I Ain’t No Poet

Seriously … I haven’t the foggiest idea how to write poetry.  I don’t know the first thing about poetry.  I do know I like Rilke, Plath and Frost.


Lightning –
it flashes on my skin;
glows on my flesh
as I fall to the ground.

I am drenched, I am wet;
and yet as I fall I am transformed.
Once I was a bead falling through
the sky.
Now I am ashen and thick.
I have mixed with the Earth,
where always I return in utter solicitude.

There are so many around me,
falling to the ground and soaking through.
And when I merge with another,
we become indistinguishable.
Always the same.
Always falling.
But still landing alone.

It grows warm and moist –
the air is thick.
I am again transformed,
and the cycle begins again.

I am like rain.
I am water.
Ever transforming.
Forever falling.


At least you have a job!

The Australian Aborigines are an interesting tribe – still in existence today, and rich with a uniqueness beyond what is comprehend-able to even some Americans.  But they can serve as a model to us in so many ways – in their familial interactions; in their way of life and survival; and, most importantly, in their dreams. For the Aborigines of Australia are a tribe whose culture has evolved to accept their dreams as reality, and their waking life as only a bridge between dreaming states.  Their culture, their belief systems – their entire way of thinking – is based in the land of the sleeping; in the land of their dreams.
We can learn from this in a variety of ways.  Anthropologically speaking, we can study this as a uniqueness to the Aboriginal culture.  Psycho-sociologically we can look at it in terms of the way the society works, and how its peoples develop as functional human beings.  Yet there is another way that we can study this fantastical dreamland the Aborigines hold so literally, and that is in how it explains our own behavior.
The dream reality of the Australian Aborigines began simply with a statement or two, something along the lines of “I had a dream, it seemed so real,” or “I saw that in my dream, and here it is!”  And as generations passed, more and more stock was put into the statements that were made about the dreams of the people in the tribe.  From an evolutionary standpoint, it took only a few generations before these statements of what happened in the dreams of the Aborigines became a commonplace understanding that the dreams, themselves, were in fact reality.  As unintentional as it may seem, over time the Aborigines engaged in what we would call a social indoctrination.
In an example perhaps closer to home, we can consider Pavlov’s dogs.  This famous experiment has been shown to prove the effect of conditioning on even the most irrational of animals.  Hear the bell ring and get a treat so many times, this eventually means to the dog that the sound of a bell means a treat.  The very definition of “ringing bell” became “treat.”  Pavlov’s dogs is not only a psychological lesson, it too is an example of a social indoctrination.
For the Australian Aborigines, the definition of dream morphed and (in the same way as Pavlov’s dog’s) took on an all new meaning.  By calling this a social indoctrination, we signify that the society in which we speak of has (intentionally or unintentionally) conditioned itself to believe something as an absolute truth.
So what is strikingly disturbing about all this is that we are in a time of American culture when rapid modernization is imposing all new meanings on seemingly everything we have come in contact with for years.  What makes it disturbing, though, is that because of the modernization (and because of the rise in technology and the subsequent availability of information), definitions and ideas no longer require entire generations to take hold.  Sometimes it is only years or months.  Social indoctrination in American culture is happening at an unprecedented rate.
A few days ago, my husband and I were scheduled to meet his parent’s for dinner, but something came up for him at work and we had to cancel.  He called his parents to cancel, and later told me that he was really too busy to talk, but that his mother said “well, at least you have a job!”  Innocently, she was trying to be supportive and understanding – especially in an economic time where so many are unemployed and scraping to make ends meet.  In reality, though, what my mother-in-law did was the same thing that the Australian Aborigines did with their dreams, and that Pavlov did to his dogs with the treats – she merely reinforced the changing belief in what it means to be employed in America.  She unintentionally contributed to the social indoctrination of modern American employment.
Twenty, fifty, one hundred years ago, to be employed in America meant to be doing your duty to society.  To be employed meant to be a functional, productive and worthwhile human being.  To have a job in America was a right – which everyone who was capable was endowed with.  To work in America meant being a skilled and honorable individual.  And Americans who worked were treated by society and their employees accordingly – they were compensated, given benefits, given dignity, rewarded, and appreciated.
Today what it means to work has morphed for American society, which is a tragic turn for it appears to only perpetrate the problems between the classes – and commits a new social indoctrination, that work in America is really a rare commodity.  Today in America, when someone says “I have a job,” they mean that they are able to scrape by and pay their bills for another month.  When someone makes reference to their employment, they are talking about the thing they feel lucky to have, since so many people don’t have them.  When a person works in America today, their work is no longer a product of their honor and worthiness – it is something a company has graciously allowed them to do instead of someone else.  It is one resume point more than all the other qualified people.  Most alarming is that when an employer says “you’re hired,” they mean “we’ll give you this now, but just remember we’re doing you a favor.”  And in America today, no one considers working a right – it is a privilege.  “At least you have a job” is a statement of relief which does nothing more than reinforce the new belief of work in America, rather than save it.
How long will it take, though, before this idea is permanently ingrained in our minds as absolute truth, just as the dreams for the Aborigines and the treats for Pavlov’s dogs?  With the Aborigines, stock is now placed in the dreamworld as if it is reality.  If we continue to tell ourselves that to work is a privilege, and that to have a job is nothing more than a relief – in the blink of an eye we will truly believe in nothing more.  Our goals and dreams will become for us matters of luck.
Say there is a ten year old boy and he is training for a bike race by riding thirty minutes a day.  One day he is out training and falls in the road while a car is coming.  Fortunately, the car notices him and swerves, pulls over and says “boy, kid – you sure are lucky!”  From then on, though, the boy no longer wants to train, for even children are rarely willing to try their luck anymore.  So he drops out of the race and quits riding his bike altogether.  If we continue to consider ourselves lucky that we have work in America, eventually we will stop trying to achieve our goals.  Eventually we will truly believe that we are just lucky – not talented, skilled, or honorable.  Just lucky.
That we aren’t really expressing a right when we work, or that we aren’t really honorable or worthwhile; but instead that we have been done a favor and likely aren’t even deserved of that – that we are lucky – is a grave position to take.  We are at a critical juncture – for the social indoctrination of America relative to work has not truly become fact for its people.  The definitions may have molded, but it is not a complete reality just yet.  But it is the very fabric of the American experience to work and to take pride in that work – whatever it may be.  If we do not take pride in our work, though; and we never strive to achieve more for fear we will lose our streak of luck, it will not only be the definition of work in America that will have changed, but the very definition of being an American.  Are we just a mass of people struggling to survive?  Struggling to be the lucky ones this time?  Or are we people who are goal-driven, who know we are worthy and know we deserve better; people who will always strive for better and for more?  This is a systemic problem and the implications are great – but as long as there is an attitude that we really cannot do better, we will be doomed to evolve to truly believe this forever.

Dear Lars,

It is very possible that last night I experienced the worst film ever made.  It was long, it was boring, and it made absolutely no sense.  It was filled with hideous imagery and contained not one logical causal connection in its actions.  The shots were done horribly; and most importantly it made post-modernism (an otherwise acceptable genre) seem just plain stupid.

Dear Lars:  please stop making bad films.  Sincerely, The Misanthropic Housewench.
It was Dancer in the Dark that my husband and I were watching – late at night, in bed.  I was looking for a tear-jerker, and my husband thought that for sure this would get the waterworks flowing.  But within a few scenes of this film – which had so much potential to be good – I was flashing back to another horrendous viewing experience months prior in which I was forced to watch a film vaguely reminiscent in its oddities, that being the Von Trier classic Dogville.
Dear Lars:  please, please, please stop making films in which the storyline is completely neglected in favor of an attempt to be avante-garde.  Sincerely, The Misanthropic Housewench.
What Von Trier seems to be doing is wonderful – he challenges the viewer to look differently at the aesthetics of film; he raises thematics that many filmmakers have not ventured into for fear of losing widespread support; he questions the traditionalism with which film continues to take – decades after postmodernism has taken a forefront in independent filmmaking.  But what Von Trier also does while doing all this is spread himself thin with abstractions to the point where he loses any shred of good-ness through the entire course of his films.
Dancer in the Dark is a story of a young woman who brings her son to America from the Czech Republic in the 1960’s for an eye operation.  She has a degenerative eye disease that is steadfastly leading to blindness, and her son will need an operation that only the American doctors and paychecks can provide.  So she works in a plant, lives in poverty, scrimps and scrapes on everything; all the while never telling anyone of her disability for two reasons:  (1) so that she can continue to work for the money she needs for his operation; and, (2) so that the son does not find out.

Dear Lars:  please stop casting Bjork in your films.  Sincerely, The Misanthropic Housewench.  
But Selma (the main character – played by none other than Bjork) needs to escape from this reality of impoverished conditions and so has to escape by means of daydreaming that her entire life is a musical.  In doing this, she ends up causing a problem at work which she gets fired for; followed by her character committing a number of ridiculous acts that culminate in her getting arrested for murder.  In short, Selma escapes from reality to a point that (in the end) only hurts her son more as a result of of her ultimate stupidity.
If Lars Von Trier was going for frustration in this film – he got it.  One cannot help but watch this film and question – “what kind of a mother is this?”  How concerned can Selma possibly be about her son if she cannot even stop daydreaming long enough to do her job right?  How concerned about his eyesight is she – in the end – if she makes decision after decision that ends in tragedy?  Selma ends up murdering her landlord because he steals her money and will not give it back  – the money she had worked so hard to save for her son’s eye operation.  But in murdering her landlord, she only does her son harm.  From this point on in the film, Selma makes one decision after another that can only lead the viewer to say – “she is not a good mother by any stretch of the imagination – she is nothing more than selfish and stubborn and insane.”
Dear Lars:  if you are going to make a film, please give your characters at least half a brain to think with. Sincerely, The Misanthropic Housewench.
It is a downward slope for Selma.  When she is on trial for the murder of her landlord, all the evidence comes out against her because she had been hiding her disability.  But when she is put on the stand and has an opportunity to redeem herself, she sits there like a complete dolt.  She answers complex questions with simple “yes and no” answers.  She does not explain herself.  And in the ultimate of offenses, when asked why her landlord stole her money, she says “I promised I wouldn’t tell.”  She is a complete and utter moron.
But it gets even worse.  Selma is given an opportunity to appeal and finds out that the money she saved for her son was going to be used for the attorney.  So she says she does not want to appeal and, instead, will accept her death sentence.  All the while, though, she is only concerned that her son will find out he has a degenerative eye disease.  She says that her principle concern is him finding out about that prior to being able to have his surgery – because “it will cause him worry to know he has an eye disease, and the worry will make the eyes worse and the operation will not work.”  So, in turn, she takes the death sentence to make sure her son has not a care in the world.  
Here is where I must ask – during the course of making this film, did Lars Von Trier ever consider the stupidity of this premise?  Selma wants her son to have no worries so his eyes do not get worse, so she accepts a completely unjust death sentence?  I am not sure about Mr. Von Trier, but I know for a fact that if my mother was sentenced to death when I was 12 year old, this would result in a lot more stress, strain and worry than the simple knowledge of a correctable, degenerative eye disease could ever cause.

Dear Lars, please stop destroying postmodern filmmaking.  Sincerely, The Misanthropic Housewench.
I can see that if Von Trier was going for a postmodern and surreal landscape in Dancer in the Dark, he would try to combine the avante-garde with a more untraditional style of filmmaking.  This would be wonderfully put together if only his storyline had a little more cohesion to it.  Or, conversely, none at all. Where Lars Von Trier errs in this film, though is when he gives the illusion or intention of cohesion, but ultimately no underlying theme at all.  It is all or it is none – there is no middle.  The viewer is left confused – is this the story of an insane woman, deluded with reality?  Or is this the tale of a loving mother who only wants the best for her son?  Is this a tale of injustice in the world?  Or is it a story of the lower class?  All these themes are introduced, and yet none are fully developed to allow the viewer to really know what is going on.  Even combining them could have been done in a better way – one in which the viewer left the film with an actual emotional response, rather than just a frustration over the mix of emotions and ambiguity of the storyline.  If not this, then Von Trier could have had no cohesion to the film.  He could have made his point quite well if only he worried less about Selma’s dramatic speeches about her son, and more about the aesthetics of a postmodern film.  
Dear Lars Von Trier, Please understand that while postmodernism is intended to enhance the subjectivist experience, there is still an objectivity in the world that your viewer needs to grasp in order for your point to get across.  You, yourself, have outlined “rules” in filmmaking, and while it is commendable to break out beyond the rules, you still must appeal to the needs of those who want very much to enjoy your films.  Ironically, by trying to enhance the subjective, you completely alienate your viewing subjects.  Sincerely, The Misanthropic Housewench.

For a little more Von Trier entertainment:

Can we be friends?

Recently I joined a Facebook group, titled “The more Facebook friends you have, the less friends you have in real life;” and it brought up a relevant concern we – the Facebook Culture – have:  are we becoming less social as a result of our social networking?

Because of our rapidly worsening addiction to our technologies, it seems the 21st century will be the time in which many of our universal values as people will be forever realigned to fit out technological needs.  For example, we no longer consider people’s privacy the way we did even just thirty years ago.  Further, we consider ourselves at liberty to say on the Internet anything we want (because after all: it does not hold the same accountability saying the same thing would in person, or in print).  And at the heart of this is the reassessment of what we consider to be the case when we say “friendship.”

What Qualities Must A Friend Have?

Traditionally, a friend necessarily had to exhibit the following qualities in order to be considered friend material:

  1. A desire for what is in one’s best interest
  2. A sense of sympathy and empathy
  3. Honesty in the face of all circumstances, including adversity
  4. Understanding
  5. Compassion
But can we still consider our friendships, today, to exhibit all of those qualities?

For one, the desire for what is in one’s best interest seems to have been eliminated in an age where the economy has moved us back to a state-of-nature-type/ dog-eat-dog world.  More specifically, as a result of the recession economy limiting jobs, and technological advancements rendering many worker’s skills obsolete, we now have to “do what it takes” to keep our jobs and make a living.  As a result of this, it is statistically improbable that all or most of one’s friends can be considered to actually desire what is in our best interest – in fact, we can only assume at this point it is quite the opposite.  The work-aday-world has taken a position of pitting us against each other, which means that many of our friends may love to have dinner with us, but would take our job in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself.

To further this, though, what seems to have evolved in recent years is the more passive version of the dog-eat-dog friendship, which lies in what each can do for the other.  Friendships in the 21st century must serve some sort of mutual benefit, or they cease to exist.  A friend of mine once looked at an old friendship with a former coworker I had and saw that I got nothing other than an occasional lunch partner out of it, and she said “why do you even hang out with her – you get nothing out of this!”  This statement can sum up the extent to which we are willing to align ourselves with others – more and more it is only insofar as the alliance serves a mutual purpose.  Our culture has made us so purposeful and driven, we can no longer just exist together happily.

More alarming than this, though, is the extent to which our friends refrain from being completely honest with us.  Somehow the Facebook Culture went from being honestly realistic to naively optimistic.  In an effort to be “supportive,” we have gone so far as to lie to ourselves and others about the realities of situations that present themselves to us.  Take for example this interaction that I just witnessed, on Facebook:

Friend X:  “Six more people laid off today; could I be next?”
Friend Y:  “Don’t worry!  Everything will work out for the best!!”
Friend Z:  “Yah, girl – they’re just eliminating the people that don’t matter!”

A real friend, rather than trying to offer empty conciliatory words, would be honest with themselves and the situation, and offer the friend real advise:  it doesn’t look good; don’t panic, but take this as a sign to look for a new job.  Friends today are more interested in this naive optimism, which is only supported by the fantastical environment our friendships have moved to – the virtual.

Social Networking – Social Ostracizing

For in the virtual world, we can craft of our friendships what we wish.  We can have fake friends, fake lives, false identities and false values.  On the Internet, it is no holds barred – because it is not in the flesh that we present ourselves, but in a copied, molded and edited version of our selves.  This is how we have entirely changed our set of values, for they are now a carbon copy of what we want, rather than what we actually are.

So our friends no longer hold the same qualities as they once did; one, for example, is in the friendships that we do not even really have.  For example, if I were to look at my Facebook friend’s list, or my Twitter followers icons, I would have to argue that at least three-quarters of them never have had any personal contact with me – and likely never will.  To further this, could I look at all three hundred and thirty five of these people and know, for certain, that if I was in a bind I could call them; of if I need an honest opinion they would give it to me?  Absolutely not.  It is only in a handful of those people that I can find the traditional qualities of a friend, but I am only one of the few in the Facebook Culture who can truly admit this.  If this were not the case, then they would not be referred to as “friends,” – to call them that under the traditional definition of the term is an outright lie.

And it is alarming how much more time we spend on these virtual, false friendships than on our real life relationships.  The Pew Report cites 56% of adult Americans have now gone mobile with social networking sites, with 49% of adult Americans admitting to visiting social networking sites from a cellular device at least once per day.  To further this, 17% of adult Americans claim that it is “very important” for them to be able to post and view posts on Facebook while away from home or work.  What is so alarming about these statistics is the fact that these adult Americans are out and about – living their daily, social lives; yet, all the while they are escaping by wireless technology to a place not social in any sense of the term.

How many times have you been at dinner with a friend, or a loved one, and had them interrupt your conversation to post a Facebook status, or respond to an email?  Or how often have you seen people texting in Twitter updates, because they have no real people to text?  It is alarming that our values of friendship have evolved to what they are today; but to have taken the next step to ostracizing ourselves from the real world because of an obsession with a virtual, social network seems an outright criminal offense to the very fabric of our human experience.

Why Facebook can be bad

I happened upon something on Facebook the other day – a “Fanpage” that one of my friends had become a fan of, likely without thinking.  Whereas the majority of Fanpages consist of fanships such as “When I was a kid I used to blow on video games to make the work,” and “I bet this Pickle can get more fans than Nickleback,” this page was different:  it was a page devoted to single dads in California who are dealing with the court system.

California Fathers With Child Custody is the name of the Fanpage, although upon further inspection you learn that the man who started this (and one can only assume, the majority of his fans) does NOT actually have custody of his child.  The page consists of the basic layout, with a notes page being the only real explanation for the page or its purposes.  Contained within is one solitary note as follows:

 Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 12:02am
Welcome to our space on the internet for dads to chat with other dads, This site is meant to add help and surport for new fathers going through the battle and navagating through California’s broken legal system.

I have found that while California states its a non gender state in relation to child custody. B ut the system has been bias towards awarding the female custody regardless of how bad she or her family is.

I am now in a fight to save my son, Save him before he follows the family foot steps on his mom family. A brother currently on probation, and court ordered school. And a uncle thats a felon. Grand ma and Grand pa that are seperated but have a on again and off aain relationship.
This all goes down in a 3 bedroom home in Sacramaneto. The court system doesnt seem to care about this.

I drive 1000 miles a week to see my son. So I can be a disney dad as they call it. I get in california the right to father my son in malls and parking lots around sacramaneto. Does this work? No it does not.
A close person to me asked the other day. “why do you not have him in a stroller?” I repled ” I love him so much and that I see him so little that evey moment spent I want to be as close to him as I can.”

That made this person very upset. As it does make me upset as well. How can I be such a perfect dad, But have california legal system fail so bad to protect my son. To fail to keep him away from a family with such a poor track record of raise their own.

For this. I have made this page for all of us to stand togther.

Michael Manning

 People who cannot form simple, non-fragmented sentences do not deserve to have full custody of their children.  People who cannot even spell the capital city of their own state (Sacramento, Mr. Manning) do not deserve to have full custody of their children.  On the basis of education and ability to communicate effectively, I can see at least ten reasons why this man does not have custody of his child (if this is the way he presented himself in court, that is).

But it goes much further than the petty issues of proof-reading.  Someone who refers to himself as a “perfect dad” does not deserve to have custody of his child.  And this is why Facebook can be bad.

Facebook can be bad because every Tom, Dick and Nobody who wants to put together a Fanship of people banding together under some cause, can and will.  Facebook can further be bad because every person in the world stupid enough to “fan” this drivle, and gullible enough to believe it, now has information that is not only wrong, but dangerous.  Taking Mr. Manning and his “California Fathers” page for exemplory purposes only, this man is trying to band together men that do not have child custody (under the supposition of those that do), and to send out information that is – case in point – false.  

In Mr. Manning’s case, he goes on a rampage about his ex-wife who has a “dysfunctional” household (so he says), how he has to drive 1,000 miles to see his son in a mall, etc. etc. – between the spelling mistakes, fragmented sentences and typographic errors, those of us wise enough to see through it all are exposed to Mr. Manning’s unfortunate tale of how he was served justice.  If Mr. Manning chooses to live 1,000 miles away from his son, of course he will not have custody of his child, as the California Superior Court is inclined to award 50/50 custody, unless one of the parents proves that they are not deserved.  When the court makes a decision regarding custody, they do so after careful and meticulous investigation over what is in “the best interest of the child.”  If Mr. Manning has to see his son in “malls and parking lots,” this can only lead us to assume he has supervised visitation, which is reserved for the worst of the worst.  I find it highly unlikely that Mr. Manning is – as he puts it – “a perfect dad,” not only for the facts he presents in his Facebook rant, but primarily because no one is a perfect-anything.

This leads to the conclusion that Facebook can be bad because anyone that wants to can post this garbage on there, and everyone with only half a brain will buy into it.  And it can be worse than this unfortunate man who has had a rough time standing up to the legal system in California.  A few months ago, Geekologie posted a picture from someone’s Facebook page, where the kid’s sister had told their parents about him drinking, so he stole her “hook up list” and posted it for everyone to see.  I will admit that for a nanosecond this was funny, but to then consider that this list will be on the Internet forever (not to mention the immediate damage it can do to a person’s reputation) is worth considering.  Because anyone can post anything they like on Facebook (and just about anywhere on the Internet for that matter), people’s entire lives can be potentially ruined over a personal grievance.

Facebook can be bad because there is absolutely no control over it.  The only control there may be is the “report this post” link, but then the only people who truly look at these pages are the ones interested, who will rarely report but will take heart what is said – even if only subconsciously.  When I worked in politics, we always knew that the worst thing that could happen to your campaign was a negative attack.  Even if the attack is not true, there is always the lasting impression of the attack itself in people’s minds.  Thanks to Facebook (and the majority of the Internet), there is a virtual lasting impression of California Fathers, Geekologie’s Sister-Revenge, and every other ad hominem, half-cocked, useless posting out there.  On the other side of the coin is a more controlled Internet, but then we have sacrificed a certain level of our freedom to speech.  Facebook, Myspace, Twitter – the entire Internet – will never have any control over these useless, misinformed and often dangerous postings.  This is simply because whereas we can all recognize that there is a problem with such misinformation being out there, we always want to reserve the right to post it ourselves.

Why I decided to start a blog

I am pretty disgusted with the state of affairs that unfolds itself before my eyes on a routine basis.  An example of this could be as simple as when someone says to me “you know they say …” or, as complicated as trying to figure out just why the woman at Vons last week started banging on my trunk and screaming at me for absolutely no reason at all.

So I am a little misanthropic at times.  (I’m sure if I were to gauge just how much “at times” amounts to I would find that “at times” really means “at all times” … for now we will ignore that possibility).  But I’m fairly certain that it is with good reason.  I feel like I opened my eyes one day and the world had gone completely bonkers.  Education has been completely devalued, money has become the foundation of everything, and people just don’t seem to care about anything important.  And to make matters worse, no one seems to be able to take a joke anymore.  Where did humanity’s sense of humor disappear to?

I decided to start a blog because I thought it would be interesting to post things useful on the Internet, that people might learn or gain happiness from.  I find it disturbing that in this day and age, with the advances in technology, the sciences and education we have had, the majority of blogs in the world are for the purposes of telling old wive’s tales, posting endless photographs of young children (that pedophiles will immediately seek out), and spreading viral stories of no meaning and no consequence, all beginning with statements like “… you know they say…” (as if ‘they’ could even be defined, and ‘they’ had some miraculous position of authority and knowledge).  Even blogs for pure entertainment are more enlightening than the endless drivle that seems to plague the World Wide Web, more now since access to the Internet became a given and technology thus changed who we are as a people.

I also wanted to see how long it would take me to make enemies with people who grow offended out of how truthful I can be.  Einstein said that “whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”  How few are left who can thus be trusted in anything.