Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager

After 6.7 million YouTube views, I may be the last one to the party, but in case you haven't encountered this ...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Running with the mute-ants

OK, for a while I've been less prolific and wondering if I was just too busy with the day job and such, or if something else was going on. Then I found myself nodding in agreement with much of what Taran Jordan is experiencing ... some excerpts:
It’s an odd thing, but for months now, I have felt very little desire to speak out on issues, or get into debates with sheeple. Even, or maybe especially, about freedom ...

Now, too, when I hear of abuses, I don’t get het up with anger or outrage anymore either, the way I used to. (And it was that energy of fed-upness and violated justice that motivated a lot of my writing.) I do often feel for the victims, if true innocent victims they are.

But the feeling I now experience toward the perpetrators is a cross between indifference and quiet resistance. And I think it’s that quiet aspect that has me not talking or writing about my thoughts, concerns or plans.

It’s a struggle within, because one voice in my head says, “But these issues are vital and should get some exposure, and you can give them that!” The other voice, though, counters, “Those who care at this point are already aware. The rest aren’t interested in being preached at by you. Let reality educate them, as it soon will.”

No coincidence, then, that last week, heavy into this mood, I decided to reread Atlas Shrugged.

I can't say I feel exactly the same — I'm not ready to do the gulch thing and I continue my plans to race into print this summer to speak out with a collection of thoughts called Refuse to be Afraid — but I feel Lightning's pain, if pain is the right word to describe it.

The voice of freedom these days is a lonely voice crying in a wilderness. The statists who declare man and woman to be herd animals have long held the upper hand, to the extent that we who seek to live on a little land in a wooded area find ourselves fighting a nagging feeling that we are guilty of a selfish something called "urban sprawl." Why would a good little human want to separate from the herd and inhabit an area larger than a comfortable little lot surrounded by other good little humans, after all?

But then there's the bigger nagging feeling, the one that feels like The Real Me yearning to break out, the one that says man and woman are not dogs, not pack animals. You cannot define me by the color of my skin, my sex, the ethnic history of my family, the region of the world I have chosen to inhabit, or even the philosophy I have have adapted and adopted as my own, because there has been no one quite like me in the history of the world and never will be again — I am, in short, a unique individual, and you cannot lazily define me with words like "white man" or "libertarian" or "journalist" or "Scandinavian American" — and this is the most important part: Every soul I encounter today is just as unique, even (perhaps especially) those whose eyes are glazed over and are running with a pack, and I cannot dismiss them as anything less than a distinct individual.

Atlas Shrugged portrays a nightmare world where the herd mentality has won the day, but those chosen as shepherds have had enough of perfectly capable humans expecting them to be sheep herders, and they separate themselves, leaving those who believe themselves part of a herd to fend, unsuccessfully, for themselves.

In the memorable dystopian TV fantasy The Prisoner, our protagonist screams, "I am not a number, I am a free man!" even as he is forcibly kept captive in a jolly village and always addressed as Number Six — we never learn his given name. I understand Taran's feeling of quiet resistance, just as I understand the gulchers in Atlas Shrugged, but I don't think her weariness is indifference. I think it's just weariness. Rest a while, mute-ant friend, and see what comes next. Seems like for all this quiet, a novel is chugging its way along the rails of your soul, for example, a novel that addresses many of these themes — so you're not as indifferent as you might believe. You're just quiet, and resisting.

Funny thing about freedom, though: It's hard to stay quiet. You know everyone has a Real Me screaming to get out, and sooner or later you have to get up, run to the window and urge people to start yelling. We are free men and women, after all.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

My fevered anticipation mounts

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where is Danny Federici?

PintofStout's call for a discussion of the soul has resulted in some interesting conversation, both at his site and elsewhere, like here and here. I'm not sure I have much to add, but I've been thinking.

Yesterday I mourned for Danny Federici, the musician, and any death raises the question: Now that his body isn't working anymore, where did "he" go? That is, the energy that inhabited his body, which we can assume was similar to the sentience we experience as we move about in our own bodies.

Having only experienced this plane of existence, as far as we know, most sentient beings seem to occasionally contemplate those two big questions: Where was this consciousness before it inhabited this body, and where will it go when this body is used up? It is hard to believe that this consciousness is simply a miracle of the chemical reactions in the brain of this body and will dissipate forever when the brain stops functioning.

We have devised a number of religions and philosophies to explain the fate of the soul. My faith says we only get one shot at this life, but the bottom line is we don't know how souls and consciousness work beyond this world. Having been born in the closing months of the Korean War, I have always wondered about one of the most vivid dreams I had as a very young child, the earliest dream I can recall — of being shot in the chest in what I vaguely recall as a chaotic situation. A lingering vision of the end of my consciousness' last stop? or simply a vivid dream?

Perhaps the essence of Danny Federici has migrated into a now-microscopic being inside someone's womb; perhaps it's in the next level of existence, heaven if you wish; perhaps the soul expires with the body and it's resting with Danny's body.

These are intriguing thoughts and fun to contemplate, because they involve the most intimate core of our being — but in the end, the answer is unknowable until we get there. I'm not necessarily in a hurry to find out, but as it's something we all must face someday, I'm curious.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Danny Federici 1950-2008

If you grew up in New Jersey in the 1950s and ’60s, you feel something in the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band that can't be described. We're grateful it was captured in fine recordings, because the musicians are mortal. This way the music will last, if not forever, then for a very long time. (And selfishly, I am grateful it will last the rest of my lifetime at least.)

But just as I can't put into words what the music feels like to a Jersey boy, I can't put the loss of Danny Federici into words. The authentic E Street Band sound is gone with this first parting. At least we have the recordings.

Danny Federici in Indianapolis, March 20, 2008:


Monday, April 21, 2008

Civil war to revolution

My absolute highest recommendation — the one reserved for the likes of Firefly and V for Vendetta — is made for the second season of the television show Jericho. What's even better, you can access free viewings of the show via the CBS Web site.

My interest was piqued by the similar recommendation of fellow freedom lover Wally Conger, who enticed me with the image of the Gadsden flag flying over City Hall as the series closes with the beginning of a second American Revolution.

I admit, as someone who tries not to lock himself in front of the television screen, I was tempted but did not originally bite at the show's premise — the small town of Jericho, Kansas, comes to grips with the aftermath of a nuclear attack that destroys a couple of dozen U.S. cities. But I am very intrigued by the themes that developed in this second season, as a tyrannical new government emerges from the ashes.

The Allied States of America establishes its capital in Cheyenne, Wyo., as the remnants of the federal government gather in Columbus, Ohio, and the independent Republic of Texas mulls which side to choose. That's the big picture, though, as the drama remains focused on the little town of Jericho. And an intense drama it is, with all of the tension and heroic sacrifice you might expect from the tale of a small town under siege — and even a nod in the end to the concept that the initiation of force is a dark road we should never tread.

This is the most engrossing television I've seen since I discovered Firefly, and regular readers know that's the highest praise I can give. I'm going back to the beginning to watch the 22-episode first season and will add Jericho to B.W.'s permanent collection as soon as practicable.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Constitutional amendment

Now here's an intriguing development — Top Men in the U.S. administration are pressuring Japan to change the Constitution written by U.S. forces after World War II.

Specifically, the U.S. would like to persuade Japan to change this section:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Know what I think? Leave the Japanese alone. I think the U.S. Constitution should be amended to include this section. It's an idea that's well past its time. I especially like the last line: "The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized." We had good talkers back in 1947. The next 61 years have proven talk is cheap.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Montag Morgen pep talk

A number of my friends and acquaintances are going through big changes of their own making. After much omphaloskepsis, they have finally concluded that the Nike adds are right: The solution to inertia is "Just do it." They're doing what they've been thinking of doing for some time.

One thing they have in common is they're partly scared to death. This is a normal reaction. They're out of their comfort zone. In his book that changed my outlook, Do It! Let's Get Off Our Buts, Peter McWilliams writes about converting the anxiety into enthusiasm. It's amazingly simple: Recognizing how normal the anxiety is sparks a recognition that you're finally doing something, which turns it into excitement: "I'm doing something! I've started the journey!"

These folks refuse to be afraid. Now wait a minute, I know I just said they're scared to death. But they refuse to let the fear control them, and they convert the out-of-the-comfort-zone fear (even terror) into a positive force.

To all who are making changes and starting journeys, I raise my cup of coffee (a little early for wine and champagne as I write this, but feel free to pour one for yourself) in a toast. It's a cliché to say "The journey is the reward," but dang it, clichés become clichés because they're true.

To all who are still stuck in "I want to do that someday" mode, what are you waiting for? Do one thing today to advance that dream — even a little thing along those lines will create a power surge that will inspire you to do another little thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next thing you know, you're on your way.

One of my favorite stories is about the friend who thought about going to law school at age 58. He told a friend, "If I start today I'll be 61 years old when I get out." His wise friend replied, "Yeah, so? And how old will you be in three years if you don't start today?"

He got the degree. And you can do what you're thinking of doing. Start now.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

A snapshot of contemporary America

Yes, I know there were some numbskulls lurking hoping to do violence of some kind to the Olympic Torch, although the main goal was a nonviolent protest of the oppressive Chinese government (is there any other kind, in the end?), so I understand why the mayor of San Francisco felt it necessary to deploy police officers to protect the folks who were participating in the torch run Thursday.

I just found this image from the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage to be a remarkable summary of life in the land of the free and the home of the brave, circa 2008.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

If you want to sing out, sing out

This is a corollary to the concept of "refuse to be afraid." In looking back at the early days of this little blog, and feeling that sense of omphaloskepsis that's overtaken me in recent days, I find a reduced sense of enthusiasm in my musings of recent months. What's up with that?

Rather than mope about it and risk reader boredom, I did a quick search for this song and found an especially sweet version. See if you don't have the same sense of "Thanks, kids, I needed that" that I did.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Another lull in the action

Seems to me I read somewhere that somebody spent a bunch of our money and concluded that a lot of people spend Sunday night and the early Monday morning hours dreading to go back to the wage-slave job after a couple of days' rest. No foolin', Sherlock. And thanks for spending our money on another investigation of the obvious.

The last few days around here have been largely spent on omphaloskepsis and the editing of a couple of upcoming books I've told you about — but it doesn't hurt to remind you that The Adventures of Myke Phoenix should appear shortly and Wildflower Man a couple of weeks after that at this handy location. Tell all your friends and lovers — viral marketing is the only marketing I can afford at this stage in my career as an author and publishing mogul.

Once those are out of my way and (hopefully) in your hands, most of my free time will be devoted to preparing Refuse To Be Afraid for a July release, and that will involve a great deal of thoughts that likely will bring my mind back to the themes of this blog. I expect the posting will pick up as that work develops.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008


I am a big fan of beer — isn't everyone? But every so often I'm not quite ready for the buzz — say, for example, when it's 11:30 and we're having an early lunch, or I have to go back to work or some such. Then I like to have a nonalcoholic malt beverage.

Now some of these n/a beers are undrinkable, but a small handful are not bad. I like Sharp's, and there are some OK European brews available in the US of A — I'm thinking of Kaliber and Clausthaler mostly. Most places around here stock O'Doul's, which I have nothing good to say about. I would almost rather drink skunk fluid, which is the taste O'Doul's most closely resembles.

Waiting at a restaurant bar the other day, I said to the bartender, "I know you have O'Doul's, but I won't drink that stuff. Do you have any other nonalcoholic beer?"

"I can give you a Bouchaney," he said — I thought. It was pronounced "Boo-zhen-AY." I thought. Huh. Never heard of it, maybe it's French or something. "Sure, I'll try that," said I.

I received two surprises. First, he reached into the refrigerator and hauled out a Busch N/A. Second, I liked it. I really liked it!

So I have a new preference for those odd occasions when I'm in the mood for beer taste, but not beer buzz. And it's cheaper than those other options. Just thought I'd pass that along.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Post 666

Revelation 13: 16-18
16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,

17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
No particular reason to bring that up today, other than Blogger informs me this is the 666th post I've posted since launching Montag in the summer of ought-five.

Oh yeah, that and this.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Skeptical? Moi?!

In da news ...
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson revealed sweeping plans on Monday for streamlining a hodgepodge of regulations that are blamed for allowing the U.S. mortgage crisis to balloon into a full-blown economic threat.

The proposals, in the form of a 218-page "blueprint" that was started before markets unraveled in August, offer no quick fix for the credit contraction that threatens to tip the U.S. economy into recession.

Under the proposals, the current patchwork of as many as seven federal regulators would be consolidated under three agencies: the U.S. Federal Reserve, a newly created financial regulator and a third agency for consumer protection and business practices.
Another version of the story describes this plan as the biggest "reform" of the financial system since the great crash of 1929.

I have this sneaking feeling this all has something to do with further getting the average U.S.-type person under the thumb and supervision of Big Brother. But I'm sure that's just my silly paranoia kicking in again ...

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