Has Beans:  01/16/2014

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I went to two conferences in the last couple of weeks, one on mental illness stigma and one on the economics of happiness.  I keep busy.  In the early seventies, I was conferring somewhere most months, usually de facto trying to figure out how to get more money from the feds for local community development of one sort or other, although usually we couldn’t just say that.

I was grateful for the change of pace and scenery, especially since I didn’t have to drive, and I appreciate getting to see all those people with the same intent, more or less, and actually talking to a few.  It’s encouraging just to know there are other people trying to do the same thing.  Mental illness stigma can be as harmful as mental illness, and self-stigma keeps people with a mental illness from getting help.  “Anything but that.”

I wore my lime-green ribbon to the economics of happiness conference the next week, and only one person asked me about it.  Apparently, the rest of them didn’t care what my lime-green ribbon was for, and I don’t blame them one bit.

The economics conference was a lot homier than the one about stigma the week before.  The mental illness stigma conference was at the Hyatt in downtown San Francisco.  The economics of happiness conference was in a church on the outskirts of downtown Portland.  Different vibe altogether.

Some of the talks and workshops discussed:  From GDP to Happiness and Well-Being, Community as Currency, Corporate Personhood and Trade Treaties, Community Rights in Action, Toward a Caring Economy, The Eloquence of Stones, Envisioning Local Learning, The Genuine Progress Indicator, and The Space Between Stories—some charts, no spreadsheets.

The lead-off man was a stand-up economist, a professor of economics who is a stand-up comedian.  I laughed, so I’ll say Noram Bauman is a funny guy, though no doubt many would disagree.

I most liked a workshop about community rights, where local laws take primacy over other laws, specifically including those of the State and federal government that grant the status of persons to corporations, so that communities can control their environments, instead of a legal fiction with no emotional stake in the neighborhood, a little like Wayne Cook.

From an article by Thomas Linzey:  “[New community laws] not only prohibit fracking, drilling, corporate water extraction, sludging, or factory farms, they also establish local bills of rights which recognize the rights of residents to clean air, clean water, a sustainable energy future, sustainable energy us, and sustainable agriculture. . . .  These communities have come to recognize that environmental and economic sustainability cannot be attained without fundamental changes regarding who the structure of law recognizes as the legal authority to make the rules within those communities.  Attaining that structural change means openly defying the laws that got us here in the first place.”  Amen to that.

Locally there are ways to give people back the power we’ve ceded gradually and by big jumps to our sorry-assed elected officials and the corporations we allow to exist right in our front yard.

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Barbara Boxer

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I watch and listen to a lot of stand-up comedy online, and I’m mostly interested in how the comedians’ values and assumptions show up, what they make jokes about.

Louis CK, for instance, is disgusted by his body, among other things, especially the naughty bits.  He’s willing to talk about it for money and disgusted by it simultaneously, a workable combination for an artist, which he is.

When I heard recently that Amy Schildhauer was gonna do stand-up in an all-woman show at The Maltese, my neighborhood saloon, I went with great trepidation, because I’m especially susceptible to a certain kind of sympathetic agony when people fail.  For instance, I can’t listen to a bad singer, like the one I heard at a recital not long ago who sang flat with no vibrato, just after a stunning aria by the class star.  That kind of thing makes me want to cry, I suppose because I imagine how awfully exposed and ashamed I would feel in that situation.

I admire stand-up comedians—and performers generally—for their guts, because it takes a lot of nerve to get up in front of strangers and try to make them feel the way you want them to.  Some comics I can’t stand.  Sometimes they’re too stupid or stuck on ridicule or just uninteresting.  I hear the audience laughing, but I’m not.  Some female comedians I’ve enjoyed are Amberia AllenSarah Millican, Maria Bamford, Chelsea Peretti, Celia Pacquola, Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Kendall, Amy Anderson, Dana Alexander, Sarah Silverman, Paula Poundstone, Moms Mabley, Margaret Cho, Lisa Lampanelli, Morgan Murphy, Kathy Griffin, Kathleen Madigan, Aisling Bea, Sarah Pascoe, and Felicity Ward.

I’m careful to breathe deliberately when a friend asks me to read something of theirs, because I’m afraid it’s gonna be shite and I’ll have to think of a way to say so kindly, not my long suit.

Fortunately, Amy made me laugh.  Whew.  I don’t know what I would’ve said if she’d been awful, and thank God she wasn’t.  She also stood out because she talked about being fat, the only one in the first half of the show who did, although not nearly the only one who could have.

I was surprised at how vulgar the performances were.  I don’t mind vulgarity—I often like it—but this bunch didn’t seem to know much of anything past dicks and vaginas.  No phalluses, no pussies, no insight, no wit, no wordplay.  I remember when sex was about all I thought about, but I’ve gotten used to other things being of interest, and the barrage of dicks and vaginas got old in a hurry.  I’m an old fogey and grateful for the variety that allows.  It’s not that my dick has no influence, we’re old pals after all, but I feel like I’ve given him his way enough.    And he’s so predictable.

I decided that the preponderance of sex observations and jokes was because sex is what they’re still learning about, and nothing’s more important than that at their stage of life, mostly under thirty and unmated.  Until we find a mate, or think we have, mating gets most of our attention, males and females alike.  Male lives are affected most by testosterone poisoning.  I don’t think any of the performers, including the transvestite emcee, was more than tentatively attached to another person, and nobody talked about education or employment or having children or politics or religion or much of anything past swapping fluids.  Bless ’em.

They were all energetic and optimistic, which gives me hope for the race, though not always a reason to laugh, and that evening I did a lot of cringing.  I’m going back, though.  Even if sex isn’t the main thing you think about, try standup comedy at The Maltese, and tell me what you think.

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Josh Paler Lin

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There’s a movement in Chico to elect Silly Council members by district, instead of at-large. Chico’s mayor would be elected at-large by all eligible voters, rather than by council members, which is completely silly. As it is, being mayor of Chico just means it’s your turn, not that voters wanted you in the job. By-district council members and an at-large mayor. Two good ideas.

I’ve complained before that the way we do things now gets us mostly bland people, not at all who we need. There are good reasons to change our system of doing things, including giving minorities a better chance to be elected and enabling an independent candidate to run a viable campaign without sucking up to a major party so as to be part of its slate.

The meeting I attended at the Butte County Library on First Avenue got a good turnout, and I learned a few things. The presenters said that Chico is about 70 percent white, only three people who aren’t white have run for the council, and only Dan Nguyen Tan won. Randall Stone, currently a Silly Council member, announced that he counts as a minority too, because he’s 50 percent Hispanic. I say “announced” because I had no idea that he was anything other than plain white, although I don’t suppose it had been a secret.

The presenters also expect such a change in process to make elections cheaper for candidates, which I think will help people who aren’t affluent to run for the council, and at the same time likely piss off the hardcore capitalists, since expensive elections are great if you can raise the cash, and they can.

There was some talk about ethnic diversity and Chico government’s lack of it. It seems that the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 requires rather more diversity than we’ve got, and if the city is called on the carpet for being too homogeneous it’ll be expensive, if not especially embarrassing. One old woman was incensed at the implication that Chico could be racist, but I think she’s often incensed about something or other, and of course Chico is as racist as a lot of places in the U.S. and far more than many others.

I’d like to see more ethnic diversity on the council, mostly on principle, since ethnic origin doesn’t mean all that much to me, and thinking that ethnicity is a person’s most important characteristic is the essence of racism. I’ve not tracked any Silly Council member’s voting record, but I bet Stone’s decisions haven’t been particularly Hispanic, whatever the hell that might look like.

There are a lot of things deplorable about Chicago’s voting by ward for its city council, although the awfulness is not so much because of the system as because of the greedy lowlifes who run it. Nonetheless, when something’s off in your neighborhood you know whom to call, you know who’s at least pretending to represent you. When the giant pothole appears in front of your house, you call the precinct captain, who reports to the ward committeeman, who reports to the alderman. Simple and effective. If you live in Chico, every council member represents all voters, which is the same as nobody representing anybody.

I’m much more concerned about the complete lack of economic diversity in city government. I want people on the council who care about poor people because they are poor and know what it’s like, not just because they feel sorry for us.

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Paula Poundstone

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My son didn’t come home that Saturday night, January third, and I guessed what had happened.  He’d been anxious lately, and I figured he had been harassing the neighbors and gotten himself picked up by the cops.

The next morning I saw I’d gotten a call in the wee hours from an 800 number, and it turned out to be the Butte County Jail.  The number was useful only in that I learned that it was at the jail—inmates can’t get phone calls so I couldn’t get through to my son.  I’ve always heard—and you too, probably—that arrestees get one phone call.  I obviously don’t know about you, but I’ve thought of it as a free phone call, since recent arrivals at the hoosegow might not have correct change.

You’ll be pleased to learn that should you find yourself a guest of the Butte County Jail, you will be allowed that precious call at no cost to you.  You might want to think carefully before you make it, because not only can it make all the difference to your personal experience, it’s gonna cost whomever you call $14.99.  Right.  One phone call, fifteen minutes, fourteen ninety-nine.

Why would a single 20-mile phone call cost that much money?  Because the Butte County Board of Ignoramuses gave SecurusTech.net a monopoly on calls from the jail.  Any new inmate has to go through SecurusTech.net for $14.99, a sweet deal for the corporation, not so much for the poor boob who just landed in the slammer, and who now has to remember the number of somebody willing to spend $14.99 to hear what he has to say this time.

I’ve heard that in old Rome some guys would use slaves to carry water to a house fire, and if the owner wasn’t a customer, he would watch it burn until the householder paid him off through the nose.  If you don’t meet the terms, you don’t have a house, an elegant gouge, cruel and lucrative.

Access Corrections have their own deal and promise to provide much cheaper calling from the jail, if your loved one is gonna be inside a while.  It sounded like just the thing, so I gave them some money.  Rash move.

I was thinking he had been in for two days, but I couldn’t be sure because the arrest logs for Saturday weren’t ready yet, maybe because of a weekend surge, maybe because bureaucrats are hard to get rid of.  The logs eventually went up on the jail’s website. He was there, and I still haven’t found out why the money I paid Access Corrections didn’t let him call me.

I opened an account on SecurusTech.net and sent my son an email through Access Corrections—to which he could not reply and which cost $5.95—telling him to find out how to make the call on his end.  That combination worked, and we got to talk the next day. Securus and Access Corrections are all-American capitalists, getting over like a fat rat on the backs of the poor, as usual, this time with the connivance of the Butte County Board.  No matter who thought it up, no matter who gets a piece, the Board of Supervisors approved it.

I went to the hearing, or maybe it was a trial, and he got probation and fines of $402.50, including a $40 Court Operations Assessment and a $30 Conviction Assessment.  He’s set to start paying off an $800 fine from last October in a couple of weeks.  If he misses a payment, he goes to jail. If he were well enough to earn any money, he wouldn’t have gone where he wasn’t wanted and be sitting with his back to us in an orange jumpsuit.  It was hard to hear the judge, but I don’t think anybody mentioned mental illness, although I’d left a message to that effect with someone at his public defender’s office.  Public defenders are assigned alphabetically, so he got the same one he’d had before, and for whose services he now owes Butte County $157.50.  I thought public defenders were free for people who can’t buy a lawyer.  Actually, they’re just cheap.

With time served, he’d be out in four days.  That’s what I thought, because he was sentenced to fifteen days, and it was his eleventh day inside. Instead, he fell through a crack in what passes for a system and called me that evening from the Home Depot down the road from the jail.  He has a mental illness, he had refused his prescribed injection, and he was turned out in the dark 20 miles from home.

He had no cash, but he did have a check for $25, the money I had put in his account so he could buy stuff at the commissary.  I had used a debit card at the machine in the lobby, and it cost $5.95.

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Daniel Simonsen

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A gang or cabal of humans recently killed several others with whom they were not acquainted because they thought differently.  Not only did these poor schnooks think differently from the gang, they drew and published pictures of Muhammad Ali that they should not have drawn to begin with, the pictures were also disrespectful, and the killers thought that killing the people responsible for the images would make them feel better.

Elijah Muhammad is such a big deal to these guys that he’s totally holy and serious and nobody should ever laugh at him.  I think organized religions are always crazy eventually, and still some are more compatible with rationality than others.  I can’t help thinking, and I’ve tried not thinking it, that outrage and righteousness like that come out of fear that actually the idea you’ve been giving your attention to all these years is horseshit, that all you think you know was filtered by many before you and is just a story anyway.  Being that wrong would be hard to get used to, and maybe anybody who says differently from the way I know deserves to die because thinking any other way is so awful for me to think about.

I could speculate about weak-assed gods and the goofiness inherent in venerating anybody.  Maybe next week.

Rather than face the truth they can’t face, these lost souls opted for murder, always an option, I suppose.  Maybe most people are killed for an idea, sometimes just the idea that the money in your wallet will help me feel better somehow, will make me a little happy, or another billion or two will make me feel secure at last and only a few people died, none of whom was even a Facebook friend.

You readers think, too.  Yes you do, you’re doing it now.  Keep an eye on that.  One Gentle Reader wrote not long ago about my essay on Sid Lewis, declaring that she could never feel safe or comfortable around me again.  Chico’s not a big place, and she’s in for some awkward moments.

In regard to the girl Sid allegedly masturbated in front of, she says, “. . . your article erases this girl’s existence and experience.”  How could that possibly be true?  Have you ever read something that erased your existence?  The girl would surely at least have to read it herself, unless the column put a hex or something on her, which was not my intention.

I just think our individual experiences are within our individual control.  If I can’t control my thoughts, the rest doesn’t matter.  That goes for you, too.  My Gentle Reader says she’s been traumatized, and I don’t doubt it for a minute—she sounds traumatized to me.

My Gentle Reader and the guys in Paris who killed all those people at Charlie Hebdo sound similar to me because they’re ruled by their minds and unhappy about it.  It sucks to be them.

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I spent Christmas with my son’s lover’s parents, good people I’d seen a couple of times before and didn’t know well.  It was my first Christmas celebration since Janice died.  The first two Christmases were just two days.  I had heard that when one loses a spouse the holidays are especially hard to take, but they hadn’t been for me.  I couldn’t deny her not being here to celebrate; I could deny the celebration, though, so I did.

I hardly knew Jim and Cam, but I had a feeling that their house was going to be Christmassy, and boy, was it ever.  Christmas was everywhere, from the lighted candy canes on the driveway gate and the little Christmas tchotchkes pretty much all over, to the actually creepy zombie Santa on the porch.

I had a good time, mostly.  Deanne, Jim’s sister, and her husband, Paul, were there, and old siblings are always interesting to me, not being one myself.

I’m mostly used to being by myself, living lonely if not actually alone.  I’m used to going places by myself—to the Co-op or the Post Office or the Pageant—and I thought I’d be fine.  I can do odd-man-out like a champ.

I never thought about not having done Christmas without her, though.  I knew I’d done it before, only Christmas in my room watching YouTube is a far cry from Christmas in the midst of a goddamn bunch of warm, loving, good-hearted pairs of mated humans.  I was the only freelancer, other than a cat and four dogs.

They did that thing that Janice’s family had done, and so the Porters did too, where everybody sits around and opens their presents together.  I had brought something for the house—my mother would be proud—but I hadn’t known what to expect and wisely didn’t ask, so I had no individual gifts for anybody, and I felt badly about it.  Janice would have hand-made cards to go with the gifts she’d have thought to bring.

So I sat there miserably opening thoughtful token after thoughtful token, full of self-loathing and probably -pity and trying not to blubber.  I didn’t blubber, either, not in front of anybody, and that’ll have to do.

I drank some brandy and ate some of everything in sight until I began to waddle.  I succumbed to a parlor game that didn’t turn out to be awful, and dodged a game of Chicken Foot, and that worked out fine.

Lots of talk, lots of laughing.  Nobody got drunk, nobody got punched, nobody cried but me.  Here’s something notable:  Without collaboration of any sort, my son and I brought the same thing for a house gift.

I learned a couple of jokes.  Jim had two or three thousand, I bet, but I remember only a couple, both of them no doubt offensive to a group or two, and each of which, while not at all funny in itself, made me laugh.  I’m gonna tell you one.  If you think of yourself as at all sensitive or civilized, you should probably stop here.

There’s a new shelter in town—Tempura House, for lightly battered women.  I warned you.

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Tupac Shakur

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Happy New Year

Nothing can happen to you that is worse than living in fear that something could happen to you.   Cheri Huber (1944–  )

Whatever is said is absolutely not true, including this.   Gangaji (1942–  )

It ain’t ignorance causes so much trouble; it’s folks knowing so much that ain’t so.   Josh Billings (1818–1865)

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself.  The challenge is to silence the mind.   Caroline Myss (1952—  )

You are not your emotions.  They flow through you.  You feel them.  And then they disappear.   Seth

If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.   Leonard Cohen (1934–  )

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.   Theodore Isaac Rubin (1923–  )

Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.   Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799)

Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.   Anthony de Mello (1931–1987)

Forgiving is not forgetting, it’s letting go of the hurt.   Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955)

The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.   Robert Holden (1965–  )

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.   English Nursery Rhyme

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.   Neale Donald Walsch (1943–  )

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.   John Wayne (1907–1979)

The function of prayer is not to influence God but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.   Sǿren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813–1855)

There is no place on Earth to spit.   Zen saying

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.   Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939–1968)

The essential feature of quantum interconnectedness is that the whole universe is enfolded in everything, and that each thing is enfolded in the whole.   David Bohm (1917–1992)

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.   Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1900–1965), speech, Detroit, 1952

Obedience is not a virtue.  It is an evasion of our responsibility.   Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, Proverbs of Ashes; Violence, Redemptive Suffering and the Search for What Saves Us

Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for.  Earl Warren (1891–1974)

Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.   Chinese proverb

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.   Siddhartha Gautama (c. 566–480 bce)

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.   Bertrand Russell (1872–1970

My feeling is that there is nothing in life but refraining from hurting others, and comforting those who are sad.   Olive Schreiner (1855–1920)

We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world—no government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.   Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924)

Nationalism is an infantile sickness.  It is the measles of the human race.   Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.
We are pain and what cures pain.
We are the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours.   
Mevlana Jalal-e-Din Mevlavi Rumi (1207–1273)

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.   Benito Mussolini (1883–1945)

In the dark time will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing about the dark time.   Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)

The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.   James Madison (1751–1836)

I have always been an attorney for the defense.  I can think of nothing, not even war, that has brought so much misery to the human race as prisons.   Clarence Seward Darrow (1857–1938)

If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.   Lao-tzu (c. 6th Century bce)

I have no knowledge of myself as I am, but merely as I appear to myself.   Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)

Nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people. The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design.   Harry Crews (1935–  )

By definition, a government has no conscience.  Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more.   Albert Camus (1913–1960)

There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience.  And then there is California.   Edward Abbey (1927–1989)

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How to Be Ultra Spiritual

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At first, I thought the “basic necessities” of Copiosis were a little goofy, and not just because of the redundancy.  As far as I was concerned, food was the only universal necessity on the list—food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and education.  The rest were optional, depending on where you happen to be.  As practical promises, clothing, healthcare, and shelter make sense for a reasonable quality of life in most places, but guaranteeing education struck me as going too far, especially if “education” turned out to be anything like public schools, whose primary aim is docile sameness.

For me, education is pretty much anything other than public schools and I hope somebody in a Copiosis society will agree with me and make sure that education includes all sorts of learning and development, especially in areas currently poo-poohed by capitalists.  We’ve given enough attention to exploitation to last us a while.  It’s time for chakras and qi.

A Copiosis society seems to me to be based essentially on the values mentioned in the Declaration of Independence of the United States:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all . . . are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The way I think of it, to secure Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, Copiosis assumes five necessaries—shelter, food, healthcare (including clean water), clothing, and education.

Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary says necessaries are “things that must be had (as for the preservation and reasonable enjoyment of life).”  For me, “. . . the preservation and reasonable enjoyment of life” is interchangeable with “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” which pleases me because I’ve had a soft spot for “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” since I memorized that bit in grammar school, and the Third New International is the Bible.

About food, it’s obviously required for life, and still some food is clearly not necessary.  Caviar or truffles, say, seem like they ought to be considered luxuries and needn’t be provided at no cost to everybody, like grace or consciousness.  Potatoes and broccoli, fine; Kobe beef and saffron, probably not.  That’s how I thought.  Now I don’t know.

If I’ve got a thing for organic shiitake mushrooms it’s up to me to figure out how to satisfy that yen.  Since people in a Copiosis society are free to participate or not, no particular food could be guaranteed, just like it is now.  We don’t run out of stuff here because we can buy whatever we want, and there’s always somebody around willing to sell it to us.  For instance, I think that to be eligible for government assistance food has to be unheated and unserved.  No hot meals and no servers, but cold lobster on a bun would be fine.  I like that.

Copiosis is a long way from having to deal with practical issues like those, and they’re still what most attract me to the discussion.  I love ideas.

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Hari Kondabolu

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Dreadlocks, entertainment

My hair is longer than it has ever been before, and I’ve been considering going rasta and trying dreadlocks again, or maybe allowing dreadlocks to form, since I’ve heard that if I don’t do anything—including combing or brushing it—dreads will happen with no effort on my part. “You see what can happen when you don’t brush your hair?”

I met a young woman once whose dreads were neat and orderly enough to satisfy my old-school leanings, and I complimented her. She was old-school enough to respond politely and new-school enough to give me some new information. She said that a friend of hers had cautioned her about referring to them as “dreads” or “dreadlocks,” because of the words’ etymology.  She said the terms had come about because the Europeans, presumably English, who first encountered people with hair like that had found the look “dreadful.” So her friend had told her that she shouldn’t say “dreads.”  Silly.  I don’t know if any of it is true, and it’s silly anyway.

No sane person thinks of dreadlocks as “dreadful.” I used to, but I’m not so crazy anymore. I remember approving of dreadlocks primarily because I thought they made me look better for lack of them.

Last year my son made dreads for me. My hair wasn’t very long then, and I didn’t find the pickaninny look flattering, but the dreads had to go for a different reason altogether—dreadlocks are a lot of work.  Making each dreadlock is as tedious as one might want, and after hours of work it’s still not over because, left alone, the dreadlocks would start to come apart.  I had thought that with a head start the dreadlocks would be delighted to stay that way, if they were on their way there anyway, but no.  The initial teasing and wrapping and massaging is the beginning of what looked at the time like a lifetime of careful tending, which sent chills down my spine, and after a week or so I undid all his good work and settled for a tiny ponytail.  My ponytail is a few inches long now, and I might be ready to try dreads again, but probably not.  Now my son has dreads, as does his lover and their housemate.  I admire their hair.

I watch a lot of stuff on YouTube and Netflix and sometimes Hulu, and I’ve run across some gems that you might not like and that I’ll tell you about anyway.  I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and “Veep” is as well written and smart as she deserves.  Tony Hale as her assistant is a bonus.

“True Detective” is dark and gritty and as well done as anything that’s ever been.  I admit cringing occasionally and putting off an episode until I thought I was ready, but I couldn’t stop watching altogether.  It’s as good as “The Sopranos.”  It’s as good as “Breaking Bad” or “Rome.”  It’s probably as good as “Game of Thrones,” but I haven’t seen it yet.

I have a penchant for British television, and there’s hardly anything better than “QI” or “Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge” or “The Catherine Tate Show” or “Mock the Week” or “Clatterford” or “Absolutely Fabulous” or “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” or “That Mitchell and Webb Look” or “Black Adder” or “Never Mind the Buzzcocks.”  Take heed.

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This year I’m especially thankful for the autumn colors.  Back in Chicago when I was learning to make photographs, I made an annual trip out to a particular wooded area because the trees there were reliably spectacular.  Now, I can be as awed by a particular leaf as by a forest, and a November Ginkgo can make me laugh out loud.

I’m thankful for the birds in the flyway—American Coots, Snow Geese, Turkey Vultures, Black-crowned Night Herons, Greater White-fronted Geese, House Sparrows, Ross’s Geese, Canada Geese, Herring Gulls, American Widgeons, Gadwalls, Eurasian Widgeons, Mallards, Blue-winged Teals, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon Teals, Ruddy Ducks, Red-tailed Hawks, Sandhill Cranes, Ring-billed Gulls, Snowy Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds, Sandpipers, Bald Eagles, Redheads, and Northern Pintails.  I really like the way they’re just themselves, unlike many of us.

I’m grateful for rain, especially here and now.  I’m hardly ever aware that the water I drink is practically as old as Earth.  That whatever water there is on Earth is all there’s ever gonna be, be it polluted, pure, or inaccessible, seems harsh and fair, and whenever it rains, I’m glad.

I’m grateful for my car, which runs well at eighteen.  I think it knows that it’s only a big repair away from a junkyard, because gas and insurance are all I can afford.  Meanwhile, I try to keep it clean and talk nice to it. So far, so good.  Say hello if you see it.

I’m grateful for my family and friends.  You may be one, but probably not.  If you aren’t a friend of mine—Facebook doesn’t count—don’t sweat it.  You’re likely not missing much, and I have plenty of friends, and by plenty I don’t mean many so much as enough for me—not very many at all.  You handful of stalwarts make all the difference.

I’m grateful for my stuff generally and my bike specifically. I think I have a lot of stuff, although I know I’m a piker next to many.  Lately, when I think about my stuff it’s generally been with an eye to getting rid of it, which is still a goal.  Now I try to pay attention to the stuff I most enjoy and appreciate whatever pleasure it provides me.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and out it goes.  My laptop is my main thing and takes precedence over my car.  A carless life is easier to imagine than a computerless life, although I could do without both.  Yes, I could too.

I love my books.  I’ve gotten rid of stacks of books, and, though I stringently restrict the influx of new books, I still have stacks on shelves and the floor of books I have yet to read.  Something makes me want to read what I have before I bring any more in the house, maybe my mother, now that I think of it.  I don’t keep a count, but I have fewer books than I did, say, five years and more than I had last summer.  I fluctuate.

I’m thankful for Hobbes, our cat.  He’s friendly and good-natured and a constant model of how to just be.  Hobbes eats and plays and pokes around into things, and still he’s mostly just being, lying there in the sun.

I’m mostly grateful for being able to write this, and thank you for reading it.  A lot of things have to go just right for this to happen, and a missed connection between any number of nerve endings could render me null and void right now and I wouldn’t even get to save the file.

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Russell Brand, Daniel Pinchbeck

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