Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bursting at the Eyeballs with a Creative Impulse

It's been a long time since I updated my blogs. I feel like I have a pretty good excuse. Apparently it takes a long damn time to recover from 9 and a half hours of open craniofacial resection surgery. Who knew?
Everyone says I look great. This is mostly because I have taken great pains over the years to surround myself with people who are kind. I may look pretty good for a guy who had his face peeled off and stitched back on, but that's a relative thing. That's like saying a woman looks good for her age. Everyone may agree, but the woman herself will not be pleased that you have noticed the ravages of time and qualified your assessment of her beauty accordingly. Relativity sucks.
I have an incision that runs across the top of my head from ear to ear. It is thick and pink and hairless and scary. It's also the only conclusive physical evidence that I've had major surgery. When my hair grows long enough to comb over it, no one will know the troubles I've seen unless I tell them. I'm trying not to be that know...the guy who burdens everyone else with his problems. (Writing about them in my blogs doesn't count. My blogs. My rules.)
I also have a mohawk now. It's not full blown because it starts well back on my head. It's more B movie interpretation of a Mongolian horseman than Mr. T. It's much duller than the one my granddaughter sports on occasion.

A friend of mine said the look combines the best aspects of Genghis Khan and Frankenstein, so I've taken to calling it the Genghis Stein. It's good for some distracted stares when I'm out in public, but I can't help noticing small children circling back to hide behind their mothers' skirts. I can't recommend it, no matter how many people tell me I look great.

How I look is really the least of my problems. More important, at least for the time being, is how I see. Not very well, although it is getting better.
The cancer had eaten away a lot of bone in my forehead and in my right eye socket. It also attached itself to my right eye. The surgeons had to remove significant amounts of bone and some eye tissue to establish what they call clean margins—that is tissue in which the pathology lab couldn't find any more cancer. They replaced some of the bone with bits of skull that they harvested from the top of my head. This still left my eye socket misshapen and my eyeball swollen.
Since then I've had a lot of difficulty getting my right eye to operate in concert with my left. The result is double vision, especially when I try to read or drive or even watch TV. After a few short minutes, the pain and discomfort from trying is more than I care to bear. The upshot is that I'm not getting anything done that I would call productive.
I've got picture frames to build to hold some of my latest large images. Operating power tools without depth perception or clear focus seems ill-advised. I've got blogs to write, a novel to finish, and new photos to take and edit. None of these thing are possible until the healing process has got my vision closer to normal—or the new normal, whatever that turns out to be.
Meanwhile the most productive I can be is to catch up on my reading via audio books. I'm into some science fiction just now. When I'm hard at work, you will see me lounging in an overstuffed chair, staring out the window at the squirrels and painted buntings in the back yard, ear bud wires tangled around my neck while Ben Bova and Poul Anderson transport me to worlds and times where existential crises result from stuff a lot more frightening than mere cancer.
It's okay, but it doesn't feel like creativity. I need to be making something. Not being able to is as bad for my soul as radical surgery is for my eyes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Curating a Bucket List on the Fly

Today you need to head over to Studio 30 Plus where I am featured writer in the members blog with a post about my ever changing bucket list.

Poke around while you're there. They have a lot of excellent writers and an active community.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

When Bob Sings - Excerpt

This is an excerpt from a short story I've been working on for a long, long time. The title is 'When Bob Sings.' Bob is a humpback whale. He does not sing for our entertainment, although he is something of a pop star among his kind. I think, when it's finished, this will be the finest thing I have ever written. I think this because I know how it ends, and, because I know how it ends, I am determined to write the middle bits worthily. It's not been easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. Comments are practically required.

The day they met, Parker had been wading the flats for bonefish on the west side of the island near the ruins of an abandoned shrimp farm. He’d already caught a couple of respectable fish when he spotted a real bruiser gliding out of the grass in a foot of water. The black tip of its dorsal just broke the surface. He placed the fly six feet in front of the fish, and let it sink to the bottom. He stripped the line to pull out the slack, and waited until the fish was almost on top of the bait. With the rod tip close to the water Parker tugged the line gently, bumping the fly to get the fish’s attention. The fish stopped and turned. Parker pulled on the line again, and saw the fish shudder as it surged forward to take the bait.
Parker knew that he would not feel the strike. He quickly stripped a yard of line to set the hook, and raised the rod tip to absorb the shock. The fish paused. Parker tucked the butt of the rod into his waist and checked the free line floating at his feet for tangles. The fish turned and streaked for deep water. Parker let the line stream through his fingers into the rod guides until all the free line was gone and the reel began to sing.
The first run was nearly a hundred yards. When Parker managed to turn the fish it came peaceably, saving its strength for another dash. Two runs later Parker had the fish in his shadow. He could see that it was spent. Its color was gone, its eyes listless. He removed the hook, and squatted to place the fish back in the water. He curled his free hand under the fish, and tickled its belly until it colored up. As he watched the fish gather itself and flash away he heard a slow clapping of hands on the beach behind him.
“Nice fish,” she said.
“I’m glad to see that you catch and release.”
“They’re not very tasty.”
“Oh,” she said.
She was younger than he, slim and angular with short, sun-streaked hair. She wore white shorts, a tie-dyed t-shirt, and flip-flops with spangles on the straps. The strings of a bikini top were tied in a bow on the back of her neck.
“You’re Parker” she said.
“I’ve been looking for you.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Here is another poemograph. I don't think of myself as a poet because I don't work at being one. I will work my ass off on an individual poem though, like this one. I spent a lot of time on it. I sweat out every word. I continue to tweak it whenever I read it. It gets better and better - at least in my own mind - where I am not really a poet.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Time for me to change things up.

As I pointed out in my last blog entry, I've got a lot of stuff to do and I may be running out of time to do it. I don't necessarily think I'm about to die just because I've got cancer, but I have to treat it as a possibility until someone tells me otherwise.

So far my doctor has been loathe to bear bad news. He is handing me off to another doctor though, one who specializes in cancer in the sinus cavities. He's at the Sylvester Cancer Center at the University of Miami. My first appointment with him is Thursday, Oct. 4th. I am not wildly optimistic.

Optimism is not in my nature. This is why I suck so much at working the so-called Law of Attraction. Some of you will remember that I am trying to attract $749 million. So far I have received something like $87.50. I've got a ways to go.

From now on this blog will cease to be personal anecdotes and rants about politics and religion. I am going to concentrate on art and fiction here. I have a lot of works in progress, but I never seem to finish anything.

From now on I will be posting about my progress in this arena and including occasional excerpts from my work. You should help me out by commenting and making suggestions.

Eventually I will redo my tabs so that I can segregate the photography and graphic arts content from the fiction.

I don't suppose for a minute that I will be able to give up politics and religion cold turkey. When I am overcome by passion or anger or disbelief I will post about it on my other blog, Letters to Nineveh, which is way more aptly titled for such content anyway.

To get things started I submit a prototype graphic that combines a poem I wrote over a background that I photographed. I originally envisioned a series of these called Poemography. This ought at least to give you some idea how my mind works...or doesn't.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


The Thinker: too much on his mind

So my doctor, the one who told me on Thursday that I have cancer, was supposed to call me on Friday to tell me how bad it is. He was waiting for an additional report from the pathologists. He didn't call.

I didn't call him either, which is what I imagine any normal person would do under the circumstances—call the guy and find out. I don't want to find out. Ignorance of these matters is as blissful as it gets. I'm already imagining the worst I can. Why would I want to find out it's worse still?

Meanwhile, I'm exhausted all the time. Much of this is due I suppose to the fact that I just had surgery. I keep telling myself that it was endoscopic, outpatient surgery, and shouldn't be that big a deal. My doctor keeps reminding me that I was really sick when I first came to see him so I shouldn't expect my recovery to be a simple thing. Bolstering this view is the fact that, after two weeks, I'm still hosing saline solutions up into my head and blowing alien life forms out several times a day.

On the other hand, it may be depression that's making me tired. I was actually feeling better for a few days. I had more energy. I was staying up for longer periods of time. I'd weaned off the pain meds. I was busy conceptualizing a new series of artworks featuring tubas of all things, and feeling a renewed sense of excitement about that as well as writing. Then I found out about the cancer.

Now I'm suspended between feelings of not wanting to be in bed and not wanting to be walking around as if nothing's the matter. I spend a lot of time also suspended between really dark thoughts and trying to manage a bucket list that contains not one item that I can afford. My fault really. I mean I didn't have to load the list up with Lamborghinis, waterfront properties, exotic vacations, and a stable of Triple Crown contenders. What the hell was I thinking?

I'm going to have to trudge through this grand mal funk. I don't really have a choice. I figure it will take a couple of days. That's all it took the last time a doctor told me I had cancer. I've got prior experience, so I ought to be better at this process than some poor schmuck who just found out he's got cancer for the first time. Experience counts for more in living than it does in the current job market where, apparently, it just means you didn't have the good sense to move on when you had the chance.

I've done this cancer thing before. I intend to survive cancer however many times I have to in order to die from old age. Fortunately I'm already pretty old so I think I've got a legitimate shot.

In any event, it's a shot I have to take. I've got stuff to do. The tubas are not going to photograph themselves. Nubile young women are not going to come knocking on my door to ask would I mind very much taking their pictures with gigantic wind instruments.

The several books I have in various stages of completion are not going to finish themselves, even though the characters in them seem determined to do stuff that I haven't asked them to do. The characters may be free agents, but in my experience they just won't write anything down. They certainly don't make my life as an author very easy.

Now that I'm jobless, retired, and mostly idle, I don't have any time left over to be sick and dying. I'm just too busy. It's not easy to save up for a Lamborghini when you don't have any income. You've got to stay focused.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


So yesterday I felt great. I even posted a tweet that it was the first day since my sinus surgery that I felt better than I did before the surgery, which was proof enough to me that the surgery did some good.

Today I went to the doctor for a follow-up. He had the pathology report finally. Turns out they found some cancer cells in among the other gunk they scraped out of my head. I was afraid that might be the case, but was hoping for the best. Still hoping for the best. It's hard to get satisfactory resolution any more. Everything wants to drag on forever.

Too bad really, since now I'm in a race with the Romney/Ryan campaign and the Republicans to get as much done as possible before they overturn ObamaCare and take my pre-existing condition insurance coverage, which I pay for btw, away from me. I tell you Romney/Ryan, or as I like to call them, Voldemort/Vader, will never be mistaken for compassionate conservatives...whatever that means.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Surgery

Having some surgery tomorrow so I'll be out of circulation for a week or know, undernourished and over-medicated. Probably will be feeling like crap so it's best that I don't try to engage anyone on a social level. While you're waiting for my return you might want to read some of my former exploits in the hospital. I'm already practicing pick-up lines to use on the nursing staff.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Meseret Defar of Ethiopia gives thanks after winning gold
in the women's 5000 meter race in the 2012 Olympics in London.

I take a certain pride in watching great Olympic athletes like Usain Bolt and David Rudisha make the sign of the cross before they compete. Even more satisfying perhaps was watching Meseret Defar take a picture of the Blessed Mother and Christ Child out from beneath her jersey and hold it up to the sky in celebration of and thanksgiving for her victory in the women's 5000 meter final in London. It makes me feel good to have something in common with them, even though, while they represent the pinnacle of athleticism, I have trouble getting up out of a chair.
The same is not true for other notable Catholics, especially the ones in politics. For example, I get no pride, take no pleasure, and feel no commonality with Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan. That either of them is Catholic is a source of embarrassment for me. Not so embarrassing as pedophile priests and cover-up bishops, but troubling nonetheless. They too are at the pinnacle of their game, while I, thankfully, am not capable of the Machiavellian twists of moral rectitude required to ever excel at politics.
I don't think Pelosi and Ryan are whole Catholics. I don't think they 'get it' in the sense of being in full communion with the Church and her teachings. I think Pelosi slept right through everything having to do with the sanctity of life, and Ryan was somewhere else when they covered social justice.
Both of them apparently think of themselves as devout. Meanwhile 50 million dead babies churn in Pelosi's wake, sacrificed on the altar of Choice, and Ryan would have millions of the impoverished and disenfranchised lift themselves up by their own mostly non-existent bootstraps while he strips away the programs that might actually give them a leg up.
I can't see either one of them making the sign of the cross before a session of congress, or even asking God to bless their deliberations and sanctify their thinking. If they do, I'm pretty sure that He hasn't answered.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I spent 14 years in public accounting practice, 20 years in manufacturing management, and 2 years operating my own business. I learned a few things along the way. I learned some things that can't be put into textbooks, and some others that shouldn't be discussed in polite company.
Since I learned a great deal of it at the hands of fools, charlatans, thieves and pirates, not very much of it is stuff that I can mention in an interview—not that I'm ever likely to score another interview. You're not supposed to say negative things about your former employers in an interview. Sounds like sour grapes. Brands you for a bad attitude.
Be that as it may, it's all still useful information. It's part of a body of experience that enhances my acumen and gives me a basis of reference in which to frame sound decisions. It makes me valuable, even if my value is, by force of circumstance, lusterless. My worth is not readily apparent, nor even much in demand. It is real.
Too bad, really. I think a lot of organizations could profit from my experience. Knowing what not to do, how not to proceed, is more than a little useful when some young whippersnapper MBA sets out to shake things up based on what he learned in school...or even worse, when some overwrought executive tries to manage a unique organization in a unique situation using platitudes he read in Business Week.
Platitudes are the death of creative thought. Platitudes become rules that govern behavior that ought to be governed by circumstances. Platitudes are buzzwords of the mind. Platitudes are conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom begets conventional results.
Some platitudes spill over into life outside of work. They take on a broader, more pervasive, and more dangerous life. They end up fueling the kind of mind-numbing mediocrity that makes reality TV possible, the kind of wholesale disregard for accuracy and truthfulness that characterize the current presidential election cycle where candidates can say virtually anything that they think will advance their cause and a good 98% of voters will either believe or not believe based solely on what makes them feel better.
Here are some bits of conventional wisdom that need to be retired because they've either lost their meaning or didn't have much to start with:

  1. It is what it is. Really? This is the business equivalent of Que sera sera. Usually uttered as a kind of lament that things have come to this sorry pass, and it's time to deal with it, what is left unsaid is that, most often, things should never have got to this point. It's because somebody didn't do their job early on that hard choices have to be made now. If you do actual productive, value-added work, you understand that hard choices mean somebody is going to lose their job, and it's not going to be the fool that screwed up in the first place. Stop saying 'it is what it is' because what it is is something it didn't have to be.
  2. Think outside the box. This is never a good place to start thinking. Stuff is inside the box for a reason. Somebody else has already given it a lot of thought. The stuff inside the box usually works quite well. Sometimes it's been working so well for so long that people have forgotten the reason for it. This does not in any way diminish its usefulness. It's okay to think outside the box, but you shouldn't start there. You shouldn't think outside the box until you have exhausted what's inside the box.
  3. Bring a sense of urgency. Managers who say this want you to treat everything you do as if your job depended on it. Sadly, if you work for one of these managers, it just might. Urgency ought to be reserved for urgent matters. Bringing a sense of urgency to the mundane just increases the likelihood that you will screw up. Slow and methodical wins the race because you don't have to do anything twice...or thrice. The problem with urgency is that the more you expend, the more is required. The faster you go, the more undone and incorrectly done things pile up on your plate. Urgency is like a fuse. When it's burned to the end, something blows up.
  4. The higher the risk the greater the reward. This probably used to be true, but the Wall Street compensation model has turned it on it's head. Wall street has insulated itself from risk. Speculators can take spectacular risks, reap spectacular rewards, and when they screw up they are backstopped by the government. This means the taxpayers. That's bad enough, but the risks they take on Wall Street are often taken with investor money. This also means taxpayers. The taxpayers are at risk twice, and all the money—both times—goes to pay big Wall Street bonuses. Just last week, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate got burned to the tune of $700 Million in it's derivatives portfolio. Buffett is thought to be the savviest investor on the planet by many. Buffett doesn't even like derivatives, so his exposure was on the light side. Still, somebody got Warren's money because in every derivative contract there is a winner and a loser. Except of course when the loser can't pay. (Remember AIG?) Then the taxpayers have to make up the difference so that the winners don't suffer. After all, they won, didn't they.
  5. Sometimes you are the windshield. Sometimes you are the bug. This little ditty is so completely meaningless that it begins to sound like wisdom. 'Sometimes you are the driver, and sometimes you are the bug,' makes much more sense. The windshield is just there. Sometimes it gets bugs on it. This is especially true in May and September in Florida when the love bugs are out in force doing what they do. As a way to die, this one is as good as any—in flight and getting your freak on. In terms of platitudes, this one is like a pair of bugs splattered on you windshield. If you're the driver, you're going to have to clean up the mess. The problem is there's no real upside. Bug, windshield, or driver, it doesn't matter. You're screwed.
  6. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Oh yes there is. Just ask Mitt Romney. He gets a lot of free lunches. He's trying to arrange it so he gets even more. Rich people get away without having to pay their own freight. This has been true forever. Mark Twain's delightful little short story, “The £1,000,000 Bank-Note,” is proof enough. If people think you're rich, they cut you slack they would never cut for regular folks. They give you free stuff. They curry favor. They suck up. After a while the rich begin to feel like they have done something to merit all the deferential treatment. They begin to believe that they are somehow better than the rest of us. They let their sense of entitlement grow unchecked. Sooner or later they get the idea they would make a good president, or, as I like to call it, Oligarch-in-Chief. Better yet, they get the idea, not unlike the Koch Brothers, that they can buy a president and as many legislators as it takes to permanently rig the game in their favor. There is this much truth in the platitude, though. Somebody still has to pay for the lunch. It's just not the guys who eat it.
  7. You make your own luck. Not so much. You can be more or less attuned to your fortune according to the dictates of your personality. You can even change the number of bars in your 'good fortune' signal with forethought and focus. What you can't change is the fortune that actually comes your way. Some of it is completely arbitrary—capricious even. Some of it is sponsored by the guys above who are eating free lunch at your expense. If you are having a run of good luck, recognize it for what it is. Do not nurture the notion that you probably had it coming to you because if you do that, when you then consider the plight of those who have not been so fortunate, you will likely have become a dick.
  8. There's no I in TEAM. Well, there's no TEAM in innovation either. Just try to think of one really great idea that came out of a committee.
  9. Time is money. This has been crap since its inception. Time is way more valuable than money. It always has been. It always will be. You can earn money with time, but you can't buy time with money.
  10. Give 110%. Can't be done. Everybody know this, so why say something this stupid? Maybe it's just the precise nature of my accountant's dark heart that finds this so objectionable. I prefer to think it's because even in the purely metaphorical sense, this is just bad advice. The best you can hope to give to anything on a consistent basis is about 70%. The rest of your systemic capacity is taken up with staying alive and working out your next meal. If you are still single, you lose another chunk of fundamental effort, both voluntary and involuntary, to the search for a satisfying relationship...however you choose to define it. So,  realistically, you've got somewhere between 40 and 70% of usable productive capacity left over to devote to the dumb ass who's asking for 110%. If you give everything you've got left, you're going to burn out, and sooner rather than later. Then you'll have even less juice than you've got now. You need to hold something in reserve for when you really need it. Whoever is asking for 110% will not know when that is. They have let their sense of urgency overwhelm their faculties so they are useless to the rest of us. This is why they are in management...or consulting...or politics...instead of doing anything productive. Chances are pretty good that whoever first came up with this 110% idea did it in a committee.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Rex W. Huppke lamented the death of Facts on April 18th of this year in an obituary in The Chicago Tribune. He cited Florida Republican Representative Allen West's assertion, “without a scrap of evidence or reason”, that as many as 81 Democratic members of the House of Representatives were communists.
While West's assertion seems an egregious example of abandonment of the truth to make a point, it is by no means the most dangerous kind of lie. The kinds of people who would believe such an assertion are probably not capable of getting themselves into a voting booth with a proper ballot come election day, even if they manage to remember that it's the day they are supposed to take America back—whatever that means.
No, the truly dangerous non-facts are the ones that persuade otherwise intelligent citizens to embrace positions and policies that are in their own worst interests. Here are a few examples:

  1. Wall Street only needs Main Street
    until they have ALL the money.
    Working stiffs in the Tea Party who have been persuaded that more tax breaks for the rich and another round of gutting banking regulations will somehow make us all more financially secure. These poor schmucks still believe, after 30 years of contrary evidence, that the Laffer Curve works, and that supply side economic policies are good for the middle class. How they can still believe this after their wealth has been stripped and redistributed to a handful of Wall Street pirates is a mystery to me, but believe it they do...and with passion.

  2. So...if there weren't any guns
    we'd all be dead?
    Gun nuts in the NRA who get apoplectic the moment anyone suggests imposing some restrictions on access to combat assault weapons. These bozos think they are protecting the 2nd amendment and ensuring that a well-armed citizenry is able to keep an over-reaching and ambitious government from enslaving us. Meanwhile, we've all been enslaved by a handful of banks without a shot being fired. Instead of protecting their right to own firearms, which has never actually been under attack as near as I can tell, the rank-and-file, touting the NRA's official line, have made it not just possible but easy for true nut cases to arm themselves to the teeth with lethal firepower. The only reason we need guns to protect ourselves is that we have willfully and without much forethought armed the people we need to protect ourselves from.

  3. Capitalism doesn't bankrupt nations.
    Capitalists do.
    Humanities majors who have been persuaded by the more strident voices of the Occupy movements that the same corporations that have brought us automobiles, computers, wireless communications, high definition TV, instant hair color, and Oreo cookies are in fact a monolithic cabal of evil that ought to be eradicated as soon as possible. Proving that ignorance and illogic are at home in both ends of the political spectrum, these lunatics want to scrap Capitalism wholesale because a few bad actors were greedy and unethical. That they don't have any viable system to replace the Capitalism that has served us so well on most fronts for so many years does not seem to damped their enthusiasm for its dismantling. There are many things in the various and nebulous Occupy manifestos that need to be addressed, but overthrowing Capitalism is not one of them.

  4. I don't know who could object
    to being prayed for, but this gives
    you a pretty good idea where
    these women are coming from.
    Choice advocates who believe that a pro-life stance is a stand against women in general and women's health issues in particular. They want to make the debate about women's health rather than what it is really about, which is when does life begin. That the issue is not women's health is, I think, adequately demonstrated by a Finnish study that shows that women who have an abortion are 4 times more likely to die in the year following their abortion than women who carry their child to term. The difference is so statistically significant that it can scarcely be denied, yet Planned Parenthood and other abortion-on-demand advocates have tried to suppress the information, maintaining, among other things, that the study does not prove causation. This reminds me of the tobacco lobby denying any causative link between smoking and lung disease or the coal lobby's claim that global warming isn't real. The sad thing is that it is women with real difficulties who will suffer most from framing the debate this way.

  5. Whoops! Sometimes scripture cuts both ways.
    Conservative Christians—usually also evangelical fundamentalists—who actually believe that they can make a cogent and persuasive argument with an agnostic or atheist by quoting Scripture. There is a logic and symmetry to all God's laws that exist separate from and independent of the Christian understanding. It is embedded in creation, whether or not you accept Creation, and is accessible even to science, although it often takes a metaphysical poet to understand the connection. This is where people of faith need to go to prove their points, because faith has to stand up to a certain amount of scrutiny to be valid. There are an awful lot of well-meaning Christians, I think, who need to read more than just the one Book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I guess if they replace it with RomneyCare,
like in Massachusetts, we won't notice much difference.
That would actually be okay...but why bother?

I wrote the other day about my newly minted access to almost affordable health insurance...thanks to the Affordable Care Act and no thanks to any Republican. This has been a boon to me because my cellular systems had been in rapid deterioration since my COBRA benefits expired. The problem was that no insurance company was going to enroll me for medical coverage because of my preexisting conditions.

Too late, Mitt. I'm already sick.
Now, because of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) mandated in ObamaCare, I can get rudimentary health coverage (80/20 with a $2,000 deductible) for $376 per month. Republicans are hell bent to repeal ObamaCare as quickly as possible. Mitt Romney says it will be the first thing he does on his first day as Oligarch-in-Chief.
Apparently these bozos think that enabling me to have insurance is somehow un-American. They preferred the system in which the private insurers served as gatekeepers to diagnosis and treatment, and the surest way to save money was to deny coverage to those who most needed it and to deny the claims of those who dared to get sick. Trouble was they didn't pass those savings on to their policy holders. Instead they passed them on to their executives or spent them on lavish self-congratulatory parties in posh resorts. That, so it seems, is the American Way.

Well, is it Fascism or Socialism?
I need to know what kind of un-American
I am for supporting compassion.
A lot of people who ought to know better agree with this bunkum. They have been persuaded to regard me and 30 million other uninsured citizens as a shiftless, lazy mob trying to needlessly burden the federal budget with entitlements it can ill afford. That tens of millions of them are a couple of paychecks away from joining our mob doesn't dissuade them very much from holding us in contempt. This is American Social Justice.
What no one on the other side of this seems to realize is that saving money by denying coverage is a false economy. The money is not actually saved. It's just paid by someone else. 'Who cares,' I can hear them ask? 'As long as the government's not footing the bill, it's not being added to my tax burden.' Well...maybe not your tax burden, but it is likely to be a burden, and no one is immune.
Let's just take me for an instance. I've got insurance now, which has allowed me at least to find out what is wrong with my sinuses. I know I've got a lot of polyps up in my nose. I know they are going to require surgery. I know that they are so severe that they have started to erode the bone tissue of my skull, especially around my eye sockets.
Were it not for the new PCIP insurance, which I pay for by the way, I wouldn't even know that much. Now, just for argument's sake, let's say my condition is even more serious than I know. Let's say that one of these polyps growing inside my head and giving me headaches and preventing me from sleeping through the night—any night—is malignant. Worst case scenario—let's also imagine that I don't have insurance.
Now the Republicans and their Tea Party shot-callers think I should just go quietly. 'Shuffle off and die already. Quit whining about it while we're trying to watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey.'
I actually tend to agree. I'd rather go peaceably. I'm tired of all the anxious suffering.
I know that's not going to happen though. My family is not going to allow it—not even the Republicans among them.
They are going to insist that I get as much treatment as they can afford. They're just like that. They're going to take care of me. I'd take care of them. That's how family works. Here's the fallout though—the hidden cost the Republicans can't see, the dirty little economic fact that puts the lie to any Tea Party Republican idea about fiscal austerity.
Whatever my family spends on my medical care is money that they're not going to spend on new cars, or furniture, or vacations, or any one of hundreds of things they might spend their discretionary income on if they don't have to spend it keeping me alive.
That's just one instance, and I'm just one guy among 30 million who didn't have insurance and won't have it again if the Republicans have their way. So while the rest of you might not be paying for our medical care, you will be paying, in some measure, for the economic fallout of our not having insurance. You were paying for it before. You just didn't know it. This is the American Truth.
Government austerity is a false economy. In fact it's no economy at all.
There was a woman at the doctor's office the other day...same time as me. She needed to commiserate with someone, and since I was the only other person in the waiting room it fell on me. She was having more issues than she had time to deal with because she'd had to take her 42 year-old mentally challenged son out of a day program he was in because our Republican governor had cut the program's funding in half.
Now where do you suppose the money that the governor saved by trimming this program went? It didn't go anywhere really. Ostensibly it reduced the state's deficit, which means that it was money that the state wasn't going to get anyway. Government shouldn't spend money that it doesn't have. Fiscal responsibility.
The problem is that the money is going to be spent anyway—maybe not by the government, but someone, somewhere, is going to end up burdened by the state's savings. It just won't be as equitable a solution as it would have been if the government borrowed the money for cheap and paid it back when the economy turned around and tax revenues went back up.
Here's how it really works. The retarded guy's mom has to now pay to provide her son with the kinds of activities he used to get in the program. I don't pretend to know what they are, but I do know that that woman is now doing what the state used to do. She is less well equipped to do it, and she's had to give up her part time job and a lot of other things including her own medical care to make it happen. So instead of having one burden, day care for the mentally challenged 42 year-old son, the state is now faced with the prospect of having two people on welfare.
Maybe the state isn't actually going to pay for these two burdens where there used to be one, but someone in the state way or another. Maybe it will be when the mother gets carted by ambulance to the hospital for a stress related heart attack. She won't have insurance because she quit her job to take care of her son, who will now have to go into a foster care program or become a homeless vagrant—take your pick.
The hospital will have to raise its rates to cover the cost of her indigent care. The insurance companies that cover those Florida citizens who still have health insurance will raise their premiums to cover the hospital's higher rates. The employers who pay those premiums will not be able to pay bonuses or give raises to their remaining employees because their health insurance costs are too high to allow it. But you know what? At least it's not a tax.
Fact is costs don't go away just because government doesn't pay them. Society still gets left holding the bag. Society just doesn't have to blame the guys who took the benefits away. After all they saved us a bunch of money.
They'll be able to tally it all up and show us charts and whatnot to prove what a marvelous job they did getting government spending under control.
The economy will still be in the tank, people still won't have jobs, and 30 million of us will still be uninsured, but that will all be someone else's fault—probably the shiftless, lazy mob of folks like me who would rather bitch about our lot in life than do anything constructive.
Meanwhile the Republicans can take all the entitlement savings and spend them on tax cuts for their rich friends. The rich friends will make campaign contributions to candidates who are closer to Voldemort than Ronald Reagan, fund scurrilous PAC attack ads, contribute large sums to fancy prep schools where they can incubate more of themselves, and give enough money to the Mormon Church so it can start buying up Vatican treasures. A lot of this is characterized as charitable giving, so, you know, it's comforting at least to know that they are not buying fuel for their yachts either.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Treason! Who knew?

I went to the doctor last week to get a CT scan of my head and sinuses—something I've needed to do for months but have put off because I didn't have health insurance. Now, thanks to the much maligned Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) I have insurance that I can almost afford even though I am officially a cancer survivor with high blood pressure and multiple kidney stones.
One of the more amenable provisions of ObamaCare is the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program. It enables people like me, people who really need insurance, to get it even though the insurance companies and their enablers would rather that we just die already because—well, they don't have to pay for that. I've been turned down for medical insurance multiple times because of my ongoing health issues—issues which have only gotten worse because they weren't getting any attention. As you can probably imagine, this has been worrisome.

The Tea Party Republican solution
to runaway health care costs.

When I lost my job I had COBRA. This allowed me to continue on my former employer's group policy, although at an inflated rate. Unfortunately, COBRA is only available for 18 months. At the end of 18 months I had to apply for some kind of private continuation policy. The best option, in fact the only option because of my rather serious preexisting conditions, was a guaranteed issue policy available under the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Availability Act (HIPAA).
I got quotes for several of these, and, because of the preexisting conditions, they were going to cost me a minimum of $24,000 per year. This would have been a hard nut to crack on unemployment that totaled only $14,400. Hardly anything would have been left over to pay the rent, electricity, groceries, and put fuel in the yacht. Clearly something was going to have to give, and that something was health insurance.
Naturally this put me at considerable risk of a premature if not untimely death. Losing my job wasn't exactly a death sentence. It was something more like mandatory Russian Roulette. Like Russian Roulette, the longer you play, the worse your odds. Even though I have insurance now, it may be too late. I may already have played too long.
It's going to take months to find out what all is wrong with me before the doctors can start fixing it. Hopefully we will make some progress in that direction before the Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act in the interest of fiscal responsibility and preservation of our basic American liberties.
I am a little conflicted about this. It never occurred to me that my right to life would be held hostage to the insurance companies' right to continue to muck up the American health care system. Now I find that I'm not only a whiny, sniveling layabout trying to milk the system of its bounty, I am a traitor to American values as well.
A real patriot would just suck it up and quietly off himself. Of course a real patriot has health insurance, so this is kind of a moot point. It's only after you lose your health insurance and find yourself in a situation where it is difficult or impossible to get coverage that you realize that your loyalty to the system is not a two-way street. As soon as you become a burden to the privileged, the enfranchised, and the entitled, you are a risk that American Exceptionalism does not care to afford.
If you would believe statistics, many of us are within a few paychecks of this kind of treasonous dependence, yet still choose to believe in and vote up the policies that keep us in this precarious servitude. Go figure.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Guest Writer

I'm guest writer today over at Kelly Sajonia's delightfully relevant blog, Naked Girl in a Dress. 

Check it out here:

Stick around and read some of Kelly's offerings. She's a great writer and really plugged into social media. Don't expect to find any actual naked girls though.  

She's also running things over at Studio 30+, a community of mature writers and bloggers who care about craft and content. Broaden your scope.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


There's no question that the world is a less civil place than it used to be. Rudeness and name calling are the new black. In the genteel South people used to preface compliments with 'Bless their hearts' to let the listener know that the niceties to follow were less than sincere. Those days are gone. Now it's okay to cut a bitch and leave the bloody entrails at the scene. When supposed society luminaries pepper their speech with profanity like drunken sailors, what are drunken sailors to do when they need to add some passion to their conversations?

9 mm punctuation. getting your point across without the need for any bothersome fact checking

I was discussing the idea for this blog entry with my wife this morning while she was trying to watch the Real Housewives of New York. One of the housewives was wearing a hideous low-cut knit top throughout the scene, and my wife remarked that when she saw the episode aired, the housewife was bound to regret her fashion choice. “She really needs a push-up bra to make that work,” my wife said. My reply: “Push up bra? She needs a floor jack.”

This is when I realized that my own civility could use a little tune-up, although I lay a lot of the blame for my failings in this regard squarely on the Real Housewives shows. They have so desensitized us to verbal sniping, insults, sarcasm, name-calling, character assassination, yelling, and even hair pulling that there is a danger that we will all begin to accept this stuff as normal behavior.

My neighbors are a case in point. They like to fight with one another in their driveway. They yell at the top of their lungs for interminable amounts of time, drawing fearful crowds. F-Bombs are just a stepping off point for them to truly horrific mutual vilification. My guess is that they somehow think this is normal behavior, and that they came by this notion from watching too much reality television.

I'm not about to dissuade them. Life is too short already. I've heard it said that you shouldn't bring a knife to a gun fight, but I have to think that taking an assault rifle to an argument with either of these two would leave you hopelessly outmatched.

Real Housewives' behaviors have infected politics, news analysis, scientific dialog, public policy discussions, religion, and sports. When I think of all the places where bad behavior seems to be the new norm, it occurs to me that all this may have actually started with sports. The rioting of soccer fans in assorted foreign venues is legend, but I'm actually thinking of something closer to home.

I'm think specifically of Vince McMahon's WWE professional wrestling franchise, where poor sportsmanship coupled with blatant vulgarity was pyramided into a viable ratings generator long before anyone thought of turning multiple cameras onto regular, albeit mostly immature, people in their native environs. I confess that I myself used to think of pro wrestling as just entertainment, but, in retrospect, I may have been seduced by the up-front and ubiquitous presence of pneumatic young blonds in skimpy costumes.

Fisticuffs: now a required skill for the debate team.
Can the chess club be far behind?

It's long past time to change course. These are my proposals for a return to civility:
  1. Eliminate reality TV and talk radio. These seem to be the source of almost every wrong-headed opinion that infects our national consciousness and consicience.

  2. Eliminate the internet...or unvetted commentary...or require all comments to include the real name, address, and phone number of the commenter. The anonymity afforded by the Internet has undone any requirement to be correct and replaced it with a requirement to be loud and repetitive. Eventually this will spell the end of civilization as we know it.

  3. Eliminate caffeinated energy drinks. These just exacerbate an already dangerous situation. When people leap to conclusions without benefit of any forethought, the last thing we need to do is speed up the process.

  4. Eliminate mobile communications devices. Where caffeine accelerates the germination of bad ideas, modern wireless communications speed their dissemination.

  5. Move the national speed limit back to 55mph. Haste breeds anxiety, and anxiety breeds intolerance.

  6. Limit in-car stereo systems to 10 watts per channel. It's not possible to listen thoughtfully to the opinions of others when your ears are bleeding.

  7. Criminalize the habit TV news commentators have developed of talking over one another during panel discussions and talking over their guests when they disagree with them. Some of us actually want to hear both sides of an issue.

  8. Eliminate super PACs and their political attack ads. Somewhere along the line campaign managers as a group got the idea that you can't win an election by being a nice guy. Now everybody running for office has to sponsor drivel meant to demonize the opposition rather than explain to us why their own solutions have merit. Seems to me all that campaign money would be better spent lifting us all out of the mire instead of trying to hold the opposition's collective head under it.

  9. Campaign finance reform...NOW! Too much money in politics has made it possible for a handful of really wealthy charlatans to subvert the democratic process. They have turned our electoral system into gladiatorial combat that has us all trooping down to the Colosseum for bread and circus while they help themselves to the spoils of the realm.

  10. Resolve all major divisive issues with single unarmed combat. A little pugilistic blood-letting couldn't be any worse than what we have now. Two champions get in a ring, and the matter is settled in 12 rounds. The loser's supporters have to sit down and shut the hell up. Right or wrong, fact or fabrication, none of the intellectual arguments would carry any weight whatsoever. If you think about it, this is not significantly different from the situation we have right now. It would just be over a lot sooner, and we could all go back to blessing each other's hearts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Deficit Tales: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Let's talk about the federal deficit. Everybody seems to agree that it is a bugaboo, but no one is willing to give up anything to make it go away. Barack Obama said we need to do something about it back in 2006 while George W. Bush was spending us into oblivion. Now that Obama is president the deficit has soared to unprecedented least if you believe this graphic that has been circulating the Net:

My niece, who ought to know better, shard this on Facebook. The innocent are being led astray by blatant disregard for the truth.

The anti-Obama forces love this because it paints a picture of our president as not only a profligate spender but one who is unnaturally and, as the picture seems to evidence, smugly happy about it. Those more amenable to the President are not that happy with it because, among other things, it's not very accurate. The math doesn't work, and it leaves a lot of useful information on the editing room floor.
The amount of federal public debt handed over to the new administration at the end of George W. Bush's term was $10.7 Trillion. Of that, $6.3 Trillion was owed to the public and $4.4 Trillion was owed to other U.S. government agencies. The total public debt increased under the Bush administration from $5.7 Trillion in 2001 to $10.7 Trillion in December of 2008. As of February of this year (2012) the total public debt stood at $15.5 Trillion, an increase, so far, of $4.8 Trillion.
The Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) estimates that by the end of fiscal 2012 the gross federal debt will stand at $16.3 Trillion. This represents an increase of $5.6 Trillion, not the $6.5 Trillion depicted in the graphic.
The other problem, of course, is that if you're going to hold Obama responsible for running up the deficit with extravagant spending, then he better have bought something truly ridiculous. Here's a nice graph of where all that new deficit came from since Obama took office:

Makes you wonder where all Obama's 'Robin Hood Socialism' shows up. Listen carefully to the Republicans and you would have to believe that the Democrats gave the whole increased spending nut to lazy welfare cheats and old people who ought to stop draining the nation's resources and just die already.

So except for Tarp, the bailouts, and the stimulus spending, which together total about $1.5 Trillion, none of the deficit spending was initiated by Barack Obama. It all came from programs, policies, and two wars in place before he took office.
Here's another telling chart, this one from the July 23, 2011 edition of the New York Times Sunday Review, and based on data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It is 'intellectual' as opposed to 'partisan.' That is, it does not spin blame, but rather pins spending to the origin of the policies that drive it.

Wow...looks like Obama has actually SLOWED non-defense discretionary spending and entitlement increases. No mean feat in an economy that the Republicans seem determined to hammer until the election is over. After that they'll make it even worse.

To me this shows the utter dishonesty of Republicans who cry about the deficits while refusing to acknowledge that the single most influential driver of deficit spending that has occurred during Obama's presidency is the Bush tax cuts. Not only do they refuse to acknowledge this indisputable fact, they want to add to the problem with even deeper tax cuts.
It doesn't make any sense to me that Mitt Romney and the Republicans hope to make their narrative stick, but stick it does in spite of the fact that it is a BALD-FACED-LIE. They are no longer accountable to the facts. Apparently they don't have to be.
They know hardly anyone will bother to check on the truthfulness of their assertions. There are too many facts to check, and it's too hard to separate the truth from the fiction. All a politician need do is keep repeating the story he wants to tell. When he's said it often enough it becomes true enough for the faithful who, after all, only believe what they want to believe.
Does anybody besides me long for the days when you could call a guy a liar, lay out the facts, and he'd be embarrassed by the dishonesty? Now the facts are just words streaming in the ether without effect or import.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Five Things to Consider before You Click 'Like' on a Political Post

Hold a lamp to the truth
drive slowly.

  1. If you get most of your political news and analysis from the Comedy Channel, you probably have a world view that is at least as skewed as it would be if you got most of your information from Fox News. Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Bill Maher may be smart guys, but they are first and foremost comics with a higher vested interest in laughs and ratings than in the truth. This is not to say that they are not often correct...just that being correct is not their primary aim...not unlike Fox.
  2. If you agree with or, even worse, spout things like 'Republicans are waging war on women' or 'Democrats are waging war on religion' then you are guilty of exactly the same kind of fractious logic of which you are accusing the other side.
  3. If you believe that the deficit mess is the result of welfare entitlements and paying people not to work, you need to turn off Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck and read a book about economics. I can recommend several that give a thoughtful and balanced account of what's really going on in the economy.
    1. 13 Bankers – Johnson and Kwak
    2. Freefall – Stiglitz
    3. End this Depression Now – Krugman
  4. If you sincerely believe that Mitt Romney is a misogynistic white wonk who is hell-bent on asserting control over the nation's vaginae, or that Barack Obama is a Nigerian, Muslim, communist traitor determined to destroy America, then you are a narrow-minded dolt, incapable of appreciating either nuance or irony. These fellows hold opinions that differ from yours. That is all. They came by their opinions honestly and with consideration (and in Romney's case several times) which is more than I can say about you if you believe all the crap you hear from their opposition.
  5. If you have more than 20 friends, and they all agree with you on everything you think is important, you are in danger of losing the kind of perspective that leads to compromise and progress. If you have more than 200 friends, you are already lost.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Entitlement Issues Redux: Thank You JP Morgan Chase

Gulfstream G550: a good place from which to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Since JP Morgan Chase Bank is looming large in the news again, I thought it might be useful to resurrect this post I did last year on the overdeveloped sense of entitlement that is forever exhibited by the best and brightest on Wall Street. While Morgan was accumulating its current $2 Billion loss in its proprietary trading accounts, CEO Jamie Dimon continued to lobby hard for repeal of the Dodd/Frank banking reforms and specifically the Volcker Rule, which would prohibit the very trades that have got him in trouble. One of the first things candidate Mitt Romney proposes to do if elected is to throw these regulations out. I wonder if he still thinks that's a good idea given this latest abuse of fiduciary responsibility by a big bank?'s what I had to say on the matter previously.

People who have too much money and people who have too little share one common trait. After a time they come to believe that they deserve their fate. They settle into the trappings of their lives, and wear their circumstances like a second skin. This settling works like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. What started as purely fortune, whether good or ill, becomes the natural order of things.
This all became evident to me as I struggled to make sense of my own fall from grace. I knew that the economy had collapsed, not because of any real or fundamental change in productivity or capacity or supply or demand, but because of an artificial set of circumstances precipitated largely by global financial institutions. While everyone was pointing fingers at the bursting of the real estate bubble and the huge sludge pool of underwater sub-prime mortgages, I knew that the real culprit was the enormous and mostly unregulated market in over-the-counter derivatives, speculation in which had allowed, even forced, the underwriting of the toxic mortgage paper, which in turn had fueled the real estate bubble, which in turn brought us all low when it burst.
The great irony in all this is that the investment bankers and speculators who brought us this mess escaped with our money. They fleeced us. Treasury and the Fed helped them do it. The big audit firms blessed the ubiquitous bookkeeping legerdemain. And when their overvalued and under-performing assets became problematic, we bailed them out. I've written about all this before. So have a lot of other people. If you'd like to sort all this out for yourself, I recommend the following:
  • Too Big to Fail – Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • Freefall – Joseph E. Stiglitz
  • 13 Bankers – Simon Johnson
  • The Devil's Casino – Vicky Ward
  • Griftopia – Matt Taibbi
These are by no means exhaustive, but they do, together, convey the broad sense not only of what went wrong and why, but that nothing that was broken has been fixed in any real, meaningful way. You should not read the last three without taking your blood pressure medication.
The tragedy is that, even though the contributory problems still lie festering under the surface, nobody cares anymore. The economy is recovering. The markets are orderly. We've got other problems to occupy our collective consciousness. The Middle East is in flames. Japan is radioactive. Charlie Sheen is taking us all to school in a completely different kind of China Syndrome. Who has time to worry about something that happened three years ago, even if many of us are still trying to crawl out of the smoking ruins of our former lives. It's apparently time to move on. I'm trying, but moving on is about as easy as loving my enemies or turning the other cheek.
When I first lost my job, the Lehman Brothers collapse was all over the news. The Lehman debacle was the precipitating event, the end of the beginning, the thing that galvanized the movers and shakers in government and on Wall Street to come together and save themselves from the disaster they had created. These were historic events: rewriting Fed rules to allow the lending of funds to investment banks and insurance companies, death spiral deal making facilitated by government functionaries who came from and would return to the institutions they were regulating, the sale of the TARP program (a one-page legislative mandate) to a panicky Congress by a credible Chicken Little. I was enthralled, and, being unemployed, I had plenty of time to immerse myself in the heady details.
I'd like to say that I learned, among other things, how the other half lives, but it's not the other half. It's more like the other 0.00001%. I learned how the guys in the ethereal high plains of self-entitlement live. They are not like you and me. They may have been once, but no more. They no longer carry the burden of living and working at the sufferance of others. They are the ones who do the suffering, and they do it from high-rise glass office towers, multimillion dollar Manhattan apartments, the custom appointed cabins of their Gulfstream G-550's, and palatial estates where their wives enjoy closets that are bigger than my house.
The most disconcerting thing about all of this is that it became obvious to me that these folks honestly believe that they deserve everything they have and more. They actually think they got where they are because they are smarter, more industrious, better prepared, more enlightened, and ultimately more deserving than the rest of us. They have bought in, wholesale, to their own bullshit, and they are occupied, full-time, curating their singular circumstances.
The rest of us let them do it. We've bought into their bullshit as well. We think they deserve what they've accumulated, and mostly just because they managed to do it without going to jail. So when Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Trust says we don't need any more banking regulation, we don't think that maybe Jaime's not ready to put down the fleecing sheers just yet. Instead we think, he's smart and he's rich, he must know what he's talking about. And, when Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs says they didn't bilk their investors out of billions by selling them bundled mortgages that had been hand selected by the firm that stood to profit most if they defaulted, and that their investors were sophisticated speculators who should have been able to figure out what Goldman wasn't telling them, we don't think he's talking out of both sides of his mouth at once. This is Goldman Sachs, for crying out loud, not some fly-by-night investment chop shop like Bernie freaking Madoff.
People listen to people with money. It hardly matters what they say. This is why Donald Trump is able, with a straight face, to tell us that one of his most attractive qualities as a candidate for the Presidency is that he's rich. He apparently believes this is sufficient to convince us of his sincerity, intelligence, leadership, and good judgment in spite of the overwhelmingly contrary evidence of his hair, and the fact that he let his marital infidelity with Marla Maples in 1990 play out on prime time network TV.
If this were all there were to it, that we listen to and believe rich people because they are rich, it probably wouldn't bear remarking. The sad thing though is the other side of the coin—that we don't listen to or believe the impoverished, the more than half that is not in the 0.00001%, the half that does not suffer in executive jets or ride private helicopters to work. Us. You and me. Hell, we don't even believe each other.
I mentioned the other day that I have ascribed to myself 1/40th the relative value of Bill Gates. By this I mean that I think that my ideas, conviviality, cleverness, and good nature, are, on average, at least 1/40th as good as his. I don't think this is a vain assumption on my part. I think your ideas, etc., are probably that good as well, and I don't even know who you are.
That being the case, I also don't think it's unreasonable for me to demand from the nebulous creative energy of the limitless universe, the deliberately secularized power behind the so-called law of attraction, that I should receive something akin to 1/40th of Bill Gates' net worth—specifically $749,000,000. If I had $749,000,000 people might actually begin to listen to me. Some of them might even read my frigging book. (5 darkly humorous and highly entertaining short stories for a mere 99 cents from Amazon. No religion, no economics, no politics...just good fun.. Click the link. Live a little.)