(UPDATE: Same great post, now with the correct date for the event: June 28, 7pm)
Good news, everyone:My latest novella—Expiration Date—is available free online this summer!Here’s the official blurb:
This science fiction “till death do we part” story follows young Lizzie and Bram in a relationship on fast-forward. Armed with the knowledge of her scientific discovery, Granny Gin burdens the couple with the question “What would you do, if you knew your end was near?”
First chapter went live early this morning; check it out!New chapters every week.
But wait!There’s more: The official book-release kick-off party is next week:
WHEN: June 28 @ 7pm
WHERE:Ann Arbor District Library Pittsfield Branch, 2359 Oak Valley Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
WHAT: A reading, some chit-chat, free tea and snackies from the sponsors, Arbor Teas, and free high-fives from me!
Sideshow Bob:[chuckling] Mr. Simpson, you are forgetting the first two noble truths of the Buddha.
Homer Simpson:I am not!
For those who slept through Buddhism 101—or failed to see The Simpsons Episode 8F20 (season three, episode 21, first aired April 9, 1992)—the First Noble Truth of the Buddha is this:
There is suffering.
Which isn’t such a revelation at first glance, but like a lot of things with the Buddha, the big reveal isn’t in what he’s said, but what he’s omitted:
The First Noble Truth is not: There is suffering because you’ve done bad things.
nor is it: There is suffering because you didn’t try hard enough.
nor is it: There is suffering because you are a screw-up.
nor is it: There is suffering because man is born of Original Sin.
nor is it: There is suffering because God is dead!
nor is it: There is suffering because God is a jerk!
nor is it: There is suffering because there was never any God!
There is no “because” at all. It’s a simple statement of fact that should be obvious, but which we all deny on a daily basis: There is suffering.There just is. Often with no one to blame. Often for no reason at all. And that’s fine; stop beating yourself up over it (which, handily, brings us to the Second Noble Truth—Suffering is born of craving and desire and clinging to How Things Should Be—which is important, but not really germane to skateboarding).
I bring this up because I need to share something with you:
If you are an adult person getting on a skateboard,
YOU ARE GOING TO GET HURT.
Full stop, no ifs, no becauses, no unless, no provisos.
If you are really careful… YOU WILL STILL GET HURT.
If you always wear your pads… YOU WILL STILL GET HURT.
If you are lucky or unlucky, careless or stupid, cautious or clever…YOU WILL GET HURT.
It might be minor or major, might land you in the ER or sit you on your sofa for an afternoon with ice on your knee, but one way or the other YOU ARE GONNA GET HURT.
… and that’s fine. If is fine and just and right that you will be injured, because, as the Buddha and Sideshow Bob remind us, There is Suffering.
Every time I start talking to someone my age about the fact that I returned to skateboarding at 36, they voice admiration, and then something like envy, and always lurking around is the sentence “I’d break my neck if I tried that!”
And the thing is, while you will certainly get hurt, you probably won’t break your neck. There is, as it turns out, quite a distance between hurt and crippled, and even a further reach to dead. I’ve seen folks take tremendous falls and pop right back up, I’ve seen—and taken—minor falls that have turned out to be sprained ankles and broken wrists and concussions. I’ve seen—and worn—bruises every color of any Michigan sunset in any season. I’ve seen plenty of broken bones, but not a single death or black out.
So let me share with you something my doctor told me when I told her I’d taken up with skateboarding—on the visit I scheduled as a follow-up after a trip to the ER:
“Good. Keep it up.”
Her rationale: If you are an adult American, than it is almost certain that you aren’t getting nearly enough exercise. And—Noble Truth alert!—you aren’t likely to start getting more exercise as you continue aging. So, in the absence of everything else, the choice here isn’t between taking a risk by jumping on a skateboard and playing it safe by not doing so: Not getting enough exercise absolutely guarantees a shorter life with degraded quality. Absolutely, with no exceptions. Full stop.
Getting on the skateboard? You’ll get hurt, but you won’t die. And, hell, I regularly hang with a 70-year-old dude at my local skatepark. Does he tear it up? Nope; he cruises around, carving on the transitions, working on dropping on. But he’s having hella fun, and I’ve seen him take big falls and pop right back up.
… ‘course, he goes on to say the exact wrong thing, in terms of reducing or eliminating acts of terror (which, fundamentally, are acts of the alienated—which is why I think he zeros in on the terrorist psyche with such clarity), but he starts strong, and says something that few GOPers have managed in the last 16 years:
Terrorists are humans, crappy, fallible, shitty humans, but humans all the same. Not super villains to be grudgingly admired, certainly not desperate freedom fighters, jut numb-nuts shit-heels who are almost below contempt.
Tate didn’t like how the kid was acting. The teenaged male in the second-hand cruiser’s back seat—who could produce no ID, but had given the moderately improbable name of “Jamal Kartazian”—was far too compliant. As a rule, kids like this—scrawny white boys with lumpy dreadlocks and grimy hoodies—were a spewing font of the Three Bs: bravado, back-peddling, and begging.
But not this kid. Jamal Kartazian was cool and collected; he almost seemed satisfied to find himself locked in the back of a cop car. And, in contrast to every other kid Tate had ever busted in his short two-act career as first a cop and then a rent-a-cop, this kid was actually asking to be “hauled back to the station.”
The argument looks kosher—there’s a neat graphic, and even footnotes to a reputable, impartial source!But if you actually look at the link indicated for footnote #2, you find pretty much nothing other than this graphic:
While this graph does show 46% of Jews to be in the top 18% of earners (the largest percentage for an identified American religious group), it is not possible to extrapolate what percentage of which religious persuasions occupy the 1% from this graphic (i.e., those earning in the $500,000 to $1.2 million range).
Anyway, just another reminder that on November 8, 2016 me and my kids were fired from being White—again. 🇺🇸🔥
“On the campaign trail, Trump endorsed killing relatives of terrorist suspects, which is a war crime. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he told Fox News in December 2015.” (source)
If your position is “Trump said we should kill the families of ‘terrorists’—an abominable, authoritarian war crime—and now he’s doing just that!” well, way back in 2016, when we had a President with a Noble Peace Prize on his mantle, we dropped thousands of bombs on Yemen (google it), and it isn’t like those somehow magically only killed sworn soldiers of AQAP. A bomb dropped from a drone isn’t somehow more accurate than a highly trained SEAL with an excellent rifle standing in the same room as someone. But, man oh man, do we suddenly give a fuck about Yemen, and military operations in Yemen, and civilian casualties in Yemen! Better late than never, amiright?
Penn and Teller were scheduled to appear on Letterman, and so they prepared a new twist on a classic “broken and restored watch” routine. In their improved version, they’d borrow Letterman’s watch, smash it, then wheel out a big aquarium and sprinkle the parts in the water, where they’d dissolve and the fish would eat them. Letterman would then freely select one of the fish, Teller would scoop it out with a net, they’d gut and and ta-da!, there would be the whole, ticking watch in the fish’s guts!
But the network standards and practices lawyers wouldn’t let them do that trick; it’d be too brutal to have an animal killed on screen. So Penn and Teller re-jiggered the routine: Instead of an aquarium full of live fish, they’d wheel out a fishmonger’s ice table with six dead fish on it. They’d take the host’s watch, smash it, sprinkle the bits in the ice, the bits would dissolve, the host would freely select a dead fish, and Teller’d fillet it to reveal the watch. Standards loved it, the host loved it, and that’s what went on live TV.
The point of the story—which is the sort of thing that belongs in an atheist’s Bible—is that everyone was more comfortable with six fish dying instead of one, provided they didn’t have to watch.
Same here: Dozens, hundreds, thousands of Yemeni kids are killed by bombs Made-in-the-USA, and we’re fine with it—as long as we don’t have to see her fucking picture, as long as it’s done from 36,000 feet by a drone piloted by some dude drinking a Sprite in a cubicle at Creech AFB and there’s no chance of one of “our boys” having to come home in a box in order to git ‘er done! God forbid we should look at what our tax dollars are buying.
It’s harsh, but it’s an apt summation of American foreign policy: Killing people’s families is our business model.
It was our business model in 2016, it will continue to be in 2017, the party, skin color, generation, and gender of the president notwithstanding. If you don’t like that—well, you’re in decent company, because I don’t like it either. But let’s be honest with ourselves, and just take a damned second to sort out of we really don’t like being in the Murder Business, or if we simply dislike it when a mouthy, pudgy, tactless New Yorker is the one murdering on our behalf.
Finally, if you’re suddenly worried about Trump triggering “World War III,” then I invite you to consider something: Maybe—just maybe—WWIII has been going on for the last 15 years.We just outsourced all the suffering to developing nations—the same way we do with all the rest of our dirty work.
Maybe this is something else to talk about tomorrow, when you call your reps. I dunno; that’s between you and them.
Trump transition team has been publicly mulling over creating/reviving a “Muslim Registry.” The Intercept started calling social media/tech companies and only one—Twitter—said “We’d never help with this!” (FYI, IBM has been down this road before, and yet still somehow doesn’t know the right answer to this question). Yesterday, Facebook finally clearly said “No way! We won’t do it! We’d never build a Muslim Regsitry!”
But here’s the thing:
As I pointed out back in Jan 2015, these companies have already built these databases. They know when you are sleeping, they know when you’re awake, they know if you’ve been bad or good or if you even give two shits about Santa Claus.
More to the point, the abstract threat I wrote about back in Jan 2015, when it freaked me out a little that Amazon had clearly flagged me as a Jew, became real in the Spring of 2016 when a bomb threat was called in to the Jewish Community Center housing my daughter’s daycare. Because I sit on the Board of our congregation (which uses that building regularly for our religious services), I ended up touching base with the local police and FBI agents investigating the incident. As it turned out six JCCs across the U.S. (in locales as far-flung as St. Louis, New York, and Louisiana) received the same threats at the same time—and all had very similar names. When I did some googling, I found that all of us were listed together alphabetically in online Jewish education directories, with our phone numbers and addresses. I.e., someone was just working their way down a list. This time around, it was just to make phone calls and fuck with us and our kids. Next time? Who knows; here’s what said in 2015, and it’s still about the same:
[I]n Amazon’s datacenter, I’m a row in a table. The index on that row is something like “CUSTOMER #2045674” and the cells include “kindle-owner” and “SF reader” and “owl pellet buyer” and “Jew” and my mailing address. Just another row, among millions–until that table gets resorted by the “Jew” column, and then I’m a box waiting to be ticked off by God-knows-who for God-knows-what-reason. Maybe they want to send me free Xanukah candles! Maybe they want to send me a bomb disguised as a printer cartridge! I guess I’ll have to wait for the mail man to come and find out then!
So I guess it’s swell that Facebook and IBM and Amazon and whoever else would never-ever-ever build the Muslim Registry they already built, but what if they maybe entirely accidentally do build a registry (which they already built, which is already being used to facilitate hate crimes and international terror)? What then?
The vet’s records say Lunchbox is 13-years-old, but that’s not true. We’ve had him for 13 years, but he was full grown when we got him from the rescue. We thought he was a puppy—and he was marketed as such—but as he failed to grow any bigger, or loose any “baby” teeth, or need to be housebroken, it slowly dawned on us that he wasn’t a puppy, he was just a small dog some dipshit didn’t want.
We figured it was the heat; we live in Michigan, it had been 90 for a week, we have no AC—it was miserable. He mostly just moped around that week, looking at us with utter disgust at our inability to make the house work properly. By the weekend, he was lying on the hardwood floor in front of a fan, only going outside to potty when coaxed (or, on several occasions, carried).
Then the heat broke, but he felt no better. He was very listless, and seemed confused. He was having trouble standing up, and trouble navigating the steps, not that he couldn’t—he could be coaxed up with treats—but more like he couldn’t quite understand how steps worked.
This all seemed Really Bad, so I took him to the vet Monday. It turns out that he’s full of “masses” that are almost certainly tumors. One (are several) inside the membrane that surrounds his heart, and another maybe on his liver or spleen—which is in line with some elevated something-something levels in his blood (he had a lot of tests, and I was having trouble following, because the vet—who was a very nice, small young woman—was so obviously absolutely miserable to have to be telling me any of this). As a consequence of the tumors (and possibly the heat, and likely a variety of lingering infections permitted to slowly simmer in his failing, mass-ridden system), his pancreas had swollen enormously, and was smooshing his organs and distending his belly and generally making him miserable as fuck. Also, it was making it really hard to tell in the x-rays what masses in his guts were attached to what, and how severe they may be.
I just had to give my ID to the pharmacist to get dope for my dog. #sighs#America
The upshot is that Lunchbox probably has 6 months to live, maybe a year, maybe less. The vet sold me anti-emetics and antibiotics, and instructed me to shift him to a very low-fat diet—which, absolutely no joke, is my diet: Cheap-ass, low-fat beef/chicken over steamed brown rice. I also had to pick him up a ‘scrip for controlled narcotics.
At the human pharmacy.
For my dog.
My dog is on dope. His name is on the bottle and everything: “Lunchbox Spindler.”
This is the face of the Midwestern opioid epidemic #America:
It’s now two days later, and he’s absolutely and 100% back to being his old self—mostly due to the anti-emetics (which killed his nausea, restoring his appetite) and antibiotics (which are bringing down the most obvious belly-distention), but infinitely bolstered by the fact that he’s absolutely elated to be on my diet.
From his perspective, this has all turned out terrific—because he doesn’t know what the future is, and therefore doesn’t know that he’s mostly dead.
I don’t know if that means he’s an idiot or a fucking zen master. I guess, all things being equal, I hope that I can begin to emulate his comportment in the face of death.
When I first started trying to find a way to talk about all this, I’d imagined I’d follow that bold-italics bit above with something like “I guess that means God is not a total dick sometimes.”
But then I realized: Lunchbox is a dog. God didn’t make dogs; we did. They are our first, grandest experiment in Genetically Modified Organisms, now in it’s 15,000-ish year. We are their God, and we made them in our image—or at least the best parts of it: We took wolves and foxes and selectively bred them until they became beasts mostly composed of love and loyalty, forever content, forever in the Now, perhaps somewhat easily Scared, but not cursed with Fear, because they aren’t cursed with thinking they have any fucking clue What Comes Next.
The Rabbi Jesus might have urged all-y’all to consider the lilies of the field and how they grow, neither toiling nor spinning, but I couldn’t tell a fucking lily from a mayapple or crocus or onion plant. Fuck lilies. As far as I’m concerned, consider the dog, how he loves, how he trusts that things will sort out OK, and food will come, and rest will come, and warmth will come, and affection will come. He doesn’t toil, he doesn’t fret, and yet he does OK, all things considered.