Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hopes and Dreams


A Bone Of Contention




When I buy rawhide chews I only buy two because only Bert and Lucas do any chewing. Sam isn’t interested in playing with his food.  Sam chews to feed or to kill, but Sam is still thrilled when I bring home the treats.  I buy the biggest chews I can find, and as I unwrap them from the plastic covering all three dogs sit enraptured. This is an event for all three. Bert gets the first rawhide chew and he is downright polite in taking it. Bert takes the chew to the blanket in the bedroom and Lucas sits still, nothing but his tailing moving. Lucas likes the chews. His tail sweeps back and forth like a pendulum on meth during an earthquake. He gets the second one and heads over to the computer room. That leaves Sam and me. I always sit down with Sam after the chews are handed out, and Sam gets what he really likes above all things; one on one attention, undivided and uninterrupted. Sam gets pettings on a dog’s head and he gets the two ears at the same time rub that causes the Happy Hound Sound to come from his head.
Bert isn’t strong enough to put a dent in a whole chew, at least the big ones, but he tries. Bert is now fully into his dotage and he knows it. He’ll gnaw the end of the rawhide but he has old dog teeth and his mouth doesn’t work as well as it once did. But do not despair! Lucas is a mutt on a mission and he truly believes the one with the most toys wins.  Sooner or later, Bert is going to struggle to his feet and give up on the chew. As soon as this happens, Lucas bolts in and steals the chew from Bert.

It seems to be complicated. Lucas will not steal from Bert as long as Bert is watching. It’s against the rules to take something out of someone else’s mouth, apparently. Oh, yeah, I might have had a little to do with that by making sure no one eats out of anyone else’s food bowl. There are four of us and everyone eats in one spot and one spot only. The Mike Will Yell at You For Poaching Rule extends ownership via immediate proximity of chews, apparently, and there is something else about all of this that is equally odd.

For the better part of a decade neither Bert nor Sam raised an eyebrow at a rawhide chew toy. I ran over one in the yard with a mower once, and it had been there since Lassie was pulling children out of post holes. I understood when Lucas arrived why Sam still didn’t give a damn about chews, but suddenly, Bert was all like Mr. Give Me A Rawhide Chew! This was all well and good when Lucas was a small thing, or at least smaller than he is right now, but one day I bought a four pack of medium chews and three of them were gone before Bert got his one started good. I went with the biggest and badest chew I could find, and at the most, I get two days out of the two of them.

So Bert has gotten up from his blanket and abandoned his chew. Lucas rushes into the bedroom, steals the chew, and holds his head up high as he runs through the house with the stolen goods. “Mine! ALL MINE!” his body posture screams, and his tail bounces around like a BB in a metal can. He is the BB Butt Boy. But as funny as Lucas’ tail might be the other end of Lucas is the business end, and you might want to take notice of this when you think about stealing a chew from Lucas.

The dog has jaws.

Lucas can bite down on a large chew and crack it. In a few moments he can have one end totally off. He lies there and he sounded like he’s chewing through a wooden beam. Whatever else might be in that Weimaraner body, the jaws belong to some breed of dog that has some real and serious power. Lucas, at least in all things chewable, has some pit bull in him. He is the Pit Headed Boy. But he’s dealing with a master of all things canine, and Bert isn’t quite ready to surrender his place in the pack yet.

The rules are simple; if the toy was given to you in the house then the toy stays in the house. Toys found or killed outside stay outside. No one takes chews outside, okay? So Bert heads out to the woods, Lucas bounds out ahead of him, proving to Bert that he, Lucas, is much faster and stronger, and Bert just watches all of this and turns around and goes back to the house. He’ll stand at the door, I’ll let him in, and he’ll go get one of the pieces of a chew that Lucas has mauled and chew on that for a while. Lucas comes in, and I have always been fascinated by how he remembers where he left his toys, and he will realize a piece is missing. But the rules…

Another game is “Don’t Dare Dad”. If a Pit Headed BB Butt Boy comes running over to show me he has a toy in his mouth and I can’t get it then I try to take it from him. If he gets away from me, he keeps the toy. But if I catch him and take it away from him, Bert gets it. Oh, you should see the look on this face when Bert has the last knob of chew toy because Lucas wanted to show it off and it got took!

There is something comforting about listening to two dogs in a house chewing as if they’re giant termites. I like the sound of happy dogs. Sam likes the idea there will be pettings on a dog’s head while this happens. Peace, as used as a relative term, descends, at least until someone tries to steal a chew toy.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Problem

Implied Insanity





Insanity, I would suggest to you, is an involuntary separation from the implied reality of the social contract. Were you given a wide open road in the middle of nowhere in which to drive which side of the centerline would you stay? The social contract in this country says to you to stay on the right side of the centerline, as opposed to the left side which implies you would be wrong were you to be over on that side. Were you in an empty building would you use the bathroom nearest to you or would you use the one assigned to your gender? If a colleague died and you discovered their password as you were cleaning out their desk would you look through the files on their computer? On a very hot day would you wander around your yard nude in full view of the neighbors?
The social contract changes over time so our concept of what is right and what is wrong changes with it. When I was a child any adult could spank any child. When I was a child people who were black could not eat in the same restaurant as I did. (They could and frequently did cook the food, but they couldn’t eat in the same room with whites) I remember a time when vehicles had to have a yearly inspection sticker and no one dared not get one because there were stiff fines for not having the sticker.

To be a writer of fiction is to voluntarily separate yourself from reality. A writer must be able to create things as they are not and convince people the way things are being written might be untrue and fantastic sounding, but nevertheless perfectly sane inside the context of the story. Yet there is no guarantee of safe passage back to the real world once a writer crosses the Styx. If a writer leaves the social contract behind and invents a new one then that writer is already questioning what is right and what is wrong, and by definition, what is real
Now imagine that your mind is filled with these thoughts, constant, never ending, and sometimes frightening thoughts, each and every one of them preying on some part of reality. Imagine that you know people, and know them very well, each detail of their lives known, and suddenly you remember they are not real at all, but fictional, creations of your mind and no more. Sometimes, when I am not writing, they are hidden from me, as if they are asleep in the next room. At other times it would seem that I could pick up a phone and call, to see what they are doing and when they might come visit.
Then there are times they seem more real than those people with whom I have entered into this social contract with, in reality, such that it is.





We know the contract is not inviolate but we do not acknowledge the reality we create shifts, changes, and on occasion disappears. Yet we are quick to condemn those out of touch with reality. We look upon the mentally fractured as if they too should be able to function within a reality that we create, destroy, and declare inviolate all at the same time. We teach children to train their bodily function around an arbitrary time; they are told to sleep when they are wide awake, they are told to wake when they are sleepy, and they are fed whether or not they are hungry. With this we are teaching them what they perceive is not real, what they feel is not real, what they desire is not real, but rather, reality is something given to us by others, by our parents, society, work, church, friends, family, and the government. We are taught at a young age to act as if what we discover in the world is not reality and as adults we pass that on, as if we cannot remember being young at all.

Creativity, I would suggest to you, is a voluntary separation from the implied reality of the social contract. It is no more and no less a function of the mind that has been truncated very much like our natural ability to navigate in the dark, or to sense the feelings of those around us in the manner in which dogs do. More and more often I am certain the function of the canines is not of security system or alarm devices against cave bears and tigers for ancient humans but as touchstones of reality. What is not real the dogs will not react to at all. These things that the insane and the creative see, and sense, and hear, and feel, are not experienced in the range of canine perception. This is the thing, the thing that will really blow your mind when you think about it; dogs are immune from our loss of reality.

I see things that are not there and in the past month this has gotten worse than normal, if you’ll forgive that expression. The creatures of the periphery are crowding in on me, flashing into bits of my field of vision like mental meteorites. I know them when I see them, but I have to react, I have to look, just in case, but when the dogs are with me I ignore the gremlins. In the presence of the mutts these creatures are damned to the ethereal. Better guardians we do not know, but not for the reasons we have been led to believe. The sounds they make do not touch the ears of the dogs so I know they do not exist. I watched the ears and heads of the dogs for they look at the real, and leave the rest to my senses, and we all sleep better at night for it.

But you know I do not sleep.

This demon haunted existence is not an easy one. There is a reason parents teach their children the reality of the social contract for in that their sanity is safer, their minds more cluttered so as to prevent the weird, and their lives predicable as a calendar. They will not long speak to those not there. They will not linger in the presence of the invisible. They will not chase the leaves of the whirlwinds when they are older.

Creativity, I would suggest to you, is a voluntary separation from the implied reality of the social contract. In finding no peace in that world, I feel obligated to look in the one torn from me so many years ago.

Take Care,
Mike

John Steinbeck said: "A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn't telling or teaching or ordering. Rather he seeks to establish a relationship of meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all life trying to be less lonesome."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In Memory Of Blood




  “I remember the pattern for that day, the day she broke up with me, and I remember how it looked like a pony’s head, and it seemed to be reaching out further than it ever had before, right before she broke up with me, and rode away with my heart bleeding on the floor just like the pattern before me.” -Unknown High School Student circa 2022





I remember blood. That’s something I would remember, and as I write this I wonder why I would remember blood. Is it a natural thing for me to remember? Sharks can pick up the faintest traces of blood from miles away. A billion million scents in the ocean and they brains which are four hundred million years old remembers blood. There is something in our blood when it comes to blood. Our recent cultural fascination with vampires, both good and evil, centers on beings who consume blood. When Charles Manson bent his will towards the final destruction on civilization he had the words written in the blood of those murdered.
Car crashes are a good place to start if you want to understand the volume of blood the living possess.  A gallon of blood, more or less, for each person, which is worth about twenty-two miles a gallon in gasoline on average for a pick-up truck, and that is all we have.  Maybe High Schools should take a gallon milk jug and fill it up with red water then poke it with a pencil. The time it takes for the jug to empty is how long it takes a life to disappear forever when there is a bullet hole in the wrong place or a car crash bad enough. But then again, life can be snuff out as quickly as a candle in either case.

But the gallon of red water on the floor of the gym…


The blood puddle is quite large is it not? The liquid in the middle becomes static while easing the outer rim towards a lower center of gravity. The edges reach for the center of the earth they will never obtain in their current form. Were this blood, all the hopes and dreams of its creator would be gone now, and the liquid slowly becoming an odd solid. The Creator Of Blood, a solid container for the liquid no more, would return to the earth, mastering the containment and the fluid process of circulation no more. Our blood puddle in the middle of the gym floor lies in mute testimony of a life ended. There is a level of thickness, a certain degree of spread, a certain pattern, and a final state for our puddle just as there is for each human life. Our admiration for life is capricious and arbitrary. Were we to admire the blood puddle on the floor of the gym it would be in the same sense we see what we do in a Rorschach test. Line up a hundred High School students to view the puddle and you might get a feeling for what they are thinking, but what if you did this for every class of students, every day, for a hundred years? Would some patterns be more memorable? Would there be some sort of culture developed around the shape of the blood puddle? Would students lie to one another as to what they had seen? Would some patterns be given names and other seen as signs of some sort? In the Teacher’s Lounge would they say to one another, “I could tell by the pattern this was going to be a weird day, couldn’t you?”

There would be that day, the first time a student took out a cell phone and snapped a photo, and made a tee shirt out of it, and there would be memorable patterns from memorable days. The dead the school principal was found dead in his home, a more and a bottle of pills by his side, would be immortalized by the pattern that spread out on the gym floor, and some would say it was a fitting memorial, how the liquid flowed that day, and how he would have wanted that sort of pattern. An art student would repaint the pattern and it would be hung on the library wall and in that world, where that sort of thing happened each and every morning, witnessed by all, it would make perfect sense that this would be a way to honor someone.


As odd as this all sounds we create for ourselves and others patterns out of a lot less and our own rituals make as little sense as this one when it gets all down to it, and it does. Look at the Catholic ritual of drinking blood and eating flesh, yes, I am well aware it’s symbolic but so is the blood puddle, remember? I’m speaking here for symbolism. What else is there to speak of if we are to speak of such things?  

But sharks are not symbolic creatures. They care not at all for patterns, except, perhaps those magnetic patterns the earth itself forms, and those fields generated by creatures whose blood the shark has detected. Ah, patterns again! Are we subconsciously seeking patterns and blood when we watch some inane movie in which the living fall in love with the dead who feed off the living who love them? Suddenly, when put in this context, the blood puddle makes more sense than some of our popular culture. Again, patterns form because we form them, and we have to ask if we seek those patterns we create because we have lost the ability to see those nature has created for our survival?

The time we once spent surviving we now spend expending time doing things, like writing, which are not matters of survival. Or do I have it all wrong, once more, and we are evolving to see those patterns that exist in the universe outside the drive for food and flight?

In what I write do you see a pattern?


Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Colbert Report Bites The Westminster Dog SHow

           
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2012
www.colbertnation.com
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Heather and Barney, the Raisin.


Heather was one of those women who looked like she just stepped out of a magazine. Not the stripped down and half nude kind of magazine, but the isn’t-she-as-well-dressed-as-she-can-be type. Heather wasn’t a great looking woman but she did the most with what she had, and since she was always smiling a lot of people thought she was very pretty. If you really want to know who someone is you should drink with them, or drink while being around them, and Heather was not a pretty drunk. Heather had some issues and they fluttered around inside of her head like a thousand loose pieces of paper in a whirlwind on the inside an empty library. Alcohol lit Heather up in a way that it does some men, making them snarly and bitchy. But Heather was well thought of at work, and she dressed well, and most of all, Heather had two very cute kids.
            Heather was mother of the year material if you listened to her long enough. And true enough, her kids were stamped out of the same well dressed mode Heather had walked out of like the perfect family. The missing father made the scene more poignant. He had walked out on Heather and the kids one night and never looked back, or so her story told. No one I ever knew had ever met him, but the two kids, a little girl at aged seven and the little boy at age five, looked very much like someone other than Heather. They were dark eyed and predatory looking children. They didn’t speak very much or bounce around like kids are supposed to, but rather than were perfectly behaved, and that, to me, is scary.
            A friend of mine, Don, wanted to date Heather, and for some reason I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea. It didn’t feel right, and the two of us sat down and tried to define it. We all drank in the same circle and there are fewer groups of people with as much…cross pollination, as drinkers.  To me, there was something more than a little odd about the woman. The fact that her weirdness did not attract me gave Don pause but alas! 

The two of them seemed to hit it off and they coupled up when the rest of us went anywhere, but there was something about them as a pair that was as odd as Heather alone. I watched them one night at a local bar while they competed against another couple at darts. It was a friendly thing, with no one really being very good at it, and worse while drinking. Heather kept close to Don, and she smiled a lot as if she were happy, but whenever it was his turn to throw, or whenever he went to get more beers, Heather was different. The smile stayed on her face as if she was reading the local weather but Heather kept one eye on the door and another on the room. As soon as Don returned she was the perfect partner again. I caught Heather not smiling a couple of times and she looked much different. The more she drank the more different she looked.
            Did I mention I walked? An old, odd, habit; I walk when I’ve been drinking. One night while everyone else was at a party at Don’s house I started walking. I walked for a while and then I realized I was near Heather’s duplex, and I remembered she said that Barney was keeping her kids Barney was a woman who had a fascination with all things Mayberry and did a very decent Fife impersonation.  It was odd because she went to a Halloween party dressed as one of the California Raisins, and there was a photo of Barney the Raisin on the wall of the Pub.  Just before I left that part of the world, Barney the dinosaur was born, and the two Barneys bore striking similarities. I still think that is too weird for words.

Now, remember this is a time before cell phones and the internet and instant communications. If you wanted to speak to someone while you were passing by their house you would simply drop in.  Barney always had good pot, and she and I always had good conversations. The duplex looked very dark and very empty. There wasn’t a light on in the place, but one of the back bedrooms had a light going so assumed she was back there with the kids. But her car wasn’t there and that made me stop. Where was Barney if the kids were in the back bedroom? I assumed she had stepped out to go to the store so I rang the bell and waited. Nothing. I stepped back into the street and the light in the back was gone. I sat on the front steps and burned a joint, wondering what happened to Barney, and wondering if I had just imagined the light. But when I left I noticed the light was back on.
            Of course, when I got back to the party and explained how there was no one with the kids Heather sat there for a few seconds and then the world exploded. It turned into one of those scenes where the mother of the kids is crying and claiming the babysitter abandoned the children. At first, the cuter woman prevailed, and mostly I think it was because Heather didn’t think the thing out very well. Barney was a lot of things, or a lot of one thing, but she was considered to be an honest person, and someone who was reliable as hell when it came to kids. Worse, once accused of child abandonment, Barney felt free to talk about things she might not otherwise discuss. The first was why the children both slept in the same room, same bed, and the door was usually locked from the outside. Heather kept them locked in their room most of the time and had an endless supply of Disney tapes that kept them entertained. There was hardly ever any food in the house and Heather would usually give Barney money for pizza. The kids, Barney claimed, were terrified of Heather. Barney told us she didn’t quite feel right being alone with Heather and the kids seemed to like her than their own mom.
            Heather started campaigning against Barney in a big way but she took that a step too far. She found a sympathetic ear of a local cop and all of sudden children services got involved. The problem was is the rest of us started comparing notes and realized Heather’s story was getting more and more strange as time went on. Remember, this all started out as a she said/she said deal where Barney was either supposed to be taking care of the kids that night or she wasn’t.  Heather was now telling people Barney was abusive and Barney sometimes locked the kids in the closet for hours on end. Barney, Heather claimed, would make the children sit upright in a chair without moving for hours and… hey, Heather, how could you know all of this and not said anything until now?
            Heather stopped smiling so much and it was as if someone different, someone else, had arrived.  The sympathy she had enjoyed began to erode when the state waded in and took the kids from her. Barney, I think, cared for those kids more than Heather, and as such, was more willing to take the fight all the way to the mat. To be accused of abusing children struck at Barney’s soul while the same accusation to Heather was more of a tactical disadvantage.  More and more there were people like me who were openly questioning why Heather’s story was changing and man, I tell you, that sure as hell doesn’t sound like Barney, does it? Heather went off the deep end on night and tried to brain Don with a glass beer mug. She stormed out of the pub and for reasons I cannot explain, I followed her out into the parking lot, but instead of speaking to her, or following her, I simply walked over to where the pay phone was and called 911. I told them there was a drunk woman trying to kill her children, and gave them Heather’s address.
            It wasn’t long after that I transferred to another part of the state with a new job. I never did hear how it ended, but I did know that the cops took the kids that night and Heather stopped hanging around the drinking crowd after she got out of jail. I still see people from that circle of half empty glasses, but I don’t do more than smile and say hello. I saw Barney a couple of years ago with a half grown girl child hanging onto to her hand. That would be a grandchild, I thought, but I wasn’t going to question of that part of my past.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, February 24, 2012

Break Room Bandit!

Women and Wolves Versus Plastic Sharks and The Marlboro Man




Character Dr. Erin Mears: “ Hard to say. Plastic shark in a movie will keep you from getting in the ocean, but a warning on the side of a pack of cigarettes won't stop you from buying...”  from the movie “Contagion”

In 1916 four people were killed in a creek in New Jersey and eyewitnesses at the scenes of the attacks gave solid evidence the killer was a shark. There were many American who didn’t believe sharks attacked people at the time, but the deaths became a media sensation and forever more sharks were viewed as man eaters.  The 1975 film, “Jaws” sealed the fate of millions of fish as people all across the globe were faced with the very unreal possibility of being attacked if they so much as overfilled their tubs.

Nature doesn’t work the way the movie industry portrays it because mostly nature is a place where movies aren’t made. If a shark attacks a person and eats the whole person that shark isn’t going to eat for a while. And it isn’t like sharks like eating people or more people would be eaten given the number of sharks and people sharing the same water.  If all the sea water on earth was rendered crystal clear and every shark could be seen, we would discover they have only a passing interest in us, and there are more of them out there than we would ever be comfortable with, while swimming.

The never ending story of the Dingo Versus The Mom in Australia became a thirty year odyssey for a nation with facts being hard to come by, hyperbole being hard to get rid of, and the prejudicial nature of society as a whole being impossible to escape. The fourth and likely not final inquest is being held and there is no more evidence at this hearing as there was in the previous hearings, yet public opinion has swayed each and every one of them. The Plastic Shark people have risen to the surface yet once again.

But here’s the thing:  For the better part of three decades we’ve been given two choices in this case. One, we can believe a smallish wild dog stole a baby from a tent. Two, we can believe the mother of the baby murdered the child and blamed the death on a smallish wild dog.

The simple truth here is there is no evidence at all to support either claim. The mother in question, who was convicted, imprisoned, released, and then impersonated in a movie, saw something in the dark, which she thought was a Dingo carrying her baby away. It might have been a Dingo carrying her baby away, or it might have been a Dingo not carrying her baby away, or she might have been lying. We do not know. We will never know.

So if mom was wrong, not lying, but wrong, where does that leave us?  It leaves us right where we have always been which is in a deep dark hole of total ignorance. We have never known anymore about this case than we know now. Oh, and the baby’s clothes being found near a Dingo den? We cannot assume anything from this other than scavenging, or perhaps, the Dingo was framed. Aliens haven’t been discussed, but truly, how long can it be?

But why are there only two choices here and why were we given these two choices and no others? We were, and are, asked to believe it is a Nature killed the baby or Mom killed the baby and that is all we can believe even though we do not know a damn thing about the crime that is factual.

First, let’s look at some other myths that originate from the same European culture where Australia originates:  Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty. In three out of the four here we have a female character who is evil. In one we have an evil rather large dog.  In four out of four we are given the clear option of believing there are women out there who are evil or part of nature that is inherently evil. In four out of four a man rides in to save the day and rescue us all from either women or wolves. He’s smoking Marlboros, I’m guessing.

We can honestly and truly believe a plastic shark as a villain but we tend to think of the Marlboro Man was somewhat of a hero.

We have a cultural bias against women and nature. The Serpent and Eve conspired to bring us down. The Stepmother, the witch, the monster under the bed, the cry in the dark, all of this and more can be traced back to either the forces of nature which must be destroyed or the woman who must be subdued. “We” no longer includes women and we are no longer a part of nature.  We are the Great White Explorer and that which does serve us must be decapitated and hung on a wall, or kept in its place. We will go to enormous lengths to ensure the villains are always accused and we will make sure that evil never goes unpunished, as long as we are defining what is evil.

“The court heard there had been 239 recorded attacks by dingoes in Queensland between 1990 and 2011, and that since the disappearance of Azaria on August 17 1980 from a campsite near Uluru at least three children had died from dingo attacks.”  From http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/chamberlain-tells-inquest-a-dingo-killed-azaria-and-dingoes-have-killed-since/story-e6frg6nf-1226280782343

Three children have died from Dingo attacks since 1980? That’s about one a decade. How many children have died from second hand smoke since 1980?


So here we are again. Woman Versus The Wolf and there can be no winner, only which one will lose this time. Once again the old argument that women or nature or both, are evil, and once again a small group of men will consider this argument and decide which to demonize this particular time.

Take Care,
Mike