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Alex Baer

It's Good to Be Sane. Mostly.

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Here is a question for you:  Is America worth your personal investment of a couple hours and some medium-to-moderate thought?  No, it's OK -- this is not a disguised recruitment tool of any kind, nor is this an attempt to sell you aluminum siding.  Your long-distance carrier or digital service plan provider is not involved here, honest.

Although, to be fair, I think this is a pretty good experiment of a couple different kinds.  The primary one is whether you would be willing to spend a couple hours to see if you are sane -- if you're operating on good information that makes sense to you and to some others who are accomplished in such matters.

Put it this way:  I spent the two hours and I have to say, you know, that I'm relieved about a lot of things, and yet troubled about some others.  Maybe I should start at the beginning.

Let's say this were possible:  Out of the blue and without warning, and with no time for preparation, you are given 10 seconds to determine the kind of America you want to live in, and the kind of America that you want your friends and family to live in, too.  Whatever you say goes -- it will be done.

OK, based on average reading speed in this country:  Time's up.  So:  What kind of America do you want?

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 22:26 Read more...

The Heady, Hempy Joys of Laughter

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Sometimes, even in the face of cruel and absurd realities, I find myself reaching down to retrieve my buttocks, having laughed them clean off me, and onto the floor.

Hard-working professionals are sometimes responsible for any lingering twitches I may harbor to create LMAO messages that I may still feel inclined, even now, when I know better, to send anywhere:  comedians, screenwriters, authors, actors, and the like.  Other times, it's the accidental, amateur all-stars from the wobbly, wearisome, warlike planets of politics, monetary systems, religious beliefs, and the ongoing unrest over Crockpot chili recipes.

Sometimes, though, it's the innocent, unplanned happenstance of the hapless, of people going about their lives, doing the best they can, pratfalling and deadfalling their way from one stretch of black ice to Crsico patch, only to make their escape jump onto a long slick of axle grease, shooting right into Vaseline Lake.

Machiavellian schadenfreude, random bursts of deus ex machina surprises, and other semi-sadistic skullduggery aside, it's good to take your endorphins out for a spin now and then, to get them, and you, some air.  It helps to flex the muscles that work the corners of your mouth, to test the hinges on the ol' head meat -- the ones that open and close the mind.

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 February 2014 23:34 Read more...

Faith, Hope, and That Itchy Sensation

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It's been a restless winter.  Our dogs move around from one of their beds to another, and rotate spots on the floor in an ambling, nomadic waltz.  The ants have been especially antsy here this year, leaking out of the ancient, pseudo-farmhouse woodwork in streams, eddies, vortices, miniature maelstroms -- a bumper crop of biblical proportions.

The two humans residing here travel back and forth unpredictably, errant with errands, steeped in to-do lists, turned to and fro by daily tidal forces, triggered by a general twitchiness, tuned to some facial-tic-producing frequency just outside the range of hearing.

When not under the spell of whatever it is that might be working on us, we sometimes ask ourselves about the nature of the possible and probable propellants involved in our fidgeting.  No answers so far.

We keep coming up with a general "hookanno" -- our shorthand for "who can know?"  We say it like "Winnebago," which is HOO-kan-no.  We sound like hoot owls, muttering in the loose, eternal wake of our room-to-room search, hunting for reasons why we might be here, on this planet, just as much as why we might be here, in this particular room.  Both are tricks of memory, I am convinced, one easier to resolve than the other.  I forget which is which.

Our house is old.  It has sections tacked on here and there.  It is growth by afterthought rather than by planning and forethought.  It was built a little at a time, by a hobbyist with more good intentions than good skills.  If Euclid lived here, he would have flat gone insane before his furniture was moved in and arranged.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 17:38 Read more...

Dinosaurs, Cello Loops, and the Avalanche of Awe

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There's a certain, spectacular wonderfulness that comes from being ambushed by Beauty.  The experience can be disorienting, dazzling, dazing, delightful.  It can be stealthy and breath-taking, shorting your oxygen before you realize you're no longer continuing that familiar ebb and flow of air in and air out.

Remembering to breathe is the thing, when bushwhacked by Beauty.

It could be I am just out of practice and easily ambushed these days.  That's a possibility.  My circle of travels has been slight for the last year or so.  I have worn pairs of ruts into the roads between home and hospital, and permanently scuffed and squeaked my rubber-soled footfalls on the waxed and buffed tiles of antiseptic hallways.

My guard was down.  And, yeah, it's been a while since anything whacked me upside the head, leaving flickering lights and multicolored whirligigs exploding overhead -- like a cartoon character magically smitten with the blinding high-beams of romantic attraction, all stars-and-planets overhead.

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 February 2014 22:30 Read more...

Pop Goes Another Resolution

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A case might be made that January is named after the various American demigods of tax calculation computer programs, weight-loss schemes, resolution daydreams, and instant makeovers of home, family, friends, wardrobes, exercise equipment, cars, relationships -- you name it.

All it takes is a little champagne and the turn of a calendar page:  Presto, there goes another resolution.  One year gone, here comes another.  Up one minute, out the next.  Now you see it, now you don't.  It's the ultimate in on-demand convenience, good intentions, and the sort of regretful, pawing, nagging lapsed morality we've perfected hereabouts -- a real natural for Life in These Here Benighted, You-nited States.

Somewhere in here, in January's brittle fidgeting, is also the routine recategorizing of accepted presents from the joyful and effervescent into the ho-hum, yawning tedium of regiftable status.  Here are stored captured holiday items once received with smiles, originally swathed in shiny paper, and are now framed with flat-lined lips and are swaddled in odious, future benevolence and stale, self-centered philanthropy to come.

January also means laughing at, and cheering on, gargantuan gladiators who bash each others brains out.  It's a fine, high-spirited return to the Colosseum, where the display of a certain thumb toward the battlefield, from a cushioned throne, meant swift and instant death.

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 January 2014 21:45 Read more...

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