Monday, December 27, 2010

Beam Me Up

Wow.

I started looking at my statistics for this little blog of mine.  The site gives me the ability to see where my electronic rants are being read and I was really surprised to see how wide, literally, my audience is.

I've got twenty-seven faithfuls in Viet Nam. 

I never would have guessed that.

I'm assuming they're American transplants, maybe even expatriates living and working there who want a slice of home, served up through the eyes of a semi-disgruntled Ohio dude.

I'd like to think they're actually Viet Namese citizens who are getting a taste of another culture, no matter how uncultured this blog can sometimes be.

I've also got seventy-three readers in Russia. Maybe I'll do a blog on Anastasia sometime.  Or my fascination with the murders of the Romanovs during the Russian Revolution.

In the past six months alone I've had almost six-thousand hits and individual page reads.

It's interesting to me how this blog was started about eighteen months ago to pass the time. 

I never thought that peoples from four different continents would be tuning in to hear the bullshit rants and ravings of some middle-aged American.

Which just goes to show you how small this world has become.  When I moved to Hawai'i eighteen years ago I hopped on a plane and less then a day later I was stepping off the jet to a warm February Hawai'ian tarmac, sweating my ass off still dressed in my winter Ohio clothes.

A hundred years ago a voyage to Hawai'i from the midwest might take you a month, or a few weeks at the very least.

Now I can zip photos to my ohana on the Big Island within a few minutes of taking them. 

Upload.

Send.

Boom. 

Right there in their inbox six thousand miles away from my computer and camera.

The world is shrinking faster and faster.  I shiver when I think of what may exist in the next hundred years.  Avatars, holograms, and light-speed travel.

Maybe not us, but gigabytes of information will move at the speed of light from its point of origin to the destination, all within milliseconds.  All from a thumb-drive or i-Pod or maybe even a cyborg-like device implanted into our brain.

And maybe in the near future, Star-Trek-like teleportation will become a reality.

To some degree, that's happening now with my blog and billions of other bits and bytes streaming through the virtual world.

So I'll continue to write this and see who may be my next readers.  I hope to get someone sitting under African skies.  Or on a research base in Antarctica, studying the penguins and calving icebergs.

My imagination takes over:  I pretend to see someone with a laptop or netbook, sitting under an acacia tree as a large orange sun sets to the din of a lion roaring in the distance.

The reality may be that it's a white guy sitting in a Johannesburg Starbucks, sipping a latte and wanting to know how his folks are doing in the cold climes of an Ohio winter.

I'm a little scared of globalization.  It's being passed off as some global good for mankind.  My cynical side sees it as a corporate power-grab, allowing a billion Chinese to buy shitty Wal-Mart goods in Bejing, right down the street from the Forbidden City or McDonald's to set up shop right across the street from the Acropolis.



But I guess that if common people can come together and understand that we're not so different it's a good thing.

If a Russian, a former Soviet who was, at my birth, an enemy of my country, can read about me and my women troubles than globalization is worth the shitty Wal-Mart goods.

Some Muscovite, sitting in his basement listening to the Eagles, surfing the net and thinking the same thoughts as me.

Maybe we share more than we know.

Are most of the women in Moscow as batshit crazy as they are in Ohio?

And, does Russian hoohaw sometimes smell as bad as dead Sperm Whales there as well?

So, dasvidaniya, my Russian readers.

Until we meet again.

Virtually speaking, of course.



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Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Great Migration

I had lunch with a really good friend the other day. As a matter of fact you could even call him the brother that I never had.
He’s been going through some pretty rough patches lately, questioning his decisions over the last twenty years and wondering if his life has been pretty much for nothing up to this point.

Pretty heady stuff for an afternoon filled with flirtations with the waitresses, wings and a few beers.

After we parted company I tried to think of a way to help him, fill in some of the holes with an analogy or metaphor that may get him through this slump.

A few came to mind, but one really popped out there…and rolled around my cranium for a few days.

So I massaged it a little, adding to it with a few more allusions and maybe even a simile or two.

As we talked that afternoon it reminded me of the metaphysical meltdown that I had last year.

I questioned my motivations.

Decisions.

Friendships, alliances, and girlfriends.

Had I made the smartest decisions?

Yeah, mostly.

A dear friend’s death last year was the proverbial straw that busted that camel’s back. After Roxanne died I really started to see things in a different light. I don’t know if an epiphany is the right word, but I guess that’s the closest that I’ve come to having a giant 100-watt light bulb go off right over my head.

I realized that most of what we do in our lives is filler. Completely and utterly.

We chase windmills.

We keep up with the Joneses by consuming things that don’t matter.

Bigger cars.

Bigger homes.

Bigger tits.

And the things that matter most slip right through our fingertips.

I’ve seen the light.

I think.

So I attempted to explain this to my morose buddy. Tried to reassure him that what he’s feeling will pass.

He just needs to shed the burdens of a failed marriage, the guilt of a relationship that wasn’t his to lose.

He’s not the only one that’s experiencing this; I have many other friends in our forties who are asking themselves if they’ve made the right choices.

So here’s my metaphor:

Have you ever seen one of those National Geographic documentaries that show the Great Migration of wildebeests and zebras crossing hundreds of miles of unforgiving African terrain?

They start by the tens of thousands, giving birth and then roughing it back to watering holes that are drying up under the hot African sun. As they migrate, there’s always a river to cross.

And there are always big-ass crocodiles waiting for an easy meal.

There I sit, in front of my TV, waiting to see if one of the little baby wildebeests is gonna get picked off by a twenty-foot reptile. My teeth clench and my eyes become slits, not wanting to see the poor little guy get nailed.

But, invariably, the babies never seem to get it. It’s the aloof wildebeest, not too sure if he should jump in or not, that gets eaten. Usually the force of the oncoming surge pushes him into the river and then-

Bam!

Gone.

He flails cluelessly and helpless as the reptile, more cunning and stronger, overpowers him.

So that poor, stupid wildebeest, unsure and unready to make that crossing, is consumed by the forces around him.

I had my realization last year. I think I’ve gotten a good sense of direction and know how I want to spend the second half of my life. I shed all the fears, anxieties and failures of yesterday. I’ve eliminated the people from my life that have caused stress, undue drama, and a cloud of doom and gloom.

I approached the river; one of the first of my herd to do so. It looked deep and it was pretty frickin’ wide. I jumped headfirst, unaware of any crocs lurking below the surface.

I almost drowned a few times and was sure that I felt the scaly back of a large shape swimming below me.

But, it appears, I’ve made it to the other side unscathed.

So now I stand waving the others ahead. I hope I can help by example.

My buddy should be able to make it.

As long as he doesn’t wait too long.

That’s when the crocs will get you for sure.





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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Amoral Obligation

So, let me get this straight.

Last week, the Senate denied debate on a bill that would have provided relief for approximately 60,000 people affected by the toxic dust from the 9/11 attacks any health care relief.

Voting along party lines, the Republicans killed any chance of debate that would have allowed the Senate to consider the measure and perhaps even attach it to a different piece of legislation, the tax cut bill being considered by Congress.

In September, the House passed this hot potato that most of us would have considered a no-brainer slam dunk. There was opposition from the GOP, but it passed fairly easily. After all, who would even consider denying our collective 9/11 heroes medical help?

Never underestimate our politicians. Ya know, those elected to legislate on our behalf.

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, spearheaded this measure and even called upon ex-president George Bush to intercede. She said that there is a moral obligation to help those who helped America.

Bush, of course, never even returned her phone calls.

This is the same president, the compassionate conservative, who on national television praised the bravery and sacrifice of all the first-responders to the World Trade Center site on that September morning almost ten years ago.

I guess he doesn’t know much about moral obligations.

Now, many of them are sick with lung diseases, breathing difficulties and a host of other ailments related to their involvement at that poisonous site after the attacks.

And, it seems, most Senate Republicans that have the means to make a difference aren’t even attempting to lift a finger to help these people.

Once the new congress convenes after the first of the year they’ve got other things to worry about. Like cutting taxes; giving their corporate sponsors and cronies a break, because, you know, they deserve it.

The men and women who rushed to the scene to help are going to get nothing for their bravery, except perhaps a slow, lingering death as their lungs can no longer oxygenate their blood and they choke on their stupidity for wanting to help out the buried remains of some needy fellow Americans.

It gives the term “compassionate conservatives” a whole new layer of irony, doesn’t it?

So the next time we're attacked maybe we’ll think twice about running into a burning building to help anyone. I know you’d never catch me running into a huge tower to rescue bankers, stockbrokers, and mortgage company merchants.

Maybe a larger point is this: Isn’t the Republican Party’s contempt for everyday people, “Main Street” if you’d like, apparent? They barrage us with constant reminders that they're the family values crusaders; the anti-abortion, “Pro-Life” party that loves good old-fashioned American beliefs.

Hmmm.

I can only shake my head and chuckle at the absurdity of the contrast. The United States, the richest country in the history of this planet won’t take care of the people who need health care. Yet, a terrorist with kidney failure living in a cave in the middle of nowhere is getting dialysis.

It seems that his people, no matter what the conditions, have found a way to take care of his needs.

In a dank, musty hole in the earth somewhere in Afghanistan bin Laden is laughing his ass off.

He and I have that much in common.





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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh, The Things You'll See

I suppose if you sit in a mall and people-watch long enough you’re bound to see almost anything.

And everything.

A purse snatching, a make-out session, an execution, and maybe even a baby’s conception.

I got to the mall a little early yesterday; I’m from the school that dictates it’s better to be twenty minutes early than twenty seconds late.

So I get my Caribou Coffee oatmeal, which for two bucks is a great deal. I have them dump copious amounts of strawberries and brown sugar into the fibrous mix and then cap it off with a buttload of dried cranberries, because we all need our recommended daily allowance of dried cranberries.

Then I parked in a chair opposite the kiddie play area which, thankfully, was absent any of the adorable, screaming little monsters whose parents usually are gabbing away at each other while they ignore their pint-sized darlings screaming at the top of their misbehaved lungs.

Nothing like 110 decibels of runny-nosed five-year olds to get your day going, hmmm?

So as I’m enjoying my RDA of shrunken berries a herd, and I do mean herd, of soccer moms comes barreling around the corner pushing their strollers at a pretty good clip. They’re all wearing expensive jogging attire and the kids are in these fortified, bicycle-wheel strollers with roll bars and built-in speakers for I-pods. It looks kinda like the running of the bulls in Pamplona or a Lakota buffalo stampede.

So they pass by me, all determined-looking as if they’re in the Boston Marathon.  They're red-faced, a bit sweaty and hell-bent to thread this gauntlet of octogenarian mall-walkers and oatmeal-eating people watchers.

They thundered by and I got back to my breakfast. Two minutes later they thundered by again. WTF…they’re doing laps?

Thoughts of Ben-Hur surged to mind. Did you ever see that movie and its kick-ass chariot race? When Chuck Heston is in this cool chariot with knives on the wheels mowing down other chariot drivers with his superior driving skillz? He wins the race and, I think, his freedom from slavery, by wiping out all the other gladiators in a bloody race round and round the arena. Kinda like NASCAR, but much cooler.

I chuckled as I considered how freakin' awesome that would be: a bunch of soccer moms in a race to the death with some souped-up baby strollers. Forget the I-pod speakers, trick that bad-boy out with some spears and knives attached to the big rubber wheels.

And maybe the prize for last-mom-standing could be something important, like a year's supply of Huggies, or a $500 gift card to Pottery Barn or Bloodbath and Beyond.  Ya know, something worth killing off Madison or Liam or Kayleigh's mom.

They made their way around the Sears corridor about six more times before I lost interest. Not one wipeout or even a twisted ankle. They then retired to Starbucks to pamper their red faces with a de-caf, sugar-free latte and a glucose-free, organic, free-range raspberry scone.

After opening the studio I glanced up from my Photoshop work and saw a young couple do the whole relationship-circle-of-life-thing right in front of the AT&T kiosk. Loudly, they broke up in front of some blue-shirted AT&Ters who were trying to hawk the last of their 3G phones to unsuspecting old people.

The insults flew from the woman-girl to her boyfriend who was pleading with her to please tone it down. He attempted to walk away from the verbal assault but she just kept slinging the arrows of her discontent.

After about fifteen minutes they made up. She cried a bit and he gave her a big, reassuring hug. Then, right on one of the mall benches, they started making out.

Furiously.

Cue the 70s porn music.

Well, I thought, maybe I’ll just see that conception right here in front of the studio. I’ve got a camera after all; maybe I can photograph it and attempt to sell them a keepsake of their little very public display of affection.

It looked like some weird performance art.

Maybe it was.

And this was all before my oatmeal was even cold.

The afternoon? Just as intriguing. Ask me about photographing the menstruating German Shepherd on a white vinyl background sometime; that’s a great story to itself and could only happen in a mall culture.

Oh, the things you’ll see.





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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Walden, Part Two

About three months ago I made a conscious decision to wean myself from the electronic teat.

First, I got rid of HBO and Showtime, then about six weeks later, cable TV altogether.

When I called Time Warner and told them I wanted to eliminate the pay channels they bent over and offered me all kinds of deals. I declined, as it really wasn’t about how much I was paying; although I was shelling out enough each month to lease a small KIA. I asked them to leave HBO and Showtime on for a week so I could record a bunch of movies on to my DVR in anticipation of no more late-night boobies and explosions.

Ya know what? I perused the on-screen menu for the next seven days and I couldn’t find one program that I wanted to tape. “Weeds” wasn’t coming back for a few months and “Californication” wasn’t due till 2011.

A week later they flicked the switch and I lost my movie channels.

I never did tape a single show.

Then I dumped cable altogether.

“What?” You may say…

How can a man cave not have HD cable in glorious 1080p and eardrum-shattering Dolby Digital? Fear not dear reader, I’ve got enough DVDs to last until The Apocalypse, which I guess is sometime in December 2012, so I’ve got roughly two years to watch them all.

My Blackberry got swiped about two months ago at a turnpike rest stop. I don’t really use Facebook too much anymore other than to check on my nascent photography business page that is slowly growing.

I feel like Thoreau; he turned his back on civilization and lived in a hut by the shores of Walden Pond, near Boston, for about two years.

Although I’m not in a hut and I do sleep in a relatively warm bed, I feel like I’m on an island. Some days I feel utterly disconnected from the world; I don’t know who’s in a relationship or who’s beating my high score on Facebook’s Family Feud.

I may have lost those connections but I’ve attained many more.

What have I learned so far?

I’ve been reading more, but blogging less.

I’ve finished three books and have two more on my nightstand in a holding pattern, kind of like the airplanes above my condo waiting to land at Hopkins.

I’ve been going on more walks, spending more time with my dog and appreciating the small things that I’ve overlooked all these years.

I cleaned the condo for the first time in a while. I mean really cleaned, the kind of cleaning that involves out-of-town guests. The kind that when you vacuum you move the furniture instead of just smacking the front of the vacuum cleaner on the front of the couch in the hopes that the vibrations from the aforementioned smacking will gyrate the dirt loose.

I cleaned the bathroom with a sponge, bleach and gloves. I felt like a proctologist when I cleaned the back of the, oh, never mind.

My lamp shades got dusted and then vacuumed. Do you know how much dust accumulates on lamp shades?

Well, now I do too.

I’m learning more about photography every single day. I’m either out shooting or I’m editing my pictures. At my new job I’m picking up new Photoshop tips all the time. Thanks Olivia and Kristin, you’re Photoshop geniuses and I love lurking over your shoulders to see what you’re doing.

Even if the lurking makes me sneeze because sometimes you wear too much perfume and my nose runs and maybe a little snot dribbles on the back of your expensive sweater.

But, hey, it’s all for a greater good, right?

I thought my electronic withdrawal would be more violent; Facebook alone should have been horrible. But it wasn’t. Instead of texting or “Facebooking” a friend I’m actually talking to them on the phone, or better yet, in person.

So, no DTs or weird symptoms. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with the dire need to do a Facebook status update. Or the desire to watch sixteen hours of programs that have sat on my DVR for three-and-a-half years. Cuz, ya know, someday you’re gonna get around to watching sixteen uninterrupted hours of old black and white horror films, right?

So, my suggestion is to unplug from the umbilical that’s jacked directly into the back of your TV or computer.

Pick up a book. Or your dog’s leash.

I did.

And I don’t even know what “The Jersey Shore” is.

Other than the place I saw on one of my maps.

You know, the atlas on my nightstand right next to the copy of Walden?



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