Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wasted Weekend

by Pa Rock
Potted Palm

This blog is being written at the "Genius Bar" of the Apple Store at the Arrowhead Mall in Phoenix.  It is a crazy place, full of loud and obnoxious people, definitely not the type of place where decent people should congregate.

Unfortunately for me, this is the second day in a row that I have wasted at the Genius Bar.  I am, in fact, planted on the very same stool at which I sat for the better part of yesterday.

I came to the Apple Store on Saturday to take a class on how to use my new Mac Air Book.  The annoying girl who "taught" the class spoke to fast, and replied to every question and comment with "That's a really good question."  Most of the questions, of course, were not really good ones.  Instead of teaching things about how the computer worked or showing us how to use shortcuts, she announced to the ten of us there that she would just answer our questions.  That meant that the loudest and most obnoxious of the ten people assembled got to run the class.  We spent an hour learning about iPhoto because that was what the screechy harpy sitting next to me wanted to know about.

After the class I made an appointment to go to the Genius Bar where hopefully the geniuses would help me to install two software programs that I recently purchased.  The first available appointment was four hours later - so instead of driving home - all the way across Phoenix - I sat in the mall and read.  When my appointment time finally arrived, they installed one program easily and told me the other wouldn't work because it required Windows.

I went home and emailed the software developer in England asking for a refund or a different version of his product.  This morning I received a reply telling me of another product that I would need to buy in order to make his work.  I did that, and then drove back to the Apple Store so they could help me install both.

The new software loaded easily - though it took about thirty minutes.  Then I learned that in order to make it work, I would need a Windows installation disk installed in my computer.

Apple, of course, doesn't sell Windows, but a good Samaritan sitting next to me helped me buy one over the Internet and begin the install.  (Apple won't install anything "Windows" either.)  That process is going on two hours, and I am still sitting, taking up space, at the Genius bar.

I feel like anything but a genius.

The good Samaritan told me that these guys aren't geniuses either.

I'm hungry, I'm cranky, and I'm going to sit here until I get all of my software installed - or until hell freezes over.

And now the Windows software has finished loading...yeah!  And I just learned that the genius who has been helping me has gone to lunch.  Lucky bastard!

So I am still planted - and it's getting a little colder in hell.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Great Expectations

by Pa Rock
Avid Reader

2012 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of British novelist Charles Dickens, one of the best loved writers of all time.  To celebrate the event - as well as to give myself an excuse to delve into some really fine literature - I decided to revisit one of his novels.  The one that I chose was Great Expectations, a book that I had read in high school approximately fifty years ago.  Re-reading Great Expectations was, as I knew it would be, truly a treat!

Charles Dickens had a knack for creating memorable characters.  Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim were all products of his fertile imagination, as were David Copperfield, Uriah Heep, Oliver Twist, Fagin, and the Artful Dodger.  His three most remarkable characters in Great Expectations are Pip, the central figure, Magwich, a hard-luck type who spends most of his life in jail, and Miss Havisham, an eccentric old lady for whom time is stuck on the day that she was left standing alone at the altar.

Pip has two significant encounters as a very young boy when he is living with his shrewish adult sister and her husband, Joe, the village blacksmith.  The first is with an escaped convict, later identified as Magwich, who comes across Pip in a marshy cemetery where the lad is visiting the graves of his parents.  The convict convinces Pip, primarily through fear, to return home and get him some food and a file so that he can rid himself of his manacles.

The second encounter is shortly after that when Pip is selected to visit in Miss Havisham's home and to socialize with her pretty adopted daughter, Estella.  The townspeople know Miss Havisham is strange, though none are ever permitted in to see her.    The fact that Pip is allowed to gain access to the house and to visit with the old recluse gives him a certain amount of standing within the community.  Over the next couple of years he spends many  hours with Miss Havisham and Estella - and comes to have feelings for the young girl.

(Miss Havisham lives in her old family home where she was to have been married years earlier.  The groom didn't show, and she is still wearing her wedding dress, though it is now yellowed and ragged.  The table in the dining room  supports what is left of the rotted wedding cake which has fed generations of rodents.  She has had all of the windows in the house boarded up so that she never sees daylight, and all of the clocks were stopped at the time planned for the wedding.  And although Miss Havisham is quite creepy, she and Pip form a tight bond with one another.)

Pip's plan in life is to become apprenticed to his brother-in-law, Joe, and to become a blacksmith.  While Pip's adult sister, Mrs. Joe, is hard to like, Joe is the epitome of kindness and is a both a good parent figure and a good friend to Pip.

Pip enters into the apprenticeship with Joe, but he also works at becoming educated in the event that he is one day in a position to win the hand of Estella.  But before he gets too far down either path, he is confronted with a new situation.  A lawyer from London comes to the village and informs Pip that he has come into some great expectations.  A benefactor who desires to remain anonymous for the time being, has set aside a great deal of money to educate Pip and turn him into a gentleman.  Pip is transported to London where he can be under more direct supervision of the lawyer, and he is given a room in the household of one of Miss Havisham's relatives.

Great Expectations is, to a large extent, a morality tale.  A young person who has grown up very poor suddenly has plenty of money.  How does he handle it, and what lessons does he learn about life and friendship in the process?

As with all things Dickens, there are numerous sub-plots in this novel, and all kinds of coincidental relationships that tie the characters together in strange ways back through the years.  And almost all of the characters have some degree of like-ability.   As I finished the novel, I realized that most of the people I encountered within its pages had become friends of mine.  That aspect alone made it well worth the time that I invested in working my way through its many pages

Great Expectations, as with most works of Charles Dickens, is a very satisfying read.  It is comfort food for the soul.

Friday, September 28, 2012

There's News - and then There's Fox News!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the 1976 movie, Network, Fox News today focused its fair-and-balanced cameras on a troubled man as he blew his brains out.

I was having lunch with a couple of friends in a pizza joint that had televisions blaring from both walls.  Each of the televisions was tuned to the local Fox station, a standard indignity in the Scorpion State, especially in those areas that are in the vicinity of a military base.  Suddenly one of my friends took her focus off of me and looked up at the television.  "Oh, my God!"  she said.  "It's a car chase in Phoenix!"  All eating and idle chit-chat ceased as everyone in the restaurant focused on the real life drama that was unfolding on the boob tube.

Fox had a helicopter in the air following a car that was racing along Interstate 10 west of Phoenix - heading toward California.  The network reported that it had been car-jacked earlier in Phoenix.    They didn't know whether there were any hijack victims in the vehicle or not.  We watched the drama unfold for ten minutes or so until it was time to go back to work.

Later I learned that the car-jacker had pulled off of the Interstate, gotten out of the stolen car, and shot himself in the head - on live television.

It turns out that Fox News was carrying the feed out of Phoenix live, and Fox broadcaster, Shephard Smith was giving a play-by-play of the chase.  When Smith realized that the guy was about to shoot himself, he tried to get the network to break away from its coverage - but was unable to make that happen.  The broadcaster apologized profusely to his afternoon audience of 1.8 million people  saying "We really messed up and we're all really sorry" - and promising that such an event would never occur again on his watch.

Reports that Wendi Murdoch threatened to cut the balls off of any man who reached for the dump switch in order to cut away from the suicide appear to just be rude speculation.

Reports that the 1.8 million people who were sitting at home on a weekday afternoon watching Fox News are actually part of the 47% who don't pay taxes and feel entitled to government handouts are also just rude speculation.

Shep Smith has the integrity to know that even news is subject to the bounds of human decency, but I suspect that some of his on-air colleagues from Fox probably regard today's tragedy as great journalism - a public view of the point where hard news and reality television intersect.

It was a story made to be shown on Fox!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Justin Trudeau Flexes His Family Charm

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I was surfing the Internet a couple of weeks ago while I was in Canada, when one of the sites that I frequent, The Huffington Post, recommended that I change to its Canadian edition.   I followed that suggestion, feeling that the news from a Canadian perspective would help me acclimate to being north of the border.  However, now that I am back in the United States, The Huffington Post seems hellbent on keeping me hooked to its Canadian edition.  I have to change the settings manually in order to get the U.S. version – each and every time I visit the site.

One of the things that I am witnessing in the Canadian news is the political rise of Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his child-bride, Margaret.  Justin, who was born on Christmas Day, 1971, while his father was Prime Minister, is forty-years-old, but based on his photographs and movie-star good looks, he could pass for twenty.    The former high school teacher does have a background in film, having starred five years ago in a mini-series about World War I entitled The Great War.

Young Mr. Trudeau was elected to Canada’s Parliament (the House of Commons) in 2008 from Montreal as a member of the Liberal Party.   He is active in environmental issues and world relief efforts.  He is also seriously considering a bid to be the head of Canada’s Liberal Party, a move that could eventually lead him into becoming Prime Minister.

Pierre Trudeau, who served two stints as Prime Minister for a total of over fourteen years, was known as being personable and charismatic.  It would appear that his oldest son has inherited the family charm and knows how to use it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Beverly Hillbillies at Fifty

by Pa Rock
Social Historian

Question:   What’s the first thing you know?
Answer:  Old Jed’s a millionaire.

Fifty years ago today I was an eighth-grader attending school in the little Ozark town of Noel, Missouri.    John F. Kennedy was President of the United States.  JFK was worried about Cuba (the “missile crisis” was less than a month from unfolding), and I was worried about acne.  It sounds a bit trite to refer to the fall of 1962 as being a different time in America, but it was, in truth, much less complicated than the world in which our children and grandchildren must navigate today.

Television, although a relatively young medium, had already established itself as part of our lives by the fall of 1962.   Everybody in America knew Lucy and Ricky – and Fred and Ethel – and Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty.  They were weekly visitors in our homes, and we thought of them as members of the family, or at least good friends.

The list of our intimate television friends expanded significantly on the evening of September 26th, 1962,  with the appearance of a fictional family of hillbillies from the Ozarks who discovered oil (black gold, Texas tea) on their land, sold it for $25 million, and then inexplicably moved off to Beverly Hills, California.    

Yes, this very evening fifty years ago, America was introduced to the Clampett family:  Jed (Buddy Ebsen) (an old mountaineer who barely kept his family fed), his critter-loving daughter, Elly May (Donna Douglas), his mother-in-law, Daisy “Granny” (Irene Ryan) , and his nephew (Pearl’s boy), Jethro Bodine (Max Baer, Jr).  

The Clampett’s remained a familiar part of the American television landscape for the nine years that the show aired  its nearly three hundred episodes.   During that time we never grew tired of Granny’s insistence that the South had won the War Between the States, the family shame that Elly May was getting too old to ever expect to catch a husband, or the notion Jethro would somehow be able to parlay his fifth-grade education into becoming a brain surgeon.    We even developed a fondness for the greedy banker, Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey), and his harried secretary, Miss Jane (Nancy Kulp), who never gave up hope of capturing the heart of Jethro.

They were our eccentric television relatives.

As with many significant events, I can remember where I was when the first episode of The Beverly Hillbillies aired.   My sister and I were at home and parked in front of the television.   Two old friends from Goodman, Bill and “Tooter” Williams were at the house visiting my parents, and all four of those adults were also watching the new show.  It was very funny, and we all seemed to know that The Beverly Hillbillies was a program that was destined to be successful.

Part of the show’s mythology was that the Clampett family was from the Ozarks.  Sometime during the 1969 or 1970 season the show’s creator, Paul Henning, brought the cast to Branson, Missouri, where they filmed four episodes at Sliver Dollar City.  My friend, Carla Turnbough, was on the plane that brought the television stars from St. Louis to Springfield.  She said they circulated through the plane’s cabin and visited with the other passengers.

The Clampett's were more than just transitory characters in American television history, they were, like the Ricardo's and the Mertz's, destined to become a permanent part of our nation's cultural landscape.  Fifty years have slipped away, but the iconic images of Jed and his kin have etched themselves on our national psyche as permanently as if they had been carved into Mount Rushmore.    They have become an important component of the American experience, and we are better for having known them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Drive to San Diego

by Pa Rock
Desert Rat

My boxes are finally all unpacked, the house is starting to sort itself out into a livable order, and I have caught up on most of my medical appointments.  So now it is time to get out and start enjoying life a little.  I have already taken in a couple of plays  and have two more on the horizon, and I have been to see all of my kids and grandkids.   Now I am ready to pay a visit to Aunt Mary in San Diego.

My sweet Aunt Mary is somewhere in her mid-eighties and still fairly independent.  Her husband of many years passed away this summer after a lengthy illness.  When I lived in Arizona before heading out to Okinawa, I made three trips to San Diego, all of which had visiting with Mary as one of the primary focuses.  When I was on Okinawa, we talked several times by phone, and exchanged cards and letters.  She is one of the final three survivors of my parents' generation.

The last time I was in San Diego was at Thanksgiving four years ago for Molly and Scott's wedding on the beach at Coronado.  During that trip Nick and Tim and Erin and I stayed at the Navy Lodge in San Diego.  I tried to reserve a room at the much nicer Navy Lodge on Coronado Island (which backs up to the Pacific) but was disappointed to learn that it is almost impossible for a lowly DOD civilian to get a room there.  Today, to my delight, I was able to book a room at the Coronado Navy Lodge for two nights in October.

One of the highlights of the 5-hour drive between Phoenix and San Diego is a wide spot in the road called Gila Bend, Arizona.  Gila Bend has a Pizza Hut, a pair of old hotels, a really cool pottery shop, and a couple of air strips where the Air Force does some pilot training.  Last year Britain's Prince Harry spent several months in Gila Bend learning to fly Apache Helicopters.  He undoubtedly had both of the local girls while he was there, and maybe their brothers, too.  But the Prince is also a scholar and was top of his helicopter pilot's class.

Gila Bend is every bit as glamorous as it sounds.

But San Diego is my destination, and I am really anxious to hug Aunt Mary and wade in the big Pacific Ocean!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pink Arizona

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When this political season was in its youth, say last winter, there was some talk that both Missouri and Arizona would be winnable for Obama.  He came within a whisker of winning Missouri in 2008, and didn't do too badly in the Scorpion State considering that he was running against native son, John McCain.   But as this season began to take shape, Missouri and Arizona were both shunted off into the group that Mitt Romney was expected to carry.   The were shown as red on most of the media political maps.

But what a difference the last few weeks has made.  Missouri is still showing up red on most of the news shows and political websites, but the state's senior senator, Claire McCaskill is no longer seen as an albatross hanging from the President's neck.  After her opponent, Todd Akin, seemingly self-destructed  while trying to explain what he saw as a difference between legitimate rape, and rape that is not so legitimate,  McCaskill is suddenly leading in an election where she once was given little chance of winning.  And a viable Claire McCaskill has got to be good for the President's chances of pulling off a surprise win in the "show-me" state.

While Missouri remains red, at least for the time being, Arizona has turned pink - or "leaning" Republican - a much better condition than being in the tank for Romney-Ryan.  I registered to vote in Arizona last week, at just about the time it was upgraded to pink, so I will take credit for that change.  (I just hope my political omnipotence carries over into the sheriff's race and Penzone is able to unseat Arpaio.  What a sweet treat that would be!)

(It's interesting to me that in Arizona, where there the political establishment goes out of its way to harass Hispanics, people may register to vote over the Internet.  Who would have thought that a pack of snarling racists could come up with something as enlightened as Internet voter registration?)

The ten or so "swing" states where most of the campaign cash is being spent also seem to be turning toward President Obama.  I wonder how Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers feel about that.  The presidency appears to be much harder to purchase than they figured.

Six weeks out and things are beginning to take shape.  The  ninety-eight percent are starting to speak up - and that's a very good thing indeed!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy 33rd Birthday, Tim Macy!

by Pa Rock
Proud Papa

My youngest, Tim, turned thirty-three today.  Tim and I are antipodal with our birthdays being exactly six-months apart.  He was born on the first day of fall, 1979, in Mountain View, Missouri.  It was a Sunday, and as his mother and I headed to the hospital, we dropped his older brother and sister off with friends at church.

Being the son of school teachers, Tim was riding buses to ballgames with me when he was still in diapers.  One of his first big public appearances was as the demonstration baby in the high school home economics class where he served as the model on how to bath a baby.

Tim was the family daredevil.  When he was just a toddler he would scare the other little tykes out of the kiddie pool by running and jumping into the middle of the pool.  He also had a little "car"about the size of a skateboard that he would ride down into the sinkhole that made up our back yard - when he was just barely walking.   He was less than three-years-old when we moved to Noel, and one way he marked the new house as his was to jump off of the stone ledge that surrounded the front porch - a drop of about eight feet!  The kid knew no fear!

And Tim is still fearless, but now he has directed his fortitude into writing.  He has braved horizons that few young people even dream about.

I could not be prouder of Tim!    He is a great son!

I See Walls - and Floors!

by Pa Rock
Master Unpacker

When this weekend started I still had fifteen boxes of books stacked in a bedroom waiting to be unpacked.  Now, late Sunday evening, I can report that all of the boxes are empty and all of the books have been shelved.  It is so great to be able to see walls that were once hidden behind boxes - and have open floor space in every room.  There is still a lot to be done, but I am getting there.

It is also a good feeling to have the ability to actually see my stuff, much of which has been in storage since early 2010.  I have run across many things that I had forgotten.  My new goal, after getting unpacked, is to go through everything and decide what to get rid of - especially with regard to the thousands of books that regard my house as their home.  When the time comes to leave Arizona, which hopefully won't be too far off in the future, I would like to be able to go with just a couple of suitcases.

Well, I can dream!

When my father passed away he was living in a huge house, over 5,400 square feet, that was filled to the rafters with a lifetime collection of junk.  That's where I am headed if I don't change my hoarding ways.  I definitely don't want to become my father in that regard.

There comes a point where you can't take it with you.  I am quickly reaching that point!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting Framed

by Pa Rock
Art Collector

One of the local craft stores (not Hobby Lobby - I'm boycotting them) has been offering a big special on framing art - 60% off.  I rushed down there this morning with some treasures that I brought back from the Far East:  two Japanese kites and three propaganda posters from Vietnam.  This was the last day of the sale and I wanted to get this work done on the cheap.

What I learned is that framing art would be a fine business to be in.  Even at sixty percent off, the total for the five pieces would have covered the cost of a nice couch, which I also need.  Regular price would have bought a fairly good used car!

To recoup the price of getting the art framed, I am going to have to begin charging a modest fee for visiting in my home.  Guests will be treated to some really fine art displays from my various wanderings, but the line will have to keep moving because seating is severely limited without the couch.    Hors d'oevures will be extra.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Where Can I Buy a Dancing Horse?

by Pa Rock

Mitt Romney is right.  Nearly half of America is comprised of deadbeats, cheats, and moochers, people who feel entitled to being taken care of by the government.   The issue though, the way I see it, is which half?

Romney, a conniving con-artist of the first order, is a prime example of a moocher, and much of his “class” (the rich, our betters) are little more than sleazeball grifters out to relieve our government of as much national wealth as possible – and then put it where the sun doesn’t shine, such as inside of a big  Swiss vault high up in the Alps.

I’m not saying that Mittens is a tax cheat, although he has passed on numerous opportunities to prove that he isn’t.  What I am saying is this:  the tax laws have in this country have been written by the minions of the filthy-rich and continually favor their interests.

Romney loves to state that he has not broken any tax laws, and he probably hasn’t – though us common folk will never have the means of finding out.  But he doesn’t really have to break tax laws, because most of the IRS tax code was designed as a “break” for him and his ilk.

A few weeks ago I got a notice out of the blue that I owed the state of Missouri $1,600 for the year 2010.   While $1,600 would probably not even buy lunch for the Romney’s, it represented a big hit in the wallet to me.  Yesterday I got a letter stating that my wonderful tax preparer had gotten it reduced to $31.00.  Unfortunately, in that very same pile of mail, I also got a notice from the Feds saying that I owe them over four grand for the same year.  I am hopeful that my tax preparer will be able to right this outrageous injustice also.

But what really fans my flames is the fact that the government is so blasted quick to peruse the files of the common folks.   Do those IRS bean counters sort through the files of the very rich with such gusto?   Do they harass the people called “corporations” with the same unflinching aggressiveness as they do me and thee?  Somehow I doubt that the IRS spends much time screwing with people who have platoons of accountants and tax lawyers – the shysters who know how to find and exploit all of the breaks that have been written into the tax code to save money for the master class.

Trickle down, my ass!  (Did you read where recently even a former Bain economist said that “trickle down” doesn’t work?  It just gives the rich more money to hoard away.)

Here’s a tax break to end all tax breaks:  the Romney’s get a $70,000 write-off for Ann’s dancing horse.   Seventy grand and she doesn’t even own the whole horse!  Seventy grand and the old nag doesn’t even pull a plow! (Of course, Annie didn’t have to do much work either - just help her domestics raise the boys – so she and her horse probably have a sisterhood thing going on.)  You’d think for seventy-grand they could at least get Prancing Pauline booked on Dancing with the Stars!

There has got to be a better way to get by than going to work every day and spending my evenings fighting with the IRS.  Where do I go to get me one of them dancing horses?

Does Craig’s List have a category for tap-dancing jack-asses?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Passwords Ad Nausuem

by Pa Rock
Who Has No Secrets

Remember when Password was a TV gameshow?  Over the past few years the word has slipped from being representative of something fun into something excruciatingly demonic.

Let me begin by saying this about passwords:  I don't like them.  My life is an open book, I have no secrets, nor do I have access to any secrets through my job, and passwords have become much more than just an annoyance - they now represent the single most frustrating aspect of modern technology.   They are vile, they are evil, and they interfere with the free flow of communication.  And any person or entity who wants in your business will get in your business - password or not!

The young man at the Apple Store last week seemed a bit exasperated when I told him that I didn't have a password for getting into my computer - nor did I want one.  Then when he got ready to help me download an app, and I couldn't remember my all-mighty, grand, high Apple password, he got really frustrated.  He offered to help me change it, and I explained in the King's English that I didn't want a password.  I got one anyway - that's just the way Apple rolls!

Some agencies of the government with which I am way too familiar require long passwords - often up to fifteen characters with upper and lower cases, numbers, and symbols.  Those passwords have to be changed every 90 days and the employees are not permitted to write them down.   Talk about a recipe for lost productivity as workers sweat over their computers trying to remember the current long string of characters!

Today I heard a piece on National Public Radio (NPR) regarding four-digit pin numbers such as one might use at an ATM.  A researcher had gained access to millions of four-digit pin numbers and studied their frequency.  There are 10,000 number combinations between and including 0000 through 9999.  The researcher said that some number combinations were far more likely to be used than others, and that someone trying to gain access to someone's else's account would try the most common combinations first.  The most common pin number, a number selected for its ease in quick recall, was 1234.  (That's not mine, but it's not far off!)  The least common pin number was 8086?  Of course, after that story aired, 8086 will become far more common.  (American's love being unique to the point where they all start to become the same.  How many babies were named Isabella this year?)

Every business that I deal with on the web wants a password.  Every gadget that I operate wants a password.    How long before knocking on the neighbor's door will require a password?  This year the Republicans tried to keep poor people from voting by requiring picture i.d.'s.  Want to bet that in four years they will also be cranking out voter password laws?

A password for this, a password for that.  Allen Ludden would be mortified!

My spleen is sufficiently vented.  Now I will post this angry rant - if I can remember my password!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Disturbing a Grave with H.P. Lovecraft

by Pa Rock

I am currently reading two books.  Great Expectations is on the bedside table and serves as my evening read.   I first encountered the wonderful volume by Charles Dickens when I was in high school, where it was required reading.   I'm enjoying reacquainting myself with Pip and his friends from London and the surrounding countryside.  The volume that I have is over five-hundred pages in length, but it is moving along briskly.

My other book stays in the car where I dutifully read from it each morning while waiting to go to work.  That volume, The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, is over eleven-hundred pages, and, due in large part to the complexities of Lovecraft's vocabulary and language, moves along at a slower pace.   Lovecraft is delicious, like a fine dessert, and must be consumed slowly and deliberately, with no crumbs left behind.

H.P. Lovecraft never graduated from high school and spent most of his life living modestly and publishing almost everything he wrote in pulp magazines , often in the magazine classic Weird Tales.  His works were commonly serialized across several issues of a magazine, and he was paid by the word - often as little as one cent per word.  (Small wonder he was usually so verbose!)  His readership, those most likely to rely on pulp magazines for their stories, was comprised mainly of the common working people.

That amazes me.  The common man today would be hard pressed to tolerate the rich complexities of Lovecraft's language, much less understand all of what he was saying.  Below is an example of what I am talking about.  It is a paragraph from the story, "The Lurking Fear," in which the central character is is trying to solve a contemporary mystery by digging up the grave of a man who died two centuries earlier.  The paragraph is very representative of the complete body of Lovecraft's work.

"The scene of my excavations would alone have been enough to unnerve any ordinary man.  Baleful primal trees of unholy size, age, and grotesqueness leered above me like the pillars of some hellish Druidic temple;  muffling the thunder, hushing the clawing wind, and admitting but little rain.  Beyond the scarred trunks in the background, illumined by faint flashes of filtered lightening, rose the damp ivied stones of the deserted mansion, while somewhat nearer was the abandoned Dutch garden whose walks and beds were polluted by a white, fungous, foetid, overnourished vegetation that never saw full daylight.  And nearest of all was the graveyard, where deformed trees tossed insane branches as their roots displaced unhallowed slabs and sucked venom from what lay below.  Now and then, beneath the brown pall of leaves that rotted and festered in the antediluvian forest darkness, I could trace the sinister outlines of some of this low mounds which characterised the lightening-pierced region."

Not too shabby for a guy with less than a high school education who was writing for others with limited educational backgrounds.  The times have obviously changed.

(Note:  Microsoft's spellcheck does not like "foetid," "overnourished," and "characterised" - which diminishes it as a writing tool.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

King of the Parasites

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I know that I should be worried about Willard Mitt Romney winning the presidency and continuing the run on the treasury that began under George W. Bush and almost bankrupted the country.  Four years of a Romney administration would give America’s obscenely wealthy just about enough time to finish stealing the nation’s assets and hiding them overseas.  Then the greedy hogs could live happily ever after knowing that God had recognized and rewarded their innate superiority over the vermin who roam the earth picking through rags and trash hoping to find the right lottery ticket or a mildewed dollar or two.

I know that I should be worried about a President Romney.  I live in a nation that elected Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and a couple of Bush’s, so the American electorate could conceivably elect someone as out-of-touch with real people as Romney.  It’s possible.

But damn!  Mitt Romney seems like the man who is digging himself into a hole and doesn’t have the good sense to quit digging.   His campaign appears to stumble from one self-inflicted disaster to another.  I really thought Clint Eastwood’s discourse with the empty chair at the Republican Convention signaled the end of Romney’s serious effort to buy himself into the White House – and it probably did.  But he just keeps digging!

The latest incident, the 47% matter, would cause a decent person to hang his head in shame and, at a minimum, apologize to the nation.  But that’s not Mitt’s style.  He handles tough situations by obfuscating, lying, or blaming others.   (Shake that Etch a Sketch, Big Guy!)  Remarkably he has acknowledged making the following remarks at a gathering in a private home in Boca Raton, Florida, but noted that he could have expressed them better.    And while what he said is reprehensible, it will continue to serve as red meat to his base – many of whom are in reality part of the 47 percent that he denigrated - and just too dumb to know that they disgust him.

Here is how Mitt Romney expressed his disdain for the poor:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.  All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.  That that’s an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.  And they will vote for this president no matter what.”

Mitt-speak translation:  “Screw the poor.  They are just a bunch of moochers and welfare queens who are not paying income taxes and soak up valuable dollars that I could be banking in Switzerland.”

The candidate of the wealthy and powerful added:

“My job is not to worry about those people.  I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

It sounds as though he is saying that if he is elected, “those people” would not be part of his constituency – they would be individuals who could learn to take care of themselves or starve to death along the side of the road.   Damned deadbeats!   Parasites!

(Yo, Mitt!  I have a decent job and pay lots of taxes - income, sales, property, gasoline, lottery, you-name-it, but I still feel "entitled" to health care, food, and housing.  And, yes, thanks to your blatant hostility toward humanity, I will vote for President Obama - no matter what!)

As a person born into a life of privilege, Mitt just does not “get” abject poverty or personal hardship.  Mitt Romney is a cold-hearted individual who lacks empathy for the unwashed masses.  But that 47 percent that he vilified contains lots of people who would like to consider themselves Romney supporters.  It includes our war veterans who didn’t pay income taxes while they were fighting in the wars, elderly individuals who are barely existing on social security and Medicare, students trying to go to school on borrowed money, and a raft of other individuals whom Romney lumps into what he sees as a big bag of social excrement.

Maybe if Mitt Romney had been held down by a group of rich adolescent thugs and had his head shaved when he was a teenager, he would have some sense of what it is like to be a victim instead of a physical and economic aggressor, someone who always wins no matter the cost.

What a shame this guy didn’t grow up on Main Street and work at a few minimum wage jobs on his way up the ladder of success. What a shame he didn’t attend public schools and a state university where he would have gained a valuable education just from living life among real people.  What a shame he doesn’t rub elbows with as many NASCAR fans as he does NASCAR owners.   What a shame he feels the need to squeeze every nickel out of every possible tax loophole.

And what a shame he is so quick to criticize others for not paying income taxes, all the while refusing to prove that he does pay income taxes – or at least his fair share of taxes.

What a shame he has let himself be molded into an insufferable and uncaring phony.

The world may be full of parasites, Mitt, but you, sir, are the epitome of greed and the King of the Parasites.

George Romney would have been appalled.