Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Writing, Non-fiction

Non-fiction writing is inherently dishonest.

Journalism schools teach and preach objectivity, to various degrees of success -- some are better than others. Bias is felt more than seen by readers, though, technically, the Pretty Word Workers of America cover their bases well. The exception might be Fox News – they don’t care enough to pretend, or maybe by preaching to the choir they don’t have to. If you have right  ideas, why stoop to prove them?

(The New York Times pretends to not be liberal, but they are, you can feel this can’t you? – but they try harder, so they don’t rise to the Fox level of dishonesty.)

Still, all this is sound and fury that means nothing. In the long run, the “marketplace of ideas,” like the casinos of Vegas, will win every time. Truth will out – it becomes a physical thing with time. Even Fox will eventually become the journalistic parachute pants of the ought generation – a goofy memory of simpler times.

(Or, it might end up being the background noise of common belief for a new generation – but then Milton would be wrong and he wasn't -- being Old Testament by both nature and birth, he could only tell the truth, usually in a beautiful but tragic way.)

For all this, Journalism has at least the patina of true – the science, the stated goal of objectivity. The criticism is that it’s not – not that it shouldn’t be. Other forms of non-fiction have a different problem.

When we write about what we physically experience in life – our memories, thoughts and actions, we shade, omit, distract and lie in order to shape the words and to say our story. We leave important things unsaid and set the stage with words to present selective facts in the order and light that we want others to view us. Since we are the senses others have to use to read our words – they see what we want them to see, and when we avert our eyes they don’t.

Like a reality show with months to cull their 24/7-camera coverage – we choose the things we say in order to tell a story that our minds make up. No amount of brutal honesty can change this – we develop our pitch and fine-tune it through examples and snippets that illustrate or illuminate the pieces of our lives that show us in the way we want to be seen. Even the ugly and deformed are used to shape –wither through a strange pride, or need for pity.

When we show the facts for you to see, like the dark matter of the universe, most of the stuff is hidden by omission. The truth is often simple, at least to the writer, and by putting representations of the whole into simple bites, the writer is telling you his truth – at least if he’s doing it right. The problem is in the truth of the big chunk that’s missing – the gigantic elephant of facts that sits in the living room of the story, smoking quietly in the corner.

What did the wife see? The Lover? The guy whose job you earned, but he thought stolen? What would they say about your truth? In fiction, it doesn’t matter – the truth is what you say it is, there is no pretense of a truth.

Non-fiction has fact checkers – hired people who go through your life, checking with friends and enemies for the truth of place and time. They don’t go into what you didn’t say – the things left out. They don’t go into the staging of your words – the platform of facts, both said and unsaid, that you use to place your truth on for display to others.

There is another type of dishonesty -- manipulation in order to preach or convince. This is the selective telling of a tale in such as way as to deny that it is the tale. In poetry this works well, in fact a good poem should be read with a bunch of different meanings – the more the better. Manipulative non-fiction can be read into – slightly below the story line of facts is a subtle other story that seeks to convince the reader of another truth – a truth more true than true. A straightforward narrative of facts becomes a satire – a story of love becomes a list of wishes. When found in fiction it adds depth, in non-fiction, not so much.

We also tell the truth in order to make a point we don’t have the balls to make in fiction – we bury in the obvious, small truths that get slipped over by casual readers. Things we want others to know but don’t have the balls to say we make small in big things, then hide it in plain sight.

Memory is also faulty in non-fiction tales. When a father asks a child to tell them a tale from childhood – something they did together, the stories seldom match. The past is seen by memories enhanced through photos and tall-tales that have been rounded off by the constant telling.

And then there is history -- imagine the disappointment after years of reading State approved U.S. history books, and then reading Howard Zinn's -- same truth, different results -- not even in the ballpark -- both true. And  J. Edgar had an official biography that didn't mention he wore a dress.

Non-fiction is as true as the teller of the tale. As honest as the attempt, it will always be colored by the tale itself. It’s more like structured fiction than truth -- much in the same way we interpret life when we just walk around not paying attention.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LA, Part 5

“At last, Alas
It is a boring song
But it works every time.”  Margaret Atwood

The people of LA have become, through intense and persistent dosing, conditioned to the poison of traffic, much like tube worms located near oceanic vents . The only thing that stops the bastards from seeking electric pleasure everywhere and anywhere are steep hills and utter emptiness – in these places they lose momentum and tend to wander around slowly without any perceived purpose or function. Sans the constant noise of their cars and the frenzy of speed, they are like bees with a dead queen decomposing in a tree trunk. Their god is, apparently, limited by physical constraints -- If they could dream of a bigger god, the world would soon become their oyster, and the rest of us would rubbed out, and our purpose reduced to being a large and greasy take out container for their toys and baubles. And we would all have to listen to a Door’s song every other hour, forever.

The traffic was horrible from the Getty Center to Santa Barbara. Two-minutes at 90mph, desperately trying to keep up with the flow, then a panicked two foot slam on the brakes -- followed by 30-minutes of stuporous semi-stop. Repeated for 40 miles, as if needed.

We drove back on Highway 101, because I liked the downhill start. Tons more pretty, hours more time – a real trade off that always seems like a good idea when starting, and kind of a drag the last 60 miles.

We planned to stop early and gas up, but since we spent most of the time until Santa Barbara as above, we ended up going to Buellton on fumes with a bright orange gas warning light flashing for the last 30 miles.

In Buellton, we ate at Split Pea Anderson's – the southern link of that famous roadside attraction. The other link is in Santa Nella, close to the Pacheco Pass turn off to the Bay Area. The place is sprawling, with random nooks crammed with foodstuffs, crap and souvenirs – all wonderful in exactly the kind of way you would expect. The food is average – the soup of the day is split pea everyday.

Our next stop – because now that we didn’t have to stop for traffic random times not of our choosing, we made extra stops because, fuck em – was a small place Mary remembered just off the Avila Beach exit. It was sort of a combination petting zoo and local market, it had many different kinds of goats, cows, roosters, and ice cream. I’ve added a couple of pictures to give you a feel for it. It was a fun stop.

I tried to talk to a worker about renting a goat for the day for my Christmas photo, but stopped just short of getting into trouble. Here’s the word picture for your walking around dream:

"The goat and I are sitting comfortably on a couch -- a TV dinner is on a small table in front of me. The goat chews on hay quietly. The camera is focused on both our faces as we stare intensely at an unseen TV. We are dressed casual."

We finished with strawberry shortcake and then headed home on an almost lonely highway. The End.








More On Writing



"I don't know if your dead or not, if you're anyone." Broken Bells



I need to develop a theory of punctuation and the will to stick with it when faced with doubts.

Since I believe people hear what they hear, and that this hearing is independent of what I say, I’ve always thought that punctuation should be thought of as more a guideline than a rule.


Writing should leave you with an image, not words. It should allow for that image to be seen by others as their own, sounded out by their own understanding, in their own way. It needs to have the strength of flex and the ability to surrender itself to other visions. It should crowd itself in and snuggle up comfortably, then clean like gasoline until it burns, leaving an after image like the dead of Hiroshima left on sidewalks.

I write exactly what I see – you see exactly what you bring to the table to look with. I write a specific, in the way that makes sense and order for my world as a way of structuring my senses. You take what I say, filter it with what you think, then summarize my specific with your own, for good or evil, as you are.

In school they teach this – how to find the meaning of a thing – and all the things mean different things to each and  all the people. I write apple, thinking green and made for cooking. You see red, and crunch the sweetness in almost taste. That’s not what I meant at all – not at all.

I see that a comma gives pause, and breaks the speech and cadence. What I meant was a beat and a half – more reflective and deliberate. There is no mark for that and no way of knowing unless you are me – or unless you get it like an obscure art piece left dangling for generations covered in dust and discovered by a special you, alone in wonder at a lost thing now found.

Many things are not great until people say they are great, and then they are, but really, they always were – time meant nothing, but timing was everything. Doing things the way they are and not the way you see them gets you nothing in any length of run that matters. A theory of dots and dashes has to found that works for the way you see it, otherwise, what's the point of saying anything?

When I use a semicolon instead of a period, it’s because I don’t want to interrupt a flow of related ideas by making two sentences from one. It might be because I’m lazy, it might be a comma in disguise, or it might just be an affect I want to lay on the reader. My motivations are never clean with this – and I would really prefer to leave it all more open and imprecise by slapping a dash in place and moving on. You the reader have to guess, but it’s an educated guess that allows for freedom of thought that the structure of a semicolon doesn’t.

In poetry it’s a challenge. Because there is an almost pathological attention to each word and how they flow in a herd, (or pride?) the stop and start and emphasis needs to be almost mathematical… I think.

But it’s the image the words leave without the exact meaning of words interfering that makes the poem. It’s the singsong, dancing meter that makes you remember, not the math. The words mean what they mean – to both you and to your knowledge of me.

I think that I need enough of a theory to be consistent. Enough to show I know the rules and I am not ignorant or ill cultured – that I know that the extra fork of language is used for the salad, not the meat.




LA, Part 4

It’s hard to watch a child do things and not step in to help, even when the choices they make are bold and clean – and much better than any you made at their age. I guess it’s a combination of pride and anguish – pride that they are shaping their individual futures in a way you could never dream of for yourself, and anguish that no matter what the safety net you place beneath them, they still have to do it with the pain of thinking they are alone.

When you get older you realize you are never alone when other people care about you and pray for you their fondest dream – no matter how much you beg.

On Saturday, since Allison had to work later that morning, we met her at her apartment and followed her to “Norm’s” for breakfast. Norm’s is a converted Denny’s in Hollywood, and, as Allie told us, “It’s the place they film that new show with the old guys.” The show, “Men of a certain age,” is one of our favorites – though the actors are 10-years younger than we are.

Imagine a Denny’s where the food is good: eggs from a real farm, sausage from a butcher that are then formed into patties in the kitchen, hash browns that come crisp as a matter of house policy.

After breakfast, we said sad goodbyes to each other and went separate ways, again.

We had planned to go with Allie to the Getty museum before her work thing came up, (though Mary did voice a suspicion that she was blowing us off to go to the beach.) We went without her.

At the Getty, you park in a single level lot after paying (for parking only – the Getty is free.) When parking, you realize it’s not a single level, but seven levels – down and deep. Must have been quite a hole.

From parking, we took the tram up the hill to the actual museum. Towards the east you could see Tom Jones’s vineyard taking up a large part of a hill. From murmurs in the tram: It’s the only winery in Beverly Hills, and they don’t sell to the public.

The Getty is a wonder in the spirit of world’s greatest wonders. By far the best museum I’ve ever seen – and that’s without the stuff inside it. You could spend days just walking, looking and sitting without once going inside. In a thousand years, after the 4-inch slabs that cover it fall off, it’s going to be a concrete ruin on a hill that a new dark-age people will worship as the palace of the gods.

Monday, March 29, 2010

LA, Part 3



As we were driving through Bel Air I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw Angelina Jolie following me in a black Mountaineer. I thought, wow, what a great town, Angelina Jolie is tailgating me and I wasn’t even looking for her. I quickly dismissed any doubts that maybe she wouldn’t be driving a black Mountaineer. At a stop sign, I asked Mary to check it out in her vanity mirror. She said, “Well, she’s very pretty, but she’s not Angelina Jolie.”

“She will be when I write about it,” I replied.

This is why I didn’t finish Journalism school.

Allison drove us to the Cuban restaurant (Versailles, on La Cienega,) and it was great. The place looked like an old Sambo’s and though the update wasn’t too fresh, the service was quick and the tables were level. Good food, lots of it, and cheap – a good unspoken message that choices were being made and understood by my daughter

After dinner, we left for the strip.

When Allie was young, LA was a thing to be avoided. We made annual pilgrimages to Disneyland, but always planned the trip to keep from actually seeing LA during daylight – presumably to prevent blindness or skin rashes. Avoiding the traffic was our religion and so, this was my first time to Hollywood.

Lots of hustle and bustle on the strip -- Concrete stars and flashing lights. The locals were aggressive – unlike SF – they weren’t looking to get stuff from you, they were looking to take. Allison later told me that the only normal people she had met in LA were people who had just moved there -- like her.

The highlight, for me, was Jesus in original sandals – he looked just like his pictures -- kind of historically fuzzy and manically bemused. Allison said she saw him everywhere, as you would expect. "He always looks like he walking to work even when he's by my house."

I took only two pictures of the stars on the pavement. I took them because I thought they would make a good couple in a different time – Johnny Depp and Veronica Lake, together forever, as they should be.

Mary bought Allie a Map of the Stars while we we on the strip. I have a hard time believing she didn't already have one, but anyway -- Halle Berry lives on the same street as Allison.

We dropped off Allie at her apartment after it got dark and took Sunset back to our hotel for the night.

Two more cool things:
  1. Allison lives off a busy road, so parking has always been  tough until the city installed giant round cylinders that rise up at night and block the road. We got to her apartment too late to see this, but it fits a reoccurring dream of mine – making solid from the firmament yet again.
  2. The Sunset Towers Hotel – the best looking place in town. The website won’t give you the price until after you enter a credit card. I guess if you have to ask…








Sunday, March 28, 2010

LA, Part 2




From the Hotel, we drove down Santa Monica towards the ocean. The five miles took a half-hour, but the drive was more about attitude than speed.

Imagine driving with a monkey in the back seat setting off ladyfinger firecrackers rapidly and randomly -- most of the time throwing them outside, but occasionally not -- for a long time.

We found Allie's place -- very nice and in a great location that bordered Beverly Hills, but still remained safely in the charms of tattoo parlors and the Trocadero.  Now armed with the geographic, we headed to the hills on a rich people hunt.

After running up and down a few streets it all started looking the same, so we stopped at a nice looking park across the street from the Beverly Hills hotel. With delight I found the marker showing the park was dedicated to Will Rodgers – the very man I had decided as child I wanted to grow up to be, and a fellow traveler from the Oklahoma Territories, (to be exact, a “punk” Will Rodgers – the modifier necessary for my vision.) I sat in the shade, Mary in the sun and we watched as two ducks make fun of each other in the pond.


When Allison called we left the park and drove to her apartment. Because we were elderly, she met us outside so that we wouldn’t get lost, what with it being a two-story and all.

Allison always looks good in pictures – she’s practiced being a star all her life. In real life – she looks better – alive in a way that I haven’t seen her in a long time. Inside, her place was a large studio with all the fixin’s – older with a nice funkiness, and I liked it. After the right amount of hugging and talk, we headed out for Cuban food and a night of the town.



LA, Part 1

We dove into LA.

From Highway 5, you slip and shudder over stabilized landslides, always downhill, until you reach an area where things continue their march to the sea in a slightly less obvious way – LA. At one point, all the trucks get off the freeway and circle underneath you to the left, until, for no apparent reason other than the whims of a god of traffic, they whip underneath you – shooting through a tunnel like frogger game until they rejoin you in forty-lane junction of a metal dance movement. All this in less than 5 miles.

Following signs to the Hollywood freeway we slowly creep along until we get to the Sunset exit – then we go left.

First thing seen  -- the giant big blue city block that is the Scientology complex – some parts half built. Not an evil blue color, more a non-faded beach blue. Protestors surround the sidewalks, all protesting the lack of union participation in the construction. You would think the Scientologists would be more sensitive – the bastards are already illegal in Europe for god’s sake and they steal tons of money everyday – how hard would it be to go union? The place did not stink as much as I expected – but there was a definite smell to it.

After shooting a picture to see if they would harass us, we entered the Armenian section of town – lots of Cyrillic looking Aramaic writing on 7-Eleven’s and carpet stores, all with the word Armenian in front of them. I was reminded of a Turkish girl I dated who always went on and on about the thieving Armenians from her homeland. “They are like ragged diseased gypsy’s, or werewolves,” she said.

She also said there were Armenians everywhere she looked these days, “It was less a genocide we did to them,” she said, “It was more like a culling.”

We got to the Ramada and checked in. It was four stories and each room opened to a patio facing a central courtyard. Older, it looked like something Trotsky would have stayed in while vacationing from Mexico in between his permanent revolutions. Kind of cool, in it’s own way – the most affordable 3-star available from Hotwire in Hollywood, though the stars may have actually been asterisks – I booked it with a pre-Intel Mac and the font may have been too small.

We cleaned up and had a couple of hours before my daughter got off work, so we went to see the rich people’s houses in Beverly Hills.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why We Fight

For my own protection I've cultivated a vague fuzziness in my manner and style. This cloud of indeterminacy makes it hard for others to get a good clean shot at me -- my version  of a quantum rope a dope. When I write I stand in sharp relief, and trust my punch will overcome a tendency to lead with a weak chin.

I say that I write for myself. When I finish something, the glory of it’s something that makes a part of me vibrate. When asked by others what makes me happy, the only thing that comes to mind is writing.

I fight writing. Because it seems predetermined and inevitable that I write, I rage against it. When I finish something and know it’s good, I wonder where it came from – what beast inside me used me. In daylight I don’t see anything that makes me capable of what I see written in front of me.

And I know that some of what I write is good – especially the poetry.  When I focus on the words – their order, sound and place, I seem capable of nailing what’s in my head to the door of art.

It’s a strange kind of vision that I’ve always had in me. The stuff I want to say with words has always been internally consistent, even though I wasn’t. What I see in my head as a theme of who I am and what I’m supposed to do is ice cold clear. When I hit it, I know, when I miss, I know that too.

What I mean when I say that I write for myself is not that I don’t think other people will understand of see my vision, but that the vision is for me alone. Even if no other person sees the things I write, I know they have to be born. They are like my kids – belonging to god in the sense of source, but gifted to me for cheap thrills and responsibility.

I worked on a sonnet yesterday. I woke up at dawn and worked until well after dark. 14 lines, 10 syllables in each line. The work was intense, full of pacing and the active staring at walls. The sonnet is not yet perfect, but it’s good and needed to be. Only I could have written it. That’s why I write.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sonnet II

This is more structured than usual for me. Hint -- the turn is in the rime. Purists may note the rhyme scheme does not follow Spencer, but since I live in California I'm special. Mike (a-a,b-b v. a-b,a-b)

Her singing voice was lush, yet spare and haunting,
Though talk of Jesus left me strangely wanting
A crutch is fine, but few enjoy the crippled
And yet she speaks of life as very simple.
Her raft of  faith  tied safely to the shore
From a bride of Christ the art expects much more.

Her wish to find with song life everlasting
In haunted gods and other things pre-casted
From simple clay  transformed by other hands 
In crippling haste to show god's law to man.
Go step from shore and leave the sure of light
Forget the more of god and face your life.

To take and seize the power that’s inside you;
To dance upon the dust that will become you.

Mike Brady 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On Writing, Part II

When I write something it’s for the ending – the last line or two that tells me what it was I was trying to say. I don’t think I’ve ever known the ending to something I started before I started, and it’s that surprise that drives me.
Merwin does it in his poems – Joe Friday did it on Dragnet.
“Oh one more thing officer, I don’t know if it’s important, but… he was green.”
I meander mostly. I trust that the end will justify the digressions, that most of the sounds and sense in the body of the work will tie together at some point in a sort of poetic anti-summary that moves you more than the sum of the word count.
I think I understand the manipulations in my writing, the false leads as I dilly-dally, but understand, I don’t know how it's going to end any more than you do. I want the reader to be as tickled as I am when they finally see the connection, and (hopefully) the power, in the words as they condense at the finish.
It’s fun to flitter and dance with words with a sway and stamp of the feet as you only semi pay attention. The best part comes when a hand reaches down and turns your stomach inside out in a good way.

Body Heat

I am a very warm fellow, physically. I can heat a one-bedroom apartment with just the waste heat that oozes off me. I twitch a lot and have lots of random movement as well – it all makes me wonder why I weigh 230 lbs – maybe I eat too much and don’t get enough activity. It’s a real mystery.

I’ve always been hot – people who know talk about it all the time, “He’s no ball of fire on the outside, but his brain seems to be melting as we speak.”

(I like cold feet turned against me in bed, though I try to play hard to get based on my history.)

I cared for a lady in the hospital and as she was dying I held her hands in mine. Her last words were, “My, your hands are toasty.” Then she died.

I like to think I let her go, but since I worked in an Intensive care unit, I probably ripped her gown off, shot her full of speed and pounded on her chest.

Memory is a fickle thing, but I do remember her smile as she held my hands, without a care in this world, focused on the heat.

Top 10 Observations This Week


Top 10 Observations This Week

  1. The music for the new Frisky’s commercial makes me think they are adding peyote to the mix.
  2. Curling is the Matlock of sports.
  3. Microsoft has a brilliant campaign for their new operating system. If anything’s wrong – it’s the users fault for suggesting it. (“We thought it was stupid, but they were so insistent.)
  4. I’ve been unable to watch any Basketball since that Kobe Bryant thing in Colorado. I keep thinking about my daughters.
  5. I would be more comfortable taxing Cadillac health plans if I thought Congress had not exempted Congress from the tax.
  6. PBS seems to be one long infomercial these days –self help with pledge breaks.
  7. One of my daughters is the subject of a Cosmopolitan article – April, page 160 – and I am not amazed at all by this.
  8. I no longer blame the Navy for the worst 4 years of my life – I realize now that they would have been tough years anyway.
  9. Unemployment reminds me of something I overheard once: “I prayed for patience, what I got was lessons in patience.”
  10. The blog layout has been updated -- Hope you like it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Show or Tell

Show or Tell

As a rule, it's best to show not tell.
But I don’t paint with air and light,
It’s not my medium,
Nor does it play to any strength.

I want to hammer one word at a time,
Pound the truth in every different way,
Like weighted splinters cleaved from acrid smoke.
And when it’s over, and the sharp and heavy
Lay on you like the bricks of life and death,
I want you to see the grain of each rock,
And the age and the violence it came from.

So no.
I don’t want to show you puppies abused by the mill
Or the horror of children at play with sticks.
I want you slowly buried neck deep in sand,
Knowing in your heart the tables of the tide.

Mike Brady 2010

My Body, Myself


“Being an adult is easy, it’s just not my thing.” Randy Hickey

My body is not a part of me; it’s more like an extension, an artificial set of appendages that I strap on to get some feel out of the obvious senses.

It’s not an extension in the sense of a Cheyenne warrior and his pony – it’s more a white-guy-dancing kluge of add on’s -- fins and anti-structural chrome stuck on aged cast iron.

I know that when I look in a mirror I am seeing myself backwards and upside down. I know that my mind is supposed to flip things around, but mostly it doesn’t bother.

We don’t make decisions together, I listen to what I want to hear, then wall myself off in a room and decide. I tell the body when I am ready – it tries to do what I tell it.

The disconnection is getting worse. Things are not getting done the way I see them in my head. I think my boy is getting passive-aggressive on me.

I’d see someone, but am not sure it would be fair to a therapist.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Short Mom Story


I had a nice lunch with my mother yesterday. This morning I got a call from her asking what was wrong with my teeth, “I should have brought this up yesterday, but are you missing a tooth?”
I quickly checked a mirror, twice, and told I didn’t think so.

 She asked me to check again and I did.

“Nope, they are all there,” I told her. She seemed almost comically relieved.

If I were gay, I think this might be normal, but I’m not. 

It’s interesting that I checked three times before I was sure she was wrong.

Putting Words in Unwashed Faces


George is a heavy machine equipment owner in Wyoming. He employs, in good times, 30 people, in bad times less. He tries to take care of his people, but when he has no work, they have no work. The people that work for him are hard yet flexible – they hunker down and survive until the sun comes out again.

Without government interference, his life would be easier. He sees taxes go out, but very little comes back to him that’s measurable. He has to match the money his employees pay for social security, install expensive pollution devices on his machines before he can use them. He has Local, State and Federal paperwork on every aspect of what he does. He has to hire outside help just to document his actual work. Property taxes go up every year, user fees are added to everything he moves, and special levies on his utility bills show up that have nothing to do with anything he can understand. Even the school system has a way of getting money out of him outside of cookie sales.

His employees have rights, even though they don’t need them, but he has to pay for sexual harassment classes, strange safety training, and he has to document and store all of this crap for years. He gets penalized with fines if he can’t find the paperwork.

All of these things are outside his job – all he wants to do is earn a living through hard word and his smarts.

And he thinks it’s getting worse.

Ron worked at 7-Up, in sales. An extraordinary sales guy, after 10 years, he was promoted to become a regional sales manager. A bigger company bought the company, so one day George Clooney’s ugly brother was flown in for a day and fired all the managers. At will employment indeed.

Ron, his wife and three children stayed unemployed for a year. The company hired him back at his old job when the dust had settled after the consolidation. Ron and the family learned to depend on others, manage their money, both good lessons, though slightly outweighed by the anxiety and fear.
When Ron tried for jobs while unemployed, he found the minimum wage jobs unavailable because he was overqualified, and that the things he was qualified were crowded with people who looked a lot like himself.

And Texas is not known for its safety net – it’s a business friendly place where profits come before people. To be fair, they believe that if the business gets the profits, they will hire more people. They don’t believe the rich get richer and the poor poorer. Their philosophy might be valid, but was not helpful to Ron, a hard worker with strong skills fired and jobless through no fault of his own.

Ron and the family think things are much better, but are very careful now.

George and Ron are life long Republicans, though Ron is a little more open to talking about compromise than he was before being fired.

George is retired now, with a small annuity he put away carefully over the years he works. He also draws a government check from Social Security of two grand a month. Diabetic, he makes great use of the mostly free Medicare system. Of his nine kids, seven have completed their education at State colleges, after attending public schools for the required 12 years. The air in Wyoming is no cleaner now, even with all the anti-pollution requirements in place – the vast strip mining of crappy coal, (Though low sulfur) kicks up the dust on windy days – and all the days are windy in Wyoming. He feels safe knowing that Public services – fire, police and the army are on the job and in pretty good shape – he wouldn’t cut spending for any of it -- just the other social crap for abortions and welfare.
George doesn’t count the cost of land exploitation or possible global warning in his business – that’s always just been the way it is. He considers it a right -- and American right to use his land as he sees fit. He just wants the government to get off his back.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Over, We Won


At the 7-year mark, it looks like the light has finally arrived from the mouth of the tunnel. A meta analysis of news site, with FOX thrown out as both the high and low, is showing that it’s all over but the crying. A trillion, plus change, and 4,400 dead American soldiers later, the war in Iraq is coasting to a gentle end. With tens of thousands badly damaged Army men flooding the Veterans 
Administration for all of the available future, it’s time to congratulate us for persistence, and to collect the prize. Just open up your eyes and take a good long look -- it's safe now.

We won, it’s over – preemptive war has been validated, a beacon of democracy has been created in the middle of trouble town, and Bush was right. (I think his reputation might be like Truman's, only on steroids.)

Good for us.

Bitching about Local Newspapers


I never thought I’d give up on newspapers. To linger with a cigarette, a paper with a cup of coffee after breakfast seemed a forever thing in my routine. Now the stories in the local paper are mostly from the AP wire service and the New York Times. Local scandals are covered if they involve unpopular politicians (pick one) or greedy landlords. The only part of the paper I really miss is the crime report, and because I’m older now, I can guess or make up most of that with my eyes closed.

Here is some local stuff I’d like to know more about and need a journalist to research for me:

The Fry family – the illegal after hour flights the family jet makes into San Jose’s airport; The golf course they built without permits in Morgan Hill; The sweat shop conditions they use in their stores.
You hear things from outlier papers like the Gilroy Dispatch, or local Penny Saver types of rags – but nothing from the Mercury News.

(I can’t help but wonder because the largest, by far, advertiser in this paper is the Fry stores.)

Other stories might be an critical look at the Alum Rock school district – or promised public access to the Corde de Valle golf club in San Martin. All local – all fodder for the masses.

This is just off the top of my head stuff, if you are a reporter it should be your job to look for things like this – why can’t local papers investigate local matters more often? – if I want to read old NYT’s articles, I’ll get the Sunday issue and sit outside of Peet’s, smoking away the afternoon with a mocha and an ashtray.

(To be fair – The merc has done some local stuff – their investigation of the District Attorney’s office was excellent,)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No Free Will for You!



The problem with predetermination for people is simple, why bother?

If every thing that happens can be traced back to a cause, the train of causes can be ridden back to the big bang. If the train of cause/effect can go back – it can go forward. Truly, everything is written in the book – just like Bob Marley said a couple of scores ago.

If everything and everyone is living in a meat DVD, and nothing is choice, the true choice involves whether we want to do it or not. Keep in mind; part of the DVD is a requirement to do it as the default setting. No one wants to leave before the end of the show, with apologies to Sartre and Cake.
Einstein believed that all is predetermined. His solution, and mine, a little, is to accept the illusion of free will. Without free will, there is no morality other than Nietzsche’s – and his will to have morality, or not. Murderers, child rapists are all just victims – they were born to be bad. The solution is: 
Knowing we have no choice, we choose to believe in a concept bigger than ourselves (illusion of free will) that we know is not true, or, simply, God.

I think that maybe the definitions are too narrow and we have made our tent too small.

The science model we use to measure small things these days is a statistical one. Gone are the days when we pictured an electron rotating around a proton/neutron like a planet around the sun. We now see the electron as a cloud of possibilities that could be anywhere. We can predict with pretty good accuracy, but until we look, we don’t know.

The easy way to see this in your head is to imagine this is just math – that the electron is actually in a place, but we are just using the math to see it. This is wrong, the electron can be anywhere – it can tunnel straight through the proton/electron – it could be in your underwear drawer. It’s probably where the numbers show you it should be – but it could be anywhere – and with trillions of chances, the chances are, it will be.

This isn’t theory – the sun would not ignite in a way that allows us to exist if not for a few, very special, stray electrons that tunnel in a statisticly unlikely way. (I attached a link for this)
And that’s how I see free will – I have free will, we probably don’t. In me, all is possible, but as a species, it can plotted out through entangling cause and effect.

Be the strange, the outlier – make the weirdness real.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Critical Thinking in a Poet


I have had a bunch on off centered compliments in my life, most of them I’ve assumed to be positive. In moments of clarity I think that maybe some of these compliments are just requests to change from people that care about me.

I left some of my poems with a Poet I respect (Dan Langton) back in 2005. Dan read my poems, made comments on most of them with suggestions and warnings. He also sent me a personal letter, a piece of it in the following quote:

“Everyone trusts one sense above the others. In 80% of us (and thus poets) it is sight. But there is the other 20%. In Keats it is touch. In you it is smell. Be aware of that.”

I read the letter and the suggestions and put the bunch of it away. I don’t think I thought about it at the time, but after discovering the letter in a recent move, have had it sitting on my table, taunting me, for the last week.

Years of smoking, snorting and cleaning poop off dirty people in hospitals seemed to have dulled my sense of smell. Was it possible that in me this sense was so strong that I had subconsciously found ways to diminish it so that I could live among regular people?

That seemed kind of stupid.

Was my talent being ghettoized? Was I being put into the poetry world’s sub-basement next to the tasters? Was his last line to me, “Be aware of that,” a warning? Was I being damned with faint praise?
Even if true, especially if true – these thoughts seemed too paranoid to believe, but something to keep in mind for later, when alone…

Did I confuse him with too many smelly words in my poetry? Did the sprinkle of scents and flavor throw him off his game? I noted that I did use vanilla more than once, but I was in love and if that doesn’t excuse things I plead guilty. This seemed a small thing for a poet to note – more of a mathematics kind of observation.

There is certain fuzziness about the sense of smell. It’s the bad boy of the senses. Other than sight, it’s the only sense that’s hardwired to the brain. Instead of the eyeballs Ethernet like cord that plunges directly, smell works by stuff hitting a bone plate with holes poked in it. It's low tech, like a can with nail holes and dirt clods getting kick down a street, puffing out smoke. When smelling, the brain gets direct information much like a cheese grater get a pile of cheese underneath it. It’s the only sense that gets rubbed into the brain.

Now I may just be guilding the Lily on this, but I think this is what he was trying to tell me. Or, I could just call him and ask.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Act of Faith (The dance mix)





Act of Faith (The dance mix)

I
A dissolute fool,
Old in fashion and in sensed
Bound tight by the mathematics of lust
A slave made solid through the lash,
Still handcuffed to the bow of painted lips.

II
I recall in fumes
Staring out windows through closed blinds
Waiting for the burn of light and the flash
Of electric more.
You are tattoos I remember to forget.

III
I want to erase the stain you left on me,
In those silent storms and coke binged nights 
Of ozoned static, as the fever ticked off time.
Tied to the mast on an sea without end
To drift until breached onto half hidden shoals,
As  rendered pilings -- the offerings of the burnt.

IV
I'm an old man now
Slow and steady.
The noise of movement
Pains me early in the day.

V
The marks you left on me remain
Felt in baths and on the touch of
A leather back -- those uncut knots;
Those livid scars … and still,
You encripple my every breath.

Mike Brady 2004/2010

Calvin and the Chipmunks

Calvin and the Chipmunks

From a bone break of a father
To a mother who abides 
By the tithing children
For the sins of her flesh.

Life is about the learning of lessons;
Instructional videos carved in meat.


Mike Brady 2010

Die Waldeinsamkeit


Die Waldeinsamkeit

I have never cared for the humanity of puzzles
The fit and finish of inspired conspiracy
Or the welding of perfection
From the whole of scattered bits.

To find the order from parts seems one thing,
When found in aimless walks
Alone, with a mind of geared stupidity.
To dream it another,
A lesser thing, found loose and unproven
In a thoughtful cloud of wished expectation,

If heaven is perfect,
What train do we wait for;
In what station do we wait?

As we sit and plan death slowly
And find ourselves a place in ordered growth.
Until, confused, we walk into the dark alone
And leave our bones glowing pale in the tailings of a mountain
In a sunlight, reflected by the moon.

I sit in lost opportunity
Lost in order to distract
With the complaint of being lost
To people I don’t care for.
And in this I make myself human
And bind myself to others on the wheel.

I have played the puzzle
Of both the how and when,
In tires for my car, or styles for my body,
Always knowing that I was living life
sideways, to avoid looking ahead to the end.

In fear that I would become lost again
To run free in the terrors of a German forest.

Mike Brady 2010