Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas from the outside

Well, something odd has happened, after 6 months of this blog being lost in oblivion, it has apparently come back!! I suppose this is a Christmas present from the Blog-gods? (say that word 5 times real fast. "blog-gods, blog-gods, blog-gods...") Okay, then I should take advantage of this opportunity before it goes away again. I think I'll write about something that Dare Not Speak Its Name... not until I actually saw the subject being addressed in the Metro. When I was a kid, we didn't talk about this subject: "Being Jewish At Christmas!"

Yeah. When I was a kid, it was sort of an embarassment. We sang Christmas carols at school, and I don't mean "jingle bells' and "let's ride a sleigh in the snow." I mean the kind that said "remember Christ our Savior." Back in the 50's, kids took religion very seriously. I was Jewish, and for me to sing about Christ Our Savior would be like, um.... being forced to pledge to the flag of Afghanistan, or something. In other words, it just didn't feel right.

I can't imagine how in 6th grade I had the courage to actually get up and walk out of the assembly when my class was singing "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen." Didn't I know I'd be labeled a Dork, a troublemaker and an outcast, for the rest of my school career?

Well, I was. Let's say that being Jewish is an education in being all of the above (dork, weirdo, troublemaker, outcast, kid who brought weird stuff in her lunchbox at Passover). It isn't about any Ten Commandments (most of which I've broken, except for the murder part). It's about training to be an Outcast with a capital O. Bringing Matzo to school and refusing to sing Christmas carols is an education, and the result is that all your life you will sympathize with anything outside the Mainstream. Like Gays, people of Color, Dissidents, Beatniks, you name it. Some Jews carry this a little too far and sympathize with the enemies of their own people, the ones who want to destroy us and say there never was any Holocaust, etc. But I digress.

I was supposed to be writing about Christmas. OK. I spent a lifetime dealing with Christmas angst, but this year I am kind of enjoying it. I'm enjoying watching everyone else run around like chickens with their heads cut off, and knowing that I DON'T HAVE TO. Oh, I can give and receive presents if I WANT to. But there's no cosmic law that forces me to. Also, I can enjoy everyone else's displays of lights, and oh yeah, I can eat the cookies! It's really kind of nice, like a movie. I'm an outsider all year and I have to watch a lot of other movies that are way worse. Like watching our government get us into stupid wars, and watching the world corpocracy destroy the planet, etc.

It's much more fun to watch mainstream Americans go Gaga over a fat guy in a red suit! So I wish you all a Happy "Whatever", but don't ask me to light Hanukkah candles. One year my kitty cat walked past them and almost set himself on fire. My religion doesn't include burnt offerings.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Compassion because it feels good

Everyone talks about compassion, but what's in it for us?

I confess that this is not about giving charity to Worthy Causes or even about helping cute orphans. It is about compassion for something everyone hates: INSECTS. If that bothers you, quit reading now.

I rescue bees and wasps that get stuck in the window. My daughter cringes. "Mom, they're dangerous! I hate them!"

Yes, the bees and wasps are scary. But ever since last year, when I embarked on a project to record the lovely songs of crickets (see Insect Summer of Love), I could no longer look at insects as just something to squash.

So I would try to trap the wasp in a jar and take it outside and let it fly away. The fact that it was difficult, and even dangerous, added to the thrill. But when I'd take the bug outside and watch it suddenly realize it was free, and fly away... what a great moment. Think how great the wasp felt. And it made me feel great too--to give something its freedom.

Then there were these "stink bugs" that kept getting into the house. The kids called them stink bugs because "they stink when you squash them."

"Then don't squash them," I'd reply. I hope someday I can instill respect for other lifeforms in these kids.

My son took to throwing them in the toilet. So there I was, all ready to do my Business, when I saw a helpless insect swimming around in the bowl, struggling for life. Gosh. Could I really, uh... you know, pee on the poor thing? How would I like it if something like that happened to me?

I thrust a sponge into the water and let it crawl on. Boy, you've really gone off the deep end, I told myself, making sure the kids didn't see me as I took the little guy outside and put him on a tree. I watched him crawling away on the bark, long green legs scuttling, antennae waving. Though he had more legs than me, I could certainly imagine his relief at being back outside, rescued from that scary porcelain lake.

And gosh, looking at the creature's delicacy just made me feel really good. Not "good" like a namby pamby do-gooder, who gets praised by everyone and wears a halo on their head. I would certainly not get any praise for rescuing bugs. More likely just a lot of scorn and derision.

But maybe I didn't care. I felt good because I felt a tenderness toward the little critter. You know that there is a bit of entomophobia in all of us... even in me there is a reflexive moment of revulsion in finding a bug where it shouldn't be (like, in my soup for instance). So maybe there is a perverse thrill in rescuing bugs and conquering that scrap of fear that says "ugh". Why is a bug ugly? Why can't we see its delicate, intricate construction as beautiful?

It makes me feel daring to overcome a part of myself. Opening one's mind to a new perspective: perhaps the perspective that God has: that all critters are to be cherished and respected. Anyway, choosing to rescue something delicate and helpless, instead of crushing it, well, that's a lovely feeling: a reward in itself.

If anyone is depressed, they ought to try this radical form of feel-good therapy.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Cluttered and loving it

'Get rid of clutter. Simplify your life!"

The subject of clutter engenders much soul searching. "We're too affluent" say the magazines. "There's too much Stuff. It's a Consumer Society." And maybe even "we're bad people. We're greedy & materialistic.".

Or not? Maybe there are other reasons for clutter. I recently cleaned my room. A daunting task. My room is filled with junk: 30 years worth of notebooks containing stories, novels, ones I wrote and ones I never wrote. Notes for same. Correspondence galore. Then there were the crafts. Fabrics, knitting projects, photographs, pads of paper, stationary.

Does that make me greedy or materialistic? Maybe it makes me 'wildly creative' even though I don't usually get paid for what I create. So I should feel good about myself then... !

Not to mention the clothing I no longer wear. Why don't I throw it out? Because I'm waiting to get a chance to donate to Goodwill. Maybe that makes me "altruistic?"

My biggest reason for clutter is "I hate to waste things." I was raised by a mom who lived thru the Depression. To this day she saves plastic bags, rubber bands, paper cups that aren't too dirty. And I lived thru a sort of self-imposed Depression: it was 1968 and I wanted to live on my own, even though I didn't make much money, so I lived in an attic and got my furniture from the curbside. It was the "hippie times". Which for me was about "rebelling against the System" and "not supporting the Corporations". Living poor was a social statement. So instead of throwing things out, I'd keep them because "I might need it", or 'I might be able to make something else useful out of it."

(As a matter of fact, I usually discover the use for something AFTER I throw it out. So, I shouldn't throw it out at all. 5 years from now, that scrap of purple velvet will serve some important purpose or other.)

Then along came Environmentalism and the awareness that every time we throw out a can of paint, a TV, a sofa... it adds to a mountain of garbage that will haunt our descendants.

So that's the true reason my house is a craphole. Not because I'm selfish, greedy or materialistic. Because I'm creative, altruistic, and just an all around Concerned Caring Person.

Aren't you sorry for calling me a slob?

Fooling Mother Nature

A slightly dotty, gray-haired woman walks down the middle of the street. She wears a ragged pink mantle and carries a baseball bat. A raccoon and a dog follow along at her side. She walks through the bland, suburban neighborhood and up someone's driveway. She stands in front of a bland suburban car and begins pounding the hood with the baseball bat.

"Your car really takes a beating from Mother Nature," says the voice-over of this commercial.

I gape in astonishment at what has to be the dumbest commercial ever. What? This is how they view Mother Nature now? Some crazy old homeless woman with an ineffectual baseball bat? If you buy the chemical they're advertising, you can thwart her? Hmmm.

I think not.

We humans think we're pretty powerful... but ever notice how one snowstorm can throw us into a panic? One really big storm that knocks trees over power lines... one earthquake. And if you study much natural science (biology, astronomy, geology) you'll learn that sometimes in Earth's history, "Mother Nature" has done a lot more than swing a baseball bat. Continents have risen and sunk, wiping out whole ecosystems. Volcanoes have drastically altered the climate. Chunks of wandering space debris have had little "oopsies" collisions with our planet, and the results have made films like Deep Impact look like Sunday School. In fact, even "Armageddon" would have seemed pale compared to some of the global holocausts that have taken place in geological time.

And there's no telling whether such cataclysms might not happen tomorrow. We worry about landfills, pollution, toxic waste. If Mother Nature wanted to, She could swing that cosmic baseball bat of Hers and send our Earth flying off into space. And if anyone believes in a retributive God, one wonders why it hasn't happened already.

I kind of like another commercial they used to run a few years back. Our Mother was pictured as a glamorous Greek Goddess wearing a toga and a laurel wreath. Enraged by some foolish earthling's deception, She launches a cosmic thunderbolt.

"It's not nice to fool Mother Nature," said the punch line.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

My Secret Vice

Once there was a tangled field across the street. I went walking there all the time. It was one of the great pleasures of my life. To get home from work, throw on a pair of jeans and charge outside like a kid at recess! To soak up sunshine, lean into the wind, inhale the scent of grasses, kick up dandelion fluff, delight in the colors of wildflowers!

Along with these blessings, of course, I also received some payback: burrs, ticks, and a particularly nasty case of poison ivy.

Still, the backyard field was better for my soul than a hundred Prozacs or an evening in the swankiest restaurant.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. You can guess where this story is going. They bulldozed my private heaven and replaced it with a Target, a Lowes, a Hilton, a Max & Erma's, and a 24-Plex Movie Theater. The movie theater looks like a retro 1950's space ship. People can see it from the 422 Bypass (also built in my former walking grounds.) No one ever gets lost coming to my house. "Just look for the giant purple-neon-lined rocket," I tell them.

Still, this sad story has a sort-of happy ending, sort of. Because all these horrible tacky stores provided employment for my teenagers. But also because now I have a new place to go when I want to get out of the house.

Don't tell anyone, but it's my secret vice: sometimes I like to get out the door, run across the last vestige of my former field, stroll behind the Lowes and into the Target. I hate to confess this, but it's kind of a "fun place to go". Not because I actually want to buy anything. God forbid! You think I'd actually buy those ridiculous outfits for pencil-shaped 15-year olds?

No, I just like to LOOK. Some wiseass has designed the whole place to be bright, cherry-red and visually appealing. (And they probably employ an army of overworked immigrants to keep it that way.) It's as good as visiting a museum. "This is how life was in 22nd century America. Those people lived amid a plethora of beautiful things. Observe the plastic dinnerware in vibrant tropical patterns. Delight in those curtains, towels and lush bedspreads in eye-popping patterns of ruby red, cerulean blue and mauve and brightest turquoise! Why, even pencil holders and desk organizers have been elevated into the pinnacle of fine art."

Of course, I'd much rather have the dandelions back. But we are given few choices in this life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Melts in your soul, not in your mouth.

I should stick to non-controversial topics. How about candy? I read an article about some chocolate crosses being sold as Easter candy. Hey, my son gave me a bite of one of those the other day. I didn't think anything of it. But apparently some people did?

...chomping on a ...chocolate cross is offensive to Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic diocese in Bridgeport, Conn.

"The cross should be venerated, not eaten, nor tossed casually in an Easter basket beside the jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps," he said. "It's insulting."

What a shame. I was kind of hoping they'd come out with a chocolate Jesus.

"...Russell Stover considered making other traditional images out of chocolate but eventually opted not to.

"A molded Jesus, for example, would not be a good call and a cross with Jesus on it wouldn't be a good idea either," Ward said.

Why not? What about Communion, where you are supposed to be eating the body and blood of Christ? A chocolate Jesus would just be bringing the tradition a bit up to date. Think of all the new converts it would bring in. People would start liking church again. It would be a way of getting a little bit of Jesus into infidels like me. I hope they make Him out of Lindt chocolate. Mmm...I'd give my soul for a bite of that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Gateway Drug

The truth is out!! The truth, as told by Mr. Spreading Freedom: "Marijuana is a Gateway Drug."

Hang on. Even my 80 year old Mom has discovered the truth behind decades of official lies: Marijuana won't make you into a raging criminal or drooling junkie or sex pervert. In fact, don't tell those sunglasses & Kevlar-wearing Robocops at the ATF, but Pot is No Worse Than Beer! Oh, I wouldn't recommend getting in the car after smoking a bong, but hey--you can get busted for drunk driving, too.

But, as I said before, Marijuana is indeed a Gateway Drug. It is a Gateway to learning the truth that we live in a state tyranny. If you or your unfortunate offspring are caught inhaling this devil weed, you will experience a strange hallucination: you will see a society that has forced us into brutal wars, downsized our jobs and robbed them of all meaning and dignity, regulated every aspect of our existence (except which kind of hairspray to buy), bulldozed every last natural refuge that might have offered solace. And, as a final indignity, this society can take away one of our few remaining ways to relax, kick back, forget about the wars and World Doom, enjoy music, have a party.

In this dystopic world, they even own your body. They can subject your bodily fluids to ruthless scrutiny. Your boss can require random drug testing, and if you test positive (like if you smoked a joint on a sunday a month ago) you can be fired. Wait a sec, did the boss pay me for that day? Basically this means your employer owns you--you are his slave, 24-7.

Unfortunately, this vision will not be a drug trip. It will be REALITY.

That's right. Pot is a gateway drug. If you are ever busted for it, the gateway will be open and you will learn the truth behind all the pious flag waving and 'say no to drugs' and 'spread freedom' bullshit. What kind of government would criminalize and maybe imprison innocent youngsters, musicians, moms, graying hippies, and sick folks with cancer, for putting a substance into their bodies?

A pathetically stupid and sick tyranny, that's what kind.

Death, Right to Life, hypocrisy

This isn't about Terri Schaivo--it's about the pious hypocrites who are out there protesting & praying to keep her alive. It really boggles my mind. Have any of these people volunteered their time to actually help provide the backbreaking 24 hour care this woman requires? Have any of them showed up at Ms. S's bedside to assist in turning her every 2 hrs, catheter care, oral care, bowel cleanup, musculoskeletal range of motion exercise, hanging & pushing those Tube Feedings, wound care (bedsores)... etc. I used to be an LPN working at nursing homes. I ruined my back from giving patient care to the terminal. I know what I'm talking about. Oh, for the record... generally if these people are able to murmur a few words, the words are variants of "please let me die."

That's the other reason I don't work in nursing anymore.

Have any of these holy hypocrites offered to pay Ms. Schaivo's medical bills? That would at least be a way to show Jesus that they actually cared. Same with the anti abortion fanatics. If you want to show what a good Christian you are, quit mouthing off and calling other people "Nazis". Put your money where your mouth is and send lifetime support for one of these "precious lives saved from the abortionist's knife".

I'm so sick of hypocrites.

The question I have to ask the Schaivomaniacs is... "we ALL have to die. How come you guys think Terri should be exempt from that fate? Why does she deserve decades of medical care (how much $$$$ did she drain from the national budget????? ) when us slobs who are still alive will be lucky to get a whopping $599 a month Social security?" Is she better than us? Does a person have to be brain-dead to get any help or consideration?

Truth is, the reason the rightwing Life fanatics (who think nothing of Killing to further their cause) and their Republican tools in congress feel empathy with Terri Schaivo is... because they are also BRAIN DEAD. Like sticks with Like!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Infinitely Infinitesimal

Last month I visited a cool place-- a flea-market graveyard for Old Technology. There stood the hardware of yesteryear--the clunky adding machines, the nerdy Apples, the jingling cash registers. But best of all were the Old Telephones. Remember the large, black, shiny thing that sat on a table in the hall? Or it hung on the kitchen wall, complete with a wonderful rotary dial. You put your finger in and dialed the numbers and let the dial slowly drift back to its original spot. A great toy for kids. And remember the big receiver that you could rest on your shoulder?

Ahhh.... old technologies, old memories. Who among us can remember the manual typewriter? Even the days B.C. (before computers) seem so remote. What did people do with themselves instead of writing blogs?

But I didn't come here to write about Nostalgia. I just came to remark on the interesting fact that as technology gets more sophisticated, it gets smaller. Used to be you played a Record (an album, an LP, 'Vinyl") on a large Phonograph that took up space next to your bookshelf. Then came the tape player that sat on your desk. Then a little CD player. Now it's something called an iPod. (I haven't progressed that far myself, so this is just hearsay.) As for phones... I have a little cell phone now. It is so small, I usually can't find it until it has stopped ringing. It could nestle inside Old Black Telephone's womb. In fact, even the first generation cell phones could beat mine up like bullying older brothers.

If things keep getting smaller & more sophisticated...well, you know where this is going. MAD Magazine showed the cell phone of the future disappearing inside the user's ear. And let's not forget Nanotechnology--machines the size of bacteria.

Where will it all end? I'll tell you where. Stephen Hawking's Universe: the Cosmos Explained tells about how In the Beginning, there was nothing but a "cosmic egg"--one super-atom which contained everything that the Universe would become. Now Technology is taking us in the opposite direction. Stuff will get smaller and smaller and smaller until it is infinitely infinitesimal.

Eventually the evolution of the Universe will be reversed. Everything--the planets, the galaxies, the Starship Enterprise--all will be sucked back together into the Cosmic Egg from whence it came.

Then try finding your phone when it rings.

Interesting Science Facts

Ever have one of those times where the stress feels like hammers hitting the inside of your brain? It's been like that today. I didn't even feel like reading. Everything just reminded me that the whole world's f*cked up. The only thing I enjoyed reading was my Discovery magazine. Because these days, Science is an escape from politics and world news.

Anyway, I learned some interesting facts. One of them is that the recent Asian tsunami, which killed over 250,000 people, also deposited over 40 million tons of titanium on India's shores. Titanium is a valuable alloy that is used in computers, sports equipment and cars. It is lighter than steel but just as strong. Maybe this will enable India to become a wealthy nation. So maybe India got some benefit out of the tsunami! It's nice to hear about something good once in awhile.

Speaking of titanium, I read an article about the space probe that's viewing the surface of Titan. Um, let's see. Titan is a moon of Uranus, correct? And its surface is made of methane? Uh, huh huh (Beavis & Butthead voices). It's a "moon" of "Uranus"? huh huh. And methane is 'fart gas". Get it???

Oh, wait a sec. It's a moon of Saturn. Thump.

Still, Titan is interesting because its atmosphere might be similar to the way Earth's was a few billion years ago, before life evolved. Besides, it's a great cure for depression to read about something that is 50 million miles away, because it has absolutely no connection with stupid human politics on Earth.

Or does it? They are saying that Titan's surface is composed of hydrocarbons, "like natural gas." So look out. Eventually, the gas-guzzling, SUV-driving Repubs are going to be sending an interplanetary supertanker out there.

Titanians, watch out! The Invaders from Earth are coming to steal your planet!

Does anyone remember the movie 2001? If I recall, the space ship reached the moon Titan and discovered another one of the mysterious black obelisks (the ones that taught the apes to use tools and motivated us to develop space travel). And this obelisk turned out to be an interdimensional transporter that beamed the Earthlings to a sort of galactic classroom for species who were ready to Evolve to the Next Level.

Do you think we're ready?