adventures in dysthymia

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Inequality

I don't mind income inequality. Ownership inequality is the problem. The means of production has become too concentrated.

No nation can survive when the control of productive property is in the hands of a few, whether that few be the government or private individuals and corporations. Any structure needs a wide base for stability; any structure that is top-heavy must topple.

That is what is happening in this nation and, for that matter, the world in general. It's been going on a long time but has accelerated. It is an inevitable result of our current economic system.

Government must act to prevent this concentration of ownership, while not taking economic power to itself. That would be socialism and ultimately just as undesirable.

Socialism (in the strict sense) entails collective, i.e. government, ownership or control (essentially two ways of saying the same thing) of the means of production. The welfare state is not socialism; it was created by capitalists to co-opt the socialists and their demands. It throws crumbs to the masses so they will not ask for more.

Social welfare programs are necessary to keep the modern capitalist system working. They provide both a safety net and a pressure valve for the labor force. Unfortunately, they also make the people dependent on the state for what they could achieve through their own organizations, through trade unions, etc.

In essence, I consider the system existing in the majority of nations today to be some form of corporatism. It is a democratic corporatism in most, but still based on the partnership between government and business. It is the modern model for capitalism.

I recently read a piece describing the modern Democratic agenda (New Deal, Great Society) as 'corporate liberalism.' That pretty much jibes with my own view. Truly, both mainstream liberals and conservatives are in bed with big business. They see its success as the success of the nation.

But what good is being 'competitive' in the world market if we do not serve our own citizens? What good is to have big business thrive while small businesses fail? Our leaders on both sides have a Wal-Mart mentality, the whole bigger-is-better attitude of modern life.

They are not truly friendly to small business at all, to the Mom-and-Pop store, to the family farm. They believe that we should all have 'jobs' working for some company or another.

Naturally, big business interests support and donate to the campaigns of such politicians, those already inclined to be friendly to them. It creates a culture of corporatism in the mainstream.

We can't expect the political climate to change -- not as long as the process is driven by money. Change must come from us. An unfettered internet may be our best hope, a place where new ideas (and some good old ones) can be freely expressed.

But the exchange of ideas is not enough. It is only a beginning. We must be active. We must change our government. We must change ourselves and our habits.

Each of us supports the status quo, each day, through action and inaction. It is impossible to do otherwise. Still, we must make the effort or we will most definitely end up on the wrong side of that inequality gap.

SB MMXII

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Gifts of Spring

My online presence has been minimal recently, not only because my internet connection continues to be unreliable and slow but also because I've needed to keep my one land-line open for use as an actual telephone. I have to admit, that satellite internet is looking more and more desirable.

Plenty to keep me busy offline, however. Too much to keep me busy maybe, indoors and out. Mom, of course, is my priority and requires a fair amount of my time.

It's been a nice Spring. Dry season is setting in, no doubt, and watering regularly is also going to be a time consumer. So far, everything I've planted is holding up well. We'll see how it goes when the really hot and dry weather gets here.

The one thing that hasn't been nice is the flea situation. There's always a Spring outbreak but it seems worse than usual this year. In the yard, in the house, spraying and dusting is an absolute necessity. Even though I hate to spread chemicals around. Having dogs here, next door, in the neighborhood, doesn't help.

Speaking of dogs, we have puppies on Peanut Road. I call them Lab-Lollies as they are half-Labrador, half-Collie. Yes, I didn't have a chance to get Tucky to the vet before she met a tall dark stranger from up the road. So, five cute (but bound to get large) puppies to give away.

I wonder if I could sell more books if I gave away a puppy with each...or if I could get rid of more puppies if I gave away a book with each...

Anyway, four boys and a girl, two white (probably to end up black-and-white like their mom), three black and Lab-ish (though one boy has a white star on his chest). They're just over two weeks old now, give them a month and they'll be ready to go out the door... so take advantage of this Special Giveaway!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

That Summer, a poem

THAT SUMMER

That summer of seduction,
we were young and in love
with ourselves, with

the lovers we had become.
We followed a script we would write,
scene by scene, each day.

There was nothing new
in that story, yet
each cliche held wonder

for us, a discovery
of us as we would dream
we were. And so we were,

for a season, a summer
we filled our eyes with stars
and the night sky whispered

fresh lines for our play.
We learned them well, you and I,
eager to speak them, eager

to play the roles we'd chosen,
to be young lovers, all
that summer of seduction.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

More verse in a somewhat Romanticky vein, though blank this time. Accentual, three stresses to the line. Rather quickly dashed off this morning so certainly subject to revision down the line; the phrase 'summer of seduction,' however, sat in my notes for years waiting its chance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ten-Thousand

Well, a little bit of a milestone here at the Lucky Lad as I just passed 10,000 page views. I reckon about half of those have been within the last year -- visitors certainly increased once I started posting more frequently...and started mentioning politics. :D

Now, ten-thousand is not a huge number compared to the readers some blogs have but it's nice to know I write something of interest occasionally. Or write something that looks like it might be of interest when folks Google it. I am sure some are quite disappointed when they arrive! It's doubtful my readership will increase much over the current levels. I just don't have that much interesting stuff going on in my life.

If I had any wine in the house I'd pour myself a glass in celebration. I guess green iced tea will have to do instead.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Come, Join Me (a poem)

COME, JOIN ME

Come, join me, love, your melody
will find in me its harmony;
your instrument I'll gladly be
as I play you and you play me.

Come, join me, love, beneath the moon,
come share with me your secret tune;
allow our music rise and soon
as one voice will our hearts commune,

and as it surges it will seem
that all past sorrow be but dream.
Come, join me, love, we'll craft a theme
of cricket chorus and moonbeam,

to hold all that for which we long;
come, join me, love, in this our song.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

One of those pieces I have dabbled at for years and finally finished. Sort of...as always, pretty much anything I post here should be considered 'early draft.'

Truth and Fiction


I reckon I do a bit of that here. Occasionally, anyway. ;)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Who Would Be a King? a song lyric

WHO WOULD BE A KING?

Time to abdicate,
time to leave this throne;
spend my waning days
down at the old kings' home.
Mob outside my window,
calling for my head;
calling me to answer
for every word I said.

Here I hold my crown;
let me cast it down.
See who picks it up,
who drinks from my cup.
What man seeks to rule;
who is such a fool?
Who would be a king?
Who would be a king?

I've been my own master
as I've been my own slave.
You may call me a tyrant;
I took less than I gave.
Time to end this task,
abandon this, my realm;
let another dupe
rise to take the helm.

Here I hold...

Time to abdicate,
time to leave this throne;
call it destiny,
the fault was still my own.
Passing into exile,
no more I can say;
smile and wave to the crowd
as I ride away.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Yet another song lyric. I'm getting a backlog again and not finding time to work up the music (though there is always some in my head when I write something such as this).

Being a king is, of course, a metaphor. A metaphor for what? Why, whatever you want it to be!
I do use the king metaphor quite a bit, don't I? Delusions of grandeur? :)


Friday, March 16, 2012

What, Me Irish?

  

In 'honor' of my Anglo-Irish relatives! As far as I know, the only 'Irish' in me...my Catholic ancestors were good wine-drinking Rhinelanders.

Everyone Lies, a song lyric

Everyone Lies

Everyone lies,
everyone lies,
but everyone hopes
to believe.
Everyone cries,
everyone cries,
everyone's heart
is naive.

No one denies,
no one denies
Everyone's heart
must grieve.
But everyone tries,
everyone tries,
everyone tries,
to believe.

I commit to nothing,
losing everything;
wind has carried off
each word I would sing.
Grief is but another
word the dawn may bring;
sunrise seems a bauble
hanging from a string.

Leave me by the roadside,
emptied of the day;
look toward your horizon
as you drive away.
Not one backward glance,
not one thought to stay;
I commit to nothing,
nothing more to say.

Everyone lies...

I can not be anyone  
other than this man;
last word of each story
you and I began.
Lost now in the mirror
you hold in your hand;
ghost appearing if you
whisper your command.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Still a bit rough as a song -- the words are all pretty much there but the exact order and repeats and instro breaks and so on are pretty much up in the air. Fairly obviously more in the rock vein, metal-y even. Might switch the order of second and third verses. Or might not.  Worth working on the music? I don't know.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

That Mandate Thing

The Catholic Bishops have just issued a formal statement on the contraceptive mandate. It is well thought out and puts forward their position clearly, whether one agrees with that position or not. One can read the text on Rocco Palmo's 'Whispers in the Loggia' blog (and elsewhere, I'm sure). http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2012/03/bishops-on-religious-freedom-strongly.html

Honestly, I can see both sides here. I understand those who see it as an infringement of religious freedom. But the government is not ordering any church -- nor individual, for that matter -- to provide contraception. It is ordering them to pay (via their insurance) should their employee choose to use it (and not direct Church employees, it should be noted -- those are exempt).

I see this as more akin to a pacifist being required to pay taxes to support a war. He is exempt from actually fighting.

This whole problem would not exist had we gone with a single payer everyone-on-Medicare sort of approach. That is probably coming. In the meantime, perhaps it would be best if this whole thing ended up in the Supreme Court so we get a definitive definition. At least until a later Court changes it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Decisions

History is a record of man's poor decisions.

We could learn from them but, of course, never do. We will continue to make the wrong choices and wonder how things became such a mess.

We will allow ourselves to be misled by glib salesmen and true believers. We will continue to want things that are not good for us.

We are human. We are imperfect. We will make mistakes.

And it doesn't matter. We live and we die and things go on. Maybe that doesn't matter either.

Who knows enough to make that decision?

SB MMXII

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Keys to my Heart

The latest design for the Emporium, to be uploaded when my internet connection allows. It was incredibly bad over the weekend and I barely was online at all.


This is something I actually mocked up years ago and never got around to until now.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Exposition and Characters

Composer Aaron Copeland had a technique of 'sneaking up' on a motif, revealing it bit by bit before stating it outright. I feel one should do something of the same sort when it comes to the exposition of characters in a work of fiction.

Yes, we want fully realized characters and the author should have a pretty clear idea of who they are (though they will inevitably 'develop' in the course of writing). It's no good to just state outright who they are and give their back-story yet I have seen exactly that sort of advice.

Let that character be revealed bit by bit -- his back-story, his motivations, even his appearance perhaps. Let there be some mystery. Isn't that how we come to know people in real life?

Don't tell us the character is short. Reveal it through his actions or those around him. Don't tell us he was abused as a child. Let him have scars he has kept hidden. But, of course, reveal them eventually.

Any reasonably decent television drama knows to do this (well, not with appearance). Maybe all you authors should put down the novels and watch some TV! :)

At the same time, don't let exposition turn into deus ex machina -- don't spring something on us completely out of the blue just to move the story along or, worse, tie up some sort of conflict. Mystery writers learn this. There have to be clues.

Or, to return to my original example, give us hints before launching into your full theme. Let your audience discover these things. Let them come to know your characters the way they would real people.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Springing Forward (and Trying Not to Fall Back)

Once again going into Daylight Savings Time (too early again, also) and once again I'll complain about this pointless relic of an age when people worked regular shifts down at the factory. It just does not serve a purpose anymore. We'd do much better to consolidate our time zones in this country, say put all the continental states on what is now Central Time.

* * *

I've been housekeeping my online presence a tad. Finally just gave up on my accounts at Lycos and Excite -- two of the oldest email addresses I'd maintained but increasingly difficult to use. I'd been moving anything important elsewhere anyway. Also shut down both of the free websites (Tripod and Angelfire) I had maintained (but not really used in a long time) at Lycos.

Tried out Tumblr and found it pretty useless for me. Been there, left there, won't go back there. Closed my website (Cup Bearer) at Google too but I may be working up something different there in time. Really though, with Blogger getting so site-like (with pages and all, just like WordPress), Google Sites are a bit redundant.

My online time has kind of dropped off anyway, as of late. I've come out of hibernation and am spending more time in the 'real world.' At least until it gets too hot...that may happen pretty quickly around here! I can see the dry season will be coming soon too and I'll be out watering for an hour (or more) every day. Let's hope it doesn't extend through the entire summer like last year.

* * *

I'm attempting not to do business with (or give business to) any company that is a member of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council -- if you don't know what it is, check Google or Wikipedia). It's not easy, as many of the biggest and widest reaching corporations belong and help write what some would deem 'conservative' legislation. I just call it bad legislation.

Walmart and Amazon are easy. I was already boycotting them. AT&T, Citi, Bank of America...those are more difficult. Microsoft is one of them so buy Apple (or better yet, Linux). But if you must have Windows, don't get it from Dell.

All three of the big American auto makers are members but I guess I'll keep driving my 18 year old Ford. Won't drink Busch or Coors beer, however (not that I ever did). Nor Coke nor Pepsi.

I'll have stuff delivered via the US Post Office, not FedEx, not UPS, when possible. And so on. For a list of members, go here: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Corporations

No doubt, many of these companies have no agenda; they are simply there as part of the business community. But the organization is being controlled by right-wingers who are going far beyond 'business-friendly' legislation. We need to let them and their elected lackeys know that we do not approve, with both our votes  and our wallets. A few letters wouldn't hurt either.

But most importantly, more people need to know about this organization and how it is controlling so many of our elected legislators.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Battle Axes



The latest design for the Insolent Lad Emporium (http://insolentlad.com/emporium.html or http://www.cafepress.com/insolentlad ). These two variants should cover most needs!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

I Used To Be a Libertarian, a song lyric

I USED TO BE A LIBERTARIAN (BUT I'M ALL BETTER NOW)

I used to be a libertarian.
but I'm all better now;
I've seen the light and carry on
with one less sacred cow.
Yes, I like my roads and parks,
all the public can endow;
This doesn't mean I follow Marx --
well, Groucho, I'll allow!

Once, I thought that I was all
I needed to succeed,
but spring and pride precede the fall --
now I have gone to seed!
Some say that being good is good,
some say so is greed;
be greedy for some brotherhood --
you'll find that's what you need.

The other day I saw Ayn Rand
lunch with John Stuart Mills;
they talked about supply and demand,
the use of men's free wills.
But they failed to come up with a cure
for all of mankind's ills,
for Ayn claimed that John's heart wasn't pure,
he said Ayn gave him chills!

Yes, I am a proud individual
but if I am free,
I'll be more than that old residual
lizard deep in me.
I know he's back there in my brain,
coveting all we see,
but I can choose and so I'll gain
the person I should be.

This doesn't mean that I've gone Lefty
or read from Chairman Mao,
but each man's load is far too hefty
for the sweat from just his brow.
I've seen the light and carry on
with one less sacred cow;
I used to be a libertarian
but I'm all better now!

Stephen Brooke ©2012

A song lyric or maybe just a poem -- the chorus-y bit (first section here) would repeat as desired. Very rough first-draft idea and, of course, there is music in my head.

* * *

I used to be a libertarian but I'm all better now.

I find the libertarian's worship of individualism to be just as objectionable as the socialist's insistence on collectivism.

Each of us is both an individual and a member of human society. We are all servants as well as masters. This sticks in the craw of the modern man, who sees himself as free and beholden to none.

No one stands alone. We used to understand this.

We are and remain social creatures and must consider the good of all to be as important as the good of the one. There must be a balance.

On the other hand, I also believe that no one has the right to tell me what to do, as long as I cause no harm. I do not necessarily bow to the will of the majority. But if I am to dwell in a society, it is to the good of all -- myself included -- to abide by the rules that allow that society to operate.

This does not mean that I must, however. I have no moral obligation to do so -- I can choose not to participate. Any rules or laws I consider morally wrong, of course, I should refuse to obey.

Indeed, I consider any yielding to another's will to be morally questionable. We have free will and should exercise this gift. We must do what we do because we choose to do it, not because we are coerced.

Or maybe I'm just too cantankerous to ever do what someone tells me to do. That's why I've been a self-employed entrepreneur type most of my life -- even if I haven't made all that much money, I've been my own boss. Pretty darn hard to work for too. I should've quit long ago!

* * *

I did flirt with libertarian ideals for a good while, until I recognized that most so-called libertarians want to limit government only so far as it helps their own agendas. They would retain the structures and strictures that maintain a capitalist system. The only true libertarians are anarchists.

The anarchist recognizes that ownership is a restriction on freedom. If you own something you prevent me from using it. You have reduced my freedom.

More importantly, even if ownership remains there are such creations as corporations that allow the capitalist to hide from personal responsibility. Responsibility is what is lacking in most 'libertarian' concepts -- it's all 'what is in it for me.'

Let's face it, modern laissez-faire capitalist libertarian thought is a rehashing of 19th Century Social Darwinism and an even older Calvinism. This is why I abandoned the libertarian cause entirely. Oh, I think the anarchist ideal -- libertarian communism, if you will -- is an admirable one but see no possibility of it working anytime soon. If ever.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Mistakes


One man's cynicism is another's realism. Or is it the other way around?

Obviously, just a foolin'-round graphic, not anything for the Emporium. I've been busy outdoors a lot today and yesterday, putting in some 27 bushes and trees I got from the nursery. It's been beautiful warm weather and it's nice to get out in it. I'll be setting out some bulbs and stuff I've started in flats in a while. Many of the bulbs from last year have sprouted and even flowered already.

The bulk of what I've been planting was hibiscus, both syriacus (aka Rose of Sharon) and moscheutos. Both will hold up fine to any cold weather we have here; how they will do in the dry hot summer is anyone's guess. Let's hope they're not mistakes!

Now, a poem

NOW

There is no now,
no present, only
a line between
past and future,

a knife edge cleaving
what was from what
will be. Who can
live there, stand

on such a blade?
We may divide
then from then.
We may say that

is in the past.

Was that not we?
Will it not be
we tomorrow?

It remains
one life, our life,
and in the end
there is no now.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

A bit of a poem, probably about as much as it's ever going to be. Obviously, I don't like being told to 'live in the now.' :)