Schlock and awe!

Disclaimer: This is an updated post from a previous blog, The Two Bruces (of which I was one, the other being… Bruce. Really.) Courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

If you read the Sunday papers like I do, then you know the primary reason for that edition is to sell you garbage you don’t need. Get over it, there is no news on a Sunday. They print that sucker days in advance. The only thing remotely news worthy are the sports scores so you can see how much you now owe your bookie. And now the Internet has ’em, so screw Gannett.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s just to sell you stuff. Do you think all this “new” technology is making your life better? OK, altogether now, a big, emphatic NO! Of course not. It’s what keeps whatever is left of our economy moving until we can find another war. The sad part of it all is this stuff is made in China…as if we didn’t have enough issues with trade. Speaking of China… nah, that’s not fair right now, but…

Before long we’ll all be flying the flag of the United States of Walmart. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I have found a way to deal with this.

I’ve done some research and found that the new technology really isn’t any better than the old. Blu-Ray? Yeah, right – I gotcha Blu-Ray right here! That sucker’s nothing more than a DVD player with a tuning knob. And we fell for it. Not any damn longer! No! It’s just new paint on an old building. The old stuff was good and it worked, mostly.

I am proud to announce the Grand Opening of the new F’ed Up Freddie’s Antique Tech Emporium, or just Freddie’s for those with small. impressionable children. The premise is simple and based upon the notion that “They just don’t build ‘em like they used to.” And they’re right. They don’t. But, did you ever wonder what happened to all those new, unopened, still boxed, never used DVD players after the Blu-Ray player came out? I do. Through shrewd investments and an off-shore account (Staten Island!), I’ve been buying up all this “new” merchandise and now ready to pass on these incredible savings to you. It may not now be the newest technology, but hey, it works and it is new, so to speak.

Think about it. You’re not that old when you don’t want to hear some of those old scratchy 78RPM records you inherited when your great grandfather died. But the phonograph is dead. Not any more! Come on down to my Highway 36754N. warehouse in Newark and see the wide selection of RCA Victrolas. We got ‘em!

Portable radios and TV’s? All makes, all colors and all styles in stock now for immediate delivery! We know there are plenty of women out there just pining for a new 8 track player to play their tapes of “Neil Diamond Gold” again. Wait no more – we got home and car players ready for you.

And it doesn’t stop there. Relive the sixties (not your age) with a transistor radio. How about a stereo with a record changer? Yeah, those were cool, especially when you stacked the records with “Bolero” strategically placed for the big make-out scene you had planned. Good times, good times.

But while we’re all getting older, it doesn’t mean we have to grow up. We can hold on to those symbols of our youth, our innocence, our disposable cash.

Freddie’s stock is complete with Walkman’s, phonographs, laser disc players, Betamax players, VHS players, reel-to-reel tape decks (for snobby afficianadoes), Discmans, slide projectors, AM radios, B+W TV’s, digital audio tape decks, 8mm film projectors, radar ranges, box cameras, CD players, flip phones, and so much more it’ll give you a headache. But our prices won’t! All of this merchandise is new!

And buying from Freddie’s helps the economy. All of this stuff had been written off already, years ago. No tax deductions from retailers, just pure, sweet American profit. Let’s get this country moving again with F’ed Freddy!

Remember F’ed Up Freddie’s slogan, “It ain’t the latest, but it was the greatest!”

This message has not been approved by the Chamber of Commerce nor the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Does that surprise you?

 

The devil you know vs…

At what point in a person’s life does self-awareness seep in? Or perhaps the question should be, does everyone achieve self-awareness? The fates aren’t that egalitarian. Arguably, they appear to be sheltering-at-home lately, wherever that may be, and not doling out that quality broadly. I would posit that at no time in our recent history has there been a greater lack of self-awareness than now. Yes, the fates are either staying at home or are enjoying no small amount of Schadenfreude over the current state of affairs.

Nowhere is that lack of self-awareness more apparent than in government. Not just at the national level, but state and local as well. There are those carelessly handing down edicts whose ramifications will be felt for generations. There has been too much division in this country for too long, the latest line of demarcation being old vs. young. Who gets to live and, well, you know the argument.

In the ’60’s, one of the rallying cries was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Has that come to pass? Were I still in that demographic, I could very well be carrying that placard. It seems that too many of those in power shouldn’t be trusted with those decisions affecting our lives and not surprisingly, they are over 30. Maybe we should have paid more attention to that slogan.

Some are just simply over their heads, flailing about (see Peter principle below) with maybe some cognizance of their limitations. Others believe their own PR and are enamored with their self-importance (see Dunning-Kruger below) and believe in an unrivaled omnipotence. Both are dangerous, one more than the other.

So you decide, the devil you know or… Who wants to make that decision?

Info dump: To keep all things equal, the source for the information below is Wikipedia (for better or worse).

The Peter principle is a concept in management developed by Laurence J. Peter, which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence”: an employee is promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. (Wikipedia)

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence. (Wikipedia)   #bmeisterman.com

Follow the yellow brick road. Yeahhh, just which one are you referring to?

“Follow the yellow brick road,” was the advice given to Dorothy, as if she had anyone else who could have guided her. And it came from the Munchkins of all people.

That sounds an awful lot like what we’re being told to today by less august beings than the aforementioned Munchkins. Too many people are suggesting we go down this road, or that one, each purportedly to be the right one. Who are we to believe? The Tin Man? The Cowardly Lion? The Scarecrow? The sad truth may be, like those three, no really knows which road to follow. Consequently, there are too many people blindly following what may, in the end, turn out to be the wrong road. So again, who is to be believed?

Go ahead, put your answer here_________.

Why not, it’s as good as any, right? At this time, the best advice may be to use your common sense, not your wishes. After an increasingly longer time of isolation, it’s natural to want to escape. But to where? There are no clear road signs to get out of this situation and until there are, be careful. So, stay off the roads and keep it simple… this is an adventure none of us asked to be on. And when this is all over, feel free to follow your own yellow brick road, or polka dot road, or whatever road you choose. Just remember to wash your hands. Keep your adventure yours.

“The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near…”

So sang Jim Morrison in the Doors’ song, Roadhouse Blues.

Prescient? Perhaps, but in the same song, he also sang “Save our city, save our city
Right now”. While some of the sturm and drang of the Doors’ music could be over the top, (disclaimer: I’m a fan), it reflected the zeitgeist of the time. It’s also pertinent today with so much uncertainty about our future.

Each day brings a new revelation or speculation about the future, short and long term. Truth is no one really knows. And in A Coward’s Guide to Living, neither does the middle-aged protagonist Jacob Will. His future is uncertain, and the end? Well… that’s to be discovered.

But, as with Jacob, we’ll all have to plow on through this to find out what happens.

In the meantime, in the closing words of Roadhouse Blues, Morrison wails “Well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer.”

Why not?

Getting our s— together.

Here we are, five weeks or so into the WFH hostage situation. This is the spring we’re all missing. As I look out the window of my home office, I notice that it’s become very green outside. Usually, this would lighten my spirits, but as we’re confined to our homes, we must look for spirit-lifting actions elsewhere.

I find I’m “unfriending” on social media a large number of people who, generally, I respect. But to turn this situation into an opportunity to spew negativity is counter-productive. Can fingers be pointed? Yes, of course. Does it make things better? No, not really.

Instead, I’m quietly celebrating those whose concern for their friends, neighbors, and family make life worth living and as I said, celebrating. This certainly includes those healthcare and essential workers. But I’m also thinking about those people who, on any given morning, nod a hello to you and go off to their daily endeavors. Today, they’re inquiring about their neighbors, whether there is something they can do for others. Asking whether or not they can pick up something at the market for them or leaving small, unexpected gifts of food or treats.

In John Carpenter’s film, Starman, the alien (Jeff Bridges), in talking about humans, states, “Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.”

Down here at the granular level, he was right. Something good is happening. We need to take notice of these acts of kindness and thoughtfulness and remember when this finally runs its terrible course, that perhaps we have gained something we lost sometime ago. Let’s not forget what these small lessons are teaching us. We can and maybe are getting our s— together. Instead of playing politics, let’s play together.

Brienne of Tarth, maybe.

The first time Jacob Will saw Hannah, Brienne of Tarth from the Game of Thrones TV series came to mind: not so much the perpetual scowl but her countenance. Uncommonly tall, uncommonly beautiful, and a dazzling smile. But why was she with an older, a much older man? And in Key West. All of it seemed unlikely.

And like Jaime Lannister, Jacob would be smitten too and it would change his life forever. But that wouldn’t happen until he had committed his own eleven little deaths.

“I thought the secret of life was obvious: be here now, love as if your whole life depended on it, find your life’s work, and try to get hold of a giant panda.”

If A Coward’s Guide to Living’s protagonist Jacob Will was much of a reader, he might have come across this quote from Anne Lamott. And if he did, he might have recognized its significance as he drove across the country with a giant, chromium yellow panda bear as his silent companion. But as fate would have it, he’d learn it the hard way.

What is love?

In 1993, the Trinidadian-German Eurodance artist Haddaway released the club song What is Love? And what does that have to do with Jacob Will? A lot it seems. To him, love eventually led to hurt and he was afraid of that. That was just one of his issues.

On his quest to commit eleven little deaths, he saw first hand what love really looked like – and it wasn’t at all what he knew. But he did know it was genuine and right.

Charged

Eduardo Garcia, the real-life “star” of the movie Charged, faced unbelievable odds and obstacles in his fight to survive. With help from a friend who stood by him the entire journey, he overcame them, but at such a cost. He came though it, physically diminished, but perhaps more alive than ever.

What does this have to do with A Coward’s Guide to Living‘s Jacob Will? A lot.

A bend in the road… and not for the first time.

It was near the end of the year and Jacob Will thought he knew where he was going until he didn’t. Like all plans upon the impact of the unexpected, they’re destined to change without notice. No map, GPS, or even the best of intentions will ensure an unfettered arrival. There will be turns or detours that might reveal something of value. And then again, maybe not.

But it definitely won’t be boring.