Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Change

Change

Hurtful things
Done over and again
Make my sorry
A quiet fuck you.

If I could stand on stage
with an audience of those I'd harmed
Throwing bricks at me until their arms tired,
The sight of my wounds
would but allow for me,
A time a quite pleasure.

What depth of feeling is asked of me then?
When this path has been worn to rock and stone,
And all feeling twisted dry by repetition
And pain the place I hang my hat.

What new promise would allow flowers
To bloom in a salted field?
If the promise were the only seeds
And the field lay edging a well worn path?

No thing or man can change its self.
The cycles soar around our will
And the circle always comes around
And the better has to be enough.

Change is not a sonnets turn
That meet itself to sum the lines.
It's a loudness taken suddenly,
Till the weight and force of habit's  born.

And then lost as if a madness;
As if a smell or a thoughtful crime
Until the wheel revolves
To rub again,
On rails that run
unbent by favored chance
sliding on against our will.

Mike Brady 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting Old



As a nurse, part of the job was to get a history on our patients when they were admitted to the hospital. This consisted of pulling up a stool next to their bed and asking them a structured series of questions – previous hospitalizations, allergies and medications -- that sort of thing.

Many of my older patients would bring all their medications with them – usually dragged along behind them by patient and broad backed significant others. Many times I got shopping bags full of pills to inventory as a part of the process.

Shopping bags full of pills…

I remember thinking – how did they get to this? Regimented dosage schedules with pill cutters and alarm clocks; Medications to counteract medications; Temporary single shot therapies cloudy with age, but kept for, I guess, superstition, or a possible unimagined relapse when every minute counted.
I thought it was probably a slow process -- aggregation over time. It never occurred to me that it could begin on a single day that could be pointed to, in retrospect, as the omega of being old.
I have been going along, minding my own business, when I developed back pain. A quick trip to the doctor pointed out multiple maladies that all needed treatment. The treatments all revolve around changes to my body that I used to slough off as a day well spent, but know find that not treating them with pills and potions will involve an actual change in my lifestyle.
And, unusually, it’s either or
.
I’m fat – 250 pounds. I’ve been this weight before and knocked down things in my way and gave it a thought only when people said fat jokes around me.It didn't slow me, and people got out of my way, quickly.

But now, it’s making me diabetic, have a fatty liver, damaging my pancreatic thingy  and making me short of breath.

And the funny part is – a big part of the problem is the medication I take for my depression has a side effect of weight gain. I’ve only consistently been on an anti-depression med for the past year, because, now that I’m older, I can’t handle the ravages of a depressed and tortured artist.I guess fat and happy isn't a choice either.

I smoke and need to stop – nothing more needs to be said, really, like a Phillip Roth book – no words need to be added to explain my love of the drug and the anti-socialism of the habit.
I’ve arthritic hips – mild at this point, but I’m only 54 and god knows I might need to walk again come the revolution.

All of my problems and all of the medical solutions (pills, tests etc.) revolve around habits that got me here – eating for relief, couch potatoing for sloth, free-basing nicotine for sport.

So – mark the date, it’s a slippery slide to the shopping bag of pills, or a gradual change of youthful extravagance into something different and unknown to me.



Who in the voice talking to?

"There Is A Voice Inside Of You That Whispers All Day Long, "I Feel That This Is Right For Me, I Know That This Is Wrong." No Teacher, Preacher, Parent, Friend Or Wise Man Can Decide What's Right For You- Just Listen To The Voice That Speaks Inside."
- Shel Silverstein

Who is that voice talking to?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My visit to the Doctor



Back to the doctor again. The results, at least what I heard him say:
“This is an obese man trapped in a fat guy’s body. His triglycerides are high enough to make random dogs lick him while he walks down streets. His liver is fatty in a goose pate sort of way, and he has Ricketts.
He is diabetic and has hip spurs of arthritis that look like small Abe Lincolns. His cholesterol continues elevated, but this is the least of his problems.
I recommend the following: ultrasound of his liver, medication for his triglycerides, a portable walker with tennis balls on the front feet, and a private duty nurse to turn him when he sleeps.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Who am I?

First we conceive the “I” and grasp onto it.
Then we conceive the “mine” and cling to the material world.
Like water trapped on a waterwheel, we spin in circles, powerless.
I praise the compassion that embraces all beings.
—Chandrakirti
“Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.”
Billy Corgan
I used to have a red-eyed mouse that sat in a cage near my bed. At night he would get on the stainless steel wheel attached to the frame of the cage and run from dusk to dawn. The squeak of the wheel would keep me up and down, so I moved the cage to the far side of the room. He seemed to put even more effort into running and squeaking until I finally put drops of machine oil on the rubbing parts of the wheel. I never saw that mouse run again -- It was nothing without the noise and the commotion it caused.
Countless forms of fear run us and distract us from seeing what is real and inside ourselves.
We fear losing what we have or not getting what we want and think we need.
We distract ourselves with anxiety caused by alternating the holding on and grasping.
And what are we distracting ourselves from?
I went backpacking with my Uncle as a young man. We hiked two days out of Bishop, straight up into nowhere. It was spectacular; the stars at night infinite, the color or reflections off granite blinding. On the third night we sat around a small fire and everything left me – the distractions of what I do, where I live, what I owe, what I want and what I need. It was as if I had a list on a chalk board of all the things I was:
Father
Nurse
Brother
Son
Handyman
Driver
Decider
Buyer
Seller
Addict
Thinker
Dreamer
Lover
Fighter
Friend
Multi-media addict
Phone caller
Movie goer
Sports nut
Talker
And more
All those things that made me me – that took up space and occupied weight – all of them left me as if at once
And I have never been more afraid and alone then I was at that moment..
And the question – what are you if you take away the list?
And what happens if you stop running?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Somali Pirates

Breaking News - Somali Pirates in Talks To Acquire Citigroup

( I got this email from my lover and think it's very funny-- and I wish I had thought of it)

Somali Pirates in Discussions to Acquire Citigroup

By Andreas Hippin

November 20 (Bloomberg) — The Somali pirates, renegade Somalis known for hijacking ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden, are negotiating a purchase of Citigroup.

The pirates would buy Citigroup with new debt and their existing cash stockpiles, earned most recently from hijacking numerous ships, including most recently a $200 million Saudi Arabian oil tanker. The Somali pirates are offering up to $0.10 per share for Citigroup, pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said earlier today. The negotiations have entered the final stage, Ali said. “You may not like our price, but we are not in the business of paying for things. Be happy we are in the mood to offer the shareholders anything,” said Ali.

The pirates will finance part of the purchase by selling new Pirate Ransom Backed Securities. The PRBS’s are backed by the cash flows from future ransom payments from hijackings in the Gulf of Aden. Moody’s and S&P have already issued their top investment grade ratings for the PRBS’s.

Head pirate, Ubu Kalid Shandu, said “we need a bank so that we have a place to keep all of our ransom money. Thankfully, the dislocations in the capital markets has allowed us to purchase Citigroup at an attractive valuation and to take advantage of TARP capital to grow the business even faster.”

Shandu added, “We don’t call ourselves pirates. We are coastguards and this will just allow us to guard our coasts better."


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Bridge, The Cross and Prescott Az.

From the archives -- (This is one of the first things I wrote as an adult -- night shift at St. Louise Hospital)

-->
So, I was at the Bridge concert Sunday, and as the dark came over me I had a vision of what god wants me to do next. Not so much an eyeball kind of vision, but more a "just there" kind of thing. (Please note that I am NOT religious in any way, shape or form; and have really never spent time in a structured church.)
What I saw in a blink of an eye are the following directions:

Get a hair shirt, and walk with a large cross to Prescott Az
.
I tend to over think things, so I started making bargains with god-what I like to think of as working the details.

How much hair in a hair shirt? Barber shops and super glue? Can I get sponsors for the cross? A wheel at the base? Just how big does the cross have to be? Can I pick the route to Prescott? Why Prescott? Is it important that I know why? Can I use a harness? Can PBS attach a camera to the cross? Is there a time limit to the trip? (40days/nights?)? Can I bring a date? Will meals be provided? What will I do after I get there? Short or long sleeve hair shirt? How much hair to make a legal hair shirt? What if I like the hair shirt- will that take from the lessons gods teaching me? Maybe just a Pendleton wool shirt?

And then I started to reinterpret the dream. Maybe god just wanted me to deliver a cross to some church in Arizona. Maybe just a good drive in my truck with the cross hanging out the bed and a wheel touching the highway as I drove. Maybe just a small wooden cross hanging around my neck as I drove to Vegas.  Maybe just thinking of a clever way of writing down my vision would be enough. I started dumbing down the deal
.
But in my gut, my great taproot of feeling- I know. Its simple-God wants me to get a big fucking cross, throw it over my shoulder and walk to Prescott Arizona. Nothing more, nothing less.

Am I going to do it? I mentally know that this might not be a real message from god- I might be in error-god knows I've never really been a good judge of reality. So- I plan to run it by some good friends and wait for good weather. I will post again when plans firm up....
OK- later- the feedback so far is- Forrest Gump in a Simpson’s episode. Enough said... A good friend suggested that even dwelling on the idea might make it seem even more real -- as if that were such a bad thing. His feeling is that to give time to a crazy idea makes it seem as if it's a legitimate option- when in fact- it's just crazy talk.

It gets me thinking.... How can a person really tell if he is getting a message from god? How do you check bonifides? Is there a litmus test- a password- a spell check for god’s transmission of the WORD?

Part 2

Got some feedback to share:

My parents think I write pretty and have a good imagination.

My cousin thinks that god wants me to write a book.

My Aunt thinks, “Typical Mike”

Some other family members are still shaking their heads with small smiles, eyes down
I’ve also gotten a few great emails of 2 types. One with serious comments and related web sites. One with take offs from the original post. (Substituting “Wearing an Ascot” for “Going to Prescott” was my favorite).

No religious notes from anyone-, which surprised me. Also, no one offered to sponsor me- but I did get an offer to video tape me for later. Also, no offer of anyone to drive a support van for me.

I must say that I think I am getting in over my head with this whole trip. Sure, god told me what to do, but I think I could use a little help with all this. It seems somewhat overwhelming.  I could really use some help with the details- I have a great imagination, but have huge blind spots that others can really help me with. Route planning I think I can handle, but small items and fun spots to stop could be helpful. I plan to travel alone, but would like to feel that others are thinking about me.

I plan to take this trip in 40 days (And nights). Seems sort of traditional to me to do the Jebus in the desert approach. So at 700 miles or so- plenty of walking to do. I plan a light wood cross with a pneumatic wheel at the base- nothing too flashy or heavy. I think a small cart or backpack for my stuff will keep it simple- although I am still keeping my eye out for a support van. I am still up in the air about the hair shirt thing- and am very open to suggestions concerning this.

I think the trip will have to wait until the first warm period next spring- mostly in keeping with the desert theme, and also because I get cold easily. Plenty of time to plan.

I will keep posting updates as they come

11/24/03

Update

I got out of bed the other morning and went outside to get the paper and was so cold that I got a few extra blankets and went back to bed. I think this whole cross thing may have to wait for warmer weather.

Not that I am harboring any bad thoughts about the project, but… I do seem to be questioning the will of god lately.

I have read a bit about Mother Teresa lately. As a young girl she talked to god daily for about a month. God told her what to do and where to go. Whet interesting is that god never talked to her again after that month was up. Not for the 70 additional years of her life. Not once. And it was enough.

Carl Jung writes that when you are having neurotic or obsessional  problems after the age of thirty- that they are probably spiritual problems. That each of us needs to be connected to something bigger than ourselves. That being ourselves can never be enough.

I was not raised with a religion and so tend to have an outsiders view of the whole thing. Catholics have their Jesus on a stick thing, Mormons their salamanders bringing gold tablets and such. The Protestants seem fairly straight foreword until you realize that their whole religion is a reaction to HOW the Catholics tended things, not why. I have always found organized religion to be sort of tough to get a handle on.

What seems to be the deal involves discipline, practice, and faith. Knowing that something bigger than self exists, and that that something will take care of us. The faith is in the acting as if. We get the present, not the future. We can’t see the plan for us because if we did, we would screw it up. So the faith is in the doing the now as best we can, understanding that we may never see the true consequences of our behaviors. Mysterious wonders to perform, and all that…

I think the old Jews had the right idea when they told us we couldn’t say the name of god out loud- that any attempts to make human the face of god necessarily limited him/her. It’s like you don’t really need to know corporate policy to do your job- just a simple mission statement ought to be enough to get you going. Knowing that it’s really big, and that there is a plan helps a lot, though.
 

Monday, December 01, 2008

Predictions



Everyone lies and everyone makes mistakes.

 (I don’t actually believe this, but using it as a fixed rule on human behavior has never failed me.)
In truth, I believe that there are adults running things, and everyone tells me the truth when asked. I don’t seem to be capable of growing out of this  -- I get fooled all the time, just wading through layers of trust until, astonished, I find myself knee deep on the shores of a gigantic land’o’ lies.
I try not to lie – for important things, it always backfires and I end up getting much more than I got out of it. I practice the old fashioned methods – the classics – of minimize, distract, ignore and deny. Mostly, I just try not to say anything. I very rarely do a ‘big’ lie and expect to get away with it.
I am amazed that other people lie on scales I can’t imagine. Banks saying they have enough money when they don’t, politicians saying they will fix things they know they won’t, people saying they will when they couldn’t possibly. Dumfounded, unprepared and disconnected, I find myself staring into space and without thought every time I’m blindsided. It’s a pattern.
Always, looking back, the signs were there, like termites on a banister that I knew by the softness of the wood – wood I didn’t want to poke. I am too tentative and lacking in the boldness of the blind. So here are my predictions.

  1. World war by 2012 – every nation will have a side. (2017 -- nope)
  2. U.S population will decrease by at least a third by 2013. (2017 -- Nope)
  3. Recession will be called a depression by 2010. Unemployment 15% by 2010. (2017 Yes)
  4. Old people will be the new poor and it won’t get better. Dog food the soylent green for older people. (2017, nope, but soon maybe)
  5. The economy won’t be allowed to deflate – too much money will be in circulation and will have all the problems associated with that – inflation, et.al. (2017 True)
  6. Health care will be outsourced starting in 2010. This will cause a deepening of the depression. (2017 -- yes, no)
  7. Ford will be the only ‘American” car maker. G.M. will sell out to China and close all its operations in the U.S. (2017 -- No)
  8. Obama will not survive his Presidency – Biden will have oodles of goodwill, but will not be able to stop world events. (2017 -- no)
  9. Republicans will win the Presidency in 2012 and do just exactly what you think they will do. (2017 no)
  10. Another major bombing will happen in American in 2010. All pretence of due process will vanish. (2017, no)
  11. Public unrest will lead to political prisoners held in prisons. Most Americans will applaud the government for putting the malcontents away. (2017 -- no)
  12. There will be an alien sedition act by 2011. (2017, sort of)
  13. China will control over 80% of the resources coming out of Africa. It will politically dominate all of the East African nations as well. (2017 -- no, but really hard to say)
  14. The war in 2012 will be caused by scarce resources -- primarily oil, but the spark will not come from the middle east (or Iran.) 9@017 -- no)
2017 ed. -- I was wrong 11 out of 14, and only a little right on the three I'm taking credit for. So not listen to me, I'm wrong a lot.







Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sri Lanka Update



Update 2017 -- a few years after I wrote this, the war was over. The Sri Lankan army marched the Tamil tigers into the sea and killed them all, men, woman and children.  From that day on, nothing more was heard about anything. 


After three years of a cease-fire characterized by only “light” terrorism; After a Tsunami that lowered informal but fixed barriers that separated people; after a generation that for 22 years has known only hostility, Sri Lanka faces war, again.  
With the August 12 assassination of the Sri Lanka foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgar, Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga declared and indefinite state of emergency and many believe this is the start of a new round of violence. 
Both sides blame the other for the killing, and so it goes. 
Some of the factors in this conflict stem from ethnic and religious differences, but many of the problems stem from the perversion of nationalism, the after effects of colonialism, and the political bent of personalities that have driven the movements in the last 40 years, which has included foreign intervention and support.
Sri Lanka has two major population groups with both ethnic and religious identifications. The Sinhala represent the largest group with over 70% of the population and define themselves as Aryans, and believe that they were the first real settlers, coming from the Bengal region of India and dominating most of the island from the 5th century on.
The Tamil claim to be of Dravidian origin, mostly darker in skin and from the southern area of India originally. Tamils include a large proportion—about a third—of imported workers from Southern India that the colonial powers brought in after the 15th century to work. The Tamils identify as Hindu.
For most of Sri Lanka’s history it was ruled as a loose confederation. The Sinhalese Kingdom dominated in the south, while the Northern area ruled itself as a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom, known as the Kandiyan Kingdom.
In 1504 the Portuguese arrived as a colonial power, followed by the Dutch in 1658. Both of these powers ruled Sri Lanka as two administrative units—as did the British when they arrived to rule in 1796. Not until 1833 did the North and South get combined into one nation, and that was for the convenience of the ruling Brits. 
Many historians conclude that the problems facing Sri Lanka today come directly from the years of colonialism.
 K.N.O Sharmadasa, in his article about Buddhist resurgence and Christian privilege, notes that the rise of the Buddhists activist groups, the Bhikkhus, that began shortly before independence in 1948, was a backlash against the Christian missionaries and their perceived favoritism towards the Northern Tamils in terms of education and assistance. It was from these Bhikkhus that came the most divisive call to arms—The adoption of Sinhalese as the national, and only, language.
Kumari Jayawardhana, in his summary of the Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, notes that under the British the Tamils really did get all the good, influential jobs. Under the British more than 75% of the schools were opened in the North, and that by the 1930’s, over 80% of the jobs in government were being done by ethnic Tamils.
Jayawardhana’s conclusion is that this lead to a strong Sinhalese nationalism that was directed at both the West, for their colonialism, and the Christians, for their support of the minority Tamils shortly before independence, resulting in a over reaction by the Sinhalese that is the root of today’s problems.
In 1935 the Sinhalese Buddhists formed the Samasamaja political party, the S.W.R.D., whose fundamental goal was to replace English with Sinhalese as official language of Sri Lanka. Since the Tamils benefited the most from the use of English in the courts and government, they felt it was a direct attack on them, a way of discounting their membership in society.
The British set up a plan for democracy after granting independence in 1948. Since everyone had the vote, the outcome was preordained—the Sinhalese won with a huge majority and then began the “tyranny of the majority” on the minority Tamils.
One of the first acts of the independent government was to pass an act disenfranchising a large group of the Tamils who had been brought over by the British in the last two centuries—thereby making them stateless and serving as a sort of ethnic cleansing by decree.
All this got formalized in 1964 when an agreement was signed with India providing for the reparation of almost a million stateless Tamils back to a home they had never been to before.
It was as if that small minority in the U.S. government after the Civil War had actually gotten their way and sent all the freed slaves back to Africa.
In the first ten years after independence the Tamils participation in government dropped, employment in public service dropped, and the drive to eliminate “colonial” English was well underway—to the detriment of the Tamils. 
In 1955, Sinhalese was made the official language of Sri Lanka and ethnic violence broke out, primarily against the Tamils, leave over 400 dead by the end of 1956. 
By 1970, when a new, even more nationalistic Sinhalese government took power, not a single Tamil was involved in government at the cabinet level, and less than 10% of any public service jobs were held by Tamils, leading to the consolidation of Tamil groups into one—The Tamil United Liberation Front, with its goal of self-rule for the North of Sri Lanka. 
In 1972 the Tamil Tigers were formed, as an extremist wing of the TUF, and Vellupilli Prabhakaren its charismatic leader—a leader who remains in charge to this day.
The Tigers began a low level terrorist campaign in the early 70’s that the majority government responded to by a major offensive to take back rebel territories in the North. Thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire as massive anti-Tamils riots broke out throughout the South leading to wide spread destruction and displacement of Tamils to the North and Sinhalese to the South. Over 2,000 Tamils were killed in a pogrom that including the killing of dozens of political prisoners in a maximum-security prison—by criminals released by guards to do just that. 
Over 80,000 Tamils left their homes in the south, some fleeing to India, some to the north. The ethnic cleansing that started in the fifties accelerated, the racial and religious lines became firmer.  
After 1983, the Tamils became more aggressive with their violence. They became known in the west for both the size of their bombs, but also the use of suicide bombers. First used in 1987, according to Robert Pape in his book about suicide terrorists, they have carried out 76 attacks involving 143 people since then, killing over 900 people, including two world leaders, Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, and the President of Sri Lanka in 1993. 
The Tamils Tigers have a very structured organization. Run by Prabhakaren since its founding, all Tigers are required to carry a vial of cyanide in a small glass vial they carry around their neck—when captured they are supposed to kill themselves.  
Their bombings are spectacular, even their first one, a truck bomb driven into a military barracks, ala Lebanon, killed over 70 soldiers. 
A suicide bomber killed Gandhi in 1991, in response to Indian peacekeeping animosity from 1987, when they sent 70,000 troops to Sri Lanka, mostly to contain the Tamils. That conflict ended in a war of attrition that the Indians soon tired of, leaving a iron wall of destruction around the North of Sri Lanka and an almost trench like fixed lines of occupation by each side.  
So, no love lost between the two sides, but still, the pictures of the smiling girl, leaning forward to lay a wreath on the man, strapped with an explosive belt that snaked up her back, bending and exploding is both stunning and unbearable to look at the same time. 
According to Pape, Tamils who explode themselves are highly supported in the North of Sri Lanka. Once a year, July 5th, a day known as Heroes day is celebrated for the bombers. Monuments of the individuals are placed in public places, surrounded by gardens and ponds, all indications of broad public support for this kind of terrorism 
The Tigers, and Prabhakaren, state that their goal is an independent state in the North and that they see it as a “100 year war,” according to Philip Gourevitch, in a recent New Yorker article.  
Prabhakaren compares it to the battles that Israel and Eritrea had in getting their freedom-- it’s just a matter of wearing the opponent down, and that terrorism is just a weapon that they can use against a stronger enemy, saying, “Because, as a revolutionary organization, we have limited resources.” 
Secession is a relatively new concept in Sri Lanka, and the Tamil’s strongly feel that it’s the only answer to the majority government’s discriminatory policies since independence in 1948, and to the communal violence that has been directed against them. Attempts by the more moderate on both sides have lead to frequent cease fires, and limited negotiations, mostly around trying to form a type of federal state that give regional autonomy to the Tamils in the north.  
Few are publicly optimistic, but the talking continues.
           
           
            




Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who's Fault is This?






 Whose fucking fault is this?

We are in a great financial crisis and the future is not certain. Cries of lack of individual responsibly echo through the night, as if crucify all the liars who took out loans they couldn’t pay  to telephone poles would protect  us against any further excess.

Who to blame, and how much of this is caused by personal irresponsibility?

I used to listen to talk radio back in the day before I could afford a tape player. I was always amazed by people who called up with an argument and got eviscerated by the host. I thought to myself, ‘how hard is it to have a single point, express it quickly, and then get off?’

What I didn’t see at the time is – talk show hosts are predators. They have trained and been educated in talking. They hone their skill with words over time. They have practiced in front of millions of listeners until the fear has left them. They also have self selected themselves to be where they are – good tones, confident postures and faces that on Radio would love, (think: ugly fat guys getting even with words for all the bruises popular guys gave them in high school.)

It’s not a fair fight – callers are thrown to the gladiators in the ring of a telephone for blood sport and the amusement of others.

People want to believe, they want Christmas, and they want to win the lottery. Many have grown up all their lives thinking that owning their own home is to have arrived. They fall into the ‘home or purpose’ reason for existence group.

And it’s not as if people from Nigeria were telling them they could afford a home.
Given a choice of something now, or something latter – and given a credit culture paid for by advertising and flash – individual responsibility for actions becomes a weakness that gets exploited, in the same way a teenager gets taken advantage of by a sophisticated predator.

The people showing the houses, offering the loans, processing the paperwork, repackaging the loans so no longer identifiable, selling the packages and leveraging them 30:1, regulating the farce, taking the bribes, and pocketing the billions – all of them had more understanding of their actions, and more blood on their hands, than any person who thought with dreams in their eyes that Christmas had come for them, and come early, at last.





Heimliching my Mother

"When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it's a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect."
Schopenhauer


Visiting Mom
I once heimliched my mom around a living room. My kids hid behind the couch, afraid to come out. A big chunk of burrito flew across the room. I still remember the arc it took. As a family we don’t talk about it much, though she did seem grateful about.

Things just are in my family. Things just are the way they are, no cause, no effect. Things are presented to us and we choose to react or hide, depending on the circumstances. Our choices in life come after the fact- it’s what we do with stuff after it shows up that defines us. Thinking about stuff is what we do all day while waiting for life to show up and give us something to react to. It’s just all one big line we stand in, waiting for the show.

My mom came down to visit and brought Mexican food for us. We sat in the living room, around the big screen TV, and talked. The kids told tales of how their lives were working out. I smiled and nodded my head a lot. We were waiting for the show.

Bug eyed and reaching with both hands to get IT out, my mom looked surprised, and a bit embarrassed. She looked both ways- left and right, and tried to speak. 'Gack, gack,' she said. Showtime, at last, I no longer thought.

She stood, I stood. I wrapped my arms around her waist and jerked her up. One time, two time, -- ack and blow time. The burrito flew; the show was over.

Well, that was sure something, we both thought. The kids peered over the couch they were hiding behind wondering if the show had ended. I think it was like watching Texas chainsaw massacre; they had to close their eyes at the really scary part. We all giggled about how we weren’t hungry anymore, cleaned up and mom went on her way down the road. Just another slice of near death, and back in line for the real work of waiting for the next show time.

Reflections and ruminations of reflections are what we do as a family. Like a second brain, we grind up thoughts and polish reflections until we can eat off them. It’s our great gift, and what we do while standing in line.







Monday, November 24, 2008

HMO"S don't Like You


"Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Insurers’ government-backed health plans for the elderly have increased taxpayer costs with no evidence of improved care, according to research backing President-elect Barack Obama’s call to lower U.S. subsidies.
Many of the Medicare Advantage plans, as they are called, don’t coordinate care to avoid duplication and ensure the best results, authors said in articles posted today on the Web site of Health Affairs. The plans were devised to offer more benefits than conventional Medicare paid directly by the U.S. government."

What this article talks about is medicare HMO's -- something that was started years ago to manage costs by adding another layer of administration on top of the medical cake -- sort of like a thick frosting of goo. They were supposed to eliminate waste, bring market forces to the irrational and unavoidable, and to use economies of scale to lower costs.


What they have done -- and what anyone who has ever had a HMO knows, is act as a  jelly to keep sperm away from the money egg.


And is is very clear who the nasty sperm have always been.


HMO's have departments to limit coverage, deny care through peer reveiw with Uncle Tom physicians, increase co-pays, turn pharmacies into money making operations, and whole departments to review and cherry pick through govenrment regulations to milk every single dollar they can before it goes to actual patient care.


Through lobby efforts, bribes, intelectual dishonesty, they have arranged a cash cow to pad their pockets through the symbolic sacrifice of the holy grail of human life. They are parasites that bring nothing to the system but extra costs and declining medical standards.

Another free market success.









Friday, November 21, 2008

My Grandfather's Grave

My father’s fathers grave is easy to find now. I go in the back way and look for the white arch , then head towards the two story mausoleum. He’s on the right, next to the second tree.

I don’t think he’s there though; I’ve had the talks, but they seem one sided. I don’t leave his grave feeling any connection or insight, so not sure what the net is for me, but do seem to think a bit when I leave.

I’m getting to the age of being a grandfather myself and am aware of what my grandfathers’ could have added at an early age. I think about what I will leave to the children of my children, and what they would miss if I were not around to mess with their gentle, unformed minds.

My father writes poetry, and has books and writings of his word in scattered places that can survive the fall. When I read his work, I know that I am different from him in fundamental ways, and that I make choices that he never would. I also know that I am from him, and a part of him, and no place I go will ever be without him. I know him.

My father says that his father wrote poetry, but none of it remains. What would I see of myself if I had the words to read into what he said and felt? What could I tell my children’s children about us as a clan if I had the writings to touch and make sense of?

Without words or contact it’s tough to know the tics and strangeness I might have held in common with my father’s father... Without his words, or an adequate description from another, it’s hard to see what his passions might have been, what moved him in ways I could recognize or marvel at for their strangeness not of me. I’m sure my father was much like him, but different in fundamental ways and in choices made.

My mother’s father is more distant yet. An older man with glasses who came home neatly dressed, turned on the old TV and tried to keep us from annoying. Him they took young with a thing in his brain that kept us away from what might have been a horror.

He, who I am most like, I never knew, only stories and pictures and comments and myths. No one claims he wrote anything down to leave and what I know of him is what others saw, never me.

If we had been together, my grandfathers and I, I know, as I know my children’s children will know, that all of him to know would have been given and known to me by their presence and love.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mongolia


Scattered on the high plains of Mongolia, peasants live with their way of life on a daily basis -- actually live with it, because it’s made of meat. They don’t keep the warm blooded meat with them in their yurts, because some separation is necessary to maintain their pride.

 Barren, treeless, with only poop to stoke their nightly fires on fringed nights, these peasants depend on the humble horse to provide them all their needs for surviving and thriving in a land many outsiders consider stupid.

They nick the horses veins to make tea from the blood; they milk the horse (mostly the female) for cheese and, well, milk. From the nappy hair that grows lush and oily, they make very pretty pull-over sweaters that are prized by collectors around the known world and East Texas.

Their horses don’t run fast because they are anemic and have lots of pain in their legs – but they are slowed down anyway by the female horse’s heavy udders. Some compromise was found necessary to keep the hoards from crushing flat parts of the earth again.

When their horses die, they crush the bones for calcium and use the big chunks for making needles and buttons, and with special, endowed horses, larger kitchen utilities.

Skin from the dead horse is made into heavy skin overcoats for their cold winters, as well as coverings for their yurts. Excess material is carved into small pieces and used by Japanese baseball players for the webbings of their gloves – providing a modest hard currency income for the struggling peasants.

This brings me to OPEC, and the concept of greed.

What did the greedy bastards think when the price of oil went to $150 a barrel? And now that it is under $50 do they see any correlation?

I guess the message is: When sucking blood from  horses, stop before they faint. Once they tip over, it’s hard to get them back up.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jesus and the Argonauts

Jesus and the Argonauts

Been thinking about Jesus today – all good, not to worry, just thinking about him as a man and all that baggage the Council of Nicaea tacked on to him a long time ago.

Did  Jesus get paid when he was a carpenter – and with what? Where did he put his money -- in long term CD’s or just cash? I’m thinking cash, but maybe that thing with the money changers had a little too much feeling behind it. It has the stink of payday cash advance all over it.

Did Jesus have sex? I mean before he was part god and part goat. If a girl asked him to give her a dirty Sanchez, would he do it? I mean, when you are having sex, where do you draw the line between good clean fun, and something just a bit off the perversion edge?

I bet they had a Dirty Sanchez back in the day – but they called it something else – maybe a smearing marry or something similar in a that punchy Aramaic, tick-tock way they liked to talk back then..
Would it take away from Jesus’ message if he liked the woman to be on top? What sort of noises do you think he made? I guess it depended on how heavy the woman was.

What did Jesus do for a hobby on his down time? It’d be cool if he wrote dark and lugubrious poetry – sort of working out on paper a way to happy joyous and free. I think he probably collected stamps – something to get away from the office, and he did travel a lot.

Did Jesus play sports? I can’t see him kicking the head of a lamb around while riding a horse. I think he was more of a donkey guy, and besides, he was vegetarian. I can see him playing marbles – closest to the hole,

that sort of thing. He probably lost on purpose to blind people and lepers.

Jesus was a funny guy – hard to get a picture of him as a man, but if he wasn’t at least a bunch of a guy – his dying for our sins has no meaning. You can’t torture a god unless he wants to be tortured – it’s a physical law.Without the pain of loss and remembering, the cross becomes just another waiting room on a long slide through forever.









Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Prince's Panties, by Mason William

The Prince's Panties by Mason Williams
There was once a prince who acted strangely in that
He thought life was stupid and it was for him so
He made up a world in which he liked the things we liked
But he had different reasons why he liked them

He liked butter for its color
He would order toast and color
Waitresses, confused would utter
Sir, I've never heard of toast and color

He'd get angry and begin to choke them
The law would come, and they'd arrest and book him
So his life was a mess of trouble
Still he kept it up

He had dogs, a hundred cocker spaniels and he
Called them panties, 'cause they did that mostly, and he
Did not care at all if they would bark and fetch sticks
Run and jump, roll over, and play dead tricks

No, he liked them only for their panting
So he would run them ragged, but one day they got fed up
And chased the prince right up against the fence
And the prince was eaten by his panties


(I used to sing this to my kids at night when they were sleepy. I could not memorize any of the great poets for some reason, but this song I nailed quite quickly. William's is know for Classical Gas and the Smother's Brother's, but I have a fondness for the Prince, and the world he could only change by looking at it differently.)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mr. Hitchens and Fascism


"In the waning days of the campaign, John McCain took to accusing Obama of being a socialist. The epithet lacked traction. There were, I think, two main reasons for that. One was the fact that McCain was a poor messenger for his own ideas: he never really articulated his position in a compelling way. The second reason is that many people who have not had the misfortune of actually living under under a socialist regime regard it as a jolly good thing. Socialism, as Joshua Muravchik noted in his book Heaven on Earth: the Rise and Fall of Socialism, was “the most popular political idea ever invented.”
It was also undoubtedly the bloodiest. Of course, many who profess socialism are decent and humane people. And it is worth noting that socialism comes in mild as well as tyrannical versions. Muravchik, who was once a socialist himself, pays frequent homage to the generous impulses that lie behind some allotropes of the socialist enterprise. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that “regimes calling themselves socialist have murdered more than one hundred million people since 1917.” Why?
A large part of the answer lies in the intellectual dynamics of utopianism. “Utopia” is Greek for “nowhere”: a made-up word for a make-believe place. The search for nowhere inevitably deprecates any and every “somewhere.” Socialism, which is based on incorrigible optimism about human nature, is a species of utopianism. It experiences the friction of reality as an intolerable brake on its expectations. “Utopians,” the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski observed in “The Death of Utopia Reconsidered,” “once they attempt to convert their visions into practical proposals, come up with the most malignant project ever devised: they want to institutionalize fraternity, which is the surest way to totalitarian despotism.”

What socialism is he talking about? France? Italy? They were much bloodier in the Republic phase of their development, and, really, doesn't six weeks of vacation sound good right about now?

If you are talking about Marxist countries (Russia, China, Cuba) then I would agree -- Yes, they are bad, and a good example of failed states (although China does seem to have more money than us, and Cuba has better health care, for their blacks anyway.)

You really fall into the nut job category if you think Obama is heading towards us becoming a Marxist or Utopian nation. A more reasonable thing to say might be, “Obama may make us much more like Germany if he gets his way.” or, "Obama makes me feel better about the future now that he has become President."

'Utopia,' or is it just a feeling of Camelot again?

Socialism is a very loaded word -- it might be nice if he explained what he meant by it.
And remember – Hitchen's tried to get us calling Al QaedaIslamo-fascism” when Fascism was probably the furthest stretch imaginable for what Islamic extremists are all about.

Hitchen’s did it for the WORD Fascism – concentration camps, that sort of thing – not because it was real, but because he could inflame people with the connection, just as you are using the word socialism.

Sort of Goebbelish if you think about it, (I'm using the illustration that right wing republicans are closer to Hitler than Reagan these days.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hart Crane, reduced


Hart Crane, Reduced

He rejected lifesavers
As a blow against his father
And his mothers colored vagina.

He liked Melville
But not for the words;
He liked the bigness of the whale.

His bridge erected
His tomb of frosted coils
His cold leap into forgetfulness

All a written cry for unknown help.

Mike Brady 2005


Easter Poem



Easter Poem

I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great taproot; It is what you fear. I do not fear it: I have been there
(S. Plath)

The first Easter, I put jellied beans on the tips of the barbwire fence
For contrast and reflection on the newness of it all.
By summer,
The beans had fallen, and now razor wire bound me,
All this new to me and never before.

My neck was degloved behind closed doors
In an elders ceremony of shame,
But they let me keep the collar
On a small shelf,
With my other personal items.

(Grateful without words
At the tight enthusiasm
Of a youth expressed,
Without guile to confuse me
Or humanness to prevent me,
I dream of their unformed lust.)

The second Easter, I cleaned the altar with paint thinner
To make the silver have luster and gold gleam
By summer,
Old brass became the new color,
And I was living with the others.

We sat in groups, still aroused by the telling
Of our over remembered sins in specifics.
All glad to feel again
In that physical of the impassioned way --
In our eager soft restraint.

And we cried with our correction
Sentenced harshly, so now allowed remorse,
We pretended to stand before our victims
In a prayer for both mercy and forgiveness-
Those things new to us and never before.

The fifth Easter, I buried my cross in the yard
But it didn’t matter,
I saw it everywhere, and more,
The children I had marked with my X,
All deformed and crippled,
Broken open as if owned by me.

Oh I saw
In the clear light of reasoned days,
And I saw,
In the darker nights without words.
(But those urges
Made by me,
Crawling back to me.)

How long, oh lord, how long I cried
Sitting hopeless without redemption.

(But still my thoughts slide down the feeling,
Without, but in, control again,
And I am hard at the thought of another Easter.)

Mike Brady
October 2004/2008 rev.

*persona poem

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Honest, a Poem












Honest

I imagine you alone in my house
for a day, without binding you to a promise
not to search through angles and nooks, or
through concrete memories filed in haphazard places.

I imagine coming home to you,
a pile of my past on the kitchen table
as you hold up each item without words
asking for a more explained honesty.

You ask of letters, old and grey,
bound with a soft cord and gentle knot.
You ask of pictures of me with her
and others implied by time and space.

You ask of official documents of a younger man,
those things held for required years and more,
in powered fear and presence--
those years that ground the wild from me.

You stop and hold me tight in thanks,
comforted that all I am is open to you.
We read in quiet and look up at times
to bind with sight that closeness we now feel.

And as I fall asleep at night,
With your head on my chest, and an arm around you,
I think of that kitchen table and recall the other
unremembered things found only in dim shadows.

In the darkness of a corner behind the basement stairs,
Sits a  pale and toothless unlit face
seen only in the indirect gaze on the shine of windows
It's  just a bastard of a lonely thing.

You have asked of me my honesty
I can't give it for the worst in me.

Mike Brady
December 2004/2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Dark Energy

"Who needs truth if truth is dull" Mason Williams


"However, to this day no one actually knows what dark energy is, or where it comes from. Professor Jose Senovilla, and his colleagues at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, have proposed a mind-bending alternative. They propose that there is no such thing as dark energy at all, and we’re looking at things backwards. Senovilla proposes that we have been fooled into thinking the expansion of the universe is accelerating, when in reality, time itself is slowing down. At an everyday level, the change would not be perceptible. However, it would be obvious from cosmic scale measurements tracking the course of the universe over billions of years. The change would be infinitesimally slow from a human perspective, but in terms of the vast perspective of cosmology, the study of ancient light from suns that shone billions of years ago, it could easily be measured"

Hum, that explains a lot.



My friend Ricky gets a lot of jobs that I just don’t have the perseverance or attention span to do. When confronted by impossible tasks, I tell Ricky to do them, and then sleep like a fish knowing that he will treat it like a dog with a bone – he will gnaw and chew until the marrow pops out – then eat it. If I were his age, I’d just be playing video games and watching porn.
I’ve had him hacking and doing complicated flow sheets lately, but last week I decided to dedicate his talents to the world. I asked him to tell me how quantum entanglement worked – and gave him a short deadline. He came back to me saying that, he had an idea, but no one could ever really know.

That’s the point my friend, that’s what makes us human. If there is any evidence of actual free will, it’s to be found in our ability to think of anything even if we have no way of proving it real. Actually – that’s the best part – we get to twist our thinking and come up with completely new things.

Einstein came up with something new – he conceptualized mass being nothing but energy bound up tight. Wow – simple, and never thought of before, and it changed the way others have thought for a century. It may turn out not to be true with the next really good thought – but that’s the point – it’s cool, sounds good, and makes for interesting conversation.

It may turn out that we are nothing but meat storage devices that future creatures are running real time on their Saturday night after getting stoned. We might just be the 2nd part of a dinner and a movie for gods – something they use to soften other gods up to try to get in their pants. Imagine – Tom Cruise looking up from a two dimensional Vanilla Sky at just the moment the film is getting changed – he’s very expressive, so that would be a treat.

Gravity might turn out to not be a force at all – just an absence of a force.

Dark energy may turn out to be bound up in dark matter in really tight balls of leaden glue that provides structure to the web of the Universe we hang on to.

Maybe string theory is right, but the strings are much longer and closer together and movement of bound energy through them is like walking though an endless harp? What if we are judged by the music we make as we travel through the harp in time?

Maybe it does end with me, that after I'm gone all you will see is creatures strolling casually around turning out the lights and pulling up the rugs.

Glory in it, relish the fact that we can think. It might be true that we have no free will in the ultimate, and that as a herd, it’s all predetermined – but always remember, you can do whatever the fuck you want to at any time, any place.