A Tale For Our Times… From 35 Years Ago

May 12, 2018

I received the following anecdote from a person who, for reasons you will surely understand, wishes to remain anonymous. In case you missed it in the news, NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – a politician widely expected to win election as governor and then run for president – resigned after The New Yorker magazine made public the stories of several women who allege they had violent sexual encounters with Schneiderman.
Mr. Schneiderman, it must be noted, denies these allegations and has stated: “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
My correspondent relates the following:

   The recent Eric Schneiderman story immediately brought to my mind something that happened to me long ago.

   If you cringe at personal carnal details, you should stop reading now. I will present nothing crude, but it does get rather personal. I promise to present this in as tasteful a manner as I can.

   Back in the mid 1980s I attended a rent party held in a loft off 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. A most fascinating woman friend of mine, an artist, lived in the enormous space with several other people and, as happens with young people starting out in New York City life, they’d fallen behind in the rent. Rent parties happened all the time in the city back then – and the few bucks required to gain entry provided plenty of fun (and drink) all night long.

   Within 30 minutes of the doors opening, the party started cooking. Over 200 people had already arrived and more kept coming. Wine and liquor flowed. Music filled the loft. We all had a blast. I’d call the atmosphere one of joyous fun. People made friends. Whether we’d see each other again or not made no difference.

   At one point during the party I found myself talking with a couple of interesting young ladies. I don’t recall the details of our conversation (for reasons you will soon find obvious), but during our chat we all started laughing. And then another young woman crossed the loft and came over to us. Till that moment, I had not known of her attendance at the party. Oh, I knew her all right. We’d had a rather odd “relationship” a year or so earlier. She fancied herself a “free spirit,” meaning she thought it amusing to say and do things that upset people. Things like shoplifting in bodegas…

   When our laughter died down, the “free spirit” looked at the two women, pointed a thumb at me like a hitchhiker, and said, with a sunny, cheerful smile, “He’s a very funny guy. But he’s no good at all in bed.”

   This, naturally, drew startled looks from the women. But I had expected something like this from the “free spirit,” so I nonchalantly turned to the other women and said, “Well, the concept of ‘good’ in bed depends on the compatibility of the people involved. For example, this young lady found me extremely disappointing because I flatly refused to tie her up, gag her, and then beat the hell out of her while raping her.”

   You have no doubt heard the expression, “her jaw dropped.” Well, the “free spirit’s” mouth opened into as wide an “O” as her lower jaw mechanism could handle as it dropped down. Then tears came to her eyes and she cried, “I can’t believe you told them that!”
   I said, “Hey, you brought it up. I just wanted to explain what you meant.”
   And with that, the “free spirit” ran off and the rest of us continued our discussion. To this day I have no idea what we talked about.

To understand what happened that night, and why the “free-spirit” said what she said, we need to go back a year or so before the party.

I always liked this woman, the “free spirit,” who I will not identify here. We’d run into each other now and then and we got along well. She once gave me a few dollars when I needed it. Probably no more than $10 as I recall. Some months later, she needed money, about $300. So I gave it to her and told her this makes us even. She initially rejected the money and the idea that it makes us even, saying she had given me far less.
“It only matters,” I said, “that you gave me what I needed at the time I needed it, and now I want to give you the same thing: what you need when you need it. The amount doesn’t matter. This balances us out perfectly.” 
I happen to look at things that way. She accepted the money and soon after that, we started seeing more of each other. And then, well, if you cringe at personal carnal details you should heed my warning at the top.

   One night as we engaged in an intimate physical act for the first time together, she began shaking violently and then started crying. I immediately stopped what I was doing and asked her what happened. She hissed out, “I can’t!” then started crying again. After a moment, she added “I can’t do this without thinking -” and the dam burst. I held her as she heaved and cried. This went on for maybe a half hour. Any “romantic” thoughts I had harbored vanished in the face of a clearly uncontrollable emotional crisis. I held her till it started to ease for her.

    When she had settled down a bit, but still through tears, she said her reaction had nothing to do with me. It involved her father and I will not relate any more than that. But when she finished explaining, I understood her reaction completely. After a few minutes laying quietly side by side, she said, with an air of resignation, “I guess we should start over now,” and squished her face and eyes shut looking like someone preparing for something akin to a firing squad.

   I told her no, we will definitely not start over.

   “You have to,” she said in a pleading way as if she found it important. “I understand why,” she added. “I can take it. Just go ahead and do it.”  She squished her face again.
   “Why do I have to do anything?” I asked. She told me that she knew that if I didn’t continue… then I would probably die.
   “WHAT?!?” I shouted in spite of trying to remain calm. “I will die? How?”
   She blushed and said, “You know…” I told her no, I did not know.
   She whispered (why she whispered I never knew since we had nobody else with us) and she said to me, as though speaking to a moron, “Your BALLS will explode.”
   Before I realized it, I shouted, “Where the hell did you hear that?” I vividly remember seeing myself as Dave the astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey after HAL said he knew of the plot to disconnect him (“Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?”) and it occurred to me that some guy or guys had fed her the old “blue balls” malarkey as a way to force themselves on her. The sheer cruelty of their action showed in the scrunched up face she made as she prepared to sacrifice herself for the sake of my very life.

   So I said, “Oh shit,” told her not to believe that stuff, and suggested we get some sleep. Over the next weeks we grew closer and we had something of a physical relationship going when she hit me with her Big Idea: She told me that she could only really enjoy sex if she had no choice in the matter; she needed it to happen against her will. So she enthusiastically suggested that I tie her hands behind her back with my necktie, gag her, then pummel her (anywhere but the face) and rape her. Not act like I would rape her, but actually rape her. All this would happen with her consent, she assured me.

   As she described what she wanted me to do, I saw clearly that this went way beyond any consensual act of “bondage” or “role playing” with their pre-arranged safety checks. The whole thing went against my nature. I could not do it. I just cannot get into that. She kept telling me that she needed to submit to real force, that she could not act willingly, in order to enjoy herself. Knowing what I knew about her history, I could see why she felt that way. But I had no intention of taking any sort of advantage of that kind of misery.

   I told her no every damn way I could. She kept pleading, promising me a good time. Now, don’t think I present myself as Sir Galahad about this. My demurral had a practical side as well as a principled side. I knew that during the course of enacting this “game” I will have left behind all the criminal forensic calling cards of a whole portfolio of felonies. I pictured myself shuddering in a small cold room deep in the bowels of the local station-house, facing a glaring 1,000-watt light bulb as I endured the grilling of a horde of beefy, enraged cops, all of whom have young daughters at home:
“Just answer yes or no! Did you tie her up?”
   “Did you gag her?”
   “Did you beat her?”
   “Is this your tie?”
What could I say that wouldn’t have me digging my own grave?

   Aside from my personal revulsion at her suggested “game,” if this troubled woman later changed her mind about it, I knew I would have absolutely no way to prove it all happened consensually and upon her instigation. If I tried to explain what really happened, I would seem, at best, like a cad blaming the “victim.” And to back up my story I would have to reveal the horrific story the woman had told me about her past – with no way to prove a single word of it.

   Knowing what she had revealed to me about her childhood, I realized I could not take the chance that at some point in the future she won’t feel regret or disgust over this and use it as a weapon to hurt me. Hurt me with charges of Rape in the First Degree (Penal Code §130.35), Unlawful Imprisonment (§135.10), Menacing in the Third Degree (§120.15), Assault in the First Degree (§120.10). That right there added up to well over 100 years in prison and any competent Assistant District Attorney could find more charges, all of which I would have no power to convincingly deny. Here I had not yet reached the age of 30 and already I faced a life stretch up the river. And as I said, the whole charade struck me as repulsive anyway. I cannot do something like that either in reality or “in fun.” Violence just doesn’t turn me on.

   No matter how I looked at it, I did not consider that game worth the candle. The whole thing not only turned me off, it left me too vulnerable in the hands of a person with some serious and profound problems; problems that I did not wish to toy with. I had no intention of paying the price for what someone else had done to her. This boy had read too much James M. Caine not to see a potential set-up in the making. All “film noir” stories require a willing sap who falls into the machinations of an alluring but troubled dame. Not me, tootsie.

   So it never happened.

   Does this sound a touch paranoiac? We soon drifted apart and I didn’t see her again till that party, where she indeed used that proposed encounter as a weapon. For practical reasons, if not ethical reasons, I knew the moment she pulled that stunt at the rent party that my refusal may have disappointed a lady, but I had made the right choice.

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HOPE and THE BIG CON

April 16, 2018

NOTE: This will likely be my longest blog post to date. It demands the space because the issue involves every aspect of our lives…

“It is not yours to finish the task, but neither are you free to set it aside.” – Rabbi Tarfon, Pirke Avot 2:21

“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” – T.S. Eliot

—–

In 2016, the presidential election day arrived at the culmination of a staggeringly lengthy 19-month election cycle. Exposure to this lengthy, drawn-out process, played out as a TV show every day, warped the minds of many people – people who now find them selves unable to accept the election results or let go of the process. They still argue over an election that the people decided well over 500 days ago. Corporate news media encourages this obsession, as newspapers and TV shows deliver a steady stream of excuses for the democrat losing the election: Russia, Fake News, The DNC, sexism, Comey, Anthony Weiner, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and on and on ad nauseam. A new excuse pops up every few weeks, the latest (as of this writing) being that women were somehow bullied into voting for a particular candidate by their husbands.

This fixation with the past presents a stark deviation in the way our politics normally operate. With this essay, I will lay out, for all to see, the way in which our political system works to distract people… to con people.

Party politics has become the tool employed by the Powers That Be to divide The People and make sure that we dilute our deep power as we squabble endlessly about the next election.
By letting Party Politics take our attention away from the NOW and focusing instead on the next election, many people have permitted themselves to live in an imaginary future; a future created by advertising people and campaign professionals.
In Party Politics, nothing holds more importance than the next election. How many times have we been told, “Sure I believe in Third Party candidates. But… THIS TIME THE ELECTION IS TOO IMPORTANT!” No matter what the issue, the Party refrain is always “This is not the right time.”
With Party Politics, issues mean absolutely nothing. Democrats join Republicans to gut banking regulations and to wage war.  Only the FUTURE matters. We always hear promises for the future. By focusing our attention on the future instead of the present, we allow ourselves to get suckered into sheepishly accepting any current situation.
Well here’s a newsflash: The future never comes. The time is always NOW.

As Lewis Carrol wrote:
“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day’,” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”

And once we allow ourselves to get confused, we make ourselves like a prairie chicken to a circling hawk – ripe for the picking.

Hope and the Con Artist
Placing our focus on some future HOPE is the keystone of every con game. All con games rely on filling the scam’s “mark” with the hope of an imagined future payoff. Without this fake hope, nobody can con you. With it, anyone can – and will – con you.  Whether the payoff is 45% return on investment (Ponzi) or flipping congress (party politics) the surest sign of a con job is that it turns our heads away from now and aims us at an imagined future.

We have no power in the future. We only have power now.

So when we have our attention manipulated away from NOW, we willingly give up any power we have. When we see an unjust condition that outrages us, to shout “NEVER AGAIN” (meaning in the future) is meaningless compared to “IT STOPS NOW”. “Never again” means we accept it now.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, I believe that the worst advice we can possibly follow is KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE. Looking unwaveringly at some future result creates a distraction that takes our focus off the NOW. To combat this, we need to deal with WHAT IS and not that which we have been fooled into imagining will come sometime in the future. You see something you want to change? Work to change it NOW. Do what you need to do NOW and do it without the lust for future results. As T.S. Eliot noted: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” If you fail, you fail. Big deal. But you didn’t divert your attention to some nebulous time far away that never comes. You did your work to change things here, now. Where it counts. This will take some work on our part. Earlier this month, striking teachers in Oklahoma received this startling news: “PRESIDENT OF OKLAHOMA’S LARGEST TEACHERS UNION CALLS FOR END TO STRIKE; SAYS THE FOCUS SHOULD SHIFT TO MIDTERM ELECTION” (AP, Apr. 12, 2018). Just as the teachers started getting solid results, the union shifted them away from NOW to next November and some vague future.

Spotting A Con Artist
All con artists have one thing in common: The con artist will always, relentlessly talk of the future so that you will not examine what’s happening now. This holds especially true for the political bunko artist. Example: Remember Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign theme song? “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”
And what did Franklin Roosevelt use as a campaign theme song? “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
FDR concentrated on NOW. Bill Clinton, who time has revealed as a con man (Remember “Slick Willie”?) clearly wanted voters to ignore what he does NOW and keep thinking about the future.
And what happened to that person in 2008 who ran on “HOPE AND CHANGE”? Remember how that turned out? It was all a whimsy, an illusion because HOPE AND CHANGE mean different things to each one of us. And that is what the con artist does; gets us each to see what we want to see instead of reality.

How We Limit Our Power
All scams, from the politics of “hope” to mega-lotteries, hinge on yanking us out of the present and into a future time that simply won’t ever come. I have known a great many people who really believed: “When I’m rich and famous then I will be happy!” It became the driving force in their lives. And some of them got their wish… only to discover that they are still the same damn person they always were – only now they have money and people know who they are. Several of these people killed themselves upon attaining their goal.

I knew a woman who wanted to be a writer. Not because she enjoyed writing. Not because she had something special to say. She wanted to be a writer because she saw a whole imagined future blossoming from her literary efforts. She had it all laid out, refined over years of dreaming: She would write a novel. Her book would get published (after a bidding war among the big publishers). The book would receive glowing, rave reviews. The press would herald the arrival of a new literary lion. The book’s movie rights would sell for a record-setting price. She would be rich and famous. And then… her family will finally respect her and envy her. She will be… somebody.
Does it come as a surprise to you that over the years this woman started several projects but never finished a single one? With such high stakes as she imagined hanging in the balance, with her imagined future-self depending upon the perceived success of her writing, she made the act of setting words to paper a task daunting beyond belief. Her “hope” limited her ability top do the one thing she claimed to want to do. She stymied herself by making the responsibility of writing into something overwhelming. She just could not do it. One of the last times she and I spoke to each other, I asked her a simple question: “Do you want to be a writer? Or do you want to be a rich and famous writer? Because those are two different things.”

The Lottery Con
Lotteries – especially the so-called “mega” lotteries – rely on people harboring outlandish hopes for their future. The state, through its unremitting lottery advertising campaigns, fill the mind with these future hopes, making them seem within reach. As noted, this focus on the future is the surest sign of a con job. And people buy the tickets knowing that the odds of winning are against them and despite the fact that stories of the ruined lives of lottery winners are legion. I knew one such person. He snagged a substantial amount of lottery money in the 1970s – it, as he hoped, it changed his whole life: Marriage. Home. Popularity. Everything he thought he wanted he got. And when the money ran out… so did his wife and his “friends”. Unable to maintain the house, he lost that too. The lottery – even though he’d won it –  just didn’t turn out the way he’d… hoped.

Hope and Fear
Along with stressing HOPE for the future, another sign of a con job is a morbid fear of the future:
“32 Million People Would Lose Coverage If Law Repealed!”
“Congress To Cut Social Security & Medicare After Passing Tax Plan!”
“Missile Test Shows North Korea Can Hit All Of U.S.A.!”
“U.S. Life Expectancy Declines For The First Time since 1993!”
“Sea Level Rise Will Flood Hundreds of Cities in Near Future!”
These actual headlines instill dread – and dread becomes the fertilizer required for the planting and growing of fake hopes. If you find yourself carrying this dread ask yourself who instilled it in you. Then ask what is in it for them.

A Lively Example
Consider the con artist in the Broadway musical “The Music Man.” In the early years of the 20th Century, “Professor” Harold Hill comes to River City, Iowa. He scouts the town for something, anything, to exploit for his own ends. He latches on to something new happening now – the town of River City has gotten its very first pool table. And he uses this pool table to turn the attention of the town away from now to the future. Hill gathers together some people and points out the pool table, asking them if they are aware of a great danger – “the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.” He then relentlessly and with great energy paints a bleak and disastrous future for the town, all because of the pool table. Hill fills the townspeople with the fear of a total breakdown of the social structure in River City among… THE CHILDREN. Hill even invokes patriotism in the cause of protecting the town from the menacing, threatening, treacherous pool table. All to protect… the children.
Then, after letting the citizens of River City chew on this for a couple of days, letting their imaginations run wild, Hill conveniently offers them a solution to their imagined ills. A solution that paints a rosy future for the town and its precious children. A solution that will fill his pockets with money.
And there we see the Big Con’s trifecta of HOPE/FEAR/AN IMAGINED IDYLLIC FUTURE. The people of River City will… take back their town and their problems will be solved. For the con artist, the parlay of HOPE/FEAR/IDYLLIC FUTURE remains highly profitable to this very day.
Why do con artists bring up the children? Because (can you just hear it?) “The children are our hope for the future.” Which politician fails to use this scam? I always think of the Music Man and the devious Prof. Hill when I hear the endless yammering of today’s politicians who say we must elect them… for the children.

Planning
None of this is meant to knock normal planning and scheduling in life. That’s what we do to arrange an orderly and well-regulated existence. We make plans in the name of efficiency and, when dealing with others, to maintain common courtesy. This type of quotidian preparation is a far cry from basing life on imagined, desired events that we whip up into importance beyond all reality. Thinking “when I’m rich, then I’ll be happy” or “If I elect Candidate Floogleman, then the nation will be great again” is ridiculous. Normal planning is practical. The future planning of the con artist is just other fanciful. It’s the difference between being practical enough to catch a flight on time, and some chimera about a future which somebody deliberately planted in your head for his or her own purposes. The former gets YOU somewhere by your own efforts. The latter gets SOMEONE ELSE somewhere through your exploited efforts. Efforts that they planted in your mind.
Planning is about realistic goals. Saving money for a house, for instance. Not an illusion like “when I get that house then my life will be perfect.”
Politically, realism means voting for a candidate with whom you agree, instead of voting for a candidate who offers no more than fear-based slogans about the future. Beware silly promises for the future like things like “we’ll take the country back” or “no more crime in the streets”…
Don’t let promises for the future take your mind of life now. Labor organizer Joe Hill knew how easy it was to manipulate people with promises. As Hill wrote in the song THE PREACHER AND THE SLAVE:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

Joe Hill knew…

Practical Action
A few years back, on a hot July afternoon, I began shivering. I felt so cold! To remedy this, I went to the window to lower the AC and discovered it was not even on. Immediately I went to the medicine chest for the thermometer and took my temperature. To my horror, the mercury registered a tad above 103º and I went straight to the hospital. I didn’t allow myself to be distracted by somebody saying, “Someday we will have better thermometers!” Or “Next year we will take back your temperature!” I took direct action and that action saved my life. Yes, I spent eight days in the hospital mostly in intensive care – but I did what was needed NOW and did not piss away my life hoping for an imaginary future when things would somehow be better.
THAT is why I am alive today to write this…

—–
Say good bye to FEAR:

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In today’s America, fear addiction runs rampant. News media and politicians thrive on creating and sustaining fear. There is no reason to live your life in fear. Wake up to the way orthodox religion & Other “Powers That Be” control the population THROUGH FEAR. An invaluable treatise, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to lead a free, independent life. A life WITHOUT FEAR… Some people will no doubt be offended and shocked by this book’s stance against organized religion seeking to control our lives. This book bravely exposes the way the manipulators of fear seek to continue their hold on us and hold onto their power by any means necessary. The new introduction puts the book in its historical context and shows why it is still relevant today.

Review Excerpt: “This book explains in crystal clarity HOW and WHY unconscionable individuals and organizations saturate others with FEAR every single day. It’s been going on as long as people have been thieves and hungry to steal the freedom and goods of others. We are barraged with FEAR TACTICS daily by those who eagerly take money out of our pockets; usurp the freedom from our lives and keep us as slaves by clouding our thoughts with FEAR.” Read more HERE

About Kids Today…

March 27, 2018

Here is something nobody talks about. 
It is the dirty secret behind everything that happens from now on: Americans who are 16 years old and under have lived ALL THEIR LIVES in a country at war.
They have lived EVERY MINUTE of their life in a nation that is at war. 
They have never lived for a moment in a land that is at peace. 
Their basic mental/psychological imprint is of war.
By its actions, the government has taught these children that killing and bombing is a normal and accepted method for settling disputes.
That is how it has been all their life.
Right now, they don’t protest killings.
Read their signs and slogans.
They protest the possibility that they themselves may get killed.
That is why they carry signs asking “AM I NEXT?”
But once started on the path of protesting individual violence, they will have no choice but to begin opposing all our wars.
And when they do that, neither politicians nor corporate media will be quite so welcoming…
Their protests will not be supported by show biz billionaires. When they march they will be met by police in riot gear with tanks. They will get their heads bashed in.
THEN they will see what really needs protesting.

Critical Thinking, Anyone?

March 2, 2018

The NRA Wants You To Protest Them…

February 22, 2018

The NRA happily offers crisis management at times like this.
What the NRA desperately wants is for our attention to be focused on them – because they give politicians cover.
Focusing on the NRA is a blunder.
That is exactly what the NRA wants.
They take the heat because there is nothing we can do about them.
Forget the NRA.
We have no influence over the NRA.
They are a private organization.
Concentrating on them is a waste of energies.
We don’t have a constitutional right to oust their board or to even picket their offices.
They are the lightning rod to protect the people we CAN oust and the people we CAN picket: elected officials. We DO have the power of voting.
Go where the power is.
Every two years who do we vote for?
The whole House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate, that is who.
We do NOT vote for NRA leaders. They are not accountable to the People.
he more people focus on the NRA the less we pay attention to the real power: congress.

Why don’t we all vote the NRA board out of office? Oh. We can’t.

Why don’t we go to the NRA offices and picket? Oh. We can’t.

Why don’t we stop the NRA from making in political donations? Oh. We can’t.

We CAN do those those things to elected officials.

And THAT is why the NRA wants all the attention.

To distract people from where the power really is.

And remember: Politicians of ALL kinds pander to gun owners

Obama Guns (1)

 

Wow…

February 18, 2018

DO NOT LET THE SYSTEM PLAY YOU

February 9, 2018
—–
You think flipping Congress will help? Congress has been flipping for over a hundred years. And here we are.
So many people now are totally immersed in the system they claim to despise. Only they don’t see it.
The successful CON counts on the MARKS not knowing they’ve been conned.
When you protest one side of the system you still become a cog in the system. The illusion of change – and the need for change – is how the system eats your life up.
THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CHANGE.
Open your eyes and see that you have MORE THAN TWO CHOICES.
The forced choice and controlled opposition IS HOW THE CON ARTIST WORKS.
DROP OUT OF THE MACHINE. Stop playing their game.
Make your own community of people.
Create a new reality LOCALLY.
The system DOES NOT HAVE AS MUCH POWER AS THEY WANT YOU TO BELIEVE.
Feeling anger and rage over ONE POLITICIAN WHO ONLY JUST GOT HERE fuels the very system you claim to oppose.
You willingly allow the system to bounce you from CRISIS TO CRISIS every week, like a ping-pong ball in the hands of experts.
And each time you say the same thing: THIS IS IT! HE’S TOAST!
If this is you, then you have let master manipulators play you. 
Let them go. They need you more than you need them.

YOU HAVE THE POWER OF YOUR OWN LIFE.

A Christmas Present Memory

January 18, 2018

   

THIS STARTED IT ALL…

   Some years back, I received a Christmas gift from a relative who really knew my tastes and proclivities.  She sent me something I had never seen before, nor even imagined existed: an electric Martini shaker/stirrer machine; without doubt the most decadent toy I ever owned.

   Naturally, I had my doubts about the gadget, but after studying the little booklet that came with it, I fell to the happy task of testing out the machine… and it worked wonderfully!

   I never enjoyed such expertly mixed Martinis as this machine cranked out. And it had two settings, which I gleefully tested out: Shaken to icy perfection or stirred to a gentle clearness like a gem. And you know what? I hated the damn thing.

   Along about my 4th Martini I had an insight. The machine, with all it precision expertise, had made me unnecessary. Yes, I measured the gin, bitters, ice, and vermouth – but then the device yanked me out of the most physical part of the process. I’d lost the tactile connection of manually working the alchemy of mixing a cocktail. And with my new toy, the cocktails always came out perfect.

   How very dull!

   True, a bartender at a saloon also removes me from the process – but when the barman turns out a perfect Martini, I can tell him “thanks.” I can express my appreciation to a fellow human being – verbally as well as financially. And I always retain the memory of a happy moment when a fellow aficionado worked his or her wonder for me. But how does one thank a gizmo? Do I call the factory to thank the person who runs the machines that make the machine? A person I will never see. Do I give the thing a thimble of oil and say “Have one with me”?

   Using the machine, made me feel dehumanized. I saw nothing good in a device that invariably whips up drink after drink without a misstep.

   Hell, I even cherish the bad Martinis I have had. Like the time in 1982 when I sauntered into a dive bar in lower Manhattan around the corner from a long gone Job Lot store. This place served shots and chasers. And the price fit a young man’s budget. A shot of Barton’s Reserve Rye with a ginger ale back cost – ready? – 75¢. You read that right. Three quarters of a dollar. Counting for inflation, in today’s coin of the realm that comes to $1.96. Good luck finding prices like that today.

   Well, I frequented this goodly establishment from time to time. And one day, as the barman saw me and reached for the rye, I upset the local ecosystem by asking for a Dry Martini, straight up with an olive.

   The barman just stood there looking at me.

   He said nothing. He just looked and looked.

   Then he squinted and asked me, “You sure you have the right place, buddy?”

I said yes, and I felt like having Dry Martini, straight up with an olive.

   To this day I swear I saw a tear forming in the corner of his one good eye.

   “Buddy, you know how long I been slinging drinks here? Nearly 40 years and nobody, but nobody ever asked me for a Dry Martini, straight up with an olive. Or a twist. Or a dash of bitters. Nobody. I waited and waited, but long about the Korean War truce I gave up hope. Some bars just serve shots and a chaser. I resigned myself to my fate. And now you come here.”

   Then he stood mute again for a moment. Silently, he reached under the bar. My life flashed before my eyes for I knew what awaited me. In a saloon like that I would either get a Louisville Slugger or a sawed-off shotgun.

   But the barman did something I had never before seen him do. He smiled. And he came up with a classic V-shaped cocktail glass. True, it had a layer of grime on it but the sentimental fool had clearly kept it there just waiting for me. And now, after cleaning the glass to a shine, he paused a moment, knowing that he would now make that long-dreamt of Dry Martini.

   He really dug the moment! With the greatest of care, he measured out the gin and then poured it into a cocktail shaker that had probably sat on a shelf since Prohibition. Then he added exactly the right amount of dry vermouth to make a classic Martini. And from god knows where the old codger produced a bottle of Angostura Bitters and carefully plopped in two drops. Then he placed the cap on the shaker and shook with all the pent up energy he had harbored lo those many years waiting for this moment.

   After the requisite number of jiggles, he unsealed the cap from the shaker and poured the drink into the glass with a sacramental, almost priestly air. And he added an olive then slid the drink over to me. He awaited my approval. I sipped. And told him what I thought: “Excellent blending!” and he beamed! “And if you remember to use ice next time, it will be even better!”

   His mistake crushed him. He took back the drink before I’d finished half of it and replaced it with a jigger of Barton’s Reserve rye with a ginger back and we never spoke of that moment again. But damn it, that inept cocktail still stands as the single best bad Martini I would ever have. I have had so many Martinis that I cannot count them. But never did I have one made with such loving care and hope and expectation. Not once did anyone come close to putting in the feeling that this grizzled, one-eyed barman poured into the drink. I shall always remember it with an unmatched fondness.

   Now I ask you. Can a machine do that?

   So I packed my new Martini machine into its box where it remained until the next wedding rolled around. I knew some young inexperienced couple just starting out in life will need a measure of perfection as they face disillusion and and the inevitable let-downs in that first year of marriage. And for newlyweds, a dingus that delivers a perfectly turned out stiff drink will provide more joy than any pressure cooker or crock pot.

   I got a lovely thank you letter from the newlyweds.

   I read it while sipping a dry Martini I could’ve shaken a bit more, one that I went too heavy on the bitters with. But what can we expect from a human in place of a machine? And I fixed the shortcomings with the next cocktail. And the one after that…

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2018

You’re Being Ridiculous

December 13, 2017

This notorious and insulting imprecation – spoken by “comedian” Sarah Silverman – essentially telling people at a convention to shut-up – gives us a perfect example of the kind of trouble people get into when they use the verb TO BE.
For those who don’t recall the moment when a pissed-off comic treated half the democratic party as hecklers, take a look:

“YOU’RE BEING RIDICULOUS,” she said to the very people she and the other Hillary supporters needed to win over.
She used the verb TO BE two times in her insulting, condescending, scolding tirade. 50% of her words.
And it infuriated the progressive wing of the party – which then launched DEMEXIT and helped drive the democrats to the brink of bankruptcy. It has brought the democrats so low, that today they celebrate a victory of 1.5% over a raving religious fanatic and all ’round nincompoop. Any port in a storm, I guess.

What Silverman did came as no surprise to me. The Withers (“I’m With ➔HER”) treat all who differ from them with unveiled smugness and contempt. To this day, they blame the Sanders voters for She Who Must Be Elected losing to a TV gameshow host. But they never wanted them anyway:
So why blame them now as Hillary and her myrmidons consistently do? They do it out of sheer pique and an inability to take responsibility.

But back to the irate and heavily medicated Sarah Silverman and YOU ARE BEING RIDICULOUS!
Her words amount to a condescending GOD-LIKE pronouncement of stern judgment. It did not have to happen like this.
Suppose Silverman had used the more clear form of English known as E-PRIME – in which the verb TO BE never gets used. This makes for more personal and responsible communication.
Some examples from THIS LINK

Consider the following paired sets of propositions, in which Standard English alternates with English-Prime (E-Prime):
lA. The electron is a wave.
lB. The electron appears as a wave when measured with instrument-l.
2A. The electron is a particle.
2B. The electron appears as a particle when measured with instrument-2.
3A. John is lethargic and unhappy.
3B. John appears lethargic and unhappy in the office.
4A. John is bright and cheerful.
4B. John appears bright and cheerful on holiday at the beach.
5A. This is the knife the first man used to stab the second man.
5B. The first man appeared to stab the second man with what looked like a knife to me.
6A. The car involved in the hit-and-run accident was a blue Ford.
6B. In memory, I think I recall the car involved in the hit-and-run accident as a blue Ford.
7A. This is a fascist idea.
7B. This seems like a fascist idea to me.
8A. Beethoven is better than Mozart.
8B. In my present mixed state of musical education and ignorance, Beethoven seems better to me than Mozart.
9A. That is a sexist movie.
9B. That seems like a sexist movie to me.
10A. The fetus is a person.
10B. In my system of metaphysics, I classify the fetus as a person.

Get the picture? E-Prime makes us take personal responsibility for the expression of our thoughts. I have written several entire books without ever using the verb TO BE.
Consider: Would the outrage at Silverman’s scolding, reckless, and divisive words perhaps have rolled off the backs of half the party had she said something like:
“It seems to me that you have taken a ridiculous position.”
or
“You strike me as ridiculous.”
or
“I think of your support for Sanders as ridiculous.”
These comments sans the verb TO BE may stir up controversy, but they no longer hit people as an insult; as fighting words. Had she eschewed the verb TO BE, Silverman then expresses – and takes personal responsibility for – her opinion. She no longer speaks as The High and Mighty Arbiter of Thought.
Meaning with E-Prime, Silverman could have started A CONVERSATION by stating how SHE feels. And then others can respond later. Her belligerent pronouncement “You’re Being Ridiculous” stops conversation dead in its tracks.
She spoke in the role of an exasperated parent giving an unruly child a rap on the knuckles. How the hell did she think people would react to that?  
And here we arrive at the key to the whole problem: Clearly, Silverman DID NOT THINK. She shot from the hip.

The most often expressed problem people have with using E-Prime boils down to this: it takes them too long to formulate their thoughts. Yes, speaking in E-Prime forces the speaker to THINK before talking.
Does anyone consider THINKING BEFORE SPEAKING a bad thing?

Perhaps had Silverman, who gets paid huge sums of money to communicate, understood the basics of communication, she would not have alienated the very people she needed on Election Day. And owing to her rash and clumsy dressing down, democrats could not unite behind their flawed candidate who needed every vote out there.

As to Al Franken, standing there simpering and then making the lame excuse that Silverman spoke as a joke, he may not have ended up in a fight for his political survival had the words not come across as an insult. I find it quite clear that democrats have turned against Franken because of his smiling and making excuses for Silverman at this precise moment. Democrats desperately need the Sanders wing to return to the fold. Ousting Franken amounts to a calculated sacrifice made to placate the people he and Silverman insulted in that moment. But the progressive wing of the party will have none of that. The democrats simply cannot un-ring that bell.
And this didn’t have to happen. It only happened because an inept communicator spoke four hostile and judgmental words – half of them… the completely unnecessary verb TO BE.
=====

 

I did not kid you about my books. I refused to use the verb TO BE in these three books, except when quoting other people (and once as the punchline to a joke). Thoughts crystalize this way. We no longer pronounce – we explain. Nor have I used the verb TO BE in any of its forms in the introductions to some of the other books available. Take a look. 

Click Picture To Read About These Books