Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Horny Old Goat

This evening I stopped by the tasting room at Left Hand Brewery. There are other good local breweries in Colorado too, but Left Hand is on the way home from the grocery in the neighborhood where I live, and I had been wanting to do this for a while. Glad I did. They have a few flavors there that are not available in six packs, so I tried one of these, a Rye Bock. It was delicious and gave a pleasant buzz.

I like the idea of supporting a locally owned business that makes a good product and employs people right here. I like to buy locally produced fruits, vegetables, milk, beeswax, weed and honey too.

After a day's work, sometimes a good beer is the perfect thing. When I was growing up in Chicago, there had been a long history of independent breweries and beer gardens, but it changed when the last independent, Meister Brau, was bought by Miller. Miester Brau used to make a bock beer every spring, and traditionally, bock is only a spring beer. They had also created Lite Beer, which has been a big winner for Miller, although I think they quit making the bock beer years ago, or maybe I just haven't been living in parts of the country where they sell it.

Yes, I am enjoying the renaissance of microbreweries.

This may seem strange to you, but in old Europe, February 1 signaled the beginning of spring. Groundhog Day originated in Germany. The Celtic celebration of Imbolc also comes on this day. So here we are at the first day of spring, celebrating with a drink of bock beer. I still miss the daffodils that would always be in bloom by this date when I lived in Georgia. As a harbinger of spring, what could be better than a sun yellow flower with a sweet scent?

The legend on the Rye Bock bottle says that it was traditional for farmers to feed their goats rye in the spring to make them a little more randy. I didn't know they needed help with that. They say the Bavarians originated the idea of putting rye in beer along with the hops. How's this for a beer label? "Will our Rye Bock exacerbate your spring fever? Maybe not, but trying out old folklore never tasted so good."

Don't know about you, but this felt like a great way to welcome in spring, especially following this gorgeous full Wolf Moon. Here's to all you old goats and goatesses!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gonzo Gazillions

As I heard about Ben Bernanke getting reappointed to be our chief money guru, I got this sudden flash of insight into the mysteries of money. I mean, he is big news because of the recent financial fiasco, and who could forget the gazillion dollar bailouts?

Just back in 2008, huge banks, brokerages and insurance companies said that they were in dire financial shape and needed gazillions of dollars from the government (us)to keep them from going out of business. Gee, how did that happen? How did they come to be in such bad shape?

We were told that the economy would collapse if we did not give them gazillions of dollars. Once again, the fear factor was invoked to make us do something that a lot of us sensed was wrong.

It looks like all that money just lost itself. Our economy was said to be teetering on the verge of another Great Depression, but apparently, there was no fraud anywhere to be found. Shit happens, right?

So here we are, a year and a half later, and the greedy perps who run the banks, brokerages and insurance companies are still giving themselves bazillions in bonuses as if they were doing a great job and deserve to be rewarded.

Has anyone else wondered why no one has been arrested, indicted or sentenced to jail for any of this?

Now we cannot count Bernie Madoff, because he was just running his own personal scam and did not get gazillions from the government.

There is only one possible conclusion. Bad deals just happened and nobody was responsible. All the bad deals that almost ruined our economy just did themselves. Nobody did anything criminal. No fraud. No theft. No embezzlement. I guess all that money just decided to go for a hike in the mountains or a swim at the beach and went missing.

Amazing, isn't it?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Well of Creativity

The death of J.D. Salinger today prompts a fascinating question. After writing one of the most popular American novels of the 20th century, Catcher in the Rye plus a couple of books of short stories, he quit writing and lived a very reclusive life. He guarded his privacy to such an extreme extent, he tried to prevent other authors from writing biographies of him.

On the other end of the spectrum of creative productivity, we find popular authors who seem to produce a new book every six months, with some of them writing under pen names because they are afraid that they could water down their brand name if they produce too many books.

One of my writing teachers used to say that the world might be better off if more authors accepted the fact that they only have one good book in them.

Between these two extremes, another author, Joseph Heller wrote Catch 22, which is another of the most popular American novels, whose title itself became a popular catch phrase. He did write other books, but nothing ever came close to the impact of Catch 22. It must be a sort of weight on a person to always have that question hovering over them that wonders if he will ever again produce anything as great as his most famous work, even though he has produced other books.

It is a fascinating question to contemplate. Why or how do we hit our limit of creativity?

Ray Bradbury, author of many great titles, including Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, Zen and the Art of Writing, and many other titles, insists that he has never had writer's block. He says that he has always loved writing and that's what he has always wanted to do.

How many times can a person go to the well of creativity?

I cannot answer that question, but I can observe that some of the writers who have produced a great many titles have created many great works, while some prolific authors keep rehashing and warming over something they did well once or twice.

Perhaps it is as simple as getting out of our own way to be able to go to the well. Perhaps those who have huge blocks are simply unable to open their mind and go farther. Sometimes people get overwhlemed and shocked by their early success are never quite able to comprehend or come to grips with it. And there just may be those who have written one or a few excellent books for which they will be remembered and they have nothing else to write.

It is a fascinating question. How many times can we go to the well?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Avatar's Failure of Imagination

Avatar is now the highest grossing film ever, and this fact is sure to add to the pressure to name it best film of the year. Although an entertaining movie, I would never agree that it is the best thing I have seen in a year.

Question this. Plot development? Why is it that the imagination that could come up with fantastic flora and fauna and luminous special effects could not imagine this magical world playing out in some way other than two armed forces trying to destroy each other? If the creative people behind this movie could imagine a world very different than our own, then why not elevate possibility thinking to a new level where solutions to problems can be found?

Question this. Character development? Is it possible to view the military commander or the corporate guy as anything other than one dimensional cretins? Compare them to some other good movies. Have you ever seen a film where even the bad guy had some complexity, some positive aspect, some appealing qualities or characteristics, making them at least an interesting character?

These two flaws are so large that Avatar will never stand as a great movie, unless you want to judge greatness based solely on special effects or box office receipts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Avatar Anomalies

As a movie experience, Avatar is a constant stream of stunning images, so if you just want to kick back and be dazzled by computer generated images, then this is definitely the ticket.

Much has been made of the fact that it cost about a half billion dollars to make. But such figures are difficult to comprehend. Not so long ago a million dollars was considered a lot of money. When they say that it cost a half a billion dollars to basically make an adult cartoon, it really makes it seem like play money. Most of us live on a total annual budget that would be totally lost in that figure. There are probably some countries in the world that don't have a half billion dollar annual operating budget or an economy that produces that much. Some numbers are hard to comprehend.

I guess for some people the mere fact that the movie cost so much to make was reason enough to see it. I rarely go to movie theatres any more since I am so happy with the way Netflix works, and the price is a bargain. I like the idea of being able to watch what I want when it fits my schedule. But the idea of a huge spectacle in 3-D is something that would not come across as well on a regular, smaller sized screen, so I decided to see it that way, on the big screen.

What about the story? I heard someone else say that it was a lot like an old Disney cartoon called Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and that Avatar was nothing more than a half billion dollar Ferngully. Not having seen Ferngully myself, I can't say. But I can say that it reminded me of a very well made cartoon. Yes, a cartoon that is light years ahead of what we used to call cartoons in terms of animation and special effects.

What I can say is that in what I consider a well made movie, you have intriguing plot developments and strong characters.

What really is contained in Avatar besides stunning visuals? Well let's see. You have the corporate guy who takes the attitude that "it doesn't matter what the natives want. The minerals under the land where they live are worth a lot. Our wheels do not stop. We have a lot of money to make here, and that is all that is important. They need to get out of our way." He reminds me a lot of some of the corporate guys I work for on my day job.

Then you have the mercenary enforcers, the military kind of guys who think that the best way of resolving different points of view is by destroying the people who have other points of view. Obviously a reference to some current events. Most people can probably pick up on this. Sound like a war where a group of mercenaries named Blackwater has been helping to secure black water (oil)?

The natives in Avatar people have a metaphysical world view of how everything is connected and how healing, visions, interspecies communication, connection to the ancestors and all kinds of marvelous things happen as a result of these connections, which appear to give the people magical abilities. They are a very spiritually oriented people. Yes, our world would be a better place if we were all so attuned.

Much like Dances With Wolves, the native viewpoint really resonates with one of the military guys who decides to go native. He has allies among a few other sympathetic military people and scientists who appreciate the unfairness of it all, who get a sense of the metaphysical connections, and join the revolt against the brute force. This is the part that is kind of like Matrix, where the clash between cultures is really a clash between alternate realities and there is a catalyst who travels between the two. The scenes at the Tree of Souls certainly calls to mind the huge party scene from Matrix. I like these metaphyiscal aspects, and that part is alluring. But we still have stale plot points and stock characters where the only reason for visiting other planets is to exploit their resources, and the only kind of interaction with others is violent, and the people in power are toxic jerks.

You could even dip back a bit further and find a number of ways that this resembles Star Wars with the ex Marine in the robot standing in for Darth Vader, the droids attacking the critters, the muppets replaced by animated graphics of plants, animals and humanoids, and the underdogs are still the only ones really connected to spirit.

But to my taste, some of the best movies I have seen are not these huge eye candies, but rather some of the smaller movies with strong characters and plots that are not predictable from the first frame. Sometimes they win big awards and make big money, sometimes not. There are things in a great movie that are more fascinating than flying dinosaurs and iridescent jungles.

Avatar comes to a conclusion with a lot of stuff getting blown up, burned and shot. Hollywood loves to do that, because it makes for spectacular visuals. As entertainment, I find other things much more interesting, although I readily admit to watching some action, adventure and mystery movies.

Right now, the buzz is such that Avatar will no doubt be nominated as the best movie of the year. But in my opinion, that is more a result of the marketing buzz it has generated and the colorful special effects created than because of the great script and great acting. Sorry, but I am not on the bandwagon. All this movie has going for it is great visuals.

Then again, we have to look at the context to see why it is popular.

I guess it helps to have visual virtual enemies because it at least gives audiences a target for venting anger, compared to nameless faceless brokers who can amass fortunes selling stocks they don't own, those who sold people mortgages they knew that they cannot afford, and those who make profits by offshoring the jobs and selling off the parts and giving themselves massive bonuses while dumping employees and dumping on the ones who are left.

When politicians are trying to convince us that forcing us to give more of our money to the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies that have been ripping us off for years is a "reform" it is kind of like living in a cartoon or slapstick comedy. The lobbyists write diabolically funny plays, only they call them laws.

In the real world, we have unobtanium too. The script writers didn't really stretch their minds too far to get to unobtanium from unobtainable. Asking some of these politicians to do what we elected them to do and fix what needs to be fixed for us is like opening Pandora's box. Look up Pandora in Greek mythology. Those ancient story tellers could spin fantastic tales that have given roots and wings to our culture and civilization for millennia.

It is not surprising that with all the craziness going on in the world, some people would rather watch a cartoon and forget what is going on. Sometimes it is impossible for comedies and cartoons to one up real life.

So is this giant cartoon the greatest movie of the year? No, but it will help many people find some temprary relief from real problems, and that is what we pay movies to do.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dynamite Visuals

Avatar is well on its way to being one of the biggest movies ever. In terms of special effects, it is really special. In terms of plot, it is something of a cross between Dances with Wolves and Matrix.

You can make what you will about whether this is a parable about current wars and whether vastly different world views can coexist.

There are some great metaphysical conceps on display about the interconnectedness of life.

But at the end, do we still have a very colorful and fantastic set of visuals that are all about two armies blowing each other up?

Hollywood always loves those dynamite visuals.

Bottom line, is the story that great, or is it just a showcase for visuals? Let's think about this some more.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Color of Black and White

Changing the tarot deck we use to do readings can provide a burst of fresh energy in the same way that reorganizing our living space can give us a sense of renewal.

Those of us who like using tarot cards usually have looked over a number of different decks, and maybe we have a number of them, and we usually gravitate to using one deck that becomes our favorite and most reliable tool.

Sometimes, when a person sees a deck it is love at first sight, and they use it for years without even considering using something else because it works so well for them. Then there are others who have a deck they enjoy, but then they see another that sparks their energy and imagination, and they switch to using that one regularly, and they repeat this pattern over and over, a serial monogamy with tarot.

There are some people who regularly switch back and forth between a number of decks that they enjoy using. Some decide which deck to use based on their mood that day,or if they are reading for someone else, perhaps choosing the deck they feel will work best for that person.

I have a larger than average number of decks since I deal in cards as well as collect them for myself, so I have seen a lot more decks than most people. There are decks I can appreciate for the sheer beauty and art, others for the appeal of the concepts.

Most people who use cards have had some instances of buying a deck based on a few examples they have seen, but then are disappointed with the whole deck. And then there are decks which we love, except that there are a few cards that just bother us because we don't like the concept or the execution, so when we use it, we keep wishing that one or those few cards were different than they are.

Sometimes changing a deck can freshen up readings and surprise the reader. With this in mind, I made a radical change. I went from using a very colorful deck with Renaissance type imagery to a black and white deck with a very simple drawing style that projects a lot of primal, earthy energy. This one is also one that has been out of print since 1974, so most people have not seen one like it before.

There have also been a few other black and white decks that I really like and interestingly, I have sold almost all of them, even though the vast majority of decks use full color in their design.

People who have created the better decks in black and white images seem to have imbued them with a very rich energy, wit, originality and boldness. I think that is what people see in these innovative decks because the power of the imagery must come from the form, not the burst of color.

I feel very good about using this deck, and no doubt I will go back to a deck with full color, but for now, there is a burst of freshness that pops out every time I pull out some of these cards.

There are cases to be made for working with one deck deeply and exclusively, and for switching back and forth. For me, for now, switching to the black and white deck from the vivid colors has proven to be a very lively and invigorating dance.

No doubt, I will continue to use decks that have a lot of color, as will most people, but just like with old classic movies, there are some black and white films that do not need color in order to be interesting, beautiful or great. And, of course, let's not forget some of the incredible photographers of an earlier era who did all of their great work in black and white. There are dynamics in the form that become more visible in the absence of color.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do We All Drill Our Own Well?

Politicians in this country have been debating whether health care is a right. I think it is.

Why do I think so? A person can go shopping for the best deal on a car, housing, clothes, food and entertainment. But if you are ill or injured, you are in no position to go shopping for the best deal on surgery or critical care. So it cannot possibly considered just another commodity purchase.

I am greatly disappointed in the current proposed health care legislation and I do not support it. Here is why.

Not so long ago, I did not have health insurance. Why? I have a pre-existing condition, so the insurance companies did not want to sell me a policy. So I got my health care by negotiating cash payments with my doctors and ordering my prescriptions from Canada in order to buy my meds at significantly reduced prices.

One of the reasons I got my meds from Canada was because I did compare prices for my maintenance meds at drug stores, grocery stores and even the big discount stores here. One of the drugs my doctor prescribed was one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in this country. At the time, there was no generic version available, and the price was almost identical no matter what store I called. The Big Pharma Company insists that it has to cost this much because it costs so much to produce.

That is a lie. Look it up and see how their marketing costs compare with their research costs. The Canadian pharmacies sell meds back to me and other Americans for 40% less than any American store. (It has been a few years now, so I do not have the exact numbers at hand, but I will use this percentage for the sake of example. In any case it is significant.) There was a time when Big Pharma was upset with the Canadian pharmacies for selling the meds to Americans for these greatly reduced prices, and so they withheld shipments to Canadian pharmacies. To get around that, the Canadians had pharmacies in Australia and New Zealand send me my meds, still at that 40% off price.

Do you believe that Big Pharma Companies are selling these drugs to all these people in other countries at a loss? I don't.

Why are we paying more than everybody else? We have been paying too much for years because we have not insisted on getting a better deal.

That's what we need to do. We need to insist on getting a better deal in health care.

What would that be? A single payer system in which everyone gets health care and it is paid for out of our taxes. That is what they do in the countries of Europe, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Canada and Australia.

If you lost access to a group plan because your company does not have one, or you got got laid off and changed jobs or careers or became self employed, you probably got sticker shock when you got quotes from insurance companies, even if you were in good health with no pre-existing conditions. Many people had to opt not to buy policies because they simply could not afford them.

At present, I have insurance through a group plan at my day job, (and it has a very high deductible) and I buy all my meds in the generic versions to save money. However, for the second time in a year, my employer is offshoring my job to India. This is how many people have lost their coverage. A national single payer plan would provide coverage without interruption in such cases. A national single payer plan could not refuse to cover a person because they have a pre-existing condition.

People who do not like the idea of a national single payer plan often argue that if we had that, we could not get the kind of care we want, when we want. That argument is false. I have coverage right now, and there are things that my doctors recommend that the insurance company refuses to pay for. Why is this better? It's not.

The proposed legislation would simply force us to buy policies from the same insurance companies which priced us out of the market or refused to sell us coverage in the first place. It does nothing to stop Big Pharma from overcharging us for our meds.

Can you say "thank you, lobbyists" and "thank you congresspeople and senators for sucking up to them"? If they pass this bill, we will be forced to give money to the very companies that didn't want to help us when we needed help.

It is time for congresspeople and senators to be courageous, do the right thing and make real changes.

I think it is time to insist on a better deal. Take the insurance companies out of the equation. Use the combined purchasing power of a single payer to negotiate better prices on our meds. Health care should simply be available to everyone because it is necessary for life. It should not be a leading factor in causing people to file for bankruptcy.

Water is necessary for life. In most places in this country, everyone can turn on faucets in their residence and get water. It is not free. We all pay for it. We are not told that we all need to go out and drill our own well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Telltale Omens

When it is time for us to change course in life, frequently it is a difficulty that ushers in the new era. Why? Because for many of us, that's what it takes to get our attention.

When I was a magazine editor, in my publication there was always a place for the story of how some significant change came into being in a person's life. Time after time, the most powerful stories originated with a person who had a death in the family, got laid off from a job, was diagnosed with a serious illness, got divorced or separated, lost a good friend, were forced into a radical career change, had a near death experience, had a serious accident, started getting visions or hearing voices. All kinds of things. And those were among the most memorable stories we published. Most of the time, these stories did not come from famous authors or celebrities, but from individuals who had a profound, life changing experience and were just going about their lives without any publicity.

I continue to observe this truth among people I meet, and people I read for, people who need healings.

It is easier to see after that event is over and your life has changed how something so negative ended up being the catalyst for the positive changes that came next.

Strong medicine is often required because so often we get these gentle warning signs and subtle omens that indicate a shift, and we just miss it. How many of us had to learn a lesson about backing up copies of documents and photos we store on our computer because when a previous computer crashed, we were not able to retrieve our data?

Telltale omens. When I used to crew on a racing yacht years ago, we always kept an eye on the little ribbon way up above you that will tell you which way the wind is moving before we changed the position of the sails to take advantage of it.

When we look back, how often do we see the signs that something needed to change before the big event unfurled?

Keep an eye on the telltale signs and the subtle omens, the gut feelings, the shift in the wind.

As we learn to do that, we can make changes before we are forced into making changes. We will have the luxury of initiating activity and creating results in a conscious way. Seeds germinate in the damp, dark earth before they unleash their energy and propel sprouts upward to blossom into new plants. And the seed shell has to crack for those new roots to take hold.

Gratitude will help us make these transitions better than anger. Gratitude will nurture our progress and our new growth. It is a key for making the transition from grieving to emerging from darkness, difficult and challenge.

If we read the telltale omens, riding the torrents of energy, even the turbulent and difficult ones will be a different adventure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Can the Problem Also Be the Solution?

There are two real reasons that there are 45 million Americans without health care coverage. One is that health insurance companies have chosen not to sell policies to people with "pre-existing conditions."

The second reason 45 million Americans do not have health care coverage is because the self employed and self insured got quotes on policies that were so steep that they could not afford them.

Considering that health insurance is a way to help people pay their bills when they are ill or injured, denying participation to those who are likely to need help has always seemed to me to be particularly cruel and a rip off of consumers by the insurance companies. Their strategy for making profits has been to sell policies to those least likely to need care and then deny claims whenever they can.

Since the insurance companies have created these problems, it seems only sensible that a government option is needed.

For this reason, I would like to see the current bill fail until it is changed.

The current bill would mandate that everyone purchase some kind of coverage from the insurance companies. However, the problem was created by insurance companies, so all this bill does is guarantee that more money will flow to the insurance companies. I am opposed to creating legislation that would benefit the very companies that created the problem.

What would I really like to see? The kind of single payer health care system that people in Europe, Britain, Canada and Australia all have.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cooking, Wine and Spoons

How many times do we make things more complicated than we need to make them? I was watching the recent movie about Julia Child and no, her recipes were not simple, but I found myself reflecting on the fact that we eat every day, of course, to keep our body alive and well. What Julia was doing was celebrating life every day by cooking and sharing the meals.

We will not all want to take the time to cook complex, and in some instances, very costly meals, but we have many opportunities to spend an evening cooking a meal and sharing it, then letting the evening extend its way into other simple pleasures, like good conversation and passionate lovemaking.

Yes, it is fun to go out for dinner and go to the theatre or a concert, and those nights are a pleasure. But we serve ourselves well by remembering that a magnificent evening can begin with a simple home cooked meal.

It is interesting to experiment with exotic ingredients and unusual preparations, and that is just another way of putting more love into the meal, which becomes part of the shared experience.

A little wine and an evening that ends with spoons. What do you mean, ends with spoons? I hear some of you asking. I will let you think about that for a while. It does have to do with dessert, and I leave it to you to contemplate the many flavors of dessert.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Googling, Hacking and Coughing

Don't know about you, but I find the whole story about Google, hacking and their deal with the Chinese government to be fascinating, and not just because of the technical wizardry, but the ethical question at the root of it all.

I can be just as enamored of a good conspiracy theory as any X Files or Coast to Coast AM fan, but this is not a theory.

Google's desire to get a piece of the booming Chinese economy led it to do something that others of us might never agree to do, and that is agree to censorship.

Talk about your Faustian bargains, the deal they made was that if people in China wanted to look up information about subjects that make the government uncomfortable, like the Dalai Lama or Tiannamen Square, all they could get is a blank screen.

In return, they would get an opportunity to make money off all the Chinese people who are getting computers and using them like we do, to use the famous search engine to find information.

All this opening trade with China combined with the American corporate willingness to sell them everything made it possible for Chinese hackers this week to get into the vaunted Google, and Symantec, maker of anti-virus software and also Northrop Grumman, a major manufacturer of military aircraft. The fact that the accounts of Chinese dissidents and advocates for a Free Tibet were also hacked kind of points the finger at Chinese government involvement but that is not a proven fact yet.

Obviously, Google didn't mind if ordinary Chinese people were blocked from looking up certain subjects, but when the hackers got into their home turf and started messing around, then the issue became serious.

Google cannot have it both ways. You cannot have a system that allows anyone to access information and at the same time censor the process according to the whims of government officials and politicians. In the rest of the world, we even get to google the stuff that is embarrassing, disgusting, shocking or inconveniently true as well as the stuff that is amazing, heart warming, inspiring and informative.

I like Google and I use it every day. And I think it is absolutely wrong for them to become a partner with government to censor and repress. This is exactly the process outlined in George Orwell's novel 1984.

For those of you who have never read the book or seen the movie, the government employees would go back and rewrite history to make it read in a way that would support their propaganda. Facts were changed, photos were changed, so that when a person would look something up, all they saw was what the government wanted them to see.

The visionary writer came up with this cautionary tale of the future long before the founders of Google were even born, or for that matter before we had personal computers.

The hacking appears to be Google's wake up call. They are coughing and choking on the fact that agreeing to censorship was not enough to really satisfy the government demands, because they could not guarantee that people could not find a way around the censorship, so the opposition decided to hack in.

The standard should be the same all over the world. Either we have access to a free flow of information or we do not. Selling off people's freedom in order to cut out a bigger slice of profit is a bad and wrong choice in my opinion.

The hacking incident has caused them to threaten to pull out of the Chinese market. If this is what it takes to bring their consciousness up a level, good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chickens Throw a Party for Colonel Sanders

The company where I work during the day is sending the person who has the desk next to me to India for a month to train people to do our jobs.

Kind of like getting the chickens to throw a party for Colonel Sanders isn't it?

Not a new wrinkle for this corporation, by any stretch. In fact, they are now one of the largest employers in India, while of course, reducing their work force in America and reducing the pay and benefits for those they still have here. While I have been working here, our pay has been cut and jobs sent to India. That was just after they congratulated us for doing a good job and letting us know that the client company renewed their contract for another three years.

What's the big attraction for corporations outsourcing to India? The fact that they have educated people who are happy to work for about $4 an hour. At the dawn of this millennium, this corporation used to pay people who live in Colorado $16 an hour to do that same job. Not any more. This is the New World Order that Daddy Bush announced.

A recent movie called Outsourced featured exactly this same scenario, where an American was sent to India to train people to replace Americans. The twist at the end is that after the American got the Indians trained and up to speed, the company moved the jobs from India to China because the people there would work even cheaper. As a side note, my employer not only outsources jobs to India, they also are busy in Argentina, Brazil, China and other places that have lots of people who will work cheaper than us.

I wish to make it abundantly clear that I like the people, the culture, the spirituality, the cuisine of India. I am all for them improving their economy.

So what is wrong with this picture? Well, if we know that Indians make a lot lower wage than Americans, do the corporations pass those savings on to consumers? No.

When the corporation I work for hires people in third world countries to do work for American client companies, do they quote the client a supercheap price for their services? No.

When I need to talk to someone about my credit card or my internet line, to name just two items, my call goes to someone in India. In the not so ancient past, when I called my credit card company or internet provider, I was actually talking to a person living and working in America. I have not seen the price of those services go down because they have employees working for less.

How much do you pay for an Iphone? It is assembled by people who make how much per hour? And in what country?

Even some of the famous name designer goods that come at premium prices that you think are made in Italy are really made in China by someone who makes how much?

When I go to the store to buy a new pair of shoes, does the price of a $100 pair of shoes actually reflect the phenomenally reduced labor cost companies enjoy from making them in some country where people are paid a buck an hour or whatever?

The other aspect to these developments is that while the magic of the marketplace is busy turning $16 an hour American jobs into $4 an hour Indian jobs, it gets harder for people in this country to afford things like health care.

So while a growing number of Americans are enjoying the pleasure of doing more work for less money while the corporate execs gorge themselves at the trough, we will continue to witness the irony of chickens being prompted to throw parties for Colonel Sanders.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stop Making Sense

Of course, yesterday's blog about everybody going naked in the airports was a firmly tongue in cheek piece, although maybe some people missed it.

The way humor works is that absurdity can sometimes point at the truth better than a serious discussion. When you approach subjects like this in a practical way, you can seem like a fool. But who is really the fool? Let's take a look.

For example, if the 9/11 terrorists were here in this country under the false pretenses that they were going to school, why would it be hard to verify this? Since all schools now have records of their students on computer, it would seem like the INS or FBI or whoever needed to know could have simply verified by a search of computer records whether those guys were enrolled in school and attending classes.

Then TSA was created to screen people and check bags at airports. Why didn't they just assign the National Guard to do that? The National Guard is already employed by us, most of them are supposed to be stationed at home in the US, and they have uniforms, weapons and training.

Instead, the former president created a whole new bureaucracy to oversee these agencies, and a reasonable person can wonder if we really have better security for all the billions of dollars we poured into this new bureaucracy.

I am just a practical person and sometimes being practical is really the big taboo.

Here's another suggestion. Why not just fully legalize maijuana, tax it, make money for needed items like health care? Then reassign all those cops who are facing the impossible task of stopping all traffic in marijuana to agencies that need them? They could help apprehend violent criminals or patrol our borders? Or maybe let them handle security at airports and transportation terminals?

OMG, stop making sense!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Naked Truth

How long will it be before we all have to present ourselves naked at the airports in order for everyone to know that we are not carrying any weapons? Maybe that's really the goal of the terrorists. They want to see America naked.

It seems inevitable that in order for people to feel safe, we will all be walking through scanners that X-ray vision. And for those who have suspicious bulges, it will be into the little room with you, where you have to take it all off to show that you have nothing to hide.

Since the scanners will expose us all to little doses of radiation, wouldn't it just be healthier for everybody if we just took off our clothes and did away with the scanners?

Remember the old Mae West greeting? Is that a gun in your pocket or are you glad to see me?

Well, I guess people in warmer climates will have an easy enough time parading around airports naked, but it will be a different scene in all those places that have near zero temperatures in winter.

Why stop at airports? Why not just declare the US a naked country? We could just walk around naked all the time and that way everyone will know what a friendly country we are. We have nothing to hide.

Nudism could be the wave of the future. Just think how much you will save on clothing costs. Especially all you fashionistas who feel compelled to buy new clothes every season to keep up with what the designers say are the fashion trends.

All those makeover shows would go right down the tubes I guess. Well, you could still do something to accessorize your body hairs. And I guess nail painting would still be in vogue.

All these years, so many people thought that people who enjoyed walking around naked were just a little screwy. Little did they know that they would come to be seen as the farthest forward fashion trend setters.

It might be a great war strategy too. It could drive Osama and his buddies nuts to see hundreds of millions of people naked. A lot of his lackeys might have second thoughts about whether they need to blow themselves up before they see this many virgins.

Well, OK, it may be hard to come up with that many virgins, but you never know. It's hard to tell who's who when everybody's naked.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Other

There are numerous movies and novels that play off the theme of a person selling their soul to the devil in return for great success. The most famous story in classic literature that uses this theme is Faust.

Sometimes reporters or commentators on news events will refer to something as a Faustian bargain, implying a really nasty deal.

But is it ever really possible?

I think that we give the imaginary creature known as the Devil too much credit.

For example, it was rumored that certain great musicians made deals with the devil in order to achieve their greatness. But why not jump to the conclusion that dedication and practice led to mastery of their instruments?

In Europe, there are a number of bridges that were so masterfully constructed by medieval craftsmen that they were given the name "Devil's Bridges" because people somehow developed the opinion that projects that amazing had to be the product of some deal that gave the craftsmen superhuman powers.

But I think that we ought to take more credit for everything we do.

I think that all of us are capable of much more and when people suddenly rise to their greatness that it is a product of a person calling on all their resources, not a secret deal with an imaginary creature.

It is often corrupt politicians and greedy corporate execs who make life hell for people. They don't need any help from the devil. But there again, they are not taking credit for their accomplishments. Rarely do you hear someone step up to the microphone and cameras and say that they wanted to take a certain action just because they wanted to bag another few million for themselves no matter how it impacted customers, employees or the community.

Back to the other more positive aspect, when a person achieves something beyond whatever others have done, why don't we see it as showing the rest of us just how much we can do if we just focus our energies?

When we no longer focus on the other, the power shifts back to us and what we can do.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Filmed Imagination

I have not seen the new movie Avatar yet, but I plan to, and having read some of the reviews, and they pose a fascinating question.

Notice how typical it is that when humans encounter some other species that the response is always a fight.

When movies are about UFOs or creatures from other planets, a movie that shows some kind of peaceful, creative interaction is rare. Most often, we end up at war with each other.

Is this just a failure of imagination?

No doubt, from what I have gleaned thus far, Avatar is technically superior in terms of the visual effects. It is just the latest to continue to advance the craft of movie making through computer generated special effects.

But I wonder when we will see more movies that have a story at the center of them that shows people interacting with new tribes or species in some kind of creative, peaceful way.

True, in the history of our planet we see wave after wave of one ethnic group or tribe overpowering another, fighting for control of land and resources, or picking fights with each other over differences based political or religious opinions, race or ethnicity. A logical extension of that would be that when we do land on other planets this pattern will continue.

All I am asking is one question. What if movie makers, our large scale story tellers, were to expend as much of their creative energy imagining scenarios where encounters between different groups of characters were not violent? Is it possible?

Think about the differences between movies like ET, Cocoon and Contact and movies like Independence Day, Aliens and Terminator?

Doesn't our future begin with our imagining it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Fool's Journey

I remember when I bought my first deck of cards. I was simply taking a walk while I was vacationing and noticed this little gift store. I spotted this little deck of cards and the illustration on the box indicated that it was a deck for fortune telling. It was a deck of 36, a Lenormand type deck, although I did not know that at the time.

Looking at them I wondered what the pictures could mean, by themselves or in combination with other cards. I wondererd what the differences were in meaning from one card to another. Fortunately for me, the deck did not come with any kind of instruction book, so I was simply left to using my own imagination to figure it out.

The technique I used was simple. I asked people to think about what they wanted to know while they shuffled the cards. Then I took some off the top and saw some meaning in the pattern, something that told me what the story was. People told me that they enjoyed my reading and that provided answers to their questions.

Later on, someone showed me what a Celtic Cross spread was and I used that because I did not know anything else. Later on again, I saw a tarot deck, a Rider, and then I started working with that, although the first one stayed my favorite for a long time.

It all started out of curiosity.

Today, the tarot is my every day deck, and the first card in every tarot deck is the Fool, who is numbered 0. Some people say that zero indicates he is both the lowest and highest ranking card in the deck.

The Fool has experienced many adventures in life's journey, and has many more to go. He has learned a lot, and he knows that he does not know everything. Although he has done much, he always finds more to do. Although he has been many places, there are still more places he wants to go. The Fool knows that we are never done learning, and he is not afraid to look foolish in his quest to travel, explore and experience even more of life's adventures.

I did not know when I picked up that first deck of cards what kind of journey they would open up for me. I did not know where that path would lead. I just knew that I wanted to see what was out there on that path.

How many other aspects of our life were discovered in this way? How many of us tried something new simply out of curiosity, and then discovered that this new thing, new idea, new practice, new technique, opened new doors for us, let us see the world through different eyes, let us experience life in ways that we had not previously imagined?

The Fool's Journey is a path for an adventurous person. It is a journey for those curious about life. Itis a path for those who do not care if others think they are foolish, because they are busy experiencing life, seeing what is out there beyond the nearby and familiar.

It was not that long ago that people spent most of their lives close to the place where they were born, and those who ventured out were considered real risk takers, being out there in unfamiliar places, mingling with strangers, other travelers, dangerous people and different people.

If you have ever taken The Fool's Journey, you know that it can be both exciting and scary. It happens when we start our own business. It happens when we start a new relationship. It happens when we explore different spiritual paths, challenge our old thinking, or go to live in a different part of the country or different part of the world.

The Fool's Journey requires a lot of heart. And The Fool's Journey is available to all who desire to take action and see what else life has to offer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wisdom, Beauty and Images

To me, one of the benefits of appreciating different artist interpretations and using different decks is how this expands my ability to read with any deck. The sheer creativity and imagination displayed in many decks serves the purpose of deepening knowledge.

RWS (Rider Waite Smith, the most common, most familiar deck) was my first deck, and one that I still use, although there is another that I use most of the time. I also find it invaluable when teaching tarot. I lay out cards from RWS side by side with the same cards from other decks. This helps the person learn how the meanings can vary or expand and enlarges their ability to read.

A fascinating side note to this discussion. For many years, what many refer to as the standard tarot deck, was called the Rider Waite. Rider was the original printing company and Waite was the author who created the concept. Pamela Colman Smith was the artist who created the pictures for this revolutionary deck. What was revolutionary was that there was a picture on each of the 78 cards, where earlier decks only had picture cards for the major arcana and court cards. The minor arcana consisted of pips. Pips are the number cards in a playing card deck, where you have the numeral plus the suit sign. So the RWS deck made it easier for people to read and use. Many people have long felt that not having the artist's name on the deck was an oversight. This has been corrected with the new Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative set, issued for the 100th anniversary of the creation of this deck. it contains a book about the artist containing a large number of her non-tarot art, as she was a successful artist before creating the deck, the original text by Waite, and a reproduction of the original deck.

I always felt that some of what Waite wrote about in his book on the deck put unrealistic expectations on a reader. For example, for certain cards, he says that if you get this one, you will meet a blue eyed, blonde person, and if you get this one, you will meet a person with red hair and green eyes. This is far too limiting, so I disregarded comments such as this years ago.

Same thing for some of the obscure symbology he worked into the cards. In fairness, of course, other designers take pains to explain why certain images contain a blue butterfly or a yellow flower in the background, which may or may not be a factor in your interpretations.

Rather, I pay attention to the major focus on the cards. For example, the differences between the depiction of the Magician as a ceremonial one, versus a shamanic one or the older version, where he is more of a slight of hand magician. Or perhaps the differences between Judgment, karma or reconciliation.

Many people have sought out variations from the RWS because they are turned off by some of the Christian iconography such as the Devil, Pope and the Last Judgment, and choose decks that have changed those images. Of course, it is practical to acknowledge that such imagery was chosen because it was universally recognizable.

Comparative study is valuable in helping me to relate to the imagery in different ways and interpret cards for different readings and it enhances my ability with the RWS and other decks when I use them. Collecting decks appeals to both my taste for art and creativity and the pursuit of the wisdom encoded in symbols and stories.

I too, used to question myself about why I owned a number of decks rather than just one, but owning a number of decks is no different than a person owning several pieces of art.

So although I have one deck I use mostly, my appreciation and understanding of tarot in general has been enhanced and expanded by having more than one deck, including a variety of Lenormand types and oracle decks as well.

The beauty and imagination that various artists have employed in creating new tarot decks offer us insights and wisdom by viewing a concept from different angles and then there is the sheer aesthetic beauty that gives pleasure in the viewing and stimulates imagination, passion, creativity and the development of psychic and intuitive abilities.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Enchanting Stories

Every culture in the world has stories, from the time of people sitting around the campfire to watching movies, it is always the great stories that have the power to move us.

Facts and figures are important, but they do not have the power to move us like a story that touches our heart. The news takes on a dimension that we can understand when we can see a story of a person killed in the war, or the person who has a health care crisis, or lost their job. Biographies of great people come to life when we are shown something down to earth and revealing about a person, rather than just a record of their accomplishments. Even how-to books work best when there are stories interwoven with the instructions.

If you have had the experience of discovering a writer whose work you like, do you search out more from that person and keep reading that? When that happens, it is because we can relate to that person's style and material. We enter into an altered state when we are reading, with the words stimulating pictures in our imagination. When a favorite storyteller begins their tale, we want to follow along and give our attention to that person who is able to invoke that altered state of consciousness.

How wonderful it is when that person has a sense of humor or a sense of irony as well as an eye for detail and an ear for voice.

Notice how they are still remaking the Sherlock Holmes character in new movies. Notice how we are entranced with new insights into the lives of people we thought we knew, such as Thomas Jefferson. Notice how even a reclusive character like Howard Hughes comes alive with the telling of stories about him. If you have read books or seen documentaries by Michael Pollan, or heard him speak, suddenly all this business of genetic engineering in food, and the evolution of plants we eat, for example, becomes understandable because he knows how to tell a story. The whole Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books was successful because the creators were able to get ordinary people to tell stories.

Consider the lasting legacy of the classic stories from the ancient Greeks. Who, for example, does not get what is meant by a Herculean task, the frustrations of Sisyphus, the playfulness of Pan, the classic love story of Eros & Psyche, the audacity of stealing fire by Prometheus, the jealousy and quarreling between Zeus and Hera, the beauty of Aphrodite whose very name gives us aphrodisiacs, the coming of age story of Demeter, Hades & Persephone, the call of the Sirens, the otherworldly communications of the Oracles of Delphi?

So perhaps when we need inspiration, or fresh ideas or encouragement, the best place to turn is to stories. When we are trying to sell an idea, we need stories. In order to believe, understand, be compassionate and accept new ideas, other people need our stories.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Year Ahead

New Year's Eve's blue moon eased us right into the new year. I have a good feeling about this.

So how does your new year look? Lots of people like to get a reading at the beginning of the year. If you have not had a reading in a while or you simply want to take a look ahead, this is a good time to do it.

Taking a look ahead gives you time to plan or alter your course of action so that you can focus your energies and create the kind of results you want this year.

Get your new year off to a good start. Make an appointment to take a look ahead and then take another look at your plan of action and your intentions and see how it all fits together.

New beginnings begin now.