Today, we eat a rich and decadent buffet of brainjunk — of useless tweets, of photos of people we don’t know, of articles that were written in ten minutes to stoke the content boiler. The dopamine cycle ensures that we keep on craving more content, the exact same dopamine cycle that makes a Happy Meal a happy meal. : Brainjunk and the Killing of the Internet Mind

This article makes the argument that we should pay for the content that serves our interests. (And by implication, tells the truth?) Free content isn’t worth what we’re not paying for it. It serves the interests of advertisers, not consumers. And because people won’t pay for quality, purveyors of quality content are crashing and burning, or deciding instead to generate the crap that people demand for free and advertisers will buy in bulk.

I agree, which is why I’ve been struggling to break the dopamine cycle and finding content that I’m willing to pay for. I’ve cut the TV cable in favor of services like Netflix and YouTube Red, where I can find what I want without commercials. And I subscribe to magazines*, even those that have a lot of free content online. It is essential to support what matters because The Big Cheese is trying to kill it.

I recommend The Nation, which I first found in College, back in the 1980s. It was already a formidable 120 years old back then. It’s published weekly and the Kindle subscription is $1.99/month.

I skim other political news once a week, because watching the nightly effluvium of MSNBC is like deliberately choosing the slow drip of Chinese water torture. You might approve of washing your face, but nobody thinks that’s a good method. Sure, it’s infinitely better than Faux Spews, which is water-boarding its braindead viewers with tanks of raw sewage. Still, no thanks for the nightly news from any direction. After all, we have lives and trumpism is somebody else’s problem, as I’ve said before.

Long story shorter, my friends, if you don’t prioritize your brain, somebody else will. Guard it vigorously.

*I also subscribe to print versions of
Poets & Writers, Poetry, and TIME. 


To Know and Not to Know

Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil….

Here’s a writing idea for us, for a bit of horror fiction. I don’t really write horror, but I’ve come close, so I’m willing to give it a shot.

Imagine a dystopian society — perhaps post-apocalyptic, Orwellian — in which each week the people permit an armed person to enter a school at random and attempt to kill one or more students. The killer might be an adult or another student. It’s random. It goes on week after week. Children die, so it goes.

The police would do anything of course, but they’re always a moment too late. No champion arrives to protect the children because no one knows where the next shooting will occur. The leadership of the land is helpless, in part because this suffering is accepted as the sacrifice for freedom. And if they try to stand and speak they’re shouted down, rebuked, reviled, and lambasted for their liberal proclivities.

Imagine there is a slowly rising tide of grief, rolling like muddy water in a shallow ditch of tragedies recalled. The people grow tense and tired, though they’re becoming immune to pitiful images of candles and flowers and teddy bears stacked against walls and curbs and chain link fence.

How long should we — the authors — let the present tense arc of bloodshed go on, before that salty wave of past tense sorrow overcomes and washes it all into a poignant denouement?

Do you think we could write such a tale with verisimilitude? I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine a society that wouldn’t put the safety of children above all other motivations, or a country where this could really happen every f—king week, for months on end.

Maybe instead of a treatment in short story or novel, we could pitch it as a movie of the bloody week.

The attack with what police said was a semi-automatic weapon — “Shooter dressed in all black w AR-15 and vest and helmet. Cornered in bathroom by officers” … was the 74th since December 2012, when Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. That’s one about every eight days.

In 2014 so far, there have been 37 school shootings. As of February, about half of the incidents were fatal.


To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again ….

— Orwell, 1984


marginalia (ˌmɑːdʒɪˈneɪlɪə)

pl n

notes in the margin of a book, manuscript, or letter*

Video: When Toys Take a Road Trip.

Video: Dog won’t leave his master’s grave.

News link with comment: Charges dropped against students at UC Davis.

Social comment: Cowards Among Us. Real men face the bullies and stand up for students.

Politics: Where does OWS go from here? (An email from filmmaker Michael Moore.)

* Content from my other blogs; i.e., what I do while I watch TV.

AT&T Customers Beware

Are you an AT&T mobile phone customer? Have a smart phone, or thinking about one? You’ve got to watch these guys. They’re thieves. Read, “Are you getting ripped off by AT&T or do you just not understand your phone?” by John Moe. And click Listen to This Story for the podcast I heard today. 

The upshot is that AT&T likes to charge their smartphone customers for data they don’t use. Then when they get called on it, they expect people to simply trust them because the public is too stupid to understand their contracts. But a couple of US senators are on the case. So surely a revelation is at hand. 

These Storms

God bless all the people impacted by these unbelievable storms. I watched the TV news of Joplin Missouri last night, and could hardly believe my eyes.




Seeing that hospital standing alone in a sea of stumps and lumber made me think of nothing so much as this.



Horrible. This has been a horrible year for tornadoes so far

I’ve heard that some people in the midwest and south are afraid of earthquakes. Well, we have them here, it’s true. But even a fairly bad earthquake will leave almost all of the modern American wood frame buildings standing. Maybe not in good shape, but upright and together, with your stuff still inside.

My brother Joe was in a bad earthquake in San Francisco once. One that killed people. But he was driving in a car, and he wasn’t hurt. The car wasn’t damaged. You get my drift.

My heart goes out …. 

Abby Sunderland’s family follies

Abby Sunderland, the very young sailor recently rescued adrift in the Indian Ocean, seems appalled by criticism of her family for allowing her to make the solo trip around the world.

“Any sailor that goes out to the water knows that being hit by a rogue wave is a risk, no matter where you are,” she said.

“You can’t eliminate risk, you can do a lot to minimize it but it’s always there.”

I suppose the same could be said for criticism, the entirely predictable result of any end to Abby’s adventure, except unmitigated triumph.

The Sunderland family has evidently done little to minimize criticism. If it bothers them so much to be criticized, they might have taken some steps. But it seems it has hit them broadside, completely unawares.
I’m surprised that criticism is even on their radar, and that they’re choosing to see it as such a threat.

Of course Abby Sunderland is brave, remarkable, and a person of admirable spirit. But her boat is gone, and she had to be rescued many days from the nearest port. The thing speaks for itself. And who speaks for the lost and abandoned boat? It’s an inanimate object, right. But is anyone going to ask Abby if she feels guilty letting Wild Eyes slip away into oblivion?

Maybe we should ask Wilson…

Personally, I think anyone who sets sail across the Indian Ocean alone in a sailboat smaller than my condo is careless and foolish. I would think that even if Abby had been out there with her sailing instructor dad. It doesn’t matter if you have 30 years experience. Because you can encounter calamity anywhere, and it’s wise to do it within reach of a Coast Guard cutter, if not in sight of land.

I’ve been driving for over 30 years, but I would not set out across a roadless desert by myself, even with the best equipment and preparation. It’s simply unwise. And the sun rises and sets just as beautifully off the coast of California as it does a thousand miles from Madagascar.

It’s good to have dreams, but some people seem bent on pushing the living of their dreams beyond the horizons of absurdity.

Boycott BP?

Suicide is called another casualty of BP oil spill

An Alabama charter boat captain kills himself after he was forced to do something he hated: working for BP on the cleanup. Now, a close-knit community worries there may be others suffering silently. [Link]

Every day, I drive past a BP gas station – called ARCO here – on my way to and from my home. And I wonder at the fact that there are still cars at the pumps there. And people inside the AMPM MiniMart, buying Doritos and beef jerky, and Cokes and other crap. I say to myself, boy I'd have to be pretty damn low on gas – desperately so – to pull my pickup into that place.

Maybe I'm wrong, and we shouldn't be driving past the BP, staging a boycott, exerting the power of our debit cards over the evil indifference of global corporate greed. After all, there are local people working in there, and it seems shallow and vindictive to make them pay for our collective outrage.

Fine. I could accept that point of view, if at least I sensed any collective outrage at all. Where is it? Are the American people even mildly annoyed with this company?

It seems like we are all so hypnotized by the rhetoric that "we need oil," and the fact that we're all driving around using it, that we feel complicit with BP in its greed and destruction. I was driving my gas-burning vehicle when I encountered this train of thought, so perhaps that was a bad moment to get self-righteous.

Baloney. People eat meat too. That doesn't mean we're all accomplices if McDonald's starts grinding up people along with the cows. Though we are guilty if we're eating the cows they're grinding up now. But that's another blog post.

Another analogy lies in the fact we pay taxes for a national defense. That doesn't prove we concur with the myopic and misbegotten judgments of an assclown president, who decides to launch shock and awe and perpetual war against countries who pose no clear and present danger to US.

The reality is that I never stop at that ARCO anyway, unless I'm seriously on fumes and in a rush at the moment I'm passing it. I never did like that place, because they play annoying commercials from overhead speakers, and the pay stations don't work half the time. And if you go inside to pay, you're met with a cashier who seems to have been stunned by a blow to the head.

The head of BP met with our Congress and president Obama, then went yachting. Aside from the irony that he sailed in waters not seething with poison, it's obvious he and his company aren't getting the message: You don't get to devastate a large and beautiful, vital part of America, destroy people's lives, leave communities and families lost in your wake, and just go on doing business as usual.

So even if that had been my favorite place to buy my fuel before, I wouldn't set my Goodyears on it now. No way. I'm boycotting British Petroleum until they clean up the mess and grow a conscience. Both of which are certain to take a very long time.