Monday, March 16, 2015

Let's Switch Lives!

March 15, 2015

            Sometimes I wish that I could live someone else's life.  If I were given a choice and I could magically flip into that other life, yet retain my memories of this current life....wouldn't that be great?  Or even if I couldn't retain my memories....
            There's a little voice inside me that says, "Uh oh, that way lies trouble.  The very concept of wanting to escape your life says so much about your pain."
            I can safely say that today I do not want anyone else's life. 
            There have been parts of this year that I would have jumped into the life of people I see on television.  Oh my god!  I would live the life of a fictional character!  Or even the life of a commercial!
            Essentially, the desire to live someone else's life is a form of suicide.  That's how bad it got!  I would have traded places just to live in a nice house.  I would have traded places just to have a group of friends.  I would even have traded places to drive a nice car. 
            Pathetic.  Sad.  I've been plagued by a sense that I wrecked my life by making a couple of epic bad decisions whose consequences have rebounded down the years until they combined to put me in a prison of my own making.
            Fortunately that depression lifted.  I'm functioning better and I'm mobilizing a bit of drive to put me back on track towards achieving some of my dreams.
            There's a lot of talk about dreams these days.  There's a lot of guilt attached to failure.  If you haven't achieved your dreams,'re a loser!  You didn't work hard enough.  You didn't focus, you didn't "seize the day" and now you're just another wannabe standing in the food stamp line.
            I'm suspicious of The Dream Machine.  I wrote an essay about Oprah and her sales juggernaut  of "Dream Fulfillment Technology". You can read it here:  Dream Fulfillment Tech
            Dream fulfillment is so quintessentially American.  Do you think that a  hundred years ago people invested so much thought and energy into the concept of personal dreams?  I think The Dream Machine is a marketing construct, a broad distracting drama to remove our attention from the impact on each of our lives by our current historical context.  We live in disturbing times.  We live at a moment in history when theft is being committed on an institutional scale, when our oceans are being filled with toxic sludge, when our forests are being expunged.  How do we respond to that as individuals?  Let's indulge in a metaphor: the Earth is a body and the oceans contain the planet's reservoir of blood.  The Earth's circulatory system is fed by the ocean to the rivers and lakes and those veins and arteries feed back into the ocean in a vast system of pumps and valves.  Our planet is metaphorically like a human body.  Its condition is felt by each of us and we know, however subliminally, that things are not right.  Ask any fisherman.  The big fish are almost gone.  The great schools and the worldwide migrations have been disrupted by the sludge in the Gulf Of Mexico, the toxins in The China Sea.   

            If we're not sometimes depressed then we are numb.  That's worse.  Much worse.  So..I may be depressed by my individual circumstances but I am also a citizen of this planet and I am directly impacted by the world-wide crimes against nature that are being committed by faceless men in suits or young greedy people who drink too much Red Bull and are obsessed with being the "winners" life a contest?  Is it a game show?  That's not how I view life.  I view life as a sacred activity.  I view life as a mystery that we are not yet equipped to penetrate.
Living in my own life is important because I have responsibilities of which I am not fully aware.  I just know I have them.  No matter the suffering I endure, I'd be an idiot to switch lives with anyone!  This is the life I got.  This is the life whose problems I must solve.  I feel a vast untapped potential in myself.  I don't give a shit about winners and losers.  I just want to feel as if I belong with myself, in my place and time and that I'm doing something, however small, about fighting the evil people who wear expensive clothes and think about how much money they have and how much more they can make if they replace Worker X with Worker Y because Worker Y will accept lower pay out of desperation to feed  his or her family.
            I rambled a bit but I think I stayed somewhere near the point: don't live anyone else's life.  You got yours for a reason.  You don't even need to know the reason.  Just be loyal to your own life and do your everyday work as if it really counts. 
            It does.  It really counts.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Superman On Prozac...Chapter One excerpt

I've written about a third of a novel of this re-visioning of the Superman Myth. Of course there are copyright infringements. I would have to be hired by Superman's owners, or simply sell the idea and be a consultant.  Any time, Super People!

Superman was awakened by the buzzing of his Iphone.  It was still in the utility pocket of his tights.  Now it vibrated against his butt cheek, bringing him out of a deep dreamless sleep.  The fact that his Iphone was in his tights and his tights still on his body was due to his having fallen asleep after a hundred hour work-day.  He had gotten back to the Fortress of Solitude only long enough to have a cup of Ramen noodles and collapse onto his bed, eyelids falling of their own weight like leaded curtains.
                “Awww, shit!” He rolled to his left, and the badly fitted contour sheet snapped up in the corner, so that all his bedding started to unravel.  He slapped at the buzzing pest in his pocket, hoping to kill it as easily as he would a mosquito.  It vibrated insistently.
                Superman sat up, dragging blankets and sheets with him.  He rocked to one side and fished the smart phone from his pocket.  There were only four people who had his phone number.  He tapped the face of the device and squinted blearily at the display.
                “Where R U?”
                The Man of Steel pushed the Clear button.  It would notify his Project Manager, Piers Bloch, that he was in the Fortress.  That was all Piers needed to know.
                “Where the hell would I be?” His voice had the gravel of fatigue and irritation.  “Moscow?  Alma-Ata?  Minsk?”  He sat up, kicking his sheets and blankets into a pile on the floor.  The place was a wreck.  Outside, he could see the mountains of  Greenland, rising in range after range, deep in the interior.  Wind kicked disdainfully at the peaks, blowing off piles of ice and snow.  It was almost possible, here, to make the world stop.  Almost.
                For Superman the world could never stop.
                Sighing deeply, summoning his will power, he got up.  He took three steps to the left and
was in his bathroom.  Outwardly, to the visible world, the Fortress of Solitude was a wheel-less Winnebago.  Superman didn’t need much in the way of personal accommodation.  There was more,
 much more, underground. Next to the trailer, a twelve foot satellite dish and several other antennae rocked in the gusts.
                Superman looked at himself in the mirror.  There was a faint sizzling sound, and a blast
of heat from his eyes.  His three-day stubble disappeared, leaving behind the odor of burning hair.
                His gut hung over the red-speedo  atop the blue legs of his tights.   He needed a Rejuvenation, he realized suddenly.  But who has the time?  Wait, he thought…..that’s  a joke.  A Rejuvenation is about moving so fast that time runs backwards.  He could make the time, if he wanted.  It was the wanting… was the motivation that was missing.
                Superman thought,  with sudden and unexpected longing, of the key to the Kryptonite Vault. It was hanging just out of his reach, in the towel shelf.  He could see it, dangling from a Bugs Bunny key chain.  He could go down into the underground world of the Fortress, unlock the vault, walk in….and never walk out again.
                He rubbed his now-smooth chin, patted his belly, and reached inside his tights.  A discreet little Jockey-style flap enabled him to reach Super Junk, as he called it (with a super amount of self-mockery).  He made a piss that poured from him like Niagara, on and on.  After three minutes it gradually rattled to a halt….squirted one last time…and was done.  The super hero replaced himself in his tights and went into the single room of the camper, stepping over empty cans and papers.  The lights were on…he had fallen asleep with the lights on….but they were beginning to dim, and his computers had already kicked over to auxiiary power. 
                Impervious to the cold, Superman went outside, brushed snow off a stationary bicycle,
and pedaled for two minutes with such speed that smoke rose from the bushings that
kept the bike’s cranks and pedals attached to the frame.  The lights came back up. 
                He returned to the trailer’s interior.  “I should clean this up,” he mumbled to himself.
He was, after all, Superman.  He could have asked one of his clones do the cleaning, but the idea
of watching himself working for himself, that was a little too much….and he could, or would, only clone himself, so there was no cloning some sweet plump girl named Rosita to do his housework.
                He heard a sound like distant thunder.  This was followed by another sound, like a straw sucking on an empty milkshake.  FtooothweeeeeeEEEP!
                Superman looked out the window.   One of his clones had just landed and was heading towards the silo opening behind the trailer.  Briefly, the clone and its maker exchanged a glance.  Superman nodded perfunctorily.  It was best not to engage them in conversation. 
                Hunger.  He registered hunger as the quiet gurgling at the center of his abdomen and a
slight dizziness due to lowered blood sugar levels.  It was ridiculous, this need to eat, defecate,
occasionally masturbate, blow his nose, fart.  Ridiculous.  But that was where the central problem
was located, wasn’t it?  He was Superman.  He wasn’t  Super Super.  He wasn’t Man Man.  He was Superman.  He was, in fact, a goodly part human being, even if his Kryptonian origins lent him
unusual faculties. No one knew the truth: that his mother was a human being transported from Earth by Jor-el.  There was no getting away from it.  It was a long and complex story, best left in the dust of the past.
                He called himself by his real name, Kal-el.  That was his given name.  This Superman business was ridiculous.  True, he could leap tall buildings in a single bound…..
                He waved his hand in front of his face, as if to dispel a mirage.  To get to the
half-sized refrigerator, he had to wade through the detritus of his trailer:  bedding, old
newspapers, empty CD jewel cases, cans of Calistoga water.  He couldn’t even get it open;
there was a box of Ramen jutting from the cabinet, obstructing the door. 
                Frustrated, he decided to clean the place, now, not later, NOW!  He became a blur,
and twenty seconds later the Winnebago was spotless, immaculate.
                “Why did I wait so long to do that?”.  Kal-el spoke aloud.  He was beginning to
worry about himself.  The brooding, the mess, the overwork….all classic symptoms of depression.
                “That won’t do,” he said bitterly.  “We can’t have Superman on Prozac.”
                He was going to take this day at a slower pace.  He was going to relax, meditate, read
some Dostoevsky and some Philip K. Dick, watch the Lakers take on the Bulls.  Almost…almost,
a day off.   

                “There’s so much to be done,”  he thought desperately.  “So much to be done.”
                Then, as always, aware of his mental processes, he stopped thinking and hurled  his psyche a billion light years into space.  From that distance, he looked down upon the infinitesimal speck of this person, this unfortunate hero the Earthlings called Superman, Kal-el, son of Jor-el.
                This thought, he realized, was his nemesis:  There’s so much to be done.  In those five
words huddled a universe of misplaced responsibility, guilt, neurotic over-achievement. 
He had that insight for a few seconds, then his distance collapsed, his detachment gave way to
a sucking rubber-band sound, thwangggg! and he was pulled back into his personality.
“Who am I kidding?” he asked himself.  “I’m the only person who stands between these earthlings and utter self destruction.  I can’t afford the luxury of neurosis.  I am doomed to be a workaholic because the alternative is to be uncaring, unfeeling, and to let these people fight each other to extinction.”
                He had altered the political structure of the planet Earth until its stability depended upon
his intervention.  He kept the peace by what he called “The Balance of Astonishment”.  Or, sometimes, “Mutually Assured Incompetence.”
                Kal-el found a can of chunky pineapples in his kitchen cabinet, and a container of cottage
cheese out back in a tin box.  The wind drove particles of stinging ice into his face, but he didn’t
feel it.  Pain was, for him, a voluntary experience. 
                His computer chair was a drummer’s stool, a collapsible Gibraltar Power Throne.
He sat in front of his monitor, moved his wireless mouse with a nudge of his forefinger. 
Eating with deliberate slowness, he watched the monitor come to life.  Between bites, he brought
up his email program.  It was server-automated, and software sifted the messages for code words
and phrases of things he thought might need his immediate attention.  At the bottom corner of
his Outlook Express in the left hand box, the program said, “You have 17,596 unread messages.”
                About average.  Down in the bunker complex, a dozen of his clones answered email,
another hundred thousand messages a day.  Automatically sifted out were the “Dear Superman,
can you get my neighbor to drop dead” messages.  Emails from civic leaders, volunteer coordinators, educators, local politicians, national politicians, tribal chieftains, individuals who fit the profile of true need, those were the emails he answered and responded to with the appropriate action.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Old Fashioned Way

John Dillinger's Mug Shot
 This would have to be called a "RAVE", I suppose, since I conceive it as a piece read aloud to a crowd with rhythmic incantation with a certain destination.  It's dedicated to my fellow artist, Lin Ross.

Al Capone's Mug Shot

Jesse James robbed whole trains
but you knew with whom you were dealing.
They yelled "Hands up!" but not any more
you reach for a card when the stealing starts.
Health insurance goes to Dillinger.
Capone does Smog Reduction.
Charge to Baby Face Nelson
or your house goes down in the suction
the price for prescriptions is beyond description
an invoice so swollen it looks like a golem
your meds need a doctor
infections getting hotter
there must be something wrong
when a drug sounds like a song
help me doctor help me diagnose this bill,
tell me why I must take this pill
I've been using as prescribed
but I think I'm gonna die
from confusion
disturbance of the psyche
imposed by society
I'm just praying someone cares
while I'm tearing out my hair
but instead of compassion I get legal action 
the overdue bill eats my whole estate
I pay I pay but they say I'm late
the penalties the penalties
the Hospice has looted me
My accounts were done by Stalin and Trotsky
The money's gone and now I'm a slave
Why am I left shirtless
my tin coins
are worthless
you  got rich off me
when I was defenseless!  I had no choice, had to pay the interest
or get shut down, no IPhone no TV no internet
no juice until the banks get paid
so make it rain make it rain
let everyone get wet
it isn't so bad to know I've been had
but I prefer the old fashioned way.

Baby Face Nelson

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Predators In The Crowd-funding World

            Two weeks ago I launched my second crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.  I've been taken by surprise by the number of new businesses that have sprung up in the wake of the crowd-funding phenomena.  Most of these are Public Relations firms who promise to manage my campaign, disseminate press releases, boost my Facebook "Likes" and bring my project such great success that I'll double and triple my fundraising goals.  My first campaign went through Fundly.  It was pretty successful.  I got my e-book published on Smashwords.  The funds paid for formatting a long book.  All the hyperlinks are in place, the Table Of Contents can be clicked to beam the reader to the chapter of choice.  The Fundly campaign and subsequent e-publishing with Smashwords was a great experience.
            Yesterday I got the first of several offers that carry an obvious stink.  It was said by Barnum that a sucker is born every minute.  He left out the corollary.  Also born every minute is an opportunist or a predator who will wring that sucker dry of his last dime.  This is what I was offered: "Pay me five dollars," said the emailer, "and I will donate one dollar to your campaign and mention you on a Facebook page and leave a link to your fundraiser."
            I read it two or three times.  Oh.  How clever.  I followed the link back to the website.  It was hosted by  If you don't know, Fiverr is an internet marketplace specializing in Five Dollar "gigs", as they're called.  Services or performances are offered, such as "For five dollars I will make a video for your child's birthday featuring my puppet, 'Adam Baumtester'. On-time delivery guaranteed." I have no problem with funny puppets or any kind of low-cost service. There's something mildly sleazoid about exploiting a struggling artist, taking five dollars and charging me four of those dollars to get my name onto a Facebook page whose address I don't know.  Since yesterday I've gotten yet more offers.  The next one wanted two dollars for mention of my fundraiser on his unspecified Facebook and Twitter accounts.  How fast do I have to bail my boat to keep it from sinking?  How much water is leaking into the boat in proportion to how much water I've dumped over the side with my little old tablespoon?

            I've been solicited by companies with higher profiles and higher fees. has several "packages" that run from two to five hundred dollars and offer comprehensive PR deals that involve mainstream press releases, targeted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and other Social Media.  I have marveled for twenty years at the way new jobs have been created by technology, jobs whose descriptions would have been incomprehensible in the sixties of seventies.  When i wonder what kind of work my grandchildren may be doing when they grow up I accept that the job descriptions may not yet exist and will emerge in time.
            When we were young hippies and yuppies, did we have a clue?  Did we expect to become webmasters, software developers, internet marketers?  When my seven year old grandson comes of age, he may be going to a school that lies yet unborn in some East Bay park,  a place doomed to a bulldozer mauling and the crush of concrete as it becomes The Saul Stoofner School of Nano-Cellular Osmosis.
            It's possible.  Everything is possible in  this fairyland of a planet gripped by climate change and overpopulated to the extent that a mass die-off of homo sapiens may become a necessity if we are to survive at all.
            I am convinced that we will survive.  The species of man is evolving, quickly.  The young ones are different, their bodies are more flexible, their brains more accessible to nature's innovations.  Human life will continue.  After the darkness comes the change.  I just wish nature had a mechanism for culling the assholes among us and sparing those with kind hearts and willing minds.


Friday, December 12, 2014

When Your Own Writing Comes Back To You

I was emailing an acquaintance today and she attached this image, that was made up by her daughter.
"Have you read this quote?" She asked.

As it turns out, the quote is from my own unpublished S/F/Fantasy novel, THE GODS OF THE GIFT. It's from the page after the title page, where I have set quotes by two fictional writers. Of course I told her of this quote's provenance.  It's weird and ironic, though, to find that something of my writing worked its way via osmosis into the outside world.  No one has ever read this book in its entirety.  Only my partner knows the gist of it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Comet Hale-Bopp

Until recently astrophotography demanded the use of film. Today's DSLRs have sufficient control of high ISO noise so it's possible to take a shot like this and have it work  When Comet Hale-Bopp (named after two discoverers who spotted the comet independently) reached perihelion in 1997 I reached for my trusty Nikon F2 and loaded it with Fujifilm 400 print film.  The stars are not blurred through this five minute exposure because I mounted the camera atop an aligned telescope drive. Astronomers call the practice Piggyback photography. On this one night in late spring of '97 I was able to get to a dark-sky site in Oriental, CA.  I got half dozen useful exposures of this body that was called The Great Comet of 97.  It remains in my memory as the brightest comet of my life.  It stayed visible for much of 97 before it rounded the sun and vanished into the southern skies. I used this image for the cover of my music CD, OUT OF THIS WORLD Art's CD on Youtube

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Great Con

internet and corporate liars, tricksters and thieves

            How could I be so stupid?
            It's a question I ask myself with regularity. 
            Today, the question had its origin in making a rookie mistake while shopping online for car insurance.  I was filling out a questionnaire.  I knew I was letting myself in for trouble.  I hesitated...but I put aside my intuition and answered the questions: what kind of car do I have, what make and model, what year?  How many miles do I drive in a month?  Name, date of birth, etc etc.
            We're with Triple A, and we're not getting mugged.  I guess I crumbled under the accumulating pressure of all those commercials, you know, the ones that tell you how much money you can save in less than fifteen seconds?
            How could I be so stupid?  I wasn't even finished filling out the form when my new smartphone played its cheerful marimba melody.  It was a caller from my own area code, so I answered.
            It was an insurance sales-person.  I had just pressed "SUBMIT" on the internet form, no more than half a second had passed.  The calls began.  In five minutes I had five calls.  The computer server that acts as Uber- flypaper for naive shoppers had relayed the fact that I was price-comparing automobile insurance via the internet.
            Listen to me...we live in a world of slick cons, tricky subterfuges, hidden fees and marketing mendacity.  The Internet has enabled an army of predatory sales-drones to gather in one mighty fortress.  Their armies sally forth to lay siege to our fragile world of shrinking incomes.  These lies, exaggerations and slick tricks are aimed and ready.  They rain down upon us like a hail of arrows. The only shield we have is common sense, vigilance and experience. 
            I just had an experience.  Henceforth I will treat internet information forms like Ebola bacilli.  They're not here to make us wiser, wealthier or healthier.  They're here to strip us to our last dime..
            I've noticed that the button on my new smartphone, the "REJECT CALL" button, is harder to activate than the green button that accepts the incoming projectile. I swipe in five directions, I tap it once, twice, three times.  I tap-and-swipe and the ring-tone continues its maddening marimba until finally I locate, purely by accident, that "move" that rejects an incoming missile qua sales-call.
            Excuse me for just a second, my smartphone is burbling again with its default ring-tone.  I've had the thing a week.  I've figured out a fraction of its capabilities.  I turned off the Data icon. I don't need a phone to hook me up to the internet.  I don't need my email on my phone. I've got it right here in a high speed Broad Band-equipped desktop computer. My email is 99 percent junk, anyway.
            I got this phone to save money.  I've been getting robbed blind by AT&T.  I use my phone two or three times a week.  I don't text.  So I purchased a Tracfone, a prepaid
deal at a fixed price.  Phone minutes, text minutes and data minutes, all at a fixed price.  I am not APP-CRAZY.  I installed one APP, a gizmo that reports and analyzes my minutes, text and data.  Guess what?  My data was getting used up faster than its brothers and sisters.  So I must research a fundamental question: what IS data?
It's inernet stuff.  It's email, videos, chat, it''s Google!  Omygod, Google is in control of my smartphone!  Google is an empire, it's like the oncoming Janissaries of the Ottoman juggernaut but it's today! and it's in control of everything.  It beams Data through my App, whether or not I want it!
            I don't fucking trust my phone.  What kind of world are we living in?  Everywhere I go, people are umbilically attached to these plastic rectangles.  They're either looking down at it adoringly, or they have it pressed to their ear as if it's a lover bestowing a kiss.  This is crazy shit, amigos!
            I don't trust my phone.  And neither should you.