Friday, April 20, 2018

This, Too...


One of the wonders of being human is that while we, among all living creatures on earth, are aware of the concepts of future and past, stretching out endlessly before and behind us, we must walk between the two on the infinitely thin tightrope of "now"...the present.

Impatience is also ingrained in our species, and we too frequently ignore our past in our hurry to get to the future. To speed up that which cannot be hurried, we have created technology, which we intended to serve us but which increasingly controls us. And as technology encroaches upon our humanity, we become more and more frustrated―and from frustration comes anger, both personal and societal. 

Societal frustration shows itself in infinite ways, both broadly as in wars and acts of terrorism, and so subtle that few are aware of them. “Popular” music is a prime example; up into the latter half of the 20th century, song lyrics told stories. Some were sad, of course, but very, very few of them could be said to be angry: fewer still espoused hatred or literally seethed with anger.

This anger increasingly permeates our entire society, like water permeates a sponge. What has happened? What has changed us? Why is everyone so angry? Why am I so angry so much of the time?

The answer is as simple as it is depressing: the less control we see as having over our own lives, the more helpless we feel, the more frustrated we become, and frustration shows itself most clearly through anger. Every time we pick up the phone to try to talk to a human being who might actually give a damn about us or our problem at some behemoth, faceless corporation we are reminded in no uncertain terms just how little power we really have over even something so simple as a phone call. And who, after sitting there holding the receiver listening to 10,000 blatant and insultingly condescending repetitions ("Your call is very important to us"/"Due to unexpectedly heavy traffic"/"Please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the next available representative" ) does not get the clear message: "We don't know who you are, we don't care who you are, we don't care about your pathetic little problems. All we want from you is your money."

It's difficult―nearly impossible, at times―not to despair. Our government is at a standstill. Those whose job it supposedly is to govern our democracy instead devote their energies to throwing roadblocks in front of any idea, no matter how logical and potentially beneficial, proposed by the opposition. It is nearly impossible to know what those running for election or re-election will do if elected, or how they will go about doing it. Their primary aim is to viciously attack their opponents.

Standing apart from ourselves―not easy to do―can provide a unique insight into the relativity of things. What do so many of the things we become frustrated about really mean, at base, to our lives? In retrospect, being put on hold for 45 minutes is infuriatingly frustrating, but, really, what difference does it make in the larger picture of our day to day life? Well, the answer to that is, again, that we pass through time from one nanosecond to the other, and while we're enduring those infuriating on-hold waits or struggling through the myriads of individual problems which beset us all, there is no way to escape or avoid them. 

Ten years in the past is as close as yesterday afternoon. Ten years in the future might as well be eternity.

Unhappiness with our current situation is just part of life. Gloom and doom are common themes throughout history. All evidence to the contrary, I'd like to think that this is just another segment of the history-long “phase” we're going through. Despite all the our ranting and raving and despair for the future, perhaps the single most fascinating and positive thing about human existence is that we persevere. We still hope. We still, somewhere under all that frustration and anger and discouragement, cling to the belief that things will get better. There is, somewhere in the depths of our soul, the awareness that no matter how bad things may be at any given minute, "this, too, shall pass." It is our salvation.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Simple Rules


It somehow always comes as something of a surprise every time I'm faced with the fact that life ain't easy, and that the passage through it is frequently chaotic. To bring some semblance of order, rules were invented. Since life is a cumulative learning experience, the rules each person sets up for himself/herself tend to be far more varied and flexible than societal rules. I have come up with a few simple rules to help my passage as smooth as possible.

Many of my own rules are in response to the fact that I've always been excruciatingly aware that life is far too short under the best of circumstances to meekly accept those wrongs and unnecessary injustices over which I have any small degree of control. 

In no particular order of importance, here are a few of them:

1) I will never vote for any politician who will not say what he is for, only what he is against. If he hasn't any positive, constructive things to say about what he plans to do to while in office, he doesn't deserve to hold it.

2) I refuse to buy any product whose ads include the words "for well-qualified buyers" (which is a subtle way of saying "not you") or "emerging science suggests" (I don't want "maybe in the future," I want "now").

3) I never tolerate rudeness or neglect from anyone I am paying to perform a service for me. I do not hesitate one second in asking to speak to the person's supervisor and relating my unhappiness directly to him or her. (Often, in restaurants and retail establishments, the manager is not aware of the employees' actions unless told.)

4) I will not subject myself to any situation/play/movie/book in which I know I will find myself uncomfortable or upset simply because someone says I should. I witness and experience enough sorrow, trauma, and injustice in the day-to-day world without willingly exposing myself to more—and I certainly should not have to pay for the privilege. 

5) In any disagreement, I will decide if winning is worth the effort put into it, and at the point where it is  not, I will simply walk away.

6) I do not hesitate in defending those who cannot defend themselves.

7) I refuse to spend time in the presence of bigots and proselytizers.  

8) I know the difference between ignorance and stupidity, and act accordingly.

9) Though it is often not easy, I do try to see both sides of every issue.

10) I never, ever, under any circumstances, allow myself to be suckered into opening any message in my spam folder unless I recognize the sender's name and can tell from the few opening words that it got into the spam folder by mistake.

11) While I often fail, I do my best to live by the golden rule. 

12) I avoid like the plague anything I am assured that "everyone is talking about". If I'm not talking about it, it doesn't matter.

13)  Even in those times when I am depressed or enraged by my own stupidity, I never, ever take myself too seriously.

14) I listen to what others say, respect their right to say it, but only do what my mind and heart tell me to do. 

As indicated in some of the rules above, I don't always succeed, but that doesn't mean I don't try.

Now, sit down and make a list of your own rules. You may find it very interesting.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com


Friday, April 13, 2018

Idiots


I know full well that I frequently think of myself, and present myself to others, as an idiot. But I can do it; it’s my right. I don’t like it, but I can live with it.  What I cannot tolerate is other people―total strangers who have never even heard of me and have no interest in doing so except as the signatory of a check or a credit card number―automatically making that assumption. Their numbers are, unfortunately, legion. The assumption that everyone is an idiot seems, in fact, to be a fundamental tenet of nearly everyone with a product to sell or a cause to promote. 

Probably 95 percent of all advertisers and 99.6 percent of all politicians consider the American public to be severely mentally retarded. Either they treat us with infuriating condescension (“See the pretty new car? Wouldn’t you like to have it? It’s got a horn and it goes really, really fast, and everything!....No, no, don’t bother looking at the price tag or reading the teensy-weensy print at the bottom of the screen/page. It’s nothing important.”), or believe that figuratively grabbing us by the shoulders, screaming at the top of their lungs and speaking as fast as they possibly can we will be convinced and become a bobble-head doll ("Oh, yeah! Sounds wonderful! A limited time offer, you say? Wow! I don't want to lose out on such a great opportunity. I'll take it!"). And, sadly, it works far more often than it fails.

I love glancing quickly through the subject lines in my Spam folder before I hit “Delete.” My current favorite is “Update your Penis.” I assume this involved downloading an attachment. But sometimes I merely stare at the subject lines in total awe. “Film Extras Wanted!” “Make $20,000 a month!” “Cure all Diseases”!  Please! How can anyone…anyone…possibly, possibly be so stupid or gullible to fall for these scams? What do people use for brains? Have they never heard of logic? Have they never asked a question?

But the tragic, infinitely sad fact is that people DO believe this crap. Sweet little old ladies sign their life savings away eagerly at the promise of getting something for nothing, then look tearfully into the camera of the newscast telling their story and say: “How could they have done this to me?”  Well, dear, sweet lady, they did it to you because, sweet and good and kind as you are, you let them do it to you. You are, sad to say, an idiot. Harsh, I know, but true. 

If people stopped falling for these scams, the scammers would eventually go away. But I’m not holding my breath.

I have a few friends and acquaintances who frequently send me political and religious diatribes, usually filled with such odoriferously unbelievable garbage I grow ill from the stench. But it is a proven fact that Barack Obama, who hates America, is Osama ben Ladin’s third cousin twice removed, and that he plans to strap dynamite to his wife and small daughters and detonate them during his next speech to congress, thus destroying our entire government. Either that or he is secretly planning to impose Sharia law (just how he or anyone else may do this is not made clear) and make Islam the official and only religion of the country.  Who… who …in their right mind or with one scintilla of intelligence could conceivably in a million million years believe that crap?  And I have but to look at or listen to the latest pronouncement from political hate mongers to realize how very many people do believe it. It is, truly and sincerely, to weep.

And I fall back yet again on one of my mantras: “If 50 million people believe a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing.” 

Which brings me back to my sense of anger, frustration and impending doom in expecting people to be what they so obviously are not—or, worse, who do not lift a finger to slow or reverse the out-of-control negativism inundating every aspect of our society. Please, feel free to prove me wrong. Please.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Titan Arum


There is a rare plant, a native of Sumatra, called the Titan Arum. It can grow in excess of five feet high, is shaped very much like a phallus, and emits an odor like rotting flesh, which has given it the common and charmingly appropriate name of "corpse plant." It is both fascinating and repulsive, and I have decided to launch a campaign to rename it the "spam plant" for its strong similarity to the endless stream of effluvia clogging the in-box of nearly every computer on earth. Like the spores of the Titan Arum is carried by the wind, internet spam is carried on the winds of cyberspace to every corner of the world. 

And yet, as utterly repulsed as I am by this internet effluvia, I cannot resist reading the opening words of each message as it appears on my monitor, and reacting like one of Pavlov's dogs. The following examples are reprinted exactly as received, and followed by my "Dear Lord, I can't help myself" responses.

"Put your donut in her oven" (Excuse me? If you are making an oh-so-subtle and clever titter-hee-hee-smirk reference to intercourse, may I point out that donuts are round; the penis--like the Titan Arum--is tubular. And donuts are cooked in hot oil, not baked. But what in hell did I expect from a spam message?)

"How please knocking-out hottie" (How please learn speaking English?)

"Little humble Celanding - Beggard and outragedMany hearts deplord...." (Well, that certainly convinces me you're a totally above-board representative of an august and respected company. Send me a dozen of whatever in the hell it is you’re peddling.)

vivatcell: "Like a drilling machine in pants - Wanna act best with your wife...."
justin: "Fill rod with power - Wanna act best with your wife...." (Justin, meet Vivatcell. The answer to your identical question is a resounding "NO!," and I consider you both to be seedlings of the Titan Arum.)

"Give more banging to your beloved."  (What a charming, charming sentiment. I thought for a moment I was reading a Hallmark card.)

"Lose 49lbs Obeying 1 Rule" (Yeah: don't eat.)

"Your Email Won 1,000,000 Pounds!" (Of course it did! And as King of Romania, I shall distribute it among all my worthy subjects.)

"Do you have a flare for designing?" (No, I usually use flares to attract passing ships at night when I'm lost at sea. But I do have a flair for spotting ignorance.)

neilread 07   "Wrong - Hello. My name is Victoria. It's about you or no?"  (You're absolutely right: you're wrong. 1. Your name is not Victoria, it's Neil. 2. Your 'question' makes no sense--not that I expected it to--and 3. You're definitely wrong if you think I have any interest in whatever you're pitching.)

"Cheap women's clothes!" (My first reaction was that they were hoping to attract the Chippy/Bimbo crowd, but then realized they were undoubtedly using "Cheap" to describe the quality.)

"Russian wives. Are you ok?" (I'm fine, thanks. What the hell are you talking about?--Not that I have any intention of opening your toxic waste email to find out.)

WESTERN UNION TRANSFE (no subject) - "My associate has helped me to send your first payment of $7500 to you as instructed by Mr......" (Western Union's sending money by email now? Please tell your associate it has not arrived. Perhaps Mr......stole it. I wouldn't put it past him.)

Breathe deep.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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: http://www.doriengrey.com/:



Friday, April 06, 2018

Weather or Not


Remember that old kids' rhyme, "Whether it's cold or whether it's hot, we will have weather, whether or not"? It was one of my first encounters with wordplay, and I've always remembered it.

I love weather's unpredictability and delight in the largely futile attempts of weather forecasters to get it right. Whenever they predict heavy rain...which I love...I know I can pretty well leave my umbrella at home. I often wonder why they bother.

Living as I did so long in northern Wisconsin, in the heart of Lake Superior's snow belt, I delighted in the heavy snow most winters would bring. I didn't particularly like digging out my car--especially when, as happened not all that infrequently, the snow would be even with the top of the hood--but to sit inside and watch it fall...or, with blizzard conditions, listening to the wind shake the house while whipping the snow horizontally past the windows...was always a delight.

But I do not like excessive cold. One winter, when I was living up north, we had one entire week when the temperature never got above -26! By comparison, Chicago weather, and particularly the winters, are normally fairly tame. The city comes to a standstill on those very rare occasions when we get more than six inches of snow. Bunch o' wusses! But this winter seems to be something of an exception. Perhaps because I’m getting older. Perhaps because I’m just getting tired of the cold.

In Spring, Summer, and Fall, I enjoy looking out the window in the morning to see the clouds from the previous night's storms  breaking up and patches of blue sky appearing. I love waking to rain, wind, and a world saturated in deep, pensive grey. When I first returned to Chicago and was staying with my now-dead but still dear friend Norm in his 35th floor condo, I would be mesmerized whenever fog or low clouds would totally wrap around the building and obscure the view of the towers of the Loop in the distance. 

Perhaps because I am so given to melodrama, I have always loved thunderstorms; the more violent the better. I've told the story many times of scaring the bejeesus out of my poor mother when I was a teenager. I'd gotten out of bed during a severe storm in the middle of the night to stand at my bedroom window to watch it. I stood between the drapes and the partially open window, and my mom came in to close the window she didn't see me standing there until she pushed the drapes aside. 

For some reason, we generally are incapable of remembering weather from one year to the next. People always seem to claim the current year's weather to be the most severe—the hottest, the coldest, the driest, the wettest—in memory, though it almost never is.

I've often said that one of the main reasons I left Los Angeles after eighteen years was because I grew tired of every day being June 25th, and of being able to confidently plan a picnic six weeks in advance. Even when it did rain, Mother Nature didn't really seem to put her heart into it. Far more drizzle than drama.

I always delight in days other people consider gloomy or unpleasant. I find them restful and soothing. They're like putting on a thick down jacket on a cold day, completely enveloping and isolating me from the cares of the world. I put them on a par with the serenity of walking through a cemetery reading tombstones. (No, I am not weird, thank you. A bit strange, perhaps, but….)

So if I have my choice of not-sunny, not-stormy days, I think I’d choose grey, overcast days with slow, steady or intermittent rain. Somber days are conducive to contemplation, reflection, and thought (synonyms, I know, but each with it's own subtle differences), and weather and life have strong parallels. I suspect the proportions of sunny to stormy to grey of weather are about the same as happiness, sorrow, trauma, and joy are to human life. Perhaps to emphasize this parallel that I often paraphrase the old saying "into each life a little rain must fall" to "into each rain a little life must fall." Works for me.


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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Compared to What?


I often quote one of my favorite bits of wisdom from an anonymous sage: "When people tell me 'Life is hard,’ I'm always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?'" I’ve never understood what there is there in the human psyche that makes us assume that life should be easy. I think part of the problem lies in that while we are intricately aware of our own problems and shortcomings, we are not and can never be fully aware of those of others. As a result, life, and our reaction to it, is inevitably one endless string of comparisons in which we are constantly weighing ourselves on some sort of ethereal scale with the things and people around us. 

Depending on our individual emotional makeup, this can either be a healthy and constructive way of judging and adjusting to our position in life, or a constant indication of our own failings and shortcomings, real or imagined. It will come as no great surprise to anyone who has followed these blogs for any length of time to learn I tend strongly toward the latter view.

I spend a great deal of time being angry—often furious—with myself, and for my narcissistic insistence that I am the only one with feelings of falling short in nearly every instance where I compare myself to others. I seem to insist upon finding the bruised apple in every bushel. And I also have a tendency to be somewhat selective in those individuals and situations to whom/which I compare myself—invariably, it is to people/things I envy or want. I seldom compare myself with those who might objectively be considered to be my peers. (Perhaps this may be due in part to the fact that I have always felt myself so apart from others that the very concept of having peers is a little foreign to me.)

That I am not the only person to have difficulty with personal comparisons, or who always feels at the short end of the stick, is hardly surprising. The fact of the matter is that few people have or take the time to consider things outside themselves and their own realm of existence. They constantly compare themselves to others in a million different ways...jobs, wages, possessions (it used to be called "Keeping up with the Joneses")...without really considering the self-defeating nature of doing so.

Eastern cultures are not nearly so concerned with the need for constant comparison; their philosophical bases are very different from ours. They tend to see the world as a level playing field. Western cultures are more likely to see the world as a ladder. It's in our nature to look up the ladder to the next rung. Whatever we have, there's somebody who has more: more money, more talent, more possessions, more power. And we're never happy until we have it, too. (And then when we get it, the cycle repeats itself endlessly.) Comparisons, by their very nature, lead to dissatisfaction. 

Our society is pretty firmly rooted in greed, and as a result, the deck is stacked against the person doing the comparing. We seldom compare ourselves, or even give any consideration, to people who are a few rungs beneath us on the ladder. For far too many people, it's not what we have, it's what we want. 

For whatever reason, our culture seems to deliberately foster low self esteem. The negative power of television, for example, has no equal. It seems based on the implication that only the young and the beautiful have worth. Everyone on television is young and beautiful, and rich, and knows exactly what to wear and how to act in any given situation. Stare at any primetime soap opera for an hour and then take a look in the mirror. Recent studies have shown—stop the presses!—that low self esteem and many of the serious problems affecting young women, from anorexia to bulimia and on down, can be traced to the false ideals of "attractiveness" they're constantly exposed to on TV.  Wow! Talk about an "I didn't see that one coming" revelation! 

And men are not immune. Why do you think spammers make fortunes on products guaranteed to "make her scream with pleasure" (pardon me while I projectile-vomit)? That men love porn is hardly a revelation, yet even though the men in porn movies are not the intended focus of attention, they always seem to be far above average in the "endowment" department. How can poor Sam Schlub, after watching a porn flick, expect to compete?

Comparisons are an integral and important part of life when we use them as helpful tools rather than immutable rules. So it’s time we began putting things in perspective. We can start with the simple realization comparisons should not be considered contests. Each of us is only one human being trying to measure ourselves against nearly seven billion others. And with those odds, there's absolutely no contest: you're gonna lose. A little more self-acceptance would vastly relieve the unnecessary pressures we exert upon ourselves every day, and greatly simplify our lives.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Friday, March 30, 2018

Grand Delusions


Being human comes with enough problems—many of our own making—without allowing hubris to extend the range of those problems to include assumed/implied responsibility for things over which we have absolutely not the remotest influence or control. This hubris is, in fact, a form of delusional theism. I, alas, tend to be prone to it. 

Toddlers and very young children naturally assume they are omnipotent and the center of the universe, since for the first few years of their lives, they don't really have any reason to think otherwise. All that really matters is themselves and what they want. Most are soon dissuaded from this notion by the harshness of reality, but some few manage to cling to them and survive. Again, I am one, and the jury is still out as to whether this is a curse or a blessing.

As one for whom large areas of emotional development more or less ground to a halt at around age five, I have always sincerely felt, down somewhere in the core of my being, that I am indeed the center of the universe. But with grand delusions comes grand responsibilities. Therefore, when something—anything—goes wrong, I can't escape the feeling that I must somehow be responsible for it. And as I became more and more aware of the world around me, this assumption has extended far beyond what directly effects my daily life. My theistic delusions have expanded to encompass just about everything that happens, anywhere, any time.

I've frequently addressed, in these blogs, the universal—and exponentially increasing—frustration caused by the sense—the knowledge—of lack of control over our own lives and destiny. That control has been usurped by the very technology and bureaucracies we humans created to serve us and make our lives easier. Unfortunately, as we became more and more dependent on these technologies, they, like Frankenstein’s monster, have gotten totally out of control. Things we designed to embrace us have tightened their hold to the point where we cannot breath, and we cannot escape. 

Oddly, I do not feel responsible for either technology or bureaucracy; only for their effects, over which I, like everyone else, am maddeningly powerless. Surely someone who is the center of the universe should be able to do something.

Conversely and perversely, while I'm happy to feel responsible for all that's wrong in the world, I am incapable of taking credit for all that goes well...for all the acts of love and kindness and self sacrifice and nobility that occur every day. And why is that, you may ask—as I have? Simple: because (and again here we have strong echoes of arrested emotional development) love and kindness and self sacrifice and nobility are the way the world should be, with no intervention from anyone. Always. That it is not, when I so want and expect it to be, must somehow be my fault.

I guess it all boils down to this: considering all the trouble and unhappiness and problems there are in the world—and not counting those which we create for ourselves as individuals—surely someone must be responsible. As center of the universe, why not me?


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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Spider's Belch


Okay, I admit it: I have what even I consider to be an unnatural obsession with internet spam, and though I had been fighting with considerable success of late to resist, the temptations are just too great. Internet spam is, metaphorically, an intricately woven spider's web, at the center of which a deadly predator awaits. My fascination with it stems from the fact that while I can understand a fly or insect getting caught in a spider’s web, I simply cannot comprehend how human beings can become ensnared by spam. Those who do so because of their own greed deserve to get caught, and I have no pity for them. But far too many innocent people…the decent though incredibly naive and gullible…are also ensnared, and this infuriates me.

While spiders and their webs are a part of the balance of nature—the the predator takes the victim’s life in order to survive itself—internet spammers have no such logical reason to exist. Their only motive is greed, and like the spider stalking the fly, they do so without conscience, morals, or compassion.

The creators of spam are, all evidence to the contrary, not totally stupid. But they don't have to be smart. They are predators. They may have about the same I.Q. as a black widow spider, but they spin their webs with the same determination and for the same purpose. And they know if they make their webs large enough (something the vast size of the internet makes relatively easy to do) they’re bound to catch something. 

Let us take one single, all-too-typical spam message/web and lay it out upon the examining table to dissect it, piece by piece. First, here is the message in its entirety:

Order Request
Thanks for your continous response to our email and your diligent work in getting our order supplied, we have three other suppliers and at  we have to select only one. Register your company profile on our supplier Portal and fill  the datasheet after logging in.           
 Click to download
Thanks for your cooperation
  Hussein Safwan
Purchase Manager

The first thing we observe is a “Second Coming”-size boldface “Order Request,” a much smaller font used here, implying that what follows is of vital importance. That it not only not important but makes absolutely no sense is irrelevant. (Does “order request” mean they asking you to place an order, or are they referring to an order that has, supposedly, already been placed? No matter.)  

“Company profile”? What company? Do you have a company? They hope the fact that they apparently assume you do will let you make one up. “Supplier Portal”? “Log in”?

How the recipient…any recipient…can so totally set aside everything they have ever known or felt about logic and the fact that not one single thing in the entire message makes even an iota of sense is totally beyond my comprehension. 
“Thanks for your continous  [sic.] response to our email…” One might wonder, if one were the wondering kind, which the spammer counts on the recipient’s not being, how one can “continuously” respond to a single email which the recipient knows full well was  never sent in the first place? They either feel safe in assuming the recipient is not smart enough to remember that he/she has never in fact heard from these people before, or that they will find the dangled carrot irresistible.
Of course the spammer depends heavily on the recipient’s duplicity in blatantly obvious illegal schemes…spiriting large sums of money out of the spammer’s supposed country, for example, or claiming to be related to someone the recipient has never heard of in order to “claim the deceased’s inheritance,” etc. It is the (intended) impression that the recipient is somehow getting away with something even the slightest degree of conscience would declare unethical that makes the prospect exciting.
All leading you to the spider in the center of the web. “Click to download data sheet” in big, bold letters. Click and they have you. You are doomed.

The note is signed by “Hussein Safwan,” an exotic-sounding name that is sure to instill confidence. And we learn that Mr. Safwan is a “Purchase Manager.” Did it occur to the recipient—you—to wonder what he purchases, or for whom he works? Who cares? You...and you can be sure your money...are toast. 

Now all you have to do is to sit back and wait for the spider to belch. But you won’t be around to hear it.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Penguins


One of my favorite stories, often repeated, is about the to-the-point book report a little girl submitted after reading a book on penguins: "This book tells me more about penguins than I need to know."  I'm afraid my blogs may occasionally elicit the same reaction.

I have always had a tendency to reveal—-well, not only reveal, but revel in—things about myself which other people logically and probably justifiably prefer to keep to themselves. That some of these things are embarrassing to talk about and may even make others a little nervous doesn't seem to slow me down.  While drawing the line at detailed accounts of the more intimate of bodily functions, almost everything else is fair game. It is not coincidental, I think, that I have divided myself into Roger and Dorien, since I've always had the ability to stand apart from myself and observe my reactions with a fascination I have no real reason to believe anyone else could share. 

I am, as I'm sure you have noticed, massively self-absorbed. You may well wonder, as I do, why and to what end? I think it's because there are so many things we all share but for some reason feel we must keep to ourselves; things we are uncomfortable talking about for one reason or another...usually because we're afraid there is something wrong with us for having such thoughts, and we don't want anyone else to know we have them. The effect of this is that, when everyone else also remains silent, it reinforces our believe that those feelings and thoughts we do not express are unique to ourselves, when in fact they are not.  I strongly suspect that many if not most of those things of which we are  unreasonably embarrassed or ashamed and consider to be ours alone are in fact far more common than we realize. We are each unique, but not as unique as we assume.

The fact is that these are largely within-ourselves things, and we must spend the vast bulk of our time and energy in an outside-ourselves world. There simply isn't time to do too much introspection.

And then there is the basic human resistance to making waves. We all want to fit in, to be accepted. And as a result we learn to keep things to ourselves. So perhaps I flatter myself by thinking that by airing out my closet, as it were, you might recognize in it similar items you have in your own, and might be a bit freer in not only acknowledging them but not feeling quite so alone in having them.

Because each human is an individual, every society, culture, race, and ethnic group establishes its own set of standards and generally-agreed-upon perimeters within which its members are expected to stay. These standards are, at their base, pretty similar, and nearly every one stems from the prime imperative: survival of the species. One of the problems is, however, that times and challenges change while the standards, once established, do not. What were very logical rules when the standards were set up—many of them spelled out, for Christians and Jews, in the Old Testament of the Bible—have long ago lost their reason for being. The Jewish proscription against eating pork, for example, was a logical response to the real dangers of trichinosis in a time of no refrigeration. The dangers guarded against have almost ceased to exist, but the traditions remain long after the need for them has vanished. 

Cultural/social standards and rules tend to be based more on our psyche than on physical dictates, and a great many rules are imposed by religion and ethnicity. To this day, Americans are saddled with a puritanical past, which is probably most strongly evident in our puzzling and contradictory attitudes toward sexuality. The oft-quoted definition of puritanism as "the deep, abiding fear that somewhere, someone might be having fun" is deeply ingrained. We are both titillated and, depending on our degree of self-repression, repelled by any sex act not engaged in exclusively for the purpose of procreation. It is not "proper" to talk of such things.

So we find ourselves in an imaginary box wherein arbitrary limits are placed on what is "proper" to be mentioned to others and what should be repressed. I just enjoy reminding people that it's okay to step beyond the box every now and then, just for the fun of doing it.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Waste Not, Want Not


My apartment is in the rear of my building, overlooking a service area adjacent to the alley. There is a huge open-topped dumpster almost directly below my bedroom window, and whenever I look into it, as I did just now, my frustration level soars. 

They are renovating several units in the building, which necessitated the outsized dumpster to handle the debris. But when they began stripping the apartments—they completely gut each one—I was dismayed to see perfectly good kitchen cabinets and countertops, sinks, doors, and even gleaming white toilets just pitched into the dumpster. 

This is what is euphemistically known as a “senior citizens” complex. When a resident dies (and no, dear friend, they do not “pass away”: they die) everything...everything...not claimed by relatives is thrown out. If there are no relatives, the entire contents of the apartment is pitched with absolutely no regard of its potential use or value to others—and we won’t go near the subject of the loss of the deceased’s personality, memories, and dreams accumulated over a lifetime. Chairs, tables, desks, couches, books, bookshelves, televisions, clocks, pictures. Pitched. Just pitched. The waste is staggering, especially considering how many desperately poor people there are out there who have so very little and would be happy to have made use of them.

There are scavengers who roam Chicago's alleys in battered pick-up trucks, gathering whatever they can salvage and sell, but the dumpsters used here have 10-12-foot-high sides, making them next to impossible to see what is inside from street level, let alone get into without a ladder. Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of reusable items utterly wasted. And the dumpster I observe with such dread is only one in a city of nearly 4 million people!

And yet when I asked the manager of my building how they could possibly so cavalierly dispose of so much reusable material I got excuses involving the possibility—no matter how remote—of bedbugs and the claim that the removed cabinets and doors not meeting standards, etc. 

What good does all this talk of recycling for the good of the planet do when things which so clearly can and should be recycled are not? I'm not talking cardboard boxes and aluminum cans, here, but furniture, utensils, appliances, decorative items—the things which give individuality to one's life—-which could be put to good use by so many people who have so little.

Yet even when I was clearing out my late friend Norm's condo, I ended up having to pay someone to come and haul away thousands of dollars worth of furnishings and decorative pieces, and I realized that there are logical, logistical obstacles between altruism and reality/practicality. (I even approached one of the alley scavengers and told them they could have anything of Norm's I was otherwise going to have to, in effect, throw away. I envisioned them selling it all to people who would be grateful to have it for pennies on the dollar, plus the scavengers would make money for their effort. I arranged to meet them at the condo at a certain time. They never showed up.)

I have never been able to just throw away anything I think might have value to someone else. I never order a full meal in a restaurant because I know I will not eat more than six bites of whatever it is I order. So on those rare occasions where I order more than an appetizer, I take the rest home and put it in the freezer, where it sits until I throw it away. And when I do, I feel guilty

I am constantly embarrassing my friends by leaning over to pick a penny off the sidewalk. I vastly prefer potted plants over cut flowers, which are beautiful for a very short time, then are thrown away. As with so very many other things, I honestly feel the world would be a better place if everyone followed my example, and sincerely cannot comprehend why they don't.

We are surely the most shamefully wasteful people in the history of the world. We're constantly being told that our profligate ways will one day come up and bite us in the ass. Well, don't look now, but....
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Friday, March 09, 2018

The Tale of a Book


When I was a kid, Saturday was movie day, usually at the State Theater because there’d be a double feature, a newsreel, a couple short subjects, a cartoon, and a serial. I loved the serials…except the westerns. I never cared for westerns for some reason. (Though, I must admit, I had a huge crush on Roy Rogers.)

Years later, when I grew up and moved out into the world, I started working for a publishing house which was for some reason desperate at the moment for western novels. The company’s senior editor asked me if I would like to write one. While I could never stand westerns I was even then very fond of money, so I took it as a challenge. I thought back to my college days, when I’d taken a course in writing commercials, which I so hated I rather hoped to be kicked out of the class. For one commercial-writing assignment, I decided to go totally over the top and wrote a commercial in which a young boy pleads with his mother to allow him to keep the elephant which had followed him home. To my amazement, the instructor loved it.

So, when it came time to venture into writing the western, I decided to jam it full of just about every western cliche I could think of: stampedes and buck wagons and bar fights and ambushes and rattlesnakes and range fires. Oh, and to make it extra challenging, it had to be squeaky-clean heterosexual. (I mean, cowboys and homosexuality? Sacrilege!) However, since it was not uncommon in westerns for the hero to end up with his horse rather than the girl, I figured I could do it.

The story revolved around a cowboy named “Calico” for the fact of his having heterochromia—one blue eye and one brown (besides, I love the name of the condition)—who is charged with delivering a pair of city-raised twins, a boy and a girl, to their aunt’s isolated ranch in far-off Colorado. All by the book, as it were. But since my mind does not work along heterosexual lines, it wouldn’t be difficult for anyone looking for homoerotic undertones to read between the lines and see that there was obviously something going on between Calico and Josh, the male twin.

But it surprised me that as I wrote the book, it became far more about the characters than the cliches. I began to see them as real people, and wanted them to end up together. I remembered how important it would have been for me, in my State Theater years, to have had any sort of positive gay role model. It bothered me that I was not allowed to explore the fact that there simply had to have been gay cowboys just as there have always been gay adolescents.

The chief editor, for reasons known only to herself, rejected my original title, Calico, and renamed it Stagecoach to Nowhere, despite the fact that there are only two mentions of stagecoaches in the entire book, and neither of them have any bearing whatsoever on the plot. Plus, the back-cover blurb stated, “He cursed the law and rode for justice,” which I found fascinating, since there was no law cursing, and the need for justice was more understood than stated. Despite all this, however, it sold surprisingly well.

So, when the copyright on Stagecoach to Nowhere expired—the publishing company for which it was written having gone out of existence—I decided to rewrite it the way I’d wanted to write it in the first place. I returned its original title, Calico, and brought the homoeroticism out from between the lines, though without any explicit sex. I was careful to make it clear the twins would be the age of consent by the time the book ended, so that Calico and Josh could ride off into the sunset together without fear of accusations of pedophilia. And by making Josh very confident in his gayness, I hoped to make both him and Calico role models for young gays and lesbians who are still hungry for them.

And thus we have the somewhat abridged tale of a book. Anyone interested in reading the entire first chapter of Calico can do so on my website, www.doriengrey.com or watch the video trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWT0vxVqSIM (and remember the book cover has been changed since the video was made). 
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com



Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Cats and Dogs


I try to avoid talking about my cat for fear of being lumped in with those dear ladies who think if having 16 cats is good, having 27 is better. Rightly or wrongly, people seem to identify themselves as being "a cat person" or "a dog person" and it seems women, overall, prefer cats whereas men prefer dogs. I love them both, though I must admit leaning to the "dog" side of the equation. Though living in an apartment, as I do now, the balance of logic is in favor of the cat, which is far less high-maintenance than a dog. When there's no back yard for the dog to roam around in, the physical confines of an apartment are often difficult for a dog, and unlike cats, dogs must be walked a very minimum of twice a day. You can't go off and leave a dog in an apartment for two or three days. Cats take it in stride, and when you return are apparently unaware you'd been gone.

Dogs give their affection freely and without encouragement. Any attention paid them is clearly and often wildly appreciated. Cats tend to ration their attention, and it can almost never be solicited. Dogs always come when called, tails wagging, eager to share time with you. Calling a cat is like hailing a cab at rush hour. The best you'll get is a cursory and totally unconcerned glance. But when they decide they want attention, they expect you to drop everything and give it to them.

I have one cat, Spirit, whom I got six or eight months ago after swearing, following the death of Crickett, whom I'd had for about 15 years, that I would never get another one. I got him at a shelter, and took him because 1) I have always been partial to black cats and he is almost totally black (I didn't discover the white patch on his belly until later) and his already-given name was Spirit. As the writer of a paranormal mystery series, I took that latter fact as an omen.

Spirit is selectively smart. If he sees some advantage in indicating anyone is home behind those slanted eyes, he will let me know someone's there. If not, forget it. He will sit at my feet staring up at me and I will pat my lap. "Come on, Sprit! Come on." He stares at me without moving a muscle. (I recently read that cats simply do not understand the patting of a lap and "Come on! Come on!" to indicate they're supposed to do something.)

Each cat is completely different from every other cat in existence, and Spirit and Crickett are poles apart using any kind of measurement. Cricket hated getting her paws wet. Spirit cannot wait for me to open the shower door to reach for a towel before he is inside the stall with me, watching the rivulets of water run down the walls, and lapping water from around the drain. 
When someone he does not know comes into my apartment, he runs and hides in a cupboard beneath the kitchen sink. He likes it so well that he has learned to open the door, though exactly how he does it I have yet to discover. The door is flush with the frame on all sides. Still, he manages.

Every single time I open the door to my bedroom closet, he rushes in as though it is a marvelous new world opened to him for the very first time. Unless I’m able to stop him first, he jumps up on storage boxes on the closet floor and disappears behind the hanging clothes, refusing to come out. I could just leave him there, I suppose, but it seems he loves chewing on cardboard and scattering bits of it everywhere. So unless I get down on my hands and knees, fumble around between the boxes and clothes trying to find him and haul him out. Despite his tendency to chew on the boxes, I have on occasion, after a few minutes of  ignored cajoling, simply closed the closet door and walked away. I generally get as far as the bedroom door when he will begin a piteous wailing. I go back and open the door. He races out, I suspect eager to get to the phone and call the A.S.P.C.A. to report me for extreme mental cruelty. But five minutes later, I will open the closet door to get something else, and he will dash in, refusing to come out. I close the closet door and walk away. ("One. Two. Three. Four." Meeeeeeaowwwww! Meeeeeeaowwwww!)

I am convinced that it is not that cats cannot learn. They just don't see any particular reason why they should.

I do love Spirit but there are times I really, really wish I had a dog.
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This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com.  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:  www.doriengrey.com