Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Are You Watching This?

"Are you watching this?" she asked, catching me in a television-induced daze.

The grumbling man was on the screen spouting his latest gimmick in hopes of firing up his base, visions of Frankenstein dancing thru the heads of some, others oblivious to naught but rapturous cheers rising to the heavens.

I stared in numb disbelief. I stared frankly in mild disgust, mainly at the media who seem to so revel in it: in the cheering throngs, in the sharp jabs, in the pounded fists -- the media who yearn for a sound byte or a controversy to draw in the gawking millions.

It's so sad what the mainstream media have become: slick swindlers manufacturing a story where there is none, scrambling to revive a business model that requires thoughtless eyeballs even in the absence of anything to look at.

So I sat there staring in numb thoughtless disbelief, gawking just as she came in and asked again, "Are you really watching this?"

I was the only one in the waiting room. And she knows I don't have a TV. She doesn't either, and this one drives her crazy all day long, even though it's around the corner from her desk. But I was the only one in the room.

I popped out of my gawker-gaze. "Um, no of course not," I said, blinking.

She reached up and turned it off.

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 Wednesday, October 15, 2008


You walk thru a doorway with a door as thick as a safe, down a long, blue, featureless hallway with walls surely lined with lead into a big, blue, mostly empty room. You step behind the curtain, take off your pants and shoes and grab a pillowcase to cover your bare essentials, although surely they know that at this point you really don't have any modesty left, and anyway they will be able to see right thru that pillow case from their monitors in the room next door.

There's a bed of sorts in the middle of the room, with a mold custom fitted to hold you approximately in position. It's covered with a sheet, I guess to make it look more bed-like. There are monitors on the wall that tell the therapists what's going on, although the therapists will have long departed before the monitors begin to update. There is a green, three-dimensional coordinate system painted on the walls and ceiling by laser lights, so they can be sure you are correctly aligned. And there's the machine to which they align you, a large hulk in the back of the room with a few appendages that reach out -- the business ends of the thing.

After they've left you alone on the bed, covered by your pillow case, holding on to a foam loop to keep you from fiddling your arms, everything is quiet for a while. Then the machine's appendages deploy, unfolding one to each side of you. And then they scan you, appendages rotating around the axis of your body. And for a few moments, there's silence again, followed by slight mechanical adjustments of the bed as the therapists remotely fine-tune your position.

Then comes the treatment, which frankly takes the least time of everything. The machine squeals, alerting, no doubt, anyone in the room (except for you) that they must immediately leave. And red lights flash on the walls. And the appendages hum and click, rotating in discrete increments from one position to another, radiating your internals from various directions so only the target gets a full dose.

And then it's done. You might grab a bit-o-honey from the candy bowl (or maybe not, depending on how you feel), and you walk out the door to the special parking place that only patients have the code for. And you go home.

You'll be back tomorrow.

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 Monday, October 6, 2008

Not Like Him

We've got a lot of work to do if we're gonna change this country. But you know, I have to be frank with you. It's gonna get rough from here on out.

Who is this man? Have you heard his middle name? Do you know about his father? And about his wife's bad attitude. About those shady pals of his from Chicago?

He doesn't see America like we do, he and his terrorist pals. Would you trust someone like him with your happiness? With your safety? With your children? With your future? I fear for our country led by a man like this.

Vote for us. We are not like him.

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 Thursday, October 2, 2008

Muttering Man

When we were at the bus stop, he was reading a book quietly, oblivious to the comings and goings around him. He was waiting for the 338. So were we. When it arrived, he stood up slowly and waited for everyone else.

He sat somewhere in the middle. We sat towards the back. He resumed his reading. We wrestled with our backpacks and folding chairs. The guy in front of us had a backpack and chair, too.

At the next stop, a few more people got on. Some were carrying chairs and backpacks. The reading guy jumped up and moved to the back corner of the bus. He mumbled just loudly enough for those of us nearby to hear him, "I hate Austin."

At the next stop, there were about a dozen people more. They had packs and chairs and sunglasses and smiles on their faces like they were on a vacation. They were. We were. We were going to ACL.

At the next stop, a bigger crowd was waiting. They were smiling and laughing and carrying more chairs and had clearly never ridden the bus before. They didn't know how it worked. They thought the bus driver would break a $20.

"Damn ACL," the reading man muttered. He was now surrounded by chairs and backpacks and sunglasses and smiling faces. All the seats in the bus were full. The aisle was full. He started muttering more loudly and then started cussing. "Nice music, dude. I hope you like your music."

"Are you talking to us?" one of the guys next to him asked.

In a different bus things would have turned out differently. On a different bus with different people it wouldn't have been a pretty sight. But the cussing reading muttering man was alone in his corner surrounded by a bus load of smiling, laughing, chair-toting, backpack-wearing people who had other things to do.

It was early in the day, after all. The sky was blue. The air was relatively cool. There was a weekend of music ahead. Why let the muttering of a pathetic mumbling cursing man ruin it?

I wonder what he was reading.

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 Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On Butterfly Advice

Then the butterflies came.

White ones. Yellow ones. Little mothy-looking ones. Swallowtails. Monarchs. Not in fluttering masses, but in numbers sufficient to warrant a turn of the head and a smile of the mouth.

They stop at the yellow Cowpen Daisies, blossoms at the end of blue-green stems and leaves. They circle the orange Flame Acanthus, accompanied once in a while by a Hummingbird. They consider the Milkweed with its long, slender dark-green leaves.

Consider the butterflies, how they flutter in the field. Your advice was right after all.

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Amateur That I Am

I tell you what, when you tell me that I'm allowed to build my own financial model of my house's value for use in calculating my real estate taxes, that's when I'll sign off on waiving mark-to-market accounting rules.

Or maybe when they tell me that the models that are to be used in place of the mark-to-market rules will be based on standard models created, validated and certified by an outside agency, that's when I'll sign off on changing the rules.

Until then, amateur that I am, I'll just grumble about the creative accounting, greed and deceit that remolded America of the 20th Century into a plutocracy capable only of generating fictitious wealth on virtual balance sheets based on untested models based on mathematics that no one is quite sure means anything which is appropriate since the assets in question are meaningless anyway.

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