The T Word

Please be advised before reading on, should you choose to, that you are hereby being give a trigger warning: the subject of the next few hundred words could bring about an unhealthy increase in blood pressure, of foaming at the mouth and even of acts of violence in many readers, the subject being the current POTUS, the very President of the United States of America himself.

So virulent has proven the response of “the resistance” to the leader of the free world (full apologies to Canadians, but for the moment it is not PM Trudeau), that merely to mention the name emotes a visceral response, so much so, that the name now joins the pantheon of words that cannot be uttered, the N word being the classic example for our times, and so are known only by their first letter. Merely to mention the name, or anything related to it, even in passing, is to focus the listener’s attention, not on the actual subject, but rather on the T word itself.

For example, mention Elizabeth Warren and her – shall we say, s-t-r-e-t-c-h – in self-identifying as Native, and the listener, in this case my dear sister, will immediately respond by deriding not Mrs. Warren, Harvard’s quite white first woman of color, but Mr. T, for the sin of labeling her “Fauxcahontas.”

Being partial to cheap puns, and given that the DNA tests Senator Warren herself decided to take revealed that she is no more Native than the average American, meaning that the slick play on the word/name Fauxcahontas is not inaccurate, I rather thought the name clever, if not, shall we say, presidential, when deployed by the current holder of said office.

Not so my sister, who was more than willing to give the erstwhile senator a pass in order to slug it out with her tormentor, he of the orange hair, and by extension, me, for having uttered the name in the first place. There passed a moment of awkwardness until we could once again regain our rhythm and discuss the difference between her southern climate and my more temperate weather zone.

For one’s star to have risen, or fallen, depending on the view, so quickly that he must now be referred to by the “T word” is extraordinary. It is surprising that sociologists, culturalists, psychologists and the like have not begun to publish a storm of PHD theses analyzing the phenomenon. Perhaps they have more important avenues of interest to explore, or perhaps they fear their efforts being rejected out of hand when submitted to their advisors bearing the five-letter name that shall be nameless. And so, I suggest to them The T word, or even Mr. T (more apologies, this time to actor Laurence Tureaud) that they might not miss such rich, fertile academic endeavors.

Having acknowledged this singularity, it is time to unpack it, to deconstruct it so as to glean some insight into postmodern society and into ourselves. However, this will require deeper, more rigorous thought, and given that the social media such as Facebook and Twitter are trolling the Internet for hate speech, that being defined as anything other than what they prescribe as being in keeping with their orthodoxy, any further meandering along this line is likely to find itself, and its author, excommunicated and banned, my WordPress account closed and nailed shut.

And so, most rare today, this essay leaves you to ponder yourselves the Mr. T marvel, unhindered by the random and unenlightened thoughts of its writer, who, in actuality, really knows no better than you. (Though if this goes unscathed, might take a shot!)

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Walking on the edge of the universe

Walking south, oh April fool

Flings sudden, sharp, flakes of snow,

No, more like hurling disks,

Horizontally, they attack me.

I am a starship light-traveling through the cosmos

Shields up, lunge forward, engage the stinging gale.

Here at the edge of the universe,

Setting course to the western sun

Ends of days, thoughts bleak with the onslaught,

Stalking the borders of being and nothingness

And then a turn to the north,

The route familiar, leading home

And lo’ the sun appears,

The sky an azure blue

The meteors have gone, all

The darkness dispelled

I am returned to lightness.

 

Picasso’s Barnyard and Iran

The recent Pablo Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario featured an interesting work titled, The Farmer’s Wife. Painted in 1938 just prior to the outbreak of World War II, it is one of Picasso’s darker works. Though impressionistic, the farmer’s wife languidly reclines across the bottom of the canvas, with a crowing rooster in the upper left hand corner. According to the curator’s notes, the nude wife is ignoring the rooster’s crowing. But the crowing is an alarm, a wake-up call of war. Specifically, the farmer’s wife, “self-absorbed Europe,” is indifferent to the fascist takeover of Spain by General Franco.  

Only a few years later came the news reports about Germany’s growing army and munitions capability. Maybe the rooster read Mein Kampf, in which Hitler outlined exactly what he planned to do to the world and to the Jews, because there was a whole barnyard of roosters crowing madly across Europe and England, but the farmer’s wife remained indolent. Only when the Nazis invaded Poland did she hear the rooster, or perhaps finally admit to it, with England declaring war on Germany to launch WW ll.

And now, only 3/4 of a century later, the Dynamic Duo of the Iranian Ayatollah and the President of Iran, Ahmadinejad are ably taking up where the furor left off: mad rantings and threats to destroy the world, specifically The Great Satan, and of course, the Jews and their homeland, Israel. Taking Iran hostage, these Muslim fanatics and their presidential henchman have become the leading exporter of state sponsored terrorism. Iran is ably abetted by a Jihadist Islamic movement seeking to reconquer lost lands. Even the deaf can hear the Iranian threats and boasts as they drive to develop nuclear weapons. They already have developed the rocketry required to deliver their Armageddon-payload capable of striking and destroying Israel, as well as any other location in the Middle east.

Iran’s theocracy has recently been caught plotting to kill a Saudi diplomat in New York, as well bombing the Israeli embassy there. Iran is also trying to form ties with Mexican drug cartels and several South American dictators as it works to export terror closer to the American heartland. Maybe they’ll do a reprise of the old USSR – Cuba dance, and ship some of those rockets and warheads to their South American buddies where they’ll be in striking range of the United States. Maybe then, threatened as Israel is now, the present U.S. administration, American cousin to The Farmer’s Wife, might wake up. But for now, Europe sleeps again and America has relegated the unhappy and terrifying memory of 9/11 as a ‘one of,’ languidly appeasing the Mullahs, a la Neville Chamberlain.

There is no Picasso to paint anew his canvas, the UN is pretty much the manure pile in the corner, and no one seems to be aware of the collision course that the world is on,  except possibly Israel, given that it is the country being targeted. 

And still, the rooster shrieks!

 

 

 

 

 

Moxie and PETA

An animal trainer and advocate turned pet photographer gave advice for successfully capturing winning pet pictures. The trick is to get the dog to ‘cock’ its head in a questioning or puzzled look. To get a dog to do this, the trainer-turned-photog suggests getting the owners to stand behind your camera position and to talk to the dog or use whatever trick works for them. So far, fine.
But the point that is interesting is her use of the word, ‘human.’ As in, “Ask the dog’s human to stand behind you to get the dog’s attention.”
This is a language choice I’ve come across before. It is part of the politically correct sensibility of animal rights activist groups such as PETA. To use “owner” is demeaning in their philosophy, because it sets up a master/slave relationship. In their view this is akin to American black slavery, and it puts human and animal life on an equal playing field. Make no mistake, many of the policies of such groups and much of their activism is geared to accomplish just that. This is moral relativism in action. They have already influenced the circus, zoos and lab testing of animals. And now they are branching out into the field of pets, and one of their thrusts now is to change our vocabularies and hence our thinking about our relationships to animals. Owner is out: equal buddies is in.
But if I am not an owner, then a morning stroll meeting another dog with its human partner might go like this:
“Hello, this is my animal, ….”
“Hello, this is my human…”
Sounds strange to me.
But, if we are going to have a relationship of equality, between human and pet …oops, that’s  out also, for the same reason: let me correct that to “…if we are going to have a relationship between equals, human and animal alike, then I have a few complaints with things as they currently are practiced:
1. Dog License: I no longer will pay the city $50.00 for a dog license, nor will I get one. It’s demeaning to Moxie. I don’t pay a fee to have a human companion, do I?
2. Inequality: Although I love Moxie, I’m beginning to resent her freeloading ways. She makes no financial contribution to the household, and at the equivalent age of 35 years, it’s time she did so. I pay for her veterinarian visits, buy her food, her treats and her toys. This gets  expensive.
3. Responsibility: Am I my animal’s keeper? I am held responsible for Moxie’s indiscretions – if she runs off or bites someone that should not be my fault. I’m just her human and she’s my dog. We are partners, but she is a free being, no? And walking her on a leash? What kind of unenlightened city ordinance is that? A leash is the moral equivalent of shackling her in chains, demeaning, humiliating and controlling, limiting her freedom to explore her world. The leash is colonialism at its worst.
Oh, and one other thing, Moxie. I don’t mean to be indelicate here, but from now on you can bloody well pick up your own pooh!
I’m done with that!

Moxie, Part 2

Sitting outside with Moxie parked about five feet in front of me where, in her lionesque pose, she can keep a close watch on the street activities, as well as check for any errant squirrels. There is the sudden clatter and roar of construction equipment, the tanks and half-tracks of peaceful urban North American cities being off-loaded down metal ramps to pave several neighborhood driveways. Startled, Moxie jumps vertically, and repositions herself closer to my legs. She might be protecting me, but I think it more likely that she is seeking safety from what she doesn’t understand and which, therefore, threatens her. She seeks safety from the master, the one she has come to acknowledge on some level, as having power over her and therefore more powerful. That would be me. I am the one with the leash and the control; I provide food and care for her.
That I could not protect her from a bulldozer is beyond Moxie’s ability to know, perhaps a good thing because such knowledge of my limitations would cause Moxie to lose faith. Perhaps she might sing, “Nearer my god to thee,” or utter the WW1 cliché that there are no atheists in foxholes. So, similarly, when I don’t understand my world, when it threatens, when I am assaulted by disease, disaster, violence, and a host of little understood events, I too jump up; my human bravado shattered; I too try to reposition myself closer to The Master.

Insanity Rules

I just read an article by a journalist named Diana West. If what she writes is correct, and there’s no reason to think it isn’t, then America’s insanity continues unabated, even to the highest military courts.

Ms. West details the ruling against a U.S. soldier, by a military tribunal that says he had no right to defend himself against an attack by an Al-Qaeda “operative” who was suspected of using IEDs which killed two US soldiers. Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was driving the naked Al-Qaeda soldier somewhere to release him after Army interrogation failed to get him to confess. Behenna apparently stopped the car to try for one more interrogation, but because it was “unauthorized,” he was deemed the aggressor, and so, according to three of five military geniuses who rule in military courts, as the aggressor, he lost the right to defend himself when the Al-Qaeda soldier threw a piece of concrete at him and then jumped Behenna, trying to grab his pistol. The logical conclusion, it would seem, is that Behenna should have not defended himself, and instead of shooting and killing his attacker, allowed his attacker to grab the gun and kill him.

Now, because of his war crime of defending himself in battle when he shouldn’t have because he was the aggressor, he will serve 12 years in prison. Had he been of a higher moral fiber, the one that seems to infect all of the ruling elites and academics, and now apparently military judges as well, although Behenna would be dead, he would have been cleared by the court of any wrong doing, and could a’ been buried with an unblemished record.

This should look great on an Army recruiting poster.

By the way, Diana West is the author of a book titled, The Death of the Grown Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization. Haven’t read it, but think it might be a good idea to do so. If she’s right, a lot of people 40 an under in the US of A will agree with the high military court’s ruling and get angry with West (and my) point of view, scarier still.

Go Hard into that GoodNight

GoHard into that GoodNight

So much is made these days of the signs of aging, of dementia. (What an ugly word!) And of course, the first sign everyone latches on to is that of forgetfulness. Beyond a certain age threshold, people begin to look for its signs, joking, while secretly terrified, if they suspect that they themselves are beginning to show such indications.

“Can’t remember where I put my keys…”

“I know I came down here for something…”

“How does this work, anyway?”

I notice I tend to forget a set of instructions even after I’ve laboured to figure out the sequence to do something, like set my stove to ‘autoclean.’ Seems to me that I used to figure something out, or follow the manual, and it was imprinted, like Braille letters, somewhere in my neurons and synapses, ready for instant retrieval. Not so anymore. Each time I clean the stove, I have to get out the instruction manual. Granted, I only do this a few times a year, so repetition doesn’t have a chance to do its work, but it is frustrating nevertheless.

Yet, I think the problem might not be so much diminishing gray matter as it is modern technology and design. Stoves and ovens, for example, used to have maybe 7 or 8 controls: four for the burners, one for the oven, one for the bake/broil cycles, another for the temperature, and – if you had the self-cleaning feature – one for that too. And the controls were obvious: want to turn on a burner? The knob is right there. Grab it and twist. Want to open the oven door – so go ahead an open it.

In contrast, the glass, flat top stove I bought several years ago has no controls. At least no physical controls. You have to swipe your hand on the control panel glass and then they suddenly glow like the consol of the good Starship Enterprise. Touch the Upper panel area, and a row of 10 symbols suddenly light up, one like a snowflake, another like a bulb, a third with a rectangle and a line at the bottom, and so on, symbols that don’t relate strongly to any real-world object. Brush the Bottom control panel and a similar row lights up for another ten controls. In the console center is the clock and timer, and finally, to the right, the controls for the five burners, with settings and variable rings to control the heat and the diameter of the cooking surface. In all, probably about 45 touch controls as compared to the 7 or 8 physical knobs and buttons on a stove from the previous decades. Hit the control surface and suddenly the oven is on lock. You can’t open it, unless you hold the same button down for five seconds. Where does it say that? On page 43 of the manual. Certainly not on the stove. And that’s why I spend time referring to the manual. So maybe it’s not just me and fading grey matter after all.

Ever call for tech help lately? There are a lot of people younger than I am, paid to be expert in their narrow fields, working the call centres who at times seem to know even less than I do. They either don’t know, or they give wrong advice. I asked five different people working for my phone provider if using a hotspot adaptor on my laptop would incur roaming charges if I was out of the country. It was a 2to2 tie until the last person said that of course it would: just like using the phone on the 3G network uses data, so would the hotspot. Put that way, it made perfect sense and so I didn’t activate it. But why didn’t the other two know this? And why are they giving incorrect advice?

I just bought a new monitor and called to ask three questions. The tech representative could not answer any of them. One was quite simple: a video on the company website shows that when the monitor is changed from horizontal to vertical, the screen will automatically change with it. Mine, however, does not. He didn’t have a clue. He guided me to a website to download the manual and read it. Some help! I already had the manual, and it not only didn’t have the answer, it didn’t even explain that you could actually change the monitor and picture to vertical. It took me an hour to conclude that a) the video on the web is not correct, which begs me to ask the question as to just how legal that is – and b) because I was left to my own devices, to figure how to do it manually.

So if I’m “losin’ it,” there are a whole lot of younger people “out there,” who are going into an early retirement in Shady Acres with me. And just maybe, the lightning pace and depth of technological changes is reaching a saturation point, making it hard for people to cope. It is relentless: every product and each update all require new skills and time to master. The navigation system on my car has a 200 page manual for it alone, in addition to the one for the rest of the car.

Maybe we need a little humane engineering built in, and maybe a little more training for the so-called tech experts.

Now, if I can just remember how to upload this to my blog….

Leave-taking

Blog

A novel Called “the Promise” begins thus, “All beginnings are hard.” While I don’t disagree with its basic premise, life seems to teach that endings are harder still. Or so I’ve found. I’m pretty sure most people will take the ultimate beginning, birth, over the ultimate ending, death.

And in between are all sorts of beginning and ending pairs. The one that occupies me at this very moment is that of arrivals and departures. As in vacations. This year I was a snowbird, spending two months in the gentle arms of a Florida winter. Even cold, it was warm, comparatively, and at all times, the colors, fuscia, purples, reds, the sharp green of the sawgrass and the deep ocean blue are simply a feast for the eyes. Yes, it was hard to begin, to set up home keeping in someone else’s living space, feeling alien in the surroundings, simply navigating along unfamiliar terrain, living by the GPS, finding where to shop, to eat, to see a movie, to organize banking…indeed it was challenging.

Strange, how quickly one adjusts: within a month I rarely looked at the GPS, knowing where to go for needs, entertainment, pleasure, and even establishing routines. It was no longer necessary to think through every thing, no matter how trivial; familiarity took over and the autonomous brain function let the frontal lobes relax. And then, suddenly, the weeks were winding down, days only were left and it was time to organize for the return. Last trip to the ocean, last crossing of the draw bridge, one last visit with friends, taking pictures to remember the beauty, the hated packing, knowing that when you crossed the boulevard and rounded the curve, you would likely never again see it, and if you should one day return, you’ll see it in a completely different way, because you won’t be you, at least, you won’t be the same you, you are at the moment.

But by far the hardest, the soul-wrecking part of endings is that of leave-taking of loved ones. Here, the beginning is easy, an exception to the book’s proposition. With what joy is this beginning, with kisses and bear hugs, and all talking at once. It’s been a year, and this is my older sister, the person who knows me as do few others, and loves me unconditionally. Phones and e-mails cut the distance somewhat, but until you can touch electronically, nothing can replace being there. So if you catch a break on an easy beginning, you pay in spades on the leave-taking.

The hardest, most cruel part of departure, is knowing that you might never see one another again. This is true when Inge go to the candy store, but it would be morbid to think that way – how could we live? And the chances are pretty good, statistically wise, that the 35 year old will return in fifteen minutes, to his family, aren’t they?

But a couple of senior citizens taking their leave for upwards of a year? Not so good. So this taking, this ending, this departure is painful and bruising. There must come a time when it will be the very last one. One day, one time, I might not return, or I will, but she will no longer be there. And that knowledge, unspoken but felt bone-deep, is the ultimate in making endings so devastating.

Forget MADD; Try MARD

Drive a single stretch of roadway, maybe half a mile in length along Florida’s State Highway 1A and you will count three flower wreaths commemorating the violent deaths of three people involved in three car accidents. Florida doesn’t have a lock on road carnage by any means. Roadside flower wreaths have sprouted up across North America.

Three deaths in a restaurant would be outrage; three deaths in a boating mishap would call for a marine review. Three traffic deaths on a short stretch of road cause…not too much. The bodies are taken away, the debris removed, the plastic shards and metal bits swept up, the road re-opened, and only a few hours later, it’s as though nothing happened. Just three wreaths as a reminder, should anyone happen to notice. Unless, of course, you are one of those grieving the death of a loved one.
No! I’m not anti-car. Love ’em in fact. Love driving, too. Not too fond of drivers, though, not these days. Not with the general lack of manners prevalent in society today, and especially, it seems, when people get behind the wheel of a car: Seemingly sane people, people who might be our friends, our neighbours, our co-workers, maybe even you. Turn on the ignition and too many of you lose all manners and civility. You become aggressive, thinking that you own whatever lane, street, road, highway that you are on. You don’t – it’s public property, and you need to share it.

You know who you are: won’t hold a door open; will cross in front of someone to enter a store instead of going around them. Either they have to stop or step on your toes. Lately, I’m all for the toe stepping.
You make the same type of moves in your car, don’t you? You’ll be the third, or even the forth car to make that left turn through the intersection, running the red, long seconds after the light has turned green for the opposite traffic, forcing them to stop and wait for you to clear the intersection.
You race to the red light. Why? You only waste gas, but you must get there ahead of the other guy. If he goes 50 clicks, you go 60. If he goes 60, you’ll do 70. If you need to turn right and you’re in the passing lane, you won’t fall in behind the car in the curb lane and make your turn behind him. No! Instead you’ll speed up and cut in front, braking sharply in order to make the right turn, forcing the other driver to slam on his brakes in order to avoid hitting you. Given a line of traffic, you won’t wait. That’s for suckers. You’ll move up in another lane and then cut in. If there’s no space, you’ll force your way in, especially if you’re driving a large SUV. If someone lets you in, you won’t wave a thanks. Too busy on your phone, or you feel that you deserve what you can get.

Either way, you are rude. You lack manners; there is no sense of fair play and certainly no consideration for your fellow traveler. I’ll bet that it is the lack of manners, more than alcohol, which is responsible for increased insurance costs and so many of those roadside wreaths. Along with driving lessons, maybe driving schools need to teach courtesy and manners, and maybe they should be tested along with our ability to drive. You need to smarten up; it’s just possible that one of those roadside wreaths has got your name on it!
                         MARD??? Mothers against Rude Drivers