Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Poem: Not There

 

Not There

 

noon found her frozen

in the snakes

of her own veins.

 

she had married her own medusa,

commemorated

the fatal event.

 

to look inside

and turn to shocked stone,

could any pain

 

squeeze worse?

 

to show in eyes

a wound so bright

that blood relinquished fire?

 

to go down, to seek

a twin in a steep pool,

unaware she is dead

 

until she kisses you.




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Monday, February 22, 2021

Ethics Review: I Care A Lot

 

Ethics Review:  I Care A Lot

 

Welcome to my ethical reviews!  These reviews will focus on the underlying messages of a movie, series, book, song or other sort of artwork or entertainment.

I Care A Lot (ICL) is a Netflix movie release, currently on the most-watched list.  It is a comedy that attempts almost no emotional depth, and when it does the effort only makes things worse.  Cringe-worthy cheese across the board. 

Shallow is okay when you are going for easy laughs and slapstick--if there is nothing insufferably offensive.  But the plot of ICL is so vile, so abhorrent, that it practically shoves you into a pit of darkness, even if you are doing your best to tune out and just have fun.  This is the kind of movie that, if analyzed for what it says about us, shows a serious problem.

The protagonist, Marla Grayson, is a predator.  She literally enslaves senior citizens who have worked all their lives to get a home and amass saving.  How?  By having a doctor (who is in on the scheme) declare them mentally unfit and in need of a legal guardian.  Grayson, acting as said guardian, locks the victim away in secure retirement home (whose director is also in on the plot), takes their phone, has them medicated, and proceeds to liquidate their assets for her benefit.

All the while, Grayson pretends to care about the victim, lying straight to their face with a concerned smile.  Hence, the title of the movie. 

Yes, the title is an ode to a gaslighting slaver.

There is zero remorse and lots of scenes of Grayson enjoying time with her attractive girlfriend and generally living it up.  ICL takes seamless effort to make her look cool, sexy, confident and, well, what we all want to be, right!   More than once, to justify her vicious, parasitic lifestyle, she co-opts the ideals of feminism. 

Yes, feminism, which is about liberation and dignity for women, is used in ICL to justify slavery and degrade women. 

At this point, one might hope that the antagonist, the villain, is actually a true hero who will take down Grayson’s evil empire.  Nope.  He is just another sociopath who preys on the weak, someone Grayson accidentally crossed by enslaving his mother.  Just to show how horrible this villain is, we are shown, for a few seconds, pictures of women who look beaten, women who are his drug mules. 

Maybe the director thought these two seconds of shockingly brutalized women were necessary, to ensure that we didn’t get the idea that this movie could in any way validate a moral compass higher than slavery.

The rest of the movie is these two monsters battling it out, sprinkled with moments of ghastly violence, mostly against women, such as two black-clad thugs savagely throwing Grayson’s girlfriend to the floor and beating her in the face.  The female redhead doctor who assisted Grayson’s scheme is abducted and murdered.  The other accomplice, the male director of the retirement home, only gets stun gunned.  Poor guy.

Aside from the misogynistic violence, and the smearing of feminism, there is the one black actor in the movie, a clueless judge (described as “stupid”) who always rubberstamps Grayson’s court orders; and there is also, yes, the stereotypical dwarf who we are supposed to laugh at because, well, he is a dwarf in a position of power and authority.  Ha ha.

By the end of the movie, if you are hoping for some comeuppance for Grayson, or her equally loathsome opponent, well, no.  Grayson and her opponent call a truce, join hands, and combine their skills and assets to prey on the innocent.  They are both doing great!

And the moral of the story is …

Someone might try to defend this awful movie as ‘just kidding around’.  That sounds far too much like what people say at a Trump rally say about his speeches.  In fact, this movie is basically a paean to someone like Trump.  Zero conscience, lie, worship greed, and prey on the weak.

 

Ethical movie score (ICL):  Abysmal.  

(sexism, racism, mockery of dwarfs, praise of predators, graphic gratuitous violence)



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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Perverse Inverse: How To Heal America

 

The Perverse Inverse:  How To Heal America

 

As America stumbles, the odds increase that we will be ruled by Trump or someone in his vein.  A Tucker Carlson, Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley.  Dictatorship becomes more probable in times of political unrest and pernicious corruption.

Trump himself did a lot to advance our decline.  He upped the graft, wrecked alliances, and cemented international opinion that the US has gone bonkers. His goal, after all, is still maximum adulation.  He craves the spotlight himself, rather than a competent US on the international stage.

How do we save democracy?  We should ask how Trump came to power in the first place.  A big part of it is racism, a virulent fulcrum used by the Republicans at least since the Southern Strategy.   But what other evil effect heightened the hate, added more leverage, and tipped the scales to fascist Trump?  

The answer is the utter misery of the people, accompanied by continued fleecing. It’s hard to choose an epitome.  But how about Big Pharma reaping profit off heroin-strength opioids.   People suffered.  Loved ones died.  The rich battened their coffers.

This is the crux of it: the economic system is stuck in a perverse inverse proportion.  Benefit to the wealthy means suffering to the majority.  During the pandemic, the stock market sailed upward. 

In contrast, when wages rise, the stock market suffers, due to worries of inflation.  The perverse-inverse has been entrenching for a long time.  Now many people are ready to accept a monarch who promises to ‘shake things up’.

The misery of the people has awesome political clout.  Republicans are able to get praise by promoting any sort of a job, even the most mindless, meaningless, benefit-less, and temporary.  This in the wealthiest country in the world. 

What needs to happen, to inoculate against the takeover by a Trump, Carlson or Cruz?  It’s simple.  Get rid of the perverse-inverse, the parasitic economics.  Try to imagine a healthy system, the sort advanced by Adam Smith, where benefit to business also benefits the people.  How shocking.

As it stands, healthy economics is going to require careful recalibration.  It will have to be enacted slow, and probably with some short-term compensations.  We can’t immediately get rid of the casino stock market initiated by Reaganomics.

But change needs to happen, and proceed steadily.  The jacking up of Game Stop does nothing to help the general public.  Or improve the company.  Indeed, why strive to be a competent company when you exist to gamble with your shares?

A lot of wealthy people want to be taxed more.  They even ask for it, some of them in op-eds.  Change, to a large degree, is about culture.  It is about ethics.  It is about seeing yourself as a member of a country-sized family, at least as much as a competitor for cash. 

History tells us that the elites can and will tilt toward dictatorship.  Jackbooted tactics enforce the ‘law & order’ needed for happy oligarchs and suffering masses.

By continuing the skewed status quo, we advance the pitiable decline.  Or we can become reasonable and sane.

Right now--this moment--this is democracy’s last stand.  We can fall into the spiral of dark history.  The decline of the American empire.  Or we can buck the trend.  Reverse the slide.  Show that we are an adaptable republic.  A truly great nation. 

Anyone calculating their own best interest should step back from the perverse-inverse, and embrace mutual benefit instead.  Why?  For the simple reason that dictators not only accelerate chaos and decline, they also foment war. 

Let us revisit the words of someone who had the insight of proximity to ultimate destructive force:  I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

 

 

 

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

A Note On Poems

 Thank you for looking at the poems!

A quick note.  I often edit a piece quite a bit after it goes up.  The more-or-less final version, the one that settles in, arrives after a few days of the initial posting.  (It's almost fair to say that a true 'final version' is like the Holy Grail and not likely to ever materialize). 

Admittedly, this is a feeble strategy.  I use it simply because it gets me to edit faster and more attentively than if the poems were merely tucked away in a folder.

The big downside is that readers who visit right after a work goes up are often met with a less-than-stellar version.  For this I apologize.  Again, my only excuse, albeit feeble, is the quirkiness of my own craft.

If you have comments or suggestions, or potential topics you'd like to see, you can email me:

owlwholaughs@gmail.com

Fly Well in the Dark,

OWL


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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Poem: New Game

 

New Game

 

it was only weather,

the hydrocarbonous tilt of destiny.

so said the profiteers and politicians,

who gainsaid every threat.

 

they preferred chattel and a future of oil,

and a few tradeoffs down the clock,

to deeper speculations.

 

the surly clouds and the coy blue,

they were only playing a game,

trading pieces over our tragic race,

so said the golden king.

 

and the people hid

from the prowl of consequence.

they lied about loss,

whenever a storm

swallowed what they knew.

fanaticism ran amok,

spreading wildfires.

 

it was a new kind of swarm.

arm-and-a-legs fell into place. 

everyone gave.  all those limp spines

bent low in shame, a whipped pyramid,

from poor to rich,

 

a new kind of idol,

 

a new game

for propping up slain ideals.

a superficial pretty.

this taxidermy of destruction

and deceit.


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Friday, February 5, 2021

Poem: Dandelions

 

Dandelions

 

the clouds,

once zinc lids on february,

open to your omens.

 your sensitive pores.

 

i dance to gather

the whisk of your touch,

cool under my naked soles,

 

and must ask:

 

why did stars erode,

discs of a shattered spine,

not alert or tangy or able to pout,

concerning this day?

 

those stellar wishes and silvers

who pale before your fulgent brush,

so yellowy and glorious?

 

you.

 

you button spring’s dress,

and are folded in turn by warmth's breeze.

you sensual herald of cornsilks

 

and spider webs,

 

but take me now, one last time,

while i skip imbued

by the skyblue, flowery awe

of a child.



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Anniversary of my brother's death.  He liked sunflowers.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Poem: Song of an Outcast

 

Song of an Outcast

 

brilliance flooded through me.

i became a crossroads

in the quandaries of Athena.

the connections 

carved me out like a trench.

there were parched scorpions

and rattlesnakes of thorns.

fossils flipped under my soles,

revealing the truths of the whys.

 

in that moment, i pitied the gods

and had stamina to wrestle

the most dangerous angels.

power lost its daring and thrill,

able and eager to forfeit the game.

it was all a sparse heroin, anyway,

what kept the players going.

omniscience needed its tools.

 

looking down,

through a bliss of nanoseconds,

at love and beauty,

at the way their flaws avoided all failure;

how their tears lit moral candles,

these the only real light,

it became clear to me

that the rest was just creativity,

assemblages of unfolding math,

or what came before, or after this,

those much darker, larger oceans

on either side.


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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Poem: Driftwood Journey

 

Driftwood Journey

 

sinewy flute

salted and stout,

 

your keys and stops

squatted by meek shells,

 

once a bough,

now brined in waves,

 

some gust ripped you

off a nurturant cliff,

 

christened you flotsam.

it adventured you, forged you

 

bolder than birch bark,

miniature kayak,

 

wrestler of fierce seas,

of frothy manes,

 

such lions, serpents,

and tossing hydras,

 

you rode indefatigable,

lost, wizened and raw,

 

until a whispery sheen

slithered beneath you,

 

to once more establish

the earthen world.



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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Poem: Taken Pebble

 

Taken Pebble

 

quartz-laced pebbles

roll to and fro

as bully waves leave wet bruises

that shine.

 

the slow bleed of stubborn minerals

doesn’t care.  won’t distinguish

forces gradual and murderous

from a window sill.

 

taken, then,

 

from comber to trinket,

perched close to a desk,

to hobnob with fossils

and a few shells.

 

once harried and fretted,

now a staid ornament,

embossed over steady seasons

with all-too-human dust.



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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Poem: Boulder In the Woods

 

Boulder in the Woods

 

slumped and lopsided,

shabby with lichen,

above a trough of brown water

where larvae jackknife

through rotted flecks.

 

you chronicle, you stand sentinel,

the forest has deputized you.

you are not like the rubble

that litters sterile planets.

nor a stone delitescent 

on the moon.

 

death, too, 

entrusts you with events,

disintegrable leaves

that shoo color sprays

into dirgeful gales.

 

there’s a hint of warm-bloodedness

when morning slips through,

braving a gauntlet of kraken wood,

to imbue your medullar cape.




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