Monthly Archives: August 2012

House Hunters (International)

As an American there is something that strikes me as odd about this TV show, something that has been puzzling me that I hope someone can help me clear up.   If you are a TV watcher I don’t think you can have missed the many new shows dealing with housing.  People looking for houses, people renovating houses, people looking to create income from renting portions of their houses to others… all seem to run day and night on one particular network.  It is my understanding that it has a rather wide viewing audience and since it is devoid of politics I have found myself turning to it to escape the 24/7 barrage of political bullshit that seems to fill most other networks.

Here is the thing that bothers me, or, should I say leaves me with  questions I have no answers to.  It is my hope that a reader of this can help me out here and provide me with some answers.

How can it be that houses in other countries always seem to cost more than comparable houses in America?  Why is it, do you suppose, that homes in Canada, England, The Netherlands and almost every other country I have observed are priced  far in excess of what the exact same house in America would sell for?  In some cases, if you have ever watched the show in question, you will notice that they are priced two or three times MORE than the same house in America would cost in spite of the fact, at least they tell me it is a fact, that here in America we have it better than they do anywhere else in the world?  Our housing prices have plummeted, tens of thousands are evicted from homes they can no longer pay for, daily, and still we are informed that America’s particular brand of Capitalism is the cat’s meow when it comes to the right way to run an economy.

All this puzzles me even more due to the fact that one of my remarkable offspring (and family) have recently relocated to The Netherlands where they are gainfully employed designing custom electron microscopes for the electronics industry and biological research.  They are dealing with it and the cultural shock of realizing that people who are not blessed with the boon of inhabiting the most “exceptional” country in the world can still not only find homes and happiness, but, can somehow not be driven to mass suicide once they are old enough to realize they are not Americans.

Since most of the TV shows I have observed deal with properties in Canada I will tell you some of the things I have learned about home ownership there.  First, homes cost MUCH more in Canada than comparable homes do in America in spite of the fact, reliable sources inform me, that Canadians spend most of their time lining up at our border in an attempt to purchase American health care because it is so much better under a fee for service system.  The fact that Canadians outlive us by more than two years, statistically, is irrelevant of course.  In Canada 50% of the homes do not have a mortgage on them and a minimum of 25% of the purchase price is required to even apply for a mortgage.   Liars Loans, the foundation of America’s floundering financial housing base, it appears, never quite took off in the rest of the world for reasons the American banking industry have never figured out.  Canada has no “Housing Bubble” and prices are not only stable, but, continue to climb.  Our housing prices, in case you have missed it, have plummeted and remain stagnant.

So, how can this be?  Since we are the “Free” ones and since we are the “Exceptional” ones… how come so many of us are living in the street or expecting an eviction notice any day now?  Why is it so much cheaper to purchase housing in America, and yet, so hard for Americans to aspire to successful home ownership?

I have a few ideas:

1.  Could it be that NOT having to continually worry about obscene and crippling health care costs permits people to actually save more for things like down payments and pass more of their lifetime wealth accumulation to their children?

2.  Could it be that government investment in infrastructure and mass transportation is a good thing because it frees people from having to remain constantly in debt to banks for automobile loans, insurance and maintenance?

3.  Could multitudes of people riding bicycles, rather than being an admonition of an unsuccessful economy, really be the mark of a culture that understands that saving money AND getting exercise are a win-win combination?

4.  Could making it less financially attractive for people to live in suburbia by putting high taxes on gasoline while, simultaneously, improving every aspect of life in urban areas, (instead of abandoning them to the poor where crime, poor public education, hopelessness and the illegal drug trade take their inevitable toll) , actually make some kind of sense?

5.  Is it possible (and I’m asking this as a kind of a joke) that capitalism as we practice it here in the exceptional good old USA isn’t turning out to be what we were told to expect?  That instead of it Flowering here it has turned out to be more of a weed infestation where one particular kind of weed, like kudzu, monopolizes more and more of the available resource at the expense of everything and everybody else?

[As a side note]  My daughter informs me that my grandchildren in The Netherlands are now playing in clean and attractive parks, within easy walking distance, that would be considered DEATH TRAPS if they existed in America.  There are sharp objects not wrapped in rubber and things to climb, where children can actually fall, that are not roped off for the children’s protection.  We are left to wonder how children not growing up in America ever survive to adulthood.

I would appreciate any ideas or comments regarding any of the paradoxes presented by the thoughts and information above.

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NO EXIT

If man is more normal, healthy and happy, the more he can successfully repress, displace, deny, rationalize, dramatize himself and deceive others, then it follows that the suffering of the neurotic comes… FROM PAINFUL TRUTH.

[He] is much nearer to the actual truth psychologically than the others and it is just that from which he suffers  [Otto Rank]

It isn’t the truth we seek.  What our lives consist of is the sifting of input and the rejection of anything that contradicts the reality we have constructed for ourselves, or, others have constructed for us.   The greater the amount of input the faster we must sift.  In todays media soaked world we soon realize, consciously or subconsciously, that we simply cannot sift fast enough to stay ahead of the input.  It is at this point we realize that we must shut down, go crazy, or, find a way to pre-filter the input.  Luckily, evolution has supplied us with a brain magnificently equipped to withhold from itself information that would rock our little psychic boats.  Thanks to self-delusion, self-hypnosis and reality distortion we are safe… for the moment.

This, of course, is why religious people have fewer reasons to visit the Mental Health Clinic than non-believers do.  It stands to reason (what a hilarious phrase THAT is) that the more equipped a person is at constructing a water tight reality for themselves the less they will suffer from any input that would bring that reality into question.

In the light of this you really have to ask yourself…… What’s crazy and what isn’t?

Is the person who only watches FOX News crazy and the person who only watches MSNBC News not, or, is it the other way around?  Are Buddhists more sane than Mormons?  Are Conservatives more rational than Liberals…. OR…. in the face of what we realize being “human” really means……. Is it just an invalid question?

I’m forced to fall back on that old invention of mine…. The Happy-Ometer Hat.  You see, if you can put a hat on someone’s head that would register their degree of happiness from to 100 we could dispense with all the bullshit of “who is sane and who isn’t”.

We could pick the winners from the losers in the blink of an eye.

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Making Faces

Here I am.  It’s one of those afternoons where the air is clear, the water is clear and everything in the whole world is so damn clear that there is no place to hide and nothing to hide behind.  There is no music playing.   It is quite outside.  It is quiet inside.  Every movement is recognized as futile before it can even be fully conceived.  Even breathing in and out seems a stupid waste of time and energy.

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms,” poet Muriel Rukeyser famously remarked.

Where would we be without stories?

“If” self deception and self hypnosis didn’t evolve as the foundation of intelligence, as the rock upon which self awareness stands, intelligent life could not, would not, permit  itself to continue.  With enlarged brain capacity came the ability to anticipate and the capability to imagine the terrifying nothingness beyond death. Pure Reality is chaos.  Pure intelligence is naked terror.

“Without artificial methods for translating chaos into the semblance of order, we would soon encounter a cosmic bedlam where no reasons could be found for anything.”  [J.F. Schumaker]

Counter-intelligence (self-deception, religion & self-hypnosis) rescued us from the psychologically paralyzing quality of Pure Intelligence.  We live and operate believing our condition is something entirely different than it actually is.

At times I can’t help feeling embarrassed for us all.  It seems so damn silly!

I can’t tell you why, but looking at Mitt Romney, somehow, makes it all MUCH worse.

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1-800-BAD-DRUG

I don’t know if this TV commercial runs in your area, or, for that matter, if you watch television.  In my little part of the world it seems to run non stop.

From what I understand somewhere between 200,000 and a quarter of a million Americans kick the bucket every year as a direct result of medication prescribed for them.   Drugs that were tested and permitted to be sold routinely turn out to be the cause, rather than the cure, of a long list of unfortunate situations.  It is a sobering statistic.

That is one of the reasons I love lawyers.   It gives me a warm feeling to know that, somewhere out there, there is a lawyer willing to fight a fight so I don’t have to.   I know, I know… it isn’t really popular to “like lawyers”, but, I do because without them absolutely nothing would stand between the little guy and the powerful individual, or corporation’s, desire to grind them into the dust for personal gain or profit.  Lawyers are like prize fighters.  We hire them because we are not equipped to go into the ring ourselves and that is what they specialize in.

There are an awful lot of people who don’t like lawyers.  If you have lost a legal case it is much easier to blame “lawyers” than it is anything else because they are the most visible, the actors in the performance if you will.  People rarely ever say… “I HATE Juries”, even though it is the jury that makes the decision, NOT lawyers.  People also hate to see someone (other than themselves) win a huge legal settlement.  Whenever that happens they attribute it to some sleazy legal trick, or, the system being hopelessly broken.   Rarely will you hear someone say… “That jury must have been made up of crazy people!”  Oddly enough people seem to forget that BOTH sides in a legal dispute have legal representation and that only one side can win.  For reasons I can’t fathom people don’t seem to mind at all when a huge corporation, with hundreds of lawyers on staff, wins a suit against a little guy.  But, should the “little guy” win a big award against the BIG corporation, or, some fat cat with more money and power than you can shake a stick at…. well, there is something just not right about that.  In cases like that we need Tort Reform.

Tort Reform, of course, would make the loser pay the legal expenses of the winner.  No longer could ANY lawyer afford to take on the case of a poor person who felt that they had been wronged or damaged by a rich person.  No poor person in their right mind would dare seek justice knowing that, since their rich adversary could afford the best in legal representation and the best paid experts, while he/she could afford nothing of the kind…. it could never again even approach anything like a fair fight in the court room.   It would indeed “re-form” the system and return us all to the good old days when people knew their place and didn’t contradict their betters.  Amen.

When people tell me lawyer jokes or go on about how they hate lawyers I always tell them this…

If, one day, the nasty little girl that lives down the street becomes angry at you because, lets say, you told her not to pick your flowers, or, let her dog Scruffy pee on your roses and decides to get even by telling her dad that you touched her “down there”….. When your neighbors surround your house with pitchforks and torches and the cops are telling you that you don’t deserve to live as they are throwing you into the back of the police car….. Remember, when they begrudgingly permit you that one phone call…..

Call a fucking plumber.

 

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Some thoughts on ABORTION

It’s a beautiful summer morning here at the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The sun isn’t up yet, as I type, but, the songbirds are.  A cacophony of peeps, tweets and squawks assaults my shell like ears.  I sip contentedly from an enormous tin mug of [Maxwell House] (original roast) coffee.  Quite naturally my mind turns to the subject of abortion.

I don’t believe in any such thing as a magical deity.  There has never been a moment in my life where the whole idea didn’t seem ridiculous and scary.  Scary from the point of understanding that I was surrounded by people who inhabited realities I could never fathom.   Trans-Galactic, Totalitarian realities where they were being watched, perpetually, by a magical deity that made his debut and announced his existence to us in the Bronze Age.  They were sure of it.  I was speechless in what I see now was the long, drawn out, horror of awakening to the realization that I was of their species.  The horror persists long after the awakening.  (The sun is a red ball now hovering in the branches of an ancient maple)

But I digress.  In a world where children starve to death at the rate of one every few seconds it’s absurd to think MORE children would make things better.  That’s it in a nut shell.  If there actually were something “sacred” about life children would never be permitted to starve.  So, there isn’t, not with standing any protests to the contrary by believers in magic.  (I have often wondered if religious people get a bigger thrill out of seeing a magician saw a woman in half and then put her back together again than agnostics or atheists do.)

A deity that would demand MORE of what there is already more than can be successfully digested is like this guy above.  Like a fat man at a buffet who continues to fill more plates in spite of the fact that he can’t quite swallow what he already has.  It’s disgusting to observe.  I couldn’t care less if people claim he is magical.

(What’s really magical is the golden light that permeates everything now that a morning ground fog oozed its way out of what appeared to be nothing at all.)

 

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