Rants & Roadkill

FOTOFRIDAY: And in the end…

Posted on: Friday, January 22nd, 2021
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • Shovel away the mess, notice a little light on the horizon.

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

            ~ The Beatles

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FOTOFRIDAY: Everything Old is NOW Again

Posted on: Friday, January 15th, 2021
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, FOTOFRIDAY | One comment

  • My kids are taking FILM pics and listening to LPs. HELP!!! (Photo by EH)

Go figure. Over the years, I’ve gradually—and begrudgingly—purged my piles of 2,000++ albums, dozens of cameras, and enough toys and tools for using them to fill a large barge. They’ve been deemed as mostly worthless when I’ve tried to sell them off, never that that they cost me millions of mowings, shovelings, and waitering hours!

This is not a “new” thing, of course. But the fervor seems ramped up such that the “cool” factor of carrying an old Pentax SLR or spinning an LP is, well, almost alarming. Some of us are still trying to catch up with the dang Digital Revolution, for crying out loud! Why didn’t we just stick with all that stuff from the start!?!

This here oh-so filmy pic comes courtesy of my daughter, 17, who also is posting on an Instagram film site, along with millions of other film-to-digital-to-website images. Is it still “film” when you make the picture digital? Is it a “picture” if you’ve posted it online? There’s more to say about this, but I must ruminate first. Meantime, whatever your media, heed your kids, go to film school, and take more pics!

PS That’s me, on the right, with my son on the left. I had fun, but caught no fish…

PPS The ’87 imprint is a bizarre fluke-mark that an old camera of mine put on. I guess that’s cool too!

 

 

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11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK

Posted on: Thursday, November 19th, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment
  • C-19 is serious. But so is coping. Here’s a light-hearted look at ways to get through the day…

You know me: Always the optometrist. So I just can’t help but clearly see the silver lining of our murky pandemic Reality. Oh sure, the arguments are thinner than the cheapo TP we all hoarded from Sam’s Club.  But we also need alternatives to gloom-scrolling. And chintzy TP is better than none at all!

So, if you’ll pardon this overdose on Pollyanna pills, please consider… 

  • 11 Reasons Why COVID Is OK 

1. OVER-CROWDED EATERIES ARE OUTRE’. Remember wandering a cool neighborhood looking for food and fun? Recall being unable to get in the door—any door? And who can forget fighting for a drink at the popular pub or monster truck rally? Sometimes the crowds were part of the entertainment, but other times just heinous. And I’m also okay with…

2. $16 HOUSE WINES ARE CORKED UP. And BTW that’s a glass, not a bottle—and sometimes a paltry pour. I do love tasting red wine and seeing new places. But price creep (on all sorts of treats and experiences) taking a breather? That’s okay too.

3. THE ELECTION STAYED SO MELLOW. You think I’m joking? I’m not! Ya sure, this year’s politics were more repugnant than turds in a hot tub. But absent COVID? We’d have likely seen crowds and destruction that would have put this strife to the pale.

4. STAY-CATION IS SURGING. (Quirky coincidence with pandemic #s?) But seriously, even we travel buffs know that there’s no place like homestead. If folks are giving their abode some TLC and finding R&R in their oft-empty McMansions, that’s a soulful win-win.

5. HOME SCHOOLING IS IN SESSION. This one’s a stretch; many families are challenged and many students (40% in St. Paul) are struggling. On the upside, though, families are more involved than before with their kids’ education. A new appreciation for teachers has blossomed. And we are forced to re-think education and the outsized role of screens in learning.

6. “I’M SO BUSY’ HAS TAKEN A BREAK. You know these people: They’re so busy telling you how busy they are that, well, you hardly manage conversation at all. And it’s true: We have become a bafflingly busy culture. Too busy? Maybe. It might do some rat-racers good to take a cool-down lap.

7. WE ARE RE-WORKING THE WORKPLACE. While always in flux, there still must be billions of people who are working 9-to-5-plus and jamming up the freeways for hours on end. If more freedom and flexibility is a side-effect of the pandemic, many employees will be grateful.

8. STOCKS AND REAL ESTATE ARE BOOMING. So far, anyway, mostly. Of course, that only benefits those who have such holdings—and (as the Armchair Economist noted in these pages) the haves truly are getting richer. But for now, it’s okay—versus the alternatives.

9. WE’RE LEARNING SOME NEW VOCABULARY. Did you know that America’s vocab is shrinking faster than your Thanksgiving guest list? It’s true. So let’s be thankful that C-19 has upped our usage of fine words like asymptomatic, antibodies, and pod—while politics made slang out of vitriol, discord, and narcissistic. Quiz Tuesday!

10. POST-PANDEMIC, WE WILL APPRECIATE BREAKAWAYS EVEN MORE! Here in MN, we live by warped mantras like…The sooner winter happens, the sooner summer comes back! But it’s true! And someday, someday, we WILL get to travel again—whether to a family gathering, the cabin, or a coveted dream vacation.

11. MUSIC. When your mind is racing or you’re otherwise about to go completely bat-shit, play music. With your own instruments, or whatever you call your stereo. Turn it up. Let it bathe your blues and blast your brain.

After (God knows how) many months of quarantine, we’ll enjoy travel—and restaurants and parties and schools and mask-free living—more than ever. So in the meantime, let us try to find gratitude for the things that still bring comfort, and the fact that, yep, it could be worse.

Keep the faith.

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America’s REAL Divide Is $$$$

Posted on: Monday, October 12th, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Rants & Roadkill, Spendology | One comment

GUEST POST: Today’s thoughts come from our old mentor and friend, The Armchair Economist. It’s been a while, so we’re honored he’s back. His resume and accolades would not fit on our pages—nor even the internet. So we again welcome his incomparable expertise and vital voice for this treatise on the challenges of BreakAways in current economic conditions.

  • America’s Haves Vs. Have-Nots Is Now in Stark Black-and-White

As Submitted by The Armchair Economist

My friends! I cannot sit back in silence on my luxurious llama leather recliner sipping Louis XIII Cognac while brushing up on my John Locke any longer. Please pay attention. Or a revolution like we’ve never seen since the 1770s may be an inevitable consequence.

Consider our record unemployment. Government aid in the trillions. Lavish bailouts for corporations, airlines, and most any big-ish business that knows how to play the game and liquor up lobbyists. A few honest syndicates sheepishly returned their mega millions. But most kept the cash despite often churning profits, perhaps chuckling between griping about government over-reach and lazy laborers accepting handouts rather than “gittin’ back to work,” even if it also might mean gittin’ sick.

Generalizations? Perhaps. But maybe not. And with those dispiriting variables as our backdrop, the Armchair Economist is displeased to announce that…

  • The wealth gap is bigger than ever before

According to my friends at the Fed (WE can’t make this stuff up), the pandemic-downturn has actually helped the haves—because they are unable to spend lavishly in their beloved parlors, country clubs, restaurants, and opera houses. Sadly, their diminished patronage equates to lost livelihoods for millions of waiters, chamber maids, and pedicurists.

(Oh, and many investments like the stock market and real estate are doing swimmingly, thank you very much.)

  • Need proof of the disparity?

The top 1% now holds a record high 40% of US assets

The bottom 50% now shares a record low 2% of the nation’s wealth

Inequality will likely worsen as more workers lose jobs while the affluent keep raking it in yet cannot resume their conspicuous-consumption, jet-set ways

  • So how does that hit home?

1 in 3 Americans are having a tough time paying basic living expenses

~10 million are behind or at risk of making their mortgage or rent

1 in 4 adults expect someone in their household to have less $ over the next month

So my friends, please don’t underestimate the dire consequences of these inequities. This holiday season may make Mr. Scrooge’s bleak fable look lush. Homeless villages may come to resemble India’s slums, not just tents in parks. Beggars on corners may battle over worthy intersections.

  • Who cares?

But who cares? That’s an intellectually, if immorally, puzzling question. And that’s what troubles this scholar and embarrassingly successful capitalist…who DOES care. And will vote. And will donate bazillions to the kindly causes that try to fight back against SuperTanker FilthyRich. But we need more than that—more resources, more action, more…fair and balanced humanity.

After all, for example, my very close personal friend Kirk, your Curator and Host here at BreakAway, simply wants everyone to get healthful, meaningful, time off. To take care of their loved ones. To get out of town—or tent. And to see the world (or a slice of it), whatever that may mean to the individualist, as allowed and affordable and safe. Everyone wins—even the proverbial property owners whose profits may depend on those of lower class (caste?) having coinage with which to splurge on simple pleasures.

Any alternative could get ugly. And who wants to experience unrest (what an understatement!) and stupid plundering if the working class can’t afford proper anger management courses while the rich and classless keep getting richer?

  • In conclusion…

Here’s the hardest part: There’s enough for everyone. At least in this land (is your land, is my land). Unless the greedy build even bigger walls than that one Mexico kindly built for us. And refuse to share their many toys, like so many spoilt brats.

That sounds like no fun, for anyone. Let’s hope we’re BIGGER…than that. All of us. And that the 1% with 40% realizes the slimy slope between lucky success and greedy narcissism. Otherwise, well, the tea may get dumped in the harbor. And frankly, it’s already dirty.

The economy—and possibly CIVILization as we know it—are in the imbalance.

As Mr. Horsted would say, and I try to repeat as my mantra, “Keep the faith.”

“Those least able to shoulder the burden have been the hardest hit.”

— Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman

* * * * * SOURCES ARE ONGOING BUT HEREIN INCLUDE…

The Fed

Census Bureau Weekly Pulse Survey 

https://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/us-household-wealth-hits-record-even-as-economy-struggles/XSYAV7HE3BBI5NCLIAXRYTYBAU/

https://www.startribune.com/median-households-made-gains-but-the-large-wealth-gap-remained-data-show/572569632/

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15 Killer Ways to Avoid Viral DoomScrolling

Posted on: Sunday, August 23rd, 2020
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

  • Doom? Gloom? Play ball instead!

Yep, it’s a thing. As if we don’t already have enough to freak us out, people (who already obsessed with their digitalia) can’t stop seeking bad news. It’s like admitting that banging your head on the wall is bad for you, but doing it all day anyway.

Many major media outlets recently exposed this unfortunate trend. They’ve  talked to experts, of course, who wisely told us to do things like acknowledge the issue. Plan and schedule activities away from your screens. Take more breaks from your tech and work. Meditate. Connect with someone (friend or family) for 15 minutes a day. Pick times and places to get your bad news, and limit your intake to those times only (how about only when sitting on the toilet?).  The pundits offer us the usual good ideas for mental health hygiene.

Good stuff, all of it. And I must confess that the more Real News I ingest, the more sick I feel. So I second the this emotion and would like to add my 15 worthy distraction—from an unfortunately experienced and deeply disturbed citizen of this sick planet…

  • 1. GROW A GARDEN

If you have a yard or patio, get dirty with it. If you lack that, hoard some houseplants. Or plant some seeds. The miracle and promise for the future sprouts naturally and just keeps on growing. And growing.  

  • 2. TAKE A HIKE

Or at least a walk. Peruse your neighborhood routinely, and note the simply amazing ways that things change daily, and more so over a season. If time and conditioning allow, wander anywhere and everywhere, keeping in mind that, “All who wander are not lost.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)

  • 3. STRETCH

There’s enough instruction help online to hyper-stretch both body and imagination. You could buy a bunch of tools and toys (or go yoga). But you can also easily loosen up those tight glutes on the floor while watching bubble baseball. Your body will thank you.

  • 4. EXERCISE NEW REGIMENS

Kayak like a madman. Shoot hoops. Get that old bike working again. Dust off the yard games in your garage. Or toss around my old fave: Frisbee; there are also lots of Frisbee golf courses these days—often for free! Bounce a tennis ball, anyone? Or pick up that new (and superb!) not-just-for-geezers sport: Pickleball!

  • 5. WRITE POSTCARDS

You probably have a bunch stashed away from those trips you took back when, well, you could travel. Or create some. Write by hand to old friends or journey mates or—aha!—folks you met on the road. You’ll spark priceless memories and make someone’s day. 

  • 6. PLAY MUSIC

There’s a reason you can’t quite throw out those old LPs, CDs, cassettes, and 45s. And this time, really listen. Skip playlists; jump back into albums. Few pastimes can be as therapeutic and spiritual as hearing song.

  • 7. PLAY MUSIC 

It’s a lovely release and savvy exercise for hand-to-eye coordination. So noodle around with that old guitar, keyboard, or flugelhorn. Heck, you were probably pretty good…back in the day. Relive those days, rejoice in the noise, and play like nobody’s watching. (They aren’t.) 

  • 8. JUMP INTO LIVESTREAMS.

I’ve been blown away by the musicians, groups, festivals, and beyond that are entertaining online, usually for free. And some bands are releasing coveted concerts for ravenous fans. (I’m hooked on many groups’ shows, including Phish, Radiohead, and the Grateful Dead.) Museums and other venues are adapting too. So join the virtual party!

  • 9. COOK UP A STORM

No, you can’t go out as much as you used to. Yes, you probably have more time on your hands. So put your hands into creating tasty (and healthy!) meals. The CDC would approve.

  • 10. PURGE UR CRAP.

Does anyone enjoy sorting (and eliminating) old stuff? Nope. But does everyone enjoy the feeling of a lighter load and cleaner closet? Indubitably yes. So what are you waiting for? The next pandemic?

  • 11. TAKE A PRETEND VACATION

Watch movies filmed in exotic locales whether Fellini-esque or lampoon-y. Open up old scrap books and photo albums. Or better yet, pack a picnic and visit some popular area nearby that you normally avoid cuz of crowds and Karens. For a change, the traffic and congestion may be less of a hassle—and Karen likely stayed home to bemoan the closed restaurants. 

  • 12. BECOME A NATURE FREAK

Find Jeremiah. Take wing with birds. Look for creatures in the clouds. Watch the grass grow, for heaven’s sake. Nature never fails, and Toady doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about our stupid pandemic. PS Pick up a birdbath; you’ll make the birdies giddy, which will make you happy.

  • 13. HEAD TO THE SHORE

Any shore—whatever’s nearby. Water: Symbolic, calming, essential. And with any luck, there’s got to be a lake, stream, or sea somewhere close to your crib. 

  • 14. HOST A SOCIALLY COMFORTABLE EVENT

Some worry that C-19 is turning some people into premature curmudgeons. Overzealous anti-socialites. Hissy scare-dy cats. Could it be? Meantime, I’m cheering for the local senior softball league that plays on and then stretches out for some post-game beers in the parking lot. I will show up for the neighbor’s spacious bonfire. I mean, isn’t the risk of loneliness and isolation (to say nothing of lost relationships) a credible medical and mental-health concern, too?

  • 15. GIVE HELP 

Folks are getting sad, mad, and tense. Worse yet, someone you know is sick, locked-in, or otherwise limited. So pick up their groceries. Paint their deck. Or just ask, “How can I help?”  They’ll be so grateful, you may solve their problem, and you’ll feel pretty good about yourself too.

  • Please Resist Doomscrolling   : ) 

So turn off that newscast. Just peek at—rather than pore over—the news feeds. And pooh-pooh the politicians that have proven they are talented at very little beyond fueling fear and animosity.

Doomscrolling. Yep, it’s a thing. I’m sorry. We’re all sorry. 

May you stay safe and sane and (with apologies to poet Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day”) find better things to do with your wild and precious pandemic.

Keep the faith.

 

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Stuff is Making Us Stuck (Part 2)

Posted on: Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, Spendology, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Last month, in Part 1, we dove into our junk piles and bemoaned the detritus that weighs on us, our culture, and our shifting populations. We continue that slog by taking a peek into where our rejected stuff goes.

It’s not pretty. In fact, the benevolent feeling we may enjoy when dropping off our rejects to charity might be just plain ignorant. Ex-Minnesotan Adam Minter, now a columnist for Bloomberg in Malaysia, provides a rare expert overview, having grown up in a Minneapolis family that has run a scrap heap since 1920s, published a book titled “Junkyard Planet,” and late last year released a follow-up book called “Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale.” Mr. Minter also did an interesting Star Tribune interview when recently in town.

  • “People like shiny new things”

States Minter. It’s human nature, yet he advocates making things last as long as possible. How? Buy quality, for starters! Not only can you enjoy it longer, but the reuse market should be more plausible. He also recommends repair, despite that cheap goods often sway us just to replace. Another idea: Seek second-hand stuff, since a heckuva lot of it is nearly new.

  • What else causes this glut?

You may have noticed this: Often, the merch in Marshall’s has about the same price tag as that in consignment stores. Why? Because the mass production of goods—especially when lower-quality—can be surprisingly price-competitive. So people buy new, and second-hand stores get less traffic.

In fact, Minter notes that thrift stores in the US sell only about a third of their inventory, while the rest gets exported, recycled or tossed in the trash. Ouch.

  • Will millennials save us?

Much has been made about their less materialistic lifestyle. But don’t bet on it, says Minter, who cites research suggesting that the shared economy only appeals when it’s cheaper. And that as the millennials accrue more spending power and maturity, they’ll buy happily acquire more, just like other generations.

  • Good ideas to help clean up this mess

As mentioned, Minter promotes repair before replace, and insisting on quality. But even more radical, common-sense solutions could include “durability labeling,” which tells you things like how long a company will support smart phone or how many washings a shirt might endure.

He also proposes “right to repair” laws, noting that much repair information is protected by companies, trademarks, trade barriers, and more. Brilliant.

  • Sins and solutions

We can all think about our own sins and solutions, of course. And here’s one of mine: Sin—buying lots of new clothing recently at insanely affordable January clearance sales. (When asked who’s my favorite designer, I always say Clearance!) Solution: Spread it all out alongside similar old favorites, and make smart choices about what to keep and what to return.

Heck, sometimes that nice $15 shirt hardly seems worth the bother to take back, right? But there’s principal at work here too. And $15 is $15. Save $15 a day somehow, and you’ve got $5,500 to apply toward that BreakAway you want more than more stuff.

Even better, there will be less clutter-y obstacles in your way!

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Stuff is Making Us Stuck (Part 1)

Posted on: Saturday, December 7th, 2019
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Black Friday 2019 enjoyed record sales of $7.4B in digital shopping alone. Cyber Monday: $9.4B, up 19% from 2018. And as for the anticipated shopping total this holiday season? A tidy $740B.

Black Friday—sounds ghoulish, no? Cyber Monday—dystopian, yes? The planet is, to be honest, suffering. Too many people, too much pollution, too much STUFF.

  • The ultimate fungus

Stuff is like a fungus. You clean it up, but the muck only emerges again. This should not surprise us, since in the USA, “Consumer spending” comprises 2/3 of the economy, and politicians and pundits alike rejoice in increases and bemoan the downticks. Up means a thriving economy; down can lead to a recession. Those are numbers, but the back-story is the love of stuff. Which, by the way, becomes even more of a burden if you’re interested in a BreakAway.

  • Beware the fleeing family                  

Speaking of BreakAway, that’s what family members often do when elders downsize, die, or become snowbirds…when couples uncouple…and when kids (but not 99% of their “belongings”) fly away to college. Heck, even a pet’s passing can leave behind perplexing piles.

We are a materialistic society, as would most be if they had our “wealth.” Let’s just call it a mixed-up blessing.

  • The industry of stuff

The Star Tribune employs a wonderful writer, John Ewoldt, who wears the title “Consumer Reporter.” Stuff is a big story these days, and his recent article, “Lifetimes of Stuff Fuel a Booming Industry” taught us many things, like: 10,000 baby boomers retire daily; age 85+ is the fastest-growing segment of the US population (and likely destined for small rooms in senior homes); there now exists a National Association of Move Managers to help people cope.

You gotta love the names of some of the local, independent Move Managers that have sprung up from savvy entrepreneurs—Junk Genius, Empty the Nest, Gentle Transitions. They will tell you that the younger generations usually don’t want the family treasures. So, their company sorts the stuff into sell, donate, and toss (most estates = about 1/3 each). They will also admit that business is robust. Heck, even good-neighbor Goodwill states that donations have doubled in the past five years, while many charities can no longer take all the stuff offered to them.

  • The opposite of  the Great Depression

This stuff crisis is multi-generational with predictable permutations. Folks raised in the post-Depression era traditionally have trouble tossing anything—yet their families don’t want their hoard. Meanwhile, to many people today (especially youth), online shopping is a pastime. Whereas a family used to save for months to buy, say, a TV (remember layaway?), nowadays, we simply stare at screens, click, and wait a matter of hours for most any object to arrive at the doorstep.

Oddly enough, both propensities lead to clutter. That can make it hard to navigate your residence—and even harder to find freedom.

  • Don’t let STUFF weigh you down

You can guess the classic excuses people use for why they can’t take a sabbatical or even use all their vacation time. What about my house? My pets? My stuff? Cool possessions define status, taste, and lifestyle. BUT, simply put, they are obstacles to overcome if you want to BreakAway.

  • Guilty, as charged

Clutter confessional: I’m as loaded as the corner bar on Christmas Eve. And yet I’m sick of stuff; it’s grown from fungus to hazard. So I keep purging—or at least trying to throw out more than comes in the door. It’s not easy; the Amazon is alluring.

Hence the crude photo above from yet another stampout-stuff drop-off. I’m just trying to get unstuck. And hoping to BreakAway.

Judging by the mountain of detritus already there, I’m not alone.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Amazon Brings IT!!!

Posted on: Friday, October 11th, 2019
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | 2 comments

This perfectly mediocre picture may elicit mixed reactions. For me, another Amazon package arriving might make me excited about my new thing…angry about their wasteful deliveries and packaging…sad about all the local, face-to-face businesses that have died…and worried about materialism, neighborhoods, and their underpaid employees.

Travel can take you away from these worries. And my next major-league BreakAway should be Amazon-free—where no giant PRIME trucks block quiet streets. Where children don’t consume on their phones as a routine pastime. And where chirpy shopkeepers take pride in running a family business, and somehow make a living doing so.

I’ve been to these places—and hope you have too. The villages of Italy. The ports of the Caribbean. Small towns in the Midwest. And independent countries all over the planet that think outside the envelope. Meantime: I’m guilty as charged. When you need a THING, it’ll magically appear on your door the next day. May you shop in interesting times.

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The Tainted Apple We All Adore

Posted on: Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill | Leave a comment

Earlier this month, some powerful Apple shareholders (including teacher retirement funds) raised a stink about the addictive-ness of the iPhone, particularly for youth. Then they went back to their abacuses and high-fived themselves for 1) saying the right thing; 2) making 50% gains on Apple in the last year and; 3) finally figuring out how to use their iPhones.

Has anyone else about had it with Apple? I have. That makes me a brazen hypocrite because I depend on these toys and tools too. BUT BUT BUT. This Apple-head feels bruised to the core. I’m on screens too much—and more all the time—and still I barely can keep up with the flow. I’m sickened by my own kids’ (and millions of others) absolute inability to put them down—and weary of being That Guy who actually still nags about it.

  • A history of innovation and…what, exactly?

As for that savvy corporation, it’s too easy to be unimpressed with Apple’s record of addressing crappy conditions in factories abroad, modest pay for US employees despite their profit-per-employee (~$400K), and an uninspiring track record of doing anything much for the public good with their billions of profits and cash.

Shall we arrange a lunch (or must it be “coffee?”) with Messieurs Gates and Buffett, Mr. Macintosh?

And what about the recent expose’ that new phone operating systems intentionally make your old phone run slower? And fry your battery? Planned obsolescence is one thing, but forced? This is a new level of customer discourtesy. Corporation over consumer. Profit over service. Greed over good.

Elmer L. Anderson, a great Minnesotan who ran a large company and has passed on, preached the simplicity of successful business and ethics: First, take good care of the customer. Second, nurture your employees. And if you do those things well, then third: Profits will follow.

While we liberal-ish culties happily diss other giants in other industries for their shady ways, we can’t conceive of a bad Apple. Instead, we gossip like little girls about the Next Big Thing (is it called the Ten of the X!?!) and line up for hours in hopes of obtaining one before, well, before you do!

The fanaticism might compare to football fans who watch their heroes get quickly and quietly hauled off the field with torn ACLs, shattered bones, and chronic concussions that morph into a lifetime of pain and mental hell. We care little beyond how it affects wins while we suck down $15 beers and scream, “Kill! Kill! Kill!”

  • Closer to home

But that’s all on the Big Screen, or at least the Big Stage. Around here (which would be most anywhere), you can’t walk into Chipotle without seeing a gaggle of people eating alone, tapping away, spilling salsa on their device, and mumbling (reading?) to themselves like President Trump singing The National Anthem.

You just know they take it to the toilet with them, too. And the bed, car, and classroom. Don’t google how many people fondle their phones while having sex.

This parent and teacher has sat through training and straight-faced discussions about Nomophobia. It’s a thing. So…Yep. It’s the educators’ job now to gently empathize with the students’ anxiety about not having access to their phones. That’s IF you make them put it away, that is. And good luck with that. (They’ll just surf the same stuff on their computers—maybe half-pretending to take notes. Maybe.)

  • Kids these days!

All to say: Kids these days! Kids! It’s so much worse than our worst fears. Conversation comes and goes, but it ain’t what it used to be. When youth gather, the chatter often revolves around something from the phone. The biggest giggles will be inspired by the screen.

Their lives happen on their screens. Screens light them up. Like coke excites cokeheads. But at some point, it’s fails to be so fun. Because now it’s an addiction. Life is difficult without it.

  • Old (but at least not fake) news

Of course, this is not news. Nor is the notion that this stuff is addictive, and the brain reacts just like it does for, say, booze, blow, and opioids. Opioids: Now there’s a national crisis for you. But I wonder if opioids will kill more innocents than distracted drivers on their phones? I wonder which will harm more relationships? I wonder which will be called a dreadful crisis and which will be considered cool?

I wonder which will make the most people rich?

My phone gets plenty of use. But I try to practice tough-love self-discipline about how, when, where, and how much I use it.

I wish that didn’t make me feel so alone and alarmed.

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Merry Christmas…In a Box! (The Annual Holiday Rant)

Posted on: Monday, December 18th, 2017
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill | Leave a comment

The Amazon Christmas ad running lately features smiling, otherwise faceless boxes travelling from a robo-warehouse to a little girl. It’s a fine ad that no doubt brought prosperous smiles to some ad agency. And that about sums up what Christmas has become, eversomuchmoreso, every year.

There was a time when the dominant imagery was about singing carols, trimming trees, decorating cookies, and gathering friends and families. Now, one may have to seek to find those icons in the media, on the streets, or even in your own home.

President Trump has made a thing lately of announcing that the “War on Christmas” is over, with his minions (elves?) oh-so happy to cheer him on and foist new, post-MAGA signage confirming same. Yet this only seems to re-declare the ongoing war on Christmas. But there is good news: The upcoming new tax code will bring much, much more profit to Amazon and Companies.

Most people’s childhoods are like life itself: A complex quilt of sensual recollections, for better and for worse. The holidays rank right up there. But with any luck, there were dark evenings with twinkling lights, hungry afternoons making home-baked cookies, and silent nights of singing traditional songs. Grandma made it so.

Having been out running errands today, Christmas shopping looks alive, if unwell. The stores are mostly chaotic, Big-Box voids. The underpaid workers look and act like the walking dead. The merchandise is strewn about like the bulls just left the building. And many stores don’t even seem to bother decorating.

Cue back to that commercial. Indeed, the most familiar holiday sound this X-mas may be the r-r-r-r-rip of opening Amazon boxes. Who packed it? Did anyone wrap it? Who was so thoughtful to go click click click, or did you just order it yourself? There is one difference, though: I’ve never seen a real box smile. Nor anyone opening one that came via a faceless delivery service.

Still, still, still, Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Hug your living relatives. And pray for peace on earth. Amen.

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