Having just moved to Washington State, I was surprised to see a young guy with a big Glock semi-auto pistol in a holster on his hip in the convenience store where we stopped for gas. Kid was no cop or soldier.
I asked my guitar player about it, as he filled the tank; he said, “Yup, this is Washington. We got open carry here.” I looked it up: “Open carry is lawful in Washington without any permit.” This is a bit unsettling–but what was more unsettling was the guy who was carrying. He was a muscular young man in paramilitary cammie trousers, his buzzcut head in one of those pillbox-with-a-bill type green military caps, Young Militia Billy was twitching, walking back and forth in front of a case displaying readymade burritos. “What’s in those?” he asked the counterman, pointing at the burritos with a trembling finger. His voice was flat, taut, the words coming out doublefast. “I don’t think I should eat those. They probably have something in them I shouldn’t eat.I’ve got food at home. Yeah I’ve got food at home.” Then he and his Glock quick-marched to the door and rushed out to his truck. He backed that pickup out fast and it roared away.
There was no doubt in my mind the kid was on amphetamines. Just the guy, I thought, we want with a big loaded pistol on his hip.
Just before we left, a lady pointed out a large praying mantis, on a the curb by a fuel pump. Said someone should take it home and put it in their garden. I caught the lime-green mantis and carried it over to some bushes and put him in there…That was my first Washington praying mantis, too…
Another relatively new aspect of our sickly medical establishment here–video “exams”. Kaiser Permanente (in some ways not bad as these big American medical organizations go) has been pushing patients into five-minute follow up “exams” that are done purely through video on your phone or computer. The doctor presumably asks a few questions and confirms you’re still breathing because he can see you talking to him, and that’s the exam. Do they bill the patient a co pay for this? “Not this year” I was told. The person I asked implied they planned to start doing that. You could have to pay a co-pay for a “video exam”.
By the way, suppose you have something that may be hemorrhoids or a tumor, do you drop trou and spread cheeks to the video cam for the doc’s opinion? Will gynecologists look for yeast infection this way? Will you put a string on your phone and lower it down your gullet for a throat exam?
*Why not simply speak on the phone*? You can’t make a determination about anything except maybe a broken arm where the bone is sticking out, on a webcam. The problem is they’ll call it an exam but it isn’t really one. It’s just a way to save them money and still bill. Video exams could be useful for special situations–a friend just told me about one–but as a general all-around replacement for follow up in person exams, I think they’re just a device the company uses to cut corners.
Nothing better demonstrates the male tendency to noticeably lose IQ points when even slightly sexually aroused than the prevalence of fake Facebook accounts displaying pictures of pretty, sexy girls; accounts which invariably have many “friendings” and post-likes from some very sad males. As a person with a common male first name, I get several of these “friend requests” a week. The latest one is from “Christine Malcolm”. It’s typical of the majority: the pretty girl, with exposed shoulders, cleavage, lots of lipstick, doe-like melting gaze, appears as the profile picture, and same or similar pic accompanying first the only post. This latest one’s statement with the post is “Uhhhh….” Not kidding. This statement got several likes from men who remarked on her sylphic beauty, called her baby, and so on. Other such accounts have names like “Melody Johnson” or “Meredith Christismith”. Sometimes the girls in the photos are taking off their tops but haven’t quite got them off.
Occasionally the false-account composers toss in a more appealing line with the post like, “So lonely”. Sometimes the poster, who is a spammer or con artist fishing for suckers, will remember to put a few memes in, like, “I Love The World But Does It Love Me?” Or “I Just Like to Go For It, And See How Far It Goes” with a picture of a leaping leopard on it…
Pressed for time–the spammers have to send out an enormous number of these every day–they’ll screw up the name. It’ll say “Betty John” or “Susan Eric” or “Eric Susan” or “Stein Emily”. If they’re in certain foreign places they really are not certain which name should go where. Salivating men, of all ages, blindly accept the invitation and, if they’re really slick, the guys send smiling pics and say clever things like, “Where do you live?”
I keep thinking about a BBCnews radio report I heard about a man in an Indian city sideswiped by a van. He was knocked down, injured badly, bleeding. The van driver got out, looked at him, then got in the van and went his way. Crowds of people passed the injured man for the next hour–it’s on some surveillance camera in a nearby window–and many looked at him but no one stopped to help, or called the authorities. Blood spread in a pool out from the man. Eventually he bled to death.
The report indicated that these incidents happen fairly often there–they happen here too, at times. In Oakland after the earthquake here were people looting cars in which injured people were crying for help. A documentary about enslaved sex workers in America described an abducted girl screaming for help as her brand new pimp beat her for resisting her first “customer”–and this happened in a busy truck stop parking lot. But apparently ignoring the injured is not unusual in India. (It’s also a place where people perennially ignore the enormous number of children who die of dysentery from quite preventable causes, preventable if local politicians spent a relatively small amount of money.)
The government in India, appalled by this especially egregious incident, decided to start offering cash rewards to people who help others injured on the street. Asked why they need to motivate Good Samaritans financially–the govt official explained the underlying truth. These people might’ve helped, except they’re afraid of the local police. The police in India have a long history of harassing those who call in to help the injured. The person reporting the problem would be harshly questioned and might be detained for days. A law was passed to prevent the police from doing this, but people either don’t know about the law or doubt the police will change.
But that doesn’t mean people bypassing the man who bled to death should not to be held accountable. We understand them better, having heard the history. Yet they are still in the wrong. And this whole syndrome, this spreading attitude of “we’ll help only up to a point, unless there is risk to us” is widespread through the world. Judgment calls about how much we can help are made regarding Syrian refugees. The risks to us are substantial–but we should help anyway. Because a man is bleeding to death on the street.
Last night walking my dogs I had to stop and clean up after one of them, and doing this, because of the awkward circs, I let go of their leashes a moment because NORMALLY they’re good dogs and stay close by me and it’s no problem. But it was a dark street on a dark night, and the dogs do startle, and suddenly a guy came looming up out of the darkness, clop clop clop clop running straight at us–just a jogger, shirtless, booking along pretty fast. The startled dogs launched after the guy, barking, dragging their leashes as they chased him, our small dogs loudly shouting in growf-rowf protest at him. He was quite visibly speeding up. I was soon running after them, yelling “Iggy, Daisy, get back here, stop that!” Waving my bag of dog poop as I went. I also yelled at the jogger: “They don’t really bite! They’re just startled! Sorry!”
At last they obeyed and the guy vanished into the night. I lectured the dogs. They were like, “But we were startled and…and…he was…dangerous or…or something…”
I sometimes forget they’re little animals, descended from wild creatures, never going to be perfectly tame. I look around at the world and I remember that we’re animals too, and we’re never going to be perfectly tame. And we startle, and react and launch ourselves barking and growfing and snapping, dragging our leashes…
One of the great problems of our time is a particular big lie. The lie is that there is “a liberal media”. Of course there are some outlets that are more liberal than others, just as Fox News and many online sites are hyper conservative. But on the whole, the media is reactive; on the whole it simply presents national discourse. It’s not liberal, it’s not conservative. Occasionally something is suppressed, but not much. Mostly it’s just the media. American media *on the whole* is too chaotic, too protean, to be liberal or conservative. But tonight…it may not matter.
In the last few days, at the Democratic convention, there was much that was moving. A Muslim father whose Muslim son gave his life to protect other American soldiers. Michelle Obama’s outpouring of sincerity. People again and again pointing out how Trump has hurt the small businesses he subcontracted, how he has shown that nothing is important to Trump but Trump. Obama’s great speech, Hillary Clinton’s strong, rational speech–but the problem is, the speeches won’t be heard by the general populace, not as they might have been in an earlier era. They won’t be heard, because someone–Karl Rove, and others–convinced many blue collar struggling voters, that there is a “liberal media” that lies.
They don’t listen because they don’t hear–they have trained themselves not to hear. They do not step outside the anti-liberal echo chamber. They do not listen to the other side. And *you cannot argue with a person who refuses to listen to your argument.* They don’t hear about the times Trump demeaned women–and bragged about seducing married women–and wrecked businesses for the sake of his own. They do not receive the information. They are told that “the liberal media” is spreading it, so they stop up their ears. And that big lie might be enough to elect a neo-fascist demagogue to be President of the United States in 2017.
The only way out is to register more voters. To get the vote out. That’s our real hope.
Major Jihadist/Isis-inspired/Sharia-fueled/al Qaeda directed terrorist attacks are fodder for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. He’s simply had good luck with timing, in that regard. I’m sure he’s delighted when the attacks happen, as much as he cries crocodile tears in the media. “So tragic. Huge, huge tragedy. Tremendous, tremendous tragic-ness. I’m going to change all this, I’m going to get tough on these guys, it’ll be spectacular…” As the attacks increase, often carried out by people who were naturalized citizens of the country in which the attacks happened–the USA, Turkey, Spain, France–there will be calls for more and more preventative measures, which can only be achieved through draconian pro-active “assumption of guilt” moves on the part of military, police, and intelligence services. These moves, carried out against whole communities of Muslims–first constrictions of their rights, then massive across-the-board loss of all their rights–will lead to anger and subsequent radicalization of young, previously moderate Muslims. Round and round we go…
All this will please Isis and its compatriots on two levels. They want to radicalize the young–and they want polarization with western civilization. It is an acknowledged part of their plan to encourage an apocalyptic confrontation. They want a caliphate, but not a peaceful one. The caliphate is only a step to what they suppose will be fulfillment of a bogus prophecy.
As we have more attacks, some of them with great loss of life, here in the USA, and in Europe, we’ll see a state of fear induced in formerly tolerant, liberal people; the tolerant will become intolerant. They will solemnly express regret at the necessity of martial law. They will hope that liberality can someday be restored. But “for now, round up the Muslims.” I approve of none of this; I simply predict that it is coming. Fear–and in some ways it is a not unjustified fear–is like a red-hot furnace that can turn the previously hardened metal of character into something soft and pliable. People like Trump can then manipulate its shape. Traditional, right-wing Christian politicians, too, will use the growing heat of fear opportunistically. I am not sure how to avoid what now seems inexorable to me–but I am sure that if Trump is elected we’ll surrender to the worst in our ourselves, all the sooner. We’ll plunge headlong into some form of theocratic martial law…
“We’re running out of ways to get people to waste their lives! Suppose they realize they’re mortal, suppose their denial fails and they realize they don’t have time to play Candy Crush and stare at pictures of celebrities and ogle monkeys riding zebras on their phones? Suppose they realize that, speaking of monkeys, internet porn is ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ time? Some of them…are starting to spend more time outside! It must be stopped!”
“You worry too much, Soulquid old boy!” Screwtape insisted. “They go outside…and stumble about staring into their phones. They ignore their children in the park while they check their Twitter feeds. We have them doing all this while driving! The misery they create with car accidents is delicious!”
“But Screwtape old demon,” Soulquid spat, actually emitting a blackened stream of soul-based chaw, “Sometimes they glance about and show an interest in something other than the electronic narcissism we prepared for them…”
“Oh what’s a glance or two! We’ll soon have them back on track! You see–we have now introduced games played outside, like Pokemon Go. The player is only technically outside when theyr’e playing these ‘Geo AR’ games, Mixed Reality games–the player does move physically about a bit, outside, but they’re still staring into the screens! The hypnosis is unbroken! And of course there’s advertising in the game and many other ways we can enter their unconscious minds while they play! … Soulquid, old fellow *do* cease to spit your soul chaw about, I’ve just had my hooves shined.”
WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?
THIS GUY, right here, SITTING AT THIS TABLE
It is …JOHN SHIRLEY, IS WHO.
John Shirley’s CREDITS INCLUDE:
The screenplay for the movie:
(co-written with Dave Schow–Shirley here wrote the first four drafts)
His Television writing includes episodes of:
****DEEP SPACE NINE
****POLTERGEIST: THE LEGACY
Various eps of the new TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: Emmy nomination for best Prime Time Animation Script for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the new version).
He is WINNER OF THE BRAM STOKER AWARD from the Horror Writers of America for BLACK BUTTERFLIES++++++ and WINNER of the International Horror Guild Award
Writer of the graphic novel THE CROW: DEATH AND REBIRTH (IDW comics)
Author of NOVELS published by Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Warner…
S U C H A S
the cyberpunk novels CITY COME A-WALKIN and A SONG CALLED YOUTH …also Author of the novels DEMONS, CRAWLERS, SILICON EMBRACE, A SPLENDID CHAOS, BLEAK HISTORY, DOYLE AFTER DEATH, and… WYATT IN WICHITA
A L S O!
…Author of BATMAN: DEAD WHITE, author of HALO: BROKEN CIRCLE, author of the BORDERLANDS videogame novels and …videogame writing consultant for TELLTALE GAMES..And!
… author of the novel BIOSHOCK: RAPTURE