Friday, September 30, 2011

The Song of the Redeemed

By David Roth
©30th September, 2011

Just me.
Sitting on a pristine stretch of  sand
so stark and white when the sun peeks
from behind cottony puffs
of lead bottomed clouds
as to be composed of sugar.

An old handkerchief tied around my brow
to keep the salt laden sweat
from burning my eyes,
an ancient, well-worn Panama Jack
that’s a long way from Panama
and has long since lost its Jack
to shelter the pale, thin arch of my neck,
tattered denim shorts whose unequal legs
have as much to say about my life
as my words.

A lone pelican stares inquisitively
bobbing rhythmically in the gently lapping surf.
Black tipped, swallow-tailed gulls
sing an off key, harsh duet
as they circle my silence
waiting for a handout.

But for the gentle splash of encroaching tide,
rustling palm fronds,
and creation’s two most off-key singers,
I sit in silence pondering the what might have been
in another life, and another time.

But now.
I stand and lift my shaking palms to the sky
salt stings my eyes from tears of joy
as a soul, who days, weeks, years ago –
who really knows?
A prodigal returns
whose heart shouts the song of the redeemed
in words and melody only understood
by the blind now given sight,
the dead now brought to life
the captive now set free.
Free as the soul who one time wrote
“I once was lost, but now I’m found;
was blind, but now I see”
I, too can sing
of the freedom that severed the chains
that bound my soul to hopelessness
and let my spirit soar on eagle’s wings
with the song of a soul set free.

And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Revelation 5:9 (NIV)

Friday, September 23, 2011

May the Farcebook Be With You

It’s day three of my personal rebellion against the evil empire of Facebook (FB), and it’s leader, Darth Zuckerburg.  Permit me, if you will, to recap the events which have occurred up until now.
Wednesday morning I logged into FB to check my news feed, and it was gone.  In its place was something called ‘the ticker’ accompanied by the promise of more mischief.  I blogged about it, and considered dumping FB once and for all.
Thursday Darth Zuckerburg went live online to announce the release of his new and improved Evil Social Network, which resulted in the beginning of the Clown Wars.  Darth Zuckerburg (DZ – not to be confused with Dead Zone, although the resemblance is uncanny and the two are easily confused) boldly activated his com unit, holographic projector and light saber, and began to outline the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.  We would be able to spy on our friends, gather data on their viewing and listening habits, and plot the data on charts.  Every instance of personal security anyone has ever implemented to protect their FB data stream would now be displayed for all the world to see, stretching back, in some cases, to when FB really was just about networking with friends and the world was a kinder, gentler place.
Social networking was not as clumsy or random as a blaster; but rather an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Status Posters were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times... before the Empire.  Before the Ticker.
I did the inevitable.  I wrote another blog, deactivated my FB account and moved over to Google+ (g+) where I found a cold, dark planet ripe for colonization, evolution, growth, and best of all, in a galaxy far, far away from the one ruled by Darth Zuckerman and his evil empirical Partners, Timelines and Tickers.  Here there were neither Friends nor the archetypical Close Friends.  G+ has Circles.  And g+ for some unknown reason looks a lot like DZ’s new and improved FB.  Except g+ doesn’t suck while FB with its constantly changing alliances and annoyances sucks big time.
And today is day three.  I find I’m not suffering from withdrawal, and my anxiety faded quickly when I logged onto g+ and discovered it was just where I’d left it, looking just like it did when I put it to bed last night.  I still don’t know many people there, and I’m still exploring hidden passageways with my trusty swiss army knife and boy scout flashlight.  g+ has an EDIT button!
There is an interesting similarity I’ve discovered.  DZ listens to my complaints and concerns every bit as much on g+ as he did on FB, which is to say, not at all!  So I feel right at home.  Except for the mostly empty circles, that is, and the constant uneasy feeling that Big Brother is looking over my shoulder.  Then again, it’s only my third day here, and I gave DZ half a decade.
So shout it out, g+ers.  Can you hear me now?  I can hear you.
And may the Farce be with you  Or should that be, My the Farcebook Be With You!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


So – the rules say back up your statements with valid, verifiable, empirical data, engage in the process of codifying theories postulated from reproducible experimentation, and don’t make broad generalizations.  Naturally I’ll probably break most of those rules before my word count hits 500 words.  I will not tell you that 93% of the people who read this will not forward it, nor will I ask if you’re one of the 7% who will.  Those are made up numbers.  They are about as scientifically reliable as Obama’s economic recovery numbers.
Do you remember the PEANUTS comic strip in which Lucy is waxing eloquent through a list of ‘little known scientific facts’?  Brother Linus then asks Lucy how, if the aforementioned data are in fact ‘little known’ did she happen to come by the information?  “I make it up.” Is her smug reply.
Only about 7% of the world’s population is even aware that the other 93% is as clueless as a blind man judging the swim suit competition.  Yeah, I just made that up, but 93% of you will believe it because you will have read it on the internet, which, as we all know is never wrong, or sat least only 93% wrong 7% of the time.
Here’s my take on it.
It’s all about demographics.  I don’t have the empirical data to show you, but I’m willing to bet Zuckerman and ‘friends’ – friends in this instance being the deep pockets behind Facebook - spent far more money in the last twelve months researching demographics than they did in researching Facebook ‘improvements’.  That big overhaul you woke up to yesterday? (and by the way, the flashing traffic sign – photoshopped or not – is still the best one so far).  Hold on to your booty, boys and girls because in the words of the guy on late night TV hawking those razor sharp Ginsu ® knives, “But wait – there’s more.”  Facebook news reports yesterday said that the shock and awe makeover you woke up to was merely the beginning.  There is more to come.  A lot more.
Why, you ask?
“Because”, Karmac the Magnificent responds.  “Because I can.”
As is the case with this humble scribe, most of you who will actually read this are NOT Zuckerman’s demographic.  We who know that ‘you are late’ is not spelled ‘U R L8’ are not the Facebook target audience.  Facebook’s target demographic (sorry for the redundancy, but MS Office Word 2010 doesn’t list any synonyms for ‘demographic’ in its thesaurus) is roughly the 17-25 year old age bracket, with a reading comprehension level of about sixth grade.  That’s roughly the span from Junior in high school to second year Harvard Law.  After that the theory is that we’re too old and set in our ways to keep up with the more fluid creation Facebook has turned out to be.  Whether this is by design or happenstance doesn’t matter.  
Now, since I have not fallen into that imperial demographic for oh, a couple of weeks or so, Facebook’s designers and creators really aren’t too concerned about the prospect that  my demographic (old farts) might move on to greener pastures. My demographic is dropping like flies in a blizzard while theirs is reproducing like rabbits on Viagra. (can I sling them mixed metaphors, or can’t I?)
I have been a Facebook user almost since its inception.  I joined when it really was mostly college kids.  It looks nothing today like it did back then.  The problem is not the changes but rather the combination of the frequency of the changes, the scope of the changes, and the whole apparent mindset of Facebook’s owners.  Yes, it’s their bat and ball.  Yes it’s their park.  Yes it’s free to users.  But those things are true of other internet ventures as well, 97% of whom (there’s that bloody number again) give the appearance that they are at least pretending to listen to the comments, considerations and concerns of their user base whether it fits their demographic or not.  On the other hand, Facebook is an equal opportunity brick wall.  They don’t listen to their demographic either.
So for a while, at least, I’ll be giving Google+ the lion’s share of my social networking.  It has taken me several years to reach my towering plateau of 377 ‘friends’ so I don’t expect my Google Circles to inflate overnight.  And of course, there is a learning curve to consider, just as there is with Zuckerman’s newest experimental design.  The difference is that the only difference between Google+ when I went to bed last night and Google+ when I woke up this morning is that last night joining was by invitation only.  This morning, anyone can get in the pool and play.
That and I seriously do not expect Google+ to do the social network equivalent of migrating you from Windows 98 to Win7 in six month’s time.  Yes, I know Windows and Microsnot didn’t do that.  I’m making a feeble analogy to demonstrate both the complexity and rapidity of the FB changes by comparing them to the more elongated rollout of Microsnot’s operating system over the course of the last twelve years.  Facebook’s revisions have been as complex, but compressed into a much smaller window, as it were.  Not to mention that unless you were buying an entirely new computer, you had some small measure of input regarding when and how you would make the migration.
Around here, a bank is running a commercial in which this guy comes down for his morning cuppa, and is greeted by a woman and two teenaged girls.  “Who are you?” the man cautiously asks.  “We’re your new family,” is their cheerful reply.  The advert goes on to talk about your bank changing owners overnight and how when they do that, you’re sort of stuck with it, like it or move on.
Sort of like waking up, flipping on your computer, pouring yourself a cuppa, and seeing “Hi!  I’m your new Facebook!  No, you don’t have any say in the matter!  Ta-Ta!”
93% of us won’t care.
7% will shrug their shoulders and walk down the block to the store with the Grand Opening sign in its window.
And yes, I made those numbers up, too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't Panic

It’s only noon and I’m thoroughly confused.  That in and of itself may be a new record, but probably only if you don’t count the days in which I sleep until noon.  Although I think there may possibly be one or two days during which I slept until well past noon and somehow still managed to be thoroughly confused before noon, but I think all three of them had something to do with cross-Atlantic cloud skipping and time zones and stuff.  And it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re traveling supersonic, sub-sonic, ¼ impulse or peddling frantically to steer your two-person peddle-boat just fast enough to stay ahead of a forty-six story tsunami surge.

You somehow know it’s not going to get any better, just because.
I like words.  Use them all the time.  Wine them, dine them, stroke them, pamper them, gently massage them to see what hidden secrets they reveal.  When I’m finished with them, I slide them back into the file I keep for lonely, misunderstood, abused words.  I polish them up if I can, and only when they sparkle like the glitter of a cloudless  equatorial midnight sky do I dare release them back into the wild.  It’s my compulsion.  Given the choice of a five cent word or a twenty five cent word – I’ll take the two dollar word every time.  I’ve been accused of intellectual snobbery, arrogance and pomposity because of this.  Not true!  I just like the way words like supercilious roll off the tongue…or keyboard, as the case may be.
With that in mind, imagine my horror when I Googled “synonym for two seated manually powered fiberglass aquatic pleasure craft” and the best I could come up with  was ‘peddle-boat’.  Seriously, Google?  Peddle-boat is the best you can do?  Surely there must be something more sesquipedalian in nature in your expansive database!
Where was I.  Oh yes – confused.
A Facebook friend (is that now becoming an oxymoron?) posted a photograph of a sign-post in a construction zone.  Perched proudly at its pinnacle was the white bordered, bold lettered, red-faced octagonal command that all who arrive at this place must comply with the demand that they bring their vehicle to a complete STOP!  The problem with the sign is neither its placement, its erudite certainty, nor its resolute and apparent profundity, but rather the subset of instructions securely fastened in orderly precision beneath the big red lollipop.
Having successfully achieved the required cessation of motion, the vehicle operator is then directed, in order, one presumes, to not turn left, not turn right, not pull forward, and not back up.  The last two could also mean, assuming the Department of Transportation in cooperation with the Department of Redundancy Department has elected to incorporate duel meaning to the severely affixed signage, that the compliant vehicle operator may neither ascend into the stratosphere, nor descend into perdition, or a subterranean light rail transit tube, whichever comes first.  To avoid both confusion, and the potential problem of clutter resulting from multiple postings of bilingual signage, easy to understand, not to mention highly fashionable as well as universally implicit graphic symbolism was employed in the place of mere words, which can cause both confusion and duplication, not to mention redundancy.
I saw a similarly adorned signpost once outside the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, ostentatiously apprising travelers that the particular length of rebar reinforced concrete over which they traversed, involved the infinitely improbable passage along at least four different roads ( I-96, US 31 and two separate but equal county roads the names of which have not been released due to an ongoing federal investigation) while migrating simultaneously toward four diametrically opposed points of the compass.
As this sighting occurred back in the days when you used cameras to snap photographs and cellular phones (then called either car-phones because they were hard-wired into the automobile’s electrical system) or mobile phones because they were hard-wired to a steamer trunk full of batteries, semi-conductors, wires, and at least one small, collapsible cell tower partnered with a booster chip to increased antennae performance, and require the enslavement of three men and a boy to actually be mobile, there is no photographic evidence to verify the details of my story. 
In addition to all that, because my factory installed OEM flux capacitor was uncharged, the cloaking device inoperative, and the impulse drive offline ( having something to do with negative ion radiation interacting duplicitously with the dilithium crystals while idling precipitously close to a tear in the space-time continuum), it is also possible that what I encountered was in fact a parallel dimension brought about by a collapsing temporal rift, and none of what we witnessed that morning was actually related in any way to our slice of reality.  Then again, it was Grand Rapids, so who really knows?
To further complicate things, and in no small way add to my confusion, my Blackberry is buzzing, a frantic array of red and green lights are flashing in the upper right hand corner just above a small speck of something similar to but not exactly like salty beer residue, and the message screen display says “Don’t Panic”.  As if!
So there you have it.  I’ve explained it as best I could, and I am still confused!
Perhaps I’ll panic after all. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stuff I Learned Watching TV

Years ago (late 1960’s) there was an episode of the original Star Trek series called “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”.  Standard fare – Kirk et al are transported to the 20th century, sighted by Air Traffic Control, possible time paradox ensues, Scotty and Spock fix it, things return to their normal order in the space-time continuum, blah, blah, blah.  That’s kind of what this is.  In a strange and convoluted sort of way.
I started writing this around noon yesterday.  By 4:00 PM I had actually written only one single incomplete sentence.  We had company coming, I had to do my kitchen magic, post culinary ritual niceties followed, then Mary, Psyche, bedtime, and next thing you know it’s the crack of noon, Monday.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view and sense of the absurd, my original idea still works, if somewhat ‘tomorrowed’ by the seldom witnessed and oft maligned ‘yesterday’ effect.  Yes, you just witnessed the creation of a new action verb.  Please feel free to use it, albeit sparingly.  The butterfly effect of spontaneous word conception on the space-time continuum has not been thoroughly investigated.  Besides which, it could have just as easily been ‘yesterdayed’ by the persistent presence of the random ‘tomorrow’ effect.  I’m pretty sure it’s the first one, but not so much as to stop the presses over at the American Heritage Dictionary warehouse. 
Now, where were we?  Today is yesterday’s tomorrow, tomorrow’s yesterday, and in Sydney it’s sometime Tuesday.
I’ve been around TV since it was a small, snowy round B&W picture that got Million Dollar Movie weeknights, cartoons Saturday morning, and Boxing Saturday night.  Our TV had rabbit ears, picked up two stations broadcasting from New Your City – badly, I might mention (or not, depending on how the paradox resolution works out – quantum physics was never my strong suit) and Television giants mighty mouse, Captain Kangaroo, and Romper Room ruled the air.
Even then they lied to me on Children’s television!  Bunny Rabbit faked being mute, Clara-bell was really Captain Kangaroo in drag, and the Romper Room lady couldn’t really see me in the magic mirror (or could she – it would explain a lot).  Mighty Mouse sang opera, but was impervious to Kryptonite.  The coolest word in my vocabulary was ‘invulnerable’.  I learned it watching The Adventures of Superman.  I had no idea what it meant and almost always pronounced it wrong, but it was a cool word, and I was it, or it was me, or you are we and we are all together, or something like that.
The Crawling Eye really creeped me out, and The House On Haunted Hill even entertained out mice.
I would go on to learn many things from TV.
Never, ever be the sixth man in the landing team or away mission, and never, ever be the only member in the aforementioned  excursion wearing a red shirt.  Unless your rank is above Ensign.  That affords you some measure of protection.
Even forty years ago, television evangelists/faith healers wore white suits and a red carnation.
Always have a good make-up artist when participating in a presidential debate, but especially if you are the Guinness Book of Records world title holder in the “5:00 Shadow” category.  
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was better than Valium.
Given enough time, someone will come along who makes even William Shatner’s thespian skills look positively stellar!
You can be famous for being famous.
Kristin shot J.R. and Bobby was in the shower the whole time.
Magnum still looks good with that cheesy moustache.
Ever since Dan Rather went off the ranch in his quest to be ‘the most trusted man in America’ a position widely perceived to have been retired along with his predecessor at the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite, Television news people are more concerned with acting out their stories than reading their script.  Most should absolutely never under any circumstances ad-lib their report, and I honestly do not know how standing in front of a closed 7-11 in the middle of the night, hours after a scene has been cleared, ‘broadcasting live’ adds anything to the report.
The most vital weapon in the arsenal of a presidential candidate is a good spin doctor.
No one in the history of late night television understood how to recognize and milk a running gag on live TV like Johnny Carson, and no one was better at salvaging a badly written monologue than Johnny.  Sorry Dave, Jay, Conan, Craig, and all you other wannabees, but Johnny was and remains to this day ‘da man’ on late night TV.
She may be 60-something, white-haired, wrinkled, chain smoking and overweight, but Sharon Gless still looks good.
And finally, if I were ever really in trouble, I’d want Abby, Temperance  and Penelope to handle the forensics, Olivia, Brenda and Kensi to question the witnesses, Divya, Allison and Beverly standing by with the first aid kit, and Ziva, Fiona and Hetty to have my back.