Daily Prompt: No Fair — AS SEEN ON TV

The advertisement pointed out a truth. Any company which needs to depend on binding contracts and punitive early withdrawal fees to keep customers from fleeing to other providers isn’t doing a good job. I was nodding agreement when I realized that the source of the advert was Charter Communications, one of the biggest thieves in the corporate world. Cable companies are — for good reason — the most hated service providers in these United States. The rage many of us hold towards our cable companies is intense. Mine alone could probably, if harnessed as raw energy, power a small city.

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Yet there they are. The biggest, baddest bald-faced liars, deploring the business practices of other companies — companies that have marketplace competitors. Unlike Charter and other cable providers who have a monopoly on services for the areas they “service.”

We don’t choose them. We have no choice. If we want digital service — Internet, television and sometimes telephones — we have to use them. It’s un-American, wrong, infuriating. It’s no fair!!

We’re not fleeing to other providers because we can’t. The way these services are structured, there’s only one game in town. For us, it’s Charter. For other’s, it’s Warner or Comcast or whatever.

In this day and age, it’s hard to believe anyone can argue that Internet, television and broadband are luxuries rather than necessities. Yet the last time I talked to someone at Charter’s customer disservice, she told me I don’t need Internet service. Don’t need a telephone. Or television. I think I swallowed my tongue. I don’t remember. I was so angry my mind went hazy and the remainder of the conversation is (probably mercifully) a blur.

I almost chipped a tooth watching that ad on television. The level of misleadingness (is that a word? it ought to be) was profound. How dare they? Aren’t there any laws about this sort of thing? What happened to truth in advertising?

My office by window lightWhat happened to truth?

All of us have a great many things about which to be angry. If I get started, I might never stop. I would never run out of things I’m mad about, that are unjust, unfair, totally not okay but with which I have to put up because I have no choice.

The state of the economy, the state of the world, the state of everything.

The horrible way companies treat us while taking our hard-earned money. The lies we are told by corporations, by our elected representatives. By supposed news purveyors. Even by people we know and believed we could trust. Not to mention (okay, I just mentioned them) the lies we tell ourselves. I hate those most of all because it’s so hard to find someone to blame.

I try not to think about it because it’s just going to make my blood pressure go up and that wouldn’t be good.

But honestly. Talk about nerve! Charter Communications, distributors of the most over-priced, erratic services. With the worst customer service on earth. They are taking the moral high ground? Really? Mind you these are people who manage to so alienate their customers they lose money while holding a monopoly, a company that would never survive actual market competition and which apparently is unlikely to survive even with the deck stacked in their favor.

How come we don’t form an angry mob and storm their offices? I’ll go if you will!

Daily Prompt: What a Twist! The Boston Nanny Trial – A True Story

For those of you who follow “big trials,” in 1997 when Garry was working, there was a huge one in Boston. We were living in Boston and as engrossed as everyone else with the trial. Garry was covering the courtroom and had a good perch for hearing the whole story. We would discuss it at night over dinner and sometimes, long afterward.

It was a big media-circus in which a young British woman (Louise Woodward) had been nanny for a baby who died of what seemed surely to have been shaken baby syndrome (that finding has since been disputed). The jury convicted her of second degree murder and she was sentenced to 15 to life.

On reconsideration, Judge Zobel reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter, stating that “the circumstances in which the defendant acted were characterised by confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice in the legal sense supporting a conviction for second-degree murder,” adding: “I am morally certain that allowing this defendant on this evidence to remain convicted of second-degree murder would be a miscarriage of justice” and just sent the girl back to England. Garry covered the story. It produced quite a storm of controversy.

I don’t think the judge (Hiller B. Zobel.) thought her innocent, just that nothing would be served by sending her to jail. I doubt the baby’s parents were happy with the verdict.

Our system is designed to make the law flexible by allowing human considerations to prevail — sometimes — over legal ones. Within the checks and balances of our government, we have even more checks and balances in the courtroom. That was the only time in my life I’ve ever seen a judge overturn a jury verdict. It isn’t done very often, for sure.

Woodward’s sentence was reduced to time served (279 days) and she was freed. Assistant District Attorney Gerald Leone then appealed the judge’s decision to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Woodward’s lawyers also asked the court to throw out her manslaughter conviction. The court affirmed the guilty verdict by a 7-0 vote.

In a 4-3 split decision, the court rejected the prosecution’s appeal against reduction of the conviction to involuntary manslaughter. On 16 June 1998. Woodward was returned to the United Kingdom. She studied law, then changed her mind and became a dance teacher (huh?). This is one of those stories that leaves one doing a lot of head-scratching.

The conviction had a side effect of defeating pending legislation in Massachusetts that would have restored capital punishment in the Commonwealth. I was personally just as glad. Garry was not, proving that you can agree on almost everything, but not necessarily on the death penalty. Legal killing is just a bit too much like playing God for my taste.

Bat Masterson (left) and Wyatt Earp in Dodge C...

Bat Masterson (left) and Wyatt Earp in Dodge City, 1876.

It’s a unique system of justice we have. Whatever else you might say about it (and there’s plenty to say), sometimes the magic works. Sometimes not so well. I worry, especially when we approve obviously illegal actions and in particular, vigilante justice.

I would prefer we convict and then commute or overturn a verdict than put an official seal of approval to the perception of “he deserved it” neo-frontier justice. It’s a matter of sending the right message, that it’s not okay to decide to be the law because we already have a system of law … even though it’s imperfect.

Law is a human institution. Until we are all perfect, our laws won’t be perfect either.

Cowboy justice has great crowd appeal. We love Wyatt Earp coming to town with guns blazing. It makes us feel safe, unless of course those guns are blazing at us or ours.

Being part of any minority tends to make one permanently paranoid. Our legal system hasn’t got a good track record of protecting the vulnerable members of our society. It’s nice — in my opinion — when we err on the side of mercy. You can’t undo a death, legal or otherwise. It’s supposed to be justice, not revenge. We have both a culture and tradition of vigilante justice that sometimes overrides our common sense and brains.

The meaning of everything

We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means. Why bad stuff happens. Whether or not a malevolent deity has it in for us. It’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. To accept the total randomness of events is rough.

Like you, I’ve put a good bit of thought into how come my life has fallen apart not once, but a several times. I know I’m not perfect, but come on! It’s not like I ripped off everyone’s retirement money or slaughtered thousands of people because I think they are ethnically inferior. Whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.

I was pondering this stuff when I was a teenager, which is why I studied it in college and kept exploring it through the decades since. One day, I woke up and knew the truth. All was revealed.

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I Don’t Know Anything. Neither Do You.

Suddenly random happenstance is as meaningful as anything else. What a relief to realize I don’t need an explanation. Stuff happens. I spent years — decades — thinking in circles, but now I am perfectly content displaying my lack of knowledge for all the world to see (and admire).

Just like when I was 12. I’ve been considering founding a church. I could enlist a lot of followers. My church  would require no beliefs. It would need no contributions of time or money. It wouldn’t even require that you show up, unless you happened to feel like it. There would be no rules to follow, no standards to live up to. No angry deity to get pissed off if you behave badly. It would ideally suit the modern lifestyle, don’t you think?

Faith and Proof

Faith is not proof; it’s opinion in fancy clothing.

You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. You take the same leap of faith believing in God or declaring yourself an atheist. Both positions require you take as absolute something for which you have no proof and for which you can never have proof. If believing in a loving God makes your world feel rational, that’s good. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ll have backed a winner. If believing there is no God, and science is the path to Truth, go with that. Regardless, you’re  making a faith-based choice because there’s no proof God exists or doesn’t exist.

As for me, I don’t know; I stand firmly behind my refusal to take a stand.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Accepting you know nothing is a big step, so the next issue to tackle is how can you can cash in on your new understanding. What’s the point in knowing the meaning of life unless you can awe people with your brilliance? But no one is going to be dazzled unless you know the right words. Terminology is important.

Learn Big Words

Big words (4 or more syllables) if used in an appropriate setting, can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds indicating their admiration. This will help you get lucky. Employing big words enhances your likelihood of getting a management position. You can write important books.Have a blog like me. Big words can take you a long way if you are skilled at deploying them.

Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.

Epistemology

Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? 

I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything. Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, concepts, and appliances. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical. (Remember infinite sets from college math? It’s like that.)

Phenomenology

On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. Except the same reasoning can prove there is no God. This is the joy of phenomenology.

Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation:

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.

In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.

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Become a Fount of Wisdom

You can now explain anything. Everything. You can prove things based on something a couple of friends said years ago while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Although others may fault your logic, in the world of academics, everyone disbelieves everyone else unless they are citing them as a source, so you might as well stick your oar in the water.

There are people who will attack you using faith. Faith is based on itself making it hard to dispute. Not to worry. The only one who is ever fully convinced by faith is the one who holds it. Nor does it really matter how many people believe or disbelieve it. Having more believers doesn’t transform faith into fact. If it did, we could achieve some really nifty things. Like, say we all believe in magic and therefore, it exists. Cool.

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve clarified everything. If not, feel free to have your people call my people. We’ll talk.

THE FBI CAN’T DO A SIMPLE GOOGLE SEARCH? THE REBLOG

Marilyn Armstrong:

You know, with all of that …. they never did credit the group or finish the plot they started on that premier episode in 2012. They seem to have just abandoned it with no resolution. Anyone think they’ll ever come back to it?

Originally posted on SERENDIPITY:

On Criminal Minds in the première episode for the 2012-2013 season, the “perp” sews a victims mouth shut but in his mouth leaves the message “Gazing through to the other side.” The BAU FBI team cannot find any reference to this quote. So I typed it into Google and hit Enter. Guess what?

It’s part of a song, the lyrics to which essentially are the plot of the episode in which the first four victims are women, thrown into ditches, with their mouths sewn shut.

If I can find this in one hit on Google, is the FBI less capable than I? Unable to do the most basic Google search? There isn’t anything more basic than typing in what you want to know about then hitting Enter, is there? My granddaughter could do this kind of search before she was in first grade.

If anyone thinks I believe the…

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Daily Prompt: Blogger With a Cause. Not.

“If your day-to-day responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?”

The answer is … I wouldn’t. In the immortal words of Phil Ochs, “I ain’t marchin’ anymore.”

I marched against war and for peace.

I marched for civil rights.

I campaigned for universal health care and free care for anyone who needs it.

I marched against evil and for justice all my life and now, it’s time for a younger generation with better feet and hips to do the marching. I’m not sure, after all that marching whether or not I even accomplished anything … other than to make denim a fashion fabric.

I have discovered that the world spins on its axis and night follows day whether or not I march.

Good luck. Take sandwiches and something to drink.

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Daily Prompt: To pledge allegiance and mean it

I promise to love my country and no one has to force me to do it. I will love the United States regardless, but like a child, I won’t always approve of her behavior.

Flag on our Library

One of the things I love best about this nation is exactly that we are allowed to say we don’t care for what she is doing, what her leaders are doing. There’s no Hell to pay for it. No one comes in the middle of the night to arrest me for saying — or publishing — what I think. You can disagree with me. The government can disagree with me. Everyone can send me strongly worded messages opposing whatever it is they find objectionable in what I say, do or publish … but that’s as far as it goes. At least so far.

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We may not be nice to one another, but we don’t have concentration camps — not anymore — and we’ve managed to make some progress towards equality in the past 60 years. Okay, we aren’t there yet, but at least we seem to be trying to go in the right direction.

Not Flags of War

Even when historically, we derail for a while, we equally historically find our way back to the good path, though it may take more time than we like. Ours may not be the best form of government on earth … but if it isn’t, please show me the better one? Because I haven’t found it. And I have looked. However imperfectly this government functions, there is none better. Maybe there are a few just as good — arguably, anyhow — but not superior.

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Does that make me a patriot? I think it does. I think the Constitution is a brilliant, if flawed, document that has shown itself to be flexible enough to grow with the changes in the world. If only mens’ minds were equally flexible.

Ghoul Soldier

I believe we are strong enough to survive hard times, bad presidents, well-intentioned but wrong presidents, bad legislation, bad legislators, scandal, corruption and stupid wars. And still be a good people. If that isn’t patriotism, then I don’t know what is. I am not always proud of this country, but I always love it.

Republicans and Democrats can be friends? OMG!!

When I read this comment, it was posted in regard to the YouTube video of President Barack Obama’s dedication speech at yesterday’s MLK Memorial. I was horrified :

“… the Republicans and Democrats hold hands behind your backs. It’s like pro wrestling, they act like they’re enemies in front of you but are good friends behind you. Why do you think they always agree on the key issues and have been seen many times spending time together, attending functions together, and even eating together. It is all a hoax to control the people. Research Obama’s evil policies he has instilled without the public knowledge. He will end life as you know, impeach this traitor!”

Is anyone really that naïve? It’s not his politics that appall me, though they are appalling. It’s his belief that people who disagree can’t be friends.

Of course they are friends. They work together, eat together and know each others’ wives and kids. They are human beings, not only politicians. Just as the district attorney, the defense attorneys and the judges are friends.

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Does anyone really think otherwise? Why would they not be friends? They are not on opposing teams. Quite the opposite: everyone in Congress is on the same team. American. The good of the nation is what they are supposed to stand for, not their party and its politics. They represent us, but ultimately, they represent the country.

Does this person also think baseball or football players on opposing teams don’t socialize off the field? That our professional lives so dominate us we don’t also have personal lives?

To know there are so many people who hate so much they have lost touch with reality scares me more than anything else going on in this country.

Regardless, it’s a fine speech, no matter what your political persuasion may be. I have posted it so if you missed it, you can catch up.

We are all people first. We aren’t what we do or even what we believe. We aren’t Republicans, Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives. We are men and women, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Sisters and brothers. Friends. Above all else, human. There are — and ought to be — allegiances which supersede political labels. Too many people are too busy hating to remember tolerance, reconciliation and love.

Intolerance is the evil we must forever fight. It’s the cause of war, murder, genocide and cruelty. It has saturated all of history with blood. It’s the thing that is fundamentally wrong with the world.

3 FREE Prequels to THE RETURNED – From Audible and Amazon Kindle

The First, The Sparrow, The Choice

Prequels to The Returned, by Jason Mott

These three short story are prequels to The Returned. All are available right now — free — on Kindle and from Audible.com in celebration of the publication — August 27 — of Jason Mott’s highly acclaimed first novel.

You can get them as audio from Audible.com and for Kindle from Amazon.com. You can get either or both. I’m greedy and I really liked The Returned, so I got both.

Each of the audio versions runs between 30 and 45 minutes and are beautifully narrated. The price is right and the stories are pure poetry. Jason Mott is a poet, an award-winning poet and these stories shine with prose so elegant it is poetry in its own right.

The price is right and I strongly recommend you pop on over to Amazon and Audible and get your own copies as soon as possible!

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The First, as the title suggests, is the story of the first of the dead to return.

The First: A Prequel to 'The Returned' | [Jason Mott]A year after her fiance’s death, Emily has barely begun to make peace with Edmond’s abrupt demise. He was killed in a freak bus accident only one day after he had proposed and she had accepted. The couple never had the chance to live their dreams, to celebrate their love.

One day, Edmond Blythe shows up at work. As far as he is concerned it’s just another day.Only when fear, panic and chaos break out around him does he realize something else is going on. It isn’t merely any day… it’s a day like no other before or again.

Edmond is the first, though far from the last to return. Having returned, it seems everything and everyone is conspiring to keep him from reuniting with Emily.

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The Sparrow: A Prequel to 'The Returned' | [Jason Mott]The Sparrow is the poignant tale of a returned girl, murdered in her tenth year in Sierra Leone. Showing up by the side of an American road, she is picked up by Heather and Matt Campbell. They take the little one home. They’ve heard about the returned, but now, suddenly, they have one. In their home in the middle of their lives.

Heather finds herself immediately drawn to ten-year-old Tatiana Rusesa. Matt cannot see anything but thing. Not a child, but a potential ticket to fame and maybe fortune.

Dodging the bullets of her husband’s unexpectedly crass reaction and sinister governmental plans to deal with the returned, Heather uses compassion and intelligence to navigate the rocky shoals of a situation for which she is completely unprepared.

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In The Choice, a man’s childhood love returns after going missing twenty years before. Peter Galvin was The Choice: A Prequel to 'The Returned' | [Jason Mott]seventeen when the great love of his life vanishes without a trace. No body was ever found and though he grieves, life has inexorably moved one.

Married, with a family of his own, he is suddenly confronted with the girl he loved, apparently in the flesh. Will the call of past be stronger than the commitments of the present? It a love story … the love of a man for his wife, his daughter and a girl he lost and never imagined he would ever see again.

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The Returned will be available as of August 27, 2013, on Kindle, as an MP3, in both hard and softcopy, and as an audiobook (audible.com).

About the author:

Jason Mott holds a BA in fiction and an MFA in poetry and is the author of two poetry collections. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Jason lives in North Carolina. The Returned is his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @jasonmott.

A Welcome For The Dead — The Returned, A Novel by Jason Mott

The Returned, by Jason Mott

Harlequin - Harlequin MIRA

Publication Date: August 27, 2013


In the long decades since the tragic drowning death of their 8-year old son, Jacob, Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have moved on. There were years of grieving, but although there is a residual sadness, the grace of time has let them come to terms.

Then, one day, Jacob returns. Arrives, without ceremony, on their doorstep. Ironically, it isn’t unexpected because all over the world, the dead are returning to find the people they remembered and loved in life. No one knows what to do about it. No one is sure exactly what the returned are. Alive or some ghastly imitation of life? Have they been to Heaven? Hell? Are they some kind of zombie?

Yet they certainly act alive, remembering nothing since they died, often not even exactly how they died, who or what killed them. For a while, it seems the world is going to explode from the in-rushing of the formerly alive. Is it a miracle? A sign of the end times? Some are sure it’s the work of the Devil, others that it’s the hand of God.

Harold and Lucille don’t know whether this young child is their boy — though he certainly carries all the memories that the real Jacob would have, up until the day of his death. As the world falls into near chaos and hysteria, they know only one thing: they have to protect the child. Whatever he is, he is theirs.

Will the world truly unravel? Will society collapse under the weight of the Returned? Society is faced with some hard questions including the meaning of “alive” and “human.”

Although the plot, in its description, sounds like a horror story or at the very least, science fiction, it isn’t. It’s the examination of how we define ourselves and what it means to be a person. How will human morality in all its variations stand up to a test in which all the standard and accepted definitions fly out the window.

The Returned is also about our relationships with those who have passed on. How we feel about them, making peace with the past, and remembering the importance of loyalty and love when those are the only values that matter … and exactly the values being put to the test.

The book is beautifully written. Elegant, spare, emotional but not sentimental. It examines feelings and fears … and the truth of memory. The Returned is a thought-provoking, sometimes frightening … sometimes comforting … look at our relationship with death and with each other. Whatever you are expecting, it isn’t that. It’s something else and I don’t know exactly what one should call it except a very good book.

The Returned will be available as of August 27, 2013, on Kindle, as an MP3, in both hard and softcopy, and as an audiobook (audible.com).

About the author:

Jason Mott holds a BA in fiction and an MFA in poetry and is the author of two poetry collections. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Jason lives in North Carolina. The Returned is his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @jasonmott.

 

Daily Prompt: P.C. – Some just call it civility

PC Prompt

Politically correct. To be politically correct means to tread carefully on other people’s sensibilities. I’m for that. Very much.

In a lot of places here in the good old U.S.A., “P.C,” means you can’t go around spewing racist epithets even thinly disguised as humor. For all the morons, bigots, racists and the socially challenged, a simple rule — “DON’T SAY THAT” — works a lot better than sensitivity training. So many amongst us have no sensitivity to train.

English: No racism Lietuvių: Ne rasizmui

Even if the morons who insist they don’t mean it — in which case why are they saying it? — I feel any rule or law that protects me and mine from having to listen to hate is political capital well spent.

I wouldn’t call it political correctness. I would call it civility. Good manners. Common decency.

If anyone feels not calling other people insulting names is cramping their style? These are for whom such rules were made. These are just the folks who need them. Most people have enough smarts and good manners to know when to shut up without being told. For everyone else, we have rules.

When we are amongst friends and we know one another well, we relax, let out guards down. Especially when we are a minority among others like us with similar culture and history, it’s all good. We are family, we act silly like family. But if you are not one of us, leave your mouth outside. I don’t need to be insulted. I don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

Many people still think racism is sort of cute. I think they should be eliminated from the gene pool. Go Helen.

HellenMirren BigGun

Daily Prompt: Whose Planet Is This?

It doesn’t take much to feel like a visitor from a foreign planet. Humans are  good at making anyone even a little bit different feel like an alien.

shadow me

My body is a great place to start. It is rebuilt, an imitation of a human body. Fake breasts with no nipples. Missing internal organs. No belly button.

Yet nothing makes me feel more out of time and place than reading posts on Facebook. The inability of average people to use any grammar, to write in full sentences, to understand that “loose” and “lose” aren’t the same word leaves me feeling as if I have been inter-dimensionally transported to “The Planet Without Grammar.” Forget typos. I get that. We all make mistakes and usually know it. How often I have wished I could go back and correct them.

No, I’m talking about all the millions of people who don’t even know they are doing something wrong because they never knew their own language in the first place.

Then there’s music. I sound like every member of every older generation throughout history, but this didn’t start when I became a Senior Citizen. It started when I was a young music student and had to listen to 12-tone music. This is music?  To me it sounds like Tom cats locked in a trash can to duke it out until only one emerges. Howling, banging, shrieks, crashing, thumping. No rhythm. No melody. Just noise.

I can get into rhythm without melody. I can enjoy melody without rhythm. When you remove both? What makes it music? Please, someone, explain. Where do noise and music part company? My inability as a young music student to grasp what it was about these sounds that made them admirable as music signaled a lifetime of “not getting it.” Whatever “it” has been.

There are so many things I don’t get. Politics. Ignorance. Movies without scripts. Books without plots. Published authors without talent. Illiteracy (voluntary). A society-wide lack of compassion. Environmental destruction for short-term goals which will have permanent devastating planet-wide repercussions. Genocide.

And that old standby, stupidity.

I said I’m an anachronism. I wasn’t kidding. I really am. And everyday, I get worse.

 

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Hey, God … How about a few answers?

Heresy … or is it blasphemy? I always get the two confused. Maybe this is both.

Whatever it is, I really would like a few answers. I know I’m not a model human. Not in any sense of the term, but certainly not in the religious sense. Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist … the four religions about which I actually know something … I don’t quite fit into any of them. Mind you, I’m not so bad, either. There are plenty a whole lot worse than me.

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While me and mine struggle along, barely keeping our heads above the water, evil-doers of a very high magnitude are thriving their asses off out in the Big Bad World. In fact, there are a whole lot of really awful people doing well, living, as far as I can tell, happy, healthy, and productive lives.

Old South Church from Boston Commons

Is it possible that somewhere beneath the shiny exterior they are deep in existential torment? Maybe, but I’m betting not. In my admittedly limited experience, rotten people are not introspective. They do what they do and they don’t spend a lot of time feeling bad about it. In fact, they don’t spend any time at all feeling bad about it. Maybe if something happens to upset the smooth flow of their expensive lives, they pause and ponder … but I’m not convinced. They probably do something even worse and move on.

So how come they have a “get out of jail free” card and people like me, whose sins are of the ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind, wind up with the world falling down around our ears, wondering how we’ll ever dig our way out from under the rock pile that covers us?  To say that it doesn’t seem fair does not begin to address the issue.

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Like millions of humans throughout the ages and stages of human development, why evil thrives and so often, good people live desperate, miserable lives simply doesn’t make sense. I’ve given every effort to cultivating Christian acceptance, Jewish Nihilism, Existential cynicism, Asian acceptance of unknown Karma … and it still doesn’t work for me.

If there is a God and He, She, It, or They is or are just and good and this Deity loves us, cares for us, wants us to be happy … it doesn’t make sense. Telling me it is not mine to understand because I am a mere human and only God can know God’s reasons seems a thin excuse. I couldn’t pawn that one off on my son when he was 7, and it doesn’t fly well now either.

So I have to ask another question that won’t get an answer: Do we … do I myself … seriously believe God involves Himself in our day-to-day activities? Regardless of incarnation, Jesus, Buddha, Holy Spirit … whatever. You think he’s right there keeping an ever watchful eye on us, ready to stretch out a hand to us? What about Katrina? The Japanese Tsunami? The Holocaust? The massacre of the Native Americans? The hundreds of years of slavery for Black and other peoples? The current enslavement of women in so many parts of the world? What’s God’s position on this? Is he really more concerned whether or not a woman has an abortion than he is about the death of thousands and the enslavement of millions?

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I know the nature of faith is it defies logic and requires a leap. I thought I’d made the leap, but I think maybe I didn’t after all. I’m still standing at the chasm and every fiber of my intelligence assures me this leap will leave me shattered on the rocks below. I guess I’m not going to make it to wherever the faithful get to go when their miserable lives finally draw to a close.

I’ve had several close encounters with at least some shadow of the God or Gods who rule us. I know my life … my existence … has been twice returned to me. I’m not ungrateful, but I’m baffled. It appears I’m going to remain baffled. I’m not going to get the answers to my questions because no one has the answers. Frankly, if I think too long on this, it makes me crazy! I can’t believe and yet, I believe. Stuck forever on the cusp of questions without answers.

Or, as Tom Lehrer so eloquently said it, “Soon we’ll all be sliding down that razor blade of life …” Ouch.

The FBI can’t do a simple Google search?

On Criminal Minds in the première episode for the 2012-2013 season, the “perp” sews a victims mouth shut but in his mouth leaves the message “Gazing through to the other side.” The BAU FBI team cannot find any reference to this quote. So I typed it into Google and hit Enter. Guess what?

It’s part of a song, the lyrics to which essentially are the plot of the episode in which the first four victims are women, thrown into ditches, with their mouths sewn shut.

If I can find this in one hit on Google, is the FBI less capable than I? Unable to do the most basic Google search? There isn’t anything more basic than typing in what you want to know about then hitting Enter, is there? My granddaughter could do this kind of search before she was in first grade.

If anyone thinks I believe the FBI is actually producing the show, anyone who can chew gum and walk at the same time knows this is a network television show that employs a staff of writers to write scripts supposed to make us believe these are hyper-competent profiler/agents. And they can’t run a Google search any grade school child can run. Wow! Bad writing and plagiarism? What a terrific combination for a show about the FBI!

There could be an innocent explanation, like the real authors of the material were paid, but never credited. I’d like to hear that. It could restore a bit of my rapidly diminishing faith in humankind.

Because it couldn’t be plagiarism. CBS wouldn’t allow that, right? Because networks, TV execs, writers, etc. are all so honest that such a thing could never happen. And the tooth fairy left you a buck under your pillow.

The song is by a group named Blitzen Trapper, lead singer/lyricist, Eric Earley.

“Black River Killer”

They booked me on a whim and threw me deep in jail
With no bail, sitting silent on a rusty pail
Just gazing at the marks on the opposite wall
Remembering the music of my lover’s call

So you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

It was dark as the grave, it was just about three
When the warden with his key came to set me free
They gave me five dollars and a secondhand suit
A pistol and a hat and a worn out flute

So I took a bus down to the Rio Grande
And I shot a man down on the edge of town
Then I stole me a horse and I rode it around
Til the sheriff pulled me in and sat me down

He said, you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man’s soul back from heaven’s gates
I’ve been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it’s never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

Well the sheriff let me go with a knife and a song
So I took the first train up to Oregon
And I killed the first man that I came upon
Because the devil works quick, you know it don’t take long

Then I went to the river ford to take a swim
You know that black river water is as black as sin
And I washed myself clean as a newborn babe
And then I picked up a rock for to sharpen my blade

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?
Oh when, oh when
Will that black river water wash me clean again
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again

-

It took me less than 10 seconds to find this. What’s going on guys? Television has become boringly derivative, but this is not merely derivative, it’s theft. I wouldn’t mind hearing from someone about this. I would like to hear an explanation.

NOTES:

1) According to one of the show’s producers, the show is based on the Blitzen Trapper song. The group was compensated for its use. It isn’t plagiarism, just bad writing.

2) If the writers don’t want us to assume the same rules apply in the TV show as apply in the real world, they should not pretend the show is about FBI agents who are part of the élite unit of an actual law enforcement agency. If you don’t want to play by the rules of the real world, create a fake world where you can have stuff fall up because gravity doesn’t exist. You cannot have it both ways.

3) I reopened the comments because I just reblogged it (2/4/2014). Let’s see if anyone still cares! — I closed the comments and deleted all 48 comments including mine. Some of you seem to have no sense of proportion. This is a television show, not life and death.

4) I wrote this post last September, 9 months ago. It was intended as a comment on what I thought was poor script writing and the uncredited use of someone else’s material. In the months since I wrote it, the issue of the song’s use has been clarified. I’m tired of arguing about this. Please feel free to argue amongst yourselves. Leave me out of it.

Right to life versus the right to a decent life

A good friend in Texas who used to live here in New England is fighting a lonely battle in her town for the right of women to retain control over their bodies. Texas is the frontline of the war against women, a war I thought we’d won years ago with Roe V. Wade and the end of (formal, official) discrimination against women in the workplace.

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She and I remember the bad old days. We were there together. The days of backroom abortions performed with chlorine bleach, coat hangers and turkey basters. When sepsis or perforation of your uterus was not an unusual price to pay to end a pregnancy. Where young women, unable to obtain an abortion threw themselves off bridges rather than have an unwanted baby, or tried to abort themselves, often with lethal results.

Despite conservative backlash and brainwashing on this issue, having an abortion was not and is not a sign one is irresponsible or anti-life.

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Women have abortions for all kinds of reasons, rarely because they hate babies. Reasons include fear for their own health, the welfare of existing children and a desire to survive. Birth control still isn’t 100% reliable. Meanwhile, the same men who are trying to stop women’s access to abortion are determined to prevent women from getting effective birth control. If there is any logic to that, I can’t figure out what it is.

What’s their real point? I don’t think it has anything to do with life. It’s about power and about putting women back in their place so men can take back the control they’ve lost. Back to the kitchen for us, barefoot and pregnant.

If men had babies, this would not be happening.

I had an abortion.

There. I’ve said it. My husband was in the hospital with cancer. It was so early in the pregnancy — no more than 4 weeks — the available tests were unable to read it accurately. The test said I wasn’t pregnant, so technically it wasn’t an abortion. Regardless, I knew.

It was the worst possible time to discover myself pregnant. I didn’t know if my husband would survive. (In fact, he didn’t live long.) We were financially stressed to the max. I had just gotten into a master’s program, a highly competitive program, more than 2000 applications for a couple of dozen spots. But I looked at my life and thought: “I don’t need more education. I need a job.” And no matter how I tried to fit the pieces together, a baby was not in the picture.

I had a “menstrual extraction” which was what you got when the test read negative but you knew it was lying. Plausible deniability. It was done in a doctor’s office without anesthesia. That’s a lot of pain, during which you dare not move lest a blade slip and do some serious, permanent damage.

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So many women my age went through similar or much worse experiences. Were we happy about it? No, but we weighed our options, talked it over with friends, family, counselors, ministers … and then did what we felt was best, not just for us but for everyone affected. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What happens to mom happens to the whole family. We were adult women. We had the right and the obligation to decide what happens to our bodies and our lives.

I maintain my long-standing position on this matter: if you are not in personal possession of a vagina and/or a uterus, your opinion is unwelcome. I do not care what you believe. Until you walk in my shoes and live in my body, you know nothing.

Why am I weighing in on this? The it-wasn’t-really-an-abortion occurred more 40 years ago and no one but my closest friends knew it happened — until now. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m sorry it happened, but I believed I was doing the right thing then and I still believe it now.

How ironic that women are again facing the spectre of those horrible, terrifying, desperate days. The nightmare of the back room and the coat hanger is looming, a dark shadow I cannot ignore.

The most significant gains in personal freedom women have won are at risk. If we don’t speak up, speak out, and stand together, we will lose it. All of it.

I am long past child-bearing age. But this isn’t about me, my friends or my life. It’s about all women. About whether or not we have the right to decide for ourselves what will happen to us. If ever there was a right to life involved, how about the right of women to have a good life, bear the number of children they want, to not be managed by men whose stake in the issue is tangential at best? How about that?

No one wants an abortion. But sometimes, you need one.