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Wrong answer, try again.

How changing the way tests are given will lead to less stress, more learning and better schools.

“Most children speak and understand their mother tongue before the age of four without lessons, homework or much in the way of feedback. How do they accomplish this remarkable feat”? (from the movie, Still Alice)

Scientists are still trying to answer the question about language acquisition Alice asks.
But we do know that children do not learn language by being given tests before the age of four, or by being given a ‘grade’ or a ‘score’ on their babbling attempts at learning to speak.

Learning is done best when there is no coercion. But the routine tests that are given frequently in the classroom involve a form of coercion that is inimical to learning. When referring to tests I do not mean those such as SAT, GRE, MCAT, and other state and nationwide standardized tests but only the ‘regular’ tests given daily, weekly, etc.

It is counterproductive to think students should be able to get the correct answer after a brief introduction to what is often complex material. Learning for a baby is a wonderful and joyous thing, primarily because they haven’t been in the punishing environment of the classroom where the stress of taking tests eclipses true learning. Imagine if a baby exploring his or her environment was admonished for crawling or walking ‘incorrectly’ when learning to crawl or walk, or for babbling ‘incorrectly’ when learning to speak. If we punished babies with low scores for their clumsy attempts at language, not only would we have a world full of emotionally harmed people, but we also would have a world full of people not speaking very well. The fact is different students learn at different rates and in different ways. Making them feel bad (‘stupid’) with a low score is doing the exact opposite of what we say we are doing: helping them learn.

So rather than punish students with a lower score for not getting the right answer the first time, it is proposed that we will instead explain to them why their answer was wrong and then give them the very same question a second time. This is called learning from one’s mistakes.

This process of allowing students to learn more naturally will not only remove the biggest cause of stress in schools but it will also dramatically increase learning. This increased learning will be reflected in, among other things, increased test scores on standardized tests. This will reduce stress for teachers, too, because teachers are judged by the scores their students get on standardized tests.

There is one way to find out if this ‘wrong answer, try again’ method is superior to ‘wrong answer, you lose’: organize scientific trials, testing both methods and comparing them. Not only will subjective experiences of students be measured, what they actually learn will also be measured. If ‘wrong answer, try again’ is indeed superior, then it will also be reflected in higher scores on standardized tests—such as SAT, as well as those tests mandated under the No Student Left Behind Act.

These trials can also measure their stress levels, including stress hormones. These trials will demonstrate yet another terrible cost of the outdated method of ‘wrong answer, you lose’ because it will show how stress from tests is harming our children. Those not so good at test taking are left feeling helpless, stupid, resentful, depressed and angry. Some of these alienated students give up and drop out. Others just coast along, or become apathetic or withdrawn, or ‘dial back’ their level of effort. And some commit suicide because they didn’t get a good enough score. This has reached epidemic proportions in India. The official numbers are in the low thousands but the true figure is much higher, because many families don’t want the shame of people knowing a family member committed suicide.

The cost of stress to our nation is so great that its price is measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The cost to the individual is measured in worry, disease, lower quality of life and early death.

Learning from ones mistakes has been at the heart of so much of the knowledge we have gained in science, arts, literature, and mathematics. What we will be telling students will be: ‘As long as you take the time to learn why you got the wrong answer, you will get a second chance at the question so you can learn from your mistake without being punished for it’.

The new way can include a feedback system whereby a wrong answer on a test generates a lesson teaching the concept, and then the very same question/problem—the one missed the first time—is given to the student again.

Even if not all students get all A’s under the new method, those students currently getting F’s, D’s and C’s will nevertheless see their scores improve, perhaps dramatically. Some parents won’t like the fact that there will be many more A students under the new system. Their objection can perhaps be overcome by offering to put a little gold star or other signifier next to their child’s A, which shows their child got their A without getting a second chance at any questions.

More learning, less stress, fewer stress-related illnesses, fewer disillusioned students, fewer dropouts, fewer suicides, better scores on standardized tests—all these things will come once the old unworthy ‘wrong answer, you lose’ paradigm is replaced with a method that has worked for thousands of years: learning from your mistakes without being punished for them.

Harrell Guy Graham

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A Barefoot Rhapsody

by Jon
The Barefoot Pilgrim

to all female barefooters who can identify with it.

a hot summer afternoon in Oxford, the temperature has reached 91
degrees which makes it the hottest day of the year so far. You emerge
in the distance from the far side of Radcliffe Square cutting a
unique figure which instantly catches my attention. You’re a petite
student girl of around 21 years old, slowly meandering beneath the
eminent domes and spires. You stand about 5′ 3 in height with a
wild mane of auburn hair and a white flower placed in it. Around your
neck hangs a loose garland of daisies recently picked in the
university parks. In one hand you are carrying a brown course book.

First I notice
your full length milkmaid dress. It is pale green in colour with the
ruffled hemline sweeping along the ground half a pace behind each
footstep in petticoat like waves. As you walk it undulates in a
rhythmic dance interspersed by tautness in places as your ankles
demand forward motion of it. Now as you approach closer I continue to
observe you in an idle study. On the pale flesh beneath your
collarbone is a striking, dark brown henna tattoo in the form of a
pentagram, a symbol of nature spirituality. You cut a beautiful
figure, yet radically different to the other girls around town.
Obviously you are no follower of the fashions at present popular
among young women, one might even call your look slightly eccentric.
Personally, I applaud you for choosing to be different from the crowd
which demonstrates intelligence over mindlessness. Beauty and
intelligence are your watchwords. You appear completely relaxed, your
gentle walking movements being almost set to slow music. This
graceful manner contrasts starkly to that of the other people dashing
around busily pursuing their affairs.

look to your feet and assume you must be wearing thin flip-flops or
Indian cowhide sandals probably obscured by the large ruffle as it
sways along, My attention is now more focused. Closer yet, I still
can’t see any footwear, where is it? Now I’m really curious. A sudden
realisation jolts trough my brain, “She’s BAREFOOT!” Of course!
This is why your body language was so different when I saw you across
the other side of the square. It makes you someone special in my
book; a rare and beautiful creature who dares to defy conformist
humbug in order to express your own spirit. In your eyes fashionable
flip-flops and absurd platforms are to be eschewed as both dangerous
and unnecessary. After all what is a sandal but a sole and a few
straps to hold it on? Why bother with overpriced fig leaves to
placate convention when one can experience the far greater pleasure
of having bare soles in direct contact with ground. It also doesn’t
cost anything either which makes it the world’s cheapest, yet most
elegant fashion accessory. It makes SO much sense!

you pass slowly in front of me, one small, happily bare, foot emerges
from under the dancing ruffle to reveal nearly its full length. I sit
fascinated, admiring its ascetic beauty, its smallness and
appallingly dirty condition. A large blotch of dark grime has been
ingrained on its upper part by the constant wiping action of the
dust-laden hem sweeping over it. The toes, though slightly short, are
perfectly formed, free from nail polish and a little splayed as is
natural from years of freedom. The black street dust has risen up
between the big toe and the next one fanning out above the area where
they join. All of the toes in general have been given a liberal
coating of the ubiquitous black powder. When you step forward, they
splay out on the paving slab, lifting from it very softly as if
giving it a tiny kiss.

gaze turns upwards to your face. It is attractive though not in an
artificial way. The cheekbones are high and well defined but any hint
of severity is dissolved by a kind mouth and eyes which smile. One
might describe your face as pretty in an earthy, real kind of
attractiveness. Your expression is so far away. Are you pondering
future exams or indulging thoughts of sweet romance? Or are you
enjoying this moment, spreading those dusty toes as you step gently
on the sun-warmed slabs?  Your hair is a wild mountain of
chaotic, auburn locks cascading to your waist in a torrent of untamed
beauty; handiwork uniquely crafted by mother Nature’s own genius to
perfectly compliment your barefoot lifestyle. Often in its
unruliness, it partly falls over your face obscuring one eye and is
quickly brushed clear by a sweep of your fingers. The white flower
nestles on the upper right side of your head to symbolise your love
of nature. The bloom is a rose, which though made of trimmed cloth
appears totally authentic in every respect.

tiered cotton dress is of the early 1970’s , yet rendered timeless by
the swish of its own undulations syncopating with those of your
female curves. Its your favourite dress, purchased as a lucky find in
a charity shop some years ago. You chose it because it’s sensuous,
made of the lightest Indian cotton, yet in no way lewd or tasteless.
Now it’s showing signs of wear with threadbare parts around the hem
and the stitching coming apart in places. In some ways though this
only serves to add to its charm. Its such a special dress that you
lovingly repair it and have vowed to wear it until it falls to bits.
The true essence of your uncommon beauty is the alchemy of all these
things; your hair, smile, magic dress and body language all woven
into living poetry by the catalyst of your barefootedness.

you are ahead of me the lilt of your dresses lower ruffle reveals two
small, very black soles ingrained with the graphite-like summer dust.
As if to pick up on my thoughts you pause and raise one foot behind
you to check its colour. The folds of soiled Indian cotton fall away
to reveal a truly filthy foot. You look at its sole over your
shoulder and giggle to yourself in amusement and satisfaction. 
Your heart beats faster, the combination of bare feet and hot
sunshine becoming ever more intoxicating as you walk along. Mmmmm,
the pavements heat feels so blessedly delicious that you’re
transported entirely beyond the cares of this world into a heady
place of rapture. Your being inwardly revels in the sheer bliss of
caressing creation with each filthy sole gently placed on the hot
ground. A caress which is reciprocated as the sun’s heat is conducted
upwards from the pavement, back through those same soles saturating
your body with its energy. A feeling of great gratitude flows though
you for this interplay of the spiritual and the sensual. Waves of
relief and tranquillity lap over your mind, you are filled with
gladness simply to be the person you are at this moment in time. You
close your eyes and look upwards to the sun feeling its life-giving
radiance beat upon your face. The moments pure joy is overwhelming
and spontaneously you twirl round twice in celebration giving thanks
to the universe for its abundance. The dresses fullness billows out
to its full extent, tourists stare in wonderment but you are
oblivious to their existence.Laughing you enter the huge iron gate of
All Soul’s College. An enormous ornate sundial dominates the North
wall of the quadrangle throwing its shadow across arcane numerals. I
take a final, farewell look at you beautiful, barefoot student.
You’re now walking over the cool flagstones of an ancient cloister
chatting animatedly to a female college acquaintance.

those summer feet are hidden from view by a low wall yet as always
your body continues to undulate with the same lilting poetry. It’s
clear to all who have eyes to see that you are a true barefooter and
I wish you much luck in my heart. I asked a college porter if he knew
your name and he said it was ASTRID.

The Barefoot Pilgrim        barefootmystic@hotmail.com

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Off the Grid in the Natural State

“To properly understand political power and trace its origins, we must consider the state that all people are in naturally. That is a state of perfect freedom of acting and disposing of their own possessions and persons as they think fit within the bounds of the law of nature. People in this state do not have to ask permission to act or depend on the will of others to arrange matters on their behalf. 

The natural state is also one of equality in which all power and jurisdiction is reciprocal and no one has more than another. It is evident that all human beings – as creatures belonging to the same species and rank and born indiscriminately with all the same natural advantages and faculties – are equal amongst themselves. They have no relationship of subordination or subjection unless the lord and master of them all had clearly set one person above another and conferred on him an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty. 

– John Locke, Two Treatises on Government 

It was August, 2011. A multitude of bells rattled and clanked from the distance and were accompanied by the bleating of goats. Sunlight poured through the canvas tent like grain through a sieve. The heat of summer smothered me out of slumber. I opened my eyes and blinked to clear the dust from them. I looked around at the items in the tent: a bookshelf stretching from the back end to the front along one side, on top of which lay strangely-shaped and colorful rocks; guns tucked in the corner behind the bookshelf; the guitar and the daitos, wooden replicas of Japanese swords used in practice of various martial arts. 

I was a single man, newly graduated from Arkansas State University–Heber Springs, when I visited here about two years ago. That was before the goats. I was here now with Nikky, my wife of just nine months who was about a month along in her pregnancy. 

My old friend Benjamin came out here to start a new life. He had gotten cheated out of his $200,000 business in Little Rock in an attempt to sell it. He sold his old property in Shirley, Arkansas, put half the earnings in savings and sunk the other half in a large sailboat that he kept docked off the coast of Greece—just another in a long line of failed attempts. His wife Tiffany miscarried on the boat, and so they returned to Arkansas. 

I sat up, waking my wife in the process. 

“Good morning,” I told her with a smile. 

She yawned. The goats bleated again, this time sounding louder. 

I kissed her lightly. “I guess we should go see if there’s anything to do. Are you hungry?” 

“Very. So is the baby.” 

We got out of bed, put on our clothes, and exited the tent. The day met us with a full burst of heat. The trees were alive and basking in the summer sun. Up the dirty trail we saw Nathan, the elder boy, being led by a sea of goats. The goats shoved and pushed their way in a fight for leadership. The dark 16-year-old carried a stick that he bounced occasionally on the toe of his shoe. He smiled and waved at us. 

The goats passed us by in a flurry of jumping spots and flapping ears, and Nathan stood before us. 

“What’s up?” he asked with little enthusiasm as he looked up the trail. His Korean descent from his mother’s side was evident in his dark, sleek eyes that always seemed to smile. 

“What do we need to do?” I asked him. 

“Go see Dad,” he said. “He probably wants you to help him with Josiah’s platform. Follow me.” 

I looked at Nikky. We nodded and began walking down the trail. The silence was disturbed only by the creek that fluttered and rolled all along the way and by the faint buzzing of insects and the goats baaing ahead of us. None of us said a word on the walk, but Nikky and I laughed at the curiosity in the goats’ eyes and in their light, joyful hops. 

As we neared the bottom of the trail, I saw Benjamin getting the work site ready for the day’s construction. He moved around in a flurry, scooping up logs, loading them on his shoulders, dumping them closer to where the platform sat that would serve as the floor to the next tent—the next home—that was going up. This one was for the younger boy, Josiah, who was strangely absent from the big clearing in the woods, the headquarters of the homestead. He must have slept in, I thought.  

Benjamin looked up at us, already covered in sweat. He waved, set down the tools he was carrying, and strode down the steep hill towards the creek, which flowed just opposite the main tent that we were now standing at. 

“Weeeeeell… Mornin’!” came his familiar high-pitched, singsong voice. He walked up to us. His short beard dripped with sweat, but his eyes looked alive and ready to face the day.  

“Did y’all sleep well?” he asked when he got to us. 

“We slept alright,” Nikky said. She looked sideways at me and suppressed a smile. She had complained about her back the night before because of the stiffness of the bed. 

“Good, good.” He drew the words out in two separate musical notes. “Nathan, where’s your brother?” 


“Sleeping?! Well go wake him up. The morning’s already over. We’ve got things we need to do today. We have got to get things in order around here.” 

Three years of hardship deep in the national forest of Arkansas had done their damage to Benjamin’s once hopeful spirit. He sat down and shook his head slowly. 


August, 2005. I had just been inducted into the Messianic Jewish congregation I would be part of for the next four years of my life. I would learn Hebrew, worship with fellow believers on all the Jewish holidays, work beside them, suffer with them. We would become a family, dysfunctional as most families are. As Messianic Jews, we’re not really Jews (though many within that demographic are), but by Christian standards we are heretics: We’ve denied the equality of Christ to the Eternal G-d (the Father), and therefore denied the trinity; we practice Torah, though most of Christianity interprets the writings of the New Testament to say that the Torah doesn’t apply to Christians, at least not literally and wholly; we worship on Saturday instead of Sunday; we’ve forsaken traditional Christian holidays, imagery, and many practices as pagan and false. 

Yet the Jews reject us as well, because we follow who we believe is the prophesied Messiah, the heir of King David, and the redeemer of this world of paganism back to the principles of G-d’s Law—the man the mainstream Judaism rejects as a false Messiah, a pagan sent to mislead Israel. We are somewhere in between, rejected and isolated, and by society’s standards, we’re a little nuts. 

Today is my first Sabbath with these folks. The men, all good ol’ boys—Gentiles—from the South, sing and wag their long beards. We sing Christian praise songs and gospel hymns with a Jewish twist: Lines of Hebrew strewn into the mix of lyrics, and praises to Yeshua Hamashiach —Jesus the Messiah. 

There in the front of the group, leading the music on the guitar, is a man that reminds me of a good friend of mine from my old church. He’s of average height, physically fit, and his dark brown hair and long brown beard give him the appearance of an outlaw from the wild west. But he sings those Jewish songs in a high pitch, like Paul Simon who, I would later learn, is one of his favorite artists. His Jewish fringes, four sets of white strings with a single deep blue strand in each set, hang just below his tan T-shirt and over his faded blue jeans. The cuffs of his pants are accidentally tucked behind the tongues of his brown leather work boots. I think for a moment that he looks like a dirty redneck (the kind I’ve always disdained), but I can’t deny his talent. 

The songs end and we all sit to discuss the Torah portion. Each Sabbath there is a Jewish obligation to read a predetermined section of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, so that a few chapters are read each week until in one year’s time you read the entire text. On the same annual holiday each year the cycle starts over with Genesis 1:1. 

The musician sits with his legs kicked out and crossed in the seat in front of him. We all face the front, where Yaakov, the presiding elder this week, leads the service. It’s strange to me how different this service is from every church service I’ve been to. The men raise their hands and speak right in the middle of the service, commenting on the text, debating the finer points of it. The subject of today is Torah Law, from a section from the book of Exodus. We’re talking about returning our neighbor’s lost sheep and putting to death our own ox that has gored a person. How does this apply to me? I wonder. Just then someone raises his hand and says, “We can see that these principles apply today because whether the animal is a sheep or an ox or a dog, we still have the obligation to return a lost possession to its owner, and we still have to take responsibility for the actions of our pets. A dog that bites a person should be put down.” I got it then. 

The musician is the most opinionated of all of them. He’s already lambasted the government and modern society over and over, and mocked the traditional Christian interpretation of several of the passages we’ve read. Then again, they all do that, it seems. 

The service has ended, and we’re all filling plates from the kitchen area with all of the hot meals different families have prepared for the evening, a weekly tradition from what the elder’s wife Linda told me. Some people have gone outside on the front porch to smoke. I find it strange that so many of them smoke cigarettes while they refuse to eat pork or shellfish or any of the animals forbidden by the strict Torah Law.

I’m sitting at a far table by myself, listening to the bustling building full of voices and laughter and finding it ironic that I’m off a back road in Jacksonville, Arkansas with a bunch of reformed Christians whose lives are morphing into Jewish ones. The musician pulls up a chair next to me and spins it around, sitting back and spreading his legs haphazardly. His boots thud on the wooden floor as he slams them down. 

“So what’s your name?” 

“Aaron,” I answer. “Yours?” 

“Benjamin. Nice to meet you.” 

We shake hands. 

“So what do you think of all this?” he asks as he motions around the room. 

“It’s very…interesting. I don’t really know what to make of it, to be honest. But I love the atmosphere. It’s closer to right than I’ve ever felt in a church.” 

“Yeah, I think we all feel the same way,” he answered. 

“So what do you do?” 

“For a living? I’m an animal trapper.” 

“You trap animals?” This is getting weird, I think to myself. 

“Yeah, I work all over the state. Mostly in Little Rock though. The rich people in Chenal who have the money to throw to me. In return I get squirrels and skunks and other rodents out of their attics and basements. Or whatever they need gone. Then I repair the damage and ensure they don’t come back.” He nods and smiles with his eyebrows raised high. “What about you?” he asks. 

“I’m working with my brother-in-law. Learning to become an electrician.” 

“That’s a good job. If you ever need something else, just come to me. I give all Sabbaths and Jewish holidays off. I pay pretty good, too.” 

“Thanks,” I say with a nod. 


Josiah entered the tent with sleepy eyes. He was fumbling with his cell phone. 

“There you are,” Benjamin said. 

His younger son looked similar to Nathan only shorter and with freckles spotting his tan face. 

“‘Bout time,” Benjamin said as he ruffled his hair and poked his ribs. 

“Yeah, yeah,” Josiah said. He moved away from his father’s teasing blows and a faint smile crept over his face. 

“You sleep too much, boy. Go out there and get some eggs for breakfast.” He left the tent. Benjamin looked up at me. “You ready to get started?” 

“Ready as I’ll be.” 

We made our way back up the hill to the new platform. Benjamin started to measure for the rail while I went and dragged up the logs he called for to build it.

“Just wanted to say thanks for letting Nikky and me come out here to visit. This is something we want to do, eventually.” 

He looked at me. “Of course, brother. Any time. You know how I feel about free labor!” A giddy laugh followed. I smiled and nodded. 

“Dad, we’re ready!” Josiah called from the kitchen area. We looked at each other and headed back down. 


Oil. The material world is composed of it. We wear it, process our food with it and then package that food in it. A plastic, synthetic existence. Mass-produced goods promote a mass-produced lifestyle. The plague of our time: Cancer. How many cases are tied to chemicals and byproducts of oil? 

Work. Jobs are tailored to the needs of humanity, and the needs of today are dependent on time converted into money. Time spent on what? Entertainment, fashion, and that disgusting word that now dominates the globe: Business. Capitalism. 

Government. It now stems from the people. From what people? You? Me? No. It is the will and whim of Corporate America. They produce drugs to correct the infirmities those same drugs create. They attack our citizens under shadowy guises, then start up wars with the accused scapegoats to steal their wealth and unite the world under the common system of modernity. Wall Street and Congress are in bed together, and we’re the helpless offspring of that unholy union. 

Media. Our minds are enslaved by it. Everywhere we turn information floods our senses at epileptic speed. False information to indoctrinate us with sex, drugs, violence, ideas of material “need”; indoctrinate us with belief and trust in our lord and savior, Government. After all, we’re helpless on our own. 

What happened to what matters? Family, community, art, faith, hope, freedom. We’re too modern for that. Nietzsche slew those traditional, outdated constructs. Let’s move on. I look around at the world that has emerged as a result: A cold, dead, meaningless and robotic world where individuality and culture have been usurped by tailored suits and iPhones, where our every move is scrutinized by security cameras. Is privacy that overrated? Or am I just paranoid? 

My mother told me that insanity is not being able to recognize reality. Under that definition, I may be paranoid, but it’s the majority that’s gone insane. 


After a light breakfast, Nikky and I went with Josiah to milk the goats. He led the goats—and us —to the goat pen up the mountain side. When we got there the smell of pine pricked my nose. We led the majority of goats into the pen, then put the milk goat, Nanny, up on the table, and Josiah proceeded to milk her. 

“Do you like it out here, Josiah?” I asked. 

“Yeah.” He was distracted. 

“Do you ever miss the city?” 

“Sometimes.” He shrugged. “Wanna try?”  

I nodded. 

“Just grip here and pinch, then slide down while you put pressure on it. Roll the milk out.” I filled the tin can with milk. 

When we got back to the main tent, Benjamin separated the hairs out of the milk and shared some with Nikky and me. 

“Tastes like milk,” Nikky said with a shrug. I gagged. Milk isn’t my thing, and goat’s milk is no exception. 

The boys went off to play and do chores, and Nikky decided to take care of the dishes and start on some sort of lunch. She’s a fierce worker and indulges in the grittiness of natural living. 

Benjamin and I made our way past the chickens and guineas, past the clearing that will soon be an irrigated field for gardening, and on the trail back to the tent Nikky and I had slept in the night before. 

We talked about the news all along the way. Benjamin was slightly out of touch. Although he kept a few vehicles to get around out of the woods, a cell phone to communicate with his friends and loved ones, and a chainsaw, everything else stored in the large tents was fairly primitive: no TVs, no radios. 

“I just can’t believe this stuff is goin’ on!” he said. “You know this whole financial crisis is rigged, right?” 

“Of course I do.” 

“It’s engineered. They’re not concerned with helping the economy.” He stared into my eyes. “They want it to fall.” 

“I know that. They manipulate the wealth according to their needs. We’re the pawns.” 

I sat on the porch while he went in the tent. He came back a moment later with a pipe to commence another one of our rituals. He hit it and passed it to me. The smell was skunky and potent. 

“Yeah, brother, I tell you what,” he said. “I just can’t believe Tiffany is leaving me. We’ve been married for 20 years now.” 

“That’s a long time to just up and end things,” I said. Tiffany was a woman who, as long as I’d known her, wanted to honor her husband and raise their children according to his beliefs. She is strong and pretty. And now she lived outside the woods, in the small town that’s nearest 

Benjamin, and works at a Christian youth camp. Abby stays with her most of the time. 

“I’ve known you all for a long time now. You’re good people. You’re a good father and you seem to be a good husband.” 

“Yeah,” he said, “but she’s just not satisfied with living in tents. I’ve studied the Scriptures over and over on this. It says a wise man readies his land before he builds his home. She wants a house or a cabin, but I’ve got to get this land ready first.” 

I looked away. I wondered if he remembered the parts of Scripture that talk about taking care of your family and providing for the needs of your wife, but I said nothing. 

“But I think my boys are gonna stay out here with me.” 

He surveyed his land. Forty acres of the national forest, bought and paid for by Benjamin. 

“I’m ruined, Aaron. The woods have spoiled me. Every time I have to go back to Little Rock to do a job, I lose it. I can’t stand being bombarded with their brainwashing. Have you heard Katy Perry’s song ET? They are mocking us.” 

“You mean the aliens?” I smiled sardonically. 

“The nephilim. I’m almost positive I’ve been abducted before.” 

Benjamin believes that the world governments are controlled by fallen angels under Satan’s authority. There is Biblical evidence that these angels, who procreated with mankind before Noah’s flood, have done so repeatedly throughout history in an effort to outbreed and destroy mankind. It’s sort of Satan’s answer to G-d’s Israel. Benjamin believes they’ve infiltrated the upper classes. In his theory, which fits with the Biblical understanding, they have human bodies but they are soulless. In place of the human spirit breathed by the Almighty they are filled with demons. They are the Nephilim, and Benjamin thinks they formed our government (and most of modern society), bought out mass media and the education system, and are now destroying the foundations of freedom, taking away one civil liberty at a time until the world is one giant totalitarian state devoted to the worship of Satan and his antichrist. 

“Abducted? How can you tell?” I asked. 

“There’s a small circular chunk of flesh missing from my right shin. I’ve read in several books that it’s a sign of alien abduction.” 

I looked down at my own leg covered by my jeans. I looked at him with wide eyes as I pulled up the right pant leg, revealing an identical scar on my shin. He looked at it closely as his hand found its way up to his mouth. 

“Nikky noticed it before I did, last year,” I told him. “Neither one of us could explain it.” 

“I’m telling you man, you need to watch out,” he said. “They target specific people. I’m convinced the man who cheated me out of my business is one. But he’s lower level.” 

“And you think I’m being targeted?” 

He waited a moment. “They know the truth seekers.” 


October, 2005. I call Benjamin up, bloodied from a nasty fall on the job wiring an old warehouse. My brother-in-law, despite his initial promises upon hiring me, says that business is picking up, and everyone has to start working Saturdays, with no exception. The bosses are asking me either to start working them or turn in my resignation. The Torah forbids work on the Saturday Sabbath, so after just three months of electrician work I decide to take Benjamin up on his offer. I’m going to become a trapper. 

I would spend the next several months extracting animals from houses in the bitter chill of winter. I would learn how to drive a standard transmission, because the company trucks are all old Toyota pickups with stick shifts. I would have several onsite accidents, and would quickly determine along with my coworkers—who are all Messianic men from our little congregation— that I am somewhat accident prone. I would grow in my faith and the knowledge of it. And I would decide to go to college. Three years of grueling labor for businesses that I felt were unimportant in the eyes of Eternity had forced me into a mild depression and a heavy angst. I was an artist who had relegated himself to construction and the factories. I decide it’s time to learn what I love and get a degree. I’m going to earn a living while doing something true to me.   

My opportunity comes when Benjamin announces to us that he’s selling the business. He’s spent too many hours away from his wife and kids, so he’s packing up and getting the hell out of Dodge. He will live off the coast of Greece, because “government may control the land now, but the ocean is freedom.” Well, he can have the ocean—I’m going back to school. 

Somewhere along the way I begin studying conspiracy theories. I begin researching quotes from the upper echelons of society, and most importantly, I begin researching the details of the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. My findings quickly lead me to form my own socio-political theories. I begin to hate our government and the system it perpetuates. The more I look at, the more evidence I find that the world is being duped. 

I want to talk to Benjamin about it, but he’s halfway around the world, going through some sort of midlife crisis. I wouldn’t see him again for a couple of years. 


“I already talked to the boys this morning,” Benjamin said to me. “If y’all wanna come out here and do this with us, you’re welcome to. We’d give you the big tent that Tiffany and the kids have been sleeping in. Now that the boys have their own tents and my wife won’t be out here anymore.” 

“It’s a tempting offer,” I said. “You know we want out of society as much as you do. But I’ve got debts, man. I’ve got 10 grand in school loans to pay back, and if I come out here now, how would I earn money to take care of that?” 

“That is an issue. I tell you what I’ve learned out here, though. Out here, the sounds and business of the outside world are silent. Out here, you can think. Out here, you learn what’s really important in life. I’m convinced mankind should basically be living as paupers. That’s what we’re doing here. We don’t go hungry, either. We work at our own pace, and we’re always together as a family. Or, we were until Tiffany decided to leave.” 

I looked away. I thought about Nikky. When we met a couple of years ago, she was young and newly freed from her parents’ home. Since we’ve met she’s taken my ideas and run with them. She craves a natural life, close to the Earth and free from humanity’s tampering. Our mutual mistrust of the system runs deep now. 

“So do you know what the baby is yet?” he asked. 

“It’ll be a surprise. We’re doing a home birth.” 

“With a midwife?” he asked. 

“With a midwife.” 

“You’ll be a good dad. I love my boys. When you have a boy, you get excited because you can teach him the things you know about being a man. But when I had my daughter, it was something else, brother…” A smile flashed on his face. “I felt like a prince coming out of that hospital. And when they love on you, you just feel like the king of the world.” 

I had seen Benjamin and Abby, his four year old, playing together and I knew what he meant. I could see it in the way he ran around with her on the playground at the park, and I heard it in his voice when he talked to her. He was a proud father, and she was a daddy’s girl.

We smoked some more. 

“How much debt do you have anyway?” he asked. 

“Ten grand,” I replied. “But it may go up. Now that we’re having this baby and I’m going back to school, I don’t know if we can make it without the loans. I’ve applied for them, but haven’t accepted yet. If I do, it will be $6–8,000 more.” 

“I wouldn’t.” His voice was rising. “It’s a trap, brother.” 

I looked down and nodded. “I have to do something, Ben. You’ve got two decades on me. You’ve lived your life, had your family. You’ve earned some money so you could come out here and live the way you want. I’m not there yet.” 

“Look at me, Aaron.” 

He was serious now. 

“I’m telling you like I would tell one of my boys. You need to give back that money.” 

He looked at me expectantly. 

“I’m serious,” he continued. “You need to give it back before it’s too late. That debt is the claim they’re going to have on you when they call in the debts. You’ll be separated from your family. Maybe indefinitely. You need to come out here, with us.” 

“And what am I supposed to do about the debt I already have?” 

“A lot of people think I’m crazy, so take this with a grain of salt. But if it was me, I’d sell your car, put the money in gold, and ask your dad to pay off your debt. Then you can pay him back without the threat of being arrested later on down the road.” 

How?” I demanded. “How am I going to pay him back? I have to earn money.” 

“We’ll start up a log furniture business.” 

I searched his face for irony. There was none. 

“Nikky and the boys can start on the garden, start canning things, and you and I will make log furniture and sell it. I also want to get this place ready for guided tours and that kind of thing. Maybe start a survivalist course. There are ways to make money, brother, without selling your soul. You don’t need more than that. Or you’ll just wind up like everyone else: fat, lazy, and blind.” 

“I know the dangers, Benjamin. Don’t you get it? I’ve been struggling with this stuff for a while now. I want the freedom this place has to offer. But my hands are tied right now.” 

“You better listen to what I’m saying, Aaron. You’re going to ruin your life.” 

I looked away. “You did this your way. Let me do it my own way.” 

“Look,” he said. “I’m not gonna be mad at you if you don’t listen to me. But I want you to think about it. The offer is on the table, and I hope you act before it’s too late. If I’m right about the timeline—and it’s looking like I am—in less than a year society is going to collapse. You should be out here where the woods can take care of you. You won’t be able to start once it happens. This,” he said motioning around, “is where the future is.” 


We finished the platform by nightfall, with little said between us as we worked. 

“Well, Ben, I think it’s about time we head out.” 

He shook my hand. “Hope you’re not mad at me.” He smiled. 

“Nah. I just need time to figure everything out. I appreciate your concern for me, though.”

“Of course. I think of you like a brother.” 

“Me too,” I said. 

Nikky and I drove our little stick shift out of Benjamin’s woods up the rutted drive, avoiding the rocks like mountain peaks that stabbed up into the air. Our excursion was over. We were going back to society—back to our family and friends, back to school, bills, and a twisted system that weighs down on us, threatening to crush our spirits. Back to our ambitions to contribute to humanity, to help better the existence of our loved ones, and to make our mark on the world. We were going back—for a time, at least. 

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” 

– Henry David Thoreau

Posted by: Aaron
Views: 8300

Comedy, Cocaine and Cable TV

by Robbie Jones Saturday Night Live 
producer Marci Klein SNL
Sara Seth glanced up at the marquee on west 68th from the inside of the Hilton Hotel. 10 minutes to show time! Famous comedian famous comedian am I said she to the empty  bar. She watched as the stepladder was placed in front of the marquee – the workman in white pulling each letter from the metal marquee. New film, new star.

Every Friday a new picture.
 “Film star, all of us could be film stars.. I just know it – SARA
IF YOU WOULD TRY HARDER –“ Sarah sipped at a coke and
Bacardi rum to the end sucking nosily. Her Mother’s voice echoing.
Try harder. Do better. Useless all of you except for Sara. Sara did a
show and brought in 50$. Mrs. Seth lighting a cigarette and shifting
in the heavy upholstered chair. Her pudgy face turning as she shook
her dark hair.  “I just want what’s best. For all of you.” She inhaled
and looked around at her handsome husband and daughters. She
dismissed Shelly and called for Sara to sit with her. Lesley left and
the other arm went around Sara.  There was nothing to do at this point
except to hear the crickets and kids playing from the open window at their
New Hampshire home.  It was late. Sara had gotten a gig doing stand up.
Shelly her Dad had found a 5 day job bricking up a wall at a rich neighbors home.

Lesley had handed over her babysitting money to her Mother, reluctantly.
All the cash was in her hand as she counted and recounted. Everyone
had to hand over their cash to Mrs. Seth.
“Baby do you need something?”
 Sara nodded yes and stared out the window to the trees, the roads
to town, the night sky with a star shining. Her long brown hair was parted
to the side and her face was small and handsome. Everyone said she
resembled her father with his ‘handsome movie star looks’ and it was true Shelly was the most handsome man in town. As Sara had grown up and watched as woman after woman threw themselves at Shelly.  She had also watched as he, at times had indulged in some back seat fucking behind his wife’s back.

Sara had learned one thing. Women would do anything for sex from a handsome man.  And the more he played them, the more they wanted it.
Shelly always had his pudgy devoted wife and in the New England town
on Fridays and Saturdays while they were all at the movies or the
Lakeshore diner he escaped his drab life in a 20$ hotel room with
a bar maid.  Or in the backseat of a car with the wife of a friend
“Baby do you need anything?”
“Mommy I want 25$ half from my gig. Please.”
“You were funny?”
“He said I’m really funny and I rocked the house. I did Mommy.
I can do another show next Friday. I get a free drink and a meal $50”
“You’re kidding me-“
“No Mommy he hired me- I want my 25$”
“Darling you got hired?”
A huge grin appeared on her face and her pudgy arms wrapped
around her daughter in a hug. ”Hired. 50$ every Friday. Finally!
One of you has some guts. I knew you were a somebody.
Lesley will never amount to anything! Shelly is shit. You
my angel, are something.“
Sara rocked in her Mother’s arms. The room exactly the same as it had
been since she was a child. Same chairs, same bookcase with
scattered chipped teapots and cups and plates. A framed photo on the wall.
A lumpy sofa at the wall. The window open to a New England summer night.
Sara had sex with the manager after her show. It was over quickly.
And he had hugged her in much the same way her Mother was now.
He was handsome and married but he gave her the gig and
looked and looked at how beautiful and smart she was. He
had kidded and joked with and hired her to bus tables and host.
It all ended up in  back room with a single bed and creaking bed springs.
It didn’t matter it was job security and she knew she was funny and the
crowd at the bar had actually liked the show. Goodbye cleaning hello affair
with a married man and hello stand- up comedy.  The Friday before her
Mother had slapped her face hard when she mentioned money. Sarah Seth
  was making it. 35$  100$ Hiding it, giving her Mom some and feeling better.
New shirts, a new skirt.  Cologne. Anything seemed too expensive.
Shelly had finally admitted he had spent all his money on food & beer.
“Hired. A real comedian.”
“Yes Mommy – and I want 25$”
“Sure kid here.”
Her Mom folded the twenty and five into her hand and kissed her.
Hugged her again. Finally her Mother wasn’t angry every day.
The old 3 bedroom home was paid for and it was just
utility gas and food they needed. Sara was seventeen and had
a closet of clothes. Her sister had the same but her Mother had
been beyond angry all week. Finally she was happier.
“Come on baby, let’s have a drink an celebrate”
Sara stood and looked out the window. Her Mother led her to
the back kitchen and pulled her inside, softly locking the door.
The marquee back on 68th street was changed to HippyLand.Same as she called her summer house in New Hampshire.

Pot, hot tubs, bring your little brothers and sisters up.

All welcome and all of us best friends. Forever Hippies.

The new poster up and the ladder being turned. Sara Seth was
looking out the window. Her Mother had died earlier that month.
Lung cancer and a fight over some bags of pot on the table. 
A lump on her neck, a tumor behind. Her Father Shelly had died as well.
As soon as she started dealing they had gone.  Dead.  Sara thought quickly of a joke.

Mommy, what zodiac sign smokes the most. Cancer. She smiled and
laughed. Finished the Bacardi and shook the ice. 11pm and showtime!
Let them wait a few minutes.  Sara Seth was always funny.
Her show always rocked the house.  The Marquee had changed
and her Mom was gone.  Woodstock and now HippyLand..
A new star, new film every Friday.  Sara looked at her list
of ten jokes and quickly left the empty bar.
Sara Seth glanced up at the marquee in Vegas 10 minutes to show time! Famous comedian famous comedian am I said she to the empty bar. She shook her hair back and ordered a quick rum & coke. The bartender winked at her and she  looked at her list of ten jokes. Winner winner winner –
talk while – look at room – winner winner winner talk winner winner winner  
annnnd end joke.  Holy shit Vegas crowd! Sarah shrugged. Sarah Seth was
always funny. She thought back earlier that day up in her hotel room.
She woke up at 12 ordered breakfast, ate and went to the pool and wasted an afternoon on the phone and looking at the staff. Ordering anything and everything. More ice, colder glass, another water – keep them busy Sarah thought. Vegas Vegas Vegas. Ooooh babyyy playing thumping in background.  She looked at her ten jokes. Play this crowd – play them same as the Comedy Cellar crowd.  Deb her waitress was near. Deb Mimosa!

For awhile I thought that was her name.  Sara looked at the email from Sydney.  Her screenplay was being done. Compromise, some days we play Abba some days we play Neil Diamond. We must all melt a bit and  not be so cold .  Sydney always said that.  Later Sydney. As she looked at her fragile face in her hotel mirror she had thought of her early days in comedy. So happy walking down Macdougal street in Manhattan. To all the comedy clubs and cafes. Everyone out, couples everywhere.

 She got gig at the cellar right off, shaking hands and talking her way in.
No back rooms it was just be funny.  It was always crowded at the cellar and a strict 2 drink minimum kept it busy.  Pressured to perform she took the stage and bombed with her first joke and just kept talking.  The crowd hardly noticed and finally she said something funny. A wave of laughter rocked  her and she got right back on. Dirty jokes.

Fine got them and she just kept on. She had her guitar  and could always play a bit and talk to her crowd but it was crowded. They wanted to laugh  and she always knew a few dirty jokes. Two minutes into it she relaxed and kept being sexy dirty and quick. Laughter. Applause. Laughter. They loved her and finally the host waved, set done
and she waved and applause. A moment to savor and she stood and grinned. Hopped off the stage. Asked for a free drink at the bar.  Got a draft beer and went to the back.
 Got it. Got it. 
On the phone and a call to her Mother. Mom. How was it baby? Come home tomorrow. Mom. The years had gone, gone where. Seven years later in her hotel room in Vegas thinking of the comedy cellar. Looking at a stranger in the mirror. Sara Seth.
Her face was hard. Her eyes pools of black. Shark eyes.  So much had happened.
Her face was  hard. My Mother is dead. She said aloud. Shot in the head. I should
have stayed in bed. She looked around. View. Cool breezy Vegas. Big bed
and towels on the floor. She had the cash and could have a party later that night.
Her hand hurt. She had thrown a glass in anger earlier. Sure. A party. 
She looked again at the stranger in the mirror. Forget it. She smiled and
took a deep breath. Sara Seth was always funny. The marquee said headliner
and she was making good money.  Funny. That was done. She had learned that
way back at the comedy cellar. Seven years gone. Gone where.
Sydney this is so funny you wrote this? 
But yes, of course. Really?
It’s so funny – it’s hilarious. Did you get your bonus?
Sydney Lewis waved her check at her co-worker at the silicon valley start up.
A program built in Gerard’s parents basement went to 3 people working in his garage
shrink wrapping packages to a 200+ company with Gerald in sunglasses constantly
talking on the phone and his high school friend Sydney marketing itune APPS
 to teens in California. Text to Guru Gerard,  let’s do a Mork and Mindy APP.
Lewis.  Annnnnnnnnnnnd Send !And Sydney pulled her hair back into a
pony tail and pulled on a worn sweater over her button down shirt. A tan skirt and
Outside to the warm California evening. It was a long day, they had done it.
They had sold the company. All the meetings and handshaking and meetings
 and phone calls paid off.  Meetings and meetings!
A thirteen million dollar sale and Gerard was happy driving off to meet his
masseuse whom Sydney was sure was gay and Gerald well, he built the program.
If he wanted a massage from a blonde surfer guy – for sure. Gerard was so lonely.
All he did was work and Sydney was happy he had a friend. Everyone in the
company had gotten a bonus from the sale and it was over. Namesdomain Inc.
was over. Swallowed up acquired by large looming shark Ashton-Tate.  Emails to everyone. All Gerard’s friends back from MIT in Boston.  The ring
bearer has fulfilled his quest!  My kingdom for windows DOS!  All the worlds
a stage and we are just world of warcraft players. What did Diana Ross say to
her tech support team- where are my back ups!  All Sydney did all day long at the hippy computer company was make jokes. Jokes riddles puns limericks long rambling jokes short witty remarks – as if it were Wisecracks Inc. all day. Sydney had a strange ability to get people laughing so hard tears came. They fell off chairs and sometimes they laughed so hard they peed.  It was a unless talent in the software industry  but it was also becoming apparent Sydney would rather be writing jokes than device driver code and answering never ending tech support calls.
 This is funny. You should be in comedy.
 They always said that and she just always smiled and looked down.
Comedy. The big C. Laughter, like a tumor it was, humor.  Mary Tyler Moore moments, joke books and all  the television. Sydney had watched every sitcom ever.
 The green backyard at her Mom’s house with it’s sliding glass doors.
The television room and a tv guide.  Peaceful and tranquil for devoting herself to watching, detailing, analyzing every sitcom  ever. Newhart  Sanford and Son  Maude   The Jefferson’s  Mary Tyler Moore Rhoda  Sonny & Cher Good Times Faulty Towers Benny Hill  Mash  Barney Miller  Facts of Life  Family Ties  Prince of Bel Air  The Courtship of Eddy’s Father Bridget & Bernie  
One Day At A Time  Donny & Marie  The Smothers  Brothers  Laugh Inn.
Every cheap and cheesy thrown together or perfectly produced show
that had aired Sydney had seen most of. Most episodes. TV dinner I am there!
Her Mother read all the time, her Father traveled with an executive job
and Sydney had only two sisters and they kept busy with boyfriends and
 high school teams.
Boring, banal, hours upon hours of nothing but television and cups of tea,
soda, coffee, a large open patio with crickets to walk and take a break and
then back to it. More tv. Episodes of Twilight Zone. Late night Mary Hartman
Mary Hartman.  Johnny Carson.  His guest hosts including Joan Rivers. Hilarious!
 A cat curled up near Sydney. And of course SNL every Saturday night.  
WPIX channel 11 news with it’s harrowing accounts of New Yorkers braving
everything!  Hookers in Times Square, junkies in the village, dow market
crashed again! The same newscasters, same hair, suit tie coats
and 11:29 pm channel 4 NBC the peacock and those tense moments.
A bowl of popcorn near. Is Saturday Night Live on? Is it a good one? A rerun?  
Moments and then Chevy on stage and laughter a pratfall and Live From New York!
It’s Saturday night! Theme music and the not ready for prime
time players! Garrett Gilda Jane Larraine Chevy John Dan Bill Murray!
 And Don Pardo announcing  your host for this evening is Buck Henry!
He hosted all the time and usually had a funny crawl in his
monologue. Hello I’m Buck Henry da da da da and then these words would
start on screen – ‘ a crawl’ on the screen saying totally opposite of what he was
 saying. ‘Oh tonight’s show the actors are such and such and really you wouldn’t
 believe the lunch they gave us today’ on and on and on – so funny.
Saturdays were important to Sydney. Starting early in the morning with
every Bugs Bunny cartoon,  Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd, Speedy Gonzalez
and Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner episode she could cram in.
Then helping her Mother with shopping. A drive to the supermarket
and walking around talking and picking up TV dinners and cereal, milk butter eggs salads
having fun and shopping. Her Mother was so popular and she let Sydney watching TV
all the time. Later on Sydney had seen an ABC television ad jokingly saying 
8 hours day of television a day,  that’s all we ask – and  Sydney had agreed.  
There was no such thing as too much television if anyone had ever asked Sydney
 growing up. If anything, more cheesy Solid Gold Dancer shows.
Television! Her childhood had been a summers at a tennis & swim club,
playing cards & picking blackberries, frisbee and endless pizza parties.
Year after year with the same kids same friends same parents same blackberry
bushes near the same swim club. Her bike parked with the others, never locked.
The white stone wall of the club and entrance. Sydney knew almost everyone at the club.
She went alone or with her family and there was always something to do.
Ping pong. Cards. Swim team. Sitting with the diving team and throwing
tennis balls at the boys. Everyone was friends and there were rows and
rows of lawn chairs. Everyone in a swim suit. Relaxed. Smoking. Reading the paper.
Tennis gear out. Reading magazines. It was a mellow club. Mostly Jewish but
 with a few Scandinavians and Italians and us leprechauns Sydney thought
 with a laugh. Riding down the path near the grass and past the back drive
 chain and up the hill to her Moms home. Hair wet and a towel around her neck.  
Bike in garage and door to playroom to walkway to patio her Mother
 siting reading a book, smoking and a smile as she entered. How was the swim club?
Sydney’s mother was always happy. A sexy Sagittarius with dark hair to her
 shoulders, in shirts and a short skirt. She had escaped Ohio with a good marriage
bought a home with 10,000$ down 200 feet from an elementary school and
had three kids. Done. She played tennis, swam, shopped at Lord & Taylor
and did an occasional acting part at the Sterling farms golf theater. She had
stenography training growing up and could memorize a short book word
 for word. Sydney’s Mother was sensible and funny. She loved her husband,
her daughters and that was it. She graduated high school and had the
steno thing wrapped up. Everyone liked her she waved to everyone in
the supermarket and flirted when she cashed checks at the supermarket office,
 talking with the men. They all laughed and she waved and shopped and
drove away. A actress who had somehow skipped ahead and went right to
a happy home in Connecticut. Always smoking and laughing.
‘How was the swim club Sydney? and a hug and cups of Lipton tea everywhere.
 Regina.  Twenty years later Sydney looked at the Malibu coastline as she
took PCH up to Topanga.  The bus was empty except for some spanish workmen
and one surfer. 8000$ and free. Her Mother had  passed away from lung cancer
years back.  All those cartons of Benson & Hedges. Lighters and ashtrays.
Sydney had joked in her stand up routine ‘Lung Cancer – it’s the way!
You can smoke to the very last day and it keeps you thin. Here’s my ashtray
‘I’ll quit tomorrow!’ Sydney had smoked and then stopped. California was
 so healthy and there was wheatgrass everywhere. A few shots and the
craving was gone. After three days she just let it go.
And she kept busy Sydney had always worked in offices. She got into computers.
 Her sisters had married  and her Father re-married briefly before lung cancer
 got him as well. Sydney thought of a joke.
If only you had watched more television Dad.  The Malibu coastline loomed,
beautiful and wild.  She was living with a guy she was designing a front end for.
His program was getting noticed and  his Father had put up some seed
money for his on-line dating site. Sydney had a knack forgetting things done quickly
and smartly. She had free rent from him. A sofa near the window. She talked over
the design with him and they worked beautifully together and Neil was aiming
for a big sale and needed a coach. Sydney was a pretty good coach and 
had a knack for telling jokes and being mellow and not clingy. She had finally
found a coffee bar in Santa Monica  where she pushed herself on stage and got
through 10 jokes with her friend Cynthia at the bongos.  The crowd laughed 
she had re-enacted an episode of Hawaii 5 O. Book ’em Danno was her last joke.
It got laughs and applause. Done.  Sydney had a coffee after with a shot of tequila in it.
Comedy comedian  comedy. She was drifting into it and liked it. Software
was a breeze and there was a job offer up in San Francisco. Sydney would fly up,
 book into a youth hostel. 25$ a night breakfast included. Find a cute guy from
the Netherlands  or Australia and get laid. Have dinner with him and everyone at the
communal table later and never say a word about it. Go out to the pub crawl
 and talk with Europeans and complain, laugh joke and stay up all night.
Adios LA.  Hello beautiful Swedish accents, cable cars and long breakfast at

11 am or 12.  I’m a night owl honey – I sleep all day long. A Carly Simon sketch.
Carly would love the hostel! For sure Carly would. Comedy. Sometimes Sydney
 thought of New York. She had met a extra on SNL and written sketches for him.
 She dated him and loved his name, Evan a 6 foot tall African American.
He was funny and young and Sydney had even thought what a good couple they
were walking in sheep’s meadow Central park. She fell sort of in love with him
and his funny t-shirts thick black glasses and New York preppy aggressive style.
She wrote him into some sketches and they were good. She knew it. And they got
along so well she just thought, marry this guy totally! Well, sort of err yes.

He had liked acting and then some neighbor told him all sorts of things about Sydney
and the whole thing was swept away by a flight he took to LA. He just went with another
woman. The sketches were left. Sitting there ready and waiting for SNL.
Funny, printed, neat. They lingered in her west village flat until her last day
before the flight. She had gone to Rockefeller center on a lark and gone ice
skating all day. Then took the flight back. Wondering.  Comedy. Well, computers
were stable. Everyone had a Mac the internet would go on forever and she
had called the company in San Fran and was interviewing this week.
Travel. Fly. Up in the sky. Bye. A fly guy. Try. Yet Sydney wondered.
She looked a list of 10 jokes. Had worked it down to ten. Rambling on in the
middle about Stonehenge and druids. How many hobbits does it take to screw
 in a light bulb? One but you need a wizard air freshener.  Were there
any blacks in the Hobbit? Just a Tolkien black. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!  
Sydney printed her boarding flight and went outside and sat in a lawn chair.
Night sky and a Pepsi near.  Neil inside up all night coding. A 30ish hippy
with a beard and long hair and hidden bags of pot. Yet it worked. Sydney cleaned up
 and coached his design.  The TV flicked on in the home. 
Live from New York and opening sketch. Sydney looked at it, the simple bizarre 
SNL humor. She had been watching the show since Chevy and Gilda days.
 Live from New York.
Sydney sighed and shook the ice in her drink. Comedy. Comedy on the rocks, neat.
    Another night with Mrs. Seth and Sara was hiding near the back wall
 of the kitchen. Her sister Lesley got the brunt of the Who Do You Think You Are lecture
followed by the Not One Of You Has Anything Going For you lecture followed
by the You Are All ShitHeads theory and then a grande finale of  If You Were A Somebody
You’d Make It lecture.  Then some tears and Mrs. Seth hugging  after all the
screaming and sometimes hitting. Sara always moved her face and quickly said
‘Stop it stop stop it Mom – STOP!’ But Mrs. Seth was a big woman and heavy
and strong. She had her hands around Sara’s throat at some point and shook her
hard.  Fucking bitch! Fucking bitch! Get OFF! A lamp thrown. Shelly yelling
and Lesley crying in the corner.
Shelly leaping onto them and it was comical and Sara would laugh out loud.
 Her Dad tackling Mrs. Seth and then uuufph – it was comical and tears and hugging
and some laughter. 
It’s alright it’s alright Shelly come here baby –
 Saturday night to Sunday then Roman Catholic cross on the wall and mass
 and Sara in confession. Confessing she wanted a flight to Miami and a new
Mother. And 6 hail Mary’s, not a hundred.
Father O’ Brother.  Long sigh.  Sara in her worn sweater and white polo shirts
and  brown cords and boots. Her brown hair at her shoulders and cups of coffee.
Her Mother getting into it with the Church janitor and Shelly getting in the
 middle of their on-going name calling every Sunday. Lesley talking to a guy
 and laughing and then running to the  Chevy everyone getting in and the old car
 creaking back to their house. Shutters falling apart the roof with grey shale pulled off.
 Hands in pockets and eyes down Sara went inside away from the constant back
and forth with Mrs. Seth and Shelly. He was spitting at me. He didn’t he did not!
He said we were behind on our payments. So what! He gets paid after we get paid.
They found the bottle of Jack Daniels hidden behind the alter. Shit. That bag of
pot was mine from bingo. That Fucking Priest. Free dinners on Friday nights, thank God.
Free booze from the booziest parish to ever hit New England. Father O’Tequila and 
his margarita mix and Fridays were good for the Seth family. Poor but honest.
Drunk but sober. Laughing but crying.  Sara shaking her head and making a
margarita for herself at age ten.
Lesley dancing with the church deacon. Shelly laughing and Mrs. Seth selling
phony raffle tickets to men all night smoking and drinking away the weekends.  
Mass on Sunday and they’d haul out Monsignor Guam a Filipino man who spoke
in a high tranquil voice and brought tears to everyone eyes. Have faith!
Kindness is the way! Simple sermons and his tender voice covered 
everyone and protected the parish. You felt relaxed and free after his Sunday
mass. Lighting a few candles, stuffing a few dollars to the poor. Monsignor talking
and hugging. Friday dinners with  real plates, glasses, round tables and
terrific baked yams, fish, corn. Cobb salads. Crispy fried chicken, baskets of
warm bread with butter, plates heaping with food and Sara ate and drank
50 cups of coffee, talked and had unseen margarita after margarita.
The grassy courtyard and sometimes a band, a movie with popcorn for everyone.
Sleepy kids on their moms shoulders drifting off to station wagons and Volvos.
All the local family together for a night and then night time New England crickets and
driving home. Upstairs to bed and pajamas, reading late at night or just staying up.
Mrs. Seth in a good mood. Shelly happy.  Other nights Sara watched as Shelly took 
a single woman behind a shed at the dinners and fucked her quickly and without much
effort and then both of them walking back inside as if they had just had a cigarette.
Mrs. Seth had started an affair with the church janitor. All to get his keys and his job.
 It was the seventies and la dolce vita, the good life.  He was coming over in the day when 
Shelly was at work and Sara and Lesley at school. Only Sara came home at 1 o’clock to
watch All My Children and saw them getting stoned all the time and smiling and laughing.
It worked and he was fired for drinking on the job and Shelly got his keys and access to
 their goal all along. The poor box. An extra 150$ every month and freebies
from the church kitchen. Mrs. Seth had finally figured out a somewhat honest
way to live. She just figured, they were the poor. Let us have the money and there,
everyone was sort of being good. She didn’t know what else to do. Thanks to the boxes
set strategically around the church and a devoted parish they always had some money.
Cash in hand. 30$ 40$ 20$. They had everything but they always went to bargain
 basements, thrift stores.  She had begged her Mom and got a few comedy tapes
 hidden in her bedroom.  Lilly Tomlin, Flip Wilson,  Monty Python, Benny Hill.  
She practiced routines out loud and in front of a mirror.  She read books on comedy
 and books of jokes. Actors monologues and plays.  She brooded over it and
then stomped through the house and found her sister and talked and talked 
and talked to her until she made her laugh and laugh and was standing up
making all of them laugh. Shelly and Mom. Lesley all laughing and Sara
going on and on.
Twenty years later Sarah looked in the mirror in Vegas. It was 3 am and the party had gone
on after her show. She had cash and was wearing a 600$ blazer & t shirt & slacks and a  five
thousand dollar Rolex wristwatch. 3 AM the boozy coked up hooker was looking at her
after kissing a guy with a Mercedes Benz t -shirt on and a bathing suit. Hey honey Sara get me
a drink – and that was all it took. Sara hit her to the ground and pounded her. The guy
kept swearing and saying Yeah yeah get her ! and Sara ended with a punch in her
 weeping face.
She went to the wet bar and made a drink and threw it at her.

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Views: 9054

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Revolution Will Not Be Televised

by Harrell Graham

sheer magnitude of the isolation of suburbia and the nuclear
family—rows upon rows of cookie-cutter homes housing families
uprooted from the extended families and close knit communities of not
so long ago. Not so long ago you could walk outside your home and
see your family and friends and a bustling activity of people outside
talking and interacting in what was once real communities. Now all
the suburban landscape offered was row upon row of houses holding
people who didn’t even know the names of their neighbors. People
whose sole occupation after coming home from school or work was
staring, mesmerized, at a glowing screen.

very strange, to be living amidst people without knowing them. For
millions of years we lived among family and friends, in communities
where we shared existence, shared food, helped each other, laughed,
cried and died with each other. Go to Thailand, for example, and
see how happy a place can be when people are not stoned on computers,
TV’s, Prozac, caffeine and where so much of life and
interaction—community—takes place outside.

now we were sold the personal automobile which enabled us to
transport ourselves home from far-away, meaningless jobs, driving
home inside vehicles which accentuated our aloneness, and, with
garage door openers allowed us to drive those vehicular boxes right
inside our housing boxes, all without having to acknowledge or
interact with–or often even see–our neighbors.

was a prescription for madness, depression, loneliness, spiritual
emptiness and exhaustion. (See the excellent book, “The
Geography of Nowhere” about how the automobile killed mass transit
and created suburbia which killed true communities.) But it also was
a potential gold mine for the drug companies. All those depressed
and spiritually hungry people are going to need a message in a
bottle, a mothers little helper, a pick me up, a-bring-me-down, a
smoother of bumps, a tonic, an elixir, a mood ‘elevator’ (what
goes up must come down).

revolution will not be televised, because there will be no
revolution. Everyone is too happy and placid to question or to fight
or to take a stand on an important issue.

your pill, sit back, relax, and enjoy your drug-induced passivity.
Chill out, man.

revolution will not be televised.

Posted by: Harrell Graham
Views: 4688

War on Terror is Very Big Business

what is it about the ‘war on terror’—a phrase just as idiotic
as the ‘war on drugs’—what is it about our newfound war that
has a funny smell to it? It is this: history proves that when great
powers employ the murderous, illegal tactics of the terrorists that
those great powers eventually lose legitimacy and therefore lose
their power, and fade or crumble.

our anger, vehemence and warrior spirit there is always the
temptation to ‘do as the terrorists do’: engaging in torture;
deliberately killing innocent civilians. These are the dangers of
fighting terrorists: that we become terrorists ourselves. History
is full of the ashes of great powers who lost their legitimacy
through exactly these ways.

our new enemy—terrorists—is a profitable one.

Washington Post did an expose on the mega-industries that have sprung
up around the so-called ‘war-on-terror’. Like shouting ‘fire’
in a crowded theatre, Big Brother has learned that shouting
‘terrorist’ causes the American people to let go of their
critical faculties and open their wallets no matter how ridiculous
the amount. And the amounts in the so-called ‘war on terror’ are
truly gargantuan—in the hundreds of billions of dollars with much
of it going to over-complicated, unnecessary agencies, companies,
fiefdoms, and technology all of which duplicates what the others are
doing without even knowing what the others are doing–all of which
has done little more than confuse and confound any chance at a
coherent, thoughtful approach to dealing with failed states and

few essential facts from the articles:

“…in a series of three
articles totalling some thirteen thousand words, the paper explored
the immense national-security industry created since 9/11—a
bureaucratic behemoth, substantially privatized but awash in public
money, that “has become so large, so unwieldy, and so secretive”
that it “amounts to an alternative geography of the United States,
a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough

*” Some 1,271
government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs
related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in
about 10,000 locations across the United States.

*” An estimated
854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in
Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

*” In Washington and
the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret
intelligence work are under construction or have been built since
September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three
Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings—about 17 million square feet
of space.

* “Many security and
intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and
waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands,
operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from
terrorist networks.

* “Analysts who make
sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic
spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports
each year—a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

Beyond the numbing
numbers, the
describes a vast archipelago of gleaming new office parks,
concentrated in the Washington suburbs but also scattered throughout
the country, protected by high fences and armed security guards,
bland-looking but inaccessible, and filled with command centers,
internal television networks, video walls, armored S.U.V.s, and inner
sanctums called SCIFs, short for “sensitive compartmented
information facilities.” How much of this—“the bling of
national security,” the
calls it—is necessary or even useful may be doubted, but it is
undeniably expensive. Much of it is there because the taxpayer cash
to buy it is there—an unending, ever-growing, BP-worthy fiscal
blowout that, beginning just after 9/11 and continuing to this day,
flooded the agencies with “more money than they were capable of
responsibly spending,” the
writes. “They’ve got the penis envy thing going,” a contractor
whose business specializes in building SCIFs says. “You can’t be
a big boy unless you’re a three-letter agency and you have a big


Posted by: Harrell Graham
Views: 4375

The Taliban is Not Hiding in my Kitchen, but MSG is!

Taliban is Not Hiding in my Kitchen, but MSG is

By Harrell Graham

Pharma already had an array of drugs which could produce just about
any desired effect. Need to stay awake? No problem, we’ve got
drugs for that. Go to sleep? Take your pick. Need to lose weight?
Here, swallow these. We’ve also got drugs to help you urinate,
defecate, lower your blood pressure, raise your blood pressure.
Lower your cholesterol, raise your blood sugar, lower your blood
sugar, raise your insulin, lower your insulin. Raise your libido,
lower your chances of getting pregnant, increase your chances of
getting pregnant. Feeling sad and blue? Here, we’ve got an
arsenal of pills for you…take your pick: uppers, downers,
in-betweeners, mood-elevators, crazy reducers, erection inducers.

did mention, didn’t we, that we have pills to decrease your
appetite. Need to lose weight? Sure, we’ve got drugs for that.
But wait. There is one thing we’ve not yet mentioned. The close
observer will note that we
didn’t mention that we have a substance to make you eat more

monosodium glutamate (MSG) really is–according to Dr. Russell
Blaylock, MD– “like fertilizer for cancer” then why haven’t
we, the American people, been warned by the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), which we pay with our hard-earned tax dollars,
to protect us from poison in our food?


research shows MSG not only makes us fat, it makes kids stupid, and
causes headaches, central nervous system damage, infertility, heart
disease, depression and cancer.  

‘natural flavors’ ‘yeast extract’ & ‘hydrolyzed
protein’ are only a few of the names under which MSG is hidden. If
we can’t get angry over a government that knowingly allows this
noxious stuff to be hidden in much of our food, well, then something
is very, very wrong.


anger is a good thing, if put to constructive use, and if ever there
were a time calling for constructive anger, this is one of those
times.  Our government has allowed the food companies to profit
from the money we hand over to them in the grocery stores for food
containing MSG that they knew would harm us in multiple ways. 
Yes, that’s right, you’re paying the food companies to give you
everything from headaches to cancer, and the MSG makes you stupid in
the process.  How elegant–a food additive that makes us
consumers stupid and depressed while it is killing us so we don’t
know or care enough to fight back.


how did the Christian Broadcasting Network News (CBN News)—not CNN,
NBC, ABC, CBS, New York Times, etc, etc—beat all other mass media
investigative journalists to the punch with their amazing video
expose? (see below)  Even books purporting to be critical
exposes of the American diet, such as “Fast Food Nation”, missed
the ‘MSG connection’.   


the information that CBN exposes has been known for a long time. 
Why has it taken so long to come out to a mass audience?  The
reason is because most newspapers, television and radio stations are
dependent on advertising dollars from corporations.  They stand
to lose millions in advertising revenue If they do truthful stories
about harmful products their corporate sponsors sell.  The
secretive MSG industry—which includes most food companies because
they put this poison (usually hidden) in their products–is in the
many billions of dollars, but apparently CBN isn’t beholden to any
of them because, I suppose, CBN doesn’t need their money.  I
laughed out loud as Pat Robertson picked up popular food products
containing MSG that he found in his kitchen, held them in front of
the camera, and said “These are all destined for the garbage can.” 
You won’t see that
on most news shows!


you care about your health and the health of those you love, please
take the time to click on the links below, then click on the ‘Play’
button.  (Each segment is not long.)  And, if you don’t
get angry after watching this series—after you learn how you have
been a lab rat of the highest profitability–well, maybe you need to
take a different kind of anger management class, or cut back on


note that the ’60 Minutes’ show from 1991 was the first and last
expose done by any major media outlet. The producer of 60 Minutes
said that 60 Minutes had never experienced such heavy industry
pressure on any program during ’60 Minutes’ time on television.
After the 60 Minutes show twenty years ago there has been a deafening
silence from the media about this toxic chemical. No stories. None.
Nada. They don’t dare to jeopardize all their advertising revenue
from the food companies!

why do the food companies put this stuff in as many products as they
can?  Because it makes people eat more than they otherwise would
and thereby boosts the profits of those food companies.  Having
essentially no taste of its own MSG has, however, the startling
effect when mixed with food of stimulating the nerves and brain to
make it seem like something ‘exciting’ is happening in the
mouth.  It makes you eat more, faster.  Furthermore,
through damage to the hypothalamus and/or due to a lowering of
glucose levels, the resulting feeling of hunger also makes one eat
more food than is needed.


is a sad way to make an extra buck.  I mean, we would still buy
these food products without the MSG—we’re hungry, after all. 
But to deliberately poison us just so they can sell a few million
more cans of soup, protein bars, pizzas and sandwich meats?   It
is my sincere desire that enough people wake up and stop buying these
poisonous products thereby causing all the guilty fat-cat food
executives to at least lose their stock options.  Maybe they’ll
even have to go directly to jail without passing ‘Go’.  And
from their jail cells they can contemplate all the harm they’ve
done while wishing they had never sold their souls for a bigger stock


if companies knowingly harm customers those companies are liable not
just for damages, but for treble
damages.  If you think the multi-billion dollar damage awards
were big in the tobacco lawsuits just wait till some heroic attorneys
take up the battle cry for MSG.  Hollywood, please start taking
notes now so you can prepare the sequel to “The Insider”, the
Russell Crowe/Al Pacino movie about tobacco.    


our government can’t protect us from basic assaults like greedy
food companies profiting from our painful demise, then what good is
that government?  The Taliban is not hiding inside my kitchen,
but MSG is.  This is what we pay our government to do—protect
us.  Okay United States Government, do the job we, the people,
elected you to do–protect

You can start by requiring the food companies to put on labels the
presence and amount of MSG rather than allowing them to hide it under
code words like “flavors” and “natural flavors”.  This
way we can at least have a choice in the matter.  Is that too
much to ask of the government which wants us to get all teary-eyed
every time we hear the lyrics “the home of the brave and land of
the free”?



a complete list of hidden
sources of


for a complete list of adverse

to MSG.

aspartame are “like fertilizer for cancer”

(Interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD)



1   The Hidden Dangers in Your Food



2   Your Brain’s Biggest Enemy



3   MSG, Cancer and Your Heart



4    Avoiding the MSG Threat


Minutes’ show from


Posted by: Harrell Graham
Views: 10173

We’re Losing the Drug War Because Prohibition Never Works

We’re Losing the Drug War Because Prohibition Never Works

By Hodding Carter III.

There is clearly no point in beating a dead horse, whether you are a
politician or a columnist, but sometimes you have to do it just the
same, if only for the record. So, for the record, here’s another
attempt to argue that a majority of the American people and their
elected representatives can be and are wrong about the way they have
chosen to wage the war against drugs. Prohibition can’t
work, won’t work and has never worked, but it can and does have
monumentally costly effects on the criminal justice system and on the
integrity of government at every level.

Experience should be the best teacher, and my experience with prohibition is a
little more recent than most Americans for whom the noble
experiment ended with repeal in 1933. In my home state of
Mississippi, it lasted for an additional 33 years, and for all those
years it was a truism that the drinkers had their liquor, the
preachers had their prohibition and the sheriffs made the money. Al
Capone would have been proud of the latitude that bootleggers were
able to buy with their payoffs of constables, deputies, police chiefs
and sheriffs across the state.

But as a first-rate series in the New York Times made clear early last
year, Mississippi’s prohibition-era corruption (and Chicago’s before
that) was penny ante stuff compared with what is happening in the
U.S. today. From Brooklyn police precincts to Miami’s police stations
to rural Georgia courthouses, big drug money is purchasing major
breakdowns in law enforcement. Sheriffs, other policemen and now
judges are being bought up by the gross. But that money, with the net
profits for the drug traffickers estimated at anywhere from $40
billion to $100 billion a year, is also buying up banks, legitimate
businesses and, to the south of us, entire governments. The latter
becomes an increasingly likely outcome in a number of cities and
states in this country as well. Cicero, Ill., during Prohibition is
an instructive case in point.

The money to be made from an illegal product that has about 23 million
current users in this country also explains why its sale is so
attractive on the mean streets of America’s big cities. A street
salesman can gross about $2,500 a day in Washington, which puts him
in the pay category of a local television anchor, and this in a
neighborhood of dead-end job chances.

Since the courts and jails are already swamped beyond capacity by the
arrests that are routinely made (44,000 drug dealers and users over a
two-year period in Washington alone, for instance) and since those
arrests barely skim the top of the pond, arguing that stricter
enforcement is the answer begs a larger question: Who is going to pay
the billions of dollars required to build the prisons, hire the
judges, train the policemen and employ the prosecutors needed for the
load already on hand, let alone the huge one yet to come if we ever
get serious about arresting dealers and users?

Much is made of the cost of drug addiction, and it should be, but the
current breakdown in the criminal justice system is not one of them.
That breakdown is the result of prohibition, not addiction. Drug
addiction, after all, does not come close to the far vaster problems
of alcohol and tobacco addiction (as former Surgeon General Koop
correctly noted, tobacco is at least as addictive as heroin). Hard
drugs are estimated to kill 4,000 people a year directly and several
tens of thousands a year indirectly. Alcohol kills at least 100,000 a
year, addicts millions more and costs the marketplace billions of
dollars. Tobacco kills over 300,000 a year, addicts tens of millions
and fouls the atmosphere as well. But neither alcohol nor tobacco
threaten to subvert our system of law and order, because they are
treated as personal and societal problems rather than as criminal

Indeed, every argument that is made for prohibiting the use of currently
illegal drugs can be made even more convincingly about tobacco and
alcohol. The effects on the unborn? Staggeringly direct. The effects
on adolescents? Alcoholism is the addiction of choice for young
Americans on a ratio of about 100 to one. Lethal effect? Tobacco’s
murderous results are not a matter of debate anywhere outside the
Tobacco Institute.

Which leaves the lingering and legitimate fear that legalization might
produce a surge in use. It probably would, although not nearly as
dramatic a one as opponents usually estimate. The fact is that
personal use of marijuana, whatever the local laws may say, has been
virtually decriminalized for some time now, but there has been a
stabilization or slight decline in use, rather than an increase, for
several years. Heroin addiction has held steady at about 500,000
people for some time, though the street price of heroin is far lower
now than it used to be. Use of cocaine in its old form also seems to
have stopped climbing and begun to drop off among young and old
alike, though there is an abundantly available supply.

That leaves crack cocaine, stalker of the inner city and terror of the
suburbs. Instant and addictive in effect, easy to use and relatively
cheap to buy, it is a personality-destroying substance that is a
clear menace to its users. But it is hard to imagine it being any
more accessible under legalization than it is in most cities today
under prohibition, while the financial incentives for promoting its
use would virtually disappear with legalization.

Proponents of legalization should not try to fuzz the issue, nonetheless.
Addiction levels might increase, at least temporarily, if legal
sanctions were removed. That happened after the repeal of
Prohibition, or so at least some studies have suggested. But while
that would be a personal disaster for the addicts and their families,
and would involve larger costs to society as a whole, those costs
would be minuscule compared with the costs of continued prohibition.

The young Capones of today own the inner cities and the wholesalers
behind these young retailers are rapidly buying up the larger system
which is supposed to control them. Prohibition gave us the Mafia and
organized crime on a scale that has been with us ever since. The new
prohibition is writing a new chapter on that old text. Hell-bent on
learning nothing from history, we are witnessing its repetition,
predictably enough, as tragedy.

Appeared in the Wall Street Journal Jul 13, 1989. Reprinted
with permission. Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc.

Posted by: Harrell Graham
Views: 9540

Woodstock Was Not Stoned on Starbucks

Taking a stroll down memory lane I watched the movie, “Woodstock
and also “Taking Woodstock” and “Across the Universe”,
all of which give a glimpse into the 60’s spirit. The thing that
strikes me more than anything else is the calmness of the people, all
three hundred thousand of them. And I can’t help but wonder if not
having a coffee craze then wasn’t part of the reason there were so
many ‘good vibes’ in the air. Caffeine is a Central Nervous
System (CNS) stimulant, causing the body to produce ‘fight or
flight’ neurotransmitters—basically making the body ready
for….action, for battle.

In the 60’s people walked slower and talked slower and, in general,
were more mellow. Now everyone seems in a hurry, talks fast, is
super ‘focused’ and hyper. Starbucks is the drug of choice now,
giving a speedy counterweight to the antidepressants being swallowed
daily. Just like the pot being sold today, today’s coffee is much
higher in its active ingredient. Which is one reason I won’t smoke
pot anymore, as the stuff today is so strong as to be able to sedate
an elephant.

But coffee is another matter. I’m a junkie, I confess. Any cosmic
consciousness I had coming out of the sixties hs been replace with
hyper alertness and a readiness for…action.

I was Cosmic Man. Now I’m Action Man, eyes alert, foot tapping,
mind hopping from one thing to the next.

How much is this super-caffeinated ‘lifestyle’ affecting the body
politic? There may be no way to quantify it precisely, but examining
the effects of caffeine on the CNS is helpful.


“Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance, but
unlike many other psychoactive substances it is legal and unregulated
in nearly all jurisdictions.” (Wikipedia)

Caffeine increases attentiveness and alertness but that begs the question:
what, exactly, do we have to be increasingly attentive and alert to
that requires us to risk so much by consuming a psychoactive drug in
ever-increasing amounts? What, exactly, are we ‘fighting and
flighting’ from?

Starbucks surely must rank high on the list of all time great drug pushers.
Starbucks sells its own drug—caffeine—and helps Big Pharma sell
billions more in drugs to calm us down from all the caffeine
Starbucks sells.

Posted by: Harrell Graham
Views: 8093

Kiss a Lawyer, Kill Your Television

By Harrell Graham

So now where are we 40 years after the 60’s? Tired and retired, in a
world of giant corporations that transcend national boundaries, laws,
rules and regulations. The good news is this is still a country where you
can fight if you want to.
You won’t be shot or killed (well, probably not).

You can organize a demonstration, publish whatever you like, or hire a lawyer and fight
just about anything. You might not win, but at least the rules allow
you to fight without much of a chance of getting killed. I’ve
lived in a semi-third world country and that experience sobered me up
as to how blessed we are to still have some pieces of paper called
the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United
States, and the Bill of Rights. Because many other countries don’t
have those and could care less about a trifling thing called
‘rights’, or ‘freedoms’.

The “Patriot Act”? My patriot act is the Bill of Rights.

After living in a country overseas with little rule of law I returned to
the United States firmly committed to never telling another ‘lawyer
joke’. Upon de-planing I first kissed the ground, then the
Constitution and then a lawyer. At least in the United States, a
lawyer represents the ‘rule of law’ which is–if you’ve never
experienced its absence–a holy thing. Of course lawyers can be a
force for ill, but they can also be a force for good.

I urge any of you readers to send
your kids to live a year in a second or third world country

where there is little rule of law. Those countries won’t be hard to
find because they are everywhere. Your kids will return from that
experience a true patriot, full of clear-eyed understanding of the
specialness of what the ‘rule of law’ means.

We need this kind of awareness. Our country is screwed up in many ways,
but at least we have a structure which allows healthy debate and
other avenues for change.

Too bad so many are still hooked up to their television sets and
mainlining the passivity created by sitting in front of the glowing

If you

Kill Your Television !

you will find something wonderful happens: your life will change for the better. No more
TalkingHeadsShopping ChannelMurdersandMayhem andDisastersYouCan’t DoAnythingAbout
and FootballBasketballBaseballWith CBS and NBC and FOX hurling their logos at you in an
ElectronicScreenExplosionslogos once every minute.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so if you create a vacuum by canceling your cable
subscription you will be forced to get up and do something else.
(Or, watch a movie from Netflix—no commercials to brainwash you!)

And, think of the savings: $600 per year times 30 years is $20,000.

Posted by: Harrell Graham
Views: 6676