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Alex Baer

Learning the Kind of 'Out' We Are

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The ability to learn is Nature's way of keeping us from dying from the same thing, over and over again.  Except that it works only for the species, not individuals, and only some of the time at that.  Individuals are as free as ever, Nature says, to perish or be punished by almost any lame-brained, bone-headed thing we'd care to do.

The ability to learn may be fickle, appearing to pick and choose its candidates by invisible lot, or by some other means we mortals cannot detect.  However much we ponder, mull over, and squint, in mid-thought, Nature still retains the ability to surprise.

Baseball, for example:  For the first time, during opening day, an umpire's call was challenged, and then actually reversed, after a check with the demigod of lightning's offspring with electrolysis, known as Instant Replay.

This marks a profound moment in the annals of learning.  It proves people can change, even when there's an out at stake and a crush of tradition in place. This is no small thing.

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(Speaking of normally slow learners:  During my time in uniformed service, we used to sometimes jest that we were serving in an organization with a proud history -- 200 years of tradition, completely unhampered by progress. This sort of remark used to come up when we were dealing with two of the other most common experiences, aside from brushes with, and close escapes from, Unhampered Progress:  hurrying up, only to wait in place, and speculating on the nature of the SNAFU of the day.

The civilian version of the former, which some of us adopted for a while after discharge, was I got no time for patience -- I gotta hurry up and relax! The latter scenario, SNAFU of the Day, was with more questionable ingredients, and the immersion of many elements, sometimes us, in very deep, and very hot, water.)

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Last Updated on Sunday, 06 April 2014 18:22 Read more...

Welcome to These Out-Rage-Us Times

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We've become a nation of fleeting snits and hissy fits.

We nurse along so many hurt feelings that we all get emergency Red Cross parcels, plus the thanks from a grateful nation, for our extensive enmity-nursing skills.  Our spending on pets last year was $61 billion -- and that's not even counting what we're willing to pay to keep our pet peeves alive.  We have so many kinds of hairy grudges, it's surprising none of them ever showed up in Dr. Suess books, all raspberry and lime.

But, none of these petty issues includes the stuff that really ignites us in some way, really toasts our scalps, like we've just grabbed hold of some stripped-bare 220 cables long enough to have Tilt or Free Game show up on our foreheads, or to start spitting little lightning bolts, in a sudden show of Looney Tunes solidarity.

We've pretty much painted ourselves into the corner in this society, and now, as adults, we're going to have to sleep in it.  Or on it. Something. The point is: We create constant distractions and attention-snaggers.  Some are cream puffs that melt on the tongue.  Others have hooks and barbs that feel like bottom dredgers scraping heavy equipment around on the floor of your skull.  Inside these raging jags?  Most are only single-burst fireworks, then flame out, once the phosphorous has scorched through a gross of tandem-stacked I-beams.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 March 2014 22:29 Read more...

Swimming Against the Yo-Yo Tide

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Everyone's heard the one where Life, after closing one door, opens a window.  After doing two of the most dangerous things in America that one can do -- reading and thinking -- I have to take exception to that one.

This is especially true as it often seems Life is intent on demonstrating that other insightful discovery:  that, when you die, your soul goes up on the roof of the garage, and is stuck there, with the Frisbees.  As soon as I have read something and thought about it some, this is often what happens to my own consciousness.

Maybe that metaphor needs a tune-up.  Perhaps the residual feeling of Life's hide-and-seek games, when humans want to seriously pursue a round of Q & A with The Universe, are closer to one door slamming shut, in a berserk gust of wind,  then the triggering of multiple trapdoors, windows guillotining down into the frame, and shutters twitching their large flaps like the ears of over-caffeinated elephants on meth.

After this opening salvo, the house soon collapses in on itself and catches fire, while the chunk of ground it's on breaks away in an earthquake, is then lifted up by a tornado, Oz-style, and thrown down over a cascading series of waterfalls and lava pits.  That's some game.

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Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 17:39 Read more...

This Just In -- We're Blue, Tattooed, Etc.

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Well, it's just about official:  We can all go get blued, tatooed, and have some machined screw threads carved into ourselves, if you catch the drift.

Oh, sure.  There's lots of chest-beating about the sacredness of human life, especially from the Family Values segment of the population -- a group of highly religious policy-pushers noted for doing whatever can be done to utterly rip, rend, and wrench apart families, legally.  You'd do better with Charles Manson as your social worker, Jeffrey Dahmer as your nutritionist, Jack the Ripper as your morale officer.

More correctly, all the hollering and screaming and protesting and Bible-thumping is about the sacredness of The Fetus.  Once the thing is born, to heck with it, say almost all GOP policies for the past 35 or so years.  If it's no longer in vivo, or even in vitro, then it's no longer in our supposed thoughts, in our sham prayers, or in our political hay-making and mud-slinging -- that particular life, once sprung from the womb, is simply no longer in play.

Republican actions clearly demonstrate their actual values.  Programs for corporations-as-people get gangbuster support, to the point of sweat-stained apoplexy, while programs for people-as-people routinely die on the vine. And in Congress... where all good ideas and nice intentions go to become maimed for life.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 18:17 Read more...

In Brain Function We Stand

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A rectangle of nice, restful, healthy, vibrant green below and sky blue above, in the upper half -- just the thing to celebrate the vernal equinox.  Then, a set of finely thin-ribboned, parallel bars in pure white, sunshine yellow, and rich cream, arranged in the lazy X of a saltire, ranging from corner to corner, and intersecting in the center.  Then, on this center spot, a large apple-red sphere, not unlike an actual apple, silhouetted, and sporting wavering rays of varying lengths.

Finally, within the large center spot, the stark white of a rippling strait jacket, with the hard red of a slashing bar through it, from upper left to lower right -- the clear international symbol for NO.

And there you have it -- the start of a new nation, Terra Sanitas:  The Land of the Sane. Small details remain, of course, which include -- well, if you want to get picky about it -- everything else, except the flag part.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 20:18 Read more...

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