Friday, February 23, 2018

Lip Service

We are a lip-service people. Both as individuals and as a society, we solemnly proclaim belief in and adherence to one thing while doing the exact opposite. There is, far too often, only the most flimsy connection between our words and our actions. Generally, lip service is basically harmless; it's something everyone does. But it covers a very broad spectrum from the generally harmless—almost a natural reaction—to calculatedly cynical and hypocritical. 

Paying lip service to something is, for the most part, a form of taking the path of least resistance. We claim to believe things simply because, whether we honestly believe them to be true or not, we acknowledge that everyone else seems to believe them, and we don't want to rock the boat or risk calling attention to ourselves by standing out too far from the crowd. Standing out from the crowd makes one vulnerable and a potential target, like a wildebeest who strays too far from the herd. Few people want to be targets.

Lip service also provides protective coloration, offering a large tree behind which we can hide our true thoughts and feelings. And there are those who can delude themselves into confusing lip service with truth. Bigots, for example, almost always vehemently deny they are bigots. Religious zealots loudly and piously proclaim their fealty to the written tenets of their faith while totally ignoring and violating them. Muslim extremists have done perhaps irreparable harm to the religion they slavishly defend, often to the death of themselves and others. Christian extremists are somewhat less dismissive of their own lives, but still only slightly less reprehensible. Those who most strongly avow their allegiance to the Bible are often the very ones who do the most undermine it. They seem to have the astonishing ability to overlook such insignificant-to-them little precepts as "Love thy neighbor,"  "Do unto others as you would have done unto you," "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," and "Judge not lest ye be judged."

Corporations, which differ from religious zealots only in that the deity they worship is Mammon rather than God or Allah, have made an art out of saying one thing and doing another. ("Your call is very important to us," and "...where you, the customer, are our primary concern" spring to mind. Few if any of them even bother, anymore, to pay lip service to "the customer is always right." I suspect when they try to say that, they burst into uproarious laughter.) 

Lip service is the cornerstone of politics. Politicians regularly and unctuously pay lip service to any widely held belief they think might win them votes while, while subverting it for their own ends. Tea Partiers want to "take back our country" to its constitutional roots, but want to rid the Constitution of those parts they find bothersome.

On a personal, individual level, lip service is sometimes the only logical way of dealing with matters one is truly unable to comprehend. I pay lip service to—that is, I can accept, albeit with great reluctance—the belief that one is only as old as one feels, and that age doesn't matter. I can even say my age aloud, but though I say it in English, it might as well be Swahili. The words strike my ear, but not my mind. Try as I might, I simply cannot believe it because it can't be true. And you'll notice I'm not saying it here. It's not a matter of being coy, it's simply a matter of sincere incomprehensibility.

So, lip service, universally used and universally ignored, is simply yet another little device we humans use to try to make some sense and order out of what is too often a senseless and chaotic existence. It is one thin thread in the rope we have spun as a race to tether ourselves to reality. I just wish the rope were stronger, and that it didn’t so easily become a noose.
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


We live in a silly world, and the word “silly” does not always imply frivolously amusing. It is much more the dictionary definition: “Having or showing a lack of common sense or judgement; absurd and foolish.” From my personal observation, I’d say “absurd” is the operative word.

Our world today is much more conscious of inequalities and injustice than it was, even though most people are unwilling to do much more than acknowledge the fact. We have become a world of “political correctness,” wherein no matter what is said by anyone, in whatever spirit and with whatever intent, someone else is almost certain to be offended by it. However, in my humble opinion, the ubiquitous “P.C.” stands not so much for “Political Correctness” as “Pure Crap.”

We insist on playing silly…absurd…games for reasons I cannot comprehend.  Do you remember, for example, when people bought used cars? Not today! They buy “pre-owned vehicles.” Big difference! Huge!

Retail chains no longer have “employees;” they have “associates.” (Oooooh,“Associates”!) Talk about empowerment! Forget the fact that the title of “Associate” costs the company not a single penny of extra pay, and that the person proudly wearing the “Associate” badge is still probably trying to struggle by on the minimum wage.

We increasingly live in a world of obfuscation (love that word!). Police interviewed by the media following the shooting of several people by the sole occupant of a car firing out the driver’s side window—an event clearly witnessed by dozens or hundreds of bystanders or passersby—talk of how, when finally stopped, the “alleged” shooter “exited the vehicle.” In police-PC-speak, people do not get out of a car or truck or van or bus…they “exit the vehicle.” And though there is absolutely no doubt as to who was responsible for the shooting, our litigious society demands the use of the word “alleged.” Right.

Lies need only be told with great force and conviction by politicians and pundits to automatically become, to the liar’s followers, irrefutable and immutable truths. Facts are either totally ignored or are twisted into whatever shape the speaker wishes them to have.

Hyperbole is required in the selling of any product. Again, simple facts are not nearly enough. At least half of all the words in any sales pitch must be the most florid…never mind blatantly inaccurate…adjectives. 

No political or commercial promise need be fulfilled: we have become inured to them and are not the least bit upset when they are not kept. It is far easier to simply accept than to question or demand.

If open minds, common sense—and far too often common decency—were animals, they would be on the severely-endangered species list. (Sorry, no kittens and puppies in this blog. Just lots and lots of sheep…and we are them.)

I know, I know, the world has been going to hell since we climbed down from the trees, and the sky always seems to be falling. Perhaps despair over the silliness of the world and what it bodes for the future is what drives us forward. I hope that’s true.
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Saturday, February 17, 2018


I’ve seen photos of dinosaur footprints made in mud millions of years before Man first made his appearance upon the stage. The mud through which the dinosaurs walked has turned to rock, but the footprints remain. And like the dinosaur footprints, many impressions made by and upon human beings in their youth remain with them throughout life. 

Science has proven that animals tend to “imprint” upon the first thing they are aware of after they are born…almost always a parent. Humans, I suspect, are similar, but more flexible in that certain events imprinted on us throughout childhood remain with and subtly influence us throughout life. And from time to time, something will spark a memory which instantly transports us back to the moment the imprint was made.

Why we think what we think when we think it is an eternal mystery. But every now and then a thought will come along for absolutely no known reason to trigger a deep imprint. Like most people, I have many such imprints. But there is one which is so powerful it sparks an actual physical and visual reaction to this day: all I need do are say or think the words “A is for apple, so round and so red,…” and I instantly have an indescribable physical reaction accompanied by a vivid mental image of a large children’s book—apparently an alphabet book—with coarse paper pages, and the illustration of a rabbit wearing a red waistcoat and holding a bright red apple. I believe the next words are “B is for baby, who lies in his bed” but I’m not sure. I don’t know if I am alone in having this kind of imprinting. I have no other memories that elicit such a strong response. Obviously, it relates to my childhood but why or how that image and sensation should remain with me to this day and still have the power to transport me through time is lost to me. I’d love to know.

Songs are universally recognized trigger mechanisms to suddenly transport us back to the times we associate with them. I have any number of them, mostly dating to the 1930s and 1940s, when they were imprinted into my being. Kate Smith singing “God Bless America,” for example, produces a physical flush of nostalgia and patriotism. One memorable personal trigger is the 1939 song, “All the Things You Are” (“You are the promised kiss of springtime/That makes the lonely winter seem long./You are the breathless hush of evening/That trembles on the brink of a lovely song./You are the angel glow that lights a star./The dearest things I know are what you are”). It is a snowy day in Rockford, my home town, and my parents and I are driving downtown to see a movie when we are hit by another car. “All the Things You Are” was probably playing on the radio when it happened. No one was hurt, but the imprint was, I’m sure, made at that moment.

Perhaps, for me, the strongest song-inspired imprint came not from my childhood, but from 1954, shortly after I turned 21. The song is “Unchained Melody,” (“Oh, my love, my darling/I've hungered for your touch….”). I need hear only the first four notes, and I am transported to a bar on Pensacola Beach, Florida, where my NavCad friend Harry Harrison and I are sitting at a booth in a small bar drinking a beer while waiting for a pizza. I do think, with this one, that I understand how/why it was formed: my days as a Naval Aviation Cadet were, clearly in retrospect if not so openly acknowledged at the time, a critical point in my life. I was making the transition from child to adult and the entire world lay ahead of me. For some reason, this particular incident was imprinted upon me as representing the entire NavCad experience.

And while I would dearly love to leave a lasting imprint in the mud of time, I fear my footprints, like the billions of others who have preceded me, will simply be washed away far, far too soon after I am gone. C’est la vie.

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

You're Nothing!

The human need to feel a sense of belonging is a subject seldom discussed openly, but is an important factor in each of our lives. While we may not think much about it, you can be absolutely certain that advertisers and those out to champion some cause or other do. They are firmly...and rightly...convinced that the best way to get you to join them is to imply, or simply come right out and declare, that there is something basically wrong with you if you do not agree with them.

Several of these blogs have, over the years, discussed the fact that because each of us goes through life as one individual in a vast sea humanity, the assumption too often is that we are different and apart from everyone else...that life is a huge club to which we don't really belong.

One of my favorite cartoons shows five men seated around a table, talking. One says: "So here we are, four intelligent men...five, if you count Frank...." And each of us is a Frank.

A couple of decades ago, there was a lot of talk about "subliminal messages" inserted into all forms of communications to influence you to think one way or another. I haven't heard subliminal messages mentioned of late, but it's certainly not that they have gone away. It's just that they no longer even make any pretense of being subliminal. We are bombarded with them every single day, and they have transmogrified from being subtle whispers to sledgehammers.

Consider for a moment.

"The movie/book/show everyone is talking about!" Well, I'm certainly not talking about it. I most likely had never even heard about it before, which isn't really surprising considering that it may not even have been released yet. However, that I haven't heard anyone else even mention it, either, is beside the point. The point is that since I'm not talking about it, clearly I am an outsider.

Politicians...and, in today's astoundingly mean-spirited times, especially Republicans...routinely use disenfranchisement as a weapon. How many times do they claim, unequivocally, that "The American people do not want" or "The American people will not stand for" some program they oppose--usually a program approved by the majority of voters. Since I've always assumed--apparently wrongly--that my birth certificate qualifies me as an American, where does this statement leave me? Usually they are talking about a program that I indeed do want, and that, since I probably voted for it in the first place, I certainly will stand for. But the message is clear: if I don't toe the line they have drawn, I am outside the circle and utterly worthless.

I am constantly amazed by the fact that anyone casting themselves in the role of the bull in the china shop has tens of thousands of people following them avidly, hanging on every utterly illogical word they utter, and believing without question every hateful, dehumanizing, self-serving statement they make. They take their power largely from convincing others that they have power, and a tragically large number of people, increasingly feeling they themselves are powerless, follow those who assume it, usually by playing on their fear and ignorance. It is a virulent case of the Emperor's New Clothes gone mad.

There is an old saying which, sadly, is becoming more and more true, and more and more accurate: "Those who cannot create, destroy." 

And you? Well, if you don't agree with every single word those-who-would-be-king utter, it doesn't matter. Obviously your opinion doesn't matter. You are worth nothing at all.
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Friday, February 09, 2018

If at First . , ,

I don’t like being hard on myself, but how can I possibly not be? I live on a slippery slope and I am wearing shoes coated in grease. The simplest things and concepts for others are all but impossible for me. The most recent example?

I need the correct spelling for the Greek artist Yannis Tsarouchis, and the years of his birth and death. I do a net search. I find: “Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989).” Simple, right? Well, it would be for anyone else, but by the time I get back to the document for which I need the information, I have forgotten how to spell his name. Back I go to check. Get it. Return to document. “Yannis”…or was it “Yannos”? Back to Google/Wikipedia. “Yannis.” Back to document. “Yannis Tsarouchis.” Four more trips to get “Tsarouchis” right. Okay: “Yannis Tsarouchis (19..what?)” Back to Google/Wikipedia. This goes on at least six times and finally the only way I get it right is to cut and paste from Google/Wikipedia to the document. Why the hell couldn’t I remember for the two seconds it takes to switch from one to the other? But I can’t. Ever.

Names, phone numbers, any number of over two digits; any set of instructions involving more than three—sometimes two—steps. This goes for printed instructions like instruction manuals, owner’s manuals, etc. I get three steps into them, and I am utterly, totally lost. I often find it impossible to get through the  first half page of the introduction. Any purchase with the terrifying words “Some Assembly Required” leaves me either curled up into a fetal position, sobbing, or in a screaming (literally) rage against my incompetence. I am sure it is only my soul-deep antipathy to the concept of suicide that has kept me alive this long. And if I do force myself to at least try to complete the project, I end up with one or two key components either missing or left over. If there are pieces left over, they are utterly unrecognizable items, the use or purpose of which I have no idea and for which I can find no matching illustration or explanation in the instructions.

Boxed or packaged food items that say “Push to open” or “Lift to open” are absolutely guaranteed to end up in as many pieces as the box or package contains scattered all over my apartment. I frequently find directions to “Open Other End” only after I have hacked the opposite end to shreds with a kitchen knife.

I’ve recently been engaged in a battle with my cell phone which rings only to let me know I have three missed messages for which the phone didn’t make a peep when they came in. If a call I’m trying to make out actually gets through and I am put on hold, the chances are 100 out of 100 that my phone will suddenly go dead in the middle of the 34th “Your call is very important to us” message or I will finally reach a human being and get so far as “How may I serve you today?” before a “beep-beep-beep” informs me that I’ve been disconnected. I’ve taken to keeping the phone plugged into the wall socket to prevent this. It does not and neatly eliminates the reason I got a portable phone in the first place.

I try to convince myself that, astronomical amounts of  evidence to the contrary, I am not alone, and that other people have the same problems. I don’t believe it for a minute, of course, but even if I did, the fact remains that my problems are my problems, not theirs, and my problems are, of course, far more important than anyone else’s. I think they call it “hubris.”
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Friday, February 02, 2018

Once Upon a Volcano

Fairy tales often begin with the words “Once upon a time,” and in a way, this blog, which was originally a letter written by an achingly young sailor to his parents fifty-eight years ago.
A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home, 1954-1956 is an e-book compilation of my letters while in the military and is available through any e-book retailer. An audiobook is also available. 

2 January 1956

I hereby tender my humblest apologies for not having written yesterday, but it being a holiday and all, I hope you’ll excuse me―besides, from just reading one page after another, it is impossible (unless you put it down and come back to it later) to denote the passage of time.

Can you tender an apology?  Tendering a resignation is proper, but an apology?  And is that the proper way to spell tender―or should it be “tendre?”  A dictionary is only a few steps away, but I’ll let you figure it out.

Since yesterday was New Year’s and Sunday as well, holiday routine was observed by the entire ship―all but the Commissary department, that is―I sat at my little typewriter all day, botching up next week’s menus; a job I’m cultivating a beautiful distaste for.

Think I’ll use this as sort of a dustpan, picking up some little scraps I’d meant to include in other entries and forgotten.  For one thing, there was the public drinking fountain in Pompeii.  It looked something like a horse trough―a lion’s head was the main adornment, from which water spouted from its mouth.  The marble was worn down into a cup shape on one side of the fountain by countless generations of Pompeiians, as they put their hands there while bending over to drink―one side of the lion’s head was also worn smooth near the mouth, where people’s faces had pressed against it while drinking.

Also I think I neglected to mention the trip up Mt. Vesuvius, made the same day as the one to Pompeii.  After leaving Pompeii, during which the sun shone obligingly, we stopped at one of the little villages between there and Naples for dinner.  While we ate, clouds drifted in from somewhere like sliding doors, completely hiding the mountain.  As we started to leave the restaurant, Niagara Falls suddenly appeared overhead, & the street became a river, down which floated odds & ends of branches, celery stalks, and torn bits of paper.

Our guide insisted, with the fervor only Italians have (fortunately) that we couldn’t possibly go up Mt. Vesuvius―that we could see instead Little Vesuvius, an obscure mountain, or hill, that still had a little steaming lava in it.  We took a vote, which came out 53 to 2 (the guides) in favor of Vesuvius.  We tried pointing out that, if it were raining on big Vesuvius it would most likely be raining on little Vesuvius, too, and we would rather see nothing on the former than on the latter.  So, amid a vivid splash of Italian from the guides, we ran to the busses―it was still raining a little―and away we went.

The rain gave way to fog, which turned into clouds as we got higher.  We couldn’t see more than fifty feet in any direction, but could make out the road, which twisted and wound, and was directly above and directly below.  At first, near the base, there were many farms, and a small village  where the driver stopped for cigarettes.  About ten people, mostly men and young boys, stood around in front of the “store” staring at us.  One of the younger boys smiled and waved, and was immediately shushed and scolded by one of the older men.  From then on till we pulled out they just stared at us and we stared back.  I think they were a bunch of dirty Communists. (NOTE: Anyone who doesn’t like Americans is a “dirty Communist.”)

Higher up the farms grow more scarce, and the road becomes more torturous.  Now the lava can be seen―great walls of it―fantastic shapes―looking like cake batter.  Small caves appeared where the lava had apparently splashed over the rocks beneath, trapping a bubble of air or gas.  Mounds, ridges, bubbles, swirls; all imaginable shapes.  I saw a farmhouse, made of stone, with its roof and two walls gone, cut in half by a rivulet of lava.

Up and up―patches of snow appear; the fog closes in―the bus creeps along, its motor grinding.

At last the bus comes to a comparatively wide flat area and stops.  Snow, or hail, is on the ground, looking like large grains of salt.  Hugging the mountain is a yellowish-white building.  Our guide tells us that this is as far as the road goes―from the building a chair lift rises to the summit―but of course we don’t want to go up today.  We do.  On the first floor of the building is a bar, where some of the Chiefs decide to stay. Some of the guys hadn’t brought coats, and now regret it―it’s cold.  From the second story, the chair lift starts.  It’s a damp cold room, open at one end, which faces a sheer lava wall.

The chairs seat two―look something like the kiddie swings in public parks.  You sit in, and a man pushes the chair, suspended by a single rod to a wire overhead, to a point where it somehow grabs hold of the moving wire―you look like you’re heading straight for the wall.  Then, just before you hit it, you’re whisked almost straight up (actually, about at a 45 degree angle).  And there you are.  The fog―or clouds―act as a huge, damp blanket.  There is absolutely no sound, except for the occasional whir as a chair passes going down, or a click as your chair passes one of the supporting towers for the wires, which loom like ghosts out of the mists and disappear as silently as they’d come.  Your left side is covered with a sugar-like mist, which clings to your clothes and looks very pretty. Below you, about ten or twenty feet, is the mountain―snow coated ever so lightly―stark, bare, a few parallel tracks that puzzle you―what can they be?  No car can go so steep―no skis, certainly.  And then the chair whips into a smaller version of the building below.  You get out, walk up a flight of stairs, over a ramp that looks down to the mountain behind the building, and onto the mountain itself.

It’s a weird, eerie, and beautiful sight―a long, winding line of figures, moving in solid white.  On the right, the mountain drops away not sharply, but at such an angle that you’d roll a good distance if you slipped.  The wind becomes cold and very violent; the snow is granular like below, only larger.  It is mixed with the red of the ash.  And then the summit―the mouth of the crater―the only way you can tell is because now the mountain falls away on both sides.

Large chunks of lava lie scattered about as we weave our way down―as we get below the rim of the crater, the wind no longer blows―it is a misty, silent fantasy.  Grey.  We go down as far as we can, until the slope ends and all there is is a sheer drop into nothing; the grey above meets the grey below.  And you feel proud, awed, and very humble….
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Listen Up!

Okay, people: listen up. I’ve had enough of this crap, and am planning a coup to take over the world. Once I do, here are a few of the changes that will be instituted immediately.

As I understand it, the game of football is divided into four quarters of fifteen minutes each. Therefore, a football game should last exactly one hour, not six. Under my rule, each quarter will last exactly fifteen minutes. Once the clock is started, it will not be stopped every ten seconds for periods of up to ten minutes each. Fifteen minutes per quarter! There will be five minutes between the first and second quarters, twenty minutes for the ubiquitous halftime festivities between the second and third quarters, and another five minute break between the third quarter and the end of the game. That's it. Is that clear?

The words "under God" will be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. They were not there in the original, they are not needed, they are exclusionary and divisive, not to mention violating the principles of division of church and state. They will be out!

Baseball hats will be worn with the bill facing forward. That is why they were shield the eyes from the sun. Anyone wearing a baseball hat with the bill backwards will have the hat confiscated and be issued a warning. Two violations will result in a sizable fine. Anyone attempting to be "hip," "cool," "with it," etc. by wearing the bill pointing other than directly forward will have the hat yanked off their head long enough to fill it with Crazy Glue and replaced. They will then be marched directly to jail where they will be placed in solitary confinement until the hat falls off on its own.

All rap songs will be submitted to a panel prior to release. Any lyrics containing words derogatory to women or minorities ("ho," "bitch," "muthafukka," etc.) will be stricken--which will leave most with no lyrics at all. "Songs" consisting of only one or two words endlessly repeated will be banned; all will be required to have recognizable sentence structure, and be sung so as to be intelligible to the average listener.

Pants will be worn so that the top is within three inches of the belly button. Those worn around the knees will yanked down to the ankles and the wearer required to wear them in that position while completing 50 hours of community service.

While fully recognizing that ours is a country made of people from across the globe, political correctness will be ignored and English will be the official language of the United States. No one will ever have to "Press 1 for English.”  Our forefathers came here from around the world and they learned to speak English, and they did it. To be able to become a citizen of a country it will be mandatory to speak its language.

Any corporation, company, or organization with a phone number for customers to call will be required to hire enough people to answer every call received within twenty seconds. Severe fines will be imposed for every second a customer has to sit on hold beyond the fourth ring. "Your call is very important to us" messages will be banned. Pressing a succession of 53 buttons before being able to speak to an actual human being will be a criminal offense.

No corporate executive will be paid more than ten times the wage of the average worker. Bonuses will be limited to a turkey at Thanksgiving and a maximum $100 cash bonus at Christmas.

Campaigning politicians will, under law, be limited to telling voters what they will do to benefit their constituents, and be forbidden to criticize their opponents' records or character. 

Handguns will be banned. Period. No argument, no debate. The NRA will limit itself to issues involving sport hunting, and be forbidden to engage in any form of political activity. All defensive weapons will be required to be non-lethal in nature (tasers, pepper spray, mace).

Every email message sent will be required to include the correct return email address of the sender, and  stringent penalties will be imposed for obvious spam messages.

Every claim made by an advertiser must be proven to be true before it can be made.

Marriage equality will be implemented in all fifty states, and penalties for hate crimes increased.

Parents will be held legally accountable for the actions and be required to actively participate in the education of their children.

Littering within 100 feet of a waste receptacle will result in stiff fines, to be doubled with every succeeding offense.

These are only some of the changes I plan to implement. I may list more later. Don't say I didn't warn you. 
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site: