The Timothy McVeigh Church

August 30, 2010

As could almost be predicted religious intolerance fuels the so called discussion over a mosque which may be built in lower Manhattan; a few blocks away from the site of the September 11th terror attacks. I wonder if a similar outbreak of intolerance would occur should a Christian (whatever that may mean these days) church decide to locate a new place of worship close to the site of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City? In as much as the September 11th terrorists represented Islam, one could say the same thing about Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators representing American Christianity.

I don’t remember the last time that I was ever really hungry and was not sure if my hunger would ever be satisfied. After a long bike ride of two or three hours I do certainly experience hunger. But I know that it will not last long. A meal is waiting somewhere. I will likely make it myself. There is even a kind of luxury in enjoying the hunger knowing that it will be sated. A rich mans aperitif, perhaps.

 But I can remember one occasion when I needed food and it did not appear for another ten hours. I was seventeen, at a Cadet Camp, where the evening stew had been made inedible by a stupid mistake. Our officers decided we could go without until breakfast. Even them my anger and disappointment at not having food was modified by the knowledge that when we awoke we would break out stores and eat again.

 Recalling that anger and temporary inconvenience is the only clue I have to what daily life is like for a large section of the world’s population, our brothers and sisters. Many of them right here in the U.S.A.; right here in my town.

 My town, which is in the middle of fields and fields of fruit and vegetables in a fertile river valley, has whole families that are hungry.

 Almost every week I am reminded in newspapers, or magazines, or online news feeds, that there is more than enough food for every single person on the planet. A simple question has a simple answer. What stands between the people and the food? It is greed, fueled by ignorance, fear and politics; the politics of racism and nationalism. And all these become so much more explosive when we throw on the gasoline of religious intolerance.

 Just as there are people; I have met some; who bluntly say that the poor deserve to be that way because they won’t work or wont shape up or somehow be like them, there are people who say that there will always be hungry people and that there is nothing to be done. It is almost like saying that it is their own fault that they find themselves in this predicament.

 I won’t go into the profound levels of ignorance and false pride from which these statements of pompous self righteousness derive, but I will say that they occur with disgusting frequency, and I fear it is rising. One only has to listen to the blare of hate radio masquerading as opinion to understand that we are being told to distrust everyone, that we are being manipulated in much the same way as the populations of some European countries were 75 and 20 years ago.

 When the radio demagogues start asking you to wear special clothing as you seek out this month’s scapegoat for purging you will know that this country has finally begun to flush itself down the toilet of history as another failure at a faster rate than many predicted.

 And the hungry will increase.

If I Said That Tea..

August 26, 2010

I note that there is a Tea Poetry contest going on somewhere close to me. I wont enter (it costs $10!) but I will post my little verse here.

If I say that tea
Is the tannic heart of me
It cannot quite describe
My momentum to imbibe

From a very early age
I could not turn a page
Of comic, paper, book
Unless to char I’d look

In my raucous youth
When beer stole my tooth
At times of hormone stress
Brook Bond dissolved the mess

Now in early dotage
Tea is preferred potage
Taste and time are meshing
Nostalgic and refreshing

A post mortem of me
Would reveal mostly tea
Layers of cabernet
A garland of chardonnay

I don’t know about you, but I am becoming increasingly suspicious that people are lying about their prowess with and mastery of technology. It is easy to do when you consider how fast the stuff proliferates. Every day a herd of geeks in a sealed room in San Jose or Bangalore produces another acronym for a perhaps useful piece of computer software. Every day another must have application (no, I wont say app.) is born like an ork out of dirt and code. And every month another black box with a screen is blasted out to our attention as the very thing that will keep us…connected. But connected to what?  That is another question we can deal with in a non-threatening easy to read analog post doctoral thesis in another life on my home planet, Sanity.

The likelihood that any single person you may meet is au fait with a large part of the whole whirling and evolving field, or even one hundredth of it, is pretty darn small. Even Steven Hawkinge has doubts. You think Bill Gates knows how to program his house? So it becomes a piece of cake (or bagel, or whole wheat, or gluten-free cracker) to waffle on about any single part of it, real or imagined, with not much fear of opposition, or even partially sensible debate. There is so much room for ignorance to roost.

In our superficially polite society we generally wait until the speaker is out of range to voice any doubt on the veracity of his or her claims. None of wants to be the one who pipes up with the embarrassing observation that one amongst us may be a….charlatan! None of us wants to risk the collective eyes of our not so tightly knit circle of friends (sic) and acquaintances to focus in a femtosec on our plainly depleted database. Those friends whose intelligence you have often queried. Oh come on…you know you did…And so once again, the stage is clear for the delivery, the test flite, of the latest techno-fable.

And this is why we need children. I can tolerate the raised eyebrow, the exasperated sigh, the audible groan, from my children when I am asking them again to explain the difference between this format and the other, and why this should prevent me from again enjoying a movie I once watched effortlessly with a choc-ice in one hand and another technologist in the other in a darkened room.

My children won’t lie to me about their technical knowledge. They know that despite the fact that I, have either used or owned computers since 1967, actually saw and touched a working analog computer (as big as an Airstream trailer, not including the A/C unit cooling it), have sold highly technical products costing hundreds of thousands of dollars around the world and New Jersey, can really tell you what is a semiconductor, and why electrons may or may not do what we have said they often do; they know that I cannot use the I-Pod they gave me for Christmas.

But it is the rest of us that need to stop pretending that we are keeping up with developments; especially when many of those ‘developments’ have little or no practical use in our daily lives. So we must rid our conversations of these close to insane and flatly untruthful claims to expertise we do not own about technology, easy at is seems and get back to making insane and flatly untruthful claims about golf, politics, religion and the real way to make a decent Manhattan cocktail.