Getting Older, the Veneer Wears Thin for a Curmudgeon

August 27, 2016

Old Person2

Just as our bodies fail us, so do our minds and our personalities.  Our charm gets frayed, or takes a few hours off, or leaves us altogether.  Or the glitz which made the more determined aspects of our personalities less pointed and uncomfortable has fallen away, like paint from a splintery bench.  We’re isolated.  The difficulties of minor tasks get exhausting.  Small mishaps make us irritable.  Dropping things gets to be a chronic condition.  Our patience has worn thin, along with our skin and hair, finances and near everything else.  And what used to be a simple matter of bending over and picking the thing back up is now something more like snagging the prize with one of those toy scoops.  But the energy expenditure is enormous.  The small envelope you dropped weighs but several ounces, but getting yourself down and up can be a matter of lifting several hundred pounds.  Each new day, an hour or two in, and you begin to mutter that you are “too old for this!”

The younger bunch blaze ahead heedless.  The wisdom which has taken you so much time and effort to assemble is well…  “outdated”, as if you were a floppy disc.  Having to explain things to someone who is not interested would seem to be a fool’s errand. “Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.”  Young people will agree with this statement and repeat it – to the elderly.  The ironies of life just pile up, as you age.  It should be fodder for the evening news:  “Three irony pile-up on the Interstate this afternoon.”

And along with the humiliation of age comes the paranoia.  It isn’t uncommon for older people to turn on their caregivers, or accuse the helpful relative of stealing, when in truth it’s the elderlys’ faulty memory.  It’s not uncommon for a particularly willful and irascible spirit to expunge dutiful children, who have cared for them for years, from of their wills only to be infatuated by strangers, the ingratiating carpetbagger, a sympathetic acquaintance, neighbor, or give everything to some sketchy charity or balmy vision, or perhaps even some fellow they met in a bar.

Or the relations, friends and caregivers (even that ‘fellow in the bar’) might be taking advantage, being abusive or even stealing.   It’s not paranoia if it’s really happening!  The elderly can easily end resenting everybody and everything who had anything to do with them before they died.  Or they can die, befuddled, bruised, or kicked out into the snowy cold, but still loving and revering the villains who took them for a cleaning.  If your memory were just better, you could keep it all straight or sort it out.

What’s especially fun is arguing with your mate about what ‘actually happened’, when neither of you accurately remembers.  It can swallow the few remaining years.

Dying isn’t easy.  It’s a catastrophe.  There is no fix.  It’s the final loss of all control.  It’s the universe making a pie of you.  You’re gonna be something’s dinner, even if you’re of the progressive sort and are buried in burlap with mulch and an apple seed.  It’s humiliating.  And getting old is the humiliation express.  Next stop the hospital.  It’s life’s effort to completely wear you out, discharge that last bit of energy, spend the last ray of hope, nullify all desire, and prevent coherent thought and speech.  Your body will be in the hi-anxiety of total disarray with all systems failing, while your audience is scouring your slurred words and facial demeanor for those life lessons of wisdom, patience and universal love.  That priceless gift which only a life well lived can give.

Well, it may have to come from somewhere beyond the grave, or perhaps in some sleeping visitation.  Or maybe someone will just have to make this shit up!  Because getting old is like an avalanche and very hard to tip toe through with charm.  We are drowning people clutching for a life ring.  “Getting old is not for sissies,” Art Linkletter once said.

The good news is that, from my experience with loved ones and friends, most go out as the same person they lived from day to day.   If your wife doesn’t like your tie, she’ll probably still want to change it for the funeral.  If you were kind of mum in life, you’ll most likely die silently or with a whisper.  Or, if the emotionally volatile sort, expect lots of flower and tears – especially if big money is involved.  You’re choosing your last words and the ‘death spin’ now as you read this – and don’t even know it.  Ha, ha!

Okay.  Enough said.  Thanks for your time.  I realize that I can be a little grouchy.  (It’s the cancer… very painful.)  Just thank your lucky stars that I didn’t start talking about my last talk with the doctors!  It’s good of you to stop by.  Be seeing you.  Could you close that door firmly on your way out?  It has a tendency to swing back open.

(If you enjoyed this essay, you might enjoy these other offerings at http://www.magicbeanbooks.co   )

American Home Life

August 17, 2016

Home life

A Modest Lack of Proposal

 

It’s harder to imagine Hillary Clinton not running for President than her candidacy.  She pretty much outlines the nature of a ruthless political animal in the current political age, where one’s accomplishments for office are that you have held a previous office – or a relationship to that office, and your ‘vision’ is whatever triangulates for a plurality of the Electoral College.

But in trying to imagine Donald Trump as an actual candidate for President, it’s hard to quell the fear of having landed in a parallel universe.  The idea of ‘the Donald’s’ candidacy is preposterous, and the performance outlandish.  But the result is success.  Where has this creature come from?

 

I would propose that ‘the Donald’ has been living here among us the whole time.  He or she comes home from work every day.  He or she sleeps in the same bed and we share the same bathrooms.  And when possible, we eat at the same tables and discuss the same budget.

For his supporters, I would propose that ‘the Donald’ represents the owner, the boss, the division manager, who has defined how success looks and acts.  For ‘the Donald’s’ detractors – who would claim the Blue States and who pride themselves upon their moral conscience, their educational degrees, their better salaries and their higher intelligence, status and overall enlightenment  – I would propose that ‘the Donald’ is representative of the crude atavistic impulses – their ‘second natures’ which have propelled them there.  That is, that Donald also represents for them the owner, the boss, the division manager, and the hoary roots of the upwardly mobile – which they deny to see in the mirror each day.

 

Ideally, the reason we head off to work each day is to earn a living and to realize our abilities in a way that contributes to our society and our own development.  This is a good start.  But when one does get to work, one find that modern products are quite complex.  A lot of tasks need doing to create these products, get them to market and sell them.  Our ideal person doesn’t necessarily command their ideal job.  And their ideal portfolio/resume doesn’t necessarily land them this ideal job.  What lands them this job is what I would call their “job charisma”.

Charisma has been at least partly defined by sociologists as the judgment by others of the number of people who would bend to your opinion or bow to your lead.  Whoever is in a position to place our candidate is looking for that person who can lead a project to success, whether it be a simple, one person task, or a complex, highly technical collaboration of unusual minds.  In other words, what entices an employer to grant you the job opportunity you would like is their judgment of your leadership ability in this particular area.

For this reason, (and I suppose many others), being the leader is a very sought after position.  Corporations, the military and Ivy League schools all scour the landscape for the newest crop of leaders with which to fill their ranks.  A body of leaders would seem to be most effective and lead the organization to greater success.  In turn, the candidates all try to present themselves as leaders.  Leaders get to do what they want.

 

What does leadership, and in some sense popularity, entail?  Leaders generally share the same personal qualities of us all.  We can empathize and be charmed by them.  They can be generous, humorous, good natured, and warm.  But the character of a leader is defined by their priorities.  A leader might be all those things as you or I, and perhaps be even better endowed with any of these qualities than you or I, including charity and selflessness.  But what defines their (and our) character are priorities.

For example, many sales firms subject their job candidates to a personality inventory.  They are looking for candidates who like people, who enjoy understanding people, and who like bonding with people.  This would mark their category of say, ‘relatedness’.  Another category would be an assessment of the candidates’ desire for achievement.  Are they extremely competitive?  A good sales person would be that person whose ‘Achievement’ priority is higher than their ‘Relational’ priority.  This makes the difference between the employee who loves to chat with clients, and the employee who enjoys the time spent but also is always looking for that way to ‘close the deal’, to retail the relationship.  It’s the difference between making a lot of friends and making a lot of sales.

 

When he or she heads out of the home to their employment, their success in the outer world will depend in a large part on their ability to project leadership.  But in its barest essentials, leadership can appear grotesque – even monstrous.  No one in a sales firm would want for the common public to witness their in-house activities or be a fly on the wall of their in-house culture.  The bosses are extremely aggressive.  They are extremely competitive.  They do not countenance insubordination.  They make extreme demands.  They do not admit to being wrong in any significant sense.  And at the furthest end of the spectrum, they define what is true and what is false.  What is true is what they say is true.  What is false is what they say is false.  These two things can do a switcheroo at any time.  The question most pressed upon every employee is whether they “embrace the company vision” and whether they are “personally invested”.  Anything short of this is treasonous.

To survive and thrive in these environments, the culture must become second nature.   You must react, just like in competitive athletics, without thinking of these basic tenets:  You always put on the pleasant face.  You never surrender your standing.  If someone professes to know something you do not, and you cannot top them, then you ignore them or change the narrative.  You do not wander into areas where you might be vulnerable, or which are populated by the vulnerable – for example, in the business world it would be the ‘arts’ or poetry.  You aggressively limit the conversation to your strong areas.  You aggressively control the narrative, while loyally parroting the narrative of your superior.  You must worship the hierarchy.  Those above you, you listen to.  Those below, you patronize.  Your equals, you compete with.  If the boss says something which immediately contradicts what they’d said before – it doesn’t matter.  The best you can ask for is ‘clarification’.  But don’t ask more than once.  Otherwise they might not think that it is because the thought behind it is too difficult or requires remedial explanation.  If you ask more than once, they’ll either flirt with the idea of you being either insubordinate or a dullard.

Donald Trump is the public embodiment in probably its most pure form to date of all these strategies.

 

A problem arises when these employees return home.  What has become second nature is not left at the office.  If a mate suggests a failure, they either ignore it, or demean the origin.  They don’t admit to contradictions.  They assume leadership in all areas.   If it isn’t granted, they stand in the midst of the activity until it grinds to a halt without their direction.   They ask, delegate and command without a thought.  It has become their way of conversing.  They do the deciding.  They establish whatever conversation they will listen to.  They drive the narrative towards the result they want.  They retail affection.  They accept generosity as their due, and try to tweak it for a little more.  Eventually, the goal of our employee’s second nature is to make everyone of the household an employee of their personal brand, a helper towards their achievement.  It easily happens that the second nature strategy of outside occupations becomes a family tradition and a root nature of the family in a way that travels down generations.

This whole scenario can become toxic to the family and even lethal to its members.  Once a mate or family member decides to “be all they can be”, it becomes a race to see who can love each other the least, (all the while claiming the opposite).  As Donald Trump himself remarked about his older brother Freddy, an airline pilot with a fun-loving nature, who died as an alcoholic at the age of 43.  “For me, it worked very well,” Mr. Trump is quoted as saying in the New York Times.   “For Fred, it wasn’t something that was going to work.” … ‘The Donald’ ended by saying, ““He’s like the opposite of me.”

To see all of Carl Nelson’s published work, (plus that of others), visit: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

Book Report

August 11, 2016

Noodle as Editor

I’ve finished five books of late, and I’m patting myself on the back.  So many periodicals arrive daily that I found I wasn’t finishing the books I’d purchased.  So I have made the effort and here is my report.

A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman:  This is an English translation of a current Swedish bestseller.  It’s a marvel of sweet and sour.  Ove is the sour.  His works are the sweet.  Very dark humor is pitched perfectly for some hilarious moments.  A woman friend recommended this and it got snatched away by my wife midway through my own reading.  I finally pulled hard enough to get it back, and it was worth the effort.

The book is pumped with warmth, infused like steam heat, perhaps because we are in cold Sweden.  It is not sentimental.  Every feeling is earned honestly.  But the book seems of a type with some other current bestsellers which are cooked with a lot of cream.  Rather than thin soup, we are fed a rich bisque.  Not something you would want to have every day, but which can mark off a fine experience.

I wonder at the irony of a story coming from such a PC culture, of a hero who is so anti-PC, swimming in a bisque of such creamy texture.  The feeling function is highly prized in this one.

https://www.amazon.com/Man-Called-Ove-Novel/dp/1476738025/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470935877&sr=1-1&keywords=a+man+called+ove+by+fredrik+backman

“Ralph Marlowe” by James Ball Naylor:  I was driving through the rural town of Malta, Ohio to the town of McConnelsville, Ohio just across the Muskingham River, to attend a concert by Marty Haggard (Merle’s son).  I noticed a small historical marker.  It marked the town of Malta as the home of the writer James Ball Naylor, who wrote this bestseller circa 1900.  The story takes place downriver in the town of Stockton and concerns a young man on the lam from a bad experience who takes up with the irascible town physician, first as the pharmacist and then as his partner physician.  There’s a lot of stock characters, (though they are ‘taken from life’), whose rustic tales leave one wanting.  But the narrative has drive and the lead character, as the whole menagerie admits, is a natural leader.  He’s a pretty stiff fellow though, a hair-splitting moralist – but by the books end, I closed it on good terms.

https://www.amazon.com/Ralph-Marlowe-Tribute-James-Naylor/dp/0983234272/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470935997&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Ralph+Marlowe+by+James+Ball+Naylor

“Excellent Women” by  Barbara Pym:  Her name keeps popping up here and there in my reading, so I decided I had to sample something.  This is a very low key but well written ‘comic’ treatment of the life of an unmarried clergyman’s daughter in immediate post WWII Britain.  The comedy is language prompted and reserved, and the intelligence behind it quite pronounced.  And the through line of the put-upon selfless personality is classic.  No good deed or good person goes unpunished.  If you enjoy hearing the ironic thoughts of a person ignored, even as her companions speak to her, this is your book.

https://www.amazon.com/Excellent-Women-Publisher-Penguin-Classics/dp/B004OYD1QI/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936071&sr=1-2&keywords=excellent+women+by+barbara+pym

“The Mullah’s Storm” by Thomas W. Young:  Okay.  I kept sneaking back to this one when some of the non-fiction I’m plowing away on got too dry.  A plane goes down in Afghanistan with a high value prisoner aboard.  The second in command is left alive along with a female translator to get this Mullah to a safe place.  The Taliban though have other plans.  So has their prisoner.  It’s a hard marching narrative whose author knows those hills and defiles apparently.  The quiet relationship between the narrator and the female translator is the defining interest apart from survival.

https://www.amazon.com/Mullahs-Storm-Parson-Gold-Novel-ebook/dp/0399156925/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936114&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Mullah%27s+Storm+by+Thomas+Young

“Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance:  After having moved to Appalachia from Seattle, I’ve been doing my due diligence.  This book is right up there, but it doesn’t need my good review.  It’s already made a lot of noise.  The culture he describes pretty much is as I’ve witnessed, save his background being a little further up the scale, over the top and down the other side.

Some local traits, which have particularly ground on me, look to be a culturally wide phenomena from what Vance relates.  Kinship ties trump everything, especially common sense.  And the child rearing is ‘free range’.  Vance relates the tale of one of his uncles when a child was asked to leave a store because he was unchaperoned and playing with the toys inside.  The grandfather and grandmother walked into the store, destroyed toys, trashed the shelves, and threatened the store employee with grievous harm – all because the man had disciplined their son to protect his wares.

This is further up the scale, but spot on in style from what I’ve witnessed.  And if you consider that a person’s closest family member is themselves – you might understand how stubborn and refractory to correction people around here can be.  It’s an ethos which travels across class lines.  You’re fur’ em or agin’ em first.  Later on, if pressed, they might consider an outside perspective – if only to argue against it and to suggest some previously unvocalized injury.  You couple this with gossip and intermingled family trees which span a multitude of generations – and you’ve got fertile grounds for simmering feuds and bad feeling all around.  It certainly doesn’t help fix things!

I’ve been working pretty hard at never meeting any of my son’s friends’ parents.  My son is pretty savvy at social navigating.  I’m not.  But I’m pretty big, 6’8”, and do best when I just keep my mouth shut.  One day my son said while leaving Home Depot, “Dad.  I think that they are afraid of you.”

I nodded.  We were off on the right foot.

https://www.amazon.com/Hillbilly-Elegy-Memoir-Family-Culture/dp/0062300547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936165&sr=1-1&keywords=hillbilly+elegy+by+j+d+vance

“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins:  Okay.  I’m only in five pages.  But my wife swears by it, says it‘s a great read.  And I’m hooked so far…

https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Train-Novel-Paula-Hawkins/dp/1594634025/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470936199&sr=1-1&keywords=the+girl+on+the+train+by+paula+hawkins

Meet you at the back cover.

For more ideas, visit:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

The End of Experience

July 25, 2016

Experience1

 Prior to our entry into WWI, the sentiments of the general citizenry were quite isolationist.  Here’s what Mark Crispin Miller says regarding the work of Edward Bernays (among many others) to change that:

“… it was not until 1915 that governments first systematically deployed the entire range of modern media to rouse their populations to fanatical assent.  Here was an extraordinary state accomplishment: mass enthusiasm at the prospect of a global brawl that otherwise would mystify those very masses, and that shattered most of those who actually took part in it.”

As Bernays was to say later, “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

One of the strategies employed by the Federal Government to deflect opposition to the draft in WWI  was to enforce its implementation at the local level.  This insulated the Federal Government from criticism of its policies.   Supporting the draft took on personal approbation.  Patriotic citizenry could question and bedevil the holdouts, the slackers, even root out the traitorous.  The Federal Government, in essence, released the mob.  (My grandmother’s defense of my grandfather’s German roots nearly got him jailed.)   This same strategy continues today.

In political circles there is a concept called the Overton Window, which “also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.” (Wikipedia).   What enlarges or shrinks this window are the intellectual and/or political players at the national level.  But what enforces this window of debate are the citizenry all around us.

In sales, when the prospect you have chosen to speak with is not moved by an argument whose advantages are overwhelming , it’s fairly certain that either you are not talking to the ‘decision-maker’, or that, for some reason, they do not find what you are saying credible.  Either way, you have fallen outside of that person’s Overton Window, and are left peering at the Overton Wall (my phrase).

You may have experienced this same level of mystification when discussing political issues either in person or as it more commonly happens today on social media.  Only experts need apply.  The powers that be have ruled personal experience inadmissible and most probably suspect.  Personal experience or anecdote will place you right outside the Overton Window alongside the rustics.  Common sense need not apply either.  It is outside the Overton Window too.  We’re all experts nowadays, or nothing.  And this applies to both sides of the issues.

Web links – those things which grant us immediate expertise – are the puppet strings.  More and more we move by them.  We think by them.  We exercise our freedom of expression through them.   Or, perhaps, for a less paranoid view, try this which is taken from an article by Nathan Heller in a recent issue of The New Yorker:

“The stories you encounter through your smart phone are stories, basically, asking to be found.

Getting outside of the museum is hard.”

“Encounter thinking” (real experience), “our response to the exceptional, saves us from the errors of consensus and the expectations of smooth process that, like the myths of consolation, leave us ill-equipped to deal with changes when they come.”

Unfortunately, personal experience, more and more, is useful only as a private curio or baubles to be traded in psychoanalysis.  It may rule our stars, but it has little impact socially.  Or worse, it could have a hazardous impact socially and even legally.  You can pass on a link with much less worry of being branded by the content.  You are merely passing on ‘what is out there’.  Whereas, you are personally liable for your personal views.

But what if there is nothing out there that you want to say – which can be copied and pasted?  And a lot that isn’t?

Well, here in our new America, you’re stuck with your own very private experience and your own common sense.  Whether or not you grin and bear what little traction your personal experience gets, looking at the world through your own eyes nowadays has gotten more and more isolating.

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Our Current Home

June 29, 2016

Belpre May 2015

I like this place better than my wife does.

“That’s true.”  She frowned one day.  “There’s a reason I left.”

The people here look different and think different.

“Yeah.  And that’s because they are ignorant as hell and stubborn as mules.”

My wife is a salesperson, which in the world of commerce is something like a missionary.  So, now and then, she gets tossed into the native’s supper pot and stirred along with the peas and carrots, and it makes her grumpy.

But I’m a writer.  And I’m living where stories have flourished unmolested among generations of hill sheltered Irish, Scotch and German immigrants.  Life still flourishes in little clannish pockets of rustic growth scattered throughout these hills and hollers like so many petri dishes which have been left open to the air along the culture lab countertops.  There’s nothing quite like it in the Seattle metropolitan area from where I came.

It is said by the author, John Alexander Williams, in “Appalachia / A History”, that historians who have tried to identify this territory as a single entity concluded “instead that it is a territory only of the mind, an id’ee des savants, a place that has been invented, not discovered, an “alternative America” projected onto the mountains and mountain people by reformers whose real purpose is to critique or change things in the nation at large.”  Progressives break their picks on this place – file for exhaustion under a Federal Program, I’d suppose – and move away.  So that in many ways, (including to ‘my’ way of thinking), it’s bliss.  “Almost heaven.”

The brick buildings and infrastructure crumble.   When driving through a town hereabouts and  you see a large sign declaring their place in history, you can pretty well bet that is because there is nothing much going on currently.   Heritage is big, partly because although there was much happening then, there is not much happening now – and partly because so many of the people are related.  We’re talking family, here.

The State of West Virginia has lost population.  The coal mines are shuttering.  Oil prices have dropped.  For some reason, I have yet to plumb, their greatest pride in historical photos is of record floods.  You’ll see old photo after old photo, in the larger of the small towns, of ancestors poling around in boats down main street past the hotel and the mercantile.

We live just across the river from Parkersburg, West Virginia.  A lot of what once gave our town character and hometown beauty was bulldozed when the automobile bridge went through.   (The railroad bridge dates back to the Civil War.)  But to enjoy this place – and many others like it – you need to pan for the small pockets of gold.  For example, a lovely riverside residence sits behind a curved drive, in back of an empty row of store fronts along the treeless main strip which boasts a Hardee’s.  Another hidden mansion sits down a dead end street behind a sign designating it as a historical structure.  A yard sized graveyard hosts “Mrs. Armstrong and 3 children / Killed by Indians / in 1795.”  It’s surrounded by a non-descript, waist high hurricane fence with a gate on a low rent residential block.  Down the way is a house trailer perched high on the Ohio riverbank with a small garden trailing off below it, rowed with corn.  Also buried inside is “Israel Stone Jr. / March 24,1778 / April25, 1791 / Drowned in the Ohio River”.  You’ll find a lot of this puttering around on a bicycle.

The new construction and well maintained real estate appear to be hospitals, rest homes, mortuaries, government facilities and chemical plants up and down the river.  Billboards advertising “our nationally ranked cardiac surgery center” and personal injury lawyers are frequent sights.  It’s oddly easy to find a church and very hard to find a tavern, though the counties crawl with alcoholics and opium deaths are currently epidemic.   You can drive along a road in West Virginia which will gradually peter away into something like a pot-holed driveway, and then continue on to find the road improved and yourself in another small town.  The towns are so small and unremarkable that most of the rural folks identify themselves by the county they come from.

So what is there to like about this place?  Well, we have warm summer days punctuated by thunderstorms.  If you close your eyes summer times, what with the birds talking and the breeze blowing, it reminds me of Mexico.  Quiet stretches of forest full of broad leafs abound.  We have excellent produce.  People talk sports and hunting instead of politics.  The houses have porches which people use.  It rains enough, you needn’t water.  And although we’re a large percentage Caucasian, the minorities get along peaceably.  If you just turn off the national TV, you’re not going to hear a conversation about race, though each seems to stick with its own, as seems natural.

Our neighborhood is quite safe.  No intimidation.  No break-ins.  No burglar bars.  Neighbors wave and nod.   Which is kind of puzzling, since there was a crack house a block and a half north of us, a hooker who lived just up the street, and a trailer court of a half dozen older boxes a block kiddy corner in the opposite direction, and pickup trucks driven by grizzled  guys (and gals) rumble past.   The hooker was the undoing of my contractor.  And I think she got some of my money, too.  But otherwise, kids are respectful and walk past or ride by on bikes and play in the street.  I can’t say I understand it.  In the big city you had to buy your way out of these problems by moving to a development in the suburbs.  Here, it is very heterogeneous.  Lovely old mansions sit a half block from a trailer court.  A tumbledown is right next door to a nice foursquare.    Along the Ohio stately homes are recessed back of lawns sloping down towards the river, with here and there a small bungalow, or a cottage surrounded in junk with a blue-tarped roof.  Churches abound.  It seems every clan which has a member with a bent for religion starts another.  On a short drive to get the ‘best biscuits and gravy’ about thirty miles to the  south, we averaged one church per mile, and I can’t recall seeing a tavern.  In the small town of Carnation, outside of Seattle near where we once lived, there were three bars within a block’s radius.

Our son is busy with innumerable activities, very few of which involve a lot of money as there aren’t many attractions to spend it on.  He attends all the sports events, does pickup basketball,  organizes camping and pontoon boat excursions, goes mudding, cave exploring,  stays up late with his friends around bonfires and is the go-to school photographer.  And he has a steady girlfriend.

The teachers at his school are excellent.  Which puzzled me until my wife suggested that teaching is one of the better jobs to have around here.  The trades and service professions tend to fill up with individuals who in the larger metropolises would have graduated to more lucrative professions.  Families go back generations.  And you have to be careful who you squabble with as there are all sorts of filial ramifications.

So.  About being “ignorant as hell”.  Well, that’s the glass half empty.  The glass half full is that they are well schooled in experience – going back centuries.  And “stubborn as mules”.  Again, that’s the glass half empty.  The glass half full is that what has worked is honored, and they are a profound bulwark against the next incursion by those smarty pants, who are so finely educated that they know better even before their tuition has been fully paid, and are off preaching to “change the world”  with a vision offered from the moral high ground of their immaculate lives .   These damnable progressives, who constantly devalue our traditions… while carping, carping, carping about what a mess the modern world is – a world more and more of their making…  well, don’t get me started.

Like I say, those sorts either move away, or break their pick and go back to where they came from.  And it’s real restful.

Two Problems with Socialism

June 26, 2016

Bernie4

Last night I watched a biopic of Jimmie Hendrix in which one commentator remarked that trying to become famous can be more fun than the actual ‘being’ famous.

I would make the same case for making a living.  Endeavoring to insure oneself a roof over one’s head and food in one’s mouth is wholly more involving than the simple consumption of it.  People who must earn a living become resourceful, capable, industrious and persistent.  People who just consume often become just the opposite.  It would seem humans are made to strive, not arrive.  We are designed to be problem solvers, not consumers.

Take your average consumer.  For the most part, even they are out to purchase the answer to a problem they have.  The housewife needs to dress her children and feed her family and to create a well appointed and comfortable home.  Even the indulgent consumer is either out to create a mood through a hedonistic purchase or a prized look through the purchase of fashion.  I would hazard that even the Socialist has more fun and finds more purpose in life trying to bend the world to their will and moralizing from their soapbox – than when lying back and enjoying the benefits of the free lunch themselves.  I’d guess that they have little envy for what they are striving for, and only envy for what they testify against.  Otherwise, they would move.

Another problem with socialism is that people enjoy doing business.  They love it, even when done for pennies, such as at a flea market.  As Francesca Aran Murphy so succinctly states in her piece, “Is Liberalism a Heresy?”  (and in a former post I’ve made)

“A mixture of rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge.  People readily took to the roles of buyer and sellers of goods, because buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish…..  Buying and selling became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of concealment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic  natures like a glove.”

Socialism saps the fun from life.  I believe it was Susan Sontag who said, “The problem with socialism is that it is too boring.  And the problem with fascism is that it’s too exciting.”  Have I talked you into becoming a Babbitt yet?

Currently the next conversation due upon the political horizon is of creating a basic national income.  This is being seen as necessary to many, who foretell that the coming jobs available for a large percentage of our citizens will simply not pay enough for them to live successfully.  What is to be done?

I don’t know.  I don’t know if what is foreseen will actually occur.  Nobody does.  But if it does, proponents say that a sample of  studies undertaken seem to show that people given the money do not waste it, but utilize it to create better lives for themselves.

It sounds promising.  But would this be true if everyone got free money?  And if everyone gets free money, wouldn’t this cause a counterproductive inflation of the prices of basic items?

As is usual, the studies seem to indicate one thing, but experience the other.  So the ‘smart’ people tend to line up on one side of the issue and the experienced people on the other.  The record for trust babies doesn’t look good.

How will having more money cause people to find meaningful work?  Or will it?   And if not, what then?  Idle hands are the devil’s helpers, they say.

(To read more of Carl Nelson’s work, go to: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html  )

Where have all the reporters gone?

June 25, 2016

reporter

What with the closing and consolidation of so many newspapers and news outlets around the country, I hadn’t given much thought to where the reporters had gone.

Then I noticed that the attendance to my magazine of contemporary culture had trebled.  Also that the articles I had been reading in these professorial type journals with their college and think tank affiliated authors – also had the contemporary feel of a journalist’s beat.  Have the reporters found shelter in the coves of academic publications and non-profit think tanks?

I don’t know.  And I haven’t been able to find out anything.

I’m not much of a reporter.

(To read more of Carl Nelson’s work, go to: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html  )

Hating Business

June 23, 2016

 

Business hatred4

Portrait of male deli owner leaning on counter

Business Hatred1

Why all this hatred of normal life?

For Conservatives one of the World’s Great Cultural Wonders is, Why Do So Many People Profess to Hate Business and Normal Life?

Business creates wealth.  Business creates and adds value.  Businesses employee people and pay them money.  Business is voluntary both in terms of using labor and in dispensing products.  You don’t have to work where you don’t want.  And you don’t have to buy what you don’t want.  (Unless the government demands this.)  And on top of all of this, the entry requirements are fantastic.  You simply start doing it.  No credentials are necessary.

Moreover, business is the flow of life.  As Francesca Aran Murphy so succinctly states in her piece, “Is Liberalism a Heresy?”

“A mixture of rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge.  People readily took to the roles of buyer and sellers of goods, because buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish…..  Buying and selling became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of concealment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic  natures like a glove.”

 On the other hand, government takes our money.  It is compulsory.  It demands obedience by force.  And in some matters, even what the government offers is compulsory e.g. “free” education.

The government enslaves citizens, sends them to wars, and requires onerous tasks e.g. filling out and filing tax forms.  The governments of this world are responsible for and uncountable number of wars and millions upon millions of deaths.  Government decides upon wrong-headed policies from which its citizens are allowed no escape.  To be frank, the list of governmental sins is too long for a modestly realized piece such as this.  And then there is the nature of control.

A citizen’s control over their government’s actions is beyond laughable.  We are allowed to vote several times a year (usually 2 or 3).  Our vote is only one of millions cast.  Our decisions are on perhaps 10 -30 key topics with the results being A,B,C,or D.  From these decisions hundreds of thousands of employees are directed and trillions of dollars allocated, and yards high stacks of laws and regulations enacted.  We really have no more than a general idea of what the laws surrounding anything we might do might be.  This is why the sight of the police creates the slight frisson of fear in even the most honest citizens.  You do not want the law turning its eye upon you.  God knows what it is you could be doing wrong.

Business Hatred3

A citizen’s control over a company, however, is quite direct.  We can decide individually – and as many times as we like – whether or not to buy a product.   If we buy the product and it doesn’t perform, we can decide to not buy the product again.  If the product does perform and we like it, we have sustained a beneficial enterprise.  And the benefits of the enterprise extend well beyond the business product itself.  The ebb and flow of customers adds to the community’s vitality.  A business establishment is a place to meet, a place to talk, a safe and clean place to rest a bit.  The traffic of honest citizens deters the criminal element.   People get things they need, and the employees make money.  A successful business anchors a neighborhood, both financially and socially.  A successful business even disciplines a neighborhood.  If you don’t behave, you are made to leave.  If you can’t frequent the business, it is hard to the join the neighborhood.  Business has a civilizing effect upon the daily life of citizens, which is a consideration obtained with few laws ennacted.  Business accomplishes very much with very little encroachment upon the citizen’s liberties.  All business demands are the day to day courtesies – which, in any event, are a balm to the spirit.

Business Hatred5      business hatred2

Why then, this animus towards business?

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What’s Happening in Obscurity?

May 30, 2016

Middle School Girls

(Deeper Into the Woods – And Out the Other Side)

In the rural area where I live, high school is often the high point of society.  School popularity and status are hard fought attainments.  They color a large part of the rest of your life if you remain.  And sports events comprise the predominant community activity.  The arc of a life is often to begin playing sports as a youngster; realize the height of your success in high school; marry, have kids and start them in sports; attend all their games and argue with the other parents about coaches and playing times in order to help your child reach the arc of their lives.  (What with Title IX, this occurs rather frequently now among both sexes.)  Then it’s grandchildren, a proud family tradition, and finally history.

Sports events are the engine which both runs community activity and provides social transportation.  The high school alumni vie very hard to having winning seasons.  Like pro clubs, they recruit promising athletes from outside their districts.  Move them in with local relatives – or sometimes an entire family will uproot themselves to help the athletic advancement of a particular promising member.  Fathers (and mothers) lose sleep over mistakes made during middle school football or basketball, or wrestling…

Suffice to say, star high school athletes take on a celebrity status – whether they will it or not.

Recently, at a family get together, a current high school star’s girlfriend was complaining about a swarm of stalking middle school girls, and particularly one who would not quit texting her boyfriend.  These middle school girls will often try to get their pictures taken with the athletes at games, (often with the help of their mothers).  They assume familiarity.  They build a web of salacious rumors.  They create drama.  They fuel one another.  This particular “psycho”, (as the star’s girlfriend referred to the 14 year old), had texted her athlete boyfriend.  The boy pleaded with her to stop texting.  “Can’t we just talk?” she texted.

The young athlete has tried blocking her calls, but through some app she is able to assume another phone number.  So that now he has seven or eight blocked numbers on his phone all labeled “stalker”.  Given the age differences, any physical proximity would be legally perilous.  So he’s shelved notions of dropping by to talk to her parents.  Going to the police is an escalation, perhaps to be avoided.  Recently the girl visited his girlfriend at her worksite, then phoned in a withering customer performance review.  His girlfriend investigated the number on the complaint, tracing it back to the young “psycho”.  After much back and forth texting, with the girlfriend asking her repeatedly to just go away – the girl texted, “Can’t we just talk?”

The scenario brings to mind Hollywood and the celebrities who are stalked by the tabloids, which are constantly vying to give their readers some association with fame and glamour.

On a darker note this tale brings to mind “The Crucible”, playwright Arthur Miller’s recreation of the terrors a group of dissembling young girls was able to visit upon the Puritan colony of Salem.

Photo taken from Google Images

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Schn00dles Finds a Publisher

May 22, 2016

Schn00dles now has a publisher.  Magic Bean Books is now stocking some of the collected work found on this blog, and also that of other fine authors.  Drop by for a look (and a read).  They’d love to see you.

Magic Bean Books

http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html


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