Monthly Archives: November 2008

Good For a Few Laughs

If you’re amused by irony, inconsistency, or plain old ineptness, you’ll find plenty to chuckle over at the FAIL Blog.

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Some Sage Advice from Will Rogers

Here’s some folk wisdom and good advice from the great American humorist and social commentator Will Rogers

1. Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3. There are 2 theories to arguing with a woman…neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.

8. There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you’re riding’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.

11. Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier’n puttin’ it back.

12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him.
The moral:
When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

The Ultimate Addiction by Scott Kalachstein

Scott Kalechstein is a gifted songwriter, humorist and philosopher. He frankly shares his feelings and experiences, and tells his stories in a lighthearted way. This item from his recent newsletter resonated with me. Maybe it will with you, too. – t.h.g.

The Ultimate Addiction

By Scott Kalechstein

I have an insidious addiction that I wrestle with: criticholism. It is the addiction behind all addictions, as it has driven me to compulsively drink, smoke, watch television, eat chocolate, and work without rest. For a very long time this disease has been my Achilles Heal.* I am happy to say that my feet are well on the road to recovery. I confess this and share my story in the hopes that it may inspire any fellow criticholics out there to realize what they’ve been doing and encourage them to get help.

Like many, I spent years in denial of my thinking problem. I fancied myself an average social criticizer, enjoying a few harmless judgments of myself and of others at parties and other social situations. Then I noticed myself sneaking in a few criticisms while alone. Soon I was waking up and starting my day with a double shot of straight criticism. When I found myself criticizing myself for how much I was criticizing myself, I knew I had a problem. But where to go for help?
There were no twelve step programs for this addiction, and I had definitely hit bottom.

One Sunday I was thinking and driving, and got caught in the act. A policeman pulled me over. He had clocked me on his radar judging myself at eighty three times per hour. My thoughts had been swerving all over the road! I had no excuse. He arrested me for inner child abuse, driving myself crazy, and disturbing my own peace. When I told him I was a workaholic and was on my way to work, he added resisting a rest to my charges. He also informed me that my thinking problem
increases my astral carbon footprint and eats away at the ozone layer. Uy,Vey! Did I feel guilty!?!

In court I was asked to be my own prosecuting attorney, since the judge knew I had so much experience in that role already. Of course I won my case, and was found guilty as charged. I thought they would throw the book at me, being that domestic self-violence is such a
heated issue these days. Instead, the judge let me off with a suspended sentence and

He then warned me that if I was found beating myself up again that I would serve hard time for giving myself a hard time.

The court suggested I visit a hospital that specialized in the treatment of Chronic Critique Syndrome.* Upon examination I was immediately placed on the critical list. The doctors were blunt. They told me that if I didn’t learn to be more gentle with myself my mental habits would lead me to a probable critiac arrest.* I decided to start resting my critic instead.

__________________________________________
*Achilles Heal: One’s greatest weakness which, through self-forgiveness, alchemizes into a blessing that serves humanity.

*Chronic Critique Syndrome: This condition renders the alleged victim unable to see and enjoy the good. It is passed from parent to child, and can also be caught from schoolteachers and the media. The disease affects the eyes, often leaving the sufferer with Anal Eyes , the predisposition to anal-eyes everyone and everything, especially oneself. The cure is an emotional and mental procedure designed to remove the layers of anesthesia blocking one from heartfelt feelings. People in remission often can be seen spreading joy and hugging on the streets. For more information, see Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life.

*Critiac Arrest: This occurs when, after years of a person attacking their own heart, the heart fails. The major causes of critiac arrest are a poor mental diet, hardening of the attitudes, and the lack of
heart-strengthening exercises, such as hugging, laughing and playing.

More Americans suffer from critiac arrests than all other metaphoric illnesses combined!

__________________________________________
Scott Kalechstein is a Miracles Minded Modern Day Minstrel Man and Mischief Maker who makes his home in Marin, CA. (Yes, he has a special relationship with the letter ‘M’) Scott’s life is dedicated to ending seriousness on the planet by the year 2012. He pays the rent and the car payments as an inspirational speaker, a recording artist, singer, minister and workshop leader. He can be visited at http://www.scottsongs.com

If you like his writings, you are invited to sample his inspirational music in the recordings section of his website. His CD, Levitational Pull, contains twenty deliciously humorous personal growth related songs.
scott@scottsongs.com • Scott Kalechstein
http://www.scottsongs.com

Scott Kalechstein
351 Olema Road, #11
Fairfax, CA 94930
(415) 721-2954

Refresh Yourself at- http://www.scottsongs.com -A Site For Soaring Eyes!

Report on the US Secessionist Movement

Kirpatrick Sale provides the following Declaration in his report on the Third Secessionist Convention that was held in Manchester, New Hampshire on November 18, 2008. It’s hard to argue with the Declaration’s contents, but the big question remains: What might be an effective strategy for achieving the “restoration of democracy” and independence from the imperial megalith? Is political secession a feasible approach? It is my view that economic secession is much safer, easier, and more likely to achieve the necessary re-empowerment of the people and their communities. What that might involve is outlined in my Bioregional Economic Development Plan, which forms the basis for the ACCESS (Auroville’s Conscious Community Exchange System for Sustainability) proposal in India. That Plan, which will be elaborated in my upcoming book, can be applied to virtually any bioregion. – t.h.g.

The Manchester Declaration follows:

We, the delegates to the Third North American Secessionist Convention, meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire, do declare the following:

  • The recent election in the United States, far from signaling a change in the imperial system or a restructuring of the essential political order, unfortunately perpetuates the two-party system and its old familiar politicians that for decades have promoted the interests of the corporate/financial elite whose willing servants they remain.
  • The recent financial flailing and machinations in the U.S., including the trillion-dollar bailout of the institutions that created the economic meltdown in the first place, provide ample and blatant evidence of Wall Street’s control over U.S. politics in the interest of trying to see that the rich get richer and the rest get nowhere.
  • Together these two processes, along with a long string of abuses and usurpations over the past decades, unmistakably indicate that the U.S. is bankrupt in every way-financially, economically, politically, socially, academically, militarily, spiritually, and morally.
  • This fact should demonstrate to the North American public, and the world, that it is the very scale and complexity of the various interlocking political and economic systems that is the fundamental cause of their failure-as well as the reason that no one on the scene has any idea whatsoever of how to fix it.
  • That being the case, it is necessary, for the restoration of democracy-not to mention sanity, prosperity, sustainability, governance, and peace-that the imperial system be dismantled, and various states, regions, and elements of North America exert their right to secede into independent regimes laying their foundations on such principles and organizing their powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

It is to this end that the secessionist movement will dedicate its energy, time, talents, moneys, and sacred honor, and we invite, indeed implore, the participation of our fellow citizens.

Passed this day, the fifteenth of November, 2008.

Report from the field – Koh Phangan 2

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Island Living

I’m feeling good about being on Koh Phangan. Having the help of my friend Michele to get me oriented and introduce me to some people has been a great benefit. Now he has gone north for a few weeks to visit a lady friend in Chiang Mai so I am renting his motorbike while he’s away. I’ve also rented a house for a month, and moved in a few days ago – not Michele’s house, but a rental unit owned by one of his Italian friends who lives here and is married to a Thai woman.

My house seems ideal for my purposes. It’s quite new, sparkling clean, has hot water shower, kitchenette, refrigerator, single burner propane stove, and A/C. It also has full-time internet access, which is essential for my work (although it’s not a very fast connection), and cable TV, but I only get a few channels and none of them is in English. They do tease you with a headline in English, like “Weather,” but everything else is spoken and written in Thai, so I have no idea what place they’re talking about.

The only downside to this place is that it’s about 2 km away from the beach and 5 km from Thong Sala. But that has it’s advantages too, since it’s on a road less traveled and the area is pretty quiet. I have it for a month and can renew it, but probably at a somewhat higher rate. I’m paying 11,000 Baht for the month. That may seem like a lot but at current exchange rates, it comes to around US$325. A place most anywhere in the US would cost me at least twice as much and would not be as nice. It is possible to rent houses on the island for as little as 5 or 6 thousand Baht but without the amenities.

You can see my pictures of the house along with others from Koh Phangan at my photo gallery.

Monsoon Rains

According to a local guidebook, November is the wettest month for the island, averaging 52.6 cm (about 21 inches), twice as much as any other month. February, March, April and June are the driest. The first 4 or 5 days of November were dry, but now the rains have started again in earnest. It’s actually rather pleasant to hear the sound of gentle rain and jungle critters as I lie in bed or sit working at my keyboard. It’s also pleasantly cool. The frogs here, when that get going after dark, sound like bellowing cattle. Amazing. And the scents are exquisite – the earthy smell of jungle soil, the sweet fragrance of frangipani and other blossoms, occasionally blended with pungent curries from the neighbor’s kitchen.

Prolonged showers do present some difficulties, however. It’s been raining almost constantly for the past five days. Relying on a motorbike to get around leaves one exposed to the elements so I don’t venture out when the rain is heavy. Rain makes the roads somewhat slippery, flooded in spots, and strewn with piles of sand and tree branches, adding to the usual hazards of broken pavement and falling coconuts. I must admit that I’m not entirely comfortable with this me of transportation, but it’s the only practical option here. Returning home two nights ago, and again this evening I got soaked and felt a little chilled. I was very happy to have access to a hot shower. Contrary to what you might expect, the tropics are not always hot and steamy.

Health and Comfort

As in Malaysia, this place has an abundance of studios and health spas where one can get a traditional Thai massage, oil massage, foot reflexology, body scrub, and other therapies and creature comforts. I’ve gone for three massages already and plan to go two or three times a week. Besides being relaxing and pleasant, it has helped to resolve my lower back problem, which has been flaring up of late. A one hour massage costs only 200 to 300 baht (7 to 10 US dollars).

Now that I have a kitchen where I can cook, I’ve expanded my grocery shopping beyond mangos, papayas, and cans of juice. There are numerous little shops and produce stands scattered around, and Thong Sala has a wet market with many fish and produce vendors, as well as a Tesco supermarket. Tesco is a UK chain, but the local store doesn’t measure up to the Tesco stores I’ve seen in London, neither in scale nor variety of offerings, and of course what they sell is mainly Thai-made and geared to local tastes. That’s all well and good but I find that only a few products have labeling in English. They typically list the ingredients but most of the time not in English so I can’t be sure whether a product contains additives that I would prefer to avoid.

Oh, Obama

“Irrational exuberance” is a phrase that has become stuck in the public mind ever since Alan Greenspan used it to describe the stock market boom of a few years ago. The exuberance attendant to Barack Obama’s election to the presidency may not be irrational, but it is almost certainly based on false premises and unrealistic expectations. Like most of my friends, I was pleased with the outcome of the presidential election, not because I expect Obama to implement the kinds of deep changes that are needed, but because (1) it showed the willingness of Americans to put aside considerations of race and choose a black man to lead the country, and (2) because it may indicate that the majority of the American people are snapping out of the delusion that caused them to previously choose leaders who, putting on the mask of righteous religiosity and appealing to people’s fears, have taken the country to the brink of fascist dictatorship and financial ruin. As Sinclair Lewis was supposed to have said, “When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible.”

Virtually all of the foreigners I encounter are also pleased with the election outcome, hoping that it will bring about a change from the way the United States has thrown it weight around in recent years to a more respectful and cooperative foreign policy. I’m hopeful of that too, but lets not be too sanguine about this recent turn. Sure, we might prefer the manner of the “good cop” (Obama) to that of the “bad cop” (Bush), but do not doubt for a minute that the overall agenda remains the same. Obama is not our savior. At best, he might throttle back some of the wholesale looting that has been going on for the past 8 years, and he might allow a few more crumbs to fall to the masses from the oligarchs’ table. But did he not vote in favor of bailing out the banks instead of helping the people whom they lured into the usury trap? And, like Nixon before him who promised to end the war in Vietnam, Obama’s rhetoric about ending the Iraq war will probably prove to be just as hollow.

One thing should be perfectly obvious by now, one does not get to be a viable candidate for the office of President without being approved, even “groomed” for it, by the elite group that runs the world. Just look at Obama’s list of advisors and his list of major funders. Long-time friend and associate, Jeff Smith, in his online newsletter, The Progress Report, has made us aware of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) whose role is to “follow the money” and track its influence on American government.

Just within the past few days Obama has announced the appointment of Congressman Rahm Emanuel to be his Chief of Staff. CRP reports that:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman who was an aide in the Clinton White House, was the top House recipient in the 2008 election cycle of contributions from hedge funds, private equity firms and the larger securities/investment industry–not the most popular of industries in the current economy. Since being elected to Congress in 2002, after working as an investment banker, Emanuel has received more money from individuals and PACs in the securities and investment business than any other industry.

It also points out that “Emanuel and Obama have more than just Chicago in common; investment bank UBS, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are among both men’s lists of top donors.” You can read the full story here.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, in a November 7 newsletter, said he was “shocked and deeply disappointed” at the news of Emanuel’s appointment, and that because of it, those who have a “commitment to single-payer universal health care, carbon taxes for environmental protection, a Homeland Security strategy based on generosity and implemented through a Global Marshall Plan, will be unlikely to get a serious hearing in the White House.” Rabbi Lerner, who is editor of Tikkun Magazine, and is chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, is a respected voice of reason and compassion and someone who is acutely aware of political realities.

Am I saying that we should stop working at the political level and not try to influence Obama and the new administration? Not at all, but we need to acknowledge the reality of the situation, which is that there is no easy way out. We cannot rely on any political leader, no matter how charismatic, to fix things for us. Virtually all top level politicians are beholden to the moneyed interests and there is no way ordinary people can outspend those who have control of the very source from which money is emitted. They are in power to maintain the debt-money power system, which, as I’ve said before, forces accelerating expansion of debt and unsustainable economic growth (the debt imperative and the growth imperative).

We need to look to ourselves and to each other. To repeat what I said in my last newsletter, we need to nurture our communities and form new ones. This requires more than neighborhood coffee klatches and barter exchanges. We need to lessen our dependence upon the failing structures and institutions and apply our talents and resources to creating new ones that can better satisfy the needs of all. We need to organize as whole communities, creating mutual support networks, including credit clearing associations and non-political currencies that are based on the productive capacity of local and regional businesses.

Non-violent Communications

On Sunday I participated in a four hour workshop to learn non-violent communication, or compassionate communication, to use the generic term. Originated by psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg, NVC provides effective tools to create more satisfying relationships and to resolve conflicts. I had had some previous exposure to NVC a few years back when I lived in Tucson but not in such a systematic and intensive format. Tiffany did a fine job of leading the workshop and guiding the 10 participants through some practice sessions. Coincidentally, she had her NVC training in Auroville, India from a friend of mine, Tewa Holloway. I met Tewa when I stayed at Auroville last year, not in connection with NVC but as teammates on the project to develop the ACCES regional moneyless exchange system. Tewa helped us out during the early stages as we discussed the dimensions of the project and forged some basic agreements. You can learn more about NVC from The Center for Nonviolent Communication and at http://nvctraining.com/media/new/index.html.

Solitaire

There’s something satisfying about trivial activities like playing solitaire. Sometimes I just cannot find the motivation to write or answer email or do anything else that one would consider productive. At those times, I often play Spider Solitaire or FreeCell on my computer (I think everybody with MS Windows has them already). It’s a totally useless waste of time, unless one considers it to be mind exercise, like working out at the gym is body exercise. My win rates have gotten pretty good – I win around 80% of FreeCell games on the first try, and I win about a third of the Spider Solitaire games at the middle level of difficulty. On the other hand, maybe I have an addiction, and this is just my peculiar way of distracting myself.

Social Welfare

This morning I woke to a bit of sunshine streaming in the windows. The sky was mostly cloudy but there were a few breaks and small patches of blue. My spirits buoyed by the prospect of mobility, I ventured out for a morning walk, my destination the little cluster of shops around the crossroads about 600 meters away. In Asia it’s common for home and storefront to be combined in one space, with varying degrees of separation between the two. Most small entrepreneurs eke out a living selling a few things or providing some service, and they know instinctively the importance of keeping overhead low.

In this climate there’s less need for doors and windows, except for security, so spaces are more open and entire walls are movable (garage door style). The shop I wandered into was open on two sides. There were 3 or 4 racks of shelves that displayed some groceries, items of personal hygiene and sundry others, and a cooler containing beer and soft drinks, including small cartons of soy drinks in various flavors. I scanned the available offerings and settled on a small bag a peanuts and a can of 7-Up. I rarely drink 7-up or any other sugary soft drinks, but I felt obliged to support the local economy and I had some thought as to how I might later indulge myself.

Toward the back, at one side sat a middle aged woman at a desk, ready to accept payment. As I handed her thirty Baht in change I happened to glance over toward the other side of the room. There was a ancient, frail-looking woman lying quietly on a single bed. I imagined that in America, she would have been in a nursing home, the family, or the insurance company or the state, paying each month the cost of a small house to keep her.

There was still some trickling runoff on the road and in many places piles of sand that had washed down onto the road during the heavy rains. As I made my way back home I stepped on a slippery spot where some slime had grown and went down on my left knee scraping a few layers of skin onto the pavement. Nothing serious but enough to make it bleed. When I got back to the house I washed the wound then dabbed it with a little whiskey which I keep on hand for such situations. Alcohol is a great disinfectant and whiskey has multiple uses. I also apply it to soothe bug bites and, yes, I even drink a bit of it from time to time. Hence the 7-Up.

Don’t worry; be happy,

Tom