Outsmarting Myself

UPDATE, February 20, 2006: The “extremely well-written blog” referred to in this post is gone, like so may others, but I’ll never forget the girl.
I don’t have the hang of being part of an “online community,”

which is odd because only a tiny fraction of today’s internet users have been doing it longer than me, and from the very beginning I saw it as a way to connect with other people. Before American Business got on board I had a vanity site and prowled the web for other such sites, because I guess I was touched by the beautiful need in people, myself included, to touch others, to reveal our secret selves, to reach out to the world. This, I thought, will change everything.

I mostly gave up on the concept as the web turned into television on your computer, and many of us became sort of desk potatoes. Sometime around 1998 it started to seem impossible for everyman (and me) to produce anything worth looking at on the web. I mean, how could I compete with all the chat rooms, news feeds, reverse phone directories, shopping services, celebrity gossip and gardening tips on Yahoo or MSN?

Then a funny thing happened. Just when the commercial web should have put out the lights once and for all on personal expression on the internet, Blogger and other services are reviving it! This blog, like 4.8 million others, is easy to create and update. I can post to it from anywhere in the world, and no matter how fuzzy my thinking or vacuous my writing it will always have a clean professional look, and anyone who feels like it can respond to anything I write. Not having to think much about design has turned the focus back toward communicating. With each other. In ways that were just not possible ten years ago. Maybe this will change everything!

I now prowl these blogs when I need a lift, and some stranger invariably steps up and gives me one. And I hope some day someone gets a lift from my thoughts here, even if I am not always upbeat.

So you’d think, given my history and all my theorizing that I’d be a natural here in the blogosphere. But, as I say, I don’t seem to have the hang of being part of things. Like I just can’t say or write “blogosphere” with a straight face. And yesterday I read a terrific post on an extremely well-written blog, clever, insightful and moving. I wrote a comment which was intended to be a compliment, but judging from the blogger’s answer I see that I have somehow managed to get my virtual foot into my digital mouth, a condition I am familiar with here in meatspace.

As my sainted Irish mother told me many times, “Tomorrow is another day.” I hope so, Mom.

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Last Flight

From March of this year:

Spring. The persimmon tree in my back yard has been getting leaves for two weeks, much earlier than usual. We expect a good harvest of persimmons this fall. I was out in the yard this morning, watching Molly the cat show off. She can climb the persimmon tree in about two seconds, and she likes to do it when someone is watching. She disappears into the bright green baby leaves and laughs at me standing on the ground. In a few weeks the foliage will be so thick she won’t be able to get out onto her favorite branch.

The pigeons, a dozen or so of them, are high on the power wires above the alley. It is nesting season, and they are making that gentle, sweet cooing sound that they make, probably suggestive remarks for pigeons. They are there because they know Marilyn across the alley has a weakness for feeding animals, and at some time each day she will toss a bunch of birdseed out there, and they will have a feast. Molly turns on her perch, 20 feet below the birds, and looks up at them. She learned long ago not to try and catch them. As a young backyard tiger, she has tried, and they have effortlessly made her look silly. She has stopped risking her dignity on the fruitless pursuit. The cat and the birds live together, on their different levels, in peace.

Later, driving during morning rush hour on a wide busy street, I am a half block from my destination when I am amazed to see a pigeon standing calmly in the street in the opposing lanes. He is blue and gray and black. He is not eating anything on the road. He is just standing there, recklessly daring the speeding traffic. A red 18-wheeler blazes toward him, trying to make the light. In my rear view mirror I see that the truck is going to come very close to the little guy. Too close. I can’t tell if he is hit by the truck, but the bird is moved, blown perhaps by the turbulent wake of the huge vehicle, and then I see nothing more.

A moment later I drive back the other way and I see him on the road, not standing now, but kind of sitting. As I pass within a few feet he is craning his neck around to look at his back side, confused, maybe, because that part of his body isn’t working any more. He won’t live very long now, injured like that on a busy street. I want to help him, but I have to go to work. It’s a big day at work, the last day of the month, and sales must be closed and reported, so I drive on by. He is off a little to the side, but someone will hit him, someone blasting down the road in a big machine, someone like me who has to be somewhere else as soon as possible.

Hours later, in my office, I can’t stop thinking about him. He should be up in the air, or on a wire, cooing, flying, waiting for Marilyn to toss out some birdseed, finding twigs for his nest and his lady love. But for some reason on this fine spring day he came down to our level, my level, where we have places to go and things to do, where nothing is more important than month-end sales reporting. He left his world and touched ours, and it was the last thing he did. I’m sorry I didn’t find a way to stop and give him comfort in his last minutes. I’m sorry to be part of a world that cares such a great deal about making a light. When I get home I will hug my wife and tell her I love her (and I really do), and let Molly the cat sleep in my lap for as long as she wants.

Mainly I just want to say, I’m sorry, little guy.

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Hello Larry

It has occurred to me that I shouldn’t use my real name here. I don’t imagine this will be read by a large number of people. Maybe no one will ever see it, but maybe, hypothetically let’s say I mention something about someone I know, and let’s further hypothesize that it’s not totally flattering, and that this person’s identity is readily decipherable. Possibly there is some I Love Lucy scenario in which that person might get wind of what I have written about them, and maybe they get offended. Maybe they confront me in person, or maybe they just harbor resentment about it secretly, forever. Sticky social situation. Or maybe The Corporation hears about something I have written, and I get my ass fired. Actually, now that I think of it this might not be too bad, but if it happens I want to plan it and exceute it myself, and not have them sneak up on me, the bastards.

So, not as an act of cowardice, but one of courtesy and discretion (OK, cowardice if you like), I’ll go with Larry Jones, and just so you know, Larry might or might not be my real name. Jones is definitely not, although we’ve been together for a long time and we are feeling quite comfortable with one another. I tried to update my profile yesterday so that my posts are not signed by Spider Jones (who, it turns out, is someone else), but it didn’t take, even though I was sure I had done it right. There doesn’t seem to be any way to discover how this post will be auto-signed by the Blogger system without actually posting it, so here goes, and no matter what it says at the end of this, I remain…

Yours truly,
Larry Jones

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Goodbye, Spider

Spider Jones is not my real name. It’s my rock’n’roll name, and I started using it over twenty years ago. Some people only know me as Spider Jones, and in some circles, “Jones!” is still the preferred greeting, even among those who do remember who I really am.

The Jones part of it was partially in honor of Brian Jones, the first guitar player in the Rolling Stones to drop out, so to speak. I always felt he would have taken the band in a different, perhaps more musical, direction. If you listen to the old records, there is no doubt that the sound changed dramatically as soon as Brian was gone. The word “jones” also has at least one other meaning, which was both descriptive at the time, and prophetic. Possibly because of the side effects of this second meaning, I am unable to recall why I picked “Spider” as my first name.

And now I find out that there is a real guy named Spider Jones. What’s more he has a web site, he has written a book, he seems to have been a boxer at one time, and he has an inspiring story, which he will tell to your group in the form of a motivational speech. He also has a radio program and he co-hosts a television show about boxing.

He looks older than I am, so maybe he’s been Spider Jones longer than I have, although I don’t believe it’s his real name, either. Certainly he must be more famous than I, even if I never heard of him. Also he does not look like anybody I want to mess with. In any case, I don’t want to fight over this. I’ll pick a new name.

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Election Reflection #2: Move to the Middle?

I was talkimg to a guy at work yesterday and he said he voted Republican even though he is generally a Democrat, or some such crap. He said he “just didn’t like the face of the current Democratic Party.” When I asked him what he meant he said “You know, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, vote or die…” This is a family man in his forties, but almost for sure not a racist, and he’s got a problem with black people urging him to vote? I don’t get it. Maybe I’m wrong about him. You can’t just ask people if they are racists. They will almost always say they’re not, at least in 21st century USA.

This got me thinking about what the Democrats (my party, for better or worse) is going to have to do to get his vote in 2008 (2006, being local, is a whole different discussion). There is a surprising amount of talk and writing already going on about this very subject, just a week after losing the White House for another four years. I suppose that’s all we can do at this point — at least we’re not going through the denial phase of dealing with our loss (the hard core lefties are in denial — they are pissed off that Kerry conceded so early, and want recounts in Ohio, New Hampshire and maybe Florida). What I hope we (the Dems) don’t do is dump P. Diddy, or change our beliefs to make them more palatable to conservatives. I am willing to sign on to a large corporate political party, but I still think that politics must be based on what you really think, not what you think will win votes. I think the Party stands for things that a majority of voters can actually get behind — more on this in a later post — but we need to say it more clearly. If we find the right candidate, and he articulates basic Democratic values plainly and honestly, we’ll be able to get the needed votes (including my colleague at work).

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Election Reflection: Sad American

I read this crazy letter (see below for info on this bad link) on Blogger this morning, and I couldn’t help responding. There were 11 comments when I first saw the letter. Two hours later, when I got around to writing something, there were 97 comments. By the time I posted, I was number 127.

I suspect this blog is not real. At the very least I’m not sure I believe this woman is being entirely sincere. Read it and see what you think. Since my feedback is buried 127 deep, here’s a copy of it:

Dear Sad American,My first reaction to your letter was that you have pretty clearly outlined the reasons why you shouldn’t have voted Republican no matter who the Democrats were running. The more I read, the more I thought that this was some backhanded way to gloat about Bush’s victory: My guy’s a complete asshole and he’s done nothing but bad and dangerous things in his public life, and your guy STILL couldn’t get elected! In the end, if Bush’s first four years in office weren’t enough to tip the scale for you, Sad American, then the Democrats will never have your vote, and probably shouldn’t expend too much energy trying to get it.

In broadest terms, the Democrats are the party of the people, and the Republicans are the party of the rich. The reason that sounds clichéd is that it’s been true for generations. Shame on us (the loyal left) for not elucidating that point effectively in this past campaign, and for not showing that there are moral reasons for our positions on abortion, welfare, war, racial equality, marriage (gay and otherwise), social security and the environment. Despite your words, or because of them, I doubt the Democratic leadership will ever be able to get through to you, but you’re right about one thing: we need to make our voice heard by more voters. And we will.

I can’t help noticing that your “blog” seems to have been created solely for the purpose of posting this one message. This makes me wonder if you’re for real. Here’s my real name and email address. What’s yours?

Larry Jones

[NOTE: I’ve had to change my name here for reasons discussed elsewhere in this blog. In my actual message to Sad American I used my real name and email address.]

I bet she doesn’t answer me, or reveal anything concrete about who she is.

Edit, 12 years later: The original “letter” was taken down soon after I wrote this post. I’ve looked for it on and off over the years, and never found until now, October 15, 2016. The link in my post above goes nowhere. Here’s the letter itself, which I discovered on a Daily Kos post dated November 7, 2004.

How You Could Have Had My Vote

It’s been two days since John Kerry conceded, and all I am seeing, hearing and reading from the Democratic party is that you guys think you lost on “moral values.” You seem to think this means nothing more than opposition to gay marriage. You seem to think that Bush voters waited in line for hours to stick it to the queers, to tell those faggots how much we hate them!

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many Bush voters, like myself, were not happy to be voting for the President’s re-election. Many Bush voters agonized over our decision and cast our vote in fear, trepidation, and trembling. Many of us would have given our left arms for a Democrat we could have supported.

Because I am too young to be as disillusioned as I am, and because I know that one-party rule is not good for my country, and because it is my deepest wish to see the Democratic party change into one I can give my whole-hearted support, I am going to explain why you didn’t get my vote, and how you can get it in the future.

First, for context, let me give you a bit about my perspective: I am a single, heterosexual, college-educated woman in my late 20’s with an annual income of about $30,000. I live in a solidly red state in the South, the region you guys wrote off entirely without even trying to persuade us to vote for you. I am not an ideologue, and I experience painful ambivalence about many political issues. The notion of an abortion makes me queasy, but I don’t want Roe vs. Wade overturned. I have friends who’ve been impregnated by rape and friends who found out late in their third trimesters that they were carrying babies too malformed to ever have normal lives. The pictures of Iraqi children who’ve lost arms from the bombs my tax dollars bought make me shed tears, but I recognize that the war was the right thing to do, given the information we had available at the time the decision was made. I had no health insurance for three years, but I’m still, hesitantly, not in favor of socialized medicine. I know people who abuse the social services, but I also have friends who would be dead without the food stamps and SSI checks they collect each month. I believe in God and consider myself a Christian, but I don’t go to church, and Falwell, Robertson, and their ilk scare me more than they scare you. I believe that in a perfect world, Roy Moore would have to live with the stench of his own ego, just like the rest of us do.

I have gay friends who are closeted and gay friends who couldn’t be more open if they had QUEER tattooed across their foreheads, and I think they should be allowed to get married if they want to. I read The Onion, Dilbert, Dan Savage’s sex advice, Salon.com, and quite a few blogs. The local librarians know me on sight. I waited in line until midnight when the fifth Harry Potter book came out. I can’t wait to see the new Chucky movie. I will probably shack up before I get married, but I won’t be proud of it. I wouldn’t buy an SUV, even if I could pay cash for one. I recycle. I shop at Wal-mart, but I feel guilty about it, and if they unionized, I would never cross the picket line. I think FOX News is about as fair and balanced as a seesaw with a gorilla on one end.

President Bush’s close relationships to people like John Ashcroft scare me. I hate the PATRIOT Act and am fearful of what might be part of PATRIOT II. The two dumbest trial balloons I’ve heard floated for his second-term agenda are privatizing Social Security and abolishing the income tax. When he says that God chose him to be President during this time of trial, I am embarrassed. I roll my eyes.

I am a pragmatic, disillusioned, realistic, and entirely ordinary member of the radical middle.

Here is why you didn’t get my vote:

You didn’t give me clear positions on the issues. I followed the news closely all through the campaign, but I still don’t understand Kerry’s position on Iraq. I know he voted for the IWR, but then he voted against the $87 billion. To you, that seemed to be a symbolic stand against Saddam Hussein (the IWR) but also a principled stand against a President who was out of control (against the $87 billion). To me, that was just confusing. He said he would have done everything different, but he also said that, knowing what he knew today (the day he was asked) he still would have cast the same vote. He said that he would bring allies to our side to share the burden, but he also said he would be sending 40,000 more of our troops. He said that we must finish the job, but he also said it was the wrong war at the wrong place and the wrong time. Huh?
You didn’t convince me that you would defend America against the threats of terrorism. Kerry seemed to think that terrorism is like any other crime. You catch the people responsible and put them in jail, and that’s that. After seeing the destruction – physical, financial, psychological, and emotional — wrought by the September 11th attacks, I do not understand how he could believe this. The hijackers lived among us, ate at our restaurants, shopped in our malls, and wounded us worse than we have ever been wounded before. How Kerry saw this as a crime, and not as a paradigm-shifting event that deserved a military response, both in direct retaliation and to keep it from ever happening again by going on the offensive, is something I don’t understand.
You insulted my intelligence by the constant mantra of Kerry’s service in Vietnam. Most of the men I know who are older than 50 served in some way, either in country or in the Coast Guard or other non-combat roles. I don’t see the relevance, and the drumbeat of “three purple hearts” struck me as manipulation. It was as if you were saying, “These dumbshit hawks want war? We’ll give ’em a real war hero! That’ll get their votes!”
Your constant references to the opinions of the rest of the world scared me, and I’m not talking about the “global test” comment. I don’t care what Europeans think about me or my country. I learned in high school that living my life with one eye on the opinions of everyone else leads only to unnecessary turmoil and pointless pain. Why didn’t you?
You disturbed me with your demonization of the rich. Rich people were talked about in this campaign as though they were all evil cheaters who had wage slaves tied up in the basement to be flogged for minimum wage, and what they didn’t earn from the wage slaves’ labor, they stole from nursing home residents. I am not rich, but I work hard, am learning about investing money, am continuing to improve my prospects for earning more money in the future, and fully expect to end up at least well-off someday. If I do, it will be because of my efforts and work, not because of winning “life’s lottery.” I know two millionaires personally. Both are entrepreneurs who took big risks and worked their backsides off for years to get where they are. Given that Kerry is married to a billionaire, this seemed especially hypocritical.
Here is something you could work on right about now: I could not stomach to listen to your incessant hatred of President Bush. Bush is stupid, Bush is an idiot, Bush is Hitler, Bush is a Nazi, Bush masturbates to photos of dead Iraqi babies, I’d vote for my dog before I’d vote for Bush, I’d vote for Castro before I’d vote for Bush, the Rethuglicans are fascists, Bush voters are treasonous, Bush should be impeached, blah blah blah blah blah blah. It was old three months after Bush’s inauguration, and it’s now just tiresome. I don’t hate my President, even though I voted for him with more reluctance than I can express and a queasy feeling in my stomach. Language like this makes you seem immature, needlessly vulgar, and obnoxious.
Lastly, and I hope this doesn’t hurt anyone feelings, because my objective is to make you think, not emote: I don’t think you really want my vote. I actively sought out your perspective. I tuned in regularly, for months, to your biggest media project, your serious effort to get your message out: Air America Radio. I listened all day on Good Friday as host after host mocked people like me for believing in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. I listened as Janeane Garofalo, who was one of my favorite comedians for years, expressed hatred and disgust for Bush voters so vile that I ended my live stream feeling assaulted, as if I’d been vomited on. I listened the night that Mike Malloy told a young Republican to hang up the phone and go open a vein. I listened to pure, unadulterated venom that was so intense I sometimes cut the stream and cried. Tonight, your spokespeople on AAR have been calling people like me “snake-handling evangelicals,” and that was about the kindest thing I heard. Um…y’all? I’ve lived in the South my entire life and have never met a single snake-handler. Your attitudes, language, and behavior toward people like me: reasonable, thinking Christians who are quite moderate politically and who are just as well-informed as you are (yes, I’ve read all the PNAC essays, too, and yes, they scare me, too) is reminiscent of nothing so much as an abusive ex-lover, a crazy and drunken stalker. “I’ll make you love me, or you’ll regret it, you worthless bitch! Come here and let me beat you over the head and tell you how stupid and worthless you are! Then you’ll see it my way!”
I tried so hard to give you guys a chance. I’m young, I’m not extremely religious, and I’m supportive of liberal ideals like fighting for higher wages, stopping outsourcing of jobs, and standing up for the little guy. I wanted to vote Democratic this time, more than I can possibly put into words. You just didn’t give me the option.
President Bush won on values, yes, but not hatred of gays or any other stereotype you have in your head about Bush voters like me.

He won because he has values, clearly defined values, and even though I agree with little of what he believes, at least I know what he believes. At least I know that he really does believe in something. At least I know that he will do what he says he will do.

That’s disgustingly little, but unbelievably – you offered me less.

So, if you want my vote next time, and the vote of all my close friends, and the millions more like us that you refuse to believe exists, it’s pretty simple: take positions and don’t waffle on them. Stand up for America, especially with regard to terrorism. Shut up about what Germany and France think. Stop pretending that the only way to become wealthy in America is to cheat, for the sake of those of us who still want to get there. Treat the President with at least as much civility, if not respect, as you would’ve wanted right-wingers to give a President Kerry. Most importantly, please, please please, please, please, please stop abusing me. No more verbal and psychological and emotional savagery. Treat me like a voter whose vote you would actually appreciate getting, and you will get it.

Do you maybe, just maybe, see where I’m coming from?

I doubt it. But I had to try.


A Very Sad American

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President Bush

Well, what the fuck. The Republicans have just been projected winners in Ohio and Alaska, putting them at 269 Electoral College votes. This means I have again overestimated the intelligence of the American voter. I don’t see how we could have had a worse president than this Howdy Doody look-alike. The only thing we had going for us, I thought, is that we could always tell ourselves and the rest of the world that Bush and company backed into it, or that they stole the White House. And yet they get elected to commit further mayhem! Now we must face that we have intentionally brought this upon ourselves.

I predict that Bush’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage will not come to pass. Bush’s handlers don’t want to waste their time on stuff like that, when there are countries to invade and money and oil to steal. But acting like they supported it was effective in getting out the bigot vote, 2004.

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Election Day

I am fried. For the past six months I have followed the minutiae of the 2004 Presidential Election. I have listened to it on the radio, watched it on TV and read it on the web, eagerly consuming poll information, strategies, the lucky and unlucky breaks both sides got, the scurrilous attacks and counterattacks, the great and bungled moments in the candidates’ speeches, their conventions, their rallies. their endorsements, the financial news and so on and on.

In the last ten days the campaign has revved up to a level that seems unprecedented, or maybe it’s just that I haven’t wanted a guy out of office this bad since Richard Nixon, so everything seems to be more intense than it is (Come to think of it, both Nixon and Bush II were out of touch with reality, but at least in Nixon’s case it was more of a clinical matter — he couldn’t help it.). Last night I came fully awake twice, and lay there worrying. This is very unusual for me.

The pollsters and pundits keep saying that the race is a “statistical dead heat,” whatever that means. Almost all the polls have shown a two-to-four-point lead for Bush more or less continuously for six weeks. Every now and then, Kerry creeps ahead by a point or three in one or another poll, but then slips back behind a couple of days later. In a basketball game, this could be a hopeful sign: You only need to be ahead by one point when the final buzzer sounds, and if you stay close, that could happen.

But in real-world politics, who is fooling whom here? Any given poll on any given day might show a “statistical dead heat,” but in all the polls one guy is leading 95% of the time right up to election day. Any one poll is “within the margin of error,” but the Bush lead still spans pretty much all the polls, and consistently. So I am getting ready for four more years of insane violence abroad, repression at home and a laissez faire economy

And yet…

  • There are millions of newly-registered voters, many of them not “pollable.” Will they vote, and for whom? They are mostly young, a demographic that should favor Kerry.
  • Who are all these early voters? Are they rushing to show their support for the status quo? Or unable to hold back their revulsion at what has been done in the past four years?
  • There are hundreds of thousands thrown out of work during this Republican term — millions if you count the teachers, scientists and manufacturing workers now working at McDonald’s. If they vote their pocketbooks…
  • There’s not much chance that anyone will be turned away this year in Florida, what with all the lawyers, polling judges and international observers on hand. This should work in Kerry’s favor.

These and other factors give me hope. I also derive some hope from Rush Limbaugh. I have been listening to his daily radio tirade for a while now, and the pitch of his rant has been rising lately. His attempts to spin literally everything that happens in the Republican direction have been getting hysterical in recent days. Probably his listeners get their news from him rather than from other sources, so they may not notice, but he has dropped any pretense of living in the real world lately, simply pulling out the facts he needs to make his points, ignoring everything else. He has researchers who find things out for him — perhaps they are telling him bad news, and he is going bonkers on the air trying to make it not so. I can only hope.

This crop of religious right-wing nutcases that has taken over the White House has done a lot of damage, and they are planning to do more. The nation will probably wake up some time during the next four years if they get reelected (perhaps I should say elected), and vote the Party out decisively in 2008. I hope it’s not too late by then. In the meantime, it would be delicious fun to throw them out now.

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Red Moon

Years ago I wrote a song containing the line “Talk to me now in the cold, red light of the moon.” I don’t know why I phrased it that way — it semed right at the time, even though I know the moon is not red. But tonight I looked up in the sky and saw that the full moon was being eclipsed, and as the shadow crept over it’s surface, the moon was turning red. I’ll take it as a sign.

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First Post

Trying this blogging thing. Have to post something. At “work” now, but not actually working. Hey, it’s not my fault that I have gotten so good at my crummy job that I can get eight hours of work done in five hours. Still, it feels like I am getting away with something, and if anyone were to walk by my office I would try to conceal my activity.

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