Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Smile

From time to time I get my breakfast at McDonalds.  I am particularly partial to McGriddles - that classically American concoction with the bun filled with faux maple syrup - I mean who comes up with this stuff? Almost every time I come in a small latina serves me. Her face and arms are horribly disfigured - I have this image of her as a child pulling a large vat of boiling water on top of herself. When I first started coming Marta - for that's her name - wouldn't look me in the eye no matter what I did - she'd look anywhere but at my face.

I first experienced this reluctance to look directly at me among the lepers that hung out around the marketplace in Jakarta when I was a boy: I guess they found that 'whole' people wouldn't look them in the eye or if they did, their 'look' would be filled with shock and horror. So the disfigured go through life avoiding visual connection with other people lest it once again remind them that to the world they are "hideous". Of course to them, they're not. Just as when I look in the mirror I don't think I'm old - but the disfigured have learned that looking 'wholes' in the eye is a painful experience best to be avoided. It must be a strange, lonely world  - so much of what is essential about us is communicated through our gaze. As Shakespeare wrote: "the eyes are the window to your soul"

Despite never looking directly at me, Marta came to recognize me - I suppose by my voice and my typically "just got out of bed" appearance. Early on I tried a number of different stratagems to 'trick' her into looking me in the eye, including introducing myself "hi, I'm Bill, what's  your name?" "Marta" she said, never raising her eyes above my chest. After a while I gave up - Marta had spent her whole life dealing with her appearance - who was I to try to manipulate her just to see if I could catch her eye? This went on for the longest time - we'd talk and joke (for I am terribly perky in the morning, it's quite a burden for others) and do all the other things that familiar strangers do in an open culture like Texas, but no eye contact.

Until one day when I was so preoccupied with my own problems that I didn't even really notice her serving me. When she asked me if I wanted my "re-goo-lar" as she puts it, I didn't even hear her. Then snapping back to the real world I looked over and there they were: her eyes - gazing steadily into mine. Her smiling eyes. I felt like I'd been given a great gift - a view into a soul more closely guarded than a fortress. And it was beautiful. Because she is beautiful - much more beautiful than I'll ever be.

We're friends now - and I'm eating a lot more McDonalds breakfasts than I probably should but I can't resist those eyes. Marta's smiling eyes.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Man on a Horse, Poor Folks and Morale

1.IMHO Richard Rorty made good predictions for the wrong reasons. If I understand the review's synopsis Rorty predicted that the poor and working classes would become alienated from a Republic run by elites for economic reasons - Nafta, the decline of unions, etc. First of all only the white working class became disaffected. Other identity groups stuck with the 'ruling class'. Second of all, while there was economic suffering, the drivers of the 'revolt' were more cultural. New gender norms, environmental purity standards and a general elite denigration of whites as well as the working class persuaded them that they were its victims.

2. Rorty predicts a strong man or "The Man on the Horse" will lead these disaffected to overthrow the constitutional order. But the last time a strong man overthrew the legitimate constitutional order in an Anglo Saxon country (UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) was in 1066 when Duke William of Normandy beat King Harold at Hastings. Our culture doesn't do dictatorships and there's no indication that it's going to happen now. We're just seeing human nature play out. It's a bit like say a man...yeah...a man who when his affections are rejected by a woman walks off muttering darkly "she'll be sorry she blew me off" fantasizing about dread scenarios to make himself feel better.  Eventually the loser, I mean losers will get over themselves.

3. The US Does have a strong history and tradition of successfully defying attempts to impose tyrannical rule by King George (13 original states) and by Santa Ana (Texas and California). Indeed when Santa Ana demanded that the Texas National Guard give back their cannon (preparatory to his invasion to subjugate texas) this was the first revolutionary flag of the Republic of Texas - we've always been gun nuts. And people in places like TX are far better armed today as well has having the loyalties of a significant share of the military's experienced combat arms.



4. Rorty is partially right about poverty. But there are two approaches in the US towards poverty: the California High-Low Materialist approach and the Texas favor the working classes Morale approach. They differ as to what they think the poor's primary problem is. I'd be happy to bore you about it if you like.

Thanks for sending me the piece, it was interesting.


Monday, September 19, 2016

The light in your eyes

You called and we talked the other day,
it seemed we had so much to say.
But the depth of your heart dwarfed my puny thoughts
and I'm not sure I can live up to your ways.

You're as deep as a diamond and as bright as the sun.
As strong as the mountains, as sweet as true love.
When I'm talking to you I forget where I am because
I get lost chasing the light in your eyes.

You love playing music and taught it to me
but my pla-pla-playing marred your beauty.
But the strength of your soul swamped my puny notes
and I'm not sure I can live up to your ways.

You're as deep as a diamond and as bright as the sun.
As strong as the mountains, as sweet as true love.
When I play with you I forget where I am because
I get lost chasing my dream of your eyes.

You're coming to see me and I'm a little scared
in a way that about women I never have cared.
I don't know why I feel so unsettled except
I'm not sure I can't live up to your ways.

You're as deep as a diamond and as bright as the sun.
As strong as the mountains, as sweet as true love.
When you come to see me I don't know what I'll do.
Except get lost in your eyes, your deep, diamond eyes

Monday, September 12, 2016

Us Cats IV-2

Us cats play and climb,
back and forth, top to bottom.
purring purring, purrrr.

Us cats rolling on.
Playing, fighting is so fun.
Bite my neck. Hold on.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

You can't own hearts

All my life I've been searching for pebbles.
Some of them pretty, some of them plain.
I picked them up all the same.

I'd peer at them and ask
"What are you to me?"
They'd tell me nothing that I wanted to be.

So I'd stick them in my pocket,
Or toss them in the sea
None of them meant very much to me.

Until one day a I found a stone that caught my eye.
I just had to have that pebble.
Or else I would die.

You can't own him and he can't own you.
Love is about giving, love is about truth.
And the only thing you can keep of any man,
Is the sweetness of his love and the touch of his hand.

So I picked it up.
I held it so tight.
This was the stone for which I would fight.

I took that pebble home
Said it was mine.
Put it on a pedestal that was so very fine.

 I found that pebbles aren't owned.
(Much to my dismay.)
Or possessed or ruled in any other way.

You can't own her and she can't own you.
Love is about giving, love is about truth.
And the only thing you can keep of any woman born,
Is the sweetness of her love and the touch of her hand.

So she kept me In her pocket
And used me in her way.
Until the day I fit no more and she tossed me far away.

That tossing created ripples,
great waves of pain.
So I swore that I'd never pick up pretty pebbles again.

But of course I lied
Because I can never look away
From all the many pebbles that come pebbling my way.

Searching for the special ones
that threaten waves of pain.
To see if it hurts when I hold them again.

You can't own hearts and you can't own souls.
Love is about giving, about becoming whole.
And the only thing you can have of any woman or man,
Is the sweetness of their love and the touch of their hand.

I've loved a lot and I've lost even more.
And the only thing I've learned,
Really the only thing I know. Is...

You can't own hearts and you can't own souls.
Love is about giving, about becoming whole.
And the only thing you can have of any woman or man
Is the sweetness of their love and the touch of their hand.

Yes the only thing I've learned, the only thing I know, 
is that you can't own hearts and you can't own souls.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

A Bill and Hillary Clinton Parable

Anna Foster adjusted the photograph of her husband and children and sighed.  As the first woman and first black Chief Counsel for BigCorp, she was used to tricky situations but this was ridiculous.

"So why don't you lay the whole scenario out for me" said, Richard "Rick" Sanchez, her lead outside counsel and Partner with Smith, Jones and Lopez, the white shoe New York firm that handled most of Bigcorp's legal issues.

"Well you remember the Bill Winton case? You know, the guy that was Director of Contracting who was caught sexually harassing and abusing women employees, interns and contractors?"

"Yeah, ugly case. But I though he'd left the company at the end of that year and then was convicted of perjury in connection with one of the civil cases that he got hit with, right?"

"Right. Well this is about his wife, Hillary. She was a Contract Administration Manager underneath him during that time - I don't know why she didn't divorce him, Lord knows I would have."
"Go on", Rick said cautiously.

"Well anyway she was a top performer and the CFO really like her. So when Bill took the package he wanted to elevate her to the top job in contracting. Fortunately we talked him out of it because besides the bad optics, she didn't have the requisite legal training - we've always required the person in that role to be a trained lawyer due to the tricky contract interpretation and negotiations needed."
"Yeah that makes sense, you put that fast track guy Barry wosisname into that role"

Anna nodded "Yeah because Hillary cut a deal with the CFO.  If she would go get her law degree, then when she was done, Barry would go on to some International assignment and she could slide right into the Director slot. Now there was no formal promise but it was understood so long that she did well at school, she'd be top dog.  And crucially it was known publicly."

"So how'd she do?" Rick sighed, absentmindedly flicking imaginary lint off of his knee.
"She did great but it's what she did after school hours that's at issue."
"Whaddya mean 'after school hours'? Did she have a part time job?", Rick leaned forward.

Anna sighed "Well sort of.  You see once she got to Yale some of our largest contracting partners - vendors, customers, distributors started wining and dining her and her husband. And - evidently this was her or Bill's idea - they began inviting one or both of them to their offsite meetings at resorts, providing all expense paid trips for them."
"Hmmm, I don't like where this is going."

"Well it gets worse. They'd go to these events - during the week when Hillary had class, Bill would go - and they would be asked to give a few remarks to the 'troops' of these companies about 'contracting'. And here's the kicker: they were paid between $2,500 and $3,500 dollars "Honorarium" for their talk.
"Wow, five to seven grand an hour? I'm going to have to raise my rates." Sanchez exclaimed. "So of course you didn't rehire her, did you?"

Anna got out of her chair and walked over to the window, she turned and said "we did rehire her. As a matter of fact she's now our new Director of Contracting"
"Where did Barry go?"
"He's doing some make work thing over in the Golf Products division, you know these fast trackers".
"Don't I though.  So you're telling me that the CFO rehired her and put her in the Director's job even after all of the payments and luxury vacations companies gave her?  How much money are we talking about here?"
"At least $400 grand and possibly much more and that doesn't include the freebies".
"Holy cow!!" The woman who took upwards of a million dollars in payments and vacations from.....how many companies took her up on this?"
"Well over a hundred - all of them major hundred million dollar and above contracting parties with BigCorp.  Every single company with a billion dollar annual relationship had her speak, some of them two or three times."
"What did she say to them"
Anna's brow wrinkled:  "She won't say, she says they are private meetings and are none of our business". But it gets even worse."
"How could that be possible?"
"You remember Bill, her husband and first Bigcorp executive ever convicted of a felony for things he did while in office?" 
"Yeah"
"well she's 'hired' Bill as her co-Director.  We're not paying him of course and we don't want him in the building for obvious reasons but she has him travelling to all the major contracting players - you know the ones that bribed them - doing what she's calling 'partner outreach and relations'."
"You mean shaking them down for more?" Rick questioned with a shocked look.
"No, not likely. That would be illegal rather than just incredibly sleazy, I think what he's doing is gathering requested favors that they owe these companies for the consideration they've already received." "But I can't prove that", she added.
"OH. MY. GOD what a mess" 
"Your'e telling me, I'm thinking of resigning in protest" Anna said quietly.
"What? give up the job you've worked your whole life to achieve?"
"Yeah. But I achieved everything I've got by playing by the rules and if BigCorp is going to be run by people like this I don't want to be a part of it. Because it's inevitable that an organization that would knowingly tolerate this kind of corruption has got to be riddled with many other criminal activities. 
I've gotten wind of some but I don't have the resources or the political position to hold all of these......these...Gangsters accountable. I hope I can count on you as a reference?"
"Sure, although after I tell our managing committee about this, my job may be on the line because there's no way we can afford to do work for such a corrupt institution."
"I understand completely"

After what seemed like an eternity of silence Rick stood up and said brightly: "Well" I think I'm going to go get drunk, care to join me?"


"No I'll stay here. Happy drunking."

Anna sat back down in her chair and toyed with her family's pictures again. She had given her life to Bigcorp and now it was all turning into a corrupt lie. She brushed away tears and taking a deep breath called out to her EA to come in to review her resignation letter.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Ode to Karen on the day of her birth.

Oh Karen! Mighty Twin!
It is your birthday once again!
Your age advances as does the regard
of those who fell for you so hard.

Oh Karen! It is thee we beseech
because you are a helluva peach.
We lift our glasses to toast you on high,
it is your praises that we do cry.

Oh Karen! Sister of noble Kathleen,
who looks so much like you it must be seen!
So it can be said that God has made
two perfect creatures in one short day.

Oh Karen! One of a kind!
We look and say 'what a find'!
We are honored to sing your praise
and to wish you a happy birthday.