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Alex Baer

Failure of Memory

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So here we are:  Arrived safe and sound at another, formerly-sacred, national holiday -- one more red-letter day reduced in status by many Americans as just one more blip on the radar of Super Inventory Clearance Furniture Sales.

If we still have jobs, cars, and money for gas, we celebrate the holiday by herding ourselves onto the nation's highways in the style of massed wildebeest migrations, trying to eke out two days and two nights away from wherever it is we usually hang our hats.

Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as it was originally known, used to be time set aside by everyone to take a moment to remember those who died in military service to the country.

Last Updated on Monday, 28 May 2012 17:39 Read more...

About that Hope and Change...

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I've been thinking some -- stewing, really -- trying to get beyond my own reactions to the moment-to-moment outrages, disastrous pratfalls, and assorted, sordid fits characterizing signs of life in our culture and society.

Any number of daily afflictions work us like racehorses at finish lines, galloping us into short attention spans, no time to fix anything, barely enough time to keep track of even half of what's sliding sideways underfoot.

Closely observing politics and its practitioners is a game surely not for the weak-hearted, even less so when the stakes are highest, and the entire country seems to be riding a betting line of poor odds.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 10:44 Read more...

A Great Spirit Surveys Our Ghost of a Chance

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If you've ever wished for a reasonable summary to help explain the inane and insane seas we're all left navigating, your wish has come true:  First, you should know, one man, the explanation's author, has died.

The man was writer and editor Ernest Callenbach.  He died April 16 at 83.  You may know him from the "Ectopia" books, or from the journal he edited, "Film Quarterly."  He wrote, lectured, walked, gardened, and occasionally taught film classes.  He was an advocate of Earth and of simple, and simplified, living.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 15:25 Read more...

Schoolhouse Shock

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You'd think electrically punishing children, as ways of getting their attention, would be outlawed by now in America -- but you would be wrong.  You would have thought this would have come up before now -- and it has, over and over.  And you know: The shocks still go on and on.

* * * * *

My first nudge in the direction of the Judge Rotenberg Center, the JRC, came in an email today, asking for my support, on a petition at Change.org.  It began:

"Hi, my name is Gregory Miller.  I used to work at a school in Massachusetts named [the JRC] where we used powerfully painful electric shock devices (45-91 milliamps at 66 volts) on students to control their behaviors.  These devices are much stronger than police stun guns (1-4 milliamps).  Unlike stun guns, the electrodes most commonly used at school are spaced 3-4 inches apart so that the electrical volts passing through the flesh create the maximum amount of pain with those amps and volts.

Last Updated on Monday, 07 May 2012 17:57 Read more...

Wheels Within Wheels: The Trauma of Getting from Here to There

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After having the, uh, stuffing beat out of us all week, there is finally a story to make us want to sit up straight, stand up, even cheer, launching rolls of paper streamers into the air:  The land speed record has been set in Australia by a motorized toilet.

Talk about a go-kart-type vehicle with get-up-and-go: This one managed 46 miles an hour on a timed course.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 May 2012 15:30 Read more...

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