Friends from Russia

February 28th, 2015

~ The web is not what it used to be.

I was already to write a post.  I was ready to write about the weather, the 8 inches of snow on the ground this morning.  I was ready to write about how it would be mostly melted and gone by midday.

I was ready to write more on minimalism, on the article in the Albuquerque Journal today about keeping life simple, about the growing movement, about the Albuquerque meetings.  I was ready to mention the ground being broken for the new ‘Silver Store’, on Silver, where a downtown grocery store eventually might be (in 2016, if it opens).

Maybe my post was going to be about “been there, done that,” as in materialism, or nationalism, or as in the curse of being politically correct. Or, I might have shared a few words about 1920, or 1924, or about leaving Arizona as my grandparents did; like leaving Afghanistan like I did, too soon, or too late, or something in between, but maybe not just right then, or even now.

My post was not going to be about the Ukraine, the ‘bloody hell’ there, the world threatening U.S. ‘troops on the ground’ type intervention.  You better believe that the U.S. has troops on the ground in eastern Ukraine, just like we had U.S. troops operating in Cuba after the Bay of Pigs and before the Soviet missiles went in.  There were reasons why the Soviet missiles went in.  I knew a guy that was a U.S. Army veteran who was IN Cuba back then.

So, every hour, on the hour, like clockwork (or like a clockwork orange) in time, on time this site, my site at Qala Bist.com is accessed by a machine (a computer machine), a ping, an hourly ping from a good friend (or four friends), all of them working together from Russia.  Go to the Qala Bist Feed Jit feed to see what I’m talking about.

Before I declare that this robotic ping-thing is creepy, I must admit that there might be a reason.  It is possible that someone in Russia was also in Afghanistan back when I was.  It is possible that they are just sending out a signal into space (like NASA does) to see if they can get an intelligent answer, or if more intelligence (about Afghanistan in 1958, or 1959, or 1960) might be coming in.  Yes, there is life out there.  Yes, there is still life here on earth too.  “Beam me up Scotty, Leonard Nimoy has died.”

There was an article in the Albuquerque Journal (maybe last Tuesday) about the millions of hits that Sandia Labs gets every day.  Computers all over the planet are trying to penetrate the software, the hardware, the thoughtware of the scientists inside.  Maybe it is just the business model that they are after, or a business secret or two.  Pings and pinging are the wave of the future.  Like clockwork, every site can be hit, searched, invaded or evaded at anyone’s will.  Are you out there?  Are you out there?  What’s new, are you well?

A few weeks ago it was China that was calling.  Saudi Arabia is picking up now.  Israel seems to think that I have something to offer, but they don’t seem to be sure.  Email me if you have questions (maybe).  I may actually answer.  I’m not a robot, you can easily see, it really is just me.

It may seem like it’s a long way from 1924 to 1959 or 2007.  It is.  One year at a time, full disclosure, or as full as the information (that’s left) seems to be.  There’s always more of course.  Little pieces to the puzzle, on which the solution to the larger puzzle may hang.  I’ll try to do my part (of course), together we may all seem to be trying to get there.  Of course we may NOT get there before it’s all over.  We’ll see.

Hello, this is planet earth.  We’re still here, I’m still here.  Is anyone still out there?  Is anyone still listening (or reading)?  We’ll see, we’ll see.

Update:

Just before midnight, Albuquerque time, the “Friends from Russia,” discussed here, stopped their hourly visits.  It has been more than ten hours now since the Russian flag has appeared on my Feed Jit.  So interesting.

Gold Coin

February 25th, 2015

I have been working on the past again, on family archives, on posting details of the past on the web.

There are two worlds you know, or that you know.  The first world is the one documented by everyday life, without the media.  In the ‘always on’, ‘always connected’ life that many live in now the everyday life is fast disappearing.  Life is too often measured by events in Russia, in the Ukraine, in Africa or Asia or in a whole lot of other places.

The second world IS the world of the media, of other events, other places not your own, of imaginary events mostly.   The media paints or portrays a picture for you, it presents a script, it provides a carefully crafted nuanced story, one who’s real message will never be deciphered, or fully understood, until later – often much later.  The only way to get (back) control of your life is to turn the media off, to refuse to watch, or to listen, or to ‘socialize’ on the social media thing.  My belief is that ‘living in the past’ is far better than ‘living in fantasy.’

Actually, George Orwell, in 1984, advocated the same position.  It was in the secret books (underground books) of the past where the real world, the world that was before ‘big brother’, was to be found.  Try to imagine the world of 1984 without the context, without knowing by either the novel’s words of history, or of one’s own personal experience, that a world devoid of big brother and of telescreens ever existed.  We are not far from that world now, at least in Brit-land and in mainstream America the way it is now.

So, on the 17th day of December, 1920, a Mr. Marcus E. May (of L.A.) did dedicate, deed, and sell to Hemme Martin a property lot located in Phoenix, Arizona and the house that was thereon.  The total amount in question, and subject to transfer, was $10,000.  And here’s the clinker or clincher: payable in “gold coin of the United States.”

Now not much is known about the size of the house, it no longer exists.  It was probably not bigger than 1,200 square feet, three bedrooms perhaps, a bathroom or two.  The lot was not particularly large.  It was a mile or so away from downtown, but as history would have it, not in a particularly good way (from downtown).

Today, the house might sell for $100,000 or two (hundred thousand dollars).  Not bad a return on an investment over (nearly) 100 years, $1,900 per year (on average, based on the higher figure).  Of course that doesn’t include taxes and all, meaning all the ‘little’ expenses involved in owning a house or a home, which are never as little as at first they seem.

The alternative of course would be to just keep the gold coin, the everyday available currency.  Gold coins WERE current and currency back then.  A twenty-dollar gold coin was almost one full troy ounce (.9675).  Today (really TODAY), that one ounce gold coin is worth at least $1,200, spot, on the spot.  Not bad.  Not a bad return on your money by just keeping your money.

One would have 500 gold coins for $10,000.  500 times $1,200 is $600,000 or so.  So, which investment was better, a return of $1,900 or of $6,000 per year?  If Hemme Martin were alive today I believe she would wish to have her money back, her hard earned gold coin.

A whole lot has changed in the past 95 years.  I’m not so sure that life is really better.  Read the short history of just one year, of 1920, of just one family with one telephone at their house, buying a new house with just a new job; the world of Barry Goldwater when he was in 6th grade*.

Sure, cars can now get to L.A. faster than at a rate of 10 miles per hour.  The “better roads” movement has done away with most passenger railroads, but it has also done away with really beautiful cars.   And much of the beautiful roadside scenery available then, has disappeared too.  I so wish I could show you the real roadside pictures.  I wish I could see them myself.

A 1919 Paige automobile.

It’s not the nostalgia for the past that is worrisome, it is nostalgia for the present, wanting to live in a world that simply doesn’t exist.

Anyone can change that of course.  A $20 gold coin can still be legally bought, even though it is now a bit more expensive.  The Paige too, will probably cost a bit more than it used to, the lot in Phoenix probably less; Phoenix is too hot to be in the heart of rainbow city (as in: “Stocks, bonds, and rainbow city”).

Somewhere there is a lesson here.  A house is mostly just about shelter, gold is the only real money.  Real businesses are built on hard work, not capital.  Nobody really knows of any real good that any bank really does.  Where is a country that still coins and uses gold money?

* Hemme Martin taught English at Phoenix High School from 1919 through 1924.  Barry Goldwater was Freshman class president at Phoenix High School in the 1923 – 1924 school year.

** Marcus E. May apparently was born in New York about 1885.  On the property agreement he is identified as a bachelor.  He is listed in the 1920 U.S. Census report for the County of Maricopa in Arizona (HERE).  In 1930 a Los Angeles census report shows that he married and has a family (HERE).  Son, HERE.  Wife HERE.

Niche and Kitsch

February 23rd, 2015

There are a few articles today in what is left of the Albuquerque Journal as a newspaper of general interest or general circulation about local business and businesses.  Newspapers are a dieing breed in America and elsewhere, at best they are ‘a blast from the past.’  Therefore, it makes sense that the articles contained (in the paper) are about past practices and outdated (not well-dated) concepts.

It must be noted, to be fair, that the Journal dropped its Sunday Real Estate section three weeks ago, and discontinued its ‘Money’ section two weeks ago.  The (obvious) simple observation is that there is little or no interest in real estate in Albuquerque and that the ‘end of money’ beat out the ‘end of history’ in being first.  The alternative view is that there are just new ways of doing things now, and that the ‘old ways’ just no longer make it.

On that theme, and on the theory that ‘business news’ really is news, it really is time to take a good hard look at business.  We live in a world that can finally face it – most business is based on niche and kitsch.  Let’s look at a few examples.  Shelter and clothing.  Shelter provides what clothing can’t, an expanded area of refuge from the weather.  As the Swedes say, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.”  This wisdom says little or nothing about ‘fashion.’

Fashion is the kitsch part of being a rag salesman.  The idea is that looking up to date (in clothes) will never be out of date; that only the clothes one buys has an expiration date.  The twist on the plot is that there is a human necessity of fashion, not clothing.  How dreary, and also untrue.

I’ve always maintained that, “nobody stays stupid forever.”  This brings us to the point of the simplest part of economic theory.  Simply put, “when money is plentiful people waste it, when money is dear, people are careful with it.”  Think, “fools and their plentiful money.”  Now, you know why banks make loans and governments always give to their favorite corporations.

So, most money is in the hands of the rich and the very rich right now, and is for the foreseeable future.  For most people, money is dear; there is only money enough for the barest and most basic necessities.  Jobs are tight.  Most jobs don’t bring a lot of satisfaction.  Most jobs don’t pay enough to elevate the worker out of poverty, why bother.

Creating ‘wants’ is the basis of trade.  It’s always a false construct.  It is rooted in the rather demeaning theory that most people WILL stay stupid forever.  An example.  In the 1950’s there was a mainstream media meme that ‘the poor’ (“on the dole”) would spend their money buying television sets and Cadillacs rather than food and adequate shelter.  The idea was to ‘look at the shacks’ and see if there was a TV antenna on top or a nice car outside.  The ‘suckers for advertising’ were ridiculed by the media for doing exactly as they were told.  It was like that then, it is still like that now.  The message has never really changed.

The ‘new America’ offers a few food stores and Dollar Stores for the poor (and the poor neighborhoods) and sheik slick shopping enclaves (in select and selected) neighborhoods that cater to the rich, the wanna be rich, and the wanna act rich – those people that love playing the part of the fools, no foolin’.

Business Outlook in the Journal features a few of them.   The commercial real estate brokers want to promote entrepreneurism.  The mayor of Albuquerque believes in it too.  As another article points out, “Nations entrepreneurial engine needs a kick-start“, most Americans no longer believe in kick-starter business, or businesses.   The big corporations like Apple and Wal-Mart now control everything.  It is the new (and only real) face of retail.  The rest is just nostalgia, shopping like in the fifties, or sixties, or eighties; so yesterday.

Owning an expensive house is not a real middle class objective anymore.  Most people, most places, would be a lot better off renting.  A cabin in the woods, or near fairly warm waters is real, like living in a beach shack maybe, maybe along a lightly populated river.  As many in North America have learned this year, the message of ‘green-house warming’ is to watch out for the cold.  Weather and weatherization costs are expenses that can be ignored if one is a bit practical about place.  Add this to the list of advice that a daily newspaper will never tell you.  Why move, when a student loan and massive debt can lead to a life of endless unnecessary purchases and purchasing?

The ‘niche’ business is the secret to success ‘they’ always say.  Hook up with a real estate company in Florida (maybe), sell swampland in Florida as the last great escape.  Tell them that Jeb Bush really wants ya.  Tell them that Hillary will never get you in Florida because Florida is for the rich and Arkansas is just about the poor.  Poor you if you believe it.  Stay stupid forever, for all that I care.  Pearls before swine, every pig deserves a new necklace (maybe).

When they start putting roller coasters on cruise ships and start offering roller derby type entertainments too, is when most people will start getting the message that the new world is not what you want and not about what you need.  Ship to shore, or shore to ship, there is an SOS out there.  Can you hear it now?  Can you hear it yet?  The only people that REALLY get burned on the great North American ponzi scheme are those immigrants that buy into last, or still believe in it all the way to the end.  Get out will you can (maybe)?

I wrote yesterday about connectivity and the importance of knowing about (or severing) connections and who or what you might be connected to.  Link up with God – that is good.  Linking up with bonds and bondage, not so good.  If there is a dollar price on whatever it is that you might wish to buy you really might want to think about it.  Just a thought.  Take it literally.

So, how many people will actually ever read any of this?  These thoughts are probably more in the ‘notes to myself’ category.   Will I listen?  Will the lesson stay relevant?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Afghanistan Aftershocks

February 23rd, 2015

The first post, The Happy Baker, was posted on Qala Bist (.com) on October 6, 2007.  Among other things, the website was to be about Afghanistan, as the name implied.  That was a long seven years ago.  Much has happened since then.

I have posted quite a bit about Afghanistan since 2007.  However, I haven’t written a lot about the time that I spent there.  Most of the words and pictures about the country, from the country, are from my father, perhaps like a diary of his of sorts.  Even the posting of those letters and those pictures is not yet complete.  It is as though I barely have started.

Afghanistan, specifically Qala Bist pictures, Hoover Dam, Trinity Site / Atomic Cafe, Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy limousine thing, and a few things connected to Kansas are what people seek when they visit this site.  It really is like the Wizard of Oz, and why the cow jumped over the rainbow – it was so not the moon.  I’ve linked the Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole song for maybe the 50th time.  Maybe someone will really listen this time.

The Wizard of Oz was released on August 15, 1939.  The movie was in full color.  Initially only about 12 million people, one in every 10 Americans, saw it.  The black & white war (film footage) coming out of Europe, starting just two weeks later, would have a much bigger draw.  The real Germany was so into color, even though the ‘reel’ Germany was so black and white.  This is maybe my 86th post about the distortions made possible by the media.

Am I getting through (to you) yet?  A black and white movie about rainbows just wouldn’t make it.  A war movie about ‘a wonderful world’ just wouldn’t make it.  That brings us full circle to the 35mm color film covering Afghanistan.  It’s more about Oz and Dorothy and a Rainbow than it is, or ever was, about war.  The media promotes such a different meme when the topic turns to Afghanistan.

So many of the people I read are totally giving up on America.  America is not about being, or bringing, a wonderful world anymore.  It is not about pure food, pure minds, pure water, pure thoughts and pure deeds.  The ‘homeland’ never heard the phrase, “in purity there is security.”  We seem to live in a world where most people see ‘pure’ as just another 4-letter word.

Today’s Afghanistan is so unlike the Afghanistan that I knew.  In my Afghanistan animals were everywhere, and were usually making themselves useful.  It was not just a land of ‘cars & trucks’ moving everyone everywhere.  Airplanes and aircraft were few.  I’m repeating myself.  You really don’t get it, you really don’t care.

How can one have a movie without mechanization, a war movie without the automatic machines?  If Pablo Picasso were painting today the picture of Guernica would not have the animals, modern movies and modern war have taken the animals out of life and life out of the animals.  The planet is rapidly dieing.  The only animals left are to eat, or are pets that eat the animal remains of the other animals that are left.

War creates a panic about procreation.  Insecurity makes the populations surge.  States start it.  They see people as money, large populations as strength, over-population is seen as strategic reserves.  This consciousness (really lack of consciousness) trickles down to the weak minded and the most insecure.  Those populations vastly increase to the detriment of the many, the few, and the special.  Afghanistan, like Oz, was once very special.

To ‘give up’ is to lose hope of an ‘ever again.’  It is to believe in a ‘never again.’  Did I mention that in America (and elsewhere) the middle class is dead?  I don’t just mean economically, and politically.  Politically the middle class is useless in the land of the rich.  The only value the middle class ever had was middle class values, middle class involvement, the middle class participation in things.  That is over and gone, gone forever.  The middle class has been bought out, was sold out, has sold out to the poor and to the rich.  The middle (center) can’t hold because there is not a center anymore, America has been gutted and fracked and swindled and there I go being all poetic about it, about the end of a world.

A civilization in collapse is not unlike a civilization in retreat.  All civilizations begin with a ‘hope,’ with the tangible belief in a ‘getting better,’ as in things will get better.  ‘Better’ is defined by the values of the civilizations founders, it’s what they see as ‘good.’  The new civilization is founded on a resurgent technology, electronic things that distract, inform, and amuse – a virtual unreal reality.

For the last thirteen or fourteen years we’ve lived with civilizations in collision.  An old world of animals and life forms and ideas and abstractions and great diversity and dreams was confronted by a technologically driven new materialism, a mind control method and apparatus gone viral.  The viral thing won.  Thank Snowden, thank Apple, thank Zuckerberg of course, thank Google.

‘Net Neutrality’ is code for every idea presented on the web is essentially equal.  There is no value judgement, or quotient, to equal.  All ideas are just an opinion, or the truth – you decide.  There is no life behind anything to say, just pictures (maybe) and an illustration or two (sometimes).  It is dangerous territory.  Image is everything, substance is not even there.

Being ‘connected’ (connectivity) is the buzzword that leaves unanswered, “Connected to what?”  A smartphone cannot connect you to the vibrations of the earth.  An earbud cannot make you feel.  Twitter is no substitute for a real conversation which in reality requires flesh and blood, a presence, not just a voice on a phone that says, “I wish you were here, I wish you were near.”

The defeated civilization and civilized persons will retreat into reality, leaving the virtual reality landscape largely uncontested.  The new life will involve (evolve) into becoming connected with those that are unconnected.  The virtual reality is based on the idea of ‘what is is what was.’  The new life will be centered on ‘past forgetting,’ on leaving all the scaffolding behind.  Sometimes it is just really time to start over.

Living with less

February 12th, 2015

It has been two weeks, maybe by counting the days a little bit more.  There has been a malaise, a bit of an illness, a bit more mental at times.

I hesitate to try and describe things with too much clarity.  They’re watching of course.  I hate to give them confirmation about which ways and means are effective.  But then again, without confirmation, ratification, or a sliver of conversation it is always hard to believe that one is not alone in what one is experiencing.  So, thank you Zen Gardner for THIS

Actually, after reading this piece about Bob Dylan and the few new words about the orchestration of the 1960’s also contained, one might wonder if what Mr. Zen suggests about a resurgent energy like the sixties, if in order, is in order.

More orchestration (pun intended) is NOT what we need.  I never did really like Benny Goodman.  But I lived near a military base where the platter spinners thought he was cool.  Whatever they played, we HAD to listen.  It was like that then, it’s still a lot like that now.  “My” (really their) Benny Goodman vinyl records are going to take a final spin into the ether or ethos or digital point of origin.  Landfill is about all the good that this ‘music’ can bring.

There is a lesson in this.  Wasting a person’s money might be forgiveable.  There is “fair warning” about anything ‘money’.  Wasting a person’s time, one’s life, is an order of magnitude different.  Even wasting an hour, a minute, is different.  The theft of time is real theft.  Unlike in the case of money, it is impossible for the swindler to pay it back.

“It’s all good,” is a mantra with meaning.  Storm clouds bring rain.  There is much that can be learned from affliction.

The bad, the dangerous part, is when one attempts to levitate, escalate, the natural and cosmic occurrences that occur as a means to promote a selfish personal agenda.  Examples in history abound.  They are not worth repeating.

One of the least read of H.G. Wells works is In the Days of the Comet.  Much might be made of the undercurrent themes in this Victorian novel.  The reason I like it are simple, or more simple.  People throw things.  The point of ‘throwing’ is the throwing away, the letting go, the loosening, the distancing from excess and clutter.

In the novel there are great bonfires, bonfires of the vanities as it were.   In today’s world that raises the ‘carbon factor’.  Landfill content, recycling, repurposing, is the modern equivalent of fire.  It can be just as effective, unless there is also a need to get warm.

Actually, the point is NOT so simple.  Recycling and repurposing suggest that there might be another round, that there should always be more.  More is the logical opposite of less.  The idea of the bonfire, the bonfires, is to achieve LESS.  It is a revolutionary act in a materialistic society that conditions people to always want MORE.  One ‘last blast’ of carbon is the idea, one last blast and then it is over, over forever, not just “perhaps.”

So, maybe smoke will get in your eyes.  Maybe there will be a little warm.  It’s all good.  Simple, is simply better.  We don’t need a comet, or the tale of a comet to get us all there.