Archive for August, 2014

In a movie entitled The Lottery of Birth, I got a fascinating glimpse of modern American existence as it relates to some very key topics, including: Education, Entertainment, Obedience, and Creativity. It focused on the importance of maintaining the status quo in the United States, and how some of our major institutions are complicit in accomplishing this.
One notable example was how the story of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World is portrayed in the classroom. There, kids are taught that his arrival was a momentous occasion, worthy of celebration. While it’s true that Columbus’ arrival was momentous, it’s celebratory aspect would be diminished if the unedited story were told. Columbus and his men saw the natives, who had welcomed them with gifts and goodwill as threatening savages. They then wiped out a large number of the natives in a large-scale massacre on the natives.
Thus began the inauspicious beginnings of our cultural hegemony, a long-standing American tradition which continues today, even among its own citizens. The movie also illustrates how many aspects of modern American life are controlled by agendas created by external, faceless and even nameless entities, e.g. “the Company.”
9-to-5ers, for example, who spend five days a week working in myopic, highly controlled worlds have few freedoms, including prescribed bathroom breaks and meal times, and personal leave and vacation time allowances.
Restrictions are also placed upon news or magazine copywriters, whose content must fall within strict management-defined guidelines, while school teachers may create their own teaching methods, but with no curriculum deviation.
Next, the film details how and why higher education today has been scaled-down to eliminate graduates’ expectations of establishing careers, which greatly reduces both individual knowledge and wealth. Further, students won’t develop the analytical skills or sufficient requisite information to question society’s leaders, the thinking being that those who don’t know to ask, won’t.
My Silent, Silent Partner, I realized, has been my intuitive guide. As the grade school kid who knew something was up, but could not put his finger on it, I now understand its importance. So, even though my classmates seemed to function well within the highly-regimented classroom, I never accepted those limitations for myself. So, while others were busy “fitting in,” I was comfortable in playing the role of “odd man out.” In this I not only refer to college, but to all my classroom experiences.
Social Alienation is the best way I can explain being the “odd man out.” In essence, it meant those who did not accept someone else’s agenda as their own – like me – would effectively be omitted from all social interactions. What’s more, the nonparticipant – me – appeared stubbornly responsible for choosing not to participate in something with which I did not agree, but could not articulate. Even so, the status quo repeatedly tried to draw me back, believing that it’s insidious tactics would eventually bring a “nonconformist” like me back into the fold with everyone else.
In stating yesterday that it’s taken me a lifetime to realize that my thinking was misguided and even a copout, I realized this morning the benefit of questioning the validity of my lifelong attitudes. Happily, guided by my grade school intuition, my self-representation as being someone who thinks differently was spot on.
So, while I spent a great deal of my youth alone, I never thought of myself as a loner. Nor did I live a passive aggressive existence, standing quietly yet defiantly on a shifting, sandy riverbed as the world flowed around me. Instead, my Silent, Silent Partner unwittingly and adeptly handled my worldly contradictions, and freed me up to just be a kid.
That said, I wholly defend everything I stated in Shaking the Invisible, Guiding Hand, save for one key aspect; the motivations behind my thinking processes. My thinking is not – nor ever was – misguided at all but, in fact, spot on. As a kid, these concepts were over my head; I had no sentient thoughts on the matter.
However, as my thoughts matured, my subjectivity often conflicted with the largely objective world. Moreover, after college, there were even fewer people with whom I could share my pro-individualistic thoughts. Interestingly, I never questioned my thoughts until yesterday, when I really examined them. My sudden, 180-degree reversal yesterday, I now realize, was that of a man who’d grown weary of searching for a way to “fit in” to a world that would not have me. For a fleeting moment, the status quo almost had me.
Thankfully, I now see that my world is at odds with me and not the other way around. And, while I’m still not a loner, I still sometimes feel alone. But thanks to The Lottery of Birth, I know I’m in good company – and not alone – in threatening the status quo through my own independent thought.
Even so, the status quo has little to fear from free thinking people. It’s probable that, like me, other independent thinkers are a disjointed group of individuals, destined to never meet and to share our beliefs. What’s more, most don’t have the luxury of time as I do, instead opting for socially responsible pursuits, such as having a career, paying a mortgage, and raising a family. Such pursuits virtually require complete surrender of both our time and attention, and the status quo is thereby effectively maintained.
Those who differ with the status quo – as I have – may sooner or later discover their true selves. Whether it’s because of the words of independent-thinkers like Chomsky or Zinn, or anyone else, I shall always believe independent thought is something for which we should all be proud to have, and be willing to share. Long live creative individual expression and independent thought!

Many say that our lives are an endless journey, unfolding before us as we go until we reach that fateful day until we, well, stop. As I continue on my own journey toward that day, I’m discovering an increasing number of things about myself that have been there all along. Most recently, it’s what I’ve always thought of as my “uniqueness.”
For better or worse, it has certainly kept life interesting. Moreover, though I never knew it was there, I’ve always known something was up, though I never could put my finger on it. A recent revelation, though, has finally begun to shed light on it. Despite the fact I’m unable to explain it fully, I’ve given it a name: My Silent, Silent Partner. It has always been there, an alter ego asserting its influence wholly without me even being aware of it.
Though it has taken many forms, my silent, silent partner has had one powerful, primary driving force behind it. Its inauspicious beginnings began like so many other things in life – when I was just a kid. At first, it was relatively quiet, and masked by so many things associated with childhood that it went completely undiscovered. From childhood to adolescence to college graduate it followed me, as influential as it was invisible and, therefore, hidden.
In retrospect, though, I could have seen it if only I’d known where to look. But it’s something that’s easy for me to say now, given everything I’ve had the chance to learn about myself over the years. But, of course, it hasn’t always seemed that way.
How I viewed myself relative to my world has always been in question. Like many kids, I wanted to fit in. But where? It was a question for which I never had an answer, though it wasn’t for lack of looking. Nor was it a coincidence, for no amount of searching would help me find something that wasn’t there. But though I was a resilient kid, I gradually realized I’d probably never find a place to fit in and eventually gave up. And, though I felt confused and hurt by this, I set out to find something new to take its place.
While my confusion was understandable, my only real injury was a bruised ego. In sizing things up, I decided to take the position that I was someone who thought differently than everyone else. I said it with all confidence, fully believing that my newly declared uniqueness was something for which I should be proud. It provided a handy – and lifelong – reason why I never I fit in to anything, even if it was only me that needed convincing.
A secondary benefit of this was that it could never be questioned. After all, who could doubt such a claim? What’s more, I imagined – à la Walter Mitty – that I might be viewed as a martyr of sorts, whose quest for uniqueness might even be worthy of unconditional support from the nameless multitudes who shared my cause, but were too afraid to set out on a quest of their own. In my mind, I would be their hero, allowing them to triumphantly albeit vicariously wave the banner of individualistic action and thought on their behalf.
“I’ve always acted and thought differently from everyone else, and I love that about myself,” became my mantra, one I’ve repeated for decades now. In reality however, I now see that those brave words for what they were; an excuse to explain how I did not fit in to a given situation. However, my attitude behind those words may have been the very reason I didn’t fit in, for if I found something not to my liking, it was all I had to say to explain myself. Since nobody could doubt me on this, it became the perfect copout, one that was so convincing that even I bought it.
Eventually, however, I could no longer deny or ignore it; my thinking had been grossly misguided, though it has taken me a lifetime to realize it. Interestingly, unlike my lifelong search to fit in somewhere, the true nature of my statement about being “unique” was the one thing I actually did find. It doesn’t mean, however, that my life has been wholly meaningless. Rather, it has given it a new purpose, this time from a completely different perspective.
My efforts now will be directed towards learning more about this once mysterious aspect of myself that even I had overlooked. I’ll make it a priority to articulate my findings as they arise and begin to make sense. I believe this may be helpful, to say the least, to anyone who may find himself in a similar position. For now, however, I cannot help but marvel at the thought of having an alter ego operating beside me all my life, with no awareness of its existence at all. It makes me wonder what else time might shed light upon that I am unable to see as yet.

jimi hendrix voodoo childThis afternoon, I was sitting downstairs at my usual spot-the dining room table overlooking our backyard-when I suddenly heard a loud crash upstairs. It sounded as if someone fell out of a passing airplane and tried to break their fall by grabbing our gutter. Hey, it could happen –the airport is only a few minutes away and, if someone’s going to fall out of one it’d probably happen sooner rather than later, right?
Anyway, almost immediately I saw something drop to the ground just outside the sliding glass door. Then I saw Sophie, our terribly bored doggie who’s been healing from an injured paw-enough for the past ten days drag her drowsy self up from the cool grass and walk cautiously toward the door, her nose up as she sniffed the air. For a dog literally scraping for things to do, this must’ve been a bonanza for her.
I realized then that it must’ve been a bird that hit the window before falling like a wet washrag, straight to the ground. Carefully, I slid the glass doors curtain aside to peek out at the scene; I wasn’t sure what I’d find. Would it be okay? Would it be injured? Would it be so angry that my house got in its way that it would lunge at my face and try to peck out my eyes? Thoughts of Ozzy Osbourne quickly crossed my mind, then flitted away just as fast.
Sure enough, there was a little bird lying there. Sophie cautiously tiptoed toward the bird as if walking through a minefield. She stood as far from the bird as possible while still being able to effectively point-and wiggle-her wet little nose at it. “Poor little guy,” I thought, “what can I do to help him?”
I remembered the popularity birdbaths enjoyed in the neighborhood in which I grew up – keep in mind, it was during the ‘70s – so the first thing I thought of was to get him a little water. So I ran to the garage and grabbed a large plastic lid from the recycle bin. I filled it up with water, and set it outside right next to the bird. If reusing is recycling, I figured this one couldn’t have been reused for a better purpose.
Not to sound heartless, but little did I know then I was about to learn more about birds than I’d ever care to know. And even though I didn’t really know what to do at the time, I figured a little water could never hurt any injured animal. If I were an injured animal, I reasoned, it certainly wouldn’t hurt me to have a swig or two. But I was at a loss as to what to do next. “I know,” I thought, “I’ll Google it and find out – I can’t be the only person who found himself in this position.”
As it happened, I was right; page after bloody page of responses came up on my laptop’s screen. So I selected the first one on the list, and the detailed education I was about to get on injured birds began. Long story short, I had been on the right track in offering it water. The only other recommendation that caught my eye suggested I “keep the injured bird in a safe place, away from any animals that might eat it.” Well, despite Sophie’s seemingly limitless appetite for mice and rabbits, this unfortunate little bird didn’t seem to be on her menu, at least not today.
I then got up and peeked out the window again. When I first saw it the bird moments earlier, it just sat there looking stunned, and I vaguely saw in it an image of myself, late on a Friday night during my freshman year of college. The bird looked fine, except for its right-wing, which extended outward, as if still in flight.
Now, however, the birds beak was wide open, as if it was winded, and trying hard to catch its breath. It made sense, I guess-I’d probably feel the same way if I flew full speed into a window. This time, however, the bird had moved over to the lid where it had clearly been drinking the water. Even more encouraging was that the bird seemed to have been gathering its wits a little. It had shut its beak and was looking around, blinking now and then. It had its bell rung, all right, and was just trying hard to recover. I’ve been there myself, and I know the feeling.
By this time, the bird had been there for about an hour or so. Google indicated that I should give the bird anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple of hours to regain its sense of-I don’t know what to call it- Birdieness, maybe? As if it, too, had read the Google posting, the bird seemed to be getting better by the minute, although it seemed a little embarrassed.
But after the bird moved an inch or two away from where it had hit, the moist, little white puddle it left behind made it obvious that the impact had knocked the poop right out of it. That feeling, I’m sure, could not be a good one. I imagine it’s hard for any animal, wild bird or otherwise, to maintain some sense of dignity after something like that happens, even if it was for a good reason. There’s simply no way it could keep an “I’m okay, everything’s cool” attitude before proudly flying off once again.
So, I gave it a little privacy for the next hour or so, and when I looked again an hour later, it was gone. I suppose that, other than a splitting headache, things could’ve been worse for it.
Anyway, that’s my good deed for the day. And, though I didn’t help this little bird with the expectation of anything in return, I nonetheless hope it will only visit my yard from now only to peck at worms and to sing happy little songs.

free public noncopyrighted Christie BrinkleyRemember those crop circles that became famous in England back in the 80’s? You know, the ones that had all those neat round and square geometric designs that were visible from the air? The ones which, when asked, all the locals could say was “I dunno, maybe alien spaceship landing strips, p’raps?” And do you also remember how, in the end, it all turned out to be a hoax, perpetrated by those same locals who really just didn’t get enough attention when they were growing up? Some prime-time network “news magazine,” in typical sensationalist fashion, exposed it all, and also exactly how it had been done. Through the use of only three items: a 4-5 ft. piece of wood, a piece of rope attached to either end of that wood, and a great deal more backbreaking hard work than (I believe) it was worth, some humble villagers outwitted the world, even if only for a few days.

Coincidentally, the exact same thing occurred here in my own neighborhood and, interestingly enough, it happened to be me who created it. But instead of wood and rope, I used an electric lawnmower and an extension cord in creating my crop circles. In fact, about the only thing the job I did had in common with that of the English villagers was the not-worthwhile, backbreaking hard work. Have I got your interest now? I hope not. But, just for kicks, here’s the story:

Last week, I set about organizing the garage, something that needed to be done since last October, when I first moved into this house. It was a mess, with stuff stacked and strewn hither, tither, and yon, as real men never say. Then again, real men place more of a priority on having a neatly organized garage. Hell, I don’t even have a poster of Sports Illustrated’s 1985 Swimsuit Edition poster girl on the wall in there. Do you think my wife would allow that? Well, let me tell you, real womanly wives wouldn’t care. Actually, I think they would, but no real man would ever admit that.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever organized a garage in August anywhere (even in South America, where it’s winter), but all I can say is that it’s hot, sweaty, thankless work. At some point, probably when I was really too tired and long past the point of where I should have stopped, I hurt my back doing the third or fourth “one last thing” before I called it quits for the day. I had been trying to hang up a bicycle-one that I used to be able to ride for hours and hours (and I called it fun, too)-on some hooks I just installed in the garage rafters. At the time, I thought it would be easy. But, as I told my chiropractor the next day “I twisted my back in a funny way as I held up the bicycle, which was much heavier than I remembered. Then, I felt something in my mid-back pop, and I had to let go of it.” After chortling a bit under his breath, my chiropractor restored my spine to its previous, correctly aligned condition.

Here’s the part where the aliens come in: two days later, I was out mowing our front yard with our electric mower. It’s hot, sweaty, thankless work too. On top of that, my throat was parched, and my feet were burning hot, almost enough to melt the rubber tread on my shoes from the inside out. In other words, I felt as if I were walking around on two well done, New York strip steaks instead of human feet. All I could think of was how good some cold water would taste once I finally was done with the gruesome task of mowing the lawn. Why gruesome? Well, it never was before, at least until last week, when I ran over a mouse. Enough said.

Perhaps it was the thought of that poor little mouse and what it endured in its final few seconds of life that gave me the inspiration to keep going, I don’t know. But I do know that I suddenly looked down at the extension cord and realized I was about to run it over. And, as anyone who has ever worked with anything electric at all, ever, cutting the cord means at least two things. First, nothing further gets done. Second, the cut cord either means that it must be fixed or (as I don’t mind admitting, having run over the cord once already this year) it must be replaced with a new one.

So, even though I don’t believe I think very well on my feet, especially when they feel like well-done New York strip steaks, I thought I was making a real genius move when I quickly snatched up the extension cord and, with a sudden flick of my wrist, twirled it out of the way just before running it over.

However, I just as suddenly felt that familiar pop in my mid back and, with half the yard still to mow, I now had to complete the job with a spine that now felt more like Jell-O than bone. Between that and the heat, and the swollen feet, I began to get pretty ticked off. What’s worse, the most difficult part of the lawn to mow-the one that had been taken over by a particularly evil and moist weed which never failed to clog the mower-still remained to be cut.

True to my experience, the mower clogged time and again. Growing angrier with each pass of the mower, I began to bounce the mower front-to-rear to loosen up the sloppy, guacamole-like wet grass underneath. The strategy worked, and left behind greenish piles of sloppy stuff that truly was nightmarish. “Martian guts,” I think I began calling it. I don’t know, I was so hot and out of sorts by this time.

But to my credit, I trudged on until the job was done, though I was thoroughly spent by that time. Down and defeated, I reeled up the extension cord that had been used for the job, cussing at every turn of the crank. Then I went up to the house and unplugged the cord from the wall outlet, then stood upright and proudly marched into the garage where, after closing the door, I nearly collapsed onto the floor in pain.

Instead, though, I stumbled into the living room, my face covered with salty sweat that dripped down my nose and onto my shoes. Little pieces of neatly cut green mulch defiantly stuck to my face, as if daring me to wipe them off with my sleeve-which I did. Then, as I was beginning to feel truly manic, the pain reasserted itself, and I realized that no amount of Tylenol could ever help me then. So, I choked a bottle of vitamin water, and pathetically lay down in a heap on the living room floor, begging forgiveness for all the wrongs I’ve ever done to anyone ever in my entire life. But my beseeching brought me no pity; only after about twenty minutes-as the label on the Tylenol bottle indicated-did my pain eventually begin to subside.

It wasn’t until the following morning, after some sleep and a chance to gather my wits, did I realize what I’d done: looking down onto the lawn from the upstairs window, the way I had bounced the mower back and forth to loosen the wet grass left circular divots on the lawn where the blades had cut more closely than anywhere else. Further, the 21”-width blades-which left corresponding 21” wide lines back and forth across the yard immediately reminded me of the English crop circles. And while maybe my yard didn’t nearly demonstrate the complexity of design those clever English villagers created, it certainly did resemble an alien landing strip more so than could be found in any of my neighbors’ yards.

For some reason, all this alien mumbo-jumbo became a backhanded point of pride for me. I mean, come on – I wasn’t trying to be clever. It’s obvious this was only a lawn mower… Isn’t it? Could my neighbors really be thick as a brick? At least those English villagers created special tools to perpetrate their little hoax. They earned their five minutes of fame-and they bloody well deserved it, too. As for me, I think what I accomplished that day is something only a real man could do. That’s why I’ve decided to order the back issue of 1985’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Perhaps, under Christie Brinkley’s watchful eye, a hoax of this proportion will never happen again. For now, though, all I know is that I’m the only one who seems to have noticed.