Socialism

Another day, another argument about socialism, and as long as we’re bogged down on socialism v. capitalism, left v. right, and other such paradigms, our arguments will remain bogged down in the swamp of alternate definitions and never rise to the level of intelligent discussion, arbitration, mediation, negotiation that we need to be at if we are to find solutions to the world’s problems before we render our planet incapable of sustaining human life, and go extinct.

In the interest of simplifying that debate, and in hopes that we can some day go beyond it, I present today’s blog.

The way I see it, we are divided into two camps, two philosophies of life. There are the “we’re all in the same boat” people, and the “every man for himself” people, or, if you want to be PC, “every woman or man for her or himself.”
I’m much more an “all in the same boat” kind of guy, but there is something to be said for both sides. There’s a poetic and philosophical validity to the individualist point of view. We are individuals, separate from all other individuals from the time we are born and, when we die, we’ll die alone. Also, even in a utopian world where everyone leads a life of luxury and nobody has to work terribly hard (which is the world I want) we will all still be responsible for our own happiness, our own health to a certain extent (what we eat, whether or not we get enough exercise), choosing our own friends, and finding some meaning in our own lives. No getting around that.
However, we live on a planet of nearly 8 billion people, and unless we sort out the food distribution a bit better, some people are going to go hungry, unless we provide homes for everybody, we’re going to have people sleeping on the sidewalks of our cities and that makes life a little bit less pleasant for everybody, at least everybody with a conscience and any level of empathy at all, unless we can develop a world wide clean energy grid and mobilize to plant trillions of new trees, we are eventually going to be unable to breathe.
We live within a society, a civilization, and thus we require a certain level of socialism just to survive. It’s right there in the name. Society, social, socialism.
We can argue about the exact levels all you want.

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The Darkness

Yesterday was a bleak day on TV but, I suppose, that’s partly a question of my own choices. Kids are watching cartoons, women are watching sappy romances, and a lot of people, obviously, are happy with the fare. That’s O.K. I almost never complain in a restaurant, am perfectly happy to take either aisle or center seat and defer to anybody who has a serious preference, and will wear whatever my wife tells me to, so I feel entitled to bitch about TV. Everybody needs an outlet.
I keep checking Netflix to see if there’s any new sci-fi, which sometimes means I have to be willing to stretch the definition of sci-fi, and that’s how I started watching something called The Dark Tower yesterday, which is about a dark tower, somewhere on a distant planet, which is connected to Earth by a portal in an abandoned house in Brooklyn. It had Matthew McConnaghey in it, which I always see as a plus, but I gave it up not quite halfway through. I’m pretty sure it was never going to give a satisfactory reason as to why this tower existed, or why it’s destruction would mean the death of all life in the galaxy, or how our good friend Matt (who probably should avoid playing villains in future – not really his jam) got this power to say ‘stop breathing’ and people would stop breathing and fall over dead, or why that particular child had dreams which revealed this whole weird universe, or anything really, so I stopped watching.

Then I decided to try a new series, ‘The Defeated’ which was set in Berlin just after the war, which is indeed a pivotal time and place in modern history. It’s well acted, well written, and I don’t know enough about the time and place to spot any historical inaccuracies, but after a couple of episodes it was just another horrible cop show in which the villains are all horrible and the cops are all good and pure. There is a cop from Brooklyn (why the fuck is it always, always Brooklyn?) who was brought to Berlin to help organize their police force, but while he is there supposedly solving other crimes, he is searching for his brother who went AWOL and is on a psychopathic vendetta to hunt down Nazis and torture them to death.
These shows aren’t entertaining, they aren’t inspiring, they aren’t educational, and yet they are everywhere, as ubiquitous to the airwaves as McDonald’s is to the streets of the modern world.
So, I went back to watching Deep Space Nine. I’m at the point where they’ve just retaken Terek Nor. Although it’s a close competition and I love them all, Deep Space Nine is probably, or at least currently, it goes back and forth a bit depending on which one I’m watching at the moment, my favorite iteration of the Star Trek universe. It’s got the greatest range of alien races, for sure. My fan theory is that it’s really all about Rom. In the beginning of the series, he is nothing but a bumbling, simple minded waiter, totally dominated by his older brother, Quark. Then, it’s revealed that he’s actually a pretty good engineer, his son becomes the first Ferenghi in Star Fleet, he stands up to his brother (and the rest of Ferenghi society) to start a union, wins the heart of Leeta, the beautiful, full breasted Bajoran Dabo girl, saves the alpha quadrant from the Dominion by blocking the wormhole with self replicating mines he invented himself and, at the very end of the series, becomes Grand Nagus of all the Ferenghi, ushering in a new era of equal rights for women.
However, Deep Space Nine was created about 30 years ago. The new stuff on TV is mostly shit.

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Alternate Universes

Of course, some times I’m just wrong, and it’s not surprising. We all form impressions of actual events from our own position of individual bias, and memories of the past fade and blend into other memories, but twice in about the last week or so I’ve been wrong enough about something that the thought crossed my mind that I may have, at some point, shifted into an alternate universe.
The first one, just a minute ago: I’m watching a truly bad movie with Rebel Wilson (yes, it is one non-stop fat joke) and Anne Hathaway called Hustle. Well, about 10 minutes in I realized it was a remake of an old film, which was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine, and before that Bedtime Story with David Niven and Tony Curtis, or so I thought. I googled it and it was David Niven and Marlon Brando. However, I specifically remember scenes with Tony Curtis – his face, his accent, his persona. The extra weird part is is that when I googled it, they mentioned that Curtis was the director’s first choice for the Brando role. So, the idea of an alternate universe gains credibility.
The other incident was also media related. There was a conversation about the actor Armie Hammer, and some films he’d been in were listed and I thought “No, he wasn’t” but, again I turned to Google and Wikipedia and it turns out I had that name associated with a completely different actor. I specifically remembered an older, grizzled, Lee Marvin, Sam Elliot type of character growling and saying “I’m Armie Hammer,” and it’s an unusual name to have such a specific memory with.
Probably just a bit too much imagination in my memory, but I’m not ruling the alternate universe thing out completely.

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Communication

“People write because no one listens,” went the meme, and I thought to myself how true that is. Certainly it’s one of the reasons I write. When I speak, even my wife and kids don’t listen to me. So, I write. But, as with speaking and nobody listening, there is always the possibility of writing when nobody is reading, I suppose. Nonetheless, writing allows the writer to live under the delusion that somebody will read it some day, somewhere, smack their palm against their forehead and shout “Holy Shit, this guy’s got it exactly right!” and it’s a justifiable hope because that has happened to some great writers.
The more I think about it, though, the more I think the meme was just nonsense. People don’t listen, not very well at any rate, not most of them, and I myself am guilty of being a bad listener at times. But, when that happens, most people just carry on talking, or talk louder, or punch you in the face. Most people. Because few people are writers.
But even that’s not true any more. With the advent of social media, everybody’s a writer. Oh, few people will ever produce a novel, and that’s a blessing, because even among the millions of people currently churning out novels, because self-publishing has made it possible, most are absolute crap. Very few will ever write a poem, and a quick look at any of the poetry sites on Facebook will convince anybody that that’s a blessing, too.
But, writing is to speaking as reading is to listening, and we’re not doing less of it, we’re doing more because even keeping a blog like this, even adding a smartass comment to a thread, counts as writing. It’s an elevation of the art of communicating. I guess the next step will be telepathy, but we’re not there yet.
Anyway, didn’t really have anything important to write about tonight, so this is it. I’ll try to say something of greater substance tomorrow.

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At the Amfiteatr

Just came from a truly beautiful poetry reading, partly because some of the pieces were truly brilliant and inspiring, such as “The Titles I Haven’t Got Poems For Yet” which included such gems as “Martin Has Trouble With Trams” and “Things Everybody Says, But Aren’t So,” and the new girl who read a poem that started out “When you eat a raw oyster, you are eating it alive” and proceeded to recount the life cycle of the oyster in a manner both scientific and poetic, and wove the whole thing in with passages from The Walrus and the Carpenter, which is sheer genius even recycled, and then capped it all off with the sensations of the oyster which has been swallowed.
Also, partly, it was the atmosphere. As it’s getting darker earlier, pretty much everybody was reading by the light of their phones, which set up a sort of an eerie effect, and the poet who read a poem about Lex Luthor and other bald headed men used that to great effect.
Also, partly, it was getting together with people who I haven’t seen for at least a month and in some cases much more.
As I left, when I got to the steps that lead to the alley next to the church that leads to the street and back to the real world, I turned, and from there the view is spectacular. You see all the way across Nusle Valley and on the opposite ridge is the Cathedral of VyŇ°ehrad, it’s twin spires lighting up the night sky.

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