Monday, September 17, 2012

Ode to a Freezer


I’ve had an odd relationship with a Hotpoint freezer over the course of my entire life. I think it’s older than I am. That’s pretty good for a freezer. (All together now:) they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to. People are still made, pretty much, the same way we’ve always been made, but if practice really makes perfect, shouldn’t we be farther along as a species? Shouldn’t we know not to make so many people? Every problem we’re facing now as a species can be directly attributed to our overabundance of population. And not one of us is perfect, no matter how much practice has been going on.

But I digress…The freezer has been doing its thing, freezing things and keeping them frozen for over sixty years. My first real memories are of Buffalo, NY. The big ol’ white horizontal thing lived in the utility room just inside the back door because I’m sure that nobody was willing to wrestle it down to the basement. When I lived with my parents for all those years, it was mostly in the garage. It’s horizontal bulk has always been impressive. When I was big enough to peek over its edge I still wasn’t strong enough to release the latch, let alone lift the lid.

When I got bigger, I used to sneak things in there, just to see what would happen: worms, grasshoppers, lightning bugs…I was the perfect (?) little savage. It slowly dawned on me that the results were always strikingly similar and that the spark of life does not survive the interior of a Hotpoint freezer. It was a sobering realization and I stopped sacrificing invertibrate and insect creatures for the sake of my own personal curiosity. But when I caught my first trout, which I had to clean myself, it dawned on me that I could keep the head looking like a head by keeping it in the freezer. My mother resisted this, but I was persistent and eventually got my way. I’m not sure how long that fish head stayed in the freezer where I could look at it. I'm thinking at least two years. I'll bet my mom was glad to see it go when I finally lost interest.

My mother prepared food en masse and froze it so that she could, when she didn't feel like cooking or if we were in a hurry, feed us throughout the week by simply reheating the chunks of ice that came out of the big white box. This was way before the microwave revolution, so it can be firmly avowed that she was always way ahead of her time. The cycle of cooking and freezing continued to the very end. She was careful to instruct the rest of us, particularly my wife Laura, in the freezer’s proper care and use. I still find it odd that a reliable and steady freezing machine would have the name Hotpoint on it. Perhaps realizing that was my introduction to irony.

Today, my mother is gone, but, down in California, the freezer is still freezing to its little heart’s content. Mom and I joked many times that we should just bury her in the thing and be done with it. (I mean, you really could.) When it finally does, as it must, give up its electrical ghost, the true passing of an era will be complete. I'm hoping it will last a good long time yet.

Oh. Forgive me a shameless plug for my new website: www.jamesrichardstewart.com

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ideology is Not the Issue


I am staggering under the weight of this election year. This happens to me every time. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I grasp tightly to the notion of being Independent. Yes, that may be an illusion, but dammit, it’s my illusion. I vote for people, not an ideology. I try to gauge intent and whether or not a candidate is a good person. I’m consciously na├»ve in that regard. Character counts. When the poop hits the propeller, I want someone who will leap on the grenade, if need be, just as I hope that I would.

I am appalled at what is happening to my middle class. Both sides point at each other and cry foul. I am also appalled that ANYone would take ANYthing that Ayn Rand wrote and find it useable as a philosophy. That shows me an egregious lack of imagination and a profound disconnect with reality. I don’t find any credence whatsoever in a greed-is-good mindset. By definition, it is the problem, not any kind of solution. Financially, we are being bled like sacrificial lambs. Since the 80s, the greatest money-laundering scheme in the history of the world has been eroding capital from everyday working people. It has not abated, no matter which “party” is in power.

There is no such thing as “the liberal media.” It doesn’t exist. I am so tired of hearing it said: “that liberal media just ignores crucial things.” Folks, it is a CORPORATE MEDIA. Hello? Ask yourself who owns the airwaves. Follow the money. Even when I watch my beloved PBS, I see the underwriters include Big Energy and Big Banking. To me, that’s as close as I can get to defining the enemy.

I reckon the bottom line for me is that the manifestation of greed shows itself in profit at the expense of everyday people. A perfect example is the plight of farmers in Pennsylvania who have methane bubbling up through their wells as a fracking drill operates nearby. The company line is that fracking is just great engineering and that there is no correlation to environmental degradation and that we all must sacrifice for the greater good. Say what? A very pertinent question to ask is how much of that “natural” gas will stay in the community and how much will be sold abroad at an immense profit. There is no common sense to any of it. The scenario repeats itself across the board when you look at Big Energy.

Small Business is the lifeblood of this country. It is the American Dream. I hear that government just needs to “get out of the way” and Small Business will thrive. But the way things work is that if government gets out of the way, it will get out of the way for the giants too, which will allow them to sit their bloated butts on the markets and squeeze cash flow for everyone. That “getting out of the way” will, in my opinion, create a one-way highway that will NOT benefit the mom-and-pop farm or the small grocery it sells to in any significant way. We cannot consume our way to fiscal well-being. That is the big lie.

Any philosophy that encourages profit over the welfare of people and their way of life is egregiously wrong. Period. No amount of rhetoric will heal the oozing wound in our national psyche. Be very suspicious of any talking head that demonizes an opponent with unsubstantiated rumor, innuendo, and fast-and-easy sound bites. Consider the source and how it is portrayed. Who stands to benefit?

Everybody who votes in the coming election should pay attention, use their brains, and not vote against their own self interests. Think. Trust yourself. Don’t vote an ideology. Vote for people.