Category Archives: Social Commentary

What it says.

The Opioid Crisis, Solved

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. (Zabriskie is why it's a National Park.)
Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. (Zabriskie is why it’s a National Park.)

My week to rant, obviously.

Ah, the Sturm und Drang about opioids. All the finger pointing. All the acrimony! It’s the Doctors! It’s Big Pharma! Yeah, I suppose everything has something to add to the mix, but the underlying reason is more simple, and more personal. A lot of people are hopeless wimps!!!! On Monday I had a cyst excised from my back. Absent the Latin, that means that a surgeon cut it out with a sharp knife and stitched up the edges. It didn’t start hurting until about 3am  the next morning. I got up, took some aspirin, went back to sleep. After lunch yesterday it started hurting again. By evening I took some more aspirin. Then I took another dose of aspirin when I went to bed. I couldn’t lie on my back because of the sore spot. This morning, I woke up lying on my back! Whattya know? Pain gone. I’m told that later today I can take off the bandage and take a shower. Looking forward to that, I can tell you. The surgeon did prescribe a painkiller. Generic Percocet, a dreaded opioid, which, you’ll notice, I have not used.

Here’s the thing: it didn’t hurt all that badly in the first place! I mean, yeah, I had a sore spot in the middle of my back. I had to be careful leaning back in a chair, and I couldn’t sleep on my back for a night and a half. Woe is me! But, on a scale of 0 to 10 (which is how they rate pain in recovery rooms,) 0 is no pain at all, and 10, to me, is passing a kidney stone. I’d take Percocet, or anything offered, if I were passing a kidney stone (one was enough, believe me.) But, this sore spot on my back, at its worst, got up to maybe a 3. Mostly it was 1.5 to 2.0. For that, aspirin, if anything.* That being the case, I am forced to conclude that a lot of people either feel a lot more pain than I do, or that, as I wrote above, they are hopeless wimps!

Seriously, you need opium for a sore spot on your back? Ask yourself, does the pain prevent you from doing your job? Is it closer to, say, four broken ribs, or a mosquito bite? Sure, Pharma makes the stuff, and doctors prescribe it, but hopeless wimps take it for pain that doesn’t need it! Holy cats, folks, that’s the answer! Want to solve the opioid crisis? Don’t take the stuff!**

Steve’s Live From Las Vegas: the world’s problems solvled in a few easy to read paragraphs!***

 

* Aspirin gets a bad reputation, but it’s a lot safer than any other painkiller. It may give  you an ulcer, and if you eat eighty regular pills, it might kill you. Tylenol will kill you with as few as 10 pills. Opium messes you up completely. Ibuprofen can hurt your heart, Meloxicam eats your stomach wholesale. Aspirin also works against fevers and body aches. It’s never bothered my stomach.

** Don’t comment! Don’t write! I know, some pain needs opium to be survivable. I’d take anything to make the pain of passing a kidney stone go away. But opium for a sore spot on your back? Really?

*** Since you believe this, contact me for information about a bridge I have for sale!

Being Considerate And Other Anachronisms

White Buffalo -- Not So Rare in Williams, Arizona
White Buffalo — Not So Rare in Williams, Arizona

The bison are at Bearizona on the East side of town on Route 66.

I recently commented on a comment on a friend’s Facebook page, offering to start a discussion around what causes the rape culture in America. I have my ideas, others have theirs. I hoped that some like-minded individuals could possibly brainstorm some things that might be done to help make sexual assaults less and less common, if not eliminated altogether. What I got was accused of “mansplaining,” whatever that means. Here’s a hint: just because a man explains something, it isn’t “mansplaining.” And I wasn’t offering an explanation, but a hypothesis. I tried defending myself once, and got answered again with name calling and invective. I posted that I didn’t allow anyone to slam women in my home, nor men neither, and read the reply that I was “okay with dissing women on the Internet.” My last post was that I have never done that, and I haven’t. Everything I’ve ever posted is still out there, somewhere, so anyone who cares enough can check for themselves. And, I am pissed about that incident, but of course I literally can’t argue with those people. And that brings me to the theme of this post.

Stating your positions in a way that cannot be argued against isn’t all that difficult. Books have been written about how to manipulate the public discourse, after all. Many blame the current administration in DC for the coarseness of our national conversations, but that doesn’t explain why some apparently anti-trump, avowedly feminist individuals, are using the same techniques. My hypothesis is that boomers are responsible, but that really doesn’t matter. What does matter is what we can do to make things better. As I’m still pissed off, this may sound harsh,  but here are a few ideas:

  1. Everyone must remember that whatever they know or believe to be true is based upon only their own limited view of the world.
  2. That being the case, some humility is in order when offering opinions. No one has a monopoly on the truth.
  3. Arguing in a manner that can’t be refuted (literally) means that you can never learn anything new. Everyone has to simply relax and realize that their own answer may not be an answer at all for anyone else.
  4. If someone seems to oppose your views, talk to them rather than slamming them. You might be happily surprised that you were wrong about them.
  5. And, this is important, the world survived for eons without your input. It will go on for eons after you, and I, and everyone else, is no longer alive. Relax. You’re going to be okay, I promise.

Tomorrow is regular writing post day, and I’m going to write about how writers can help improve the world, because we certainly can. Check back in the morning!

POETRY

Anonymous Trick or Treater, Halloween Night, 2009
Anonymous Trick or Treater, Halloween Night, 2009

I was just listening to a playlist of Leonard Cohen, who was one of my favorite musicians back in the vicinity of 1970, more or less. Of the others I favored in those days, many covered Bob Dylan songs. Dylan and Cohen were, reportedly, mutual fans. Some years later I discovered the music of Bruce Springsteen. What these three composers have in common is top notch lyrics. That is, they are all excellent poets. Maybe that’s why I’ve never written any serious songs that were worth the trouble to sing: I’m a lousy poet. But, looking back, I see that I was certainly given the opportunity to enjoy a lot of great poetry. Dylan won a Nobel, of course, but Cohen’s lyrics grabbed me the moment I heard them. I don’t know who Suzanne was, but I’d have been happy to meet her. And, then this, from The Boss:

Beyond the palace hemi powered drones scream down the boulevard,
Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors while boys try to look so hard.
The amusement park rises cold and dark; kids are huddled on the beach in the mist.
I want to die with you, Wendy, on the streets tonight, in an everlasting kiss.

Not bad, huh?

I hope that the youth of this moment have some exposure to something as excellent. I was privileged, still am, to have lived when poems like these three wrote sold incredibly well. Everybody should be so privileged, don’t you think?

Fiction, I Wish!

Damitol
Damitol, the Key to Unlimited Happiness and Stuff

I promised a post about writing for this week. I remember that, but after the past weekend’s events in my city, I just can’t do it. Because I am royally pissed that this happened here, and that it happens anywhere in this country at all, after all the chances we’ve had to learn better. So, I am going to write about what I am upset about, and writing fiction will have to wait at least one more week. Some asshole shooting people out of a hotel tower is, unfortunately, not fiction at all. It’s all too real.

Before you read on, read this article from the Washington Post. It contains the names, and brief bios, of those killed Sunday night outside of Mandalay Bay. If you believe that free access to guns and ammunition is worth those people’s lives, you’d better damned well stand up, in public, look people in the eye, and state that flatly. Because you, and every sane human, knows that it isn’t. It isn’t worth it at all. I know Congress is full of scalawags who have been bought by various sources of cash, but anyone not in Congress has no excuse! We could stop this easily.

This particular incident was made worse by the shooter’s use of automatic weapons and hollow-point bullets. There is absolutely no use for hollow-point bullets in any context other than destroying human beings. There is no reason for them to be available outside of the military anywhere. You don’t need them to repel a home invasion, and you sure as heck don’t want to shoot your deer with one, unless you want deer hamburger with metal shards in it. That’s the first point: we sell any damn thing to anybody, and it’s a bad thing. So far, only a friend-of-a-friend is among the victims, but the week is young. I had a passenger yesterday for whom the brother of a friend was shot, as was his cell phone. Luckily, in his case it worked out, but an automatic weapon with expanding bullets does a lot more damage than is necessary for any civilian use. We can start by banning such things.

And an automatic weapon? Seriously? How many shots do you need to put into a deer? Or an intruder? And you mean to defend yourself against the United States Government? You mean that government with the mightiest military that the world has ever seen? That military? What makes you think they’d come shooting at you, anyway? If I were them, I’d just drop a bomb on your ass and be done with it. You got a defense against bombs, do you? Worrying about a government takeover is beyond silly. Hell, the reason you have the means to purchase your firearms has much to do with the way our government has, over the past centuries, enabled our prosperity and wealth. There is no civilian use for an automatic weapon. Ban them!

And finally, how about closing the huge loophole of private firearm sales? We tried in Nevada to do that, but so far all we have from the State of Nevada is excuses. There are no excuses! Nobody, and I mean that, nobody, wants to take your guns, Mister Responsible Gun Owner. I certainly don’t. (But armed response didn’t help on Sunday, because he was 32 floors up and well hidden from view from below.) And, since you are law abiding, you will have nothing to fear if we do a background check on you. Right? I hear you: maybe it won’t always be so. Maybe it’s a slippery slope. Sure, maybe. But in life you actually have to trust people. Apparently that’s a difficult lesson for some, but it’s true. The key to trusting people is to be trustworthy yourself. That’s it! And on the level of government the key to trusting those people is to involve yourself in the process. Join a party, doesn’t matter what one, call their offices, get to know your local government especially (and I mean know them in person.) And, as I said, be sure that you can be trusted, and, of course, make yourself useful.

Shit! Okay, that’s about all the space I can take up in one post. Sorry for the rant-like qualities of this one, but dammit all that asshole attacked my favorite city! We offer a great vacation! The best anywhere! We have attractions big and small, urban and rural, vice-ridden and Sunday School worthy. Sure, you’ll spend money here, but dammit all, you are safe! (And you will be, I guarantee it.)

Just let’s stop being stupid about sensible weapons controls, okay?

For the love of . . .

Queen Victoria statue in Kensington Gardens, London, UK.
Queen Victoria statue in Kensington Gardens, London, UK.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been watching The Vietnam War on PBS. Actually, on the app for my Kindle Fire TV, where I watch the unedited for broadcast version. So far, I’ve heard the term “piece of shit” applied to the M-16 rifle (not for the first time,) “shit sandwich” applied to a platoon between a rock and a hard place (to use the more polite metaphor,) and the correction of “No more planes, you’re killing us,” to “No more fucking planes, you’re killing us.” Not that evil. But, I still prefer unedited versions of whatever. Perhaps for broadcast they also remove some of the more graphic violence, although I saw it all on TV when it was still news. Damn it all, but that was one stupidly conducted affair!

I am a Baby Boomer, myself, but an older one. One that a sociologist would call a member of an “early cohort.” (In Sociology, a “cohort” is everybody born in a given year.) That’s important, because generations come and go in cycles, and in each generational type, the various pathologies belonging to that generation get worse as time goes on. So, I am of the “less pathological” end of the boom, for what that’s worth.

Boomers are an example of an “introspective” generation. If you’re old enough, you may remember lyrics such as “the answer lies within.” That’s true, if the question is “where can I find 10 meters of slimy intestines?” Otherwise, looking within for your answers makes you an idiot, basically, and that’s just what the big bulge of the Boom does. That is how they manage to keep up obviously wrong beliefs in the face of incredible evidence to the contrary. The truth doesn’t match what they’ve “found within,” so it can’t be valid. Ho-lee-cats! This is why you hear my generation so frequently intone that _______ is the worst _________ in all of History! (Capital H intentional.) No, it isn’t. For instance, in the summer of 1968, during the Democratic National Convention, Chicago was a police state. Not close to one, but actually one. Everyone knew it at the time; nobody did anything about it, except yell and scream after the fact. Which, for the record, did not help. The country was incredibly divided, possibly more divided than we are today. Violence against blacks was worse than it is now. Violence against dissent was the norm. It was, in a word, horrible. Probably not the worst ever, but horrible.

I am not suggesting that things aren’t bad today. From many perspectives, these times suck big time. But, times have been as bad or worse, no matter what the latter cohorts of my generation try to tell you. Want to feel better, then stand up tall, inhale the free air, and get some perspective on things. If you’re a Boomer born in the 50s, try not looking within for answers. Instead, study some real history, out of old books at a library, and see what others have done in similar times in the past. I’ll give you a hint: in the end, the world has been better, a lot better, once all the dust has settled. But you’ll only know that if you reject that introspective take on knowledge, and start taking your cues from something closer to objective reality.

Okay, enough rant. I’ll post something about writing next week, I promise. Peace out, brethren and sisteren!

 

Who’s on First?

Fog off the Coast near Monterrey, California, 2010
Fog off the Coast near Monterrey, California, 2010

It can be hard to tell sometimes who is where and doing what, but even though I really wish that our President had remained merely a reality TV host, and that, oh, you could recite the litany, right? But none of that carping gets you anywhere. Thing is, screaming and yelling and acting like the asshole you hate is a good way to become the asshole you hate. Better you should take the advice of Tolkien’s Gandalf, and remember that little acts of kindness, of being good, and kind, and loving, are what defeats evil. Not great armies. Evil has lots of great armies; it can always raise another great army. You’ll never beat it that way. But good deeds, and love, get passed along, and always under the radar. Yes, unnoticed by news outlets and other media, and that’s good. The news may not be evil, per se, but it does evil’s work by making people upset enough to forget about loving kindness, which leaves evil looking undefeatable. Evil likes that, you can bet the farm on that fact.

So, as a writer, the best way for you to maximize your loving kindness is to write loving, and kind, material. Even if it’s full of terrible shoot-em-ups and horrid monsters, you can infuse it with love and kindness. Not polyannishly, you fool! I mean that even loving kindness has to overcome all sorts of terrible things in defeating evil, and, in fact, that’s loving kindness’s job! So, sure, terrible things happen, but love prevails. In the end, that is always the case. And to practice, all you have to do is spread good deeds around in your personal, real-world, life. Do that, and your life will get better, and then your writing will get better. Good things, you see, come to them that fights evil through acts of loving kindness.

Later, gator!

Carnival and Chess and Boxes of Bees: Politics In America, 2017

This guy can be a potty mouth. And he rambles all over the place. But I think that if you get past that, his article reproduced here is worth a read.

Nobody wants another hot take on yesterday’s marginal-yet-special-yet-still-marginal elections, and yet here I am, with a take as hot as a plate of cold fajita meat. Just the same, I use this…

Source: Carnival and Chess and Boxes of Bees: Politics In America, 2017

Be a Smarty!

This Gentleman Lives in the Atlanta Zoo
This Gentleman Lives in the Atlanta Zoo

It seems to me that we, as a society, expect way too little of each other. A good illustration of this fact is the way that our media, and anyone communicating publicly, tend(s) to simplify things so that the audience can understand. We assume that the audience, even if they are literate (you know, people who read books?,) won’t understand anything that is overly complex. Consider the first Harry Potter book. The title is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Except in the United States. Here it is the Sorcerer’s Stone instead. Why? Well, the publisher (Scholastic, no less) decided that American kids wouldn’t know what the philosopher’s stone was, so they’d better change it to something obvious that stupid American children could understand. That is, unfortunately, true.

And it pisses me off greatly!

American kids, like all kids, are capable of learning. Heck, I knew, when I was a child, what the philosopher’s stone was. (If you think I’m going to tell you, you’re not paying attention!) In fact, there never was, prior to Scholastic, anything at all known as a “Sorcerer’s Stone.” What the heck would it be? There is absolutely no reason to confuse our own children with what is, after all, a lame excuse for a brilliant title. Scholastic should be ashamed!

By not assuming that kids are smart enough to learn from context, or look something up (and they do have the Internet, you know) we are condemning them to staying just a tad more ignorant, and ultimately stupid, than they would have been had we assumed that they had some brains. Maybe it is an Anglo conspiracy to keep minorities down, as I’ve read, but that doesn’t explain why every single copy of that book has the wrong title on it. American copy, I mean. This is an insult to the intelligence of our children, and a great wrong to society. If we expect our kids to be stupid, we get what we expect. How about, instead of expecting good grades, we simply expect them to be intelligent enough to figure out a basic problem (like the definition of a word) and proceed from there? What if that started us on the path to being a smarter nation? Hey, it could happen!

And, for the record, it’s not too late for Scholastic to change that title back to what it is supposed to be for future printings. You listening, Scholastic?

Yeah. I figured.

OFFENDED?

The Weinermobile, Times Square, Summer 2015
The Weinermobile, Times Square, Summer 2015

KNOW WHAT REALLY FROSTS MY SHORTS? PEOPLE WHO TRY NEVER TO OFFEND ANYONE! That’s what!

I was watching Bill Maher’s final rant the other day, in this case one where he talked about being offensive. Steve Martin, for example, was forced to take down a tweet in which he praised Carrie Fisher quite nicely. Because, it seems, he had the insensitive temerity to mention that he thought her beautiful before he noted that she was also intelligent. WTF? You know, the first time I saw her was in Star Wars. In the second installment, Episode 5, she wore that slave girl outfit while in thrall to Jabba the Hutt. When I saw that, I wasn’t really noticing her obvious intelligence. That’s just the way it is. Good grief, people, sex is why we’re all here! The fact that a man notices a woman’s sexuality first does not in any way diminish his opinion of her intelligence, drive, tenacity, verve, congeniality, or whatever terms you prefer to “beautiful.” It’s what keeps life going!

That’s one example. I follow Mr. Martin on Twitter, and I missed that snafu, because I follow a lot of people and I miss a lot of stuff. I hope that all he did was take that down, and that he didn’t apologize as have other celebrities when they bruised someone’s tender sensibilities. Twitter is, as a company, overly sensitive to those sorts of complaints. Probably, and this may even be fair, because of the preponderance of ugly, unfair, and even dangerous trolls who use Twitter to pursue their nefarious schemes. But, just because something is offensive to somebody does not mean that there is anything wrong with that something. In fact, I think that if anyone, especially an artist, doesn’t offend somebody along the way, then they are not doing a very good job.

When you write, whatever it is that you believe personally will come out in your writing. I don’t mean explicitly, but it will come out. Your protagonist will end up demonstrating something that you believe in, and that could be anything. Slow and steady wins the race, fear is the mind-killer, blue is a better color than yellow, whatever, it will come out. People have found many great authors offensive. Today, there are those who think that Huckleberry Finn should be banned from school because it uses the word “nigger.” It sure does, and it’s the most anti-racist book I’ve ever read. People have been offended by Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are because, well, I guess because they like to be offended. But it’s a wonderful book, as I’m sure you know. (He based the characters on relatives – see what I mean about your beliefs coming out?)

If you are going to write, you are going to have to be true, above all, to thine own self. (Hmmm. I think I read that somewhere?) If you aren’t, your writing will suffer, and probably suck. Not that you need to be explicit: I’ll quote Ben Bova, the famous editor of Sci-Fi magazines in the 40s and 50s: “You got a message, use Western Union!” (Western Union was a telegraph company in those days.) By which I mean, don’t be on the nose about your beliefs, because they will come out regardless, so long as you are true to yourself. And there will be those who are offended by what comes out, and those people will push to have your writing suppressed, in one way or another. Know what? Fuck ‘em! If you can’t be true to yourself, you can’t write well. If you can’t write well, you’ll never sell anything. If you never sell anything, you’ll starve. And if you starve because of some limp-brained, half-assed comments? Then that’s a tragedy of the first order.

Oh, gosh, I hope that this post hasn’t offended you! And if it has, then I truly have to say . . . . . . . TOUGH!

Watch Bill Maher’s Rant Here

Give Blood!

It grows back in no time! Give some blood today!
It grows back in no time! Give some blood today!

Writing posts will resume next week. I’m donating blood today, because the holidays are when it’s most needed. I donated about a gallon and a half in the Denver area when I lived there, and now I’m at 12 liters total donation in Las Vegas. A good vampire (their word not mine) won’t hurt a bit when they draw your blood. And, in Las Vegas, you always get some sort of reward for your generosity. If you donate in the second half of December, you get free Penn & Teller tickets! (I saw how Penn catches a bullet in his teeth the last time I attended their show. No shit!)

I’m told that every time I donate whole blood I save a couple of newborn babies. Not bad for an old man, I think. Chances are, you can save a bunch of people too. You don’t have to donate whole blood. They can take just red blood cells, or just platelets that encourage clotting (important for those on immunosuppressive therapies, don’t you know?)

You’ll write a whole lot better knowing you’ve saved a life or two! Trust me!

Thanks for donating!