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Looking for comments for Age of Descent

7 Jun

On my workbench is a 2-act play that follows Albert’s necessary life changes after the death of his wife of forty-five years. Although there are changes to be made here and there, I’m satisfied it’s ready for scrutiny.

Again, I’m not looking for a “like,” but comments.

The cast is three people, Albert, his daughter Missy, and Flo, his unexpected new acquaintance after being talked into moving from his New York home to the Honey Haven Retirement Community outside Orlando, FL.

The staging is very simple, as is the lighting.

Older readers should identify with Albert and Flo to some extent. Those with elderly parents should identify with Missy. This is not a play for younger people. I doubt they would appreciate it.

I thank you for reading this still-in-progress play, and for your comments.

L. Stewart Marsden

Click here for the downloadable PDF version of the script.

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Copyright, 2018. No reproductions may be made without my exclusive written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I quit Facebook

22 Mar

 

Why I quit facebook

By L. Stewart Marsden

Like a storm at sea, it’s been gathering for quite a while. I’ve seen friends on Facebook experience some of the same agonies I have, and leave or disconnect from their Facebook accounts for a bit, only to return. Those are the people, like me, who have/had a love/hate experience with the social media array of ways to connect while not really connecting.

Retired, it was easier for me to give up LinkedIn and Twitter. The algorithms of those platforms continually sent me reasons to update my profile, or to check out what was going on with one of the dozens of people I followed, or who followed me. Yeah, I know … dozens. Not very impressive. Missing the whole point, right? But those are networking platforms, and I don’t care to network at this point in my life.

I was a holdout on Facebook. At one point, after a long dearth of writing on this website, I convinced myself that basically posting on Facebook was tantamount to blogging, and was an acceptable substitute for the daily regimen of working on a poem, or an opinion piece, or one of the many stories and other fiction projects laying fallow in my fields of imagination.

I found myself binging in reaction to what others had posted. Swooping down from cliffs of grammar correctness to attack a misspelling or erroneous usage of a word or phrase. I was like Ralphie’s teacher armed with a red pen, slashing his masterpiece “What I Want for Christmas!” and leaving him in the smoke of my “writeous•” fury. I was like a Stephen King horror unleashed on the social media world.

Deep inside, I knew this couldn’t continue. But I was chained to my addiction, and each time I tried to break away, the effort only redoubled my Facebook dependencies.

You’ve heard it before: it’s not the alcohol, it’s the alcoholic. I’d been through and successfully escaped one addiction –– smoking. That effort, twice over a period of about fifteen years, was trying enough. One factor with cigarettes that does not exist with Facebook is the motivation of cost. When I was a kid, you could get a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine for a quarter. Now you need an equity loan to keep yourself in smokes. Also, the Federal Government and all other health-binging entities worked to nearly squash the tobacco industry.

Facebook? No such incentives. It’s free. And is without the negative pressures the big tobacco companies faced, such as huge money settlements, fines, and regulatory parameters. Public reaction today among most Americans towards tobacco? Boo, hiss!

There is no danger of second-hand Facebook exposure. No rising per-session cost. No sanctions to speak of when you react negatively to someone’s unkind and oppositional criticism of your post.

And with every passing month, week, day, hour and second, there is a plethora of new ways to use (and abuse) your social media connection.

Ah, said a marketing person. Look at all of the valuable data we have regarding our users (not customers, because that would infer a reason to please the customer). I wonder if some enterprising companies could mine these resources for their own benefit, and –– gosh –– PAY us for access to this information?

Remember decades ago when the high-tech industry was booming, but with no tangible means of turning the popularity of things like Facebook and Twitter and others into profits?

Pssst: they found a way.

First, benign. Based on number of hits.

Then, the release of overall market profiles for advertisers. Just like radio and television has operated for years selling and placing ads to cover its costs and growth.

Those pesky pop-ups. Those moving text bars at the bottom of your computer/cellphone screen. Just part of the evolution.

Then, rumors of other countries using and manipulating various social media platforms in attempts to influence the mindsets of the users.

Is this one big metaphor for the drug industry, or what?

Users? Original intent? Addiction? Manipulation? Money? Power? (The sex part is assumed).

Then last week the media pounced upon a story that would shake up my world: Facebook, the Trump Campaign think tank, user data, user manipulation. Never mind Trump was not the first politician to think of and use these tactics, although ex-Obama aides claimed they did it the correct way (according to The Washington Post).

It’s a small leap from seeing nuclear power as a resource, to using it for power and destruction.

The tobacco companies: “We did not know the addictive and health-damaging properties of cigarette smoking.”

Mark Zuckerberg: I wasn’t aware of this abuse of Facebook’s tremendous data capabilities. Fire that guy down there. No, not him –– the one next to him.

The I’m sorry Zuckerberg finally expressed was one of those spins we get from the politicians.

“I’m really sorry this happened.” Sorry WHAT happened? That no due-diligence was in place to protect user information? That the whole event was leaked? That you got caught with the proverbial hand in the cookie jar? That the stock market reacted quickly, reducing your paper value by $50 billion in a day?

That was the straw for me. It’s like the Emporor’s New Clothes. You know what’s going on. You see it. But you don’t want to admit it’s happening, or that you might be contributing to it.

Well, golly! He ain’t got no clothes on!

There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media. Like the telephone. Whoever thought when Edison said “Mr. Watson –– come here –– I want to see you,” to actually seeing the person you’ve called on your cellphone? Or seeing up someone’s dress in the supermarket with your phone?

It’s not the tool, (I am not pitching the NRA, by the way), it’s the tool user.

But I hold Zuckerberg accountable. For what happened, for it being possible to happen, and for his apparent smugness in responding. “I’m really sorry this happened.” Huh.

So I turned it off. My Facebook account. Which is not as easy as it sounds, and is a very confusing process. Then I deleted the app from my iPad as well as my cellphone.

Again, I’ve done this before –– temporarily disconnecting from Facebook. But not for these reasons. Perhaps I wanted to live in the deluded social world I had occupied for so long without thinking “how the hell is Facebook making any money?”

Not from my usage.

Or was it?

• I’m sure I’m not the first to think of this word, so I’ll take no credit for it. The irony is that it would make a helluva meme for Facebook!

Disconnect – the first stage of Entropy

20 Feb

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Disconnect – the first stage of Entropy

L. Stewart Marsden

Imagine a huge wagon wheel suspended from the ceiling, though not from a single supporting line, but from several lines, evenly spaced around its circumference. The lines are fastened to a single hub at ceiling level. Everything about the construct is symmetrical.

Imagine one by one the support lines begin to haphazardly disconnect over long periods of time. Weakened, the lines slowly unravel. Initially, the suspended wheel shakes slightly at the disconnection with the first line, but maintains its rotation, though a bit more wobbly. As more of the lines disconnect, the wheel becomes unwieldy, and its crash to the floor imminent.

That’s what I imagine is happening to our country and government. The supporting hub represents the ideal. The Constitution. The Declaration of Independence. The moral high road. Integrity. The pursuit of justice for all. Care and concern for the weak and downtrodden. The anti-bully. The believer of lost causes. The fan of the underdog. The optimist.

Every line of support to the wheel is tied to something to be reached for; such things as equality, non discrimination, freedom of religion, a government that serves its people at the local, state and federal levels, equal opportunity, freedom of expression, laws designed to protect and more. The lines have been more or less sturdy over the country’s nearly 250 years of existence. Some have grown stronger, some have been added, some are threadbare. Some are snapping and disconnecting.

Examples of disconnects that are disconcerting to me:

The Republican on the Democrat:
Democrats are out to destroy this nation and bring an end to God as the center of our democracy. They are out to spend this country into oblivion, and want to give away our great heritage to the lazy and the undeserving.

The Democrat on The Republican:
Republicans are only concerned about maintaining the status quos of money, power, and influence. Largely white, they are racists, and far-right judgmental Bible thumpers. They want more and more guns, and want to legislate women’s reproductive rights. They hate anyone who does not think, believe, or look like them.

Anti-NRA
The NRA is Satan personified, and interested only in promulgating an agenda of more and more guns and less and less gun control, which has resulted in schoolyards becoming the killing fields of America. Pro NRAers are largely Republican. They really don’t care about the blood spilt already due to the ease of buying a gun, or buying a semi-automatic weapon. Who needs a semi-automatic to kill a deer?

Pro-NRA
The NRA provides services that include safety instruction and education, the purchase and protection of wetlands, among others. Anyone who doesn’t like the NRA is an idiot, and doesn’t understand the whys and whats of the organization. Anti-NRAers want to take our guns away and destroy the 2nd Amendment rights we currently enjoy and revere. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before freedom of speech and freedom of religion are gone.

I could go on. These are, of course, extreme views represented. But when there is a disconnect and that line of support no longer exists, the extremists do seem to have the loudest voices and carry the most weight.

Largely, the disconnects I see (on social media, on news broadcasts, on talk shows, from DC and elsewhere) occur because “we” are no longer able to disagree, debate, compromise, and show unity despite our differences. It isn’t Russia’s fault the divides exist. We are dismantling ourselves, disconnected line by line. We want the fixes to occur in our state capitals, or in Washington. We are willing to abdicate our individual response abilities (not a typo) to people who largely seem to be interested only in self-preservation in office. And when you consider how well they fare in terms of their personal wealth, can you blame them?

Entropy is a physics’ law that, simply put, states things tend towards disorder. In terms of history and the rise and fall of nations and empires, it seems to be true. What goes up, must come down. Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire, Germany …

George Santayana (and a host of others as well) warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Are we in jeopardy of repeating the failures and falls of others? Have we already begun the descent? Is there anything you or I can do to repair the lines of disconnect, and right our wobbling nation?

I have my opinions. Part of those opinions is that we are all blameworthy and culpable for our current status. No one is innocent –– at least, no adult. As part of the problem, I have to look within myself and judge what I can/should do. Pointing a finger elsewhere only exacerbates the situation. How have I contributed to the mess? How can I stop doing that? What are the reasonable and logical alternatives at hand?

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

The Projects – updated 9/07/2017

7 Sep

 


 

The Projects

Updated 9/07/2017

Click here.

The Projects

21 Aug

Updating The Projects via reblogging the initial post.

Writing Odds n Ends

  

The Projects

By L. Stewart Marsden

Forward

Sometimes, just before waking, in that twilight of dream-sleep and consciousness, a thought or image or story or scenario will flit through my mind. Like a glint of light reflected off some shiny object. It’s there, and it’s gone.

Two thoughts – spawned perhaps by subconscious mulling over Charlottesville and the last several years of police action.

What if a person convicted of a hate crime – who had served the time – was paroled with the stipulation that he/she (mostly he, is my guess) served lots of hours working in the neighborhoods of the very people the hate crime was committed against? Impossible? I say this because on CBS evening news, a former member of a hate group was interviewed. This person, Christian Pitulini (sp?) joined a hate group at the age of 14, and quit a few years later to…

View original post 3,437 more words

On the Savannah

16 Nov

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On the Savannah

By L. Stewart Marsden

On the Savannah
Death stalks and waits
In every field of grass
Under each watering hole
For the unwary
Or the weak
Or those left behind;

The kind of strife that daily
Rises in the east and never sets;

Jaws and teeth led by smell and struggle and blood

Yet amply gives and hides in such a way
That prey pray for another day
To continue
And thrive
On the Savannah.

Stop, Look, and Listen

31 Aug

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

I have a friend whose maxim was/is, “I only want to hear Good News.” I can relate. Living in the mountains, simply turning off the TV and selectively scrolling down FB is one way of avoidance.

In truth, this ostrich-like (they don’t really bury their heads) behavior is necessary sometimes, especially in an age when news of any kind is instant, and sometimes, as it is happening. During major election years, the clamor worsens. Can’t say I recall it ever being so bad. Perhaps the frustration of so much bad news generated by bad things is the reason for the spike in ancestral origins.

When I was in college in the late 60s/early 70s, three major events converged, rocking the previous post-war rebuilding — Vietnam, Civil Rights, and Women’s Rights. Oh, maybe four, if you consider abortion. With each, lines of clear demarkation existed, but each became mixed, as with a Ven diagram. The anger and protest and backlash generated ran over those “clear” lines.

How was communication handled then? Kent State. Watts. Selma.

My generation caught in the spin cycle of this accumulated dirty laundry. Casualties were sever. It’s disheartening to realize that very little in the way of war, civil rights and perhaps womens rights has moved in quantum positive steps. Abortion? Well, I’m not going there.

People on both sides of nearly any issue are clenching fists and jaws over those in leadership, to whom we have abdicated the responsibility of fixing our social problems. Obama — fix it, please. Hillary, Donald — fix it, please.

That’s why I find Thoreau’s comments about government so apt. The less, the better. None, even better. Government doesn’t fix anything.

Like it or not, you and I — on an individual person-to-person basis — are the conduits of change and improvement. And disorder, as well. It’s a choice.

So I say each individual has got to come to the place where each is willing to stop, look, and listen. Remember that phrase about crossing the street? Otherwise we step headlong into traffic that results in carnage and destruction.

Maybe we should don those bubble suits and converge on a huge field, bumping and bouncing off one another physically until exhausted, and then stop, look, and listen.

On Bachelorhood

28 Aug

On Bachelorhood

Or, the strong case for being single

By L. Stewart Marsden

“I can live alone,
if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do.
I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me,
which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld,
or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

— Charlotte Brontë

My dad, hard-working and successful as the world judges, often complained that society had gotten retirement backwards.

“We should be retired when we are young,” he contended. “When we are physically and mentally able to enjoy travel and explore the world. Not when we are old and feeble, and need walkers and oxygen tanks to go from here to there.”

That sentiment came as a result of going to South America, and because of his back and his nagging bursitis, he little enjoyed the trip.

Of course, he was in the generation that built wealth over time, not the current fast-food mentality work generation that hops onto new tech ideas and retires before age 30.

He had a point. Anyone much over the age of 65 knows that travel baggage now comes packed with more pills and prescriptions than changes of clothing.

What about marriage, then?

I believe we are headed in a direction which is slowly becoming the reversal of the way it’s always been — or seems to have been.

Get married young. Straight out of high school or college. Have lots and lots of babies to ensure the generations. Grow old and thrive in the mulit-parenthood levels — parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc.

Now few jump into long-term anything anymore. Relationships. Marriages. Careers. It’s all based on the feeling and the moment. And when the feelings and the moments lag or worse, so does the relationship. Then, leave the relationship, the marriage, and/or the career.

I want my burger and fries now. Ever see someone pull angrily out of a care line at a fast food place and drive off, tires burning rubber, because of the wait time?

More than half all marriages in America end in divorce.

In my parents’ day, divorce was a dirty word.

Not now. Now it’s a contractual escape clause.

The generations that have grown up with divorce — experiencing its trickle-down effect — are more circumspect. Willing to live with someone for years, they hesitate to commit. Who knows why? Maybe the weight of the “M” word and what they have come to know about it is the reason.

Certainly having babies is no motivation to tie the knot. But I digress.

Women are exploring careers, and having babies is a consideration tabled for a date that is increasingly later in life. Adoption is in fashion (not that I have anything against it, other than there seem to be enough adoptable children who live in America than to go traipsing half-way around the world).

Men are … Well, men are morphing into house-husbandry — taking on domestic duties at a rapid rate of growth.

And as independent a direction as our culture seems to be herding today’s men and women toward, matching and mating remain primal needs. It’s in the DNA.

If you are currently a bachelor, you know how it is. Everyone — but you — is either married, living together, or dating.

Bachelor = odd man (or woman) out.

There is now a slug of 50 percent residue from broken marriages — maybe (as in my case) several marriages — that are trying to figure out what the hell to do with themselves.

You women who are widows — who found THAT guy and endured many decades of marriage — know what I’m about to say. For you, the habit of marriage and being in a relationship is tantamount to life support. There are a few widowers out there, and my understanding is by and large women dominate this group numerically.

I’ve been married the majority of my adult life — about 40 years. Not to the same person, but pretty evenly split between two exes. That’s becoming more common, as I understand it.

Fear of solitude

EVERY person who has exited a relationship — regardless of good, bad, or indifferent — comes to the realization he or she knows NOTHING about how to enter into a new relationship. This is knee-jerk, as is that desperate need to be back into a relationship. Never mind whether being single could be a good thing. It’s like a non-swimmer being caste into water and being told “Swim!” The alternative is either learn to swim immediately, or sink and die.

Add to the dilemma that at every turn, family, friends and others are constantly assessing your singleness as bad, and their solution is quick, find somebody! Or sink and die.

If singleness and bachelorhood (both genders) is not stigmatic, why in the name of Cupid are there so many online dating/matching sites and services? And why is the viewing nation so preoccupied with such “reality” shows as “The Bachelor,” or “The Bachelorette,” or “The First Kiss?” Does anyone in their right mind think that Dirk is going to have a lasting relationship by an elimination game where every courtesan is an emotional wreck by the time the season is completed?

Who watches this stuff?

Then I realize that, sometimes, when channel-surfing, I do.

Oh the shame of it all!

The urge to conquer and commit wanes with diminishing libido

It’s one of those inverse relationships that is sad, but true. Hence Viagra. When you are a young buck, you have thoughts of sex every seven seconds. Or that’s what I heard. I don’t know how they figured that out. As time passes, I suppose that changes to seven minutes, then seven hours, seven days, seven months …

I heard a joke about the frequency of sex in a marriage:

  • Tri-weekly
  • Try weekly
  • Try weakly

Doesn’t apply to Hugh Hefner, probably.

When you are in your late 50s or 60s, your primal concerns revolve more around getting up in the morning, and less about getting it up.

I could go on. But I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.

We are called the Mature. Not old or elderly anymore. Mature. I can remember my mother wondering will I ever mature and get out of my adolescence.

Well, Ma — I’m now mature!

For those 50 percenters who stayed married and grew old together, they’ve assimilated to a lifestyle that includes the other. Whatever the day’s activities are, they do it together. In fact, there is some research to suggest the individuals of a long-term relationship begin to physically resemble each other.

The rest of us, now mature and with no one that even remotely resembles us, are left to contend with that urge, albeit socially manufactured, to re-mate and avoid being conspicuously single.

My question is why?

My grandmother’s husband died a month before I was born. She remained a widow into her late 50s, when she met my Step-Grandfather and they married. It was complicated enough. He had a law practice that specialized in title searches. She was a good Norwegian-stock woman with a sharp eye, tongue and wit. And she could cook reasonably well. He brought to the marriage an adopted son, who must have had major Native American stock genetically. All of my grandmother’s kids were married with children.

The dynamic — as mundane as it was — still bordered on challenging.

Today, with multiple divorces and remarriages and re-divorces and children and step-children and dogs and cats and lifestyles to merge? Whew!? It’s damn daunting!

So, again … Why?

Why not embrace bachelorhood (both genders) and decree that no longer shall “mature” single folk be referred to as spinsters, or worse?

After all, 70 is the new 50, right?

Read Brontë’s quote again. Makes sense.

Therefore, ergo, thus … I’m on the verge of declaring myself a permanent bachelor. After all, with 40 years of marriage already under my belt, I deserve the niceties, privacies and uncomplicated benefits of living alone.

And, yes, I’ll embark on that quest just as soon as I check to see who my weekly online matches are (which is another subject altogether).

Free Loveseat

14 Aug

 

Free loveseat for the taking. U-pick-up. Some assembly required.

 

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Ignorant People

20 Jul

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Ignorant People

By L. Stewart Marsden

With acknowledgement to The Beatles

Ignorant people
Stumbling about while they shout in the wind all the day
What do they say?

Ignorant people
Pointing a finger while lingering close to the pit
Just full of sh*t

All the ignorant people
Where do they all come from?
All the ignorant people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the ignorant people …
Ah, look at all the ignorant people!

 

“Stupid is as stupid does.” — Forrest Gump