Here Thar Be Monsters!

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Well, folks, time to take a breather and catch up with the doings around here.

As promised, we are getting into the multimedia in a big way.  We've already brought you an interview with Peter Levenda on the temples of Java and Hitler's final resting place.  We talked to Courtney Brown about remote viewing and some interesting developments in that area.  In a couple of days, we'll be posting a new interview that will twist your mind into a pretzel.

And we're not stopping there.  We're in contact with a dozen other folks who are pushing the boundaries of culture, knowledge and understanding.  We're doing this because we are curious too.

That's why all this is free.  We're not trying to get rich off other people's work and ideas.  We want to give an additional channel for them to reach more minds.

Life on the Far Side is not about where you dwell, but where your head is.  It's about thinking long and deep about Everything, which is a really broad topic.  As one of our favorite authors put it, it all comes down to Life, the Universe and Everything (Douglas Adams).

The reason people think inside a box is because that box was constructed around their minds to keep them from asking the really important questions.  What's more, if they asked the important questions, then they were trained not to hear the answers.

Well, here on the Far Side, we want to ask those questions, and then record the answers so that we can go back and check them later, to make sure we heard what we heard.

The point is, we aren't happy with the pat answers.  They have failed us...miserably.  We want new, fresh answers so that we can explore a different way of thinking.  We want to leave the old paradigms that have killed and impoverished so many people on this planet, and create new ones that enrich all of our lives...not just physically with gold and paper, but spiritually, with ideas and lines of inquiry.  We think of Jack Nickolson in "A Few Good Men" saying, "You can't handle the truth!"

Beg your pardon, but not only can we handle it, but we want more than just your truth.  We're Far Siders!

The guests we're lining up for Radio Far Side are not crackpots.  They aren't fringers and conspiracy theorists.  These are people who have invested many hours of their lives into exploring life's mysteries.  They are experts in their fields, if for no other reason than because there is no one else in their field.

We want to ask the really deep questions and we're not afraid of the answers.  We may not like the answers, but that doesn't mean we shut them out.

Yes, we will step outside the bounds of 'normal'.  Yes, we will ask the hard questions.  Yes, we will work to get guests on that challenge the very foundations of our beliefs and sacred texts.  But that's what it means to live on the Far Side.

By the way, of the twelve guests we are trying to line up right now, six of them we suggested by readers/listeners.  You want to hear us converse with someone?  Send in the name.  Our email address is under the header.

Stay tuned...we've only just begun!


What A Riot!

You want to know why the media is just falling all over themselves to cover the "Pussy Riot" trial in Russia?

No, it's not the free speech issues.  No, it's not the opportunity to point out Russia's own short-comings on the fascist front.  No, it's not the jabs at Putin.

The whole and singular reason that the media is all over this story is that editors can let the word "pussy" go into headlines and get away with it.  Seriously.  That's it.  No other reason whatsoever.

You see, the media thrives on what they can slip past censors.  All media everywhere are controlled in some way or another, even here on the Far Side.  I don't publish things I think will incite riots or get me killed, though certainly I have the articles to achieve both goals.  I like living.  I, like any good sniper, take the shots I can get away with.  Such is the nature of the Pussy Riot reports.

Editors are beholden to publishers, who answer to shareholders, who obey authoritarian censors.  It's all a game of what we can let slip and what we have to hold back.  In other words, we are all subject to "corporate voicing".

By way of disclosure, I am guilty of corporate voicing.  In fact, I'm pretty damn good at it, and I've been paid well over the eons to do it.  So, when I launch into the upcoming rant, I am doing so at the risk of criticizing my own bread and butter.  That said...

The concept behind corporate voicing is to create a single 'voice' for a corporation, simply put.  Corporations are hives of humans who act in single-minded purpose to achieve a goal - usually profit - to benefit some group - usually shareholders.

Corporations act as single living beings.  The Executive is the brain, HR is the liver and heart, labor is the stomach, marketing is the tongue, legal is the conscience, and on it goes.  Corporations are monolithic entities that act as single units despite having hundreds, even thousands of individual parts.  To society, corporations want to present a unified face, as if they collectively act as one being.

Thus, corporate voicing.

It all has to do with the study of communications and languages.  We all have unique and identifying 'voices'.  Writers, like me, spend a lot of time developing our 'voices'.  Public figures go through hours of 'voice' training.  All of this is to the goal of sounding like we are a particular thing.

Jeff Foxworthy likes to sound like a hick.  Geoge Carlin enjoyed his Nieu Yawk voice.  Peter Jennings has tried desperately NOT to sound Canadian.  Actors want to sound Shakespearean.  It's all to project a certain image and sound that is uniquely theirs.

In the same way, corporations work hard to develop a syntax and vocabulary that defines the group as a whole.  It doesn't matter who you plug into the CEO seat, the corporation still has the same 'voice'.  In the individual, the conscience and reason control the 'voice'.  In a corporation, legal and risk management control that function.  This function censors the 'voice' to create a certain public persona.  When McDonald's or Sony or Apple put out press releases, you know by reading them which company issued it by the certain 'voice' it uses.

In the same way, you can read an essay and know whether Mark Twain or Woody Allen or Edgar Allan Poe wrote it.  The 'voice' makes it unique and identifiable.

If you are aware of this, then you know that ANY media outlet has its own 'voice'.  It has certain stories, issues and means of delivery that are unique to it.  Even though BBC and ZRD cover the same story, they each have a special take on the story that matches their 'voice'.

To say that some media is not censored is ignorant.  Even if there is no outside influence, such as government oversight, they still develop their own 'voice' as a way of making themselves unique.  It's almost a natural function of groups of people acting in concert.  Even the 'Occupy' movement developed their own voice, which was further modified by the media outlets covering them, which edited their 'voice' to match the outlet's 'voice'.  Thus Fox's coverage was different from RT's coverage, despite having more or less the same pictures and sound bites.

So, I see by that look on your face that you're wanting to know what all this rubbish about corporate voicing and censorship has to do with Pussy Riot.  Well...I'm glad you asked.

You see, folks who work in the kind of world where every word, phrase and idiom has been carefully chosen and parsed by Legal and Risk Management departments crave being able to step outside the bounds.  So when a story comes along like this one, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

In the button-down world of corporate communications, the word 'pussy' would most likely be banned from all vocabulary lists, unless it was part of a formal name, say like 'pussywillow'.  Even the colloquial regerence to felines would be banned because of the chance it could be misinterpreted and lead to sanctions or lawsuits.

When a band in Russia gets in trouble and ends up in court, and the band's name is Pussy Riot, these poor souls jump all over the story because they can use a banned word, in it's banned connotation, and get away with it.

Oh sure, they dress it all up in Free Speech moralizing and Human Rights preachifying.  They even use it to point out that other countries are just as totalitarian and fascist as America, so get over your whining.  But the fact is, if the band's name had been, say, Wooden Dolls, there wouldn't have been half the coverage.  Pussy Riot is just too good to pass up, and you can slide it past all the censors, Legal, Risk Management, and editors.  What could be more fun?

I guarantee you, that's the only reason this story got legs.

So the next time you see Pussy Riot, Inglorious Basterds and Dick Head's Bar and Grill in the news, you can bet your bottom dollar that all the writers and publishers cared about was being able to use banned words and get away with it.

Kinda takes the mystery out of the news rooms, doesn't it?



Lasting Impressions

In August of 1966, I was 5 years old.  Very impressionable age.  I was in the first class of the TeeVee generation.  I soaked up media in a way my parents had never experienced.  Part of that soaking was the sheer pomp and propaganda surrounding the US space program.

My mother says that even though I was still an infant, I was entranced by Glenn's orbital flight coverage.  I watched every bleary-eyed moment of coverage of every mission.  Whenever someone would ask what I wanted to be, my first and only answer was, "The first man on Mars."

I also had a priviledged position.  My father was a Texas legislator from Houston.  Houston, you may recall, was made the center of the US manned space program by President Lyndon Johnson.  As a consequence, Dad got invited to NASA quite a bit.

On one occasion, I was toted along during one of his political stops there.  I was in awe, as any 5-year-old would be in such a situation - especially one who idolized the space program.

Those were heady days at NASA.  The Kennedy mandate to land a man on the Moon by 1970 had caused floods of money to pour into NASA.  The government propaganda machine was in full gear cranking out heroes of demi-god status, called astronauts.  The astronauts' egos were certainly up to the task.  They were as boisterous and strutting as the NASA media machine would let them be.

It was August 1966, as I said.  We had just toured Mission Control and the training facility.  Dad and several other legislators were surrounded by a gaggle of bureaucrats all bowing and scraping to ensure political favor in Austin and beyond.  I was one of three privileged kids who were being gently herded into a corner while the adults discussed sacred matters of global domination, national security and Cold War politics.  I didn't care much for all that.

Instead, I was gawking and absorbing my surroundings.  It was as if a devout Catholic were standing in the Pope's apartment waiting for an audience.

There was a commotion among the adults.  Three of the astronauts had just come in to glad-hand and be seen.  They were political props.  I could identify with that.  I was too.  I was always trundled out when Dad needed to demonstrate his commitment to 'family values', even though that term had yet to gel in American politics.

I recognized Gus Grissom and Alan Shepherd, the first two Mercury astronauts.  There was a third figure with his back to me.  I could just see the buzz-cut strawberry blond hair.  At one point, though, he seemed to be struck by something and he turned to us kids in the corner.

It was Neil Armstrong.  I recognized him immediately, since he had just months before been all over the media after Gemini 8.  At the time, we the American public weren't allowed to know it, but Armstrong had cooly saved his own life and that of his crewmate David Scott.  Their mission was the first ever to attempt a docking between two craft on orbit.  They had rendezvoused with the spent stage of an Agena satellite launcher.

Carefully hidden from us mere mortals by the government propaganda machine was that Armstrong's ship had had a major malfunction and had spun wildly out of control.  They had to abort but couldn't re-enter the atmosphere until the capsule had stopped spinning.  Armstrong had carefully brought the machine under control and was finally able to stabilize it enough to get home.

This same man now walked over to us kids with a soft smile on his face and he squatted down to our level.  The other two kids were generally ignorant of who was now addressing us, but I knew...and I was dumb-struck. 

He reached out and shook all our hands.  The other two kids gave timid response, but I offered the best Texas arm-twister I could muster, given that my hand was engulfed in his.

Armstrong seemed to focus on me.  Maybe it was my own focus on him, or maybe I had a look on my face that said I was more aware of my surroundings than the other two.

"So what do you guys think of all this," he asked, looking around at our little clique.

"This is really cool!", I blurted out.  The other two kids made some half-hearted responses.

"Do you like the space program," Armstrong asked us.

"Oh yes, Mr. Armstrong!"

He cocked an eyebrow at me.  "You know who I am?"

"I saw you on TeeVee.  You were on Gemini 8.  What's it like?"

"Wow, you sure know a lot, don't you?  It's really strange up there.  It makes your stomach tickle.  Would you like to be an astronaut?"

"Yes!  I want to be the first man on Mars," I gave my standard media response.

"Why is that," he asked with a smile.

"'Coz I think a red-head should be the first man on the Red Planet," again offering my standard media line.

Armstrong laughed and patted his head.  "I wholly agree with you!"  He tossled my hair just to emphasize our joint membership in that exclusive club.

"How do I become an astronaut," I asked with genuine desire.

"Work hard in school and learn everything you can.  By the time you're old enough, they should be about ready to crew up for Mars," he offered.  "I have to go now, but you kids enjoy yourselves."

"Thanks, Mr. Armstrong!"  I enthused.

He stood and smiled again down at us rugrats, then he turned and walked back to the group of adults.  He exchanged some words with Alan Shepherd, who turned and gave me a smile and a wink.  I felt my knees nearly buckle.

Two years later, Gus Grissom died in the capsule of Apollo 1 on the launch pad.  That was a devastating blow to my 7-year-old psyche.  He was one of my heroes, too.

Three years later, Armstrong radioed back to Earth, "Houston, Tranquility Base here.  The Eagle has landed."  I just knew when he said "Houston", he was thinking of that little red-headed kid at NASA headquarters that sweltering August afternoon.  I felt chills run up my spine. 

I still do, when I think about it.

Shepherd went on to land on the Moon with Apollo 14, and became the first man to play golf on another world.  I had occasion to meet him several more times over the next couple of decades, until he died in 2007. 

I remember at one point early in my career as a TeeVee cameraman running into Shepherd at a hoity-toity function at the River Oaks Country Club.  I lowered my camera and reached out to shake his hand.

"Mr. Shepherd, you're one of my heroes," was the only intelligible thing I could manage.

He looked at me and said, "Well, you look like a fairly intelligent young man."  He smiled and winked at me and moved on with the crowd.

I went on to a satisfying media career, since that was what I was immersed in, being a political brat.  But, I did study several semesters in astrophysics at university.  I never lost my awe of Space, the Universe and Everything.

Now the nice man who was the only one of the adults to come over and talk with us kids has gone on Life's greatest adventure.  I can only imagine what he saw and felt in his life.  But I know that both he and I, and Mankind for that matter, are no closer to walking on Mars than we were that day 46 years ago.  In fact, we seem to be getting further and further from it.

I know that our future lies 'out there', and so did that nice man at NASA. 

I was secretly hoping that Armstrong's death would trigger the release of some Great Secret about the Moon.  Maybe that will come when the last Moonwalker passes on.  Maybe never.

Nevertheless, Godspeed, Neil Armstrong.  You left a lasting impression on this little red-headed political brat standing in the corner, out of the way of adult business.

I'll never forget.


Ramadan Gone

Today marks the end of Lebaran, which is a week-long national holiday in Indonesia.  The official days off were last Sunday and Monday, but so many folks bug out of town to pulang kampung (return to the village), that really life here just shuts down for a week.

12 million people vanish overnight - KOMPAS photo
Lebaran is akin to American Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter all rolled into one.  Airports are packed.  roadways are jammed.  Special feasts are prepared.  Gifts are exchanged.  Bonuses are received.

The cause for all this revelry is the Islamic holiday of Ei'd al-Fitr, or in the Indonesian spelling, Idul Fitri.  The holiday begins at the precise moment of the New Moon following the month of fasting and marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year, in this case 1488.

Ramadan is a curious concept.  It requires the strict muslim to not ingest anything. He may not eat, drink, swallow saliva, smoke, or otherwise take something into his body from sun up to sun down.  There are many devout observers of this practice, but there are many who practice in public.  As my aunt said about Southern Baptists, "Honey, we're Baptists.  We don't drink in front of each other."  As with all religions, there are many whose integrity extends only as far as the neighbor's eyesight.

Ramadan is actually quite annoying for those who are not caught up in the spirit of things.  There are the gangs of gung-ho youth who traipse through the neighborhood at 2am banging drums and cymbals to wake folks for the early morning food fest and prayer time.

The mosques begin their turn at 3am with the actual wake up call that the drummers prepared us for an hour earlier.  Depending on the local imam, this may last 5 minutes, or go on well past sunrise roughly three hours later.

This routine goes on for a full 28 or 29 days, depending on whether you follow the synodic or sidereal calendar.  In fact, the government agency in Indonesia whose official task is to determine the beginning and end of Ramadan is always at odds with the mosques.  Every year it's the same controversy.  The government agency follows the sidereal calendar, so they determine that Ramadan starts slightly later and ends slightly earlier than the imams.  Naturally, most folks follow the government agency, especially for the ending time.

The routine is always the same.  For the first week and a half, there is great excitement and fervor as everyone begins the fast.  By the end of the second week, folks have a haunted and pained demeanor.  By the third week, the paranoia sets in: are you fasting?  You better be fasting.  If I'm fasting, you need to be suffering along with me.  As the fourth week begins, the markets fill up with shoppers and prices go through the roof as everyone prepares for Idul Fitri.  Everyone starts worrying about their THR, or bonus pay.

Oh, THERE they are! - KOMPAS photo
Then comes the day before Idul Fitri.  There is nothing quite like it.  Dump trucks get hired out by groups of people going to any given village and 50 to 100 people pile in with their bags for the long, arduous journey to anywhere.  Trains are piled inside and out with people.  Literally millions of cars and motorcycles hit the roadways.  The news is filled with stories of macet, or 'log jam'.  The papers have a running, week-long death tally (this year 870 dead).  It reminds me of the Great Rita Fiasco in Houston several years back, though this mess is an annual ritual.

The night before Idul Fitri, the mosques begin the chanting that will last until well past sunrise the next day - about 13 hours here on the equator.  The next night is marked by a literal orgy of fireworks that goes on for a minimum of five days, depending on when supplies are exhausted.  There are spontaneous bands of merry-makers roving around whooping and hollering.  Everyone shoves food in your face claiming their variation of such-and-such a delicacy is the finest.

By Sunday (today), the fireworks are gone, the revelries have slowed, the shops start re-opening, most folks are back home, and life starts returning to normal again.  Prices, which sky-rocketed last week, start to settle down, though they never return to the levels seen just a short time ago.  The exercise group starts meeting again in the park in front of the house.  The food vendors return to their usual rounds.  Traffic jams clog every road and byway of Jakarta once again.  And the Christians start planning for Christmas.

Life goes on.  Hi Ho, as Kurt Vonnegut might put it.


My Summer Vacation

Thank God vacation is almost over so we can go backto work and get some rest!  If there's a part of the Universe where logic ceases to exist, then Indonesia is the gravitational center of that region.

What we started with...
We just spent the past 10 days wrangling the Far Side World Headquarters-Java Branch into shape.  It was getting burdensome having to take the ferry to south Kalimantan, take the Vietnam-era Jeep as far as the roads could go, paddle the lizard-skin canoes up to the camp, and get all the monkeys back in line to get things running.

Now we have the Java branch that is much closer, much cooler and with far fewer wives to worry us into a tizzy.  Now we just load up the Far Side Micro Bus with cheese and crackers, and head for the mountains.  Only problem is we haven't finished training the monkeys yet, so there's no one to run the cable or pedal the generators so we can get on the internet.

As a consequence, we found out just how addicted to the internet we really are.

Whipping a jungle house into shape is no easy feat.  First off, Nature put all the trees in the wrong place, so we have to move them around and arrange them just so.  After all, you don't want a coconut falling on you during siesta time, right?  And banana flowers make a horrible mess and are relegated to the back 40 where we don't have to step in all that.

Our poor elephant...
Second, Nature rarely provides a putting green, so there was the matter of leveling and adding good coastal grass, not to mention running into the village to choose just the right goats for grounds-keeping.  And of course goats mean fencing, and not just any fencing.  They can get out of any maximum security state correctional facility without even trying.

Third, trying to level out and square up a bamboo hut is not as straight-forward as you might think.  There's a lot of slop in coconut-fiber rope.  As a result, half the doors won't stay shut, and the other half won't open.  What's more, if you get one side of the house leveled up, it pulls the other side out of plumb.  On top of that, First Wife insists on sweeping dirt floors the whole time, so we have to wear breathing apparati which makes it really hard to see (don't ask).

Then there's the whole matter of mosquitoes.  Now, coming from Texas as we do, you'd think we'd have no problem with this.  After all, Indonesian mosquitoes aren't all that big - only the size of vampire bats or so.  Fact is, the little buggers are really strong.  We put in a triple layer of ultra-fine steel mesh strong enough to stop a charging water buffalo, and then electrified it as a secondary measure.  Finally, we sank the edges into three inches of pine resin and buried them in cement.  The bastards still found a way in...

The last major chore was indoor plumbing.  Now, the natives have no problem squatting in the bushes, but we require a proper throne with an ample library and hot/cold running water in the bidet.  We simply cannot abide an ice water rinse at the crack of dawn.

Now you'd think bamboo would make the perfect piping, right?  After all, it's tube-shaped, comes in various sizes, and once it's dried and cured, would give steel a run for its money.  All of that is true have to turn a corner.  We successfully managed to bend the green poles and dry them in position, but at some point, you just have to have a 90-degree angle.  We won't even mention making the traps for under the sinks and toilets.  Needless to say, that took a doctorate in civil engineering along with a lifetime of good ol' Texas farmboy know-how, and a lot of high-octane lubrication to keep the blood pressure down.

Amidst all this fun, First Wife kept calling us out to look at where she had placed the orchids, and did we like the artistic way she had coiled the flamboyan vine around the porch columns, and what was the bast arrangement for the rosemary and lavender bushes?

The finished World Headquarters!
You may not know this, but rosemary and lavender keep mosquitoes away, so we sunk the GDP of some small nations into buying up the entire regional supply.  Needless to say, the Java branch of the LFS World Headquarters smells like a properly simmering pork roast.  We woke up every morning with our pillow soaked from saliva.  If we could just find a pig in these parts...

One of the things that really irks us around here is that us Great White Hunter guys are like walking clouds of inflation.  The locals, for some stinking reason, think we are just endless supplies of money, so all the prices immediately jump when we walk into a room.  For example, a bundle of bamboo wall stiffeners would cost a local guy one coconut and three puka shells.  We come in and VIOLA!  It's now two coconuts and half a dozen clam shells!

For that reason, we send out scouts in advance (First Wife) to determine the real-world price of things.  On top of that, our scouts can pinch a penny and hand you a dime, which is a primary reason we married her.  Of course, we're still trying to train her that low prices on cheap goods is not the same as a good price for quality.  Also, she hasn't quite figured out that getting things on sale is STILL spending money, even if you get more for less.

Thankfully, it's the Dry Season.  It didn't rain a drop the whole ten days, which is a blessing.  The dirt up there is red volcanic clay.  On the benefit side of things, the soil is so fertile, your goats get pregnant without any billies around.  On the negative side, the stuff sticks to everything when it's wet and hardens into solid stone.  When you walk around in it for a while it builds up on your feet, so that by the end of the day, you're a full ten inches taller than when you started.

Another drawback is trying to plant anything around this time.  It takes a jack-hammer to get more than an inch into it.  Unfortunately, First Wife had the poor elephant so loaded down with furniture and snacks that the beast looked on the verge of collapse by the time we got there.  First Wife kept saying that perhaps our gold-inlaid sedan chair with the 362 silk pillows might have made a difference, but we weren't going to sacrifice our comfort for anything.

Besides, we were able to squeeze a few sticks of dynamite in our suitcase, which made planting the mango trees a snap.  And talk about fun...!

The Look-Alike
At any rate, we finally made it back to civilization.  The traffic coming back was mild, though we wouldn't know, since we were lulled to sleep by the gentle swaying of the elephant's stride.  But First Wife said she had no problem guiding the beast through all the horse carts and guys carrying stuff on bamboo poles on their shoulders while wearing big cone-shaped straw hats.  Wonder how much they paid for that bamboo?

So we're back up to our neck in heat, humidity, noise, and pollution.  Thank God!  All that vacationing was about to kill us!  We sure miss the cold nights and fresh well water, though.  Did wonders for our libido.  Or maybe it was all that fertile soil...

At any rate, on Monday, we once again assume our disguise as mild-mannered editor-in-chief and squirrelly, bespectacled Rudyard Kipling look-alike.  None the worse for the wear, we daresay.  We can't wait to get back there in three weeks to continue the adventure!

It all brings a poem to our mind, one penned by our mentor and look-alike:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!


INTERVIEW: Dr. Courtney Brown on Radio Far Side

Dr. Courtney Brown joins us on Radio Far Side from Atlanta, Georgia, USA, to discuss the topic of remote viewing.  His organization, The Farsight Institute, is the only public research facility investigating remote viewing and even encourages public participation.  In the interview, we'll discuss exactly what is remote viewing, how it works, what it can do, and how the Farsight Institute goes about their investigations.

We'll also discuss one of Dr. Brown's more intriguing experiments called the 2012 Climate Change Project.  In this experiment, the Institute not only sets out to prove that remote viewing can see into the future, but that there are multiple universes.  As if that's not enough, the results portend major events before June 1, 2013, that will affect every human on Earth.

We'll wrap up with speculation on life in the Universe and other provocative subjects.  Enjoy!

Courtney Brown is a mathematician and social scientist who teaches in the Department of Political Science atEmory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Independent of his work at the university, he is also the leading scholar on the subject of "remote viewing" as it is done using procedures that were developed by the United States military and used for espionage purposes, or procedures that are derivative of those methodologies.

Full HQ video at

Additional Resources

Dr. Courtney Brown personal website
The Farsight Institute
Presentation Venues
Lucerne Gathering of Physicists
Peer-Reviewed Paper on Multiple Universes


You can support Radio Far Side by clicking on the PayPal donate button at the top of the sidebar.  We bring you quality, informative programming and articles without advertising in our effort to take back the culture.  Your support will enable us to expand our efforts.

Don't worry about thinking outside the box...just THINK!

They're Baaaaaack!

Fascism is a lot like pornography - most folks can't define it, but they know it when they see it.  Or do they?

There are two primary defining aspects of fascism.  One is that State and Corporate interests converge, such that the State becomes the enforcement arm of Corporate hegemony, while Corporations enforce State interests at the level of their employees, meaning the rest of us, though things like loyalty tests and tax compliance.

Each scratches the other's back.  The State enacts protective legislation and relaxes regulations that benefit Corporate interests and enforces these things at the point of a gun under the 'color of law'.  Government agents become little more than private police working at the behest of Corporate oligarchs. 

Meanwhile, Corporations serve the State by enforcing tax laws at the level of your paycheck, forcing you to surrender your rights and privacy in order to obtain and keep a job.  You are forced to swear oaths of loyalty through immigration forms.  You are required to surrender bodily fluids and submit to psychological tests in order to receive economic benefit.  Corporate interests also control mass populations through credit and other economic weapons at the behest of the State.

The other defining aspect of fascism is a legal system that is so burdensome and intrusive that every citizen is breaking some law at every moment of their lives.  Granted, the laws are arbitrarily enforced.  You can break some laws for years without reprisal, but if the State decides one day that you are a threat, then it can easily dig up piles of major and minor infractions that you had little idea existed.

This second aspect of fascism is the most insidious.  Laws in most countries are so byzantine that even the legislators have no idea what is in them.  They are simply rewarded or punished with favors to enact them.  The legislators, for their part, don't care much because they enjoy a certain amount of immunity in their positions.

A hallmark of this aspect of fascism is constant and all-encompassing surveillance.  Everything the citizen says, does and thinks is recorded.  If at any point the citizen becomes a threat, the State can prove multiple infractions of little-known laws that on their face, seem contradictory and even ridiculous.  No one will defend the individual out of fear that the same treatment will be applied to them.

At some point, the average citizen becomes aware of the system that has sprung up around him.  At that time, he must make a choice to remain within the system, thus surrendering his morals and ethics, or step outside of it and live as an outlaw constantly looking over his shoulder.  A few will realize that there is no difference between the two choices, but most will come down on the side of supposed caution and try to remain within the system.

As one surveys the modern United States, one sees all the trappings of fascism.  Corporate interests control the legislative bodies.  The legislators completely ignore the will of the electorate, knowing full well that the masses no longer exercise choices that aren't controlled by the Corporations.  On the other side, the State has erected a legal system so massive and byzantine that no individual is without transgression.  He is complete hemmed in by the law to the point of hopelessness and inaction for fear of reprisal.

Over all of this is a surveillance system that documents every little infraction from birth to death.  If at any time the citizen chooses to fight back, the State can simply bury him in a hail of arbitrary charges for things that no one knew were illegal.  Even if the citizen puts up a good fight, the State can simply manipulate the system to impoverish the individual through extended legal proceedings, ultimately crushing dissent by attrition.  The citizen can find no one to stand up for him because everyone is afraid that the same treatment will befall them if they speak up.

Ultimately, fascism is the most devious form of government ever devised.  Because it uses economic weapons, it affects the most basic needs of the individual.  Because it can outlaw literally anything, the individual is made into a criminal for doing nothing more than living.  He can be jailed for collecting rain water or his children taken away for holding bake sales.  His right to travel can be switched off with a simple note on his government records.

In the end, we all become Josef K in a Kafka-esque nightmare so bizarre and horrifying that the system strikes fear into even those who administer it.  The system takes on a life of its own and will finally begin to eat its own.

At this point, it finally begins to unravel, as everyone realizes that there is no safe harbor in such a system.  But by the time this happens, it has eaten the life out of generations of human beings and thoroughly destroyed innocence and trust.

Fascism takes root through ignorance and thrives in denial.  We give purchase to it when we think, "It can never happen here."  We fertilize it by thinking, "It is NOT happening here."

This evil is so pervasive that one begins to think there is no way to fight.  No true.  In fact, the best weapon against it is so simple as to be incredible.  It's called 'shunning'.

We must shun the system and all its trappings.  We must shun the electoral process.  It is vital that we realize this sham is worthless as a means of change.  It is nothing more than a way to get us to buy into our own destruction.  It gives the system legitimacy, even though it is completely illegitimate.

We must vilify its apparatchiks and turn them into pariahs.  If a known government agent walks into a restaurant and sits down, people should get up and move away.  We should hide our children from police as if they carry an infectious disease.  We should not associate with anyone employed by the system, to the point of breaking friendships over it.

We should avoid the courts at all costs.  We should not pray and plead in the system's holy rooms, but rather find creative ways to settle our differences outside those vile halls.

En masse, we should stop renewing licenses and registrations.  We should extract ourselves as completely as we can from any and all control functions of the State.  We should stop using the mega-banks and only use small, local banks whenever it is unavoidable.  We should stop buying products sold by mega-corporations, and support only local shops and manufacturers.

Most importantly, we should ridicule the system at every turn.  The one thing fascism can not abide is for the citizenry to not take it seriously.  When people stop fearing it, it withers and dies.  It can not stand up to satire and mockery.  This was used to great effect against Joe McCarthey.

Shunning is a very old and very effective tool.  If a sufficient number of people turn to this time-tested method, it will achieve tremendous results in a short amount of time without a single act of violence.

Or, as Orwell warned, we can live with the boot of tyranny stamping on our faces for all time.

Fascism is running rampant throughout the world right now.  We don't recognize it because we are looking for Hitlers and Musolinis, and the Nazi trappings and logos.  But fascism morphs and changes with its surroundings.  It will take on the veil of whatever environment it is in.  It wraps itself in you flag.  It dresses itself as your neighbor.  It shakes hands and kisses babies and looks for all the world like the most harmless thing, until you cross it.


The Untouchables

Dust Bowl, Oklahoma
Once upon a time, there was a group of men called the Untouchables by the popular press.  They were idealistic Boy Scouts whose moral character (or lack of self-preservation shills) set them up as incorruptible law enforcement agents.

It was the 1930s Chicago.  Strongman Al Capone had cornered the market in booze, which at that time was the marijuana or cocaine of the US.  Liquor had been outlawed by ambitious do-gooders determined to make an entire country follow their bent morality at the point of a gun.

The only thing this misguided attempt at social engineering produced were some of the most notorious gangs and mob bosses in American history.  But the period of history in which is happened is notable because we today have stepped through the looking glass and are living a strange sort of mirror image of that time.

Then, it was the Great Depression.  A series of misguided attempts to goose the national economy of the US out of the doldrums had backfired and led to even greater misery.  Combined with the ill-timed Dust Bowl drought that wiped out America's central food producing region, it was a time of great suffering.

Back then, a number of folk heroes sprung up.  These were men and women driven by desperation and a sense of righteous indignation to rob banks, because they knew that the banks were the cause of the problems.

John Dillinger
Names like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, and Slick Willie Sutton became household names.  People rooted for them because they were Everyman fighting the Great Pretender.  They were the Robin Hoods and Si Pitungs of their time.  They were attacking the hydra head-on and people secretly supported and admired them, while publicly denouncing their unlawful ways.

In the modern era, we have no such heroes.  Instead, we have Batman killers and Sikh slaughterers.  They are anti-heroes, already victims of government psy-ops and social engineering before their victims are even cold.

Meanwhile, in government, the Untouchables are no longer the enforcers standing up to mob bosses.  Rather they ARE the mob bosses looting and plundering Everyman with abandon, with no check on their rampages.  Smoot-Hartley has become TAARP, and the only hew and cry the public can muster is "Audit the Fed".  Ron Paul, the voice of reason and lawfulness, has become the new John Dillinger.

In fact, the recent series of Batman films is a perfect metaphor.  The character that appears to be evil and uses symbols of fear is the good guy, while the Scarecrow, Joker and Bane, who use symbols of goodness and ancient righteousness, are the ultimate evil.  Hell, even Jimmy Holmes 'allegedly' wore a police-style uniform while committing his act of drug-induced terror.

It is the ancient majik come to life.  What is white is black, what is good is bad.

In recent news, the Obama administration (the alleged Man of Peace) authorized Fast and Furious to buy guns through strawman purchases, then give them to Mexican bandits to use in crimes, them blame Everyman for the crime and take away his rights.

Goldbag Sacks, by far the most evil of all corporations, has been caught with its pants down.  Yet, like a good whore, it has been paid for its services, rather than punished for its transgressions.

Hong Kong courts handed HSBC the right to evict the Occupiers, though they were perfectly within their 'legal' rights to do what they were doing.

Even Natural Rights have become Civil Rights, implying the civil authority granted them, so it can take them away, as well.

Bonnie and Clyde's demise
Heck, even the Pope is calling for global government, as long as his office is in on the deal, of course.

So here in the Mega Depression, we see ghosts of things past.  We have drought and banksters and folk heroes, but the tables are turned.  Now, the drought is a form of crowd control, the banksters have become the Untouchables, and the folk heroes are tortured souls fighting the symbols of good.  What's up is now down.

It used to be an Untouchable was someone good beyond reproach.  Now, he's a slick bankster in an Armani original.  Vampires have been turned into love interests.  A werewolf is a friend in the realm of majik.

Alice would feel right at home in this world.

Reader note: I've been criticized of late for not providing links.  Sorry, this column is opinion, and like belly-buttons, everyone's got one.  The only link my belly-button had was severed at birth.  I provide names, dates and events.  You job is to copy and paste in Google/Dogpile and formulate your own opinion.

It takes 2 to 3 hours of writing, a lot of reading and researching, and half a bottle of duty-free tequila to produce one column, and there are over 400 columns on this site.  If you want links, look for the PayPal "Donate" button on the top of the sidebar.  Anyone who donates will have my undivided attention, as well as mile-and-a-half long emails full of links and footnotes.

In the meantime, I'll keep spouting off without any attribution.  So there.  :p


Hype And Hyperbole

All the hype and hyperbole surrounding the Curiosity rover landing on Mars is really quite humorous.  Terms like "biggest", "best", "most ambitious", and "powerful" have been landing with thuds as resounding as the rover itself.  Frankly, it all calls for a little reality check, which we love to do around here.

First of all, Curiosity is a little over 40 years too late to claim all the big titles.  In 1970 and 1973, the Soviet Union landed two rovers, called Lunokhod 1 and 2, on the Moon.  They were about the same size and weight, and had more or less the same toys as Curiosity (including laser and radiation detector).

By the way, Lunokhod means "moon walker", so even Michael Jackson got beat on that one.

Together, these rovers lasted a bit over a year and traveled 10 miles or so.  They dug up rocks and took pictures, just like Curiosity presumably will do.  If you count the fact that various groups still bounce lasers off of these rovers to measure the precise distance to the Moon, then they've been working for well over 40 years.

So, how about most ambitious?  Well, let's start with what Curiosity can do.  It can take photos, drill rocks and sample dirt.  It's stated goal is to find the "building blocks of life."  Can we find anything more ambitious than that?

Well, let's completely forget the Apollo Moon landings, since the Curiosity media team seem to have done so.  Instead, let's limit ourselves to just robotic missions.  And if we measure ambition by the science goals, then the idea of looking for real, extant life on another world would trump rocks, I think.  So, if we measure ambition by the potential impact of the data gained, then searching for actual life, and not "building blocks" would be far more ambitious.

For pure ambition, by this measure, the award goes to the two Viking landers in 1976.  These pretty large landers had full biology labs on-board and were tasked with actually FINDING extant life.  And by all accounts, they did!  In fact, the chief investigator for one of the experiments, Gil Levin, has been fighting for 36 years to get notice the fact.

Strangely, every mission to Mars since Viking has done nothing more than take vacation snapshots and sniff rocks looking for "ingredients" and "building blocks".  Even if one argues that the Viking data were ambiguous or chemically induced, doesn't the possibility of finding extant life warrant another try?

Another example of great ambitions?  How about the Soviet Venera landers?  Again in 1970, the Soviets landed the first machine on another planet.  On top of that, they had to survive near-Earth gravity, an acid cloud layer, atmospheric pressure more than 90x Earth normal, and surface temperatures around 860F.  The first one, Venera 7, not only did all that, but sent back data for four months.

Pretty damned ambitious, given the state of the technology back then and the fact that no one else had ever landed  a craft on another planet.

So, where does that leave all the hype and hyperbole surrounding the Curiosity rover?  It's certainly not the most ambitious mission.  It doesn't address any questions that haven't already been amply investigated by multiple orbiters and landers.  It's not the first, but maybe the biggest, but only by a few kilograms.  In fact, about the only big deals with this mission are the landing itself and the HD cameras.

"the scene of the crime"
The landing was remarkable for the Rube Goldberg series of events dubbed the "Seven Minutes of Terror".  It is unique for all the crap it left lying within a half-mile radius of the rover, including two tungsten weights, a heat shield, a massive parachute attached with a lot of string to a backshell, and a rocket backpack with three long cabes that chewed up a lot of real estate during it's brief time on stage.  The landing was also notable for being pretty darned close to the ideal target.

As for the nifty HD cameras, well they're controlled by a guy named Mike Malin of Malin Space Science Systems.  This guy has well over a decade's worth of history NOT showing the full-resolution pix to the folks who paid for them.  On the few occasions he's been badgered into letting loose of a few, he's gone out of his way to screw them up and fuzz out anything of interest.  In other words, you won't catch me holding my breath waiting for the dazzlling hi-rez photos from this rover.

Where does all this leave us, once you strip away all the hype and hyperbole?

The rover management team keeps talking about looking for water.  Well, for God's sake boys, let me help you.  There are two polar caps chock full of water.  The Vikings sent back photos of snow.  There are thousands of pictures of water clouds.  The Phoenix lander dug up ice.  There are water seeps all over the place.  And if you believe your eyes, there's even great pictures of lakes and ponds.

They tell us they are searching for the "building blocks" of life.  Well, let me help you again.  The Vikings found microbes in the soil.  Some of those lakes and ponds have what look like algae that grow and die with the seasons.  There are entire forests of giant tree-like things near the south pole.  And gosh, what about all those pyramids, domes, buildings, and giant sculptures?

In the end, we are still where we were in 1976, only several billion dollars poorer.  Sure, we've got lots of pretty pictures, but we don't get the really good quality ones.  Those are for the personal collection of Mike Malin.  Sure, we've got scads of data from sniffing rocks, but that only excites the geekiest geology buffs.  Basically, what we've got is another multi-billion dollar ad campaign for rocks and vacation slide shows.

After 36 years and billions of bux, don't we deserve a little more than seven minutes of terror?

Several readers have asked for links to further information on some of the claims in this article.  Silly me, I thought everyone knew about this stuff, but apparently not...

Note: Special thanks to for cross-posting this article!  I've received a lot of very positive responses.


A Study In Red

Despite all the hoop-lah and back-slapping surrounding the Curiosity rover, I am once again disappointed.  The cause of my disappointment is the first color photo returned from the rover.  NASA has proved yet again that, despite billions of dollars in technology and amazing landing sequences, they can't take a simple, natural color photo.

NASA seems hell-bent on giving us ruddy colored photos that look as if two of the three-color channels are not functioning.

After all, if you take NASA's blood-red photos into PhotoShop and do a simple auto-correction on the color, you end up with brilliant blue-gray skies and ocre colored landscapes that look as if they could be vacation shots of Arizona or Utah.

Not that they don't tease once in a while.  After the previous two rovers landed, NASA held a press conference showing a natural color photo in the background.  Less than 24 hours later, all the photos had returned to the ruddy red rubbish that we are constantly fed.

Are they worried that we will mistake the photos for some earthly vista?  Or are they trying to make Mars look so inhospitable as to discourage human exploration?

Curiosity has 17 cameras, including two HD cams with different focal lengths mounted on the mast.  It has eight filters on a wheel to allow photos in different wavelengths that reveal different aspects of the geology.  Once of the filters is clear and is supposed to take photos the mimic what the human eye would see from the height of a human's head.  What's the bet that even those photos will be horribly red-shifted.

The photo of the heat shield falling away as the rover was entering Mars' atmosphere appears to show fairly normal colors, judging by the colors or the heat shield, which don't show everything ruddy red.  The MRO photo of the rover and parachute also show fairly normal colors, judging by Earth-side photos of the parachute.  In fact, most photos from Mars appear fairly normal EXCEPT when the sky is visible.

Every time the sky enters the frame, suddenly the colors go to hell and everything becomes the ubiquitous ruddy red.

I'm finding it very difficult to get excited when I know I'm being fed a load of crap using my tax money to do it.  I have been a gung-ho fan of space exploration since I was old enough to know what I was seeing.  There are a lot of other folks who are, as well.  Furthermore, these projects are supposed to be motivators to draw fresh young minds into the business of exploration.

Why would they want to joint a program that so blatantly lies and obfuscates truths as simple as a cheap color photo that most cell phones to run laps around?

I am reserving my enthusiasm for this latest mission until I see evidence that NASA will start giving us even something as simple as a good color photo.  If they continue this ruddy red ruse, then I will continue to believe that they are deliberately hiding much bigger things.

If they can fly this package across 350 million miles, slam it into an alien atmosphere, sail it to within a couple of hundred meters of the target, then why can't they deliver a decent color photo?  The only possible answer is a deliberate effort to hide any and all real information from the very people who pay for it.

In the meantime, I will be sitting on my hands.  I was duly awed by the success of the landing, but that is only one small step in a mission scheduled to last two years, and capable of going over 100 years.  A child born today could conceivably have this machine functioning until the day the same child dies at 80 years old.

Let's hope that in all that time, NASA will finally have enough respect for the people who pay for their toys to offer us a little real information.  And let's start with a damn decent color photo or two.

UPDATE: Because of our chiding (probably not, but we'll take credit), NASA has suddenly - and for the first time in 40 years - decided to start releasing natural color photos of Mars.  They're saying the photos have been artificially colored through a process called "white balancing".

Well, duh, boys.  Every video camera ever invented since the dawn of the color era must be white balanced. It's a standard process that has been a consistent function of video camera use for 45 years.  After all this time, NASA has just discovered it, only they are saying that it is an artificial color process.

Ya know, for a bunch of PhDs with some supposed mental fire-power, these guys are freakin' idiots.


I Have Slipped The Surly Bonds

The one myth that has most bedeviled me for most of my cognitive life is the story of the Tower of Babel.  I use the biblical name for it, but the same or similar story exists in dozens of different forms in dozens of different cultures.  However, the gist of the story is the same in every case.

There is a group of elites, also known as the gods, and there is the rest of humanity.  The gods are in a position of superior technology and able to control and enslave the rest of humanity, and they like it that way.

Humanity, though, has a different view of things.  Through some medium, whether its architecture, economics, science, or whatever, humans were able to come together and challenge the position of the elites.  The Bible puts it this way: humans will be able to do whatever they imagine through the use of the "tower".  Whatever the tower is, it represents mankind's ability to become gods through unified effort.

So what happens?  The gods embark on a decidedly non-religious campaign to scramble and divide humans to prevent them from achieving elite status.  Depending on the version you are reading, the elite split the science, the system of weights and measures, or the languages, thus dividing mankind into warring and irreconcilable factions.

In other words, this is a classic example of 'divide and conquer'.  It is also the playbook by which the contemporary elite continue to keep humanity from uniting in common cause and challenging their exclusive positions as rulers of all.

This is a fascinating phenomenon, because the very tactics and reasoning of the elite has been literally shoved in front of our faces for thousands of years, yet no one seems to get it.  In its simplest form, the Tower of Babel is a story of powerful elites creating conflict among humans in order to prevent them from challenging the status quo.  It is the prototype for the Middle East medling by the West.  It is the foundation of mutually combative religions.  It is the earliest known example of social engineering and psychological warfare.

We see this same tactic restated in Sun Tsu, or Machiavelli, or any of several dozen other thinkers on the topic of social control and manipulation of mass humans.  What's more, this singular event establishes a moral dichotomy between the elites and the rest of us.

By virtue of superior technology, the elite have pounded into our collective mind that they have a separate and superior moral code.  Since they are more advanced, they must also have a higher view of basic moral behavior.  Therefore, humans must adhere to one set of moral standards, while the elites/gods follow another...and theirs is unquestionable because of their superior technology.

At this point, we seem to hit upon the very heart of the problem in the world today.  For us mere mortals, murder is wrong and punishable by draconian methods.  But if you are a member of the elite, then you can slaughter on the most horrendous scales, and it is justifiable because of your higher moral stance.  If you are a mere human, it is wrong and punishable to steal.  Yet, if you are part of the elite, you are justified in helping yourself to the productivity and possessions of whomever you please without recompense. 

The list goes on, but the dichotomy is apparent in every case.  You can't dodge taxes, but the elite can.  You can't get out of speeding tickets, but the elite can.  You can't get a decent education for your kids, but the elite can.  You can't pass on you life's savings to your family, but the elite can.  In every case, might makes right, and we mere mortals are not allowed to question it because the elites live by a different and superior moral code.

Meanwhile, humanity is constantly manipulated to become more and more factionalized.  Whether its religion, economics, rivalries, or wars, we are endlessly steered towards smaller and smaller groups that are mutually exclusive with greater numbers of other groups.

Some examples?  The Batman shooting has set gun-grabbers against gun-owners.  The Chick-fil-A bullshit has set fundmentalist Christians against gay rights groups.  In the Middle East, it's Sunni against Shi'ite, fundamentalists against secularists, democracy against monarchy, male against female.

Support the troops, no matter how egregious their moral transgressions.  The Olympics is nothing but setting nation against nation, with endless accusations or not following the rules in the name of national glory.

All of this strife and division is tailored to any given region.  It is unimportant what the division is.  It is the division itself which serves the elites' purposes.  Whether it's political parties, or who you sleep with, or what name you call your god, the whole purpose is to keep us masses from finding our commonalities and, in doing so, challenging the privileged position of the elite/gods.

Whatever the real story of the Tower of Babel, it is the first recorded use of division and the superior morality argument to subjugate humanity to some self-appointed elite group.  For our part, we play right into it despite having the motive and technique embedded in our favorite holy books.

We are horrified by some drugged-up patsy shooting up a theater full of people, but put him in a uniform and point him at whatever target is dictated to us by the elite and we celebrate the slaughter.

We are angered and indignant when some strung-out junkie breaks into our house and steals some knick-knacks to buy his next fix.  But give that junkie an ID card, some nifty forms and call him an IRS agent, and we'll fork over our hard-earned wealth to him with nary a whimper.

So we've replaced, in our oh-so-advanced society, the gods with the State, but the same playbook is in use.  The State still possesses higher technology and bigger fire-power, so by virtue of that, it must have a superior moral code that we mere mortals cannot question in our miserable and degraded state of being.  So we prance merrily along at the heels of our new gods, doing whatever they bid us while never raising even the most basic moral questions about the acts and motives of our gods.

Might makes right, so we cower behind the State and take pot shots at whatever target it dictates.  We spout off mindless jingoisms like, "My country, love it or leave it."  We "support our troops" and "our athletes", never once asking what part of all that is "ours".  We hate these groups and support those because we are told we must identify with one or another.

The lesson planted in the books in front of our very eyes is that if we put away these rivalries and hold the elite to the same moral code we all believe in, then we could do anything we imagine for ourselves.  We would, in fact, become the elite...the gods.  We would rise above all this bickering crap and turn our attention to far more noble and lofty goals.  Humanity would rise up out of its enshackled squalor and enter a truly Golden Age.

All we have to do is reverse the Tower of Babel.  To do that, we must first understand its true meaning, and how it is burdening our species even now.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred thing
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
== John Gillespie Magee, Jr.


The Meaning Of Life?

For some reason, I woke up this morning with Cindy Lauper's "She Bop" running rampant through my brain.  Why in the hell THAT would be assaulting my morning mind, I can't say.  I couldn't shake it.  I immediately set about playing Handel's Water Music to drown out the inane pop anthem.

But it did set me to thinking, which should terrify anyone regularly reading this space.

The 70s and 80s in America were a time of great banality.  The arts had become vast wastelands of mediocrity that served only greed and narcissism.  True, there were stand outs like Elton John and Bruce Springsteen, alond with a handful of superior movies, but they serve as the exceptions that prove the rule.

The era produced such banal fads as Pet Rocks, glam rock and Michael J. Fox.  It was a period that all great societies seem to go through just before they implode and crumble into the dust from which they came.

In pondering how this inevitable trend operates, I came to the conclusion that at some point, major societies reach a point of such affluence and decadence that two things happen: creativity devolves into hacks for hire, and ultimately, no one wants to do the work.

Many (many) moons ago, there was a cartoon in Penthouse magazine that has been etched into my mind, even deeper than Miss June 1984.  It was a six-panel in which an artist starts out making his paintings in a bare single-room flat while wearing rags.  By the final frame, he is surrounded with admirers, wearing the finest togs and his paintings are now nothing more than his signature.

This was a profound commentary on society in general, and the arts in particular.  The rise of self-indulgent art, combined with the complete lack of discerning taste on the part of the public, is the final phase before the crash and burn.  It is as if the culture has reached the point where it has exploited everything it can get its hands on, and has turned on itself in a final desperate attempt to buy up the last dregs of esthetics.

The other side of this is the fact that some amount of wealth and affluence has reached pretty much every level of society.  At this point, everyone wants to be in the leisure class and no one wants to do the work necessary to build and maintain the mundane foundation of the society.

I mentioned Michael J. Fox earlier, and he is a perfect example.  He made a film called "The Secret of My Success," in which he is the proverbial man-on-the-make.  He slick-talks his way into opportunities and ultimately lands in a pile of money.  Now image an entire society of people just like that.  Everyone buys a cheap Armani knock-off and prints up some cards and becomes an entrepreneur without going through the prerequisite steps of becoming an expert in something.

It's at this stage that the entire culture is run by middlemen and brokers.  The problem with that is no one is producing, and eventually, no one is buying, since no one has money from the Big Deals they didn't make.

In the midst of this orgy of lopsided capitalism, folks forget about things like education and manufacturing and producing.  Instead, all creativity is focused and expended on facadism: it all looks like Town and Country magazine on the outside, but on closer inspection one finds that it's all just pirated copies and cheap reproductions.

At some point, all of this leads to an entire generation without prospects or hope.  There is no real business left, and the scraps that remain have so many barriers to entry that they can't possibly surmount them.  They are the seeds of destruction, the impoverished and forgotten that are the by-products of over-hyped lifestyle chasers.  Education has devolved into little more than puffed-up babysitting.  There are no savings or inheritances from the older generations to fertilize them.  There is nothing left that hasn't already been exploited to exhaustion.

What's worse is that they are stuck with the tab for the high living decades that preceded them, and they never even got a taste of the wine and roses.  All that's left of the bowl of cherries are the stems and pits.

And so the inevitable happens.  The decadence turns to decay, and ultimately the entire thing collapses.  What's worse is that the older generations try to cling to the old ways through the use of brute force.  Dictators spring up by popular will or apathy, who try to maintain the illusion of prosperity at the point of a gun.  Finally, basic human instinct kicks in with the overwhelming desire to be left the hell alone.

At this point, the immovable object meets the irresistible force.  In the clash, the remaining infrastructure of society is utterly destroyed, and from these ashes come opportunity and creativity, as people rebuild and rethink.

For ancient Rome, this process took the better part of 1,000 years.  For America, it was only a quarter of that.  China seems hell-bent on achieving it in a single life-time.  The cycle is speeding up at an alarming rate with seemingly no one learning anything new to remediate the problem.  At the same time, it's becoming a global, rather than regional phenomenon.

It's exactly like bacteria in a Petri dish.  The colony expands until the limits of the environment are reached, and then the entire system collapses.

The only solutions anyone seems to come up with are strict rationing and controls, but that simply implies that someone is in charge of the doling out and measuring.  Inevitably, all that happens in this case is that the watchers become mired in corruption and ultimately they start carving off bigger chunks for themselves until they are lamp-posted by the rabble.

It seems like an impossible dream that we, as a species, will learn to restrain ourselves, rather than always looking to a parental authoritarian system to force us into compliance.  We don't appear to have learned a single lesson from the past 20,000 years of experience.  No matter how civil and genteel the society, at some point someone notices others getting a fairer share of the goodies than they are, and it quickly becomes a greedy free-for-all, as soon everyone is scrambling to snatch up a bigger pile of goodies than the next guy.

Sometimes I wonder if our species wasn't exiled to this planet until such time as we had learned to behave ourselves.  If that's the case, then it seems that we are failing miserably, since we are not only not improving, we seem to be back-sliding into the muck.

Perhaps it will take a global collapse of unprecedented proportions for everyone to learn all at once that we are going the wrong way.  In the past, there was always an escape valve; folks could pick up and move somewhere else and start over.  With a global collapse, though, there will be no life unaffected.

Perhaps that is the subconscious origin of the current slavering rush to apocalypse.  Somewhere deep in the collective id, folks are pushing to see the final Big Poop, so that we can start anew, hopefully a bit wiser for the wear.

It does seem, though, that at the end of every Age, there is a massive upheaval that fertilizes the future.  Let's hope that someone is taking really good notes, though, so we can all copy off them before the exam.