Posted by: JDM..... | January 31, 2013

There I go…

…taking myself too seriously again…

too serious_450

Posted by: JDM..... | August 24, 2014

I wonder what happens.….

when the puppet yanks BACK on a line…..?

I think we’ve all run into one of those annoying people who has made it their life’s work to finish every sentence you try to utter. I even knew one who did it silently, just mouthing the words you were presumed to be on the verge of saying. I don’t know about anyone else, but that sort of thing has a way of inspiring felonious fantasies in me.

I was thinking about that yesterday when I scratched out a cartoon that had zipped through my head and just had to be brought to life. Within moments, that irritating third Facebook column informed me that I might also be interested in a “group” about animation.

That happens a lot. If I blog something, the “tags” are forwarded to the Marketing and Thought Completion Department where they are repurposed as spam. The same thing happens if I e-mail a friend or look something up on Google. The Cybersnoops presume to decide my every next act, thought, urge, impulsive purchase, genre of curiosity, and body noise.
cyberyenta_001a

Which provided me with an amusing thought “THEY” haven’t been privy to until this moment…..

I’m going to embark upon a campaign of chumming in cyberspace, just to see what will bite on whatever I toss out there…….and I guarantee it will be an eclectic scattershot of double entendres, obscene references, psychosis inducing incongruities, and any other padlocks and random metal ware I can stuff into the Facebook, Google, and Microsoft extruders.

This should be fun. I wonder if I can manipulate them into self destruction or self incrimination of some sort?

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 22, 2014

Government on guard against extremism.….

might I suggest they look in the mirror?…..

When the Attorney General of the United States made a visible point of grabbing some airtime from the Ferguson, MO flare-up, I was reminded of something I was thinking about just a couple of months ago when he announced that he was going to reconvene the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, a tentacle of the Dept. of Justice brought to life in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The function was put on the shelf following the events of “9/11″ when international circumstances took precedence.

I have a problem with this concept, and am still withholding any fist-pumping or symbolic bellowing of “HOO-rahs” until AG Eric Holder and his handlers answer some tough questions. Good luck; “terrorism” is neither a new word nor a modern concept, and it seems to be one of those “silly putty” items in the lexicon that take on the shape of whatever context they happen to land in. Just what the hell is a “terrorist”, anyway? From the perspective of King George III, George Washington must surely have been a “terrorist”. Nelson Mandela was called a “terrorist”. Et Cetera.

The point is, you can jump back and forth across that moat indefinitely without discovering a stable definition that works on both sides. I’ve heard it said that “terrorism” is kind of a broad brush, mostly used by governments and other authorities to cast an air of doubt and negativity over those who oppose them. Heck, most of us learned how to exert power by discounting the other guy before we got out of Kindergarten.

***

Getting back to the DTEC

First of all, I can’t help but wonder precisely how this “ Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee” will definedomestic terrorist” to begin with. If one looks at that question in the context of 1995, when Timothy Mcveigh set off a truckload of explosives in front of the Oklahoma City federal building, who could object?

On the other hand, if one looks at it in the context of the early nineteen fifties when Sen. Joseph McCarthy went on a binge of assuming everyone was a “subversive” until proven innocent, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) blacklisted some of our most creative citizens because they didn’t march in step, and the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB) sniffed out suspected Communist sympathizers hiding in every nook and cranny, anybody with a gram of common sense would object very loudly. Regardless of the answers to these questions, I’m stingy with my approval in such matters. The NSA scandal didn’t help to soften that stance, and I think we have good reason to be concerned that the Bill of Rights might, once again, be facing challengers who cause us to teeter on the brink of totalitarianism in the name of “National Security”.

And, as is almost always the scenario, the more dangerous enemy may be the very one whose mission it is to protect us from the enemy. Reminds me of “Pogo” cartoonist Walt Kelly, who created an iconic poster back in 1970 saying essentially the same thing.

These are times when fear shrinks the intellect and eccentricity of any kind may be construed as a threat, reminiscent of the Cold War years. Holding views that don’t harmonize with the Approved View of the Moment should not be defined as extremism. “Terrorism” can be painted with a broad brush, and we need to recognize the differences between organized campaigns to cause death and destruction, people of strongly contrarian beliefs, and rogue players of questionable sanity. In a society of 318 million people, how many acts of alleged “terrorism” constitute an epidemic or “threat” to our safety warranting a task force with such innate potential for abuse? Answer: When the breadth and scope of authority and secrecy increase, it’s because the count was too low and the stats need padding.

Vigilance is, in itself, “common sense”, of course, but focused government task forces and committees can be highly motivated to find something. If not counterbalanced with oversight to ensure they don’t find more than is actually there, the combination of passion and power is at least as great a threat as the ones they are supposedly convened to ferret out.

Any time a government takes it upon itself to police, as it were, the activities of fringe ideologies, all ideologies become subject to scrutiny.

There is no question about whether or not government is putting the hard-sell on policing the people, and redefining associated activities as “protecting” them.

When AG Holder announced the revival of the DTEC back in June, news articles cited Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who claims to be an expert on terrorism and stated that “more people have been killed in the U.S. by ‘right-wing-extremists’ since September 11, 2001 than by al Qaeda-inspired militants.”

That’s a bit scary, not so much the substance of her allegation, but the fact:

  • That she made such an outrageous claim

  • That she pre-condemned a huge number of people based on politics and implied association because they score to an unspecified degree to the “conservative” side of an imaginary “centerline”.

  • That Holder seems to think along similar lines

  • And, the fact that people with real power believe such tripe

While I don’t question that Beirich has earned “expert” designation in certain areas, the numbers being tossed around sound more like figures thrown in for effect rather than ones tendered to provide any useful information. I’m a statistics skeptic, and though I don’t consider myself to be an “expert” in my fields of interest, I do have many years of hands on, front line experience in the behavioral sciences which provided me with a certain understanding of what makes people tick, and I think I know tunnel vision when I see it. I don’t know where she got her numbers, or what filters she applied, but I understand about 3,000 innocent people were slain on September 11, 2001, after which the architects of the horror did what any sociopaths do after a hit….they laid low for a couple of years.  If a “right wing extremist” ran over her neighbor’s dog in the interim, it probably qualified for the non-al Qaeda tally.  Pre-scripted epiphanies work like that.

There is bound to be disagreement and misunderstanding regarding what the “War on Terrorism” is all about because there are so many factors affecting the definition of “terrorism”. On a personal level, the concept of “terrorism” brings to mind the events of that dark date, September 11, 2001. I think of organized activity designed to harm the United States, to destroy, disrupt, or kill innocent people on a large scale. In the “legal sense”, to the extent that I understand it, and evidently from the government perspective as well, “terrorism” may refer to the ideological forces behind an act as much as to the act itself.

In my layman’s opinion, that is dangerous; that is unconstitutional; that is un-American.

Incidents of an extreme nature are not difficult to condemn as terrorism, but the lack of a commonly understood definition that doesn’t change with the political weather, leaves a lot of room for undocumented expansion of the net being cast.

The A.C.L.U. has expressed concerns because of the Attorney General’s stated intention to keep tabs on “anti-government animus and racial intolerance.” Oh, that helps clarify things! Well, at least I know that I am probably under somebody’s microscope because I openly admit that I think my beloved country is being mis-administered by idiots and worse. I defy anyone to prove me guilty of “racial intolerance”, though. In fact, even anthropologists can’t agree about “race”. It’s another of those “silly putty” words. What ever happened to the “Irish race”, anyway…..? Those who strain every word and action through a filter that divides people into piles according to skin color and a handful of other real or imagined physical characteristics are the primary CAUSE of cultural tension today, not the solution. Shut up. Please.

By the same token, what might be considered terrorist at one time may not be so defined in another. History has demonstrated that, under stress, a society tends to narrow its path of approved ideologies and activities, and to expand the roster of those deemed enemies of the state, which creates opportunities for excess and abuse.

In thinking of the political, ideological, and economic environments of today from both international and domestic perspectives, the American people, and their elected representatives at all levels, must be equally vigilant for potential threats against our physical and economic safety, and of potential government excesses committed in that effort.

***

While looking for a workable definition of terrorist or terrorism, I meandered through the ideas of many authors, journalists, and self-styled pundits, and most seemed to see “terrorism” as:

  • Acts of violence or the threat of violence;

  • Actions that are designed to create fear and alarm;

  • Actions intended to coerce their target into taking certain paths;

  • Motives include political objectives;

  • Actions may be those of a group or of an individual.

The not so funny funny thing is, both terrorism and counterterrorism can be described accordingly, depending upon perspective.

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 20, 2014

Two chairs.….

A little over two years ago, I wrote a small item about meeting a neighbor of mine on my way back from walking to the post office. I spoke with Eldon from time to time after that day, and never forgot to thank him on Veterans Day and at other appropriate times. If you recall the item of July 13, 2012 , you may remember that he was a WW II veteran who had come home decorated with a number of medals and more than his share of lead.

Last fall, I didn’t see as much of him walking to town as I was accustomed to, but he and his wife were almost always sitting out front in their two white lawn chairs when I’d walk to the Post Office, and we’d wave and comment on the weather.

Eldon passed away this June, at the age of 92, surrounded by family and friends, at home in the house he had built back in 1948. As a matter of fact, for the last three or four months of his remarkable life, he and his wife of 66 years were rarely if ever alone. It wasn’t unusual for there to be two or three cars in the driveway, which, incidentally, he seal-coated himself about three years ago. One of the neighbors had started snow-blowing the driveway for him last winter, and has been taking care of the lawn this summer as well, checking in on Eldon’s widow just about every day. Our village is like that. I didn’t know there were many such places left until we moved here.

Eldon was a remarkable man, and I wish I had known him better. The image of that fit and trim, ninety year old man, in his blaze orange vest, marching purposely down the highway breakdown lane, a couple of miles from home, is etched permanently in my memory. Sometimes, I’d pass him on his return trip, with a newspaper tucked under his arm. He liked to read the paper every day, and I know the nearest place to buy one in this part of rural Maine is two and a half miles away.

I still see his wife from time to time, when I walk to the Post Office. I wave, she smiles, and waves back from where she sits in her white lawn chair, in its usual spot by the side of the driveway. There is always another white chair there, too, but it is empty now.

At least, that’s the way it looks to me. I’m not sure she would agree.

Well done, Eldon.

…and, thanks.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 19, 2014

Power by Newspeak…

and other political parlor tricks…

As the emperor continues to strut about the White House and local golf courses as though he knows what he is doing, and as if everybody else thinks he’s as peachy keen as he does, I recall an article I read earlier this year that also fit right in with the current obsession with “appearances”. These days, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is NOT a duck, even though it may have papers asserting otherwise. In this Age of the Wall Hanger, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. What’s actually under the hood is irrelevant.

It was back at the beginning of summer, I believe, that I noticed an item about the closing of some Social Security field offices and that the writer had made reference to the “customers” of the agency. Being somewhat fascinated with the uptick in Newspeak intrusions in recent times, I took a moment to dust off the old Webster’s I keep handy and look the word up.

Customer:

  • someone who buys goods or services from a business

  • one that purchases a commodity or service

Being retired, I now receive Social Security income each month, but I did not purchase it. In fact, I had no choice in the matter. the federal government began helping itself to a portion of my earnings in 1958 and continued to do so for the next fifty years. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the money. I most certainly do. But I raise an eyebrow whenever language is “tweaked” to normalize government activities and equate them to things like free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and the like. Nor is it necessarily a charitable stipend for which I should feel humbly grateful. I paid for it, and I have to say, if government was indeed a “business” and Social Security had been my Investment Advisor or broker, I’d have fired their ass forty years ago. Had the same amount been invested and managed according to some fundamental investment guidelines, I would be far better off than I am as far as income is concerned, and I’d still own the principal. It’s should be pointed out that the two classes of people traditionally involved with Ponzi schemes, which is precisely what Social Security is, have been referred to as “sharks” and “suckers”, not “representatives” and “customers”.

Social Security is not a “business”. People don’t walk in off the street to purchase a product. Those of us who have worked and paid taxes all of our lives access Social Security to begin receiving the benefits we have been promised, even though government has had few qualms about changing the rules as they go along. If it was a “business” and I was a “customer”, I, too would have the option to change my plans if I felt like it. Those who have become disabled, or who have a lifelong chronic disability, come in to apply for support. They are not “customers”, either.

I consider myself to be a “claimant“, and would prefer that the relationship be described that way.

***

One may wonder why I would object. Perhaps it seems a bit nit-picky. Not too many years ago I might have scoffed at the choice of words as a bit silly and mistaken, but I wouldn’t have made an issue out of it.

I would argue that I’m not making an issue of it, however; the “issue” has achieved its current state without any input from me whatsoever. Pointing out something offensive on the lawn doesn’t mean I put it there. The fact of the matter is, the depth to which government has assumed authority over the personal choices and behaviors of the citizen has grown in direct proportion to the level of responsibility that government has assumed over the care and feeding of same. Our language changes almost imperceptibly to adapt and preserve the assumption that the old definitions apply to the new relationships.

Remember sitting down at the dinner table in the evening, back when people actually did such a thing? Any negative remarks or complaints regarding the fare presented was, at best, met with a stern reminder that when you assumed the responsibility of paying for the goods, you might have a voice in their selection. Children, however, arrive totally dependent and the natural responsibility of caring for that little human being belongs to the parent, the parent’s task being to progressively wean the child of his dependency until the only thing left for the parent to do is mow the lawn, go to the beach, and play golf, or maybe just sit on the porch and do absolutely nothing.

The United States government is not, and never has been, the parent of the people. On the contrary, it is the people who are supposed to make choices for, and direct the activities and behaviors of the United States government!

When government begins to take on the appearance of a parental authority, the problem is not with the government itself, unless its underlying structure and marching orders have been legally altered. Barring such fundamental changes, the transition from a government that serves and protects to one that feeds and directs, is clear indication that one part of the population has hijacked the controls and manipulated the underlying structure and marching orders to require the rest of the population to fulfill its needs and cater to its desires. This is precisely what the Founders feared the most and labored to prevent.

***

So, having sidled by, whistling idly and gazing into space while nevertheless watching to see whether or not the progression from servant to partner managed to go over with minimal stink, the US government has made the first leap into the role of the served and protected Master, under the guise of server and protector. Steeped heavily in Newspeak, the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor caring. Furthermore, those who actually believe an unknown lawyer from Illinois simply marched in, laughed “Ta daaaaa,” and shoved a nationalized healthcare system through Congress before his suitcase was unpacked, just because he’s a sharp cookie, might be interested in some oceanfront property I have for sale in Arizona.

The Newspeak lexicon has thus nearly reached the stage of growth where it has the very real potential to become an accepted and normalized language. Scary thought.

I subscribe to no established party’s mottos, alleged principles, or other verbiage because new meanings have been slathered over old words and concepts to the point that corruption and abuse of power have been normalized. Having been encouraged early on to “use my squash,” and being temperamentally inclined to ask “why” and not to take “because” as an answer, I find it difficult to simply take the word of an alleged authority figure. Other than voluntarily having once put myself briefly into a circumstance where I had to do so and salute at the same time, I have pretty consistently made up my own mind about things wherever has been possible and practical. Situations involving higher mathematics excluded.

By so doing, while I may have appeared the idiot to some on occasion, I have never to my knowledge willingly followed one. I don’t intend to start now, either.

I subscribe to the fundamental ideas of the gentlemen who authored the framework for this nation, and who thereby exclaimed with the great authority born of first hand experience, that government should always serve the governed, and never the other way around.

We have work to do.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 17, 2014

The new American dream ….

Is it way out of reach? …..

While raking through the internet’s morning litter box to separate that which might be salvaged instead of unceremoniously buried, I came across an interesting teaser asking “Is the new American dream way out of reach? ” I sat back to ponder the question before reading what the writer had to say on the matter.

My initial thought was a question of my own. What is the American dream these days? I don’t believe it is the same one I visited back when I was launching myself headlong from the 3 meter diving board without knowing if there was any water in the Pool of Life. This isn’t your granddaddy’s world, and it certainly isn’t your granddaddy’s United States of America.

For some of us, that is a good thing. For some of us, there may be a downside or two. Was the writer introducing some fact-based revelation, or simply whacking the beehive to see what might fly out? Is the writer thirty years old or does he/she have grandchildren that age?

We have experienced some impressive positive changes in a number of areas. In the field of medicine alone, the developments have been amazing. Vaccines and treatments were discovered for diseases and conditions that devastated my father’s generation; influenza, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, pneumonia, and meningitis, to mention a few. Small pox was eradicated. The cardiac pacemaker was invented, we learned how to successfully transplant vital organs like the heart, and research is underway to create artificial replacements for failed or damaged body parts with technologies such as 3-D printing. Men have walked on the moon, and astronomers have seen things their own teachers may have been unable to imagine. Communication is no longer limited to pen and paper, the two-way radio, and a heavy Bakelite telephone with a dial or that required a remote operator to manually connect two parties so that they could talk. Speaking of “pen and paper”, hand written communication was significantly changed forever with the introduction of the now iconic Bic pen in 1952. The “ball point” idea was actually pioneered as early as 1888, but an instrument that actually worked did not appear until after WW2.

Telephony also had it’s limitations, with intercontinental communication relying on radio transmission before the Trans-Atlantic Cable was brought to use in the mid nineteen fifties. Domestic long distance calls were clunky, not particularly clear, and often involved manual transfers from one relaying station to the next before microwave transmission came into general use around the same time. The birth of the “Space Age” in the sixties gave rise to satellite technology.

The “telephone” is actually an archaism today, as communications devices that function only as voice communicators are fast disappearing. Even the cheap “phone” on my desk performs multiple tasks such as identifying the caller, recording messages, keeping track of missed calls, and more. Americans are actually abandoning the traditional “wired” kitchen wall phone and the desk phone in favor of wireless cell phones, “Smart phones”, and various other devices that function as cameras, video recorders, computers, miniature televisions, and more.

One of the most prized possessions for a teen back during the sixties was the “transistor radio’, an amazing pocket-sized replacement for the suitcase-sized “portable” of just a few years earlier. The invention of the transistor in the late forties changed electronics completely and provided the foundation for countless subsequent technologies and developments.

In addition to these and hundreds of other changes to all aspects of day to day living, our population has more than doubled in just my own lifetime. The world population as a whole has grown nearly 500% during the same time span. We have begun to recognize for the first time in history the very real potential for humanity to literally eat itself out of house and home.

So, the American Dream of today cannot possibly be the same as it was when I was starting to chase it.

When I was in high school, one of the Brass Rings was a degree in engineering, and the most complex mathematical calculations were done manually with pencil, paper, and perhaps a slide rule.

Another Brass Ring was Medicine. Being a doctor was a prestigious profession wherein one could be the boss as well as one’s own boss, and make a lot of money.

Those without the opportunity or desire for higher education did very well in the still robust industrial sector, construction, and work was plentiful

The Industrial Age has given way to the Technological and Digital Ages, and the job market is more service oriented. With “Boomers” entering their seniority, medical and ancillary fields are the place to be.. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the most sought after and highest paying jobs today are in the actuarial sciences, biomedical engineering and, of course, computer sciences.

To what do new graduates aspire today, and what do they expect to discover and achieve?

As possibilities change, so do dreams, or at least they should. My generation largely defined our dreams by the standards of our fathers’ generation, which turned out to be woefully misguided for many. I suspect that could be said by many who have preceded us, the one constant, I believe, being expectation of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Such principles have traditionally been protected by our government, which was formed for that purpose. In recent years, that government has transitioned from representing an extension of the will of the people, to acting as a partner of the people. Roles are being reversed and even usurped. Government has begun to take on an authoritarian, parental role.

For those who are still youthful and pondering the future, I’m sorry to say that the world your parents believed they were going to inherit didn’t turn out exactly according to plan, and neither will yours. Perhaps that is as it should be. So, to answer the question posed at the start of this essay, “Is the new American dream way out of reach?” If the dream is a prescripted model one expects to follow, I’d bet one won’t even get within spittin’ distance.

However, if one’s American dream is fundamentally no different from the dream of his predecessors over the past eight generations or so…..the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…..I imagine it is very much alive. Whether or not it is within reach will depend upon how much one is willing to stretch, and whether or not one has fallen for the come-on and believes it will be served on a silver platter.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 12, 2014

A man walks into a bar

uh oh…….

 man-bar_001a

It’s an old story…

A man walked into a bar, strolled up to the rail right next to the biggest gorilla in the joint, looked up at him, and drawled “you’re an ass hole”.

Incredulous, the Big Guy looked down at the gnat grinning back at him.

“……….What’re you, NUTS?”

“No, not at all. I was just suggesting that you are an ass hole…..”

The Big Guy stared back with raised eyebrows for a moment, before grunting, shaking his head, and returning to the process of sipping his drink, which seemed a far more important issue than the annoying behavior of a little man with a big mouth who he figured had had a bit too much to drink.

The little guy didn’t move.

After a moment, the bigger man looked over at him and scowled. “So, what the hell was THAT all about anyway? I’m twice your size and half your age….seems to me YOU’RE the ass hole around here….”

“Oh, not at all, my friend,” the little man chuckled. I’m still in one piece and we’re sitting here engaged in conversation. Either my observation was true or you found it so insignificant as to warrant little or none of your concern”. He motioned to the bartender, who was disappointed to learn that the man wanted only ginger ale. Neat.

His ire beginning to penetrate his facade of disinterest, the larger man turned to face the Gnat and showed his full height. “Now listen up! You’re beginning to piss me off! I’m NOT an ass hole, I don’t appreciate being CALLED an ass hole…..especially by some pipsqueak jerk I never met before in my life, so knock it off before I lose my temper!” He glared into the Gnat’s eyes as he threw down the remainder of his drink and noisily returned the empty glass to the bar. The bartender silently appeared out of the shadows and poured a refill. The man curtly nodded his thanks while fishing a couple of loose bills out of his pocket without breaking eye contact with his tormentor. The smaller man lowered his eyes and slowly turned to the bar, leaned on his elbows, and nursed his ginger ale in silence. The big man glared for a moment longer.

“Hmph!” he grunted, and turned away to swirl the amber liquid in his glass for a time before raising it to his lips for a sip.

“Well, ya know….” The little man started.

The big man froze, only his eyes darting sharply to the left to fall on the Gnat still hunched over and staring at the bar top.

“……I may very well be a pipsqueak, and I may very well be a jerk,” Gnat continued, “but saying that out loud or hanging it on the side of the Goodyear Blimp doesn’t make it so, and it CERTAINLY doesn’t diminish or cancel out my description of YOU…..”

“Why you little …..!” the big man bellowed, tossing down his drink and slamming the empty glass down loudly on the surface of the bar. He spun around and took a step toward his antagonist.

BUT….” the Gnat said, raising his palm and cocking his head to the side while staring at the floor, “I can see you’re pretty upset, so as a peace offering and gesture of neighborliness…….” He turned to the bartender and said “please pour this gentleman a double, on me, and keep the change.” He placed a ten dollar bill on the bar, and walked quietly out of the establishment.

The big man and the bar tender looked at each other and shook their heads. He tossed down the free drink and stood back from the rail. “I’m not in a very good mood, Jack. Guess I’ll see you another time. G’night”. He ran his fingers through his hair and walked out, ambled across the small parking lot and got into his car.

No sooner than he had turned onto the avenue and shifted into second gear than the flashing blue light filled his back window.

“Shit…….”

He eased to the curb and rummaged around for his license and insurance verification as the glare of a flashlight bobbed toward him.

“Evening, sir….had anything to drink tonight?”

“Yes officer, I just had a drink in that bar you saw me leave.”

“I see,” the man behind the flashlight said. “License and insurance please?”

The man handed the papers out of the window. “Is there a problem?”

“Why, yes there is….” the suddenly familiar voice behind the flashlight said. “You acknowledge that you had a drink, but I happen to suspect you’ve had more than that…..say, at least two plus a double?”

“…………………………..shit…………”

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Posted by: JDM..... | August 5, 2014

Sleight of credibility…..

and other goon-worthy schticks….

Not being a rabid sports fan, let alone a follower of the L. A. Clippers, I have no ax to grind regarding that aspect of the matter, but I do have some thoughts about the whole Donald Stirling dustup in general.

The manner in which the allegations of his politically incorrect remarks came to light, the rapidity with which the issue came to dominate the “news”, the precision with which the man was tried, convicted, and executed in the media, and the whole sordid D-movie plot of his alleged dalliance with Miss Stiviano make it virtually impossible to not conclude that this was a scripted series of events. “They” didn’t like they guy, and “they” came up with a way to unload him that, if it hadn’t been so nasty, would have been laughably corny. Someday, maybe we’ll hear “the rest of the story”, but I doubt it.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | July 4, 2014

Portrait versus baloney sandwich

at least the sandwich merits some bread….

The new portrait of Prince William was unveiled the other day to the sound of one hand clapping, and that was the hand of the artist himself. His other hand was busy alternately patting himself on the back and thumbing his nose at critics. This is the same artist who had excreted the 2013 canvas of Queen Elizabeth as well, with a similar response. Having seen photos of the items in question, I have to concur with those who thought them to be uncomplimentary and amateurish.

The portrait itself was a minor yawn, but the artist seems to be that and more. Art is many things, including an ability to see the universe in ways the rest of the world can’t imagine, and the willingness to actually create representations of those visions in their chosen media. To be an “artist” also requires ego strength and perseverance, and a certain amount of technical skill, whether self taught or acquired through formal instruction. In most cases, even when all or many of those qualities are present, the one thing that can mean the difference between making a mess and making a living is salesmanship. A touch of insanity never hurts, but substituting sophomoric arrogance for shortcomings elsewhere may.

When the vision, the skill, and presentation are universally appreciated, little salesmanship is needed. Who could find fault with the work of Andrew Wyeth and others that have survived the erratic changes in society and culture through the years? Art appreciation is highly subjective, however, and if I turn my nose up at something that has been presented as “art”, I have to realize that in order for it to have drawn enough attention to reach the public eye, it must have a reasonable number of people who actually liked it. Although Picasso was a highly skilled artist in the “traditional” sense, it was his “cubism” that engraved his name in history. I don’t like it. It looks to me like something my daughter etched on the living room wall with aerosol cheese as a toddler.

And then there are those of marginal talent who, unable to attract applause silently, resort to salesmanship and theater. The artist who unveiled his rendering of Prince William took matters a step further, however, and crassly dismissed those who did not like his work, boldly announcing that he really doesn’t give a toot if the people like it or not.

He flipped off criticisms by saying “When a work is complete I discard it like a used condom,” which most likely gives a rather telling caricature of both the artist and his product.

It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that is quite true in my opinion. However, before declaring oneself above vulnerability to public opinion, the artist might benefit from asking exactly what it might be that he expects to pay him, and from learning the difference between cheers and Bronx cheers.

So, I see the artist as a marginal portraitist who offsets that deficit by being successful as an egotistical bull shit artist instead. I’m not very good at salesmanship myself, an assessment to which my few sojourns into that field of endeavor have attested. However, I do think my cartoons are significantly better than his portraits, although I’m certain he would neither agree nor care. Similarly, of course, I wouldn’t really give a northbound rat’s south end about his opinion of my work, either, assuming he would stop making love to himself long enough to offer one. Which reminds me, I wonder if he uses a condom?

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | June 30, 2014

What’s good for the gander.….

not good for the goose….?

If Donald Stirling can be stripped of his right to own the Los Angeles Clippers because he made allegedly “discriminatory” comments in a private conversation, and if the Washington Redskins can be punished by having their trademark registration cancelled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because it has been alleged that the name the franchise has carried for 81 years “may disparage” individuals or groups, doesn’t it stand to reason (sic) that The Miss America Pageant and the Miss Delaware organization committed “age discrimination” when 24 year old Amanda Longacre was stripped of her Miss Delaware title and all associated benefits two weeks after she was crowned on grounds that she is allegedly “too old”?

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | June 9, 2014

Executing good ideas.….

in the bloodier sense of the word….

Every bad idea started out as a good idea. It’s not that good ideas somehow spontaneously transform themselves into bad ideas, but that human beings have an innate need to mess with things. Take religion for example. Here is a phenomenal mechanism to bring group cohesion to countless independent nomads in the process of forsaking the traditions of hunting and gathering in favor of living in static communities so they could grow grain, brew beer, and invent bread. What a great idea! Acknowledge the existence of deities taking care of the group and making rules for them to follow, come up with a few shamans to deal with the food supply and play “Daddy” for the community, and voila. Western civilizations came up with the name “God”, or some variation thereof, and imbued him-her-it-they with a strict persona but one of boundless love. The problem was, and of course it “was” almost immediately, that there were as many variations of the Big Kahuna as there were groups developing cohesion. Between that sentinel moment in time and the one that just terminated while I was trying not to spill coffee on my new keyboard a second ago, I’d wager humanity has slain, tortured, beheaded, hung, drawn and quartered, stoned to death, in the Name of God more fellow human beings than have died in all of our wars, diseases, automobile accidents, suicides, dog bites, and pissed off cuckolds combined since the beginning of time. We’re supposedly at the top of the food chain at an infinite Smorgasbord, and yet we opt to consume ourselves.

Moving right along…..I mean, we obliterate virgin woodlands, build houses on the remaining desert, and then go about the business of ….. wait for it…..planting grass and trees! I don’t know how many tens of thousands of years ago the monkey’s nephew first eyeballed a bird and thought it would be pretty nifty to fly like one, but the minute he actually accomplished the feat, he was compelled to roll over and FLY UPSIDE DOWN! No other living thing is capable of exhibiting such perpetual arrogance, with the possible exception of the house cat. Maybe that’s why so many of us love them as pets. Lions and tigers and bears don’t build zoos for themselves under the presumption that they can create a better faux jungle than the original model.

To compound our incongruous concept of logic, we are completely aware that we do this, at least in hindsight. While we frantically rearrange the statutory furniture so the future generations won’t repeat our mistakes, we spare no potential opportunity to engineer new mistakes for our hapless descendants to deal with in a similar manner. The adage “Same shit different day” didn’t just pop out of the ether for no reason, after all.

But, that was then and this is now, so to speak.

According to an online NBC news item, an organization of British geeks announced that a computer program has finally been developed that can convince a panel of geeky judges it is actually human. Isaac Asimov and countless other science fiction writers have played this tune in print for decades, but, apparently, it now has stuck a toe in reality and at least one of Academia’s cerebral “Good Idea Farmers” has already broken the ice with predictions of wondertude for the digital doohickey in the service of mankind.

A professor from the University of Reading sees the Good Idea side of faux-people acting as mercenaries in the fight against “cyber crime”, and then creates the inevitable portal to Bad Idea Land by generalizing the technology into some non-specific, omnidirectional “communicator” with the single overall ability to lie to us and get away with it. First of all, that would seem like an immeasurably frightening proposition. Secondly, that “idea” is the exemplar of reinventing the wheel since humanity has been performing that little parlor trick in-house since some grunting hairball became the first one to stand upright.

That’s all I need, some ashen mobile computer carrying a briefcase and clad in a black suit knocking on my door to talk to me about “I Robot.”

Imagine being pulled over on the Interstate by R2D2 on steroids.

I can almost hear “Hal” laughing his motherboard off when I discover that my bank account has disappeared and that my name has been legally changed to some unforgivable obscenity in an extinct language

The list goes on, but I’m terrified that I might come up with a good idea, and that would be a bad idea, so I think it would be a good idea if I quit right now.

Oh…….

 

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