Saturday, December 31, 2011

Random Notes in the Ruins of Time

It is within the realm of reason to stipulate that any calendar throughout recorded time was devised for accounting purposes.  The rulers of the realm needed to levy taxes from the inhabitants so the former could sustain their ruling ways.  It however was untenable to collect taxes every time the manor’s coffers needed replenishment.  The collection had to be predicated on the ebbs and flows of the inhabitants’, mostly peasantries, revenues.

For the most part this was determined by the production cycle of seasonal crops.  The masses were better able to pay the taxes during harvest time.  Farming, especially of the primitive variety, was ineluctably associated with all seasonal changes which had become a convenient means to calibrate the passage of time.

So as the changing of the year approaches, it behooves to take stock of anything and everything that caught my attention.  Hence, “with malice towards none and charity for all,” below is my proverbial laundry list, in the sense that it is a random enumeration of unrelated topics without any implied order of importance:

1.)         Austerity Christmas Vacation for Democrats

In this year of record unemployment, indebtedness, foreclosures and failed financial institutions our top two Democratic elected officials had to curve their hedonistic bacchanalian impulses and settled for much less just to keep in consonance with what their traditional constituents, the hoi polloi masses, would comfortably live with for holiday expenses.  Both top Democrats had to be content with more modest lodging accommodations.

Reportedly, President Obama had to make do with a $3,500/day beach front digs while House Minority Leader Pelosi settled for a $10,000-per-night suite at a Four Seasons Resorts.  They are both braving the Anthropogenic Global Warming elements in Hawaii.  A noteworthy difference between the two is that speculations abound that Obama’s was taxpayer-subsidized while Pelosi paid for her own.  There are definite benefits to being a President.

2.)         A Dollar and a Dream

Since I became aware of its existence, I played the New York Lottery with a minimum investment of $6/week, $1 for each of the jackpot games, Mega Millions, Powerball, and Lotto for every drawing cycle which is twice a week.  I have not had the time or patience to figure out what Sweet Million is all about so I confine myself to the first three in the roster.

An erstwhile friend and colleague had conscientiously admonished me some seventeen years or so ago that if I had the prudence to deposit in the bank every dollar I spent on lottery, I would have been appreciably the richer by now (then).  He has become an “erstwhile friend” not because we disagreed on my proclivities with the lottery but because I discovered that he despised my version of pursuing the American Dream, which essentially means anything and everything that I held and still hold near and dear, i.e., the opportunity to give vent to express my mind regardless of who is displeased or offended in the process.

For the record, I still play the lottery and I still have not won.  I continue playing for as long as I can afford it because if there is any possibility of retiring in comfort if not luxury if I hit the jackpot without bankrupting myself in the process, then it is all worth the gamble.  This brings me to a rather note-worthy conversation with yet another colleague.

3.)         I Miss Pipe Smoking and Seriously Consider Going Back

Before I started consuming tobacco, a one-pack-a-day cigarette smoking colleague lamented that if only he had saved all the money he ‘wasted’ on cigarettes he could have been much richer than he was then.  I pointed out that I did not smoke for over twenty-one years and yet I feel just about as non-wealthy as he was if not worse so.  That was not the reason I picked up the habit.

Between circa the summer of 1966 to 1-Feb-1993 I was a proud devoted member and denizen of the tobacco consuming universe.  Make no mistake about it.  I was an unapologetic tobacco smoker with an attitude.

To illustrate: I was waiting for my would-be second wife of eight years in a Japanese restaurant in the vicinity of University Place and East 9th street in Manhattan, a.k.a. New York City.  As was my wont, I was smoking my pipe away like a wood-fired locomotive chimney.  The aroma of the tobacco blend I was using was guaranteed to saturate any decent size party room.

Adjacent to my table were a couple of ladies seemingly in their upper twenties  who earnestly urged me to stop my smoking because both the smoke and the aroma were bothering them.  In response, I politely offered to make a deal with them.  Namely, if they could go off and take a shower because their perfume was bothering me, I would gladly refrain from smoking my pipe.

They walked out of the restaurant and I had a rather pleasant dinner date with Nancy who became my significant other for the better part of twelve years, nine of which as husband and wife.  But I guess I digress.

My tobacco smoking career started off in unmitigated innocence.  In 1966 I matriculated in Kyoto University without any friends to speak of, and less than adequate knowledge of the Japanese language.  Then I developed the habit of making smoke rings as a diversion, nay, main means of relaxation.  My pack of cigarettes was in the desk drawer.  I used to put my feet on the desk and smoke ringed away while waiting for the dormitory cafeteria to open for dinner.

Two weeks later the pack of cigarettes migrated from the desk drawer to my shirt pocket.  It got so out of control that while I was cramming for the first semester finals I had to take a fifteen-minute cab ride in the middle of the night when all the local stores were closed to get a couple of packs of cigarettes in downtown Kyoto, where the bars and Pachinko parlors were open through the night.  Six months later I was burning five packs a day.

To put it in perspective: then my preferred Highlight cigarette was sold at 70 Yen per pack.  This translated into 350 Yen a day.  At the much discounted university cafeteria 150 Yen could get me a decent lunch.  Two hundred forty Yen did the trick at the local restaurants outside the university.  Even with my relatively lucrative scholarship stipend my smoking expenditures was definitely unsustainable even if I sacrificed lunch for it.

To counter the economic argument, I switched from cigarettes to the pipe.  I bought my first pipe at 350 Yen.  A can of pipe tobacco was all of 350 Yen and it lasted me a full month.  Thence pipe smoking became the hallmark of my persona for a good part of twenty-seven years.

I wish I could claim I quit the habit cold turkey on 1-Feb-1993.  It could have constituted a perverted badge of accomplishment.  However, a shade before 8:00pm that day while unit testing a COBOL program, images of dominoes falling in concentric circles suddenly invaded my field of vision.  A massive stroke induced by a blood clot in the brain compelled me to drop the pipe as one of the hallmark accoutrements of my persona.  The event rendered me out of commission for the entire month of February.  However, getting my smoking pipe back was unfortunately not part of my recovery.

4.)         Flirting with Misadventures

The publication of my book was a definite milestone for the year 2011.  It is my first book.  I hope it would not be the last.

“Leverage of Second Chances” was the book title I had in mind before I embarked to write in earnest.  Towards the end of March 2011 when I was about ready to submit the manuscript to the publisher, the title evolved to “Leveraging Second Chances.”

In an email to supportive friends and acquaintances, I justified the change as follows:

“. . . I think it has more zip to it because of the transcendental nuance that a gerund as a quasi-figure of speech lends to the phrase.  It gives the connotation of the dynamic state of becoming (ongoing) instead of all done or just in a static state of being.”

Then Joan Swirsky sent me this rejoinder which I quote in its entirety, lest I inadvertently omit something subtly important:

To those who are not familiar with her work and cannot be bothered to click on her hyperlinked website let me just note that Joan has been the most consistently and generously supportive of my endeavors to write.  She is the author of more than twelve books.  She has been a journalist for more than two decades with major newspapers, including The New York Times.  But most important to me, she has been proactively unsparing in affording me her constructive criticism.  For this I am eternally grateful and she knows.

It sent me scurrying back to the drawing board and another few days or so of intensive brainstorming.  I decided on the final locution, “Flirting with Misadventures: Escapades of an Exotic Life” after numerous rounds of polling the opinions of those generous enough to be bothered.  Concurrently with polling on the title, I was furiously working (and polling) on the cover design.  Finally all the trimmings were in place, and just one final element to the puzzle needed attention.  Raising the funds for the project was the real proverbial show stopper.

A good long-time friend and colleague offered what seemed to be an easy way out.  She volunteered to underwrite, as a personal loan, the publication of the book on one condition.  The contents must be limited to just the narratives.  She opined that the Poetry and the Essays could only undermine the marketability of the book.

I conceded, she might have been correct on the marketability angle.  But without missing a heartbeat and “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” I politely declined the offer.  The crucial desideratum for me was: If I could be bribed to do far less than what I wanted, there is no conceivable limit to what I could be bribed to do, regardless of whether or not I would be in a position to deliver.

One final note on the book: Most of my family on both sides of the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans are of the opinion that the book is basically and thoroughly unreadable for being too erudite.  While I think I had sufficiently made my defense in the foreword and introduction to the book, this much I would like to add, for whatever it is worth:

All of my skills in the English language have been acquired.  They were mostly learned in educational institutions and mostly at the expense of other people’s money mainly through rather lucrative scholarship grants.  Thus, I cannot, with a clear conscience use the language on the cheap, for the sake of reaching out to the amorphous masses whose consciousness I may not be equipped to touch in a million reincarnations through time immemorial.

=== Entr'acte ====

Either the calendar has crept up on me unawares in my senility or that I simply had bitten off more than I could chew in my old age.  In any case, the New Year has already been at least 12 hours old on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.  I am therefore compelled to publish this before it is ready for prime time.

I am an ardent subscriber to the dictum that selling Christmas Trees on December 26 in any year was never a hallmark of commendable professional or business acumen.

Below is the rest of the program with the rest of the topics I intended to cover.  Where I am able, I left a synopsis of what it is all about.  Where I am not, you’ll have to be content with what your fertile imagination can afford to offer.

If intentions matter at all, let me assure you that I intend to expound on the rest of the program wiga28.

=== End  Entr'acte ====

5.)         A Generation Gap: The Tricky Art of Growing Up

{While I left my father’s house at the age of 13 to hack my own way in the world at large, the Federal government, starting with the IRS encourages Americans to be their parents’ dependents to the age of 26.  What gives? Are we conscientiously grooming a generation of wimps and spineless incompetents to take custody of the future of our civilization?  As John Wayne used to say, “that will be the day.”  And what a scary day it may prove to be.}

6.)         The Political Calculus of Agitating the Masses

{The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and kindred movements that sprung out in 2011 was praised by the main stream media (MSM) as the quintessential token of the First Amendment, i.e., freedom of expression.  In the media’s zeal to sell it as a bona fide expression of Americanism, they deliberately glossed over the fact that union organizers were behind the OWS “ferment.”   While this deliberate subterfuge may work with some segments of the body politic, it can potentially backfire as most Americans may prove to be more enlightened than the MSM is willing to concede.}

7.)         The Prospect of an Obama Re-Election

{While the record of his administration is indisputably dismal, the fact remains that the stupidity of the body politic which elected him the first time around is still very much alive and well.  Galvanizing class envy as the main driving force in his re-election campaign may prove a winning calculus based strictly on the numbers.  But the intangibles embedded in the spirit of American Exceptionalism can still prove the arithmetic to be untenable and America may still prevail over the evils that lurch behind the subterfuge of the Obama Regime’s effort to deceive the nation.}

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