(Dis)Associates

Straddling me, you shake your hair, grin, and gaze down.

“What do you really want me to do?” you say.

I really want you to become a fortress.IMG_6604

I want you to be the wall against the hordes.

I want you to be an opaque integument and block the light.

I want you to envelop me, surround me, and smother me.

I want you to take me away or bring me home.

I want you to numb the pain or make me feel.

I want you to make it all go away.

 

“Where are you, right now?” you say.

As your voice quivers, I float back into place.

I settle down in my skin again.

I can hear you and eventually my eyes

Focus on your face and your lips.

I explain everything to you in detail,

But you can’t hear me, despite the screams.

You can’t hear me from the other side.

I will have to cross over—meet you half way.

 

I whisper, “Please don’t leave me.”

You promise to stay forever as I slip

Into orbit again watching this dance.

I see you lean over to kiss the tears

And brush my cheek. To my surprise,

My face seems to respond in gratitude.

It would seem my body remembers

What to do, and you understand it as well.

In the end, the two of you sustain me.

 

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Corporatocracy and Me

The East India Company was the first modern corporation,

And it is credited with introducing the world to markets that are free,

But it brought the free market enforced by the world’s largest standing army.

It was the beginning of colonialism, imperialism, and Corporatocracy.

The EIC introduced the world to spices, tea, and global slavery.

Some in the United States rebelled with a giant tea party,

It set off a revolution but didn’t bring down corporate rule,

The robber baron bosses soon controlled trade, news, and even schools.

We may think their practices went against the principles of enlightenment.

But the EIC employed such men as John Locke, JS Mill, and Jeremy Bentham.

So the first corporation took control of public attitudes and education.

Promulgating equality for all European, land-owning men.

While denying rights to all those considered less than human.

When the US tried to recognise non-white men with an amendment

Giving them equal protection from abuse and harassment,

The railroad said, “Hey, corporations are people, too,”

And the courts went along as they always do.

 

Well, what’s past is past, and now it’s all good.

We’ve grown used to the idea of corporate personhood.

Citizens United taught us money is speech

You have a voice, but Exxon’s has more reach.

And Monsanto, now Bayer, wants to feed the entire globe,

By controlling food, seeds, farming, drugs, and microbes.

You have no other choice than to just trust them,

As manufacturers lead us on a race to the bottom.

Apple computers are built in factories with suicide nets.

Because conditions are so bad workers prefer death.

Our clothes are made in sweatshops where workers burn.

We’ve no choice to buy them is all that we’ve learned.

In 2007, the financial sector destroyed the economy,

But workers bailed them out with hard-earned money.

Now we’ve cut funding for public education.

Replacing it with the public/private partnership.

Giving business control of science, arts, and research.

IF you want unbiased info, you’re left in the lurch.

But what about corporations great philanthropy?

Don’t They give developmental aid from sense of charity?

No, They buy up or steal resources and flood markets with free food,

Destroying the economy and local businesses for good.

You can scream about Trump or any other entity,

But corporations are your true enemy.

 

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Rest Rooms in the UK

Last night, I was attending a gig at one of my favourite Manchester venues. One of the people from the venue was standing near the stage, which put him right in front of the passage to the venue’s comfort facilities. I usually use my best British English, but I slipped and said, “Excuse me, I just need to get to the rest room . . . toilet. I need the toilet signtoilet.”

I wasn’t fast enough; he immediately said, “You Americans always seem to need a rest. I have a sofa if you need a quick lie down.” He followed with, “Americans don’t like to say ‘toilet,’ do they? Why is that?” I said, “Well, I think some Americans think it sounds a little crude.” (Note: I come from a family that was reticent about mentioning this process at all. The word “facilities” seemed too direct for us.)

He then said, “For Americans, ‘toilet’ refers to the actual device, doesn’t it?” “Yes,” I said, “If you ask Americans where the toilet is, they are likely to tell you it is in the bathroom.”

“Ah, yes,” he said, “When Americans ask to use my bathroom, I tell them ‘Sure, but don’t soak too long. Tea will be ready soon.’”

Goodness, how long does it take to make a cup of tea?*

*Yes, I do know the answer to this, but that is for another post.

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Fast Cars in the UK

Someone recently asked me whether I thought people in England drive too fast. The question took me by surprise because, no, with but a few notable exceptions people in the UK do not drive fast. It probably isn’t for a lack of a speedy impulse but for the restrictions UK traffic calming measures impose.

Yes, the UK keeps traffic slow through the use of ubiquitous speed cameras, speed traffic calming (1)bumps, winding roads that twist and double back for no discernible reason, one-lane two-way roads, and lines of parked cars on both sides of all public roadways. (Yes, there are motorways, but I rarely see one.)

All this combines to make travel in the UK quite slow indeed. It is a cliché to say that Americans think 200 years is a long time and Brits think 200 miles is a long way, but it became a cliché because it’s true. In the US, I would generally estimate my arrival time by allowing one minute for each mile. If I needed to travel 15 miles, I would allow 15 minutes (20 minutes if it was important enough to have a few extra minutes). In the UK, 15-mile trips regularly take 45 minutes or more, even without major traffic disruptions. A 200-mile trip is not something to be taken lightly.

For the most part, Brits are patient and courteous in traffic, taking turns and letting one another pass in a fairly equitable arrangement. You occasionally run into a rude and selfish driver, of course, but it isn’t the rule. Brits will tell you they are known for their ability to queue (stand in line) in an orderly, polite, and efficient manner.

If they are better at standing in queues than other cultures, it must be because they have so many opportunities to do so. Queues abound, and they are not famous for moving quickly. Things generally move faster in the US—except the post office. I typically get in and out of the post office much faster in the UK than in the US.

Life in the UK is mostly slower than what I’ve been used to, and I like it that way almost all the time. Sometimes the American in me breaks out and I get exasperated with pointless waiting, but every American has to be an ugly one from time to time, even if we are trying to dispel stereotypes.

Of course, Brits can lose their patience, too, when pushed too far. And that’s what Northern Rail has done. By making everyone late to absolutely everything, Brits in the northwest now have to rush around all the time, getting a taste of the American goal of always shaving a few minutes off travel time and being perpetually irritable. Surely, something will have to be done.

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English Politeness and Deference: Passing in Tight Places

I mostly appreciate the politeness I encounter in the towns and villages in northwest England, but sometimes my American and more urban sensibilities leave me a little frustrated. Necessity and custom in England require both vehicles and pedestrians to negotiate who will pass when space is too limited for traffic to move unimpeded. When the pause in movement is required by limitations of space, of course I appreciate theIMG_6911 polite manner most English residents negotiate who will pass first.

I don’t drive myself in England, so I will leave a discussion of vehicular negotiations for later, but walks often require similar etiquette. Walking on a footpath or pavement (sidewalk for the Americans) sometimes requires making space for someone to pass.* English manners demand that often both pedestrians will pause, turn to the side, and motion for the other to proceed. In short order, one or the other will give in and pass first with a cheery “thank you” to ensure that English politeness is rewarded.

That’s all quaint and lovely, and I find it absolutely comforting to know that people will still look out for one another in this way. Sometimes, though, the path is plenty wide for two people to pass without even pausing, but some insist on pausing and standing to the side anyway. As an American, I just find this to be an unnecessary and, I admit, annoying waste of time and effort. I still mutter a quiet “thanks” as I pass, but not without a taste of resentment. Sometimes, you just want to get on with your life, you know? I guess if I want that kind of life, I should stay in the city where one must look after oneself.

*In rural America, this scenario doesn’t play out often if at all. Rural America doesn’t have the population density of the English countryside, so it isn’t often you will pass anyone you don’t know. If you do pass someone you don’t know, you are likely to be suspicious and try to ascertain the stranger’s business in the area. Also, in America, if you are walking in the countryside, you are probably on private land, so you would definitely expect to know everyone you encounter. Any stranger would be a trespasser, and no one in America ever fought for the freedom to roam across farms and ranches. If you are English, please don’t ever try to cross a farmer’s land in the US. Most farmers will approach you with a loaded gun in hand, and shooting you would be completely legal.

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The Productivity Syndrome (or why I stopped writing philosophy)

I taught at a community college, so I was never on this productivity treadmill, though replacement treadmills were provided. Anyway, I’d like to think philosophy could be driven by something other than meeting quota. But, so it is.

UP@NIGHT

You are at a conference, wandering around the book exhibit.  A former colleague walks up and greets you.  A few minutes into the conversation she asks the inevitable question.  “So, what are you working on?”  You say, “nothing.”  Or to make it perfectly clear, you say, “I am working on nothing.”  You are met with a suppressed shock (without the awe) that barely obscures your companion’s dark thoughts: you are living “dead wood,” worse, someone who has the gall to admit it.  You can’t bear to be seen like this, and quickly add, “but I am actively engaged in research in new areas of interest, which I fully expect will result in a series of articles or books.”  Not really dead wood, you see.  Just taking a working, productive, hiatus.  Never let it be said, or even thought, that one is not productive.

I have three articles sitting on my…

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US and UK Pudding Differences

Americans are sometimes confused by how Brits use the word “pudding.” In the UK, “pudding” basically just means dessert, so anything sweet could be a pudding. For example, what Americans call pudding (something kind of similar to a blancmange) would be a pudding, so it is possible to have an American pudding for your pudding.

But you would never have a Yorkshire pudding for your pudding, because a Yorkshire pudding isn’t sweet after all, unless it is used to make a Dutch IMG_1026Baby, which is like a sweet Yorkshire pudding sort of. A Dutch Baby enrages some Brits but not others.

No one would have a Black Pudding for pudding, though, because it is blood sausage, and I don’t think anyone would have a Suet Pudding for pudding, either, as I can’t imagine anyone ever eating a Suet Pudding for any reason sort of imminent starvation. American’s might choose a Steak and Kidney pudding before opting for a Suet Pudding, but not by much.

You might be excused for thinking a Christmas Pudding is a Black Pudding, but they are two different things. A Christmas Pudding is dark in colour but sweet, in a way that some people might find tempting to try.

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