Tuesday, October 21, 2014

health shit

From 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., I was in the hospital today having a heart 'procedure' performed. Mostly, it was like the army -- hurry up and wait -- except that bit by bit the grey walls of health close ever tighter in my life and, from time to time, are more depressing. Things pile up and I'm damned if I can keep a pleasant face on it all the time.

I will not pretend that my circumstances are special or worse than someone else's. But they are nearer to home and there seems to be less and less room in which to grouse. 

Today's exercise -- a cardiac catheterization -- was not in aid of solving some specific problem directly. Rather it was a test whose result would tell me whether or not I was fit enough to have yet another procedure in which a node on the lung might safely be excised or irradiated, assuming it turned out to be cancer. And there is another doctor's appointment tomorrow -- a look at ears, nose and throat -- to see if there is some connection between the node on the lung and some coughing activities.

It's not like a broken arm where you get it set and be patient till it heals. It's like bits and pieces leading one to the next ... and no sure outcome ... and meanwhile the depressing drabness of hospital or doctor's office becomes a chain-linked social obligation.

I can smile for a while. I can try not to lay my inescapable shit off on someone else -- family, friends, blog, whatever -- but then it just gets tiring. It's like sitting at a bar next to a fellow who can do nothing but talk about baseball. I like baseball well enough, but politics or sexy women or space travel or education might be a nice change from potatoes.

I was a cranky cuss by the time I got out of the hospital ... not least because my wife sat through the whole thing with me. And there is a wispy pall that hangs over the doctor's visit tomorrow.

I pray that I will run into a good dirty joke or holy revelation that will take my mind off the whole matter. In the meantime, I am feeling a bit Fucking-A!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

laughter as a serious start

Perhaps it is a function of age, but I also have a hunch there is something trend-y in it: Of late, I would rather watch a segment of Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" than pay much attention to what passes for the morning or evening 'news.' Stewart may be "funny," but there is a barbed and factual sorrow that comes with it. It's more like news.

News used to be what was discovered when reporters turned over the rocks of governmental or philosophical positions -- when examining the foundations of war or specific politics or movements was a responsibility that was never fully met, but news organizations did their best. Nowadays, reporters are "embedded" at the whim of those wishing to receive good coverage. Presidential press conferences are peopled by reporters who have agreed not to ask anything hard ... or risk being excluded from the press-conference mix.

So perhaps Jamie Masada, owner of the Hollywood nightclub, The Laugh Factory, has gotten onto something by seeking out the world's "funniest person" -- of getting seriously combative opponents together and encouraging them to laugh. "Forget about guns and bombs and just tell jokes to each other."

Since what passes for news is largely laughable, why not codify that and laugh a little? As a longtime solution to the horrors rained down upon others by 'serious' individuals, it probably has little or no staying power. On the other hand, maybe it can provide a good starting point.

the "right to be forgotten"

What a tantalizing conundrum -- the "right to be forgotten." I'm late to the discussion and any good understanding that may already have evolved, but the phrase itself plus Internet search engine Google's parry and thrust, plus, most important, the individual desires in the matter ... what a kitten in a ball of yarn!

As I get it, Google has a way that people can request that certain information about them be removed from search results. Google has acceded in some instances, which has roused a mighty backlash: Who will monitor the monitors? Here's just one story on the topic.

Probably I am oversimplifying, but what interests me is the very notion that somehow anyone might undo today what occurred yesterday and is now considered a gaff. Nudie pix, love letters, exposes, hagiographies, jail terms whether warranted or unwarranted, Wall Street hustles, ... the list spins itself outward like the tail on some fiery comet. Good, bad and indifferent -- it's all there like cobwebs in the attic.

From where I sit, most people do what they do with an element of hoping to be remembered for it: I am the person who deserves credit and stature and brightness as a result of some action or position. But there is the concomitant hope that the mistakes will be conveniently forgotten ... and Google should forget -- or at least keep its mouth shut -- about what I wish to have forgotten.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, the "right to be forgotten" is the kind of thing that someone might take into his or her mind and then, White-whine-fashion, complain that the world is somehow not fair for not erasing what deserves to be erased. Don't think of a purple cow.

The important part of all this, as I see it, is that individuals not run this sort of thinking on themselves. Have I fucked up in the past? Yup. Do I wish I could undo the barbs and reminders that nip even into the present? Sure. But facts are facts even when they are not factual. I'm stuck with my farm and expecting someone else to erase my past is whistling past the graveyard.

The only "right to be forgotten" lies in the willingness to examine and shoulder what cannot be escaped. And that goes for the good stuff as well.

The right to be forgotten; the right to be remembered -- whose responsibility is this?

Kind of reminds me of the Zen teacher Dogen's observation:
To study Buddhism is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all beings....
Or maybe I've got it all wrong.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

looking for good news

Another in a string of grey, coolish mornings. The trees are not yet utterly denuded, but the greens-crumbling-into-tan send all the signals of a winter yet to be.

I'd like to think up some good news or perhaps just dissect some interesting confusion, but the hooks don't seem to be there. I really do like good news, but the gods that once strode the land (bodhisattvas or Buddhas or Nirvana or attachment or compassion or other spiritual lingo) ... well, too often the good news requires a long panorama of bad news for its underpinnings. What would hitting the lottery be without understanding the deprivation of not hitting the lottery? And compassion in this world is not so much good news as it is a means of parrying the darkness.

Good news ... I'm still stuck with the last eel-catcher in Rome, the guy who, at 74, was quoted as saying
Some people die or are in trouble," he says. "I love to rescue people. I feel human and I want to help everybody, without reward. Whenever someone asks my help, I do my best....
"As long as I am able to move, I'll stay on the water. And if I can't move, I'll ask somebody to carry me here," he says. "If I'm not here, I'll die. Sunday is a holiday. But I prefer to come to work.
Others will feel their good news differently, but I am pleased to be on the same planet with this guy. He's like a decent cup of coffee ... nothing special ... just delicious.

I am losing my writer's credentials. Writers look for good news. But good news has its own schedules and looking for it is as endless as picking your nose.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

another Boer War time

"Rags of Glory," a historical novel by Stuart Cloete I pulled off a dusty shelf here, is focused on the time of the Second Boer War in South Africa. Does anyone know what the Boer War was or the time in which it occurred?

Wars are all pretty much the same, but each is served with sauces of the time -- sauces that are tasty and relevant to some or flat and 'history' to others.

I found myself admiring the brevity of and the flavors of the following paragraphs... a matrix or backdrop of my self, though I had not yet been born, nor even born in England:
August 1899, two years after the Queen's Jubilee, was the height of Britain's power, its very apogee. (The only other great powers were France, Germany and Russia.)

But times were changing. Not merely in new armaments. The "week-end" had come in. African  gold and diamond magnates had set up establishments of unbelievable grandeur in Park Lane. Some of them were Jews. People from Egypt. A vulgarizing process had begun. Bicycles were the rage. Women, the "new women," rode them shamelessly in bloomers.

This was the time of Oscar Wilde, Huxley, Milais, Leighton, Burke-Jones, Kipling, Pushkin, Arnold, Morris, Landseer, Tod Sloan, Sigmund Freud, Buffalo Bill, Swinburne, and Darwin. All were alive or newly dead, their influence a living thing in this society, which, having reached its maturity, was about to begin its slow decline. From empire to commonwealth. The common man and the black man would come into their own in Turnbull's lifetime. Czars, kaisers, sultans, kings, and rajahs would topple like ninepins from their thrones. Pomp, ceremony and manners would be lost in the chaos of equality. There would be great social gains, but these had to be balanced against the losses. There were already some motorcars, electric lights, telephones, none of them very efficient yet, but there, and improving daily....

This was a period of snobbery, extravagance, and immense wealth. The gentleman, the horse, and the common sparrow still lived in symbiotic association.

Friday, October 17, 2014

high-rise cemeteries

PETAH TIKVA, Israel (AP) — At first glance, the multi-tiered jungle of concrete off a major central Israeli highway does not appear unusual in this city of bland high-rises. But the burgeoning towers are groundbreaking when you consider its future tenants: They will be homes not for the living but rather the dead. ...
"The source of all this is that there is simply no room," said Tuvia Sagiv, an architect who specializes in dense burial design. "It's unreasonable that we will live one on top of the other in tall apartment buildings and then die in villas. If we have already agreed to live one on top of the other, then we can die one on top of the other."

Ayn Rand, goddess of the GOP

Passed along in email was this humorous(?) take on author Ayn Rand.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


If someone pats me on the head, I am as likely as the next person to purr ... unless, of course, I'm playing the 'serene and unaffected' card. This morning, for example, I received an email from a woman who read my column in the local newspaper yesterday:
Dear Adam,
I am still thinking about your column one day after I read it. It takes guts to write with such honesty.
And I purred within.

Newspaper articles generally have the shelf-life of a fried egg ... you read it, fit it in among the opinions and biases and forget about it.

When I first became a reporter a lot of years ago, I had a hard time realizing that what I wrote excited almost zero response. And many times, I had put a lot of energy into a particular article ... or taken its subject matter very seriously. How come no one cared as much as I did? At the time, I felt bruised and overlooked and unimportant as if, because I had written about something, that something took on an added importance ... and I deserved the credit.

But today, the words of praise fueled another reaction: I honestly could not imagine or remember what, precisely, I had written, let alone why anyone might impute "courage" to it. To write what I think is just to write what I think ... and the odds favor my changing my mind any moment now.

Doesn't everyone have to learn this lesson -- that no matter how much sweat and caring and yowling and logic they put into one subject or another, there will always be someone out there who doesn't give a shit and, perhaps more important, there is no particular reason why they should?

It reminds me a bit of the Zen Buddhist teacher who was asked how important Zen practice was and he replied, "It's important, but it's not that important." It's nice to get the ego stroked ... but it's also nice to find a less elevated setting for whatever it is that is called "the ego"

"a kiss that lasts forever..."

Back before blogs and Fox news, people found other ways to express the wit and bias and raw reaction that they tended to keep under wraps in public. Among other venues for graffiti, public rest rooms (at least the men's version ... I don't know if women were as prone) were popular.

Am I wrong or simply doddering again when I recall that personal post-it's seemed to contain more wit or imagination in earlier times? Yes, there were the obvious, drunken, sexual notes -- "For a good time, call Brenda" -- but there was also an intelligent quirkiness apparent: "Call Brenda -- she'll blow your mind as well."

There was racism as ever, but there was also a counter-point to some of the whiplash assertions:

In one handwriting, for example, there was: "Niger, (sic), go back to Africai (sic)!" Below this, in a much neater hand was the retort, "I'm taking your mother and sister with me."

Racism, sexism, drunkenness ... none of it was much different, I imagine. It was as stupid and mean-hearted as people have the capacity to be, then or now.  But also, there was an infusion of the kind of imaginative quality that The Beatles and LSD injected into public life ... statements that invited readers to be confused or delighted or disdain or simply smile ... as for example, "A kiss that lasts forever is a strange gift."

There was enough general intelligence to enjoy the ridiculous.

Nowadays, I sometimes think, things are so ridiculous that the enjoyment goes begging.

But that may just be my bathroom mirror talking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

newspaper column

It's more and more of an uphill battle and increasingly strikes me as mediocre at best, but here is the latest column I wrote for the local newspaper.

Bubbling beneath the surface is the very simple fact that I really, really dislike being around people who discomfort others as a means of bettering themselves. It's an old, old habit of mine and it remains, no matter how often the facts prove, over and over again, that the tendency is more common than rare. Yup, I can do it too, but that doesn't make it any less revolting.

Yes, I can see the facts, but that doesn't mean it doesn't set my aging hair on fire. Finks, stoolies, informers, sweet-talkers who never manage to find the shit on their own front walk .... ick, ick and more ick.

How stupid of me is that?!

Wait! I think I hear another oh-so-informational TED talk in the making!