Time Is On Your Side

Image

Hey Drew,

Well it’s just about a year since you died; figured I’d give you an update. In some ways it seems like a lot has happened and in some ways it seems like nothing has happened at all.

I guess you can see where I’m heading with this.

But before I proceed, please forgive me for calling you dead. I mean, you are dead but it’s not my intention to be judgmental. I don’t consider it a shortcoming on your part and in no way am I suggesting that it makes you any less lovable; only less animated; at least on this side of the great divide. There are euphemisms for the dead and I like euphemisms as much as the next tiddlywink but not for the purpose of soft pedaling an idea. It does a certain injustice to the subject. An injustice I can usually accomplish without anything more than my own faulty powers of description.

So what’s new. Well, since you died, there have been a bunch of movies. Of courses there have. But I haven’t seen any of them. You have time. Me? No way! Not since the kids started arriving 16 years ago.

The ads make the movies look good and that’ll get you wondering about those ads. It’s usually a single image, a still taken from the movie; a single frame. It represents the first and possibly only sales impression plastered on a subway wall or roadside billboard. These days, the average blockbuster runs about two hours. When you figure 24 frames per second,1440 frames per minute and 86,400 frames per hour, we’re talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 173,000 frames to cull for that one frame that successfully captures and compresses the film into a single ad-worthy photo. One shot that tells the entire story. That’s a lot of pressure on one image and the person who picks it. That could explain why they almost always go with the shot of the hot babe holding an Uzi. Nothing succeeds like success, am I right? Of course I am because it’s not my saying.

But I digress. The movies, or at least the ads, look good; action adventures, historical dramas, romantic comedies but the fact is Drew, you haven’t really missed out. You seen one you’ve seen ’em all. You saw High Plains Drifter; after that everything is redundant. Production values are way up of course but the stories are the same as the ones they were telling in the Paleolithic. The only real difference is in good grooming and teeth. Teeth never looked so good and doesn’t it kind of make you curious about what those actors’ skulls will look like after the autopsy? I know I’m curious so I figure everyone else is too.

What else? The kids are growing but when does that change? I guess there’s a certain point where they stop growing and you start shrinking but now that I have a teenager I feel like the shrinking has already begun. I may be the same height but it’s obvious that I’m getting smaller in his eyes.

I remember asking my mom a question when I was young; maybe 8 or 9. She said she didn’t know the answer and go look it up in the encyclopedia. You remember those things? Volume after volume of unread information. Clad in a cover of authority and utterly uninviting. The only cool part was the acetate see-through human body pages. Pull back the page with skin and there’s the muscles, turn the page and there’s the organs, turn the page and there’s the veins and nerves and last, the bones; the scaffolding for the whole bloodless affair. As I recall those pages were sexless but I’m going to have to go to the thrift store and look that up to confirm.

When my mom said she didn’t know the answer to my question, it was a shock. I don’t believe I had ever asked her a question that she couldn’t answer. That was probably, for me, the moment my parents started to diminish in size.

In retrospect I suppose the real shock is that it took me so long to ask a hard question. My shortcoming I’m sure but once I got around to it, it really put the pin in the bubble of parental omnipotence. Naturally I’ve never forgiven them. Come to think of it, it was probably my father. To this day my mom pretty much has a reasonable answer for any question shy of,

Why does a push broom work better when you pull it?

Don’t get me wrong, my dad has answers too, it’s just that none of them are plausible. With him it’s best to stick to the tried and true. Questions about photography, classical music, art before 1945 and his secret rice salad recipe; a recipe that is so secret that even he doesn’t know what it is but if he ever remembers where he hid the damn thing, look out! Your gonna love it!

What else can I tell you? The forces of reason continue to be heavily outnumbered by the forces of stupidity. I’m sure the same applies where you are but here we have laws against duct taping reactionaries to the hood of your Chrysler. I would say that people are more selfish than ever but I haven’t been around forever so I can’t state that with any kind of authority.

The weather has been unusually bad or unusually good depending on your preference for that sort of thing.

On that subject, one really big advance is that now the weather channels are naming storms that are not of hurricane or even tropical strength. For instance, right at this very moment I am at work and we are in the teeth of a light flurry called Saturn, after the Roman god of agriculture one would presume. We’re in our third day of this thing having already suffered through a day of intermittent drizzle followed by a day of humidity and expectation.

To say that it is ridiculous is to ridiculously undervalue the word ridiculous; to rob it of its awesome power of absurdity. I mean, what next? Shall we name fog? Yeah, let’s do that! Let’s name fog. We can name it Mel, after the Blue Fog himself, Mel Tormé. Or the overheated tempest in the teapot of Mel Gibson’s skull.

Let’s give people numbers and let’s give weather a first name.

In fact, we already give people numbers and we attach emotions to colors, so why not give weather a first name, you know, get on more familiar terms with it. Maybe even make friends. Treat it as a pet with all the goods and the bads.

~o~

Good evening this is your Channel 4 weather team.

I’m Brad Nailor and here’s our weather gal, Anita Kiss.

What’s happening out there Anita?

~

Well Brad, Once Upon a Time in the West, we would have been

Walking in a Winter Wonderland at this time of year.

But an atmospheric disturbance named Rascal is bringing a storm of

sunshine, moderate temperatures and gentle breezes throughout the Rockies today.

Such a good one, Rascal. So good, Atta boy.

~

That’s very clever Anita, but out here, East of Eden, Ohio, The Weather Outside is Frightful

and The Philadelphia Story is no better.  With gail force winds blowing North by Northwest,

the tail end of Superstorm Fluffy has been shitting all over the Coastal States and

pissing rain on the Central States resulting in a lot of hopelessly damaged floor coverings.

Meanwhile the front end of this same storm has been chewing the arms off of sofas

all across the South.

Bad Fluffy! Bad!

~o~

In the wide world of sports, everyone is  running back and forth and throwing things or kicking things or hitting things. Sometimes all of the above and occasionally it even happens during the game. The common denominator seems to be court time and penalties. Avoiding jail and paying fines for a near infinite variety of indiscretions; firearms, drug possession, adultery, assault. Unsportsmanlike conduct no doubt but all the evidence suggests that Drunk & Disorderly should have its own league.

In other entertainment news, the alternate reality of Television is better than its ever been and still it’s a complete waste of time. I would guess that time is not a big issue in the great beyond but here people treat their brief portion of it as if it was time in its entirety. I’ll bet where you are people wake up dead all the time and totally surprised.

As for politics, it is beyond imagining that it would hold any interest for you. For that matter it doesn’t hold any interest for me either. I know the difference between right and wrong and that means political news and punditry are superfluous. I may be alone among the living in that view but I’m certain it puts me in good company among the dead.

You were always an avid fan of music but unfortunately nobody makes music anymore. Of course, that statement isn’t true but sometimes it seems like it’s true. There is good music being made you just can’t tell by listening to it.

Jimi Hendrix came out with his 978th record this year. And in science, there are some theories brewing about what existed before the Big Bang. I don’t see how either one of those events is explainable. Asking what happened before time is about the same as asking what happens after time is done. I think you’re in a better position to answer that question than the rest of us.

One thing is for certain; Time the topic, unlike time itself, is a recurring theme. Growing kids, aging parents and a ” to do” list that won’t get done, conspire to keep a person busier than any grand design could possibly have intended. My “to do” list, even just around the house, is so much longer than my bucket list that I’m considering doing the latter first, just to get it out of the way. With any luck I’ll then die and avoid the chores altogether. Not a great plan but certainly a good plan.

In the year or so since you died, about 60 million other people have also died. In that same amount of time over 60 million new cars came off of assembly lines. I’m not sure what to make of that.

The same year saw an increase in world population of about 75 million and they don’t make Twinkies anymore. I’m not sure what to make of that either.

Look, I could go on quite a bit but honestly, you haven’t missed a thing. This holds particularly true because you’re dead but even if you weren’t, the world is still the world and it shall ever be thus.

In that respect I imagine that your average day in the land of the dead shares some basic similarities with your average day in the land of the living. One day is pretty much like the next; some laughing and some shouting, a lot of waiting around. An unaccountable urge to be productive and an equally unexplainable feeling that things that don’t matter could have turned out better but since they don’t matter it’s not a big deal.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell or god or satan or any of that other silly nonsense but I do believe that just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you have nothing left to give. In a way I guess that explains the Jimi Hendrix record and also this little bit of wordplay in your honor, which brings me back around again to you. The world is the same except for the corner you inhabited and in that regard the only thing that changed when you died is that your corner of the world misses you.

Advertisements

What the Dickens is going on here?

Hey Drew,

Is it me or has this gotten to be a really long century already? Barely a dozen years into it and I’m exhausted. Dispirited even. As a more modern Dickens might have said: “The season of light, this ain’t.”

The wars, the environmental catastrophes, the wild stallions of unbridled greed. The self righteous barf coming out of every self serving jackass for whatever the moronic cause of the moment happens to be. TV talking heads pushing divisiveness like it’s ice cream. The reactionaries. The holier than thou hypocrites. The willful ignorance. The lambs and their slaughter. The liars and their willing minions. China and Russia. Again! The Mideast which, by the way, I’ve been sick of at least since Raiders of the Lost Arc.

And then there’s genocide. I mean, you would think we’d of had about enough of genocide but it remains as popular as ever. It’s kind of the default bottom rung along with sexual slavery and kidnapping for body parts. You’ll be gratified to know that there is an official list of world problems (suitable for framing) and that those little gems all made the cut.

The list of the Top Ten Problems of Humanity for the Next 50 Years reads like a David Letterman top ten monologue of the apocalypse. The list is as follows:

Energy

Water

Food

Environment

Poverty

Terrorism & War

Disease

Education

Democracy

Population

Genocide

Other Atrocities (e.g., trade in women and children for sexual slavery, or kidnapping for body parts)

Weapon of mass destruction (nuclear proliferation, chemical weapon proliferation, biological weapon proliferation

Transnational organized crime

The single word entries are by qualified scientists unassociated with any partisan think-tanks or groups with a name that ends with the word “Institute.” The intensely verbose entries are by “The High Level Threat Panel of the United Nations.” Typical of decision making by consensus. Everybody in a group effort wants to get credit. Whatever is gained by overall consent (if not exactly agreement) and the resolution of objections, is bought at the expense of brevity.

Admittedly this list is more than ten and, ok, it’s a combination of a few “Lists of 10” but that just goes to show you how discombobulated we are as a species. No doubt, there are plenty of animals that foul their own nest but I’m pretty sure we’re the only ones that have a real good look at the pile and then sit back down on it.

And its not like I’m a big news hound. I’m informed to the point of worry but ignorant enough to avoid being paralyzed with fear. I like to think of it as a balanced approach that favors sanity. And, in any event, I don’t believe my hand wringing changes anything about the forces in play. Still, I resent the partial reporting of news and how it has become a way of leveraging offscreen private interests. It’s little wonder that people like their tranquilizers. I want to be tranquil too but I think drooling is unattractive.

Did you know that Americans eat about 25 million Percocets and Vicodins a day? Over 244 million narcotic prescriptions a year? Holy cow! No wonder we can’t get off the couch. It’s a testament to our boundless stamina that we can even operate the remote. But that doesn’t explain or excuse Ranch Dressing flavored Doritos. Caffeinated candy bars, Torture, Tilapia, Fried Twinkies, Corporate Hegemony or Low Carbohydrate Beer.

Thankfully there is an explanation. My dad is presently a day older than god. But back when he was in his sixties and between marriages he had a girlfriend. She was a prominent doctor at an important teaching hospital in Philadelphia. She was super smart, attractive, caring, worldly, affectionate and willing. Unfortunately she also reminded him of his own mother so the relationship was doomed. Nevertheless, she had a wealth of clinical experience and she understood all these trends. Her insight was as follows: “95% of everyone is an asshole.” Assuming for the moment that I am in the 5%, who am I to argue?

I don’t watch television and I haven’t in many years but it is almost all anyone talks about anymore. Maybe that’s not true where you work but it certainly applies to the pudding-heads I’m mixed up with. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great bunch of guys but they think that TV is real. They think watching television is an activity. Like playing tennis or reading or going for a walk. And I suppose it is an activity if you take out the active part. From their conversations, it sounds to me like going to your job and having some network air the results is now cause for celebrity. Hell, you don’t even have to go to work. I’ve heard them talking about celebrity video gamers, celebrity card players, celebrity eaters, celebrity adulterers, celebrity driving, shopping, dieting and dancing. Those last two, you can have separate or in combination. Aren’t those things we already do ourselves? You know, except for the adultery. That’s always someone else. Just ask the moralists.

For many people, life has become a spectator event. Safe at home, life has been outsourced to onscreen professionals. But to hear tell it, they don’t do any better of a job than we do. Often times not even that good; and that’s saying something.

Add it all up and it just seems like this is the worst of times.

And you know what? We already know what’s going to happen for the rest of the century. Do we really have to slog through the particulars? Way hotter, lots of extinctions, rising sea levels, mass displacements, environmental degradation, overpopulation, famine and wars. Lots of wars. Wars for resources, civil wars, culture wars, holy wars. Pretty much wars for war’s sake.

I guess you can see where I’m heading with this.

I say no!

Let’s not bother. I’m ready to move on to the 22nd century right now. Who’s with me?

History only looks linear because we’re standing at the end of the line. I say let’s break the line. Let’s put an end to the tyranny of chronology. The narrative is ours to arrange, or rearrange, as the case may be. Historians and pundits do it all the time. Let’s take the present and just push it into the past. Let’s allow the glorious past to become the future. And let’s take hold of that shining future and make it our magnificent splendiferous present.

Genius right?

Ok, so let’s take a look at some long term predictions about the 22nd century and see what “far, far better things” we have to look forward to.

……Oh my! That’s not good.

You know, I was talking on the phone with my mom today. She has a new hip and its working out great. And as I sit here on my sofa, writing on my iPad, drinking fair trade coffee with the smell of bread baking in the oven, the kids evolving around me and my wife tossing me a wink, I suddenly realize what they mean by the duality of life. Yes, spring came a month early this year. It is worrisome! But the flowers are lovely.

I guess when Dickens said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he had a good reason for putting it at the beginning of the story. It’s the beginning of every story! It is the human condition. Every moment in history can be characterized that way. There are surprises in store but there are no endings. And as the cheat sheets remind us:

There is a constant tendency toward violence and oppression.

There is always the necessity of sacrifice.

There is the ever-present possibility of renewal and redemption.