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Showing posts from February, 2019

Futureproofing: 1/10th

Twenty-eight percent of Americans have nothing in their savings accounts and another twenty-one percent don't even have a savings account, according to a recent survey. Another survey revealed that a majority of Americans can't cover an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt. It wasn't always this way, nor should it be now.
Saving money isn't hard, but it does require discipline. It doesn't even require a savings account, if cash is your thing (if so, I fervently suggest keeping your stash in a safe or other lockable box, preferably one so heavy as to deter stealing the whole box). The amount of how much to save is a shifting target; I've been told to save amounts ranging from "all you can" to certain percentages to whatever change is in pocket. A figure that works for me is ten percent.
Ten percent is the amount prescribed by many religions. Also known as tithing, the practice predates currency, when one was expected to sacrifice one tenth …

Ol' Green Eyes

Remember the Tower Door post, where I shared the story of a young man forever injured after leaping from the tower in fright? Recall I said the possible cause of fright would be discussed later. Well, take a seat, get comfy, and buckle up, because the time has come.

The Battlefield has no small number of ghost stories, the most famous of which is Ol' Green Eyes, a phantom/phenomenon that I have personally witnessed. But who or what is Ol' Green Eyes? That is a question that has many answers.

As a child, I first heard that it was the ghost of a young woman whose beloved was a soldier killed in battle; her spirit was said to wander the battlefield looking for the body of her love. This, however, isn't Ol' Green Eyes, but The Lady In White, an altogether different apparition seen in the park (remember, no small number of ghost stories).

The more common theory is that Ol' Green Eyes is the spirit of a soldier, some say Union, some say Confederate, who was slain in bat…

Quote Of The Day, Hemingway Edition

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more? - Ernest Hemingway, "The Old Man And The Sea"

What's An Outlaw To Do?

American society has always had a prudish streak, ever since the landing of a bunch of uptight religious fanatics at Plymouth Rock. Protestant work ethic in tow, the pilgrims set about building a world in which submission to authority and obedience would lead to paradise. Then came the extroverts.
As wild as the west may have become with an influx of adventurous spirits from around the globe, American society still retained a great deal of restraint. Some, however, saw opportunity in exploiting the mores of the day. The outlaw was born, and many a legend arose.
From the cowboy to Capone, highwaymen to Heisenberg, outlaws have always taken the road less traveled. That road has changed drastically in recent years.
The moonshiner is a classic outlaw archetype in the southeastern US; images of Appalachian hillbillies and stills come to mind and many in my area remember buying 'shine from the hill country of eastern Georgia. But these days, there's a distillery in town (complete w…

Dick, Death, and Meth

Philip K. Dick was a prolific writer of science fiction, with several of his stories and books having been adapted to film after his death in 1982. One of his better-known works is the book "A Scanner Darkly," which portrays America in the not-too-distant future, an America that has lost the war on drugs and is under total surveillance by government and corporations alike. The drug of choice in this world is Substance D. Substance D is derived from a flower (like heroin), is instantly addictive and has a near 100% recidivism rate (like crystal methamphetamine), and has a street nickname of Death (rhymes with meth) and people have either never tried it or are addicted to it; there is no in between.

Meanwhile, the government and corporations are working together to fight a never-ending war on drugs and paranoia is rampant. Luckily, there is hope: New Path Recovery is a rehab center that stands the best chance of overcoming the Substance D epidemic. However, it is…

In Praise Of Used Book Stores

Regardless of the city or town I'm in, one of my favorite destinations is the local used book store. While often perceived as simply a place for the budget conscious to find cheap books, I've noticed that there appears to be a subculture of people who frequent them. More than bargain hunters, a good many patrons are seeking the rare, the unusual, the out-of-print. I am one of those people. In the early 1990s, I found myself perusing the aisles of a used book store in Chattanooga, looking for nothing in particular, altho I'd developed an interest in signed books. In the poetry section, I noticed a small, nondescript paperback. Looking inside, I found the author had inscribed a note and signature to whom I must assume was the original purchaser. The book went home with me that evening, becoming the first of my collection of signed books and the start of a pursuit that interests me to this day.


While Chattanooga, TN is home to the largest used book store I'v…

Futureproofing: PM Me

I am in possession of one ounce of 99.9% pure silver. The coin is an American Silver Eagle, purchased to commemorate the birth of my son (technically the coin is his, hence my reluctance to use the word "own" in the opening sentence). It's big. It's beautiful. It makes a clinking sound unlike any US coin since the early '60s.
It also has a face value of one US dollar, but don't be fooled. A silver dollar is worth more than $1.00. Because of the silver content, a silver dollar is worth at least $19.34 as of this writing. Factor in variables like year of production, etc and the value will increase.
You may be asking why. The answer is simple: Silver, and even more so, gold, is money, and has been for 5000 years. The paper in your wallet is currency, issued by a government, reliant on the stability of and peoples' faith in said government. It wasn't always this way. Coins have been free of silver since the mid-1960s, Nixon took the US dollar off the gol…

Quote Of The Day, Garcia Edition

"We know from our own experience that enough things happen that aren’t the result of signals or planning or communication that we’re aware of, but that are miraculous manifestations, that keep proving it out, that there’s no way to deny it. We're just involved in something that has a very high incidence of synchronicity. You know, the Jungian idea of synchronicity? Well, shit, that's day-to-day reality for us." - Jerry Garcia, musician and singer, Grateful Dead

Anatomy Of A Photo: The Tower Door

Today's photo includes a ghost story, because I love this sort of thing!

The Chickamauga Battlefield, known simply as "the Battlefield" to locals, is the site of a bloody three day battle during the American Civil War.  Now a national park, it is home to an impressive amount of wildlife, history buffs, and monuments to the events that took place on site. The most impressive of the monuments is Wilder Tower, named after Union Col. John T. Wilder, who led a successful defense of the hill against Confederate forces. Standing an impressive 85 feet high, spiral stairs lead to the top of the tower, giving those who climb an unmatched view of the park. 

Legend has it that on a summer night many years ago, several young people dared one another to climb the tower (as a local to the area, I can attest to the likelihood of just such a thing occurring. Think of it as an intro to many "Hold my beer." moments). One young man took the challenge and scaled the lightning rod, w…

Quote Of The Day, Downard Edition

From occult conspiracy researcher James Shelby Downard:
"Do not be lulled into believing that just because the deadening American city of dreadful night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of baseball-hot dogs-apple-pie-and-Chevrolet, that it exists outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these modern conditions precisely because sorcery is not what '20th Century man' can accept as real."

Wynn Bullock: An Appreciation

I recently purchased a small book of photography by Wynn Bullock. I got much more than expected. Not only did I get a book of photography, I received a whole new perspective on the art of photography. Bullock, considered a master of the art, was 42 years of age when he began making photos after realizing the camera records much more than that which is visible: The medium of photography can record not only what the eyes see, but that which the mind's eye sees as well. The camera is not only an extension of the eye, but of the brain. It can see sharper, farther, nearer, slower, faster than the eye. It can see by invisible light. It can see in the past, present, and future. Instead of using the camera only to reproduce objects, I wanted to use it to make what is invisible to the eye, visible. This philosophy places Bullock in the company of such photographers as Ed Weston, who approached the art with an almost metaphysical mindset.


That photography is a powerful emotional…

Futureproofing: Navigating The Ruins

Let's be clear on one thing: this is not the world your parents meant for you to inherit.
The world they had in mind was a much safer, more stable world. Sure, there were surprises no one saw coming, but this is true in day-to-day life just as it is in the bigger picture. The end of the Cold War caught us all by surprise, as did 9/11, to name two examples. The wholesale outsourcing of jobs to cheap labor markets was not something your parents anticipated, although the precedent had been set decades before. One would do well to remember that American industrial jobs moved to the South to escape unionized labor and seek favorable tax policies; that those jobs have continued to move in search of greater profits, lower wages and regulations can be seen as the logical conclusion of policy. Besides, in your parents time, if you left one job, you could always find another. Times have changed, indeed.
Your parents couldn't foresee a time when savers would be punished for saving, but …

Quote Of The Day, Faulkner Edition

Even a liar can be scared into telling the truth, same as an honest man can be tortured into telling a lie. - William Faulkner, in 1932's "Light In August"

Dando and Parsons

As I (and countless others) have written before, Gram Parsons left a huge musical legacy for a man who died an early death. While many have emulated his style, no one comes closer than Evan Dando, both with The Lemonheads and as a solo performer. The career of Dando has more than a few parallels with the career of Parsons, including being "the next big thing" while not quite making it.

The Lemonheads' music was fun three chord rock during the Seattle grunge era, when everyone hated themselves and wanted to die. Thus, Dando's lyrics were often criticized for being childlike by people who missed the point entirely. Tho popular in the early to mid 90s, the Lemonheads never reached superstar status, in much the same way Parsons' work with the Flying Burrito Brothers and as a solo artist never seemed to get off the ground.

The parallels don't end with great music greeted with less than stellar receptions. Both are legendary substance users, with Parso…

Futureproofing: Know Your Enemy

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. - Ephesians 6:12
Knowing your enemy is a skill that requires patience and understanding. As the quote above indicates, the enemy isn't always an individual, but a mindset or process. In ancient times, the problems wasn't necessarily the citizen of a Roman territory going about his business, the problem was Rome. This is not meant to excuse all abusers (think Nazi SS officers and the "following orders" excuse), but people for the most part are decent. However, powers, processes, and zeigeist can lead even the strongest astray.
In our time, greed, fear, and hate are all great enemies, alone or in combination. Those in power, be it world leader or bank branch employee, can use any of the above to keep the rabble in place. Never forget: you are the rabble to the person on the opposite side o…

The Ballad Of Mary Crider Holder

I'm spending a little time on Ancestry these days, and between online resources and talking with relatives, I'm learning quite a bit about my forebears. My paternal great grandparents have proven to be a fascinating study. Let's take a look at the story of John Wesley Holder and Mary Crider Holder
John Wesley is a bit of a mystery. He was a sharecropper on the Crider farm in Rocky Face, Georgia. No photos exist of the man, and very little is known of him. What is known is that in 1909, John Wesley, age 37, married Mary Crider, age 25 and a daughter of landowner Elijah Crider, on December 26. This didn't go well with her father, who disowned his newlywed daughter. As they say, nevertheless, she persisted, embracing the life of a laborer's wife and giving birth to four children. Life was hard; they lived in a shack on the farm, subsisting only on her husband's labor. Before his death, my grandfather recalled waking many a cold winter morning to find snow or fros…

From Classic To Classical

Being a man of a certain age, I enjoy classic rock. The problem with classic rock is classic rock radio stations, which seem to play the same 3 songs by the same 6 bands over and over again. As much as I love Zeppelin and Steely Dan, I need more than multiple airings of "Black Dog" and "Ricki Don't Lose That Number." I need variety. With that need in mind, I recently tuned in to the classical music station on my car radio.
The music is beautiful, of course, but most interestingly, it's all new to me. With the exception of music used in movies or cartoons, I'm not that familiar with classical music. I'm catching on quickly, as the radio hosts often share stories and anecdotes about composers and performers. It's a brave new world for me, and one I find very interesting.
For the record, Kronos Quartet is the Led Zeppelin of contemporary classical music.

Zen And The Art Of (Fill In The Blank)

I'll begin by stating that Zen is not a religion. There, my Christian friends, your excuse for not reading further has been removed.

While Zen derives from a school of Bhuddism, it has been descrived as "a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being." It is also a manner of perception, in which the viewer is tasked to see the subject (whatever that may be) for what it is, and not merely the viewer's biased projection reflected for the sake of the viewer's egocentric perception. Remove Self from your perception, and suddenly the world and all that is in it takes on a whole new patina.

An excercise: the next time you catch a cold, don't think of it as "I'm sick," observe it from an outside point of view. Note the host and the invader(s), how the two intertwine and compete for control for the several days you'll be affected by the cold. Note how the balance of power shifts and changes. On…

Economic Insights From "Gone With The Wind"

My wife and I recently enjoyed seeing Gone With The Wind projected on a movie screen, a first for us both. We'd seen it on television, but the large screen experience was something quite different. A good many years had passed since I last watched the film, and I was struck by its comedic moments, as well as its more blatant racism and misogyny (times have changed and continue to!) I was also impressed with its rather solid financial advice. For example, when raising funds for "the Cause" (AKA war), Rhett Butler made an impression on the crowd with an offer of gold for a dance. In times of political turmoil, you know, civil war, regime change and such, precious metals are more desirable than paper money issued by a government that may or may not be in power in days to come. This point is hammered home in a later scene, when Scarlett O'Hara returns home to find the family estate in ruins and her father in shock. He tells her not to worry, as he has money. At first, S…

Futureproofing: A Guide To Your Saints

Inspiration has many sources. I prefer to stand on the shoulders of giants. This series is inspired by many profound thinkers, chief among them Philip K. Dick. Dick, or PKD, was a science fiction author, a visionary whose work and influence loom large over the present time. Indeed, it was Dick who best predicted artificial intelligence and virtual reality. He also predicted misuse of technology as a means of social control. Paranoid, drug-addled and the unwitting recipient of a series of spiritual experiences, PKD is the patron saint of our time. Remember, it was he who warned us our toasters would be spying on us.

If PKD described the black iron prison that keeps us enslaved. Terence McKenna sought to teach us how to break out of it. Psychedelics, spirituality, science, any tool that works is to be used. McKenna advocated finding a new operating system to replace the buggy one in use, while reminding us that this is not a dress rehearsal. Life is to be lived, and the first step to l…

Missing Joe

I'm spending what little down time I have these days catching up on some reading. Currently I'm revisiting Joe Bageant, author of "Deerhunting With Jesus" and other fine works. Before JD Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy" sought to explain the Appalachian mindset to a large audience, there was Joe. Born dirt poor in Virginia, Joe became a journalist and editor before finding fame as a progressive commentator, or, in Joe's words, a "redneck socialist." Joe died of cancer in 2011, and I can't help but wonder what he would have to say about the current situation (or the Obama era) if he were with us today. He did have much to say about Bush 43 and the early 2000s, much of which can be found at Cold Type.

Futureproofing: Tips For An Uncertain Era

The 21st century has been a wild ride and we're only 19 years into it (or just beginning, according to the theory that places the beginning of a new century roughly 20 years after the turn of the calendar date). Uncertainty is the prevailing mood of our time. Wall Street and the general economy appear to have uncoupled. Those responsible for the economic crash of 2008 have gone unpunished. Military action has spread across the Middle East, while domestic strife is commonplace. How we got here has been recorded in numerous books and documentary films, and a history of the road to 2019 is beyond the scope of this post. Futureproofing will be a series devoted to tips on how to cope with the uncertainty of the present era.
These tips will draw on ancient wisdom, new ideas, maybe even a few hunches. The ideas certainly aren't written in stone, nor are they to be considered legal or financial advice - see a carefully vetted professional if needed. It is my hope the Futureproofing s…

The World In Which We Live: (Another) Shutdown Edition

35 days into the longest-yet government shutdown is US history, it was announced that an agreement has been reached to reopen for three weeks. What happens in three weeks depends on negotiations regarding border security, something Americans are deeply concerned with and hardly effected by.

Call me a wonk, but I can't help but think that a nation whose currency is backed only by "full faith and credit of the US government" needs to keep said government open. Much to my surprise, the USD remains strong, but gold price is up (the price of each rises and falls in relation to the other; a strong dollar lowers gold price, gold price increases as the dollar weakens). Crypto? Still limping from the beatdown that was 2018.

Remaining hopeful in a time of supreme dysfunction isn't easy, and the temptation to fall into despair is ever present. In times like these, I reach for a book.