Saturday, June 18, 2016

"I got into acting for the same reasons I went to Morocco and became a lawyer: I didn't have much else to do."

Way back when I put a lot of time into posting stuff and almost nobody read it. So periodically I will repost stuff from years ago so that nobody can read it now, either. This one was from June 15, 2008.

All the world's a stage and one man in his time plays many parts. Most of my parts involve resting now.

You have to work very hard to irritate people who are doing yoga, but Sweetie and I and The Babies! did just that the other night. Without even trying, and, in my case, without even noticing.

Thursday night was one of my nights to work out this week. I try to work out every third day. That's way down from what I used to do. When I was healthy and young, I worked out every day. It was easier for me to work out every day then because I was healthy and young, and because I really had no other life to speak of. The days when I worked out every day, jogging 5 or 6 or even 16 miles at a crack, were also the days when I was not seeing anyone, when I wasn't working very much, and when the entire furnishings of my apartment consisted of a lamp, a mattress, a couch, a desk, and a tape player/radio. You can only read and/or listen to "Mad Radio 92.1" for so long before you have to go do something, and so I worked out a lot back then, jogging and biking and even rollerblading until I gave that up because rollerblading isn't as much fun once you've scraped off most of the right side of your body in a luxury subdivision.

I was never a great rollerblader, anyway, but I liked it because it gave the feeling of running while not actually being like running. Rollerblading might have been the first of many, many activities that people tried to trick themselves into thinking were actual exercise when they were not. Everything from the "Abdomenizer" to "Tae Bo" has been passed off as being as good as running, when it's not. But in the exercise department, "as good as" can only mean one thing: as much work as. So if you're doing an exercise that is less physically demanding than some other exercise, then it's not as good as that other exercise.

Nothing in the exercise department is as physically demanding as running. Here's what's as good as running, in the exercise department: running.
Although I ran a lot, I didn't like running all the time -- because it was hard-- so I would occasionally mix in rollerblading because it was "as good as" running. It was hard, even then, for me to understand that claim. Rollerblading was nowhere near the amount of work that running was. One of the general rules of life: nothing with wheels on it is as difficult as something without wheels. On the other hand, rollerblading was 17 million times as terrifying as running, again because of the wheels, so maybe those two were supposed to average out to being as hard as running, because the fright would

People always claimed that rollerblades could be stopped. People lied. Rollerblades were and are unstoppable. I generally dealt with the problem of not being able to stop rollerblades by rollerblading on flat surfaces: the campus of the college I attended, parking lots, the hardwood floors of my apartment, etc. On specific occasions, I dealt with the problem of not being able to stop rollerblades by falling down, not always on purpose.

The fall that led to my quitting rollerblading occurred just a few days before opening night of the play I was in that summer. That was the other thing I did, back then, to kill time: I exercised, and I acted. I got into acting for the same reasons I went to Morocco and became a lawyer: I didn't have much else to do.

"I didn't have much else to do" explains virtually every major accomplishment in my life, as I sit here and look at it. I suppose it's lucky for me that we didn't have cable TV or the Internet when I was a kid or I'd never have gotten out of my parents house (which would be a problem, given that they sold it about 20 years back. But I bet the new people are pretty nice and would have liked me.)

Not having much to do one summer, I decided that I would be an actor and began trying out for parts in local plays. That required me to memorize a Shakespearean monologue, which makes twice in my life that I've had to memorize a Shakespearean monologue. Let's check the stats:

Number of times I have been required by society to memorize a Shakespearean monologue: Two.

Number of times I've been required by society to know how to save someone who's choking or having a heart attack: Zero.

That says something about America. Or me. Or my role in America. I just know it. But I can't say what it says because the only answers I know are found in the various Shakespearean monologues I've memorized.

Here's another thing I've memorized: the book So Big, starring Elmo. So Big is Mr F's favorite book, because he likes to wave "bye bye" when Elmo does and he likes the [SPOILER ALERT!] fact that Elmo "pops up" and is SO BIG at the end of the book. We read So Big about three times a day; sometimes we read it twice in a row, even though you'd think that it wouldn't hold quite such a thrill once you know the ending. We've read it so often that we're on the second copy of the book; the first got torn apart, understandable what with all the excitement of Baby Elmo standing up and Baby Elmo drinking from a cup.

I can recite So Big by heart. That, too, says something. It says something about the general direction my life has headed since college that I used to memorize Shakespeare and now I can just as easily quote Elmo. ("Baby Elmo sings: la la la.)

Then again, I tend to think that Shakespearean monologues and So Big have roughly equivalent market value for lawyers, so I'm probably doing as well as I ever was. And the Babies! don't get as much of a kick out of my Shakespeare quotes. Maybe they would if Shakespeare popped up at the end. (How big is Shakespeare? SO BIG!)(That might make Shakespeare more palatable to almost everyone.)

I had successfully memorized my quote and turned that into a small part in the play Brother Truckers, which ran for four days at a theater nowhere near anybody. A few days before opening,  I went out rollerblading because having landed a part I again had nothing really to do; I only had about four lines in the play. Don't look down on me for that. That one old lady got an Oscar for having, like one line and slapping Denzel Washington, didn't she? Didn't she? I'm going to remember it that way anyway, so there you go: I'm right, and there are no small parts, only small actors.

Except my part actually was a small part and didn't actually require me to even be at all the rehearsals, so I was rollerblading on a beautiful summer day and, feeling daring, had decided to get out on the road a little bit, just a local actor out enjoying the sun, and I started heading through a rich subdivision where no doubt some day I would live after getting my Oscar or whatever award it is they give to small theater productions, and I was cruising down the road and getting faster and faster because it was on a slope, until I reached the critical velocity where I no longer was enjoying the activity but was devoting most of my energy to figuring out how and when I would stop, when that decision was made for me by a patch of hot asphalt, which caught one rollerblade but not the other, sending me skidding along the road on my left side for a long time and scraping off roughly 100% of my skin.

I don't mean "roughly" as in "approximately." I mean it was scraped off roughly.

If you saw that play I was in -- if you were one of the 20 people-- then I apologize if "The Prosecutor" moved a bit stiffly and did all his accusatorial pointing with his right arm. It was not my first interpretation of that character.

Nowadays, I'm even less likely to want to go through that kind of workout. I know all about "no pain no gain," but I can't think of what it is I gained through that fall, and I know I lost a lot, mostly in the skin department. Plus, with my more hectic life now, I don't have all the time and energy and youthfulness and extra skin I need to keep working out like I used to. So now, I try to work out about every third day or so, which makes it easier to fit in my workouts around my busy schedule of not actually ever doing any work in my office and then complaining about how nothing ever gets done.

Another thing that I've found makes it easier to fit in my workout is changing my workout. I haven't changed my basic attitudes towards exercise: running is still the best exercise and I still sneer at people who try to say that something is as good as running. I'll never change that. Once I form an opinion, it's set. I think that most people waste a lot of time and energy changing their opinions all because someone presented a bunch of "facts" and "logical reasons" why they should change their opinions. If my opinion was right once, why wouldn't it be right forever? You don't see other things that are right being changed, do you? Nobody goes around saying that the law of gravity really ought to be re-examined given what we now know about this or that. (Although if they would re-examine the law of gravity, it might help me get back to rollerblading.) So my opinions about running, like my opinions about what constitutes good music and what foods are edible, have stayed constant for decades. (The opinions are, in order: "it's the best exercise," "the song 'Sit Down' by James," and "Doritos.")

What has changed is my opinion about cross-training. Cross-training is where it's at. Nowadays, it's all about cross-training. To stay in shape, I can't just go running all the time, I've decided; I need to mix in some other activities, activities that may not be as good as running but which are valuable because they "work my body in different ways" and "exercise different muscle groups" and do all that other stuff that the doctor says when I've stopped listening because I'm still fixated on the part where he said I need to lose 40 pounds and I'm wondering if I should point out to him that I had my car keys in my pocket when I was weighed and that probably skewed things a bit.

So I've begun cross-training, taking some days off from running, and I've got to tell you, I love it. I love it mainly because of the different activities I can now count as "exercise" and consider myself a healthy person for doing. Here are the activities I mix in as part of my extremely strict cross-training regimen:

Playing basketball one-on-one against The Boy.

Playing "Police Bees."


Doing some sit-ups while I watch "The Daily Show."

and, most recently,

Taking The Babies! to the health club to play with them for a while because it was raining and I wanted to get out of the house and thought that the club would be pretty empty only it wasn't so we ended up just walking around the track but the boys got antsy and loud so the lady who was teaching a yoga class at that exact time on the area the track went around got on her little yoga-headset and said over the PA that the 'people on the track have to be quiet because we have 10 minutes left' so we gave up and got in the car and went for a drive instead.

That was my workout Thursday night, an integral part of my cross-training regimen. I have to say, I felt great at the end of it. I felt great because it was really a very low-impact workout and also because I hadn't actually heard Yoga Lady yell at us over the PA because to try to quiet down Mr F, I'd taken to swinging him around as I walked to make him laugh, and he was laughing, so I missed the announcement about just how much we were disturbing Yoga Lady; Sweetie had to tell me.
It should be obvious, too, that walking around a track while swinging a 35-pound toddler around is actually a very good workout. You can find out for yourself by buying my new exercise video: Walking Around a Track While Swinging A 35-pound Toddler Around... To The Oldies!.
If you order your copy today, I'll throw in a bonus DVD of me reading So Big! Opening and closing that pop-up at the end is almost as good as running.

Things You Don't Have To Worry About But We Do

Mr F and Mr Bunches are 10. Each night, when they go to sleep, we close their bedroom door and latch it shut with a hook. Their windows in their room are duct-taped shut with about four rolls of tape each. We have a baby monitor in there so we can hear if they wake up and do anything.  Each of the doors that lead to the outside of our house have a chain with a padlock on it and the keys are hidden where it would be hard to reach them.

Other doors to other rooms are also closed with a hook-and-eye, placed as high up as they can be.

"Don't you think that's excessive?" people sometimes ask us, as we wait to see if we can get some help for the very expensive cost of putting bars over the windows, and try to save for a therapy dog that would help keep Mr F from wandering away so quickly. We pay $30 a month for a GPS bracelet he wears so that if does ever get away again the police can quickly track him. We give updated pictures every now and then to our local police department.

"Don't you think that's excessive?" people repeat.

Last Sunday an 8-year-old boy with autism, nonverbal and fascinated with water (the way Mr F is too) got up sometime after 2 a.m., piled two bean-bag chairs up and unlocked the door to get out. He was last seen 1 1/2 miles from his house on a security video. Police found his pajama bottoms (he was wearing Captain America PJs) but haven't found him yet.

When we go to visit someone, one of us, Sweetie or I, follows Mr F around wherever he goes; only one parent gets to socialize at a time.

"Oh sit down," people say. "It'll be fine."

On New Year's Eve a 5-year-old boy with autism wandered out of his aunt's house during a party. Police found him dead in a canal, his tablet 30 feet away. He left barefoot and without a coat, with temperatures in the 20s.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Strongest Little Boy In The World

'People in debt don't start companies and innovate, don't take chances, don't claim political rights."

Wolf Richter: These Debt Slaves are the Government’s Largest Asset Class, and It Will Haunt the Economy for Years

Posted on June 16, 2016 by 
Richter’s post confirms what Matt Stoller foresaw in 2010 in A Debtcropper Society:
A lot of people forget that having debt you can’t pay back really sucks. Debt is not just a credit instrument, it is an instrument of political and economic control.
It’s actually baked into our culture. The phrase ‘the man’, as in ‘fight the man’, referred originally to creditors. ‘The man’ in the 19th century stood for ‘furnishing man’, the merchant that sold 19th century sharecroppers and Southern farmers their supplies for the year, usually on credit. Farmers, often illiterate and certainly unable to understand the arrangements into which they were entering, were charged interest rates of 80-100 percent a year, with a lien places on their crops. When approaching a furnishing agent, who could grant them credit for seeds, equipment, even food itself, a farmer would meekly look down nervously as his debts were marked down in a notebook. At the end of a year, due to deflation and usury, farmers usually owed more than they started the year owing. Their land was often forfeit, and eventually most of them became tenant farmers.
They were in hock to the man, and eventually became slaves to him. This structure, of sharecropping and usury, held together by political violence, continued into the 1960s in some areas of the South. As late as the 1960s, Kennedy would see rural poverty in Arkansas and pronounce it ’shocking’. These were the fruits of usury, a society built on unsustainable debt peonage.
Today, we are in the midst of creating a second sharecropper society….Today, the debts do not involve liens against crops. People in modern America carry student loans, credit card debt, and mortgages. All of these are hard to pay back, often bringing with them impenetrable contracts and illegal fees. Credit card debt is difficult to discharge in bankruptcy and a default on a home loan can leave you homeless. A student loan debt is literally a claim against a life — you cannot discharge it in bankruptcy, and if you die, your parents are obligated to pay it. If the banks have their way, mortgages and deficiency judgments will follow you around forever, as they do in Spain.
Young people and what only cynics might call ‘homeowners’ have no choice but to jump on the treadmill of debt, as debtcroppers. The goal is not to have them pay off their debts, but to owe forever. Whatever a debtcropper owes, a wealthy creditor owns. And as a bonus, the heavier the debt burden of American citizenry, the less able we are able to organize and claim our democratic rights as citizens. Debtcroppers don’t start companies and innovate, they don’t take chances, and they don’t claim their political rights. Think about this when you hear the calls from ex-Morgan Stanley banker and current World Bank President Robert Zoellick and his nebulous mutterings pining for the gold standard. Or when you hear Warren Buffett partner Charlie Munger talk about how the bailouts of the wealthy were patriotic, but we mustn’t bail out homeowners for fear of ‘moral hazard’. Or when you hear Pete Peterson Foundation President and former Comptroller General David Walker yearn nostalgically for debtor’s prisons.


I got this on Naked Capitalism.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Circus World Pictures: 1: The music, or, thanks to Circus World I now know Mannfred Mann didn't write that song everybody knows him for.

School's out now, but just before it ended we got to go on a field trip to Circus World in Baraboo.  

Baraboo used to be the home of the Ringling Bros. circus, which is one reason the museum is there. When Ringling Bros. joined with Barnum & Bailey, they became the largest circus ever. It's a pretty neat place, for a museum.

The first part of the museum is a demonstration of the various musical instruments the circus performer used.

I do not remember the names of them all, but they're a weird lot, making all that semi-strange circus music that you probably can recall.  The most interesting one was the one over on the right, hard to see here, that consisted of metal bars; a performer would chalk his hands and run them up and down the bars to play them. It's called a "lyre" or a "friction harp."  You can get a feel for how it sounded with this:

Then there was this: "Deagan Organ Chimes," or shaker chimes: They're played by shaking and rattling them.

They sound like this:

This is a Deagan "Una Fon." It's a musical instrument made of door chimes.  They're hooked to a keyboard so you play it like a piano. I would embed another video but all the ones I could find on Youtube were amazingly annoying, so I didn't. Imagine playing a song with lots of doorbells. Or go to Youtube and search for "Una Fon."  Be warned: The guy at Circus World played it well. People on Youtube do not.

I was not able to figure out who the guy in this poster was:

He was, apparently, "Chas. Le Noire," a musical phenomenon. Googling that gets no results that seem to relate to him or the circus at all.

The music was pretty enjoyable, overall; the guy who plays the instruments did a medley of a bunch of Walt Disney songs, for no reason I could discern, but it was interesting to hear the songs played on all these different instruments.  (Mr F did not like the music much; it was too loud, so he and I faded back a ways. Mr Bunches and Sweetie stuck it out a little better.)

It was also at Circus World that I learned a calliope is not pronounced "Cah-lie-oh-pee." That's the muse. The musical instrument is supposed to be pronounced cally-ope. The music guy said this, and me being me and me being American I thought man he's gotta be wrong no way that's true. So I looked it up, and it's mostly true. Wikipedia says there's been some disputes about how the word should be pronounced over the centuries, but it appears to have been settled (as so many things are) by Bruce Springsteen.

The calliope crashed to the ground.  What if 10,000 years from now Bruce Springsteen is remembered solely as the guy who finally resolved the debate on how to pronounce calliope? (And could we get him to let us all just call the monster Frankenstein?)

More pics in the future if I remember to do them.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Giving people fair health care or a living wage = Socialism. Giving people roads and schools = ...WHATEVER #TRUMP 'MERICA!!

American Illusion

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!