Saturday, February 25, 2006

Excerpts from the "Proceedings Of The Tedious Scribbler"

Note: Now is a good time to warm up your 'Bumpfmaster Pro' (TM) bad verse disposal system. Go ahead, it's the prudent and responsible thing to do. While you're up, have a tumblerfull of Ouzo (or your favorite reading fluid). Okay, proceed, but with caution.

Cold, knee-deep water rising at mid-stream, mixes, swirls around where we are, in my dream. We are wading across uncertainly, while the blaze rages that we set alight long ago- was it really ages?

Built down there, on that dry, agreeable shore It looks the same now as it did, before. From here, the familiarity of the flame devoid of people to tend it, doesn't look quite the same.

From above, relentless gravity has given our world a shove. Trees, rocks, mud and houses in a roiling swirl, boiling down the valley toward us, a muddy, bloody wave, in a hell of a rush.

Mid-stream, mid-dream, wet, cold; something should be missing. Out of time, we are forced to start, look, and listen; What we did and what we must do, are bound to collide. If so, in choosing, shall we too be swept aside?

Pointless now, our covetousness and pride, must be left as offerings to the rising tide. Cast aside our old, dark furies, vendettas, and greed. These fruitless burdens still yield us nothing we need. Lose them now, and along with us, rush to the receding shore, or shoulder them on, be drowned, and pursue matters no more.

Driving us on, the rising waters and our fear, force us to jettison what once we held so dear. Decide on the run, decide right now, nearly out of breath, were the things we pursued worthy of the approaching death?

Whether disturbing apparitions or dreamy insights, these images serve to shorten my already short nights. However restless or brief might be my sleep, I still keep an eye out for a dry place, for my soggy feet.

See? The Bumpfmaster should be warmed up by now. Go ahead, stoke it up! Can you see the bottom of the tumbler yet?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Are the Kids Asleep?

Silence. I can shut down now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Bad Time For You?

Okay, I may as well acknowledge that a lot of what's been written here has had the slightest hint of seriousness, err, has been pretty damned somber. And it would be reasonable to think of it as depressing, or indicative of the onset of depressive behavior, but I'm here to testify. Yessir, I've been straining my limited cortex to find a fun, inviting theme which might shamelessly draw you, my silent compatriots, out of your reflective shells. The tumblers clicked into position only moments ago.

I was out on the road last week, and geography finally cooperated. One of my oldest buddies and I were able to amble into a number of watering holes down in the Gaslamp district, tilt back a few horrendously overpriced Guinesses, and conjure up moments of our checkered pasts, if only for a few hours. I'm fairly sure that some of you have "Back in the Present..." anecdotes to dwarf my past, and more power to you, for outliving them. It saves me having to recount obsolete farces of my own history.

Where was I? On a completely untraveled route, my buddy had joined me, another weary traveler on the road to the Mecca of the undead. I can't say that either of us has been bored by the scenery yet, though our trails have diverged over the years. Time and circumstance washed us up on the same beach, anonymous in a series of Irish pubs on a Super Bowl Sunday, in a distant city which was (itself) misbehaving. Each was progressively more boisterous, but never loud enough to drown out time nor its odd libretti. There was a sense of retracing one's steps, looking for the cracks or uneven pavement that could have delayed our hastened strides from then to now. But (at least from my view) there were no tell-tale missteps or hitches to distort that journey- we were coming to this place anyway, even had we danced jigs and reels to do so.

Did I mention that, among his other talents, my buddy is a damned fine musician? That's what actually took me into this thread, that and a NASCAR documentary.

The Sun never really broke through the clouds, never was able to heat up the city. Just as well. The last place we wandered unto was quite the postcard, with a bunch of younger folks sitting on the floor, heads tilted hopefully toward one of the big flat-panel screens. The Steelers and the Seahawks provided them with occasional reasons to shriek and cheer, cues which the crowd took on faith. It was apparent that many of them had only a so-so understanding of football, born of not paying much attention to any of the games leading up to this showdown. On the other hand, there aren't many public events that encourage one to congregate and raise Hell, and show partisan support in a contest whose outcome has little real significance, while socializing and getting hammered on pricy drinks. Strangely, the whole scene had an underlying tone of unfamiliarity about it. I don't think it was my imagination, either: occasionally, a head would turn from the screen and scan uncertainly around the crowd, as if to ask, Okay, we're here, having fun, the same as in the beer commercial. What are we supposed to do next?

Equilibrium draws nearer. Half of us are stampeding from the known, while the other half sidles up to it, unknowing. There's no place into which one can duck the melee, ride out the hubbub, or allow things to sort themselves out. Because of this state of confusion, our conversation proceeds with remarkable ease, as the thrust and parry of our lives reveals itself through a series of little fishing tales, oiled by slowed ales. Our talk, unalloyed to the commotion, fails to register even as background noise; Because it doesn't exist, there is no attempt to moderate or attenuate it, and two parallel universes pass one another, unscathed.

Therein lies the rub. I started out with the best of intentions, merely trying to pass along a simple recounting of an encounter with a lifetime friend, yet the telling of it slides to grey. Damn it! We are not dead yet, nor even irrelevant. Don't force it! The things that really matter in one's life reveal themselves, where and when they will. Trust yourself to gravitate to situations where that can happen, and let the noise recede. Jesus H.! There's no venue or forum for messages like this, and no, I'm not possessed of some Solomonic wisdom, to go around with a soapbox. I'm just trying to get this blog headed in a lighter, cheerier direction.

I mentioned that my buddy can play that gee-tar thang, so here's the punchline. I propose a kind of inverse karaoke, one in which the contributor comes up with lyrics which tend to let go of things. I'm working on this theme myself, but what are really needed are songs from you, dear readers. I'm pounding keys here, but in the background, I've got "Le Nozze de Figaro" playing, which is a frivolous example of music's salutory effect on the weary. I don't care about high-brow concept tunes. Surely there are tunes in your collective consciousnesses which lend themselves to ribald or alternate lyrics, words that you think (for humorous or other reasons) are more appropriate for the melody. How 'bout it? Don't be bashful. This is your chance to fix songs (any genre)that only need a bit of tweaking in order to become truly memorable.

Stuck at the starting gate? Don't think of it as a competition- believe me, if I could send anyone to Fiji, I'm overdue. There's no prize nor trophy, but you just might make me (and others) chuckle at your keenly spiced librettoes. Flip things around a little, and see what you come up with. For example:

"If You Don't Know Me By Now" Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes

(If you don't know me by now) You will never, never, never know me, Whooooa All the things that we've been through You should understand me Like I understand you Now baby, I know the difference Between right and wrong I ain't gonna do nothin' To upset our happy home (Ooooooh) Oh, don't get so excited When I come home a little late at night 'Cause we only act like children When we argue fuss and fight (If you don't know me by now) If you don't know me by now (You will never, never, never know me) You will never, never, never know me, whooooa (If you don't know me by now) If you don't know me, baby (You will never, never, never know me) No you won't, ah-hey

... {more lyrics follow} ...

Try adjusting transitive verbs and adjectives to taste, e.g.,

"If You Don't {V.T.} Me By Now"

{Note: Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes never intended this, so don't blame them}

(If you don't {V.T.} me by now) You will never, never, never {V.T.} me, Whooooa All the things that we've been through You should understand me Like I understand you Now baby, I know the difference Between right and wrong I ain't gonna do nothin' To upset our happy home (Ooooooh) Oh, don't get so excited When I come home a little late at night 'Cause we only {V.T.} like {plural noun} When we argue, {V.T.} and fight (If you don't {V.T.} me by now) If you don't {V.T.} me by now (You will never, never, never {V.T.} me) You will never, never, never {V.T.} me, whooooa (If you don't {V.T.}know me by now) If you don't {V.T.} me, baby (You will never, never, never {V.T.} me) No you won't, ah-hey
... (V.T.= verb, transitive) ...

I know, this won't be easy. I'm Trying to morph the Tom Jones hit, "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (see "The Full Monty"), into the alternative , "You Can Leave The Seat Up". (Note that the following malfeasance is no fault of Mr. Jones or his arranger):

... {second verse} ...

Go over there, turn on the light. No, all the lights. Come back here, stand on the vanity. Ooh, baby, that's right! Raise your arms in the air, now shake it. You give me reason to live. You give me reason to live. You give me reason to live. You can leave the seat up!
... {more ... ooh, ooh... more lyrics follow}...

I haven't figured out how to sanitize the lyrics for your protection yet, but I'm working on it. Your contributions will bring some much-needed taste and levity to this blog!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

No More "Monkey See, Monkey Do"

I don't remember how I arrived at the article, but I found the following snippet from "Sneakiest primates have biggest brains"- NewScientist.com News Service more than a little interesting (The article sounds like applied common sense, but this philosophical question about deception sticks out):

"... Concept of dishonesty That is consistent with the idea that natural selection favoured larger brains for sophisticated social interactions, among them tactical deception. "I'm sure if we could have measured cooperative skill, we'd have found a similar result," says Byrne. "Cooperation and outwitting are not opposed - they're both about being socially subtle." However, it is still not clear whether primates are ever aware of being deceptive. They may have no concept of dishonesty, knowing simply from experience that these behaviours get the result they want. Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2780)"

Where have I seen examples of this, in everyday life? Hmmm...

Whether viewed singularly or plurally, man is his own principal predator, much as it was during prehistoric times. It may be that our strides in technology have greatly surpassed our progress regarding ethical wisdom. When coupled with our innate desire to survive, come what may, we set ourselves up for some God-awful reckoning. If we are incapable of framing authentic problems in terms of our religious or political teachings, it may literally take an act of God to dissuade us from our synthetic squabbles, and force us to cooperate. Even this is a only a shabby choice of wording, as the idea of a God or deity is foreign to so many people. For at least as many others, the idea that God will hold their coattails while they do His|Her will on the other guy seems perfectly plausible- regardless of who their personal deity might be. The examples shown in one religious text or another, and touted by one political leader or another as encouragement, may have been mitigated by limitations in technologies and the number of people involved at the time, but progress has greatly simplified the process of wreaking havoc on large parts of our populations, with only catastrophic repercussions. Ironically, the number of people actually called into armed conflict, or more exactly, the number of people who respond to the call, seems to be diminishing with each successive war. It seems that leaders don't understand it, but the people who would be involved have indicated a disinterest in the usual tempo of mayhem and bloodshed, and a preference for living, even if it means no cable TV news or cuisine rapide.

In effect, if people can't find a way to convince large numbers of their fellow allies and adversaries to do one another in, then the world doesn't change in it's dimension, but must accommodate more people, living in closer proximity. At one time, I might have said "Po-tah-toe", you might have said, "No, it's pronounced, 'Po-tay-toe'", and we'd have been at one another's borders in full regimental regalia. This is, unfortunately, the stuff of legends. History is a succession of heroes whose valor on the battlefield is painted only in the most vivid colors, on the approved canvas of the battlefield. We either need to find an alternative medium to this canvas, or revert to coloring by numbers. If we ever expect to break out of this primitive cul-de-sac, then we need to recognize the heroic aspects, the noteworthy deeds and thoughts of those whose "only contribution" was to make the world a livable place. If we don't have a set of problems worthy of joint solutions now, we soon will, and our ability to goad one another into conflict will be only a sideshow, a distraction from problems which may transcend po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes, borders and languages. If we have learned the art of self-deception, now would be a good time to remove this gauze from our view, and to reject this quality in those who would lead us.