Month: December 2018

Brilliant and Creative People Should Be Honored

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Even more importantly, they should be supported. If we arrange things so that only the dull, crass and greedy can get ahead, we’ve got a lousy set-up. Nowadays, almost no artist gets paid. Writers, musicians, graphic artists…all toil in silence and without remuneration. YouTube gives away more music and video for free than the current crop of artists could hope to produce in a lifetime.

This has been going on for about a decade now. In a few more years, no one will remember having the experience of making a living in the performing arts. Probably now less than 1/100 of one percent of people who consider themselves to mainly be in those fields can support themselves in their chosen vocation. It was always a tough climb to the top, but over the last few years it became insurmountable.

So what will be the net effect on the creative arts? At first we won’t notice, but in the long run, it will be like the dark ages. Literacy survived in a few monasteries, but in general, nobody could read for about five hundred years. Nothing new got written.

How Much Diversion Do I Need?

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I suppose the first question I have to ask myself is: “from what do I want to be diverted?” What am I trying to escape or avoid? Life itself? My sorry situation? Well, actually when I think about it, I’ve never had it so good. True, the wheels of commerce and progress aren’t turning in my favor. My name is not being bandied about in high places. So what?

 

If I need that type and level of approval, then I’m already screwed. You can never get enough of what you don’t need. Satisfactions and excitements are highly temporary, and often carry a higher price tag that we’d like to admit.

 

The birds are singing outside my window. We just had a sprinkling rain, and they’re happy about it. Even I’m happy about it. If we get rain, it means the farmers won’t be able to burn for a few more days, which means the air will be smoke-free. Here in Northern Thailand that’s a precious state of affairs. When they start burning in earnest, we’ll have to leave for a couple of months. It’s the price we pay for getting to live here the rest of the time.

 

So if I can’t enjoy this, what can I enjoy?

 

 

Comfort vs Excitement

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Comfort is underrated. People get all hung up on excitement, but what they really would rather experience is comfort. It’s hard to describe peace but a lot easier to picture war. People pay big money to sit ringside to watch fights, not calm discussions that end in consensus.

Joel Osteen charges five thousand dollars for the seats closest to him at his mega church. Quakers are dying out as a religion, because there’s nothing sexy or exciting about friends getting together in silence to honor the Christ within and the spirit of brotherhood they share.

I keep trying to find ways to promote my writing, but the only advice I get it from people who write those magazine-like articles “5 tips to better time management” “Dress for success at work and at play”

“Eight tips to sure-fire weight loss.” I don’t want to write that kind of stuff. Does that mean I’m doomed to never finding readers and never making any money? There’s a very good chance that’s the case.

What Does the “Check Engine” Light Really Mean?

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Nothing is as it seems. Everything is full of secret innuendo. Even the warning lights on your dashboard are full of hidden import.

That little pitcher has nothing to do with water or oil. It’s an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph that refers to the Sun God Ra. It’s suggesting as overtly as it can (hampered by Department of Transportation regulations) that you perform a sacrifice to Ra as soon as possible. The thing that looks like a lamp emitting rays is about the different forms of radiation that might confuse you while driving. Gamma rays can make you seek out the nearest pancake house, alpha rays will sexually arouse you and cause you to find the “bad part of town,” where ladies who do that sort of thing might be found.

Likewise, your fuel gauge and odometer are using symbolism to make their point. They have no idea how far you’ve come, where you’re going, or whether you’ll make it to your destination before you die. It’s literary fiction more than it is science or engineering.

Persona

 

 

Ultimately, you’d think if you read enough of one writer’s work you’d know who that person really is or was. Not all writing is truthful, nor does it attempt to be. That’s why we have fiction. The writer is adopting a “persona” and letting that person speak. It makes writing fiction a lot easier.

If we were only limited to writing as if we were the ones speaking, then all literary work would be either instructional or memoir.

In my years of schooling and scrolling I’ve had enough of each.

As a reader, most of what I long for is imaginative invention. I know many people find that frivolous. When I venture an opinion on social media, I receive demands for verification. What are my sources? Please list them so I can check. No thanks. I’m not in school anymore, and I’m certainly not being paid to work as a journalist.

I’d like to think that people who follow my blogs or social media posts know something about me, or at least want to. If they want to hear opposing viewpoints, then by all means go seek them out.

The Price of Peace of Mind

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No place is perfect, but some places offer a better quality of life for most people. There are plenty of spots where only the rich avoid misery. I avoid those places. I hear Lagos Nigeria is delightful if you’re a government minister who helped steal the nation’s oil reserves, but unless you derive sick enjoyment from knowing that everyone around you is living is misery, your ill-gotten buck would probably stretch farther in a more equitable country.

Here in Thailand, village life seems tranquil. The children are happy. Nobody’s hungry. People smile at each other as they go about their business. Nothing much exciting seems to be happening, which is probably a good thing. If you want excitement, go somewhere dangerous. The biggest news around here is when someone finds a python that is over ten feet long and pulls it out from its hiding place.

Eventually, you can’t expect to live way above the standard of living enjoyed by your neighbors and not suffer from loneliness and isolation. In Sao Paolo, Brazil, rich people have to hire many bodyguards in order to drive to and from work. The richest of the rich use helicopters to fly over the slums that separate the leafy suburbs from downtown high-rises.

I imagine if they have nightmares while sleeping, they involve the burglar alarms of their house failing and their neighbors scaling the fence while holding sharp daggers in their teeth. It’s hard to put a price on peace of mind, but when you can’t afford it for one reason or another, it’s time to move.

Call Me Popeye

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WHAT AM I REALLY GOOD AT, ANYWAY?

I used to think I was born to write, then I decided I would make a great stage actor, then I concluded my real gifts were in teaching. I also like to play music, sing, and make acrylic paintings. Today on Facebook I posted a picture of a painting I had just completed. Somebody lavishly praised it. Does this mean I should have spent more time painting than writing, acting, teaching or singing?

Do we have an obligation to mostly do what we’re really good at? What about those of us who are sort of good at a lot of things? Are we wasting our time as well as our audience’s attention and good will by dabbling in areas for which we are less gifted?

Maybe the reason I’m not rich is because either I never really found what I was really good at, or that I’m simply not really good at anything. I’m one of those people who is almost gifted. OK, I can handle that. Either way, I’m like Popeye. I am what I am and that’s all that I am.

Democracy is Rare to Non-Existent

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untitledI live in Thailand, a country whose last government was abruptly dissolved by a military coup. The current prime minister is the general who led the coup. When he learned that tourists would find their travel insurance voided by staying in a country under military rule, he had the parliament filled with yes-men and members of the military, who quickly elected him prime minister. He promised elections would come as soon as possible, but that was four and a half years ago.

Is the United States a democracy? Hard to tell. How about Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil. Guess it depends on whom you talk to. I would be more comfortable describing northern European countries as democracies than most African, Asian or Latin American countries. Money talks everywhere, but in some places it fairly screams.

The idea behind Democracy was a noble one. One person, one vote. Anybody…

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Naughty Boy

 

 

I tried to post two vintage 1920’s pictures of naked women on Facebook and was blocked from using that service for three days for violating their “Community Agreements.” A computer ratted me out, recognizing nipples. In my three day fast, I’ve been prohibited from sharing likes, posting new items, or sharing the posts of others. I feel like a citizens band radio addict who’s had his microphone impounded.

I wish I could say my time-out has fostered a mini-renaissance in writing and reading, but it hasn’t. I guess this proves that what’s left of my attention span is permanently fractured, reduced to fragile shards that cannot be swept up and reassembled. There’s nobody home anymore.

My menagerie of funny photos cries out from my desktop folder, demanding to be shared with the hypothetical thousands of “friends” I have. Since I post too much every day, no one has noticed my absence. This is what it will be like when I finally die. My Facebook feed won’t feel any different to most users, my blog subscribers will simply no longer receive emails about new posts, and it may take several years until anyone notices that I’m no longer at the helm. Pictures I’ve unearthed of silent era starlets and corny 1950’s ads will be continue to be discovered long after my ashes have been absorbed by the nearest palm tree here in sunny Thailand.