Sunday, April 17, 2005

American Ex Slows Down

Dear friends,

American Ex is going to be slowing down for a while. I've committed myself to writing a novel and until that is done, the blog will necessarily be on the back burner.

I will still post occasionally. If you are not on my announce list and would like to be, please send me your email address via the email link, in my profile. It won't get used for any purpose but to let you know when I post.

To quote Douglas MacArthur as he ran from the Philippines, "I Shall return."


Monday, April 11, 2005

The History of the Big Dig

Greetings friends and those about to be amused, confused, and perhaps slightly abused.

A friend and regular corespondent, Thomas Moody of New Hampshire, sent this brilliant bit of prose poetry, reminiscent of Lord Buckley's Word Jazz works.

If you are not familiar with Lord Buckley, click here for an introduction to an amazing American poet.

The piece to follow is strange, funny, twisted, and it makes no sense except that it makes a lot of sense. Ready?

An History of the Big Dig
by Thomas Moody

Most people alive today, having never known a world in which the Big Dig
wasn't the primary stimulus of the global economy, wonder how it all
began. Originally dubbed the "Big Pig", the history of this project goes
back to the ancient Celtic sport of Piggyback (Assukk, in the original
Celtic). Prior to their (the pigs') domestication, the Celts dreamt of
mounting the swift swine of southern Scotland (sometimes called England in
the current era), racing them at breakneck speeds around a track marked by
huge upright stone slabs and lintels, and betting on what's for dinner.
The Celts decided to try a proof-of-concept project before expending
limited capital reserves on a massive pig domestication program, so they
built a track, designated some individuals to play the role of pigs and
some to play the role of riders (inadvertently setting off a "this little
piggy" craze that persists to this day), and tried racing the "pigs"
bearing their "Piggybacked" riders, but found that the "pigs" could only
run for several days before collapsing from fatigue. To continue the
experiment, they assigned two foot racers (fetisha) to run
counter-clockwise (bazzakkverd) around an inside track (crook) for each
"pig"-and-rider pair (hiyoporca) running clockwise (tuiztanzhout) around
the outside track (luezer). (Hence the roundabout and driving on the
left.) The hypothesis was that with a net mass of zero Celts running
around the track, the race could go on perpetually. This proved false, as
in molar (molar) terms, there were 2 moles of fetisha going bazzakkverd
for each hiyoporca going tuiztanzhout, leaving nobody in the stands to
drink beer (pist) and place bets, as every man Jack and woman Jill of them
was running on the track due to the severe labour shortage that existed
prior to the perfection of the Viking au pair (uellalla) ship. Even with a
sufficient labour force to test the scheme it would have failed, however,
as there existed a toll system in that time which charged each hiyoporca
going tuiztanzhout on the luezer a shilling per circuit, and each fetisha
going bazzakkverd on the crook a tuppence and halfpenny per circuit, and
due to an inability keep the two tracks moving at equal speed but opposite
angular velocity with any real consistency (the average fetisha tending to
travel at higher speed than the average hiyoporca), a chronic imbalance of
payments would have developed, leading eventually to a currency crisis and
a run on the pound in the dark days before central banking. Needless to
say, after several thousand years, the Celts eventually abandoned the
project, and in an effort to put the painful futility of it all behind
them, they took to herding sheep, from which we get the sense of the
expression, "feeling sheepish". Nevertheless, many ages later, the legend
of this massive project of antiquity, which came to be known as "oops" or
"hoops", laid the basis for a less strenuous game that could be played
indoors with a pneumatic sphere (the "net mass"), and one of the earliest
professional organisations of the modernised parimutuel system is named
the "Celtics" in honour of the athletic tribe of yore. The strain of
accommodating the expanding arrearage of punters made the total
destruction of the Celtics' original venue in Boston's historic North End
inevitable, and realising that "Big Dig" rhymed with "Big Pig", city
planners, in the grip of the Great Tea Shortage of 1773, were inspired to
pick up where the ancient Celts left off, and developed a largely
underground urban renewal program that is still unfolding today.
I was breathless at the end. I look forward to having an audio file of this piece on the coming web site. It was meant to be heard rather than read. As well as a PHD biological sciences that I can't pronounce, Mr. Moody is also a veteran performer of nouveau Vaudevillian and clownbanditry acts of artistic/poetic expression expression.
I don't do these poetic interludes very often but this one was too much fun to read. I had to share it.
Wednesday, I shall continue with the usual attacks against the empire, with a new article entitled "Theocons, Neocons, and Lying Thieving Cons"
You'll find it here, at American Ex.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Spirit of Political Activism

I read something tonight that is having a big effect on me, I feel a need to share it with you. My currently philosophical state of mind was triggered by an article at Dissident Voice, by Joe Bageant, a Southern writer that I have great regard for.

Joe writes about people. When making a political point, it comes from the bottom up, not from the preaching top down voice, so common among writers of both the right and left. Joe finds truth and beauty in places the liberal elite write about from a great distance. Joe is having a beer with people that too many high minded writers and liberal thinkers, see as morally, intellectually, and culturally inferior.

The article in question today, is entitled "In Praise of Holy Madness", at Dissident Voice. A topic that you might imagine would be of little interest to a long time atheist, such as myself.

If you don't click on the link and read the article, you are doing yourself a disservice and what follows will make less sense. So, please read it. It's just a page. Very readable. Like most Southern writers, Joe is a good story teller and the topic is very relavent to the political and cultural reality of modern America.

A quote from Bob D., the man the article is about:
Elevating carnage to cultural protocol is very dangerous. And official rationalization of it is disastrous. Why isn't someone talking about these things? We have no examples. We have no ideals. We have only corruption and self-justifying silliness in service of capitalism as it runs further and more terribly amok.

Bob D. goes on to say:
And to the forces on the left trying to combat all this I say: The realization IS compassion." "Consciousness" and "heart" arise together. They are one thing. The compassionate try to help even their most despicable brothers. That's why it is written: "Without love, I am nothing." Yet the left throws it all away. Though the left is so often correct in principle, it becomes merely the other side of that one counterfeit coin we have been offered.

Bob D. is a massively eccentric man. He lives, with his dogs and elderly mother, in an ancient, falling down Victorian house, in Tennessee. A relic of more prosperous times. Bob is not a person many people would listen to and almost none would take seriously.
Yet, when you read his words, it is very clear that this "madman's" thinking is guided by vision, intelligence, and an open heart.

Now Bob, is not impressed with the right, the Christian right, or new age garbage for rich, greedy, self involved persons seeking spiritual justification for not caring about the state of the poor, the ill, and other social outcasts.

Bob cares a lot abut how we treat each other and the other things living on this little planet. Bob also has an understanding of the spiritual/psychological reality that forms the underpinnings of society.

Bob believes atheism is foolishness. I did not say I agree with everything Bob says. But I do agree in his intent.

His admonishment to the left is short but full of genuine wisdom. If we can not develop compassion, if our idea of conciousness is based purely on science, intellect, and a hatred of our opposition, we shall create, in the long run, something as inhumane and uncaring as what we are now opposed to. Different faces, different slogans, different rhetoric but the same old top down shit we are drowning in today.

I know that currently, the great majority of my readers are firmly situated to the left of centre line. Anarchists, socialists, liberals, and free thinkers without a set ideology. Agnosticism and atheism is rampant among us. If you have read anything by me, you know I have zero sympathy for and very little in common with authoritarian preachers, of any ilk. That disregard also includes the more authoritarian variations of 'liberation' theology.

I struggle not to hate their empty, soulless, punishment obsessed followers. You can't really understand people you hate and you will never change their way of thinking. Bob reminds me how important it is to view even the opposition with some compassion.

That's a hard one but compassion does not mean giving in or over looking evil. It means feeling for and trying to understand the internal reality of those who would kill or jail me, given the chance. There is great strength in that understanding and it may help us to not make the same mistakes as they have. It is the only way off this revolving wheel of repression, war, rebellion and then, more oppression.

I still say we do not need religion but compassion, love, and the willingness to take responsibility, as opposed to taking control, is very important. Our apparent inability to give a shit, is killing us.

I gave up on church and religion and god, a long time ago. But, I learned a lot from the Jesus guy. Although I do not accept his divinity, the direction he pointed in, could change the world if Christians could become a little more Jesus like. And less like Paul in his angry period.

No one listens to holy mad men any more. But we sure listen to the evil mad men. I suppose because they seem more normal, these days.

Bob said, again, The compassionate try to help even their most despicable brothers. That's why it is written: "Without love, I am nothing."

His madness is driven by vision and intelligence. "Without love, I am nothing" is quoted from second Corinthians. Written near the end of Paul's life, it contains the wisdom that Paul had sought, his whole life. When it came, he repented of much that he had written before, in his angry law bringer days. The modern evangelical right loves to quote the angry, punishing Paul. The wisdom seen in Corinthians II, is rarely quoted these days, except to prop up our belief that we are the 'good guys' with our hearts in the right place. Then we quickly return to punishing the poor and all who disagree with our nice middle class social values, disguised as religion.

Religion sucks. That does not negate the profound importance of trying to become a spiritually/psychologically complete human. Otherwise, in spite of the best of intentions, we just create more hell. The world could use some more of Bob's 'madness'.

The world around him may not take Bob seriously, but I bet I am not the only person to respond to him in this manner.

I'm still an atheist and I still believe compassion is the key.

But, it is a process, becoming a complete human. It is a slow process for most of us.

Once again, the article is found HERE.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Soap Opera News, American Style

As you may have noticed, the Pope is dead. I seem to recall some brief announcement in the news, to that effect. Maybe a photograph or two on every single news paper in the world. Perhaps a special piece on FOX and CNN. A special piece that will last until Friday on every single network.

If it weren't for the 'net', I would be taking another news break until next week. I am seriously Poped-out, already. Wouldn't you know it? The body will lie in state until it is entombed or what ever is done with dead Popes.

Nothing I am about to say, is about John Paul II or any other Pope. This is about media and the manipulation of mass perception.

A few days ago I went to the Library to look at the front pages of news papers distributed in the last six weeks or so. What I found was no surprise, at all. I learned that American news papers are competing with soap operas and day time television for the hearts, minds, and product loyalties of the American public.

It is true that soap operas often reflect contemporary values and events in strange narcissistic ways. It is also true that the news media has learned a lot from the successful soap opera formula, and its ability to capture the imaginations of the proverbial public. Creating an alternate reality, in the minds of viewers, that can alter their perception of objective reality.

One common feature, of stories I hear from Canadians visiting American relatives, or American/Canadians visiting 'home', is the story of American families and friends sitting around obsessing about the prices of commodity goods and talking about soap opera characters, as though they were real people. Causing much confusion until the Canadian visitors realize their American hosts are talking about day time television characters..

Now, soap opera addicts populate both sides of the border. They just seem to be much more common among the general population in the States. So many things in the culture seem to promote the commercialized alternate reality, created by the entertainment and commercial media.

Now, the news media has gotten into the act, in a very big way. Yellow journalism and tear jerk human interest stories, have always been a staple of the news media, especially the newspapers. Currently, there is almost nothing else on the front pages of even the major American newspapers. One soap opera after the other, punctuated by unexamined, unquestioned 'news', sent straight from the propaganda department of the White House.
National and international news with a pro-corporate business spin on it.

Things of great importance, that the White House and corporate ownership find inconvenient, are conveniently ignored. If you don't have an internet connection, or the time and will to do some searching, you only know what they choose to tell you.

But damn! Don't they like to spill the juicy beans when it comes to things that are of no real matter to the state of the world or the American role in the state of the world.

My trip to the library, did not result a scientific study. What I am reporting is the impression given by quickly thumbing through a big collection of daily papers. While we are at war with many of the citizens of Iraq, while we turn Afghanistan into a giant military prison camp, while ever more revelations appear regarding wide spread torture in military jails and that the orders for the abuses came from high in the military.

While Cheney's business alma mater, Haliburton, is being investigated for fraud, theft, and a variety of cover up and bribe allegations. While Congress has committed bloody rape against debt ridden Americans, with the new bankruptcy laws, the news papers were focused on an entirely different world.

Sure, many allegations, contradictory science reports, and military screw ups, get some mention, most are handled briefly, with as little details as possible and a bit of 'this isn't important' spin at the end of the obscure little articles.

Meanwhile, the dead and wounded, from Germany and Iraq, are still flown in under the cover of dark. But, so what? Martha is out of jail and all set and ready for her new crusade. Comments from Martha's cell mate are headline news.

Martha, Martha, Lacy Peterson, procurement scandal, Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Martha, Terri Shiavo, report cites vote fraud, Terri Shiavo, Church protesters, Terri Must Live, Shiavo Death Threats, Bolton to the UN, Michael Jackson, blackmailer testifies, Pope, Terri, Pope, Wolfowitz to the World Bank Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson, congress wants changes in Patriot Act, Terri Dies, Culture of Death, Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson, Pope is ill, Pope is ill, Pope is dead, Pope is dead, war on Iran, Pope, Pope, Pope, Pope.

You get the picture. Colourful, passionate, soap opera, presented as news. The world is burning and Americans are fiddling with the dial, or looking for the celebrity cross word puzzle. Or maybe testing their "Day Time Television IQ", on the arts and entertainment page.

I knew I was in for a long breath holding session when Air America hosts, and both Bernie Ward and Ray Taliaferro, over at KGO were also on about the Pope. But, with the great numbers of people caught up in the drama of it all, what else can a talk show host talk about without taking his or her phones off line?

Here is a question that is bugging me a bit. Wasn't there an encyclical, from the then voiceless Pope, saying that a feeding tube was not an extraordinary measure and that every Catholic had the duty to preserve life, as long as possible by artificial means? I could have sworn such a thing was in the news.

However, the Pope then decided to die in his apartment rather than be artificially maintained. I'm not criticizing the Pope, what I am asking myself. is exactly who produced the encyclical and made the decision to announce it, while the Pope was still alive but unable to function as the Pope?

I also find myself wondering if this is a portend of the conservative political maneuvering, going on among the Cardinals, who will select the next wearer of the Papal Ring.

Friday, April 01, 2005

For The Love'a God, Martha!

Do you ever wonder what the hell is going on in the world? Of course, you do. I wake up like that, every day. At the crack of noon.

Today I made my very strong cup of Dark French roast and stepped out to the corner, to blacken my lungs, as my sweetie calls it.. Caffeine is the secret of life before five PM and the true aroma of heaven. My appreciation of the taste and aroma of heaven was short lived.

There, staring me in the face from the Newspaper box, are the words: Dar-fur Death Toll Exceeds 300,000. Three hundred thousand people murdered for having the wrong colour skins, in their own lands. Murdered by religious extremists only a couple of short steps beyond our own home grown variety of religious extremist.

You get the strong impression that most of the industrialized world, does not care. Why? This is worse than Bosnia. Could it be because these are dirt poor black people, in Africa?

The racist Islamic extremists in Dar-fur, and its national government, of the same ilk, and those in the outside world capable of having a positive effect, are knowingly responsible for a horrible mass of crimes. Those who commit these mindless atrocities and those who sit on their hands watching, are guilty.

Hey, I thought there was a war against terrorism. Too bad those black, Islamic people of Dar-fur have no natural resources to trade for their miserable lives. Who needs them? Is that the thinking or is there any rational thinking going on the places of power and wealth?

Mean while, back on the ranch: In the good old USA, the religious zealots and their cynical leaders edge closer and closer to open violence against everyone they don't like. Which appears to be quite a few people.

One thing clearly indicated by their angry lustful death threats, is that they do not trust their all powerful god to take care of his own business. "Vengeance is mine!" they cry. Cleverly forgetting the last part of the biblical quote. "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." Makes it clear, it does appear, that he and he alone will reap vengeance upon his enemies.

Now, If you actually believe this stuff, why do you act like such soulless barbarians? It is a real question that I am yet to get a real answer to...

I have said in the past that I believe the politicized Christians of America represent the brown shirts of this place and era. The SA was a political movement with strong religious overtones. The religious ideology was a strange mix of reconstructed Nordic paganism and some aspects of protestant Christianity.

They were a force not directly connected to the government. The murderous zealots, Hitler could direct at anyone, while maintaining a legal distance. In the end, he allowed the army to destroy the brown shirts as part of his deal with the Army and some of the big money corporations, whose support he needed. Take note Born Againskyites.

The Evangelical Christian Right is a deep fetid pool of rage, hatred, and fear, just looking for any excuse to unleash their sick godless rage. Many actually believe that their cowardly murderous actions will win them hero status and give them a ticket straight to Jesus, the oops, pacifist... I suppose if enough people pretend you are in heaven, you will be. Sort of. In a way, I guess.

You know these guys are desperate because they don't even get promised seventy virgins in paradise. I suppose that would be a bit frightening to an American protestant. Girls are still icky for them.

All in all, the motivations for one variety of narcissistic nut case is pretty much the same as for the other. That goes for Fearless George, as well.

I have never lived under foreign occupation so I reserve judgment regarding those who willing give their lives to repulse a hyper destructive occupying army.

I do not find it that difficult to imagine being either an American soldier or a devastated citizen whose crime is the mere fact that he lives in Iraq. This horror must stop.

If this class of violent minded, moral reprobates, who populate the politicized evangelical right, have their way, a big box of that same horror, created in Dar-fur and Iraq, will be opened and poured out in the 'Homeland'. Cause they love America so much, they want it all for themselves.

For those of you in the black community, who have allowed your fears and prejudices regarding gay people, to suck you into to this hateful version of Christianity, you should take note:
I grew up in the heart of this terrible movement and I guarantee , that no matter what is said today, these people of the Christian white right, will come to consider you in exactly the same light, as the Arab Muslims of Dar-fur view their black Muslim brothers and sisters. Not good enough, not 'real' Muslims. 300,000 thousand die. More will yet.

That is how these movements have always developed. The majority of the many, many thousands of Jews killed or made refugees by the Spanish inquisition, were Christians. The vast majority. But, once again, not good enough, not 'real' Christians. You get the picture? Insanity is often described as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

I know, in the end, when they let themselves loose, they will consider all black people, not good enough, not 'real' Christians. They can't help themselves. The devil has them by the balls and you don't want to join with them, brothers and sisters.

Preacher mode off.

OK, moving right along: I want to end this post with a plug for three bloggers I read and admire and believe you will enjoy reading. I know from comments and from emails I receive at my hotmail addy, that I have some very bright readers. Readers that I am genuinely proud of. Respecting that, I will not steer you foolishly to just any old blogger I happen to like.

Each of these three bloggers has something unique, pithy, rational, and entertaining in their writings. I'm sure we don't all agree with each other on every thing, honestly opinionated people never do. But I find each of them more than worth the read..

In no particular order:

God dem!
By JET- a relative newbie who is finding herself and her writing voice very quickly. A natural born writer with logic, passion, and a real interest in her topics. Be nice or be deconstructed.

The Lucidity and Lunacy of Millicent Frastley
Frstlymil is my absolute favourite non political blogger. There is a very sane philosophy between the lines but she has her own very unique and very readable way of communicating with the written word. Her observations of life, in her part of LA, are always entertaining but often moving in a very personal way, as well.

Last and far from least,
Skinny Dipping With the President Rhonda describes her blog as "Political Rant meets Personal Diary". A very fitting description. Rhonda is often short, very punchy (I like that), to the point and has a wicked imagination and sense of humour that is only beginning to greet the world. She ads something new and different to my day of ugly news reading . She is already damned interesting and I think her best is yet to come.

I like the idea of introducing my readers to other writers I find interesting and hope you do as well. You have suggestions? Email them to the hotmail addy found in the profile. I don't want to put it here because of the damned spammer collector bots.

I am not putting permanent links on this blogger site because I will soon be moving to a web site where I will repay all the links I owe. I will continue to regularly update this blog but the archives will be much more accessible. I plan to have some features that I hope will increase both the information and yes, the entertainment value of the site.

See ya Monday.