Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Moon

An astronomical coincidence which occurs so infrequently we celebrate its uniqueness.
Scientifically it is the second full moon in a calendar month.  
The color blue is idealistic, enhancing self-expression and our ability to communicate our needs and wants. It inspires higher ideals* .......   *empower yourself 

"Rendering of the Moon" - graphic by Jay Johnson

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Sacrifice of Cecil

Gary Larson, creator of the cartoon series "The Far Side" is one of my favorite thinkers.  He personifies animals in a lot of his cartoons, giving them human perception but with animal limitations.  
Example:  A deer looking at a telephone ringing at his desk. The caption: "There it goes again and me without an opposable thumb to pick it up."  Another cartoon shows an elk with the mark of a target on his neck.  A second elk is looking at the pattern and says, "Bummer of a birth mark, Hal"
I was thinking of Gary Larson as the news of Cecil the Lion's death went viral. One of Larson's other  cartoons immediately came to mind.  It is a "two panel". In the first we see a timid bear calmly drinking water from a lake.  Behind him, hidden in the brush is a man with a huge gun ready to shoot the bear.  In the last panel the "hunter" is standing in his trophy room.  The same bear has been stuffed and mounted in a standing position, teeth snarling, claws ready in a menacing attack pose. I wonder how the asshole dentist from Minnesota will pose Cecil? Certainly not as he looked during the 40 hours they tracked him while he was bleeding to death.   
The very sad part of the Cecil story is that Walter Palmer, the dentist, hunter and killer has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars killing leopards, bears, rhino's and other exotic animals. In fact Cecil was not even the first lion he has killed. Even though he is a felon convicted of "poaching" wildlife, he has been able to continue this "sport" unfettered until now. But here is the fact that is chilling. Palmer is not really the worst of the problem only the most visual right now.  
Palmer is part of a very small minority who can spend big money to hunt big trophies.  Most don't have $55,000 to throw away, and some who do have that kind of money also have a soul, so "killing" would not be a way they would spend that kind of money.  The real problem?  The unseen masses of poachers who are killing these beautiful animals FOR money.  When the tusk of an Elephant, the paw of a tiger, and the horn of a Rhino can be sold for big bucks on the black market, mercenaries get involved. Our wild life is not endangered because of rich jerks like Palmer who have penis issues, our big animals are endangered because of the value of their parts on the black market.  As long as people place value on the parts of certain species of animals, then there will be people willing to break any law to satisfy that want. In these modern times, other than food value, what need does their killing fill that can not be accomplished with some artificial item? 
The value is based in superstition and misplaced ego.  The ego of a trophy hunter who can showcase the head of an exotic animal on his wall really says, "Look at the money I have to be able to afford such an item."  And the superstition of predominately Asians who believe the horn of a rhino is an aphrodisiac. While there has never been any scientific truth to the fact, the horn of a Rhino can bring up to $300,000.  There is evidently no price a human won't pay to get laid.  
I think Walter Palmer should be punished for his ignorant extravagance. Especially since he seems to be a repeat offender with a felony record for this "sport".  If he thought he was giving these animals a fair chance by hunting with a bow and arrow, he is blind to the fact that these animals are lured from their safety and herded into a killing zone so he could feel like he has a pair. Perhaps making an example out of Dr. Macho will have a sobering effect on others of his extravagant nature.  The excuse he gives? He thought the "kill" was legal because his guides told him it was okay.  The guides who were being paid big money to make it happen.  "Thought it was a legal "kill" sounds like the defense George Zimmerman used to justify murder.  
American Indians used to hunt Bison on the plains with bow and arrow. But it was not done for sport, it was done for survival and every part of the Bison was used by the tribe.  It was almost a spiritual experience. They gave thanks to the Bison they killed, honoring them for giving their lives for the good of the tribe. They would never think of killing for the sake of hanging their heads in a tee pee. They honored the Bison for the sacrifice not the hunter for his killing ability.  
Of course when Anglos settled the plains we made the killing of Bison a sport, shooting them from trains by the thousands, and leaving them to rot in the sun.  The Indians could not understand how us white men could kill something for entertainment and not for survival.  It seems we have lost something special in our educated arrogance. Perhaps that loss of connection to the world around us is exactly what is creating the extinction of so many species, and is leading us to the destruction of our own existence as well.
One of Larson's cartoons shows a farmers wife coming back from the barn with a basket full of eggs, while a hen is coming back from the farm house with the farmers baby in its basket.  We can be grateful that animals do not think like humans.
As you were,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Did I just roll my eyes out Loud?

The role of the Monday morning quarterback has become the model for politics today.  We have a group of publicity seeking short term thinkers who simply dump on any idea that doesn't serve their own selfish addenda.  They are quick to belittle any attempt to govern while they offer no alternative.  In most cases they have no alternative; they only criticize any attempt to do something.  A leader leads. A leader offers a path, a way to go.  
A leader is not someone who complains about the path being taken without offering an alternative route.  Unless you are able to fly the plane you should not gripe about the flight plan. 
This last week marks the 50th time that the Republican party has tried to gut Obamacare.  While no plan is perfect, including this one, the good it accomplishes must out weigh its imperfections.  While lots of time and effort has gone into the 50 attempts to destroy the program, no effort has been made to propose an alternate program. That is not leadership that is destructive narcissism. Doing nothing is better than actively attempting to do harm. 
The same with the Iranian Nuclear Agreement.  While it may not be perfect, while we may not trust the Iranians, it is at least a step forward.  The alternative offered from the detractors is, well, nothing.  Their solution is just draw a line in the sand and prepare for war.  That has worked so well for us in that region during the last dozen years.
Mike Huckabee offers no solution to the Iranian solution, he simply denounces the hard work done by several countries using metaphors that are offensive, insensitive and salacious. His "marching to the ovens" comment is the latest.  Even his justification for using such a statement makes no sense.  He said, "I have been to Auschwitz three times and I have stood in front of those ovens, so I know how it feels."   Really? Mike, I have been to the Viet Nam war memorial four times and I do not know how it feels to be a dead Viet Nam vet. For that statement alone you have disqualified yourself as a serious contender for President of the United States.  Not that he has a serious chance at the nomination. 
Huckabee is not alone in his ignorance, nor lack of any realistic chance. Most everyone in the crowded clown car of the GOP is clueless.  Donald Trump has no ideas, he just throws tomatoes at others who are trying to help.  His popularity is based on the misguided idea that leadership is the equivalent of belittling the leaders. Show me some candidates who have a plan to move forward not a plan to dismantle the progress already made. Politics used to be the art of compromise, the art of working with people who had ideas completely different from your own.  Now it is just a group of spoiled children who want their way or they will not play. They are not concerned with the status of the country, only their own popularity. It is a  group of bullies who want the power to get their way. 
A leader is not a bully.  A leader is not a celebrity.  A leader is not a dictator. A leader is not a spoiled child. A leader is not a critic who can only denounce a plan without offering any of his own.  I am tired of voting for the lessor of evils. I am tired of voting for the person who is least offensive. I want to vote for a person who has ideas that are good for the country and not those that service the entitled few. I want to vote for someone, not against the someone. 
It is still 15 months away from the actual vote.  But so far all I see is the same old guard, with the same old ideas of deconstruction rather than a new plan. My kids have no optimism for the future. Why should they?  With all the optimism we had when we were their age,  look what we got stuck with. One percent of the country milking the other 99% dry.  America can become great again... but it can only do that if it changes to the positive and turns from the negative.  So far I don't see anyone who can lead us there. 
As you were,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Human Sacrifice-still Around?

There is no doubt that as humans we have grown up in the ways we celebrate religion.  In earlier days there were human sacrifices, animal sacrifices, rituals and rules about how one connects with God or Gods.  The "religious" laws that were laid down as immutable in earlier times are very much out of date now. Kosher laws and Shariah laws are medieval in origin and irrelevant today even though they are blindly followed by some even today.  We have grown past the need for Stain Glass windows to tell the stories of the Bible, because we can read. We have grown past the idea that Kings and rulers are divine and effectually God on earth, because we realize our equality as humans.  As we progress in our understanding of this vast universe and all the people who populate the Earth the "ways" we worship God have changed. 
The problem is that our concept of God has not changed. The fact that Deity is still mostly identified as male is just one old concept that is out of date. Some believe that God is a Lord who holds us over a pit of fire with a string. At any moment we can violate his love knowingly or unknowingly and he will cut that string sending us into eternal damnation.  We paint God as a conditional, capricious super hero that has a very small tent and heavy cover charge in the form of "accepted belief" for all who want to gain his favor. 

The most disturbing thing today is that out of the  7,095,217,980 people in the world, approximately 2,234,993,663 still believe in a God that demands human sacrifice.  They believe that the love of an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Being is appeased only by the death of a human. Nothing else will get God's attention or curry his forgiveness except human sacrifice.  These two and a quarter billion people say that no matter how loving your are, nor good you are, nor what level your sacrifice for others, you have no connection to God's love if you do not believe in human sacrifice. In other words, a real person has to die in a symbolic ritual in order for anybody to have the keys to Gods love, and it is the ONLY way.  
The Jews who are credited with the concept of a single Omnipotent God instead of several who share power.  That concept of a single God has been embraced by most every religion in the world aside from Hinduism, which is believed to be one of the oldest of religions.   But the Jews stopped the practice of animal sacrifice thousands of years ago. Why do more than two billion people still embrace the practice of human sacrifice in 2015?
Why in the 21st century when we have seen so many ideas change, from the shape of the Earth and its journey around the sun, do we still believe in a God who requires human sacrifice? I can see no reason to accept this arcane concept of Deity.  The erroneous concept of Deity remains if we believe even in the symbolic sacrifice of a human being. In one commandment this God tells us not to kill, but in order to enter his presence this same God requires a human sacrifice.  I can't believe that an Omniscient God would break his own rule against killing. Is it okay to kill as long as God tells you too? Then the commandment should read, "Thou shalt not kill unless I say it is okay and then it is required."
I think it is time to realize that we have created God in our own image, not conversely. We give him human qualities such as anger, jealousy, revenge, holding a grudge and conditional love.  Who can worship a God that is so humanly flawed? As the caterpillar is to the butterfly so are we to God. The caterpillar can not conceive of the butterfly nor understand that they are one in the same individual life.  A human can not understand God because, like the butterfly, ITS entire Being is different than what we can comprehend from our caterpillar existence. 
Ignorance is its own punishment. The only cure for spiritual ignorance is enlightenment. If we hold to outdated concepts of Deity we will never have that communion with the all powerful, which religion promises. I do not see it as heretical nor blasphemous to see Omnipotent, Loving, Omnipresence, Omniscience as greater than the qualities and personality of a human. In fact I believe that we are required to constantly adjust our understanding of God because the nature of God IS change.  While the force will always and has always been the same, we have never come to a point where we can define God, and we never will.  The eternal quality of God is progress, change and progressive movement toward a greater good.  If one does not let his concept of God grow then God is an irrelevant relic. If we hold on to the past and worship a picture that no longer represents what Deity looks like,  how will we know what Deity looks like now?
As you were,

Friday, July 10, 2015

Seven, Eleven ---

"LeMona" the Birthday Clown
I was born on July 11 at 4:37 am. That's 7/11. If you add the first two digits of the time I was born you get 7, 7 is also the last digit of the time. If you add the first and last digit of the time (4 +7) you get 11.  Things seem to express themselves to me in 7's and 11's. I am very comfortable with the way my numerology worked out.  
But when you travel outside the USA your numerology gets all messed up.
Instead of God's way of expressing a date: 
some governments demand their forms be completed in this format: 
This is stressful even for those who are not dyslexic. 
Okay to be honest day/month/year is a more logical way to express a date, going from the smallest units to the largest units of  time measurement.  But that is not the way we learned it at Abernathy, Texas Public School.  The world should have gotten to gather then and decided which way this date format would go. But they didn't. 
I like my birthday numerology just the way it is. Seven-eleven. Sounds lucky.  It is lucky. Seven and eleven are big numbers in the game of craps. You can split the numbers of 7 and 11 on a roulette wheel with one chip.  I grew up singing this lyric in the  60's: "Hearing seven come eleven now in the boys gym...Charlie Brown..." from the song entitled Charlie Brown by the Drifters.  Gambling and folk lore have bestowed mystical qualities on the numbers 7 and 11. They are lucky for me.  My first and middle names have a total of 7 letters. My last name also has 7 letters.  My legal name with middle initial is a total of 11 letters. I always try to hide a 7 in every picture I draw.  My son's first name has 7 letters.. Seven / Eleven... is lucky.  July 11, that's 7/11 . NOT 11/7... you Canadians. Let me enjoy the pagan ritual of random assignment of numbers and the joy it brings, one day a year.
So... since I am not leaving the country today.... Today I am the master of my numbers. Happy Birthday 7/11 to me. 
As it is,

Friday, July 03, 2015

Happy Birthday America

It will be a weekend of summer fun to celebrate the birthday of our Nation.  Enjoy it.
Just like this illustration of the flag we have gaps that need to come together.  Yet even in this illusion of separation we are tied together by a common link grounded in a common root.  We stand together as individuals.
We fought for freedom and liberty, but now we have to express those qualities in understanding and compassion.  We do not have the freedom to oppress others for who they are. We do not have the liberty to be hateful to anyone, any group or any idea.  Americans have the right to be who they want to be as long as they know that right is the very connection we have to each other.  The rights given to individuals are the same rights to all. To deny freedom of choice to anyone is to deny the freedom of choice to everyone.  To deny love to anyone is to deny love for everyone.  No one is liberated unless we all respect one another's liberty.
Enjoy the hot dog... the barbecue but remember in your afternoon conversations.... Great people discuss ideas........ Good people discuss events........ The lowest form of discussion is about "those others".

As you were,

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Apple Watch

I am not one of those people who will stand in line over night to be the first to get the new Apple gadget.  Don't get me wrong, I am a dyed in the wool Macintosh evangelist. I take the 1984 Ad campaign introducing the Macintosh as gospel truth.  Mac is the "Computer for the rest of us".

If you are too young or now too old to remember that 1984 ad introducing the Macintosh, it was a classic.  Directed by Ridley Scott, it was shot with depressingly grey tones as an homage to Orwell's literary vision of 1984.  A hypnotized crowd of blandly dressed people stare soullessly at a movie screen while an equally bland talking head spouts nonsense.  A young blond woman sporting a white tank top tee shirt and ample legs extending from a pair of red shorts skimpy enough to make you wonder why they stopped at just that part of her ass, bursts into the theatre and runs down the aisle with a big hammer. She is full of color against this very grey backdrop.  With the power and grace of an Olympic athlete she hurls the huge sledge hammer into the film of the talking head.  It shatters the screen and breaks the peoples trance.  The announcer says "Macintosh... the computer for the rest of us."  They had me at the red shorts.  

I traded some writing work for my first Macintosh. It was the original model bought by my friend Harry who had already up graded. It would signal a Macintosh arms race for Harry. Harry is someone who will stand in line for the next Apple gadget and has the money to pay cash.  In the 80's I was next up to receive the hand me downs from Harry's upgraded computers. At the time new Macs were coming out almost every 16 months. Harry always wanted the latest and the fastest. The hand me down machines were loaded with software (another aspect to the "Mac arms race") but never any instructions or documentation.  That meant for me to fully use these new toys I was gifted,  I had to figure them out on my own.  Little did I know this is exactly the way to really understand something.  To this day my understanding of Macs and iStuff is better than average.  

I have the latest iPad, iPhone and  iMac. I even have the latest app on the iPhone which I have used the average number of times... two. Once when I bought it and once when I showed a friend how terrific it was.  But I do NOT have an Apple the way why didn't they call it iTime?
Here are my reasons. You may have a much different list.
I love the idea of knowing what time it is. Unless there is a clock I can read in the dark near by,  I can't sleep well.  I roll over several times in the night to calculate how much time I have to continue sleeping. If I don't see what time it is, how can I calculate?  Okay, a professional might see this as "other " than a clock problem... but still.  
Modern smart phones have taken all the fun out of knowing the time.  They are never wrong, never need winding, they adjust immediately to time zones and daylight savings time. But it is the accessibility of that information that is troubling.  It is the reason I never liked a pocket watch because  since time is of the moment, time should be easily accessible. It is sometimes inconvenient to reach into your pocket to get the time.  For me smart phone clocks are like pocket watches. Even though it is a better gage of time, it is not easy to retrieve.   I like the time to be only a twist of my left wrist away.   I got very good at sneaking a look at my watch when I was on stage at a comedy club, but now? Try to sneak a look at the time when your "watch" is in your back pocket the next time you are trying to think of an excuse to get out of a meeting. You might think that having a watch with a million different faces on your wrist would be perfect.  Not so. 
Here is my issue with having the extension to a smart phone on my wrist. It only the problem of getting the smart phone out of my pocket to see the time.  While solving that issue it creates a plethora of others. 
This is what happens when I have that obsessive need to know the hour and minute of the day.  I take my iPhone 6s out of my back pocket, touch the home button to light it up so I can see the time... the only activity I wanted to do at that moment.  Flash! Up on the screen obscuring the time is a notification or two.  I missed a text, voice message and a missed call, there are 15 new Facebook messages, and 10 new likes, there is email I haven't seen and CNN (Crisis News Now) has an alert that is vague enough to make me doubt my personal safety. I immediately click on CNN to see if I am in danger. The news story turns out to be an event that happened on the other side of the globe. The text message is in response to the missed call but the issue was solved with the voice message. A Friend has sent me a video of some jackass trying to ride a unicycle on a power line, which results in a concussion for the unicyclist and a blackout on the west side of town. Although I take the bait, all the Facebook likes are directed to a cartoon I posted three days ago. There is an email that needs some attention so I spend the next five minutes trying to thumb type a response. (Don't get me started on auto-correct... that adds five minutes to any response)  I touch "send" and  hear that satisfying "swoosh" sound meaning the email has been sent. I have accomplished instant communication. I click the iPhone to sleep and it goes back in my rear pocket.  I have wasted a lot of time but I don't know how much..... because I FORGOT TO LOOK AT THE CLOCK. 
Even if the Apple watch was thin enough not to make me forget that it adds several inches to my wrist size (big watches do not go gently under a long sleeve shirt) it would not work for me.  AND although I could set up the watch with the classic face of Mickey Mouse, his arms doing a Vanna White to tell me the time, there is still that problem of my attention span.
Here is me with an Apple Watch. I sneak a look at the time because what I am doing is boring the hell out of me. Pop! Up comes some abbreviated push notices (tiny enough to fit on the tiny screen) of things needing my attention. Mickey's hands tell me that not only am I bored, I am wasting what little time I have left. It might mean I have to take my smart phone out of my pocket to respond.  I don't think there is a way to "type" on an Apple Watch. If there is I suppose you have to use your eye lash. So... no Apple Watch for me.  Strictly old school for a while yet.
However, here is a modern day plan for getting out of a boring meeting/lunch in the smart phone age. Don't wear a watch, keep your smart phone in your pocket.  When you are bored with the conversation, look perplexed. Say to the other person, "Wow do you know what time it is?"  He/She will take out their smart phone to tell you the time. While they are busy replying "like" to all the puppy pictures on their Facebook timeline, responding to texts, posting a tweet, and returning the calls they missed. Slip quickly away.  
Works for me.
As you were,