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Here’s a tale of Whoa. (Thanks for reading my latest Bad Pun.) On October 12 of this year I went to some lengths to upgrade my driver’s license to a State ID, which will sometime in 2023 be required for anyone who wants to travel. I brought with me the right kind of the copy of my birth certificate (has a seal from Vital Records), establishing that I was indeed born in the United States of America, and a lease agreement, establishing that I did indeed live where I said I lived. The lady at the booth scanned my documents, I signed a scanner for the signature line, they gave me an eye test and took my picture, and they told me I’d get my card “in about a week.”

A month and a half went by. No card.

Today I called the Motor Vehicle Department and asked the lady who answered if it was unusual for cards to take this long. She said it was, but since she was Level I, General Information, she’d need to transfer me to Level II. A few minutes later another nice lady checked my driver’s license number and said Aha, your photo was not acceptable to the Face Recognition software, we can’t see both of your earlobes, you’ll have to come in and take another pic. “Whoa,” said I. “But OK.”

So today I rented a car, because public transportation would have taken hours, and I had till 4:45pm, and what the heck, I like driving every so often. I arrived timely, took a number, and was directed to Booth 19. The nice lady at Booth 19 took my license and the temp ID and printed out my info for me to review and sign. “Hey,” said I, “My apartment number’s missing.” “Aha,” she answered, “that must be the real reason we put a hold on your card.” “Did you send me an e-mail?” Headshake. “Call me?” “No, we don’t do that in such cases,” says she. “We tell you before you leave when you can expect the card, and expect you to call if you don’t get it when we say.” Grrrr.

But there’s an upside. The first pic made me look like a serial killer. This one makes me look like innocent, harmless Grandpa. Heh heh. If they only knew. 🙂

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I was walking on a sidewalk in the heart of Phoenix, southbound on the west side of Third Street, South of McDowell but north of Portland, when I looked up and saw that both a work of art and a construction crane were in the field of view. And off to the right was Grace Lutheran Church, whose marquee invited virtual visitation via www dot graceinthecity dot com — an admirable choice of domain name.

With every footstep my perceived reality changed. Curiosity compelled an approach to the artwork.

It was not possible to get much closer due to the area being fenced off. But even a few footsteps change the perceived reality to include power lines over the image, and though they do not interfere much with the artwork, they enhance in an urban/infrastructure sort of way.

Continuing southbound brought the distant crane closer and closer. This necessitated more and more neck-tilting, which definitely alters the perceived reality of an arthritic 68-year-old man not currently taking pain medication.

On the left end the name DUNN is lit up. Because of my propensity for bad puns, I thought it might be better to leave the name unlit until the construction was finished.

What IS Reality, Friends? Wherever you are, you’ve just had a limited tour of a small section of sidewalk in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, USA, Earth, Sol system, non-lethal sector of the Galaxy we call the Milky Way, a name both extraordinarily inapt and spot-on. The images you have seen were altered with photoediting software to be less drab, but they also have improved detail, so the word Fakery both does and does not apply. What a wonderful time we live in, viewed from the aspect of the new superpower almost all of us have of being able to grab and shape Reality through the use of a pocket device.

My last thought for you takes us back to the beginning, a simple stroll down a city sidewalk, and the simple truth that the #1 factor of perceived reality is Proximity. Friends, a better reality awaits those who have the courage to approach it.

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My forays into self-publishing began in the Spring of 2008. I created a Word document and stuck scans of my acrostic pages into it, and then inserted some conversational text that transcribed and annotated the illustrations/poems. That little chapbook was called The Tutti-Frutti Bird of Benign Insanity. I think I sold about 7 copies.

In 2010 I gathered the portraits I had done of outstanding local poets and put them into a chapbook which I called LIVES of the Eminent Poets of Greater Phoenix, AZ, Vol I. I did a print run of 50 copies, and some time later I was the MC of a special event celebrating my new publication, and many of the poets in my book came and performed. My objective was to showcase them because I felt they were underappreciated, and I think I fulfilled my intention.

My next intention was to produce a Volume II, and I thought a year would be plenty of time to do a second volume’s worth of more poets. I wanted to publish Vol. II on August 30, 2011, the anniversary of Vol. I. Alas, 2011 was a disastrously disruptive year, including the finalization of my divorce on December 19. I was knocked off my routine and my trajectory. I continued to do poet portraits but I didn’t organize them.

Doesn’t matter. I’m back on track again, with some help from my friends Susan Vespoli and Russ Kazmierczak. Susan helped me get Vol. II out of Limboland, and Russ at my request wrote an Introduction second to none. Russ also gave me a variable-length stapler that took my bindery efforts from the Stone Age to Cool Jazz.

Today I decided to run ten copies of Vol II and keep track of my printer’s ink levels to see how long I’d be likely to go before I needed another $120 cartridges pack for my new printer. Here are the levels before and after the 10-copy print run.

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Looks like I’ll be running low on Magenta about 40 copies from now. Black and Cyan got hit, too, but Yellow wasn’t much affected. Intuition/guesswork tells me that printer ink is costing me about a dollar a copy.

I’m asking $9 US for an unsigned copy, $10 for a signed copy, with free shipping/handling anywhere in the US. (I’ll send a copy internationally on request, but I will have to change extra for shipping/handling in that case.) My mailing envelopes cost about $8.75 for a 12-pack–figure 80 cents per. Postage right now is $1.56. The light card stock I use for the cover is about $25 per ream, or a nickel per Vol II copy. The copy paper cost is about 6 cents per Vol. II copy. And it was almost exactly one hour from when I started printing to when I tucked the collated, folded, and stapled tenth copy into its mailing envelope. So we have $1.00 plus $0.80 plus $1.56 plus $0.11 cents for a total of $3.47 materials cost, yielding a gross profit of $5.53 for unsigned, or $6.53 for signed.

In a perfect world, then, my hour’s work would return to me somewhere between 55 and 65 US dollars.

Ah, but it is not a perfect world. I haven’t addressed a single envelope, nor signed a single copy, nor taken them to a mailbox. And what about tax? Tax in Arizona is pretty near 10 percent, so if this enterprise goes beyond about $400 gross sales, more or less (informal opinion from a CPA friend of mine who will go unnamed), there goes a dollar a copy. And if sales go into the ozone, which, based on experience, has about the same chance as a snowball in Hell, why then I’d need to set up a sole proprietorship or an LLC. A good problem to have, to be sure, but, Friends, you know something? I’m not in it to get rich. The IMMENSE, HUGE value I get from doing stuff like this is in the thrill of Creation and the ambrosia of Approbation. I have already gotten 90% of that sort of Profit and I am content. 🙂

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As always, the alarm went off at 4:45 AM, Mountain Standard Time. On my days off from work it is on so I can gloat that I don’t have to get up yet; and I also get richer dreams in the sleep-in phase. Today I slugabedded till 7:15, a full two and a half hours extra.

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Over oatmeal and coffee I did a Words With Friends “Solo Challenge,” my opponent not a human being but the software-engineered algorithm. These Challenges are like chess problems. For an “easy” opponent you will usually get juicy setups and be able to superscore your way to victory. But for a “hard” opponent you must have more words, and variants of typical words, at your command. In this case my opponent started with “Blawn.” I’d never heard that word–sounds to my perverted mind like the past participle of a verb describing a kinky exhibitionistic sexual practice done in a suburban neighborhood. (Sleep-saturation sends my dream-soaked mind down odd avenues.) But more to the point of winning this Challenge, how do I get a Triple Word Score on this crucial first move? If only “fecal” were six letters long–hey, it IS! all you have to do is parse out the æ from antiquity. The Brits still spell it that way…

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And so it went with me matching weird words with other weird words (who knew “jotty” was a thing??) and on to a satisying victory, with no bad aftertaste that occurs when I outscore a real-life Friend. (I never let anyone win. Ego? Egalitarianism? Entropic effectualness? Eitheror Eeyore way, it is often painful to stick to that policy.)

My next act of leisure was to noodle around with my latest work in progress, “P is for Petunia.” I filled in some background and snazzed up the “calligraphy” some. Later I’ll do a dilettante’s research on petunias for fun facts. They will go to the left of the drawing. But without them, the page is unbalanced. –Hey, Kids, let’s put on a Mashup Show! I took the ceramic “Chess Piece Series” Rook that my mother had kept on a living-room table for ten years or so, and positioned it so it would occlude the empty area. Bonus: the P of Petunia, which had seemed overly, cartoonishly off-kilter, now appears to be gravitationally drawn to the Rook, which gives him…Bad Pun drumroll, please…more Gravitas!! (Sorry not sorry for the Bad Pun.) Then I played with photoediting Andy Warhol style.

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And at 2:14 PM, Mountain Standard Time, my pals Phil, Jeff and Marty and I have a tee time at Palo Verde Municipal 9 Hole Golf Course, where Jeff will win, Marty and Phil will fight for second, and I won’t Suck, because I’m even below Suckitude, golf-wise. But it’s good to be out in the open air with my buds.

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I also spent a little time admiring the classic-artworks screen my mom so cleverly put together over 50 years ago. RIP Mom, and miss you, but glad your hurts are no more. Thank you for encouraging your artist son.

To make a long story slightly longer, this has been, and will continue to be, a gloriously lazy day. I am a luxuriating, lucky man to have these days every single week.

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The above photo, taken on my Samsung Galaxy J2 from the spot in my dining area where I eat, watch DVDs on my laptop, meditate, and make most of my drawings (though I own a drawing table, visible in the background of the photo), has all the elements of the Confessions promised by the title of this blog entry. The Backstory comes from the past few years. The Story happened today.

I am a Water-Fetcher. Water is only twenty cents a gallon at the Glacier dispenser near 29th Street and Indian School Road. Merchants at establishments such as Circle K and Fry’s will shamelessly charge five times as much and more for their water. (Tap water is free, but I suspect the water supply in my neighborhood is unhealthy, and it does not taste good.) I do not own a car, so when I need water I take a walk, bottle(s) in tow.

A long time ago I was involved with a woman who suggested I purchase a personal grocery cart. Today I did so, because for a long time i’d wanted a case of San Pellegrino Sparkling Water in glass bottles–a case too heavy to carry. At Ace Hardware they had a grocery cart that required some assembly. I made about eighteen mistakes putting it together, but I prevailed and it works, and its maiden voyage was to the Smart & Final about a qiarter mile west of Sprouts. I got the case of San Pell and other groceries too, well within the 53-pound advised limit, but far far more than I would be able to easily carry.

On the trip home from Smart & Final, a distance of about two-thirds of a mile, I derided myself for the snobbishness that compelled me to think of myself as old and unsuccessful, merely by virtue of the fact that I was using a grocery cart, and it contained bags with the Smart & Final logo on it. Further reflection revealed that I was proud when my groceries were in Sprouts bags, indifferent with Fry’s bags, oddly prideful with Food City bags, since my ethnicity takes me out of my comfort zone when I shop there (it also blows my mind that there is an entire aisle devoted to Lard), and deeply ashamed when I sport Wal-Mart bags. It would appear that i am not the egalitarian that I purport to be. And that is humbling, but humility is a healthy thing, and so is laughing at my own foibles. 🙂

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With a prompt like “Enchanted,” the mind enters the Magical Realm of Once Upon a Time. Here’s a true story that seems magical to me. Once upon a time there was a man who lived with two women, and loved them both. But he found that there was truth in the Chinese symbol for “Trouble,” which draws a simplified picture of two women under one roof. He became agitated by some of this “trouble,” and it gave him an idea. Don’t people who lie have physical changes that a machine might be able to detect? And so the Lie Detector was invented. And later, the same man noticed, with the help of one of the women he loved, that comic books only had men as superheroes, so he told a comic-book-maker that they needed a woman hero. The comic-book-maker agreed, and asked for help, so this man created Wonder Woman with the help of an artist. And he created Wonder Woman with a Lie Detector of her own, a magic lasso which when encircling someone would make that someone tell the truth. And though there is no “happily ever after” to this story, the empowerment of women that can be directly traced to this man has made the world a better place. The end.

I have futurist David Rose to thank for this true story in the form I have written. It was part of his discussion of his book Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things. He gave that discussion five years ago, and since then Siri and Alexa, two well-written forms of artificial intelligence, have managed to insinuate “themselves” into our lives, working their often creepy enchantment. (In his discussion Rose speaks of “The Uncanny Valley,” wherein things designed to be more humanlike do so just enough to give us the willies.) (And the Bad Punster strikes again: If they made social robots of Willie Mays and Willie Nelson, it would REALLY give us the Willies.) (Sorry not sorry.)

So my page this time has no acrostic poetry, though I became tempted, when listing various Enchanted things, to list them as Swords, Evenings, Castles, Rings, Encounters, and This Guy’s Brain–put them all together and they spell “Secret.”

I have provided the link to David Rose’s discussion to my Facebook readership, and the link is on my Magic Clipboard now, but I will cost you a few seconds and NOT paste it here, instead inviting you to work a little Enchantment of your own via Internet search, by way of demonstrating, as Arthur C. Clarke once observed, “Any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Let’s end with a punchline. There are many people I know via social media that I have never met in person. YOU may well be one of them, and one of the reasons I want to spend my retirement on a World Tour of meeting lovely people that I have and have not met yet. From this day forward, at that magic moment when I am physically WITH someone (as I say, pehaps YOU) whom I previously have only known online, I intend to use that magic word that the French employ when they meet someone for the first time–“Enchanté.”

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There’s a movie out now: Ad Astra. In Miss Maegene Nelson’s Latin class in 1968 I learned not only that “ad astra” meant “to the stars,” but that it was part of the larger phrase “per aspera ad astra,” which meant “through difficulty to the stars.” You can’t get to the stars without difficulty, nor should you. The difficulty, and your growth in overcoming it, and the knowledge you gain about what it took to get there, all define Success.

Success is not always getting to the stars. Sometimes it’s getting through a day without doing something you know you shouldn’t. Or helping someone else do so. Or earning the grudging admiration of a rival. Clocking in on time. Being the fifth caller and answering the question correctly and getting concert tickets. Putting on sunblock before golfing.

The most successful moment in my life may well have been October 6, 1971. It was that evening that I held hands with the most beautiful girl in the Universe. We had kissed before, but that was a birthday kiss. Ahead of us lay about seven years of serious involvement, and a full spectrum of happiness and sadness, of bliss and anger, of diminishing laughter and rising discontent, cycles, pendulum swings, breakups and attempted reconciliations. A thousand successes; an ultimate failure. I bear enormous guilt about that to this day, and enormous regret for what might have been.

Part of success and failure in Life is weaving a failed relationship into the tapestry of the present and the future. We are always going to school but we are not always learning. And especially in these modern, instant-communication times, we may be skeptical about what is true and what is either marketing or manipulation or “the Devil in disguise.” Success, REAL success, will come to those with an abundance of love and an absence of hatred toward any living creature.

If you must hate, and we must, for to be human is to contain a certain amount of darkness, please hate IDEAS and not the people who have and practice them. Fight tooth and nail against bad IDEAS like exploitation of the weak and indecency and destruction of the environment. Do it with optimism and determination to remain decent and cause no harm. If you fail, own your failure.

Whoops–getting preachy in here. I once got results of an aptitude test that said I might want to pursue a career as a priest. No. Not unless they change the rules. 🙂 Sorry about the sermon.

As for the image, it is my attempt to non-objectively represent Success. So there’s an array of busy, blocky triangles being aligned upward by a celestial force in the form of a sort of overarching field. I hope it’s at least a good-looking doodle.

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First to demystify the title: decompressed, it is “You want to know what is REALLY going on? Are you SURE?” And a good look at the image reveals the title as well.

Would any of us want to know, on a level approaching omniscience, the nature of Reality? Scientists seem to strive for clues and answers along those lines. But it would take a fearless person indeed to cast aside presuppositions and wishes that things be a certain way, in exchange for unwished-for glimpses of Truth.

This is relevant to me now because, in my country at least, mythmaking propaganda is on the rise. It is not confined to a political party or a religious or nonreligious belief. Algorithms seek and find an individual’s way of thinking, and the exploiters who designed–or purchased–the algorithms then capitalize on that knowledge. In my own case, my internet feed sends me unasked-for “Art events in your area” information, and links to liberally-biased news items abound. The phrase “echo-chamber effect” describes this phenomenon well.

It is insidious and is dividing us. Since it also unites us into special-interest tribes, it is also well-nigh irresistible. So when I think of the questions I have posed, I get these answers:

Do I REALLY want to know what’s going on? Only when my thirst for true knowledge is greater than my fear of being uncomfortable, or horrified, or devastated, or suicidal.

Am I SURE? Paradoxically, I am more and more sure that it is dangerously self-destructive to be sure about almost anything. It is important, though, to choose basic precepts upon which to behave and act. So:

Harmlessness is a virtue. Hatred of fellow beings is poisonous. The most valuable currency is Quality of Life. The most valuable consideration is the use of one’s time while alive.

A few corrolaries to these basics are:

Black lives matter. Love of living creatures compels Goodness and Mercy. Every precious moment is an opportunity. Self-awareness is vital to self-improvement.

Peace be unto you, my friends.

 

 

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Decades ago, Ronald Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev–TEAR DOWN THAT WALL.” Many cheered, and behold, some time after the Wall came down.

Decades later, a candidate for President of the United States said, over and over again, in many different ways, “We’re gonna build a big, beautiful Wall–and WE’RE GONNA GET MEXICO TO PAY FOR IT.” Many cheered, and helped elect him. I was not one of them.

Here is something I published on Facebook on January 20.

It has occurred to me, as I am sure it has occurred to the enemies of America, that the Wall if built will make the US more, not less, vulnerable. Because anyone with enough money to buy some cheap explosives, and a radio-controlled airplane ( cheaper than a drone), will be able to make the Wall much more expensive, with a return on the terrorist dollar of at least 100 to 1. Blow a little hole in The Wall and it will cost US many, many more times to repair it than the peanuts it costs for the stuff the bad guys can use. It doesn’t have to be a big hole, either. Just something to get the party started.

Wall supporters, PLEASE tell me I’m wrong, and prove it. If you succeed, we will all sleep better at night. If you don’t, or more likely cannot, then please a) stop supportIng this useless Wall; and b) stop supporting this useless Administration.

Look how vulnerable the Towers were. Do we really want to set ourselves up for more tragedy?

Our fine and fancy US Government has been shut down by a despot who, for reasons of his own, or perhaps those of the ones pulling his puppet strings, wants to throw billions of dollars at a hideous, idiotic project. I am protesting with the non-violent means available to me here. I hope my voice is heard.

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Diane Householder Norrbom is my aunt, my mother’s half-sister, but spiritually no “half-” about it. My mother trusts her more than anyone, including me, and so she should.

Ever since my brother Brian, who was Mom’s caregiver, died, Diane has risen to the enormous challenge of seeing to it that Mom is taken care of. That task is compounded by the fact that Diane lives in Lakewood, California. Several times Diane has driven across the Mojave desert to come put out fires, jump through bureaucratic hoops, hire and fire caregivers, and address a slew of troubles. The proper disposition of my late brother’s unusable vehicle alone was a nightmare, since the title was collateralized by one of those horrible loanshark outfits. She had to punch through a couple of brick walls for that one, even with my inept “help.”

So I’m grateful to her. So when she came to town last Thursday, I told her we’d go out and have some fun, and the budget would be $200.

Wouldn’t you know it–time and opportunity slid away, and we never had that fun. But I had made a commitment, one very specific as to funding. And she was.leaving this morning.

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This morning I gave her a shipping envelope that contained a hundred dollar bill, a fifty, a twenty, a ten, and four fives. “I don’t know what this is about,” she said. I told her a classmate of mine had posted on Facebook that we are not what we say we’re going to do, but what we actually do, and that the money needed to be spent on having fun, and that my target time for a California visit is February, but don’t wait for then to spend it, just spend it on fun, and please don’t give any of it away to needy relatives, including me. She agreed, and we have tentative plans to have February fun at the Redondo Beach pier, which I have visited before with great gusto.

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But there was more in the envelope:  three original drawings of mine, temporary-mounted on two pieces of posterboard. One is my double-take on Greta Garbo, part of my November “Finishline” series; one is not only a Finishline drawing but the latest in my Utensil series; and one is a recent post-Inktober ink drawing. I am currently charging either $20.00 an hour or $100 apiece, whichever is less, for drawings on this scale, so on that basis Diane got an envelope with contents valued at $500.00. But she deserves much much more, and not merely material things. She has been an incredible, strong matriarch for our family.

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Speaking of family, here is Misty, Diane’s niece and Mom’s current live-in caregiver. (Here she shows her surfergirl/hippiechick California roots by flashing us a peace sign.) Bless her heart. She has made a world of difference in Mom’s quality of life.

And it was Diane who brought Mom and Misty together. Just another of Diane’s wise miracles.