Category Archives: Politics

The Antidote for Campaign Deformation

Time for a day ramble.
A lot of things have my grundies in a twist. This whole Supreme Court ruling whereby trillionaire corporations can stuff the airways with the issues that they want rammed home during election years is beyond me. Not to sound too simplistic, but did someone spike the Justices’ Ensure over the lunch hour? Someone must be behind the bench goosing under those silky robes. Freaky droids in black! I’m sure there is some logic (in their graying brains), but hasn’t campaign finance reform been on the radar for like 25 years?

Hey, I love the new style!

Oh I’m sure that monolithic health care and pharmaceutical corporations will spend their mountains of Benjamins on ads promoting health care reform, raising taxes on the haves, a viable public option for uninsured, and against big bonuses for millionaire CEOs. If you ask me, it’s the new Trojan Horse. Keep an eye on those long, exquisitely produced commercials against everything that the president and the Democrats are working for, credited to some innocuous sounding group like The National Trust… now that wouldn’t be Merck or Exxon, really? Really.

Warning people as this may come as a huge shock: don’t believe everything you see on TV and read on the internet. I must warn you that there is a possibility that what you are reading here is not really dependable either… nahhhhhhhh. You can believe yer Papa. As soon as you disconnect yourself from big Oil, you become a legit resource. I’m pretty disconnected, not totally, but closer. Come a little closer… just come, come take a look.

Oil Drilling on Lake Monona, 2010 (another GOP program)

Speaking of which, the days are getting longer! Temps are slooooooooowly creeping over 30F. We’ve had a little snow – which really jams up in the fender by the chainstays. Last night, when I got to my driveway, I had to walk ‘er up cause the wheel was stuck tight! Whapped it with a broom and now it’s fine.

Statue of Liberty Sunk in Lake Mendota (another GOP program)

And oil rigs have popped up on Lake Monona and Lady Liberty has re-appeared on Lake Mendota. Birds are scarce at the feeders. Crows are cruising. The commute is sweet with the slightly moderating temps. I’m off the studded tire bike, preferring my 650B Takara – which handles the ice and snow pack perfectly. At 6PM the light is perfectly surreal. That far away sun is fingering along the west, smudging the clouds with copper and saffron and Tumeric, hanging just a few seconds longer each day. The capital dome is red this month, and the MGE stacks send their steam trails down wind just a little less each day. Tiny dogs are out walking their owners. Ducks chatter below the Yahara bridge and the tattered coats shuffle in line for their free meal at Ingersol and Wilson. Blinkies blink and stop lights wink and maggots sink on the end of tip ups. I love that garlic fog by the noodle place. You honk, I wave; you honk cause you are pissed at the biker, I keep waving.

Takara 650B Snow Collector

I love that long stretch behind Monroe where the ghost of America’s Railroad still lurks. Run Rabbit, Run! Watch me crank up the Glenway hill, watch me puff, hear me huff. The burger smell at Village Bar. Gas prices are up at BP. Watch our for the ice on Waverly. A Dog barks hello… the cat silhouette in the window. Hey Janie! I’m Home.

Biking home: beats the hell out of Campaign Deformation.


Politics as Usual

Abe is watching you

Maybe it’s the weather. January has been cold here in Madison. We layer ourselves in wool and poly-poly and scarves and mittens and nose warmers. We focus — whether walking, driving, or snow-biking – on the 10 square feet directly in front our noses, that crusty sand and salt strewn path on the way to wherever we are going. Food and hot drinks (or cold alcohol) swim through our brain cells like so many perch in a frozen lake. Give me the remote and a cheap blanket and bring over some more popcorn. I want to forget. I want stay in bed til spring. I want to draw my window on the world until it is just a tiny keyhole with some strange eye-ball peering in, strange and unrecognizable, so I can say “sorry, don’t know you… can’t come in.” I’m even switching off the NPR: too much bad news, too many people blowing themselves up in the name of… I’m not sure they even know who it is.

Maybe I’m being too simplistic, but it seems to me that we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we can’t see the forest for the trees. The haves have carefully drafted methods, smoke screens, to avoid the reality that… we HAVE it and others DON’T and that’s okay. We’ve created illusions that pin the blame on “them” for not trying hard enough, for not educating “themselves” enough. “They’ve” become moochers. People have become ‘them.’ Or as John McCain once stated, as he looked away and jabbed a finger in Barack Obama’s direction: “that one.” Reduce the ‘others’ to bland terminology, to pronouns, and it’s easy divorce yourself from reality. Strip the ‘Human face’ off those suffering, keep them away with a 40 foot pole, and we avoid the void. “They” went bankrupt because they couldn’t afford “their” medical bills? That’s “their” problem. Who wants to shell out more tax dollars to help ‘them’ anyway? I got what I need. I’d rather support a war and wealthy bankers anyway, right?

the weight

And now, when an estimated 200,000 residents of a country in our own hemisphere may have perished in an earthquake in Haiti… where perhaps millions are homeless, starving, injured, and sick, and we’ve mobilized a huge effort to aid… we finally reach out, get OUT of ourselves. We ‘text’ to donate 10 dollars off our phone bill. Professional basketball players, making $800,00 per game, raise money to reduce the suffering of those living so close to us. We turn our TV’s and radios and internet news devices on and hang on every report, hoping against hope, that another child will be pulled alive from the wreckage of that school.

Meanwhile, the forces AGAINST change continue to mobilize.
They are un-phased by the Haiti tragedy, a stark illustration of suffering by humans (not ‘thems’) who just didn’t have enough. They -err, Republicans and naysayers and blue dogs, will continue to stir up their gumbo of misrepresentation and falsehoods and fear-mongering. And with a little luck, they will derail the health care reform bill, or turn it into a Health Insurance Provider Enhancement bill, guaranteed to line the pockets of the already wealthy. So while we work hard to comfort the two million who are suffering in Haiti, the forty million Americans who don’t have adequate insurance coverage will continue to succumb to diseases when they shouldn’t, fall into debt and bankruptcy, or suffer stress because they don’t know what they will do when they do fall ill.

Now that is what I call progress.

President Obama is not to blame (although millions of nodding heads, mesmerized by right-wing pundits, have bought into that). He is a compassionate man whose core value is to reach out and help those who don’t have the safety and security that health care brings. Congress is not really to blame. Politicians are just wind up creatures doing the bidding of their parties. Pork is what they are after. Compassion is way down their list of priorities. If anyone is to blame it’s the American People. We need to be heard. When our voices are heard, change happens. If we are complacent, nothing happens. Nothing.

In the early 60’s When Martin Luther King urged Lyndon Johnson to draft Civil Rights Legislation, LBJ drawled: “Martin… I’m just not seeing it, I’m just not hearing it. Make me hear it and I’ll push a bill through.” And so Rev. King led hundreds of thousands of Americans through the streets, shouting and singing the message, until our leaders could not avoid the fact that CHANGE had to happen.

It’s time to take to the streets and be heard again. Make government be for the people and not for special interests.

Tripping through the Social Network Alleys

“I was thinkin’ about my hundred old lovers,
How we’d weave the cloth of our sleep, how we’d kick off the covers.
But where you’ve all gone to I’ll never know,
And maybe there were only 50 or so.”

all excerpts by Greg Brown from the song “Twenty or So

Statistics bear out that FACEBOOK is now the 3rd largest country on the planet. The largest growing segment of that social network are planetary citizens over the age of fifty-five. In a couple weeks, I’ll fall into that demographic. Please… pop a few balloons for me. My guess is that half of those ‘boomer’ types joined to spy and snoop on their kids, and the other half have just found a new way to waste time. Hey, who needs to e-mail around those nauseatingly saccharine e-mails with pictures of cute kitties and heartwarmingly generic messages when, on FACEBOOK, you can go to “What’s my British Name” or “I bet Wisconsin can get 1 million fans before any other state.” People don’t send e-mail anymore, they send messages to your Facebook inbox.  They don’t sprawl out or luxuriate in long hand; they express themselves in 140 characters or less. Ha! I can barely say hello in 140 characters.

The big deal with FACEBOOK is:   everyone is on it!   You can search and find (and maybe even destroy) with such ease that it’s frightening. The upside of that is if you are a business, you can toss your product out there like a perforated can of wormy dog food suspended over a catfish pond, and the whiskery customers will find you in no time. Before you know it, you’ve got a thousand ‘fans’ and your message is out. Really, this is not a bad thing. The writing is on the FACEBOOK wall for paper media: Newspapers are dropping like flies. Magazines are turning into e-Zines, and the post office is dying a slow death, delivering nothing but local coupon mailers and bogus credit card solicitations from Delaware and South Dakota (c’mon guys, give it up already). The medium is the message and the medium is online.

So I joined and toddled along on FACEBOOK for some time.  I collected 20 ‘friends’ (mostly my kids, my siblings, and their kids, and one or two acquaintances). then a couple weeks ago, I got found by a friend of mine from high school. We’ll call him F. to preserve his identity (in case there are any goon squads out to get him). I didn’t know what to do at first.  It had been 32 years (he informed me) since we last spoke. He had two FACEBOOK friends (by name, they appeared to be his kids, so he fell into category A, perhaps). We started exchanging messages and darned if it’s all good. He’s still a bit ‘abstract’ but well centered, like my old chum from school  but with gray hair. He’s done alright for himself. We managed to ‘converse’ about ideas new and old, avoiding the rut of ‘kicking the past’s ass all night long’ as too often happens with old, out-of-touch friends. He remembers artwork I created almost 35 years ago and asks me about it; he looks forward to seeing more of my work someday. We laugh about Dylan and the psychedelic days, and I tell him his ideas have endured. He still intrigues me. Making connections is not as scary as I thought it would be.   So I figure… maybe I should see who is out there.

And so I start typing names into the FACEBOOK search box…

“May you find great apartments with very low rent,
May you always have a friend when your money is spent.
May your parents live long; may your debts all be paid,
May your clothes fit you right; may you all be well laid.”  (GB)

I’m a man so I did what a man usually does: I searched for my old girlfriends. Funny how the thing that get us in trouble is the thing that points the way. In short order I managed to find a few old flames. Here was one (we’ll call her ‘X’ or “B’ or whatever) who actually lives in my town. She looks a little weathered now, a vague image of that squealing teen-aged girl I knew, but the sight of her only brings back the fact that, when I was at my most vulnerable, she cut my heart out, cast it throbbing on the snowy street, and didn’t bother telling me why she did for nearly a month (so it was back when we had these things called letters, delivered by people in blue suits, dropped through a slot in the front door of my north side garden apartment).  I felt better after I got that letter.   Really I did.  And I thank her for at least sending a letter.

I find another, whose last name is the same as a company that cans peas. In her profile pic she looks as young and fresh as when I last saw her buttoning up her shirt at twenty-two (in that same garden apartment!). In the photo she wears a very fancy equestrian helmet, nifty riding outfit, and is standing by a well-trained mare with what appears to be a private stable behind her.   Wow. I can barely maintain two bicycles; I can’t imagine taking care of an animal with such a big mouth.. It reminds me that the SECOND to last time I rode a horse was with her when I was a junior in high school. We galloped around a sunny plot of land in northwest cook county, and then we rolled about in the oats (though I don’t recall sowing any oats that day). The last time I rode a horse was the time I got thrown off a nasty pony near Black River Falls, Wisconsin. As I consider the ‘friend request’ button, my brain wrestles for a reason… a reason to connect.   It was a good time, with her, the time we had.   It was full of many firsts.   The first time you feel that way, it gets embedded in your memory  — like a crabapple tree —  It comes back, the feeling, blooming pink and sweet, every few years… even when I’ve forgotten what she looks like.

So what would I ask her? How are you? Remember me? No? Do you have kids? Did you think that we would have kids together? No? Yes? Did I say yes? Do you make lots of money? Your husband does? You don’t work? No, I’m just saying… not working is fine if you can. Would you love your husband if he made LESS money? It depends? Depends on what? Do you love him? Sorry, it just popped out…  So you ride horses, hmm? Nice.  Do they ever throw you off? Did you see what happened to Christopher Reeve?  Sorry… it just popped into my mind.  Where do I live? Is that necessary? Why did I contact you? You know… I’m not really sure.

“But where you’ve all gone to I’ll never know,
And maybe there were only twenty or so.” (GB)

I don’t mean to sound cynical or negative. Really, I’m not. There was one lover I had who was awful — much worse than ‘X’ or ‘B.’ We’ll call her ‘Z.”  I found her on FB too.   She ended up with a diplomat, living in a Georgetown flat, travels in Europe, talking French all the time (hearing it was like having thorns flowing in my blood… used to make me want to vomit), and she even ended up being dragged through the mud by pundits for a questionable method of getting a job in the foreign service. Most of this I learned on Google! (gosh what a great thing that is, eh?) But I managed to write a wonderfully nasty poem about ‘Z’ and got it out of my system.   More importantly, I learned that relationships (lovers, etc) don’t end because they are taking a break; they end because they are over. We meet, we find, we grow, we take what we can and apply it to a new lover, a new partner, a new garden, a new house, a new story, a new painting or drawing, a new song. That song is over, it’s all behind me. Old lovers are good for sighs and dry tears and stories at cocktail parties and lessons and poems. But the world moves forward. We move on or we sink in the cypress swamp of our minds.

What I found

My new lover is my partner. We are wise because of the time that has passed, and we have listened well. I am where I am now because of each step, each station along the way, each friend and each lover. Each is a note, a stroke of the pen, a seed in the new garden. I’m not perfect, so I write these words ’cause I need to remind myself daily .  I wave and smile at the strange Facebook profile pictures of lovers I used to know but barely recognize, and whisper…

“May you all get great jobs; may you travel in France,
May your cars always start; may you have hot romances.
May your children be sturdy; may you swim in the sea,
May you smile a little if you think of me.” (GB)

Now I better go check on my daughter’s FB status. I think she’s got a new friend!

The Black Donut Hole at the End of the Year

The end of the year – nay, The end of the decade – has arrived again. And once again we get ready for that annual ritual: the placing of the foot on the ass-end of the ano and giving it a good shove off the cliff into the ever-deepening abyss of time. Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch, and to quell any guilt or remorse we have in the afterglow of this kicking, we apply all manner of novacaines to our brains until the ball drops: from vodka to vicodin to Maui Wowie, we poor it down until only hair of the dog and four hits of Advil will rescue us. (Personally, I haven’t been to a New Year’s Eve party in decades).

Now is the place in the blog where you expect the usual laundry list of best of or worst of the year/decade/millenium/. Doesn’t that seem a bit predictable for your humble Papa? The fact is if you want to read someone else’s Top 10 list, you can simply click HERE and enter your favorite series of words in the search box at Google. But if you must, HERE is an actual link to a curious list that has that one key ingredient going for it that I find lacking in LARGE sectors of today’s society (and I don’t mean Sector A where hamburger is all over the highway near Mystic, Connecticut): a sense of humor. More on humor later.

Every day I wake up and the radio says death death die die kill kill Jon and Kate suck suck suck, America sucks, you suck, the UK sucks, Democrats suck, republicans suck, Obama… health care for everyone sucks, money for drugs, money for banks, suck suck suck. C’mon ladies and gentlemen of the media, lighten up. LIfe is pretty stressful, being subjected to the ‘news’ like this… it’s enough to want to blow up my TV or radio! So maybe I will! One side-effect of all this is: I’m listening to vinyl records again. Plus, we are doing lots of crossword puzzles, reading books, and eating tons of food. Eating is quite the thing and I’d recommend it for everyone. Perhaps Google will put books on vinyl (I’m sure they will be in the wholesale food business by the end of the next decade). Vinyl books might hasten the end of our supply of oil (perhaps a good thing? Tune up your bicycles, folks). I’m not really sure where I’m going with this one… but if you feel like going for a walk to talk about it, I’d be happy to meet you at the Google Café for a low-fat skim Chai Latte with skinny whip.

Speaking of Google, perhaps one of the most overlooked stories of the year (or the past few years) is the Google Books project. This is an undertaking where Google, in its attempt to become the third largest planet in the universe, is digitizing some 65 trillion books. This careful process, shrouded in mystery and guarded by muscular, nerdy guys from Winnetka, Westchester, and Yorba Linda, digitally copies books, allowing them to be readable on line or downloadable as PDF files. Google claims to have extracted permission from the authors – even using its own ‘Wayback’ machine to get okays from the likes of Melville, William Blake, and that Roman cat with the cool hair doo.

Sherman and Peabody Google Setting the Wayback to 33 AD to get permission from some real bad cats!

Now instead of 20 Gigabytes of illegally downloaded music on my hard-drive that I never listen to (I don’t own an iPod), I can have 200 gigabytes of college text books, Lincoln biographies and Easy Origami guides that I’ll never read.

I say why not. If you have the where-with-all, then go for it. Rumor has it that Google is buying NASA and starting its own space program. As long as a scientist has a say in their decisions, I say it’s probably fine (pictures of my house from outer space is getting a little old… how bout a little variety? How about some pictures of some fricking aliens already??). The last I heard, Google had a probe launched, heading for the Black Donut Hole. I realize that it takes money to undertake such an undertaking, but I was all over the black hole as a donut concept 40 years ago. I can say with all certainty that at least 2 of my friends and I had a dozen or more conversations on the theory that black holes were not holes but doughnut shaped celestial phenomena. On at least one occasion, myself and those two unnamed tripping buddies and Timothy O’Learny sketched out the concept while prostrate on the grass at Gilson Park. If it hadn’t been for the 10 thousand trails behind those migrating geese, we might have gotten this thing pinned down, but, damn! Whoa! Holy crap! Watch out! That is so fucking far out!

So Here’s how it works:
The universe is imagined as doughnut shaped (dough-nuts are so named because they are shaped like nuts). Matter is rapidly migrating around the donut (notice: multiple spellings!), being drawn into the hole (which was once part of the doughnut until it was deep-fried and sold off at the Safeway super market in the rain).

Black Donut Hole 567809A

The matter, represented here as colorful ‘sprinkles’ that are often seen on doughnuts marketed for kids or stoned teenagers, are drawn to the hole. The gravity at the hole is the equivalent to that felt by a 1500 pound person living on Venus. Eventually the slope is too steep and the matter flies into the hole, being ground into smaller and smaller sprinkles called sprinklettes. Since we are on this side of the donut we can’t really tell what is happening on the other side (think Pink Floyd and The Dark Side of the Moon). A likely scenario is that you get hungry and just eat the donut. But if you could see the other side, you’d find a whole new world where the matter is pulsing out like Disneyland. Eventually this matter is reformed – like in the big bank theory – into new corporations, tadpoles, ferns, troglodytes, roller skates, skateboards, and porcelain vanities. Reference: Evidence of Black Holes On Earth by clicking here. This factual recollection – factual because it was posted on the internet – backs up the suppository of the Black Donut Hole. (People worry about that dog, the one heard barking ominously by the trees… Clarence says that dog died in that frozen pond, But that’s a lie! that dog went to war – he got the Congressional Medal of Honor, he saved the lives of every man on that transport.. As long as Google busies itself with this kind of endeavor, I don’t see any reason why it can’t subvert the history of written texts. Our eyes are going to hell in a hand cart anyway.

I hope the coming year is good for you, and if NPR is listening, lighten up. Twenty-four hours of This American Life would be perfect!

It comes like a wheel, a turning of steel, a rotary feeling

The world is changing and the world stands still.  Mostly time just rambles by way too fast and the child grows up too quickly and the hair falls out and the nose hair needs clipping and the car stops working and knee doesn’t hurt it is just a ‘challenge’ and the groceries are heavier and Friday means  Saturday is next and  Sunday and Monday.

Do we draw a straight line and follow it or do we scribe a crooked path, get lost, and throw away the watch? How about the car? What’s with the car anyway?  Sure. Freedom.  How about no car? Hey, is this one of those Car-Free things? Is that what this BLOG is all about?  (BLOG?) Some guy preaching to us – get rid of your cars, your lawnmowers, your computers, your TV’s, your ATV’s, your ATM’s, DMV, your micro-wave and your edible food-like substances? Hell no.  I love my Dr. Who and the occasional sporting event and 30 Rock (and some other shows that I won’t admit to).  It’ll be funny if this blog is still alive in a few years when those are extinct.

I do like my push mower and my bicycles. And my guitar upon which I can play songs in the Key of D like it’s no one’s business. And my mark makers. And my wife and all the kids (names will be left out to protect the innocent and the not-so). And beer. Beer is good. Really good beer. Not super expensive beer, you know, 7-8 bucks will get you some really good shit that hangs in your mouth for an hour or so. And pumpkins. Pumpkins are great. And avocados. And bread and chocolate. Gail Ambrosius. Yum. Cabbage. Cabbage I could leave behind but I promise to eat it whenever a significant other makes it.

Here’s a picture of a bicycle that I ride.

Takara Medalist 650B commuter

This is the bike that I ride to work because I sold my car to a graduate student and I like it (uh huh)

I ride in the day and when it is dark. I will try to get some pictures of that ride. That’s what this will be about. It will be about days, and riding, and drawing a line across a town and a state and across a life and the things that intersect (gads, this is getting so spiritual, eh? Zing… the hook goes in the mouth and reel ’em in!) Maybe I’ll promote your blog. I think my sister has a blog. That’s what I will do, I will find her blog and put a link here. We are building a village here!  Now bring all of your unwanted things (wooden and paper please) to the village center and we will have a huge bonfire!