Looking Under The Hood…

I just love statistics, and numbers, and such
Whether icy abstractions or warm to the touch
I’ve been told that, perhaps, I adore them too much—
That my feelings are more-or-less “weird”

Ok, “weird” I can see, but I have to confess
I’m put off by the too-imprecise “more or less”—
Is it greater, or smaller? And so, I obsess—
Which is pretty much just what they feared. [Read more…]

On Realizing That Corporations Are People Too… And That You’ve Fallen In Love With One.

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

My sweetheart business enterprise
I tried to win you back
I told you my intenterprise—
You told me what I lack
My capital I’d spenterprise
But you would not invest
My future’s in descenterprise—
My value is depressed.

My love, my all, my syndicate—
Forever and beyond!
I note, to my chagrindicate,
My word’s my only bond
I’d fight through thick and thindicate
To have you as my bride
I know I cannot windicate;
You know, at least, I tried

My darling corporate entity
I’ve loved you from the start
One hundred ten percentity,
With more than just my heart
I told you what I meantity
In poetry and prose
You showed your discontentity
And that’s the way it goes.

Yeah… put “loving you back” as another difference between the kind of people known as “corporations” and the kind of people known as “people”. “Going to jail” is another thing corporations can’t do. We’ll find out pretty soon whether “discrimination” is yet another.

Someone Is… On The Internet

An article on politics—
No if, no ands, no buts—
Will bring out Libertarians
Who’ll demonstrate they’re nuts
But also arch-conservatives
And liberals by the score
Who’ll engage in verbal fisticuffs
And all return for more.

An essay on religion—
Any angle you might choose—
An opinionated blog post
Or the fair and balanced news
Will find arguments aplenty
By extremists on both sides
(Oh, and everyone’s extremist)
As predictable as tides

A feminist perspective—
On whatever thing you want—
Will, like maggots on a rotting corpse,
Erupt in shouts of “cunt!”
Any argument transmogrified,
Distorted, shouted down;
The important thing is showing
Who’s the big dog in this town

A report about the climate,
Evolution, or vaccines,
Gun control, or education,
GM foods, or gay Marines—
In the comments, it’s a certainty,
As daytime follows night,
That opposing sides will gather there
And then begin to fight.

A picture of a kitten—
Or a puppy, or some ducks—
The comments start with “ooh!” and “squee!”
And then—“Obama sucks!”
Or a photo of a fetus
Or “nice pussy!” or some threat…
It’s depressing; it’s disturbing;
It’s annoying… it’s the ‘net.

I was going to link the article that inspired this particular verse, but it frankly doesn’t deserve singling out. And I don’t mean that in a positive way–it does deserve being seen as shameful… but so do countless others that could just as easily have inspired today’s verse… and, to some extent, did, I guess. I am sure you’ve had the experience (unless you have taken the very good advice of NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!!!) of reading some innocuous piece of reporting, or some blog post (whether a report on breaking news, new science, or what the writer did last night or found in their shoes this morning), and there in the comments, a non-sequitor (or at best, tangential) comment linking the writing to the commenter’s particular grudge–Obama, usually, or atheists or christians or muslims or libertarians or gays or blacks or trans or women or mentally ill or republican or democrat or jews or nazis or activists of all sorts… it will depend on who are the naturally occurring flora and fauna at that particular site. If your experience is with completely different accusations, all that means is that you read different sites than I do.

It almost doesn’t matter what the original writing was about; the real action is in the comments. People who say this is a post-racial society… don’t read the comments. People who say this is a post-feminist society… don’t read the comments. People who say the real victims today are conservative white Christian males… don’t read the comments. Reading the comments is like turning on the lights in a filthy room–you see things you really wish you had not.

I think I’ll go shower now.

I suppose this is related.

Bleargh.

I don’t feel sick
I don’t feel tired
I don’t feel hot
I don’t feel cold
I don’t feel sad
I don’t feel happy
I don’t feel nothin’
I just feel old

I don’t usually feel all of my years. I look at pictures of people my age, and think they look considerably older than I do. I have friends who started going gray in their twenties, and I am just barely beginning, in my fifties. I got carded buying wine just last year.

But today, I feel every one of my years, and a good many of someone else’s as well–so if you feel extra young today, I would be happy to return your years to you.

If this is what normal aging is gonna be like, I’m having none of it. Starting tomorrow, I’m getting younger.

Upskirting The Law

It might be bad; it might be wrong;
An upskirt shot that shows a thong
But perverts told us all along
There is no law against it

Now Massachusetts’ highest court
From justice fell extremely short;
Compassion, in today’s report?
The courts had not dispensed it

Since lawyers live by splitting hairs
The clothing that a woman wears
In subway cars or café chairs
Defines her as “not nude”

So perverts, then, can snap away
The upskirt photo won the day
And, all too late, lawmakers say
The laws will be reviewed.

We have a freedom fetish in our culture. I don’t think even Michael Robertson‘s own lawyer would argue that what he is doing is good, or right, or admirable. But, since a judge has ruled that there is no specific law that is being violated here, Robertson’s loathsome behavior is–not good, not right, not admirable… and not illegal. Because the women he did not ask to take upskirt photos of were actually wearing clothes (thus, it seems to me, signaling to the world that they were not in the subway to serve as someone’s masturbatory models, but were in fact commuting to or from work), they were thus not “nude or partially nude” (in which case, he’d have been violating Massachusetts’ “Peeping Tom” law).

The law always is reactive–it took a while to catch up to video technology, and to the internet… We can’t prescribe particular behaviors, because that infringes on freedom. We have to allow anything and everything that is not specifically prohibited. As such, it is the lot of some people to suffer indignities that are not against the law, until their case inspires new law… too late for these people.

Did I say “people”? Sorry, I meant “women”.

July 21, 1978

Ok, first thing, before I forget: What, in your thinking, is the best thing you have ever seen on television? Ever?

I am no Platonist, so I will not hold you to any choice you make. To my thinking, I could ask you this question a dozen times and get at least a handful of answers that are all true. I could ask you in different contexts, and if you didn’t change your answer with context I’d have to worry about you.

I probably have at least a score of “best moment on TV ever, of all time” nominees, and any choice of just one among this population would be forced, artificial, and false at times, while true at others. Carol Burnett’s entrance in the “Gone With The Wind” skit, her dress made of curtains, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it”. Walter Cronkite crying. The first time I heard Kermitt the Frog singing “It’s not easy being green”. I didn’t get to see the Beatles, or the moon landing, so those aren’t in my list.

Anyway.

One show has made that list countless times. I may have only seen it once, and it may be very different from how I remember it. It was the Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson, July 21, 1978. The musical guests were Dave Brubeck and sons, which I don’t actually remember, but which actually makes the 90 minute show even better than I do remember. And here’s the meat of my post–I have not been able to locate any video of that show, and I really really *really* want to see it again.

The first guest was Richard Pryor. At this point in his career, he had made the switch to a rather … bluer sort of comedy. He was known (at least, I knew him, as a midwestern white kid) as a raunchy, dirty comic. Johnny Carson must have (and clearly did) know better. As I recall it, Pryor was hilarious, without coming close to overstepping any boundaries. I know now, the man was a genius; then, I was surprised.

The second guest was conservative journalist Dorothy Fuldheim. Well known in Cleveland, somewhat less well known nationally, she was the voice of the establishment. It is only in hindsight that I suspect Johnny Carson (and/or his staff) knew exactly what he (they) was (were) doing.

The expectation (yes, to me, as a high school kid) was that Pryor would either leave before Fuldheim was introduced, or that he would stay silent, or that he would explode. Frankly, the first two options were suckers bets; the assumption was that Pryor would unleash his formidable chops on this poor woman–swearing, cursing, blaspheming–until his fans were ashamed, and hers were vindicated in their views of those liberal black people.

And (as memory goes)… Richard Pryor was as polite as could possibly be. Fuldheim made outrageous claims about the absence of poverty, the absence of racism, the absence of pretty much anything bad in the perfect USA… and Pryor interjected “excuse me, ma’am…”, pointing out inequity, hunger, bias, and more. Fuldheim tried to brush him aside, but his politeness (so unexpected, so perfect) made her look like a monster.

It was… perfect.

I watched it, live. With my dad. I was in high school; he would have been in his late 40’s. I was astonished. So was he. I don’t know that he had heard of Pryor before; it didn’t matter. He knew Fuldheim. He knew Carson. I think this was the first time I saw my dad completely blown away by the same thing that blew me away. It was amazing.

And, near as I can tell, it doesn’t exist. I mean… *everything* has an afterlife on the web. But I have not been able to find this. I have found other people looking for this. But I have not found this.

It is entirely possible (likely, even) that my recollection is at serious odds with the actual video of the show. But damn, if that is the case, I want to know!

So… two things.

1) can we maybe find this tape? Anyone? Anyone know anyone know anyone?

2) What is the best thing you have ever seen on TV? Ever? Cos if it’s better than this, I *really* want to see it!

No verse today–this thing is eating away at my brain enough, I don’t need to feed it rhyme.

Also… no, I won’t tell you what brought on this post.

Ken Ham Clearly Doesn’t Believe (I Hope)

So I was just out walking the cuttledogs, and it occurred to me that the whole notion of a Noah’s Ark Theme Park showed either an incredible lack of belief on the part of the planners, or a psychopathic lack of empathy.

I mean, it’s a theme park. Think Disney. But it’s built around the greatest (by percentage, at least, if not in real numbers) genocide in history (assuming, for the time being, that the planners actually believe the Noah story). Men, women, children, toddlers, babies… dogs, cats, horses, cows… bunnies, slow lorises, baby hedgehogs… all of them, bloated, stinking corpses. Family fun for everyone! (seriously, click the link–this is what the flood ride would be, were it true to the bible)

One simply cannot have a realistic picture of what the flood allegedly entailed, and believe it appropriate for a family theme park. Ham either does not believe, or lacks any shred of empathy whatsoever.

It gets worse. Remember, the ark was the centerpiece of the park, but was by no means the whole thing. There would be rides. Remember, one of the rides (I shit you not) was (again, think Disney, but on acid) a “Ten Plagues Of Egypt” theme ride! Family fun, with blisters and boils, locusts and lice, blood and death! (Again, click the link for one of my favorites–no one who believed the story would ever suggest it as a theme park ride!)

Imagine a much smaller genocide, with a much smaller fraction of the world’s population put to slaughter. Can you imagine a family-friendly Holocaust theme park? Hop on the trains, kiddies? It sickened me to write that last sentence, and yet I wrote the verses at the two links above–what’s the difference?

The difference is, I believe (I was going to write “I know”, but I’ll settle for the weaker “I believe”) that the bible’s account is false. It’s fiction. It didn’t happen. There were no real victims (well… belief in “the curse of Ham” was not victimless), so I can write about bloated bodies and plagues of locusts. It’s simple–I don’t believe. The only ones who could treat such a genocide lightly are those who don’t believe. Those for whom the flood, and the ten plagues, are nothing more than a chance to fleece those who do believe.

.

.

.

I do wonder, though, who would invest, and who would want such a thing built. Is everyone so mercenary? Are there any true believers who think the Ark Park is appropriate? And why?

The Insurance Scam

My insurance covers fractures
(Like most policies I’ve known)
Which is wasteful for the people
Who don’t have a broken bone

And it also covers polio’s
Expensive medications
Just in case it makes a comeback—
It’s been gone for generations

Why, my policy protects me
From the rarest stuff on earth
So I’m working on a cunning plan
To get my money’s worth:

From the corners of the planet
I’m collecting rare diseases—
I’ll have people send me samples
From wherever someone sneezes

Every parasite that troubles,
Each bacterium that lurks
Every virus, every prion,
I’m collecting up the works

And from government collections
From Atlanta to The Hague
I’ll grab cryogenic samples
Of each pestilence and plague

I will sample every toxin
That humanity has faced…
If I don’t, you see, insurance
Is at least a partial waste

And I want the proper value
For each dollar, for each dime…
If I live my whole life healthy
Then insurance is a crime.

Cuttlecap tip to Ed, this morning.

Worth Every Penny…

A confluence of things, today. You may or may not know this, but we here at FtB are testing a new paid-subscription, ad-free version for your reading pleasure. Apparently, the place looks much nicer without ads. Ads never bothered me, though, aside from the few places around where, say, my verses have been copied without my permission and show up on a page with multiple pop-up ads that can’t be easily dismissed. That, yeah, bothers me.

Which leads to the next thing–a New York Times opinion piece with the remarkable notion that writers, artists, photographers and the like ought to be paid for what they do. Even *gasp* on the internet!

Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge. I now contribute to some of the most prestigious online publications in the English-speaking world, for which I am paid the same amount as, if not less than, I was paid by my local alternative weekly when I sold my first piece of writing for print in 1989. More recently, I had the essay equivalent of a hit single — endlessly linked to, forwarded and reposted. A friend of mine joked, wistfully, “If you had a dime for every time someone posted that …” Calculating the theoretical sum of those dimes, it didn’t seem all that funny.

Reading through some of the comments on that piece, I realize I have it better than most. With my readership here, I am making big bucks–approximately one dollar per post. And I hope to have my second big collection of verses out in time for Cephalopodmas shopping, and that should sell, with luck, a few dozen copies. And that honestly puts me ahead of a lot of the commenters’ stories.

I don’t know if it will be approved, but I left the following comment myself (from a few years ago):

I’d shill for a shilling
But no one is willing
To pay for the things that I write.
I’d rant and I’d holler
For minimum dollar
But no one is offering, quite.
A couple of euros
To stuff in my bureau’s
Sufficient for verses like these;
Though some call it whoring,
I’m begging–imploring–
Come, sully my principles, please!
If someone would shell out,
I’d promise to sell out–
My standards, I’ll keep in my purse–
For now, though, I’m sighing
Cos no one is buying…
And all I can write is Free Verse.

Eating The Monkey Brains

No time for anything right now, but I had to share with you a wonderful piece of writing on the shutdown. Charles Pierce, writing for Esquire, pens “The Reign Of Morons Is Here“, and it is beautiful. First, the succinct summary of the situation:

In the year of our Lord 2010, the voters of the United States elected the worst Congress in the history of the Republic. There have been Congresses more dilatory. There have been Congresses more irresponsible, though not many of them. There have been lazier Congresses, more vicious Congresses, and Congresses less capable of seeing forests for trees. But there has never been in a single Congress — or, more precisely, in a single House of the Congress — a more lethal combination of political ambition, political stupidity, and political vainglory than exists in this one, which has arranged to shut down the federal government because it disapproves of a law passed by a previous Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, a law that does nothing more than extend the possibility of health insurance to the millions of Americans who do not presently have it, a law based on a proposal from a conservative think-tank and taken out on the test track in Massachusetts by a Republican governor who also happens to have been the party’s 2012 nominee for president of the United States. That is why the government of the United States is, in large measure, closed this morning.

Then the analysis (this paragraph closing with the most appropriate metaphor I’ve seen on the topic):

This is what they came to Washington to do — to break the government of the United States. It doesn’t matter any more whether they’re doing it out of pure crackpot ideology, or at the behest of the various sugar daddies that back their campaigns, or at the instigation of their party’s mouthbreathing base. It may be any one of those reasons. It may be all of them. The government of the United States, in the first three words of its founding charter, belongs to all of us, and these people have broken it deliberately. The true hell of it, though, is that you could see this coming down through the years, all the way from Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address in which government “was” the problem, through Bill Clinton’s ameliorative nonsense about the era of big government being “over,” through the attempts to make a charlatan like Newt Gingrich into a scholar and an ambitious hack like Paul Ryan into a budget genius, and through all the endless attempts to find “common ground” and a “Third Way.” Ultimately, as we all wrapped ourselves in good intentions, a prion disease was eating away at the country’s higher functions. One of the ways you can acquire a prion disease is to eat right out of its skull the brains of an infected monkey. We are now seeing the country reeling and jabbering from the effects of the prion disease, but it was during the time of Reagan that the country ate the monkey brains.

I’ve only highlighted 2 paragraphs–the whole thing is well worth the reading.

And now I have even less time… dammit.