Thursday, August 21, 2014

blue suede god

Once, probably before you were a twinkle in your daddy's eye, a fellow named Carl Perkins
Carl Perkins
wrote and performed a rockabilly song entitled "Blue Suede Shoes" that later gained momentum when Elvis Presley took up the melody. The song began:
Well, it's one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go.

But don't you step on my blue suede shoes.
You can do anything but lay off of my Blue suede shoes.

Well, you can knock me down,
Step in my face,
Slander my name
All over the place.

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh,
Honey, lay off of my shoes....
Like  a lot of songs at the time, the lyrics were not as important as the gut-deep je-ne-sais-quoi of the  beat and joy that came with it. This was eeeeeee-hawwwww DNA-deep stuff: Words didn't matter -- meaning was what mattered and those who listened knew the meaning even if they didn't know the meaning. Like a sunset, the song was both yummy and d'oh ... just shovel it in and dance your ass off! This was passion ... low-flame, hot-as-molten-steel heat!

I think there is something to be said for passion that is passion even when knowing the nature of that passion remains somehow secret.

Take real chocolate, for example. Or, in my case, mayonnaise. Or, if the Associated Press is to be believed, a South Korean love of instant noodles:
Hence the emotional heartburn caused by a Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital study in the United States that linked instant noodles consumption by South Koreans to some risks for heart disease. The study has provoked feelings of wounded pride, mild guilt, stubborn resistance, even nationalism among South Koreans, who eat more instant noodles per capita than anyone in the world.
Do not mess with my Blue Suede Shoes or South Korea noodles! This is important if ineffable stuff ... sorta like God: You may not be exactly sure of the meaning, but do not fuck with the meaning I am 100% sure exists!

I am not kidding. Doesn't everyone need to pick his or her poison at some point -- some music to which they are willing to dance and dance and dance some more? Sure, there is sniffing around the edges and pretending and solemnizing, but then isn't there a point at which to take responsibility and dive in? Isn't there a point at which to assert meaning even if the complete meaning is not quite known? Isn't there a point at which to assert that this -- whatever this is -- is true and even if it's not true (even if it turns out to be a pair of blue suede shoes)? Isn't there something about noodles that deserves an undivided attention and willingness to go the whole hog ... to find out if what is called "true" actually is true?

Maybe not. Maybe "blue suede shoes" is enough to get through life on. Maybe praise is enough. Maybe belief is enough. But I think that the passion whose passion cannot be explained deserves better... and makes the shoes more truly comfortable. Go for the dance floor! Go for the dance floor and dance!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

time passes photos

Cleaners abseil down one of the faces of Big Ben, to clean and polish the clock face, above the Houses of Parliament, in central London August 19, 2014.
REUTERS/Toby Melville
A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces trying to disperse demonstrators protesting against the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 20, 2014.
REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A Palestinian boy fleeing with his family from their house in the Shejaia neighborhood, looks out of a car window in the east of Gaza City August 19, 2014.
REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Resident John West hands a rose to a police officer, showing his appreciation with help in cleanup efforts in Ferguson, Missouri, August 19, 2014.
REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

please don't take my habits

Mexico and Venezuela were competing on TV yesterday for what seemed to be the world series of Little League baseball. My eyes and ears idly took in the scenery -- kids who seemed to be 10 or 12 dressed in uniforms that might feed an African village for a couple of days ... very spiffy and athletic and it always makes me wonder at what precise point that gimlet-athletic stare enters the player's eye ... the one that says "I'm gonna kill you!"

No matter. I was watching and listening idly. These were serious kids and serious is interesting. Mexico was leading by a couple of runs, but the Venezuelan pitcher looked determined: He struck out one batter and prepared to meet the next, whose statistics stuck in my mind: "five feet, six and weighing 170 pounds."

 My mind came to a full stop. Five feet six and weighing 170 pounds??!!

From my advancing-age perspective of someone coerced into keeping a daily track of his weight (concerns with the heart), it was weird: Here was a kid who was shorter and considerably younger than I was who weighed more than I did at six feet and 155-plus pounds. Had the world's axis reversed course? How could this pipsqueak whose killing days had barely begun weigh more than I did and yet be shorter by several inches? It was a jolt. A reality check I wasn't entirely ready to digest. No one else might care, but I was, for the moment, caught flat-footed.

The world moves 'forward' until such times, it seems, that it begins to move back.

The recognition was not a time to pull out the old-age violins ... but ... but ... but one of my habitual views of myself had received a bitch-slap: I was not taller, heavier, stronger and more of a killer: I had been outflanked by a 12-year-old who couldn't give a shit one way or the other. Life moves on ... what's the big deal?

The big deal, of course, was my long-standing habit: I saw myself as stronger when in fact I wasn't stronger at all. My habit might flex its 'killer' muscles, but the only factual 'killer' was some killer wuss brought into focus by a Little League game.

Moving backwards: How did that match up with moving forward? There was a nanosecond of topsy-turvey to it all. The killer who had once sprouted wings seemed to have lost his flight/fight potential. Please don't take away my habits!

Nor was my Little League moment the only turn-around for the day.

Several days earlier, I wrote to the local paper and begged off writing a monthly column. It was more freight -- however minor at 600-700 words -- than I was willing to take on. I excused myself from the chore I had once agreed to shoulder ... until yesterday when a flight of whimsey overtook me and a somewhat sloppy bit of fun popped off the computer keys ... belatedly, there was a column in hand. It was silly, it was fun, it wasn't very-well argued and yet I enjoyed the smile: If it costs so much to raise a child in the United States, is it possible to sell off the kids for the price it cost to raise them ... and thus ease the fixed-income burden of those who are retired?

A ludicrous proposition and yet ludicrousness had a certain allure. How many of the serious and solemn propositions of daily life dwindle away into ludicrousness and, if there are quite a few, why not enjoy the ride? There were plenty of others hell-bent-for-leather on seriousness and solemnity, so why not pay some small homage the the ludicrous?

Even as a sloppy attempt, I enjoyed the fun... which is quite a far cry from the seriousness and solemnity I have brought to bear in the past?

Is the clock turning backwards ... or forwards?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Palestinian boy takes on an adversary. Clearly he poses an explosive and powerful threat to judge by the counter-measures.

But it's not really fair if the Israelis get to use all that American hardware to quash a vocal-but-poorly-equipped citizenry in pursuit of democratic values.

Who knows what might happen in Ferguson, Mo., where a black teenager was shot dead and the citizenry (some, but far from all, hooligans) took sticks and stones umbrage. Bring out the 'protective' gear! Let the American taxpayer pay to defend the American taxpayer from the American taxpayer ... the Israelis shouldn't have all the fun.

Monday, August 18, 2014

animal lovers can be so cuuuuuuuute

A woman was licked and kicked by a giraffe like this one when she jumped into the animal's pen at the zoo in Madison, Wisc., on Saturday. The 24-year-old explained she loved giraffes. Zoo personnel pointed out that giraffes can kill lions, so the woman --  whatever other enfeeblements she might suffer -- was lucky not to have been hurt worse.

rabbi (etc.) retires

Today in the local newspaper, a long-time rabbi was retiring after 40 years on the job. I have no clue as to who this fellow is and yet was drawn vaguely to the story in the sense that people retire after long-term service as firefighters, stock brokers, and heavy-equipment operators and seldom bring with them the 'goodness' factor sometimes associated with religious life.

Am I making it up or is there a certain glue-y intensity to the religiously-inclined as seen on TV or depicted in news stories? It's not as if they aren't good people, but there is a solemnity or importance to them that I hardly expect from a back-hoe specialist: This is "God," after all, and "God" brings with it a tip-toe-y reverence that can work pretty hard at not appearing different from the average schmo.

On TV or in news columns, there seems to be a look in the eye and a lilt to the voice and everyone is dressed neat and clean but not exactly fancy ... this is "God" after all.

The whole air may just be something that revolves around belief: I've never met a back-hoe operator who, sotto vocce, insisted on an ethereal payoff, whether good or bad.

All of this may just be my overactive imagination, but the crux of what interested me was this: When someone has devoted long hours and days and weeks and years to their religious persuasion, what happens to that person when it's time to 'retire?' What happens to "God?"

I know there are heaps of spiffy answers, but I think the question is interesting because for anyone interested in what might tentatively be called "God," there comes a time to take the next step if "God" is to have any meat-and-potatoes meaning. If the best anyone can do is believe and believe and believe some more, how credible or consequential can "God" actually be?

Who will pay the bills? When the 'man of God' retires, what happens to "God" if "God" is to have any continuing consequence? Are books and lecture circuit really the next best step? Without the bully pulpit, is the retiree 'lost' or 'found?'

I imagine that any dovotee -- professional and otherwise -- finds his or her own path, but how fresh that path might be can be a sticky wicket. Is there a time -- perhaps in retirement -- when retirement is called for ... a time to give things a rest?

I wonder whether, as a man of God, if "God" too doesn't deserve a rest if "God" is to have a continuing, relaxed, presence.

oops du jour

Received in email:

A man received the following text from his neighbor:
"I am so sorry Bob. I've been riddled with guilt and I have to confess. I have been helping myself to your wife, day and night when you're not around. In fact, more than you. I do not get it at home, but that's no excuse. I can no longer live with the guilt and I hope you will accept my sincerest apology with my promise that it won't, ever happen again."

The man, anguished and betrayed, went into his bedroom, grabbed his gun, and without a word, shot his wife.

A few moments later, a second text came in:
"Bloody autospell! I meant 'wifi', not 'wife'  " . . . . . .

Sunday, August 17, 2014

law enforcement again

Passed along in email -- "The Psychotic Militarization of Law Enforcement."

The piece ain't picture-perfect, but it certainly takes some trouble to collate and weave the incidents and directions of a growing feudalism nourished by a neo-conservative patriotism that encourages fear and supports the trickle-down economics whose arguments cannot and do not hold water.

However big a fib the "Emancipation Proclamation" turned out to be, the mirror-image slavery enshrined and exemplified by this growing militarism leaves that fib gasping for air.

The word "shame" is the only one I can think of and simply uttering it makes me feel like a white-whine pussy... the kind who, I guess, may eventually take up the necessary arms and ... lose as scheduled.

where August dwindles

Talking on the phone with a friend from Maine yesterday, both of us paused for a moment or two and wondered if the cool weather this August betokened a real change in environment or whether we were just a couple of old farts looking for something to complain about.

Foliage in Pa.
As habits go, August has always been the hottest of the summer months in my mind -- a time to get to the closest water, jump in and stay there. It was a time for serious sunburn and, on a road crew, serious sweat. August was a "height" of some sort -- an apex accumulated over years of practice and assumption.

But now a couple of geezers were noticing that old habits, once again, were betraying them. Both of us seemed to need a light sweater ... in the middle of August.

Some habits are easier than others. They occupy space and toot their horn, but it's not as if you were bitten by a Great White ... you could dump it and not feel any particular loss. Other habits, however ....

On Aug. 11, 2014, American comedian Robin Williams committed suicide. Talk about a habit to nurture and release -- humor is so welcoming and warm to those who feel chilled and lonely and alone. To find a warm place and then be raked by the understanding that that too lacked the warmth and inclusion and kinship ... and yet where else could anyone look? what other habit could fill the void? Hollywood is so fucking, fucking lonely ....

Kind of like ordinary people, only on a big screen.

How do you become as good as Williams was and live with the inevitability of no escape ... a place where habits can be appreciated, perhaps, but set aside in the end? Who will point the way?

I liked Williams quite a lot and yet the Miracle Glu of humor is something it is hard to envy. Humor comes from the outside and being on the outside is a tricky and painful business.

I guess the Buddhists are about right -- suffering points the way. Wouldn't it be nice if humor were as easy as August to dispense with?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

stepping back from writing

Today, I decided to back away from the once-a-month column I wrote for the local newspaper ... an easy-peasy 650-750 words per month whose difficulty-level once ranked as a 2 or 3 in the writing department.

The interest and willingness seems to have slipped away and I dislike saying I will do something that I really don't much want to do.

Things seem to be heading backwards and I don't like stealing someone else's thunder as a means of enhancing my own noise.

The conflict necessary to any kind of writing ... well, pourquoi ├ža? Dredging up the conflict is an understandable part of writing, but....

I once asked my mother if she would be willing to be interviewed by a young woman about "The Horizontal Man," an Edgar Allan Poe Award-winning novel she wrote in 1947. We were on the phone and I could hear my mother's reluctance even before she spoke.

Finally, she did: "No," she said, "I'm not sure I remember what it was about."