Life on death row: Reflections of the universe from the funhouse-mirrored dungeons of the blind.

The truth is the truth not because it is factual but because it is universal. The mere facts of this incident or that one – always up for quibble – are little wisps of nothing, to be eroded away in half-an-age by the breezes alone. But the universe endures, and it works the way it works, and so the truths that matter are really just ornate reflections of the universe itself.Thomas Hawk / / CC BY-NC

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

June 6, 2013

I’m a glazier of sorts, I have always thought so, but I specialize in mirrors…

This is a story about the best friend I have on death row. The implication is that I have more than one friend on death row. This is true, and we’ll get around to the other story sooner or later. I conceal nothing, I promise, but I reveal what I choose, when and how I choose.

My friend’s name is Anthony Ford – Tony for short – though I’m sure you’ve never heard of him. Execution cases are big news when they advance an ugly political agenda, not otherwise. The prisons are full of innocent men, as any one of them will tell you, but there are facts that can trump anyone’s guilt or innocence: When the modern-day equivalent of the executioner’s axe drops, an innocence subsequently proved, a blameless man vindicated, is a consolation to no one.

So is Tony Ford an innocent man falsely convicted, someday to be unjustly deprived of his life? I don’t know. Neither do you. And neither does anyone else – maybe not even the man himself. We are each of us reflections of what we have been before – many, many times before. But we are reflections, too, of what we would have been, what we could have been, what we wanted to be and should have been, if only the world turned the other way.

*     *     *

“We get TV, as long as it’s crap.” Tony said that. He was in town for a hearing on one of his many jailhouse-lawyer appellate actions and we had a chance to get together in (more…)

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How did Reggie and Shake buy their way into adulthood? With Bitcoin, of course.

Who wants to go zipline kayaking?Photo by: Mike Mozart

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

September 16, 2017

“So we’re in Dick’s Sporting Goods, all the way up in the steel scaffolding in the ceiling. You know how it’s all open up there? Like you’re right there in the warehouse, where the big savings are.”

I chuckled at that and so did Shake. It was Reggie speaking, as it often is with those two, and the man can spin a yarn.

“We’re there to optimize the Wi-Fi coverage overnight, while the store’s closed, and that took about ten minutes.”

“Five,” Shake drawled.

Reggie grinned. “He’s so proud. Anyway, we’re done in no time, and the store is all ours, for the whole night. We brought a steel cable, and we strung a zipline up there up in the rafters. We shot a ton of video, any dumb stunt you could imagine.”

Shake made like a TV announcer: “‘The sport to redefine sporting: Extreme Zipline Kayaking!’”

Rubbing tears of laughter from his eyes, Reggie said, “So I’m hanging way out from a rafter with the video camera and Shake is poised and ready to launch through the air wearing a kayak like a ballet tutu when we hear a slam-slam-slamming from the shipping dock.”

I said, “Security guard?”

Reggie nodded. “We had our own lighting, but just the security lights were on in the store. We’re trying to see this guy and then snap, snap, snap – he’s throwing the breakers for the store lights. They’re big halogen globes, so they take forever to come up.”

“Like after the fireworks at the ballpark.” Shake said that.

“So finally we can see, and there’s the guard. Black guy, kind of slumpy, pot-belly, not much hair and what’s left of it is gray.”

I smiled at that description. I knew who he was talking about.

“So he looks this way and he looks that way. He doesn’t seem to be looking up at us, but we don’t dare move, anyway. Boys will be boys, but trespassers will be prosecuted.”

Shake nodded. “And hackers will be persecuted. Even when we’re supposed to be someplace, we try not to (more…)

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John Wayne, John Galt and John McClane walk into a bar. Why does each of them come out alone?

“No. You’re wrong, punk.I’m the real plastic Jesus!”Photo by: Esparta Palma

No, I’m not making a joke. I can come up with my own dumb-joke premises, thank you. And I’m not teaching Pickup For Swarthy Brutes. No, instead I’m talking about… art…

Now that’s a manly topic! That’s not a joke, either. Poetry is leadership, and, accordingly, art is always a man’s job. Marxism triumphs by eviscerating fatherhood, and one of the most important duties for a self-responsible father is to introduce his children to the right art – the art that will show them how to grow up to be self-responsible parents.

John Wayne, John Galt and John McClane can’t do that job. Each one, considered as archetypes for their thousands of fundamentally-identical clones, is in fact a retelling of the self-sacrifice of the Nazarene. Whatever you may think about that kind of story, pushing your problems off on the other guy is the polar opposite of self-responsibility.

Do you want to tell me that you enjoy the explosions in movies like Die Hard? Totally get it. You like seeing trash-talking bad guys meet up with slow-talking vengeance? Good on ya. Your secret dream is to rub your hands together, saying, “I am not either an obsessively solitary evil genius! Just for saying that, I will stop the motor of the world!” Whatever floats your boat.

But: None of those stories moves the ball down the field. In terms of cultivating better future parents, they’re as nourishing as the popcorn you wolf down with them. If at this moment you wish to quibble with me about the moral lessons taught by the zombie armies of Nazarene-lite swaggerbots, I will remind you that the actual moral lesson to be drawn from each one of those yarns is this: It’s safe to run away from your problems as soon as the Homicidal Batmaniac shows up.

It gets worse. A successful social or political movement is both evangelical and prolific. Both. The movement actively – avidly – recruits new members, and the members have lots of babies, who are raised within the movement. Our three (more…)

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Want the coolest new #Amazon headquarters, @JeffBezos? A shopping mall runs through it…

Definitely not a super-villain.

How can regional malls survive By providing on-site residential and employment opportunities for their own clientele. Cities worked when everyday errands had to be walkable. Suburbs worked when driving was unavoidable. Uber and Amazon work because suburban driving sucks – and “public property” reeks. Want the shoppers back? Situate them where you want them to stay: At the mall.

That much we covered yesterday. Here’s another wrinkle: The Corporate Headquarters Campus. Just last week, definitely-not-a-super-villain Jeff Bezos announced that would be building a second headquarters – don’t scratch your either of your heads raw over that impossibility – in a city less afflicted with Seattletude.

I’m inferring that last part, but it’s hard to see what Amazon gains from Seattle: It can do business anywhere, but the future of the company is educated back east, nowhere near the soggy Sound.

Plus which, I think every huge real estate development should be built my way, over a mall, because giant structures chock full of people need decent retail – while that retail is able to prosper because it has a built-in client base. Big duh, huh?

And, accordingly, the coolest thing of all would be for Bezos to build his new corporate headquarters campus my way: As a mall-rooted mini-city, with residential, hotel and office towers all built into the mix. Amazon can house many of its own employees and business partners, even as it proves that it can kill at belly-to-belly retail, too.

And of course I have a location in mind: The Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, NH. Doesn’t have to be that spot, but it’s ownable big dirt with excellent freeway access. That part of New Hampshire is essentially a suburb of the 495 tech belt, and everything that way is fed out of MIT and the Harvard School of Business – Cambridge talent with New Hampshire government. In other words, Unseattle.

How do you sell relocation to the folks you don’t plan to fire? “Better skiing. Kinder women. Lower taxes.”

Works for me. Why not build a “second headquarters” for MIT while you’re about it?

What (more…)

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What will save commercial real estate? Residential real estate. “Let’s go to the mall! Today!”

Robin Sparkles wasn’t wrong, just early:“Let’s go to the mall! Today!”

Retail is dying. Movie theaters are dying. Schools and churches are dying. The world outside the home, especially the world of sociability among strangers, is shrinking, shriveling, vanishing.

It’s not hard to see why: It’s so easy to stay home, even as it is seems every day riskier to venture out.

Amazon will bring you all the gear you could buy at retail, including the TV and films to replace the cinema. When you do go out, you drive to a guarded lot, or you valet, or you just taxi door-to-door. You can even work from home.

Meanwhile, depending on where you live, chaos reigns on “public property.” Little things turn into big things, so, while most of us are still and always sane, random insanity happens – and so does its intentional mimicry. Where no one keeps the peace, the peace is steadily less kept.

Even if it were, vacancy repels: Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd, but nothing is quite as spooky as dropping a coin or your keys into a vast, cavernous, echoing silence.

People vote with their feet – and they’re voting to stay home.

That’s only a problem if you need for them to vote some other way. I’m a natural-born home-body – really a work-body – so I couldn’t love these changes more. In the course of my lifetime, the world at large has come, more and more, to resemble the one I’ve lived in all along. It will be a very happy day for me when I know I will never have to walk into a Safeway ever again.

But considered as a real estate problem, it’s a catastrophe: Public-facing commercial space of all sorts is flailing, but the investment value of the residential dirt around it is affected, as well. We built for cars, so the homes we don’t venture from make less and less sense.

But I’ve thought that way all along. We’re talking about high-density development, so you know, but I’ve been talking about this since I was a teenager. I had a class (more…)

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“News School.” An, edgy inspirational #MyKindOfBenedy peopled with gorgeous people.

The Iron Law of Television: There is no better television than television-about-television. Program accordingly.Illustration by: Diego Albero Román

This is not something I’ve written, just a treatment I wrote a few months ago to get the story out of my head. This is another story-of-stories, so it could stretch from a 90-minute film to an episodic series:

A gadfly local-TV news reporter falls from his station’s and the public’s grace when he unfairly attacks the high school’s newly-hired turnaround principal.

For his penance, he must take charge of the troubled-teens class – actually composed of odd ducks and attention-seekers. Recalling his own Jesuit education, he turns his students’ blustery challenges into assignments – then turns those into a daily streaming-TV news show.

Think ‘Dangerous Minds’ meets ‘School of Rock’ – with the Toastmaster idea of every kid doing every job on the show over time.

Everything turns on underfathering, of course: It’s what’s troubling the teens, but it also impedes the growth of the reporter/teacher. The arc of the story is his redemption, goaded by the principal as well as by his students.

There’s a love-interest parallel story, Mister Maybe to Mister Willbe, and I like his back-story told in flashbacks, with the opening sequence being him in a gradually waxing cacophony reflecting on how he came to be enmired in this chaos. Pure benedy from there.

Hugely visual, montage rich, ripe with interesting development opportunities for young, pretty characters. I like it as a 60-minute serial dramedy, as a movie-of-the-week/streaming/telenovela yarn or – in edgier form – as a film.

That’s Idcs to Disc or even Dsic, which is why the story needs both the principal and the love-interest to make his change believable.

There’s DISC drama in a every kid in the classroom, too, which is what makes this idea so extensible – so serializable. That risks both preachiness and iterative repetitivity, but the inherent rudeness of news – amplified gossip – makes our classroom an enduring Ds mutiny against received wisdom – the Ci world of education and of officialdom generally and the Ic social world of high school.

Meanwhile, the high school setting (more…)

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America’s Most Educated: “We know you only want what’s best for your kids. And you can’t have it.”

There is a fate in America thatis even worse than education:Re-education.Photo by: David Goehring

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

October 19, 1996

Little Tommy Carruthers wasn’t looking for trouble. In fact he was looking for a way out – and fast. He was being kissed by girls, and it was making him cry. Little Tina Galvin and her best friend, Little Kelly Martin, were playing a game they call “Kissy Girl.” In “Kissy Girl,” the little girls pick out a little boy. Then they chase him around the playground. Until they catch him. And kiss him. Little Tommy didn’t just get kissed, though. He got in trouble. And that’s how he came to the attention of… America’s Most Educated.

Little Tommy thought he was running from shame. He thought he was running from ignominy. In truth, he thought he was running from the wet, sloppy kisses of a pair of shrieking little girls. He didn’t know he was running into a life of crime.

For Little Tommy was guilty of sexual harassment. How could that be, you might ask, when the little girls were forcing their attentions on him? It’s because sexual victims are necessarily always female. And sexual predators are necessarily always male.

And, as little Tommy discovered, there is a fate in America that is even worse than education:


Little Tommy was assigned to a gender sensitivity class. He will be trained to control his predatory impulses. To contain his savage, six-year-old libido. He will be compelled to run a gauntlet of gender sensitivity trainers. They will poke and pinch and slap and grope at him. In that way he will develop empathy for the untold millions of females who have been poked and pinched and slapped and groped against their will. And he will be put on Ritalin. For obvious reasons.

But Little Tommy’s story pales by comparison to the strange odyssey of Pamela Finch. One day she was a bright, attractive eighth grader. An honor student. Co-editor of the school newspaper. The next day she was a notorious druggie.

Pamela thought she had a right to pursue relief from her adolescent menstrual (more…)

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