Days Gone By
Most of us remember the old saying, “The straw that broke the camel’s back.” A graphic description of that moment where no more weight can be heaped on without destroying the ride itself..
“Political Correctness” has been having a pretty painless ride in recent years and the riders have been cracking the whip not only on the camels but on the passers by as well.
But,…that storied moment may finally have come…
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fame in the annals of children’s historical fiction is second to none. Her “Little House on the Prairie” stories have been read by generations of Americans. The television series based on the books was a success for years. None of that fazed the correctness hucksters though.
Through no less than the American Library Association they moved last month to remove her name from the children’s literature award first received by her in the 1950s. The reasons given for denigrating “Little House on The Prairie“ titles was that they “reflect dated cultural attitudes out of keeping with the organizations new standards of “Inclusiveness, integrity and respect..”
Her works contradict modern “acceptance, celebration and understanding of diverse communities.” Well let’s look realistically at what we do actually experience in this new “inclusive” culture in which we now live.
All of us, politically correct or not, shop at stores that take advantage of “global commerce…” that is, stores that sell merchandise supplied by workers from other countries. News stories have abounded and then been down played with descriptions of the poverty and poor living conditions of those workers.
Articles have even featured accounts of the prevalence of suicide among these groups. Of slimsy factories collapsing killing hundreds. These slave like workers work so cheaply that it has actually been considered as a profitable concept for the companies to send meat products abroad and back again, for processing rather than employ Americans to do the cleaning and packaging. The USDA has even approved this plan.
Female workers have, when they dared, complained of multiple examples of unfair pay schedules and ongoing sexual harassment. And all this doesn’t even touch on the tortured existence of many of the animals that supply our meat and poultry through these stores.
While digging through news coverage of the possible mistresses Thomas Jefferson may have had, or too realistic descriptions of friction with Native American’s on the frontier. As in some of the Wilder books, Little or nothing is said about these racist, sexist examples of modern slavery that exist right now that virtually all of us, by supporting these businesses, take advantage of and encourage.
Apparently it is considered more to the point to look away from what we’re all a party to now and focus on whatever we can paint in dark colors from the past. Then we can sit back, smugly, and focus on all the good we’re doing by snipping out of the history books the lessons that might have made it easier to process the evils we engage in the present.
Santayana said “those who cannot remember the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.” The new library and educational models are actively promoting the forgetting of that history by encouraging us to avoid reading it.
I would call this an all lose situation.
Well, this time Americans are fighting back. Americans are realizing that attempts to alter the depiction of good and bad in history are foolish and infantile. As well as being blind to modern psychology which teaches us that we all are capable of evil actions, now and always when given permission by authority figures.
This was so well illustrated by Dr. Milgram’s experiments in the delivering of electric shocks to mock victims. (As well as Dr Zimbardo and his prison experiment at Stanford.)
Dr Milgram discovered that given permission, men and women alike would give stronger and stronger electric shocks to persons they believed were in the next room, until the death of the subjects would have occurred. The people administering the shocks were simply told it was “necessary for the experiment.”
Personally, now that we’re awake, we need to see these trends for what they really are, which is largely a gross pandering for political and business reasons. People set at odds are easier to control as in “divide and conquer.” “Global business” seeks to divert attention from modern wrongs to historical examples. By coincidence most of the scapegoats like Thomas Jefferson who wrote most of our “Declaration of Independence” and Laura Wilder who wrote of old time frontier life, are in most respects, examples of what was good in the American fabric. By digging for peccadilloes in such lives and ignoring the positive donations they made to our history, these correct folks allow us to glean something of their own agenda. A strong and proud America is definitely not a priority for them.
To bring it all up to date instead of having to look into the distant past for evidence of racial slurs, sexism and enslaved victims, let’s look at now. We are all guilty of supporting these places, sometimes on a daily basis. I know I have to think twice before I go looking for a bargain when I think of the real cost of that bargain. Time for us all to do a lot more thinking. and when we are looking for fault to shine up our mirrors a bit and look at ourselves and at life right now. Our “social“ platforms are literal training grounds for hatred and bigotry. We are given ready made placards depicting “the enemy” (another political party or point of view) as silly and foolish. We argue and fight and call our friends names. Everyday. We should look back at history for the lessons it teaches about our journey. The changes we make in things need to be now, not then.
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(This column was first published in 2013)
The other morning I awoke really early and since it was too early to walk to the diner I perused the news on my computer for awhile.
Somehow I must have grown weary as I turned from article to article and wound up dozing off again into a half sleep.
In my half sleep, a nightmare began to form. It began with a replay of the famous scene in “The Wolfman” (Anthony Hopkins version) where Lawrence Talbot is strapped in a chair in a medical assembly room. A professor of medicine is addressing the crowd to the effect that his subject is merely suffering from the hallucination that he is a werewolf and that careful treatment will return him to normal.
As the doctor lectures glibly on with his back to the shackled Talbot, he cannot see what the audience sees which is the transformation of the man into a wolf-man. By the time he turns, it is too late. The symbolism of this scene somehow was very important to me in the dream.
Now my dream shifted and I watched Jet planes flying overhead leaving massive trails
behind them. “They are dropping more of the time-release poison” I heard someone say. The scene shifted again and I could see a room full of business men. One man was addressing the group and saying that the plan to change currency to plastic for the poor and middle classes would be “the best way to track and control them.”
He continued speaking but the scene shifted again. Kindly looking officers were going from house to house removing all our protective firearms “for the greater good” I heard one of them say.
A drift of time in the dream and then a strange alien group of officers entered the country and began carrying all the same people off to what looked liked concentration camps. “For the greater good” I could also hear them saying.
I saw them loading in members of my family and some of my friends. I looked on in terror at all this, and then I shuddered awake. There was my computer as I had left it. I was certainly grateful it was just a dream.
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Recently I noticed there have been, for obvious reasons, a number of articles appearing about the Diary of Anne Frank and her experiences during the second world war period.
With the renewed interest in that time I also noticed that the debunked debunk theory claiming that a novelist wrote the diary has been dragged out of mothballs to attempt to use baseless misinformation to defame her classic work. The diary was carefully studied and proven, once and for all, to be in her handwriting years ago.
This reminded me of a column I wrote some years back called: “The Urge to Debunk.”
There has been a movement afoot for a long time, (maybe longer than I have realized) to attempt debunking great works. Maybe there is some part of the human psyche that isn’t content with the joys of art or spirit and that prefers emptiness to vision. I am sorry for that part of us. It is missing a lot. I can think of some good examples of this. Many more could come with more effort but these should show what I’m talking about.
The greatest of books, the Bible, of course, comes to mind. Bookstores are crammed with books with every kind of message about secret societies passing down “The real truth.” Authors are outdoing themselves in complex efforts to show what “really took place” “and what the actual message of the Bible was and is, and yet the message of the Bible is a very simple and direct one. A divine message of Love and redemption that could not possibly be improved upon, so why try to alter it?
The writings of Shakespeare are considered the works of the greatest writer in the English language. A movement came forth to prove that not only did Shakespeare not write his own works but that in reality he may not have even existed. For years strange cyphers were studied and several candidates arose. Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe were two of them. And then… this died away. It was recognized that indeed, Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.
A movie, “The Freedom Writers” got me thinking about Anne Frank. I had been deeply moved by her diary years ago as a young student. Looking her up on the net I discovered a movement had arisen to discredit her wonderful diary and paint it as nothing more than a hoax.
Complex assertions were made including the allegation that the whole diary had been written by a notable Jewish novelist and passed off as the work of a young girl. Why such an effort against the chillingly beautiful and brave account of a young girl who lived in hiding and, after capture by the Nazi’s, died in a concentration camp.
The original manuscripts of Anne finally became the property of the Dutch Government. At that point forensic experts were called in to settle the question once and for all. And the conclusion? The original Diary and the later additions were all written by the same girl who attended the Montessori school in Amsterdam, Anne Frank herself.
What do we have as humans against a good thing? What do we have against hope and faith? What do we have against our own courage? Let’s work on it this year. Let’s make space for the best in us. I promise to do my part.
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by Geoffrey Jones
Every so often I get a royal surprise in film watching. Over the holiday I had a chance to watch a film that did just that. It’s title is “Idiocracy.” It starts out in the same sort of way as one of those “National Lampoon Animal House” kind of movies . I was prepared for a total gross out with no redeeming merits. I was wrong.
Ray Bradbury never used this sort of format for his stories, but I must say he would have liked the messages contained in this movie. The basic premise is sort of like time travel. A young army librarian, Joe Bauers and a young woman of questionable virtue “Rita” are chosen for their average intelligence level for an experiment in hibernation, they are put in sealed plastic compartments for a year. The plan goes awry and instead of a year they sleep 500 years!
In the intervening centuries the dumbing down process has worked to create a populous of completely ignorant people who are total victims of corporate greed. A big corporation has bought the FDA the FCC and USDA and makes its own rules at the expense of the people and of ecology. Inflation is so bad that people walk around with billion dollar bills to make simple purchases. The country is turning into a dust bowl because farmers are trying to water their crops with the corporation’s “Brawndo” drink as water is no longer allowed.
The chemical content is killing the plants. The president of the country “Camacho“ appears to be modeled a bit after the character of “Apollo Creed,” from the Rocky movies. A good natured, bombastic, showman and ex wrestler. His chief job seems to be putting on a show including entertainment of the ancient Roman coliseum sort to take up the minds of the victimized populace.
The hero from the past is given the opportunity to work for the president once it is discovered that his intelligence level makes him the smartest man alive. He is appointed Secretary of the Interior and given only a week to solve the problems of the whole crazy world but gets off to a good start by teaching that the substitution of water for drinking and watering crops is a necessity. Meantime the girl time traveler cleans up her act by becoming his aid and an artist, as well.
A great deal more happens in this remarkable yarn but hopefully this much will spur interest in what proves a very thought provoking story where it was least expected.
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I dedicate this article, written a few years back, to the memory of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who bridged the generations.
Thinking back over the years I’ve been writing for The Reader is looking back over approximately half of the oft referred to “Digital Age” or “Tech Age.” This storied age started approx 25 years ago in 1991 when the World Wide Web came into more general use. I have found it realistic to remind my readers repeatedly that the claims, very inflated ones, of that age stem pretty much completely, from the moguls who benefit from the tech business and its position of influence on our minds and life direction through constant controlled and beamed messages of what we should believe and think.
Anyone who doubts my assertion should just take a few added minutes and analyze the internet news or internet ads. All the thinking is done for us. We are constantly bombarded with not only slanted news stories but stories that lead us even further into the direction the slanted story suggests. “Famed Constitutional Professor” blows the Constitution wide open and shows us how useless and out of place its concepts of free speech, rights to security in our homes, rights to assemble, rights to protect our families and property are.outdated In this modern age. “Tech and Political rule hold sway and anything else is wishful, outdated thinking.” (Who are we humble peons to question the learned professor. Our rightful position is to keep quiet, listen to the internet tech plan, and obey.)
Ray Bradbury said “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, all you have to do is get people to stop reading them…” And wasn’t he right. “Internet education expert points out the lack of usefulness in classic literature.” Tech business models will change education forever” Not quite yet , however. More and more people are waking up every day with the realization that we are “being had.”
In spite of the grimness of much of this picture, when looked at squarely there is still great hope for us to get through this delusion. Get through it and emerge on the other side with a renewed confidence in our culture and our history.
The methods in use by these controllers and planners are pretty obvious when looked at with the clarity of the little boy in “The Emperors New Clothes.” The Emperor involved here is threadbare naked. He is loud and boastful but his words ring hollow.’
I talked to a lady in a thrift store this week who was perusing the used books at the same time I was. She was buying books for herself. Her 92 year old mother, and her 12 year old granddaughter. “They are both avid readers,” she spoke pridefully. Her pride is well deserved. People who bridge the generations in a love of books, history and ideas are preservers of culture. Hastings books and Media has announced that they are giving up the fight for now, but Barnes and Noble are adding new departments and interests and are in no way giving up the fight. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a holding action that will pay off. People are waking up to the dangers of GMO’s the additives in Tylenol and other products as well as the “additives” in our school systems and business models. We are humans not robots and despite efforts to dumb us down to obedient slaves, we will turn the tide and re structure ourselves out of this mess we’ve allowed to happen. We always do, thank God.
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Things that happen slowly often go unnoticed. The changes tech is bringing to our world are the great classic example of this.
Just as hypnotic suggestion can place ideas and commands in our mind we later act out , so the constant repetition of concepts with declarations of their rightness and necessity lead to an overlaid group of thoughts we finally accept as our own. Until we step back and shake our heads we will go on that way.
I see symptoms of head shaking all around and it’s a happy moment for our human race when that happens. It usually means we’re getting ready to restore balance .
Largely it’s the heavy handedness of tech hype I thank for this. Sometimes when manipulative folks are over anxious for selfish results and try to rush things they are found out in their schemes all the sooner. Way too many of us are in only a half sleep rather than a full sleep and as we shake ourselves awake the horror of what’s being done to us shows forth all the more starkly.
I see it clearly when I begin reading the news every morning. It’s not a random sampling of local and world events that greet us, It’s a news page scattered with a few actual news stories but largely ads with other stories gleaned from the algorithms of what we are supposed to be. It’s intended to lull and sooth us by showing us what they think we like, in actuality it is condescending and coercive. It denies us an actual chance to start the day with a full helping of news in favor of its own business models.
I research many diverse subjects while writing so in my case it’s more obvious than ever. If I look up the old time cowboy heroes, pretty soon the “news” is scattered with stories about Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. If I look up ancient history, pretty soon , Homer and Aristotle are in the news.
I’m supposed to be lulled into a buying mood by this or a mood to give more of my private thoughts and life up for scrutiny. Instead I’m horrified.
Probably the most heinous act of these tech friends of ours is the ongoing effort to convince us that what they are doing is inevitable . That their controlling efforts are actually “The ongoing wave of the future “ over which we have no control and which we “must accept “ or be left in the dust by the march of tech “innovation” and “disruption”. It’s all so good for us and even if we don’t like it we’ve got it anyway.
Well guess what. It isn’t good for us. And we don’t need to have it. We still have free will . We still have the ability to change our minds and restore a healthy balance. And we know it.
We don’t have to be like the folk in invasion of the body snatchers. We don’t have to be snatched. We can burn those pod like thoughts . We can step outside and throw a frisbee or play a game of softball. We can take a walk. We can read a book. We could go to the Post Office and buy 5 postage stamps. Then write 5 handwritten letters and send them to 5 friends or family members who haven’t seen the handwritten word “love” in a long time . After we’ve been away from the screen for awhile we can check the news and realize with clarity how silly and contrived it is. What an insult to us from people who we’ve been supporting in grand style.
And then we can organize plans and actions to restore ourselves to a life where self respect and individuality are at the top of the heap not trampled on.
I’m in. What about you?
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There was a new exhibit of Greg Lyon’s Art at Linbaugh Library for the Month of June.
I attended and, as usual, was pleased and inspired by the diversity of his productions.
From cartoon to science fiction to woodcut style retro work, Greg covers a wide range of style and subject matter. His work just gets better and better!
I recently did an article on the passing of the great classic “Mad” magazine artist, Mort Drucker. Greg had had the opportunity to talk to Drucker and the last year of his life and found him to be a humble regular guy, despite his great attainments.
Greg counted Drucker as one of his great inspirations, along with Robert Terry.
I hope you had the chance to attend Greg’s showing. It was housed in two large cases in the upstairs reading room. I’m sure you’re glad if you did! I am.
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“The Color Purple” Based on Alice Walker’s novel, appeared over 35 years ago. It is a great motion picture. Along with the matchless cast and acting it contains a number of wonderful life lessons that set it in a class by itself. It is definitely filled with wonderful material for sermons or lectures on faith, values and ethics in the classic tradition.
One lesson that is particularily vivid is that involving the character “Miss Millie.” Miss Millie is a wonderful depiction of a person so used to her privileged notion of herself that words of condescension issue from her mouth effortlessly. After saying to the character Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) “Your children are so clean” followed by “Do you want to be my maid?” she is taken aback by Sofia’s honest answer “H**L NO!” While she is puzzling over the reply a group begins to descend on Sofia and her children, including the towns mayor. She punches him in defence of herself and children and immediately is surrounded by an angry mob and struck in the head with a pistol, damaging one of her eyes. She is carted off to prison where she serves an 8 year sentence for her language and effort at self defence.
In the meantime, Miss Millie, after all those years have passed, is still at the starting line. She is totally clueless as to the horrible wrong she has done and what she might do to try to rectify it. Naturally she thinks small. Sofia winds up her maid “after all” and Miss Millie, after commenting that “it’s a shame.” Sofia has been locked in prison so long, suggests taking her for a visit to the family she has been deprived of for so long. “You can stay all day! You can stay ALL day!” Millie says with an emphasis on her own personal charity and magnanimity. (Of course Millie can’t even execute this trifling crumb of goodness correctly)
Sofia’s reunion with her family is bittersweet, her children are so grown and changed that they seem almost like strangers. Meanwhile outside Miss Millie, having just purchased an elegant new roadster, discovers that she can’t even turn the car around properly by herself. She interrupts Sofia with this knowledge and Sofia pleads with her to let one of her family drive her home so she can see her family, but Millie, after all only concerned with her own comfort and ideas of safety allows the “All Day” promise to dwindle into a few minutes as Sofia has to drive her home at once.
As the film proceeds, we are gratified to later find Sofia genuinely reunited with her family and sitting at the table with them, saying rejoicingly: “Sofia done come home! Things gonna be changin’ around here.”
Her jubilance gives the character Celie (played by Whoopi Goldberg) the courage to leave her abusive husband Mistah, played by Danny Glover.
Mistah, unlike miss Millie, continues in the film to show what real repentance actually looks like . He goes to his secret coffer of hidden money and bankrolls the return of Celie’s sister, sent away by him when they were young girls and lost to her for years. He doesn’t offer a scrap, he offers in Celies own language of pain to try as best he can to right some of his enormous wrongs.
Also to be said for Mistah he did not throw away all the letters Celie’s sister had sent to try to keep in touch while she was a missionary in Africa. He kept and hid them. Celie, with Shug Avery’s help, was finally able to find and read them, because of that spark of conscience on Mistah’s part.
When we do wrong, in this life, we can be like Miss Millie and simply not even recognise it. Or we can be like Mistah and knowing we can’t put those broken pieces back together again, do our best to show we realize our mistakes and are sorry. Pretty obvious which choice, I think.
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When I was a child I spent some priceless times with my grandmother and my uncle on their farm. My uncle called himself a “steam man” that term referred to a person who was a huge fan of steam power. He owned, at different times, two steam cars and a large variety of other steam engines, both full sized and miniature. Today as I was thinking of him and some of his steam adventures I began to see a parallel between one of his stories and our modern world.
One glitch in early steam cars was that since they did not work by internal combustion or use gears as we are used to, or have good brakes, they could, by mistake, begin going backward as fast as they were going forward.
He told me a story of that happening to him on a hill in Glens Falls, New York, with a scary but at least manageable result. He slipped back and sped up. Finally, avoiding a collision, he managed to back in to a side street and get the car moving forward again. What a thrill ride that must have been to look back on!!
His steam lesson, for me, was that just because you start going in the wrong direction at full speed doesn’t mean you have to keep going.
That story got me thinking about the early concepts of world communication and the high hopes spiritual and scientific people had for it.
Back in the early 1900s the great seer, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (The Future of Man) wrote of what he called the “Noosphere.” He saw the human qualities of reflection leading to a sort of cloud or skin of thought covering the world. This would lead to a new expanded consciousness for mankind. Teilhard influenced Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Message) and Buckminster Fuller came along with his own angle on global communication (operating Manual for Spaceship Earth).
Poverty and ignorance will end, as we use machines to solve the world’s problems. Ray Bradbury liked these people but proved the most realistic for he saw, and wrote about, the problems of human evil, greed and willfulness as projected into machines and technology. I found his poem where he characterized our relationship to tech: “stuff right, get right, stuff rot, get rot, for no more power lies here than man himself has got” (The Machines beyond Shylock). That hit the nail on the head!
Psychologists like Philip Zimbardo and his colleague Stanley Milgram have given a good jumper cable for our start forward again. They help us recognize how easily we can, as individuals, slip backward, just as our technology has, with it now being used in so many intrusive, trivial and negative ways. Given permission, whether real or imagined, we slump way too easily into wrongful behavior and attitudes. What the dreamers thought would lead to a spiritually connected and less materialistic world, has degenerated into nearly the opposite. We are farther than ever from a global understanding and the rich and the poor are at different ends of the spectrum.
Time to restudy our mentors, time to pull backwards into that side street and get going forward again. If my uncle could do it, this whole world can.
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Eating right, a pretty simple idea but takes some thinking and planning to translate it into an every day plan. It can probably be compared to quitting smoking. Hard to do at first but later we’re amazed at how much better we feel for having done it.
I began thinking about my diet after a long bout I had with bronchitis a few years ago. I’m glad I did… I’m feeling better than I have in years. Here’s some of what I learned and admittedly each person’s experience is different.
Red meat is much harder on the digestion, especially when eaten late in the day. Chicken and fish leave you feeling like you’ve eaten enough, and, to me, they never seem heavy to digest.
The other plan I settled on was to feature fresh fruit one week and fresh vegetables the next, so salads for a few days then strawberries, blueberries, apples and bananas for awhile. Green tea can be a great stand-in for coffee. Coffee however, is healthy too. (thank goodness!)
Lots of water, as well.
I still have a hamburger now and then but it’s always for lunch. And I’ll tell you folks, this has worked for me. The folksters I’ve seen eat this kind of diet in my experience, like a lady I knew up North, who lived into her 102nd year on a mostly vegetable and fruit diet, have also been the clearest headed. My uncle, who lived to be close to 105, always included oatmeal in his diet. It is wonderfully digestible, early or late in the day.
So there are my thoughts from personal experience. If we’re stuck with depressing morning news on the TV or in the papers or internet we can at least feel good while it’s trying to make us feel bad… we’re more likely to snap back from the negativity and come up with some solutions to it all when we feel stronger and healthier.
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I’m close to giving up trying to tell the difference between news and ads when I read the rollouts in the morning internet feed. I frankly expect there is little difference between the paid for news or the paid for ads.
I find the urgency of the tech ads to be, perhaps, the most annoying. It’s a bit like a fisherman who loses his hook to a fish and is angry enough to be willing to jump in the stream with a net, if necessary, and chase the fish down. The Tech giants want to get on with their trapping of us and willingly pull out all the stops to be more certain we’re appropriately snaired.
I’m reminded pretty often of the sham of it all when I work on a little old fashioned research. The kind I used often to do at the public library with the help of a card catalog and a reference librarian.
Which leads me back to their latest pet effort, the sale of the coveted AI. “Soon to take charge of virtually everything and utterly hopeless for us to attempt to resist its relentless onslaught.” We must “Fear” its ascendency over us as it will easily outstrip human intelligence. “Within the year” it would seem.
Well…. My true life experience is a bit different on this subject.
I wrote before about my daughter’s experience with offering an item on an online auction venue which pertained to the history of India. The AI algorithms held up her sale and sent a curt AI written letter to her informing her she hadn’t given proper detail on the possible tribes involved which could lead to the hurt feeling of any indigenous people who might read it.
My own recent experience has to do with the large AI oriented search engines we now depend on for our research since they have been agressively sold as having out moded all “old fashioned,” human impelled efforts.
I was looking for a biographical piece on the author “Benjamin Franklin French…” so I typed “Benjamin Franklin French, Author” into the search engine. At once I was flooded with information on Benjamin Franklin, the founding father, but nary a word on French, the author.
It would seem from this that AI devices while from the auction experience above are seemingly programmed to be sensitive to politically correct or “Woke” issues, contain their own kind of bigotry and intolerance.
The East Indians of the country of India were of no account when weighed against native American tribes and similiarly, founding father Benjamin Franklin was to be honored while Author and historian, Benjamin French was to have his last name totally unrecognized. And, ironically, his last name, ‘French’ is also a national term.
All this might seem humorous were we not taking it so seriously right now. If a third grader made these errors we would surely smile as we corrected them. But these errors are made by inventions and technology we are told will soon be responsible for our very lives in hospital surgery situations, etc. Plans are also afoot by the super rich tekkies to cut into our very brains and insert AI programmed chips and wiring to “improve“ us… With an AI intelligence booster.
The most ironic facet of all this is that AI partakes of the same greed created mess that human intelligence has suffered. As the wealthy tech lords have worked to gear the internet to their needs for endless wealth as opposed to the earlier efforts of humanity toward shared knowledge they have sewn the seeds for their own defeat.
By dumbing down the internet and putting world knowledge and literature, even when it is public domain, into circus cages labelled “Tech Intellectual Property” where one must pay to see more than a page or two, they have made those ideas and concepts closed to AI searches as well.
CGI illustrated ads featuring swooping shots of mountains and oceans with pictures of seminar speakers framed within, tout how impressive they can make us appear when combined with “inference generated” images and “Tracking pixel” technology. They tell us it will make all our sales production presentations “comparable in appearance to “TED” talks,” (whatever the value or usefulness of our actual product).
No, fabulous, auto corrected appearences and backgrounds that make us look good should never be the point. Actually knowing what we’re talking about and being real and natural and truthful should be.
I believe that nursing our own human intelligence back to health as opposed to nurturing artificial intelligence will be a much better investment for us in all ways as time rolls on. We will have to go back to a better focus on culture and history. And work to return internet content that has been hijacked in the name of business attempted ownership. Most certainly, for all of civilization, it is the only healthy plan.
It took over 30 years of the gradually greater and greater misuse of technology to get us to our present state of decline. It would be hopeful to think that with a concerted effort we could retrace our steps making repairs in less time than that. Well then, “Lets give her a try, shall we?” (to quote Henry Fonda’s character, Norman Thayer, in ‘On Golden Pond’). He was talking about a technology there, too.
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The discovery of the “Lost Golden City of Luxor” loosely translated as “The Dazzling Aten” in Egypt, is a big piece of news for us right now. The discovery is compared to the famous discovery of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922. All this takes my memory back to an event in Nashville a decade ago. We went on a family trip to the state museum to see the King Tut, (Tutankhamun) exhibit, “Egyptian Relics, Replicas and Revivals,” it was called.
WOW is all I can say, in remembrance. Some museum events actually help you to feel like a time traveler, returning to the times depicted. This was definitely such an exhibit. Many of the objects displayed were actually from ancient Egypt, some were clever reproductions, but all of them transported us to the land of the pyramids during one of its golden ages!
The sarcophagus and mummified body of Tut himself were realistic imitations. However the museum also has a genuine mummy which attests to the realism of the reproduction.
In the room that boasted the full size replica of an Egyptian chariot was a picture enlarged from one of the original photographs made when the tomb was first opened, in 1922. I have to admit it both amused and touched me when I realized it reminded me of those old garages we sometimes enter where someone stored an old 1956 Chevy, with a number of tires and rims stacked against the wall. Those rooms also are heavy with dust and nostalgia.
The sameness of effect helped me to realize how much humanity has stayed the same over the thousands of years of our life here.
It is both comforting and awe inspiring to relive the past in an exhibit like this. We re-live the grandeur, and we also re-live the fragility of life through it. Tut was just a youth when he died.
I enjoy the human panorama very much and I believe the study of it is a treasure that we can always find pleasure and knowledge in. In our modern time we are temporarily beset by a fad of finding things to complain about in history and attempting to simply snip them out or censor them for fear they will annoy us. This trivial approach seems fueled by political stances of pretend moral superiority, modern tech money making agendas which focus on buying and selling, not learning and culture and /or simply laziness on the part of modern instructors and students. (Rather than study a moral or ethical issue, simply say we don’t like it and look away.) Thankfully this movement is likely to be short lived. Humanity has its decadent periods, but they always seem to pass.
I truly hope that as the archaeological work at Luxor continues there will be international exhibits arranged similar to the King Tut exhibits. When the world comes together through sharing the fascination of the past, it gives us something of timeless value. We need a lot more of those studies right now. The beauty and artistic pride of history can inspire us to pursue those qualities in the present.
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I got to thinking this morning… about how important a morning cup of coffee becomes. Running out of coffee is almost like running out of breath. (Perhaps a little worse.)
Coffee becomes a starter for the day on many levels, not just the caffeine which gives the burst of energy for an alert start. Also the social quality of sharing a good thing. The treat of a nice breakfast out is infused with the familiar things we associate with a good morning. For a bright start, coffee is always near the head of the list.
As a boy, in farm country, I remember country breakfasts were hearty and comfortably filling. The coffee my parents enjoyed was carefully brewed and they enjoyed it with gusto.
Thinking about the subject, I did my usual research and discovered coffee was the lucky discovery of an Arab goat herder in the 15th century. He noticed the friskiness of his charges after they had chewed on the wild coffee plants and decided to sample some himself.
In the 16th and 17th centuries Coffee houses were introduced in Vienna, Paris and London. And a little later in New Amsterdam (New York). The Dutch loved coffee and had planted it on the Isle of Java in the 1600s. Later in the 1600s there were holdings in South America from which point they exported it to Europe and North America. The better Dutch traders, like The Van Corlaers, who respected the Native Americans (and here I mean not just the first Arendt but his Grandson who traded well into the 1700s) would likely have shared and traded coffee with the natives in upstate New York and Vermont. A great account of chief Homer St. Francis of the Vermont Abenaki’s, shows him to have been a staunch coffee drinker in modern times. When, later in the 1700s the British taxed the tea, early Americans substituted Coffee.
I’m really glad they did, you know. It’s hard to imagine it any other way. I’m certainly enjoying the cup I’m drinking this morning!
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When I was a youngster, comic book versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Super Girl and other heroic figures had already been around for a considerable time. There were many little “Variety” stores that boasted large shelves, brimming with these wonderful treasures. I partook of them with great pleasure when I got my weekly allowance. I would pour over them with my best friends. We would sometimes try to conjure ourselves into our own versions of these caped crusaders.
Perhaps the thing I kept with me the most from those innocent years was the impact comics had on my thinking about life. It was a big impact. They are actually a first rate teaching tool and they fostered good habits and ethical approaches to problems.
I’ve just had the belated experience of being reminded of all that through a film I missed four years ago and just a few days ago, finally watched.
“Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot as the star. Wow, this film is totally unlike the majority of action films and super person movies I’ve seen in recent years. It is not just another noisy, gaudy and violent experience. It is a film with real heart and message. It has a wealth of hidden virtues as well. (Not the least of which is an underlying Christology which I noticed several other reviewers had also commented on.)
The concept of a marvelous, larger than life presence, empowered with super strength and spiritual gifts, who is willing to selflessly risk all for imperfect and flawed humanity, out of a belief in the transcendence of love, is hard to miss.
There is so much in this film. It leaves you with a sense of faith and confidence in our life that is often beaten to the ground by the relentless day after day fear mongering, politically devised lies and half truths and the eternal triviality of business models and methods hyped and touted to us hour after hour through our all reigning technologies and social platforms.
It seems almost miraculous that a subject from fiction and fantasy could have such an impact on real life. But I totally affirm this.
The film is set during World War One, in itself a departure from previous Super films set no further back than World War two. Through some kind of space warp Diana, the Princess, who was raised by Amazons on the Island of Themyscira, is able to see and save the American soldier, Steve Trevor, (Chris Pine) who has been shot down over the ocean by WW1 German soldiers. Following a short skirmish the arriving German’s are routed by Amazon warriors. After an interlude on the Island, Trevor and the princess team up and return to the war zone where Trevor hopes to defeat the German high command. Diana, on her part, is convinced the Germans are led by her dark nemesis, Ares, the evil God of War who she believes is disguised as Col. Ludendorff.
Incredible events follow, presenting twists and turns of plot as well as pulse pounding war scenes and character revelations.
Diana, step by step, takes on her role as Goddess incarnate while keeping all her best human traits in perfect balance. Her character continuously sets good examples for the time period she portrays and for our time period right now as we marvel and watch. One feels like applauding when she goes right to the point of issues while those around her try to follow the politics of the moment. She’s like the child in the Emperor’s new clothes, blurting the unspoken but obvious.
We need such honesty, right now, to snap us out of our automaton-like lethargy. Too long controlled news media has been our only horror laden source of “dis-inspiration”.. Get your four year old copies of this film out (or buy new ones) and watch it over and over as the wonderful lessons emerge one after another. It will focus your thoughts and brighten your day. It will also help give simple faith and courage, two of our best qualities, a new lease on life.
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Sometimes a series of memories and connections seem to literally explode with meaning. A sort of atomic fission effect of synchronicities.
It happened for me this week, revolving around the classic children’s author, Dr. Seuss.
Of course we’ve all heard a lot about Dr Seuss lately, his birthday was on March 2nd. And, as it turns out the “Woke” kids are resting from bashing Shakespeare for awhile to go after him. They are deriding him as they point to wartime and other cartoons that they are certain are foremost in the minds of various ethnic groups . (Starting with works close to 90 years old.) I expect it will probably take them years to work their judgemental way up to the modern political cartoons we see constantly depicting famous people, which, in crudity and grotesqueness make the Dr’s cartoons look very benign indeed. It is truly amazing to see how some members of our modern educated youth keep busy during a pandemic. Digging, Digging, Digging, for anything that can even in the smallest way help to bring a little more hate into the world. (Or at least keep stoking what is already here!) It leaves me with sadness, and a sense of guilt.
But to return to my premise. When I first saw the references to Dr Seuss, I remembered a crime mystery film that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. It’s title, “Fracture” with Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. There is a scene in the film where “Willie” Beacham (Gosling’s character), an assistant district attorney, is reading aloud in an attempt to awaken his client, (the attempted murder victim,) who is in a deep coma from a gunshot wound to her head.
We are all much like Willie right now. We have reached an impasse in our national and global life. A place where all the old qualities of faith, hope and charity would be a considerable help in the sorting out process. Instead of keeping those qualities safe and handy for use, we’ve mislaid most of them. Some we have outright thrown away.
It comes as little surprise that the lack of interest we have shown toward our children’s education comes home to roost with many of the new young eagerly helping those with agendas in the destruction of our history and culture. All of those things are ‘old fashioned’ to a generation raised on video games and internet social networks. Inventing more and more intrusive tech apps is made to seem heroic to such a group.
The good Dr. however, told us right. The waiting place is just for awhile. A time to take stock and set things to right again. History has taught us this. The guilt we feel for having let things get this bad can be turned to good through bringing about change, lots of change.
“And will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent, guaranteed.) You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” We truly must follow that advice. We’ve a mountain of bad decisions and apathy to move out of the way. Time to use our own minds again and get on with the work.
Thank you Dr. Seuss, You left us a priceless heritage of simple and direct truth. Time to enjoy it and share it all over again. Appreciate comments send to firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently read a couple of articles relating to the “Woke” culture and it’s influence in modern classrooms.
Several younger teachers, identifying as “Woke,” have decided that the writings of William Shakespeare should be removed from the curriculum. Their logic suggests that over 300 years ago, Shakespeare, using characters from before and during his own historical time, packed as much racism, sexism, colonialism, and whatever other “isms” into his poetry and plays, as he could muster, apparently just to vex a future “perfect” generation such as the woke ones, consider themselves to be.
It’s quite an ambitious project for these youngsters to take upon themselves the responsibility of canceling the study of the greatest playwright and poet in English literature.
In rebuttal to these anxious literary surgeons, I will quote just two other witnesses on the subject of “woke” and Shakespeare. One, former president, Barack Obama; two, a man many consider the greatest American poet of all time, Walt Whitman.
Former President, Barack Obama’s statement on the “Woke” culture at his Foundation summit, left no doubt that he was not over impressed by the movement. Obama stated: “The idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always “politically woke” and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly.” He went on, “The World is messy, there are ambiguities. People who do really good things, have flaws. People who you are fighting, love their kids and share certain things with you.” Obama had noted the trend of all this on college campuses and called it a “danger” which is “accelerated by social media.” He noted that, “some young people think that the way to bring about change is “to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough.” “Criticising people on social media for doing something wrong gives those critics a sense of self-satisfaction,” he said. “Then I can sit and feel pretty good about myself because, man, you see how woke I was. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”
In approaching the attitude of Walt Whitman toward Shakespeare I invoke the adage “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Those woke people who are working to expunge the writings of the man loosely considered the greatest playwright and poet in the English Language should perhaps consider his effect on earlier students of his work. My example, Walt Whitman.
Whitman, early on, carried a dog-eared copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets in his pocket so that he could read it “when the mood demanded.” He eventually memorized long passages from the plays, especially Richard II. He ‘spouted’ them on the Broadway stage coaches and in the din of the city streets. As his own poetry and persona as the poet of Democracy developed he feared what he called the ‘feudal’ quality of Shakespeare’s work and knew that would not be filtered into his vision but retained his lifelong love of Shakespeare’s use of words, action , mysticism, and history. His final word on the subject, “If I had not stood before those poems, with uncovered head, fully aware of their colossal grandeur and beauty of form and spirit, I could not have written ‘Leaves of Grass’.
I remember when I caught up with the movie “Poseidon,” having watched the Gene Hackman version, probably 20 times over, I wondered what could be done to follow that act. After watching the new attempt I realized what I should have predicted. It is nearly impossible to follow a classic when you in any way imitate it. “Poseidon” is filled with people and scenes, which wind up appearing to be feeble ghosts of the original production. It would have been wiser to not even try. Likewise, “Titanic” could not be duplicated, any more than “Gone With The Wind” or Doctor Zhivago could be. After getting over being riled up, I went on however, to do some more thinking. Why was all this so emotionally important, why was I so loyal to the great Poseidon original?
There is something very real and deep in doing a great work on the struggle of life. When we see the daring efforts to survive a seemingly hopeless catastrophe, we imagine bits of ourselves in the characters.
First we identify with them, and eventually come to admire and love them. Gene Hackman, as the “Renegade Priest” is perfect. He is genuinely Christ-like in his efforts to move his “flock” onward toward salvation. And salvation in a world turned up side down, no less. Like Christ he makes the ultimate sacrifice, but that sacrifice opens the way for the rest to survive. Shelley Winters as the portly grandmother who dies having secured a way through and saving the priest, is also perfect and unique.
These archetypes of human courage become investments to us. It is our own best effort we see in them. If they can make it through, we can make it through.
And so, in our own modern world, often feeling upside down ourselves, still we grope toward the light. I guess its no wonder we are picky about the presentation of our struggle when shown in symbolic style. We know we have it in us to “go the distance,” and using the courage our heroes have helped give us, we finally return in full measure, by doing our part.
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Every couple years I like to pull this story out of my trunk of memories. I had more people stop me on the street and tell me how much they enjoyed it than any other story I’ve written. So, to lighten the atmosphere , one more time.:
One of the stories I tell to my little grandchildren is the following, which has come to be known as “The Marshmallow Fluff Story.”
When my daughter, Rachel, was small, I often prepared her school lunches. A favorite treat for her was the famous “Fluffer Nutter” made of Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter.
One day I had finished making a lunch for her and with the small tad of Fluff left I made myself a half a sandwich.After eating it I realized how good it was and got the notion I wanted another. “It will only take a minute,” I thought, and I drove down to the local market.
At that time Cambridge, New York, where I lived, only had three small markets. No big ones like “Grand Union” for example. I was certain I would meet with success at the first one I went to…. Wrong. After looking through the whole store I could find no fluff. Finally I asked a clerk, “Where do you keep the Marshmallow Fluff” … The clerk looked at me a little strangely and finally said, “I’m sorry but we’re out of Marshmallow Fluff and the new shipment won’t be in until Thursday.”
“No Fluff” I said, disappointedly, “You could try “McWhorters” I was told by the clerk.
So off I went to McWhorters. I looked awhile before asking, and still could locate no Fluff. Finally I asked the manager, a young man with a crew cut. ” Excuse me ” I said ” Do you have any Marshmallow Fluff in the store?, I can’t find it anywhere.” This manager looked at me a little strangely also, but directed me to the ice cream section. Alas, no fluff there either.
Finally I made it to the last store, my dander up by this time. I would surely find fluff here. Again after a short search I asked the clerk. She also had a strange expression on her face. “Try by the cake supplies,” she said. Sure enough I finally found it! Only two containers left so I bought both. I noticed as I stood in line a woman who had been in the last store, (probably comparison shopping) she was studying me intently as I checked out. The check-out person also seemed curiously looking at me.
Getting in my car I drove home happily. My stubborness had paid off ! But then . . . as I was turning off my car in my driveway I happened to look at myself in the rear-view mirror. And there, at both corners of my mouth, were small daubs of marshmallow fluff, left from the half sandwich I had eaten at the beginning of this story. . .
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We still hear a great deal of reference to learning in our society, but when it comes to the actuality of method a lot has changed.
It was a given for years and years that much of our ongoing life learning (besides personal experience) came from books, (or newspapers with impartial content). It was so obvious no one really thought about it. We learned good reading, studying and researching habits from our parents and teachers. We had good, solid dictionaries and encyclopedias for general reference. Usually at least a small personal library and beyond that the local public library and for serious research, access to the state or local college library.
It was not surprising most people were knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects.
This was, of course before the tech revolution of the last 30 years. The tech revolution came into our lives like a thief in the night and with pretty much the same intention. The thievery was enacted very effectively.
We have been robbed of our pleasure in learning from books, our individuality in our personal learning and growing process, as well as our ability to make decisions based on that unique personal knowledge that was such a powerful feature of our lives.
Now we look down at the phone or over at the computer screen. For relaxation, instead of reading a book, we watch the much larger television screen.
From all those vantage points the voices speak to us. A common statement made all day long is “Here is what you need to know…” most everything we “need to know” is prompted either by a political agenda or a corporate, money-making agenda. People we are not supposed to like are referred to as people who have “baseless” arguments in their favor. The voice does not explain why they are baseless. It only speaks as an omnipotent force we must obey.
We are told medical products are good for us and listen to beautiful music and watch outdoor scenes of waterfalls and sunrises while in the background in a low voice the possible side effects of such potions are read off. “Heart failure, instant death syndrome, difficulty breathing,” etc. etc.
Sometimes a “news” program will play for a bit and we will be told about, for example, an old Amish man who was put in prison for selling a healthy salve because he said it was healthy on the container. (We should have realized by this time that unless the small print on a product is filled with horrific side effects it’s not worth buying!)
Likewise the “side effects” of the tech products we use are equally horrific when we use a magnifying glass and read them. They tell us that by using the product we have automatically agreed that our life is an open book and the companies involved have henceforward free use of all our personal information to be harvested and sold as they please.
When a large social tech company admitted that they had, without the customers knowledge, manipulated them in a Pavlov dog sort of experiment to see how gullible they might be to purposeful leading and false information slanting, the company spokesman felt no apology should actually have been necessary as it was all covered in the terms of service they had agreed to.
This is a big subject but in summation, I refer back to my opening on the subject of books and learning. Now the majority of reading that goes on is simply the contents of the internet news. (Slanted information, ads made to resemble news, and directions on how we should act and live, from unknown sources.) That’s it. Ray Bradbury once said “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, just get people to stop reading them,.”
I first thought of the word “Deprogramming” as a title for this but decided it sounded too much like a tech term so changed it to “unlearning.” There is a lot we have to unlearn if we are to reclaim our individuality and focus. And there’s no time like the present.
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A lot of things are happening all around us so quickly that sometimes I miss developments and then finally catch up with them all at once. One such development I missed for awhile is the GMO. (genetically modified organism.) GMO seeds are seeds that have been modified in a laboratory. Their genetic makeup has been altered. Owners copyright or trademark these versions and therefore “own them.” It is argued that they produce very bountiful crops for one season, then the farmer, because he has had to buy these seeds by contract, must destroy any remaining seeds and refrain from using the seeds from the plant itself. Someone else owns the seeds, even after purchase and assumes control and manipulation of the crop to this extent (which is a large extent).
Some published findings on GMO plants show that they tend to mutate further and sometimes create what look like dangerous results. Others that have been reported are: “Rodents fed GM corn showed ‘immune system responses and increased toxicity.'” The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed increased cell growth, a condition that can cause cancer. Mice eating GM corn had fewer and smaller babies. More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks and were smaller than usual. There are a variety of other problems , which, since I often look for a spiritual side to things, I personally ascribe this to the old concept of Human Greed (not to mention other agendas). Things that are wrong bring wrong results. It is ironic that some of the people who back and invest in GMO foods make claims of being humanitarian in helping the poorer people of the world have access to these products. The actual results of these products in use seems pretty iffy (and now, five years after I originally published this article the same crew are experimenting with actual animal cell meat products in laboratories!). (Frankenburger, anyone?)
One thing I know… I’d like to be told well in advance by the Congress or whoever about any purposeful efforts to tamper with nature and the natural order of things, much less the foisting of such questionable inventions on uninformed people. No matter how wealthy people may become, they best not equate that with “Being God.”
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I’ve always suspected that the little boy in the Emperor’s new clothes was some distant kin of mine.
That little boy had no compunction at all about pointing out the truth of the emperor’s nakedness. The Emperor, of course, had been the victim of both the swindlers who sold him the invisible robe and his own vanity in pretending that he could see it.
As we’re being duped into believing that we are full scale into the “Digital Age” because of the reckless advances in technology in recent years… Advances way out distancing our ethical and moral capability to handle them.
Ray Bradbury pointed out to me years before all this came about a poem he had written called “The Machines beyond Shylock.” “They (the machines) are but a dumb show, Stuff idiot in, And the Moron light you’ll know. Stuff right, Get right, Stuff Rot, Get rot, for no more power lies here, than man himself has got. “
Well we’ve been stuffing rot like it was going out of style and we have all sorts of results to show for it. A while back a large public library destroyed 250,000 books without donating them to a “friends of the library” sale or anything else. When asked why by horrified patrons they said it was their way of preparing for the “Digital Age.”
Technology has given us GMO crops that, reputedly, damage our health, the environment and infect local organic plants. We have legal shielding for these unethical business people. We have secret surveillance programs that stomp on our Constitutional rights. The perpetrators of these programs using the argument that the programs became so large they didn’t even know what they were doing (so large at taxpayer’s expense). And now, by stealth, these same kind of people attempted to take over the education of our children at the most impressionable ages, teaching them that it no longer matters if they know how to write, and hard cover books, and much of our history are a thing of the past, and of no importance to the modern world. All in the name of the “Digital Age.”
A few years back a California program provided school children with a billion dollars’ worth of I-Pads to advance them into the digital age. Shortly after the students began to dismantle the firewalls and use the tablets for Face Book, YouTube and Gaming.
It’s a sort of poetic justice that the very things that have been used to “hook” us on computers prove at least a temporary downfall to other efforts at mass control. This is certainly food for thought.
Those are just a few examples of where our technology has brought us!
Every few weeks I go spend time near Amish and Mennonites so that I can remind myself how real and healthy living really looks. No planned obsolescence here. No computer voices constantly leading off with “This is what you need to know.” No cars that go out of style, no computers that are obsolete nearly as soon as they’re built (so that creative writing, books and other records are subject to loss, and so that the environment constantly suffers from the needless selling and re-selling of updated models just to keep the companies flush with wealth and wealth is the only thing these hucksters can boast of with accuracy. And wealth at such a price!).
No folks, the Emperor is Naked, his promises are lies. He does not even want to share the smallest space with the customs that have seen us safe for thousands of years. He won’t be content until we have no books, no post office, and no ability to write or understand history and literature as we have in the past. It’s his way or the highway. He wants it all. The Emperor is naked. If good is to come out of the “Digital Age” we need to get on with stuffing right, not rot. And see what can be salvaged from the mess greed has created.
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