The Later Seasons: “Thirteen Reasons Why” Takes A Dive

Part Two: The Later Seasons of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

The story is told. Hannah is dead. The series is popular enough to warrant funding for more seasons. I’m reminded of the Road Runner cartoon, where Wily Coyote follows Road Runner off a cliff. Road Runner doesn’t fall. He just stands there and says “Beep Beep”. Wily zooms over the edge of the precipice, stops dead still…and doesn’t fall. He stands next to Road Runner. He’s about to grab Runner in his evil claws but then he looks down. Way way down there is the bottom of the gorge with a teeny strip of road. When Wily realizes that he is standing on empty space, only then does he fall! EEEEeeeeeoooop! Puff of distant dust down below.

The three following seasons of “13 Reasons Why” bring to mind the dilemma of Wily Coyote. The first season received critical and audience acclaim. The series was banned by numerous school districts and libraries, the putative reason being “that it glorifies suicide”. This smacks of the disingenuous (I think it’s really about the sex, lots of it) but it put a rocket under the series’ ratings and created a demand for further content. Imagine telling an adolescent that a “hot” series is banned and forbidden. That’s like leaving a mouse trap sprung with the bait still in it. What an insult to the inventive intelligence of today’s teenagers. The writers and producers of this series got the funds to make yet another season. And another. And, yes! Another! Three more seasons! They’ve run off the cliff and don’t know yet that there is no ground under their feet. Netflix is usually so canny with regard to marketing and deploying content. That doesn’t mean they don’t stumble occasionally. Everything that follows season One is a reason to allow the characters to utter the same dialogue, hundreds of times. 

“Are you okay?” asks Clay’s mom.  “I’m fine,” says Clay, all surly and concealed. He is clearly not fine. His teenage brow is wrought, his eyes are tormented. “You can tell me anything, Clay” says mom. “Absolutely anything. We love you unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done”

Mom has no clue what Clay has done. No one knows what anyone’s done. Has Jessica fucked Bryce without Justin knowing? Has Justin robbed a bank in the next town and raped a prostitute? Has Clay masturbated in front of the school principal? No one knows but people will say anything about anyone to get revenge. Teens live in a hot mess of drama like an X-rated Shakespeare play fueled by hormones. They’re dripping with pheromones and committing real crimes. Anyway, it isn’t about what anyone’s done. It’s about what they’re capable of doing. Bryce has raped Hannah, Jessica, maybe Clay’s mom. Bryce is a real villain who provides a lot of emotional energy to the series. Bryce has raped just about everybody, including the dog. Justin’s a drug addict, but now he’s clean. Uh oh. He’s not clean. He just bought a bunch of dope from his mother’s boyfriend.

There’s a curious variation of competence and skill in the casting. The actor who plays Clay Jensen couldn’t act his way out of a police lineup. That’s an apt metaphor because Dylan Minette has trapped himself in a repertoire of basic emotional modes. He plays “sensitive teen stricken with guilt” until I want to strangle him. I wanted to like him. He’s so nobly protective of Hannah. His obsession and unrequited love are sloppy sausages filled with angst. In the end it just seems like he’s fishing for credibility. He’s the series’ star but he’s also the worst actor in the ensemble. Whose decision was that? Most of the others fare pretty well. The roles aren’t terribly demanding and that strikes to the core of the problem with this as drama.

This is really a soap opera. It’s about bad decisions and catastrophes. The drama is predictable and sour. The plots are so thin that if they turn sideways they become invisible. We can speak the coming lines before the characters get to utter them. After the first season, the stories are fatuous and boring. They are soaked with the psychological arrogance of the writers and producers. “We know what’s going on with high school kids.” They seem to say. “These kids are the same age as our kids. We’re good parents; we’re Woke. We understand their issues.”

Season One was a siren and a rotating red light on an ambulance roaring down the street. The episodes reek of parental terror. “Our kids are dying!” they scream. Seasons 2.through 4 are a paper whistle from a carnival. The terror is gone.

Fuff! Tweet!  The ragged ass follow-on seasons of Thirteen Reasons Why can’t stand up under their own weight. 

Watch the first season of this teen-angst drama and leave the rest alone unless you’re a glutton for punishment. (See my review of season 1 here.)


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of “Art’s Visual Media Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


“Mind Fields”: The Big Grief or Computer Wipeout

Mind Fields

Mind Fields

May 2020

“Enter Password”.  Okay.  I type in that which I remember as my password.

“Password Incorrect”.  That’s what it says. Small wonder.  I may have used a hundred different passwords this week, just to log into Google. I had a computer wipeout, a big one, and now my browsers have forgotten my cookies: they’ve forgotten my cakes, my donuts, and my fritters.  I have to re-up the whole password thing.

“FORGOTTEN PASSWORD?” Click here. OK.…it says it will send a link to my email account.

R..uh R..oh.  I need a password to get into my email account. I can’t recover my password until I recover the password to my email account.  Is that a Catch-22? Yep, A classic!

I try guessing some of my go-to passwords, things that contained my year of birth.  Sometimes I base a password on the Hebrew year.  What year is this for Jews? It’s the twenty second of the month of Iyar, in the year 5780.

Yep. I think my password is Jew!5780.  I’m a Jew. This is private humor, not chauvinism. Click. Wait a moment. Then: “Password Incorrect”. Passwords used to be simpler.  That was before paranoia became normalnoia online.

Without the right password, I can’t do shit. I can’t even get into my email to collect my reset password. I’m screwed.  The logical conclusion is that I need to invest in some password management software.

I buy Password Manager.

Enter Password, it says. I know, I’m supposed to invent one.  My “master password” it’s called. When I click “enter Master Password” I am asked to fill out three pages of “Profile Information”.  Remember when Profile was a bad word? Now you’ve got to have a profile.

I have a lot of folders on my outboard USB drives labeled “Bathwater”.  I can’t name password list files as “Password List Files”. I call them “Bathwater1” or “Samurai9”  “Let me see what I’ve got here.  I’ve learned the hard way to date my entries into this file.  I began this file eleven years ago and it’s gotten grotesque.  Shit. Two hundred pages of passwords.

I have backup drives.  I have USB devices containing mountains of data: tens of thousands of pictures, files of my writing work going back twenty years. I thought that getting a terabyte USB drive would give me space for a long time.  Hah! How naïve! I’m looking right now at three USB drives containing ten terabytes of space.  Yeah, available storage space, filling up fast.

If you’ve ever had a massive computer wipeout, I hope you’ve got a backup.  The struggle you’re about to endure will drive you nuts! It is almost better not to have a backup.  Almost.

My computer wouldn’t boot unless I did nutty things.  Go into BIOS, re-arrange boot drives, that kind of stuff. This is a sure indication that my computer is a mess.  The C: drive needs to be restored.

The backup software I use is called Acronis True Image. But today Acronis doesn’t see my backups. It isn’t True and it has no Image. I have other backups.  I take no chances  Maybe Windows can see the Windows Image Backup (that is, the WIB) that I made a few months ago.  Oh, look!  Windows sees it, there it is.  The backup to the backup, thank god.

I’m a compulsive ‘backer-upper’.  I back up everything to USB drives, discs, the Clouds, I back it up! In theory, I should be able to do a System Restore or recovery without much effort.  I suspect that our entire universe is a backup!

I have six Acronis backups spread all across my drives.  I found the most recent backup, clicked “Yes” on Acronis and then waited an hour and a half.  I left my office for a while.  When I returned I saw this message, which I now paraphrase: “Acronis worked its ass off to restore your backup but it couldn’t find ‘such and such’ a file and is unable to complete the restoration.”

It took me six hours of trial and error to reach this point.  I wanted Acronis to work; mostly because it cost me seventy dollars when I bought it in 2011. Do I have an assumption? To whit: Windows products aren’t as good as outsourced software.  The Windows defraggers, searchers, keepers, sleepers and beepers aren’t as good as software that costs a hundred bucks.  Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Windows can get the job done.  My “WIB” was waving at me.  “Press OK and I’ll do it, FREE!” Windows 10 is waving at me and I’m too much of a snob to let it do its Thing.

I went to sleep without a functioning computer.  I am seriously co-dependent with this machine. My sleep was interrupted by binges on chocolate bars.  These candies shoved themselves into my mouth.  They muted my frustration.  In the morning I’ll punish their wrappers.

Here it is: another morning.  I’m going to try my WIB, my Windows Image Backup.  I think the folders are stored on USB drives “N”, “F” and “K”.  I’m going into my files to do a search.  “WIB BACKUP”.  I enter the terms. Hoping, hoping. Not expecting anything.  I’ve had so much failure this week that I’ve become apathetic.  Jaded. But…..

Omigod. The search program sees my wib.  My WIB!  All right. Let’s see if this will do the job that Acronis failed to do.  Let’s see.

“Do you want Windows Backup to restore your files?”

Hell yes!  I’m desperate.  I click “Restore Files” and watch as the dialogue window indicates that some mysterious work is being done.  My WIB has been seen and has been pressed into service.

Fifteen minutes later: “Oh my fucking god!” It’s done.  My computer has been restored with the humble Windows Image Back The Fuck Up from Windows Ten 64 bit Home Pro Edition and I am so thrilled and surprised.  Why should I be surprised? It was that assumption, to whit: Windows software is no good.  It’s got to be some hundred dollar hookah from which I puff.

Not so. Not so.  Windows Ten took good care of me. If there’s a Windows Eleven or a Windows Twelve, I’ll be there, first in line to buy the damned software.

There’s no escape.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


13 Reasons Why: A View

Art's Visual Media Review

Suicides are complex events. They can be acts of rage, despair, even noble sacrifice. There’s no way to generalize suicide. I spent six years as a hotline volunteer, counseling those who were thinking of ending their lives. I was trained to never be judgmental. I was trained to listen. Sometimes that’s what it takes: someone who listens.

Thirty years ago I discovered my mother’s lifeless body lying sideways across her  bed. Her lips were blue, her face the color of a bruise. There were two empty bottles of Nembutal on her night table. She had taken her own life.

I reveal these personal experiences because I’ve just finished watching the Netflix release of “13 Reasons Why.” It’s a dramatic series about suicide, adolescent bullying and rape. I have a familiar relationship with suicide. Watching the series, based on the book by Jay Asher, shook some bones in my own closet of secrets. It made me realize that secrets can be dangerous.

The TV series is not only powerful, but it occupies a unique niche as entertainment. The episodes are never repellant, though they can be brutally heavy and painful. I was glued to the story as it dealt with traumatic issues without getting preachy or sentimental. I am aware that people are upset about the series. They fear ‘copycat’ suicides, they fear that opening the subject will encourage more adolescent suicides.

I worry that we’ll lose more of our children if we don’t engage in discussion about bullying, rape and suicide.

The book/TV series involves the suicide of  fifteen year old Hannah Baker. Before taking her life Hannah leaves a box of cassette tapes. This is her legacy, her suicide note. On these tapes she describes the people and  events that lead to her death. These tapes are narrated in Hannah’s voice as the series proceeds. They single out key people who betray, misunderstand or criminally abuse Hannah. By the end of the series we have heard and witnessed her story.

The teenagers in this series are portrayed as emotionally isolated. Each character inhabits a solipsistic landscape full of intense but unexpressed feelings. These kids can’t or won’t talk to their parents. Their parents may as well be from another universe. The kids can barely talk to each other. It seems as if American teens are the loneliest people in the world. The stress on them piles up. They’re supposed to be preparing for college, right? Then what? The job market? There are huge demands made on adolescents to prepare for the world’s chaos, for a job market that may change beyond recognition by the time they’re ready to look for work. Sprinkle in a ton of sexual angst. Are these kids depressed? Hell yes, they’re depressed! Where does an adolescent get help for such lethal depression?

The French have a pithy folk saying. “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. This is true at a basic level, but things HAVE changed and changed profoundly. When I compare my experience of high school with today’s high school, I have to wonder: what happened?

The Internet happened. Smartphones, laptops, and tablets happened. The effect of having these tools and toys is that gossip travels with the speed of light. It travels fast and it travels far. Gossip is a staple of interaction among high school age people. Girls gossip ferociously. Boys lie shamelessly. Digital media can transform an ordinary event into a ruinous assault on one’s reputation. An adolescent’s reputation is crucially important.  Reputations are built on perceived sexual behavior. Sex is now everywhere. Children have sex younger and they have it more promiscuously. They are oblivious to the emotional consequences of sex until they’re embroiled, confused, deeply hurt and maybe pregnant.

Adolescents face a different world today. In my time at high school the great threat was nuclear annihilation. Today such threats are multiplied. The teenage imagination must deal with a world where politics is so rotten it’s seen as a futile joke. An atmosphere of threat is pervasive. We face unpredictable, but real disaster from climate change, terrorism, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, plagues natural and plagues man-made.  The earth is moving under our feet. How does a young person come to grips with the future if the future is so uncertain? The pace of change is dizzying. The nature of the future is beyond imagination. How does anyone think rationally in such an irrational world?

THESE ARE IMPORTANT ISSUES! We need to talk to our kids. We need to be available to our kids and we need to train people to help our kids. We’re not doing any of these things. The funding for counseling in school is vanishing along with funding for band and arts programs. Parents are so busy coping with economic pressures that they have no time or energy for their children. This is tragic and points to a fundamental flaw in our culture. Time is money and money is time spent away from our kids. I don’t know what to do. Circle the wagons. Slow down. Pay attention. Now I’m guilty of being preachy and I apologize. Watching “13 Reasons Why” scared me.

I fear that in our short-attention span culture, these issues will reach a media peak, the fuss over “13 Reasons Why” will reach a crescendo and then disappear. We can’t afford to let that happen.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of “Art’s Visual Media Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Better Call Saul: Part One Of A Review

Art's Visual Media Review2

BETTER CALL SAUL:

A Collision Of Two Worlds

When Breaking Bad appeared on television it became a peak moment in the history of the medium.

The world may be fucked up but television has never been better. If you use your remote with discernment, you will find incredible things to watch through your three hundred channel cable box. In its seventy year reign over the American psyche, there has never been more or better television. Nor has the human race been closer to mass tragedy. The importance of television expands as we get quarantined in our homes. TV’s always been important. Now it’s running a close second to Survival itself. I’m not sure we wouldn’t go insane as we wait for the stay-at-home orders to lift. We need TV. Desperately.

The Arts often flourish in times of decadence and turmoil. When a civilization becomes ill, a host of artists arise to attempt its healing. When Breaking Bad ascended to the pinnacle of great art, it created a new space for the production of yet more great TV.

I refer to the spin-off of Breaking Bad, the superb series, Better Call Saul.

We first met Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad. He turned up as the criminal defense attorney for Walter White and his confederates. His character was somewhat clownish. I made the unconscious surmise that series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould did not take Saul Goodman seriously.

I was wrong. When Breaking Bad was seen and done I grieved because there was nothing as great to continue watching. Then Better Call Saul appeared and once again I was taken into the wry, dark, ironic world of Gilligan and Gould.

Better Call Saul has just completed its fifth season and may be ramping up for the sixth. Saul Goodman is the sly pseudonym taken by attorney Jimmy McGill. “It’s all good, man.” Jimmy himself explains the pun of his name. He’s a bit of a wild man, an outsider in his profession. Some would call him a shyster or ambulance chaser. He gives himself to the lost souls of the streets. He represents clients who are too dirty to be touched by more principled attorneys. For “principled” read snobbish. Saul doesn’t mind getting grubby.

The story arc of Better Call Saul is one that exposes the inner workings of two distinct worlds. One is the world of the drug cartel. The other is the world of middle class America. It is Saul Goodman who provides the bridge between these two worlds. In Breaking Bad it was Walter White who played the fulcrum character who bridged those worlds. Walter was a high school chemistry teacher who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, turned to the manufacture of methamphetamine to provide for his family when he’s gone.

Saul is pressured into representing a Cartel lieutenant, a terrifying character named Lalo Salamanca. It is the Salamanca Cartel that is at war with other cartels for control of the drug trade in the Southwest. The series takes place in Albuquerque and the scenery is full of vast desert tracts. Out there, in the desert, dead bodies routinely disappear.

Albuquerque is a pleasant city, but its location makes it a prime route for drugs smuggled through Mexico. It’s home to the drug barons who maintain operations on both sides of the border. Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman, is drawn inexorably into the cartel’s workings. In the first few seasons the conflict centers around Jimmy’s relationship with his brother, Charles “Chuck” McGill. Chuck is a famous and powerful corporate lawyer who is afflicted with a bizarre form of OCD. He’s allergic to electricity.

Jimmy takes care of Chuck when his allergies render him completely helpless. Jimmy wants to emulate his big brother. He’s put himself through law school and waits to pass the Bar Exam. Chuck does everything to sabotage Jimmy. From Chuck’s lofty position in the world of the courts there is no place for a clown like Jimmy McGill. Chuck’s brother is an embarrassment. Jimmy is hurt and bewildered by Chuck’s hatred and malice.

Lucky for Jimmy, he forms a relationship with attorney Kim Wexler. It’s Kim who keeps Jimmy grounded. Without her steadying influence he might spin off into some outer limits of legal brinksmanship. It is in fact Jimmy’s “edge” that attracts Kim. Behind her business suit and neatly wrapped pony tail is a wild child who savors the antidote to boredom that Jimmy provides.

Like Jimmy, the relationship itself often flirts with disaster. In spite of Jimmy’s ‘danse macabre’ the couple survives with their love intact. This love, this loyalty and unconditional regard, is the glue of the series. As long as Jimmy and Kim love each other, things will be all right.

Things will work out.

Tune in to Part Two of my review of Better Call Saul on the last Friday in May.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of “Art’s Visual Media Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Nightmare With Tracfone

Art's Visual Media Review2

I am preparing a review of “Better Call Saul” but I’m not finished.  Instead I will relate an experience that I had with a cell phone provider, I.E. Tracfone.  Consider it a public service:

 

Nightmare With Tracfone

“God damn it!” I shouted into the cell phone. “I’m done with you, asshole, done done done! Go Fuck yourself, you motherfucker!” My wife stared at me in total shock. I hadn’t blown up like that in decades. If ever: in fact, I don’t remember the last time I lost my temper. Well, yes I do but that was fifty years ago and I was enraged with a particular girl. That’s a long time to go without blowing my cool. I did not, however, keep my head this week. Not after dealing with my cell phone carrier, i.e: Tracfone.. It may be that their service people are coached to present a hostile front to customers asking for refunds. After three days of agony dealing with Tracfone employees I ended the encounter screaming into my phone,

I can’t remember being as angry as I was now with this asshole fuck-turd Tracfone employee who was probably twenty six, living in a shitty condo somewhere in Reseda or Toluca Park. I don’t really assign blame to this hapless cubicle worker. I have compassion. I know I’m living a better life than he is. This essay is my revenge on Tracfone and a cautionary tale to anyone who has a mishap with a cell phone carrier.

I’ve used Tracfone for years without problems and the advantage of Tracfone is that they’re cheap. Like 90- days- with -unlimited -calls – for thirty – bucks cheap. I could keep going for months at ten bucks a month, and so I did, for seven years. Then I lost my phone. It was gone. No searching could retrieve it. The finder-app said it was on Third Street in Santa Rosa. I did a couple of drive-by searches. Alas, the phone was gone. I needed a new one. Everyone needs a cell phone. What if there’s an emergency in your 1998 Jeep Cherokee with the rattling fan belt? What if you can’t text your lover, your spouse, your kids, your granma? Phones possess dramatic intensity. This is the twenty first century! Phones are highly charged emotional extensions. They carry family, friendship, love, sex, money….all kinds of drama.

And I had lost mine. I needed a new one, quickly. I got on the Tracfone website and ordered a modest but decently cool phone costing $131.09. Then I waited. I expected delivery in no more than two days. Everything comes immediately these days. Drones drop your shit on your porch five minutes after you order. UPS robots open your back door and leave it on the couch by five o’clock. Things really move! But the phone didn’t arrive. And I waited yet another two days, still there was no phone. I needed a phone. Doesn’t everyone? Does life proceed without cell phones? Clearly it doesn’t. So, I tried again with Tracfone. I needed a phone, asap. I ordered a hundred dollar phone and asked Tracfone to expedite the shipping. I tried to order the drone service but Tracfone isn’t up to speed in that way. I did the next best thing: overnight shipping. I received that phone the next day. Where was the first phone? The one that costs $131.09. No one knew. I had never received a confirmation e-mail, a fact that should have raised a red flag. Of course, in this world we walk through a forest of red flags daily, so it meant nothing. Three weeks later there was a knock on the door, and a Fedex driver handed me a box. I accepted the box. I shouldn’t have. But I did, and therein lies this whole agonizing tale. It was, of course, the missing phone. I didn’t need a phone anymore. I took it down to the post office, paid fifteen bucks to ship it back to Tracfone. It was received by Tracfone in two days and I asked for a refund of $131.09. According to the phone agent, I should receive my refund within three to five work days.

I used the new phone for a while. Let’s give it a name. Call it Stylo 4. Then one morning I awoke to a seemingly normal day. It turned abnormal as soon as I tried to make a call with Stylo 4. I dialed a number and a neutral female voice said “Your device has been de-activated. If you wish to speak to Tracfone, please stay on the line.” So I held, and shortly had the Tracfone robot and went through three sets of identifications and options until I finally said that word, “Other”, which means that non of my problems were addressed by the previous robot. So I got another, more senior, robot.  Again, after enduring the list of options, I uttered that loaded word, “Other”. I waited another ten minutes, then, finally, I got an agent.

Why has my phone been de-activated? The agent asked for the ID number or the EIMI identification code for the phone. I read it off the little red booklet, then I double checked the phone itself. The numbers matched.The Tracfone employee stated, quite simply, “That’s the phone that you returned to us.”

Huh? I’m holding this phone in my hand, I explained. I’m reading the EIMI number from this phone.

“We’re sorry, sir, but that’s the phone you returned to us.”

“No,” I said calmly, “it’s clearly not the phone I sent to you. I never opened the box on the other phone, the one you sent to me, the one that took three weeks to arrive, the one that cost $131.09 and is slated for refund directly into my bank account. I already had another phone, that I bought from you, Tracfone, for about a hundred bucks.”

“Would you please read the number again, sir.” I did so.

“Sir, that is the phone that you returned to us, according to the EIMI number.”

“There’s some mistake here. Can I speak to your supervisor?” Then I made a random hand movement, accidentally touched a number on the dial pad, and was disconnected. I had to start over again. I began with the first robot, then the senior robot, punching number after number. I asked for an agent, then a supervisor, and I arrived at the same deadlock at which I had arrived before. Tracfone is telling me that I returned the very phone upon which I was presently speaking.

“Does it occur to you that this is flagrantly impossible and that perhaps there’s been a mistake at your end?”

“Sir, your refund will be deposited in your account within thirty days.”

“Thirty days? I thought it was three to five days.”

“Your account has been marked and referred to our dispute department. Are you trying to obtain a free phone?”

I was shocked. “Of course not. Forget the refund for now, OK?. Please, just re-activate my phone number because I’m an elderly man suffering from Recalcitrant Plebny, Mono-Amine Insufficiency and a serious case of Portofino.”

Must I continue? I don’t want to. I spent nearly three days on the phone with Tracfone (the only number with which I could connect) and got nothing, no re-activation, a delayed refund and a black mark against my name. I think the black mark happened because after so many hours of going around and around I lost my temper and shouted “I’m sick of you assholes, I’m done I’m done, so Fuck You!”

Then I went to Walmart and purchased a Samsung A10e, a nice little phone. I’m signed up with Sprint and I’m paying $45 a month for the privilege of no longer dealing with the morons at Tracfone. I call them morons but I think that they’re just following company policy, to whit: Obfuscate, delay, confuse, deny, denigrate, de-activate.

That’s my cautionary Tracfone tale. Does any of this sound familiar? Is the world crazy? Of course it is.

For a further take on the basic humor and craziness of cell phones, go to my essay, “Total Cell Phone Ban” Click here: Complete Cell Phone Ban Coming Soon


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He hearkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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Mind Fields: The Claw

 

Mind Fields

Mind Fields

Sometimes it takes a claw,

one claw that you can, with great struggle,

grow out of your soul. With that claw

you can grab something, anything,

to hang on to. It may be a branch, a stick,

a crevice in the mighty cliff of Being, no matter.

Your claw gives you purchase. Hang on.

No matter what. Hang on. You’ve made a claw.

It isn’t the last thing you’ll make. It’s enough

for now, to survive, gain strength, pull pull

The energy is in the claw.

Pull, up, to where the sun shines.

Along the way, there may appear

another claw, or a finger, something

left over from before, from the dark.

Claws change into hands. Then the hand

sprouts an arm. And the arm is connected

to all kinds of things, your body, now humanized,

now breathing. You pushed this sharp, arching bit

of dross, the last clipping on your floor

and it became a means for getting up and out

of the deep well where you thought you might die.

Sometimes it takes a claw.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Homeland: An Over(re)view

 

Homeland: An over-review

            Showtime’s National-Security thriller, “Homeland”, is a Monster.  It’s intense, cerebral, nerve-wracking, absorbing and addictive.  It’s just the kind of stuff we like.  Claire Danes is either a genius or the world’s most egregious over-actor since Adolph Hitler.  Her eyes bug out of her head.  She gives Bipolar Disorder a new public face.  Her gaze darts everywhere in fits of paranoia.  Claire is sensing the facts as they are: everyone is out to get her.  Playing CIA analyst Carrie Mathison, she’s in disgrace.  The agency to which she is devoted, the CIA, is also in disgrace, thanks to flubs, fumbles, the 9/11 disaster and political turf wars. Carrie’s the scapegoat.  Everyone in the Intelligence community knows she’s a nut case.  The thing is, she’s a nut case who is RIGHT.  It takes a crazy person to identify the deeper reality.  It takes a slobbering paranoid to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together in ways that no sane person would dare.  This is a new era, a new paradigm.  The Cold War is over.  Hawkish right-wingers have spent the last decade enhancing the power of the Presidency, ditching congressional oversight and accountability.  There is political and moral turmoil. A real President is never mentioned; there is just “The President” and he is kept out of the picture. How do we handle such issues as torture, assassination, domestic surveillance and murder-by-drone? The gloves are off.  We do the expedient thing.  If we have to kill people to save an intelligence operation, we do the killing.  The operation is all-important. 

            There isn’t much ideology in “Homeland”.  The characters are mostly driven by ambition, greed and ego.  Carrie has given up trusting anyone.  She’s fallen in love with Nick Brody (played by Damian Lewis).  She doesn’t trust Brody, she’s “playing” him, but still she loves him.  She suspects that he’s an agent of Iranian Intelligence, and she’s right. Nick Brody has endured eight years of torture by the Taliban.  Now he’s a secret Jihadist.  He’s been “turned” by his captors.  He prays to Allah in his garage, out of sight of his family.  He’s the Trojan Horse who’s going to wear a suicide vest.  He’s going to blow up the political leaders of the U.S.A. in a single fiendish blast.  He’s been elected as a Congressman on the basis of his heroic persona and is now being touted as the Vice Presidential nominee for the next general election.

            “Allahu Akbar” he mutters reverently, bowing into his garage-floor prayer rug.  His sixteen year old daughter, Dana, catches him in the act.

Oops. 

She doesn’t say or do anything.  She’s confused.  She’s scared.   She wants to love her father, the father who’s been gone since she was eight, who was declared dead before his dramatic recovery from the Taliban. 

What do I know? Mandy Patinkin shrugs.

.

            Shouldn’t everyone be suspicious of Nick Brody?  But..but…he was a Marine, he survived eight years of captivity and didn’t break! He looks damn good in that uniform!  Why shouldn’t he run for Congress?  CIA sub-chief Saul Berenson is plenty suspicious.  He’s played by a wooly faced Mandy Patinkin.  He looks like the rabbi who presided over my Bar Mitzvah.  I want him to embrace me in a bear hug, I want him to smell like cigars as his beard scratches my boyhood cheeks.  He seems to be the only CIA officer who believes in Carrie’s crazed perceptions.  He’s her mentor and protector.  We, the audience, want to believe in his integrity.  When he (apparently) succumbs to external pressure and betrays Carrie, it looks like he’s been lost as the story’s only honest character.   Well, Carrie’s honest to a fault but she’s loop-dee-loo manic when she’s off her medications, which is most of the time.  She’s a dedicated operative, her life and her family are the CIA.  She’s on/again off/again with the CIA because she kept her Bipolar Disease a secret.  Yet she’s so valuable, her results so palpable that she’s allowed to remain a kind of house pet with access to most of the deep secrets.  In time she herself becomes one of the CIA’s secrets.  She doesn’t know that she’s a secret, maybe the most important secret of them all.  Well, I told you, she’s crazy!

            Damian Lewis looks like Steve McQueen.  His pursy little mouth is so McQueen.  I know, it’s irrelevant, but it drives me crazy.  I don’t know if he’s that good an actor.  I just don’t know. The important thing is that he’s good enough.  If he’s confused as Nick Brody, he damn well ought to be confused.  He went to war as a gung-ho Marine and was taken prisoner and thrown into a hole.  He spent five years in the hole and then was let out to be manipulated by arch-terrorist Abu Nazir.  It was Stockholm Syndrome with full maple syrup.  Devil-faced Abu Nazir played Good Cop on Nicholas Brody and converted him to Islam.

            How confusing would it be if you came home to a wife, two kids and a nice suburban house, masquerading as a war hero while plotting to become a Martyr to the cause of global Jihad?  Pretty damned confusing.  Damian Lewis plays confused to the point of impenetrability.  We don’t know who he is.  His aberrations are written off to PTSD.  As Congressman Brody he has access to all kinds of people and places.  How lovely for terror chief Abu Nazir, who employs a full-time suicide vest maker: the little tailor who runs a small shop in Gettysburg with a sideline in explosives.

Nick Brody before cleaning up

            “Homeland” is scary because we live in a scary world.  An all-pervasive war is being fought everywhere, invisibly.  It’s a war of computer hackers, Special Ops raids, spies, spooks, moles, rats, safe houses, cover identities, drone strikes, satellite imagery, surveillance at every traffic light and Seven Eleven.  Nothing is too far fetched in today’s world.  By creating a lead character who suffers from Bipolar Disorder, Showtime has pulled the band-aid off the wound.  Ow!  That hurts!  It’s disturbing to contemplate Carrie Mathison running around, defying orders, blowing covers, making extremely risky decisions while her “handlers” in the communications van chew the ends of their fingers with anger and frustration.  “Carrie, stop!  Get back under cover!”  Carrie doesn’t stop.  She’s off her meds.  Her judgment is impaired.  This is the kind of spook in whom our trust resides, the spook who holds the safety of our nation in her agile but deeply warped mind.  

            I don’t recommend watching “Homeland” before bed time.  We do it anyway.  We dream freaky dreams.  


Mindfields: TV Addicts Anonymous

Mind FieldsThere was a time when watching television would make people feel guilty…as if they had nothing better to do. I have something better to do. I can watch better quality TV instead of the ubiquitous TV crapola. These days we have choices in TV-Land. Sometimes my wife and I watch TV all day and all night. I admit to some exaggeration here. I don’t watch TV all day; not any more. There was a time when I was pretty  unmotivated and I watched TV around the clock…and I felt guilty about it. Fortunately that time is passed. I watch TV judiciously, choosing carefully what I expose myself to. There are as many TV universes as there are significant demographics. There are ravening people who feast on Jerry Springer and gentle wine-drinking people who watch PBS-only docs and dramas. I fall somewhere towards the latter. My spouse is more broadminded; she helps me expand my range of experiences. She’s addicted to The Home Shopping Network. We are both addicted to shows about animals and veterinarians.

I’m a keen observer of TV-as-cultural phenomenon. It’s the most powerful thing in the world outside of the Hydrogen Bomb. Television has dominated our experiential landscape since the early fifties and never more so than today. We have emerged into a golden age for television. There’s immense variety, convenience, amazing quality and the television sets have become so smart that they require control like a rowdy drunk at a party. It took me days to figure out how our new device functions. I still haven’t conquered the remote control. I can talk to it and it often responds. I’d be screwed if I couldn’t talk to that thing. It wouldn’t surprise me, if, some day soon, the remote responds with something like “Hey, I’m busy, asshole. Try again later.” I would expect rudeness from a television device. After all, this is the thing that brought us “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Sometimes I hear my wife talking in the bedroom. Is she on the phone? No. She’s talking to the remote. Begging, pleading, bargaining with the remote.

We love to binge. That sets the tone of our lives. What will we binge tonight? It’s not easy to find binge-worthy stuff. Thank god for National Geographic, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Between Mrs. Maisel, Dr.Pol and Fleabag we have a good time. Fleabag is the work of actress/director/writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge. When we saw the last episode of Fleabag I shouted “Magnificent!” I don’t always offer such spontaneous accolades. Phoebe plays the character known only as Fleabag. She’s a fairly gorgeous creature in her gawky comical way. She’s maybe too tall, her nose is a little skewed, but these aspects are essential to her character. She would be boring if she had all the beauty conventions. The stories revolve around the Search For Love. Who isn’t searching? This quest is especially powerful in the young. It surges in women who are reaching a certain age, an age when their mothers are asking “When are you going to get married?” Fleabag is precisely that age and her obsessions are pulling her puppet strings. If she weren’t wryly self-aware she’d be suicidal. She is recovering from an awful trauma. Her best friend committed suicide over a breakup. She walked out into traffic and gave up her life. This grief haunts Fleabag and steels her determination to continue living. She too has ended a long relationship. Now she’s thrust into the world of men, those strange groping creatures who don’t understand women. Sound familiar? That’s US! The thing is, Phoebe/Fleabag is funny! Her wit is corrosive yet compassionate. When the two seasons were over we were gasping for more. Alas, Phoebe is moving into new productions. Watch her!

We binged on the two seasons of “You”. It’s gripping, but it’s also repugnant. In the beginning of the series the protagonist, Joe Goldberg, seems to be a likeable fellow. He develops into a monster as the tale unfolds. I’m holding back the spoilers here. The story hangs on Joe’s transformation into something sinister. His obsession is, again, Love. Or, more specifically, Women. The show gives us Joe’s thought processes. The narration is Joe’s self-talk and he has a one track mind.

I must remind my readers that I have a “writer’s rule” that I scrupulously observe. “Is this story worth telling?” I have three criteria that stories should encompass. They should be entertaining, insightful, and, if possible, inspiring. If they can’t reach the level of inspiration they should at least not leave us depressed. We get enough of that shit all around us. After watching every episode of “You” and being entertained, I still have mixed feelings as to whether or not we should have gone through the experience. There are plenty of shows about dark characters. Darkness is important to drama. It’s like death itself. Without death there would be no passion in life. All of life’s tensions and excitement are generated by the clash between light and dark. Is this oversimplified? Perhaps. I’m left with a slightly sour feeling about “You”. If I had eaten Joe Goldberg for dinner, I would have gas and diarrhea in the morning. Watch the series, by all means. It’s very good, well acted, well written…but I’ve warned you. Take some Pepto Bismol to bed, put it on your night table.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


“Mind Fields”: Hitler’s Afterlife

Mind Fields

Arthur Rosch Copyright 2019

A Guest At The Eternal Passover Seder

“Avraham, give our guest some more gefilte fish.” Mother Rachel spoke in Yiddish and gestured towards the man seated at the place of honor on the long holiday table.

Evidently the man couldn’t speak. His eyes bulged from his head, his arms went this way and that. Some hidden force seemed to glue him to his chair so that he could not even rise.

Adolf-Hitler-1933

“He looks funny,” Avraham, eldest son, tried to conceal a giggle. The man was indeed a comical figure. His little mustache, his hair combed over his forehead, these were unusual accoutrements at the Eternal Seder. In the Spirit World the Eternal Seder was just that, an unending celebration of Passover. It occupied an archetypal place in the Cosmic Order.

“Why is he doing that?” asked Sipporah, younger daughter. The guest was thrusting his right arm out, almost straight, but bending and sagging from the fatigue of eons of attempting this salute.

“It’s supposed to mean Victory,” Zeyda Moishe said skeptically.

“I think he is perhaps deluded,” Baba Zifnah decided. “Don’t let him spoil the Seder.”

“There is always a guest at Seder,” said Cousin Frankl. “They are not always so unpleasant.”

The candles glistened, filling the chamber with soft light. More light, soft but differently colored, emanated from the spacious double windows.

“It is our tradition to welcome everyone, from all the Worlds and Spheres,” Mother Rachel declared. “Even the Hell Worlds.”

“Do you think he’s from one of those?” little Micah interjected with excitement. His eyes gleamed with ghoulish fascination.

“It is not ours to judge.” Zeydah Moishe said. “Sins are put aside during Passover. That is the whole point. The Angel Of Darkness passes over our house.”

There was a sound entering the chamber, a sound as of a colossal wagon loaded with tons of lead. It groaned with a sound so deep that most of it was felt rather than heard. Shadows covered the windows. The light was attenuated. Little Gavril, the toddler cousin, rose with curiosity to look out.

“Don’t!” commanded Mother Rachel. “Sit down! Our Guest’s crimes are rolling past our house. Praise God they don’t stop here.”

The grinding sound continued as if forever. Sledges pulled by immense demon-steeds yanked them forward a bit at a time. At last peace was restored. The Guest seemed to sag. It was possible to see a hint of remorse in his countenance. Then he straightened and attempted his rigid arm-salute.

“I thought for a moment that he might regret his crimes,” said Sipporah.

“For a moment, perhaps.” Zeyda Moishe replied. “But look: he is again celebrating his imaginary victory.”

“Too bad.” Baba Zifnah commented quietly.

“Without regret, without an accounting,” said Zeyha Moishe, “Crimes cannot be forgiven. It will take this one some time. Perhaps twenty eons, perhaps a thousand. Regret and remorse will come to him, but not for a very long time. Let us say a special prayer for his soul.”

Those at the Seder, all but the one who glared impotently, bowed their heads and began the traditional benediction. “Baruch Atah,” they intoned, “Blessed Be You.”


The Many Faces of Poetry: Where Does Poetry Come From?

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

Where Does Poetry Come From?

I keep inquiring into the nature of poetry: where does it come from? It’s a question that opens a lot of introspection into the nature of literature itself. Poetry is the ultimate ancestor of literature. There was the spoken word, the saga, told around fires surrounded by rapt listeners. Poetry came from the telling of heroic stories. Beowulf, the Eddas, the Greek epics, the Chaldean cycles. We’ve come a long way from the spoken word, the recitals that spawned the invention of text itself. People cared enough about the preservation of their cultural history that they made the effort to write it down. Ancient stories survived the eons, so that we still have them, we still can read The Odyssey or learn about the trials of Gilgamesh. In truth these long recitals are almost unbearable in the real world but they are like artifacts in museums. We have them. We can reach into their labyrinths and return with answers to questions that we must always ask. Why are we here? What are we doing?

Poetry is the literary equivalent of cave drawing. Mankind, many thousands of years ago, felt the impulse to make an artistic statement, whether it be for a ritual gathering of game animals or to praise the gods for their benevolence. We are still, when we write poetry, drawing on cave walls. We are traveling backward in time to re-enact the original creative impulse. What came first, I wonder? Did poetic recitation pre-date the drawing on cave walls. Or did they come at the same time? I wonder what anthropologist will research that question and tell us about the history of art. All of this speculation is to invoke the origin of Art itself. Poetry has changed with the human race. We are not the same people who told and re-told The Odyssey. We are modern people with a modern poetry, a poetry that has become more free as we re-invent the structures of literature.

We must ask another important question, one that I will address in a later essay. What does poetry do? We must break this down into two parts. What does it do for the poet? What does it do for its audience?

The poet writes to express his or her state of being. It may be emotional, intellectual or both. A poet, however, usually needs fire to lure an audience, so poetry begins in the emotions, where the fire lives. There are three things that literature needs to provide in order to attract an audience: information, inspiration, and entertainment. Who will listen to poetry if it’s not entertaining? Many are the yawns I’ve seen at poetry readings, glances at the wristwatch, restless fidgeting. Entertain us, poet! Or go home, get off the stage.

I’m rushed this month. We’re moving into a house, a beautiful house!


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s The Many Faces of Poetry segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting, please share.