Heading down to the coast tomorrow morning for a week of fun in the sun amongst all sorts of strange people around Hilton Head, South Carolina. Despite the history of the island after the Civil War the place is now overrunning with smelly conservative republicans. Just today I received my last of the needed vaccinations for a person wandering into such a dangerous and infested area.
Disney has a small resort down on the island that we will be staying at that is slightly seperated from the over developed and over commercialized rest of the island. Being very far away from the theme parks down in Florida the resort has all sorts of activities on site for the kids. One of my favorites is the historical lectures, story telling, and music supplied by an on site character called "Blu Crab" who has a wealth of knowledge on the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Better yet I found out the guy is originally from the Georgetown/Pawleys Island area like me.
My current plans are to hustle Darth Spoilboy and Miss Wiggles into whatever activities that the staff might have going. Send Dragonwife off to some stuffy spa for a day of all sorts of fun in the hot mud smeared with cucumber facial cream. While I will either be kicking back at the small poolside tiki bar contemplating all sort of strange and fascinating things while I watch ladies pass by wearing the latest in tiny colorful bikinis or finding some quiet place with the laptop trying to finish some of the short stories that I just can't seem to finish. One I will be working on is a meme for Chef Cthulhu that due to work, crazy wife, and kids I never could finish to the point that I thought it was worth anything.
If anyone is in the area contact me by my email on my Blogger profile and we will have a few beers. Like I said, I've got the laptop and will be checking in from time to time.
...often blows up in our faces or bites us on the ass.
Please forgive my ruthless and repulsive Americanization of a bit of poetry by Scotland's favorite son but honestly, it’s the twenty-first century and bad ideas these days are far more volatile. While this sad and morally empty post of some seriously messed up news is geographically centered here in South Carolina, surprisingly none of my fellow inhabitants of this curious asylum have to my knowledge directly contributed to the situation.
This actually started a few decades ago as the true hideous villains of the later twentieth century, migrating bands of white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant suburbanites, moved away from the cold and snowy climate of the northeast and Midwest to the sunshine state of Florida. They overran the cypress swamps, mangroves, and wetlands bringing with them the collective gross indulgences of American consumerism. Had this simply resulted in what is now my usual whining about suburbia, malls, and golf courses everything would have still been kosher. The Florida Panther, the manatee, and many other native life forms would still be on the edge of extinction but our collective consciousness, or lack of one, could deal with that in the face of such progress.
However, somewhere along the way some bright boy full of that entrepreneurial spirit thought it would be a good idea to sell baby pythons to all those spoiled kids living in the bright Florida sunshine. No longer would those upwardly mobile kids have to suffer catching and the playing with native non-poisonous snakes as they tromped in the woods but now they could have their own tiny constrictor from some far away land. It all started well and good with a glass aquarium tank, some dirt, a few plants, and some cheap small mice bought at the local pet shop. After some time the small mice were moved up to rats, and after that to a live chicken, or two.
This is where the problem started, after a few years the little snake that all little Johnny's friends thought was cool had grown to a four or five foot specimen that just sat in its tank staring at mommy's little dog or cat as it walked by. Even little Johnny, now with girls and cars on his mind, had started to get a little nervous as he lay in bed at night with the snake staring at him from across the room with none of the "loving feeling" still between them.
Somehow the solution to this problem more than once was to have little Johnny let the snake loose in the wilds of Florida. The snake obligingly crawled off in to the grass but instead of living a monk's life and then having the courtesy of dying alone, found Ms. Snake on the wildlife version of eHarmony and started having lots of little snakes. Now we have a problem. All these snakes have taken quite nicely to that same Florida sunshine and are raising a good bit of Hell on the local environment.
Recent stories have popped up of these pythons taking a liking to the free and easy lifestyle. A whole manner of pet dogs, cats and native alligators are on their menu. They are swimming their way down the Florida Keys showing up in Key West for Fantasy Fest I guess. In addition, if my more than slightly drunk brain at that time heard things right some southern Florida schools are even giving small children classes about their slithering neighbors trying to prevent them from ending up on the menu along with Rover, Kitty, and Wally Gator.
The History Channel show "Monster Quest" even dedicated an entire episode to the pythons. As a fan of the show many times I had seen teams of well meaning nerds place special motion activated cameras out in the wild trying to capture pictures of Bigfoot, dinosaurs, the Loch Ness Monster, and several other mythical beasts. The only time the motion cameras picked something up was when several very loose pythons were caught on camera crawling the clear area between the Everglades and a subdivision. The final kicker of that episode was some guy from the Miami zoo telling us that given the environment of the southeast United States the pythons will be quite at home going all the way north to Virginia and west to Texas.
Part of me, the sick and cynical part, will welcome the new arrivals as the spread northward. The hordes of ravaging golfers spreading their sterile green playing fields need some company as they hit their little balls. Wally Gator while offering some stout resistance to the polo shirted invasion is simply ignored now and never frankly had the needed attitude. In my darker moods I often see a crowd playing their eighteen holes joking about the cute little waitress at the bar when one of them walks off into the woods to relieve the gin and tonic he drank a few hours before. This rather robust man in his expensive golf attire is thinking about his radio show and another bottle of Viagra when he hears a slight rustling of leaves behind him. Figuring it’s his buddy, a sneering retired politician with an itchy trigger finger for his friends, he dunks down low to avoid another unfortunate situation. It is then that a twenty-foot python rears up and bites him on the head while commencing to give the famous radio man a hug that no un-prescribed pain killer could relieve. Of course, after days of devastating pain the python crawls away to die after trying to eat such a piece of already spoiled soulless meat.
The news in my little rant is that at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory they have enclosed a few of these animals in an escape proof (hopefully) enclosure to see how well pythons survive in a more northerly climate. These bad boys also have a radio transmitter surgically implanted so that if they get away they can be tracked. All this will provide important information to prevent them from establishing themselves in South Carolina. All things considered as a major proponent of just about all scientific research I just hope all the pythons in the study are male or females. Don’t need any young babies slithering way from mom and dad while they are confined to the study.
--> In some ways Americans are a very perplexing people. After centuries of being for both good and bad the most dynamic and creative people on the planet we seem to have settled, at least for now, into some sort of middle aged-like induced lethargy. Often we seem all too eager just to ignore what is going on here in the forgotten corners of our country and around the world when it threatens to disturb our placid middle-class stupor.
Many of us have willingly sacrificed the responsibilities and duties of American citizenship for the curious title of American consumer and the frivolous nature of living life beyond our means on easy credit ignoring the near serf-like terms in the fine print on the bills we never read. Safely tucked away in our suburban homes surrounded by chemically maintained green lawns we watch the news of the day and see how many of our leaders dance on the head of an Orwellian pin about “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” assuring us that they have kept us safe but yet can’t tell us the details. Even as something as basic to the maintenance of life itself, drinkable water, is wasted with oblivious abandon on the washing of cars, private pools, and taking care of those all so precious green lawns so we can in miniature copy stately English manors. Americans have even succumbed to the lower slimy denizens of Madison Avenue by taking to buying water in expensive stores with only a pretty exotic picture stuck to the cheap non-biodegradable plastic bottle ignoring the same thing that flows from their taps at home. If only much of the rest of the world had the advantage to do the same thing.
Despite the basic need for water that all human beings require, for much of the rest of the world the struggle for something so vital is often a totally consuming struggle leaving time for little beyond basic existence. More than a billion people worldwide simply do not have access to drinkable water and two billion people do not have adequate sanitation opening the door for a whole range of diseases. These conditions contribute largely to perpetuating the poverty cycle in developing countries leaving adults unable to work and children unable to attain school. Without work or education there is little hope of breaking the cycle of poverty.
I could sit all day typing away on facts and figures concerning how the lack of clean water affects people around the world. That the on-going water crisis kills nine million people each year. That every fifteen seconds a child dies from a water related illness involving diarrheal diseases, parasitic diseases, or water washed diseases such as Trachoma that causes blindness. However, for many such facts would fly over their heads as they pursue their daily lives shuttling kids to soccer matches, making the next big deal over the cell phone, or working towards that newer house with the bigger kitchen. There is nothing wrong with any of that and honestly no matter how comfortable the lives of others may seem we all have our own heavy burdens. Its just that some hide them better than other, even to themselves.
Despite this we can do better, there are groups out there working hard to enable the less fortunate to supply themselves that most basic of need, clean water. Even with our burdens every moral, religious and ethical framework around the world calls for those with more to help those who struggle with so little. Such help can be supplied through charities both secular and religious in nature. One that I have to recommend is Water Missions International located in Charleston, South Carolina. This organization was brought to my attention by the extra lovely and super intelligent Ms. Joan Perry at the blog “Charleston Daily Photo”. Before someone goes off scoffing at my rantings in no way do I set myself above anyone else as some tower of moral virtue. Its just that I have become increasingly uneasy at my own advantages and wish to change my ways. In the end that is all any of us can hope to achieve.
During my last trip down to the coast, I found myself engaging in some serious soul searching as I lay on the beach right at the edge where the ocean laps on the shore.My daughter, Miss Wiggles, was a few feet in front of me contently slapping handfuls of the wet sand on top a drooping heap that only in the loosest terms could be called a sand castle. The tide was going out being pulled by its master, the moon, but would still make a stand at times and come rushing back in momentarily causing my daughter’s efforts to partially collapse and ooze back from where it came. This only caused her to laugh and redouble her efforts in building it up higher.
I guess if I was a good father I would have jumped in there with her but I was struck by the sheer simple enjoyment she was having on her own and I saw no need to interject myself when my daughter has never had any qualms about demanding my time or attention when she wanted it. With her attention riveted for at least that fleeting moment I was able let my mind fly off wondering about anything that might catch such a nebulous and muddled thing.
It was a very relaxing feeling letting the ocean breeze swirling around me carry my thoughts too far off corners that normal, hectic life did not allow. I found myself thinking and wondering about my old high school and the condition of what was left of the campus. During my sophomore year the main building had mysteriously burned down forcing the construction of a new high school a few years later. Faces of old friends that I attended school with and had not seen in years appeared next leaving me pondering whether their curious pairings and resulting marriages had survived the tests of time. That pulled me onto my own past relationships, somewhere out there were several ladies that going all the way from elementary to high school I had crushes on but never found the courage to tell them of my feelings. If that was not enough I found myself drifting to memories of a wonderful woman that I shared time with while on leave from the army and far more recently to memories of a raven-haired beauty lost to me now but who will always be part of my soul.
The laughter of my daughter, who had taken to decorating her oozing pile of wet sand with seashells, brought me back to the here and now.With my pleasant train of thought derailed I began examining the mix of wet sand and crushed shells clinging between my toes something from the more dimly lit corridors of memory had me recalling that someone once said that soul searching was even less useful that cleaning the lent from your belly button. This person went on to say that at least after cleaning your belly button you had something physical to show for your efforts. The sanitary conditions of my belly button not withstanding my geographic location and mental disposition that day predisposed me to little else, aside from watching my daughter, and I turned my attention to my surroundings.
My daughter and I had made our way that bright morning to Huntington Beach State Park because the parking lot at my spiritual home, the south end of Pawleys Island, was jammed with cars forcing us a few miles up the road. Even with the vast majority of the cars having license plates from elsewhere taking the available parking I felt none of the usual disdain for those that at times I consider trespassers. It was Memorial Day weekend and I was just happy to be away from the stifling and monotonous Midlands with its hive-like suburban existence full of pretentious people desperate to impress anyone of their importance. Just returning to the still relatively laid back Lowcountry where people still pass each other on the street and exchange greetings even if they are complete strangers had uplifted my spirits.
Years before Huntington Beach State Park had been the place where I headed seeking some solitude from whatever might be clouding my thoughts. Even in the most crowded of times during the summer months it was never hard to find a quiet spot well away from the tourists giving me a chance for quiet contemplation. That morning was no different; Miss Wiggles and I came out on the north end of the beach and after a short walk further up away from the greater part of the crowd laid the old army blanket I brought out on the sand next the dunes then rushed down to play in the water.
Looking around as Wiggles continued her struggle with the receding but restless ocean our nearest neighbor was some guy sitting a beach chair at least fifty yards away dividing his attention between the book he was reading and the fishing pole that might provide him his dinner that night. After that was a couple that Wiggles had spoken with on our walk out. They were exceptionally friendly but I spied the older man wearing a wedding ring that was curiously absent on the much younger woman. Behind us the undisturbed and undeveloped parkland offered an illusion of a time before multi-story hotels, golf courses, outlet malls, and clogged roadways. Miles further away to the west towering clouds building into dark disgruntled thunderstorms offered a majestic view of the power of nature. Lightening occasionally flashed out from the clouds seemly in anger as they struggled against the wind blowing from the east preventing them from reaching the beach and drifting out to sea. To the north and even more sparsely populated section of the beach a few people could be seen appearing far deeper in quiet contemplation than myself.
As much as it might have been noticeable to others I found myself missing something that I could not quite put my finger on. Something so basic was being overlooked that when I finally realized what it was I was far from reassured but actually worried that I was so tied to the everyday affairs of life that I would actually notice its absence. What I was missing was any human made noise. Except for the laughter of my daughter and the sound of the wet sand she was slapping against her construction no sound around me came from people or their machines.
I heard the blowing wind rustle through the nearby vegetation just over the sand dunes. The waves could be heard crashing against the shore and each other. The splash of a pelican was heard as it impacted the water chasing a fish. Even the flapping of wings of a tiny sandpiper could be heard as it sought safety in the air away from angry seagulls keeping guard over some small morsel of food they refused to share. Moreover, if the wind died down some there was the faint hint of thunder echoing from the distant clouds.
My distance from the crowd congregating mainly at the entrance to the beach insulated me from the chattering hordes, the ringing cell phones, and blaring radios. Beyond that was the absence of any noise from cars, airplanes, air conditioners, boats, refrigerators, hair dryers, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, or anything connected with people and their machines. Closing my eyes I could imagine myself far removed in both time and space from the shaky tower of cards that we have built with our dependency on machines and gizmos hysterically seeking ever-greater efficiency and comfort. Largely sacrificing our greater mental well-being we bring on newer machines and more glamorous gizmos in an attempt to secure even more efficiency and comfort ahead of anyone else. Is it any wonder many of us seek some chemically concocted relief from the anxiety we develop cocooning ourselves in a prison made of iPods, DVD players, McMansions, marble countertops with stainless steel appliances , fifty-inch high-definition televisions with surround sound, while daily driving to work in traffic jammed with others all wanting to be the first one to their destinations?
For me the sad part in all these revelations is that while I wouldlove to jump off this crazy train and find a far simpler life well away from what I figure one day will come crashing down condemning both the good and bad, I cannot. My children are as tied to this lifestyle as most others and would not willingly separate from it. My wife is already sure that I am several French fries short of a Happy Meal and any mention of downsizing or simplifying an already far too complicated life only gets me a befuddled look of concern at best or her calling fellow attorneys specializing in the removal of troublesome spouses atworst.
As with all good things the lengthen shadows and growing hunger of both Wiggles and I forced us to pack up our stuff and move on. I left the sounds of nature behind and rejoined the noise of human civilization and its driving need to stomp out everything else. Making our way through the thinning crowd at the entrance to the beach heading back to the parking lot my thoughts fell on the now forgotten person who said soul searching was even less useful than cleaning the lent from your belly button.Despite the dire thoughts my soul searching on the beach that day did much to clear my spirit and renew my energies. Just for shits and giggles as my daughter was using the open air shower at the parking lot to wash the sand from her feet I reached down to my belly button and checked for any possible lent, coming up with a small piece and with a session of successful soul searching I felt a little ahead of the game. I guess in the end that is all most of us can hope to accomplish.
Screaming in from the outer reaches of interstellar space is a meme from that great American Randal Graves asking me about the movies I have rented recently from the local Blockbuster. No, despite my best efforts with the wife we haven't joined Netflix yet and probably never will until someone completely disconnected from the family, usually someone at work, brags about it to her in which she will then fly home at ludicrous speed and sign us up for the most expensive plan saying I should have said something about it earlier. Never the less, then will have a bunch of movies sitting around that will go unwatched instead of the two or three we rent from Blockbuster on the weekend gathering dust next the television until we get the call from the corporate Big Brother saying we will have surrendered custody of our children and bought the movies if we don't return them in the next twenty minutes.
However, the request about the movies I do end up watching is simple enough but as with anything I do there are complications. The first one being is that I will have to eliminate all the porn I watch. But its free on the internet so it doesn't count anyway. Second is that going to Blockbuster for me is about on par with going to the dentist. There seems to be some law of nature that whenever I pull into the Blockbuster parking lot the place is rushed by all manner of sub-human redneck and suburban drones.
The rednecks are usually dragging six or seven wild eyed kids behind them with an chimp-like ruckus being raised upon finding the latest mad slasher film with the deranged killer on the DVD case often bearing a strong family resemblance to those renting the film. Funny thing about the rednecks, "Deliverance" is very often pointed at and chuckled about as they walk by on the shelf.
On a digressive side note my wife and I often debate my actual standing in the redneck community. She assures me, with her Old Virginia air of superiority and education, that I am far from one who should be casting any such stones concerning such things as breeding and social conventions. Usually when she gets that way I start picking my nose and flicking the buggers out the car, then she calls me a "neanderthal" but I can live with that.
The suburban drones buzz through the aisles looking for the latest film just out on DVD shepherding their 2.5 children. The .5 is the suburban drone still in the larvae stage. The drones often congregate at the return box waiting for the nerdy clerk to organize the DVD's inside. Trying to pass the time waiting with them with small talk is general a impossible task. With only slightly exposed antenna they sniff you for evangelical church hive identification. If said person waiting with them can't positively be identified as a member in good standing at one of the finer houses of worship at best you are ignored, at worst your head is bitten off and your body is expelled from the store with on-duty drones dragging it back to their church hive to be used to feed the other, younger larvae.
After navigating the dangers of the aisles ending up at the checkout counter is an adventure all to itself. Behind the counter is usually some zit popping teenager who will stare at you for several minutes not saying a word. I'd like to say that said teenager is more evolved than me and is sending a telepathic message wanting to carry on the entire rental transaction by a high bandwidth ESP data exchange but at some point the mental fog will clear and the teenager will suddenly see me and begin the procedure to rent me my movies. The other possible check out clerk is the obnoxious guy who in the space of the time it takes the debit card to run through will tell me everything about the movie, even the ending and think he has done me a service.
I would let my wife just go but then she would come home with an arm full of estrogen-rich chick flicks leaving me in a Jane Austen inspired hell. No hate mail please, I seen every recent Jane Austen remake recently, actually likeing them, and sat through the entire movie "Age of Innocence" because my son was entertaining his friends upstairs. So I should get some credit for that.
Okay enough of my raging drivel, here are my most recently rented and viewed movies. Sorry, I have to adapt the meme just a little since to movies I have on hand because as I stated above going to Blockbuster ain't fun.
The Happening: M Night Shyamalan movie about plants conspiring to bring humans down a couple of notches by causing them to commit suicide. What can I say? I like end-of-the-world disaster flicks.
The Great Escape: Truly a great guy flick that has Allied servicemen trying to escape from a German POW camp. DUH! But honestly I love this movie.
I am Legend: End of the world and pseudo-zombies that is a winner any day in my book.
Forrest Gump: Seriously, its a great movie and it was filmed in South Carolina. "Stupid is as stupid does", damn George Bush missed his true destiny. He was Gump without even trying.
Harold and Kumar-Escape from Guantanamo Bay: Laughed my ass off, and I was drunk. Been drinking wine lately and I had a bottle of some Australian red that knocked my socks off while watching the movie.
Wall-e: Okay, if you watch this movie and don't want to immediately go out and plant a tree and hug your toaster you have no soul.
Red Dawn: A totally ass kicking movie that has godless commies invading the United States and being fought off by American high school kids. Okay, total fantasy I know, if we were invaded Mr. and Mrs. Middleclass would collectively somehow send their pericious children off to Canada to college. Fighting America's wars is for the working and lower classes.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Loved the movie, I was so deep in the story I never noticed the time. And while she ain't my first pick Cate Blanchett is so doable. I know that was an extremely sexist thing to write but she is hot.
Quantum of Solace: What can I say? Bond gets the girl, kills the bad guys in exotic places, pisses "M" off, kills more bad guys, gets the girl. I actually didn't care for this movie.
Endless Summer: Surfing documentary made in the 60's about two guys traveling the world surfing in places sometimes far removed from the screwed up hand of man. Out of all the movies I have ever watched this one is by far the best.
Most of the news media has been all a twitter over General Motors filing for bankruptcy today with only the crash at sea of an Air France flight to break the endless monotony of what amounts to idle speculation and political posturing. High paid talking heads spent the day speculating while the iconic corporate corpse grew cold whether the reorganization would succeed with GM rising like Lazarus or failing and being tossed into the dust bin of history. The specifics over how GM will be organized have the federal government owning a 60% stake in the company and sinking another 30 billion into the company after already receiving 20 billion since the end of last year.
Some might be surprised but this post is not about how that company needs to be saved although that is how I feel. But first, before I get to the main point my position is that after weighing the various options open to President Obama and the nation General Motors must pull its head out its ass and work very hard to get back on its feet. Blame abounds in all corners for its failure but currently GM employs 173,000 people with far more working in business that either directly support its operations like parts manufactures or indirectly in such things as simple as food vendors and landscapers. I speak of the food vendors and landscapers from my own experience working at a company that when the telecom bubble popped in the early 2000's canceled contracts with such companies resulting in them either laying most of their employees off or going out of business completely.
It might be easy for those working in other parts of the country to consign General Motors to oblivion with them employed in comfy jobs in other, safer industries. This overlooks the ripple affect as more jobs disappear in what is already called the "Rust Belt" that has been plagued with jobs disappearing for years all for the benefit of the global economy and American consumerism resulting in crashing local economies and causing untold hardship. Sorry, but personally speaking Tom Friedman be damned I don't care that the world is becoming flatter we can't all flip hamburgers at McDonald's and Wal-Mart will not be able to hire the entire nation to stock shelves no matter how big their stores get. Then again to the bean counters and financial wizards, which got us in this mess, its all about the bottom line. Which finally brings me to my main point.
On the way home from a very busy day at work I tuned into the NPR station for the calm and rational way they announce the events that had gone on earlier. The show on the radio at that moment was PRI's "The World" which is a hash of interviews, news, and culture from around the world.
The lead story was, of course, about GM. At first I was surprised to hear that due to the agreement some GM manufacturing jobs would for the first time in at least 30 years be brought back to the United States. This brought in a guy named Donald Grimes who is a senior research specialist (business analyst) for the University of Michigan who isn't jumping for joy over the prospect. He says in the radio report that bringing back jobs here to America isn't necessarily the best thing for a new GM, that the jobs should go where they would be "most efficient" and where the company can produce in the "lowest cost environment" be that here in the States or Mexico or China.
Come on children, I know I'm ranting but stay with me because it gets better.
At least Congressman Dennis Kucinich told the New York Times that it was unacceptable for American taxpayers to subsidizes the exportation of their own jobs.
Okay. grab your tube of Vaseline or your favorite flavor of Joy Jelly because here it comes.
After the end of that segment, at about the 5:40 mark, another segment starts that states GM is doing all fine and dandy over in China making cars for all those newly prosperous Chinese employed with all those jobs that Ross Perot thought would be sucked down south of the Rio Grande. Especially disconcerting was the revelation to me that GM has long since entered a partnership with the city of Shanghai operating a car manufacturing plant over there. The city of Shanghi owns 50% of that joint venture and according to "The World" China correspondent, Mary K Magistad, there has been talk in the Chinese media that the Shanghai plant could soon be exporting GM cars to the United States. Hear that people, we cough up 50 billion for GM with a good chance that after all that the company we saved will thank us by selling us cars made in China. Feel the love!