Archive | Essay RSS feed for this section

And Now a Word …

23 May


 

And Now a Word …

By L. Stewart Marsden

I’ve been amazed at the quality and production value of TV commercials over the past few years. Especially the ones aimed at the national marketplace — though it’s difficult to tell, sometimes.

It used to be that various industries dominated the airways in attempts to bend my mind to buy their products. As a kid, that didn’t work so well. Most were aimed at Mom and Dad. Dinah Shore and Chevrolet (Burt must have liked those). Speedy, the animated drug pusher (although the Drop, drop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is part could have been used for a laxative product as well). Madge and her green “you’re soaking in it!” reveal. The incredibly mesmerizing Comfort Fit bra commercials (as close to skin as it got in the day and much better than National Geographic).

For me they were real bothers (other than the bra commercials), especially if the Lone Ranger was about to ride Silver into a canyon where there were about a hundred bad guys lying in wait. The cliff hanger.

And now a word … That part hasn’t changed. Then, no remotes to click on the “Last” button to toggle to another show. But even that has been taken into consideration today in a last-ditch effort by Madison Avenue, and most of the commercials seem to be synchronized to begin at the same time. I’ve actually surfed through several stations at commercial time and landed on the same commercial, milliseconds separation. Technology!

The only commercials I paid attention to were the rough and gruff cowboys who rode off into the sunset with a Marlboro stuck to their lower lips, the ash about 3 inches long (symbolism?). Or the Chesterfield commercials where doctors told me smoking was safe (https://youtu.be/TOKc6TNwlj4). At the time, a pack of cigarettes could be bought for a quarter from the cigarette vending machine tucked into the Men’s room of a local gas station.

Today, commercials are full of comedy, action, good writing and incredible acting. There are two times a year I look forward to a barrage of commercials willingly: the Super Bowl, and the Clio Awards. The first is an all-out competition between brands to wow and spin us about with ad producers’ incredible creativity and artistry. The second is an industry pat-on-the-back of its blatant efforts to seduce and manipulate.

My current favorite is the All State commercial where a teen enters his parents bedroom to admit a fender-bender (https://youtu.be/zBYTIklIodE) incident. I can identify as both the kid as well as the adult.

The arrival of the industry to this level of entertainment wasn’t overnight. Coca-Cola has been striving for years for the emotional prod for a long time. “I’d Like to Teach the World to Singhttps://youtu.be/ib-Qiyklq-Q” is iconic –– as well as the Mean Joe Greene commercial https://youtu.be/xffOCZYX6F8. If you don’t know of these, you are too young and need to be spanked and sent to bed.

There have been ads that leave you puzzled, like the EDS commercial Cat Herders (https://youtu.be/vTwJzTsb2QQ) An example of the medium overwhelming the message. It was banned by somebody or organization for some reason. Probably cat lovers. I don’t remember seeing a disclaimer that no cats were harmed or branded during the production of the ad.

While the tugs and pulls at our senses, sentiments, and savings haven’t changed, I’m glad the commercials have. Launched quite a few acting careers as well, like the I’m a Pepper guy (https://youtu.be/jvCTaccEkMI) who later starred in the best werewolf transformation film ever (albeit the budget must have caused the director to stop the film without the typical beast resolution — https://youtu.be/E7BmQc5QKVs).

There was a time TV was “free.” Of course it was underwritten through advertisers who used the programs to siphon from America’s money gas tanks. But still, it was free to the consumer. Now, alas, not so much (I recently begrudgingly wrote out my monthly cable service fees).

Commercial sponsors once ruled the day, and provided America with much-needed diversion from the day-to-day grind. Now we’re content to spend the big monthly bucks to see our fare without interruption. Or, as the Romans might have said, continuatam scilicet entertainment. And that decision has dire ripple effects:

  • On our bladders.
  • On fewer trips to the kitchen, hence less consumption of various foods (chips and sodas, which constitute two of the five major American food groups. Pizza and McDonalds and ice cream are the other three).
  • On our social interaction skills. There are also other entities currently mastering this demise: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • On our ability to discern between night and day (if binge-watching).
  • On the advertising industry, which will be forced to lay off thousands of writers, directors, producers, actors, and Best Boys.

The result will be that whatever “free” TV remains. The commercials will be local, and you know what that means, right?

https://youtu.be/Gl6F12DWI7o.

Or, https://youtu.be/HqGsT6VM8Vg.

Sorry about that. Too much uninterrupted binging on The Walking Dead.

You get what I mean.

Don’t be a putz. Let’s save the TV commercial industry by giving up those expensive cable TV contracts. And by doing that, save the many careers that will inevitably be eliminated. And if they are, the only commercials we will see will be like the following:

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

It’s Just Music

21 May

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Just Music

By L. Stewart Marsden

At the risk of coming across very ego-centered (as opposed to plain ego-centered), sometimes I surprise myself in a good way.

Much of my married life I was told I am dysthymic. For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically means you live just below the surface of the water emotionally. Like Eeyore, Milne’s classic character of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. In fact, my Ender Wife presented me with a stuffed version of Eeyore, which I still have. I let the dog chew on him.

I’ve always thought the hyperbolic ups and downs of some people I’ve observed were good reason to maintain a more steady disposition, albeit just below the water’s surface. How they are able to tolerate the ups and downs of their emotional roller coasters befuddles me.

They are the Hare, and I am the Tortoise in that way. Yup, yup.

In addition to being dysthymic, I’ve been told I’m an avoider, and a procrastinator. But we can get to that later. None of the labels is very heartening, though.

My retreats are basically three-fold:

  1. I play Spider Solitaire and dive into imagined scenarios and conversations during play.
  2. I write and/or research for my writing.
  3. I play my guitar.

That’s it.

I get no personal satisfaction from playing solitaire other than the brief high from winning — which is not very often (I don’t play the easy versions). My mind tends to run the ravines of what I would like to say or do if I only had the courage. It gets a bit tiresome.

Periodically I write something I am somewhat satisfied with, knowing that ninety percent of writing is actually in the editing and cutting of stuff (boring as well as ego-painful). Writing is never complete, like learning.

But, when I pick up my guitar … something happens.

I absolutely lose myself either in a song I am learning and trying to perfect, or in random rifts with slight variations in notes and chords.

When I was a kid, I used to do the same sort of thing, except on the down-sized ebony Mason & Hamlin grand that was in the living room. I could sit and pluck out tunes and chords for hours.

In the flow of the music it matters very little how good I actually play. I don’t criticize myself on those counts. I am too deeply embedded in the song, whether playing my arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (Jeff Beckley did not write it); or Georgia on My Mind by Hoagy Charmichael (neither Willie Nelson nor Ray Charles wrote this); or reliving my teen years playing America (Simon & Garfunkel).

I imagine sitting alone on a stage, a single spotlight illuminating a circle on the floor that encompasses me, and all else dark. I can’t see the audience, but I know they are there. I bend notes and gruff out a lyric with an impure voice — gravelly and frayed on the edges. Every line — every word — has meaning. All I’ve ever learnt from love … Other eyes smile tenderly … “Cathy, I’m lost!” I said, though I knew she was sleeping …

It’s not a high. There isn’t any euphoria. But it’s a damn good place for me, and when I emerge from however long I’ve escaped, I am ready to face reality, and being dysthymic, or emotionally frail, isn’t the portentous thunderstorm on the horizon that it once was.

Plus this process is thousands of dollars cheaper than years of counseling, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Do you have an instrument?

Do you have a song?

Do you have a place you can curl into (not a fetal position, mind you) and feel safe and snug? One that allows you to empty yourself and to breathe in renewal?

Sounds Zen, doesn’t it?

But it isn’t.

It’s just music.

 

 

 

The Country Needs An Attack By Aliens From Outer Space

12 May

 

 

The Country Needs
An Attack By Aliens
From Outer Space

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

I’m at the point with the verbal assault and battery going on in the US between various factions I’ve begun to look skywards and pray for an attack by aliens from outer space.

And you know why, I think.

Whether you are Conservative or Liberal, pro- or anti-gun control –– whichever and whatever niche you have found yourself or those you know (some of whom you love) cudgeled into –– enough is enough!

I’m wondering why we haven’t heard God’s booming voice from the hinterlands warning, “Don’t make me come down there again!

So, in lieu of a Biblical Armageddon, or the Rapture, or whatever else is portended by gurus and mystics and the Jimmy Bakkers of the world, why not have one of those Independence Day invasions? You know, where spaceships the size of New Zealand hover above all the really big population centers in the world (that’s why I live in the mountains, by the way). Where the President says “Zounds! What’re we gonna do?” And the twenty-two star general with the square jaw and skinhead crew cut shouts “Blow the holy HELL outta them!” Where the US and Russia and China and the Middle East and all of the various other countries stop killing themselves and each other to redirect their angst towards the really, really bad guys?

Seems we need things like real/imagined enemies to keep us focused on something other than ourselves. As wonderful a thing as

Ahhhh! A Giant Alien! Run!

the dismantling of the Berlin Wall was, it has left a huge chasm between ideologues and their extreme points of view (called, opinions, not necessarily facts). It was the focus of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and everyone (well, maybe not everyone) was glad when it fell. But at least those on either side of the wall focused their attentions on IT, and when IT fell, and when Ron and Nancy rode off into the sunset, there was this void.

Sorry, I saw a rabbit hole.

Anyway, it doesn’t really have to be Martians. It could be Rodan, or Godzilla for that matter. You know, the nightmare beasties that arose from the aftermath of “winning” World War II? Tiny organisms feeding on nuclear soil and water, growing to gargantuan proportions and reeking ironic havoc on the very nations that had a hand in its coming to be in the first place?

My gut feeling tells me that we’ve already seen the beginnings of a different sort of invasion. It hies back to Walt Kelly’s famous words of Pogo: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Similar to the simple solution to the aliens of H.G. Wells’ mind: lack of immunity on the part of the aliens to earth bacteria.

Our “aliens” have already landed. Thousands upon thousands of years back in time –– who really knows how long ago? And those aliens found the earth rich with possibility. Plenty of space, food sources, fresh water and clean air. And unlike the various creatures they found here that fell into extinction, they were able to adapt to changes in seasons, and move with the availability of sustenance. Then there was plenty of room to move onto once all the trees were cut and the rivers harnessed for commerce and energy.

They populated and expanded and became diverse. And like the first ovum fertilized by a single sperm, divided and multiplied ad infinitum. Except in this case it wasn’t really infinite.

Eventually our earth will convulse and spew those aliens into oblivion and extinction –– those who never applied Dr. Ian Malcom’s famous thoughtful maxim of consideration, we can –– but should we?

Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

It would be far better for us as a species, however, if we had to battle an invisionary force from twenty billion trillion light years away. For that conflict, perhaps we would throw away our pettiness and unite. Redirect our frustrations from each other and towards something we could all agree was truly evil and threatening (from our perspective, of course): the threat being our extinction as a species.

Everyone could do their thing to the maximum. Shoot, kill, pray, scream, run in reaction to one centralized threat –– either towards it or away from it. Wouldn’t matter. Pro-this or pro-that, anti-this or anti-that would become trite and unnecessary.

As it is, I sadly fear we will succumb to our innate nature and Nature will eventually expel us –– the true and most deadly aliens –– from the planet.

I wish we had a choice, but it seems a bit late now. I’d choose the attack by aliens from outer space.

How about you?

 

 

Taking the Count

18 Apr

 

Taking the Count

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Lately I’ve caught myself subconsciously counting things. I don’t know why, I just do.

There are 14 steps from the main floor of my condo where I live to the lower floor. That’s counting the two steps formed by the corner at the bottom of the stairway. Consequently, I take the same number of steps up to my bedroom at night and again in the morning.

When the wall pendulum clock begins to chime, I count along: one … two … three –– until the hour designation has bonged out.

It takes two minutes and thirty-six seconds for the frozen boiled chicken tenders I feed my dogs to thaw. Approximately four minutes for my Mr. Coffee to drip-brew my morning quota of two cups of coffee.

Why? Not why how many, but why do I count?

Perhaps at age 68 I’ve become painfully conscious of things like how much time I have left in my life. I didn’t count everything when I was younger, except things like how many days till my birthday, or Christmas, or until summer.

Now, practically everything is a count:

  1. Number of wives;
  2. Number of children and grandchildren (that are known of);
  3. Number of days until the longest day of daylight;
  4. Number of days until the shortest day of daylight†;
  5. Number of Christmas cards I get††;
  6. Number of age spots;
  7. Number of prescribed medicationsß;
  8. Number of calories in a meal;
  9. Number of calories I eat in a day;
  10. Number of times I check my weight;
  11. Number of times during the day I think about food;
  12. Number of days those leftovers have been in the frig and can I eat them anyhow;
  13. Number of times I’ve gotten food poisoning;
  14. Number of people I can count on;
  15. Number of people who can count on me;
  16. Number of years Duke basketball will continue its failed One-and-Done strategy;
  17. Number of days 45 can go without embarrassing either himself, his wife, or the nation;
  18. Actually, instead of days, use hours or minutes for the previous count;
  19. Or maybe seconds;
  20. Number of days I can go without showering;
  21. Number of times I wear the same clothing without changing;
  22. Number of friends I have (which is greatly reduced because of #’s 18 and 19)
  23. Number of miles per gallon I get in my hybrid Honda Insight;
  24. Number of miles I can go on a tank of gas in my Insight;
  25. Number of miles I have to walk on the highway to get five gallons of gas;
  26. Number of days I can go with the Check Engine light on without getting nervous;
  27. Number of dollars I have to give the mechanic because I didn’t heed the Check Engine light;
  28. Number of cans of LeCroix I drink in a day;
  29. Number of days I’ve been off Facebook;
  30. Number of days I’ve been off Facebook without thinking about Facebook;
  31. Number of times I now check my iPhone for text messages having left Facebook;
  32. Number of times Bless your heart is uttered in the south;
  33. Number of grits in a serving;
  34. Number of times the 2nd Amendment is referred to in a day;
  35. Number of things I count during the day.
†Only one state where this doesn’t count: Arizona. I don’t mind visiting Arizona … I just don’t want to live there.
††I don’t send Christmas cards, but might have to this year since I left Facebook (see #29)
ßWhich at this point is limited to one prescription, and 99 OTCs for all of the other symptoms I’m self-diagnosing and treating (after all, there’s only one letter difference between the AMA and the AMRA). BTW: you have to do some research to understand this quip.

I don’t actually blame myself for this counting obsession. It’s all around us. And, I suppose, brings some semblance of order to what is otherwise a chaotic and unpredictable time in the nation. It’s in our vernacular. Ensconced in our euphemisms. We’ve done it for countless centuries.

  1. Down for the count.
  2. Don’t count me out –– or for the optimist, you can count me in.
  3. The full count.
  4. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  5. Count your blessings (bless your heart).
  6. Count yourself lucky.
  7. The countdown.
  8. That doesn’t count.
  9. That counts.
  10. Nobody’s counting.
  11. Look who’s counting.
  12. Ad infinitum (which is like trying to determine the true value of π).

I guess I won’t worry about it. It’s a feature of my life, and I can’t count how many times I’ve tried to ignore it –– which is futile. In the long run, it counts for very little anyway.

So I accept the inevitable, and will turn my attention to more important matters, such as how many days until the new season of The Walking Dead launches.

By the way, the word count of this article is 793. I need seven words to make 800.

You can count on it.

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Gets a Little of it Correctly

15 Mar

 

Everyone Gets a Little of it Correctly

By L. Stewart Marsden

We’ve witnessed the passing of two world icons over the past weeks: Billy Graham and Stephen Hawking. Polar opposites, one might think. Each convinced of beliefs they deemed pivotal to understanding the universe.

Social media reaction has been varied for both, yet there is an undercurrent of respect for these men, different as they are. And, just perhaps, their similarities outweigh their differences.

Who got it right? Who got it wrong? What happens to those who got it right, and to those who got it wrong?

I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. Many already have and hold on stubbornly to their opinion come hell-or-high-water.

For some, the death of Graham signals the end times. Prophecies and words of wisdom are no doubt abounding among some groups. Still others, bent on profiteering from this particular death, are stepping up production of miracle healing water, or prayer cloths, or whatever tangible item is the justifiable reason for someone who can ill-afford it to write a large donation check.

Hawking pooh-poohed religion, preferring the stability of science to the flimsiness of faith. He predicted the extinction of humankind within 100 years, and was convinced humankind had and continues to shoot itself in the toe in so many ways. Air pollution. Nuclear proliferation. Unchecked population growth that is rapidly dismissing the earth’s resources and ability to sustained.

One hundred years. A little over four generations based on the current mean. That would suggest all of this interest in genealogy is a fruitless endeavor.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Sign Watchers have been lining up and checking off the events that will usher in Armageddon and The Rapture. Apparently some feel Graham’s death is one of those events/signs.

Only a handful of mankind seems to care about either when you get right down to it. We’re still bogged down in the mire of right v wrong and other presupposed absolutes.

A friend posted a speculative question: is Stephen Hawking in heaven? That’s based on my friend’s assumption there is a heaven, or afterlife. No one has speculated that about Billy Graham. That would be heresy.

The various TV programs that deal with UFOs and ETs and all of the other out-of-this-world contentions, include the possibility that we will return to our planet of origination, and that we are other-worldly. Like the religionists, there seems to be great effort to separate us from the other animals of the earth, and dismantle what they call the “theory” of evolution. You know, hopping a fast freight from a planet a billion light years away, or being molded from clay during the literal six days of creation are far-better answers to imagining we hail from the genetic materials provided by fish or apes. Someone at some time decided to KISS. Imagine the embarrassment of knit-picking through the hair of your brother or sister, and then eating the mite!

I like the simile of the blind men who attempt to describe an elephant by feeling the animal with their hands.

“The elephant is like a strong tree trunk, thick and massive,” says one. “The elephant is like a snake,” says another. “The elephant is like a thin leather blanket,” supposes a third. “It is like a thick, solid wall,” asserts another. “A rope. The elephant is like a rope.” “The elephant is like a spear,” the last suggests.

Each has a little of what an elephant is correctly. Each is vastly wrong.

In the finality, it won’t matter, I think. Which is kind of the Calvinist position, right? You either are or you are not chosen, which doesn’t change despite your life. (I don’t suppose to understand that slant, and probably have only a little bit of Calvinism correctly).

So, where is Billy Graham now? Where is Stephen Hawking? For that matter, where is Gandhi, or Joan of Arc or William Wallace or Genghis Khan or Columbus or Thomas Becket or Hitler or Marilyn Monroe? Or how about your parents, grandparents and beyond? Where are they?

One of my favorite movie scenes dealing with this is from the movie “Rudy.” Father Cavanaugh has sat down next to the main character, Rudy, after the young man goes to church in frustration at not getting into Notre Dame.

Father Cavanaugh: [in church] Taking your appeal to a higher authority?
Rudy: I’m desperate. If I don’t get in next semester, it’s over. Notre Dame doesn’t accept senior transfers.
Father Cavanaugh: Well, you’ve done a hell of a job kid, chasing down your dream.
Rudy: Who cares what kind of job I did if it doesn’t produce results? It doesn’t mean anything.
Father Cavanaugh: I think you’ll find that it will.
Rudy: Maybe I haven’t prayed enough.
Father Cavanaugh: I don’t think that’s the problem. Praying is something we do in our time, the answers come in God’s time.
Rudy: If I’ve done everything I possibly can, can you help me?
Father Cavanaugh: Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.

Whatever you think, whatever you believe, you, too, have a little bit of it correctly. But not all of it.

The Last Hurrah

14 Mar

The Last Hurrah

by L. Stewart Marsden

Winter’s last hurrah blew in over night, and I’m pretty sure once this storm has passed, I can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to spring.

Meantime, the local bird neighborhood was gathered when I came downstairs this morning with the dogs. They waited patiently (their feeders were bare) as I fed the dogs and slipped on my walking shoes and jacket. And they were on the verge of impatience as I slowly poured a fresh supply of seed into the feeders.

A flock of larger black birds apparently heard the ruckus, and decided to descend upon the feeders, which are not designed for them, but the smaller ones.

Don’t know why, but it upsets me when the big birds bully the smaller ones away. They can always go to the dumps and trash bins –– and aren’t above picking the streets and roads of carrion. I have this impression they could take out a few of the smaller birds if they’d a mind.

I once shot a robin when I was a boy. Like today, it had snowed, and I took my bother’s BB gun into the yard where I spied the bird yards away and aimed at him, well above so as to miss him. The shot didn’t miss the robin, however, and I watched in horror as the pellet arched downward and hit the unintended victim.

Even so, if I had a pellet gun or BB gun, I’d be very tempted to whiz one by the large blackbirds as a warning.

I know … it doesn’t make sense, does it?

As it is, when the big ones try to raid the larder, I step out and shout BAH! in a loud voice. The bullies scatter, yet the smaller birds hang close and swoop down onto the feeder. And I have a fleeting feeling of satisfaction, followed by one of foolishness.

 

 

Mixed Messages

14 Nov

Mixed Messages

L. Stewart Marsden

Every night during the evening news more comes out regarding sexual abuses men in power are alleged to have committed – either recently, or in years past – as a result of their power, position and influence. In an earlier blog I pointed a finger not only at the culture men are accustomed to as well as the lack of training boys receive at the hands of their parents in learning not to objectify girls and women, but the seeming lack of restraint on the part of the entertainment media, Hollywood and music stars, advertising and the fashion world in promulgating sensual and salacious themes and imagery.

As I sit and watch the accusations, confessions and denials, I wonder “when will this stop?” Like so many floodgates that have burst open (mass shootings, hateful political rhetoric and more), I’m uncertain who will draw the necessary lines in the sand for each and declare “No more!”

Then I receive a text from my youngest, who is looking for a dress for the prom. She asks, “What are your thoughts on this dress?”

What are my thoughts? WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS? She’s 14 years old, are my thoughts. There are Harvey Weinsteins and Roy Moores out there! There are hot-testosterone-blooded teenage boys out there!

And I think, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?

But she’s not, of course. Thinking. She’s responding to the arbitrary guidance of her age group, who are also NOT thinking.

So I reply, “Looks like a cocktail dress for an adult woman.” Never mind what I was really thinking.

She explains, “What does that mean[?] I’m shopping for a dress for my winter formal.”

Winter? Not enough cloth to keep you alive! I think. But I say, “You’re too young for that dress.”

She replies in a huff, “Based on you and Mom, I’m gonna end up wearing a skirt that goes to my heels, and a hijab.”

And I think, Yeah, I could go with that. But I send her this pic, with the comment, I like this one …

Fourteen. The song Sunrise, Sunset goes through my head.

You chuckle. I’m obviously a prudish stick-in-the-mud, you think of me.

What? Wait!

The problems we face with the current outrage over sexual harassment is multi-faceted. And my youngest daughter, if I tell her how guys are visually-stimulated, and how they grow up without any sense of sexual responsibility, and how in their tiny brains (about the size of gonads) only process from a biological urge to propagate –– she will laugh me off. “Oh, Dad!”

Yesterday the November 16 issue of Rolling Stone arrived – a subscription my youngest son (22 yrs) has. Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione, and Larry Flint might get a little red-faced at the cover – upset some other magazine encroached upon their empires.

Cosmopolitan, along with GQ and a host of other magazines ply their pictorial pornography in the checkout aisles of Walmart and Rite Aid for all eyes to see.

And none have it over the “Adult-only” content available on the internet.

But what gets me are the entities expressing outrage and creating distance between themselves and the growing number of those accused of sexual aggression.

Really?

Mixed messages.

Had guests over the other night. We watched a re-run of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Amazingly, the show was entertaining! And not one untoward reference to extramarital sex or sexual conquest (vis a vie Friends, 2 1/2 Men, Sex and the City, etc.). Remember when Eddie Murphy’s humor on SNL was void of profanity?

I’m not a prude. Far from it. I won’t approve my daughter’s purchase of that particular prom dress, and suggested some more modest alternatives. I’ll let you know how that works out.

And I’m NOT saying that if she, too, were to become a statistic of sexual abuse, the onus would be on her. But I want her to realize what words like provocative and sexually alluring mean. Each has its appropriate place in a committed relationship.

As we untangle the various scenarios of abuse, I hope we are also able to close various gaps of mixed messages. It’s not only male and female involved in this issue, it’s whole industries. The question is whether or not those industries will admit culpability and do the right thing. I’m not going to hold my breath until that happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Treatise on Gun Control

9 Nov

 

My Treatise on Gun Control

L. Stewart Marsden

I once had the idea that Detroit should outfit all automobiles with paintball guns on the hoods of their products. Automatic rack-and-pinion pivoting devices that could zero in on some a**hole who doesn’t know what they’re doing behind the wheel of a car. The idea is that the bad drivers will have cars covered with paint splats. Red, blue, yellow – a veritable rainbow of responses to those folks who drive down the highway at 80 mph texting, or putting on makeup, or (and I’ve seen this) reading a damn book!

Nuts! Cuckoos!

The idea is you see a multi-splatted car and you avoid the hell out of them. At some point the sheer weight of the paint slows the car.

Now look – all you law-abiding and devoted-to-safety gun owners – you must agree that there are fools and wack-os out there that should NEVER get behind the wheel of a car! We’ve come a loooong way legislating safety features, laws, and requiring drivers’ training to cut down the spillage of blood, bones and brain matter on our highways. Haven’t heard too many complain about seat belts, infant car seats, air bags (well, when they work), road-gripping tires.

Here’s the other thing about driving: NO ONE DRIVES A HIGH-OCTANE FORMULA ONE RACING CAR ON THE STREETS! Unless it’s a race, of course. But even then, there are RESTRICTIONS!

The sad thing is, apparently vans and trucks and cars have now become a weapon of choice for the America-haters.

Guess what? Automobiles are NOT protected under the Bill of Rights! They are a privilege as, I believe, should be gun ownership. With privileges come responsibilities.

So, segue onto the subject of Gun Control.

The very word “control” seems to cause a great many pro-gun people to shift mental gears to mean “we’re gonna take your guns away from you.” Gun registration as well as being licensed to own and use a gun is also suspect. Too many “Seven Days in May” conspiracy stories, I guess. By God, everything is a conspiracy.

Take a breath. Inhale. Exhale.

Just like the process of training someone to use a car for work, for recreation, to get from Point A to Point B safely and with the least amount of danger to others, gun controls are a good thing.

“Guns don’t kill people …”

Exactly! Nor do cars, but idiotic, psychotic, unprepared and uncontrollable drivers.

“Stricter controls will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals …”

True. And cars will also be stolen, or used as getaway means and end in death and destruction. But you still have to turn your lights on in the State of North Carolina when it rains. The vast majority of automobile drivers are responsible people. Where have I heard that before?

We have central databases where every vehicle operation violation is recorded. We have tags on each car that indicates the vehicle passes a mechanical inspection on an annual basis. We have license renewal requirements, so that each driver must reapply for an operator’s license. We require auto insurance. We have stricter licensing requirements for bus drivers, and truck drivers. Even moped operators must now get a license to drive on public throughways.

Who’s complaining? Virtually NO ONE!

Is it a hassle to go annually to the DMV for a new license plate sticker? Damn right it is! Is it costly time-wise and wallet-wise to have my car inspected annually, and maybe have to replace that headlights or taillights or windshield wipers?

Why do I tolerate this overbearing scrutiny and control? Because I’d rather drive to the beach than walk. Or take the bus. Or the train.

We have an agency in place that can be utilized more effectively in filtering out at least some of the wack-os and, as 45 says, folks with mental health problems, from buying and possessing a gun. The ATF. Will it be overwhelmed? Only if it does its job. Heck, think of the number of people who will need to be employed to handle the load? What a boon! And, a self-financing procedure. Like the DMV.

So, first, enable the ATF to process licensing, with local offices (just like the DMV). Compared to the cost of someone being killed by a gun (jail, court, attorney fees, lost income of the victim, hospital costs). Take the licensing process out of the hands of the Sheriff’s departments so that the load can be handled, and so that consistency of process is guaranteed.

Second, enact laws that require regular licensing (like driver’s licensing). I get my license, I get a DWI or speeding ticket, and I lose my license, or it is restricted. I get a gun license, and within the year I am convicted of a felony, or go through drug rehab, I lose my license. A point system like that in the driver’s license. Further, that anyone diagnosed with a mental disorder that could affect the patient’s ability to legally use a firearm be reported to the ATF. By the way, licensing would require mandatory training (NRA?) as well as passing a written AND, initially, firing range test.

Third, require that a gun owner purchase and maintain liability insurance for each firearm purchased. Just like owning a car where accidents happen. The insurance companies will love this, and the cost of owning a firearm just for insurance will curb the number of guns a person can afford to own.

Fourth, require that firearms are also inspected on a regular basis by qualified people to ensure accidents don’t occur because of mechanical malfunction. Require recall letters from manufactures for such problems, as well as a guarantee of repair or replacement.

Fifth, as with a car, require that a private owner transact the sale of a firearm to another person through their local ATF office. Failure to do so would be a felony crime.

Sixth, require that the loss, theft, or decommissioning of a firearm (dismantling) be reported to the ATF. If to the police, that the police alert the ATF electronically.

Seventh, restrict the sale of types of firearms and add-ons (bump fire stocks, hair triggers, silencers, magazine capacity, etc.).

Eighth, require the registration of ammunition and its sale – as do the pharmacists with prescriptions. Lot, box, shells. Shell casings could be barcoded.

And I could go on. The point is that while a few advocate no guns at all, most of us realize that won’t happen – regardless of the 2nd Amendment. And certainly no law or restriction is going to be absolutely effective. There will always be those outlying circumstances and people who defy logic and sanity.

But – IF the laws are enforced with due diligence, perhaps some of the tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, and other non-terrorist initiated massacres, will be avoided.

Deer hunters, skeet shooters, biathlon athletes – even those who want/need a deadly way to protect their home and family members – will be able, within the law, to do those things.

Expensive? You bet. So is a car.

Cost of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle: between $500 and $2,500;
Cost of 500 rounds of ammo: about $150;
Cost of a bump-fire stock: $1,500;

Cost of a human life: priceless.*

*According to the EPA ( https://www.epa.gov/environmental-economics/mortality-risk-valuation ), the value of a human life was $7.4 million in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

If God is for you …

2 Nov

If God is for you …

L. Stewart Marsden

By now, unless you live under a rock, you know the Houston Astros won the World Series last night over the LA Dodgers.

No doubt, in some interview, some Houston ball player is going to thank God for the events leading up to the franchise’s first World Series win. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t fault anyone for thanking God for strength to endure something.

I also suspect there are those who are convinced that God engineered the victory. All of the sponsors are thanking Him, as is ESPN, for the full seven-game event. One of the most exciting events in baseball drew unprecedented viewers. Thank God!

This, after God apparently judged Houston earlier in the fall with Hurricane Harvey. Now I can say that with some certainty because all of the insurance companies that had to and are digging through their coffers call the weather event an Act of God. Therefore we know God did that. I haven’t checked in with Westboro Baptist Church to see what exactly God was judging through the storm’s devastation. No doubt some pretty bad things.

Apparently God then had second thoughts, and decided He’d been pretty tough on the Texas Gulf area. Like when he was surprised at Abraham’s commitment to sacrifice his son in obedience. “Wow!” He said. “Didn’t really think he’d go through with it!”*

At the same time, God had been busy judging California through massive fires. Either that, or He has a lot of stock in the NAPA Valley wine companies, and figured the price of a bottle of Pinot is going to go through the roof.

Everyone from the New York area knows that the once Brooklyn Dodgers skipped west years ago, and needed to be punished. And since the Yankees were upended by the Astros in league championship play, this was poetic justice. I think the Eleventh Commandment* is “THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE BROOKLYN!”

Whatever His reason, God favored the Astros, and shook things up before giving them the final “Well done” nod.

Do I really believe this? Take the notion forward a bit and the following holy conclusions would have to be reached:

The New England Patriots are NOT satanic;
Peyton Manning really IS funny;
If you don’t own an iPhone (whatever the latest edition), you really are less of a person;
Colin Cowherd is the last word in sports commentary;
45 is God’s man.

*While not scriptural in terms of the exact words, I figure if the Televangelist Pastards (borrowing this term from a friend) can make up stuff like this and get away with it, then sell tap water as Miracle Water, then I can take a little poetic license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time –– It’s All Relative

19 Oct

Time –– It’s All Relative

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

I wrote a poem years ago entitled “All the Clocks Are Broken.” In its simplistic rhyme and meter, it playfully touches on time and how fickle it is. For example, in anticipation of a great event, like a birthday or Christmas, the clock slows down to a crawl, making your toenails itch.

Or, the opposite, during an exam, the hands fly about the circular clock face.

Anything requiring the passage of time can teeter or totter, almost arbitrarily. Turning old enough to be able to do something:

  1. Join a club, team, or participate in age-related extracurricular
  2. Drive a car
  3. Graduate high school
  4. Buy alcohol or cigarettes (although the latter isn’t as popular as it was in my day)
  5. Get a body piercing
  6. Get a tat
  7. Vote
  8. Go to college
  9. Graduate
  10. Go to post grad school
  11. Graduate
  12. Go for a PhD
  13. Graduate
  14. Get a job
  15. Get an apartment
  16. Lose the body piercing
  17. Get a J.O.B.
  18. Get another tat … and more piercings
  19. Get married
  20. Buy a house
  21. Have children
  22. Feed, house and clothe the kids
  23. Take them to clubs, teams, and other extracurricular
  24. Get them a car
  25. Go to their high school graduation
  26. Sign the permission form for their first body piercing
  27. Move them into their freshman dorm room
  28. Smile weakly in reaction to their first tat
  29. Offer them their first glass of wine
  30. Attend their college graduation
  31. Co-sign for their first apartment
  32. Attend their post college degree graduation
  33. Co-sign their student loan for their PhD
  34. Celebrate their first job
  35. Take them and their fiancé out to dinner for the first time
  36. Go over the budget for the wedding
  37. Cry at the wedding
  38. Go on a cruise
  39. Downsize to a condominium
  40. Take pictures of the first grandchild
  41. Announce your divorce
  42. Move to an apartment
  43. Retire
  44. Move to a senior living facility
  45. Meet with the lawyer and finalize the will

Numbers one through 14 pass slower than molasses going up hill on a 20 degree day with a 45 mile-per-hour headwind.

Fifteen through 45 happen quicker than the snap of a finger. The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate finger*.

After a bit of time had spilled down the drain, I noticed something. The years aren’t like some straight roadway that disappears in the desert at some unseen infinite point. The years are more like a Slinky, recurring coils where the four seasons have claimed a spot on the circumference of each coil. Depending on what is going on, the Slinky of time stretches and compresses. For the first million or so years of the planet, for example, the slinky is stretched nearly to its limit. As life developed and evolved, and as humankind (oxymoron) grew in number and impact, the coils compressed.

Today, the Time Slinky is tightly compressed, almost to the point of the annual coils melding into one another.

That’s comforting to some extent. It means even though Time is zipping along at breakneck speeds for me, we will make it through this particular phase of time, and perhaps the coils will then relax, and begin to stretch out again, the tension loosen.

I hope so.

*The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award was a commentary staple on a popular television comedy show that ran in the late 60s through the early 70s – Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. More like a pfft on the Time Slinky. I always thought the finger on the award should not have been the index finger, but one over.