Friday, January 23, 2009

Wallace Stevens, A High Toned Christian Woman


(This is the poem that my blog was named after - it's almost my theme)




"A High-Toned Old Christian Woman "
              by Wallace Stevens


Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.

Take the moral law and make a nave of it

And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,


The conscience is converted into palms,

Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.

We agree in principle. That's clear. But take

The opposing law and make a peristyle,

And from the peristyle project a masque

Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,

Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,

Is equally converted into palms,

Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,

Madame, we are where we began. Allow,

Therefore, that in the planetary scene

Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,

Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,

Proud of such novelties of the sublime,

Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,

May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves

A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.

This will make widows wince. But fictive things

Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince


(No one has asked me -- by this is where the name for my website originated.Mike)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

IBM is making money?

Business Update


 IBM is making money – how? Evidently it’s a combination of execution, high end software sales and cuts. It smells bad – a good business reporter should be able to dig something up on this. There is little market for high end software -- no market, at all, for service contract extensions, and cuts are cuts. Not sure what they are executing, but doubt it can last -- or be real in the first place.

 Apple – any analyst that thought they wouldn’t make their forecasted earnings should be defrocked – it was that obvious.

 Best Buy – forecast that they will drop earnings from $2.70 to $2.50 in the next quarter. They are crack heads in a time machine set to 2006 if they think that’s going to happen.

 Amazon earnings up – between them and Craigslist, EBay is doomed in a marginal, large supermarket kind of way. EBay is an example of a company throwing the goose that laid golden eggs into a jet engine after freezing it to death.

 Big banks – most are dead husks of themselves and will fall (on something, probably) when the next wind blows. They are living examples of the big hole that each of us carries inside ourselves that cannot be filled with food or drink – or twenties that reach to the moon and back.

 AMD – a nice boutique design firm that sells cheap knockoffs in strip malls – A porn starlet that wants to break into pictures. A whore with a heart of cranberry sauce – doomed unless a collector adds them to a sand filled tarp covered museum or thrill ride.

 The last of the hedges will fall when the second big hurricane hits Florida next year. – They have bet against it big time –just in case you wonder how some of them made money last year.

Update 2018 - I was wrong about all of this, except maybe IBM, a little.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Negotiate

‘If all your negotiations are always successful, you are a very poor negotiator and won’t last long around here.’

(From an unnamed source high up in an administration)

I heard this and thought in my gut -- this is so wrong and so outside my experience … it might be right.

We don’t live in a long term country and don’t think or plan for what’s best for the future. Enlightened self interest seems to require a winner take all, adversarial, and zero-sum approach to all things lively and monetized. We love our grandkids, but will pull out nickels from their ears to hide the dollars we borrow in their name. We are not long-sighted people, for whatever reason you pick or choose.

I have always thought of negotiation as compromise. You meet, talk, decide what’s really important to you – then compromise and learn to live with the parts you don’t like, and maybe, plant seeds for the future that might get you a little more of what you really want. Goodwill, honesty and an eye for future interactions the benchmark for successful compromise. To me this has always been how I would describe negotiations.

There are tough people to make a deal with – the absolute people. Religions and Neocons tend to breed them – they are not social animals and people you can make a deal with. They are right and you are wrong and any give you give is taken as a right not a position. It’s best to leave these people alone, or put them in jail if they get too frisky. These are fringe players – found throughout history, and when the armies of the Antichrist raise up and ravage the earth – they will be powered by people like this, in uniformed suits of blue and white

But these others? Working without fixed morality and only seeking the edge of the moment? What’s to be made of them and their self interested moments in the sun? Do we allow them to ruin the future by bullying and browbeating decent people who just want to get along? Or is this the pinnacle of capitalism – the dog eating dog growth that averages out over time and leaves us all the better for the taking? Is this the arena that we need to throw quiet thoughtful people to -- the lions of slash and burn merchandising?

Don’t know, care slightly. I think that in the long run, people like this and a society that allows them to run without a leash will eventually be found in the ashbin of history, competing with lepers of Molokai for cultural relevance.















Monday, January 19, 2009

To Obama

My Advice to Barak Obama

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“Evil isn’t driven out; it’s crowded out by the expulsive power of good.”
MLK
I was a coronary care nurse two years before they allowed me to train to take care of open heart patients. Part book learning, but mostly hands on with another nurse – the training itself took another six months before they allowed me to work on my own. The actual work involved getting to know the stages of post-op – the cold patient warming up and all the body’s dislocations that happened in the process. We had to learn the first sixteen hours without killing anyone, or waking the surgeon unnecessarily. But mostly, we had to learn to live with the terror of the transfer.

Anesthesiologists brought the patients back to ICU after surgery. It was the luck of the draw who you got and how well they were organized. The patients themselves made a difference – the sick ones went later in the day after the routine cases had finished. Difficulties in surgery – sewing veins on a fresh heart attack patient was ‘like sewing wet tissue paper together’  took longer; diabetics had fragile, small veins – even finding a good donor vein from the leg took extra time. And bad surgeons took longer – and the longer on bypass – the longer they dug around and pulled and pushed – the more bruised and battered the patients came back.

The anesthesiologist made the difference. A good one would gently roll the patient from the gurney to the bed with all lines labeled and everything neat and orderly. They also tended to stick around a bit and pass on some good info as to what happened – not in the glowish surgical manner of parts fitting – but time, nicks and tears, and problems.

Ah, but the bad could be very, very bad.

Patients return to the ICU  intubated, with arterial lines in either wrist or leg, IV’s in both arms, catheters than run from either the chest or groin to the heart that are used for measurements, chest tubes that need to be hooked up and functioning, NG tubes from their nose to stomach, heart leads that need to be plugged in, pacemaker wires tape to the check that need a machine hook up and calibration, and sometimes, on special days, an intra aortic balloon pump threaded up their left groin that needs immediate attention before it clots up.

Now imagine a patient coming back late in the day, with all the stuff listed above sliding over from the gurney in a hurried thump in two large brown grocery bags of tangles and ooze as the anesthesiologist says, “it’s all yours ladies” as he turns and walks out of the room for his next disaster in the OR.

Welcome aboard Barak, have fun. Here is what I suggest:

1.      Do something, anything, and eventually it all makes a sort of sense. Do what needs to be done first, and then keep doing something.
2.      Trust that your choice of a god will watch over until you figure it out.
3.      Ask for help. (See #4 )
4.      Have fun, make crude jokes and laugh -- you are doomed if you forget to laugh.
5.      Keep in touch.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Israel and Pretty Talk

The Politics of Dancing



Talking pretty is good, writing pretty is great – it’s more portable and the emotions raised come from an internal place, not the rubbing, frictional land of chemicals and shared experience.


That being said, I also like a good poop in the morning. A poop that makes me feel like I’ve expressed a daemon -- not the vagal ones that give me referred pain and anxious moments -- and certainly not the juicy ones that use up half a roll of paper and require a quick shower as well.

So I am not without a sense of the beauty of primitive things, but still find the power of words and intelectual muscle flexing sublime and without counterpart in that other reality of the senses.

Which brings me to Alan Dershowitz.

A good poet can take a thing that you know in your head and twist the juices out of it until it’s condensed and simple. A great poet can then rehydrate it with a sum of all souls and allow you to touch god – much like a good French cook does with his rendered and endlessly simmered veal stock.

A good arguer can take a pile of pieces and, much like Legoland, use them to create a tower of reality that both convinces and persuades. Done well, it can change minds and events. In other words – it can move mountains by harnessing the abstract air of thought to the yoke of humanity.

The problem, and abuse, of words comes from the person and intent, not the words themselves. Writers seem to be a bunch of particularly atypical people with estrangement and distance a color they look at events with. This is both a power and a curse – ‘I like to watch’ does not get you invited to many parties, and wives tend to leave in anger after the roof leaks too many times.

Writers bring biases to what they write, but tend to be so self-absorbed they can’t see it. Well reasoned thoughts end up just excuses, and carefully constructed houses get made with sand on stormy beaches.

Proportionality between Hamas and Israel gets compared and found to be equal in a careful, reasoned manner, by a smart guy who is a master with rhetoric, but unable to see his bias.

It’s hard for me to escape the vision that Leon Uris created in my mind when he wrote about the Jewish resistance in Warsaw at the end of WWII. Ghettoized teaming masses of Jews surrounded by an impossible fence, hounded by Germanic efficiency until they retreated and fought from the sewers. Cut off completely from outside help (except for brave Polish resistance fighters that helped occasionally with smuggled weapons.)

Except Gaza doesn’t have sewers – they build tunnels.

It’s hard for me to see the original sin of Israel – they have no right to exist other than the power of their will. They terrorized the British, leaned on collective guilt from the concentration camps until the west gave them what they wanted – a homeland.

The fact that people lived there and did nothing with the land that we considered productive, and that they were not white, and that we had the guns and the technology to make it happen, does not take away from the sin of giving something that didn’t belong to us to a favored people.

You fight with what you’ve got against what you have to – The people of Israel should have learned that a long time ago – and it appears the freely elected government of the Palestinian people did.

Dershowitz truth is not the truth of most of the world and it’s a shame that he is making excuses for what is inexcusable.The power of an  argument comes from presenting both and all sides, not from using tricks to compare apples to figs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Economy

The Economy


You have seen the winter coming – it hasn’t been sneaking this year. The snow has come down hard several times,and every morning you have to scrape the ice off your car.


But now it’s a full blown, bat shit kind of blizzard and all you can do is watch it come down on you. No one is working, no traffic is on the streets and everything is closed up tighter than a drum.

As you stand on the steps outside your front door, smoking and freezing like any addicted fool would do under the same circumstances, you notice a burly guy walking down the street heading for you with a snow shovel. Before you can get back in the house – because you know he’s looking for a few bucks to clear your sidewalk, and your too broke to say yes, at least until it stops snowing, you see him wind up like he’s playing softball, then swinging  like the fences are a possibility.

You hear the swoosh of compressed air and then feel the impact of the flat aluminum shovel as it hits your face straight on. Your nose is pushed in so far that the broad face of the damn thing actually cracks both your eye socket bones, and even tingles a bit off your ears. You can fell your  teeth, but they're hanging a bit.

The first thought is: I’ve been hit by a fucking snow shovel.

That thought lasts for minutes until you hear the crack of bone and feel the coldness of the metal on your face.

Then you stagger back inside and ask the wife, through broken teeth, to call for help.

As your wife bundles you up for the wait,   dismay and just a slight revulsion on her face that she tries to hide, you think, it's not so bad -- I can move everything and it's not really swelling up too bad, maybe it'll just be some bruising.
They let you out of the hospital a week later, loaded up on pain killers, bandaged and sort of stupid. You go home, knowing your life and face have been changed forever, but stunned, don’t care. It’s going to take years and pain and never, ever will it be the same.

That’s what going on now. The disbelief, minimizing, and distraction; all the yammering and wisdom of the self obsessed; all the stoppage and standing as if waiting for god to point his finger. All of it, just the denial of a truth of damage that only time will  heal, and history look back on.

Predictions 2

2012

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OK the scenario I think most likely. It’s easy to see if you take us out of the picture.
China – big depression – like ours, only with billions of people and no safety net.

China – authoritarian because they know the masses can’t be put back in the bottle after uncorking – funnel the unemployed into project – Military (discipline et al) – to take back Taiwan – mild rebuke from us, we step in, but don’t go crazy – big battle, China loses – but gains enough to be really pissed off. We are exhausted by the battle to assist.

(2017 ed. -- nope)

China steps back, acts nice – then North Korea falls apart and attacks the South.  China step in the North –‘to calm’ water, but tries to keep the south under its political control. We are again exhausted by our effort to assist – the South does win, but China has leverage and nominal control of the South and big time control of the North.Reunification looms large -- but in a 'let's all vote freely and get Hamas into power,'  kind of way.

(2017 ed. nope, but maybe soon)

It gets antsy on the border with RussiaVladivostok and the oil of Sakhalin Island – tension and strong words exchanged..Russia is in its own depression and not in a good mood.
Russia steps into North Korea after repeated provoking by China.

(2017 ed. nope, all talk)

Russia China war – India helps Russia, Pakistan China -- or maybe they fight just because.
What about us – we are worn from the Bush decade and the exhaustion of defending Taiwan and Korea. We, and Europe, sit this one out until drawn in – Europe to Russia, for the oil and because they are white brothers. We divide and isolate until…?

(nope)

It’s never really all about us. At least not anymore.

(2017 ed. Nope -- it is all about us)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Working like a Dog

I have not felt like writing the last week or so; job, relationship and other things just making me paralyzed and only semi-functional. I received this picture by email this morning from my buddy Ricky, and it seemed to cry out for attention, and made me laugh a little, (and yes, that is a battery charger attached to my nipples.)

So -- I am pasting in an old writing from my days installing tires for Goodyear, but really, the picture says it all.

29 November 2003

I am 49 years old, and through misdeeds/mistakes find myself working as a tire installer in San Jose. The job I do requires lots of skill, but those skills can be learned with practice after a couple of weeks. A Union is the side that won the civil war- sort of historical footnote rather than something helpful in everyday work life. I am a blue-collar guy now, though THAT thought makes me laugh a lot.
I work with kids- 20 year old kids. I am the self-assured one at work- I am unflappable, the old man, the rock. I have salt and pepper hair- a belly, and kind of look like someone you might calls pops. Please note, I am not a babysitter or a boss; when the kids play ball, I suggest they use gas and make it fireball.
In some ways it’s like that dream of going back to high school as an older wiser man- only I have to date their moms instead of my new peers. Which actually appeals to a part of that old high school fantasy anyway…
The kids ask me for advice. I usually tell them a stock answer like, “That’s stupid, don’t do it”, or, “What do YOU think you should do?” but sometimes…, I tell them what I did- that usually shuts them up.
I generally have a good attitude about the whole thing. I frame it as if god has put me in fat camp because I refused to exercise and eat well. And instead of making minimum wage, I think of it as getting a small stipend to work out at the “gym”. I tell myself that this is all just a phase I am going through; that years from now I will laugh and laugh about the whole thing. Material for my great novel… Grist for the mill…
Sometimes it just pisses me off and I become very impatient. I install tires with two pennies flopping around on the inside. I sneer and sulk when I see a customer come in. I take it personal. I think that people are buying tires just to piss me off- that they plan it at home with friends and time their entrance for JUST when I have to pee. I walk a fine and narrow edge of attitude.
I work hard at hard work. I wear a back brace- just like the moving men do. I lift and hit and bang things a lot. I get angry and throw things. I kill time and occasionally it kills me. I am a lumberjack, and I am OK…

A little more from another day…

I went to work on Friday and found a notice on the wall next to my schedule. Turns out my hours have been reduced- as well as all the people I work with. Now, as I look around, I see moody people snapping and passive-aggressively fucking with demons. They could be wondering what they will do with all the extra time off they are going to get—maybe spend more time with the kids, or catch up on TV. They may be thinking that 8 bucks an hour minus a few hours won’t really be noticed. They may just be pissed that a dead end job just got deader.

As for me, for me, for me, I have mixed feelings. I have been working very hard, physically, for the past year. I have been putting in forty hours a week, have not called in sick, and take no time off for anything. I have no benefits- no vacation, sick time, holidays, etc. I am considered a part time; casual employee- hired (or fired) at will .I make 8 dollars and fifty cents an hour- with no raise in sight. So the truth is- what the fucks the down side to all this for me?

One downer is the shaking of the veil of denial. I don’t make a living wage, and my expenses are more than my income. I HAVE been graced with a bit of denial about all this and have used magical thinking mostly to make ends meet. I don’t have enough- and now I have less.

The other downer involves anger. I am angry that my hours are cut. The cut came from the “Big” office in Akron, and it feels to me like a corporate, technical way to improve productivity- the cook the numbers. As we all know- productivity is the amount of work done per person used. If you reduce the people and the work done stays the same- increased productivity. The magic grail of business is productivity- as it should be- but attempts to get it done by stupid people are harmful. It’s form over function as far as I can see.

What happens at my end is slightly different. I have a nut to make every month, a small amount that covers my life. I have cut expenses as tight as I can, and live month to month without any safety net of stocks/bonds or savings. I have no 401K to fall back on. I am on an edge financially. When income changes slightly, my life changes dramatically I can’t use one credit card to pay off another until things get better. I can’t tell people who depend on me and my income to wait- they depend on me.

What happens to me is that I get another job, move to a cheaper place, and cut more of my life out. That’s my cost. What does it cost the company?

- Angry employees using the “Union” word in conversations.
- Customer service slips- and I deal with a commodity service- people can goes elsewhere.
- Sales WILL fall- I guarantee it.
- Loss of trust in our shared goals with the company.

What makes me do a good job? Interior values and goals that we each set for ourselves carry most of us through life. Most of us want to do a good job; it makes us feel better about ourselves. I think that all of us also need feedback- something to recharge our batteries. In business that feedback can come from support, education, money- and most important- a sense that we are valued. Without help- it’s all too much for us.

I think you can also motivate with fear- but, honestly, how that been working out for you?