he always dreamed about. His entire adult life has been a comfortable one where he buys a new car each year, upgrades his home about every five years, travels, and has a secure retirement in his future.

But he hasn't read a book in years. He only reads the local Republican rag in his very Republican neighborhood and each year begins to sound more and more ridiculously conservative, spouting talking points that he would have laughed at just a few short years ago. He only uses the internet to check sports scores. He doesn't care enough about the rest of the world to even bother checking to see if it's still there.

The only thing he watches on television is sports. He hasn't even seen a movie in a couple years. He has no interest in anything but coming home from work, plopping himself in front of his TV and watching all the sporting events that dutifully recorded themselves while he was at work. And he smokes marijuana. Lots of marijuana. In his 50 some years of life, I don't think he's ever had a problem finding marijuana. After all, he's a respectable, white middle-class American. No cop has ever stopped him and harassed him for being high or getting high or trying to get high. He buys it from other white, middle class smokers like himself. There's no slumming needed to get his weed.

And yet, he refuses to vote for Obama because he's done nothing to legalize marijuana. Yup, that's his entire reason for not voting, even though nothing has yet to interfere in his desire to get high. He would rather stay home and risk a president getting elected whose religion won't even let him drink coffee, much less ignore people who want to smoke weed or drink,  and he thinks there is no difference between the candidates. This is your one issue voter from the other side, folks. This is your no information voter. This is who will never go to the polls because he won't even educate himself on this one policy that he claims matters so much to him.

And no, I don't believe it's the weed that made him this way. I believe it was working to accumulate all the toys he feels he needs to have on hand to impress people who don't give a crap about him. I believe it's because he quit reading books. I believe it's because he watches nothing but sports. I believe it's because at heart he is a selfish, callous shit with hardly any friends. The weed is just something he uses to mute the tedious boredom his life long ago became. And it's all Obama's fault that weed isn't legal. He says this all the time as he's toking on the other end of the phone, as he talks about the great bud he scored, as he defines his life according to the sporting events he watched and how high he was.

The thing is there wasn't that much difference between him and my friend's daughter. They both had the same beginnings. They were both brilliant with a great future ahead of them. The only thing that got in the way were things like braces, and summer camp, and vacations, and cars. It divided him from them just as my friend's daughter is being  divided from her life and theirs because of her imperfect teeth.

Neither of those are things I can do anything about. Both fall under the this is the way life is category. I can't say my daughter's friend will end up like this man just because of her teeth, but if there's one thing that can stifle her as a human being, it's that pain of realizing that no matter how smart she is, how educated she becomes, until she deals with that horrible pain of childhood, that pain of being excluded because of something beyond her control, her personal growth becomes stunted forever.

Strong Woman Round Clock
Strong Woman Round Clock by orsobear
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binder Full Of Women

Seriously...does anyone but serial killers have binders full of women?

And for all of you who wish you had your own binder full of women, I made a special one for you. You can customize it with your own name or you can remove all the text. Just click on the customize button and have fun. Or order it as is for your favorite serial killer candidate for President.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Message To Republicans From Women Voters


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Me and Mr. Pissy Bossy

A few years ago I worked for a temp agency. One of the jobs lasted about two weeks and consisted of mind-numbing boring work at the cheapest rate possible for someone with my skills. I remember having to fight for an extra ten cents an hour that the company wanted to deduct for using their break room. Seriously. They wanted to charge me to sit in the buzzing white florescent hell of orange plastic chairs and a microwave that was so old you could feel it cooking from across the room, for the whole fifteen minutes of break time they were legally required to provide. I ate my lunch outside in my car in the parking lot. The air was better.

Most of the places I worked had friendly, nice people who if they didn't especially love their jobs, at least didn't hate them. In this place the workers barely smiled. They were sullen and not especially friendly. At first I attributed this to temp syndrome; they didn't want to waste their time being nice to someone who wasn't going to be there after a couple weeks. Then I noticed they treated each other the same way. I half expected to see a sign up somewhere that said Beatings will continue until morale improves.

Then I met the boss and it all made sense. He was in his mid-30's and the greatest argument for a one hundred percent tax on inherited wealth I ever met. Mr. Pissy Bossy would come strolling in around 11 am and immediately head for the time clock to check to see if anyone was late that morning. And by late, that meant anyone who failed to clock in by 8 am exactly. Early was good. One minute after eight meant your card was stapled onto the cork board in the middle of the work space so everyone could see it and the big red letters scrawled over it: LATE!

That was warning one. Warning two was someone waiting at your desk to escort you out the building, usually Mr. Pissy Bossy because he enjoyed it so much. His cheeks would get all flushy and his voice would go up in pitch as he announced to everyone: this employee chose to steal from me because time is money so they are no longer my employee. 

Besides being a total douchebag, he was also one of the dumbest and most racist jerks I've ever met. He would walk around and check computer screens and make completely uninformed and stupid comments that showed how little he actually understood about the business. One thing to note was that not once did he stop by my desk. Since I was only temporary he had no control over me and therefore no interest. I might as well have been invisible.

But everyone else cowered under his douchebaggery. They put up with his cruelty, his racism, his stupid remarks. No one ever challenged him. No one ever corrected him. No one ever suggested he might be wrong or have the facts wrong. No one ever expected him to care because everyone knew he was there just so his father could justify the fortune he spent buying him a college degree.

I say "buy" because it was clear Mr. Pissy Bossy never cracked open a book in his life. He didn't have to. If he was in danger of failing a class, daddy just donated more money to the university. He just funded another scholarship, built another building, whatever it took to make sure his dumb as a bag of rocks son got that piece of paper.

That was Mr. Pissy Bossy's life: wealth, privilege, never having to work very hard at anything, or have anything he said or did--no matter how stupid, challenged. The disdain he felt for the people he employed was so obvious that no one even gossiped about him. On their breaks they wanted away from him. To talk about him would give him far more presence in their lives than they wanted. It wasn't so much that they hated him, but more of an acceptance that this is what money did to people, this is what it filled in the places that everyone else called love, trust, tolerance, compassion, and altruism. Mr. Pissy Bossy's very pores were filled with the kind of wealth that is cheap, ostentatious, and will never make up for lack of a personality.

It would seem that with such an insignificant role in his father's company for a mere four hours a day, that he wouldn't have much impact with his presence. But Mr. Pissy Bossy wasn't content to just put in his time, torture a few workers and then go flush out his alcoholic cheeks with another round of martinis at the country club. No, he couldn't just do what daddy wanted because like many men and a whole lot of rich fucks like himself, Mr. Pissy Bossy had daddy issues. He had something to prove.

And prove it he did. While sitting through the mandatory minimum requirement for his MBA, Mr. Pissy Bossy fell in with a bad crowd. They taught him things about money daddy never taught him. They showed him how fun it was to move money around and make it hurt some people as at the same time, it made others wealthy. As dumb as he was, this was something Mr. Pissy Bossy could learn and do well because it required nothing more than seeing people, assets, money, banks, and Wall Street as one and the same. It all came down to numbers in one column and numbers in another column. Anything else, like human factors, took the fun out of the game.

For Mr. Pissy Bossy and his friend, it was a game. They would hover around the computer in his office and play move the money around games. One of their games while I was there, involved buying a block of what they called "N-word habitats" in some mid-western city and forcing the long time residents out by demolishing the building after the purchase.

Rich people don't have to sell right away, unlike those who need the money. So they held on to the land and made constant and horribly offensive jokes about the people they displaced. That was the game. Hurting people. Mocking them. Taking away the roofs over their heads. Land that would one day, ten or twenty years down the road bring them money wasn't relevant. It was just a side benefit of being born wealthy. The real fun was in making human beings suffer.

I asked for another assignment after a week and unlike most jobs, the agency didn't even ask me why. They knew. I went to work somewhere else the next day with no problem.

For several years I forgot about Mr. Pissy Bossy until Mitt Romney came along to remind me about him. You see, these gaffes that Romney makes, the insensitive comments, the stupid remarks, it's just like Mr. Pissy Bossy. No one has ever dared to tell Willard that he was wrong, or stupid, or uneducated, or cruel, or out of touch. It must come as a shock to him to even be questioned at all. Look at his reaction when anyone asks. His entire body language says how dare you!

And like Mr. Pissy Bossy, Willard has never been poor. He has no idea what it's like and he doesn't really want to know. That's the main problem. He just doesn't care and he just doesn't want to know. It's what a life of privilege and wealth does to you. It insulates you. It robs you of the requirement that you actually learn and do something of value with your life. It makes you mean. It makes you cruel. And it fills the emptiness with more money than anyone can spend in a hundred lifetimes.

This is who the Republicans are offering to the American people, a man who would turn the entire country into that desperate and sad company I once gave a week of my life to before I couldn't stomach it anymore. This is how he would treat the poor, the old, the weak, the ordinary human beings who earn nothing from the Mitt Romneys of the world but their disdain.

And if you stay home or vote Republican, you will be helping to make it happen. The choice is yours. All I ask  is that you remember those people in that office and ask yourself if that's how you want to spend the rest of your life. How you answer will tell you how you should vote.

Daily Words to Stew On: A Progressive's Daily Devotional: 2012 Election Year Edition


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Legacies of Words

 I've lived around writers, artists, and musicians for most of my life. Every event, no matter how major or minor, was immortalized, displayed, and performed. No one just died. They went out in one last superbly scripted, choreographed, and wrenched from the guts of creative angst-inspired performance art. Very often this art was created in the final months, weeks or days of life. We saw only the end result, and rarely, unless we were close to the artist, the process that created it.

But blogs changed all that, especially for writers. The personal became the painfully blogged, and the inner torment, the doubts, the rage, the fear, the sadness, and the acceptance became a shared journey. I remember the first time a friend sent me the url to what she called her Cancer Blog, there was this initial moment of horror, this feeling of voyeurism, this sense of intruding into what seemed far too personal to share.

It was also terrifying as I was still recovering from coming up against my own mortality. There were issues, fears, and doubts I was still resolving inside myself and I was afraid my own pace would be disturbed if I ran alongside someone else's race against time.

Nearly a decade later I've said goodbye to far too many wonderful writers and artists who left us way too early. Most of them kept blogs, especially the writers, and I've come to see their words, their months of describing a journey we all have to make at some time, as a valuable gift to the world left behind.

 Even though everyone approaches illness and death differently, it is the process we all seek to understand. We want to know what it feels like the moment when it becomes inevitable. We want to know the questions we would ask, the answers we would accept, the words we would struggle to say and share with our own voices. We want to know what it feels like to die.

I still feel like a voyeur, a fraud with my health, my future still ahead of me, when one of my friends starts her own personal cancer blog and asks me to read it. But I've come to understand illness and dying are two separate sides of the same goodbye and it helps them to know I am there reading their words, that there is a place all of us in their lives can go and be updated, shared with, and comforted.

 There are things that are universal, and there are things only experience can teach us. But with the amazing courage of these women who described their illnesses and then their paths to dying, we have an insight into what was once only an intellectual description found in textbooks. We now have the personal from the initial diagnosis, through treatment, through hope, through despair, through the moment when each blog entry grows closer to the end and the reality sinks in that it's not just a novel, it's not just words on a screen. It's yet another woman, another friend, another writer, another courageous human being sharing her final journey in order to make ours less lonely.

Within the despair, the tears when days have passed and there have been no new posts and then suddenly there is one, but it's a family member instead writing the last post, there is also something very important that has grown from the millions of words. Through years of writing about their experiences, the dying have left behind a library of information related to treatments, options, financial and psychological assistance, and the many details that are so important to saying a clean and uncluttered goodbye.

They've given support and much needed understanding to women who find themselves diagnosed with a serious and often terminal illness. From the blogs have grown websites with forums dedicated to the issues first written about and shared among women and a handful of friends and family. No one has to die alone anymore. No one has to feel they haven't exhausted all the options out there. There is a community of the newly diagnosed, the long term treated, the terminal, the family, friends, and left behind. We have shared something that never used to be shared so completely.

It is a form that is still evolving. One of the curious things to me as person, is how strangers start following a dying person's blog and become part of the community. As a writer I understand it perfectly. There are blogs I read just because the person is so fascinating and what they have to say so unique and educating, that it doesn't matter if I know them or not.

Usually they're not dying, but a couple times in the last year I've been directed by a dying friend or two to blogs that are followed by thousands of people. It's as if a fascinating new person has moved into the neighborhood and is a superb writer who manages to catch us all up in the fascinating process of her dying. We all sit down to tea and listen and get caught up in her life, her treatment, her dreams, her hopes, and when it all comes crashing down to the reality of death winning most of the time, it's as horrible as if she really did live next door.

And in this way, I believe the world grows a bit more human. If we can share the most intimate part of our lives in such a way, if we can leave such a gift of community behind, such a legacy of all sharing the same hopes, the same dreams of a miracle cure, the same sense of loss when the inevitable family member post appears, then maybe through our dying we can finally learn to live as one people on one planet.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Yo, Douchebags!

After weeks of watching Republicans pander to the most disgusting of bottom feeders to convince them to vote for their brand of heaving, stinking, steaming pile of thieving crappery, I've reached the upper limits of disgust. This used to be a decent country where people cared about each other as fellow human beings. It used to be a place that prided itself on being the melting pot of the world, a beacon in the darkness for the persecuted to find welcome and shelter.

But now it's perceived by most of the world and many of us who live here, as a pit of corporate influence where even the Supreme Court has become a mockery of justice and the law, where an ethically and morally bankrupt country of greedy and selfish douchebags masquerading as Congress, shit all over each other over in the name of money, greed, and power.

But it didn't get this way overnight. It was douchbagged into existence by some of the most disgusting slime to ever pass as human beings. The list is long and ugly, but a few players rise to the top as the prime douches floating around the bag.

At the top of the shit heap of hate are the Koch Brothers. As the link reminds us, the John Birch Society, an organization devoted to spreading hate and bigotry, has been a part  of the family since it climbed out of that festering pile of hatred to infect America. It's why they labeled President Obama  a communist, a socialist, a liberal, all kinds of scary words to avoid what they really wanted to say: he's black.

 It's not his agenda they hated, it was and continues to be his skin color. Every day when they wake up and are once again reminded America elected a black President, their hatred grows stronger not only against him, but against those who put him in office. They blame the liberals, the democrats, the unions, the middle and working class, the poor for ruining their ugly little white world. All the money they are spreading around like manure on a garden of shit, is purely for payback. They will not rest until they've destroyed the lives of those who dared to elect a black man to what they consider the exclusive realm of rich white men.

But they couldn't do it without hiding behind the most pathetic of losers, those mouth breathing morons who hung on every word oozing from the slime of hate radio.  These pathetically stupid wastes of skin were easily manipulated into believing the Tea Party, a front group funded by the Koch Brothers to help them spread their bigotry across the country, was their own idea instead of yet another noose they helped knot around their own necks. By appealing to their ignorant racism, bigotry, and rampant paranoia about anything or anyone different,  they got these knuckle dragging fools to vote for corporate control over their entire lives from the bedroom to the grave.

But the hate spewing from their radios didn't just grow overnight. It was was scripted and funded by rich haters and bigots to spread blatant propaganda falsely and deceptively labeled as news. They created disgusting  media personalities to infect the country with a new genre of propaganda: Hate Radio. They relied on Mitt Romney's Bain Capital to fund and feed that drug addicted douchebag, Rush Limbaugh and just about every so-called "conservative" with a show aimed at the dumbest white people in America.

Yes, Romney's wealth funded the hate spewed into the ears of paranoid, pathetic knuckledraggers who foolishly believed they were something other than the carefully manipulated tools of the rich and hateful. His wealth paid to stir up their bigotry, their hatred, their paranoia so they would  turn out like good little sheeple and vote in more Republicans to fuck them while they stole the rest of this country's wealth to stash in their overseas bank accounts.

And the worst of the hate, the worst of the bigotry was created and funded by the most morally bankrupt bigot and racist in existence: Rupert Murdoch. The Fox News empire on a daily basis spews more hatred and lies than any other media. It's deceptive, biased, and outright lies rival only that of the former Soviet Union, proving that in Murdoch's case, he became the very evil he claims to have vehemently opposed because nothing is too much of an enemy or too evil if it can put a dollar in his pocket.

But none of this carefully packaged and promoted hatred and bigotry would have gained a foothold without the help of its absolutely evil and ethically perverted partner: religion. Without the churches telling and training their members what group of people to hate, what politicians shared their hatred of specific ethnic groups, the white hooded politics of the Koch Brothers, the Romneys, the Limbaughs, the Murdochs would have remained on the fringe of other lunatic crazies. It was the churches in America, those breeding grounds for bible sanctioned cruelty and misogyny that brought it out from  the rocks it hid under for so long.

However, the effect of being so out in the open is now working against them. The problem with putting all your faith into the hands of people who are so consumed with hate is at some point they begin to believe they are the majority voice. They don't understand that being given a voice by a controlled, propaganda driven media is not the same as having a majority voice. And eventually, the pushback begins from those who truly are the majority and who are tired of some raving crazy's  hatred,  bigotry, and religion-fueled intolerance interfering in their right to live by their own morality and beliefs.

And as stupid and mean and greedy as the douchebags are, they know there is only one thing that can defeat them: a united populace. It's why they work so hard to divide the country from each other, because that way it's easier to split up the groups into manageable chunks of easily controlled stupid people. But they're starting to lose control of their crazies. The mouth breathers aren't happy to find out they're expected to drag their knuckles for the RomneyBot. The douchebags anticipate trouble and so they're making sure only those who will vote their way are allowed to vote, a lot like those dictatorships they're always going on about.

 The best and only way to fight back against the millions of douchebag dollars, the lies, the propaganda, the disgusting greed and ethical wasteland they shit down upon us, is to get out and vote against their candidates.  Vote against Republicans. Democrats aren't perfect, but at least they won't force their religion on you, they won't demand you adhere to their version of morality, they won't inflict misogyny on the women, they won't promote racism, bigotry, or have a paranoid, delusional and insane need to control every inch of your life  like the Republicans will.

 And please re-elect President Obama, if only to know that the Koch Brothers and all their hater buddies will wake up the next morning with a headache they spent millions on to make go away, and it's still there stronger than before. Honor still wins over money, so be honorable on election day and take our country back from the douchebags before there's nothing left to take back. That will give you something to work with that still values your voice instead of finding ways to silence it into submission.


Lord, Save Us From Your Followers: Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America?


Thursday, April 19, 2012

How T-Mobile lost a customer over less than a dollar

I've been a customer of T-Mobile for about seven or eight years, but today I'm going shopping for a new cell phone service because the "office of Jay Vanderlay" felt it was more important to collect less than a dollar each month from me rather than put any effort into keeping me as a customer. Here's the details.

I'm not one of those people who texts all the time. I prefer to talk in person or send emails. My phone is for phone calls. I'm old-fashioned that way, or maybe there's just too many mechanical things demanding my attention that I limit their access to my already overloaded brain. So I didn't sign up for nor did I want to pay for unlimited text messaging for ten dollars a month. I already pay almost a hundred dollars a month for two lines and that's already too much for what I get.

This worked fine for many years. I paid twenty cents for text message sent and received and it rarely cost me more than a couple extra dollars a month. Then a couple months ago I started receiving spam texts, several of them a week. All of a sudden I went from paying for a couple text messages here and there to over ten dollars worth a month.

First of all, there really isn't an easy way to contact anyone at T-Mobile to ask a simple question online. They appear to not want to deal with their customer complaints this way so you have to sign up for a service that is basically a forum filled with other people complaining about T-Mobile's crappy customer service.

So I dialed the 611 number and was connected with someone who didn't even know the basics of what I was complaining about. I told him I wanted to not pay for spam sent to my cell phone, which is also and has been for years, on the Do Not Call List. He told me the only way to deal with it was to sign up for the ten dollars a month unlimited text messaging service. He found it impossible to understand or accept there are people in the world who do not text everything. He ended up basically pissing me off by implying I was some kind of idiot for not wanting unlimited text.

So I filed a complaint with the Attorney General's office. This is where "the office of Jay Vanderlay" comes into the picture to totally destroy the reputation of T-Mobile. I keep my phone off when I'm sleeping or working on a customer order as do most sane people who don't want to be bothered. I received a phone call asking me to call a number and an extension. I did and kept getting through to nothing but his voice mail account. The next day I found another message on my phone saying he had tried to get hold of me and failed and if I didn't contact him soon he would tell the Attorney General's office I didn't call him back.

I logged into my account, took a screen shot of all the calls to his office that went straight to voice mail and then I called several more times, the last one telling him I'd taken screen shots of my attempts to call him. I finally got him on the phone.

Not only was he the rudest person I've ever had the displeasure of talking to, he basically said that T-Mobile is unable to distinguish between a spammer sending thousands of text spams through their service (which they get 20 cents per call both from the spammer and from me) but that  it was in their terms of service that they could do this to their customers.

First of all, a company that can't get control of its out of control text spam problem doesn't really speak well of its professional status. But the truth is T-Mobile makes lots of money from spammers. It makes lots of money customers who are forced to receive that spam. And since they racked up some huge expenses and lost tons of customers over the whole mess with At&T, then they have to recoup those costs somewhere.

So I'm going cell phone service shopping today. T-Mobile has lost a customer who pays her bill every month. They've thrown away nearly one hundred dollars a month to keep collecting those spam pennies. It would have been an easy to find a way to keep me as a customer. Give me free text messaging for a couple months to make up for the spam costs. Send me a coupon for a free cup of coffee. Apologize and admit that as a cell phone provider you just don't have the ability to keep up with the big guys. But instead they chose to be rude. They chose to be greedy. And they chose to let themselves be represented by rude, incompetent and prissy little boys. Nice job, guys. And goodbye.

Stomp Out Racism zazzle_shirt
Stomp Out Racism by orsobear
Make your t-shirts custom on zazzle.

Mother's Day Gifts


Monday, April 16, 2012

Propaganda of Titanic Proportions.

Sunday, April 14th,  was the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking and if anything typifies the disconnect between the one percent and everyone else, it was the coverage of this tragedy's anniversary. Most of the news stories focused on the rich first class passengers and their last meal, which was recreated all over the country like  this one  served in Texas that cost 12,000 dollars. When there are people going hungry in this country because of the greed of the wealthy, this was just plain disgusting and wasteful and really points out that for the rich, most of America still lives in steerage class.

The poor, then as now, were invisible, unimportant, nameless and not even worth fishing out of the sea, a forgotten class that ate and traveled away from the disapproving eyes of the rich and privileged. Many of the steerage passengers were listed as servants, general laborers, working class whose bodies were mostly never recovered, unlike the rich who not only had access to the life boats first, but it seems, if you check out the recovery of bodies here, were more important even after death. I find it hard to believe only the rich floated to the top. Someone had to make a choice of whose body to salvage and whose body would remain in the cold depths of the sea.

And the whole myth of women and children first only applied if you were poor. Check out how many first class male passengers were listed as survivors in the lifeboats in comparison to steerage class. The whole myth of chivalry and honor was just that, a myth to perpetuate an image of the wealthy that was a complete and total lie. There was no honor in their behavior nor in how they got their wealth. They didn't get rich by working. They got rich by being dishonorable, immoral thieves or they inherited their unearned wealth from parents who got rich by stealing everything they could get their greedy hands on. Most never worked an honest day in their entire worthless lives.

Today not much has changed in the way the wealthy banksters, Wall Street scum, and other parasitic gamblers view everyone else. What has changed is how the wealthy are perceived by those they disdain and look down upon with the kind of scorn the first class passengers had for steerage class. Back then people knew the real enemy were the banks and Wall Street and the politicians who sold themselves to the highest bidders.

Today, through the concerted effort of propaganda pieces in the media that perpetuate the myth that everyone can become wealthy if they only work hard enough, the modern day steerage class blames itself for being poor. It's the working class who has been brainwashed into supporting tax breaks for the super rich while their own taxes go higher as their wages go lower. It's the working class who has been fooled into thinking the rich will create jobs that pay more than minimum wage with no benefits. It's the poor, uneducated knuckledragging mouthbreathers who vote for Republicans because they believe that somehow through the miracle of trickle down, their dumb asses will be allowed a seat at the same table as the rich and they will get a chance to dine on all that opulent food.

This kind of propaganda is what has allowed the wealthy to continue to steal from the stupid and the delusional. They don't have to change anything except  how ignorant people perceive them and then they can continue to use and abuse the poor for their own purposes. It's the same kind of lies fed to the conservative base that claims Ann Romney works just as hard as a single mother trying to feed her kids while holding down two shitty jobs. I'm willing to bet these moms didn't feed their kids anything from that first class menu because even one course was more than they could afford. And yet, because they are so ignorant, they are willing to let themselves be further brainwashed into thinking Ann Romney is just like them, that she also struggles with how to put food on the table, pay the rent on her five mansions, or decide which of her many cars to drive that day while everyone else hopes gas prices don't go up any more so they can afford to drive to work.

What people don't get in the all the fluff messaging from the media is that less than a decade after the Titanic sank, the Mitt Romneys of that time were engaged in basically the same kind of thievery that is going on today. The average person could buy 100 dollars worth of stock for ten dollars and pretend that invisible, non-existent money made them rich. It was only when they had to make up the difference from their own pockets that they started throwing themselves out of their office windows. And the Mitt Romneys of that time took their money out of the banks and caused the collapse of the economy, much as the rich of today took their money out of the economy and caused the Bush/Cheney era depression that President Obama inherited.

Both times, when it was over, the rich were even richer and the poor were even poorer. That never changes. It's the pattern that occurs when the wealth is in the hands of a small percentage and it never ever trickles down, no matter how many Reagans come along to perpetuate the lie. And it's the Mitt Romneys, the Koch Brothers, the Karl Roves, the slimy congress members who take their wealth out of the country and move it to places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands to protect it from economic collapse. It's not taxes they're dodging because they pay hardly any taxes. It's the shitty economy they're running away from, the  banks they collapsed by stealing, by pushing fake money around that doesn't exist, by buying and selling assets that exist only in virtual reality. The country is their bank and they made a concerted run on it and got their money out while it was still money and not virtual fluff like everyone else got stuck with. This is how they stay rich and how the poor stay poor.

And it's the myth surrounding tragedies like the Titanic that keep the pea under the shell and away from the watchful eyes of the poor. As long as people can see the lavish meals served to the wealthy to commemorate the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic and imagine themselves at that table, as long as they can watch television shows that take them inside mansions and make them believe they can one day set foot inside these palaces, as long as shows that glorify the rich instead of portraying them as they parasites they are fill the programming schedule, the poor will be their own worst enemies, and when the ship goes down, they won't even be afforded the dignity of being fished out of the water. They'll be just another name on the manifest listed as laborer, working class, and servant. The insignificant poors.

But eventually, the rich get so fat and arrogant on their own wealth, they steal too much and create an underclass that becomes homeless, jobless,  lives under bridges and eats from food banks. Once critical mass is reached and there are hundreds of people fighting for space under those bridges and there's not enough food to go around, then revolutions happen. They're the only action that has ever affected any kind of change and it used to be that the wealthy knew just how far they could go, just how much they could steal before that mass was reached.

They don't seem to be that smart anymore. Only time will tell if they figure it out in time or if the mobs get hungry and large enough to start dragging them from their houses and cars and start stringing them up in the public squares as they strip anything of value from their lifeless corpses. I suspect if Romney wins the election, those days will come sooner than later because the army of poors are already in place and there's not much left to steal from them anymore. All they have is their anger, their hatred, and a burning desire for vengeance in their bellies that takes their minds off the hunger. It won't take much to set them off at all.

Download Death To My Hometown


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Tree of Life, the movie

For the last several days I've been trying to find a way to put into words the feeling of continuity that weaves its way through the chaos of our individual existence. It was brought on by watching the devastation created by one of the owners of what was previously a lovely piece of land where heron nested in the trees and generations of squirrels trained new residents how to feed them their favorite treats. His reasoning for cutting down every single tree, some bigger around than many of us could embrace in one hug, was that he was building a solar house and needed to remove the trees so enough light would get through. He doesn't plan on living in it. He's building it with the intent of charging more than average to someone who is "one of them environmentalist types."

He really doesn't understand the contradiction, just as he doesn't understand how far apart he is from what nature truly is and means. He doesn't understand that those so-called environmentalist types have no interest in buying from someone who has so little respect for nature, so little understanding of what it even means to care about the environment, that he would cut down every single tree just to make his ugly devastation marketable.

In so many ways he is the poster boy for what happens when humans become disconnected from nature. And this is what I wanted to explain, the chaos that ensues when, in spite our continuity, in spite of our continual presence on this planet, we become disconnected from the part of us that is also part of the natural world. It's like trying to live without an essential organ like the heart or the brain.

Then last night I watched the movie "Tree of Life"  and something fell into place for me. I previously tried to explain the lack of compassion and shallowness of many of those on Wall Street, Congress, and heading up corporations as a lack of introspection. They are, for the most part,  mean, self-centered, materialistic excuses for human beings. They are what happens when your drugs of choice are alcohol and cocaine, drugs that numb feeling, drugs that allow you to be cruel and uncaring because you can always wipe them away with another dose. They are no different than the soldiers dosed on meth and Wagner so they could kill without conscience. One of the earliest uses of methamphetamine occurred during World War II. The German military dispensed Pervitin which was methamphetamine. It was freely administered to both tank crews and aircraft personnel.

Every generation has its drugs of choice and for mine it was LSD and marijuana, both which tend to make the imbiber more introspective. The inner landscape becomes inseparable from the outer landscape, and that is something we've lost, something that builder of the solar house has lost. It is also a theme I felt was covered in  "Tree of Life" in an especially beautiful and haunting way.

But in a clear example of how disconnected many have become from nature, I read that when the movie first aired, lots of people booed and jeered during the screening. It appears the plot didn't move fast enough for them and they were forced to endure multiple and astonishing scenes of beauty that weren't computer generated, but instead were created by so-called old fashioned  special effects techniques, like running liquid through objects and filming it.

For those of us who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, not only did the film remind us that no matter how awful our childhoods were for the most part, there were also moments when as children we lived in a sacred world untouched by the harshness of life. We played, laughed, felt, reacted to the world around us because we didn't have the filters of television, the internet, instant access to information. We had to dream and create and imagine.

In many ways the evolution of our consciousness had to create LSD and marijuana, just as the current generation and the one before it had to create drugs like Ecstasy as part of their mental development, and also as a backlash against the numbness and cruelty of those who escaped with hard and unforgiving drugs like cocaine and alcohol.

But that numbing and disconnect is also found in the prevalence of young heroin addicts and those who can't face the day without anti-depressants. We live in a disconnected world and everyone copes according to whether they want to retreat inward or blunt what lives within the recesses of those dark places.

In "The Tree of Life" the choice is between faith or nature, and while faith seems to drive most of the characters, it does so against the powerful continuity of nature. It is a movie that demands you sit patiently and wait for events to unfold, a task that in this world of instant gratification proved too much for those who jeered in the audience. Nature always takes its time. Faith demands instant answers, instant relief to specific situations. In nature we are part of the play. In faith, we are the directors of not only our own play, but also those of everyone else. Nature connects us, faith disconnects us.

Those of my generation were raised by men who saw the worst humanity can inflict upon itself. They saw things no human can see and still keep their humanity intact. Like the father in the movie, played by Brad Pitt, they wanted to toughen us up so we could survive the horror that life would throw at us. They wanted to protect us from it and at the same time, hide it from us. It's why we grew up wanting to know more, wanting to see the source of the contradictions. If anything, we children of war survivors knew there was more to the story and so we went looking through introspection and the kind of drugs that are conducive to looking inwards. We became a generation of seekers who knew there were answers and that they would explain the chaos inside, the angst we felt at knowing we were part of something and yet not knowing how to completely be part of it.

One thing we do learn as we get older is that even introspection reaches a point where it becomes selfish and indulgent. We can't all be monks on the mountain top perpetually seeking answers. At some point we have to stop, look around us and take our place in the world. As sometimes this came too late in life to accomplish much more than survival and perpetuating our own gene pool, the chaotic pendulum shifted to children coming from us that didn't want to look so deep inside, that didn't want to feel so much, that didn't really have the chance to live in the sacred world of childhood we may have been the last generation to enjoy.

 So the pendulum got stuck on the selfish swing, the arc failed to move beyond the gimme stage of existence and we ended up with the culture of greed that now permeates the planet. We ended up letting faith kill nature because it was just easier to swallow someone else's truth rather than discover the path to our own.

The backdrop of the movie is music as Brad Pitt's character gave up a career in music to become an engineer, the ultimate betrayal of the artistic self. His failing was in not understanding he didn't have to give up one for the other, that nature can weave through both truths and music is the pulsating universe both within and without us. Compassion and altruism can be as strong as steel and concrete if you grow them from within.

At the end of the movie I just wanted to sit for awhile and absorb what I had seen because while it was familiar, it was also like entering an astonishing exhibit of beautiful art whose technical mastery seemed to mock the easy solution of computer generated imagery we've come to expect when we say "special effects." In many ways, that to me is the true message of the movie, that we've moved so far beyond the simplicity of nature we've lost the meaning of it. Just like the man destroying nature to appeal to environmentalists.

The Tree of Life (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)


Friday, March 23, 2012

The price of hate

The Republican party has blood on its hands because it funded and supported the kind of hatemongering and stereotypical branding of human beings for their own political agenda. No one who listened to it, watched it, repeated it, spread it around like obedient little fascist monkeys can escape blame either, because without them there would be no audience, no advertisers, no reason to pollute the airways and minds with such evil crap. How many lives must be lost to senseless and stupid hate before people wake up and understand we are not born hating, that it is something we are taught and choose to keep believing.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

John Lennon's "Imagine" (2010 - Remaster)


Monday, March 19, 2012

Me and the War On Class

More and more lately I'm reminded me that I live in a country that was structured by rich white douchebags to benefit rich white douchebags long after their deaths. I imagine it sounded so perfect to them as they wrote it down on paper and passed it around for mutual approval. They were fairly certain all they had to do was will it on the masses and it would become ironclad, same as those flat earth guys a few centuries before them who were certain they could control everyone with some totally mindfuck stories they threw together after eating  moldy bread.

And like any good old power hungry waste of human skin, they killed off a few skeptics, a whole bunch of "other color" and of course, lots and lots of women to make sure no one questioned the veracity of their hallucinations. In order to get away with this they had to create the other, the bad person, the evil one, the not us that is so easy to program into the heads of the weak and terminally stupid.

My whole adult life, starting in my teens, I considered it honorable to be one of the others, and I still do. I am proud to be a Liberal because those are the principles that built the good things in this country, the kinds of things we once were admired for by the rest of the world. We took care of our own. Our leaders would have been mortified to have other countries know there were people dying of hunger in the richest country in the world, so they fought hard against the rich white douchebags to make sure those images would never be part of the image of America by passing Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, Heating assistance. We took care of our own because that is what an adult country did with its weaker citizens. No one had to ask if it was right or wrong; it was America and that was good enough for most of the country.

I am proud of my atheism because it has allowed me to question the easy answers and go straight for the best part of the questions. I can't imagine letting someone do my thinking for me or forcing me to believe what they believe simply because someone else told them they had to believe it. You can't walk upright if you're always on your knees.

I am happy for my education because it gave me an opportunity to rise above the circumstances of my early life. It taught me I could make a living with my mind as well as my body, that I had a choice which one I chose to use, or I could even use both. I had a choice because education gave me a choice. I didn't have to help build someone else's dreams once I knew I was perfectly capable of building my own. And I will fight and argue and defend everyone's right to an education because I know how the rich white douchebags hate it when people like me become educated enough to fight back. That's when they start referring to my education as class warfare, because it taught me I had the right to fight back.

These same douchebags want to take away that right to an education because they don't want people like me getting educated enough to fight back. They want trade schools, training camps, company towns where the population is grateful and never dreams of more because they know there is no more. Before the digital divide was even uttered as line creating an us and them society, there was education.

Those who learned to read in early times were the powerful, even if they were poor, even if they were not part of the elite ruling class. And it was that way and is still that way in so many parts of the country. It is shameful that in America, there are still people who can't or won't read, even more so because it is intentional.  Entertainment is sitting in front of something and letting yourself be passively entertained. Reading takes opening the book (or kindle thingie) and actively processing what is coming into your brain. That's dangerous to the douchebags because it also teaches you to think. You can't read without comprehending, and you can't comprehend without thinking.

I'm also very glad of my working class roots and the days of outright poverty I endured growing up. Since it was before food stamps and welfare, we often had to depend on the kindness and generosity of others. I learned that those who have something are always willing to share with those who have nothing. It comes natural. It's not something the one who has thinks about. They have and someone else doesn't and it doesn't feel right.

The only downside I can see to growing up poor is that I'm happy with less and so I've never had much in the way of things. I've always lived close to the edge so I could create, write, and exist without a hand on my neck demanding I get down on my knees for dollars. I've done my share of manual labor. I've worked for some of the biggest and meanest assholes on the planet. I've had to share space with the selfish, the whiny, the privileged, and the mediocre spawn of the middle class trying to claw their way to official douchebag status.

And you know what? Getting old evens it all out. I spent my life living with less so I don't miss what I never had. I give away whatever I can to those in need because I'm human and I feel their hunger, their pain, their sadness if I don't. I can't walk away from another human being in need because there's nothing of material nature out there worth giving up my humanity for. Nothing.

I see those who always wanted things, people that I spent some of my life with throughout the decades. They're getting old and they're afraid because they don't know how to survive with less. They don't know that people matter more than things, that love is worth far more than the latest anything they could possibly buy. I have so much less and yet I am far more secure because it really is true, if you have nothing you have nothing to lose. I care only about losing those I love. They are what I value and everything else is just junk store room fillers that can be replaced at any time.

This is what the douchebags just can't change or write into law to benefit them. I got away. I am me. I have survived and will continue to survive and I am fabulously wealthy with friendship, love, and the integrity of my own heart. They will never be able to say that so I can confidently say to them: yes there is a class war, and I've won you poor pitiful douchebags.

Some recommended reading and viewing:


Thursday, March 08, 2012

You Don't Piss Off The Women!

On January 7th, 2009 I wrote this blog entry Strong Women and the continual battle to stay strong. I was angry that pharmacists were forcing their religion on women trying to fill a prescription. I was more than annoyed at the way, in that political season, women were treated less seriously than the male candidates for the same offices. And as always, I was upset with my sister-women who failed to respect the women who took to the streets, suffered beatings, humiliation, prison and death, just so they could win the right to vote for them in 1920. It took less than a hundred years for their sacrifices to suffer the ultimate humiliation of women refusing to participate at all in electing their leaders. How astonishingly ungrateful can someone possibly be? I was embarrassed and ashamed for them. I hope one day they will realize how cheaply they treated what was fought for them, and that they will make up for it by helping register other women to vote and then making sure they get to the polls.

But all of that was history. I had my moment in the streets as a young woman. I lived and honed my ethics and principles on fighting for equality for all of us, not just the wealthy, not just the white, not just the privileged, and certainly not just one gender. But I felt it no longer was my generations battle because we did manage to accomplish a lot with our activism. We did drag equality into the 20th century. We did accomplish the standard of a woman's right to her own body. We didn't give up until it was done, but we also knew it would never be done because the same people who fought us are still fighting and trying to dismantle everything we accomplished.

But as I got older, as the women of my generation got older, we began to believe it no longer was our generation's battle.  It was the battle of the generations who will suffer from staying home on election day, who see no difference between one vote and another vote, who believe all politicians are the same, who will let those with horrible agendas claim the power that was rightfully meant to be shared equally.

I think in many ways we did too good a job. The generations who came after ours took for granted the right to control their own bodies, the right to be treated equally no matter your gender, color of your skin, or your sexual orientation. They never questioned their right to apply for scholarships that paid them to learn how to excel in their sport of choice. They grew up seeing women delivering the news, sitting in positions of power in both corporations and all levels of the government.

And like all things one takes for granted, there's someone waiting to just take them. And when you get complacent, you don't see the thief sneaking up on your rights. You just wake up one day and find out you're the wrong gender, the wrong color, the wrong religion, the wrong nationality, the wrong fit for a world that changed while you were sleeping away complacently and content in the safety and foreverness of your rights.

That's why as much as I was infuriated by the whole Planned Parenthood/Susan B. Komen attempted religious takeover of our healthcare, as much as I thought Congress had lost its collective mind with the 1950's mentality waging a war on women, as much as I detested that flatulence-infested bag of crap Limbaugh, as much as I want to vomit when I hear or read another women actually defend anything of that, I am in a strange sort of way, grateful to them for being such stupid and clueless dickheads.

You fucking pissed off the women! How stupid is that? And it's beyond stupid because you also woke them up. It's going to be a lot harder to pull your shit because they're awake now and angry. You will pay, and you will pay hard. And this time, it's not just one generation. It's all of us. That's what you did with your stupid and assinine War on Women. Nice job, MORANS.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anna's lesson about selfish people

After a break to deal with present day issues, I spent some time today catching up on Anna's archive of memories. For those of you wandering by for the first time, I've been helping Ryan's daughter, Maria, sort through his sister's digital storage unit, which numbers hundreds and hundreds of entries.

We call it our five year project. She would have been fifty this year and this is our way of honoring her memory. Out of the twenty or so emails waiting for me today from the archives, one especially long journal entry that covered several single-spaced printed pages decided to make itself the topic of the day, because once again her uncanny ability to size up people amazed me.

It's about selfishness. I chose it because it was a topic she often went on about, and she was one of the first people who taught me that many people we consider unselfish are actually quite the opposite. Here's her rather prophetic description of someone she knew only from his emails to her, and a couple times when she literally hid behind a stage curtain to watch him to make sure what she was sensing about him was true. She did this because at the time he was someone I was fairly close to and her opinion of him mattered very much to me. I wanted her to like him. I remember being angry when she refused and told me I'd one day understand she was right about him and I was wrong.

(note: the original entry was written in German and was addressed to her brother. It was translated into English by Maria. I've cut and pasted it without fixing any of the errors.)

His emails to me are always about him and feelings he feels for me. It's why I don't want to meet him. It is always how perfect I am for him. He says I am his woman but he only writes about how I am his woman for him, not how he is man for me. There is no me in his talk. So I watched him dance tonight and it only makes me think even more this is true. It is how he approaches a woman like it is a special gift that he decides to present himself to her. You said he is dating both women he danced with. But he does not care enough about them. You can see it all in their faces. They hurt from sharing him and he doesn't care because their hurt is selfish to him. I am thinking anything someone else wants is selfish to him.

Do you know what I think this man will do? I think he will be in your life only as long as he has need of some favor you will do for him. He will pretend and say he does this for you, out of unselfishness and altruistic good boy fantasies. But with him always look deep to see who is really benefiting from his altruism. I will guess that he does.

I will say he is the kind of man who goes and buys a car for very cheap. Then he needs money. So he goes to a friend and says to him that he has this car that came to him as a good deal because he is such a good person and so he has good deals fighting to come to him. So he will make this man want to help him because he will help a good person by purchasing his car at a good price.

His friend purchases the car for double what the good fairies sold it to the man for. Then the car does not run so well. So the friend says hey you sold me car for too much and now it also no longer works and I have to spend rest of money owed to you to fix the car so I can drive it.

So this man suddenly becomes very angry. It does not matter that he has already been paid more than he paid. He has already earned profit. It does not matter that he sold a car that does not work and is too expensive. He is suddenly all angry and accuses the person buying of using him of taking advantage of his good kindness. It becomes a story all about his betrayal by others and how his unselfishness was used by other people.

One day he will say such a story about everyone in his life. He will talk about how he was used when all he wanted was to help others. He will gather points of unselfishness so all the world knows he has all the unselfishness points and everyone else is a bad person who has used him so badly for his kindness.

Eventually everyone will understand it was him and not them. I only figured it sooner than the rest of everyone so I will decline to meet and be friends with your friend.

It took a few years but I finally admitted she was right. It's not worth going into the lurid details and it's enough to say that this person is no longer in my life because she was absolutely right about him.

But I also have to say that he was not the only person who taught me there are some people who do good just because they want to portray themselves as someone who does good. It's an ego thing with such people. They will always tell you how unselfish they are. They will brag about it. They will parade it around like a trophy they've awarded to themselves.

Until they actually have to give, that is. And then they find some excuse to work on what really matters--getting more for themselves as their reward for being such good human beings. And if you can't give them what they want, then you become the user of their unselfishness. You become the bad person, the one who took from them instead of gave. For people like that, any giving at all has some very sticky strings attached. That's how you can tell the fakes from the genuine ones.

Anna was genuine. It's important to note here that while Anna gave away most of her fortune, she never said she did. We knew she helped a lot of people but every day more and more is revealed in her meticulous records of exactly how much she gave away and how she never once felt the need to use it as proof of her unselfishness. Those who talk rarely do was one of her favorite sayings. And Anna never talked. She just did. And she did it quietly, completely, privately out of the immense goodness of her heart. It was not an ego thing with her. It was real.

I've mentioned before that I learned she paid a very large hospital bill for me when I became ill. I always suspected her but until I saw a copy of the paid bill, I never knew for certain. It was just something she did because she cherished our friendship. That was something she did talk about. She never let a day go by without letting me know how much she appreciated me.

And that's why I spend hours on her archives, why I help Maria. Because I've never been good at expressing my feelings to others. In my own limited way I was able to let her know how much she meant to me, but helping with the archives will hopefully make up for the words I couldn't say then.

The really mind-boggling part of all this is how it helps me deal with the present world where selfishness is treated as something close to a virtue by so many. If I hear one more person say they need to focus on their own needs, grow their own self, feed their own desires in order to grow, I will probably vomit on them or something equally as rude.

Get a clue, folks! The world is in the mess it's in because too many people focus on themselves instead of others. There's awareness and then there's self-indulgence. Until you can let go of the self-indulgence, the perpetual gimme gimme me me me game, awareness will be just a concept in a book that has too many big words in it to comprehend until life teaches you want they mean.

I have a suggestion for people who are so obsessed with themselves and their own dramas that they can't even see how it affects those around them. Get over yourself. Once you're no longer wearing diapers, it's no longer about you. It's about your place in the world and how you can make it a better place for everyone, not just your own pitiful little needs.

We are all bigger than ourselves and if we don't start to understand that, if we continue to be the kind of people who can't think outside our own needs and desires, then we are doomed as a species and really, who would even mourn the passing of such a plague? I'm certain most of the planet would celebrate the demise of such parasites.


Thursday, February 02, 2012

How to Make Government Work

It used to be, in some parts of the world, if you crossed someone they would stick your head on a pike as a warning to others. In the animal world, all it takes is for one of them to start eating another animal who isn't them and suddenly all its fellow not thems disappear.

This seems like an excellent way to deal with politicians. If we eat a couple of them, the other ones will go away. And in case they still persist in sticking around, we'll have a couple heads to stick on pikes as a warning that we weren't kidding around.

But yeah, as a non-violent person, there's another solution I prefer and that's far more effective. Buy them. That's right. Buy them. It's what lobbyists for corporations and wall street do. They buy them like they buy adult diapers, hookers, and whiskey.

We can have bake sales to raise money. We can also sell our votes like people in Florida did when they had a choice between two rich white men without an ethic to split between them. They chose the one who spent the most money. Surely our votes are worth at least as much as the Florida voter, if not more.

But I have a better idea for them after we've bought them. We'll make them mud wrestle for who gets to write up legislation. And then we'll have one of those Japanese import shows where they have to run a maze with hammers and shit falling on them. The one that gets out the other side first wins the right to have his or her side actually pass the legislation written by the winner of the mud wrestling competition.

And then before it goes to the President for his signature, they have to toast each other with donkey semen and drain the glass.

I think politics would finally start working for the people then.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Love, Friendship, Harmony, and Peace makes a better world.

Red Fire Dragon rickshawmessengerbag
Red Fire Dragon by sun_signs
Browse Zazzle for more courier bags.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012



Saturday, January 07, 2012

Hanging With Dead People

For the last couple months or so I've been helping Maria, Ryan's daughter, go through his sister's journals and emails. We don't really have a method or a purpose other than wanting to organize what she left behind. Since she burned most of her writing and deleted a good deal of her emails, we both figured the stuff she left behind had some meaning we've yet to determine and that she left it deliberately for us to find.

It's fascinating reading until I remember how much I miss her and the confusion that made up the year we spent together as friends. Even now, after all this time, no one has come close to the pure honesty of our conversations. She had a way of putting things into words that was both a talent and a fierce determination to preserve the truth before it was polished into an acceptable memory. She had this eerie ability to stand outside a situation, look at it with the keen and brutal eye of the unvarnished observer, and lay it out in all its bare and hideous honesty.

I was often horrified at what I perceived at the time as her callous objectivity, and she was equally horrified at what she called my Pollyannish approach to the world. And yet, we both came to know the roots of those points of view and learned to respect their validity in each other. It makes reading her words now so much easier. I understand them more than if I didn't know what drove her to write them. And I know that when it came to altruism, Anna made Pollyanna seem like a self-centered little twit. My heart is a lot more open from knowing her and I thank her nearly every day for such a precious gift.

The emails Maria sent me today were mostly about her relationship with men, written in three different languages. Hard as they are to translate exactly, what comes through is that like so many intelligent women, she was absolutely stupid when it came to men. She preferred a certain type: intense, brilliant, and totally lacking in social skills. Of course, they made her miserable. Of course, she returned the favor. Of course, she believed if there was no passion, no pain, no remorse, it wasn't worth the effort. Of course, I understood this side of her completely.

For Anna, relating to anyone was a series of stripping away the dishonesty. I was always trying to get her to come to parties, to have dinner with a few close friends, to come dance or go see a play, anything to get her away from the dark world that had become her life. But she would see through everyone so completely with just a few email exchanges, a two minute phone call, a brief meeting in passing, that after a while I began to completely dislike everyone I knew. I had become friends with them through my heart and she forced me to look at them with my eyes. It wasn't always a pleasant awakening.

She had a tiny circle of trusted friends and an appreciation for what was then the forerunner of social media that was way before her time. This was 1989 into the early 90's. Instead of Facebook we had bulletin boards where we logged in and typed back and forth to each other. And email when we didn't want to make our conversations public with the other members of the community. And it all took so long and required so much patience and dedication.

She also had a wicked sense of humor and a chameleon like ability that allowed her to assume several personas and carry them all off credibly. One time she created two characters and had them relate first to everyone and then to each other in some weird sort of schizophrenic dialogue that as far as I know, no one figured out they were both her. There was no reason for it other than she could. And when I expressed some discomfort over it, she just shrugged and said there were far worse things to get upset about in the world, that it was a way for her to get to know what people were really like before she met them in person.

Anna would have loved Facebook. It was the world she imagined when she thought of the future, an online world community that was limited only by the individual desire to connect. Even with a computer that had less memory than a cheap calculator and a modem that screamed when it  finally connected with some duct-taped contraption in another part of the world, Anna was able to accomplish so much it is astonishing even now to read about it.

And reading her emails, the why of it all starts to make a strange sort of perfect sense. She had a focus that was driven by compassion. She truly cared about people and took an interest in the lives of people she would never meet but who touched her in some way. As she always told us, the electronic universe can be one helping big hand for humanity if you opened your heart.

And her hand helped so many. I am awestruck by how many people she was able to help. I always knew she gave away a very large fortune, but I never knew all the details of exactly what she did with the money. I know she paid my hospital bill even though she never admitted it. But other than that the pieces have had to wait years to fall into place so we could at least see some of the results. She never felt the need to explain or get any credit for it.

Somewhere in all the old diskettes that are being transferred over to online storage systems, there's probably a list of them all. She was that way. She would have kept track, if only to make sure there was a way to prove the recipient was entitled to the money and help. But for now, we can only guess until we find the actual files in the thousands that exist, or we find the occasional email we run across that explains how she was going to help the person writing to her, or the occasional legal document that spelled out the details. Few of the documents and letters are in English and so the process is more difficult to untangle. But Maria and I manage with our combined limited knowledge of several languages and some great online translators.

We know they were mostly women, mostly in countries that were at war or had been devastated by wars. She once told me everyone had their price, so she was able to accomplish things that were impossible because she used that uncanny ability to size people up to find whose palm to cross with some silver. There was always a palm and she had lots of silver. Ryan once joked that his sister helped enough people to populate her own village. I think even he would be surprised at what the final number will probably be.

The contrast between reading her emails and remembering her kindness and willingness to help those less fortunate, and the selfish rich and callous little asshats that are so prevalent today often leaves me bordering on extreme depression and anger. I find myself asking why more people can't be like her, why can't they set aside their selfish little needs and help someone, give to others, share what they have, and help make the world a better place. She was able to do it with an ancient modem and an antique computer. It was so simple and yet so effective.

The world now has so many more options and yet, even with something like Facebook that can be and is often used for good, it often seems that her efforts were somehow different, somehow larger and more sincere. Maybe because it was more difficult. Maybe because she had to log on to her computer instead of just moving the mouse. Maybe because it took time to communicate with someone in another country, to learn their language, their culture, what made them special and unique. Maybe because it wasn't so easy to see how much evil there was in the world and so the effort didn't seem so worthless. Maybe it was simply because she knew one woman acting from the sincerity of her heart, really could change the world.

And when I mention that evil in the world, if anyone knew about evil it was Anna. You can't spend the majority of your adult life as a therapist for war victims and not hate what passes for humanity in so many parts of the world. But as much evil as she saw and tried to heal, I think she would be appalled and disgusted at the utter meanness and selfishness that is so prevalent nowadays. And yet, she would be the first to say stand up to it, fight it, don't let it win because you are better than evil, you are better than selfishness. Don't let the mean people win. You are better than they are. Own it.

I know that for certain because I just read it in an email she wrote to me in early 1990. It's one she didn't delete so she expected me to find it. In her own amazing way, she somehow knew how important it would be for me to find it now just when I was starting to let myself get discouraged, just when I was starting to feel like the mean people were just too mean for me to take on anymore, that I was too old to do battle for the planet, that it was the realm of the young, the strong, that the future belongs to those who have one. Reading those words today let me know there's still a fire burning in this old soul and a whole lot of fight still left.