Saturday, December 24, 2011

Um…well, I guess…

Here’s a little surprise; guess who’s included in this year’s Religion & Ethics Newsletter’sIn Memoriam 2011?”

Jack Kevorkian and Christopher Hitchens.

Along with unsavories, or, at least, once unsavories, such as Cardinal Foley—maybe he found God, or at least heard the snapping of growling watchdogs and contributors after his AIDS comments—we find these two who aren’t usually listed in the category of “Prominent Religious.”

Although, upon reflection, they both were certainly spiritual, and, in their own ways, pastoral. There’s also an environmentalist listed, probably the most spiritual of them all.

There’s also a Jewish songwriter, which is a nice gesture, because songwriters are also quite spiritual.

The others are/were (?) luminaries of various Christian sects. And now they know whether Hitchens was/is (?) correct, don’t they?

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Um…Not really

The Hank Williams, Jr./ESPN brouhaha is mildly diverting on a few levels, but it is also a sad commentary on one: understanding the Constitutional right to free speech.

Williams’ Constitutional rights were not affected by ESPN’s action. The Constitution is silent on the right of company censorship of employees’ speech.

“Congress shall make no laws…” is the way the First Amendment begins. There is nothing in it which limits any other instance of speech restrictions. Most states also limit “freedom on speech” similarly in their state constitutions.

Williams should know better. We all should know better.

Sorry, Mr. Williams, Jr., your Constitutional free speech rights were not offended, and you have none otherwise.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


“Reverse racism” is such a silly phrase.

What could it possibly mean?

A racist is a racist, regardless of skin color, and “reverse racism” is just an example of unthinking writers who waste electronic ink.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fraternal Quip

This from my older brother: Yesterday we could not spell third-world country; today we are one.

(I wonder if it’s a joke which has been going around. Regardless, I like it.)

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

So, I’m a smart ass…So sue me


Not really…the suing part.

The local newspaper, The Desert Sun had a piece today indicating disapproval of those protesting Chaz Bono’s upcoming appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.”

I liked it except for the use of “sexual preference.”  Now, since I am of the opinion that virtually everyone who is protesting against Mr. Bono’s appearance has participated in his sexual preference activities in one way or another, I doubt very seriously they are protesting that/those preference(s).

So I wrote the following to the “Community Conversations Editor” at the paper. I got carried away.

It was such fun and became so silly that I thought I’d share it.  Have fun.


Dear Mr. X:

Today your editorial page gave a well-deserved “Thumbs Down” to those who are protesting against Chaz Bono’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.”

There would be disagreement only from those who are unwilling to learn.

There is, however, one phrase with which others might quibble; it is “sexual preference.” It might be good to take a few moments to educate your writer about the more accurate “sexual orientation” for use in this type of discussion.

To personalize the point, Sir, might I suggest that your sexual preference is what you prefer to do during sexual incidents. Everyone has sexual preferences which are unique and of no concern to others.

Sexual orientation, on the other hand, is how you “lean” when choosing a partner with whom to participate in mutual sexual preferences.

Absent a declaration from a person, sexual preference is unknowable; sexual orientation is somewhat easier to discern. Since most of the protesters against Mr Bono themselves probably engage in whatever sexual activities they might imagine he participates, they are more than likely protesting his orientation than his preference.

Please discuss this with your writer.


gene touchet

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

From BRAAACK to lowercase 8 point “poo”

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My brain farts (How I dislike the word!) have been reduced to a negligible poo.

They have been replaced by brain black holes. It’s possible to stand (albeit metaphorically) on the edge of the hole and virtually see the nothingness to which thought and memory are reduced, especially memory.

“I’ll have the Country Benedict.”

20 minutes later, after having the plate placed before me, I am asked, “Looks good. What is it?”




(Is “blankness” truly “nothing?”)

A strain to come up with the words and some babble…”It’s a famous breakfast dish…some kind of sauce…English muffins…”

“Eggs Benedict?”


Crisis over.  The memory, however, of the lack of memory lingers.

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Monday, September 05, 2011

Actually, God’s punishment…

Every wonder why God doesn’t punish those people who behave antithetically to the “teachings of the ages?”

For instance, it seems obvious to clear thinkers that the wildfires in Texas are punishment for supporting Rick Perry.

Doesn’t it?

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alas! A crisis of conscience!

From Box Turtle Bulletin:

Shocking, simply shocking! A new study has determined that some men are attracted to both male and female persons. Or, at least, sexually stimulated by watching them have sex.

This new finding contradicts and earlier one which denied evidence of existence of bisexuals, but was flawed in its population selection. (NY Times)

For many, many years, I’ve been skeptical about discussions I’ve had with certain serial-one-night-stands.

“How can you date/marry her? What’re you doing here if you’re going to be there?”

“I guess I just like you both.”

Skeptical. Mighty skeptical.

Now some researchers tell us that X and Y, and a couple of other less-frequent Alphabet Letters were correct about themselves after all?

Well, after the brachytherapy, it’s pretty much moot. Still, it does give pause.

Do I apologize?

Or do I wait for the next “study” to give us another way to look at ourselves?

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Great Quip

From today’s New York Times we find this little nugget in a column by Frank Bruni which puts l’affaire Bachmann in its place:

I once tried to pray away the gay. But sometimes a houseguest just won’t leave.

Quel drole!

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thanks, Ms D

Much appreciation to Maureen Dowd for reminding us of a great line.

In an article about celebrities of yore, particularly Liz and Dick (Dick ‘n Liz?), La Dowd recalls: 

As Liz Smith once observed, “Whenever somebody says, ‘So and so is a big star,’ I say, ‘Have they been condemned by the Vatican?’ ”

Is that a great humbler or not? (BTW, L&D were.)

Thanks, Les Dowd et Smith.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

June quickie

Isn’t prostitution simply enhanced masturbation?

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

No More Poo Pooh-Poohing?

Well, there might not be many of you still hanging around waiting for further inanities, but here’s one I just didn’t want anyone to miss, or to lose to posterity and faulty memory.

Andrew Sullivan, on his blog The Dish, gives us this fascinating item on medical experimentation.  (It sounds like something that will, in a few days, turn out to be a hoax, but a fun one!)

It discusses the gut’s bacteria and the role those little critters play in health. There’s an interesting twist to it, and one medical wag has coined transpoosion for the procedure.


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Monday, May 23, 2011

SCOTUS* vs California Republican Demagoguery

In case you didn’t know it, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the State of California’s prison system is in dire straits. Check out this bit of information provided by the Supreme Court of the United States today:

The degree of overcrowding in California’s prisons is exceptional. California’s prisons are designed to house a population just under 80,000, but at the time of the three-judge court’s decision the population was almost double that. The State’s prisons had operated at around 200% of design capacity for at least 11 years. Prisoners are crammed into spaces neither designed nor intended to house inmates. As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, monitored by as few as two or three correctional officers. App. 1337–1338, 1350; see Appendix B, infra. As many as 54 prisoners may share a single toilet.App. 1337.

This court case has been going on since the early 1990’s.

Don’t quote me, but I blame the Republican Party’s draconian misuse of the ballot initiative available to Californians.  (OK, these ballot measures passed, which means a majority of voters agreed with them.) Specifically, the three-strikes issue, and the 2/3 majority in the legislature needed for tax increases.

By one vote (*thankfully, Mr. Justice Kennedy provided it, otherwise I’d’ve been forced to call it a SC(r)OTUS decision because it would’ve gone the other way) the Court has upheld a lower 3-member Court’s decision to require California to reduce its prison population by some 40,000 inmates.

That’s a tough number, but it brings home the lesson of the dangers of falling for hyperbole during election cycles. We can’t get away from responsibility by believing those who don’t have our societal best interests at heart.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011


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Well, Dear Gentle Reader(s), we might not agree on this, but here goes.

From the local newspaper:

A woman praised as a community leader for her work running a police activities league for youth was arrested Monday for an alleged sexual relationship with a teenage boy.

[Ms X], 33, of Cathedral City was arrested at her home  and booked into the Indio jail on multiple counts of statutory rape and oral copulation with a minor.

[X] is suspected of “having an ongoing sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male victim,” Cathedral City police Lt. Chuck Robinson said.

“…a 17-year-old male victim.”

Doesn’t anyone remember being 16, 17, 18?

One has to wonder if the youth thought of himself as a “victim,” at least before the story became public. Where does victimhood begin?

(I’ll bet he thought of himself as “lucky.”)

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Just wondering

Ross Douthat, over at The New York Times, has an interesting article on the state of American consciousness and future today, Death of a Failure.

It’s an interesting piece, but this phrase caught my attention:  “…the utopian fantasy politics embodied by groups like Al Qaeda, or the mix of thugs, fools and pseudointellectuals …”

Queston:  Isn’t the combination of “fools and pseudointellectuals” redundant?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Words, Words, Words

The nicest words in the English language, to me, aren’t “I love you” nor are they the first Mama’s or Dada’s.

Rather, they’re “flush toilet.”

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Friday, March 25, 2011


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Think taxation without representation was bad?

How are we liking no taxation with representation?

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Classic typo

Here’s one for the books:

Your left-wing choice [E.J. Dionne] sure showed his colors Monday (“GOP's madman strategy”) and I do not have a problem with that.

However, your choices of “right wing” being Michael Gerson and Bill O'Reilly do not equate except in your own left-winged minds. How about some true conservative contributors such as Thomas Sowell, Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Maulkin, Lou Dobbs or Ann Coulter, or are you perhaps afraid readers will actually learn something?

Michelle Maulkin.  Gotta love it.

(This comes from a letter to the editor in the virtual right-wing-rag The Desert Sun out of Palm Springs.)

(Can you imagine anyone thinking he could learn from Malkin, Dobbs, Sowell, or Coulter? lol)

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nits Ahoy!!!

This from the February 2011 Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer:  “Soft & Juicy Dried Mango.”


But never fear, the Flyer acknowledges the oxymoronic phrasing.  The Flyer goes on to explain, “The drying process is unique in that it uses glycerin to keep the mango soft—but never mushy—and mango juice is added in to give it a little extra moisture and further intensify the mango flavor.”

So.  “Dried Mango” which has glycerin and added mango juice is the offering.

How about a little truth in advertising next time, T.J., with “Soft & Juicy Processed Mango” instead?

Just askin’.

(But it wouldn’t be quite as eye-catching.)

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Why not?

Here, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is an example of a mostly unnecessary sentence—one surely printed with tongue firmly in cheek:  “This ruling is unlikely to impact the vast majority of the gay community.”

Here, too, is a link to a story you might find both appalling and amusing.

Generally, the story discusses the case of “Alan,” a man with an I.Q. of 48, who has been prohibited from any activity other than “masturbation in his bedroom or bathroom – and nothing more.”

The gay element?  Alan had been engaging in sexual activity with another man.

It happened in England.  (It’s happening in England?)

On second thought, the “sentence” above was surely done with a touch of cynicism, eh wot?

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Best Headline of the Day!

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From The Daily Beast: Man Killed by Chicken at Cockfight.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Remember when…

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nigger was practically lingua franca and fuck wasn’t?

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

No, but…

There’s a mild brouhaha brewing, Dear Gentle Reader(s), over a passage or two by a writer in the the U.S.  It seems a woman named Barbara Ehrenreich wrote this:

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.

In response, Conor Friedersdorf, subbing for Andrew Sullivan this week, wrote this:

Is someone taking away the 401(k)s of Americans? Would street protests somehow salvage the jobs of those who've lost them in the recession? For that matter, have street protests done anything to improve the lives of the Greeks engaged in them?

We’ll probably never know if the lives of the Greeks have been improved by street protests, but we’ll also never know if the very people who caused the mortgage mess here in the U.S., which, arguably, caused the Great Recession, would right now be looking forward to enjoying the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts which they should, in the name of fiscal prudence, never have been given.

We can certainly imagine the scene if the tens of thousands who did not vote for Representative Mary Whitaker-Bono-Baxley-Mack in November of 2010 would’ve shown up in front of her offices in downtown Palm Springs in protest against her promised vote for the tax extension.

Maybe the U.S. would be hundred of billions ahead on deficit reduction today if we’d marched in all the Republican House districts in December.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How about that!

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Um, the judge who sentenced Tom DeLay to 3 years in prison has “delayed” his incarceration pending appeal.

How many of you think Tom DeLay(ed) will ever serve an hour in prison?

Raise your hands.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wake up call?

Perspective:  We Americans should remember, in this time of political tension and violence, that our neighbors to the south have been living through something quite similar, but worse, for the past several years, and collectively we bear some responsibility.

Mexico’s violence stems from 1) the U.S. drug habits; 2) the U.S. “war on drugs;” the proliferation of weapons manufacturing in the U.S.; the easy availability of guns which make their way to the Mexican drug cartels.

We do little to prevent violence in our own country; we do virtually nothing to help the Mexican authorities stop the violence there.

Everyone suffers; each democracy is threatened.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

This does not bode well

Alas, Dear Gentle Reader(s), we’re in a pickle.

Remember all those references to the Constitution by Republican candidates during the last election cycle?  Well, now we know why they talked about it so much.  They needed lessons.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) stood in front of a television set at a fundraiser, when he should’ve been standing in the House of Representatives, and raised his hand when other members of the House, actually in the House at the time, were raising their hands and being sworn in as House members.  And there was another newly elected Republican representative at that fundraiser, Mike Fitzpatrick.  It was his fundraiser.

A virtual swearing in?

It’s going to be a very strange 2 years with these clowns in office. 

By the way, read the entire piece, and discover how Petey acted in violation of the Constitution on the second day of the House calendar.

Trust, but verify.  (Might be hard to do.)

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Going, going…

Navy Capt. Owen Honors lost his job this week.  Chief  David Dominguez, of the Palm Springs Police Department is “retiring.”  Touches of politically incorrect references to the gay community played significant roles in both instances.

Cultural atmosphere ain’t your “funny” uncle’s experience any more.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

A guest essay(-ish)

My nephew, John, and I have a long history of being at loggerheads, especially about his writing skills.  Recently, he sent me one of his year end missives for some suggestions.

I pretty much eviscerated what he originally wrote and made one or two pithy suggestions.  For the first time in years, he re-wrote it.  I think it shows a sense of humor and self-assessment that is not too bad.

It’s long (3+ pages), but you might, Dear Gentle Reader(s), find it amusing, especially if you remember the flowery language of high school and college freshmen writers.

Happy New Year.  (No one will ever know if you decide not to finish it. xoxox)

Winter Solstice 2010 (aka: “end-of-year greetings about which the writer began ruminating on the Solstice, but about finishing the writer procrastinated.”)

At the behest of my editor, I include a cautionary note. This year-end missive to family and friends may appear to contain some distracting nonsequiturs and “big words” that might offend some populist sensibilities and sentimentalities (i.e. I did not travel anywhere or accomplish anything worth bragging about this year). College graduates often develop a communication disorder that involves gratuitous use of obscure vocabulary (acquired at extravagant expense of anonymous donors). This disorder reflects a secret, or overt, resentment that graduation required actually leaving college and joining the ordinary work force. Further note: “dilettante” has nothing to do with lace doilies but rather curious, yet distractible, folk who lack the discipline to pursue scientific careers but like to pretend that reading an article in Scientific American made them some sort of expert. I like to use this word because it evokes misleading imagery for the reader.

Caveat (legalistic word meaning “beware”): The current political climate heightens the vigilance of those who worry about security matters, making it necessary for writers prone to exaggeration, allegory, and literary license to issue disclaimers. In no event should any reader construe anything in this document as an attack or threat to the “new world order.” The author possesses no desire whatsoever to spend the balance of his natural life in a cage in Guantanamo. Events, scenarios, or libelous speculation in this communiqué represent no particular person – quick, dead, Republican, or atheist. Some readers may find attempts at wry, or ribald, humor “lame.” Please take what you like and disregard the rest. In the interest of secular humanist inclusion, I call this document “Solstice Greetings.” Presumably, the adults will graciously perceive this title as inoffensive and the children will feed it to the dog with their homework.

Any perception of intentional threat, insult, or other offense to the reader, any national party, soirée, authority figure, action figure, figurine, or anyone else for that matter, resides strictly and existentially in the vivid imagination of the reader. I promise to attempt, but do not guarantee, to tie together the loose threads of this letter into a coherent and deep whole. Oh by the way, dilettantes take devilishly long and circuitous routes to make their points. Perhaps I digress…

“In the long run, we all die” (John Maynard Keynes, Wiki-apocrypha).

As a self-styled pseudo-intellectual, I tend to worry. Well, not worry, exactly, but rather spend hours staring at trees, listening to birds, zoning out, and wondering, “What if…?”I find it oddly gratifying and disturbing to believe that practically no one understands what I spend hours turning over in my head. I make the gross assumption that a significant portion of conflict between “liberals” and “conservatives” arises between the relative importance that each places on long and short term goals and consequences. For the sake of illustrative convenience – and sarcasm, I stereotype the “liberal” as the apocalyptic ADD environmentalist and the “conservative” as the capitalist captain of industry. Economists (like Keynes) fancy that they occupy some mythical objective neutral ground which justifies them to sneer at both left and right extremes. In our dreams, we play all the parts, right?

The apocalyptic ADD environmentalist, having completely disrupted his normal sleep schedule, peered worriedly past his breakfast table, through the blinds, and into the seasonally bleak garden. Heat death of the universe, not surprisingly, came to mind on a strikingly gray Tuesday in Central Texas. If climate change makes the weather weirder, shouldn’t a warm foggy day in late December, in Austin, cause alarm? An environmental fanatic with attention deficit disorder tends to expect the worst (e.g. Oh no, it feels neither especially warm nor cold today, the sun will run out of energy in only six billion years?!). The thought experiment that follows the rabbit hole, that physicists and engineers call “entropy,” to its absurdly disturbing conclusion reasons that matter and energy (possibly one in the same) will, at a point in the impossibly distant future, become so evenly distributed that all potential for motion (i.e. heat) becomes null and void. Imagine a room full of drunks, incapacitated by inebriation, all immobilized beyond reach of each other. The party ends, not with a fare-thee-well but with deathly silence. Even the dust has settled, motionless. (This analogy may or may not work for you.) (I believe political scientists refer to economics as “the dismal science.” The “green” liberal in me can’t resist the “more dismal than thou” challenge. After all, I must consider my reputation.)

Presumably, if insufficient “dark matter” or “dark energy” exists in the cosmic interstices and worm holes, the last gasp of the “Big Bang” that started the whole hullabaloo will not reverse onto itself – unlike an apple tossed into the air that fails to triumph over gravity and therefore returns to an intimate repose on, and with, the ground. Presumably, this dark matter, or dark energy if you like – which, for the most part, we can neither see nor detect beyond the shadow of a doubt – or a neutrino, will save the impossibly distant future universe from the ultimate entropic indignity of heat death. If sufficient but heretofore unsubstantiated matter, whether dark or light, exists, the whole kit and caboodle will succumb to interstellar (or perhaps inter-dust particle) gravity and proceed to collapse in a reverse Big Bang, which, for the sake of brevity and convenience, we might call “the Big FUBAR.” I didn’t make all of this up. Lord Kelvin, William Thompson, presumably preoccupied himself with the ultimate consequences of entropy and conceived the idea of universal heat death in 1852. Who knew that anyone before Ralph Nader worried about inconceivably remote catastrophes?

So, does that make me feel any better about sitting around procrastinating? Alas, no.

Of course, the sun would intervene and ruin a perfectly good depressing metaphor by burning off the clouds by noon. With a temperature around 72° Fahrenheit and low-ish humidity, Austin suddenly feels like Southern California… Not the way it feels at the moment – in the midst of a Biblical flood – but the way I remember it feeling back in 1979. Austin did reach 79° on the Solstice. Just enough atmospheric haze lingered to mimic the ubiquitous LA smog.

As a dilettante, who dabbles in art and science, I obsess about these things (and wonder: would-a? should-a? could-a?). So, I read a book about impressionist painting. Unlike me, the inspired genius of the artist deftly manipulates light, dark, and color in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum (they discuss this stuff in science lectures at UT) to evoke imagery that captures the imagination of viewers and sometimes perturbs the purveyors of prudery. The musician-composer manipulates the auditory portion of the EM spectrum, which, for the sake of convenience, we will call “sound,” to touch emotions that resonate in listeners.

The writer works with what I consider a most abstract medium. (Does this sound like “mid-life crisis” thinking?) Characters on a page possess no inherent meaning universally understood by anyone. Readers, in order to appreciate the writer’s work, must study these cryptic glyphs and their ascribed meanings for years in order to attain a certain competency that for convenience we may call “literacy.” One might gain a greater appreciation for the works of artists and musicians by studying their work or probing the depths of their philosophical underpinnings, but great art and music can stand on their own to nurture the soul of humanity. Their magnificence makes them enjoyable to anyone with eyes to see or ears to hear, but not vice versa.

Enjoyment of the writer’s arts and crafts transpires inside the rarified confines of privileged societies. Alas, a majority of humanity cannot read. A fraction of those able to read can understand the writer’s language and idiom (& weird words). A fraction of those who know the language and peculiar terms either care to read his work or enjoy the luxury of time to do so. Having ventured thus far, a portion of those who read his work feel dissatisfied, disgusted, or offended by having wasted their precious time on such drivel (so what? MS Word disdains this construction as a “fragment”). Does this sound like a gratitude list or resentments? I can’t always tell. Musician? Artist? Writer? …hmm… decisions…

Ironically, this medium of symbolic interaction (text), possessing the least inherent universal meaning, can become the most concrete and explicit of the arts to those who might read it. Unfortunately, the writer can only succeed by persuading many people. An artist only needs one person to buy a canvas. A seascape portrayed either musically or visually invites the audience to enjoy the scene for its own sensations. Think of Debussy’s “La Mer” or one of J.M.W. Turner’s vignettes of tempest-tossed tall ships. (Pretend for a moment that Stravinsky's “Rite of Spring” did not provoke a Paris riot in 1913.) The writer might paint a conceptual picture with words but usually superimposes facts, opinions, and obfuscation that support a particular agenda. Generally speaking, a psychological or social disturbance invoked by a symphony or painting relies on highly interpretable, suggestive, or abstract imagery – not everyone experiences it the same way. Writing that disturbs the reader may involve particular and concrete ideas that conflict with preconceived notions held by the reader – or may simply pile up an unmanageable number of random non-sequiturs.. Any of these creative forms might strike the audience as confrontational, reassuring, or escapist. A visceral response to art grabs one’s attention and causes one to consider reality in a new headache. A visceral response to writing might get one fired or sued.

Contrariwise, the amateur environmentalist (a particular kind of writer who clogs the in-boxes of newspaper editors and elected officials) often confronts people with a disturbing message. He might suggest that the habits and customs we take for granted in our comfortable, convenient, secure, and modern existence will exact costs on future generations that we would rather not contemplate or simply dismiss as preposterous. He quite often envisions himself as an enlightened martyr (and not a slave to fashion), chosen by Divine lot to wage jihad against the infidel capitalist robber barons! He might perceive the general public as either pathetic clueless rubes duped by the robber barons into sustaining the corrupt establishment or as nefarious shills and minions in thrall to the evil industrial empire (buwahaha!). More often than not, the presumed converts, whom he heroically struggles to “save,” resent his guilt-soaked hectoring and consign him to the realm of nincompoops.

Now we lurch to the presumed opposite end of the ideological spectrum. Lacking a statistically valid sample of capitalist captains of industry in my personal circle of acquaintance, I can only surmise that they do not consider themselves evil (gospel according to Dale Carnegie); they strive to ensure the general welfare and the rational allocation of resources by increasing their own wealth (see Adam Smith); and they strive to produce useful goods affordable to the hoi polloi (ordinary folk, like moi), and that consume vast quantities of fossil fuels (see Henry Ford and J.D. Rockefeller). The charitable social scientist might characterize industrialists as “amoral” because they make business decisions without regard to social or ecological consequences. Ostensibly, they measure success in terms of gross units produced and net profits, not in terms of coexisting with other inhabitants of a global ecosystem in such a way that will preserve it for the benefit of future generations. The amoral companies that manufacture machines and tools spend fantastic fortunes on advertising in order to convince us that using their products will make us happier, more prosperous, and more attractive to potential in-laws and American Idol judges. Whether for convenience, security, or conformance with social norms, we do innumerable things that damage the planet’s life support systems because we inherited a flawed economic system. We “throw stuff away.” Did I mention worrying about “sustainability” issues?

So, what can, or should, I change and what can I not? Original sin, in my quixotic conception, places me in a flawed economic system, with limited ability to ameliorate the destructive tendencies of society. I survive by eating things that once lived, on the other side of the planet. I abet the destruction of habitat by leading a suburban consumerist American lifestyle. I sometimes dispose of household toxics in the ordinary garbage. I waste water compulsively washing my hands. I use electricity generated by burning coal – even though I voluntarily pay extra so some rancher in West Texas can enjoy wind-powered electricity. I drive my car on weekends. I use plastic. On some other hand, I believe that beneficial changes will come about incrementally; that “a power greater than me” controls everything; that the laws of physics will endure, and that if something cannot go on indefinitely, it won’t (Herb Stein or J.K. Galbraith, dubious).

As hobby, psychotherapy, penance, and palliative, I plant and nurture trees, shrubs, and flowers that need little artificial supplement, once established. The beauty of the pseudo-naturalistic landscape that I help create, and that comforts a few wild creatures that happen upon it, rewards me and in some small way allows me to salve my conscience. May God enable me to learn and model worthy examples, express compassion for the travails of others, and find my appropriate cosmic path – whether in writing, paint, or song.

May you enjoy the Grace that exceeds all understanding, not worry too much, and may your successors do so also.

John Touchet, December 21, 2010, revised 12/27/2010

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