Game Plans


August 21, 2022- This evening, I came upon a film called ” A Feral World”, in which a teen boy and a woman have a chance meeting in the wilderness of what looks like the Front Range of Colorado, following a widespread disaster, which has rendered the human race into scattered groups of men, women and children, operating in survival mode. One clever and amoral man has gathered a group of children and teens around him, Fagin-like, and sends them out to scavenge items from abandoned factories and stores, with private homes also on the table. One of these is the daughter of the woman mentioned above, who is in fact searching for her daughter. He sends a swarm of genetically-engineered bees to help the scavengers. The bees can cause a human or animal to become liquefied.

This scenario plays out, in a bittersweet manner. It struck me as similar to several tyrant stories, both real and fictional, which have been in the public view over the centuries. Tyrants who are successful, up to a point, always have a plausible excuse for each of their actions, no matter how vile. They rely on a combination of fear, grooming techniques, deception and deflection of blame-including what is called “whataboutism” . Those who are duped by these tactics are often people who have felt left out of the march of history and progress. They were in the vanguard of the social hierarchy, for a fairly good stretch of time, but find movements to include others, who have a history of deprivation, in society’s path forward to be both incomprehensible and threatening. They fall for the notion of a zero-sum game.

I have sensed, for many years, that including one group in social progress does not mean depriving others. There is no real zero-sum game. Recognizing that we are all essentially worthy of respect and treatment with dignity removes the incentive to follow a person or group which espouses tyranny. Sounds simplistic, I know, but there really is no other way to avoid a stretch of totalitarian rule.



February 6, 2022- As a switch, this evening, I put on a dark comedy about a woman who is recruited to be a Deputy U.S. Marshal, based on the true story of Francis Miller, an Oklahoma rancher, who DID become a peace officer. The antagonist in this film happened to be an Afrcian-American, who had himself owned slaves in Texas. Just how many such men there were in the South is debatable, but they did exist. This individual was presented as somewhat of a psychopath, who nonetheless served as a dispassionate observer of the hypocrisy exhibited by those who swore to uphold the law.

Antisocial people can frequently excel at pointing out the flaws of others, usually because it serves as a distraction-and helps them get the drop on those who are trying to bring them to justice. As happened, to a degree, in this film, so does it seem is unfolding on a wider scale, in the modern world. Autocrats love to turn the tables and claim what is wrong is actually right; what is dark is actually light; what is hateful is, in truth, loving kindness.

As it was for one Richard Andrews, in the film “Lady Lawman”, so it is for any number of would-be tyrants, who charm those living in uncertainty and self-loathing, building a loyal corps of defenders and toadies. How their particular stories play out, depends on the attention level of those seeking to bring justice to society, as well as to the integrity of those people. We’ve seen, in the past, how much fortitude and fastidiousness was required, in order for justice to prevail. Let us now again steel ourselves and not be either distracted or dissuaded by the difficulty presented by latter day miscreants, either at the local, national or international levels.

Is Life Formulaic?


February 4, 2022- In the 2019 film, : “The Rising Hawk”, a small party of Ukrainians fends off both a much larger Mongolian force and their turncoat Ukrainian allies. This is reportedly based on an old Ukrainian legend, of a heroic fighter who lived into his nineties and his wife and helpmate, who in this telling is the daughter of the turncoats’ leader. It is a somewhat farfetched, and rather formulaic, action film, with people switching sides when convenient for the plot and brute strength displayed at exactly the right moments. It’s also a sign of the cinematic times that the film uses plot twists from at least three other films.

There are a few political movements, current in a few countries-including this one, that seem to be dependent on plot formulas turning in a certain direction, at just the right moment. It is no accident that the leaders of these movements have established their standing with a fair audience by borrowing shopworn tactics of demagogues past. There is a lot of wishful thinking on the part of those who believe that the world ought to unfold in a prescribed and orderly manner, as prescribed and ordered by a certain elite. Life, however, is not formulaic. There is an urban myth that Benito Mussolini made the trains in Italy run on time. Another credits Adolf Hitler with the humming of the German economy, by the late 1930s. Neither tale is true. Economies on a national scale have numerous moving parts, not credible to any one person-or clique. Effective strikes and slowdowns by labour movements can bring even the most hardheaded tactician down to size.

The film itself, ironically, demonstrates the humanity of the tough Mongolian leader, seen crying at the death of his son. There is also enough brutality on both sides-or on all three, if you will, to once again show the futility of war-even as there is a nod to valour. Finally, there is a split-second switch of fealty, near the end.

Is life formulaic? No, as it happens. Free will most often seems to get in the way of the best plot lines.

Coming From Behind


January 25, 2022- The tortoise, enjoying the scents of the flowers and the brightness of the Spring scenery, kept his steady pace. The hare, intent on reaching the destination, was overcome with the limits of his own body and, bored with the route he had covered countless times, decided he’d take a brief rest. Thus, did the lumbering reptile note his snoring rival, as he passed by, a short while later. So, the steady, appreciative creature was awarded the garland of flowers, to the abiding chagrin of the pompous lagomorph.

Aesop told the tale a bit differently, but the end is much the same-as is the moral. So often, people take current circumstances, or long-standing trends, and base their plans for the future on those. I noted how that did not work out, in this past weekend’s plethora of football games. I am also noting how self-assured politicians and political commentators are running into the buzz saw of uncertainty, as the people at large work the malleable clay of the country’s, and mankind’s, future. Few really saw the three-week-long financial correction coming, and neither do that many see the resilience that will happen, once the driftwood of ill-performing stocks is carted away.

We tend to see the present, no matter how well, or how poorly, things are going, as the wave of the future. Of course, some patterns endure for quite a while. Others, though, get swept away, almost instantaneously. Few people saw the election of 2016 turning out as it did. Equally few saw the subsequent presidential contest ending as it did. My guess is that this year’s contests, and those two years hence, will result in much the same.

There are many areas of life where fear rules-from the erratic weather patterns to the future of the world economy, but fear never takes human ingenuity, or the Hand of the Divine, into consideration. Our ability to handle, and transcend, the caprice of nature-and our own species’ flights of whimsy is almost unlimited.

Mankind is destined for a far brighter future than it often appears. We will, collectively, overcome our challenges, even coming from behind.

The Wealth of Characters


, March 27, 2021- As long as I have been an educator, the antics of Beatrice (Beezus) and Ramona Quimby have been a staple of my after lunch read-alouds, to children from 6 to 10 years of age. “Lonesome Dove” was both a favoured read and good television viewing, in the mid- to -late 1980s.

Beverly Cleary and Larry Mc Murtry, two beloved American writers, died a day apart, each leaving a legacy of work that will sound like clarions, for generations yet unborn. Mrs. Cleary’s work was drawn from her own childhood experiences, in the Portland of the 1920s and 30s, a time of rambunctious personal freedom, followed by harrowing economic ills-all playing out in an undercurrent of Victorian attitudes towards children, which would fuel young Beverly’s rebellious anger. An only child, she determined that her characters would have at least one sibling and a number of both friendly and adversarial contemporaries. Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy, his friends Robert, Murph and Beatrice (Beezus), all characters from the 1950s, are sensible, but get into their share of mischief. Beatrice’s younger sister, Ramona, tops them all in the mischief department, constantly getting into tiffs with “That Grace”, her schoolyard rival.

There was, likewise, all manner of mischief to be had in the world of Lonesome Dove, which was the Texas-Mexico border of the 1870s to 90s. There were cattle drives, going from Texas to Montana, thus giving us a picture, through Larry Mc Murtry’s eyes, of the Great Plains in both tradition and transition. Mc Murtry, in reviewing the public response to his opus, referred to the Old West as “the phantom leg of the American psyche”. The Eighties were a time when many people were still mourning the passing of John Wayne, and with him, the Old West of mythology. Indeed, the original game plan of Larry McMurtry was to cast John Wayne in the role that eventually went to Robert Duvall. John Ford, with whom “The Duke” is closely associated in the Western movie genre, opposed the project, which languished for twelve years, making it to the small screen in 1989.

The characters remain memorable: Duvall’s Gus McRae; Tommy Lee Jones’ Woodrow Call; Danny Glover’s Joshua Deets; Diane Lane’s Lorena Wood; Robert Urich’s Jake Spoon and, in the sequel, Frederic Forrest’s Blue Duck. There is a coming of age element, with Rick Schroeder as Newt Dobbs. The series did not, as is America’s wont, portray the Old West as it really was, brutal to the core-and in an equal opportunity way, to people of all ethnicities. It is said that Larry McMurtry got deeper into that aspect, in his screenplay for “Brokeback Mountain”, which I have never seen.

Thus, as we bid farewell to two authors who were memorable characters, in and of themselves, let us bear in mind just how close their concocted people are to some of us, or to all of us. That, the mirror, is the true value of fiction, across genres.

Works of Inspiration and Edification


December 29, 2020-

It’s time now to look back at this year that is grinding to a close, and sending some of its aspects spilling over into the new calendar year. I deem it pretty safe, though, to take stock of books read, since last January.

Spiritwalker: Messages from the Future, by Hank Wesselman (An account of meditations and insights)

Geology Underfoot In Northern Arizona, by Lon Abbott and Terri Cook

Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo and Hopi Nations, by Fran Kosik

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann

The Other Slavery: The Untold Story of Indian Enslavement in America, by Andres Resendez

Democracy In Chains, by Nancy MacLean (An examination of an authoritarian political and economic agenda)

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander (The effects of incarceration on people of colour in America)

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Dr. joy DeGruy (a re-reading, on the long-term effects of slavery on the descendants of enslaved people in America)

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Cosmic Messengers, by Elizabeth Peru (Insights on the nature of our relationship to the Cosmos)

The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene (Insights on quantum physics and its expression, throughout the Universe)

Edge of Eternity, by Ken Follett (The third of his fiction trilogy on the Twentieth Century)

The Standing Stones Speak, by Natasha Hoffman, with Hamilton Hill (An account of messages received while among ancient raised stones, in Carnac, France and in various places in Cornwall, England).

The very restrictions imposed by Coronavirusdisease 2019, and our society’s learning how to deal with it, has made intensive reading easier. I have also been motivated to see things from points of view other than my own, and so have focused on the above titles, as well as on Baha’i study.

Looking ahead to 2021, I have begun reading:

Spirit of the Stones: A Retrieval of Earth Wisdom, by Amalia Camateros (The author’s spiritual experiences, in various parts of Australia, Hawaii, Mexico and the American Southwest)

The Gullah People and Their African Heritage, by William S. Pollitzer (Examines the culture and language of the Gullah people of coastal Georgia and South Carolina)

Before California: An Archaeologist Looks at Our Earliest Inhabitants, by Brian Fagan

Coming Home to Earth: Seeing the World Anew, by Annabel Hollis ( a mini-book by an online friend from England)

I am grateful for the ability to read attentively and critically.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 4: Legalese


September 12, 2020-

Good things happened today. My middle brother turned 65, surrounded by the Georgia branch of his family. It was good to speak with him and to hear the vibrant voices of nephew, SIL and the little ones.

I am reaching an understanding with someone who thought I could be the brains behind his operation. There are legal points, like “Conflict of Interest” and Federal tax laws that would present problems for my being the Great White Hope. I think he gets it now.

“Cuties”, the well-intentioned, but misguided, film has run into a buzz-saw of valid criticism, for its reported perseverating on the physiques of pre-adolescent girls. I haven’t seen the film, nor will I-since Creeper Status is not something with which I identify, as well as the fact that my primary role with young people, male or female, is to encourage them to avoid being objectified and to follow dreams of their own choosing. Hopefully, there will arise a sense of propriety and like misguided projects before it, “Cuties” will disappear from the media.

Our Baha’i group had its tri-monthly consultative meeting and planned out the overall course of activities, over the next three months.

That brings me to the Red Cross-and that I was already asked when I could resume Disaster Response activities. A look at the map shows why-Fire to the left of us, Storms to the right-and I will be stuck in the middle, for at least another week, as I have personal business on the last day of summer and will focus on other matters here at Home Base, in the interim.

The Farmers Market is a bustling place, with a new venue. I was happy to visit there this morning, seeing some of my better friends, locally. Next weekend will bring me to Dharma Farm, in advance of Equinox, and the Weekend of Peace will see some events, both on Zoom and in the park across the street from me.

With that, let’s all take a deep breath, to the extent possible, in a climate of widespread smoke.

Hal XI and Griff (Part 2)


May 2, 2020-

Griff  (aka Brent) entered the hall where the most important cyborgs and network bases were situated, at Gates Interstellar’s Monroe, Washington headquarters.  His mission was simple, for the time being:  “Act as the security guard whom you officially are, take copious mental notes on the cyborgs, the base computers and, especially, cultivate a friendship with HAL XI.  As the name indicates, it is the eleventh generation of Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic Computers, which Interstellar’s parent company, Microsoft, first developed in 1996.  Gain HAL’s trust!”

HAL called him out, though, after about fifteen minutes of Griff’s wandering about and trying to be surreptitious about using the microcamera in his right hand.  “Good morning, young Musk!”

“You must have me confused with someone else.  I’m Brent Scowcroft Thibodeaux , great-great grandson of the distinguished patriot, for whom I was named. ”

“Now, THAT was clever!”, stated HAL, in the programmed cadence that captured the personality and vocal style of its inventor.  Bill managed to infuse a sarcasm into his cyborg’s programming, so that even in monotone, the message was clear.  “Your minders really thought they could confuse the cyber-progeny of the most brilliant mind of two centuries.  We are well aware of everything your namesake did; all his adventures abroad and the CIA’s shenanigans within the borders of the American Republic-when it was still the United States.  Ah, what’s in a name! Tell me, young MUSK, how does a rambunctious mind like your grandfather come up with such a pedestrian pseudonym for his fledgling spy?”

Griff stood silently, for what seemed an eternity- though it was only fifteen seconds.  “I do believe, sir, that you have me misidentified.  “Sir?  Did I just refer to an inanimate object as sir?”, Griff muttered, under his breath.

“There is NOTHING inanimate about my programming, young Musk”, HAL responded, “I know, actually, that you were replying to the vocal cadence of my creator, Mr. Gates.  He has that effect on everyone, even twenty years after his transition. Such IS the mark of genius!”

“I, Brent Scowcroft Thibodeaux, am here to make sure of the security of this facility!”, Griff fumed, ” I will not be MISIDENTIFIED!”

“Believe me, Nicola Griffin Musk, you have not been misidentified-by us!”, HAL chirped, matter of factly, “As the old saying goes, we heard you when you were putting on your pants, this morning.  Even with no microchip, our surveillance system knows no bounds.  We know that your father wants to Deep Six our mission to Callisto.  Do go home and tell him that it is SPACE X’s mission which is headed south!”

The speechless young man headed out the door, without so much as a backward glance at his vanquisher.  He reached his vehicle in record time and the family estate, in Snohomish, even faster.

Lucas was sitting in his outdoor study, sipping an alcohol-free rendition of a Mint Julep, when Griff walked in.  “So, I hear the old man is one step ahead of us”, father remarked, without emotion, to his son.

“More like ten miles ahead”, Griff lamented.  “HAL XI said something about a Space X mission, and that it was doomed to failure.”

“The words it used were ‘headed south’ were what I was told.”, Lucas fumed, ” I cannot believe that you let the voice sensors of the computer pick up on your alias!  Yes, MSG  paid me a screen visit, about fifteen minutes ago.  I was given ALL the gory details, with typical Gatesian hubris and bravado.  Please tell me you didn’t even HINT at what we have been planning!!”

Seeing the veins in his father’s neck start to bulge, and Lucas’ nostrils start their signature flare, Griff spoke with whatever courage he could muster, and stated, calmly:  “No, father, I could not tell it anything I don’t know.  Remember, the company policy is never arm the enemy with an informed spy.  I’m sorry for not remembering about voice trip-ups.  I just get irritated, when a MACHINE casts aspersions on my words.”

After a few deep breaths, Lucas ended the  debriefing, for the time being- “Welcome to the New Galactic Order.”

(DISCLAIMER:  Any resemblance between the events in this story, and actual events in the life of any real life person mentioned here is purely coincidental.)


HAL XI and Griff (Part 1)


April 29, 2020-

Sometime within the next fifty years, I envision this unfolding:

HAL XI turned itself on, around 7 a.m. Work, for such as this Gates Interstellar command and control module began most days at 9 a.m and ended at 4:30 p.m., as there was no need for breaks or lunch, with A.I.    Michael S. Gates was a stickler for detail, in the family tradition, and found most other humans a collective source of distraction.  HAL  and its peers did as told-and their output was superb, propelling the company which “M.S.G.” had inherited from his grandfather, ten years ago, far ahead of that dinosaurian SpaceX, which relied yet on human ingenuity-and the human error that came with it.

HAL XI was the most reliable of the current line and, being Michael’s own product, was given more responsibility for the current mission to the Jovian moon, Callisto.  HAL actually managed the advance team of Reptor AI, which were to take Interstellar’s Cybernex craft to Jupiter’s second largest moon in July, 2050 and land, if all went well, by the following Spring.

Nicola Griffin Musk was the youngest grandson of SpaceX’s founder.  Griff, as he had insisted on being called, from the moment he learned he’d been named for the namesake of his grandfather’s company, was the family free spirit.  He had no interest in either space travel or earthbound mechanical transport, for that matter.  Where Griff went, he went on foot or on his tandem skateboard- his sole invention.  The tandem section was a means of including his lttle sister, Cecilia, and later the light of his life, Graciela, on his adventures.

Griff did have to earn his keep, though, and when he found his twenty- year-old self  laid off, from the Game Stop outlet that was a ten-minute skate from his home, during the Panic of 2070, he made up his mind to hold his nose and see if there was SOMETHING he could do at SpaceX, which would not  involve math or science.

Lucas Musk regarded his son gingerly, for several minutes, letting Griff’s talents filter in his mind.  “Griff”, the go-getter finally chortled, “I have just the job for you, my boy.  Do you remember who the Luddites were? ”

“Yes, Dad. They were the folks who tried to knock some sense into the British sheeples, back in the early 19th Century.  They fought against the AI of their time.” , Griff responded, his eyes widening and his mouth forming a small grin, as he guessed what Lucas was plotting.

“You know about the planned mission to Callisto, right Griff?”.

The young man rolled his eyes.  “That’s all anyone around here, including Pops, is talking about, anymore.  Mars and Venus seem so 2050.”

Lucas Skywalker Musk produced a Grinch-like smirk.  “How would you like to be the bane of that project’s existence.?”

“What IgNobel Prize-winning plan have you hatched, Dad?”, the younger Musk whispered, leaning in.

“You will go in disguise, to Gates’ main plant.  There, you will, as a credentialed substitute technician, spend several weeks getting familiar with the AI which are setting up the flight.  In particular, I want you to get to know the quirks and mechanisms of one HAL XI.  He’s the head honcho, as your Papa would say.”

“When do I start this process?”

“Next Tuesday.  Our inside men at Gates will process your retinal scan and procure your ID documents.”

“You mean, there’s no microchip involved?”

“No, Old Man Gates gave that idea up, after the Cabal Trials of 2022.  Big Mike thinks retinal scans are intrusive enough.”

So, the following Tuesday, Nicola Griffin Musk, aka Brent Scowcroft Thibodeau, entered the main plant of Gates Interstellar Corporation, in Monroe, Washington.


(DISCLAIMER:  Any resemblance between the events in this story, and actual events in the life of any real life person mentioned here is purely coincidental.)

Two Kids


April 27, 2020-

There were once two children, who were the best of friends.  The first lived in a large house, was given all manner of toys and games, had a Nanny and was rarely disciplined-except for when his mother told him how stupid he was.

He was, in fact, rather impetuous, would hit adults and call other kids names.  His mother just told him that was very STUPID.  His father, rather aloof, was also seldom in his life.  Dear old Dad taught the boy how to golf and how to get the drop on other people.  His Nanny was kind to him, and taught him to pray to Jesus, so to the extent he listened, it was mainly to her.

The other child was the Nanny’s own daughter.  Since the boy was not allowed out of the compound, she was his closest companion and saw goodness in him.  She lived with her mother in a small cottage, on the mansion grounds.  The boy was forbidden by his parents from going over to the servants’ quarters, but the girl could play board games and do her homework in one of the family rooms of the Main House.

As they got older, the boy was given to a sort of rebellion, as many children are, when going through adolescence.  His tantrums both got worse and resulted in his mother taking a belt or a broom to his derriere, nearly on a daily basis.

The Nanny objected to this treatment, and after several protests, she was fired.  Father explained to the bewildered son:  “This is what you do, when underlings disobey. You tell them they are fired.”  Of course, this meant that his friend, his sole reliable companion, was also gone-never to return.  Truth be known, they were becoming more than  friends.  The dismissal happened, a few days after an afternoon of casual exploration, in the woods behind the cottage.  Boy was convinced it was more than just his Nanny’s protests that caused the rupture in his life.

So, a few days later, the boy crawled over the wall to his compound, knapsack in hand, and made his way to the  address which his friend had written on a napkin, which was also filled with her dried tears.   Her mother was not at home, having found work in a factory down the street from their new residence.  The girl was elated to see her best friend, and so the casual exploration continued.

Boy never went back to his parents’ house, and not surprisingly, they never bothered to look for him.  They never got to know their three grandchildren, who called the Nanny “Abuela”.

(Any relation between the characters in this story and real people, is purely coincidental.)