The Empty Vessel

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Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars…

Democracy is an empty vessel. The blanks must be filled in. Want to slow or stop immigration? Do you want low taxes, less regulation and globalize manufacturing and trade? Perhaps more home schooling and charter schools and scrap universities altogether and simply ramp up vocational career schooling.

The stock markets of the world are a huge casino. Headlines are once again frightening the public. Some say buy, some say sell, others say hold. Nobody can explain exactly why the market moves one way or another. Technical analysts give their explanations, brokers offer their services and all the while the stench of something reeks. What are we doing to ourselves?

Technology has ramped up the speed of something while the details of this something it has speeded up remain beyond comprehension to all of us. You want to talk about morality? How about voting rights? Let’s debate the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Does anyone know anything about this secret trade deal that the President strenuously defends as not secret?

I don’t like my oppositional party in politics as being described as an automobile filled with clowns. I don’t like billionaires polluting the electoral process with their ill-gotten gains. But, am I right to hold this view? The Supreme Court has found my opinion to run counter to the rights enshrined in the constitution. We are not in a free for all we are in a free fall.

We have precious little time to act on matters important to every single human being on this planet. We need to get focused. We need banks to get boring. We need government to fix roads, build bridges and enable communities the means to access to clean air and water. We need capitalism to submit to surgery whereby we cut out its mindless greed and install a heart that helps manufacture a simpler more cautious use of our finite resources.

If democracy is an empty vessel, a void waiting to be filled, then capitalism if allowed to dominate it will arrange matters to its own advantage. This arranging thing that it does is not some sort of invisible hand of the marketplace. It is a heavy hand.

Our access to information has drowned the informed voter in a sea of counterfactuals that boggle the mind and shudder our spine. We’ve harvested a collective chaos of misguided gumption. We briefly get it together and send a man to the moon and now we tear ourselves apart debating whether to deploy high speed trains. Nothing is more pathetic than to watch people who have put their faith in science to include everything but vaccinations.

A majority of citizens polled want to disregard the consensus of nuclear experts who virtually unanimously agree that we ought to take the deal we just cooked up with Iran. The rest of the world agrees but we won’t. I can assure you that the vast majority of the people objecting to this deal haven’t taken the time to read it. They didn’t pick up their smartphone and call their local nuclear scientist for a discussion on the merits. Who has time for that crap? In our current democracy opinion is manufactured. Who is making this crap up because it has to stop. Our sewers are there for a reason.

So, let’s get out of this rut now. We defang Wall Street for starters. A transaction tax would be a good place to begin. Break up the big banks and make finance boring again. We go to Washington and kick the criminal racket known as the Washington lobbyists out. We get some ordinary plain normal human beings in congress to focus on climate change and fix this wretched income inequality problem.

Once we get ourselves heading in the right direction we can get together and do some good old family planning and by that I mean we need to figure out how we can live on this planet in balance and harmony within the constraints of her natural bounty.

And that my friends is how to fill this empty vessel known as democracy up with ideas worthy of our free will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Ain’t Over Till the Fat Canary Starts Sizzling…

Six Boats

Setting Sail for a Better Future

Let’s head out from here where sanity prevails. First, we have a global manmade climate crisis. Got that? Let’s get our priorities right. Wake up!

Next up is worldwide population levels continuing to expand while we wreak havoc upon the support system all these new lives will need if they are to survive.

Our politics and our economics are complex. This is a two headed monstrosity. One defends the other, while the other goes about plundering the world and taking a modest sum of their profits to keep propping up their enablers.

Like an addict business just can’t help itself. The business of business turns out to be all too often quite rapacious of resources and let’s just say not particularly talented at focusing upon sustainability to say nothing of mankind’s survival.

And then there is Hillary Clinton’s campaign, a Democrat running for office and she can’t take a position on the Keystone Pipeline? That’s not going to get the job done. Does she support the Transpacific Partnership; a trade agreement that affects 40% of the world’s global trade? No, she can’t say one way or another. We are being asked to vote for a riddle inside of a mystery.

There is all of this plus we have Republican Senators plotting in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act which would result in stripping 17 million citizens of their health insurance. This isn’t humanity’s best moment.

Plus, with the world bursting at the seams with people this same grand deliberative body is rushing as fast as their fake bile can be spewed to defund an organization that tries to help all of humanity in general and women in particular to determine if and when they will have a child.

Some low life named Drudge calls the Pope the Antichrist. Some Cuban out of Florida running for higher office claims Obama is covertly funding the same terrorists that the Pentagon is trying to kill. Please…

Here is the situation. We have to deal with climate change. That means doing something about it here. We’ll need to work with every other country in the world because this isn’t just our problem it is the world’s problem too.

Next up is getting control of the world’s most voracious inhabitants… human beings. Where to start? Well, obviously we’ll need to figure out where all these people are coming from and why there are so many individuals, religions and governments blocking efforts to help humanity manage their reproductive systems. What the hell is wrong with you people?

This isn’t a mystery. If we deploy women’s health care programs across the world we will enable billions of earth’s citizens to have the chance to choose the right moment to start a family.

If you object to offering others the chance to choose how they wish to arrange their lives then you might well be confused about what the difference is between freedom and tyranny.

Finally the stupendous wealth that has accumulated in the hands of so few has in turn been used to frustrate efforts to put in place policies that will go a long way toward solving humanity’s problems. It turns out great wealth is in and of itself a great big problem.

Billionaires are not a feature of capitalism they are a flaw and to drain the swamp of excess wealth is to make our world a safer more egalitarian place where we might well survive if only we can clear our minds of the haze and get focused on the challenges we face.

Does this sound radical? Cleaning our air? To help men and women determine when to start a family? To tax our wealthiest citizens more and our poorest citizens less?

Some political party is going to have to clear their throat and speak out and then pass the necessary legislation. Trump and Sanders are merely canaries in the coal mine. They are harbingers sounding the alarm.

Our political, religious and economic systems are in desperate circumstances. They are all in need of change and yet each has exquisitely organized itself to resist change. One way or another, this is going to come to an end. I’d prefer a soft landing or if not perhaps it is time we start manufacturing helmets… and fast.

Five Boat

Let’s Set Humanity’s Course for Survival

The Kilted Salvation

Past as Prelude Mayan Ruins

Past as Prelude
Mayan Ruins

 

It Was Not A Surprise

The Scottish National Party swept this last week’s elections. They built majorities by convincing Labour Party voters to switch allegiances to the Scottish National Party.

I had followed last year’s vote in Scotland to decide whether they would secede from Great Britain. The initiative failed but the Scottish National Party continued to organize.

That vote plunged the Labour Party into their present crisis. Without the Scot’s Labour may never again be capable of building a majority coalition in Parliament. Never is a long time.

Scotland will press for another vote to secede. If there is any hope of keeping the whole of Great Britain together it will be because the Torres cease ramming through Parliament decidedly conservative policies and instead begin compromising with the progressives in Scotland.

The City of London is loath to let go of their dominion over all things economic. The Scot’s apparently are much too socialist. National Health Care, free universities, and public pensions are unaffordable. The City fears they may well be taxed more.

The tensions between the voracious financial sector and the spine stiffened progressives in Scotland are a wicked bit of business. It is but one of many skirmishes taking place across the globe.

SketchGuru_20150509150710

When Will the Greed Stop

Here back in the United States a vote next week in Congress to give the President Trade Promotion Authority will be taken. Multinational corporations advocating for this bill are not complaining about the labor or environmental provisions and that tells you everything you need to know. A more progressive agreement would be met with a multinational megaphoned shriek of grief and moans. A broad coalition against this agreement is fighting back.

In fact the Trade Promotional Authority the President seeks may indeed increase the profits corporations earn from trade. But, think with me for a moment. “ — trade creates winners and losers. Econ 101 says that the winners outnumber the losers in dollar terms, but not necessarily in people terms — if the richest 1 percent of Americans gain $1 billion from a trade agreement and the other 99 percent lose $900 million, then Ricardo’s theory says the country benefited overall. That outcome is perfectly consistent with Econ 101.”

That is the neoliberal economic model’s Achilles heel. On the whole free trade has by design benefitted the wealthiest. We are bombarded with distortions and half-truths by the moneyed interests that have gained by these trade agreements. Too much corporate money is drowning out the national interests. The world cannot keep pumping further profits into the pockets of the few at the cost of shortchanging so many.

There is no such thing as a free market. Nature is not a free market. Markets are a construct of human design. Rules and regulations are put in place to manage them. The City of London and the Wizards of Wall Street would prefer that we allow their designs and formulas to take priority. They have not any greater wisdom or authority than any other individuals or interest groups. They’ve tilted the playing field in their favor for too long. We’ve the worst income inequality in the world, a worldwide financial crisis we continue to suffer from. There are a vast trove of problems neoliberalism has no answers for.

The most serious of these problems we describe as climate change. At its root is the possibility that we trigger an extinction event that ends in wiping us all off the face of this earth. The one elixir to all of this is hope. We must have hope. And if there is to be any hope of our having a better future it will come by our insisting that our political and economic systems offer reality based solutions to the problems we face. The neoliberal economic model of freer trade, lower taxes and less regulation needs to be modified so that we may get on with the great task of saving all of humanity from its own worst enemy. We have done much damage and saving ourselves from ourselves is the kind of complexity and paradox that is all too prone to being gamed.

This is the great work ahead. The courageous and brave people of Scotland may well be the spark ready to point the way. The fierce kilted bagpipers and army of determined brave souls marching on the problems of the world is indeed a hope to be reckoned with.

La Buena Vida Akumal, Mexico The Authors Office

La Buena Vida
Akumal, Mexico
The Authors Office

 

How Sweet It Is

Pouilly Fuisse
The Most Beautiful Places in the World

Timing is everything. A good location doesn’t hurt.

But, it’s the intangibles that will get you.

“To be completely honest, although I love living in the city, it’s not my favorite place to perform.”

What?

“It seems to have an overly-politically-correctness vibe.”

Really? So, we haven’t changed; they have?

“They seem to repress some of the fun and energy that our typical street show presents.”

For the love of show business.

Street act is foreground, cityscape is background.

A performer is barely on earth. We’d like to be, but you know it’s tough. We tend to be on stage, in bars, at rehearsals. Why isn’t that enough and if it is why doesn’t it come with a dental plan?

Once you have an act you are set. You get to be witness to more death than a mortician. There’s a lot of turnover in this industry.

One day the best act you’ve ever seen turns out to be a plumber. That unexpected incarnation put the fear of god in you.

As Jackie Gleason opined after a sip from the good stuff at the opening of his schtick.. “How sweet it is…” He’s only making that crack because of all the cadavers stacked up backstage.

So, the hungry acts know that you best keep the hook baited. Nothing but nobody waits for spit.

That’s the game. In these modern times. We used to be lousy with gigs from Salinas to Santa Rosa. But, that’s all dried up and nobody left instructions for what to do next.

You want a career in show business? Buy a suitcase, look for cheap tickets. Keep an eye on your back. Change is coming.

Then, you know, the phone rings, they need somebody for some spot dates in Northern Arizona on the Navajo Indian Nation’s territories. “Are you available?”

“You got to be kidding me? I’d do that date for free. When do we leave?” That’s how it is in my game.

You get the regrets and those of us with the moxy to have stuck it out we get the unpaid bills.

Nothing is free but for love and even that bargain comes with baggage.

I got an Australian friend in Dubai playing his swami act with a fake Indian accent to the Emirates. That’s some kind of con he’s got going. And YOU wanted to be in show business…

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 This is what the professionals look like…

Richard Pryor- A Funny Motherf…..ker

image

Comedy as Hope

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“Of course conventional demolition work didn’t pay nearly as good as nuclear annihilation, but Fletcher rightly calculated that there wouldn’t be much use for money in a world that no longer existed.”

The street act is all cocktail. It is a mixologist mash-up with monologist. The lone wolf soloist jerking the innocent and unsuspecting into the loyal oppositions world view.

There are two dominant elements that appear again and again. One element is visual, busking makes use of what the audience sees.
The other element is what the audience hears. The majority of busking shows are kinetic and comic.

We part company in many ways with standup comedy. We may slip our social criticism into the shows, we may flirt with the seditious, we may appear to be mainstream renegades but by most reckonings we are practical voices for the common man. 

The comic may be vulgar, obscene, and explicitly sexual. People buying a ticket to their shows know what they are getting into. Stumbling into an impromptu street show set on the sidewalks of the city center is another venue altogether.

Still we work our edges and by that I mean we don’t just have well polished punchlines we have cognitive boundaries of what is regarded as social and political good taste. That is an edge we may flirt with but at great financial peril pay dearly if crossed.

Scott Saul’s new book, Becoming Richard Pryor describes how Pryor in his early days of the 1970’s is casting about for the means of bringing comedy and social criticism together. The excitement of Pryor’s act wasn’t merely the punchline it was the outrageous edginess of the content.

Lenny Bruce and George Carlin each devoted their work to this exploration of cutting social commentary as comic standup.

But, look it isn’t the sex. It isn’t the smutty language. Those are mere proxies for what they were getting at. They pulled back the curtain on the world and they “outed” all the scams… that list is too long.

If you were doing stupid things they were going to say stupid things about you. If you listen to Saul’s interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air you’ll hear Pryor riffing on being pulled over by the police. What Pryor had to say in 1971 remains as relevant and on topic today as it was a half century ago.

The current moment in our history reeks with the profane. There is this palpable obscenity that torturers go unprosecuted, the summary executions on the street by police are given a pass, and that Wall Street not Main Street has paid for the best government money can buy.

Street theater when it burst back onto the world’s stage in the 6o’s and 70’s was countercultural and against the Vietnam war. Time has passed and we’ve been mainstreamed. Look at us. We are on cruise ships, shopping malls, county fairs and world expositions. We are for everybody (soothing middle of the road) but if I have this right everybody (except the elites of the world) has just about had it with bully billionaires and an amoral workers be damned capitalism.

So my busking brothers and sisters put that in your pipe and smoke it then next time you open your mouth on stage try to find the words to speak about the world you see. The world’s audiences need you now more than ever…

“It was common knowledge that the most qualified man in the county for blowing things up was Fletcher McCrea. Out of the blue, more than two decades ago, just like that he lost his stomach for enabling a worldwide thermonuclear Armageddon. Just wasn’t as much fun as he thought it would be.”

Mental Rattlesnakes and Ego Implants

Birdman-Movie-Poster-Michael-Keaton

 

In Birdman Michael Keaton plays a desperately successful actor riding a new play into an uncertain destiny. His fame weighs on the new show he is opening on Broadway.

Critics unimpressed with his selling out to the big time lurk in the saloons of Time Square waiting to pounce. They are ready to fell this bombastic super star for daring to descend from Hollywood back to Broadway where he has the nerve to write, direct and star in a new show. It is a desecration.

He is rotten with doubt, miserable in his quest and racked with fear and delusion. If that is not enough the whole stinking mess backstage is hysterically pathologic to the point of being so chaotic as to be hilarious.

If we could rip open the actors head without mortally wounding him then look inside we would see that thing we were worried might kill him is waiting just the other side of his skull. It is his date with immortality.

There are a constellation of other players and people in the film. They are all there in the libidinous tumult that is opening a new show.

None of that matters so much as the fact that Keaton is in a creative corner of his own making, a predicament that took a lifetime to conjure up; a pyrotechnic head trip in wide screen living color. It’s career daredevilry in Panavision.

Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a send up to all of us who awaken to the self-inflicted fix we are caught in at this latter stage of our careers. We are suckered into taking one more foolish bite of the apple.

Now me, I am just back from being on stage six nights a week for two months. I thought I might be cracking under the pressure. I thought maybe there was something wrong, that I no longer had it. That’s what unconsciousness and questing for immortality will do.

As the lyric goes, “The road gets rougher, it’s lonelier and it’s tougher…” And then I come home to this brilliant film… Birdman!

 

“According to the package on my underwear it says that when I put on my briefs that I will be able to stride in confidence.GetTNI put two pair on now I am twice as confident.”

 

Finding the Fun in the Setting Sun

The soaring soul...

The soaring soul…

“One morning you wake up in Yuma, Arizona in this thing called a motorhome. The phone rings it’s a receptionist, she’s calling to confirm your appointment with the plastic surgeon.”

While on stage the topic of the golden years of our lives needs to be approached carefully. Cliché is an epidemic hazard. As we approach this period in our life several surprise events often preface the lives of the stubborn and willfully blind.

There is the midlife crisis. Do you do anything or do you continue doing what you’ve been doing and chuck the whole notion of aspiring to remake a better more fulfilled self?

There are divergent responses to this chapter in life. By the time I had remarried I had opted for a bumper to bumper overhaul. I didn’t want to repeat the same patterns again and again. I figured the idea was to refrain from saying and doing the same things I had done and take a fresh approach. The fresh approach was simple. Try to do wholesome and skillful things. Had I been doing this all along, then that might not have been much of a change from my earlier years.

Besides the midlife crisis there is the no small matter of what work you have been doing. If it is close-sourced you will feel dead ended, retirement will be appropriate, and relieving yourself of the work that doesn’t infuse your life with passion is helpful.

If you work is your passion you may approach this period of your life with the promise of further productive vocational decades.

“Your wife is doing her impression of you when you first met. She’s fiddling with your buttons, tugging at your zipper, nibbling at your neck.

She keeps telling you how sexy you look. You think she’s in denial.”

The children are out of the house, but they are never gone. You live in the wake of those years. I’ll stick my neck out a bit and suggest many of us abide in a satisfaction and fulfillment from our work as parents. Good work as parents, good relationship with yourself, whether single or married now, and sensible relationship with your vocation, whether retired or you continue to work make up this terrain.

The golden years are fascinating. We know ourselves so well now. We seldom suffer foolish unfulfilling relationships of any kind at this point in our life. We are busy. There are not many decades left. Whatever unfinished business there is to do, it is time to get those temporal and physical things done. In my case it is about the finishing touches on a near four decade career on stage and equally fascinating career as an author. Many of you know me for my work on stage, but in fact I know myself as a lifelong writer and novelist. More of you will come to know more about this part of my life as well. It is about those last long sailing voyages on my calendar.

And there is this routine I’m putting the finishing touches on. The routine briefly visits this stage in life. And it must touch it with the spaciousness and compassion that is its hallmark. We only get here by chance and if we are wise we will make good use of its spirited richness. That is why they are so golden.

“You come to appreciate the spiritual meaning of the word: “emptiness”, it fits exactly with how you feel about your 401k.”

Hot Spring Honeymoon Front Cover

Click and Get it Here

 

“The notion that sex equates to love being predominant is a hard train to catch if it isn’t really going anywhere. As a matter of fact sex, or sexual attraction seems to confuse every character in the book at one point or another, making for some very funny side trips.”

Fun and funny novel about lust in the dust of a small town in Nevada