Saturday, November 28, 2015

I Thought Growing Old Would Take Longer

I stare at the bathroom mirror waiting for the old guy looking back at me to get out of the way. I wait for the reflected image to change back to the way it used to look, you know, like it did just a short while ago when it looked like me. But, when was that? Was it just yesterday?

It's an odd phenomenon the first time you see someone in a photograph or video, then slowly realize the person in the photograph is you. Photographs posted on Facebook are the absolute worst. I usually recognize my shirt before it dawns on me who is wearing it. Believe me, no one can explain it to you until you see it for yourself. When you do, you will know you are shockingly, certifiably old!

I've read article after article about growing old, but they were all written by youngsters in their 40s and 50s who obviously haven't got a clue. They have philosophical reasoning to pigeon-hole us oldie-goldies just a few, speeding years beyond them in age, but I'll bet when it happens to them, they'll sit around just like I do, wondering what the hell happened. I retired yesterday, really, my daughter took me to Road Atlanta for my 65th birthday, but now I'm 73, Damn, what happened in between? I was there, wasn't I?

As a techie, I tend to analyze things in a trouble-shooting context, such as when I have a memory circuit that inexplicably drops a cycle or loses a byte or two of crucial information during neuro-retrieval. In the computer world of days gone by we called those data checks, today we just say the train left the station. I have a tendency to write-off those glitches as an environmentally induced phenomena, like lack of sleep or even diet, or one too many glasses of Cabernet. In my former life, I would code those non-repeatable happenings as NTF, or No Trouble Found and hustle to my next service call. 

Sometimes my neural rememberer stalls or goes into a loop until something else comes along and forces whatever is hung up into the output gate and my mouth responds some ten seconds later than it should. Or even worse, something pops out that was lodged in there from yesterday. I know, it surprises all of us when it happens, but we can't believe we did it, no matter how much we study what will happen to us as we age. You simply aren’t prepared, I don't care what you read or hear.

I still think like I did yesterday, well, for the most part anyway, and I still like Rock and Roll music. All teenagers my age do. Both surviving Beatles are older than I am, and half of the Rolling stones will beat me out when it comes to longevity, but why do I feel like I'm inhabiting a different body than before.

My body hasn't been through any major physical turmoil, other than a few broken bones, a couple of ruptures and a blown appendix, but it has been exposed to the elements of growing up in south Florida. It has been sunburned, blistered, intoxicated, stoned, bruised, punctured, ruptured, operated on, strained, often exhausted, and sometimes pushed to the limit. But it is still my familiar body, and in spite of being pretty well used and somewhat worn, is actually pretty well taken care of, all things considered. 

I quit smoking in 1979 in spite of Wall Street advertising and the overpowering, constant social badgering to rejoin the club, - I even fell off the wagon for a while in the early nineties - have remained smoke-free ever since. I listen to my wife about diet and exercise, and I get checked every six months or so to see if any more sun-damaged spots have surfaced on my youthfully over-exposed epidermis. I haven't worried about my hair since I was thirty. It didn't turn gray, it just turned loose. I still do yoga, although perhaps not as often as I should, and I walk a couple of miles every day. I'm not unhappy with my health regimen, although my doctor might disagree. But, then again, what does she know? 

Bill Bryson wrote in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything: Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.

So, at 639,480 hours, I have a feeling I may be getting near the magic mark because I think my atoms are packing their bags.

So, keeping with the current philosophy of self-acceptance and grateful self-understanding, self-tolerance and promotion, compassion, and after spending several days in a depression that led nowhere, every time I look in the mirror now I can't help but say, “Hello, Handsome! Ready for another day?”

The old guy in the mirror just smiles. Damn, he looks a lot like my dad!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Flag Waving For The Electronic Age

Originally posted June 1, 2012
[Author's note - Updated November 22, 2015]

Visual stimuli has been used to incite mass fervor in support of a religious or political belief long before the time of the Romans. According to an article from the Los Angeles Chinese Learning Center, fabrics were first attached to carved wooden poles, called vexilloids, about 2000 years ago, and the waving, inspiring banner to follow into battle was born.

The unquestioned love and dedication to an iconic symbol has always caused the inspired masses to sacrifice everything, including life itself, to see their symbol, their flag, carried to victory over someone else's symbol. Learning how and when to wave that visual icon has been mastered by successful religious and political leaders for ages. The art hasn't changed much in several thousand years, but the science has.

When a select group of industrialists wanted to control Germany with a figurehead in the 1930's, they actually needed 30,000 flags to completely engulf a stadium filled with 100,000 people to sway public support. The iconic red and white flags with the black Swastika hung in huge, stadium-high banners from the top of the huge stadium, while every person in the crowd had a personal hand-held flag to wave and a matching arm band to wear. Today, a computer graphic designer can pull a stock photo out of a hard drive, manipulate a few graphics programs, and viola, a computer generated stadium with millions of flags, shown in High Definition on a worldwide distribution network in a matter of seconds. Instead of weeks for magazines to carry color photos to an audience of thousands, today's Internet can inundate mass media distribution markets instantly, reaching millions upon millions of recipients with gloriously colorful, full screen, even 3D projections, enhanced by 7.1 surround sound track.

From mindless mobs charging into murderous, suicidal gunfire or religiously devout believers hanging someone of a different color or race from a tree, the results are always the same; an anonymous, powerful mass of humanity acting blindly, without question, to accomplish the hidden agendas of the often anonymous power-holding flag-wavers. The method of waving the flag has changed, but not the ideology behind it. It is still as insidious as ever and is still used with alarming success. 

Flag wavers have learned their lessons well. Whether based on the nebulous word “Faith,” which represents the suspension of intellectual process to the benefit of any religion, or “Patriotism,” which instills the desire of the believers not only to willingly spill their own blood, but their children's blood as well, in support of a political or territorial “Nation,” flag waving has reached new heights in mass-mind control. Masterfully mass orchestrated during the 1930's by the Nazi's, their lessons in flag waving have not been wasted on any government or religion since. From the dictatorship of today's North Korea, which still uses the old, central mass audience as a primary delivery method, or to the intricately controlled, insidious corporate/political societies of the west, especially the United States of America, which specializes in electronic delivery of corporate sales messages known as advertising to specific audiences.

Warlike conflicts in the civilized world today use surrogate combatants, using iconic, copy-written symbols to inspire their respective followers. The banners and colors are presented with as much thought and preparation of any warlord or government trying to inspire an army. Our flag will beat their flag, here, buy a T-shirt or this iconic piece of plastic to wear on your head to help us prove it. Grown, intelligent men and women sit in freezing temperatures for hours wearing giant pieces of fake cheese on their heads, or polystyrene helmets that offer no protection from even a symbolic fist bash on the head, and they paid a lot of money to do it. They do it because they are following their respective iconic banners into conflict. Safely, I might add.

Today, however, the winners don't actually get to keep the territory of the losing team or rape the women in the loser's city. The Cowboys don't get to kill and pillage Detroit every Thanksgiving just because the Lions lost another football game, even if the fans often act as if they should. Iconic symbols are a big business, and the experts know exactly how to use them. Oddly enough, today's masters of mass communication can't put a dent in the most insidious visual media campaign of the Twenty-First century, intellect's old nemesis, religion.

Today's most successful use of electronic imaging is from the terror group ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or as it is known internationally, or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Their recruiting is so overwhelmingly successful using the Internet the civilized world has had little effect in countering the murderous onslaught of these medieval sociopaths. So far the only attacks on ISIL are from a loosely knit group of computer hobbyists know collectively as “Anonymous,” and their effectiveness has yet to be determined. The governments of the world under attack have had little or no success in countering the ISIS media campaign, and have said publicly the group Anonymous will probably fail as well. The massive array of power and resources of the world have little or no effect in curbing the emotional response to the ever-effective, two thousand-year-old tactic of flag waving in front of a crowd.

The flags today are a different color and have different slogans, but the effect is still the same.


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