Standing Rock: Clean Water for All of Us

20161111_142116“Water Is Life” No debate about that. Thousands of people from all over the world gathered last fall 2016 at Standing Rock Reservation for a camp out. The Dakota tribe protested the pipeline because the DAPL violated tribal autonomy, desecrated cultural treasures and gravesite, and put the water resources–above all the Missouri River–in great jeopardy. To no avail. After a short-lived halt of construction by the American Corps of Engineers, the pipeline was finished by executive order and the protesters cleared away in January 2017. There are many stories of camp endurance, nonviolent resistance, and bravery in the harsh Dakota winter. Solidarity and support (such as donated wood-burning stoves from Germany) poured from all over the world.

Listen to this Native American speaker at a Phoenix solidarity protest march.

Nevertheless we humans keep building industrial conundrums. In the process we are soiling & spoiling our water resources. Industries sprout like there is no tomorrow. What kind of tomorrow will it be? The Dakota Access Pipeline is finished and open for business. Pipelines spill all the time. Only we don’t hear much about it, unless an offshore drill platform bursts into flames–mega disaster. Deep Water Horizon?

Here is a much better horizon: Nature listened to people at Standing Rock and sent its buffaloes.

People from all over the world joined the Dakota Nation for Thanksgiving 2016. Native Americans are the Greenpeace of our times. We all need clean water. The descendants of Sitting Bull and Red Cloud are still fighting the legal battle for sovereignty and the environment. Let’s stand with Standing Rock. The debate about water is here to stay.

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Jack Earley–Stories for Every Day and Saturday Nights

DSCF0342_heartsMy friend Earley is a Jack of many trades. Yes, Jack Earley is his name. Much to say about him (Jack on right; middle, Kate Earley; left, me)

Jack has been creative all his life, one way or another. He is a painter, book dealer, philosopher, and writer. His wife Kate keeps Jack’s back free for artistic exploration. We have been friends with the Earleys since our Loveland (Cincinnati, Ohio) days. Jack’s paintings hang on our walls in Arizona. They make us feel like we are still neighbors.

Jack’s “earliest” passion was writing. “I have been writing since I was 18,” Jack said. He got interested in literature around the time when he started college. “Everybody was talking about the weird guy next door, so I went over to meet him.”
IMG_20150424_192850618_HDRThat guy got Jack to read all the great novels, about 20 of them—Moby Dick, War and Peace, Brothers Karamazov, The Red and the Black, and so forth. He has been writing every since.

Only in the last 2 years Jack has produced finished products.
Like many circumspective writers, he catches a good story when it comes around. “One morning, I was doing tai chi, and I heard a news article”, Jack recalled. “There the novel just came to me and I started writing it. It was like I was a secretary transcribing what automatically appeared in my brain.”

Jack’s novel is called “Through the Ice”. A man drives his car through the ice on a lake. In shock and far away from any help, he has to walk back to town with a coyote. Imagine that!

After this revelation, many short stories started popping into Jack’s mind. He collected 103 twitter-like vignettes together in a volume called “Saturday Nights”. They are all related to Saturday family events, poker nights, and memorable pranks. Recently, Jack has started another series called “Every Day of the Week.” He has more than a dozen together but wants to come up with over 100 to match the “Saturday Nights” stories. He records the readings of his stories for YouTube, where people can subscribe for free. Listen to this:

Each of Jack’s short stories contains a little snap, a little epiphany. “We all go about doing things that we think are right. Suddenly, out pops a piece of knowledge, an unexpected awareness. According to James Joyce, such an epiphany normally means that God revealed himself in the streets.”

Jack camouflages these real life events by fictionalizing the characters, but all experiences are his own. In “Steak Every Night” he cast himself as the young dude getting annoyed with a loud-mouthed Polish coworker. There is a true learning moment there. If you pay attention, in each of Jack’s stories a little light bulb goes off.


All right, easy enough. But, then, ask Jack about science. Scientific discoveries may not come on accident. “In science, people are working their tails off in one direction,” Jack said, “until a little epiphany takes them into a completely different direction—because more stuff is coming at them than they are aware of.” His conclusion: Science is the art or attempt of predicting the future.

Now we are getting philosophical. Let’s take it one more step further.

According to Jack, neither painting nor story are linear, they only appear so. All of the time is right now, regardless in which order the paint was laid down or the characters enter the scene. The future is only the place where the energy is heading.

Comes_a_Bird-1426939120lGet it? Along the way of our unsuspecting lives we are collecting more knowledge than expected. So that is called a learning experience.

Based on his definition of the common man’s epiphany, Jack is bothered by a movie called “Arrival.” In it some aliens gift humanity with a “una-language” for perfect communication and a glimpse at the future.

“However, if you can see the future, it means it is already here,” Jack said. “And if it’s already here, it means everything already happened. And if everything already happened, what’s the point? What’s there to learn? Why aren’t we just catatonic? Why do anything?”

Good question.

Quick, Jack, just write another story, paint another picture.



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How to Get Cast in a Movie

Yeah, this is how you get cast in a movie, my movie. Now the plaster is off.

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Mark Twain, a Master of Human Nature

00_Mark&meMark Twain is my American literary hero. Recently, I had a chance to take a picture with my idol at Tlaquepaque in Sedona. Wow! Our chat felt nice.

Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, was a journalist before he was a novelist. He started to craft stories as young as 12 years old. He ceaselessly honed his art as a newspaper reporter, first in St. Louis, MO, and then many other places. Twain found just the right words, perspective, and dosage of humor that he was able to “get away with murder.” Lesser scribes would have been hung.

I believe in Twain. A master of social criticism and satire, he pointed out hypocrisy, absurdity, and profound human misery. Imagine, a seasoned alley cat like Huck Finn coming to his own conclusions about the runaway slave, Jim. These unlikely companions float down the Mississippi on a raft with plenty of time to learn from each other. Use your brain, man! So Huck did. In his own way, Huck Finn was a humanitarian of the simplest kind. Kind.

Another character I admire is the dude in the Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court. That’s a story of brain power gone awry. The Yankee’s square-headed mentality and modern weaponry caused total destruction in the chivalrous, medieval world. In a doomsday scenario, royal jousting spiraled fully out of control.

Yes, Mark Twain showed us the whole spectrum of human nature.

Twain was a master of religious satire and got away with it as well. Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven tells a story of how the afterlife turns out much differently than expected for the main character.

One of our greatest problems is, which Twain often indicated, that we people like to overrate our own importance. “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, then success is sure.” Dang it! We see that all the time.

I learned a lot of good words from Mark Twain as well and added them to my American street vocabulary. Although by now antiquated, I still thoroughly enjoy expressions like “low life, bottom feeder, scallywag, carpet bagger” and many more. We might use other words today but the same character types are still lurking around each corner.

Finally, Mark Twain’s excursions into the German language are hilarious. How can the prefix from a verb break off and resurface at the very far tail end of a sentence? And he sure admired the German knack for assembling some of the longest composite nouns in the universe, such as “Donaudampfschifffahrtskapitänsmützenabzeichen” (Danube Steam Shipping Company medal for the captain’s hat).

And if Twain were still alive, he might play even mightier tricks with words. Especially now that we have entered the age of alternative truths and official lies are not even concealed any more.

Language has always been a creative process. It has to, because the world keeps changing all the time. If Latin were still a living language, someone would have made up new words for “aircraft carrier” or “underwater mortgage” or “fragile facts”. Or borrowed them from another language?

Let’s face it. Since the last elections, our vocabulary will soon add some new inflexions: That’s so trumpish! What the trump just happened? Don’t trump me! Let’s join the Trumpler Club. (Not me. I am not a Trumpionista.) Atta trump!

Oh, trump! Where will this end? Let’s read those Mark Twain stories again.

And let’s make America think again. Or twice.

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Give Up Facebook for Lent

NoFacebookIt’s Lent. Now what? The choices for Lenten penance are as many as there are sins. Except for beer. I can’t give up Märzen and Doppelbock as a good Catholic, especially since St. Patrick is such an important saint also for us Bavarians. (At least it seems the Irish are related to the BaI-risch.)

So I gave up Facebook. Nothing is easier than dropping something of little use? I don’t do Facebook much. So I barely felt a sting by giving it up for Lent. Done deal.

If I can do it, so can you, Catholic or not. Abstinence from Facebook is a good exercise for self-control and curbing your needless curiosity. You might learn to master your budding (or raging) addiction. Who needs to know everything about everybody all the time?

No Facebook? Just grab your phone and call your friends. Drop them a postcard. Stop by on your way home from work. Watch a movie, get creative. But don’t get sucked in.

Soon you will realize that a Facebook fast makes you free. Free from the burden of needless worry. Free from anxiety about so many scary health problems distant relatives of your friends are struggling with. Free from being hacked into, or being mobbed by obtrusive advertising, or from being overwhelmed by the constant flow of forgettable news and movie clips.

A Facebook fast will make you healthier. You will get more exercise, protect your gall bladder from envy about lavish vacation trips to Waikiki or the French Alps, and make your bond stronger with your pets (or children; what about the old board/bored games?).

Wouldn’t it be nice, if we could have a day, just a day, of “All quiet on the cyber front”?

Even if we all do the Facebook fast together today, yesterday’s news will still be there tomorrow. (Don’t fall back on Twitter or Instagram or Linked In.)

Yeah, watch out! Facebook is the largest marketing machine on the planet. It’s an ultra, super, mega, giga, tera data warehouse. Think again . . . you did? . . . thank you!

Yeah, one aspect you should give up forever: don’t vent your medical complaints to the Facebook phishing engines. People, wake up, medical information is confidential! Only the doctor may know! Why would you trust the Internet with your ailments?

At best you might be bombarded with drug ads, at worst receive a tombstone in the mail. Or you might be declared dysfunctional, insane, or delusional. Or unemployable. Beware. Your host or hacker or back-upper is always listening, not only your friends.

Like many, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, but I can easily do without it for a while.

Fazit: Live better, give up Facebook! Like you would scorn junk food. A Facebook fast can be educational and cleansing.

Dear Mark Zuckerberg, you should try it too. Can you do without Facebook for a day?


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