Three Gatekeepers of the Left

The left wing of the American political landscape is populated with a number of gatekeepers. For those unfamiliar with the term, a ‘gatekeeper’ is one who, while posing as a dissenter to the status quo and as a muckraker, is in fact working for the establishment by carefully and meticulously  circumscribing the limits of debate and research. The gatekeeper’s influence is insidious and highly destructive.

1) Noam Chomsky

The best known and most influential gatekeeper of the Left is Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) , the brilliant  linguist and political dissident who has worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for almost 60 years. His political writings ,which are mostly concerned with analyzing and critically dissecting American foreign policy and the way a complicit media works in a democracy, include Deterring Democracy, Year 501, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Manufacturing Consent, Hegemony or Survival, and Understanding Power-the Indispensable Chomsky. 



I started reading Chomsky in my early twenties when I was becoming politically awakened.  His writing style includes exhaustive documentation, unrelenting analysis of facts vs. propaganda, and a dry, almost detached tone.  His books, particularly his longer works, are difficult reading and can be unrelentingly depressing.  For aspiring left-leaning intellectuals, reading Chomsky and being familiar with his ideas is de rigueur.


As the years wore on and I continued reading his books, a growing feeling of frustration and dissatisfaction regarding Chomsky came over me. One thing I noticed was how deflated I felt after reading his books. Chomsky hits  you with a thousand and one facts about the government’s evil doings, but never points  to a direction out of the crisis.  He is bereft of solutions. Although he is known as an anarchist, or as he likes to say, an ‘anarcho-syndicalist’ and ‘libertarian socialist’ (whatever the hell that is), one struggles mightily to find an anarchist in all his books. Reading thru his works, one finds only a lot of obtuse, dry academic jargon.

A number of years ago, I found out that Chomsky believes the government’s story of 9/11 and has been openly criticizing and denigrating the 9/11 truth movement. That made me stand up and pay attention. Something was seriously amiss here. Here is  a man who is considered ‘America’s foremost political dissident’ and has spent a lifetime exposing government lies and propaganda, and he accepts without question the complete story of 9/11?  I had to actually sit and watch some of his videotaped interviews regarding 9/11 to believe it, but there it was. He says  on tape, responding to a question of who was actually behind the attacks,  “Who cares, really?” Regarding the nano-thermite founds at ground zero, he stated “whatever the hell that is…” As for the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth , he glibly dismissed them as ‘a few engineers.’ I later found out that Chomsky also believes (or says he does) that there was no conspiracy behind the JFK assassination. There’s more- much more. You can also watch a recent speech where Chomsky says that “in an economy like ours , we need a central bank like the Federal Reserve.” One imagines Chomsky and Bernanke at the same cocktail parties.

As James Corbett so succinctly summarized in his recent Corbett Report podcast about Chomsky, you earn capital to spend capital. Chomsky has earned a huge following over the decades for his seemingly fearless exposes of government malfeasance, and now he is able to lead his flock of unthinking followers into dead-ends and to make sure that they don’t go where they are not supposed to, i.e. into ‘conspiracy theories.’

2) Amy Goodman

The host of the hugely popular daily news show “Democracy Now- The War and Peace Report” is another darling of the Left and progressive community. Many of my friends in the small Northern Californian town where I used to live  practically worshipped her. I was not at that time  (2000) much of a radio listener but I decided I needed to tune in to find out what all the fuss was about. The first thing that struck me when I listened was the structure of the show. It was Chomsky, ironically enough, who taught me what ‘agenda setting’ means. This is a term that describes what the major mainstream media do in the USA to ‘set the agenda’ for the day’s news. Whatever the New York Times, Washington Post, AP and CNN decide are the top and important stories are then carried by all the second and third tier news outlets across the country. In other words, these few media organizations decide for the population what the news is and what will be discussed. And, by extension, what is not considered newsworthy.



What was interesting was that I was expecting to hear an alternative news show. With all the hype surrounding Amy Goodman and the reputation she had as a fearless progressive journalist speaking truth to power, I was anticipating that she was going to cover events, ideas, and stories of her own choosing. Instead, the first ten minutes of each show- a significant amount of time considering each show is only an hour long- was devoted to Amy reading the front page of the New York Times and giving the day’s headlines, straight from the mainstream news media. Before she had even begun to get into the day’s topic, she implicitly and explicitly allowed ‘the powers that be’  to decide for us what we should be talking about. She then inevitably chose what was the ‘biggest’ story of the day, or what all the other networks were covering, and then gave the ‘alternative’ viewpoint on it by calling in someone to interview, usually some professor or well-known voice within the Democratic party or academia. Loads of airtime were taken up with such insightful commentary like , “they’re not giving us the whole story,” or “they’re lying” and “how dare they do that.”


People on the Left loved her because she criticized Bush and his warmongering. Big deal. Millions of people were out protesting the Iraq War. It didn’t take much courage to call out Bush on his war crimes. The big test, as always, was 9/11. What did Amy Goodman, the courageous, truth-seeking reporter, investigate in regard to the biggest crime of the 21st century? Did she follow where the evidence led, no matter how uncomfortable that may have been, or did she, like Chomsky, accept the government line so that she could move back into more comfortable and safe topics?  Amy Goodman has steadfastly and unapologetically upheld the government’s fantastical story of Arab hijackers and refused to conduct an investigation into the collapse of Building 7.

Let us not forget that Ms. Goodman has also done a nice job of supporting Al Gore’s man-made global warming theory at every turn, and refused to look at the  well-supported evidence demonstrating the absurdity of this theory. She has also been an admirably good foot soldier in the government’s war on the second amendment, by doing irresponsible and tactless reporting on the Aurora, Colorado  mass shooting. Within one hour of the shooting, Goodman had a guest on the air who was calling for gun control.  Amy played right along, looking straight at the camera with her best “I feel your pain” face. How pathetic.

Amy Goodman  has done the job of left gatekeeper with talent and panache. She has managed to deceive a whole generation of gullible, uninformed and easily duped Americans with her lazy reporting. Whether she was bought off or  threatened , the fact is that  she is not only useless to real truthseekers, but an active menace and disinformation agent. She needs to go away.

3) Michael Moore

He’s  a smart funny man and a talented filmmaker. He portrays himself as an ‘everyman’ who fights the big evil corporations and exposes the insensitive and out-of-touch charlatans  at the top of the corporate pyramid. I like him.  I have watched and enjoyed all of his movies and his short-lived television series.  He has done a masterful job of pulling up the rug to expose some of the ugliest characteristics of America, including our gun violence, our dysfunctional medical system, and our corporatocracy. He has even taken on  capitalism itself. Through his movie and tv projects, he has built up a big fan base of mostly youthful and left-leaning voters. Moore has parlayed his fame and notoriety to garner big book deals and is now a frequent guest on news programs where he is asked his opinion on all manner of topics.


66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

This is where his role as gatekeeper comes into play. One of the crucial roles of any competent gatekeeper is to channel the righteous anger and outrage of citizens into harmless outlets, to effectively neuter any real uprising and dissent. And this Moore does very well indeed. He has always been a strong supporter of the Democratic Party, and has never entertained the notion that the Democratic and Republican parties are simply two factions of one corporate party. Instead of calling for revolution, he encourages his young, naive followers to vote for the Democratic party to achieve ‘change.’ Never mind that the Democrats have been every bit as warmongering and pro-big business as the Republicans. Moore adheres to a a notion that was perhaps true 40 or 50 years ago but has long since been discredited- that there is any difference whatsoever between the parties.



Moore also has been a useful idiot for the government and their  unrelenting quest  to abolish the second amendment and confiscate America’s guns. And lastly, he has steered his fans away from a truly honest and critical look at the events of 9/11. His interpretation of that day – that Bush and his gang were merely stupid and incompetent, and perhaps ‘allowed’ the events to unfold –  is one that is accepted still by a large swath of the American population.


Next article: Left Gatekeepers. Part 2.






Satanism in Hollywood and the Music Industry

Katy Perry’s performance at the 2014 Grammys. Miley Cyrus’ performance at the 2013 MTV video music awards. Beyonce’s halftime show at the super bowl in 2013. Madonna’s concert during the super bowl in 2012. What we are witnessing here is a coming-out party for the satanic cult which runs Hollywood and the music industry. In decades past, one may have heard whispers about satanists in Hollywood or the music business, but without much hard evidence to back up the claims, such talk was easily dismissed and brushed aside.

Times have changed. The illuminati and their satanic underlings who run the show in movies and music (mostly based in the United States)  have decided that they no longer need to hide and are out to show the world, through their slave star-puppets, how things are done in Hollywood.

While many people in my generation who grew up dancing to the music of Madonna may get uncomfortable, or even go into denial, when hearing that Madonna is a satanist who worships Lucifer and works for the illuminati, the halftime show speaks for itself. Actually, to call it a ‘show’ or a ‘performance’ is a misnomer. What the people of America witnessed was a ritual, dressed up in a  freemasonic and Luciferian garb. Madonna and her masters pushed the envelope about as far as they dared. No doubt they contemplated putting an inverted pentagram on Madonna’s chest but decided that they had better not- yet.  The most glaring costume prop was the huge devil horns on her headdress, the pop queen’s unabashed homage to Baphomet. The horned headpiece has no relation to her supposed Egyptian outfit, and the Egyptians never wore anything on their heads remotely resembling that.


With the ‘success’ of Madonna’s show behind them, the illuminati decided to up the ante the following year with Beyonce. This woman, who at one point early in her career was indeed beautiful and talented, was corrupted by her Lucifer-worshipping husband Jay-Z, and now proudly goes around flashing the satanic ‘666’ sign to her followers and the papparazi.




Jay-Z himself likes to wear a hoodie with the words “Do as Thous Wilt” , the famous lines from the former ‘wickedest man alive’, Aleister Crowley. Watch Beyonce’s halftime show closely, and observe how she becomes possessed by a demonic force. Watch her eyes change color into charcoal black and her face contort into a truly demonic grin. Watch her repeatedly make the illuminati pyramid hand signal. Again, we see the full-blown ritual taking place behind her with the dancers, the fire and the conjuring of dark forces. Meanwhile, the adoring audience in front of the stage laps it all up, taking in the symbolism unconsciously.



56th GRAMMY Awards - Show

Miley Cyrus, a one-time child star and heroine to millions of tween girls, was apparently taken into a dark room during the past year and told by some industry big-wigs, “Your time as a cute, innocent, fresh-faced star are over. We have bigger plans for you now. All the fame and riches of the world will be yours, but you must have a new image. The new image we have in mind for you is , ah, um, a bit more ‘edgy.’ Do you understand Miley? You must now become a woman. A sexy woman, with an attitude. Do you think you can do that? One might even say ‘raunchy.’ Our designers have some skimpy outfits for you to wear, our songwriters are at this very moment composing some new edgy material for you, and our choreographers will teach you some wild dance moves. It’s time for you to enter a new stage of your career. Do you agree? Good, sign her…”



And so it goes. A deal is made with the devil. Even Hollywood stars, who are used to seeing decadence, filth and garbage, were appalled when they saw Miley’s performance. The world learned what the term ‘twerking’ means. The show was the girl demonstrating to the world that she was now in service to Lucifer. Her hair was bundled up to appear as devil horns,  and she simulated sex with her satanic cohort. Teddy bears were in abundance, which was an inside joke to all the illuminati in the audience, as teddy bears have long been used as a symbol for pedophilia. The performance was not just an advertisement for what we can now expect from this ‘star’, but another subliminal message to all her former fans that this behavior is now accepted as ‘cool’. Imitate your idols and do as they do.

And finally we come to Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson. Oh, I mean Katy Perry. Katheryn Hudson was a former teen gospel singer who grew up in a deeply religious family. Then one day she got a call from Hollywood and they said, “Hey, we see you are struggling a bit. We can help you. In fact, we are confident,  given your obvious talents, that we can take you straight to the top. However, you will need to change your name. And your identity. And you will need to move down here. And play a different style of music. And you will have to leave behind, forever, all that ‘Christian stuff’ you were raised with. Do you think you can do that, Katy”?



And so yet another young star made HER deal with the devil. In fact, go online and listen to her interview where she admits as much. And I am  not using ‘deal with the devil’ here in a metaphorical or abstract sense. This is a quite literal deal with Lucifer. Again, we see the confirmation of this in the performances. Her grammy performance was the exclamation point on her new identity. The dark horse, eerily reminiscent of the dark horse at the entrance to the creepy NWO Denver airport,  was prominent on stage, with its red malevolent eyes. Her blouse bore the emblem of the Knights Templar and the entire performance was yet another satanic ritual, meant to condition the populace and bring the youth of America into the Luciferian fold. Fires, black robes, broomsticks,  devil horns- we’ve got it all. Talk about ‘in your face.’  Katy’s parents are now stating openly that they have lost their daughter to satan.



Lady Gaga, a brainless piece of trailer trash who has somehow managed to convince millions of adoring fans that she has talent, has been  openly flaunting illuminist symbolism for years. It seems as though she doesn’t even know how to pose for a picture without covering one eye. The ‘all-seeing eye’ of the illuminati is probably one of the best known occult symbols in the world. Here we have a young pop star, telling the world that the illuminati is cool, and that she is a proud member. Watch Lady Gaga on the Jimmy Kimmel show say, “I swear to Lucifer.”


Rihanna is a talented singer who just a few years ago was putting out music that was carefree, fun, and innocent. Then she met Jay-Z and started working with this satanist producer and her image, music, and videos changed overnight. Now she is another satanic pawn in this accelerating tide. She too admitted in an interview that is a ‘devil worshipper’, laughing all the while, of course.




Satanism has made deep inroads into the movie and music industry and now, mainly through pop culture and young , attractive singers, they are bringing it out into the mainstream. Even sports stars are brought into the cult. Watch Lebron James proudly and openly make not one, not two, but three satanic hand gestures following the star spangled banner. Expose this agenda, resist it, and above all, protect your children as best you can.



The Brave New Restaurant Menu

Media, and its related technologies, over the past 100 years has moved us from a literary, left-brain dominated, society to a visual, right-brain focused society. Photography, ‘moving pictures’, television, and computers have all contributed to a new focus on the image, and moved us away from our print  technologies. The late Leonard Shlain, author of the ground-breaking book “The Alphabet vs. The Goddess: The Conflict between Word and Image” argued that this process is taking us full circle, as our goddess-worshipping ancestors ten thousand years ago were image based, and lacked the aggressiveness, hierarchy, linear thinking and male domination so prevalent today.



Shlain contends that many academics and intellectuals today have it all wrong with their hand-wringing about plummeting literary and reading and writing standards. A shift toward a more balanced right/left hemisphere will ultimately be a positive thing for our societies, he says. His thesis is fascinating and controversial. I grew up with a love of books and reading and have watched with great consternation and anxiety as bookstores close by the thousands and younger generations take less and less interest in reading. While I would love to think that all my worries about the dumbing down of humanity are, in fact, baseless and that we will evolve just fine by simply staring at images, I’m not so sure.

When “USA Today” was launched in September 1982, it was the first newspaper to incorporate big color photos and splashy graphics. It was appealing to the television generation , even going so far as to design the boxes containing the newspapers to look like television sets. Newspapers would never be the same. Textbook manufacturers have also had to radically redesign their books over the last 30 years to incorporate more photos, drawings, and graphics. Pick up any text today, from kindergarten thru post-grad level,  and 50% of any given page will be given over to images and photos.




I have been thinking about all this recently as I’ve noticed a distinct trend in the restaurant industry. Here in Asia especially, the trend of putting photos in menus has taken off and gone to extreme levels. Way back in 1989, the brilliant comedian Bill Hicks performed his ‘Sane Man’ routine and mocked the Denny’s restaurant chain for using pictures on their menus. At that time, there were only a handful of restaurants which did this, and Hicks saw it as a classic example of a business catering to- contributing to- a dumbed down society. He metamorphosed into an ape-man and entered the restaurant, needing to use only grunts and growls and a finger to point at the dish he wanted.

If you were going to design a menu for a group of 5-year-olds, how would you do it? Perhaps use thick cardboard pages, thus making it easier for their little fingers to more easily flip thru the menu. Place only two or three items on each page. Put a big color photo underneath each selection. Sadly, this describes most menus in restaurants today, at least here in Ho Chi Minh City, 2014. With so many photos, some menus are 60 pages long. If they are not cardboard, the pages are at least plastic laminated. Many restaurant menus now require punched holes with a three ring binder. Even drinks need a photo: a glass of orange juice. A coffee. A cup of tea. And on and on.

But wait, it gets worse. Or,  at least more weird. As if expensive and detailed color photos on menus weren’t enough, many Japanese restaurants construct elaborate plastic reproductions of each dish. In order to display them properly, they have had to build large display cases , glass-enclosed and stretching for 10 feet or more. One can only hope that these restaurant owners put as much effort into making real food in their kitchens as they do constructing these bizarre plastic recreations. Visiting a restaurant with just a simple one- page menu on nice bond paper, with no televisions playing and soft candlelight and old-fashioned incandescent lighting is feeling more and more like a trip back in time. These trends in restaurants, like all the other trends we are witnessing in our society, seem irreversible. Perhaps I will do an experiment, in Bill Hicks’ honor, and venture into a restaurant making  only ape sounds and pointing at my favorite picture on the menu. Who needs language anymore when we have such pretty photos?





Why cities are bad for you (and all living creatures)

Ninety years ago, we witnessed  the emergence of the public relations industry. In 1970, the 747 jumbo jet was introduced to the world, and the global travel industry exploded. During the whole of the 20th century, but particularly in the past 50 years, we have seen a mass migration of people around the world from the countryside to the cities and the birth of the first ‘megacities.’

Lonely Planet Hong Kong and MacauThese three converging factors have created  within the public relations arm of the travel companies a distinct group of writers whose job is to tout the glories and magnificence of the world’s cities. Glance at the front cover of any of the major travel magazines or the home page of the major travel sites, and you will undoubtedly see at least one article espousing the glories of a city. Often, an article will have a title such as, “Best nightlife cities,” or “Which city has the best museums.” The articles are recycled often, with just a few new restaurants and dates added to make them appear new and fresh.


It’s propaganda in its purest form. It is mind manipulation to achieve a number of aims. First, convince people that cities are cool, fun, exciting, happening, and just downright awesome places to visit, thus fueling the ever-expanding travel and hotel industry. Second, convince people who still choose to live in the countryside that they are missing out and that big cities are the only worthwhile places to live, thus continuing and accelerating the trend of the past 100 or so years. Finally, convince people that city living is a normal and rational way to spend one’s time here on Earth.

small-beautiful_0In fact, the truth is just the opposite. Living in the city can only honestly be described as insane. It’s just that now we have gotten so used to and inured to our insanity that we don’t even notice it. While it may be true that cities have improved in the last couple of centuries,   with advances made in the fields of sewage treatment, garbage pick-up, rodent eradication, disease control and so on, the basic tenets of living in large agglomerations remain essentially the same. As Aldous Huxley pointed out in “Brave New World Revisited,” humans are mildly gregarious creatures. We evolved over hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions,  of years living in small tribes. Biologically speaking, we are more similar to elephants or lions than we are to ants or bees. To live in crowded cities, squeezed together with millions more of our kind, goes against our genetic, biological, mental, psychological and spiritual being.

Humans grow, evolve, and thrive best when they are immersed within a small, tightly-knit community, or tribe if you will. Cities, by their very nature, go radically against nature in this respect. A city promotes the alienation and loneliness of the individual. It cuts him off from a connection to the land and bio-region. In fact, it demands that he sever all links to nature and place. The most obvious and stark example of this is the sky. With its heavy concentration of lights, the city obliterates the night sky. The same night sky that gave our ancestors the basis  for the development of their mythologies, not to mention a deep sense of humility and awe at the cosmic creation. City dwellers today take no notice whatsoever the sky and cannot even identify Venus or the phases of the moon.


How did we get to this place? Cities go hand in hand with ‘civilization,’ which according to mainstream history and archaeological texts, began around 10,000 years ago in the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys in present day Iraq. For some as yet unknown reasons, people started to farm, whereas before they had been content to be hunters and gatherers. Farming eventually led to surpluses. Surpluses led to guarded enclosures. Trade blossomed and with it the advent of money and currency. Soon, we had cities, and division of labor, laws, courts, armies , wars and all the rest.

Endgame-V1Derrick Jensen is one of my favorite writers and I like his definition of a city: ‘People living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.’ What he’s saying is that cities are structurally unsustainable. In order for the people within a city to survive, they have to buy (‘steal’) food and resources from other regions, often hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Stop the importation and the people will be starving and rioting in a matter of a few short days.



E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” was published in 1973 and was still quite popular when I was in college, especially among my hippy friends. In it, he talked extensively about cities and how the rise of big cities was contributing to the dehumanization of mankind. He postulated that any city that grew above the figure of 500,000 people had tipped over into an unnatural and unsustainable state and would be thenceforth be detrimental to the health of those living within it. Schumacher himself was a student of  Leopold Kohr, a giant of 20th century philosophical thought. Unfortunately, few have ever heard of him or his scholarly “The Breakdown of Nations,” one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. In it, he stated:

51N1F0637SL._SS500_“…there seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. Oversimplified as this may seem, we shall find the idea more easily acceptable if we consider that bigness, or oversize, is really much more than just a social problem. It appears to be the one and only problem permeating all creation. Whenever something is wrong, something is too big. And if the body of a people becomes diseased with the fever of aggression, brutality, collectivism or massive idiocy, it is not because it has fallen victim to bad leadership or mental derangement. It is because human beings, so charming as individuals or in small aggregations have been welded into overconcentrated social units.

Unfortunately, the trend of people flowing from the countryside into the city continues unabated. People are attracted  by the promise of jobs, housing, and security- not to mention friends, culture, excitement, and stimulation. For every young person or couple trying to make a go of it moving ‘back to the land’ , 10 people pass them going the opposite direction into the bright glare of the city. And our so-called leaders? What do they think about these profound socio-economic trends which are altering every aspect of human existence and even the human being himself?  At the turn of the 20th century , the vast majority of Americans were still farmers. Now, fully 80% of Americans live in cities. They appear to be quite satisfied with the state of things. Governments and leaders have always been interested, even obsessed, with tracking, following, and monitoring their subjects. Cities enable this type of tracking much more efficiently than trying to do the same in the countryside. Orwellian security cameras are now ubiquitous in major cities, with Londoners now the most surveilled people in the history of humankind.


It has been shown in many studies that the onslaught on the human nervous system from the combined effects of dirty air, noise pollution, light pollution and stress has deleterious effects. In fact, we have moved so far away from our ancient ancestors, who walked upon and slept upon the ground, awoke and went to sleep with the rising and setting sun and had a deep and profound relationship with the stars, that we can barely be called human anymore. And even that is not enough. Now , they want to move us into the ‘transhumanist’ future. Stay tuned….




Television man. TV as mass mind control.

I have no television in my room. Sure, there was a beautiful new Samsung flat screen sitting on the table when I moved in here, but I requested the landlord to take it out. At first, they were sure that they had somehow misunderstood me and asked me to repeat my request. As every other room in the house already had a television, they had to brainstorm to find a place for it, but of course one can never have too many televisions in a room and so now it is being put to good use down the hall.

In my previous rental  across town, I had also asked  the landlord to remove my television. However, the law of unintended consequences took effect when the next day I walked downstairs and found out that it had been mounted over the stairwell on the first floor. Whereas previously the first floor and kitchen area had been been blissfully free of television noise, now the residents were happily watching  the tube for ten hours a day, and the quiet kitchen was now nothing more than a memory.

Edward Abbey:


I gave up tv watching 20 years ago and have never missed it. I find it is easier to simply remove it from the room than to cover it with a sheet and resist the temptation to turn it on.

Giving up the television is one of the best things you can do for mental health. You notice the effect on consciousness almost immediately. Your mind feels more clear and calm. You are mentally sharper and not as depressed. You find other useful things to do with your time. Most importantly, you remove yourself from the arena where the the Powers that Be (TPTB) can so easily brainwash and manipulate you. When you are not subjected to the constant, 24-hour-a-day barrage of propaganda spewing from the idiot box, you can actually research and think about the events of the world and maybe, just maybe, come up with some of your own conclusions and ideas.

What does this family worship? :


When I occasionally go to gatherings of young adults, such as parties, and they are discussing this or that tv series or bantering about some tv trivia, I am invariably lost. I have no idea what they are talking about and don’t care to. At these times, I simply deflect the conversation with a polite, “Oh, I must have missed that episode. Was it funny?” To say that I don’t watch tv in such a setting would brand me as an outright eccentric. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t have to go around waving a banner.


Television has become so deeply embedded and intertwined into our culture, our daily lives, and even our education, that is rarely ever talked about. It is simply taken as a given. We are a full four generations into the world-with-television, and the results are as grim and ugly as were predicted fifty years ago. Marshall McLuhan discussed television in his ground breaking books and demonstrated that it was not the content, but the ‘medium’ of television which was destined to rewire human brains and cause radical changes to our society and culture. Jerry Mander penned the classic “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” in 1978, but few people have ever heard of the book, let alone read it. In an interview discussing the book, Mander had this to say,

“My own feeling is that that is true – that it’s very important to improve the program content – but that television has effects, very important effects, aside from the content, and they may be more important. They organize society in a certain way. They give power to a very small number of people to speak into the brains of everyone else in the system night after night after night with images that make people turn out in a certain kind of way. It affects the psychology of people who watch. It increases the passivity of people who watch. It changes family relationships. It changes understandings of nature. It flattens perception so that information, which you need a fair amount of complexity to understand it as you would get from reading, this information is flattened down to a very reduced form on television. And the medium has inherent qualities which cause it to be that way.”

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

In the mid-90s when I was teaching in the public schools in Texas, I was horrified to learn that all of the classrooms had televisions mounted on the walls and that students were forced to watch tv for 20 minutes a day. The station they watched was called ‘Channel One.’ If you are unfamiliar with it, Channel One is  a large media company, and it gives  away equipment to public schools all over the country in return for forcing students to watch the programming, which of course is embedded with advertising.


The advent, marketing and subsequent flood  of flat screen, plasma, and HDTV models over the past 15 years filled me with a deep apprehension. It wasn’t just the fact that consumers were rushing to buy these overpriced tubes for thousands of dollars- even when their televisions at home were perfectly functional- but also something more sinister appeared to be at work. Soon thereafter, when I read that governments were going to be switching  broadcast signals and thereby forcing people, by default, to purchase the new technology, my fears were reaffirmed.


A few years ago, ads for new apartments and houses started appearing in the sunday paper which pictured living rooms with the giant plasma tv already mounted on the living room wall. What’s more, the television was situated above the fireplace, taking the central spot in the room. You know, the spot that used to be occupied by the nicest piece of art the family owned , or perhaps a family heirloom. Or an altar. I suppose the designers of modern day apartments and condos know better than we do who our real gods are.

It’s now nearly impossible to escape the screen. Yesterday, I took a taxi home from the grocery store, and I was ‘entertained’ by a small television which flipped down from the roof behind the driver. He informed me that it was impossible for him to turn it off, as he did not have the actual controls or the authority to do so. When I take a long distance bus trip in South America or Asia, I am tortured with yet another showing of “Fast and Furious , Part 5”, at maximum volume of course.

Television, and fast food go together:


Screens are now built into cars, especially SUVs, to keep the kids docile in the back seat. They are in waiting rooms of hospitals, dentist offices, and other health care practitioners. They are in hotel lobbies. Increasingly, they are in not just sports bars, but all bars. They are finding their way into fine dining establishments. They long ago found their way into schools.


People now go to sport stadiums not to watch the team on the field, but to watch it on the giant plasma screen above the field. Huge screens are now built onto the sides of buildings in downtown parks. Want to go to a concert in a large venue and see your favorite performer, along with thousands of other rabid fans? You can be sure that anywhere from 2 to 10 giant screens will be mounted behind and above the stage for your viewing pleasure.



There is a large grocery store chain in the city where I live that has now installed flat screens above each shopping aisle. Worried about keeping up with the latest development in the soap opera or novella while choosing a certain brand of ketchup? We’ve got you covered. Ever felt bored standing in front of the elevator and watching the indicator light slowly drop down each floor? Have no fear: televisions are now mounted between elevator doors to keep you distracted. Running on the treadmill at the gym with your ipod in your ear not stimulating enough? Need some ‘visuals’ to go along with your music? No problem: modern gyms have thoughtfully designed their spaces with racks of dozens of televisions, so that no matter where you are working out or what you are doing, there is always a screen in your face.


Our current reality is just as George Orwell predicted in ‘1984’ with the ubiquitous screens. Big Brother, via the giant multi-national media conglomerates, is watching us, even as we are watching his ‘programming.’

We can’t even exercise without tv:



The Sunglasses Scam. Throw them away.

Sunglasses have been with us for more than a hundred years.  At first, they were used only by movie stars to avoid recognition. The first inexpensive and mass-produced sunglasses were marketed in 1929 and by 1937 had become a fad, according to Life Magazine.

Sunglasses are now worn for two reasons:  protection from the sun and as a fashion accessory.  Manufacturers of sunglasses have taken full advantage of a wonderful confluence of events. First, celebrities and movie stars made them wildly popular and ‘cool’, and an absolute   ‘must have’ item for everyone’s accessory kit. Later, the optometrist and ophthalmology  industries began to tell the populace that sunglasses were necessary whenever venturing outside. The bogeyman that they came up with was UV  or ultraviolet light. According to these health ‘experts’, any exposure to UV light when outside carried serious risk of short-term and long-term damage to the eyes.

Not only were we not supposed to ever “stare directly at the sun,”  or “look directly at a solar eclipse” but also not walk around on a normal sunny day without the trusty protection of our sunglasses.  Just exactly how humans had survived for the past 100,000 years without sunglasses was never adequately explained.

The fact that the entire population has fallen for this marketing campaign is breathtaking, and if Edward Bernays were alive, he would surely applaud with unmitigated approval. Now, there are of course certain times when the wearing of sunglasses is necessary and beneficial. If you are skiing down a mountain on a sunny day with the glare of the sun reflecting off the snow , then surely they come in handy. Pilots at times need them. Driving your car due west while looking at a setting sun requires the use of a good pair. But for just normal everyday outdoor activity, they are not necessary.

What is particularly funny to see is people who wish to wear them simply as a fashion statement, but insist to all those around them that they are only ‘protecting’ their eyes from ‘dangerous’ UV radiation.

Visit any of the innumerable social media and dating websites and see how many people, particularly women, have a profile photo in which they are wearing sunglasses. Often, the girls are wearing the outsized ones which cover half of their face. What are they hiding? Do they really expect to attract a mate when they are hiding their face? Do they believe they are being cool? We live in strange times indeed.

I own a pair of sunglasses, but they are gathering some serious dust in my closet. I rarely take them out. First, I have no wish to be cool or fashionable. Also, I am not into Hip Hop. Furthermore, I have no need to be in disguise. And most importantly, I have no need or desire to avoid those oh-so-nasty sun rays. In fact, I welcome them.  I love sunlight. One could even say I worship it. Sun worship has a long and glorious history among humankind and I feel a kinship with all the countless thousands of generations before me who paid homage to our great benefactor.

I make a point to flagrantly and obstinately violate each and every recommendation of the so-called experts on eye health. I never wear sunglasses. I stare at the sun. I look directly at solar eclipses. I give thanks for the  energy giving photons from the sun. In the morning, the first thing I do is to stare at the rising sun and let its energy penetrate my eyes and proceed  directly into my cerebral cortex. Sungazing has innumerable health benefits and those who engage in it will attest to this.

In addition, I want to see and experience reality directly. I don’t want a filtered view of what’s going on around me. Why would I want to walk around all day seeing the objects and people in my environment in a yellow or brown tint?  I want to see you as you are, as much as I am able. Likewise, if I am having a conversation with someone and they are wearing sunglasses, I will ask them politely to remove them. How can I talk to someone if  if I can’t see their  eyes, the windows to their  soul? If a person refuses to remove them, then I simply move along…

There’s a moment in ‘Sane Man’, Bill Hicks’s classic comedic tour de force,  when he calls out a customer in the night club who was wearing sunglasses. A guy wearing sunglasses….in a dark club…at night. “Ain’t this guy cool? Wearing sunglasses inside?” He rightly ridiculed the idiot. That was back in 1989. Look what we’ve become since then. Now, I see young hipsters wearing sunglasses indoors all the time. They think it’s cool. I guess we can think the hip hop culture for this. A word to the young: Toss your silly affectations in the trash, and come back to reality. Let’s all start looking at each other with fresh eyes again. And while we’re at it, let’s acknowledge the sun as our friend, and the source of all life on this planet.


Advice for a college freshman

My niece has recently begun her matriculation at a large state university and this fact has brought back memories of my first year of university back in 1984. I also attended a large state school, numbering some 50,000 undergraduate students with 10,000 more graduate students.

I had attended an academically rigorous private high school and the coursework at the university was no more challenging than what I had already suffered through. However, like many 18-year-olds leaving home for the first time, I was emotionally and psychologically unprepared for many aspects of college life. The first year, and especially the first semester, were extremely difficult for me, as I struggled with loneliness, despair and depression.


Here are some tips for my niece and other college freshmen undertaking the university path:

1) Attend class. Really, it was amazing to watch the students in my classes gradually drop away as the semesters progressed. Class attendance seemed to decrease by 5% each week until only 50% of the students showed up on any given day. Teenagers and young adults  given an amount of freedom that they were not used to  often resulted in apathetic attitudes toward classes. Obtaining a baccalaureate degree is not that difficult, and going to class is the first and foremost requirement to achieving your goal. Hung over? Tired? Bored? Suck it up and go to class.

_ACADEMIC LIFE_College Counseling

2) Find a good counselor. During my four years, I had someone who I could ask specific questions about classes and prerequisites and so forth, but nobody who got to know me well and could truly advise me regarding my strengths, weaknesses, abilities and desires. A good counselor will not be shy about telling you, “Perhaps you should consider another  major,” even into your sophomore or junior year.

Don’t feel embarrassed about changing your major.  Few people are clear about the goals and direction in life at that age. I could have, and probably should have, changed my major, but stick with it for the wrong reasons.

3) Attend summer classes at least once. The pace is accelerated and it is intense, but not unbearably so. You will get ahead of where you should be, or perhaps catch up if you have fallen behind in your goal to graduate in four years. Furthermore, the smaller class size and faster pace encourage a greater sense of camaraderie with your fellow students and you will make friends in those classes.

4) Study abroad. Go for a year if possible, or one semester if that is all you can manage. Start planning early or time will fly by and the opportunity will pass. All big schools have universities in other countries with which they have partner programs. Choose a country that sounds exotic and which you know little about . It will expand your horizons and enrich your university experience.



5) Have fun, but don’t get caught up with the ‘party crowd.’ Look around you at the wide range of students at big universities. Most of them don’t come from rich families. Some don’t have family members with a college degree. Many are making a big sacrifice to attend college and aren’t there to fool around and party. See the students with their heads bowed over a book at the library at 10:30pm on a Friday night? They understand why they’re there.

6) If you’re concerned about your GPA (and who isn’t?), use the pass/fail option when you need it. When I learned about this during my sophomore year, I exclaimed “hallelujah.” I knew I was going to struggle with some classes, such as French, and when those ‘C’ grades add up, it can drag down your GPA fast.

7) Big universities all have non-credit, informal classes which are offered in whatever available spaces the university has. Take advantage of them! They are usually very affordable, sometimes ridiculously cheap. I think the most I ever paid for an informal class was $40.  I took Karate, yoga, dance, typing, and other great classes with that system and loved every minute.



8) Chat with your professor. You will have classes in which there are 200 or 300 students sitting in an auditorium and if you don’t make the effort, you will never meet the professor. Don’t let this happen. Visit him or her during office hours. Don’t let the professor be just some disembodied voice speaking from a stage.

9) Get an on-campus part time job. I worked for the catering department of the student union. If you are taking a full class load, you won’t have time to work more than 10 or 15 hours a week, but you will make friends and have some extra spending cash.

10) Make friends from other countries. A good way to do this is to live in an international co-op.




There are some classes which almost all freshman and sophomores are funneled into. However, if you can manage to avoid them, try to stay away from:

A) Psychology 101. You will be in class with hundreds of other bored kids, learning from a boring text and listening to a boring teacher. If you are particularly interested in this subject, check out Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams” and Jung’s “Man and His Symbols” from the library.

B) Sociology 101. See above.

C) World History 101. This is like learning history from the history channel, only more superficial.

D) American history and American literature. These are hard to get around, but you don’t need a professor for this material anyway. Read Howard Zinn’s  “A people’s history of the United States.” For literature, the only names you need to know are Thoreau, Emerson, Thomas Paine,  Mark Twain, and Robert Frost. Read ‘ Civil Disobedience’ and ‘Walden’ and ‘Leaves of Grass’ by Whitman.

Thoreau. He’s as relevant as ever. 


Now, for the classes you absolutely should take:

A) Art History. The material  is fascinating. If you’re lucky, you will have a professor who is passionate about the subject  and can really bring it alive. I looked forward to this class like few others, and was hooked from the first day.

B) Photography. Few young people today associate the word ‘photography’ with the word ‘art.’ Fewer still have heard of  Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams. This is unfortunate. With each new advancement in the technology of cameras and photography,  and the proliferation of cameras to most of the world’s population, the quality of photography has gone down. Way, way down. First instamatic cameras, then digital cameras, and now camera phones have degraded photography immensely. With the ease of deleting photos and the cheap cost of taking hundreds and thousands of pictures, few people bother to take the time to frame a good photo. Learning to take good photos is fun and  you can develop skills in a short time with a good teacher.

Ansel Adams, Yosemite:



C) Gymnastics. Yes, it’s not just for olympians. If you can learn just two tricks- the backflip and back handspring- as I did, you will be walking on air. Take the plunge and go for it.

D) History of the movies. My university called this class “The Development of the Motion Picture” to make it sound more academic. Whatever. Sit back and learn the tricks of the filmmakers and see who really influenced who and why today’s directors still worship at the shrine of David Lean and Akira Kurosawa.



E) Astronomy.  If I had to choose my favorite course, this may well have been it. I was a tad nervous going in, not knowing if I would need to know a lot of math. I didn’t, and I quickly became swept up into the mysteries of the cosmos. The professor was predictably and irritably scornful of astrology, but that was ok. I took this course in the old days before the hubble telescope. It must be unimaginably better now.



Chemtrails- the annihilation of our sky

I remember seeing chemtrails for the first time back in the summer of 1998. My girlfriend and I were standing outside on a clear day in Asheville, N.C. and we looked up to see a most peculiar sight. A jet was flying high overhead and was spraying a dense line of chemicals behind it. At the time, we didn’t know what they were spraying, we just knew it didn’t look right. In fact, it looked ominous and evil. I had grown up watching the sky and knew quite well what a contrail was.  Contrails always dissipate within a matter of seconds. These trails we were seeing were not dissipating at all. They stayed in the sky for hours, eventually spreading out and merging with other trails laid down by other planes to finally turn to entire sky white


That first encounter with chemtrails was 16 years ago and the program has massively expanded since then. The scientific name for what ‘they’ are doing to our skies is ‘stratospheric geoengineering’ or just ‘geoengineering’ for short.  Government white papers and declassified NASA and pentagon papers from as far back as 40 years ago talked about the application of weather warfare and weather modification. This information is now available for anyone to read who wants to get up to speed on chemtrails and what is being done to our planet. A good place to start is here:


Chemtrail spraying is now occurring in every U.S. state, often on a daily basis, and in most countries of the world. I recently saw chemtrails in the Caribbean and in Central and South America. I am now based in Asia and the skies here are covered with this toxic soup. Here is a recent photo shot from my bedroom window. No blue skies here.


In 2008, I moved to Portland, Oregon.  I woke up one Saturday morning,  looked out my window at a clear beautiful day, and decided to go to my local park to sit on the grass and read. I felt elated. The weather was perfect and the sky was a deep blue. I began to relax and took out my book, but then I looked up to see a jet flying high overhead, laying down a huge chemtrail. My heart sank and I felt filled with a mix of emotions: sadness, resignation, dread, and rage. I knew what was coming next- more jets and more chemtrails. And sure enough, a few minutes later, another arrived. Then from the west, more came, each spewing their toxic cocktail of aluminum, barium and strontium. The tell-tale crisscross pattern became evident and within one hour, the blue sky was completely gone, hidden now under a hazy, milky blanket of chemicals.


I looked around me in all directions to see if anyone else was paying attention to this, or might be worried. I saw a handful of families and couples sitting in the park, but nobody seemed to be paying the slightest mind to the sky. All the people walking down the sidewalks and going about their business were oblivious to what was going on. Nobody was looking up! My initial instinct was to jump up screaming and run to everyone I could find and say, “Look, look! Don’t you see what’s happening? They are spraying us like insects.” But I knew what would happen. At best, they would think I was having a breakdown, at worst a complete psychotic break.

That scenario has been repeated hundreds of times since that day in Portland years ago. I soon moved to Seattle where the spraying was even heavier. Again, nobody bothered looking up. Often I arrived at work and grabbed my coworkers to take them outside and point out the trails in the sky and ask them, “Doesn’t that seem just a bit odd to you?” But everyone just shrugged their shoulders and replied that planes ‘have always done that.’ Even when I tried to explain the difference between contrails and chemtrails , my explanations fell on deaf ears.


Over the past six or seven years, I have tried to come to terms with and understand why something as massive as a global geoengineering program is ignored by 99% of the population. Here we are, being sprayed from above, just as we sprayed a cockroach with a can of ‘Raid’, and nobody even comments on it, let alone protests it. Absolutely astounding.

Have you ever seen a local television weather reporter talk about chemtrails? I used to observe the local weathermen in Seattle state confidently that, because of the predominant effect of a high pressure system,  skies ‘were going to be clear’ for the next few days. And then the planes started spraying in the morning and by the evening, when the weatherman came back on for the 6 o’clock news, apparently he hadn’t  bothered to go outside or even look out the window. If he had, he would have noticed the now chemtrail overcast skies. But he  went on talking nonsense, contributing to the overtly Orwellian mind-numbing that we see taking place every day.




Advertisers are now inserting chemtrail imagery into their ads. You almost never see a person standing or lying in front of a clear blue sky background. No, the ‘new normal’, and  indeed even the new model of ‘beautiful sky’ is one with long streaks of chemtrails. Hollywood studios are busily inserting chemtrails, thru the clever use of CGI,  into old movies from the 70s and further back, trying to convince the sheeple that these ‘have always been around.’ When I go to work, I turn on the computer and the Windows 7 screensaver is a blue screen with long white streaks, which then congeal into a hazy, fuzzy white blob on the bottom right corner. Hmm….I wonder why Microsoft chose that specific design for their screensaver? Out of the all the thousands of design ideas that they could have chosen? It’s conditioning and programming, pure and simple. Kids today have grown up knowing nothing but chemtrail skies. Many have never seen a clean, clear blue sky.


Recently, I perused the wikipedia page on cloud types. I had a strong suspicion that wikipedia had been infiltrated and taken over by this gang who, just as Orwell predicted in ‘1984’, are busy rewriting history. However, I was still stunned at what I saw. Almost the entire page is a disgusting propaganda piece, unapologetically showcasing all of our wonderful new chemtrail  ‘clouds’ with fancy scientific names like, ‘noctilucent’, ‘stratospheric nacreous’, ‘cirrus spissatus undulatus’, ‘cirrus uncinus’, ‘cirrus fibratus radiatus’, and ‘cirrostratus nebulosus.’ Do those names sound familiar to you? Me neither. They just made them up. Go back and look at an encyclopedia from 20, 30, or 40 years ago and see if you can find any of those names to describe clouds.

chemtrails sprayer

There is a story I read once about the Taino Indians on the island of Hispaniola. According to this story, when Columbus’s ships appeared on the horizon, the people standing on the beach were unable to ‘see’ them. The idea of strange looking ships coming from the other side of the world across the ocean was so far outside of their paradigm, that they literally couldn’t see them. The only ones who did were the local shamans. It was they who had to patiently teach and coax their people to see the ships. Perhaps we have something similar going on with chemtrails. Even if we get the slumbering and inattentive masses to look up and pay attention to the sky overhead, that is only half the work. As I told my friend years ago, to truly understand and grasp chemtrails, you have to know something about jet aircraft, weather patterns, contrails, and normal commercial jet flight paths. After you get the chemistry and meteorology down, then you need to understand a bit about how the power elite operate and their capacity to undertake and implement such a program. And lastly, you have to understand how little ‘they’ , i.e. ‘the powers that be’, care about us. It’s the 1% vs. the 99%, and in this war, we are losing.


The government of the USA, like all governments around the world, officially denies even the existence of chemtrails, even though anyone can walk outside and the see the planes ruining our skies. Why the conspiracy of silence? If it’s for our own good, then why aren’t they telling? If they are trying to stop global warming (one theory), then they should just come clean.

Since chemtrail spraying is happening all over the world, then that in itself seems to me to be prima facie evidence of a global conspiracy and indeed a global shadow government. It’s such a huge topic and so vast in its implications that it’s hard to wrap one’s head around it. But the first step is to stop being in denial and open our eyes to what is happening to our world. View the excellent documentaries, “What in the World are they spraying?” and “Why in the World are they Spraying?” Get in the habit of being a skywatcher and convince your family and friends to lift their eyes from their smartphones and pay attention again to our skies before it’s too late.

Authentic childhood has disappeared

Being a teacher, I have many opportunities to ask my students about their lives. In particular, I like to know how they spend their free time and what they eat. The answers they give often make me pause and reflect on my own childhood and on how much the world has changed. I am still young and my childhood was but a few brief decades ago, and yet it seems as if we could be talking about centuries ago, given how radically the world has been transformed in the past 20 years.

Another issue which all educators should think about is this: what do students need in order to excel in school and in life? What prerequisites are required? Surely, going to a private school and then on to a private or prestigious university is not enough. The world is turning out far too many company men (and women), young people with a lack of creativity, critical thinking skills and life-force.

I grew up in the suburbs. At the time I was born in 1966,  my family was close to the outer edge of the Washington DC suburbs in Maryland. Beyond our small neighborhood were fields where cows and horses grazed in pastures and pockets of forests remained where one could freely roam without fear.

Our street was a microcosm of America, with families of Italian, German, Greek, and Scotch-Irish origin. All the neighbors knew one another. My parents had numerous parties where they invited everyone on the street to our house for food and drinks. In order to get to my friends’ houses, I had to cut through the yards of three of my neighbors. These days, that would be known as ‘trespassing.’ Doors were often left unlocked. When I arrived at my friend’s house, I simply walked in without knocking (‘breaking and entering’, I think they call it).

Our wealthy next-door neighbors had a pool and tennis court which my siblings and I were free to use any time. We kept a section of fence open between our yards which acted as an implicit acknowledgement of openness and an invitation for mingling. Now, houses in that area are surrounded by large brick fences and other forms of security which naturally discourage spontaneous encounters.

Our neighbors directly across the road, the Adams family, stood out to me as exemplars of kindness. They had a pond in their yard, not too large, but big enough for kids to swim in summertime and ice skate in the wintertime. What a blessing to have that pond available to the neighborhood kids! Usually in December, when temperatures got cold enough for the ice to freeze the pond, old Mr. Adams would trudge out to the pond with his measure and screw to drill into the ice and make sure it was exactly thick enough for safe ice-skating. Word would quickly spread and my friends and I would be there in no time. Not only did the Adams provide the pond, but they also had a collection of ice skates which they loaned out to everyone. Finally, after we returned inside, exhausted, to take off our skates, they would provide us with sweetened crushed ice.



Our house had a well which we used for all of our water needs. When we were thirsty, we simply turned on the faucet – or the garden hose- and filled our glasses. It was clean and delicious and just as importantly, FREE OF FLUORIDE  and other toxic chemicals routinely added to municipal water supplies.

My mother did not have a job outside the home and she cooked breakfast and dinner for my siblings and I every day of the week. Without having any background in nutrition studies, she used her common sense to guide menu planning and the meals were all well-balanced, even though I often vociferously rejected the vegetables on my plate, most especially the peas and carrots. There was fresh fruit on the table every morning, and a fruit drawer in the refrigerator which was always well-stocked. A salad was provided with dinner. The importance of having home cooked food prepared with love on a child’s development cannot be overstated, I believe. Going out to eat at a restaurant was a rare event, and something to be appreciated. Fast food was extremely rare. We went to McDonald’s once or twice a  year and my body and mind were spared the toxic onslaught of what those places call ‘food.’

The food preparation is the first part of the equation and the second part is the eating and sharing it. My parents, again using their innate wisdom and common sense, knew that eating  dinner as a family around the table was an important, even sacred, act and that such things as television watching violated that act. The conversations were not always interesting, and sometimes were downright boring, but that didn’t excuse us from the obligation to sit and eat together.

At that time in the 1970s, television had made its way into every house in the country, and we had two televisions in ours. My parents understood that most of the programs were garbage and that watching it was not going to aid my brother’s and my intellectual development. They allowed us to view it, but with strict limitations. We typically watched no more than one hour a day. We knew better than to ask if we could have a television in our bedroom. My parents would have scoffed at such an idea as absurd. All the kids I know these days have one in their bedroom, along with a computer, x-box , and smart phone. How can a child concentrate or develop an interest in books with all that stimulation at their fingertips?

I developed an interest in reading and books when I was young. I don’t remember my parents ever badgering me about reading, or needing to give me much encouragement. If the books are available and lying about, if the setting is amenable to reading, i.e. comfortable chairs and couches, good reading light and a quiet atmosphere, then a kid with a curious mind will naturally take to it. My mother was a good model. She returned from the library each week with a stack of books under her arm. She left most of them where I could find them and I would often grab a couple to take to my room to read. Later in my life, I became a real library hound, spending hours lost in the stacks.



The kids in the neighborhood and I were outdoor kids to the max. We were outside 365 days a year. In the summertime, temperatures sometimes exceeded 100 degrees F. and in the winter, they often fell well below freezing. No matter. The heat was a good excuse to swim in the pond or pool and the snow and cold were a good excuse to build snowmen, snow tunnels and snowballs. Sledding down the local hills was popular. In the fall, raking up big piles of leaves and then climbing up on the fence to jump into them was always fun. Our summers in Vermont were spent wandering through the forests and collecting wild berries.

Tree-climbing is a pastime that is hardly any kids engage in anymore. This is unfortunate. Few activities give more benefit. It is great exercise and you don’t need to invest in any equipment. It builds stamina and arm and leg strength. It instills a sense of accomplishment in the climber when he is able to reach the top of the tree. It enables the climber to see life from a new perspective, gazing now over the rooftops. It subconsciously creates respect for nature as the tree becomes your ‘friend.’ You will learn the name of that tree species that you love to climb so much. It provides you with excellent cover for games of hide-and-seek and when you are fleeing your enemies (or your parents.) And you will never be embarrassed to tell your friends that you are a ‘tree-hugger.’



Bird, insect, and animal life were abundant.  We collected frogs, worms, tadpoles, turtles, lightning bugs, moths,  crickets, butterflies and more worms. Herds of deer came through our yard daily. Red foxes hurried through in the late evening. Rabbits had their families at the base of trees in our backyard. Bats visited in the evening. My mother is a naturalist. She always had a bird feeder set up in the back yard from which many birds got their sustenance in the winter months. She could identify the name of every bird that visited our home. (And if she couldn’t, she went to the library to borrow a bird identification book) My parents knew the name of every plant, flower, shrub, bush and tree in our yard. It was simply a given that you should be able to do this. Hence, it came as a shock to me years later when I asked people about the flora in their yard and they were unable to tell me the names. Needless to say, most city folk cannot tell you the name of a single tree.

When I was growing up, our street ended at the edge of a forest. It had not yet been gobbled up and devoured by developers. Though not a large forest, it was just big enough for a twelve-year-old to get lost in. We used to run around in that forest all the time, looking for treasures and caves. I remember one night getting separated from my friends around dusk and realizing with growing panic that I had lost my way. No familiar landmarks were to be seen and each passing minute would see the forest get darker and darker.  Thoughts started appearing such as “What if i can’t find my way out before it becomes dark? What if I have to spend the night here? Does anybody know where I am? Will anyone come looking? Is there anything in this forest that can eat me?”

I eventually found my way out and raced home, albeit late for dinner. In later years, I often went hiking in other forests in other states, but that first experience of surviving ‘being lost’ and keeping my wits about me was a good lesson in wilderness appreciation.

By the time I was seven years old, I could identify ten constellations in the night sky. I could easily find Mercury, Venus and Jupiter and Mars. Again, this was not seen as ‘scientific’ or advanced knowledge, but simply as common sense stuff that everyone should know. I watched the sky every day and could name half a dozen cloud types. I knew what cumulus, stratus, cirrus, alto-cumulus, and cirro-stratus meant.



Years ago when I lived in Seattle, I was in my local park one night, at dusk, looking out over the city to the west. It was a clear beautiful night. Venus was shining brightly low on the horizon. A young couple in their late twenties stood next to me, and I said, “Wow, look at Venus, she’s so bright tonight!”

The young man looked at me quizzically, and replied, “Huh? Venus? You mean, like, the planet? You can see that?”

I didn’t know what to say. I felt such a deep sadness for these young people, and all young city people the world over who have no connection whatsoever with nature, who are so cut off from reality that they have lived  three decades of life on Earth and nobody, NOBODY, has ever pointed out Venus to them. Sad, but true.

To summarize: Kids need home cooked food and pure water. They need to spend most of their childhood engaged in free play in nature, with space to roam and exercise. They need to develop an understanding and appreciation of nature and learn to name things, especially their local flora and fauna. They need loving and caring neighbors. And they need to develop their curiosity about the universe through books and ample time for reflection.



The decline and fall of the NFL. An analysis

It was reported last week that thousands of tickets for the playoff games were unsold, particularly in the cold weather cities. Nobody should have been surprised by this news. The National Football League, a multi-billion dollar business with a long and storied history, is in terminal decline. The reasons  are varied.

Empty stadium and second half has not even begun.


What follows is not an in-depth analysis, business or otherwise,  of the  why the NFL has failed so miserably, but merely one former fan’s analysis of what’s wrong with this league.

The game itself has some inherent flaws which could theoretically  be fixed by a radical re-working of the rules, but given how deeply conservative and inflexible the NFL’s ruling elite is, this is highly unlikely, to say the least.

Let’s start with what is known as ‘the kicking game.’  The extra point is the most irrelevant, uninteresting, and dumb play in all of sports. By comparison, basketball’s free throw appears exciting. Why has this play survived so many decades of football? It is successful 99.99%  of the time, so the suspense is negligible. If the offense scores a touchdown, give them the 6 points and then kick to the  other team. The extra point only serves to slow down the game.

The field goal has assumed far too much significance  in today’s game. With the talented kickers we now have  who can routinely and reliably kick 50 and even 60 -yard field goals, games today are often decided by these so-called players, most of whom are imported from Europe and Latin America and who look ridiculous in their football garb. When they must attempt a tackle , they often get their teeth knocked out. If a team can march its offense to the opposing team’s 40 yard line only, and then trot out their field goal kicker, it is non-sensical  that they can earn half the points that a touchdown is worth. For those who are adamant about keeping the field goal, make it worth 2 points only, or 1/3 the amount of a touchdown.

The punt is football’s synonym for cowardice. Most Americans are not aware of the high school coach who NEVER punted. His teams won state championships. You can read his story online, or watch a great documentary about him, and the absurdity of punting in general, on youtube.  Football gives you four downs in which to gain 10 yards. If you get 9 and half of those yards on the first three downs, why would you VOLUNTARILY give the ball to the opposing team instead of going for the half yard? You will not find a bigger group of cowards than NFL head coaches.

However, don’t blame the coaches. Blame the fans and the announcers. Notice how on the rare occasions when coaches do ‘go for it’ on 4th down,  everyone goes crazy and says what a ‘gambler’ he is. Then, if the attempt fails, the coach is lambasted mercilessly by the media and fans for being ‘reckless.’  Instead of applauding him, which we should do, we tell him to stick with being conservative and boring.

Yes, the game is boring.


Besides, the punt rarely gives the punting team any benefit at all. You simply move the ball, at best, 40 yards down the field and then give it to Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers who say ‘thank you very much’ and take the ball down the field and score on you. They  care not whether you give them the ball on the 20 yard line or the 50 yard line. And if the punter flubs it, you might only move it 10 or 20 yards. Or the opposing team can run it back for a touchdown. Any way you slice it, punting the ball is a bad proposition.

Football is a violent game and that is a large part of its appeal. Humans have evolved little, if any, from the days of the Roman gladiators and we like to see over-sized brutes crashing into each other and shattering bones. The business owners of the NFL recognize this, but they have a problem: injuries. Until we have perfected bionic humans, injuries will remains an unwanted and unavoidable part of the game. The class action lawsuit  brought by former players against the league for undiagnosed concussions sent a   palpable tremor of fear thru management. Hence, the new ‘concussion protocol’ that you are hearing so much about these days is a direct result of this.

But why are there so many concussions? The answer to that is simple: the helmet. Players have always used the modern helmet as a weapon, a battering ram to be used as a blunt force instrument of destruction. From Jack Tatum on defense to Earl Campbell on offense, the helmet was recognized by players as a piece of equipment to be used for violence, not protection. The league’s talking heads have always maintained that the helmet is a piece of ‘protective’ equipment. This is pure nonsense. The helmet does not protect anything. To repeat: it has always been and is now an offensive weapon. But the league will do nothing to change it because the helmet is where the team’s logo is most prominently marketed.

The other injuries associated with football  include torn ACLs, MCLs  and PCLs, broken tibias, broken fibulas, broken femurs, broken ribs, bruised ribs, torn achilles tendons, fractured fingers, fractured wrists, fractured collarbones, turf toe, broken backs, bruised backs, fractured jaws, busted teeth, broken hips, broken noses , broken radius bones , broken ulnas and so on.

When I was growing up, most NFL stadiums were not that much different than high school and college stadiums. They were just a bit larger. I feel lucky that I was able to view NFL games in the last great old school NFL stadium: RFK in Washington DC. Dirty, run-down, rickety, loud, boisterous, and fun, RFK was everything a good stadium should be. Contrast that with today’s antiseptic, hyper-modern, ballyhooed, billion dollar monstrosities which are usually paid for by the gullible and deceived public, who are suckered into paying most of the cost for the greedy owners. To add insult to injury, after paying for these stadiums thru ‘bonds’ and increased taxes, fans then have to pay higher ticket prices, not to mention higher parking and higher concession prices as well. I have never been to a game in one of these newfangled stadiums, and I never plan to.  What is up with fans these days, anyway? Why do they put up with this? Owners have installed these absolutely gigantic screens in all the stadiums, so that fans can watch the giant screen  DURING the game. The players actually watch themselves on the  screens while they are playing. Unbelievable. If you want to watch the game on television , stay home. But I guess I’m just old-fashioned.

As an English teacher, I take great offense at the way in which football  announcers, who are now all ex-jocks, butcher the English language. They are contributing directly and overtly to the dumbing down of the populace. Indeed, this is not only allowed, but also  encouraged. Conditionals and past perfect are  strictly forbidden. The announcers’ booth and studio have  room for the simple present tense only. Anything else is just too bothersome for these jocks, apparently. Don’t believe this? Listen closely to the announcers the next time you watch an NFL game. Notice how they will never say, “If he had made that field goal, the  team would have won the game.” No, no , no. That’s far too many words, you see. What the announcer will say is, “If he makes the field goal, the team wins.” He will say this even if he is talking about a game from 20 years ago. Welcome to the idiocracy.

How advertisers have managed to worm their way into every conceivable nook and cranny of the telecast is a thing to behold. “After the GMC timeout, the FedEX player of the game will review the Microsoft play of the game with our sideline reporter. Afterwards, we will discuss the UPS replay of the McDonald’s punt…” How the reporters can say all this stuff with a straight face is beyond me.  Actually I know it’s written into their contracts. If they merely refer to  ‘the stadium’ , they will be severely reprimanded. They must always say the complete name of the corporate bought stadium, i.e. ‘FedEx Field.’  Who’s your momma?

Is the NFL fixed? Some people believe so. It can’t be proven, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and there is plenty of smoke around. The easiest way to fix a game is to bribe or threaten the referees and every fan knows how capricious referee calls are in the NFL. Take offensive holding, for example. Honest referees have admitted that they could call this penalty on every play of the game. All lineman do it. But they only call it occasionally. Which means that choosing when to call it is purely at their own discretion and can immensely affect the outcome of a game.

I don’t see any way the NFL can be fixed in its present form. I think it will continue to limp along and enough diehard fans will continue to support it thru ticket and paraphernalia sales to keep it going for at least another decade. Personally, I wouldn’t give a penny of my hard-earned money to an NFL owner. They don’t deserve it. They have done nothing to enhance the game and have done everything to degrade it.

Down and out for the count