Thursday, January 17, 2019

And then, then...

"Then" by definition is what comes after now. And I've already established that it is always "now," so you can really never reach "then." So why do we even have a word for it (then, not "it")?

 And yes, I am still listening to Alan Watts. I have to tell you, though, his speaking style is a bit annoying. He pauses a great deal while he speaks which makes me check my phone to see if I lost my signal. But "then" he finishes his sentence.

But I digress. Though I noticed that "then" is used a great deal to describe a sequence of past events. This butts heads with the notion that there is no past, either, just the now. So "then" can't cut break no matter what it describes.

In Mel Gibson's film, Braveheart, William Wallace asks the parents of a young woman he is interested in whether he can go for a horseback ride with her. The reply was "No the now." At the time, I thought it was just a Scottish thing. But "now" I think the scriptwriter may have been slipping in some philosophy. You be the judge:




I think this YouTube clip illustrates just how irritating being in the now all the time is.

But "then" I could be wrong.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Now, now...


So I continue to listen to Philosopher Alan Watts into the new year. And I realize that I have heard everything he has said about living in the now many, many times. But I doubt I have ever really "heard" it.

I wonder if my parents ever thought about their place in the universe and the questions of why we are here. My mother bought firmly into the myth of her religion and clutched to it right up until her death. And from what I witnessed of her death, her faith didn't offer much comfort in her final moments.

I never discussed anything philosophical with my father. He did seem focused on his here and now which ping ponged between discovering lost treasures in ghost towns and cheering on the Boise State Bronco football team. Though I imagine both fixations didn't really involve the now. He set his sights on a hidden treasure that perhaps he imagined would change his life of barely scrapping by financially. I can only guess as to why he was fixated on the Boise Broncos. He'd been a janitor at a dorm at Boise State that housed many football players. So my negative self imagined they became the sons he wished he had.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Send in the clowns


I would be remiss if I didn't finish out the year with a blog post, which makes this number 66 for the year and the most posts I've written since 2011.

If I'd written 666, it would explain the above photo.  Suffice it to say I was just clowning around.

But I digress.

I finished watching a documentary on Netflix last night called, "The American Meme." It essentially pointed out how miserable (and miserably rich) social media stars like Paris Hilton, a large man who goes by the unpolitically correct name of Fat Jew and another Instagram star whose name escapes me. But his millions of followers tuned in to see him get blackout drunk at parties he hosted that included scenes of him pouring champagne over women's breasts and butts.

All of the social media stars bemoaned that millions of people adored them but they were essentially lonely.

Sad clown.

The irony to me was that the only one of these celebrities I'd ever heard of was Paris Hilton. And it occurred to me once again how really old I am. Though I think I'm glad I wasn't born in this generation having never known what it was like not to stare blankly into the digital desert and wonder if that's all there is.

So I suppose end 2018 on a grateful note that perhaps it is a good thing that Dizgraceland has never discovered. Other than the vast amounts of cash it would bring in, it would just be a major annoyance to have people idolizing me and hanging on every word I wrote.

Happy new year.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Misty, water-colored memories


Well, another year is almost ready to slip into the ending credits and roll off the screen. It has been a busy and in some cases, an expensive year. I had to replace the engine in one car and actual replace our other car. I also had to have a new fence installed around our yard.

On the bright side, I finally earned a character skin (what the avatar looks like) in Fortnite that looks like me: Sergeant Winter. Okay, as my son informed me, he looks like me if I could grow a full beard and actually had muscles, but at least he isn't a man-bun wearing Millennial.  And we both have white hair.

I actually have become fairly adept at playing Fortnite and have been accepted by all of my son's 10-year old friends who play on our squad. I have accepted many challenges and can emote with the best of them. I will be sad when Fortnite is replaced by the next trend and Sergeant Winter and I are forced into retirement to sit around in easy chairs recalling our past glory.

But I digress.

I started 2018 out strong with regular blog posts. I managed to avoid ranting about the current political nightmare that continues to infest the White House. I lost steam in the last part of the year and didn't post much. My absence was met by the same response as my presence. Which confirms my believe in my own invisibility.

The highlight of my year (other than becoming Sergeant Winter) was finally going to Graceland to pay my respects to the King and his castle. Other highlights included seeing Hamilton with my daughter and the Lion King with my entire family. It was a Broadway musical kind of year.

I've never been much on New Year's resolutions. I still workout on a regular basis, but I've resigned myself to never actually having Sergeant Winter's muscle tone. I pretty much stopped eating beef in 2018. Part of this was because of the bond I formed with the cows on Hoehn Bend Farm that we stayed at in February.  I kind of became fond of the chickens there, too, but I draw the line at not eating chicken or eggs.  Screw the vegans and vegetarians.

Damn, this post is starting to sound like one of those end of the year newsletters that people stick in their Christmas cards.

I hate those. I resolve not to write one in 2019.

Not that I ever have.

Better end now and go play Fortnite. I've got some emoting to do (ask your children what that means if you don't get the reference).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

All retch and no vomit



I've been watching YouTube videos of British philosopher Alan Watts' lectures lately. Actually I am just listening to Alan Watts since he died in 1973 before the world captured every moment with a digital camera. Watts was one of the first Western philosophers to embrace Zen Buddhism (and kind of understand it).

In one lecture Watts used the phrase, "He was all retch and no vomit." I realized it was a intellectual version of "all hat and no cattle."

And why am I listening to lectures by a dead British Zen philosopher who died at age 58? Because I have to have something to do in between playing matches on Fortnite.

Oh, and I'm passing through one of my soul searching phases. I've also been meditating for ten minutes a day using an APP called Calm. And I went on a crystal craze for a bit, surrounding myself with various quartz crystals.

I think I'm over that, though.

I have also been watching alot of TED talks, too.

It's not too different than reading self-help books in the 80s and 90s.  Nor is it different than being in therapy. The result is pretty much the same. I keep hoping someone has an answer and than I realize that if they really had an answer, they wouldn't be trying to sell it on YouTube or charging you $150 an hour to ask you what you think.

In all fairness, Watts isn't trying to sell his own brand of snake oil on YouTube. He is dead after all. It's other people trying to sell his regurgitated snake oil on YouTube.

The regurgitating reference brings us full circle to most of the YouTube philosophers and TED talkers who are all retch and no vomit. But if I hear one more platitude about finding something you are passionate about and making that your vocation, I will throw up.


Monday, November 05, 2018

Falling back


If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
'Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you 
--Time in a bottle by Jim Croce
I've had tirades about Daylight Savings Time in several posts, so I won't waste anymore time here ranting about it.

It does make everything off a bit though when we arbitrarily turn back the clocks an hour and say we now have an extra hour. Though everything seems a bit off in the world lately anyway.


We took the kids to the Phinney Ridge Community Center in Seattle on Saturday for a Day of the Dead Festival. They had a community Day of the Dead ofrenda (altar) where you could put photos of your dead ancestors to honor them. The altars are supposed to welcome the spirits of the dead back to the land of the living during the Day of the Dead celebrations. Technically that takes place on November 1 and 2 and the festival we went to was on November 3. So I have a hunch there were some pretty confused and pissed off spirits at the Phinney Ridge Community Center on Saturday.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Here, muse, muse, muse...

Muse 
  • (sometimes lowercase) the goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like.
  • (lowercasethe genius or powers characteristic of a poet.
I was on track this year to post more blog posts than I have in almost seven years. Then for whatever reason, my muse went south for the winter and I haven't been inspired to write anything. That's the funny thing about muses. You never know when they will become unamused.

I toy with the idea that I have said everything I have to say. I have shared my unsolicited opinion about many things, sometimes in a less than kind way. And considering the current state of our divided world, I think there has been enough unkind words bantered about.

I'd write about what is going on in my life, but I'm afraid the highlight lately has been getting a new fence installed (though it is pretty cool since the old one was about 44 years old and was ready to collapse any day). I could have written about my first experience with using a wood chipper to get rid of the crap load of branches I had to cut back on my hedge to allow the fence maker to tear down and install a new fence. But it was uneventful except for it eventually clogging and me not being able to decipher the instructions on how to clear the clog and restart it.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Family


For whatever reason September seems to draw me back to my birthplace. I just returned from a weekend in Boise. It was almost six years to the day that I was there at my mother's death bed. This time I was there meeting a sister I never knew I had until a few weeks ago.

I debated writing about this. It is a family matter. But it has also been a secret too long.

A few weeks ago my brother e-mailed me a link to a story posted on a genealogy site. It was a woman's story of meeting her birth mother for the first time. That birth mother was my mother.

It was, of course, a shock to me. My mother had had a baby girl back in 1945. The father was a Army Air Corp soldier stationed in Boise. When my mother told him she was pregnant, she never heard from him again. He flew back to his home town in Pennsylvania a month before my sister was born and married his high school sweetheart.

My mother was from a family of 13. She was 20 when the baby was born. She was working as a telephone operator. She had the baby at a hospital in Boise that housed "unwed" mothers. She relinquished the baby at birth. My sister was adopted by an older couple who lived in a rural area of Idaho. She was raised as an only child.

My sister eventually faced the desire to know about her birth parents and found out my mother lived in Boise. She wrote my mother a letter, but at first my mother refused to meet her. Then my sister went to Boise with a friend and the friend convinced my mother to meet the daughter she'd given up years before. My mother was 80 at the time. My sister visited her several times after that and they wrote to each other.

My mother never breathed a word of this to me or my brothers. She carried the secret to her grave.


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Sh-It


I read Stephen King's book, It, many years ago. And I remember watching the mini-series based on the book back in 1990 with Tim Curry (of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame) playing the demonic clown Pennywise.  At the time he seemed pretty scary.

A few weeks ago I watched the 2017 remake of It. It was creepy as hell. And It was nothing I wanted my kids to watch. But this weekend my son wanted to watch the 1990 version of It so he could tell his friends at school (who all seemed to have watched the movie) that he had watched It, too.

So I went to Amazon Prime and rented It, the mini-series. It was three-hours long. And those were three hours I'll never get back again. It was shit.

I didn't remember the mini-series being so bad at the time. Maybe because I saw it in the 1990s and wasn't seeing it through 28 years of life. The mini-series had all of the television stars of the 1990s: John Ritter from Three's Company, Richard Thomas from the Waltons, Harry Anderson from Night Court, Tim Reid from WKRP in Cinncinati, and Annette O'Toole, who seemed to be in lots of movies, but never quite became a star.

It was a poor choice for all of them.  Thomas, sporting a ridiculous pony tail,  played a horror writer who was married to an actress (played by Olivia Hussey who had played Juliet in a movie version of Romeo and Juliet in 1968 when she was 15). One of the horror novels written by Thomas' character was The Glowing (obviously alluding to Stephen King's The Shining).

Neither Ritter nor Anderson should have ever been cast in their roles.The dialogue was terrible at best which led to terrible acting. The special effects were laughable. The story line was nearly impossible to follow (and I read the book).

Ironically, with all it's flaws, my 10-year old son liked It.

But then again he didn't have to live through the 1990s. I'm so glad I cut off my pony tail.


Tuesday, September 04, 2018

You can't judge a book


When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. My parents introduced me to the local library early and they took me there often. I would bring home stacks of books and read every one of them. I loved reading.

My first job while I was in high school was as a page in the library. While other kids my age were working in fast food joints, I was shelving books. I worked at the library for five years and eventually became a circulation clerk, checking out books.

When I moved to Seattle to finish college, I got a work study job at the college library. I worked in periodicals.

So you could say, I have a long history with books. But I can't tell you the last time I read one (at least by myself...I read to my daughter almost every night).

I was one of the first people to buy a Kindle (though I bought it for my wife for Christmas). She didn't like the idea of reading an electronic book, so I adopted it and read that way for awhile. But after awhile I lost interest in reading.

Maybe it was having children and not having much spare time. I only have a 30 minute commute each way and spend that either sleeping or playing games on my phone or iPad.

Most of what I used to read was fiction. It was what prompted me to want to be a writer. I won't rehash my failed dream of publishing a novel. Suffice it to say that the digital world snuffed that dream long ago.

Maybe I stopped reading because nothing is new to me anymore. When I was young, the plots spoke of promise, or mystery or hope. Now I just shake my head and say to myself, "not again," or "been there, done that."


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Going to my happy place


I just returned from a family vacation at the Disneyland and California Adventure resorts. It was the third trip for to the parks for my family and about the 13th for me (including one trip to Walt Disney World when I was in college).

I have mixed feelings about Disney. When I was a kid, one of my favorite programs was Disney's Wonderful World of Color. It came on every Sunday night and was hosted by Walt Disney himself. Occasionally the theme of the program would be Disneyland and they would showcase some of the latest rides or show celebrities like the young Michael Jackson exploring the attractions.

I remember one of our neighbors had been there and lent my father a copy of a map of magic kingdom. I'd sit in my room with the map on my bed fantasizing about actually being able to go there on vacation. Since our annual family vacation was two weeks camping in the mountains of Idaho, I never really thought Disneyland was an option. Even back then, Disneyland was too expensive for many lower middle class families like mine.

When I was 15 and a sophomore, my high school marching band raised money to travel to southern California to march at the half time of an LA Rams and San Francisco 49ers football game. We flew into San Diego (my first time on an airplane) and went to the San Diego Zoo and then Sea World. From there we boarded tour buses and drove to LA. Before performing at the football game we were also booked to march down Main Street in Disneyland. We made it to Disneyland, but we never got to perform. It rained too hard for us to risk ruining our band uniforms before the football game.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Forgetting to remember



I used to pride myself on having a great memory.  I could vividly recall experiences, people, places, and things people said. I've never been so good with names, but faces I would pretty much always remember. And having been semi-invisible most of my life, I have often remembered people who I've met or seen even when they don't have any memory of me.

I still remember things. But unless I make a conscious effort to dig up the memories I've discovered that more and more they have soften and become a bit fuzzy around the edges like and old school room film about "A Day at the Beach."

Of course part of it is due to aging. That's stating the obvious. But I think part of it is deliberate. Or subconsciously deliberate. Several months ago, I downloaded a meditation APP that guides you through a ten-minute meditation that in theory you are supposed to do every day. It has lots of different meditations to help you in lots of different areas. But I just do the same six or seven free ones over and over because I'm too cheap to pay an annual fee to unlock the rest.

The underlying message in the meditations is that you are working to stop the mind from thinking for ten minutes by just concentrating on your breathing (and the meditation narrator's voices and the sounds of frogs, flowing streams, birds and crickets in the background of the meditation). It makes you aware of how often in a given day your thought process pulls up a memory and puts it on replay in your head, repeating a thought or event over and over again.

The problem is that many of those types of thoughts or memories are about things you regret and can't do a thing about to change. Plus each time you replay the thought or memory in your head, you are making it real again even though it really no longer physically exists.

I think of this as dwelling on a mistake instead of learning from it. It's like watching the same movie over and over again and hoping the ending will change.

It doesn't.

So I think of the meditation as a way of training my brain to remember to forget. Or forgetting to remember. Because it is such a wasted effort to focus on a past you can't change instead of focusing on a future where you have a choice.