My High School Address As a Returning Famous Alumni

January 7, 2017

       I’ve fantasized every since high school about returning as a famous and/or accomplished alumni and delivering an address to the assembled senior class.  I doubt that I am alone in this dream.  Also I am not alone, I believe, in not being asked to speak.  But, being in the arts, I am well used to this.   And perhaps we have trained to handle this better than many in the other professions.  Artists, especially I would think poets, know that life burgeons without audience, and for example a fish or a flower (and maybe even a poet) actually does better without us around.  And poets have continued to thrive like weeds, and to produce poems like dandelion seeds, even in those arid locales empty of audience.  In short, I am warning you that I plan to deliver this high school address nevertheless.  Because I feel I have something to say, but more importantly, because I want to.  Poets know that what you want is surely the most compelling reason for anything. More important than sex, fame or money – or perhaps one in the same.   it’s like breath.

 

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK
ERA:  WORLD WAR I/PATRIOTISM

Dear Seniors:

I am limiting my remarks to two nuggets of advice I would offer the young person heading out into the world.  This first nugget is not something I came up with myself.  Most of the best advice you won’t come up with yourself, just like the best words or phrases, or the tools you loan to a friend.  You loan them because you’ve found them to be handy.  So it is with this first bit of advice on contentment:  Don’t try to get more out of something than there is in it.

 I have seen this bit of advice violated all of the time and have even do so on many occasions myself.  Right off the top of my head, the first subject under this heading to discuss would be marriage.  But since you’re graduating seniors I will start with something I had to learn which is much closer to home: your parents.  Stories of parents who pressure their children to either be like them, or to achieve better than them, or to find some destiny denied to them, or simply to continue ‘being’ them after the parents own best years pass are legion.  And almost as legion are stories of parents, especially fathers, who do all they can to prevent their offspring from usurping their glory, or even imagined glory.  You all must know what I am speaking of.  You know it’s wrong.  They may or may not know.  But what it amounts to is trying to get more out of their children than is offered.  What hadn’t occurred to me for many years was that the maxim turns counterclockwise also.  Children often stubbornly demand that their parents offer more than is available: more love, more support, more understanding, more assistance, even more understanding, more knowledge or experience, or even more support.  I wanted mine to be an artist – or at least to value art.  The list is longer than the squalling.   Right away, whether you are the parent or the child in this drama, you can halve your frustration immediately by simply giving up.  Or as one of Arthur Miller’s characters says in a play, “The secret to wisdom is to stop.  Whatever you are doing, stop it.”

Marriages are ruined, tarnished, and impoverished all of the time by a failure also to acknowledge this maxim.  Your partner cannot make you successful.  They cannot keep you from failure, work, or illness, or any of “the thousand Natural shocks. That Flesh is heir to…,” or supply you with discipline or character.”  Don’t expect it.  Don’t demand it.  Things will go better.

My second nugget of observation would be that humans are natural problem solvers, and that this world is rife with problems.  We’re a natural fit.  So when you go out into the world wondering what you should do, what you should become – ask yourself what problems there are which you enjoy working on?  it’s said that the best boss is the one who wants to hear your problems.  The best physician wants to hear what’s wrong.  The best actor asks, “What causes this character to move?”  The best inventor wonders how we could do this easier?  What is it you like to fix?

No one hires someone to enjoy the salary, or the perks, or the status or the adulation.  Everyone is paid to solve a problem.  What problems do you like to solve?

Start solving them.  You are writing your ticket.

That’s it.  That’s all.

Thank you for offering me this opportunity.

 

1967 Alumni, Carl Nelson

If you would like see published work by Carl Nelson, please visit:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

The Two Mathematicians

January 5, 2017

bumble-bees

Global Warming Alarmists, with their over-riding  faith in the ‘accepted’ scientific consensus, remind me of the two mathematicians who proved that bumblebees can’t fly.  (The implications of which would be alarming, also.)

When it was pointed out to them that bumblebees do fly, they said, “Oh!  So you consider yourself a mathematician?”  They then produced a stack of cardboard boxes filled with papers crammed with mathematical formula, equations, arrows, diagrams and calculations.  “Perhaps you would show us then, please, just where our mistake is?”

…..

“You can’t, can you?”  They replied smugly.

If you would like to read more work by Carl Nelson, please visit: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

Newspeak and Masculine Vigor

January 2, 2017

mother

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/12/26/at-the-university-of-oregon-no-more-free-speech-for-professors-on-subjects-such-as-race-religion-sexual-orientation/?utm_term=.fdb7894617b7

 

The above opinion in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh concerns free speech issues at the University of Oregon.  Apparently the University of Oregon administration has declared that students or staff may be institutionally disciplined not only for what they say, but that they may also be disciplined if enough others object to what they have said.  “The harassment policy, the university report notes, bans conduct that creates a “hostile environment” based on “age, race, color, ancestry, national or ethnic origin, religion, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or the use of leave protected by state or federal law.”

That’s quite a mouthful to worry about as you chirp, “Good morning,” to your students or colleges and consider the risk of follow up.  It would seem that teaching some subjects under this ban would be very difficult – most likely impossible to do credibly – and make tricky teaching of many others while staying out of the cross hairs.

Which may be the point.   This is taken from the New Criterion,  January 2017.  It concerns “Newspeak” as invented by George Orwell in his prescient book, 1984, about evolving totalitarianism:

 

newspeak

By limiting what may be said, the University – much like the Inner Party of 1984 – is well on its way to making the construction of conflicting arguments impossible, and eventually, as per the recipe for Newspeak, recounted in 1984, finally impossible to consider or even to imagine.

You needn’t wander very far from home to see the mechanisms of Newspeak operating around us now.  Conservatives encounter this on a daily basis when trying to discuss political matters with Progressives.  Progressives literally cannot understand us.  Progressives cannot understand why Trump won.   Instead they shout slurs as if to ward off the Devil.  They cannot understand why we are not petrified by Global Warming.  They cannot understand why we would not want to welcome thousands of Muslim immigrants.  They cannot understand that illegal immigration is illegal.  They don’t seem to understand the word “illegal”. There are many sides to other issues which the Progressive Newspeak simply will not allow Progressives to imagine or to understand.  Like scared Shamans, all is left in the Progressive arsenal are explanatory pejoratives, the ‘usual suspects’ of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny,  islamophobia, flat earthers,  the scientifically illiterate, poorly read, intellectually challenged, … idiots, morons, dumb, and then the reactionaries, assholes, mean-spirited, selfish, greedy, blind, pigs…   It goes on and on.  One would have to be quite gifted to be all of those things at once.  And on this, we seem to agree.  This, they explain, is why we win.

It is widely held by critics of public speaking that an audience is often much more influenced by the appearance and performance of the speaker than by the value of what is said.   I would be hard put to find anyone of whom this is more true than Donald Trump.  Not only is much of what he says incorrect, but it can change dramatically the next day, the next hour, or even within the next sentence.  And if you catch him in a deception he will either deny it or disparage you, or tell you that he is very very smart (and yourself, well, not so much).  You have no idea how smart!  One would think that these are all poor character traits to have in a Presidential Candidate.

Unless, that is, you would want someone who can tear through the turgid net of Progressive cant in which most Conservative speakers allow themselves to be constricted.  Trump tears through Progressive verbal strictures as if tender paper nets constructed in safe areas by cloistered ‘snowflakes’.

What does it matter, specifically, what he says?  That could change.  Generally, though, we get him.  And the payoff is immediate.  He talks back to Progressive power.  A fresh breeze blows through.  Clear thinking is allowed.  Thoughts can be thought.  Arguments can be had.  Common sense decisions can be made.  And there doesn’t seem to be anything the Progressives can do about it.  In fact, Donald has them wringing their hands and shedding tears.

When Taiwan calls, Trump picks up the phone, because it would be rude not to.   He chats.

“Heresy!”  says the accepted thinking of the Intelligensia.

“Jeeze, that feels good,” says his electorate.

 

If you enjoyed this essay, consider reading more of Carl Nelson at:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/essays.html

The Joys of a Poet

December 14, 2016

(And His Arrival at this Most Minuscule of Positions)

carl-nelson4

I cross the Ohio everyday.

Of the many experiences I remember of my theater years, the most compelling occurred on stage.  They were small moments, mini-scenes, in which the characters seemed so autonomous that the actors no longer needed to please the audience.  They were little sections of life that didn’t need to sell their plight to the audience; didn’t need the audience’s approval.  No great injustice needed be fought.  Rather, the tables were turned and it was the audience which could either watch or not.

These scenes from my work which have so stuck with me were quiet areas in the midst of the plays’ turbulences where this balance had been achieved… if only to be enjoyed for a short time, the world and theater being what they are.  Looking back, it’s occurred to me that the theater was not my calling as it is not rising conflict which energizes me but balance.  I love playfulness.

Amount and quality of audience are the two measures of a playwright.  If you cannot attract an audience and/or critical stalwarts, then you are not a playwright.  Those are the realities.  But like most practitioners I fudged.  I could attract a smidgeon of an audience, and some of them liked it – so I rationalized and called myself a playwright.  For I did write several plays, and they were produced, and, as unsuccessful people are apt to say, (with each career change), “I learned a lot!”

I would guess one of the reasons artists would yearn for great success – aside from the money and fame and beautiful lovers – is that it gives them a forceful argument when dealing with the complaints of people they have known privately.   For a very successful playwright, the easy reply is that, “Well, you are just a small minority of the many, many who loved it.”  A small time playwright cannot use this defense.  The troublesome person lives right next door.  The hope for audience is partly a defense mechanism.

Also a large audience will grant a artist the opportunity to command better and better opportunities.  For a playwright this would mean access to the best actors, directors, set designers, venues and… even audience.  But it also means restrictions.  The more money, the more pressures to reduce risk and to frequent travelled ground.  The better and more powerful your collaborators, the better they are at stealing the audience for themselves.  A popular actor might want the scene re-written to better showcase them.  A powerful director might insist upon their vision.  A powerful financial source might prefer the politics slanted a bit differently – or removed.  And the venue has a very worried view of what their regulars will endure.  With the acquisition of a large audience, there is always the risk of losing it.  The second guessing becomes as bothersome as pushing a huge rig down the road, squinting ahead, all the while glancing in the mirror at a wandering trailer.

I’d guess the first audience for most of us would be our parents.  And perhaps many of us found theirs as frustrating as I found mine.  Mom and dad would pay attention, but only in their terms; not unlike strangers.  This was a bone of contention between us for many years.  Finally, I gave up.  I no longer shared how I felt or my hopes, and oddly enough, our relationship improved markedly.  Mom and dad were intelligent, generous, caring people once I got over the fact that they didn’t want to know me very well.

Segue to the audience…

Since that time, I have employed this tactic often.  The solution to many an insoluble problem is to ignore it; proceed as if the world were created without that problem.   If acquiring audience seemed an insoluble problem for me, why not eliminate the audience?  For all these reasons – and the fact that I’d pretty much played out my hand as a playwright – poetry looked pretty good to me.

So after I had moved from Seattle to this Appalachian area, I looked around and found a poetry group which looked compatible.  They were close by, met frequently, weren’t attached to any college or university, and most importantly had sympathy for the spirits – albeit pagan, (in their case).  When I first read my poems to the group for their reaction, one of the first individuals to respond asked skeptically:  “Who do you imagine your audience to be?”

They all looked to me.

“I didn’t think poetry had an audience!” I responded.

“You may leave now,” the next laughed.

 

In truth, I had had my fill of trying to acquire and please an audience.  A writer gets tired of playing the whiskey drummer.  Some of my misgivings are revealed in a previous piece I’ve written.

the-audience-is-a-mob

Poets have little audience, generally make no money, and, unless they misbehave, command little attention.  We wander about in the artistic world a little like derelicts or the homeless.  All of which allows us great freedom.  And we catch our audience as we can… perhaps spouting off in a bar – or wherever we find ourselves for that matter, like the local hardware.  People don’t believe they are listening to poetry in so much as they believe they are arguing with a drunk or indulging an eccentric – which is a time honored practice in small, out of the way spots like here in Appalachia – or hope of hope, enjoying a laugh with a clever fellow!

Poets talk among themselves swapping words and a cleverly turned phrase in a verbal one-ups-man-ship.  And now and then when the urge to flock comes upon the poet community, they hold readings.  The grudges are dropped, the qualms muffled and a general comity of fellow feeling along the lines of “We are all in this together” and “I will listen to you if you will listen to me,” contains the aggregate of assembled oddballs.  Aside from this, poets send out their little missives to journals and odd sorts of publications as if spreading sparks in hopes of starting a fire.  This is the off-the-main-road-poet’s life, aesthetic nobodies chipping flints over damp wood and hoping for a conflagration.

As far as rewards, there is the quiet joy – something like that of a stamp collector – of having trapped a bit of life in verbal amber.  I’m reminded of the New Yorker joke showing the painter in his studio sitting to admire his painting on a Friday’s night with a coke and a theater pail heaped with popcorn.  Only the artist fully grasps the ins and outs and the subtleties of life captured in a well done work.  His lack of audience allows him unfettered freedom.  And his inability to market successfully frees up his schedule.  Find a bit of work or arrangement to pay the rent, add a few understanding spirits to voice admiration from time to time, and you have a satisfied fellow.  Or, at least someone satisfied enough to continue working…

A good poem doesn’t need an audience to be alive.  It’s alive all by itself.  It’s the audience which needs the poem to feel alive.  And that is because a good poem has balance.  And we rest in its achievement.  Not everybody of course, but there are people out there who delight in a little heaven here on earth.

So, to the number of audience an artist needs?  Just enough to keep him working, I’d say, and find him a little rent.

No more than fifty to a room at any time.  Anymore and it’s just the sound of hands clapping from somewhere out beyond the circle of light; the circle of trust…  but quixotically, always with the possibility of many more, if only to make the writing of the poem like purchasing a lottery ticket.  We keep talking and writing, hoping for that conflagration.

If you would like to read more of Carl Nelson, visit:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

My Son Doesn’t Like to Read

December 7, 2016

books

My Son Doesn’t Like to Read

 My son doesn’t like to read.  Reading for enjoyment is a mystery to him.  Actually, sitting still for enjoyment is a mystery to him.  About the only thing he will sit still to watch are sports on TV and social media videos.

He is not ADHD.  He can spend large amounts of time working at the computer on photographs and design problems, and he can concentrate and finish his homework.  He is quite organized.  But the only times he will read is when he needs information.  And if he can obtain that information by listening, or asking a teacher or watching a YouTube video, he would prefer it.  He does not read to understand.  Gaining a deeper understanding of the life around him through reading would seem to be an oxymoron to him.  What he most prefers is being out doing activities with friends.

I’m not much worried about my son’s prospects in life.  He already runs his own business.  He makes money.  He is very active socially.  He’s well liked and well behaved.  Life doesn’t demand that he read that well.  His biggest problem is that school demands he reads that well.  And colleges demand that he read that well.

And speaking as someone who enjoys reading and does quite a lot of it, I wonder if society is best served by the emphasis our educational institutions place on reading.  I realize this is heresy and in a large part probably wrong-headed.  But, as I’ve aged and butted my head up against the world, it has occurred to me that many of the people I know, who have done quite well in life, do not like to read.  And conversely, many of the people I know, who like to read, have not done as well as might be supposed, given their abilities.

I was first struck by this while trying to create a producer for my play.  The fellow was a quite successful graduate from Stanford.  He was somewhat intrigued by the idea of play production.  But he admitted to me candidly that he didn’t like to read, and couldn’t imagine having to make it through “all those scripts”.  Another fellow I met was admitted to Stanford almost entirely on his test scores – not his high school attainments, as I think he might have dropped out.  But he had spent most of his teen years assiduously reading his way through the public library, and so seemed to have wowed the admissions people.   He, however, did quite modestly in life, and much less than I might have expected.  Then, there are others I have run across.  For example, a quite successful CFO, a sought after mechanic who had never learned to read, and the Lord knows how many quite successful salespeople.  In fact, the more successful the salesperson, the less it seemed they enjoyed reading.  It wasn’t the product understanding so much as the numbers of people you met.

On the other hand, I like to read, and find myself among many friends and acquaintances who enjoy reading also, many with advanced degrees.  But, many of these well-read friends have only had modest success in life, if that.  I’ve many well-read friends who have lived on the fringes of poverty most their lives.  And of the ones who have done better, most have achieved some success within a profession.  But, of those within a profession, it still seems that those who prefer to read have still not done as well as those who don’t, or at least as well as their gifts would have appeared to take them.  Of the doctors I know, the most successful does not particular enjoy reading.

So why doesn’t reading help us that much?  This is the question which has occurred to me – especially since I like to read.

The most obvious reason I suppose is that reading is like golf; it takes a lot of time and takes us away from the business at hand, which is applying ourselves to life.  “Always with your nose in a book,” as they say.

There are probably a multitude of reasons, actually.  But the one most dire, that has occurred to me, is that the pursuit of reading is fueled by the belief that a better understanding of the world will naturally make us more successful.  And I wonder if this is necessarily true.  What age has taught me is as Shakespeare noted:  “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  This idea of getting a step up on life through greater understanding seems to be of limited use!  Life, as I’ve come to know it, seems to be like the weather or the stock market and confound even the most learned.  And those who do best are those who place their bets and get into the game – just as those who do best at investing are those who start.  It’s simple enough, really.

A more troubling aspect is that the notion that we can understand life more successfully through reading – gets extended by the ego of the intellectual among us into the belief than they can fully understand life, at least to the extent that they owe it to the general betterment to legislate how the rest of the less acquainted with the ‘facts’ should live.  Our educational institutions would seem to inculcate this view, if only implicitly.  At one point this was the view of the educated nobility.  Presently, it seems to be the view of everyone.

To read more of Carl Nelson, visit: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/essays.html

 

Pulling People From Their Cars

November 13, 2016

riot

Pulling People From Their Cars

My barber, who is working with me on our latest strategy to rule my aging hair, was worried following Trumps victory.   “They pulled a fellow from his car and beat him up just because he said he’d voted for Trump!  What kind of people do that?”

I get my hair cut in this little shop about a block from home, which takes up the street side of a small frame building, about the size of a one car frame garage.  It used to be a bank, then a doctor’s office back in the60s.  The barber, who is a skinny woman with ratted hair was about as frizzed as her do.  “Don’t worry,” I reassured her.  “We are two hundred miles of thick forest from people like that.”

 

I used to live in the Seattle area.  And whereas I didn’t live around people who did things like that, I did live and work around a majority of apologists for people who did things like that.  In Seattle, they were against Hate

Well, out here, embedded with the Trumps, we are not so much… against hate.  We  just know it’s a nasty emotion and best let out only under extreme circumstances.

 

The problem probably is, that in Seattle, nice a place as it was (and still is, I suppose), having failed to do enough hating in timely fashion – there is just an enormous amount of it piling up.  So that currently, there is racism to hate, Islamophobes to hate, hate-filled bigots to hate, privileged people to hate (but who should actually be hating themselves – if they would just do their share), misogynists and homophobes and transexualophobes and corporate shills, and tools, and then self-interested people in general, plus all those people who don’t care about the planet.  I really can’t recite the whole list here.  Suffice to say, the people who seem to need hating comprise, what I would guess from polls to be, about half the United States!

But it wasn’t just what crawled across the evening news which made living in Seattle a trial over time.  They didn’t just stop at the normal things that need hating from time to time.  Nearly everything a person did or said made for politics in the big city.  And if you found yourself ‘on the wrong side of history’, the crosshairs moved to you, and you needed hating also.

What kind of car did you drive?  Is it environmentally correct.  What kind of house do you live in? (Too large?  Too many windows?   Energy wasting?  Long commute?  Far from public transportation?  Near locally grown food source?  Diverse community?  Can you have chickens?  Poorly situated to capture passive solar?  Can you recycle, mulch, compost, on and on…)  What kind of work do you do?  (Are you ‘giving back’ by working for a non-profit, or a charity in order to make the world a better place… or are you in this life just for yourself?)  Are you raising more children that the planet can support?    Are you raising your children to be free of racial prejudice, sexual assumptions, the accepted mental shibboleths such as American Exceptionalism?  Are you allowing your children to go about unsupervised and possible at danger?  Are you teaching them to drink responsibly?  Are you fat and undisciplined?  Are your children fat?  Are any of your friends overweight?  What are they doing about it?   Does your cooking display a sound knowledge of the world’s diverse cultures?  Have you ever eaten fast food, and if you ever enjoyed it, what is wrong with you?  Do you have any idea what is in a hot dog?  (Don’t even get them started on the high fructose corn syrups which make up the catsup you dribble across it, or the white bread bun completely devoid of nutritional content altogether – even when ‘enriched’.)

Most of these things, by themselves, are reasonable concerns.  So are the Ten Commandments.  But at least in the Bible, there were only ten.  (Which, with the New Covenant, became pared down to just two.)  In Seattle the extent of the new commandments knows no limit.  Virtually everything a person does is commented dissected and commented upon in the public sphere.  Picture a person rising, beginning the day, working, spending time with the family then eating and sleeping – and then picture the ongoing political commentary which accompanies his/her every minute describing how each action affects the moral compass of the community as a whole.  It’s no joke that when the most progressive of this caball extend the moral commentary to its rightful conclusion – their conclusion is that humans are a moral blight upon the earth and need exterminating.  Conservatives would probably agree that we are all born into sin.  But the Progressive leading edge think that as a species, we should be eradicated like a cockroach.

And this is where the Seattle culture as a whole has fallen short.  And you have to wonder if they are really on the right side of history, as they insist upon staying alive – an obviously bigoted stance.  Their rational, I’d suppose, is that they need to live in order to cull the population of the unenlightened others.  Then they’ll kill themselves.  They promise.

 

To a God fearing culture, it’s old news that we are born into sin.  No surprise there.  Nevertheless, God appears to want us here and expects us to do our best.

Belpre May 2015

So in a God fearing culture such as it is here, embedded with the Trumps, we accept our shortcomings.  Sundays we go to church.  Other days we work to support ourselves.  And otherwise we amuse ourselves as we see fit.  We race gas-guzzling cars.  We hunt.  We shoot guns.  We run around the woods.  We fish.  We eat squirrel, deer, catfish…  We play football.  We love sports.  We fight the elements.  We drive whatever damn vehicle we want.  We dress as we want.  We live in whatever kind of house we want.  We drive as far as we want.  We cloth ourselves as we want.  And we say what we want.  The best estimate we can have of our neighbors is that they are “decent people”.  But, as a whole, we’re all sinners.  I’m afraid that’s the generally accepted community condition.

What is decent?   Well, it has very little to do with either how they’ve voted, the car they drive, whether they’ve worried about sustainable agriculture or global warming, whether or not they’ve ever tried humus and pita bread, whether their home is built to capture passive solar, whether they support LQBJTUVWXYZ rights, more whether they work- than for whom they work, and not even much about whether they attend church regularly, or are overweight.  You live around someone.  You get to know them.  And you know.  …you just know, more or less.

And so far this decency has kept us from pulling people from their cars and beating them for voting incorrectly.  It’s something to consider.

Belpre Ohio1

For books by Carl Nelson go to:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

Red or Blue?

November 3, 2016

matrix-pills

This November 8th, Are You Going to Take the Red Pill or the Blue One?

 

It would seem Hillary supporters and Democrats, in general, view themselves as the more intelligent, educated and successful portion of the citizenry, burdened with many poor relations.  They would view themselves as the more urbane, cultured, sophisticated and nuanced in both their understanding of current events and the world also.  Add to this that they believe in rational discussion of the facts and disdain the irrational.  You needn’t believe me!  They will tell you this.  As will the media… ad nauseum.    They also glow with rectitude, possibly because they eat ‘smart’ and exercise.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters currently say that the scandal surrounding Hillary’s e mails amounts to nothing.  There are lots of people in like positions of power who have private servers, they say.  The Clinton Foundation, likewise they say, should be commended for the good work it does.  After all, it has gotten a four star (highest) rating from the Charity Navigator in both the Financial and Accountability and Transparency categories.  And Hillary’s health is as good as it could be considering the grueling demands of her present campaign which she is determined to meet.  The majority of the negative press concerning Hillary, (which has been wholly unwarranted they explain with a sigh), has been a media creation as conceived by their Republican bosses.  As yet, I haven’t read any speculation by supporters as to how a couple such as Bill and Hillary have managed to amass a personal fortune of one hundred eleven million dollars from careers dedicated to public ‘service’.

 

However, now and then there is a glitch in the major media’s digital feeding pipe.  Other sources report that Hillary’s physical problems are most likely due to the progression of Parkinson’s Disease like symptoms… wandering eye, repeated odd gestures, mental freeze when startled, falls, and pneumonia due to swallowing difficulties.  There is a YouTube feed of NBC purportedly altering a wandering eye in a snippet of video from a campaign stop.  There is her reticence to meet with the press and to do public events.  Her crowds are shown to have been Photoshop enlarged. 

 There are also maverick news sources which pop-up here and there which give a much different view of what is occurring both here and abroad.  They show a Europe whose cities are under siege from a flood of immigrants.  They show a leader defending Brexit.  They show people describing perpetrators of terrorist attacks as Muslim.  They show scientists and reporters with graphs and charts which deny that Climate Change is primarily a humanly caused crisis.  They contradict the current governmental and media opinion in numerous areas such as, gun control, religious freedom, women’s equal wage, abortion and the fetal parts market…  It goes on.  Wikileaks seems to have shown a huge light both on the lax security of Hillary’s home server, and also for its use as a way of directing monies to the Clinton Charities which would seem to have been more likely a money-for-influence ‘laundering’ operation.  Regular updates by former highly connected people such as Dick Morris, Chief Political Advisor for both Bill and Hillary for 20 years, would seem legitimate – though they come to us via the offices of the National Enquirer. 

 We get these glimmers of contradictory information which break through the major media boilerplate, but are they true and real?

 

Hillary fans are also strong supporters of government intervention (i.e. coercion).  It is Trump supporters who are generally the ones ‘intervened’ with – ‘for their own good’.   Hillary supporters see Government as a force for progress, “on the right side of history”, and well worth the taxes we all should pay.  Their opponents on the contrary see Government as a farce for progress marching ineluctably towards a dystopian end.

Which side of the struggle do you side with?  Which side do you believe?  Which is presenting reality, and which the dream?

For myself, I generally side with the Volunteers, and fight the Coercives…  No matter how pleasant the Coercives’ pitch, the sound of their voices, the sweetness of their personalities, their charisma, or how much good they purportedly do or the ends to which they are purportedly headed, such as the ‘right side of history’… I don’t like coercion.

 

You ever have to get your hands dirty?  Say, while doing some septic or foundation work.  And you look at a particular difficulty and think, ‘This is going to take a BIG hammer.’

 

Donald Trump , Hillary’s people say,  grabs and deplores women, is poorly informed, rarely reads and is an entirely selfish, narcissistic, authoritarian, billionaire megalomaniac – who probably is not worth a fraction of what he claims and is mentally ill.   This is all delivered up within a yummy mix of charges including racism, misogyny, bigotry, fascism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and of just plain base, obtuse, boorish bullying.  On top of this he is afflicted with incredibly bad hair and just being an all-over, absolute, ‘just total’, asshole.

 

This sounds like a really BIG hammer, to me! 

 

 

For more by Carl Nelson, visit:  www.magicbooks.co

Embedded with the Deplorables

October 28, 2016

belpre-trump1

I wished my cousin in LA a happy birthday on Facebook the other day.  He thanked me and asked how life was in a “battleground state”.  I told him it was pretty quiet, pleasant actually.  For the most part it’s just people going to work and coming home.  It’s very hard to get people around here to riot!

belpe-trump3

There are kids playing between the parked cars and riding their bicycles, and one who practices his trombone on the front porch.  When a crowd or four gather, they may entertain a grievance for a while.  But it’s usually just long enough to politely disengage so as to couple up with another bunch and discuss high school sports, or job stability.  Now and then the women will chatter about irresponsible behavior, and both sexes can get going about the high school coaching staff.  But mostly it’s about meeting someone or other’s niece who is related to someone else or other and discussing exactly which portion of the various clans they represent.  When they do discuss the federal government, it’s usually with a pained expression.

belpre-trump2

To read more by Carl Nelson, visit:  www.magicbeanbooks.co

Getting It Into the Air

October 24, 2016

tintin-swimmingpool1

Once I had decided upon becoming a writer, I still had to make a living.  Just as the Zen Master must still chop wood and haul water, so I drove a Metro Bus part time.  One day, as I was passing through a Seattle suburb, I stopped outside a shopping center for this matronly lady to climb the stairs.  As she dug in her purse to locate her fare, she eyed me to say, “You look awfully tired.  You must work awfully hard.”

“Actually,” I said, “I work only three and half hours a day.”  (Beaming with pride.)

This flummoxed her.

‘Good work, Carl,’ I thought.  ‘You’ve stalled another conversation.’

And since I find enduring embarrassment very hard, I added:

“If I work more than three and a half hours a day, I get these terrible rashes!”  I rubbed my forearm sincerely.

“Oh!”  The woman exclaimed, visibly relieved.  “My aunt had that.”

I love pretense and flummery.  I love spin.  I love taking the day to day quotidian, the endless repertoire of repetitive detail and action which make up the “grit and slog” of our seemingly endless human condition and giving it wings.  Or, as my playwrighting teacher used to describe it: “getting this thing up into the air.”

Not so far up into the air as you lose all connection.  You don’t want to leave home.  No one does really.  You just want to get it far enough off the ground so as to realize some possibilities – to reveal a horizon.

As a writer, politician, actor, salesperson, to successfully practice your profession, you must have the knack for engaging your audience’s imagination.  Perhaps the impulse is native, or perhaps it comes from being raised in a situation so mired in the actual that a person can’t stop striving to ‘get some air’, even after they’ve broken free.  The urge remains.  Or, more probably, the urge is an amalgam of both.  But, in a writer, the urge can be so strong, that the actual effort of making something ‘practical’ happen gets in the way, takes too much time and attention, absorbs too much of one’s energy.  I’m reminded of the cartoonist, Scott Adam’s (Dilbert) testimony, that when he asked writers why they chose the profession they did, the majority answered by saying, “I’m lazy.”

I remember reading of it being said about Whitman, arguably America’s greatest poet, that Whitman was undoubtedly “the laziest person” the speaker had ever met.  Though no doubt, he labored over his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, unceasingly, revising, adding, and then adding again, throughout his entire life – otherwise, he was as he describes himself.  “I loaf, and invite my soul.”

I have noticed, (and in case I haven’t, people close to me, like my son, have pointed this out), that I would appear to avoid work, shirk a laudable profession, and am otherwise devoid of much practical ambition.  From my point of view, it seems astonishing that they cannot see that I literally am working all of the time – all the while they are talking of vacations they are going to take, or just returning from, or of the fun they’ve had playing, with their boats, off-road toys, RVs, or camping, climbing, skiing, surfing, watching sports, drinking, having wild sex or travelling.  The diversions others participate in astonish me in their multiplicity, repetition, and time consumption.  Also, given that so many of them complain about their jobs all the while – gives it an air of lunacy.   Nevertheless, it appears they are right and I am wrong because like in so many areas, there are more of them than there are of me.  It’s a democracy!  The dictionary is a democracy.  Right and wrong are whatever it is said they are.  (Only the word roots remain.)

At any rate, I find myself working all of the time: listening, reading, chatting, taking notes, writing, trying to figure out why things are as they are and puzzling about how to take that story or poem a little higher, squeeze it a bit more.  Even sending stuff off is tedious.  Vacation spots bore me.  Adventuring makes me wonder, ‘What am I doing here, stuck on a cliffside?’  Give me a quite room.  Help me lift this stuff up into the air.  Some trouble free, uninterrupted time.  That’s what I like.  If I had a million dollars in the bank, that’s where I’d leave it.  That’s where it’s working for me just fine.  I’ll eat the same thing for breakfast as I had for dinner, thanks.  Very little variation in my outer world is best.  My inner world?  Now here is where I take flight, break free, imagine other people and worlds.  I don’t have time to watch endless football.  I’ve got it!  They try to possess the ball and move it to the goal line, and they wear different colored uniforms.

There you go again Carl.  You’ve stalled the conversation.

To see more of Carl’s work, visit: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

 

The Unauthorized Use of Something I Read

September 16, 2016

business-school-presentation

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Guide-Business-School-Presenting/dp/0857285149/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474034530&sr=1-1&keywords=the+complete+guide+to+business+school+presenting

 

A Facebook friend, Stanley K. Ridgley, PhD., has written The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.  I was so taken by an excerpt of the book on the speaker’s use of the ‘Pause’, a teaser which Stanley had posted online, that I purchased the book.

The author mentions in his introduction that he has: “resisted the pressure to water down this book, to move its focus from you, the business student, and to “connect” it to a broader spectrum of people”…   So.  My use of this book is entirely unauthorized, and whatever calamity ensues is entirely of my own doing but has probably already happened in the poetry world.  It’s a crazy place.   Nevertheless, I figure I could find some of his tips useful for emceeing The Serenity Poetry Series which I run out of a Vienna, West Virginia coffee shop.

Since I am suspicious that life is largely a business situation and that poetry is just life in clearer focus – what have I to lose but some ignorance?  And perhaps I might gain some audience!  Poetry is about as hard a place to draw an audience as West Virginia.   So we’re doubling down here.

Right out of the chute the author quotes the words of Communication coach Lynda Paulson that,” what makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal”.  She also notes that, “Most people can read and comprehend more content in half-an-hour than you could ever get across in the same time through speaking.”  In other words, as Ridgley notes, a presentation is a “show”, the star of which is “a project or idea (that) has a champion who presents the case in public”.   So it’s not the information so much as the impact of a “personal presence” which makes your presentation.  You communicate, Stanley continues, in “words and actions designed to make your audience feel comfortable – and heroic.”

 “Yes, heroic.  Every presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is in your audience.  Evoke a sense of heroism in your customer, and you win every time.  Evoke a sense of heroism in your presentation audience, and you win every time.”

Bad presenters Stanley notes, “act as if your words carry the message alone.  A part of you actually believes that it is the force of your argument, your compilation of facts, your detailed spreadsheet that will carry the day.  Because that’s the way it should be, right?  As a result, you push the presentation outside of yourself.”  Doesn’t nearly all of the boring poetry you’ve heard read have poets who believe this?  That their words have created a little machine which just needs plugging in?  While the audience watches – supposedly enchanted – as it achieves nothing?

rube-goldberg-machine1

A little later on in the book our author writes, “…you are there to persuade your audience and call them to action.”   These are troublesome words to the poet, if they are to believe as Auden says, that “poetry makes nothing happen.”  What can a poet persuade our audience of?  And once he/she’s persuaded them, what is she/he to ask them to do?  And how should they go about doing it?

Well I’ve pondered this, and here is a thought.

I would suggest that the action of a poem is to provide insight.  As the poet William Carlos Williams famously summed it up in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower:

“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.”

And I would suggest that this is also how we should interpret Auden.  That the essence of insight is in making ‘nothing’ happen; that insight is ignorance giving birth to realization.

 Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, wrote that his years in the world of business were useful to him as a cartoonist in many ways.  One was that it taught him to distill an idea to its essence, which he says is crucial to cartooning.  Well, distillation is important to poetry also.

There’s a saying that “poetry is memorable speech”.  I would call memorable speech which carries insight that demands action –  a slogan.  So I would suggest that the poet reader needs to find the slogan in each poem and urge their audience to consider and embrace it, until those words turn themselves on to glow like a light bulb.

robet-bly

Robert Bly is held by many to be a mediocre poet.  But as a reader and speaker for poetry, he has probably been the most successful poet/personality of his generation.  From his performances you might rightly think that he has read Ridgley’s book.  He speaks proudly and  energetically, building to his goal which are the poetic lines bearing the insight of which he’s spoken.  He recites these lines almost as if displaying a glowing Arc of the Covenant overhead for all to behold.  He insists on their power.  He invites his audience to feel this power of insight themselves, to hold it and to project it.  His job, as he discharges it, is to charge his followers with the joy and power of insight.   He performs the task well.  Whether the insight is up to Robert’s claims is where the poet/critics come in with their knives.  But for the time being, Bly holds the stage, the poet is a heroic figure, and greater insight is the heroic task and joy of his audience.

 

For books by Carl Nelson, visit:

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


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