Monday, January 16, 2017

Creative Admonition


First morning of post-vacation funk, I was sitting on my coffee deck taking stock of my abilities, talents and passions.  Dejectedly, I wondered why I think of myself as a creative person, one whose talents are distinctly right-brained, since I seem to suck at every creative endeavor I have ever embarked upon.  I USED to play music, USED to sing, USED to weave, USED to garden.  I don't do those things any more...I was never any good at them anyway.

More recently, I've turned to writing and photography as my creative outlets. Those two activities seem to be headed for the "USED to do" tar pit as well.  I've had to concede that I'm not really any good at those, either.

Just as I was spiraling down into a crater of depression about this, a thought came to my mind--as they are wont to do when I'm sitting in my place of communication with the Spirit...whether or not I think I've voluntarily entered into said communication. 

"Why do you have to be 'good at' these things to engage in them?  Creativity is not about that.  It's about enjoying the process.  It's not about success, or marketability, or even if anyone else likes or understands what you do.  It's about doing what you love because you  love it, and because you can."

Hmm.  I guess I'll have to think about THAT for awhile. 

Post-Vacation Grumbles

 
 
 
Dire weather forecasts aside, our mid-winter vacation in southern Oregon turned out to be quite a success.  We got in a lot of roaming around all over the countryside; visited an impressive little museum in Klamath Falls; even thoroughly enjoyed embarrassing ourselves at a bowling alley one evening.  We did NOT end up getting trapped in our room for days on end by the weather.   
We left the frozen tundra of the Klamath basin on Saturday; arrived back in the frozen tundra of PDX-land on Sunday.  Once this stuff goes away, I think I will have had my fill of snow for at least another year.
But if this vacation has turned me off snow for awhile, it has turned me off one other thing:  photography.  The new camera proved to be way more than I can or want to handle.  I even took time to watch an hour-long you-tube video that amounted to "Nikon D7200 for dummies"  in a vain effort to understand enough about the over-the-top technology of the thing to get it to a point where I can get acceptable pictures out of it. No dice.  I still ended up with unclear, off-color images 90% of the time.  It was an exercise in frustration that tainted my enjoyment of my vacation rather than enhancing it.  Bah!
Sure, it has a button for this and a dial for that, and six-ways-to-Sunday to adjust the exposure, shutter speed, ISO and aperture.  I can touch this button for low light-situations, this dial for bright light or back light, make this adjustment for infinity pictures, another for macro, and yet another for telephoto.  This camera will do a million different things, if I just make the right combination of adjustments.  But who wants to have to do all that crap every time you pick up the camera and point it at something?  What a pain in the ass!!!!  
And in the end, a photographer friend of mine conceded that  "we all try to get the most out of the camera in the field, but... putting time into post-processing [will make] a dramatic difference."  That suggests I need to invest time and money I don't have into acquiring a program like "Lightroom" to process my photos, and shoot "RAW" images, then painstakingly download and "process" every image.  By the way, "Lightroom" is an Adobe product--I HATE Adobe.  They are the least intuitive programs out there.  You need to take a fucking class just to figure out how to use the damn things, and it takes months of using and practicing with the programs to be able to get any results, much less acceptable ones. 
I once thought of digital photography as a gift from the gods.  It was such a liberating technology for hobby photographers...no more investing mucho bucks into film and processing of pictures of which 90% were garbage.  No more boxes and boxes of photos to search through to find the one of Mom's 80th birthday or the trip to Mt. St. Helens.  I got my first digital camera in 2002 and have never looked back.
But like everything these days, the technology has morphed into more of a burden than a blessing.  There is no such thing as beauty in simplicity.  If you have a device, it needs to be able to do more and more and more and more.  No matter that the "more and more" are things you didn't ask for and will never use.   It has to be "cutting edge."  If some new trick is conceived, they slap it on there.  Just because.  And after awhile, all that extraneous crap begins to inhibit rather than enhance the original function of the device. 
So it is with DSLR's, in my humble opinion.  I don't want to take HD movies, or record stereo sound, or connect to Wi-Fi (a significant portion of the $1400 price tag of the camera went toward these features that I don't want and won't use); or get shitty images with a lot of "potential" that I have to screw around with in the digital darkroom to make decent.  I want to point the camera at something, make a few minor adjustments, if necessary, and shoot the damn picture.  Then download decent images right from the camera to my laptop.  Why is that so hard?
I have two choices:  I can either commit to taking the camera out "practice" shooting a couple of hours every day until I master the complicated technology, then spend additional hours downloading and processing the images, or I can bag it.  And it looks like I'll have to bag it at least for now, because I have a pretty full schedule, with an event coming up in a month, plus my commitment to begin sorting through and weeding out "things that no longer serve" around my house, plus the commitment I made the first of this year to posting ten journal entries per month.  There are only so many hours in a day, and I move a lot slower than I used to.  The $1400 camera is going to have to be set aside for awhile...and I may ultimately decide IT is a "thing that no longer serves."  Sigh!       
   


Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Grass Roots Movement That Can Save Us


I posted this earlier today, after yet another call to sign a petition showed up in my Facebook news feed:
 
 

I've always had a feeling that these petitions were an exercise in futility.  Last week's story about Paul Ryan absenting himself from the delivery of petitions from Planned Parenthood  certainly reinforced that feeling.  Think about it for just a minute:  If the GOP-controlled Congress intends to ram through legislation over the objections of the minority in the House and Senate, it certainly has zero interest in hearing from the people represented by that legislative minority.  Petitions are a waste of time.  Ditto phone calls and emails to the offices of Congressional representatives.   Congress has demonstrated repeatedly over the past eight years that they have little regard for the actual will or even the welfare of the American people.   

The past nine weeks have been a struggle for me, as they have for much of the nation.  It has been difficult to watch the days of perhaps the last sane presidency of our republic tick away...we're down to seven, now.  The horrendous bloodbath that was the 2016 election left us all so drained that we literally cannot face the fear and dread that lies like a stone in our hearts.  Haven't we all held out a shred of hope that Trump would somehow, against all odds, rise to this challenge and at least start acting like an adult, if not entirely presidential?  Haven't we all been secretly waiting for some sign that surely things will not turn out as badly as we think they will?

But Trump continues to act like an obnoxious, entitled 12-year-old who has never been taught the meaning of the word "no" and has no intention of ever learning it.  He tweets garbage, selects obvious misfits for important government posts just for the sensational value of it, picks fights with the press, sticks out his tongue and calls anyone who disagrees with him a "loser..."  His inspiring  New Year's missive to the American people was a taunt to his "enemies"--which, if one considers the results of the popular vote, would refer to over half of those very American people--crowing playground bully-talk about what losers they were. 

So, no...there is not one tiny shred of hope emanating from Trump or his suddenly sycophantic Republican Congress.  The hopelessness is paralyzing.  How many of us have been tempted to simply turn away from this fiasco and try to live quietly and genuinely until it all explodes?  I know I have.

This evening, I was sitting in, of all places, a bar in a bowling alley in Klamath Falls Oregon.  Country music was blaring from the stage where karaoke would begin at 9:00  pm sharp.  And, almost by reflex, I was starting to feel a curmudgeonly resentment toward these people in this area of the state, whom I do not know but am convinced are my political "enemies"--no doubt leaning as far right as I do left.

And  then it hit me:  We've got to stop hating each other. 

That's what we have to do.  The hate, the division, the side-taking...it's got to stop.

Because that's where the power of those who would destroy this country comes from.  From hate.  We call each other "the enemy."  We spew filth at each other on a daily basis.  We've  escalated from verbal assault upon our neighbors to cyber-bullying and, finally, deadly violence.  Beatings.  Rapes.  Shootings.  Riots. 

And  in our nation's capitol, we have 535 of our duly chosen "representatives" carrying out what they believe is OUR mandate to hate (or maybe we are carrying out theirs; it's become a chicken/egg thing...impossible to distinguish which came first.)  We've even elected ourselves a Hater-in-Chief.  We're no longer the United States of America.  We're the Divided States of Hate.    

It has to stop.  And WE can stop it.  At a very grass roots level.  In our neighborhoods, in our villages and towns and cities, we have to stop hating each other.  THAT is what we can do.  All the petitions and phone calls and emails and tweets and Facebook statuses and blog posts we can muster will not produce the result of We The People physically laying down our swords and our clubs, joining together and refusing to continue to hate.

THIS is what needs to be organized.  THIS is the thing into which we need to pour our hearts, our blood, sweat and tears.  We need to join together and STOP THE HATE.

Once we stop hating, our god-forsaken joke of a government can continue to stall, or stagnate or even explode, and we'll weather the storm.  Because we'll care about each other, and we'll take care of each other. 

We are all we have, my friends.   And that is not a bad thing. 

There are 319 million of us.  We are...HUGE!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tomorrow Belongs To...


A little background here, invisible audience:  Oregon is a blue state purely on the strength of the liberals overrunning our most populous areas--Portland, Eugene-Springield, Salem.  The rest of the state is as red as they come...the farther south you go, the redder it gets.  Think of the guys that took over Malheur last winter.  Down here in these parts--we're in Klamath Falls right now--the folks were definitely siding with the Bundys.

So...we went to lunch at a local watering hole this afternoon, the kind with a tv-screen in every corner.  As it happened, we were tuned into the very beginning of a football game.  Up there on the tv, some guy steps up to a mike, doffs his cowboy hat and starts to belt out "The Star Spangled Banner."  

And a guy at the next table takes off his ball cap, stands at attention and puts his hand over his heart.

It made me uncomfortable.  And I was uncomfortable with being uncomfortable about it.  "Quit being an ass," I told myself.  "It's a free country.  He's not bothering you."  Still, a nagging bit of disapproval followed me through my meal, and out the door.

A little while later, after thinking about it some more, it came to my mind what exactly made me uncomfortable about this guy standing up in a bar showing off his ostentatious brand of in-your-face "patriotism."

It was because it reminded me WAY too much of this (from 1972's film version of "Cabaret."):


Friday, January 6, 2017

Batshit


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Take a Good Look, Progressives


The holidays are over.   We're in to the new year and the countdown of the last days of a sane human being presiding over the United States of America has begun in earnest.    I've noticed some of my progressive friends returning to social media, passing around disgruntled memes and engaging in a little post-election observation.  What I've noticed most about the return of liberals to Facebook and Twitter is that no one is really talking too much about who is responsible for the fact of president-elect Cheeto Jesus.  Let me put it out there for you all:   I lay a good deal of the responsibility at the feet of the legions of progressives who either didn't vote or voted for a third party candidate because they were assured by the mainstream media of a Clinton victory, so they were free to "vote (or not) their conscience" without being afraid that Trump would win. Surprise!

In my humble opinion, the show put on by the progressive "faithful" during the entire election cycle was shameful. They were more than happy to abandon the moral high ground and jump on the vicious, negative, Hillary-bashing bus during the primaries; then they whip out their halos, polish them up and "vote their conscience" in the general election. I call bullshit on that. You can't run with the devil and then go kneel in front of the altar when it suits your fancy.

Prior to this election, Progressives believed they owned the moral high ground. It was a point of pride. Win or lose, they were always better than the ignorant, name-calling, slime-dwelling right-wing sheep. Unfortunately, during this election cycle many frustrated Progressives decided that ugliness was the way to go, since right-wingers obviously have so much success with it. They ran screaming from the high ground, straight into the mud pit, where they ended up shoulder to shoulder with the "enemy," flinging vile shit at one of their own who just didn't happen to be their first choice of Democrat presidential candidate.

I do not lump all progressives who harbored reservations about Clinton with the crazies who viciously tore into her, swallowing and regurgitating every bit of the baseless venom that Republicans had been piling on her for 25 years. I'll wager that raging mob didn't care a fig for any possibly sane reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton. They wanted Bernie and they were going to help Republicans drag Hillary through the glass-spiked manure to get him.

I am not a registered Democrat.  I'm an independent--for good reason, it appears. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have answers any more. There was a reason many of the founding fathers distrusted and warned against political parties. Just look at the place to which partisan politics have dragged us today.

That said, the system is what it is. I align myself with the "side" that comes closest to sharing my personal ideology, so these days, I generally end up on the Democrat side of most issues. But having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago during the sixties and seventies, I have seen Democrats at their worst; so I have no particular allegiance to that party.

As a card-carrying bleeding heart liberal, I was overjoyed when Bernie Sanders entered the primary. I anticipated his input would drag the conversation away from the center--the political Brigadoon that doesn't really exist--where I knew Hillary Clinton intended to set up residence. There needed to be a major pull to the left , and Sanders could provide it.  And I applauded Sanders when he declared that his would be a "positive campaign, based on the issues."  That was EXACTLY what we needed.  That was how intelligent progressives would challenge each other in a complex and intimidating world.  Negative campaigning never addresses actual issues.

But when the Sanders campaign degenerated to the shitstorm it became, I lost all hope that our nation could be saved, or even that it was worth saving. AND my already very conditional respect for the Democratic party faded to near invisibility. The American people--and progressives particularly--need to take a serious look at the end result of EVERYONE sinking to the level of using the tools of the Dark Side to "win" political contests.

In two weeks, the Dark Lord himself will rise to the presidency of one of the most powerful nations on the planet.  THAT is what we have done to ourselves.  Progressives abandoned their traditional moral stance and dove eagerly into the mud pit.   The result was that they ended up with a damaged candidate--damaged not as much by her personal past as by those who supposedly shared her political ideology turning on her and ripping her to shreds. They got exactly what they wanted this election--NOT Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, NOT Clinton ended up being Cheeto Jesus. And now we all have to live with that.

 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Challenge

 
 

Would it have surprised anyone if, after the marathon of the past three months, this space remained untouched for at least a month?  Or two?  It wouldn't have surprised me.

But wonder of wonders, I seem to have developed a habit.  Can't seem to make it through too many days without sitting down with my Dell in my lap and staring at the cursor blinking on the blank Word page until something shakes out.

Yes, I've settled myself back into this warm familiar room. I needed to air it out a little, sweep out the cobwebs; pushed out the empty chairs where no one sits anymore and dusted off and fluffed up the one big, comfy easy chair that remained.  Though it's so very changed from the electric, energy-charged place it was when I first found it, I still love this place.  It's full of good memories; rather than letting them prick and pain me with thoughts of a community lost, I'll allow them to surround me like a fleece blanket of fond remembrances. 

It being the new year and all, and a new year likely to bring storms and strife from many quarters, I've decided I'll need to come here to my place of contemplation and solace often.  I'm not one to make resolutions, but I know that if I don't set my competitive self a goal, my dedication is likely to fade. 

So here it is.  Ten posts per month.  At least ten; could be more, can't be less.  And no doing 12 posts one month and then 8 the next.  That would be cheating.  There may be times when it might come down to publishing ten posts on the 30th of  the month.  But I hope not;  I'd like to hope a deadline won't be my primary motivation.

Ready.

Set.

Go.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I Win!!!!


So.  This is it. 

Post number 1300.  A challenge made, a challenge met.  On fire in October, shocked to near silence in November, rededicated in December.  Forty posts in 31 days needed to get me to the finish line--more than I had posted in the entire year two years ago.  

Nearly ran out of steam halfway through the month, but powered by a good old Facebook meme, here I am face to face with victory.  Way to prop up a dead social media connection with one that is only just turning the corner toward that same fate.

For this final post of the challenge, I'm going to go back to a thing I did for several years awhile back, but haven't done since 2012.  My New Years Eve entry will be a retrospective of the year in blog, through the first sentence of the first entry of each month.  (With  a bit of parenthetical commentary.)

Let's have at it:

January:  "Five days into a new year.  Already."  (Well.  Let's not get too excited about it...)

February:   "I have been thinking about all this hyper-hoopla surrounding the 2016 presidential race...particularly about those lining up behind Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—the darlings of the far-left and the far-right."  (Oh, gawd...I can't even go there right now...)

March:  "I  googled 'negative campaigning,' with an eye toward determining exactly when this became de rigueur  in the American political process."  (Already worn down by the shit-flinging, and still eight months until the general election.)

April:  " In recent years, aided by social media, the term "introvert" has become a label...some kind of cross between a psychiatric diagnosis and a badge of honor." (A wistful post, remembering a best friend who faded out of my life.)

May:  "My  'job' –that little business to which I have clung for fourteen years, now—enhances the tone of opposition my life has always had, by choice or by chance."  (Pep-talk for heading into the market season.)

June:  My only post of that month was a meme I created.  Speaks for itself, really..

 


July:  "I have a thorny problem with the “resident” sister." (Taking a moment to whine about my crazy sibling.)

August:    "Thirteen years ago, I discovered a place where I could indulge my compulsion to spatter words on blank pages--the internet."  (This is actually the post where I decided to turn my back on the political fray...for about two minutes, anyway.)

September:  "Don't you just want to put on a pith helmet and dark glasses every time you go on the internet?  Or maybe a hazmat suit..."  (More commentary on the ever-increasing ugliness of the presidential campaign.)

October:  "Sitting on my “coffee deck” in the morning has become joyous and active again." (I love October!)

November:  "To all the great players who never played a world series game, who never even got close, and all the fans, young and old, for whom hope has sprung eternal..."  (CUBS WIN!!!  But the end of the world was indeed coming shortly...)

December:  " I wake up every morning, newly unbelieving of the results of last month's presidential election. "  (Well, isn't that stating the glaringly obvious...!)

There you go.  That's it.  Goodbye 2016. 

And goodbye "Coming to Terms"?

Nah.  I don't think so.

Not just yet, anyway. 

Apparently I still have things to say. 

Happy New Year, my invisible friends.  It's going to be a challenge.

Hey--a challenge!  I can do that!




   

Friday, December 30, 2016

Opinions #10: Don't Underestimate Mother Earth


I suppose this could be breaking the rules, because climate "science" has become a political football.  But I don't believe Mother Earth trucks much with human politics.  She is strong, and steadfast, and powerful far beyond our poor comprehension of power.   

We want to think we know about the Earth and how it came about and what has been going on with it since its creation.  Seriously?  If the earth were a year old, human beings would have showed up in the last half hour before midnight on New Year's Eve.  And yet, we know everything there is to know about the 364 days, 23 3/4 hours of Earth's science before we came along?  I don't think so.

In our short, fifteen-minute history of human civilization, our curiosity has grown and we've learned a lot.  And, no doubt, some of it is good information.  We can be very thorough and studious when we try.  Tenacious, even.  Driven.  We want to know.  And we're going to find out. 

We want to know so badly that even if we don't have all the information, we demand that we do.  And then we set it up so no one can argue with us.  Flat earth.  Around which the sun, moon, and all the heavenly bodies revolve.  Torture, persecution, hellfire and damnation to anyone who didn't line up behind the written in stone incontrovertible facts.  Until...they weren't.

So now, with this illustrious history of accurate, spot on science bolstering our declarations, we've concluded that the Earth is dying, and man is responsible for killing it.  I'm sorry.  I just think that's a bit of a stretch.

What I can't get on board with is the shrillness.  The hyperbole.  Neither the deniers nor the know-it-all doomsayers are in any position to make the kinds of proclamations they do.  And the energy that could and should be spent on the research to get closer to what the answer actually is, is being squandered on the constant soapbox grandstanding on both sides of the issue. 

It's not that I'm a climate change denier.  I'm fully aware that there is damage, terrible damage, caused by human industry, run by powerful men without soul or conscience.  Men who consider the forfeited lives of other human beings acceptable collateral damage to their accumulation of wealth; if they have no empathy for their own kind, they certainly can have no consideration for the life of the Earth herself.

But it seems to me that only humans would be ballsy enough to claim that we possess the power to do real damage to our celestial home.  We honestly buy we have the capacity to end the Earth, yet we are swept before her power like dust in the wind.   There's just...a disconnect there, for me.  I'm not saying that we aren't doing damage to our beautiful mother...I'm saying I believe she has a capacity to right and heal herself that we have not even considered.  The argument is everything.  One side denies science altogether if it suggests a frightening scenario we choose not to concern ourselves with, and  the other side points science only in the direction of a point it's trying to make.  We postulate with an agenda in mind.  Anything that doesn't further that agenda falls away, unobserved. And the character of the Earth herself is completely peripheral to our argument. 

I'm no scientist...but I am an observer.  I've been wandering around this planet for sixty years, and I do a pretty decent job of paying attention to what's going on. And what I see is the Earth healing herself in small and large ways.  Storms come, volcanoes roar, rains batter, and land turns from sea to desert to sea again.  Animals from whom we believed we had won territory, vanquished them from "our" lands, never to return, are coming back.  Predators roam suburban streets.  Game birds adapt to our artificial waterways and thrive. Soon, perhaps the sky will darken once again with great flocks of "Columbidae", as the European collared dove becomes fruitful and multiplies in this perfect habitat left ripe for the settling by man's slaughter of American passenger pigeons 100 years ago.  We damage and rearrange, and the Earth counters.

And, who knows...maybe her ultimate act of healing herself will involve removing from her surface the pestilence that is the human race.  The urgency surrounding climate change might not be about saving the earth.  It's really about saving our own asses.  It's entirely possible our Mother is revving up to shake us off once and for all, because we've plunged a knife into her breast one too many times.

Opinions #9: Everybody Doesn't Love Your Kids


I've expressed this opinion before--most notably on "Hot Flash Cafe"--the blog I kept (loosely) as a chronicle of my oh-so-not-halcyon days as a restaurateur.  Children are not--and should not be--welcome everywhere their parents go.

There is a sub-culture of baby/child worship that has run completely amok lately.  Young women are getting pregnant with wild abandon, not necessarily within a wedded nor even a committed relationship.  It's all about showing off the "baby bump" and breathlessly selfie-chronicling the weeks till delivery on social media. 

I'm going to display my old-fartness here for all to see, and reminisce that when I was just out of high school, we fully enjoyed our newfound sexual freedom but did NOT want, at eighteen or twenty, to produce small human beings for whom we would be responsible for the next several decades.  Birth control was available; we understood its function and made religious use of it.  It was really a pretty practical and straightforward plan. 

What, I have to ask, was lost in translation between us and our granddaughters--daughters, even--that reproductive "accidents" happen with such astounding frequency?  And then are not merely dealt with practically, but celebrated; as if creating a baby with no plan as to how to actually raise the child--financially, emotionally, or any other way--was not just acceptable, but absolutely excellent!  (No, I'm not advocating abortion here...there are plenty of birth control methods widely available that relegate abortion to the status of birth control method of absolute last resort.  If you don't make a baby, you don't have to decide whether or not you want to end it.)

So now we have all these young girls getting pregnant and having babies and then fully and innocently expecting the entire village to joyfully pitch in and help them care for their little bundles of joy.  Without ever asking the village if it is on board with that plan. 

The clueless mothers drag those poor babies/toddlers/pre-schoolers everywhere, assuming that the entire world is not only okay with, but will help them cope with, their screaming, over-stimulated offspring; who would be much more content at  home, either taking a nap or being allowed the freedom to entertain themselves safely in a child-friendly environment. 

Even young marrieds have adopted the strategy that it's perfectly wonderful to drag children everywhere the parents want to go:  expensive hotels and restaurants, trans-oceanic airline flights, movies, theatres and sports arenas.  And anybody who has the audacity to not like children running all over the place and whining, crying or screaming unchecked...well, you're just a terrible person and what is wrong with you?

Here's the thing, young ladies (and gentlemen):  You're not fooling anybody.  It isn't that you love your children so much that you need them to be with you and sharing all these heart-warming family experiences every minute of every day.  The fact is that YOU are criminally selfish.  It's all about YOU.  Not about your kids, who would be happier at home or engaged in activities designed to appeal to them.  And it's certainly not about giving a rat's ass about accommodating the opinions, feelings, or convenience of any person outside your insulated, self-centered little bubble.  After all, if you can tolerate your children's public misbehavior, certainly anyone present can, should, and WILL, by god, do the same.

Yes, it's all about selfishness, the  cause of so much of the friction in our society lately.  So many young couples are determined not to let the inconvenience of having produced children put any kind of a cramp in their lifestyle.  "We don't have to turn our lives upside down just because we have kids!  We'll just drag them with us everywhere we go and let them turn everyone else's lives upside down!"  Tell me, please, how that demonstrates love of any kind, either for your dear, cherished little offspring, or for anyone else. 

I foam at the mouth every time I read an outraged review online about how a restaurant or an airline or a theater is so cruel and heartless that it doesn't cater to children.  Young couples: you need to get that your having had children is not now EVERYBODY'S responsibility.  Take care of your own kids.  And don't take them where everyone is not going to enjoy them, or at least be able to ignore them.  How hard is that?