Channeling Molly

Newspaper columnist and Texas raconteur Molly Ivins’ mortal coil left this plane on January 31, 2007 (Oh Lord, have we been without her for a decade?), dubious that she was bound for greater glory. Alas, she never got to witness the accidental ascendance of Donald R. Trump, not that it would have surprised her. She surely would have had plenty to say about the state of affairs that allowed yet another buffoon (the last one being “Shrub,” her affectionate moniker for Bush Lite) to leave the middle class behind as he terrorized the planet.

Most of the right-wing pols who had to pull her barbs from their behinds considered her a fifth-columnist, but all she was was a dogged, sharp-tongued reporter of liberal persuasion who took down political bloviation and chicanery with devastating down-home humor. She is sorely missed, and in her absence the self-awareness of the politicking class in the Republic of Texas—if not everywhere—has sunk below irony. As Molly once said, the thing about holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. Oh sure, we have Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Andy Borowitz to deliver unto us outrage over political jackassery, but who remains to make us giggle by exposing political mendacity in regular columns syndicated in hundreds of newspapers? But then, does anyone read newspapers anymore? Continue reading “Channeling Molly”

Mothers 2.0

It being Mothers Day and all, here’s a shout to my two main moms. First, a salute to the wisdom and fortitude of the one who birthed me, Sophie Pincus Dutton (1910-2005). Below the fold, listen to her describe her first several jobs and how she met my father in 1940. Spoiler: She married that handsome tennis coach, Charles Dutton, after a two-year engagement and they stuck it out until he passed in 1982.

Both stories unabashedly ripped from the pages of cowbird.com.

Five minutes of Sophie’s voice talking about her early work and love life:

 

Closer now in time and place we meet Aygül Balcioglu, the mother of my daughter. Here we explain how a Muslim woman and a Jewish man happened to meet and click at a Christmas party, generating a disturbance in the Force that lasted over five years. Those kinks got worked out, mostly.

Sophie opened her home and heart to Aygül and Aygül returned the favor and often says she misses Sophie, who lived long enough to see her only grandchild turn five. (She should have had more time, way sooner. My fault. I’m an only child and was always a slow starter.)

This story takes the form of a letter to our daughter, written to help her appreciate what it took to get her here.

Aygül has taken the lead again and again in realizing our daughter’s potential to become the best person she can when I wasn’t clear on how to proceed. I treasure that, and someday, I hope, so will our kid.

I love you both deeply. You are bookends to my erratic, unlikely life who has saved me more than once from lapses of judgment and catastrophes of character. Happy Mothers Day to my two moms. You’re the best.

Go Solve Yourself

Having noted that there are seven billion human beings now weighing down the planet, most struggling for subsistence, the question that keeps corporations up at night is “How can we turn these poor wretches into consumers?” And more often than not the answer is “tether them with technology that we’ll constantly monitor and update.”

Due to the dispersed nature of talent and resources, high-tech expertise nests in niches, nooks, and crannies in all sorts of places, pursuing separate goals that may or may not be related. To maximize the market potential of up-and-coming makers and capitalize on it, corporate chiefs, technologists, government policy makers, non-governmental organizations, and academics have learned to meld minds to find ways and means to get the downtrodden up to speed in the digital economy. Many hard-striving institutions of higher learning have assumed the guise of problem-solvers-to-the-world to hone the bleeding edge of innovation to razor sharpness, and no one does it better than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Continue reading “Go Solve Yourself”

Discuss Among Your Various Selves

Half my life is an act of revision.
– John Irving

I’m with J.I. It seems most of the second half of my life has been devoted unlearning the craft of writing. Despite having written millions of words in all manner of forms, creative writing remains tedious, if not downright torturous. When I write a short story, I can easily compile four or five drafts before it starts to look okay. My current novel underwent seven month-long revisions. Now I love to write, but this is too much. Hoping to short-circuit this busywork, I decided to perform an experiment on a human subject. I would observe myself writing to pinpoint where it bogs down by drafting a mini-scene and taking note of what I had to do to whip it into shape. Prompted by a short story I’m having trouble with, this text popped out of my head:

Continue reading “Discuss Among Your Various Selves”

Tout le monde méprise la politique

In honor of the French Presidential election and its resonance to our recent none-of-the-above presidential plebiscite, here’s a replay of my own October Surprise (with apologies to rap artists everywhere).

Come election time you’ll need some wine
to swallow the sorrow you’ll feel on the morrow
so bring the gang over to get a hangover
and to choose where to stand when the shit hits the fan

After taking the pitch, pick the creep or the witch
They say we must choose and that choice is a snooze
‘cause she’s almost adorable and he’s simply deplorable
and if he gets in the Russkies will win

Like, the media lingers on the size of his fingers
and so cheerfully rambles ‘round her various scandals
and if that nice David Brooks calls The Donald a schnook
is he not willingly chilling and shilling for Hillary?

The press treats her acidly but ignores her mendacity
and just like he’s saying, the pundits are braying
with perfidious chatter for his head on a platter
using words that were jiggered by invisible riggers

Whoever you choose you’re just gonna lose
so let’s take a gander at pols who don’t pander
with idiot tweets that ain’t got no meat
to get some advices on the roots of our crises

Now the Greens and Libs don’t traffic in fibs
but the press tunes them out, assuming a rout
without full disclosure they black out exposure
of third-party voices that offer us choices

We got Libertarians, the disestablishmentarians
who say wars are disasters and the Fed is our master
ignore Gary’s Aleppo—he’s not really a schleppo
he stands for the principle that profit’s invincible

The Green Party platform is more than reformist
and Jill isn’t green—she knows what we’ve seen
it’s one-party rule that takes us for fools
and corruption galore we can’t take anymore

So here’s to Ralph Nader and whatever crusader
will take on the system and help us resist ‘em
we’ll end the asaillance of domestic surveillance
and stop them from spending for wars without endings.

So do unto them or they’ll do unto you
there’s so much to do but do it will who?
just look in the mirror to see your new savior
and don’t kick the bucket before you say PHUCKIT

@audio: author’s voiceover of Sage of Wisdom from Exile, CCC by Seclorance

Food for Thuột

When it comes to exotic foods I’m willing to try almost anything once. (Sometimes more than once; I’ve eaten over 100 species of mushrooms, 90% of which I picked myself.) And I remember being the only American at a conference in Manila once who was willing to chow down balut (hard-boiled duck embryos sold by street vendors working for duck abortion mills). They were sort of okay if heavily salted and washed down with quantities of San Miguel beer, and while I wouldn’t deem the taste indescribable I doubt you want me to go on about it.

In my never ending quest for exotic foodstuffs, every few months I stop by my favorite Asian supermarket to stock up on quirky condiments, sauces and spices, and replenish my ingredients for my healthful morning mushroom, ginseng, and ginger tea. (That morning slug may be the only healthful thing I do most days.) My mammoth mart is run by Chinese but features foodstuffs from all over East Asia, fresh, frozen, dried, pickled, and salted. There’s a huge fish counter featuring live prawns, frogs, and mollusks and three guys chopping, filleting, and gutting at least 20 kinds of fish (eels too!), a meat counter that I tend to avoid, and a selection of fowl that includes head-on chickens and ducks, gizzards, feet, tongues, squabs, sparrows, and some weird black-fleshed chickens I tried once and didn’t care for. (I hope the color isn’t something they put in their feed.) Continue reading “Food for Thuột”

With Light Saber Toolbox Getting Started

[A little-known Star Wars fact: As an apprentice Jedi, Yoda paid his dues by serving as a technical writer. The following text is the first part of the only example of his work that has wormholed its way to us. It’s a user’s manual for installing, calibrating and using the software that light sabers need to function. In addition to his other formidable exploits, Yoda as a great technical communicator remembered will be.]

 

For purchasing Light Saber Toolbox®, thank you. For any application of a light saber—even opening packages—essential it is. Simple and pleasurable this guide the installation and operation of the toolbox makes. In it you find

  • Background – About your light saber
  • Installation – How the code to bootstrap
  • Control Logic – General operating principles
  • User Interfaces – Two of them, your choice
  • Self-Tests and Diagnostics – If trouble you encounter
  • For More Information – Learn more, you always can

Know we do that Light Saber Toolbox many generations of Jedi knights has faithfully served (some without upgrades, even). And you too it will if with the Force you abide. Continue reading “With Light Saber Toolbox Getting Started”