Slipping poison into a vial of laughter


I don’t know much about Seth MacFarlane – mainly that he has a different sense of humor than mine, because many of his jokes fall flat with me – but he seems to be an intelligent and talented man, so when the characters in his scripts say or do something, I think he knows what they’re saying or doing.

I’ve been mostly enjoying MacFarlane’s television show The Orville, his homage to Star Trek, but he stopped me cold last week with an exchange during the episode titled “All the World Is Birthday Cake,” written by MacFarlane, in which Capt. Ed Mercer’s crew makes first contact with a civilization much like ours but a century or two behind the enlightened Union space travelers.

During a banquet scene, one of the natives asks about the economic system of the visitors, saying, “I’m fascinated that there’s no form of currency exchange.” Continue reading “Slipping poison into a vial of laughter”


How liberty died to thunderous applause

Gadsden flag dreamstime_s_76381771The notifications – the dings and chimes and beeps and boops – the shouts, the rhythms, the alarms – the clangs and flashing lights – all of these served to keep the people from thinking too hard, to blur their focus, to mesmerize them, and after a while they forgot.

They forgot why they had considered it so important to be free. It was more important to be secure, free from the valleys, all mountaintops for them, not touched by bad things, only safe and warm and comfortable.

And the safety net, built so meticulously to help the struggling and the poor and the old and the infirm, became just a net. Continue reading “How liberty died to thunderous applause”

A signal to burst the chains

a signal to burst the chains

Not long ago I was browsing through a book called The Essential Thomas Jefferson, a collection that – like all “Essential” albums – includes his greatest hits and a rich selection of deep cuts. The following is excerpted from the final entry in the book, a letter to Roger C. Weightman written June 24, 1826, two weeks before Jefferson died.

The letter leaves the old man feeling as if his mission was fulfilled and with the hope that what he and his fellows had accomplished 50 years earlier would continue to serve as a beacon to humanity. Continue reading “A signal to burst the chains”

3 journal fragments: What time is now

willow 12-21-2018

Almost a month into my Year of Finishing, and I haven’t finished anything yet. Even the schedule of what to finish, and when, isn’t done. What gets finished first, hmm?

What time is now?

I’m amused by the new bosses who have spent the last eight years screaming in the faces of elected officials that their policies are shameful and hurtful and mean, and now, having succeeded in winning significant seats from those they have treated as mortal enemies, now call for civility and bipartisanship. Where was civility when their duly elected opponents were passing their legislation? Where was civility when they were shouting from the gallery and fighting to have courts declare their opponents’ laws illegal and immoral?

What time is now? Is it time for civility and bipartisanship – the latter a code word for “cave to my demands” – or is it simply time to resume the battle, with the battle lines redrawn? Continue reading “3 journal fragments: What time is now”

Before you throw that old book into the trash …

classic trash

Click this link to discover an article that should be required reading for everyone who loves literature.

It’s also for everyone who asks to ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Huck uses the “N-word” to describe his friend Jim, for everyone who refuses to enjoy old movies or read any book more than 10 minutes old because the ancient artist’s point of view is abhorrent seen through our modern eyes.

It’s as if we imagine an old book to be a time machine that brings the writer to us. We buy a book and take it home, and the writer appears before us, asking to be admitted into our company. If we find that the writer’s views are ethnocentric or sexist or racist, we reject the application, and we bar his or her entry into the present.

As the student had put it, I don’t want anyone like that in my house.

I think we’d all be better readers if we realized that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around.

The difference in perspective, the clarification of who exactly is doing the traveling, might lead to a different kind of reading experience.

Please, for your own sake, read the article.

Autumn of Liberty


For many years I wanted to be Paul Harvey when I grew up. I may grow up one of these days.

Paul Harvey was the last and greatest of the great radio news commentators. In a world of radio news blocks defined in seconds, he maintained a 15-minute weekday newscast into the 21st century.

“Paul Harvey News & Comment” encouraged, enlightened and entertained millions every day for decades.

I’m reading a book I found in a used bookstore many years ago, a book that’s out of print … partly because it was published in 1954 and many of its references were familiar in 1954 and not so much now.

And partly because 65 years later, many of its references are all too familiar.

It’s called Autumn of Liberty. By Paul Harvey. Continue reading “Autumn of Liberty”

Today we ‘choose’ our rulers


Here in the USA it’s Election Day, when we learn who will be the boss for the next few years and who will be in a constant, unending temper tantrum.

In recent years the tantrum has been especially shrill and ugly. Each campaign has been more unseemly, especially as the world of politics and government has devolved into a perpetual campaign.

Oddly, the harder the mongers of fear and anger have worked to divide us, the more an old Who song jangles through my mind, the words screaming out as the election winners prepare to take office:

Meet the new boss: Same as the old boss.

What keeps me from despair, and what I hope will encourage you, is something that popped into my mind a few years ago while dashing off another burst of thought like this one, and so, again, I quote myself.

“Freedom is not about having the right ruler. Oh wait, yes it is. Freedom is understanding that I am the boss of me.”

The scary season is upon us


It’s really kind of annoying at this stage; the only frightening thing would be if it works.

Social media and traditional TV are awash with people screaming about how this politician or that one is corrupt, dangerous, possibly criminal, definitely evil, and possibly Satan himself.

Aside from the possibility that most of the ads are accurate and most of these people really ARE evil, it’s an orgy of fear mongering, and I must roll out the old standby from H.L. Mencken: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

The goal, of course, is for the populace to surrender its will and its freedom and let the fear mongers lead us to safety, which more and more these days is the safety of the cage.

The bottom line for me is the extent to which, in past practice, the person asking for my vote has demonstrated a commitment to liberty and the notion that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being or delegate the initiation of force to anyone else. There’s pretty much no one in the political realm who buys into the latter notion, and few are even talking about liberty anymore, but I sometimes see glimmers of hope through the waves of imaginary hobgoblins.