January 5, 2013 - December 29, 2012
Sunday, January 01, 2012
No, I'm not THE
One. I am just one who has lived and learned.
MY. My last post of the old year created a stir. The
youngsters didn't want to be reminded that gray hairs aren't just signs
of obsolescence. I sympathize. It's indicative of how they've been
brought up. It will take them a long time to discover that life belongs
to those who live it rather than those who believe their fervent
impulses must be right because they're the ones who are experiencing the fervent impulses.
It's a strong tide to try to resist. Even one of my best friends told
me, "You can't be mean to your commenters." First impressions are
everything. Useless to tell him that I was simply telling the truth in
my lede when I said, "I feel like Neo at the end of
Matrix I. Do your worst and all I can see is digits in slow motion."
Another old friend tried to put things in perspective for me:
It seems Verloc was just a bit late and
missed the latest round of realizations of "all I know is that I know
nothing" a few months back. I cringe to think that people stumble onto
your site and instantly assume that you are a peer, that the playing
field is level, that much like little kids think, everyone is entitled
to their opinion and they're all equally valuable.
My favorite line from Fine Artist so far is, "Have you written any
I apologize to the commenters who thought I was being mean. Being mean wasn't
my intent. But I honestly don't care. The ones who sail in with their
childishly simple world views based on zero reading, zero knowledge of
history, and even less reflection on their own infinitesimal gravity in
the human story are just streaming digits to me. Sorry. So sorry. If
you want to be taken seriously, bring some baggage to the discussion. I do.
If you can't be bothered to read history, at least read me before you make an ass of
yourself lecturing me about things I've been caring about before you
I shouldn't have said I was disgusted? Why? Disgusted with
single-subject heroes who just know that everything is about Wall
Street, Jesus, phantom black female geniuses, tribes. or some other
unitary focus? uh, no. It isn't. Disgusted with know-it-all youngsters
who have pricey degrees but never read Shakespeare and think Picasso
can be dismissed because of what he said about art and what he did to
his hundreds of willing girlfriends? No. My own wife gets fed up with
the odd connections I make. She says I over-complicate everything.
wrong about that and she knows she is. She loves me because I strike
gold with my pointless connections far more often than probability
suggests I should. I make her laugh. Which makes up for all the boring
dead ends. And my many presumptuous pronouncements.
Here's the bottom line (a term I hate and almost never use, though in
this case it's appropriate). I don't mind being a target if it forces
you to put thoughts into words you have to be prepared to defend.
That's what I do. It's my contribution. Small? Sure. It's as as tiny as
your importance to the grand scheme of things.
But here's the rub. I'm a Christian. I don't think anyone is irrelevant
in the grand scheme of things. If I get just one of you to think, to try on a
new idea and wear it proudly in public, I don't have to get on TV to
enjoy my 15 minutes of fame. If I can nudge just one life toward the
better, I can atone for a legion of personal sins.
I bring to this effort what God gave me and what experience shaped in
me. Which may be far less than what any one of you wants and expects. I
myself have a very modest view of what that is. I can put 'a' through
'z' together and see patterns. You're free to disagree with my read.
But I also have a 40-year record of showing how I derive patterns from the
data. And not one of you can make the same claim.
I guess this should have been called Part IA, not Part II. I am going to defend the record of
the human race. Something a lot of you, left and right, don't think can
be done or should be done.
And I'm going to defend the United States of America, Texas included.
Frustrated black female geniuses notwithstanding. Just so you know.
Incidentally, the Mayans were not
predicting the end of human life in 2012. I've been studying the Mayans
for nearly 50 years. 2012 will be a year like every other.
Painful, fruitful, and then past.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Why I'm InstaPunk
I got away with it for 50 years. We looked alike. The second 50 is harder.
DIATRIBES. I've been reading all the comments, and all I feel is
disgust. Nobody knows anything. No joke, I feel like Neo at the end of
Matrix I. Do your worst and all I can see is digits in slow motion.
Why? To the extent that anybody can, I have lived every life in America. Somebody
said if you would be a writer, live your life as a writer. I have done
that. I was born a country boy and played all alone when I had to in
the woods, where I was the Swamp Fox, General Sherman, Lord Nelson, or
a dying soldier -- as drama dictated. My first love was on the French
Riviera, my first apartment was in Paris, all before I turned twelve.
Before I reached twenty, I was a pool shark, a saber fencer, a redneck
motorhead, a newspaper editor, a Harvard final club president, and a
college graduate. When I grew up, I lived in cities, got paid for being
a leading-edge technologist, founded two consulting firms aimed at
saving American industry from foreign competition, got a huge work of
fiction published, and became a member of the corporate ronin who spend
half their lives on planes. Then I graduated to failure, where I
learned how the supposed victims live. Where I learned what it means to
be a divorcee, a father, a mother, a cook, a housekeeper, a pet, and, finally, a
husband. I've been a snob, a pretender, a punk, a lord, an artist, a
genius, a helpless idiot, a bankrupt, a prodigal son, a rich man, a
poor man, a winner and a loser. But always an American.
I am stretched so thin and wide that every criticism causes me to pop a
vein. Why? Because none of you knows anyone who has lived so many lives
as me. Whenever any of you tries to tell me what it's like to be this
or that, I pop a vein. I've done more manual labor than most of you. I
know about weak coffee in unheated timecard rooms. I've had countless
smoke breaks with toothless amphetamine junkies who need today's money
to score. And I also know the history of philosophy, art, music, and
culture. You think I'm old and parochial because I like the Stones. I
like the Stones because I also love da Vinci, Mozart, George
Washington, and Albert Einstein. But you'd have no way of knowing that.
I'm not sharing this to boast. Only to point out that forty years of
observation may count for something.
I've been a music clerk at Border's. I may have introduced you to Miles
Davis or Doris Day. I might have changed your life thereby.You see,
when I was a music clerk, I was trying to be the best music clerk I
could be. Which meant that I also tried to learn from my most learned
customers. And I did.
I was a business-to-business phone marketer. The best one in my pod.
The ladies thought I was a god. They protected my earpiece for me
because I couldn't hear in any other. They warned me against one
another. I was offered jobs by people I sold -- people who knew, as I
did, that what I was selling was a load of crap. At the hour and minute I couldn't do it anymore, I walked out. Which ended my life at the time. Including access to my (step)daughter. I know how that feels. Do you?
And -- before all that -- I was also a consultant and speechwriter for Fortune 100 CEOs. I
wrote all the Just in Time training materials, from executive briefings
to factory floor manuals written at the eighth grade level, for one of
the most fabled divisions at General Motors -- the one whose facilities
included the Wright Brothers's bicycle shop.
When Whirlpool Corporation went global, I trained all the communicators
how to think in global terms -- scratch that -- I tried to train them how to think,
period, which they didn't know anything or want to know anything about
for 50K a year, and I failed, because even though I kept them up all
night in exercises designed to entertain as well as instruct them, they
never learned a thing. Because it's too late to start learning how to
think when you've already spent your youth not learning anything. I
made a lot of money failing in this way. I also lost my way.
I've been to Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, and England on
business, as well as South America and Asia, and I've seen Africa from
a ship, and nearly drowned in a ship along the way. I've crossed the
ocean on the Queen Elizabeth I, I've seen the Isle of the White
Peacocks, driven 150 mph on the GM test track in the Black Forest with
no hands on the wheel, motored through Paris on a London bus with
champagne in my hand from Napoleon's Tomb to the finest Michelin
restaurant where the greeting hostess makes Catherine deNeuve look like
a Woolworth's cashier, I've stood on the exact spot where Mussolini's
corpse was hung upside down, I've lied to my hosts that Colombian beef
doesn't taste like burned Texas cowboy boots, and I've refrained from
holding my nose in Hong Kong's fabled street markets -- dead fish, live
snakes, and rotting chicken feet -- and marvelled at better French
bread in Hong Kong hotels than I ever had in Paris.
Yes, others are better travelled than me, so why am I stretched thin?
Because I've always been from here, from South Jersey.
From the marshland. Tidal. The smell of death and life competing. Salt
and water and flat fields that grow tomatoes, the world's best sweet
corn, and the best roads anywhere for fast cars and faster motorcycles.
No matter where I was, I always wanted to be here, to be home. Even
though death is everywhere here. A concept most of you don't know at
Why I'm InstaPunk. The most widely read, thinly educated of anyone in
my generation. I actually know something
about everything. Quantum physics. Sleeping on a grate in Philadelphia.
And the whole beef about consumerist culture is bullshit. It's been
with us since Sumerians and everyone in between. Sumerians preferred
a pretty pot to a utilitarian pot.
Ever since then, some people have been seeking a better way of life
because others said, "I'd like that way of life too. Nice pots. Pretty
The story has NEVER been about the 99 percent. It's always been about
the 1 percent. Unless you love documentaries about stone age tribes in
the Amazon, everything good that has ever happened comes from the one
percent. Democracy and capitalism are latecomers to that old old story. The role of democracy is that the rest of us can dare to want a better life. The role of capitalism is that we can have a better life by following in the footsteps of the one percent. Nobody in ancient times made money from
Pythagoras or Archimedes or Leonardo. Millions made money from Edison,
Tesla, Ford, and Rockefeller. Freedom -- meaning democracy + capitalism -- isn't the only thing, but it's
the most important thing. Except for the brilliance of the one percent.
Why I'm tired of phony comparisons between "active millennials" and
"passive millennials." Goops are goops. You want to succeed? Do something great. Inspire.
uh, no. We just want you to make our lives better. Somehow.
The role of democracy has been to make the fruits of the 1 percent an
available aspiration for the 99 percent.
I don't see that understanding in the comments. Why I'll be back to
explain it to you in terms you might be able to understand.