As 2019 Approaches… Some Tips To Ensure a Good Year

Feel the feeling, but be mindful to not become the emotion.

Read more great books.

Learn how to cook five new things, expertly.

Drink a wine from some region of the world that you’ve never tried.

Strive to make doing kind things your default.

Use the time you’ve got wisely.

Be courageously vulnerable.

Love like you’ve never felt pain before.

Can White NFL Players Please Step Up?

I had something on my mind this morning and I’m purging it now.

Feel free to not read this or to disagree with it, that is your call.

And this is my call.

I’d like to see more white NFL players, preferably all of them, joining the black players who kneel during the anthem. The “it’s not the right place for that” argument is such a 1950’s style restrictive, conformist shout-down in my view… while I don’t think it’s racist to say “it’s not the right place” it IS, by definition, restrictive. Unfairly restrictive in my view.

I view an NFL game as the perfect place for protest in a society that worships celebrities and athletes, and banishes those who dare take a stand on social injustice… Who decides where the right and the wrong places are for these protests anyway?… What’s the criteria again?… Who can answer that objectively?… What I wonder is, what if Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or JJ Watt or Carson Wentz or Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck were to start kneeling?… What would happen then? If even just one of those guys kneeled?

These guys could help move the needle but they won’t. I can’t blame them.

What if the entire league kept kneeling at every game until communities get more serious about solving the problem of unarmed black people getting gunned down by police?

I bet it’d save a lot of lives.

But too many people value money more than they value lives. Let’s face it, no one wants to get “Kaepernicked” – and I can’t blame them even if it is disappointing. But to tell the few players courageous enough to be willing to take a stand that they’re doing it in the wrong place, to shut the hell up and go to work, entertain us right now —  is just morally wrong.

It’s dismissive, reductive and dehumanizing. And if you’re saying that what is being protested is the flag then you’re not paying close attention.

Purging complete.

Ozark: A Study in Character and Social Darwinism

“Magnanimity is the proper estimation of one’s own worth in relation to the highest honors.” – Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

There is something special about the new Netflix show, OZARK. In this age of exponentially increasing demand for new, fresh stories, Ozark delivers in a great way. Without dropping spoilers on you, I’d like to describe why, at this time, Ozark is more than a television show: it is, at its root, a meditation and commentary on American Social Darwinism, and how once a person’s ethics are breached, the truest test of that person’s character begins. In the end, the existential question posed by the show (not too dissimilar from BREAKING BAD) is, once a person starts down an unethical path, can they ever get back to equilibrium?

Marty Byrde is a father, first; a financial planner, second; and, a husband, third. That, in and of itself, is all too common with upper middle-class white American males these days. What’s uncommon about Marty though is, mostly due to ennui, naivete, and a dash of hubris, he agrees to launder cash for some pretty unsavory people, with the idea in mind that his skill with money management is so superior that he’ll be able to insure his family will be “set for life, for generations.” And even in his illegal dealings, Marty displays a level-headed adherence to a code of ethics even when most everyone around him is making choices based solely on emotion. He remains magnanimous in the face of ever-increasing stakes — he’s truly a phenomenally intriguing American hero, on par with Walter White and Tony Soprano. Jason Bateman’s portrayal of this man is spot on and should land him many awards, not to mention way more artistic cred. Also, it should be noted that Bateman’s direction on the first few episodes is nothing short of masterful.

There are two types of smart people in this world – those who make the simple seem complex, and those who make the complex seem simple. Marty Byrde is that second type of smart person. This alone makes me root for him. Combine that with the fact that this man does not betray people, even his shady employers, while most everyone around Marty at some point or another betrays him, is commendable. That Marty does not act out against those who’d do him harm, he even empowers them, and that he even is willing to sacrifice himself for the seemingly innocent, makes him a surprisingly relatable American everyman. In the end, he’s not motivated by greed, he’s motivated by a desire to survive, which is accentuated by the idea that he truly believes he can make things right, for everybody involved.

If only the people in Marty’s life acted rationally! Instead, they act on instinct and emotion. How rational can human beings be, when we are, essentially, animals, whether we like to believe that or not? Our prime directive is self-preservation and survival, no matter how much we may try to divorce ourselves from that truth. A truly fascinating motif employed throughout Ozark has to do with the cold, brutal naturalism of our existence. There are constant allusions to this; from the mere fact that the family surname is Byrde, to Marty’s son’s constant fascination with the animal kingdom, to even the fact that Marty’s cell phone ring is the sound of crickets, the show makers have made the deliberate choice of making animals a part of the show, and laid the foundation that this show is allegory of Darwinism (ironically set in an area of the country where the majority of people shun evolutionary theory.) The visual and the sonic language of the show are just meticulous and brilliantly conceived.

Watch Ozark.

 

Dr. Gonzo (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Unplugged)

A principle familiar to propagandists is that the doctrines to be instilled in the target audience should NOT be articulated: that would only expose them to reflection, inquiry, and, very likely, ridicule. The proper procedure is to drill them home by constantly presupposing them, so that they become the very condition for discourse.” – Noam Chomsky, “Third World, First Threat” 1993.

I was hired by the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper to be a writer in 1993, and I worked in the sports section and also in the entertainment section. I saw a wave coming early on when our chief competition, the San Jose Mercury, launched the Mercury Center via AOL. It was the beginning of the end of the print news business, even if most of us, even the most forward thinking of us, didn’t really know it.

In those days, we got a lot of our stories off of the Associated Press (AP) or United Press International (UPI) newswires, which were kind of like telegram cables. The quality of the content of the news had to be high. There were professional standards that must be adhered to. And, as my editors were quick to point out, the people who are in positions of power are our adversary, pure and simple. The media acted as a check in the grand scheme of governmental checks and balances: the executive and the legislative and the judicial branches ALL must be held to account by the media. My favorite practitioner of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, threw in his own style of literary flair to hit on truths bigger than What, Where, When, How and Why. For example, is it not right, or true, or in keeping with the duty of media, to call Ronald Reagan a stinking swine when he blabbed to People Magazine in 1986 that “This generation will likely have to face Armageddon,” or to say, quite simply, that Nixon was a bad drunk?

Yes, Hunter was a lot of things. But, I have to say, Hunter was authentic.

Few writers could boil down the essence of a campaign, a candidate, like Hunter S. Thompson

Few writers capture the essence of a campaign or candidate like Hunter S. Thompson

We were duty-bound and truths like the ones he’d write were important and informative.

Unfortunately, we were doomed. Time and technological advances made the public fall victim to rapidly accelerating media saturation…  and as such, the media’s relevance faded, and it’s duty was no longer to serve people with unbiased and direct information regarding our elected and unelected government officials.

Rather, media became propaganda for whoever paid the best. As such, media became a bad salesman, pitching a broken down lemon of a healthy, thriving, functioning society. And yet, the pitch is effective and accepted as truth.

Here's Donald being contrite for inferring this woman was on her period when she asked him a question he didn't like. Then she, like so many in the media, dutifully played her part in the fake ass show.

Here’s “The Donald” being contrite for inferring that this woman was on her period when she asked him a question he didn’t like. Then she, like so many in the media, dutifully played her part in the propagandist, fake ass show.

The media do not say things like: “The United States ALWAYS supports democracy, NEVER aggresses against other nations, and always ALWAYS opposes terrorists.” Nor do advertisers explicitly say that the key to happiness and the good life is the unceasing and ever-expanding consumption of purchasable products.

But the message still comes through, loud and clear, as a presupposed truth.

We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning. Contemporary society is dominated by computers and algorithms. There’s hardly a second that we’re not plugged in, in this “civilized” world. As mankind races toward achieving seamless virtual realities and artificial intelligence, it stands to make me wonder whether or not a simulation of reality is actually our new normal, now, and far beyond anyone’s control.

Most of us spend almost all of our time in highly artificial environments, far removed from nature. We move about, from one building to another. We travel in little bubbles: cars, trains, airplanes. Even while we’re in route we’re buried in our mobile, wireless phones, connecting to all of the information out there. Ours is a world of steel, brick, cement and glass, not that of mountain, meadow, tree, and stream.

The last Presidential primaries/general election have concluded, and what struck me most about that crazy show was that Dr. Gonzo is dead. So dead.

The evidence was in the unprecedented dominance of public relations and advertising in media, resulting in disinformation and propaganda, and, most importantly, increasingly brazen strong-arm tactics to make sure, absolutely sure, no matter what, that Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton would face Donald Jackass Trump. It didn’t matter who won. Not to the rich people who determine these things. Neither of them were a threat to current of the $currency$, the status quo would be preserved.

People scream that Russia “influenced” our election via hacks on the DNC (the contents from those hacks has never been disputed, only who actually hacked & leaked that info.) People freak out because Russia propagandized and misinformed voters via trolls on Facebook and Twitter? But if you learn history and don’t ask yourself if America’s track record is any better, then you’re not thinking critically enough.

What about American propagandizing via social, alternative AND mainstream media? Not only in MANY other countries, but even in our own?

I could go through a million examples to show this was all orchestrated, pre-decided, pre-destined, but I refuse to list more than a few, because if you haven’t been paying attention, it’s your own damn fault. The most glaring example, to me, was the June 7, 2016, Associated Press story and photo, written and photographed by, you guessed it, the Hillary Clinton campaign several days beforehand and then submitted to… the AP editorial team!… for publication.

Team Hillary, created the image and words that the AP dutifully reported / sold to the public on their behalf.

Team Hillary, created the image and wrote the story that the AP dutifully regurgitated / sold to the public on their behalf, 3 days prior to publication… and when did publication happen? One day before the California Primary.

Or how about this one, from the Hillary email vault:

“I just received confirmation from 60 Minutes that a piece on Julian Assange will air Sunday night,” Philip Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, wrote to Clinton in 2011. “He will be the only person featured. We had made a number of suggestions for outside experts and former diplomats to interview to ‘balance’ the piece. 60 Minutes assures me that they raised a number of questions and concerns we planted with them during the course of the interview. We will be prepared to respond to the narrative Assange presents during the program.” 

Her reply: “Too bad they’re showcasing him. See you tomorrow when we try making lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons!”

I’m left with three questions:

Do interviews even matter, other than being vessels for public relations?

Does the media matter AT ALL?

Is all the world but a stage?

Every time I unplug, I realize, more and more, that the entire world’s perception of what’s truly important and meaningful is getting more and more skewed by what all this media are selling.

I thank God for my nieces and nephew, for reminding me that the future is worth fighting for, as I don’t want them to inhabit a poisoned world with a shallow artifice.

I’ll never give up on that.

My niece is at Camp Hammer in Big Basin Redwoods State Park right now, experiencing things that I hope are truly meaningful.

My niece is at Camp Hammer in Big Basin Redwoods State Park right now, experiencing things that I hope are truly meaningful.

Every time I unplug, I realize, more and more, that I’m a storyteller, and if I’m going to keep telling good stories, I have to be authentic. In order to be authentic, I have to detach, more and more, from the real truth (that people are the victims of deception and exploitation on a massive scale) AND the artificial reality construct of the media, used to control and enslave people.

I have to be free.

And how will I be that which I am?

I think I’ve got to leave the big city, walk amongst the free creatures and plants of this Earth, and remember to self-program, to decide for myself what sort of things I want, and what sort of person I will become.