Getting Old, or Something

John Scalzi, In Old Man’s War, talks about getting older, and dealing with disease and other physical frailties. It was something like, “It’s not one thing after another, it’s everything all at once.”

Inside—and this sounds weird—I feel timeless. I feel like the same me as I was when I was walked to school on the first day of kindergarten. Of course, there were some stages in my life that I intentionally ignore, but it was the same me, even then.

The bad news is that I cannot do as many things, or do them as long as I used to. I certainly keep shorter hours (sorry, 8:00 PM, time for bed—but then again, my alarm goes off at 5:00 AM). However, what I do these days is grounded in a better understanding of life, the world, and the will of God. Diplomats, politicians, salesmen, attorneys, et al, say things that are their job, not what they mean—at least in some cases. I tend to ignore that noise and focus on those things that rise above it. No matter what people say or do, I believe that God’s will predominates, even if we do not immediately see it. In other words, everything is going to ultimately be all right.

The “everything all at once” isn’t all bad. It includes the ability to see the big picture, rather than the sound bites, the trends, or whatever. That’s the benefit of getting older.

Positions

No, not that.

There’s a great Monty Python bit in which the suitor is talking to his intended wife’s father. The abbreviated version would go something like this.

Graham Chapman: “Do you have a position?”

Michael Palin: (Snort) “I cleans public lavatories.”

Graham Chapman: “And is there a potential for promotion?”

Michael Palin: “Yeah–after five years they gives me a brush.”

We spend the first quarter of our life preparing to take on a position. The next two quarters of our lives, we define ourselves by our positions. Finally, we learn that our position is what we do, not who we are.

Jackson Browne (with, perhaps some help from his neighbor Don Henley) may have said it best in “Running on Empty”:

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive

We are who we are and we do what we do–don’t confuse them.

 

Returning to the Mother Country

Although we Americans are great friends with the British, there is that 800-pound gorilla in the room. We sort of, kind of, in a way cut our ties with the British Empire back in the 18th century, and reinforced the decision in the early 19th. Oh sure, we’ve been relatively friendly since the early 20th century, but we still bloody split up years ago!

How many divorced couples maintain an interest in what their ex is up to? Not many, and most who do, do so for all the wrong reasons. It’s fine to keep things civil on behalf of the children, but I’m talking about a genuine affection for the exes latest efforts. It doesn’t—or at least shouldn’t happen.

So why do I have a preference for BBC television programmes over most American programs? I’m not talking about an innocent fling with Monty Python’s Flying Circus in my younger, more foolish years—that’s to be forgiven, and perhaps even expected. I’m talking regular perusing of Netflix with full intent of finding a British programme of interest. I do hope the English don’t find our television offerings intriguing; I know the New Zealanders did back in the late 1980’s, but back then it was 5 million people and 60 million sheep—and long before Peter Jackson filmed the Tolkien stories there.

At least I can excuse my preference for BBC News over anything on the air or internet over here. That provides some comfort.

Good Heavens! I just realized that I’ve taken to drinking tea at breakfast!

Even MORE Fake News!

Pyongyang, Democratic [A Few Select] People’s Republic of [North] Korea

Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of the DPRK, held a rare press conference with western journalists today, with surprisingly candid explanations of certain recent events.

“Everything I do, I do for a good reason. You do not understand the position that I have been placed in by various imperialistic powers. It has left me with no choice but to develop nuclear weapons and ever more powerful rockets. I’ve even had to have my own half-brother killed. Do you think these things were done on a whim?

“No doubt it is the CIA, MI-6, or the infamous Buddhist death squads trying to make the DPRK look foolish.

“I’m the Supreme Leader of a nuclear power, I can wipe out half of eastern Asia, have political enemies executed but I still cannot get a decent haircut! Look at me! I look Alfalfa* attacked by a weedeater! And while we’re at it, you don’t want to know what my pedicure looks like. If I ever walked barefoot on the beach 25 million people in the DPRK, alone, would never stop laughing—not in public, mind you, but deep down inside, they’d be laughing.

“I should have known—look at my father’s hair. Neither he nor I ever spoke of it, but it was pretty hard to ignore. Imagine being a normal teenager and trying to keep a respectful straight face at the dinner table looking at a father with such a ridiculous haircut.

“Sorry I cannot stay longer, but I have weapons to develop, missiles to improve, as well as friends and relatives to eliminate. It’s a busy schedule, but that is what is expected of a supreme leader.”

 

 

* Alfalfa was a character in the 1930’s “Our Gang” series of movies.

 

Today’s Fake Breaking News Headlines

RUSSIA

Vladimir Putin, having already mastered everything else, will star as lead dancer for the Bolshoi Ballet next season, but only for roles that require him to be without a shirt. “Every Russian loves culture,” he explained, “so it’s a natural fit. Besides, many of the techniques used in ballet are based almost entirely on the martial arts, in which I am already an expert.”

Putin went on to explain that the recent tensions between the United States and Russia are due to the accumulation of many issues. “I tried to ignore it when Al Gore claimed that he, not I, invented the internet. I tried to be a good sport when Barack Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize because he wasn’t George Bush. Hell! I’m more not George Bush than he’ll ever be! And—–and, to cap it off, my daughter is infinitely hotter than Trump’s.”

Reality

We all grew up hearing about the early settlers. They cleared the land, plowed the ground, planted crops, and built this nation.

Back then they also raised their own chickens and cattle, but when the time was right, our great grandparents slaughtered and ate them. The cow or sheep that won the blue ribbon was not headed for a life of luxury; they were headed to dinner—but not as a guest. Some historical memories are best if we ignore certain facts.

Memories aside, I like beef, pork, chicken, and almost anything that comes out of the sea—but I don’t need to see the activities in the slaughter house. Mind you, I’ve seen plenty of death, but watching the conversion of an animal to dinner is like watching someone plastering. It needs to be done, I enjoy the outcome, but don’t care about the process.

So why do I bring this up?

My neighborhood experiences a lot of new development. New houses! New Neighbors! How nice!

However, what really happens is, “See that lovely little plot of trees over there? Get rid of it! Because of the sea level rise (not caused by global warming, of course) the land needs about three feet of additional fill dirt, which will kill all the existing trees, anyway, so cutting them down is immaterial.”

Just get rid of all the trees, add dirt, concrete, a model home to encourage others to buy, and voila—a new neighborhood!

It’s almost like when great grandad first came to this country, cleared the land, and started farming. But not exactly.

A Free Business Analysis to Benefit the Publishing Industry

  1. Subscriptions contribute only a small amount of money to your bottom line. Advertisements generate far more revenue, but the price you can charge for advertisements is based on the number of subscribers. Therefore, subscribers are more important than subscriptions.
  2. Baby boomers still subscribe to newspapers and magazines; they also purchase books. While some content—including books—are purchased in digital format, many of us prefer cellulose based analog formats (paper) for a variety of reason. If a book is particularly important or enjoyable to me, owning the book is as important as having read it.
  3. Books, in particular, can be passed along to others. Electronic media cannot. You probably see this as an advantage, but passing a book along is an endorsement that may lead to other purchases. Over the years, for example, I have purchased, and passed along to others, dozens of copies of Robert Townsend’s Up the Organization—in my opinion the best management book ever written; many of these people have then also purchased multiple copies of the book to pass along. Telling someone about the e-book you read is less effective—with a few exceptions, such as Andy Weir’s The Martian. Science fiction can get away with that while most other topics cannot.
  4. Reference materials are still best in analog format. Highlighting real paper and adding post-it-notes® works better in technical manuals than the electronic equivalents or even the find or search function.
  5. For the news, print is still pretty much held to a higher standard of accuracy and lack-of-bias. There are still a few—far too few—real journalists in print while the electronic media focuses on sensationalism, commentary, opinion, and conjecture.

So how do you treat your loyal customers?

  • Newspapers get smaller, shorter, and with type that is nearly impossible to read. The public announcements in the Virginian-Pilot, for example, cannot be read even with reading glasses—they require a magnifying glass.
  • On the other hand, the advertisements USE LARGE TYPE AND ARE EASY TO READ.
  • The type in some magazines is very trendy, which often means the type is only subtly different than the background.
  • Stories are continued on page 96 or 104, but too few pages have numbers, or the page numbers are in a trendy font and cannot be deciphered.

So where does that leave us? If the printed media doesn’t clean up its act, the baby boomers—the last vestige of critical thinkers—will have no choice but to get their information from AM talk radio, unattributed sources on 24-hour news feeds in which everything is BREAKING NEWS! Then we too shall base our decisions on sound bites without proof or explanation. We’ll believe what we’re told to believe and act (and vote) accordingly.

You think things are bad now? Just wait.