Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Super Bowl, An Election, and An American Horror Story….

We LOVE our Superbowl!   If you haven’t noticed, the last two weeks have been full of Superbowl everything:  Pepsi halftime hype, Arnold in a wig shilling beer, media day, another media day, and all kinds of speculation over who’ll win.  We place our bets, whether big or small (I myself will be forced to make my specialty dessert if my team loses), wear our team colors (I never knew so many Seahawk fans lived in NorCal), and stock up on beer, chips, and salsa (let’s not forget the layered bean dip).  We joke about calling it a National Holiday and secretly thank the work gods that we have Sunday’s off.   We plan where we’ll watch the game (the friend whose house has the biggest flat screen), and  today,  we’ll spend four fretful hours rooting for our favorite team…blissfully happy if they win, miserably humiliated if they lose.

Lets go back in our not too recent memory of another national pastime:  our last presidential election.  Sure, the process is longer, we spend months instead of just weeks hyping up the big day, we wear our team colors with pride and argue with friends about whose offense is best.   We decorate our yards with signs, our cars with stickers, and our national conventions are circus wonders (have you seen what some of those people wear?). We listen to talking heads on the t.v. make this or that prediction, their predictions and analysis disturbingly similar to the conversations studiously churned out by the NFL network .

In his book “Griftopia,” respected columnist Matt Taibbi makes this very comparison between our obsession with a sports event and its eerie similarities to our current election process:

“We get a beautifully choreographed eighteen-month entertainment put on once every four years, a beast called the presidential election that engrosses the population to the point of obsession.  This ongoing drama allows everyone to subsume their hopes and dreams for the future into one all-out, all-or-nothing battle for the White House. a big alabaster symbol of power we see on television a lot.  Who wins and who loses this contest is a matter of utmost importance to a hell of a lot of people in this country.  But why it’s so important to them is one of the great unexplored mysteries of our time.  Its a mystery rooted in the central horrifying truth about our national politics…..Which is this:  none of it really matters to us.  The presidential election is a drama that we Americans have learned to wholly consume as entertainment, divorced completely from any expectations about concrete changes in our own lives.  For the vast majority of people who follow national elections in this country, the payoff they’re looking for when they campaigning for this or that political figure is that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when the home team wins the big game.  Or, more important, when a hated rival loses.”

Think about this while you watch the game today and consider our mentality towards our politics.  This past election did we revel in our victory or did we pout in defeat?  Did we choose our candidate carefully based on his past performances instead of what the media presented to us?  Did we research to find out the team histories:  which has a better record with national deficits for instance?   If our candidate lost, did we find it in ourselves to at least rally around the one that did since obviously the majority of our compatriots thought he was the right one –  or did we choose instead to miserably accept the outcome and wait for the next big game, uh, election.  Did we buy into the losing team’s excuses or did we hold them accountable for their failures?  If our team won, have we blindly followed them to the trophy house or do we call them out if they overstep the bounds of privacy and drone use? This is exactly the mentality that Taibii examines and it’s effect is damning. He goes on:

“Their stake in the electoral game isn’t a  citizen’s interest, but a rooting interest.  Voters who throw their emotional weight into elections they know deep down inside won’t produce real change in their lives are also indulging in a kind of fantasy.  That’s why voters still dream of politicians whose primary goal is to effectively govern and maintain a thriving first world society with great international ambitions…  What voters don’t realized, or don’t want to realize, is that that dream was abandoned long ago by this country’s leaders who know the prosaic reality and are looking beyond the fantasy into the future, at an America plummeted into third world status.  ….Our leaders know we’re turning into a giant ghetto and they are taking every last hubcap they can get their hands on before the rest of us wake up and realize what’s happened. …In the new American ghetto, the nightmare engine is bubble economies, a kind of high-tech casino scam that kills neighborhoods just like dope does, only the product is credit, not crack or heroin. ”

Let’s think about these words for a second “America plummeted into a third world status.” There’s our horror story:  From top to bottom in just a couple of short centuries.   We need to wake up.

We need to pay attention.  We need to realize (myself as well) that we get so caught up in the game that we forget the stakes are high, a matter of life or death to our nation.  We need to do our research.  On a weekly basis I encounter two or three conspiracy theories on my Facebook feed, full of fear mongering, conservative anxiety, and meant to keep me distracted from the real issues.  ARE there FEMA camps throughout the U.S.?  No, but our congress is allowing Wall Street to write legislation, effectively making us a plutocracy.  IS there Fukushima radiation in my milk?  No, but I do know that the NRA is mostly funded by ….. gun companies and so their interest in gun legislation is certainly monetarily based, not second amendment sanctions.   Did Phil Robertson have his constitutional rights violated?  Not in the least, but our voting rights are being carefully restricted in thousands of counties.   Does the ACA have an exception for Muslim believers?  No, but I do know that those states whose governors have  chosen not to enact the law have millions of Americans who are without medical coverage.  We interrupt the news because a celebrity was arrested but few people notice the signs that another financial bubble is already starting to arise.  Are you getting it yet?

We always have a choice.  We have the choice to make a difference or ignore the evidence and await disaster.  Either way, the burden falls to us to dispose of our cheerleader/spectator role and become well-informed citizens who vote not because we want our team to win, but because we desire a nation that functions for the people, by the people instead of for the corporation, by the corporation.

Enjoy the game today kids, but as we watch, let’s keep in mind Mr. Taibbi’s comparison with our game mentality towards elections.   It is my sincere desire that we learn from this lesson so that we may build a better nation to leave our children, and perhaps avoid a true American Horror Story.

Choose truth…however hard you must dig for it….

Frankie

Taibbi, Matt.  Griftopia: The Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History. Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2011.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You can also read Matt’s blog at the following address:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog


Must Read from Bill Gates – if you wanna have hope for our future, that is….

I found this on my twitter feed the other day and it lends more hope and insight than anything I’ve read in a while. Takes a few minutes to read, but the information is dynamic and honestly too important to pass up. Mr. Gates confronts three prevalent global myths and deftly proves them wrong with a slew of data and success stories…For instance, here’s what he has to say about the first myth he discusses:    Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.

“So the easiest way to respond to the myth … is to point to one fact: They haven’t stayed poor. Many—though by no means all—of the countries we used to call poor now have thriving economies. And the percentage of very poor people has dropped by more than half since 1990.”

I don’t know about you but I am astounded that we have eradicated the very poor by half in just two decades. THIS is a HUGE achievement!

The second myth Mr. Gates contends with (and its a big contention) is that “Foreign Aid is a Big Waste”. He pretty much makes the ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bath water’ case here, but he adds a great deal of proof to back up his argument, namely our overall health in global terms has increased substantially in the past half-century –

“Let’s put this achievement in historical perspective. A baby born in 1960 had an 18 percent chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5 percent. In 2035, they will be 1.6 percent. I can’t think of any other 75-year improvement in human welfare that would even come close.”

Foreign aid, coupled with private donations, enable the most indigent of us with vaccines, food, schools, contraception, mosquito nets, and start-up money for national investments. Mr. Gates mentions that foreign aid really creates an overall synergistic environment and that most of those countries who have received aid in the past are now self-sustaining or require less aid than before. A healthy population leads to a healthy economy.

Since  survival rates have increased, it seems logical that perhaps we would need to be concerned with over-population. Mr. Gates carefully draws from demographic data to demonstrate that this thought too is a myth.

“Given all the evidence, my view of a sustainable future is much more optimistic than the Malthusians’ view. The planet does not thrive when the sickest are allowed to die off, but rather when they are able to improve their lives. Human beings are not machines. We don’t reproduce mindlessly. We make decisions based on the circumstances we face.”

“When children are well-nourished, fully vaccinated, and treated for common illnesses like diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia, the future gets a lot more predictable. Parents start making decisions based on the reasonable expectation that their children will live.”

He’s turned me on to a new term as well, something called the ‘virtuous cycle’…

“The virtuous cycle is not just development jargon. It’s a phenomenon that millions of poor people understand very well, and it guides their decisions from day-to-day. I have the privilege of meeting women and men in poor countries who commit the small acts of love and optimism—like going without so they can pay their children’s school fees—that propel this cycle forward. The future they hope for and work hard for is the future I believe in.”

In other words, any investment we make in our future, big or small, global or local, makes a difference. Let us all be willing to do our part to make our future one we can believe in.

Choose Hope Kids!

Frankie

http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/?cid=bg_tw_ll1_012317/#section=home


Keep Writing

Wanna give up? Don’t. Wanna shred that manuscript outline? Don’t. Wanna cntrl-alt-x those thousands of words you’ve entered? Do…Not…

SUCH is the life of a writer…we mist be some of the most tenacious individuals to exist, considering our propensity to stubbornly carry on and wrestle with our art the way we do.

Here’s to the weekend…May we find our desire to write overwhelming….Here’s to not giving up….

Frankie


Two Quick Book Reviews (Frankie Style)

craneheller

Amazingly, despite being….older, I’ve not read either of these until just recently.

Crane’s depiction of battle, especially his use of analogy inspired me :  “The guns squatted in a row like savage chiefs.  They argued with abrupt violence.  It was a grim pow-wow.  Their busy servants ran hither and thither.”   Does anybody write like this anymore?

Although the story is short, it takes its reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions from the absolute disgust of cowardice to the brilliance of bravery and heroics, all within the same character.  Crane’s ability to pack a wallop of a read in such a short amount of pages left me reeling.  His raw narrative of battle puts the atrocities of war in the forefront of the reader’s mind and one can’t help but wonder at the madness of our propensity to engage in such an act.

Heller, on the other hand, comprehends the madness of war and translates its insanity without shame in Catch 22.  Colorful, bigger than life characters learn to cope with war in not so sane ways because, well, war is not a sane activity we humans partake in.   Heller’s complete abandon to the mind and soul of his distraught characters is a great inspiration to this writer…let not our imagination limit us in any way….

Go read a book, any book, and be inspired!  Peace Kids…

Frankie

 


Sunrise story…….

Image

This beauty appeared a couple of days ago, when I see clouds on the horizon in the morning I know I’m in for some color and I was not disappointed.  I have a funny story about another gorgeous sunrise …. I work as a front desk clerk at a hotel and so my job in the morning is checking guests out.   One gentleman, big guy, booming voice, seventies-ish, mentioned the sunrise and that “Jesus must’ve gotten his paint brushes out this morning.”   Being an atheist, these  comments always put me in an awkward position….I must be respectful, but at the same time I don’t want to perpetuate theism…I have to come up with some way of stating the truth without  offending or condescending.   I chose silence at first, hoping we could move on somehow, but the question begged an answer and the six or seven people standing around all heard it and were awaiting my reply, probably a bit vexed at my silence.  He repeated the question again in some variant form and the best response I could come up with was, “Well, I’m a science kind of girl so when I see a sunrise like that I think of the clouds of water molecules that are reflecting the sun’s light off of them which gives them the colors we see.”   I didn’t include the fact that I also wonder incessantly at the idea that we, of all animals formed from the dust of the stars and living on this earth, can have the conscience to notice such beauty, and that I have this moment and this day to make my time count for something.   I think it would have been overload for him.  As it was, he coughed and muttered and shuffled away as I said in my
kindest voice, “Have a great day!”   We all breathed a few moments as the tension passed and then, to my delight and surprise, the woman behind him came up to check out and said to me in a low whisper “I’m with ya on the science thing.”

Have Peace Kids,

Frankie


the lasting effects of reading….

This new study from Emory University demonstrates the way a good, well written book can literally affect our brains…for the good.  Check out the article below, and may it be a good reminder to us writers to create not just entertainment, but food for our readers’ brains as well.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270640.php

Choose Peace and Excellence,

Frankie


Let’s make each mile count, shall we????

happy new year


You Love Me Like XO: the story of the power of a song ….

They fought when he visited her on his lunch break….he was in a completely different place than she, feeling physically fatigued and being mentally frustrated with banks and credit card companies chipping away at their meager earnings….she made the mental note that it was her responsibility to make sure they had weekly conversations about finances to avoid these kinds moments “get with the program gurl” she said as she scolded herself…she let him rant, giving him copious amounts of grace because she knew he had been sick, they both had, it’d been a week since sex because of it, and well, he needed to get it out…he finished up, they chit chatted about their mornings, the mood lightened and when he got ready to leave she asked him for the debit card…”why?” he said…”because I want to buy my sister in law a card for making it through her first christmas without her husband that died a few weeks ago…” …”It’ll only be about three or four bucks” she mentioned, she was still on the clock so her professional, down to business demeanor severely contrasted with his recent rant over money and he couldn’t believe she wanted to go off and spend some….suddenly there was a fight, they departed on angry terms and there followed a flurry of furious texts back and forth “I felt like you didn’t hear me” “we only had a minute and I had to ask for the card, I didn’t mean to be insensitive”…..they spent the afternoon in misery, wondering how they’d be in the evening, hoping they could just both brush it off as an off moment and not turn it into a full on fight….they felt each other out in later texts over the afternoon…”got a ride home with so and so, won’t be waiting for you to pick me up”, “ok :p”, “need anything from the store?”, “yeah, thanks! “……”whew, they might’ve escaped a bad time of it,” she thought….at home she took advantage of her time by taking down christmas and cleaning house, she listened to the newest release of so and so, thanking the technology gods for digital music….the song was played repetitively on her iphone whilst learning the lyrics on her laptop, the beat was catchy, the lyrics simple, the depth endless ….she knew music, having sung in her a cappella choir in high school and spending years on the worship team at a small church, she knew how to pick out instruments, listen for the key changes, all that stuff….the song wasn’t particularly complex, she detected a slight bent from one of her favorite bands, so and so, which pleased her…she noticed that it was one of those songs that could go on forever in a set listing, a tune that lent itself the ability to go off in random impromptu musical anthems, taking crowds on a surf ride of music…she went on many such surf rides as a singer on the worship team, she knew their power and their ability to bring a person to a moment of mental and emotional openness…such was the case now as the new song sunk in and she connected words to music to beat….she thought of her husband, how she’d do nothing to hurt him, he was her equal and fighting killed them both….she thought about her determinedness to make this relationship work no-matter-what-goddammit…she loved that man with every cell of her body, they fit together perfectly in every way, and though things weren’t right now, she’d work it out with him precisely because she loved him….she knew  the difference, she knew a life lived with a man who didn’t fit even though he was the father of her children, she knew the pain of trying to love someone, the disappointment of realizing such a thing can never be forced…she chose the torture of a divorce over the dreary future of an unhappy marriage, a boatload of guilt and a few years later she met him and instantly there was chemistry ….the happiness she found in him made every day of hell worthwhile and even when they were fighting, his face was all that she could see, there was, simply, no one else….she thought of the treasure she had, that such a love really comes but once in a while and not everyone gets it….she thought about the temporariness of life, a lesson she learned all too well recently with the passing of her brother…we never know when our time will run out, and those words struck home to her as she mopped away to the beat of the drums, living in the moment….in a bit of a mental lull, a wave of music came in and sent her memory reeling  further back and her mind into deeper thoughts….like the comparison to relationships earlier, she compared her life now as an atheist to her life then as a christian….here, she had no regrets, only thankfulness to be out of the confines of the four walls rank with conspiracy theories and fear….she thought of her time on the worship team, hours and hours, she recalled the moments of surf rides, the small amount of dancing she could do….now she was free and danced without restraint, allowing herself full expression of her body as it interpreted the music …an earlier thought came to mind and she marveled again at how similar the sounds of music were inside and outside the church, that we all catch the same creative waves, they just get funneled differently …. as she compared inside versus outside, she saw once more that outside was real, raw, and now….a new thought came to mind as she considered all those moments spent chasing a ‘perfect’ supernatural love, coming away unfulfilled, and being told “that was the nature of the thing, we are supposed to be kept hungering”….now, she realized, after discovering deep, true, perfect love in the flesh and she concluded “of course an invisible lover will remain elusive”,  she thought of her lover, that he was her heart’s desire, that they seemed to be made exclusively for each other, that he met her needs in every way, and yet……her heart ached for him to get home so they could embrace one another and forgive each other a thousand times over with a wordless, passionate cuddle…..”yeah,” she thought, “an elusive lover that keeps a girl chasing is ridiculous, in reality a girl can be completely satisfied and wake up the next morning wanting even more, in heat and craving it as if it’d been years,”….”you love me like XO…..” he does, and she does, and it is real and ever so temporary…. she was reminded that her decision to leave religion behind for this moment, for the acknowledgement of reality and true freedom, was the right one…..the house was nearly back to normal and clean, the song fairly memorized, another confirmation of her decision to be free of religion’s chains were all achieved by the time he got home….they spent a quick moment of checking each other’s eyes to determine if everything was okay and the long anticipated hug made everything right again….words and music bounced around in her head as they went about their evening until they finally rendezvoused in the bedroom….tender, apologetic kisses turned to lustful craving quickly and in the end, a new day came round and their love was even deeper, their passion even hotter…..she would hear the song again in years to come and just like any good tune it’ll take her back to that brief moment and remind her of the thoughts she had, the emotion she felt, and the freedom in which she basked…this is the story of the power of a song and the healing virtue of music…..

Peace Kids!  and happy new year…may 2014 be good to you….

Frankie Wallace

ericandi