Tag Archives: comic novel

Send in the Clowns, Where are the Clowns, They’re Already Here

The sense of common decency is a rare commodity these days, a very rare commodity indeed, something that has all but disappeared in this day and age. Brazen means someone without shame. The parties that have taken an entire nation hostage just so that they don’t have to reveal certain unspeakable facts certainly have no concept of what shame is.

Beppo Grilla, Stand-Up Comic, Italian Parliament Member

home away from home

 

There’s a crazy little shack beyond the tracks
And ev’rybody calls it the sugar shack

(This particular shack is on the banks of the Carquinez Strait…)

Why of why can’t we punish, strip of privilege, stop listening to, or force them to admit they were wrong? Alan Greenspan should be stripped of his pension for not doing anything about the housing bubble. Jean-Claude Trichet Europe’s Central Banker now retired for blowing bubbles in Greece, Portugal and Ireland; utterly preventable and of course another doer of nothing at the least should be told to shut up and go home. Beppo Grillo the Italian stand-up comic turned politician suggests Berlusconi’s money and access to media has earned him a free get out of jail card and why?  Spain’s government and silly royal family both have squandered a great deal of good will as they’ve allowed all manner of cronyism to infiltrate policy. That one will break my heart as Spain is a great country and their young democracy is as delicate and new since the end of Franco’s rule. But, let’s get back to these peaceful and enlightened shores for a moment. Timmy Geitner for doing nothing about Libor, only the single largest looting in the world’s financial system and the best Tim could do is send a memo to England’s regulator? Really? Phil Gramm for his wreckage called  credit default swaps. Add Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin to that train wreck. Anybody see a pattern here? Major policy mayhem, tens of millions of workers have lost their jobs or are working for less or part time. I don’t understand why we must suffer buffoon’s that upon failing in the arena of public policy. And then the mentally deranged society known as all of the Republican House of Representatives, and sad to say too many House Democrat’s that should know better have just voted to undo the as yet implemented new law that was going to try in the least most weak way to regulate credit default swaps… This is our world. This is not a pretty picture. This is not going to end well. And you wonder why so many of us are feeling kind of neurotically pre-apocalyptic about the world that we live in? It is the stuff of human folly.

 

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“And everybody knows that,” Keefe explained, “and it’s why everyone trusts you. We all know you wouldn’t steal a thing from nobody, but you’d probably have to fight off the temptation twice as hard as average person.”

“You think that’s what qualifies me for the job?”

“Sure it does, you got as much passion as you got regrets, and that’s just exactly the kind of shaman this cave consecration is going to need.”

Golds Up, Better Ideas are Down……

The traditional corporation won’t vanish, but it will cease to be the center of gravity of economic life in another generation or two.  They will live on as religious institutions do today, as weakened ghosts of more vital institutions from centuries ago.

Venkatesh Rao

The RibbonFarm Blog, A Brief History of the Corporation

Crockett

 

The Once Might C & H Sugar Company, Crockett, California

Pure Cane Sugar… 

Fiction is not an argument. It is a structured experience. It is a string of actions. It is what is said by the characters. It is an interlocking series of scenes that add up, make some kind of sense. The biggest beneficiary of our war in Iraq may well have turned out to be the Chinese oil companies. Perhaps it is Iran that has benefited most. Or was it Halliburton that has enjoyed the greatest profit? The characters in my current novel live in Nevada. Most all of them are self-employed. The capitalism we read about has flipped into a rather dangerous beast. It evades taxes, seeks to escape regulation and supervision, and tries to kill emerging technologies that may harm its profits. We know about the wonderful things it has done, but we are also learning about the way it can do harm. We know there is a history to capitalism. That for every hero we can find in this story there are villains and the bodies of their victims. A corporation is a construct. So too is money. As is the fiction of private property, or that most everything is better left to the private sector, and that we allow markets to work their magic! We are awash in ideas that are failing us.  It is a story of gross domestic product, mercantilism and robotic assembly lines. And it is difficult to think of a world organized in any other way. “It is a codified bundle of quasi-religious beliefs externalized into an animate form that seeks to preserve itself like any other living creature.” Venkat writes. And so it is that one such way a novelist may open the minds of readers is to construct a fictional world and invite his readers into this alternate reality. And did I tell you that Hot Spring Honeymoon is a comedy?

 

 HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

Gretel stood with Lark at the door. She sized up the room. She dug some change out of her pocket, she said in a low voice, “Go put some Patsy Cline on that jukebox, pick a few ballads.”

“Then what do I do?” Lark asked.

“Act like you’d throw the night away if you could only find a man in your midst worth the trouble.”

“How do I play that card?” Lark wasn’t at all sure what Gretel meant.

“Pretend…make believe… be something you’ve never been before.”

“I wish I had your experience,” Lark said beneath her breath.

“It’s your good looks that’s going to do all the work for us,” Gretel was keeping an eye on the men at the bar, “just play along, a man isn’t a complicated thing,”

The Usual Suspects

Two other important examples the study dissects are financial deregulation in the United States and privatization in post-Soviet Russia. In both cases, economic reforms that made a lot of sense in the abstract and in terms of economic efficiency had the unintended consequence of strengthening already powerful political interests.

As the powerful often do, they overplayed their hand. The result was a political spiral which in the United States helped set off the 2008 financial crisis and in Russia led to the rise of President Vladimir V. Putin and his authoritarian regime.

Some Cracks in the Technocratic Cult

Chrystia Freeland, Reuters

Feb08 021aaa

 

Trailer for sale or rent, rooms to rent for 50 cents….

Well, there are no angels in this hall of mirrors. The equitable distribution of wealth is the result of policy. The rubes that conjured up Europe’s efforts to restart their economies have been busy dolling out solutions favored by the elites. Here in this country the free spending warmongering you know who (All of one party, and too many from the other) have done a one-eighty. They are in slash and burn mode doing everything they can to dismantle the social safety net, not because they want to but because the global financial crisis leaves them no choice. It isn’t plausibly deniable any longer. A determined, elite, wealthy few have persuaded their politically connected influencers to lower trade barriers, reduce their taxes, and set law that looks the other way and allows them to keep their money in the Cayman Islands. They are not enlightened beings. They don’t know more than you do. They get away with these things not because they are right, but because we let them. It’s like a low budget movie. It looks cheap, scripts bad, and the actors in scene after scene are caught in the act of acting. Time to change the channel.

 

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“Hop on up, put your head on a pillow… make a wish.” Keefe said flaring his eyebrows with mischief.

“I can’t climb into bed with you smack dab in the middle of Main Street.”

“Oh, for god sakes Gretel,” Keefe said. “I don’t bite.” He slapped the bed next to him with his hand. “Do some stargazing. Make a wish. All you’re going to do is go home brush your teeth, put on your pajama’s and stare at a ceiling.”

“Keefe Kenny if the sheriff comes by and you get me into trouble.” She cocked her head to the side looking for some reason to see the truth in what he’d said.

“Wishing on a star isn’t a crime.”

“Making impossible wishes that never come true could be.”

Pull the Curtain Back and Take a Good Look

“Of course the irremediable bitterness in Picasso’s soul, the power of the inner sanction he felt later in life to wound and humiliate others, had to come in part out of the paradox that the paintings that brought him the greatest sums were precisely the works which had cost him the most miserable days of his life.”

Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man

Norman Mailer

road sunset

 

 

The Light of Day at End

Picasso painted realities. He made visible realms other painters had passed over and left for this artist to discover. The madness of our present moment is that a powerless majority is reduced to a kind of civic paralysis over the misdeeds and mayhem our modernity is plunging us into. We quarrel about silly things. We know if not by fact, then by intuition, that all this is a distraction. Capitalism’s cloak of deception is being peeled back and we see, we know that the system is rigged and it is enfeebling us. Our ordinary minds are so crafty, so deluded, so clever as to get us into a mess that our best minds are unable to rise up and save all of humanity from. On one edge of myself I cleave the penetrating truth and with the other edge I struggle to understand that there are no best minds or ordinary minds, there is only one mind, and it is that one collective consciousness that is at risk of harming us all. That’s got Doctor Strangelove written all over it….

 

 HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

Gretel walked across the roadhouse saloon to the bar. She had a good angle at a reflection in a window and could keep an eye on her driver.

Lark picked a song, punched the code in and out came, “If you got leaving on your mind…”

Gretel turned and went out of character, extra big, and called to Lark. “Honey, that boyfriend is done breaking your heart,”

Lark fed more quarters into the jukebox, picking more songs, swishing her hips side to side, bobbing the bait waiting for the men in the room to take a bite of the lure.

 

A Gross National Happiness Capitalism

 There are more than two thousand publicly owned electric utilities now operating, day by day, week by week, throughout the United States (many in the conservative South). Indeed, 25 percent of US electricity is supplied by locally owned public utilities and co-ops.

                 What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution

                 Gar Alperovitz  Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland

 

tonopah, nevada shack

 

BOOM AND BUST                            TONOPAH, NEVADA

We are a democracy, we are a republic, and we are capitalists. There are particular pieces of our economy that function best in the private sector and other pieces that are best kept in the public sector. We are having a hell of a time aren’t we? Monster sized banks smothering politicians with outsized donations get the recipients to sing their hymns. We’ve privatized, deregulated, and left a reckless free market unsupervised. We are only one of many capitalists in the world, one of many flavors, while our multinational corporations once birthed here have slipped the noose and now float about flitting from nation state to nation state seeking to press their advantage. It isn’t too difficult to understand even if it is nearly impossible to gain a vote in our favor from a Washington paid to look the other way. I would think a company that made bicycles, one owned and operated by its workers, a company managed by a team elected by the workers, wouldn’t allow management to unbolt their equipment, and ship their factory to China. The only explanation for such behavior is that our incentives are not aligned with our interests. Our interests have been hijacked. I’m looking for a more compassionate capitalism.

 

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“We’ll have to find a way of changing his mind.” Fletcher McCrea said.

“Man like that doesn’t change his mind.” Dusty said.

“Meadowhawk starts changing a mind the day someone sets foot here.” Keefe said. “Raise your hands if you ever had Dotty and Gage give you credit?”

Near everyone raised their hands.

“Look around,” Keefe said, “You see, Dotty and Gage made a life here because they fell in love with the people here, and they know who their customers are and what their customers mean, it’s about us sticking together instead of all of us being picked apart.”

Voluptuous Economics and Stingy Sweethearts

MONDRAGON Corporation is a business-based socioeconomic initiative with deep roots in the Basque Country… Fosters participation and the involvement of people in the management, profits and ownership of their companies, developing a shared project which unites social, business and personal progress.

From Mondragon’s website

store

If the Best is Yet Come, Exactly What was All of That?

Answer: Global Financial Crisis

There is a challenge to making economics sexy while at the same time making sexy economical. I suppose we all know sex sells, but what a writer needs to do is find the means of selling elements in a story that at first blush don’t look as alluring. I was at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco last night listening to Sadhguru and Paul Hawken’s enter into a freeform conversation. One an Indian mystic (he didn’t disappoint) while the other a bestselling ecology author (heart in right place) go back on forth on the vast topic of nurturing into this earth a capitalism of sustainable and transformational economics. All of this came by way of my being introduced to Yale’s Literary Theory scholar Paul Fry’s extraordinary lectures (all for free at iTunes University) regarding the use of economics authors use when writing narrative fiction. Paul Fry explains in no uncertain terms that all modern fiction is rooted in Marx and Engel’s works. By use of their framework and reference point we can locate where we fit. So, for example capitalism is off to the right of communism, while cooperatives are somewhere left of capitalism. I’ll leave it to the scholars to explain where our revolutionary-socialist-Muslim-Kenyan President fits into this scheme. Making the economics of a thing isn’t all that sexy, but for a books success you damn well have to try. So, try this… First, how does an individual fit into a particular system? Second, how does the society benefit from each individuals effort? And last and most important of all! Can we tell a story about that relationship? A narrative that arouses passion, a story that makes some kind of sense, and can we do it soon? If you haven’t noticed our current story is at risk of a not so happy ending. “Okay, everybody, quiet on the set, let’s take it from the top…”

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

Tallula jutted her jaw out. She walked around the other side of the fire pit, skinny in jeans, smallest woman of them all, “I remember, first off,” Tallula said unbuttoning her shirt, “you started dating Sharlene, and one night you came knocking at my door, you called out through the screen all innocent like, pretending as if you didn’t know exactly what you were doing, you said, ‘Sharlene’s not feeling so good,’ that’s what you said, ‘maybe we might sit on the sofa, have a beverage, and talk a while, before I go home.’ Those were your exact words. I’ll never forget.”

Sharlene was on the other side of the fire pit with the others, “thought it was the right thing to do. I wasn’t in love with Fletcher, not yet.”

Fletcher’s eyes shot toward Sharlene’s.

Sustainable Comedy and the Folly of Capitalism

For years, economists have posited that prosperity requires growth, with environmental damage as the regrettable but unavoidable consequence. A growing number of critics are now challenging this equation, though, calling for a radical revamping of the economic system.

                             Nils Klawitter

touring vehicle

My Cowboy Cadillac and the Place I’ve Called Home for Near Four Decades

I’ve drifted the American West as a juggling act for much of the last four decades. Crossing vast landscapes, pulling into isolated towns, spying all manner of misguided enterprise or not. A good drifter knows how to pull off the paved highways and roll out into the wild lands on the dirt tracks. Time stills the pace of the modern world and in its place the chirp of bird, the dusk, the breeze, the silence. Surrounded as we are by so many man imagined systems, especially the concept of money and the economy in all its shapes and forms, what we are awakening to is the inadequacy of capitalism’s various configurations. Large scale businesses have proliferated until we sense the festering clash of purpose between their zeal for profit and humanities need for survival. It is out here in Nevada where I have placed my latest novel, Hot Spring Honeymoon, and it is here where the struggle of a small community being overrun by the globalized economic system that the story plays out as comedy.

British economist Tim Jackson. In his 2009 book “Prosperity Without Growth,” he outlined a “coherent ecological macroeconomics” based on a “fixed” economy with strict upper limits on emissions and resources.

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“Let me have a look,” the scientist said examining the side of Keefe’s head. “How do you feel?”

“I see things now I didn’t see before. I hear things I never listened to.” Keefe said. “My ex-wife looks at me like I’m nothing but a piece of vulture bait.”

“You think something’s wrong?”

“There’s always been something wrong with me. But, since I got bonked on the head I see an eternity of beauty in a thimbleful of whiskey. I love this hot spring; know what I’m doing now. It seems to come natural to me…And I got to tell you, man to man, I’ve never seen anything in my whole life that has riled up my thirst more than the sight of that woman they call my ex-wife.”

Market Testing Narrative Or How I Celebrated My Vegetative State of Mind

boom

 

Solving Equation of a Hit Film Script, With Data New York Times May 6, 2013 Front Page (Below the Fold)

 

Time heals all things. Yesterday while flying back from Seattle I choked down this front pager from the NYT on the notion of using data before the making of a script into a movie. Wounded as the feral writing animal I am the notion of data supplanting the intuition, experience, and imagination incensed the very core of my humanity. Of course the bottom lines of feature films more and more resemble narrative equations that temporarily beguile the viewer, but like so much that is disposable in this moment in the world of commerce the viewing makes us full yet unfulfilled. For the humanity in us requires that we be immersed in experiences we expected yet until this moment had never found. Great narrative is the commitment to explore the cosmos, both its most interior parts and its most eternal. The artist is the indispensable gills that net out of the world’s waters the truths that will yield life sustaining insight.

“Gregor Mendel uncovered the secrets of genetic inheritance with just enough data to fill a notebook. The important thing is gathering the right data, not gathering some arbitrary quantity of it.”

Christopher Mims,

Most Data isn’t Big, and Businesses are Wasting Money Pretending it is

 

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“I am not a sacred type being,”

“Fletcher McCrea,” Keefe argued, “You are just what the good lord needs.”

“I don’t even go to church,”

“Everybody knows that,” Keefe said. “What’s even better there isn’t a soul in town less likely to invoke a sense of the divine.”

“I should stick to what I’m good at.”

“The last thing we need is someone actually pretending to be truly sacred come out here and muck up everything.”

 

 

The Wisdom of Pilots… And the Fools of Wall Street

Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t.

Theodore Roethke

Poet

Seattle Seaplanes

FLYING IS NOT FAITH BASED

The debate regarding the kind of capitalism might best serve our world seems to be at the center of many controversies. Never was a comedy about what has happened to the world’s economy been more worthy of laughter and scorn. The ascendant totalitarian communist bankers of China are not an institution worthy of the world’s trust. The European Union’s leaders have been running a failed experiment. And then there are the masters of the universe in the United States and their brothers from the City of London, and I am sure you might know that the damage they have wrought to this day has gone unpunished. Somewhere in this quagmire of hubris is blind confidence that results in human folly. The discovery of the comedy is an intuitive journey.

HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a resort that specialized in honeymoons,”

Keefe finished his beer, “We have a quality control program in place. Why we are popular destination. Hell, I spent a whole week’s labor eliminating squeaky mattresses; figuring a way to stop headboards from slapping against a wall.”

“I’d imagine there is a real craft to hospitality services,” Jace said.

“We put in dimmer switches for the lights so that a seduction and consummation might go extra slick. There’s deluxe soundproofing and double glazed windows, what we’re trying to do here is make a path to romantic feelings.”

“I like that, go all in, dedication to your craft.”