Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mark Mehlmauer For President

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This paragraph was added at the last minute due to recent developments. The third paragraph below was originally the first paragraph of this column. The title of this column was supposed to be Gary Johnson for president, however, I was made aware only a few hours ago that he recently shot himself in the foot on MSNBC. No, not the forgivable Aleppo brain fart, it was more of the nature of the Howard Dean scream. A campaign crushing, world class, cringe-inducing faux pas of the highest order. To quote the immortal Forest Gump, "And that's all I have to say about that."

Well, almost. I've read somewhere that the dude or dudette that doesn't want to be the boss often would be a better boss than someone who does. Harry Truman comes to mind. Since Mr. Truman is dead I'm going to reluctantly volunteer for the job of POTUS. No one could possibly want this job less than I. As regular readers know I'd much rather be a benevolent king, but that's a whole other story. Please feel free to write in your own name, hell, anyone's name.

I am (fortunately/unfortunately) old enough to not only be a fan of my current favorite smarmy reality show, The Hilliam (starring Hillary and William Clinton) v. The Donald, I was around when The Hilliam's predecessor, The Billary (starring Bill and Hillary Clinton) became world (in)famous.

When I was working out the who/what/when/where/why of this column I planned on including two links, one for The Hilliam, one for The Donald. Each would connect my gentlereaders to an article that provided a concise list of the more interesting legal/cultural/moral depredations of the stars of both shows. There are many to choose from, articles as well as depredations

But I'll spare you since I'm sure most of you, even the ones not all that interested in politics, are starting to feel as though the current election cycle is similar to a lavishly funded marketing campaign for a new movie. That is, there's been so much advertising (news media coverage) for so long that you think the movie is already playing (that the election is next Tuesday).

As everyone knows, the more heavily the movie is promoted, the better the chances it will suck sweaty socks.

Instead, permit me to briefly summarize my feelings, starting with the Hilliam. The Hilliam, whose sleazy behavior in Arkansas foreshadowed their ascent to the national stage, will go down in history as an ethically challenged power couple who, though they were linked to one scandal after another, one blatant lie after another -- always got away with it.

Well, so far at least. When dealing with the Hilliam there's always the potential for yet another other shoe to drop.

Which is a shame considering that Mr. Clinton, who will always be famous for molesting a child in the White House and then, with his spouse's support, to avoid taking responsibility for his actions began lying his bum off, and then lying his bum off about lying his bum off -- wasn't a half bad president. He understood the quaint notion that in a democracy compromise is the alternative to gridlock and hyper-partisanship.

They also are self-made multi-millionaires who managed go from virtually nothing to a net worth of better than $100,000,000 bucks once they went national. All without ever producing a tangible product, unless you count influence peddling and bonkercockie.

Quick question, don't think about it, just answer. What has been Mrs. Clinton's number one accomplishment since stepping onto the national stage? Not new job, accomplishment. Times up. She's the political version of the Kardashians, famous, primarily, for being famous.

Which brings us to the Donald, this master showman, this P.T. Barnum of the new millennium.

I've been aware of the Donald for even longer than I've been aware of the Hilliam, but to be honest, I never paid much attention. I vaguely remember leafing through a friend's copy of, "The Art of the Deal" in the late 80's and being baffled by its popularity. I didn't think there was much there, there and, that boy, this guy really likes himself.

Since then, he's turned up regularly somewhere in the media and then starred in, "The Apprentice." I didn't think there was much there, there and, that boy, this guy really likes himself.

I admit that until recently I never paid much attention to him, and that it's at least partly a personality thing. I'm a follower of the strong, silent type school of manly deportment, a school currently having trouble attracting students.

So, what happens when a culture's consensus starts unraveling in the midst of rapid, economically disrupting technological change as the denizens of the planet Earth are being linked together like never before?

Donald J. Trump. Daddy's home!

"Hey, I'm rich ain't I! I'm sick of all the B.S. about the endless lawsuits, the trophy wives, the bankruptcies and business practices that left hundreds of small businesses holding the bag. Enough already about the name calling and endlessly shifting positions, that's what works! The folks want a talking mirror that'll tell 'em what they want to hear. I do what works because I'm a winner, and America loves a winner! Don't worry, daddy's gonna' fix everything, and it's gonna' be bigger and better than ever before!"

But daddy, how are...

"Daddy's a winner! I can fix anything, that's what a winner does. I'm rich ain't I? Give me a shot and I'll make everyone a winner. What else ya' gonna do? Hey, everyone knows you can't trust most of the news media, most of 'em got an agenda and besides, infotainment rules, I don't blame 'em, that's where the money is. What are you gonna' do? You got the time, or the smarts, to study economics and politics and boring crap like that? It's football season! Trust me, I'm rich ain't I?"

The Wizard of Ozz v. the Wicked Witch of the Northeast.

God bless/help? us, every-one.

Have an OK day.

©Mark Mehlmauer 2016

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

The History of the World (Part Two)

  The History of the World
(The Flyoverland Crank Version)
Part Two

In our last episode, we covered the period of time stretching from the Big Bang (Bigus Bangus) to the invention of agriculture (the Burgeriniumbun Finalae era) to Mesopotamia, where history really got cooking.

Next, depending on how you look at it, an awful lot of history happened, or, a few things happened over and over again and once in a great, great while something really cool happened. Kind of like the life of the modern day average Joe/Joan Bagadonuts, but much more violent.

They attacked us or we attacked them in the name of cash, conquest, revenge, God, the gods, hunger, honor, slaves et cetera. Fortunately, God was on our side or it would have been even worse.  As Thomas Hobbes pointed out, life is indeed, “...solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  Mr. H. was arguing that this is the natural state of man (he was right) and that’s why we need an all-powerful ruler to keep us on the straight and narrow (he was wrong, but we do need some form of gubmint). That way we can direct our energies to defend our playground and/or slaughtering them instead of each other.  

Once in awhile, peace would break out but Mother Nature provides us with a way to stave off boredom and complacency, natural disasters and disease. For example, say King Bob is sitting in the privy waiting for nature to take it’s course and his mind starts to wander because the only copy of The Dark Ages Digest at hand is more than a year old. He’s been giving a lot of thought to attacking a kingdom just down the road because he’s got his fair share of bloodthirsty warriors and greedy nobles to keep happy and if he doesn’t keep them busy they may turn on him or each other for entertainment and booty.

He’s been through that before and knows that even if he and his allies triumph, invariably lots of innocent serfs, peasants and slaves are slaughtered. Collateral damage, sure. But since they're the ones that do all the heavy lifting and since most of the population live out their lives at this level and die by the time they’re 30, you need to be blessed with a good inventory to dodge some significant downsides. He’s still short of  virtual slaves, actual slaves and cash from last season, not one of his better ones, and short of potential solutions as well. Things are so bad he’s considering hiring one of those expensive consultants his buddy King Steve favors. He’s heard good things about  a firm called DPD, Diabolical Plots by the Dozen, founded incidentally, by a distant ancestor of Vladimir Putin.

His ruminations are interrupted by a hysterical minion pounding on the door and screaming, “Your majesty, your majesty there are reports of plague (or flood, or fire, or hairy weather, or insects, or blight, or famine, etc.) in the kingdom!” This solves the problem, short term at least. Now, everyone's job one becomes survival. Assuming this isn’t an apocalyptical level crisis and assuming that King Bob is one of the survivors, he can deal with his other problem later.

This is how things rolled most days in most places. Why? Well, it’s either because we’re naked apes living in a dangerous world, or, someone screwed up the paradise we were provided with by God and he’s still mad (details depend on which creation myth you subscribe to). It wasn’t all bad though. Once in awhile Joe or Joan B. was fortunate enough to have an actual boring day. Also, as mentioned above, once in a great, great while, something truly cool happened.

Somebody came up with the wheel, someone perfected bronze, then iron came along, the printing press was invented, Mr. and Mrs. Vermeer had a baby - that sort of thing. Being the clever creatures that we are we even came up with all sorts of ways to use these breakthroughs for things other than killing each other. If you’re religious, an entity or their messenger(s) may have stopped by to light the path to paradise. This phenomenon continues apace, right up to this very moment. These days the entities and/or their messengers may be politicians, pundits, environmentalists, etc. The field has broadened considerably. Being a much more sophisticated creature than our ancestors, we may even seek to strive for seemingly unrelated utopian goals via the same person or movement. We are the ones we have been waiting for! Indeed.

And then, in 1776, the planet Earth finally caught a break.

To be continued...

Have an OK day.

©Mark Mehlmauer 2016

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Reading My Columns Will Extend Your Life (Source: Yale University)

It's official, researchers at Yale University have determined that people who spend at least a half hour per day reading my column (oh, and other stuff) will live longer.

Now, if you were to read my stuff for at least a half hour per day you would run out of fresh material fairly quickly since I've only been at this for a little better than a year. However, there's no need to read my stuff over and over again, anxiously waiting for each new weekly column to be published. Or, even to hope that I write another looong essay, or produce some new chapters for my great not too shabby American novel.

By the way, the looong essay, the introduction and first three chapters of my novel, as well as other material, are all available at The Flyoverland Crank (.com). While you're probably reading this via my website, I have readers that access my weekly column by other methods -- so no smarty-pants, I'm not losing it.

[What I am doing is engaging in some shameless self-promotion. And, making history, because I've never included a link within the text of one of my columns. And, I ask you, how often are you going to read something on the web that links to itself? I think it's cool -- I apologize if you don't. And, it's test of a technical question I have, I'll spare you the details. And, at the very least, you gotta admit, considering all that this one paragraph accomplishes, that I'm doing my part to combat the problem of stagnating American productivity. And, you may not have even been aware of the fact that stagnating American productivity is a thing, but now you are, which makes me that much more productive. I'll stop now.]

Where was I, oh, fortunately for you, there are several other people loose in the world that write on a fairly regular basis. Also, there's a bunch of dead people that no longer write, but who wrote stuff going back, oh, I don't know how long.

It gets better. People who read actual books, for at least 3.5 hours per week live, on average, almost two full years longer than those who don't. The bad news is that the number of people that do read actual books is in decline. The good news is that the non-readers now have a new reason/motivation to start reading. (396)

The best news is that those of us who are voracious readers, regardless of what we're into, have another reason to feel smugly superior to non-readers, although I don't encourage this, at least not officially. We are polarized/fragmented/factionalized enough. We readers should be humbly smug, for there are hoopleheads even in our ranks. Hoopleheads are everywhere, and we humblysmugs, like everyone else, must be forever vigilant. (472)

[Wait a minute sez Dana, my imaginary gentlereader, who just woke up from a nap (Marie-Louise is visiting friends in Quebec), the Yale researchers studied readers in general, and this had nothing to do with you in particular. You can't go around...]

Sure I can. My very first sentence ("oh, and other stuff") gives away the humbug (see Barnum, P.T.), my ethics are sound. There is no shortage of popular and mainstream websites, including those of what passes for the news media these days, that do the same thing. And the Drudge Report, for example, has refined this particular humbug to an art form, and is wildly successful.

I'd like to be widely successful, but the important thing is that your dilettante about town has just provided you with yet more proof that we live in the Dizzinformation Age. (Sheesh, can I get any more productive?)

I realize that I risk alienating at least some of my gentlereaders due to my oft-repeated references to a phenomenon that I've named the Dizzinformation Age, but I'm on a mission from God (see Blues, Elwood). Dizzinformation Syndrome (DS): dizzy from too much information -- correct, incorrect, or worst of all, contradictory. Also, I must add, deceptive. Deliberately twisting the data in question to deceive the reader (for a humbug, maliciously, or something in between) and/or to secure additional clicks. (686)

Which brings us The Hilliam, The Donald, Mr. Obama, and sadly, the FBI, all of whom are
masters of dizzinformation.


Patience. I began this piece by deliberately positing some dizzinformation. The Hilliam have become rich and successful by combining a lawyer's sensibility with masterful dizzinformation and have been refining their techniques for decades. Here's a clip from a mind movie, or at least an old fashion radio drama for ya'. From, "Bill and Hill Have 'The Talk' with Chelsey."

Bill (Southern drawl with a touch of vocal fry) -  "The most important element of the game is that no matter how sleazy the behavior, your actions must be technically legal. When I slipped up it cost me mah law license. Fortunately, it didn't even slow us down (chuckles). But, you gotta' be careful if ya' wanna stay out jail, baby."

Hillary (Accent depends on current geographical location, always stop just short of this side of shrill/harpy)  "Second, relentless dizzinformation. Spin and flip-flop. Try to shade the truth rather than lie outright. Contradict past statements and/or behavior. Stick to the current talking points and order your posse to do the same. Always remember the news media mostly tilts in our direction and will usually spin things our way, but if you go too far they might turn on you. It's not because they're about to let truth or objectivity get in the way of pushing their agenda. This even applies to their mortal enemy, The Trump Network, otherwise known as Fox News. Infotainment rules -- ratings, circulation, and profits -- rule. So don't take it personally sweetie.

The bottom line is, you want to drown the public in contradictory info; this helps you to speak directly to their emotions and cognitive biases and bypass their intellects, honey."

I'm sure you can imagine The Donald having a similar conversation with his kids. Even the FBI, who's sorry about all that character assassination, and the other shady sh... , uh shtuff that they used to dabble in (it was J. Edgar's fault) and would like us to believe that they now embody the Efrem Zimbalist Jr. version of federal law enforcement play the Dizzinformation card. Which is why they released the heavily redacted notes of their recent interview of The Hilliam on a Friday afternoon. At three o'clock. As the nation was trying to sneak out of work early. For the Labor Day holiday weekend. (1024)

[Note: The numbers in parentheses at the ends of some of the above paragraphs are word totals (approximate) that are there to demonstrate to potential syndicators/publishers that I'm aware that I'm a bit windy and that I know they mostly prefer shorter columns to accommodate H. Sapiens rapidly declining attention spans, my gentlereaders excepted. I'd much prefer for my shtuff to be the sort of thing that's read on a lazy week-END (pronounce with a British accent). However, I can be bought. 

Please note that this column could end at any of these demarcated points and still make sense.]

Have an OK day.

©Mark Mehlmauer 2016

If you access my column via my website, you can like, react, leave a comment or share -- please scroll down. 

Mobile gentlereaders, if I've pleased you, there's additional content to be found via laptop, tablet, and desktop.    

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The History of the World (Part One)

The History of the World
(The Flyoverland Crank Version)
Part One

This is the first chapter of a multi-part series that I will publish every other week or so, starting this week

The universe we inhabit appeared 13.82 billion years ago on a Tuesday. A single, unimaginably dense point began expanding and a lot of complex stuff happened and continues to happen. Now, the most interesting thing that resulted, from an Earthlings perspective, is that 4.54 billion years ago, the Earth appeared. The Earth is the result of some of the complex stuff that happened and continues to happen. At some point this complex stuff produced man.

Or… to one degree or another, everything mentioned in the preceding paragraph, as well as what follows, happened because God decided when and if it should be so. The details depend on your personal belief. I know some very nice, perfectly normal people that believe what I consider to be some very strange things (of course I’m not talking about your beliefs). I freely concede that one of them may turn out to be right and that I may be wrong. I’m wrong with disturbing regularity so I try to keep an open mind. I highly recommend this approach as I’ve found it to be the only effective defense against blind panic when a high-velocity radioactive fact comes crashing through the roof of my thought structure like a meteorite, and lands in the chair I just got out of to answer the phone. The meteorite analogy is a paraphrase of a bit of a Marc Cohn song, “Live Out the String.”  

Regardless, man gradually learned to use tools. Also fire: For warmth, light, and most importantly (in my semi-humble opinion) cooking. Personally, although I’m an enthusiastic carnivore, I’ve never cared for the taste of raw meat. Along the way the attributes and technology that distinguish us from the other animals on the planet such as language, art, religion, the wheel, etc. developed.

Agriculture came along roughly 12,000 years ago and changed everything.

Our ancestors had been hunters/gatherers for eons. Since grocery stores hadn’t been invented yet everyone had the same job -- killing something or harvesting something that nature had randomly produced -- to keep from starving to death. Now, on a good day, this wasn’t a half bad way to make a living. If you, or you and the gang (odds are you belonged to some sort of tribe or odds are you would be dead) managed to find something to kill and eat without getting killed and eaten in the process and/or stumbled onto an apple tree full of ripe apples early in day, why, you could go home early!  Assuming you had found enough food you were free for the rest of the day. Of course, this could be quite boring because there wasn’t a lot to do since they had neither cable or computers, not even smartphones. This was why sex was invented. I refer to sex as practiced by homo sapiens, which tends to be a somewhat frequent and obsessive activity as compared to most other animals.

Anyway, various someone's at various locations gradually figured out how to plant and nurture crops as well as domesticate animals. While this required a lot more work than hunting and gathering it was a somewhat more reliable way to keep from starving to death or from becoming some other species lunch. Also, there are a few scientists, and some evidence, that suggest getting high was a significant motivation as well. Turning grains into beer is easier than turning them into food, and beer was just as popular then as it is now, even without clever commercials -- please drink responsibly. Eventually, we got good enough at this agriculture thing to produce more food than was absolutely needed for the gang to just scrape by. This made it possible to settle down instead of wandering all over the place looking for enough calories to keep body and soul together.

Man, by nature and necessity, is a social animal. It takes quite a few years before we reach maturity so we’re dependent on our parents ( a mom and a dad if we’re lucky) much longer than the average creature. Also, survival is considerably easier and our lives are  potentially much more pleasant when we work together. For example, everyone knows that bringing down a wooly mammoth with the tribes' help is much easier and more efficient than trying to do it yourself. That’s why most people naturally prefer to hang out or at least affiliate with a clique of some sort, it’s a  survival mechanism. Getting along with the inhabitants of the other huts on the block not only promotes regular meals and security, it enables you to get your fair share of woolyburgers without having to slay the neighbors.

Social cohesion increased the likelihood, and quality of, survival. Having to share the playground with the other kids is where morality (the rules) come from. Please see, The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt.

And somebody came up with monogamy. I’m guessing it was ancient history's version of Dear Abby. Under this system, everyone got to have sex, not just the alpha males and their harems. If all the dudes could count on access to, um, companionship, it made the cooperation needed for the hunt less prone to social drama. The dudettes could count on access to, um, companionship, and protection for the kids. This arrangement was/is disproportionately beneficial for dudes. Dudes need their significant dudette to be, among other things, a good mom, a good wife, and often as not, willing and able to work outside the home. This is necessary to counter a given dude's natural tendency to rapidly devolve into a naked ape when left to his own devices.      
We figured all this out long before agriculture made villages not only possible but necessary and humans began clawing their way to the top of the food chain (the original corporate ladder). When we reached the point where we could produce more food than we needed it was only natural that folks began to specialize. Most remained farmers, but surplus food made it possible for some people that had abilities that benefited the community to do their thing without having to farm. A relatively reliable supply of food and water (and/or beer) leads to increased populations. If enough people can produce enough food to keep themselves alive and have enough left over to feed specialists such as craftspersons, cops, kings etc. -- well, before you know it, a village becomes a town becomes a city becomes a civilization. The rest is history. History began in Mesopotamia, an area that corresponds roughly to greater modern day Iraq, that fertile crescent thing that gets so much press. Ain’t that ironical in light of recent events. This happened about 3,500 BCE. To be continued.

Have an OK day.

©Mark Mehlmauer 2016

If you access my column via my website, you can like, react, leave a comment or share -- please scroll down. 

Mobile gentlereaders, if I've pleased you, there's additional content to be found via laptop, tablet, and desktop.