Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Morning Thoughts: Causes

C.W. and I were talking …

He was wondering how the so-called pundits manage to get things wrong so often, not only wrong but wrong to the extent of assigning contradictory causes for the same incident. He was quoting from the book The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who said therein,

“It happens all the time: a cause is proposed to make you swallow the news and make matters more concrete. After a candidate’s defeat in an election, you will be supplied with the “cause” for the voters” disgruntlement. Any conceivable cause can do.”

I agreed, and pointed out how the causes stated often fail to come near the real reasons behind the failure. For example, in the recent election, a number of reasons for the outcome are, according to the pundits, responsible: unrest in the heartland, poor campaigning, lack of empathy, voter apathy. Take your choice. There is a pundit espousing each, and they are all right.

Not one yet, C.W. pointed out, has mentioned the possible effect of eight years of hatred spewing into the living rooms and waiting rooms of America from so-called Fox “News.”

Sunday, January 29, 2017

358. Conspiracies

“So here is the deal,” he said, taking a long pull from his cigarette. Oh yes. He, C.W, that is, was in one of his very favorite shapes, Edward R. Murrow again. “I’m organizing a vast conspiracy to assassinate an international leader in broad daylight in front of thousands of people.”

I let that sink in. We were sitting on the balcony of our condo smoking, he a "cig" and me a cigar. “Okay,” I said. “In broad daylight.”

“A vast conspiracy.”

“How vast?”

“Let’s see,” he said, and began to enumerate, “at least two foreign countries, the United States intelligence community, the FBI, the State Department, organized crime, and a myriad of citizens. Is that the right word? Myriad?”

“It is if you mean a bunch,”

“A big bunch, some of them petty criminals, two, three time losers. And we have to keep it a secret.”

“Okay,” I said, “you have your cast of characters, planning the most secretive and minutely organized act of terrorism in broad daylight in one of our country’s largest cities with cameras rolling, and you don’t want to get caught. What’s next?”

“You hire a deeply troubled person, an idiot with no experience in crime or organization, a person already under surveillance for disloyalty, to kick the whole thing off.”

“Hardly a logical choice for such a complicated assignment,” I said.


“I think you mean ‘correcto,’ don’t you?”

“Whatever. So, you think a nut-case could pull this off?”

“You would be referring to Lee Harvey Oswald?”

“No,” he said sarcastically, “Donald Duck.” He composed himself. “But ask yourself, does that make sense?”

“Not really,” I said, “but it forms a digestible narrative for the non-discerning. Go on.”

“You’re a 14-year-old-boy,” he said.

“I’m not, was once, never again, thankfully.”

“My point exactly,” he said. “Not the best of times. Your voice is changing for some reason. You are developing acne, the girls won’t talk to you, the 16-year-olds bully you constantly, you worry that you’ll never reach average height, you just don’t seem to fit in anywhere, and your grades aren’t high enough to get you into college.”

“Sounds about right,” I said. “Your point?”

“You wake up one morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and think, ‘I don’t have enough problems. I think I’ll decide to be happy, lighthearted, and carefree.’”

That confused me for a second or two, then, “I think you meant ‘gay’ didn’t you?”

“Whatever,” he said. “But yeah. It’s your language, not mine. Anyway, does it bespeak a shred of logic? 'I'll chose to be a homosexual to take my mind off my troubles?'”

“I see your point,” I said. “Want to bring it around to current events?”

“Your family is starving,” he said.


“You have no money and no prospects. You hear your children crying from hunger at night.”

“Okay. Is this going somewhere?”

He ignored me. “A hundred miles of desert, snakes, killers, and other dangers away is the promise of sustenance, and hope.” He drew on his cigarette and exhaled.


“Miraculously you make it to the land of plenty, but you’ve been punctured by cacti, beaten, and wounded. You are starving, exhausted, weak, penniless, and missing your impoverished family. You are a wanted criminal, fearing capture with each step you take.”


“You find friends."

What do you suppose he's thinking?
Maybe, who is the first person
he'll learn to hate, once he
masters this task? - C.W.
“They ask you what’s the first thing you want to do?”


“And you say … , you say,” He stopped for dramatic effect.

“I say what?”

“You say, ‘very first thing I want is to register to vote in your elections.’”

I said nothing.

He shook his head slowly. “How in the world?”

“How in the world what?”

He looked at me and his eyes turned into eternal blackness. “How in the world did your species ever learn to make stone tools?”

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Morning Thoughs ... Music and Religion

C.W. and I were talking this morning …

He was asking me about the support of our new president among some of the more stringent elements of protestant Christianity in America. “Whatever one may think of chances that your new president may prove successful,” he said, “and we shall see, no one who has the least understanding of the Judeo-Christian religion could argue that he is a righteous man. I can see the support for him among some elements of your species, but hardly by those who call themselves godly."

I had to agree.

“There were signs,” I said, and explained that I saw it coming maybe 15 years back, but it didn’t register until lately. I used to volunteer for a community-based radio station to present a bluegrass music show once a week. (I’ve always had a fascination, to C.W.’s great amazement, with the banjo).We had a small but loyal audience, most of them religious, many of them elderly, and almost all genial and sweet … at first.

Because that type music has a strong religious element, I devoted a portion of the show to gospel bluegrass. It was a popular and graciously received segment. Groups performed many of the old gospel hymns in bluegrass style and the audience loved them, showing genuine gratitude. They would call in and make requests, thanking me for my volunteering.

Then things began to change. Callers became hostile. Comments shifted to the personal. I didn’t understand what gospel music was. This group also performed “raunchy” music and should be banned. That group had a “jap” playing in it and couldn’t love Jesus. I only played old music and didn’t play any new stuff. (What some call “Jesus is my boyfriend" music with the word "awesome" appearing at least six time). I didn’t play music about “killing all them babies.” Was I sure I had been “saved?” Contacts became more and more strident. Live festivals even began to include sermonettes against “the unholy ACLU,” liberal do-gooders (like Jimmy Carter), and disavowed politicians. A cloud of anger settled over things. Hostility joined the anger.

I soon had enough and gave it up. Had I thought it through, I might have envisioned the replacement of The Galilean with the likes of Franklin Graham.

"I've always liked the Galilean," C.W. said. "Wasn't he the one that told your species to love one another?"

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Morning Thoughts…

C.W. and I were talking this morning …

Something my conservative friends and I agree on is that regulatory agencies, on occasion, can run amok. An example is forcing a state to write regulations protecting a fish that can’t thrive in that state. Another is enacting a reg punishable for noncompliance warning one not to stand on top of a stepladder. When your job is to write regulations, you tend to … well … write regulations, sometimes whether you need to or not.

We agree with that. Now, how about what we should do about it?

It reminds me of when I was young and tended to “get of control.” Anyone would agree that someone needed to take corrective measures.  Here’s where we differ, though, my friends and I. Sainted Mother didn’t put me in a bag and throw me in the stock pond. No, she first consulted other experts in the field of child rearing: her sisters, her own mother, and my father. They explored alternative treatments and solutions, then decided, unilaterally, all viewpoints having been considered, on the appropriate choice.

Thereupon, she very quietly sat me down and urged me to get myself into a more rational mode. I can still recall the smell of that persimmon switch an inch from my nose. Remedial reorientation proved preferable to annihilation.  I emerged intact but more socially acceptable, not the perfect lad but one who could be taken out in public.

Now, before we start abolishing regulatory agencies, consider just one of the challenges with which scientists are now wrestling. This is the increase in outdated prescription drugs flushed down the toilets of America daily. It is a relatively new phenomenon. We’re not sure what this will produce or how to deal with it, but the only thing that stands between us and possible disaster is the EPA. Isn't it time for calm and reflective thinking?

C.W. and I certainly think so.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

357. Riches

“Do-buy on optical manufacturers.” C.W. laid his pen aside and stared into space.

“That’s nice,” I said.

“Do-buy on humidity-controlled storage buildings.”

“Super,” I answered.

Actually, I wasn’t really listening. I was reading a book titled A Time For Trumpets, about the Battle of the Bulge, and it was requiring my full concentration to keep the military units straight in my head.

“Do-buy on GlaxoSmithKline.”

That got my attention. I looked from my book to see C.W. in the form of a hollow-eyed young man with greased hair slicked back from his forehead wearing stylish clothes set off by a bright red set of suspenders. “A what for what?”

“A do-buy, you know, as in ‘buy stock’ and grow rich.”

“Who is that you just named?”

“A pharmaceutical company.”

“So you are recommending that people purchase stock in pharmaceutical companies?”

“Oh hell no,” he said. “We’re recommending those for short-selling.”


“My investment firm and my silent partners.”
There are some great opportunities ahead,
if you don't mind the smell of sulfur. - C.W

“What investment firm?”

“UdaQu Financials.”

“And your partners?”

“Can’t tell you. Top secret. Let’s just say they have an uncanny feel for what companies to buy and what companies to sell short.”

“So pharmaceuticals are out?”

“Mostly,” he said, “who the hell’s gonna be able to afford drugs?”

I thought. Good point. “What about the one you named?”

“Oh,” he said. “They’re different. They make Paroxetine.”

“They make what?”

“Paxil,” he said. “Gonna need a lot of that.”


He went back to his work. “Dip-and-Flip on Pfizer, Merck, and Johnson and Johnson.”

“Say what?”

“Birth control pills and devices.”

“What about them?”

“Buy like crazy when the economy tanks,” he said. “Babies aren’t too popular then. As soon as the Supreme Court is rounded out, sell and run like hell, hence, ‘dip and flip,’ Get it?”

I groaned. “You mentioned specialized storage buildings.”

“Wives,” he said.

“To store wives in?

“Oh don’t be silly.” He stopped, thought, started to say something, apparently thought better of it, and continued. “They, the wives are raising hell about all the guns and ammunition bought and hoarded during the last eight years. Seems they’re demanding that it be moved out of the house.”

“So, you and your friends are investing in storage buildings?”

“Not exactly.”

“What do you mean, not exactly?”

“Can’t tell you specifically. Let’s just say that someone dear to my partners has a … close… associate who, in turn has other friends that can furnish us with a list of people renting storerooms for this special purpose. Such a list will be a sellable and valuable commodity.”


“We don’t call them that. We call them ‘means facilitators.’ They operate under the corporate name of ‘MFs R Us,’ and they guarantee success in a wide range of ventures.”

I let that one drop. “I think I heard you mention optical manufacturers.”

“Eyeglasses,” he said.


He held up a large glossy photo of our new first lady, nude and in the embrace of another nude lady. “Simple,” he said. He looked at it and shook his head slowly. “I think the word your species uses is ‘hot,’ am I right?”


“Oh man,” he said, “can you imagine how many 14-year-old boys are going to need eyeglasses in the coming months?”

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Sunday, January 15, 2017


Good morning friends and fans. This is, well, let’s see. Oh. Call me C.W. I sometimes take to writing whenever it is a damp, drizzly November, uh, January in my soul. Forget that. I was just kidding. I really start to writing when I want to give my friend Big Dope a day off. He’s presently not attentive or alert. I hear him snoring from here. I left him alone and I’ll take the steering device for an ocean-going vessel today. So … heavy objects attached to a rope or chain and used to moor a ship to the sea bottom away!

You should see me. I have taken the form of a large man with orange hair with two chins. I’m very beautiful. In my home planet form, I actually have three chins, but they are on separate heads. Two on one head is a much more beautiful plan, a great plan.

Anyway, Big Dope has had tough weekend, caring for things while Mrs. Big Dope takes an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.

Excuse me for an indefinitely short period of time. I need to make some adjustments.

There. My GUT was giving me problems. Now, where was I? I remember, I was telling you about Big Dope. He is watching over things, or supposed to be. I wonder. Do you really put jalapeno peppers in applesauce? His mother-in-law certainly doesn’t think so. And she has a way of gently informing a cook that she doesn’t care for a certain dish.

She pours a generous helping of ketchup upon it and smiles like a saint that has just fed a hungry baby. That’s how he found out that she didn’t care for his macaroni and cheese.

Anyway, it’s been a give and take weekend. She prefers six dogs in the house at once. He prefers none. So far, they have compromised at six. She saw a seventh on our afternoon drive yesterday and demanded we stop and rescue it. He lied and said he knew the dog and that it belonged to a neighbor. She let it pass, but did remind him that her daughter had once dated a man who had pretty red hair and became a physician.

Later in the day, he asked her who had spread pecan hulls all over the living room floor. “You tell me,” she answered. Then she proceeded to remind him how far she had walked to school each day as a child. That figure has remained a constant three miles since I came here, though the snows have gotten deeper and there are now frequent allusions to roving bands of murderers and child-abductors along the path.

Following such tales, she will ask, “You never had to walk to school, did you?”
That smile she gives when
she's bested Big Dope again. - C.W.
She’s a sweet lady, though, and she likes me a lot, particularly when I shape myself as Franklin D. Roosevelt, her favorite president. She also likes my rendition of Lawrence Welk when I need to win her over to my side. It cracks her up when I do my, “uh-on, uh two, uh three.” It burns her son-in-law. He has only one shape: Big Dope. Eueww!

That’s about it for today. I know he wanted to tell you about an experience we had this past week, but trust me, you don’t want to hear about it. Anyway … the state agreed to forget the whole thing. There will be no company producing a product called “Medical Mellows” in our state. The candy company has dropped the logo thing, and Big Dope made me plow up the plots.

Those helicopters that keep flying over the farm are a nuisance, though. And it seemed as though everyone we know had suddenly taken ill for a while. Can you believe it?

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Sunday, January 8, 2017


Walking outdoors was partly a mission of mercy and partly a life-saving measure. Let’s just say that the Alien C.W. doesn’t stand up well to prolonged exposure.

And brother had we been exposed.

The so-called “polar-vortex” had swept down and brought with it enough snow to keep us off the roads. What my sainted mother called “that old windshield factor” had been well below zero, so melting was minimal. This all meant that we had been locked in our farmhouse for a prolonged period. Our patience had worn as thin as prison soup.

What happened? C.W. had gone into high gear with his bored-games. First, he got the dogs at the farm all agitated. Have I ever told you that he can talk to animals? Well he can, when he wants to, and when they will listen. The biggest problem in communication with animals is not a limitation of ability, but rather a general feeling of distrust mixed with a gigantic belief in their superiority of intellect. In short, they look down on us and don’t believe a word we say.

Anyway, it seems he was telling them about some files that folks on this native planet of Falloonia had hacked into recently. He reported that the president-elect had a plan—and it was a great plan—to bring about peace with North Korea. It was to be called “Puppies for Bombs” and everyone would love it, especially their species for it would offer them travel to exotic places.

Even though he had assumed the shape of Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer,” it took my wife half a day and two bags of animal crackers to restore calm.

Then he taught the cats a game called “body skipping.” The best way to visualize it is to recall when you have counted the number of skips a rock makes when you sail it out over water. The first time one of the cats set a new record, it ended on the lap of my mother-in-law.

She used language that I never imagined an 87-year old had ever known or could remember. She claimed later that she was only repeating things she had heard me say. I dunno.

Anyway, the game ended when one of the kittens sailed off my wife’s lap, overshot a dog’s back, flattened itself against a wall, and slid to the floor like the last piece of clothing floating down a stripper’s legs. Now the cats stay in a sullen mood. They tend to huddle together and mumble amongst themselves. Occasionally, one points at me and says something that sounds like, “him,” and the others all nod.

Next, we caught Tymber Elysibuth, the 16 year-old high school student, making phone calls to our neighbors. The script went something like this, “Uh, like, this is Tymber Elysibuth calling on behalf of the President. He requests that you would, like, get all your guns out for inventory so his people can, like, uh, confiscate any that are, like, over the limit while there is still time.”

A day later we had made the necessary apologies. There are still a number of holes in the farmhouse, and one of the dogs still howls at any loud noise.

Big Dope keeps repeating, "The woods are
lovely, dark and deep." I wonder why? - C.W.
After a half-day of relative peace and quiet, we were preparing a big pot of chili, just the fun thing to do on a wintry day. I had just remarked how pleasant life was when we smelled smoke. I ran into the living room to find Rusty the teenage boy trying to drill into a large Native-American artifact that my wife's family had preserved for nearly 70 years. Not only that, he was using her favorite cordless power drill, the one I gave her for our 30th wedding anniversary.

A few minutes later, we, C.W. and I, were walking outdoors with a breath-taking north wind in our face. He had retained the shape of Rusty, and he turned to me, his face red from the chill. “Snow days are fun, ain’t they? Want to build a snow-Izstawiroouwut?”

I was thinking “I could be featured on national news and probably get a cabinet position for capturing and killing an alien.”

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Sunday, January 1, 2017


 I stopped dead in my tracks. “What the hell?”

“Peace my friend.”

“Who are you?”

“Call me Ishmael.”

“How about I call you idiot?” I had no doubt that it was C.W. Who else would appear as a Nineteenth Century gentleman in broadcloth, sitting at our kitchen table writing on yellowed paper with a feather quill? “Want to tell me what’s up?” I asked.

“I’m seeking solace,” he said, laying aside his quill. Ink drained from it onto the table. I rushed over and wiped it with my handkerchief.

“You’re going to find more than solace if she catches you ruining her table.”

“The angst and anger of mere mortals never reach the ears of the heavenly,” he said.

“Where the hell did you get that?”

“I made it up, just now,” he said. “What do you think?”

“You don’t want to know what I think. But would you mind telling me what you are thinking about?”




I knew better than to bite, but like a boy watching a stink bug, I couldn’t resist picking it up. “Sublimity in what context, pray tell?”

“In the quiet and divine passion of elevated thought, the love of poetic language, the embrace of art, and the joy of cosmic expression,” he said. “In short, the beautiful discourse of universal truths.”

“Wow,” I said. “That is really something.” I fell under his spell the way a sailor on Silk-Stocking Row might succumb to a woman's call. “What universal truths are you dwelling on today?” I had to ask.

“Do they really make perfume out of whale puke?”

“Say what?”

“Whale puke. Does it really turn into something sublime?’

“Are you talking about ambergris?”

“No. I’m talking about whale puke.”

“If you’re talking about ambergris,” I said, “the answer is that there is matter secreted from a sperm whale’s intestines that turns into solid and was once prized as an ingredient for perfume after it had completed its transformation from the filthy to ... well ... the sublime. As you seem to know, Herman Melville mentions it in his classic, Moby Dick.”

“As a symbol, no doubt.”

“As a symbol, as with every other item and utterance in the book.”
Now that's seeking the meaning
of life in a tough manner. - C.W.
“Quite so,” he said, picking up his quill. “Here we have,” he said as he shook the quill and looked heavenward, “a lump of matter secreted from the vilest and most noxious source slowly turning, we hope, into a work of sublimity in a cold and vicious world. Humankind’s eternal dream, no less.”

“C.W.,” I said, “I’m sorry that I may have doubted you. I had no idea that you were going to explore higher-order philosophy and man’s existential optimism.”          

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I’m impressed with your writing about philosophy and literary symbols.”

“Say what?”

“Aren’t you writing on philosophy?”

“Why hell no,” said. “Are you daft, my son?”

“Then what are you writing about?”

“Your country’s current politics,” he said. “What else?”

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