There are many barnacles. There are only a few whales. Barnacles live by filtering the water for food. Their life is one of probabilities -if you see a barnacle, you know the water is rich with microscopic food. No barnacles, no food. They grow where they plant themselves and their fate is tied to their location. When they breed, they release trillions of eggs, adding to the richness of the zooplanktonic mass. Baleen whales eat the same food as barnacles but seek out nutrient rich waters to sustain themselves. They are few in number, birth one whale at a time, and live to decades. Ironically, the surface of a whale is a kind of paradise for those fortunate barnacles that latch on. Their waters are constantly optimized for food, allowing them to multiply. Over time, they slow the whale down due to hydrodynamic drag. Eventually, they kill their host and home by obstructing the blowhole. The barnacle knows not what it does, and cannot be expected to love the whale or express any regret over the state of the world. The whale in turn compensates by swimming harder, breathing harder, but eventually, it succumbs to its fate, and cannot be expected to hate the barnacle nor feel sorry about all of its labors and efforts coming to this end. Nature provides for both barnacle and whale, giving each a lifetime suited to its fate.
My younger son is a Cub Scout and we go on campouts. Inevitably, there is a camp fire and the tradition is to tell stories, usually spooky. When I was a kid, the stories had some creepiness to them, but they have all been banned -too scary. Now, the camp fire tales are just funny jokes -dad jokes, involving puns and worse. As the Halloween campout for our pack arrives, I’ve thought up some good ones:
1. This part of Ohio was on a trail where pioneers camped out on their way further west. The legend has it that as a family of settlers slept, the two boys disappeared into these forests, and the mother refused to go any further. The local farmers say that at night, a pale woman shows up at the door and asks for her boys and if there are any young boys, she grabs them to take them into the woods. They say you can tell it’s her because her eyes are sunken empty holes that cry bloody tears.
2. The local native Americans warned people never to pee in the woods at dark. A black hole forms from which demons reach out to grab you and pull you in.
3. Thirty years ago, a boy went missing around these parts and there was a long search for him, but they never found him. They say that you can hear him crying at night asking you to take him home, and you know it’s him by the dead butterfly in his mouth.
4. The bababoo is a angry spirit that will take your body and make you say and do terrible things against your will. Terrible things happen. You invite it in by saying bababoo thirteen times.Mayhem ensues that cause permanent harm.
5. UFO’s are very common here. They say that aliens take you into their ship and replace your mind with one of theirs, and put you back where they find you. They activate you when you fall asleep while camping.
6. The goat beast comes when people are unhappy or worried. It has creepy yellow eyes that glow in the dark and it waits to grab you when you walk in the dark to slowly eat you over days.
7. The grumpkin looks like a short bearded man, but you know it is him by the fact that his feet are on backwards. He’ll ask you a riddle and if you can’t answer in three tries, he will make you do a terrible thing or take your soul.
8. There are house ghosts that were people who died alone, angry, and outside in the dark. You hear them walking around cabins in the dark, and they stare at you while you sleep. You can only see them when the cabins are their darkest. You can hear them breathe. They are crying softly, and they want to come into your warm bed.
9. On a cold fall night, the fairies come together for their feast. They roast a young boy that they lure out into the woods with sweet fairy music, usually at night, starting with a sweet smell and shimmery lights.
10. Window monsters will try to get your attention by freezing you in your tracks with terror, and try to get invited in with false promises. They get stronger when you close your eyes or try to ignore them. Only by looking into the dark faces and eyes do you weaken them, but if you blink, they have you in their control, and make you open the door.
^o^ –a golf ball with angel wings
The ethics and morality that I live by? Golf. Or specifically golfism. It’s the body of customs and practices, some written down in the USGA rules, some not, of waiting your turn, taking your shot, being respectful of other players and expecting treatment in kind, of being able to compete on a level playing field of scientifically calculated handicaps, of justice served to one’s self, of counting every stroke. In planning, executing, and acknowledging your golf shot, there are transcendent moments when you are fully alive and in the moment and the universe pulses in synchrony with your heart and your soul flies with the arcing ball. There is a special place, my friends, that I go to once, maybe twice, a week and it is a golf course. Have you played golf, my friend? I mean really played Golf?
Walking Dead was a sub for one of the interminable Mad Men hiatuses. Mad Men came onboard when the Kennedy era threatened to be forgotten. And every decade or so, middle aged men on TV need to meditate on their shrinkage and mortality, which is what Breaking Bad did. In all three AMC hits, Walkers, WASPs, and Walter served to explore modernity though funhouse mirrors, and the formula could still work. I propose the following:
Pitch 1: The Maker: post apocalyptic robot servants and sentient automata gain their own life and society when mass produced and animated by the sole surviving maker, called One, -is he a human or a kind of Pinocchio become Gepeto? A sex worker robot, called Anastasia 7, now functions as an enforcer of One’s will, a shape shifting archangel. A vacuum cleaning robot, 6, now become the predominant life form, serves as an everyrobot. Their peace is shattered by the discovery of a valley of human survivors that have flourished, overpopulated, and seeking new lands.
Pitch 2: The Indentured Servitude of Patrick O’Hanlon: The brutality and beauty of America as seen through the eyes of Patrick O’Hanlon, a 12 year old illegal immigrant, refugee of the famines, who stows away on a ship to antebellum Savannah. Taken in by the slaves of The Walker family, Patrick navigates the racial and socioeconomic folds of 19th century America, becoming the assistant of the head Butler, a freedman name Josiah, who chose to be employed by his former master, John Percy Walker III, who had married an abolitionist Boston Yankee, Annabelle Weld Wigglesworth. All of this while the country moves towards war.
Pitch 3: 1979 investigative journalist Eugene Greenfield finds evidence of Aliens living among us -Greys, Reptilians, Atlanteans, and struggles with the reality that his neighborhood is populated by people far weirder. The conspiracy theories pile on, as he tries to make coherent the strange events unfolding like a B-movie actor running for president, Star Wars being a true galactic history, and all set in an upper West Side that is burnt out, cheap and affordable. Basically a mushroom trip walk through the end of the Carter era.
Pitch 4: Jamestown, 1607, and Wycliffe Southard is paterfamilias of a farming family promised land and fortune in the Jamestown colony. They must survive hunger, isolation, disease, and hostile natives in a land very much different from today, a land depopulated over a century previously by the intrusion of the great plague, smallpox. A seemingly virgin land with oak trees the width of baobabs, fish in the rivers the size of cars, and nothing but your wits and a musket. The truth of Pocahontas, the lost colony, and Viking settlers is revealed.
Pitch 5: Tree of Life -a drama of a scientist discredited by accusations of fraud seeking to redeem himself while supernatural forces battle over the implications of his discovery, immortality. Features hot angels and demons, and centers on a young post doctoral student, Evelyn Broussard, a single mother, who discovers the truth behind the false discreditation and the implications for life.
These are shows I would enjoy binge watching on one of those insomniac nights that occur frequently in my middle age.
I have to confess that I like to scare little kids. That feeling of spookiness is one of those childhood sensations that you lose with innocence. The toddler’s wide eyes, the pursed lips, the knitted eyebrows, the scooching over to your side –these are fleeting moments that are quickly lost to school, electronics, and television. The stories I tell are more life lessons than actual tales –mostly of sad ghosts who regret telling lies, spirits who never let go of their anger, and being trapped by your own foibles. I have a feeling that I got this from my grandmother who would tell me folk tales and parables about boys who got eaten by tigers and had their faces erased by angry spirits who appeared alternately as beautiful women and sly foxes. The day the magic ends is when the kids figure out that Santa Claus doesn’t slide down the chimney and the Easter Bunny is some poor flub sweating in a smelly outfit.
The generations since World War II have been separated into marketing niches of Greatest and Boomer, then X,Y, and Z, but I suspect that no set of people since Homo erectus figured out fire, speech, and monogamy, have faced as much rapid technological and cultural change as have the people born since 1950. This unmooring of cultural institutions, socioeconomic niches, and family structures is remarkable and deeply unsettling to many.
Modernity has atomized the family, but we are still the Pleistocene mammal subject to possessiveness, territoriality, and stranger anxiety. We are just a handful of base pairs removed from our mutual ancestor with the chimpanzee who kill and eat intruders. And so we naturally flock with our kind in our hominid fashion, and wish to destroy the other if they get in the way. What stops us?
Strong ideas keep us from burning witches. Ideas of justice, equality of human worth, and an appreciation of value of freedom and liberty bind us together in a common identity. These ideas are shared across borders instantaneously, usually in English, on the internet via smart phones and social media. These are rather old American ideals and should not be new to those wary of change. Instead, it is the broadening of the definition of *American* that jars people. It is an America that people are still looking towards as they overturn dictatorships and established tyrannies. We see it in the Arab Spring, in the continue march of the huddled masses to the gates, and in gay Americans fighting to achieve equal status. We witness it as a force that China is trying to subvert with overt fascism, with likely failure in the long term.
This neo-Americanism is the lingua franca of business and diplomacy. It is the common operating system that everyone demands. At home, to succeed in this new America, you have to learn how to pass for a new kind of American. It is a fact that if you make yourself smile, your brain will register positive in its happiness centers, and you will transition to happiness (try it!). If you carry a smart phone, participate in social media, and read at above elementary school level, the centers of the brain that are stimulated will drive change. Corporate HR policies, public school codes of conduct, and public social mores are aligning around and driving this change, even for older Americans who one would assume would be all for not changing. It used to be said that you are basically set in your ways by the time you are forty, but I think even that generalization is done because I increasingly see retired people with smartphones and tablets watching the latest Youtube videos and family photos on Facebook. This at least informs them about the tectonic shifts in society, and at best changes deep seated notions.
Public perceptions of gun ownership, healthcare, education, equal rights, and our relationship to the world are being debated because the minds of the people are changing. And contrary to what even the history books say, it was not the federal government and federal troops that desegregated the schools, it was We the People. The shibboleth of these times, our times, are the smart phone, social media accounts, and the networks connected by these. Are you in?
The day has arrived when I get to swap out my Blackberry 9930 for an iPhone 5. I had given up using the Blackberry as anything but a text/phone device because getting on the Internet was tricky at best. The 9930 is a device conceived by a committee of people who don’t understand how people use technology. I used my iPod Touch as a daily communicator and Internet surfer over the BB 9930. Fact is I had high hopes over its beautiful screen and okay keyboard but these could not overwhelm sheer misery in the browser, email (yes email) and paucity of apps to get things done. Goodbye.
I’m a collector of books in vascular disease and golf. When I found out that Mr. Johnny Revolta was one of the great golf teachers of the 20th century and had authored a book, I started a search and found this first printing which had been a gift to someone who was a student of Mr. Revolta’s.
The reason why I jumped at this was the fact that I found synchronicity between my golf guru’s advice and the snippets of writing I found on the Internet. It was all from the premise that golf at its heart is a simple game.
This is in line with my other favorite golf books by Sam Snead and Fred Couples. An example of a book not to get because it will ruin your game is Ben Hogan’s book on his swing which looks more like an Army field manual for using some terribly ancient and complicated weapon.
This book is available as a instant reprint from Amazon, but costs three times as much. This one I got for 12 bucks feels like an overdue library book found under your recently deceased great uncle’s sofa. Which makes it even cooler.