Government Will Soon Pay Bloggers Not To Write

Instant Universal Communication Has Made It Impossible

Long ridiculed as bureaucratic counter-intuition on steroids, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), which paid subsidies to farmers for not planting crops, met and exceeded its lofty goals. By reducing surpluses it arrested the rapid decline of produce prices, thereby raising crop value and enabling Depression-weary farmers to retain homesteads teetering on the brink of foreclosure.

Nearly a century later, this preemptive technique is being applied to the Internet. Nigel Rasmussen, Press Liaison for the Federal Communications Commission, recently made these comments on the Library of Congress steps.

“Reading and writing were once the exclusive province of an elite professional class. Today, technology has democratized the tools of communication, resulting in a tsunami even more cretinous and loathsome than anticipated. We must ask – at what point does communication become air pollution? Has instant, universal communication made it impossible to know if anyone is saying anything valuable? Are these rhetorical questions? Was that a rhetorical question?

“Today’s ubiquitous, incessant blather has rendered language virtually worthless. Only by reducing the amount of language produced, and elevating the quality, can we hope to return any semblance of meaning and utility – much less beauty – to our words. That is why I am pleased to introduce the new, “Silence is Golden” program.

“In a nutshell, this program pays bloggers not to write. Importantly, the more they don’t write the more they earn.

“You’ll learn more about this exciting program soon. Until then, remember, “Help eliminate communication pollution! If you have nothing of value to say, say it only as often as is absolutely necessary.”

The Internet Thought Leader Quote Quiz

No Dying Man Ever Wished He Had Invested More Time

Internet Thought Leader Quote Quiz

The intrepid Internet surfer eventually discovers that – packed in between wise cracking cats and vapid affirmations – some highly intelligent social commentary awaits. But how familiar are you with the Internet’s most influential thought leaders? Below are 20 carefully selected nuggets, with multiple possible authors. Can you source them accurately?

1. “With all the expertise being volunteered on the Internet, ignorance is rapidly becoming a priceless commodity.”

a.) Mark Zuckerberg
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Larry Page
d.) Jack Dorsey

2. “I avoid all political discussions because the doctor told me to reduce my daily intake of anger and stupidity.”

a.) Karl Rove
b.) Michele Bachmann
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Glenn Beck

3. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me every day and you’re ready to run for office.”

a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Sarah Palin
c.) Reverend Al Sharpton
d.) Jeffrey Dahmer

4. “New app enables users to bravely condemn global injustice and insult authority figures without budging from comfy recliner!”

a.) Anonymous
b.) Abbie Hoffman
c.) Nelson Mandela
d.) Taz Mopula

5. “There are no guarantees in life, not even death and taxes, especially if you’re a corporation.”

a.) Paul Volcker
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Alan Greenspan
d.) John Wayne Gacy

6. “American liberals, celebrated for their tolerance, stalwartly defend the right of wretched refuse to agree with them.”

a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Noam Chomsky
c.) Maya Angelou
d.) Idi Amin Dada

7. “Democracy guarantees the right to choose the wrong person.”

a.) Ronald Reagan
b.) Vlad the Impaler
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) George W. Bush

8. “Political Correctness: An experiment in social engineering which holds that renaming dung mousse au chocolat makes it edible.”

a.) Oprah Winfrey
b.) Ellen DeGeneres
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) David Berkowitz

9. “The problem with Democracy is that it allows absolutely everybody to participate; fortunately they don’t.”

a.) Will Rogers
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) H. L. Mencken
d.) Mark Twain

10. “Often it is through the process of explaining a concept to others that we come to fully appreciate the depth of our ignorance.”

a.) Rush Limbaugh
b.) Ann Coulter
c.) Pol Pot
d.) Taz Mopula

11. “Learning how to ask for help is essential; but beware of zealots, all zealots, they will help you to death.”

a.) Moammar Khadafi
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Rumi
d.) Yanni

12. “Think about it. If I knew of a way to make loads of money without working hard, would I share it with you?”

a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Tony Robbins
c.) Wayne Dwyer
d.) Pema Chödrön

13. “Those who would do the right thing because it is, conveniently, also the expedient thing, are already morally bankrupt.”

a.) Jesse Jackson
b.) Janet Jackson
c.) Andrew Jackson
d.) Taz Mopula

14. “There is only one truly effective way to defend yourself against terrorists; stop creating them.”

a.) Dick Cheney
b.) Robert McNamara
c.) Barbra Streisand
d.) Taz Mopula

15. “War is extremely useful for those eager to disprove evolution.”

a.) Charles Darwin
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Gregor Mendel
d.) Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

16. “Having a poo-flinging monkey on your back may be tiresome, but it’s far worse for your adversaries.”

a.) Duane Chapman
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Dian Fossey
d.) Steve Irwin

17. “History repeats itself with tedious insistence; mankind seems determined to perfect its imperfections.”

a.) Nostradamus
b.) John Edward
c.) Christopher Hitchens
d.) Taz Mopula

18. “If your efforts have assuaged the suffering of just one road-weary, hopeless soul; you probably aren’t trying very hard.”

a.) Dalai Lama
b.) Charles Manson
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Arsenio Hall

19. “WWIII is over; don’t you remember? It was US against US; and we lost.”

a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Ludacris
c.) Gil Scott Heron
d.) Fatty Fat Boy

20. “Should you meet someone who claims that visualizing a thing makes it so; tell them to visualize being flattened by a bus.”

a.) Wayne Dyer
b.) Joseph Campbell
c.) Glen Campbell
d.) Taz Mopula

Answers will be posted in tomorrow’s blog.

The Main Thing WWII Taught My Dad

Battleship Burning2

My father was a gifted storyteller. If I was good he would tell me one at bedtime. My favorite concerned a troop ship anchored in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Italy. This is how it went.

He and his men were asleep; it was late at night and silent. (My dad fought through the entirety of WWII, he was a Major in the British Army and commanded the 2nd Parachute Squadron of Royal Engineers.) Suddenly they were awoken by a horrific explosion that caused the ship to burst into flames, throwing shrapnel in every direction.

He painted a picture of the madness in glowing detail, terrified men racing to get on deck before the ship sank, men torn open by flying bits of debris, screaming men whose clothes were ablaze, men leaping overboard into the cold water.

He described jumping into the sea and watching as the ship became engulfed in red, yellow, orange, blue, black and white until, in short minutes, everyone on it was dead. Then, he turned his gaze to the dark water around him, looking for anything he could use to stay afloat. Doing so he noticed a fellow soldier flailing his arms wildly and screaming for help. My dad swam to him and gripped his collar, hoping to keep the man’s mouth above water level.

But – (my dad always slowed down for this part and went sotto voce) – what he hadn’t counted on was that the man did not know how to swim and was in a state of irrational, hysterical fear. Madly, desperately, the man grabbed onto my father as if he were mere flotsam, and in so doing began pulling the both of them, by now entwined like doomed serpents, below the water.

At this point, my dad confessed, it was his turn to panic. He understood there was no saving this man, and attempting to do so would simply bump the body count from one to two. He described the complex moral soul searching that occurred in mere seconds before he bit the man’s fingers in order to break the death grip, finally separating the two of them. A few strong kicks got him far enough away to be safe; he watched the man’s hands churn water until at last he fell to the depths of the Mediterranean Sea and into an unmarked grave.

Then my dad would gently brush the hair off my forehead and whisper, “The best way to help the dead is by not being one of them.”

Righteous Rage In The Sky

Stormy sky righteous rage

On April 4, 1968, my father was returning home from a speaking engagement in Grand Junction, Colorado – connecting with a flight from Denver to Philadelphia. His regular flight had been cancelled and he’d been forced to hop a twin-engine puddle-jumper.

A volatile storm system had parked itself over the continental divide, a two-mile high Rocky Mountain Ridge bisecting the state on a North/South axis. The pilots were disinclined to make the trip, especially since my father was the only passenger in their 8-seater. Dad, a former British Army Major and paratrooper, was not easily denied. The three of them ascended.

It wasn’t long before the pilot and co-pilot regretted their decision. With only mountains below them, and no available place to land, they pressed on into an increasingly violent, turbulent storm – swimming in rain-whipped blackness, tossed about by sudden shifts of wind and terrified as lightning strikes grew closer and closer, scarring the dark like heavenly spears.

The pilot and copilot were hanging on every word crackling from the radio. My father, anxious to make certain they did their very best, was in the cockpit with them. Then, an urgent voice broke into the control tower feed with the astonishing announcement that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. For an instant the three men, precariously suspended above mountaintops, went silent. At last the pilot broke the silence with these words, “Finally! They finally took care of that fucking uppity nigger!”

At that moment my father did not think, he acted. Hand out he grabbed the pilot’s collar and pulled him forward. Then, fueled with the irresistible intoxicant we call righteous rage; he punched the pilot full force in the face, knocking him across the cabin. He reached out and repeated the procedure until finally the man, screaming in fear and disbelief, placed both hands on his face to stop the stream of blood pouring from his nose. With authority and conviction that were normal for him my father told the co-pilot to make do without his partner and walked to the back of the small, trembling plane.

There is something wonderfully insane about someone who would mercilessly beat a man whose well-being was instrumental to continued life, based only on moral outrage. There is also something wildly ironic about defending the memory of a pacifist icon with brute violence. I confess, like Dr. King, I believe passionately in non-violence. And yet, dear reader, there are moments when I ache to be that person, the brute my father was, raining down divine retribution upon sinners with terrible, swift justice.

Even today I miss Dr. King. Not just for what he did, but especially how he did it. It is the how of it that holds the greatest nobility.

Admire Doctor King’s Dream? Then Wake Up!

Lena Horne  Lena Horne                 Kate Smith  Kate Smith

Lenny Bruce practiced a confrontational, political form of comedy that relied heavily on shock. He had a famous bit on the subject of racism he directed towards all white males in attendance. It went like this.

Imagine you are shipwrecked on a desert island with no hope of rescue. The island has everything you need to survive so it is reasonable to believe you will live out your days in comfort.

Now, imagine you are offered female companionship but must choose between Lena Horne and Kate Smith. (Stage pause.) If you choose Kate Smith, you’re a racist.

If you find this offensive; congratulations. It’s sexist and chubbyist. (If Lena Horne and Kate Smith are unfamiliar names, I will tell you that they were both singers. Lena Horne was light-skinned and could have passed for white but chose not to.)

There are actually only two kinds of racists; those who admit they are racists and those who don’t. Xenophobia is ancient and primal; our knuckle-dragging predecessors were ruled by fear and regarded the unknown with suspicion. But this explains, it does not excuse.

The essential goal is to admit, understand, and continually beat back our racism on a daily, case-by-case basis. Thus begins the dream.

Ultimately the Mississippi redneck attempting to justify racism is indistinguishable from the Vermont college professor boldly declaring he does not see color. By lying to themselves they both lie to us.

Everybody loves Doctor King’s dream, but few of us acknowledge that racism begins at home.

How To Manage Bullies

Inside Every Bully Is A Coward

Concern about bullies is trendy today, so much so that Hollywood, (where having an original idea can actually destroy your career), has jumped on the bandwagon with its incredibly annoying “It Gets Better” Campaign. (You and I know that in fact it doesn’t get better, indeed, it doesn’t change at all. What happens is that you either get used to it or you learn how to master it.)

Bullies are a time-honored personality type. (To be honest, we are all bullies to some degree, or at least, capable of being bullies.) Bullies are instinctively drawn to the weak and defenseless; mentally ill folk always make the list. Left unchecked; bullies morph into monsters, I know. Philly, my home town, is among the nation’s deadliest cities, thug violence is commonplace. Indeed, I was once beaten unconscious with lead pipes and left for dead in a snowbank.

Back when I was cab driving, a hard-bitten veteran told me, “There is only one way to deal with a gang of “punks” coming for you. You don’t run, you don’t talk, and you don’t make deals. You figure out which one is the leader and you stick a knife in his face.” My own mother, a reasonable and patient individual, once tried to run my father over with a 1956 Pontiac Chieftan (a very large car) simply because she could not endure being bullied any longer.

“Inside every bully is a coward; dread the weak, not the mighty.” Taz Mopula

The confrontation approach may win short-term but always fails long-term for the simple reason that it plays to the bully’s area of strength; violent brutality. To defeat the bully you must understand, and eliminate, your fear of him. When he realizes you will accept a beat-down if you must, the power he holds over you slips in between his fingers. When he looks into your eyes and sees you looking back, the mean, sadistic thrill he craves is gone. At that point he will seek out a more timid individual.

That is the joyful power and freedom that come from going toe-to-toe, and not flinching. If that is not enough for you, if you are full of hate and resentment, if you dream of reducing this wretched excuse for a human being to a quivering, pathetic blob of sopping flotsam; then it is time to remove the ruthless sword of humor from its sheath.

When you make it obvious you find the bully pathetic and laughable, he is vanquished. And it’s a very reasonable assessment because bullies are the very antithesis of what they appear to be. Coming across mean and rough is merely their way of masking cowardice and self-loathing.

Nothing ever just gets better; what happens is; if you’re lucky, you get better.

Let Christmas Expectations Fall Like Snow

Christmas Trees Snow

Have you heard this one already? Three clinically depressed highjumpers walk into a bar. They lower it.

I’m kidding of course.

Then again, I’m not kidding, (as always), because if there is anything that will help today’s mentally ill individual survive the three-ring-circus of psychological torment and emotional Armageddon known by that deceptively sweet euphemism – the holidays – it is lowered expectations.

Why? With every layer of tinsel, every rehashed Christmas chestnut mangled by Beyoncé, every eggnog-infused martini, every promise of no money down and no payments for the first seventeen months, every drug-addled midnight greeter at Walmart scratching his most recent tattoo, every ill-considered fax at every office party, and every other cliché of Christmas cacophony and tintinnabulation comes the rising tide of truly ho-ho-horrible inevitability – the hopes, the joys, the fears of all the years, reindeer and pain dear – that Grinch-ish thief of all that is merry; expectations.

Those of us who have mucked out a foxhole or two after the elves have returned to their elf-help groups, leaving only ripped wrapping paper and the unnerving sound of gnashing teeth, know only too well that – an expectation is merely a resentment that has been booked in advance.

We watch the lemming-like inevitability of shoppers who resemble nothing more closely than poor Charlie Brown looking far across the yard at the relentlessly malevolent Lucy finger pointing down at the poised and ready football, believing deep within that dimwitted, soft-boiled egg of a head he has that this time it will be different.

Sadly, it never is. Fellow Whackadoomians, examine the terrible trap we must sidestep. Because it is the Santa-bag of expectations we bring with us – not the event itself – that causes our undoing.

Week after week, the entire culture conspires to deceive; is it any wonder we question reality itself and struggle to differentiate between what is, what might be, and what could be if only we had been less naughty and more nice throughout the year?

The entire communications infrastructure which now extends to gas pumps, check out lines in supermarkets, phones, rented movies, in short, everything we encounter in our daily lives, stokes the id until it roars like a voracious furnace – wanting, craving, needing and hungering for a mountain of flashy, splashy landfill-food made in China and destined for a useful life so short it would inspire pity in a drosophila before vanishing out the back end of our consumer economy. It all happens in the bat of an eye.

It was the redoubtable Taz Mopula who warned, “If I could give you just one piece of advice it would be this; do not, under any circumstances, take my advice.” In this spirit I will say that I would not presume to give you advice and if I did you would almost certainly not take it but if I did and if you did this is what it would be:

Want to enjoy your holiday? Do some Christmas triage. Ratchet down the level of your expectations to zero and start there.

Armchair Activism: Effetes Don’t Fail Me Now

Disneyland

After 9/11, President Bush urged a horrified nation to visit Disneyland. This, he explained, would show terrorists that Americans couldn’t be deterred from their God-given right to pursue happiness.

“Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. However, the mice will switch all of your street signs.” Taz Mopula

Since then, consumerism-as-political-statement has gained widespread acceptance. This notion seems uniquely American, an odd kluge of our actual religion, Capitalism, and Christianity, the religion we talk about and pretend to respect.

“The only constant is change; well, that and the resistance to change. So, actually, there are two constants.” Taz Mopula

The old sales incentive of – “the more you shop the more you save” – has been cleverly adjusted to mean – “the more stuff you buy for yourself the more giant pandas you save” – as lovely a bit of self-serving pretzel logic as you will ever find.

“New app enables users to bravely condemn global injustice and insult authority figures without budging from Barcalounger.” Taz Mopula

The idea of making social activism a convenient, spectator sport really hit high gear with the ubiquitous acceptance of so-called social networking websites. Strolling their busy, digital boulevards you are constantly assaulted by the bizarre promise that – all you need to do is “click here” and you will cure [insert social evil]. Though certain that it’s facile, cheap, lazy, and too good to be true; you just do it.

“Humans can repair mechanical problems; but machines cannot repair human problems, only manifest them in new forms.” Taz Mopula

A while back I realized something truly dreadful: people don’t have problems, people are the problem. We fall in love with technology and believe it will cure, or at least compensate for, our faults – at best all it ever does is echo them.

“The main difference between changing a mind and changing a diaper is that changing a diaper is possible.” Taz Mopula

As a rule, real change is almost always frightening, painful, difficult, and exhausting. I never changed because I wanted to, or because I thought it would make me a better person. All my growth was driven by necessity, because the choice was simple – change or die.

Anyone who believes that one nimble mouse click will save the rain forest should probably be made to wear mittens.

“Leave only footprints in the snow; their eloquent silence shows the way.” Taz Mopula

Rather than pretending to remedy the world’s ills, why not work on the tiny corner of it where you can actually make a difference?

The Heartbreak Of Terminal Hipness

hip cat with beret

Despite exciting progress in the world of mental health, millions of Americans still suffer the ravages of Terminal Hipness, a debilitating mental, emotional and spiritual disorder preventing them from experiencing life. Symptoms include:

· Chronic cynicism
· Faux fin de siècle ennui
· Delusions of superiority
· Black clothing
· Obsession with irony
· Devotion to sunglasses
· Mirthless sarcasm

For Terminal Hipsters, caring is the final frontier; revealing raw emotion is the summit of K2. Despite being subjugated by a chronic illness, to them the cure is worse than the disease; they cannot make the scene, man, because negativity is comfortable armor hiding fear.
I know. I was once counted in their ranks – and I have the Albert Ayler records to prove it.

“Cynicism: When you’re clever enough to see life as it is but not emotionally strong enough to accept it.” Taz Mopula

My creative renaissance began over 20 years ago, when I wrote the first draft of Invisible Driving. At that time I also returned to my first artistic love – poetry.

“Writing great poetry becomes much easier when you’re willing to die for it.” Taz Mopula

Surprisingly, my work became a regular feature of the Internet’s weirdest, darkest, and most prestigious literary magazine – Exquisite Corpse – published by celebrated poet and Count Dracula impersonator – Andrei Codrescu.

“Celebrity: A state of being where one is not known by a large number of people.” Taz Mopula 

Codrescu is a creature of the night, and he liked my subterranean stuff. But one day I decided to submit something unapologetically poignant – a poem which had reduced several grown men to tears when I performed it at hipster flipster finger poppin’ daddy poetry readings at snoochy poochy art galleries in Philadelphia.

“Great soldiers are brave; great poets are reckless.” Taz Mopula

He wrote me back and said, “It’s a lovely poem, Alistair, but we are into darker music at the moment.” I let it go, wondering if my hep cat card had been pulled.

To my surprise, he published it anyway.

I know so little, but along the way I have learned a few things. Among them: there is a rather disheartening linkage between fear, cowardice, and cynicism. For so many of us – unvarnished love and honesty are unimaginably terrible.

Nothing Recedes Like Success

B.B. King

My father received the National Medal of Arts in September of 1990; other recipients included Jasper Johns, Beverly Sills, Merce Cunningham, Hume Cronyn, and blues legend, B.B. King.

The ceremony took place at The White House, President Bush and wife Barbara (much scarier in person) officiating. Afterwards a select group of 50 or so attendees was invited to stay for lunch (lamb).

I almost didn’t make it in. Even though I’d been formally invited my name triggered an alarm when I arrived at the gate because short months prior to the occasion I’d been involuntarily admitted into a state mental hospital – for a curiously refreshing account of these events CLICK HERE to order Invisible Driving, my bipolar memoir.

The White House was much smaller inside than I’d imagined and I was delighted to find a complete set of Nixon’s memoirs in one of the bathrooms.

I had no desire to call attention to myself and didn’t want to do anything that might embarrass The Professor; it was his day after all. However, at the mix and mingle, right before sitting down to lunch, when I saw B.B. King schmoozing with then Attorney General Richard Thornburg, I simply had to introduce myself. (Frankly I’ve never been terribly impressed by King as a musician, although I do like his voice.)

We chatted very amiably for a while and then I stopped for a moment and said, “You know, unlike pretty much everybody else here,” with that I swept my arm across the sea of predominately white, male, humorless, Republican, conservative, uptight twits, sycophants, and unctuous opportunists, “I actually own some albums by you.”

(This was true; a terrific effort with horns called Blues On Top Of Blues and a dreadful 2-album Buddha reissue pairing him with old friend Bobbie “Blue” Bland. In high school I’d purchased an appalling album called Lucille and given it away after listening to it twice.)

Now, in all honesty, I thought this was a slow pitch, an opportunity for us to be amused by the irony together. It is hard to imagine George Bush moanin’ about goin’ to Memphis to get his hambone boiled, or Barbara cryin’ ‘cause she need a hot dog for her roll. I doubt that pooling the entire group would have produced more B.B. King albums than Jasper Johns paintings. And yet, nothing at all from The King, just a sour puss indicating I’d given him the blues.

Then it dawned on me, when it comes to egomania there is no such thing as success, there is never enough approbation to satisfy the appetite. King was unable to be amused by the irony because he wouldn’t be satisfied until the whole world had albums by him. But the bad part is, even then it wouldn’t be enough.

I saw this with my father; ultimately the fame meant nothing. As it says in the play Deathtrap, “Nothing recedes like success.” And when it does recede, if you’ve got nothing substantial to fall back on, nothing in the center to nourish you, it gets mighty lonely out there.

Everybody wants to know, why I sing the blues, I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve really paid my blues.