New South Wales coast, as interpreted by Mark Holder

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Version: 3.0
(February 8, 2014)

.Futureproofing: 1/10th.

Twenty-eight percent of Americans have nothing in their savings accounts and another twenty-one percent don't even have a savings account, according to a recent survey. Another survey revealed that a majority of Americans can't cover an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt. It wasn't always this way, nor should it be now.

Saving money isn't hard, but it does require discipline. It doesn't even require a savings account, if cash is your thing (if so, I fervently suggest keeping your stash in a safe or other lockable box, preferably one so heavy as to deter stealing the whole box). The amount of how much to save is a shifting target; I've been told to save amounts ranging from "all you can" to certain percentages to whatever change is in pocket. A figure that works for me is ten percent.

Ten percent is the amount prescribed by many religions. Also known as tithing, the practice predates currency, when one was expected to sacrifice one tenth of one's harvest, be it crop or livestock, then grew to include money as society progressed. This same figure is proposed in more secular practice, including the book The Richest Man In Babylon, a fine piece of financial advise disguised as ancient parable.

The key mindset of saving is the knowledge that part of all you earn is yours too keep. Resist squandering your earnings as best you can, and forgive yourself for the occasional indulgence. Discipline is the key. Got ten one dollar bills? Keep one, then repeat.

.Spring 2017.

The South is green again. Ponds and creeks that were left dry by the summer drought are full and flowing. Renewal is in the air.

.Futureproofing: Navigating The Ruins.

Let's be clear on one thing: this is not the world your parents meant for you to inherit.

The world they had in mind was a much safer, more stable world. Sure, there were surpises no one saw coming, but this is true in day-to-day life just as it is in the bigger picture. The end of the Cold War caught us all by surprise, as did 9/11, to name two examples. The wholesale outsourcing of jobs to cheap labor markets was not something your parents anticipated, although the precedent had been set decades before. One would do well to remember that American industrial jobs moved to the South to escape unionized labor and seek favorable tax policies; that those jobs have continued to move in search of greater profits, lower wages and regulations can be seen as the logical conclusion of policy. Besides, in your parents time, if you left one job, you could always find another. Times have changed, indeed.

Your parents coudn't foresee a time when savers would be punished for saving, but this is where we find ourselves. In the early days of my worklife, a savings account meant your frugality would earn 4%, more if you purchased a Certificate of Deposit (note I avoided "CD", which most people remember as a music disk). Today, a savings account earns a fraction of one percent. Such is the cost of risk aversion in the age of zero interest rates, but should one have to turn to the stock markets as the only source of potential profit on savings, to say nothing of the potential for loss?

Your parents likely failed to foresee cybercrime, social media, live streaming of beheadings, global economic crises, jobless recoveries, and rank amateurs elevated to the highest office in the free world thanks to a catchy slogan and bright red hat. You can't fault them for this, as these are truly momentous times. As such, we would do well to pay carefull attention and navigate accordingly.

In order to navigate, one must have an up to date map. Read, stay informed, but more importantly, do so critically. Read outside your comfort zone, ie if you're a loyal reader of Huffington Post, drop in on Fox News for a (very) different perspective.

Successful navigation requires a compass. Without one, you're no longer navigating, you are drifting. Acquiring a compass isn't easy. It demands constant review of your morals, ethics, actions, biases. The trick is to avoid mistaking something you read and agree with for original thought. The review process is ongoing and arduous, but it is the only way to find your authentic self. Proceed and grow.

A word of warning: burnout is real and to be avoided. Between keeping up to date and processing the info into something you can call a mindset, you're very likely to become overwhelmed. Take regular breaks, enjoy your downtime. Remember, the purpose of futureproofing is to avoid the stresses of a rapidly changing world.

.Futureproofing: Know Your Enemy.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. - Ephesians 6:12

Knowing your enemy is a skill that requires patience and understanding. As the quote above indicates, the enemy isn't always an individual, but a mindset or process. In ancient times, the problems wasn't necessarily the citizen of a Roman territory going about his business, the problem was Rome. This is not meant to excuse all abusers (think Nazi SS officers and the "following orders" excuse), but people for the most part are decent. However, powers, processes, and zeigeist can lead even the strongest astray.

In our time, greed, fear, and hate are all great enemies, alone or in combination. Those in power, be it world leader or bank branch employee, can use any of the above to keep the rabble in place. Never forget: you are the rabble to the person on the opposite side of the desk, the one whose name appears on the plate.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, for which no one has been prosecuted almost a decade on, is it any surpise that the horror creature of the time is Slender Man? He is a slim, spectal ghoul with no facial features, long limbs, and a black suit and tie. He is a near-perfect caricature of a banker. Not coincidentally, he was introduced in 2009.

Your enemy is any entity, corporation, government, society that would enslave you to its own mindset while denying you your own. To be sure, individals populate said entities, and enforce said mindset. But individals can reason and change (for the most part). Your job is to resist. In a world of misery, find happiness and exude it. In a world of negativity, focus on the positive. Be brave in the face of fear, and watch fear shrink. Resist hate, embrace love. You are the master of your own thoughts - do not give in to zeitgeist, the feeling of an age, for ages pass. Stay true to yourself and the eternal.

.Futureproofing: A Guide To Your Saints.

Inspiration has many sources. I prefer to stand on the shoulders of giants.

This series is inspired by many profound thinkers, chief among them Philip K. Dick. Dick, or PKD, was a science fiction author, a visionary whose work and influence loom large over the present time. Indeed, it was Dick who best predicted artificial intelligence and virtual reality. He also predicted misuse of technology as a means of social control. Paranoid, drug-addled and the unwitting recipient of a series of spiritual experiences, PKD is the patron saint of our time. Remember, it was he who warned us our toasters would be spying on us.

If PKD described the black iron prison that keeps us enslaved. Terence McKenna sought to teach us how to break out of it. Psychedelics, spirituality, science, any tool that works is to be used. McKenna advocated finding a new operating system to replace the buggy one in use, while reminding us that this is not a dress rehearsal. Life is to be lived, and the first step to living is to reclaim the personal sovereignty that has been surrendered, either by intent or by default, to modern society.

PKD and McKenna are no longer with us on the physical plane, but a powerful contemporary influence is Gordon White, whose book The Chaos Protocols and writing at Rune Soup directly inspired this series. Solid advice on magic, geopolitics, economics and more can be found there. The Archonology series is a must-read for anyone interested in futureproofing their life (and provides quite a bit of hidden history that explains how we got here).

This is just a shortlist of influences. As the series progresses, I'm sure to drop more names, and hopefully links. Until next time, a thorough reading of the above is more than enough to get you started. And perhaps even finished!

.Futureproofing: Tips For An Uncertain Era.

The 21st century has been a wild ride and we're only 17 years into it (or just beginning, according to the theory that places the beginning of a new century roughly 20 years after the turn of the calendar date). Uncertainty is the prevailing mood of our time. Wall Street and the general economy appear to have uncoupled. Those responsible for the economic crash of 2008 have gone unpunished. Military action has spread across the Middle East, while domestic strife is commonplace. How we got here has been recorded in numerous books and documentary films, and a history of the road to 2017 is beyond the scope of this post. Futureproofing will be a series devoted to tips on how to cope with the uncertainty of the present era.

These tips will draw on ancient wisdom, new ideas, maybe even a few hunches. The ideas certainly aren't written in stone, nor are they to be considered legal or financial advice - see a carefully vetted professional if needed. It is my hope the Futureproofing series will plant a seed or two in the minds of all who read it.

Coming soon: a list of thinkers who inspire the series.

.Restaurant Review: Jerusalem Grill.

I realize I haven't posted a restaurant review in quite some time. This weekend, I ate at an establishment worthy of mention.

Jerusalem Grill in Rome, Georgia is a clean, well-lighted place in which to feast on delicious Mediterranean food at affordable prices. After a day of knocking around in Rome, my family and I stopped in and were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. The staff is very courteous, as well. In all, we had a great time.

Extra points to the readers who spotted a Hemingway reference in this post!

.Site Review: The Billfold.

Personal finance isn't a topic most would consider fun. In fact, it can be quite intimidating when one considers the wellbeing of the future depends on how you behave today (consider that, young people). As a devotee to personal finance and good storytelling, I highly recommend The Billfold, a very interesting site that combines practical advice with personal tales (I almost said accounts, but that could be misconstrued) of what works and what doesn't.

What to expect: honest, sometimes bold writing about personal finance and situations. Real people writing about their experiences.

What not to expect: the "I had an extra hundred grand to invest, so this is what I did" writing that plagues so many finance sites.

.In Memorium: Huston Smith.

2016 saw a number of well-known people pass away. On December 30, Huston Smith, religious scholar and author of "The World's Religions" and other works, died at the age of 97. His work opened the eyes of millions to the faiths of the world. From mysticism to Christianity, Zen Buddhism to Islam, LSD to meditation, Smith wrote from the point of view of a practitioner. His knowledge and insight will be sorely missed.

.Streamlining The Process.

Updating this page in the old school method I use isn't difficult, but it can be tedious. The first step is to open a file on my computer using a text editor. The one I prefer is nano, a very simple command line interface editor. Make the edit/update, then save locally to the hard drive. Once that is done, I open an FTP client, connect to markholder.org, then upload the file, replacing the old version on the server. Nothing difficult, but using two programs for a simple process gets old.

No more. I've discovered a fine little command line program called sitecopy. It is easy to configure, and once set up, allows for a quick and easy update of all files (including photos and other media files) stored locally and on a server. So, if I were to update the Dispatches page, then Photo or Philosophy, I would close out nano, then run sitecopy to update all changed files on my local computer to the FTP server that houses markholder.org. All in the terminal with only a few keystrokes.

Sitecopy is invaluable for keeping the process simple and direct.

.Bunsenlabs Hydrogen.

I have found my new favorite Linux distro: Bunsenlabs. But first, a little backstory.

Some years ago, I stumbled upon an awesome little distro called Crunchbang. Fast, light, minimal; it was everything I wanted. And then development stopped and the distro abandoned. Or so it seemed.

Crunchbang was a one-man distro. This can be good (think Slackware), but there is potential for life, work, etc to draw a developer away from a project. In the case of Crunchbang, the developer felt it had no value in a world of powerful machines. Luckily, a number of users felt differently, and Bunsenlabs was born.

Hydrogen takes the Crunchbang ethos to a current state, using Debian Stable as its base, with all the software in Debian repositories available for download.

Hydrogen runs just as fast and efficiently on my laptop as Crunchbang did. Bunsenlabs has a thriving community, with active forums. This is vitally important, as a distro is sometimes only as valid as its community. I think I found my new home.

.I FOUND IT!.

In 1998, I heard Norman Blake's "Dr. Edmundo's Favorite Portugese Waltz" on the radio(!) and promptly went out and bought the CD. In 2000, I sold or gave away most of my belongings in preparation for a big move. I always regretted the loss of the Chattanooga Sugar Babe CD. After another move in 2007, I decided to go on the hunt for a replacement. The world had changed, of course. I couldn't find a copy of the CD anywhere.

The music was available online for streaming, but I wanted a physical copy, one to hold and listen to in its entirety, because I'm cool/obselete that way. The independent hippie/occult store I bought my first copy from had gone out of business, as did so many other vendors, large and small. Not even online retailers carried the CD, and it seemed all was lost. Until this weekend.

A spontaneous trip to McKay Books in Chattanooga was the lucky break I needed, and the near-decade long search ended. There in the Folk section was Chattanooga Sugar Babe, used yet pristine in condition. The search was over, and the subtle irony of finding the CD in its namesake city was not lost on me.

I bought it and have listened to it repeatedly since. The album's beauty is just as profound as the first time I heard it. Nothing has dimmed it's shine.

.The World In Which We Live - Congressional Edition.

While President Obama met with Democrats to protect his signature healthcare law from Republican scissors, the House of Representatives voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Capital Hill ethics watchdog charged with keeping Congress in line.

Yes, they voted to gut the oversight office that makes sure they are behaving ethically. In a special meeting. Late at night. With no members of the oppisition party invited or present for the vote.

How, one wonders, did they think this would be perceived by the public? Whose idea was this?

Thankfully, public shaming on social media ensured the amendment was quickly dropped. The simple fact that it was passed is cause for concern.

.Bodhi 4.0.

After a phase of experimenting with various Linux distros, I'm back on Bodhi Linux. Now at version 4.1, Bodhi remains fast, minimal, and beautiful. My laptop is aging (almost ten years old!) and Bodhi runs very efficiently on it. Bodhi is a keeper.

.Watch This.

Earler this year, I picked up a Pebble smartwatch for a song. I've been very pleased with it and even looked forward to upgrading to a newer model sometime in the near future. Alas, Pebble sold to Fitbit and promptly stopped further development and production.

Tech happens. Companies sell. Ideas launch and either succeed or fail. For Pebble, it seemed to be a combination of all this and more.

In the meantime (no pun intended), I'll wear the Pebble until it no longer serves its purpose, after which I'll likely return to the Seiko chronograph I picked up for a song in a local antique store.

.The Nib.

The Nib is a new favorite website of mine, a go-to part of my morning. Insightful political cartoons from around the Web, all presented in a desktop and mobile friendly form.

.Observations On The Day After.

November 9, 2016. Donald Trump is President-Elect of the United States Of America. I'm caught between exuberant cheers of his followers and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from his detractors. I'm looking for an upside, and I think I've found one. Consider the following:

Trump was not expected to win. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, had upwards of 90% chance of winning. His campaign was considered a joke by many, and he offered up ample reasons for thinking so. Few in the party's rank and file felt he could win. The upset has revitalized the GOP, who now hold the Executive and Legislative branches of federal government.

Clinton was expected to win, so much so that there was no concession speach until late in the evening of Election Day. The Democratic Party is stung by this loss, along with little movement in Congress. Now is the time for soul searching, outreach, and above all, vetting young candidates for future campaigns. This will lead to a revitalized Democratic Party, hopefully one that will not take traditional voting blocs for granted.

Libertarian Gary Johnson finished with 3.23% of the popular vote, an increase of almost 230% over his 2012 result. This is the highest the party has polled in a Presidential race, with the added effect of increased mindshare in a constituency hungry for alternatives.

Jill Stein of the Green Party, who, like Johnson, was her party's candidate in both 2012 and 2016, increased her numbers from .36% in 2012 to .96% in 2016, an increase of roughly 165%. Small numbers, but a substantial increase. The Green Party, like the Libertarians, can use this year's result to grow their brand and make a larger impact in the next election.

As a realist, I acknowledge a fear that things will get worse before they get better. Years of progress in civil rights and access to healthcare are facing repeal, and the lives and livelihoods of many will be impacted in unknowable ways. Now is the time to reflect, tomorrow and every day after is a time for action.

Upsets. Surprises. Revitalization. Triple-digit increases for minor parties. Writing this piece has given me a glimpse of the potential of 2020. I like what I see.

.The Tolkien Influence On Multi Tool Design.

Disclaimer: I am not a designer. What you are about to read is based purely on my own nerdy perception.

I've recently rekindled a long-dormant interest in multitools, pocket knives and the like. While I like utility, a well presented design is also appreciated. Something I've noticed in the myriad number of tools available is that there seems to be an underlying triad of designs that appear to be derived from a Tolkienesque point of view. Allow me to elaborate.

There are ornate tools that I imagine would look at home in the hand of an Elf; there are utilitarian tools that would suit the Dwarf aesthetic, and there are tools so simple and minimal that surely an Orc designed them. Consider the following examples.

  • Leatherman Skeletool CX This is an excellent example of the Elf inspired design. It's curves, holes, and textures look like something straight out of the Woodland Realm.
  • Gerber MP600 Clearly the tool of choice of the Dwarves who dwell beneath the mountains. I'm sure I saw Gandalf scavenge one in the Mines of Moriah.
  • Gerber Shard No hinges, no joints, just a piece of metal used to apply brute strength. This tool is small enough to fit on a keychain, but I can picture an Orc building one that requires two hands to use. All the better for vanquishing foes with.
  • Thus ends my very unscientific design review. Got an opinion? Feel free to share.

    .Can Zero Hedge Return?.

    I find finance and economics interesting (stop rolling your eyes, please). While the web is drowning in websites covering such topics, Zero Hedge is unique for its bearish outlook. While everyone else is cheering the stock exchange's all-time highs, ZH has been warning for years that the wild ride can't last forever. This is pretty pragmatic thinking, something that is scarce when the market is up and climbing.

    ZH has changed in recent months. It now has as many political advocacy posts as finance posts. The snarky attitude has grown darker. It's not uncommon to find the brilliant Charles Hugh Smith sandwiched between a pro-Trump post and an end-is-nigh piece. What was once an educational experience is now a chore of separating evidence-based, chart heavy information from opinion pieces.

    Can the old ZH return? We'll see what happens after the election.

    .The Eagles: An Appreciation (Sort Of).

    I'll be the first to admit I'm not a huge fan of The Eagles. That said, I'm listening to them on a streaming service while working. A few thoughts come to mind, such as:

    And so it is with conflicted feelings I enjoy this music on a Friday at work.

    .Evernote.

    I've been an Evernote user for several years, long enough to amass a large number of notes and files. A look through my notebooks is a quick reminder of how things change, both quickly and over time. In the notes, are highs and lows, all stored on the cloud for future reference.

    And now, Evernote wants to tinker with the formula of their success.

    Their method: free users are limited to using Evernote on two devices, such as computer and smartphone. I am a free user, and while I happen to use the previously-mentioned configuration, suppose I wanted (or needed) to add a tablet? The answer is simple, buy a subscription. However, subscription rates have also increased, causing many who might otherwise subscribe to look elsewhere for a similar solution. Microsoft's OneNote is one such solution; I've tried it and found it usable but lacking.

    I have planned to subscribe for several years, but took the free use for granted. I may yet subscribe, especially now that Evernote has killed off some of its more redundant apps (like Food and Hello), which were basically the same product with tweaks and is working on an actual business plan. from Business Insider explains how they are working to better their model. Only time will tell...

    .Recommended Website: Of Two Minds.

    We live in interesting times, especially in a financial sense. The market is unpredictable, currencies fluctuate madly, prices spike and drop. I read a number of financial sites, ranging from mainstream to obscure, with a great many philosophies expressed. One I regularly visit and highly recommend is Of Two Minds, by Charles Hugh Smith. Smith's view is both panoramic and microscopic, with articles ranging from the global economy to advice on how to make yourself more valuable to employers. Wide ranging and insightful, Smith updates his site regularly (unlike this writer).

    If you are looking For pragmatic opinion and useful information, you owe it to yourself to visit Of Two Minds.

    .Leave? Remain? If Only It Were So Simple.

    The Brexit vote has been tallied. The people have spoken. And while Americans are in a rage over the perceived racism behind the Leave vote, they fail to see the bigger picture. Will the UK actually leave the EU? Not if the business class stands to lose.

    One of the benefits of democracy is the right of the people to self-determination, but this isn't necessarily going to happen. As has happened throughout the history of democracy, government with consent of the governed will only go so far. When the cost/benefit analysis as weighed, the people who voted Leave may well be disappointed when those in power decide to Remain.

    .The Simple Things.

    It does my heart good to know that Anthony Bourdain's 5 kitchen staples are his macaroni and cheese ingredients

    Ok, it does my heart good, but probably not my arteries.

    .In Praise Of The Bern.

    California is lost, so much so that the DNC announced candidate Clinton to be the nominee before the state had even voted.

    Bernie Sanders vows to take his candidacy to the convention, and he should. The Democratic Party has taken on the stench of cronyism and maybe, just maybe, a good fight from Sanders to the bitter end is needed.

    Not to knock Secretary Clinton, who is a talented politician in her own right. But American Democracy, or at least the myth of it, is based on the belief that anyone can become president, not just the wealthy, the elite, the powerful. Even an elderly, self-described Socialist. And for this reason, Sanders must continue the campaign, or else the true nature of the game is exposed.

    .Zen And The Art Of (Fill In The Blank).

    I'll begin by stating that Zen is not a religion. There, my Christian friends, your excuse for not reading further has been removed.

    While Zen derives from a school of Bhuddism, it has been descrived as "a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being." It is also a manner of perception, in which the viewer is tasked to see the subject (whatever that may be) for what it is, and not merely the viewer's biased projection reflected for the sake of the viewer's egocentric perception. Remove Self from your perception, and suddenly the world and all that is in it takes on a whole new patina.

    An excercise: the next time you catch a cold, don't think of it as "I'm sick," observe it from an outside point of view. Note the host and the invader(s), how the two intertwine and compete for control for the several days you'll be affected by the cold. Note how the balance of power shifts and changes. Only after overcoming the virus should you recall that all this drama took place inside your body. And you'll have a mountain of facial tissues to prove it.

    .On The Trump Candidacy.

    I remember June, 2015, when it all seemed like a prank being played on the voting populace.

    So many insults to so many people, from nameless immigrants to media personalities, fellow candidates, and more. "He's crossed the line this time," they said, "he'll lose supporters in droves."

    And yet, support grows. Primary win after win and there's seemingly no stopping Trump, in spite of the RNC plotting to do just that.

    Trump is, according to my ultra conservative coworkers, "saying what everyone is thinking." Everyone but me, perhaps, but being mistaken for a radical right conservative is one of the dangers of living in small town Georgia. Most of my friends, family, coworkers, and townspeople are staunch Republicans, and a great many are excited by the Trump candidacy.

    I'm excited about it too, but for different reasons. Let's be honest, the modern GOP has always been the party of the rich, mainly concerning itself with lowering taxes and regulations on business in order to maximize profit for the already wealthy class. They have bought politicians for decades, and yet the frontrunner is one who (ostensibly) can't be bought. For the first time, a member of the billionaire class is running for office, instead of hiring the work out to someone else.

    Remember Mitt Romney? The 2012 candidate worth $245 million dollars who put himself and his family in the public eye, jumping through hoops and hobnobbing with the rabble, all for a shot at doing the bidding of the donor class, who have real money. Romney is now aligned against Trump, as part of the establishment effort to discredit and ultimate deny Trump the general election candidacy. And, of course, this has only fueled the Trump voters to ever higher hysteria.

    I don't pretend to know who will win the highest office in the land in 2016, and I have great concern over the likely candidates. But for once, a puppeteer may hold office, in place of the usual puppet.

    .Absinthe Unleashed.

    Recently, I stopped in at the local bottle shop to pick up some low proof whiskey for a home cough remedy (honestly). While searching for rock and rye, I noticed something I'd never seen before: absinthe. On the shelf. For sale.

    Banned in the West for decades, absinthe is the legendary liquor beloved by French Impressionists, Aleister Crowley, and anyone who loved a strong, hallucination-inducing drink. The Green Goddess, as Crowley called it, gets its entheogenic power from wormwood, a bitter, mind altering plant. The store clerk explained that the legal absinthe he sells is lower in wormwood so as to not induce hallucinations, but remains quite powerful. I bought a small bottle, in the name of science.

    Upon opening, I noticed a distinct, liquorice sort of scent. Not bad, I thought, compared to the medicinal smell of some drinks. I lifted the bottle in a toast to poets, madmen and painters everywhere and everywhen, then took the tiniest of drinks.

    The burn began on the lips, the worked through the mouth, down the esophagus, settling in the stomach. This is, indeed, strong drink. I capped the bottle, placed it in a cabinet, and turned to leave the room. It was then that the otherwordly feeling set in. Yes, that quickly, from a small sip.

    The feeling didn't last long, but in the time of its thrall, I understood why people of a certain mindset could become so devoted to it. For a brief moment, I visited the same dreamscape the 19th and early 20th century artists had known so well.

    .Barbaric Relics, Arise!.

    Financial lions such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, etc (you know, the same lions that destroyed the global economy in 2008) are currently blasting gold, silver, and other precious metals as being "dirty," "barbaric," and "relics of the past." This, at a time when markets are extremely volatile and these self-same lions are calling for the abolition of cash. (Note to lions: Bitcoin isn't ready for prime time, as the 10-45 minute processing times experienced this last week amply prove). Where is a once-burned consumer to go for safe investment?

    Precious metals, gold and silver in particular, have been used as currency for roughly 3500 years, and for religious purposes even longer. They have value, even if only for looks, but one would be wise to remember industrial use as well. Personally held, physical bullion would be my suggestion for someone wanting a long-term store of value.

    Now, if only I could afford it!

    .Bodhi.

    As the never-ending GNU/Linux install/test/repeat process continues, I am pleased to report that my wanderings have led me to Bodhi Linux, a distro I've tinkered with intermittently in the past. The most recent version, 3.1.1, is a marvelous example of lightweight Linux done right. It is fast and efficient on my 2007 laptop, loading even heavy weight office suites quickly. Wireless printing setup is the same tedious procedure as on all distros I've tried (thanks, Brother, for at least providing official drivers!), while all the other steps are simple and intuitive.

    Bodhi Linux is a keeper. It screams on my old hardware, something Lubuntu was painfully slow on. It's aesthically pleasing (read that as "beautiful"), and has a small but active community. This is truly 5 star material.

    .Cutting Edge Tech!.

    My employer just upgraded the OS on my workstation to Windows 7.

    Yes, XP served us well, but the risk of unpatched security holes was too much. Upgrading from a 15 year old OS to a 7 year old OS doesn't feel like much of an upgrade to this Linux user, but change comes slowly to a company whose owner still uses Lotus. I can't help but wonder how much better off we'd be using GNU/Linux, but compatibility issues and the aforementioned change-resistant owner assure these musings will be ongoing.

    Still, the Windows 7 interface is nice.

    .Christie's Bold Gambit.

    Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has thrown his support behind a plan for the state to take over troubled Atlantic City. The state already oversees much of the city's practices, while the new proposal would be more complete.

    This is an ambitious plan for Christie. Atlantic City is Trump territory; his hotel and casino operations have been a part of the city for years. For Christie to support a state takeover is an effective way of saying, "Trump can't run things well, he's a part of the problem." Largely symbolic, this stance also has real-world implications for the city and its residents.

    .2016.

    As I write, it is the 13th day of the new year. So far, so good, but I feel it's going to be a wild ride. The economy is in flux (far more so than usual) and predictors are saying it could be 2008 all over again. It's an election year and the field of candidates is impressive for all the wrong reasons. My prepper friends are saying this is the big one as they continue to stockpile the Three B's (beans, bullion and bullets).

    The ancient Eastern curse goes "May you live in difficult times." Perhaps those times are here. Perhaps not. Let's hold on to our hats and see.

    .Reaper Madness.

    Today, I'm ashamed to say I'm a native Georgian. The reason for this shame is the execution of Kelly Gissendaner for her part in the murder of her husband. Gissendaner conspired with her boyfriend, who stabbed the husband to death. The boyfriend is elible for parole in 7 years, while Gissendaner, who should have at most faced a life sentence, is dead by lethal injection.

    Full disclaimer: I am opposed to the death penalty. I'm even more opposed to punishment being grossly out of proportion to the crime (ie crack is 10 times more powerful than cocain, so sentences for crack dealers, most likely of minority background, should be 10 times longer than cocaine dealers). Georgia, in its Red State zeal for being tough on crime (excluding white collar variety), executed despite pleas from ranging from prison workers to the Pope.

    I shudder to think what collective karma holds in store for my backward little home state.

    .Coming Soon.

    I've recently taken up a new hobby in restoring estate pipes. This is good for the mind, as it requires focus not to damage an aged piece of wood and rubber. It can be hard on the hands, tho.

    Much like the vintage razors I collect and use, an Etsy shop will open as the collection grows. Its name will be Mainly Pipes.

    .A Few Thoughts About Rectify.

    Short post: I love it. It's the best show on TV.

    Beyond that, I must say the writing is a great deal better than anything currently showing, although it can get a bit wordy, especially when Daniel makes a profound statement in a short sentence or two. The show is well-cast, and the characters are believable or hateable, depending on your perception (I personally despise Teddy).

    My favorite episode thus far is "Drip, Drip", due in no small part to the bizarre storyline involving the Goat Man and Daniel's almost psychedelic but mostly accurate retelling of the time they spent together.

    .And The Madness Continues.

    It's been quite some time since I last posted. I apologize, and readers with kids understand my absence. The World In Which We Live(d) looks tame in comparison to today, and it's only been a few months. The 2016 presidential nominations are gearing up, meaning everyone is playing to "the base." Does this have to mean the base emotions of a society on the edge?

    Christopher Knowles made a prescient post at Secret Sun about how, although the world didn't end, something does seem to have changed after December 21, 2012. I must admit to having had a rumbling in my mind along those same lines, and Chris's post was a welcome sign that maybe I'm not alone in thinking such things.

    .Scammers(?).

    It's been a crazy week for the shave shop. First, I had an unknown person email me requesting a razor and offering an unreasonably low price for it. Later, I had a blogger email me requesting free samples of shave soap and oil for review on his website. Lastly, I had another unknown person contact me with a ridiculously low offer for a razor. When I declined, said person upped the ante only slightly. When it looked like we might agree, said person then requested other items thrown in for free.

    There are two kinds of scammers: the kind who charge too much for an item they are selling, and the kind who try to to get your items for little or no investment. It seems I've attracted the second kind recently.

    .Southern Shave Shop, One Year On.

    January 1, 2015 marked the one year anniversary of the Shave Shop going live. 56 razors sold, along with a line of shave soap. 20 five star reviews. This was quite unexpected and a very pleasant surprise.

    My plan for 2015 is to continue providing vintage razors of high quality (the sourcing of which is hit or miss, at best) and to put more focus on the soaps, shaving and beard oils.

    Thanks to all who purchased in 2014, and will purchase in 2015!

    .American Myopia.

    After six years of waiting, the US Senate has released its report on the use of torture by the CIA during the Bush-era war on terrorism. For years, the powers that be asserted that the report should not be released because doing so would inflame passions in the Middle East that would lead to violence and death.

    Note to the powers that be: people in the Middle East already know about the torture. Knowledge is common, and nothing in the report is news to those who already know. The people who didn't know are the American public, who were kept in the dark (unless they actually asked someone in the know, which is doubtful) and distracted with the endless nonsense that passes for news in America. Outrage isn't a proper reaction, as the revelations in the report are beyond outrageous.

    May this shameful action never be repeated, and may those responsible be held to account.

    .The World In Which We Live, Article Six.

    Scandal! Celebrity photo leak! Famous women in the buff!

    The Fappening, as he/she/they is/are known, has released, as of this writing, three collections of private photos of celebrities. Apparently, the method of acquiring these photos was simple. Either a phishing expedition, in which the target received a convincing email asking her to confirm her username and password to Apple's iCloud service, or a brute force attack on iCloud itself, in which an exploit allowed the hacker(s) to access the photos stored on the cloud. Either way, privacy was invaded and the FBI has been contacted. Which, interestingly, if Jane Nobody had photos leaked online, the FBI would NOT have been contacted, but in America, there is a separate justice system for the wealthy. Just don't talke about it.

    Actress Jennifer Lawrence has been a victim in all three releases. She is especially angry and was among the first to contact the FBI, along with McKayla Maroney, who alleged she was underage at the time the photos were taken (see my statement above regarding separate justice systems to understand why Ms. Maroney isn't in trouble for creating child pornography). J Law understands her brand is damaged, and wants her reputation as America's Sweetheart back.

    So, what does a famous girl do when she was either tricked into confirming her password or had photos leaked due to Apple's weakness in a storage server? The answer is simple: sue Google for $100 million, as a group of victims have moved to do.

    That's the world in which we live in this first week of October, 2014.

    .Temp Nation.

    I work for a small printing company. The owners are proud conservative Republicans, which makes for some interesting conversation for this moderate centrist (in their eyes, I'm to the far left of Ted Kennedy). One thing we disagree on is labor and the use of skilled workers.

    They are big on temps, temporary workers whom they hire through an agency for near-minimum wage and no benefits. This makes for a short-term savings, but at the expense of skill going into the final product. When we have a complaint on our printed goods, it's almost always due to a hardly-trained worker trying to make world class product with little to no oversight.

    When I approach them about hiring skilled, full time workers, of which there is no shortage in our area, as layoffs have taken a toll on the printing industry, I get the same tired, old response. "Too expensive." and "We'd have to pay benefits." usually followed with some kind of insult to Obama. Then comes the sermon against skilled labor, especially organized labor. "They don't work for you, they work for the union!" To which I replay, "Temps don't work for you, they work for the agency." Usually followed by silence or a you're-not-a-business-owner, what-do-you-know? reply.

    In labor, you get what you pay for, as with most things. Lead us not into Temp Nation.

    .6 Months.

    My son is now six months old. He is developing his personality, and it seems he learns something new every day, which he is only to eager to show. One day he is sticking his tongue out and smiling, the next he is "singing" with long vocal exercises. Simply amazing.

    .Ferguson In Flames.

    For more than a week, the city of Ferguson, MO has seen riots and violence in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teen. Much has been said in the media about how to restore the peace to the city, but answers are not forthcoming. Arrest the police officer that fired the (six?!?) shots, a suggestion I think is a bit premature but the least that should be done after an investigation has been completed. Send in the National Guard (it's been done).

    My suggestion is to start with the people in the street. Don't just talk to them, listen to them. Amazingly, they know more about what is happening in their town than the talking heads on television. And they are mad. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton tried to speak to them and were rejected; they were talking Dr. King's peace to a crowd filled with Farrakhan's anger.

    Economic opportunity is another subject to approach. There's a reason why disadvantaged people burn businesses, it's because they know where the real power lies and who the beneficiary of their oppression is. Instead of trickling down, maybe the economy should be built up, allowing room for more people to have a stronger voice.

    Violence isn't the answer, and never is. The cost of the riots will be measured not only in dollars, but in lives, and the number of years it will take a struggling community to recover.

    .The World In Which We Live, Article Five.

    Where to start? Since my last World post, there have been passenger jets shot out of the sky or lost over sea, yet another war in the Middle East (Israel v Gaza, this time around), yet another unarmed African American teen shot dead (this time by police), the list goes on and on. The Buddhist curse of "may you live in interesting times" certainly stands true for this day and age. My advice: Be Here Now, and be in the world, not of the world, and keep your head down.

    .Five Months.

    My son was born five months ago today. I look back on that day in the hospital and see it for the surreal experience it was. I participated in bringing forth a new life into the world, and each day since has been an adventure unlike any other in my life. Simpy amazing.

    .Quote Of The Day, or, It's Happening Again.

    "We know from our own experience that enough things happen that aren’t the result of signals or planning or communication that we’re aware of, but that are miraculous manifestations, that keep proving it out, that there’s no way to deny it. We're just involved in something that has a very high incidence of synchronicity. You know, the Jungian idea of synchronicity? Well, shit, that's day-to-day reality for us." - Jerry Garcia, musician and singer, Grateful Dead

    I've referenced this quote several times on mh.org and it never grows old. Perhaps because it always rings true. Once again, a cycle of meaningful coincidence is unfolding; a door closes, another opens, which wouldn't have happened had the other door not closed. There is meaning in everything, just as there is wonder in all things. One just has to tune in and pay attention to the minor details, then stand in awe as they combine to tell an awe-inspiring story.

    .Quote Of The Day.

    "There will come a time when it isn't 'They're spying on me through my phone' anymore. Eventually, it will be 'My phone is spying on me'." - Philip K Dick

    .The World In Which We Live, Article 4.

    Sounding like something straight out of the mind of Jack Kirby, a militant group named ISIS is wreaking havoc in the chaos-addled north of Iraq. John Boehner, who one can only suspect has mistaken Barack Obama for president of Iraq instead of the US, accused Obama of having fallen asleep while Iraq descended into civil war. Correction, Mr. Speaker, it was Dick Cheney and Ronald Reagan who were prone to falling asleep in their offices.

    George Zimmerman declares himself the victim after chasing down and shooting an unarmed kid in Florida. See my post below for my feelings about contempory Florida. As for Zimmerman, I'll say "If only..."

    Facebook carried out a massive psychological operation on almost 700,000 users to see how they'd react to negative stories in their news feeds. If FB can do this and get away with it, what else are they doing that hasn't been revealed?

    .3 Months.

    Gabriel is three months old. In this short time, he has grown, discovered he has a voice (and uses it ALOT), recognizes faces and responds to music. Coming home from work to him is a joy and adventure, as I never know what to expect when I walk through the door.

    .elementary, My Dear OS.

    After several years on Ubuntu, I've discovered a relatively new Linux variant that has now found a home on my hard drive. elementary OS is a light, beautiful distro that began life as a Ubuntu derivative but has developed into so much more. Often referred to as the OS X of Linux, it sports a simple interface that is very pleasing to the eye. Only the basics of apps are included; reviewers seem shocked there isn't an office suite installed by default, but with so much being done on the cloud, is an office suite necessary, and if it is, shouldn't the user be allowed to determine which app to use?

    Overall, I'm very pleased with elementary OS and look forward to using it for a long time to come.

    .Going Straight.

    At The Southern Shave Shop I sell mostly safety razors, single and double edge, from the 3 main producers of the mid-20th century; GEM, Gillette, and Schick. I hope to soon add a number of straight razors as well. They are easier to restore, have no plating to wear off, many date from the 19th century, and straights just have a certain cool about them that can't be found anywhere else. Above all, they shave beautifully. I look forward to adding a few to my line.

    .Late To The Party.

    I've recently begun watching The Walking Dead and must say I'm quite enjoying it. I thought the zombie genre was pretty much overdone (and much of it is), as I've been watching zombie flicks since Dawn Of The Dead came out on VHS in the early 80s. What sets The Walking Dead apart is the quality of the writing, which is excellent storytelling. No spoilers here, but there is a mythology in The Walking Dead not unlike that in the X Files, in which the story moves effortlessly from character to character.

    Ok, one spoiler: I'm glad Shane dies.

    .The New Florida.

    In a display of stunning detachment from reality, lawmakers in Georgia recently passed a "guns everywhere" law, allowing guns to be carried almost anywhere in public. The governor, Nathan Deal, said this is good, as it will allow a good person with a gun to stop a bad person with a gun from committing gun crime. Idealism run amock is never a good thing, and the lack of critical thinking that allowed this law to pass is breathtaking.

    All Georgia needs now is a "stand your ground" law, a young person minding his own business, and a useful idiot like George Zimmerman to bring the kind of tragedy we've seen in Florida (where logic and reason stop at the state line) to find a new home just a few miles north.

    .Album Review - Help Wanted.

    Jane's Addiction stormed onto the music scene in the late 80s and turned LA upside down with an infectious blend of punk, funk, folk, metal, ska, world, and almost any other kind of music one can think of. Two albums later, the original band broke up amid infighting, substance abuse, and everything else rock & roll. Eric Avery, a phenomenal bassist, reteamed with Dave Navarro to record the Deconstruction album, which for me is a 90s alt-rock masterpiece. After releasing the album, Avery's output became sporadic.

    In 2008, he released "Help Wanted," his first solo album. It was well worth the wait. Help Wanted follows Deconstruction into masterpiece territory. The music ranges from driving rock to melodic drone, the lyrics introverted and at times wrenching, particulary on "Maybe," which features a duet with Shirley Manson, Avery's bandmate in Garbage.

    Overall, this is an album I can listen to on infinite loop.

    .In SciTE.

    Tonight I'm using the SciTE text editor to write this post. I first used it a number of years ago, not long after its release. SciTE is a simple editor with a clean interface, one I highly recommend to anyone for coding.

    .2 Weeks.

    I am the father of a son now two weeks old. These days have been the most extraordinary of my life. No aspect of being has been untouched by the arrival of Gabriel, and I am a new and better person for it.

    .The World In Which We Live, Article 3.

    Political conservatives are an interesting lot; the reactionary mindset and near-total lack of filter between thought and mouth provide hours of interesting viewing for this writer. But lately it's gotten weirder.

    Case in point: Putin's invasion of Crimea. And an invasion is precisely what it is, even if Putin himself tells a room full of reporters that it isn't. Conservatives in the US have somehow developed a fondness for the former KGB official, calling his move strong and comparing their own President to a child. This is the same President that in the past has been called a tyrant and a dictator. He can't be both, so which is he? I'm yet to hear a convincing answer.

    Sadly, the Fox News generation believe everything they see on TV, including Putin's tiger hunt photo. Although it has been revealed that the big cat was sedated and caged until Vlad could shoot it, this goes ignored and the conservative right lust for a leader that kills tigers. In the past, they might have seen this for what it is: propaganda. But not any longer. Hook, line, and sinker, they take it all and demand more.

    .Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen.

    In the ever-volatile fight for third-most popular smartphone platform, Blackberry has lost to Windows Phone in the US. I've used a Blackberry in the past and tinkered with a Windows Phone recently; both have their merits but I'm a physical keyboard afficianado, so Blackberry will always have a special place in my heart, almost as much as Palm, a fine but failed former third place contender which, like Blackberry, once held the highest position.

    .38 Weeks.

    The due date draws ever closer. I recently received sage words of advice from a coworker, who told me that the first few years are spent growing close and enjoying the time a son is a baby. Then from about age 4 or 5, the child is old enough to go out and have fun with. Living as close to national parks and wilderness areas, I predict lots of fun and muddy feet to come.

    .The World In Which We Live, Article 2.

    Always weird and tacky, the state of Florida is moving closer to Bizarro than ever. Anti-aborton billboards dot the interstate highways with grisly photos of aborted fetuses, 11 people per day die of accidental overdose of prescription pain meds, and Stand Your Ground laws still stand. While two white men have shot and killed young African-American teens in recent years and walked free, an African-American lady who fired warning shots (none of which struck or killed a person) now faces 60 years in prison.

    That's the world in which we live on this 4th day of March, 2014.

    .37 Weeks.

    My son will be born on March 12th. As will I.

    .Quote Of The Day.

    "Mathematics equals rigor plus intellectual integrity times reliance on facts." - Edward Frenkel, a mathematician who wants to prevent manipulation of the many by the few.

    .36 Weeks.

    We've reached 36 weeks of pregnancy, and the excitement is dizzying as the due date nears. Last night, I watched birthing videos as part of a class. The experience made me grateful to be a male, and to state that if men had to experience first hand what I'd just seen on screen, the human race would go extinct within two generations!

    .Get Out Of My Site.

    As mentioned in a previous post, I recently ditched Wordpress and returned to HTML and CSS for this site. One of the main reasons for this switch is security. Wordpress-based sites have been under an increasing number of attacks from hackers and bots; at one time, I checked the users on my site and found 2 had secretly beed added and given administrator privileges. This is not good, and while Wordpress has addressed the security holes that allowed it to happen, the attempts to log in continued.

    I'm not knocking Wordpress, but if this can happen to a small site like mine, I can only imagine the headache one would get as admin of a large site (you know, like Ebay). The fact that I enjoy writing code made the decision an easy one to make.

    .The World In Which We Live, Article 1.

    The developer of Flappy Bird, a game for smartphones, pulled the plug on the app, citing it's being "too addictive" and making his life unbearable, albeit profitable, earning $50,000 a day in ad revenue. The result of his action: death threats against the developer.

    That's the world in which we live on this 11th day of February, 2014

    .Content Creation - Tablet Versus Laptop.

    When setting up the Souther Shave Shop site on Etsy, I first attempted it on my Blackberry Playbook tablet. Much to my surprise and consternation, I quickly learned that creating content on a tablet it much harder than on a more traditional computer. Virtual keyboards are not user-friendly when that user is typing in long lines of description; a physical keyboard is much more productive, and accuracy is enhanced (sorry, autocorrect programmers).

    The tablet does have a built-in camera, something my aging laptop lacks, but such a camera is useless for the kind of close-up photos the shop demands. In that case, a digicam attached by cable is irreplacable, as is a simple but effective photo editing program.

    In all, one could use a tablet for setting up a shop, but in my experience, it isn't worth the hassle. Tablets are great for content consumption, but leave the work of creation to a more capable tool.

    .35 Weeks.

    Today my wife and I reached 35 weeks of pregnancy. After trying and losing multiple times, this is a milestone of immense proportions. My son is only weeks away from entering the world and I eagerly await his arrival.

    .A Tale Of Two Etsys.

    I have two Etsy shops, one dedicated to photography and other to vintage shaving. The photography site, Mark Holder Photo has received many views and likes, but no sales. This has been a blow to my confidence as a photographer, but I'm assured by peers that my work is good, sales or not. My other shop, Southern Shave Shop receives a great many more views and likes, and has produced sales.

    From what I can deduce from running the two shops, people are more likely to by a product like a razor than a photograph, perhaps because seeing a photograph once is enough for most people, watermarks be damned. Also, a razor is useful, whereas a photo may be beautiful but does little more than occupy space.

    Both shops will remain open, as it is a pleasure to run them, and Etsy makes it easy to do so. In the meantime, I'll continue to take photos and acquire razors.

    .All That Is Old Is New Again.

    Sharp-eyed regulars to this site will note a change: I've returned to HTML and style sheets after using Wordpress for a few years. The reason is simple: I like writing in code, and Wordpress took that part of the experience away. Also, the constant attacks on Wordpress sites from various netbots made security maintenance a constant concern. And lastly, I like this look better than the generic Wordpress layout (admittedly, I didn't experiment with themes much, mostly because they all look similar to one another). So I'm back again and loving getting my hands dirty coding with ShiftEdit.

    .Murdering My Darlings.

    Fear not, the girls are safe.

    The darlings I refer to are a number of short stories I'm revising and self-editing before another round of submissions. The murder reference is to a quote, attributed to a number of sources, advising writers to edit out all the overwritten passages and great detail we write into our stories, to trim away the fat, to get to the heart of the story with clear, concise language. This isn't always easy and certainly feels like a dreaded chore, while smacking of second guessing your muse. Nevertheless, good advice it is, regardless of how drudging and painful it may be to follow.

    .Dando And Parsons.

    As I (and countless others) have written before, Gram Parsons left a huge musical legacy for a man who died an early death. While many have emulated his style, no one comes closer than Evan Dando, both with The Lemonheads and as a solo performer. The career of Dando has more than a few parallels with the career of Parsons, including being "the next big thing" while not quite making it. The Lemonheads' music was fun three chord rock during the Seattle grunge era, when everyone hated themselves and wanted to die. Thus, Dando's lyrics were often criticized for being childlike by people who missed the point entirely. Tho popular in the early to mid 90s, the Lemonheads never reached superstar status, in much the same way Parsons' work with the Flying Burrito Brothers and as a solo artist never seemed to get off the ground.

    The parallels don't end with great music greeted with less than stellar receptions. Both are legendary substance users, with Parsons dying at 26 from tequila and downers, while Dando admitted to using crack cocaine. Both musicians sang duets with very talented women, Emmylou Harris in the case of Parsons and Juliana Hatfield with Dando.

    Is Evan Dando the Gram Parsons of his generation? Perhaps so. And while Gram left us far too young, Dando has continued to make great music almost in spite of himself. May he long continue.

    .Who Is This Man?.

    In an unusual case study of the human psyche, hundreds of people around the world claim to dream of a stranger who speaks to them in their dreams. The interesting part is they all describe the same man and refer to him as "this man." There is now a website devoted to the phenomenon, offering a history of This Man, theories regarding who he is, stories of dreams and more. Visit thisman.org to learn more.





    .Faulkner, As Relevant Today As Ever.

    Even a liar can be scared into telling the truth, same as an honest man can be tortured into telling a lie.

    Light in August, (1932)

    .In Praise Of Used Book Stores.

    Regardless of the city or town I'm in, one of my favorite destinations is the local used book store. While often perceived as simply a place for the budget conscious to find cheap books, I've noticed that there appears to be a subculture of people who frequent them. More than bargain hunters, a good many patrons are seeking the rare, the unusual, the out-of-print. I am one of those people. In the early 1990s, I found myself perusing the aisles of a used book store in Chattanooga, looking for nothing in particular, altho I'd developed an interest in signed books. In the poetry section, I noticed a small, nondescript paperback. Looking inside, I found the author had inscribed a note and signature to whom I must assume was the original purchaser. The book went home with me that evening, becoming the first of my collection of signed books and the start of a pursuit that interests me to this day.

    While Chattanooga, TN is home to the largest used book store I've seen (and visit regularly), I greatly admire stores of a smaller scale, most often staffed by a lone clerk who is quite often reading between purchases. You've probably encountered the type: a polite greeting upon entry, with "let me know if I can help you" added for the sake of politeness before returning to their own reading. To me, this is perfect, for if I need help, I'll ask, otherwise leave me free to explore. The epitome of such a place and person is a small book store in Beaufort, South Carolina, where my wife purchased a signed copy of Pat Conroy's "The Prince Of Tides."

    .Photo Gallery: Hiwassee River.

    A new photo gallery has been added, one that features photos from the Hiwassee River in Tennessee. The river has been a muse for my camera for many long years and I hope to add regularly to this album.

    .In Memorium: Jim Carroll.

    Jim Carroll, poet, songwriter and singer, has passed at the age of 60 of a suspected heart attack while at his writing desk. As a writer, Carroll is best remembered for "The Basketball Diaries," his biographical tale of going from a promising high school basketball player to heroin addiction. A film adaptation released in the 90s was well received by critics and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll and Carroll as an elder junkie. As a singer, Carroll's best known song was "People Who Died," a piece memorializing a number of Carroll's friends who'd died young, foolishly, or both.

    Carroll's influence on poetry and music is immense. As a writer, he could take the mundane and turn it into something hilarious; as a musician, his influence on the early punk rock scene is as great as that of Lou Reed or Patti Smith. With his passing, music and literature have lost a unique individual of great passion and ability.

    .Orwell On Town Hall Protesters.

    From "1984", a description of the character Julia (and those like her), which seems eerily familiar to a segment of today's population:

    She knew when to cheer and when to boo, and that was all one needed... Talking to her, he realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy while having no grasp whatever of what orthodoxy meant. In a way, the worldview of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what was swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.

    This well describes anyone who protests against public healthcare while receiving Medicare and/or Medicaid, or one who believes waterboarding isn't torture, or one who believes Iraq was somehow involved with 9/11, etc. etc. etc.

    .Beaten To The Punch.

    Regular visitors to this page know that I am a huge fan of Kiko's House, the blog of Philadelphia journalist Shaun Mullen. I'd been mulling over the idea of reviewing a favorite Pink Floyd album, 1971's Meddle, when I discovered Shaun had done just that over the weekend. The review can be read here and is far more thorough than anything I would have written.

    So, onto something I can add: while many know of the "Dark Side Of The Rainbow," the supposed synching of the Dark Side Of The Moon album to the film The Wizard Of Oz, relatively few know that there are two songs on Meddle that are said to synch with films. The first track, "One Of These Days," is said to synch with the final scene of the film Apocalypse Now. When viewed in synch to the music, the tribal people seem to dance to the rhythm of the song, Captain Willard stands with knife in hand in time to the song's only vocals ("One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces"), and the song fades out during Colonel Kurtz' famous "horror". The final track of the album, "Echoes," is said to have been written for the Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey" but was unfinished at the time of the film's completion. Never letting a good idea go to waste, the band recorded and released it themselves. Jay Weidner has put the two pieces together for viewing; see for yourself!

    .Anatomy Of A Photo: Wicked Grin.

    The landscape of the southeastern United States is dotted with remnants of homes no longer standing. These remnants are the strongest, most durable part of a home, the brick or stone fireplace and chimney. While driving along a quiet backroad to photograph just such a chimney, you pull onto the shoulder of the road and climb over an old gate. From the corner of your eye, you see it lurking at you: a garish face, a wicked grin. But this is neither human nor animal, it is a sawn log that has rotted into a twisted grimace reminiscent of something from a Tim Burton film. You find it irresistable and photograph it before moving on to the chimney and the photo essay you plan to do on them. Nevertheless, Wicked Grin proves to be a fun and popular photo.

    .Attention: All TV Junkies.

    Read This.

    .Places And Names.

    In the American mindscape, events and the locations at which they occur are often so entertwined that the mention of a particular location triggers a thought of an event that occured at the location in question. I don't know if the typical Englishman of 1415 and later years referred to the battle of Agincourt as simply "Agincourt" until generations passed and people needed to be reminded of the fact that a great battle took place there, but I feel quite certain that events in American history will long be remembered and referred to as much by the location at which the event took place as the event itself. I'm in the process of compiling a growing list of such events/places, a part of which is below, in no certain order:

    Vietnam, Watergate, Iraq, Woodstock, Camp David, Gettysburg, Whitewater, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Cannes, My Lai, Abu Graib, Bay Of Pigs, Sturgis, Daytona, Talladega, Auschwitz, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Love Canal, Wounded Knee, Guantanamo Bay, Normandy, Kent State

    .Those Who Forget The Past.

    The 35th anniversary of the resignation of Richard Milhous Nixon for his part in the Watergate scandal (and other crimes for which he was pardoned by his successor and former Warren commissioner Gerald Ford, came and went last week with hardly a mention in the media. Ten years ago was quite a different story, as every news channel devoted hours to the event in retrospect. I recall asking an older friend if he'd watched any of the reportage and his reply was "No, I was there for the original segments." After eight years of executive scandal that Nixon could only dream of, it seems no one in America wants to remember the past, be it recent or distant.

    .The Clocks Are Striking Thirteen.

    The British love of surveillence society continues unabated with new from a Wired article that reveals a plan to move at-risk families to government run compounds featuring 24-hour supervision. The subject line of this post refers to the opening sentence of George Orwell's 1984, a book I read on a more-or-less annual basis, and with each reading I find our world more closely mirrors the world of the book. By controlling language and words, you control the people who use that language and words. And who can precisely define "at-risk"?

    .Anatomy Of A Photo: Gram's Grave, My Pick.

    As noted below, the family and I recently took a trip to New Orleans. While there, we made a short trip to the grave site of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. After finding the Garden Of Memories cemetary in Jefferson Parrish, I futilely looked for the grave before entering the office to enquire as to its whereabouts. Luckily, the lady I spoke with had made a simple map for finding Gram's grave; she also told me she'd seen him perform with the Flying Burrito Brothers in Los Angeles and still had their first two albums. Thanking her, I left and found the grave rather easily, the bronze marker showing weather wear.

    I stood at the site, reading the marker, noticing personal items left by other fans (sea shells, an ear ring, etc.), admiring the large plaque featuring his likeness strumming a guitar. Reaching into a pocket, I slipped out an old guitar pick that I bought more than 20 years ago. Somehow, this pale blue pick, one of a large handful I bought for about one dollar, had followed me through the years, strummed many strings, and was now the last of its lot. I placed it between the thumb and forefinger of the marker; it fit perfectly. A small, personal gesture to a man who, more than 35 years after his death, continues to influence American music.

    .New Orleans.

    I recently returned from a four day trip to a city I've long wanted to visit: New Orleans. Clear memories of seeing the devastation Katrina wrought while I lived in Sydney, the footage of flooded streets, desperate people on rooftops, white "scavengers" and black "looters" had definitely altered my perception of this great city. I'm pleased to report that while much of the Lower 9th Ward is still a ghost town, much more of the city is thriving. Its people, once brought to their knees by force of nature of governmental inaction, are a kind and generous sort. The French Quarter is alive and kicking 24 hours a day.

    The photo gallery can be accessed by the Photo page.

    .The Slow Death Of Microsoft Has Begun (Possibly).

    Google, perhaps the only tech company with the guts and funding to topple Microsoft from its lofty perch, has announced it will release an operating system built on the Linux kernel and Chrome browser. As a Linux geek, this makes me quite happy, as this move will bring more users into the fold. However, it is not met without some trepidation; Google, the company that wants to store and manage the world's information, could make convicted-monopolist Microsoft look user-friendly without some oversight. Only time will tell how this gambit plays out.

    .Death By Letters (Revised).

    There have been a number of celebrity deaths in recent days and all have one common denominator: the letter M is the first letter in one of their given names. Allow me to make a list, in no real order:

    While very unusual, this calls to mind another time in which celebrity death and an alphabetical letter were closely entertwined. Between July, 1969, and July 1971, rock music lost four major performers:

    Known at the time as "The Curse Of J," not only did each of the above have the letter J in his or her name, but all died at the age of 27.

    Having an M name myself, I'm quite relieved to be lacking celebrity status!

    .End Of Season.

    The Spring photo gallery is complete - access it from the Photography page. While the number of photos is small, the photos themselves are rather interesting. To my eye, at least.

    .The Shaman Of Ramen

    It's not often I write about food on this site but today I feel a need for an appreciation. Today's honoree is Momofuku Ando, inventor of the instant noodle. As any artist, musician, bachelor, student, wage slave or impatient cook can tell you, these three minute miracles are the best meal one can get for little money and a bit of boiling water.

    .Anatomy Of A Photo: Ruined Lighthouse.

    Three hours south of Sydney lies the small fishing village of Huskisson, New South Wales. A small town with one pub, two motels and a small but thriving tourist industry, it is surrounded by national parks, naval installations, and bushland. Further south along the coast of the Tasman Sea one will find Sanctuary Point, an area once targeted for development as a shipping yard, but that was long ago. All that is left of the plan is an old lighthouse situated high above the rocky coast. As time and the elements reclaim the structure, it stands in ruins, forever protected by the national park in which it now resides. In the early hours of the day, with kookaburras laughing and reptiles of all types crawling about, a sense of timelessness overtook this photographer as he raised the camera to eye level and made a photo, one that stands as one of my best pieces of work, a symbol of both ambition and folly.

    .Read My Palm.

    I've long wanted an ebook reader, as the idea of carrying a library of potentially thousands of books in my shirt pocket is quite appealing. However, the cost of a Kindle from Amazon or Sony's excellent reader ($300-$400) is simply too high for my budget. Instead, I bought a Palm Zire 31 PDA ($60 on ebay, free shipping!), installed the excellent ereader program and am in the process of downloading numerous classics from Project Gutenberg and other sources. For the reader who can overlook the feel of plastic instead of paper (and I know a good many of you exist in spite of the old schoolers' protests) this is a viable, economical way of amassing a huge collection of books. Try it, you might get hooked.

    .On The Death Of Dr. Tiller.

    Working in a hospital emergency room exposes me to the effects of violence on a near-daily basis, and America has always been a violent place. However, when an abortion doctor is gunned down in church while performing usher duties, one is forced to ponder how much lower can we go? I ran across this article by Sara Robinson that reveals an alternate view of yet another abortion doctor shooting. Pay special attention to the symbolism associated with the location of the attack.

    .Kent State, 39 Years On.

    May 5th, 1970: Four students were gunned down by National Guard troops during a demonstration against the war in Vietnam. This is one of the defining moments of my parents' generation, but few of them know that Kent State wasn't the only or the first massacre of students in America, by American troops. The first took place on February 8th, 1968, at South Carolina State University, during a protest march against the failure of a bowling alley to racially integrate. The march turned violent, with students throwing objects. A state trooper fired warning shots into the air, causing panic and chaos. When it was all over, three lay dead and twenty seven wounded, the vast majority of them shot in the back.

    Should you remember the events of this day, I ask that you remember Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond, and Delano Middleton, whose lives were cut short in South Carolina. And also remember that while Columbine, Virginia Tech and other school shootings are atrocious, we would do well to remember when school shootings began, and by whom.

    .We're All Fight Club Now.

    Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables — slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won't. We're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

    I haven't commented on the economic crisis because it's so large I can't really get my simple mind around it. Also, it's being covered by far more informed sources. What I will comment on is the reaction to it.

    Millions of job losses each month, a stock market in chaos, homes foreclosures, banks failing. Among those job losses are investors who helped build the economy that is now ravaging them. I saw a piece on CNN in which former Wall Street investors are at a job fair. One cried about how she can't find "even a clerical job, because everyone hires supermodels who can type." To those responsible, I say welcome to the world you created, a world that is now rejecting you, like Adam turning on Victor Frankenstein. Worshipping Mammon hasn't gotten you anywhere and now you're begging for jobs you would have scorned 12 months ago. Welcome to the new economy.

    Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep.

    We're all fight club, now

    .That Synching Feeling.

    "We know from our own experience that enough things happen that aren’t the result of signals or planning or communication that we’re aware of, but that are miraculous manifestations, that keep proving it out, that there’s no way to deny it. We're just involved in something that has a very high incidence of synchronicity. You know, the Jungian idea of synchronicity? Well, shit, that's day-to-day reality for us." - Jerry Garcia, musician and singer, Grateful Dead

    And for myself as well, it seems. One case for synchronicity is related below in the "Stranger On The Highway" entry. Meaningful coincidence has occurred twice again in recent weeks, with stories too good not to be told.

    The first involves a tardy coworker and the sick parent of a friend. Understaffed in the ER I work in, we're juggling personnel between shifts, with some beginning and ending their day earlier than usual. One such clerk was to arrive at 11am but forgot it was her day to come in early, leaving only two clerks to manage the registration of all patients. With no time for lunch, at noon I ran to the cafeteria, grabbed a sandwich and returned to my desk, forgoing my usual 1pm lunch time. As luck (or some other cosmic energy) would have it, the father of a friend arrived in need of emergency care at 1:15pm, and I was able to register the patient and attend to the needs of the family. Had my coworker been on time, I would have been at lunch and perhaps overlooked their presence altogether.

    The second happened just today; again, the sick parent of a friend arrives, a friend I'd not seen in over 20 years.I should have seen this one coming, as several other meaningful coincidences had occurred in previous days. One was that my wife discovered the Facebook page of a girl we went to high school with, a girl who at the time was the best friend of the lady in question. Also, I've been hearing a relentless airplay of Wham! songs on the office radio; Wham! had been my friend's favorite group (in her defence, she was young and it was the 80s). So it should have been no surprise when, after registering the patient, I turned to the woman with him and asked "Are you Pam?" and received a positive reply. However, anyone who has experienced synchronicity will tell you you're never prepared for it, as it seems to appear at the most mundane times, filling the experience with depth and meaning. When will the next synch take place? I don't know, but will dilligently report when it occurs.

    .Anatomy Of A Photo: Forlorn Angel.

    I discovered this near-century old sculpture in a cemetery in Rome, Georgia while exploring the town in the summer of 2008. Instantly stricken by the facial expression carved in stone, I took out my camera, framed precisely, and pressed the shutter button. However, not all went as planned. The shutter lagged, causing the camera to fire as my hands were in motion, resulting in blur. My precisely-composed photo was no longer precise. But upon viewing the capture, I found it much more to my liking than what I originally had in mind. Such is the art of photography; accidents often improve a piece.

    .Gallery Update

    It's as embryonic as the season for which it is named, but a new photo gallery has been added. Spring has arrived, with more photos to follow as the season progresses.

    .Dick, Death, And Meth.

    Philip K. Dick was a prolific writer of science fiction, with several of his stories and books having been adapted to film after his death in 1982. One of his better-known works is the book "A Scanner Darkly," which portrays America in the not-too-distant future, an America that has lost the war on drugs and is under total surveillance by government and corporations alike. The drug of choice in this world is Substance D. Substance D is derived from a flower (like heroin), is instantly addictive and has a near 100% recidivism rate (like crystal methamphetamine), and has a street nickname of Death (rhymes with meth) and people have either never tried it or are addicted to it; there is no in between. Meanwhile, the government and corporations are working together to fight a never-ending war on drugs or whatever (like the Bush administration and Blackwater) and paranoia is rampant. Luckily, there is hope: New Path Recovery is a rehab center that stands the best chance of overcoming the Substance D epidemic. However, it is revealed later in the book that New Path grows the flowers that D is derived from, thus supplying the demand that destroys lives while punishing the addicts, who are used as labor on the flower farms (like the CIA providing cocaine for the production of crack, which destroys the lives of users, who are then imprisoned and used as cheap labor).

    For a book released in 1977 by an author who died in 1982, This is eerily prescient of our current time and condition. Perhaps Dick saw the writing on the wall long before anyone else, perhaps before the writing appeared...

    .Stranger On The Highway.

    An interesting thing occurred this weekend. I took my family for a drive in the mountains east of home. While passing through the town of Ellijay, I took a wrong turn and drove several miles out of town in the wrong direction. We pulled into the parking lot of a closed convenience store to check the map and get our bearings. Moments later, a Domino's Pizza car pulls to a stop beside us, the driver bearded and weary. I look over at him and he smiles, gets out of the car, and walks over to mine. Upon rolling down the window, I ask directions, and he replies with simple, direct instructions on how to get back to the highway I need to be on.

    Perhaps I'm overly dramatic, but this is a perfect example of the seeker/guru archetype. The wanderer is lost and seeking direction. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Once the lesson is taught, the teacher fades away, to return again when needed. Whether the pizza guy was a guru is irrelevent, tho I like to think in some way we are all both students and teachers. The point is, this coincidental meeting in the parking lot of a closed store ten miles out of town put me back on the road to home. Isn't that what all great spiritual moments do?

    .Quote Of The Day.

    From Steve Benen:
    Rush Limbaugh is, without ambiguity, rooting for failure. In the midst of an economic crisis, Limbaugh quite openly admitted that if Obama's economic policies are successful, it would undermine the talk-show host's worldview. As such, Limbaugh wants desperately to see more Americans suffer, more workers unemployed, more businesses close up shop. The key here is philosophy -- if government spending can stimulate the economy, as it always does, then the right is wrong. Limbaugh would much prefer a suffering nation than a reevaluation of conservative ideas.

    .Wynn Bullock: An Appreciation

    I recently purchased a small book of photography by Wynn Bullock. I got much more than expected. Not only did I get a book of photography, I received a whole new perspective on the art of photography. Bullock, considered a master of the art, was 42 years of age when he began making photos after realizing the camera records much more than that which is visible: The medium of photography can record not only what the eyes see, but that which the mind's eye sees as well. The camera is not only an extension of the eye, but of the brain. It can see sharper, farther, nearer, slower, faster than the eye. It can see by invisible light. It can see in the past, present, and future. Instead of using the camera only to reproduce objects, I wanted to use it to make what is invisible to the eye, visible. This philosophy places Bullock in the company of such photographers as Ed Weston, who approached the art with an almost metaphysical mindset.

    That photography is a powerful emotional tool is a foregone conclusion; one need only to look at the impact of photojournalism during a time of war to see that the art can sway public opinion by appealing to the emotional side of the psyche. Bullock sought the mysterious, the hidden, even the whimsical in his work. He succeeded brilliantly.

    .My New Normal.

    What a difference a month and a day makes. On December 15, 2008, I started a new job as an Emergency Room registration clerk at a local hospital. Orientation lasted two days and covered much of what to expect, with one instructor advising that I'd soon realize a new normal. While I found the term interesting, I had no idea the implication that was being made.

    In the weeks of my employment, I've seen sides of human nature I could hardly fathom before. I've witnessed tragedy accepted with grace and dignity; minor incidents perceived as major catastrophes; ethics stretched thin, professionalism personified. I've grown so accustomed to seeing severed fingers carried in plastic bags that I was surprised to see a patient walk in carrying a bag that did not contain fingers. This job requires more from me than any I'd ever held. By shift's end, I'm exhausted, often heart-broken, but looking forward to the next day. Tho my workdays are fuelled by caffeine and chaos, I've never regretted a moment.

    In contrast, January 16, 2009 brought forth a new normal of wonder as I married the woman I've loved since a teen. 22 years after our first kiss, our lives became one in a small ceremony on a chilly, candle-lit evening. With my role as husband came the multifaceted role of stepfather to two wonderful young women. I am a student and a teacher, a listener and a lecturer, a participant and an observer. Our time together is just beginning but we grow as a family with each passing day.

    This is my new normal.

    .Free At Last.

    After failing to find a fix to my wireless networking problems some months ago, I was forced to run Windows. Finally, the developers of the Linux kernel have addressed this problem and corrected it. I'm now running Zenwalk Linux, a variant of Slackware, the oldest and once most popular Linux distribution, and it works flawlessly, far better than Windows Vista ever did. Thank you, Linux community, I no longer have a well equipped but horribly slow computer displaying Not Responding on every program I run!

    .More Gram.

    "A Song For You," with Emmylou Harris on backing vocals, from the album GP

    .Quote Of The Day.

    From Lodewijk Asscher, Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, on the city's plan to lower the number of brothels by half:

    We can still have sex and drugs but in a way that shows the city is in control. It will be a place with 200 windows (for prostitutes) and 30 coffee shops, which you can't find anywhere else in the world - very exciting, but also with cultural attractions. And you won't have to be embarrassed to say you came.

    .Gram, Phil, and Friendship.

    I recently discovered the music of Gram Parsons, the godfather of country rock. Tho little known during his short life (he died of an overdose at the age of 26) and varied career with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and as a solo artist, his influence is profound; it could be said that The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and a good many other acts would never have played a venue larger than a high school stadium.

    While Gram left us all too early, what happened immediately after is one of the strangest tales in all of music legend. Gram and friend/manager Phil Kaufman had a pact: whoever died first would be taken into the Joshua Tree desert by the surviving friend and cremated. Upon hearing of the passing of Gram in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn, Kaufman hit the road in a Hearse, stole the body from LAX, drove to the desert and kept his end of the deal.

    But enough about the weirdness. Enjoy a short tribute vid to a trailblazing musician, featuring the song "Hot Burrito #1" from The Flying Burrito Brothers' album "The Gilded Palace Of Sin".

    .Good News From Mumbai.

    From the tales of horror brought on by the November, 2008 attacks in Mumbai, I have a bit of personal good news. When I first heard of violent attacks against hotels in Mumbai, I grew immediately concerned about Rajul Samel, whom I met online 10 years ago this month and have kept a touch and go correspondence with ever since. Rajul lives in Mumbai and works as Environment Officer at the famed Orchid Hotel. Luckily, Rajul was in Singapore when the attacks took place and the Orchid was not a target. A big sigh of relief and good cheers to Rajul and her countrymen as they set about putting life back to normalcy in India.

    .From The Crypt.

    A recent trip to Barnes & Noble revealed a diamond in the rough: Douglas Keister's Stories In Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. I've long been a cemetery explorer and this guidebook helps to navigate the arcane symbolism of crypts, mausoleums and headstones. Highly illustrated with brilliant photography, this book is highly recommended.

    .Quote Of The Day.

    From occult conspiracy researcher James Shelby Downard:

    "Do not be lulled into believing that just because the deadening American city of dreadful night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of baseball-hot dogs-apple-pie-and-Chevrolet, that it exists outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these modern conditions precisely because sorcery is not what '20th Century man' can accept as real."

    .45 Years.

    On this day in 1963, the event that sparked the military coup d'état of the United States of America took place in Dallas, Texas. Since then, hardly a day has passed without military action, either overt or covert aggression against a sovereign nation, being carried out by the US armed forces. Political scandal has become commonplace in both parties. Right wing America has sunk to such depths that shouts of "Kill him!" occur at Republican presidential rallies and go unaddressed by the candidates. The Iraq War, an unjust war based on falsified intelligence and sold without question by the media to a fear-addled public, costs $1,000,000,000.00 per day, while fifty-two cents of each federal tax dollar goes to the Pentagon.

    Where were you on that day? I was unborn, but the legacy of those who perpetrated the act continues to wreak havoc in the world I inherited. War without end. Surveillance without warrant. Division by race, class, affiliation. Millions have died, but hope is still alive. A powerful focal point for the hope of a nation has been elected to the highest office of the land. However, as we learned in 1963, even the occupant of that office can be killed in public and the murderers go free, to die in their beds or continue to wield influence. We, the people, must remain diligent in the protection of liberty and democracy. President Eisehower tried to tell us but we failed to listen. Now, as one blogger put it, we're all Zapruders now.

    .Notes On The Autumn Gallery.

    First, I have to thank everyone who complimented the gallery. I felt they were just seven photos; the viewers feel they are so much more. Your kind words sustain me. There are also a number of questions, such as "Who is the girl in the silhouette photo?" and "Why did you put a color photo in an otherwise black & white gallery?" In reply: the girl is a bronze sculpture by Harold Cash, of his muse D'A-Lal. Obsessed with her, he painted, sketched and sculpted literally thousands of pieces of her likeness, with the one in my photo being located outdoors at the Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN. Lastly, the vines photo is not a color photo but rather a black & white with shadow and hightlights tweaked lightly and the saturation turned to up 11, causing the many greys to appear as green and brown.

    Again, thanks to all who took the time to view and write. I look forward to posting more galleries soon.

    .New Photo Gallery.

    I've posted a new photo gallery, titled Autumn, 2008 This is the first gallery of new photos to be posted in some time. It felt good to be behind the camera again and I look forward to more photo days in the future. Breaking from tradition, I used the incredibly easy to use Picasa 3 from Google to edit the photos. While the GIMP will always be in my editing toolkit, Picasa is great for everything from quick edits to major projects. Lastly, the gallery was built using a program called Jalbum, a free, easy to use program for assembling photo galleries for the net. Written in Java, Jalbum runs on Windows, Linux, and Macintosh platforms. There's also a community for sharing photos online.

    .A Common Sense Revolutionary.

    I think I've found a new hero...

    Lee Brandenburg, a self-described lifelong independent has founded a great website called The Captive American, which calls for a new "war of independents." This is a website filled with common sense advice on how to deal with the many crises facing the world today. But don't take my word for it, I'll let the man speak for himself:

    .Red, Blue, and You.

    It's now 10 days since the presidential election and the mainstream media find old habits hard to break. Joe The Plummer (real name Samuel Wurzelbacher) still manages to get airtime, altho what he has to say seems to be a chaotic jumble of conservative talking points from a poorly scribbled crib sheet. Sarah Palin has limped back to Alaska like a wolf thats been struck by a bullet fired from a helicopter. Like Joe, she continues to speak, if what you call the mindless drivel she bleats "speaking." The President-Elect is building his cabinet with former Clinton administration officials, which I find reassuring as he is making good on his promise to help the unemployed. Senator Hillary Clinton is said to be a contender for Secretary Of State, which I find to be a very appropriate role for a highly capable person.

    But in a nutshell, nothing is really changing, tho there is potential for great change to come. The problem is in choice. Like giving billions of dollars in financial aid to the very people who wrecked the economy, there are built-in stumbling blocks in the choices of cabinet members, some of whom had less than stellar careers the first time around. And speaking of choice, if you the reader consider yourself Blue or consider yourself Red, maybe you should consider yourself a puppet. The people of America do not need prepackaged identity qualifiers, nor do they need a two-party system (if in fact there are two parties, as they differ so little one could be forgiven for thinking there is but one) which is hopelessly incapable of addressing the many nuances, some subtle and some less so, of 21st century America. People of America, don't just expect more of your public servants and elected officials, because expectations are rarely met. Demand more from these people, and if they fail to deliver, vote them out and give a third party or independent candidate a chance. You deserve better than you've been given.

    .Fall In The South.

    Autumn has arrived in Georgia; the leaves have changed color, the wind is blowing cool through the hills and valleys, the days grow shorter as winter approaches. This is my favorite time of year.

    .Oration, An Art Reborn.

    Back in 2005, I made a post titled "Oration, A Dying Art?" in which I stated the following:

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day always brings with it footage of Dr. King delivering a speech or sermon. King was a brilliant speaker, neither talking down to nor over the heads of his listeners, using direct, articulate language. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear the I've been to the mountaintop speech. Which brings me to ponder this thought: is great public speach a dying art? One need only look to such dullards as the current occupant of the White House, 10 Downing Street, or Kirribilli House in Australia to see that public officials are sorely lacking in ability to address the people, much less inspire their hearts and minds. This, with a crew of full-time speechwriters to formulate the words for them!

    If I've learned anything from the 2008 presidential race, it's that oration is not dead, as evidenced by Barack Obama's simple yet powerful manner of public speaking, altho oration is still endangered, as evidenced by Sarah Palin's erratic, stumbling attempts to answer even simple questions for which she is clearly not willing or prepared to answer.

    .An Extraordinary Collection.

    As always, Sean at Kikos House has posted a Beautiful Photograph Du Jour. I clicked on it and was taken to Onexposure, an online gallery that features some truly magnificent work.

    .A Brilliant Combination.

    As my ongoing search for the perfect writing tools continues, I have stumbled upon a tool kit that may be considered "just right". This combination consists of a word processor developed especially for creative writers and is suitable for everything from prose to screenplays, Rough Draft, and the dictionary/thesaurus WordWeb. While not without its intricacies (such as placing header and footer options in the Print menu, whereas most other word processors have them in the Insert menu; a quick trip through the user interface clearly reveals all the necessary functions), Rough Draft is a well-rounded writing program that does a fine job of formatting any manuscript one might want, while saving the file as a universally-accepted Rich Text Format file. WordWeb is a comprehensive program of more than 150,000 words. The brilliance of this combination is that WordWeb integrates into Rough Draft, thus rather than acting as two stand alone programs, both programs work together to smooth the writing process and increase workflow, allowing the writer to concentrate on writing rather than coming to grips with the writing tool. I have coupled this combination with the doPDF printer driver to form a versatile, easy to use lightweight writing suite with dictionary/thesaurus and PDF creation. Highly recommended.

    .Blatant Parody Of Political "Controversy".

    Who's Hotter? Sarah Palin, Tina Fey, Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, or the porn star in Sarah Palin/Tina Fey glasses?

    .On John McCain.

    While there seems to be a big to-do about lipstick on pigs and who said it first, there are a few other things about the 2008 Presidential election that have my attention. I won't go deeply into my thoughts on "Would McCain be a good president?" or "Is Sarah Palin qualified to hold the office of VP?" My answer is "No" to both. What I find equally interesting and disturbing is the manner in which John McCain is portrayed in the media. They call him a maverick, yet he voted with Bush on 90% of the bills sent to the Senate; in a nutshell, this isn't how a maverick behaves, it is the behavior of a flunky. He's a friend to the common man, yet doesn't know how many houses he and his wife own, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't know that the dress his wife wore to the Republican National Convention costs $300,000.00. And lastly, his status as a former Vietnam-era POW seems to have elevated him to the rank of saint. But, as Michael Moore has asked, "What's so heroic about being shot down while bombing innocent civilians?" McCain was on his way to bomb a "heavily populated" area of Hanoi when his plane went down (the fifth plane he crashed, which begs the question of why he was still allowed to fly); in other words, he was on his way to commit a war crime. And it wasn't NVA or VC troops that dragged him out and attacked him, it was a number of civilians who did so. My assumption is they were angry about having become victims of terror bombings and saw his arrival as a chance to blow off a little steam, to borrow the words of Rush Limbaugh's excusing of those who committed torture at Abu Grahib.

    Can John McCain lead as president? Perhaps so, but more importantly, can Mrs. Palin take the office should McCain lose his next bout with cancer? Anyone thinking the choice of VP is trivial needs only to look at the picture below to have a fuller understanding of the importance of choice of running mate in the 2008 election.

    .From The Master.

    As mentioned in previous posts, I'm writing a lot lately, having written six short stories in as many weeks and completed a screenplay that lay dormant for over a year, and am now working on notes for 3 more screenplays and a novel. As I am between jobs at the moment, I find the quiet of night to be the most productive time for writing. Spoken in words much better than I can express is a comment from the early 20th Century master of horror:

    "At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night." - H.P. Lovecraft

    .At Long Last.

    Sixteen months after beginning, I've finally completed my first screenplay, a short piece titled Table Twelve. The story is a day in the life of a table in a 24 hour diner and the patrons who visit there. The screenplay can be found here.

    .In Praise Of Steinbeck.

    I visited my old high school last week and while walking through the English department, I noticed a poster of John Steinbeck. Squinting from across the room to read the print, I was taken aback when an elderly lady, the teacher whose room I'd invaded, said "Hello!" I told her the poster had caught my eye and we had a long chat about Steinbeck, his writing, and his time. Needless to say, I'm going through my books, reading the work of a fine writer whose direct, unadorned prose is a study in simplicity of form.

    .It Came From Marrs.

    Journalist Jim Marrs has released a new book titled Rise Of The Fourth Reich: The Secret Societies That Threaten to Take Over America which documents how the Germans lost World War II but the Nazis appear to have won. Having deeply researched his topic, Marrs details the Nazi elite's escape from justice and into inviting states such as Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States, where their advanced scientific research was highly prized, as was the case of Wernher von Braun, SS member and father of the V1 and V2 rockets that devestated London, who was brought into the US as part of Operation Paperclipto continue his research on rocketry. The main thesis of the book is to show that while Fascism was reportedly defeated in Europe, it is alive and well in the US, something dissidents such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have written at length about. Marrs, however, delves into specific characteristics of the current US regime with startling conclusions. A must read.

    .Put On A Happy Face!.

    I'll have what he's having

    .Inspiration.

    I've found that music plays a huge role in the way I write, with influence coming from all quarters of my collection. While it's not my call to make, I think it possible that someone writing a piece about a medieval or fantasy battle would do well to give Led Zeppelin's Battle Of Evermore a listen; along a similar vein, the song Achilles' Last Stand from the same band would be a good inspiration for someone writing about the Trojan War. If writing a piece set in the South, one has many choices, ranging from roots music of the area such as jazz, blues, country and bluegrass, to moody, evacotive music by the likes of Mazzy Star, whom I find very inspiring. When I write horror, nothing comes close to the music of Siouxsie And The Banshees, whose richly textured music is near perfect for the mood I seek to invoke.

    Coming Soon!

    I've been writing quite a bit lately. Some gutter-level literature along the lines of Charles Bukowski and some horror, with the two occassionally mixing. As I have submitted for publication, I can't post my works online until after they have been accepted or rejected (such are the perils of "first rights" for submitted work, something I'll go into deeper detail in a later post). Altho I was at first apprehensive about writing horror for fear of being perceived and just another horror writer, as all too many horror and science fiction writers can attest, I am having fun with the genre and was even given the flattering news of one of my stories leaving a sense of "lingering unease" for one reader. I suppose I can't ask for more than that!

    .Literature Made Easy.

    I recently discovered a new publication on the news stand titled Memoir (and), a sharp, slick literary journal that includes very nice art. Best of all, it is open to submissions, with an Online Submissions Manager giving the task of submitting one's work as simple as logging in and attaching a file.

    .Can't Keep A Good Guru Down.

    A face I see popping up again and again is that of Terence McKenna, the late ethnobotanist/shamanologist famed for his Time Wave Zerotheory, in which time is fractal and can be plotted using the I Ching. McKenna has been featured in a documentary about a possible world-changing event occurring on December 21, 2012 currently airing on the History Channel,and again in the pages of Fortean Times magazine. This resurgence of interest in one of the most original thinkers of his generation comes as a pleasant surprise. For more about McKenna, you can hear him in his own words by downloading mp3 podcasts available here.

    .My Long Year.

    Today marks the one year anniversary of my return to America after seven years in Australia. While I'm happy to be home, I will always be grateful to Australia and her people for the amazing experiences I was part and party to. In this turbulent year, I've divorced, made new frineds, lost old friends, felt joy, sorrow, pain, bliss, fear, peacefulness and more in an often rapid change of emotion. I work, own nothing but my clothes and camera, and feel a sense of freedom I hadn't felt in many long years. I'm in a relationship with someone who understands and encourages my creativity, going so far as to critique my work with a sharp eye and quick wit. Each day is a struggle, but a struggle toward lasting happiness.

    To those I've hurt, I offer my heartfelt apologies. To those I've neglected, I pledge more of myself to you. To friends real I offer my undying gratitude for seeing me through difficult days. To friends false I offer precisely what you deserve: nothing. In the face of an uncertain future, I stand at the ready, prepared to spring forth from the gate and charge into tomorrow.

    .Somewhere In Time.

    Bill Joy says "the future doesn't need us"; Ram Dass tells us to "Be Here Now". There should be some solace in these words, that perhaps the concept of tomorrow is a flawed idea, but I feel the future is bright, even in these uncertain times. Perhaps I'm a foolish optimist (I prefer cautious to foolish...) but now is a beautiful moment, one that I hope leads to something equally beautiful in the future.

    .Deja Vu (?).

    Something I've noticed in recent weeks is how familiar all this feels, as tho we as a collective whole have been here before. Case in point: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and its eerie parallels with the JFK assassination. Both took place in broad daylight as the victim was shot in the head while riding in a car, both were filmed (with crucial moments of the events obscured or missing from the footage), and both were investigated by a heavily military-based investigation. In other news, Iranian patrol boats are alledged to have behaved aggressively toward US warships; students of recent history will recall that a similar event called the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, in which North Vietnamese patrol boats were alledged to have fired on US warships, sparked the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, Obama is growing more and more Kennedyesque. While watching his speech following the Iowa caucuses, I half expected him to say "And now it's on to Chicago and let's win there." And as ever, GW Bush is banging the war drum. As though two simultaneous wars were not enough, Bush continues to assert Iran is a growing nuclear threat, in light of the recent revelation that its nuclear program was halted several years ago. Iran, it seems, is the new Cuba, or the new Libya, or perhaps even the new Iraq, as if the world needs another third world nation under attack by the sole superpower. If past is prologue and time is cyclical, we are in for interesting days ahead.