Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Mind is Rigged!

This thought comes at a time when poor attitudes and ignorance are fomented by today’s elite powers and their Olympus Mons financial reserves. The “Lamestream Media”, as the rebellious conservative outsiders tend to label it, is nothing more than a tool for them.

History has proven time and time again that professionally disseminated ideas via channels carrying intrinsic public power. What is this, exactly? Let’s just say more weight is given to those possessing power of celebrity, elected or appointed title, social or military rank, recognition and so forth. In the last 20 years or so, the “official” channels have wielded more power than at any point in history. The (Mis)Information Age, you see. Never mind all those cogent delineations; with the exception of an outlying percentage, the public at large are small fish darting around in deep, dark waters—a bait ball for predators. The “small” folks don’t like to hear this—the truth. Similarly discovering you’re just a copper-topped battery in the Matrix. A fantasy film with a bit of hard-core realism tossed in. It sucks.

Ah, but there is this great equalizer in which we firmly believe: our Constitution and our vote. No matter how rich and powerful someone becomes, their vote counts no more than yours. Yeah, but…

Rigged? How so?

That’s probably the very first question a detractor posits. You’ve been hearing elections are rigged for most of your life. You’ve witnessed many examples of it too: Poll workers charged with tampering, mailed votes in contested districts go missing, votes from dead people, hanging chads, purposely confounding ballot item descriptions, paid minority groups being bussed around to several districts that have unsophisticated balloting systems, gerrymandering, special delegate statuses that count more than true representation. The list is exhaustive but you get the idea.

We want to believe the United States is a democracy, but it’s simply not in practice. You’ve heard that nasty word “oligarchy” before, haven’t you? It’s a popular belief that the good ‘ole USA is actually that – a country controlled by a relative few people. Your vote is a token gesture masquerading as a sacred right under the Constitution. Well, here comes the Godwin’s Law straight away:


Those dang Nazis were masters of public perception. I think we all know it. The German population proudly marched down the path of evil without batting an eye. Many of us became sickly with the same feeling when Bush—I mean Colin Powell— made his half-assed pitch to invade Iraq. With some exceptions, the angry American majority was simply out for blood and they got it. Mission Accomplished. So, was Goebbels correct, or is his meme a case of contextual power of authority? It certainly feels like it applies. What about Herman Goering’s nifty little meme?


The quote passes the fact-checking, so it’s accurate to state Goering actually said this while imprisoned for the Nuremberg trials. It’s one of those greasy, foul-smelling macro concepts that may very well be a bible truth, but we immediately look the other way as soon as someone brings it up. Yep—Godwin’s Law defined. Heck, by having a Godwin’s Law in the first place we’re creating an emotional barrier. Sure, bring up the Nazis! That horse is way beyond beaten, dead, and blown dust. My guess is many of you scrolled down my text, saw the memes first and thought, “Oh brother…it’s one of those posts.” Yep—the Godwin Effect.

So, yes, Mr. Trump, the election—our entire system for that matter—is rigged and perhaps always has been. Life goes on for the weak and the powerful. What can we do about it?

A few things come to mind: Write a candidate in, vote 3rd or 4th party, expose systemic manipulation, GET INVOLVED.

Wait, is that always the preferred route? Get involved? Well, yes and no.

Take Mike Rowe’s piece on encouraging everyone to vote. I happen to agree—fully.  I can’t do it either. Too many people are nowhere near qualified as informed voters. This is where disparity begins with the U.S. system. This is where the info wars start and end. This is the cesspool of manipulation. But this is where power resides, and the elite has known it for a very, very long time.

Get over it.










Thursday, June 2, 2016

Blöggentrafikomläggningen

Writing Update

What? He’s starting with a writing update? Yep! The news is that I’ve been on yet another distractive hiatus working on other Maslow Hierarchy Level One and Two projects. DUST’s sequel is well into drafting and developing nicely, but I must stress that I’m not concerned with a release date as much as I prefer—no, demand!—that it be a good book. I’m totally ripping that line from Roger Daltrey’s recent interview (see below), but that’s always how I’ve felt about it. Yes, we’re what, six or seven years into this due to tangents and distractions? Well, it happens. I’m over it. D2 will arrive sooner or later. I promise to draft more manuscript later this year.

Wait! There’s more news. I’ve transferred publishing to a new company called CineCapture Press, and a special edition of DUST will accompany the sequel’s release. For now, it boils to this: “more” and “better”.


Spoon Control
My guess is that if I mentioned the latest school shooting, most of my readers would click out after the first sentence. (Before you get started on me, I’m not the type of person that falls prey to either/or logical fallacies. The tired “You’re either for *more* guns, or you want all guns banned entirely” argument is for simpletons. Please…) This bit is not an argument for or against gun control, it’s about the media’s automatic inclination to feature that discussion before positing the other more obvious causations. Are they asking the right questions? I think not. What caused them to pick up a weapon in the first place?

 Consider these factors in homicide profiling :
  • Chemical Imbalance: How many mass murderers had pharmaceutical prescriptions for psychological treatment? Were they taking at the time of shooting, recently quit taking the medications, or stopped long ago? Depression, SSRI drug withdrawals, etc.
  • Suicidal: How many ultimately kill themselves or suicide by cop? Was this the planned intent?
  • From Broken and/or Dysfunctional Families?
  • Lacking Attention: Lashing out with social media and other public outlets. How much influence did increased attention have?
  • Following a Martyr: Where they inspired by someone who they sympathize as a victim of society?
  • Desensitized by Media? Exposure to violence via media reports, movies, violent video games, etc.
  • Bullied in School?
  • External Loci Type?
  • Has there ever been a case of a mass killing by use of other weapons?

Okay, okay—you get it, right? Unfortunately, CNN, BBC, FOX, CBS, MSNBC and so many other outlets seem hell-bent on the causation as being first and foremost the access to guns. I won’t deny that guns are in fact tools that make the job of killing people easier, but to me it’s akin blaming diabetic deaths on table spoons. One could argue that table spoons contribute to the deaths of **millions** each year in the USA. Sounds rather silly, doesn’t it? The logic’s the same, and before anyone spouts “but people aren’t killing other people with spoons!” BZZZZ. Wrong. We get invited to dinner and go out for a meal all the time. We are always provided the tools that might eventually cause your coronary. The trick is self-restraint…sanity…spoon control.  

Yes, it’s true: people with poor mental health probably shouldn’t have access to a fully stocked pantry. As soon as they’re diagnosed and placed on a psychological prescription, their diet should be regulated and monitored. Additionally, any other threats to public safety should also be considered. Driver’s licenses, flammables and explosives, sharp objects, rope, elastic bands and rocks, and very long words that require a dictionary.

Can’t you see? Any person, for whatever reason—clinical, historical or otherwise—has the potential for harm if they wish to cause it. Removing access to the tools of harm doesn’t solve the root issue. Eventually, long after the anger part of grief settles, most reasonable folks begin to understand that the first line of defense will be good mental health.

(This article was actually written several months ago after the Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon. My thoughts are with the victims of all these heinous crimes.)


Cuba Libre-ish?

Many have posted their disgust over Obama in Cuba. Being that some of my family’s ancestors originate there, and that much of my wife’s family also came from Cuba—before and after Castro’s revolution—our own feelings are mixed. I can agree that the sudden detente has all the appearances of an American capitulation: What about all those nationalized properties confiscated by the Castros? The political executions reportedly in the thousands? All those criminals sent as political refugees in the Mariel Boat Lift? The Missile Crisis? Yeah, the list is exhaustive, but guess what? The folks who stand to rule after Raul and Fidel are buried are also named Castro. Yes, to any red-blooded democratic society, it stinks. Shaking hands with the devil? (I know to some of you the devil in the Obama-Castro video is subjectively plural – fair enough.)

Thing is, the ones suffering our differences are the Cuban people and their stateside families who are restricted in travel and financial assistance, not to mention all the business and travel opportunities lost in the last several decades. Folks, after 50+ years, the embargo is a failed policy. We must admit that. To continue the status quo out of spite is asinine hypocrisy. Why no sanctions on their trading partners, U.K., Mexico, Canada, China, Russia, and so many others throughout Europe?

Real change will come from economic engagement. Fidel won’t admit it publicly, but Raul and their sons know the truth. We need each other economically and strategically. To be sure, there’s more at play here in the geopolitical than simply USA and Cuba. You can post your memes (camera angles to create a context, mocking still photos to demonstrate a certain point), but this is one of the extremely rare times that I believe Obama and Kerry are actually attempting to do what’s best for the people, however awkward, painful, and ideologically abrasive. There’s no such thing as perfect diplomacy. Ask any robber-baron!

I know; there exists a certain degree of bias here. My wife has visited Cuba twice, but to my knowledge, none of my family has stepped foot on the island to trace its roots, and we hope to make that trip someday soon. Nobody’s getting any younger. Oh, and music. MUSIC! The dream sojourn... Yeah, many reasons, but Cuba must be ready for us. I’ve read too many articles corroborating inadequate hospitality infrastructure and security, but the sooner we all make the effort, the better.

Forget the Castros and the worn-out political posturing. I don’t see anyone yackin’ about China or publicly boycotting their wares. We do quite a bit of business with Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam too, not to forget the numerous monarchy-run Arab countries with brutal civil rights issues. Don’t ask why, you either know the ugly answer or you’re an ostrich. Change is a process, and I don’t believe it starts with isolation. Cuba has so much to offer, and we can’t wait our entire lives for The Egos to sort it out. They won’t. It takes a little prodding (thanks to Pope Francis and Nelson Mandela), a little courage, and a few friendly overtures.


Rogering the Music Industry

Did you happen to catch this Rolling Stone interview with Roger Daltrey? Loved it for many reasons, but once again, another legend bashes the state of the recording industry. He says he can’t make a record without paying for it. I suppose he means that he can’t make a profit from a new album. I’m not so sure there. My guess is that Mr. Daltrey hasn’t explored crowd-funding or the likely army of studios and engineers that would bow their mighty facilities just for the street cred. Sure, there’s the whole professional methodology at play when doing a proper job of a new project, but honestly, can he really say he’d have to personally pay for a record? It’s a beard-stroker for certain…if you’re still wearing a beard, that is. Are beards still in? Hmmm… oops tangent… 


I’ve already spent my two cents on this subject, and I’m sticking to it. What else is there to say?



On the Outside Looking Up

Oh, to fly again… <looks at old flight log>

24 Years. That’s how long it’s been since I last carried the moniker of “Pilot in Command”. It seems like a long time—okay,it is a long time—but once you get the bug, it’s awfully hard to suppress. I still think about it at least once a month. I’ll spend time perusing Plane & Pilot or FLY mags, practice landings on a simulator and, once a year or so, I’ll look at the going prices for a decent Mooney M20-something. <sigh> But as much as I enjoyed it, flying continues to be an economic and common sense challenge. Even 24 years ago, planes were expensive, maintenance costs insane, and insurance premiums, well, insert hysterical laughter. Not much has changed with the notable exception being that flying is—relative to inflation and income growth—more expensive than ever. Couple accessibility hurdles with failure to keep a relative pace with progressions in common highway driving, and you begin to understand why general aviation has seen cataclysmic decline.

Something’s got to give!

Well it has. Sort of.

The relatively new US FAA regulations regarding light sport aircraft and the somewhat recent new Sport Pilot License have indeed fostered entrepreneurial adventures in aviation.
Icon A5 convertible folding seaplane. (Photo via Wikipedia)
More innovative designs such as the Icon A5 are upcoming, but take a look at the bigger picture. These are recreational aircraft not meant to fulfill the dream of speedy personal (or family) transportation for the masses. Okay, Pandora’s Box (reportedly a jar, actually) opened. Arguments: Is flight really meant for masses? Training involved similar to a calculus final exam? What about the surge for self-driving land vehicles. Can we not (and more easily) devise automated aircraft? Some observations over the years are thus: When flying was relatively attainable for (at least) the middle class, say, in the mid-1960s, there seemed to be no shortage of funds for airport infrastructure nor lack of John Qs frothing—checkbooks in hand—for flying instruction. 

Soooo…

An intelligent person with a modicum of economic sense knows what’s happened and why. Again, an ugly truth. Inexpensive flight as an alternative means of distance transportation competes with which industries? Now look at the barriers they might lobby to raise. FAA rules, supply manipulation, fuel costs, insurance regulation and costs, stifling maintenance regimens—you name it. What’s needed here is the equivalent Ford Model T manufacturing paradigm that meets today’s transportation needs. It should be reliable, safe, modern, inexpensive to operate, fast!, and priced within reasonable reach of John Q without the need for group ownership schemes. For me, that’s a 4-6 seater that cruises 200+ knots quaffing less than 10 gallons per hour. Add the latest glass avionics, a 5000 hour TBO, insurance premiums less than my house, and keep the purchase price below $70K.  Who’s working on that?

Even if they were, $70,000 buys a lot of commercial airline passage. Okay, maybe not into the municipal airports mentioned previously, but I’m okay with renting a car for the final leg. Then there’s the inclement weather factor. Commercial wins again. This debate could rage for days, but I think you get the point. Private piloting must make sense. For a blessed few, it still does. For the rest of us, it’s either a super-passionate all-consuming hobby or a dream of once was.   

/T

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bananas!

Beyond Bananaland
Old Banana Railway, Moín, Costa Rica

I’m troubled by the macro complaints of the Pope, the Dalai Lama, celebrities, and the countless other pontificators in their denunciation of world poverty. Wait—I know your first thought my be that I am somehow discounting their gripes; I am most certainly not! It took a research expedition to Central and South America recently to gain a little perspective on the matter. The trip was almost everything I expected. Almost. That is, until the perceived-from-a-distance view blew up in my face. Please allow me to explain…

SPOLIER ALERT?

I’m currently researching locations for two upcoming novels. On-the-ground info is sparse for certain Latin American locations, hence the voyage. A slow ship into the southern Caribbean. Why hurry? Might as well enjoy it.

I won’t go into the research details for obvious reasons, but I can share some of the locations. We were guided through the insane city streets of Cartagena, Colombia, through the Gatun locks of the Panama Canal, into the Panamanian countryside in throughout Captain Morgan’s plunders of Old Panama City. We also traversed the mountains, jungles and plantations of eastern Costa Rica, proximate to the town of Estrada. The word “dichotomy” repeatedly materialized in my thoughts. There is a constant contrast between rich and poor in each location. The middle class is missing. The poor are dirt poor, that is. It’s awful to witness so many people suffer.

Yes, suffer.

Banana boats leaving New Puerto Límon, Costa Rica
My stomach turned at the sight of so many banana-laden cargo ships headed to global ports. It’s an ignorant bliss thing, now ruined. Previously, I didn’t think twice of the pennies we pay for each pound of the fruit. Bananas are cheap. I realize now that they are inexpensive because the plantation managers—Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita, etc.— who produce them on the backs of thousands of manual laborers who each receive maybe a couple hundred dollars each month.

Now this is the part Pope Francis et al have right. It’s a shame. Shouldn’t we pay more for those bananas, or would those greedy corporations just stick it in their coffers? We can’t be naïve in response. We know. Deep down, we know. It’s been this way since the beginning of mankind. Greed. Empires. Familial wealth and power. Dynasties. And yet, somehow, the United States of America, many European countries, Australia, and now other emerging economies, eked out a middle class through revolt and regulation. For certain, we still have dirt poor in our rich countries, but nothing on the scale of the labor regions—China, Latin America, Africa and much of the Middle-East.  It’s awful.

Límon, Costa Rica
So, yes, the Dalai Lama, Pope, etc. have a valid point. There is a reason for the poverty, certainly, and it’s oh so simple to spot and treat. Look at those shacks! Look, they have exposed or no plumbing! Look at the dirty clothes and bad teeth! Look at all the trash in the streets! Yes, it’s easy to spot. That is, until you notice that almost every one of those tiny, decrepit tin shacks has satellite dish from Claro on the roof. Eyes roll, and then that poor little kid chasing your railcar with his grungy puppy suddenly whips out a cell phone from his back pocket to snap a few parting shots.

Panama City, Panama - The other side of it.

What just happened?

That’s the problem; they’re poor and misguided. Basics necessities, values, and dignity have been supplanted by electronic pacifiers. Unreal. Vomitus. What is to be done about that?

Here are more photos. Tell me what you think!

Panama City, Panama - you can't quite cover it up with billboards
Cartagena, Colombia (a nicer part). Expensive gasoline means motorcycles everywhere.
A trucker's digs outside Estrada, Costa Rica

A common nest of power lines in Cartagena. Not the most outrageous observed example.
Reportedly a vacation farm shack off the coast above Moín, Costa Rica. Eco-tourists or city dwellers from San Jose needing space. We saw a few of these with either hammocks or cow garages underneath.
Departing Estrada, Costa Rica

Rusted bridge in Costa Rica (missed the river name) ...too rusted.

Oops! Almost conveniently forgot.: My itinerary included a scheduled stop by Ian Fleming’s former estate “Goldeneye” in Oracabessa, Jamaica. While I managed to get his north shore vantage—and what a location to spend your mornings in front of a Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter!—our hired transport was overly pessimistic enough to can the idea of photobombing Fleming’s seaside bunk. It’s a private resort now, owned by famed Island Records (Bob Marley, U2) founder Chris Blackwell. If you’re lucky enough to get an invite and the estate isn’t booked, fantastic. Otherwise, it’ll cost you a cool $4,500 per night to get inside.

North coast of Jamaica near Dunn's River Falls. What would Ian think of all the tourists?


 

Oh, Oscar
(in brief)


Much will be said about the 2016 Oscars. From its racial eruptions, political pontifications, and questionable snubs—without fail— this year’s Awards continued enough of the usual mix to do what it does best: keep everyone talking about them.

As for my take, again, I didn’t see all of the contenders. I am somewhat shocked, however, by the Academy’s snub of Sylvester Stallone. I did catch both of those films recently, and although Mark Rylance’s portrayal of his Russian spy was brilliantly acted, it was not quite as heartfelt as Rocky’s in Creed. 

My favorite moment had to be Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki’s acceptance of his third straight Oscar in Cinematography. Gravity, Birdman, and now The Revenant. In each film there was a moment—several, in fact—in which I’m asking, “How’d he devise that shot?” The man is a true innovator in the art. Brilliance.

Second favorite? All of those technical wins for Mad Max. It’s truly immersive cinema.

Third? Lady Gaga, who finds a way every time to simply crush it.

Fourth and lastly, Ex Machina for VFX. Loved that win. Think about it. A little $15M production just knocked off the mighty $200M Star Wars. That shouldn’t happen, but it did, and it shows that some inspired and inventive digital paint contains more potential than 1000 artists’ production line CGI. Not to short all those artists representing the other nominees. All were outstanding. 

(do I have to?)

As for the whole racial thing… We knew Chris Rock would make it a guilt roast. The Academy deserved it, although, I can’t help but flash back to the moment Jada Pinkett Smith launched her diatribe while advertisements were blanketing all of television for 50 Shades of Black. Timing is everything.

By the way, I wrote that while eating Girl Scout Tagalongs. Delicious. 


Your Vote Isn’t an Either/Or Fallacy 

“It’s always the path of least resistance.”

That’s how my mother typically responded to asinine politics, and highly successful <sarcasm implied> politicians have identified and practiced that philosophy for countless millennia.  Yet again Americans are faced with choosing from polar opposites without much middle ground between them—except perhaps for their professed love of country.  Is this what we’ve come to? You’re either with them or against them? Hilary or Trump?

Let me guess… Democrats likely possessed little love for Clinton in the first place. No divorce backbone, Whitewater, Benghazi, emails, the list goes on. She’s about as loved as Frank Underwood, and much less entertaining. But her party alternative wants bigger government and higher taxes to pay for it. Bad and worse.

Republicans? Seriously, where you fans of Donald Trump before the election or was he just another punchline? I continually hear rumors that he’s not the bluster bomb in private; he’s actually an intelligent softie. Why then does he need to act in the manner of a 3rd grade bully to gain attention? Is he what America craves? The media would have you believe it, but it’s doubtful. I think most of us have tuned out by now, frustrated with a lack of respectable, practical, moderate choices. What kid is saying they want to be Trump or Clinton when they grow up? Besides Kanye...

While I find either candidate bothersome, my personal observation with Trump’s workings happened during the real estate bust of 2007. Remember Trump Tower Tampa? He licensed his name to a local developer who then sold dozens of condos to be constructed along the Hillsborough River waterfront downtown. The market collapsed and Trump somehow legally maneuvered away from the deal with millions in his pocket. The tower never happened, and most if not all the buyers lost half their deposits. Millions gone in a puff of Trump smoke. Good ole-fashioned American Gordon Gekko capitalism or ethically-challenged plundering? All I know for absolutely certain is this: the NY cheesecake at his Manhattan tower is a disaster, and I can’t vote for a New Yorker who purveys underwhelming New York cheesecake.

We don't need a revolution; we need common sense.

Maybe one of these days folks will get tired of the political circus and realize there are other parties worth consideration. No vote is wasted if made with a clear conscience. To me, a vote for a lesser evil remains a vote for evil. You’ll own that vote, too. Choose…wisely. Who knows; maybe we'll have a worthy candidate before this is over.

(laugh now)

More soon!  /T
T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita