THINKING ABOUT SOCIETAL DIVISIONS

Well, I’m feeling a tad bit under the water…er…the weather today. But that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling awesome. Wait. That’s literally what that means. Anyways, I was thinking about all the content that exists on the Internet, and how little of it we actually know. I mean, think of all the memes you know. Or…don’t know. There are so many memes. Like so many. Seriously, do you think you know them all? I certainly don’t.

Which made me think about how divisive the Internet can be. We all know there is a separation between the news people read. The right reads Breitbart, the left reads Huffpost. Whether or not one is based in fake news and the other is based in reality, there is a split between what people read. Which indicates to me that we are split into sectors in the world. And it makes me curious if people have always been that way. Like, for how long have we drawn lines? That’s what countries are based on, right? Just lines that say “don’t cross this if you aren’t from here.” Before that, we had tribal lines, right? Like…I’m from tribe x and you are from tribe y. We’ve been erecting borders between each other for literally thousands of years.

Which makes me curious of how people dealt with lines before today. I mean, tribes obviously had wars, and those didn’t really end well. To me, that means one of two things. Either, we are a species incapable of change in this manner, in the sense that we are incapable of rising above our animal instincts to kill people who get in our way. OR we just haven’t gotten there yet. Do I have a clue as to what it is? Nope. But I do think that there is strong evidence that shows we haven’t gotten there yet. Firstly, we’ve developed systems to prevent illegal activity. The police are an obvious aspect, though to me it is clear that some amount of reformation needs to occur before it can actually be successful. Laws are another example, though these too are imperfect, since they can be twisted or divided in a way that favors certain groups.

So how do we move forward? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the best way to move forward is to try new things. Big border walls? Not really a knew thing. Strong armed, charismatic leaders? Not really a knew thing. A system that promotes the well being of the economic elite? Not really a knew thing. But that’s just my two cents. What do you think?

 

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A PAIN IN THE NECK

Waking up with a kink in your neck

is a lot like waking up with a stick up your ass,

especially when you can’t quite get it out

because you can’t position yourself right.

 

Which is how I felt when I awoke this morning

to the gleeful cries of my children

as they clambered onto the bedsheets

with the sun-filled eyes that children have.

 

On mornings like those, the words of my father

echo through my head like church bells

“if you stay up that late, it’ll be a wonder

if you get anything done at all.”

 

Of course, I am an atheist,

and I managed to have a couple kids,

so it seems to me that a short night’s sleep

is probably worth the pains in the neck.

——

 

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THE TWO DIMENSIONAL WOMAN

I dream myself, one night, inside the seams of the wallpaper, looking in on our house. It was a wonderful feeling—to be utterly flat, and without a care in the world, living in the second dimension. My family was there, staring back at me, like a crayon picture that had learned to dance about. There were all sort of secrets that I learned about behind the closed doors. My son hid candy he had stolen beneath his clothes in his second drawer. My daughter had a very handsome boyfriend (that was a shock, speaking that he had never come through the front door)! Whenever my mother would stop by to visit, she would comment on how the couch pillows didn’t match the rest of the household, but only under her breath when everyone else was out of the room. It became quite a life.

I eventually figured out how to move from wallpaper to electrical wire, street signs, and so on, until I could make myself useful and run errands. Nothing like getting groceries—two dimensional hands don’t work to well with carrying things. But I could deposit checks, and when I figured out how to walk inside the computer, I really made my way into a different world. My husband would open Word documents, and I would get to rearrange the letters he typed on the page. It made for mischievous fun, and great laughter.

But then I found out a secret that I wished I hadn’t. One that, living in three dimensions, I had never had to worry about. My husband kept a journal on his bedside table, and I had never looked at it before, since it was personal, but while trying to learn to transfer from wall to paper, I accidentally fell into the pages. The first few pages were beautiful. He drew, and wrote, and occasionally scribbled. There was a poem about me. It was like walking in a field of daisies.

It wasn’t until halfway through that things took a bad turn. The daisies were replaced by dead roses, and the sunny skies became covered with thunder clouds, and the beautiful words grew harsh and jagged. He missed me; resented my freedom. Jealousy, anger, loneliness, depression, stress, and all sorts of real world issues fell on his shoulders in the place of mine.

To relax, he had taken up staying late at work. I had never check in on him there, because overcoming the rocky hills he was stationed in had proved too difficult. Apparently, there was a woman he worked with, Stephanie, who had recently transferred from Washington. She had been staying late with him, and they had been entwining together as I entwined with the paintings in the living room.

Which is when I woke up, feeling lonely in the middle of the night, to see him laying next to me. There’s nothing quite like cuddling up with someone after feeling like you lived a whole lifetime apart from them.

——

 

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DISMEMBERED THOUGHTS

Well it looks like this is the end of the line. I’m rolling down the steps now, and the whole world is spinning around me. I can even hear the sputtering coming from my neck a ways off; back at the guillotine. It must have been comical for the crowd when my head bounced off the rim of the basket and down the steps—I could vaguely make out the bubbling laughter the exhibited as I bounced and turned wildly.

But here I am now, sitting—can we even call it sitting if I can’t take a seat?—as a dismembered head, looking out over the horizon. It was a kindness of them to remove the weight of my shoulders on such a lovely day. The sun was just starting to set, and the bright orange of the clouds hadn’t quite turned that lovely hue of pink yet. The air was cool, but not cold, and the wind was just light enough to be pleasant.

It reminded me of the days with my mother, out on the fields before all of this happened. Those were they days when things felt so much simpler. I could go out running, away from all the noise and struggles. My mother worked so hard then, though at that time I hadn’t a clue. I wonder what she would think of me if she saw me now.

Flash forward a dozen years, when I set off. That was the last time I saw her. Her age was finally starting to shine through, but I was dead set on making my life what I wanted it to be. Not ten miles out from my home I found a woman, about my age, with long blonde hair and a proud smile. She accompanied me for a while.

Another dozen years flew by, and I saw myself grow into a hardened criminal. The thin beard of my previous visions had grown rustic and gruff. Life had not gone my way. I had been forced to steal and pillage to make a living, and in my own way, I found success. I had gained notoriety, and the crown had placed a bounty on my head. In turn, I burned down their capital building and stole their princess. She was returned without a scratch—I’m not a monster—but only after they had exhausted their vast wealth looking for her.

Then at fifty, things began to change. I watched my limbs grown thin and my heart grown darker. I nearly lost my first fight then, to a younger, heartier lad, and I only won because I played dirty. When he pinned me, I spit in his eye and stuck him with my knife, then cut my own belly and swapped the knife to his hand, to make it look like, in self-defense, I had managed to kill him with his own knife. He bled out groveling in pain. But the damage had been done. I realized time was not on my side, nor was it on the side of any living being, and I went back to see my home.

They had left it abandoned, and I took up residence for a time there. I grew fatter, and for a time I like to think that I was happy. Until one day, the corporal found out just who I was, and they took my in. By that time, I was too brittle to put up a fight.

And here I am now, stretching out the last moments of my life, just to watch the sun set one last time. That was my mother’s favorite time of the day, but it looks like I’m not going to get to see the sun fall behind the mountains this time. My vision is already growing hazy, and I can hardly manage the strength to keep my eyes open. At least now, maybe, I will get the time for some rest.

——

 

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A JOB WELL ENJOYED

Hello there!

I haven’t talked directly with my readers in a while, and speaking that I am writing this 16 minutes before it is supposed to go up, and I had no idea what to talk about, today seems like a good day to do that. And it is a great day to be talking directly with you all. We (mainly my father and I) just finished the major portion of our front yard redesign.

Which makes me want to talk about work from a personal perspective. While I was watering the grass we put in today, I was thinking about how a botanist (probably) loves plants, but may not actually enjoy the tedious aspects of the job; like cutting the rectangular grass so that it matches the rounded edges of the space in which it is being placed. Or maybe doing the mathematics to make sure you don’t over order grass.

Similarly, a teacher may love teaching, but in the remodeling of their room, they may find that it is less than enjoyable. I mean, there is a reason people look down on the mundane jobs of the world, like janitors, trash collectors, and day laborers. Their jobs have no room for passion really. They have little control, and the work they do is always terrible (not the quality of the work they do, but the requirements put on them).

Which is to say that our default nature is that we don’t inherently enjoy the mundane tasks of life. Which I guess is obvious, but at the same time, people talk about making the best of things. How do you make the best of something that you are programed not to like?

I honestly don’t know the answer, but I thought it would be an interesting question to pose. Let me know what you think!

 

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LOOKING FOR WORDS

I started out searching in regular places:

under the coffee table, between seat cushions;

I could always find a couple handy ones

hiding between the pages of the dictionary,

 

but like a pair of lost keys, the first few places

often yield unsatisfactory results—particularly

when one is in a crazed rush to find them. Then,

under the pressures to get going, I will begin looking

 

in stranger places—like underneath the sink,

inside the empty spaces of an egg carton, and

even within the frozen depths an ice tray,

like fossils hidden in the arctic that are needed

to complete the evolutionary chain

 

that is the last poem I need for my book.

But then it will happen, in a sinking sigh of relief,

that I will spot them sticking out on the counter

beneath that morning’s newspaper,

which sports a headline that always seems to read

that the world is coming to an end.
And now that the words have suddenly

put me in motion, I can’t help feeling silly

that I didn’t spot them lying there sooner.

——

 

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DEFEATED BEFORE BREAKFAST

When I woke up, I was already defeated. The thick, mass of blankets pinned me down, while waves of lethargy threatened to drown me beneath them. My eyes felt hazy, as though I had awoke intoxicated by some unknown drug, and every muscle in my body seemed to whisper stay just a little while longer. Gravity itself pulled me back toward the warm confines of the bed when I finally rocked myself up.

And as I stumbled about my room, the cozy grooves of the carpet felt like roots, begging me to drink their nutrients and become a tree. The shivers of cool air whisking through the window cut me deep in my nudity, as if to order me back to bed. The same was true for the bathroom tiles, the shock of frigid water, and the hasty toweling off. I looked at myself in the mirror—might I mention that looking in the mirror in the morning is never a good idea. My salt and pepper beard was scruffy; I looked older than I was. Though, in truth, I felt older than I looked. Which meant, that morning, I could only conclude that I had no idea how old I was, but that “old” was certainly the correct descriptive word.

Looking in that mirror was the last twist of the knife though. It was like watching the walls of Constantinople crumble, or the Russian winter cripple Napoleon’s armies. I saw myself—my sunken eyes, my wrinkled arms, and my weakened knees—and the miniscule warmth in my heart was snuffed out. I picked up the phone and dialed some numbers.

“Hello?” A familiar female voice called out to me.

“Hi, Allie, it’s Jim. I’m not feeling well today. I’ve got a 103 fever, and I’m not going to make it in today.” I could hear the pause as she typed out a few things

“Well hi Jim. I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well, but didn’t you get the email?” There was a note of sorrow in her voice.

“What email?”

“Oh. Well they rescheduled you. You don’t have to come in until tomorrow at five.”

“Oh. Well thanks for telling me. When did they send out the email?”

“This morning,” my heart stung with annoyance as she spoke, “don’t you check everyday?”

“No. Do you?”

“Hmm well you should.” She sounded bored.

“Well, thanks for telling me that,” I said, “talk to you later.”

“By Jim!” then the phone clicked off.

I climbed back into bed and pulled the covers up. They had cooled since I had left them. At least my defeat didn’t actually cost me anything.

——

 

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REVIEWING THE BOOK REVIEW

Book reviews always make me curious. I love them, but at the same time, I wonder why people read them. And people DO read them, The Los Angeles Review of Books (aka LARB), which is a lovely website, thrived when they filled a void that existed in the industry for book reviews—but I wanted to talk about the idea of a book review.

When I think of a book review, I think of some detailed discussion about a few things. 1) What the book was about, 2) the key elements of the plot, themes, and other motifs, and finally 3) how it all relates to the bigger picture of life. Which is certainly something that matters to the overall discourse of the world, isn’t it? It presents a different interpretation, as well as potentially missed aspects of a story someone read.

Yet papers often run book reviews concurrent to release dates. LARB does this sometimes, though they also do book reviews of things several years down the lines. The classic book review though, which is designed to boost the popularity of a book on release, comes out often the same day as the book. Which doesn’t make sense to me. What discourse can that add to the world? It will get lost in the paper. I’m not going to finish my brand new book, track down the now week-old paper, and reread a book review to really understand how it ties into the bigger picture of things. Not when Goodreads comments often add just as much value. No wonder that industry went through a pretty hard reset.

How would I improve this? Well, I mean it’s really just adjusting the dates of release. If a book releases Wednesday, and it takes two weeks for the average person to finish reading…well then they should publish the review two weeks later. It’s not like a superfan is going to be upset the review is a bit later, and people often rave about books the most right when they finish. Repetition and intensity are what make people remember a product.

What do you think? Would you rather read a review a few weeks later? Let me know in the comments!

——

 

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ACTIVE YOUTH

It struck me in the back of the cafeteria,

between the meat pie and the chicken,

that I am not an active youth. Sure

I hike, and I run, and occasionally

I will take a trip out to the sea,

 

But that isn’t the active youth anymore,

that’s the active old man. That’s my dad.

A wonderful, respected man, but

certainly one “of his time.” A time,

 

nowadays, that is long past. Overtaken

like the Wright brothers were

by the juggernaut of American Airlines.

Oh, we’ll always remember those boys

 

in our comfortable window seats,

viewing the clouds like Zeus on Olympus,

munching down complimentary pretzels

on our cheap, plastic, fold-out trays

 

not unlike how I remembered my father

from that lonely table on that Saturday night,

who was revolutionizing the world

long before I was ever born.

——

 

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PRIME TIME DISCUSSION

If there is one thing that I have learned about over the last few weeks, it is that being a good person does not always equate to being a (financially) successful person. Which is not to say that there isn’t room in the world for more good people, but rather to qualify that the world as we know it may not be in a good place.

Recently, I heard a talk by Cory Doctorow, who is a brilliant guy and very engaged in the world as we know it. The key point that really stuck with me through his talk was this: There is no good or bad in the world, there is only people with leverage and people without leverage. This was backed up by a slew of examples, that included major businesses like Amazon, YouTube, and so on, where the simple number of people using these platforms outweighs any individual power. Think about it. Amazon literally said “oh hey, lets make a day called Amazon Prime Day” and it exploded. That’s a business with leverage that is more powerful than many governments.

And I’m not trying to say that Amazon is all bad or anything. I mean, I use it, my family loves it, and they have done a lot for the various communities, which has allowed many groups to be successful that otherwise never would have been. But it is a bit concerning to me that one business can hold so much power. Especially since they are not transparent. Now, I don’t know that a business should be entirely transparent, just as I don’t know that we as individuals should be. I mean, I certainly don’t wish to be monitored 24/7. That would make me paranoid and probably cause an early death. But at the same time, it frightens me that one of these businesses could be lobbying for changes that damage the core of our values, without us even realizing it. In some cases, it might be that they simply have to not get in the way.

For example, there are plenty of businesses that stood to gain by having Donald Trump elected, but with his unpopular choice of words, they could very easily back Hillary Clinton and publically donate to her campaign, thereby saving face. At worst, she wins and they are on good footing with her because of how much they contributed. At best, Trump gets elected, and suddenly all these regulations, like, I don’t know, the Paris Agreement, go away, and these groups get to maximize their profit by not sticking to emissions standards. Just a hypothetical. But likely one that did occur.

Regardless, it is always good to be keeping an eye out for what is going on in the world, and to see when the number match the public representation a company presents (and when they don’t).

——

 

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