All you need is love? No, but everything you need, including your freedom, emerges from your love.

Independence Day is the father’s day that should matter most to Americans. This is the day we celebrate the love of liberty that began with the love of a man for his woman and with their love for the family they made together.By: flattop341

I never want to say I’m done.

I finish things; I like to finish things. But every day is another chance for a new epiphany for me, a brand new scales-falling-from-my-eyes moment when I see the world as I have never seen it before.

Because I write, I get to watch myself over time, watch as new ideas spin up in the threads of my thoughts, watch as they weave their way into the tapestry of the whole. But I never want that image, that map of the universe reflected from my mind – I never want for that tapestry to be completed. I never want to say: There is nothing left for me to discover.

I’m safe from that fate today – Independence Day, July 4th, 2014, my wedding anniversary – because I have a brand new way of seeing all of Western Civilization.

The source of the liberty you celebrate today is what?

The right to speak freely?

The right to your own armaments?

The right to own the land you live on?

These are the Hoplite rights, the rights that every American owns in common with the Hoplite Greeks, the citizen-soldiers who won their freedom from tyranny by fighting – wisely but also very well – in their own behalf. We are what they are, and America’s freedom began not in 1776 but more than 3,000 years ago, in the Hellas.

And the rights I’ve listed above are actually in inverse order of precedence:

You can speak freely because you can back up your words with menace, if necessary, when you are menaced for having spoken.

And you can obtain and maintain your arms because you have a defensible redoubt in which to contain your arsenal and armory – your home, your freehold.

But the question that everyone should ask and no one does is this:

Why is there a freehold? Why is it (more…)

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America’s First Battered-Woman President: Throwing Bubba under the campaign bus.

“Above reproach, beyond reproach, it’s the same difference, right?”

“Above reproach, beyond reproach, it’s the same difference, right?”

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

Hanover, NH – July 3, 2015

Manny Kant said, “This is where we’re having the meeting?”

We we standing near a corner of a half-empty ballroom in a stodgy red-brick house on the grounds of Dartmouth College. Campaign volunteers and pie-eyed locals were milling all around us in that awkward cocktail-party ballet, each hoping to get closer to Bubba’s Bride.

One of the Pep Boys, Jimmy, drawled, “Is that a problem?”

Manny shrugged. “It’s your money.”

“And who are you again?” asked Bubba’s Bride.

One step down? Two steps down? These are places where Manny Kant is never to be found. Even so, he held his ground. He put his hands on his hips, taking up just a little more room in our loose circle, saying, “I’m here to find out why you’re so desperate to lose the nomination.”

The Pep Boys bore Bubba’s Bride’s shock and horror for her. The three of them – Jimmy, Lanny and Sid – glared at Manny with a choral eloquence, each one of them furtively checking to make sure Bubba’s Bride took account of his loyalty.

“We can skip this if you like, ma’am,” said Jimmy. “He’s already paid.”

Manny smiled at that. Manny Kant is always already paid. I’ve known him for thirty years, since he was a post-modern peddler on the streets of Manhattan, but I’ve never known him to be fewer than five moves ahead in a game you didn’t even know he was running on you.

He said, “Here’s why you should listen to me in three short words: President Michelle Obama.”

Bubba’s Bride blanched at that, and the Pep Boys looked like they were about to wet their pants.

Manny said, “Sobering idea, isn’t it? They want you out of this race, you know that, even if they have to put you in prison to get you out. And yet they have no one to replace you with, certainly no one who can get out the black vote. So America’s favorite fat, angry lunch-lady will be the next president – unless you take charge of (more…)

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“Jihad, Las Vegas!”

New York New York in Las Vegas
“Vegas eats everything. It devours everything it sees, and its end-product is just more Vegas. Was there a desert here? Vegas ate it. A river? Vegas ate that, too. Cowboys, miners, missionary Mormons in their Sunday best? Vegas ate them all. The Mob? The Feds? Wall Street? Las Vegas ate them one-by-one. Paris? Vegas ate it. New York? That, too. Disneyland’s at Treasure Island and Hollywood is everywhere. Not the real things, the Vegas-real things, charming post-modern parodies scaled down to the size of a good time, so you forget how much money you’re leaving behind. Vegas eats everything. A year from now these gentlemen will be dressed up as Elvis, singing ‘Jihad, Las Vegas.’ Their on-stage bomb will explode and blow their sequined jumpsuits away, and they’ll be grinding in G-strings for screaming hausfraus from Milwaukee.”

Werner Kunz / Money Photos / CC BY-NC-SA

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

Las Vegas, Nevada – June 27, 2002

“C’mon, Sahib,” the Cabdriver said. “Let’s get rollin’.”

Sahib said, “Again I must remind you that my name is not Sahib. And also I must ask you again to wait. Even now I am about to win the jackpot.”

Sahib was sitting at a penny slot machine in the casino of the Stratosphere, in fun-filled-Las-Vegas-Nevada. Max coins, no less, a real player.

“Jeesh!” said the Cabdriver. “Your jackpot’s a hundred freakin’ bucks!”

“No, you are very much mistaken. The colossal-grand-jackpot on this machine is ten thousand American coins.”

“It’s a freakin’ penny slot! Ten thousand pennies is a hundred bucks!”

“Even so, I have every confidence that I must certainly hit the jackpot. By now I have eliminated nearly every other possibility.”

“No memory.” I said that. I was at the bank of machines behind theirs, playing video poker.

Sahib said, “I regret that I must ask you to repeat yourself.”

“No memory. ‘The wheel has no memory.’ Blaise Pascal. Inventor of roulette. Also of probability theory. There’s a random number generator inside your machine. Sixty times a second it spits out a new random number. Doesn’t remember the last one. Doesn’t care about the next one. When you hit the max coins button, you get the (more…)

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How do you contend with a world gone mad? Keep your own counsel and look out for your own.

If you don’t look out for your own, it will be swept away in the maelstrom.

Photo by: DVIDSHUB

With a glance back to The Desperation Waltz, we take on the aftermath of the Charleston shooting and sundry other cargo-cult rain dances, illustrating why you are wise to focus on those values nearest and dearest to your self.

I love the human mind, but there is a certain dismaying irony to telling living organisms that being alive and loving it are not just appropriate but completely normal and natural.

How screwed up is your thinking? When I say that my best advice to any organism is “look out for your own” – you want to argue with me.

Keep your own counsel – oh, yes, do. But the survivors of these messes will have lived my way. If you don’t look out for your own, it will be swept away in the maelstrom.

How’s that for church?

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New York Times: ‘You have shit for brains, so shut up and do as you’re told.’

The editorial board of The New York Times.Photo by: Leonardo Aguiar

The editorial board of The New York Times.

Photo by: Leonardo Aguiar

“Can the bacteria in your gut explain your mood?” It’s dancing microbes all the way down in Times Square, which is why you need the intestinal fortitude Man Alive provides:

As a sort of pocket-reference to the kinds of bogus arguments made about your mind – claims you will see everywhere if you look for them – take note of these three general categories:

1. “We now know we know nothing!” Either your mind is inherently unreliable or the world outside your mind is fundamentally incomprehensible.

2. “Your good behavior is not to your credit, but at least your bad behavior is not your fault!” The actions you think of as being morally good or evil are either causally unavoidable or are caused by something other than your free will – hormones, brain chemistry, genes, brain defects, drugs, diseases, your upbringing, your environment, your wealth or poverty, memes, etc.

3. “Dancing bears are just like us!” Either animals such as apes or dolphins (or even “artificially intelligent” computer programs) are just as smart as you, or you are just as flailingly ignorant as an animal.

Note that all three of these categories are self-consuming: To uphold them, necessarily, is to deny them. If we know we know nothing, then we must know at least that one something – begging the question of how we can know even that little bit of nonsense. If the human will is not free, I cannot will myself to persuade you of this claim – nor even simply to make it – and you cannot will yourself either to accept or reject it. And if your mind works “just like” an animal’s brain, then you cannot discover anything at all about how your mind works, nor record or communicate your findings. Do you doubt me? If so, please have your pet or your software project write a peer-reviewed paper denouncing my egregious intellectual arrogance. No one believes this hogwash. They just want for you to believe it – or at least not dare to challenge it.

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For Father’s Day, a photo celebration of fathers getting the job done.

Here’s to the man with a plan.Photo by Tambako the Jaguar.

Here’s to the man with a plan.

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar.

Satire is maledy in my formulation: Regardless of the jokes, the action of the story will move from better to worse. To make this fly with audiences, satirists will affect to inject a creamy filling into the bitter pill, but the objective of the work is not to illuminate pain’s relief but, instead, to make the agony even more excruciating.

Another way of saying the same thing: Satire is a public Loki joke. A joke has a seller and a buyer, a comic and his audience. But a Loki joke comes with a third party, the target. The buyer will laugh, but the target will not, and the target’s pain makes the joke that much funnier to the buyer. In private, a Loki joke can be affectionate, play-fighting in the form of teasing. In public, a Loki joke is almost always aggressive. Satire is always aggressive, and the risk of retaliation to the satirist becomes part of the joke, too.

I punished you with brutal satire this week, and I haven’t punished you nearly enough with the guitar lately, so for my Father’s Day Church of Splendor service, I elected to do something different: A Father’s Day card.

Here’s to the man with a plan:

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For Father’s Day, sympathy for the trans-aborted.

“How can you live your authentic reality as a stuffed animal if you can’t be laundered? Are the trans-furry to be forevermore mislabeled as ‘Dry Clean Only’?”

“How can you live your authentic reality as a stuffed animal if you can’t be laundered? Are the trans-furry to be forevermore mislabeled as ‘Dry Clean Only’?”

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

June 18, 2015

“So here’s a question for you,” the Class Clown said. “Can a trans-furry be abused, neglected, abandoned – even be owned as property?”

“Or laundered?” I said that.

“That’s right. How can you live your authentic reality as a stuffed animal if you can’t be laundered? Are the trans-furry to be forevermore mislabeled as ‘Dry Clean Only’?”

I laughed at that idea. I’ve always been able to laugh with the Class Clown.

“There’s a marriage problem, too,” he said. “Plus a trans-furry polygamy problem. Who has just one stuffed animal? But when things don’t work out as planned, who gets the toy box?”

“And what happens to the little furries? I wish that were funnier.”

The Class Clown shrugged. He said, “None of this is funny. It’s just hysterical.”

We were sprawled into the back corner of a vast, empty sports-themed bar at Skyharbor Airport in scenic, historic Phoenix, Arizona. I had blown one stand-by flight and I was hanging out to see if I could snag a seat on another when he happened upon me and dragged me off for a pop.

He’s pushing forty by now, but I’ve known him since he was an acne-avenging teenager, a real-life class clown making his reputation by mocking the absurdities of the powerful. People love that stuff.

That’s not really true. I make my way by never wanting anything anyone else can take away from me, but normal people don’t have things that easy. The Class Clown is the kind of guy who gets fired from his job for muttering the wrong joke or for making the wrong political contribution or for having the wrong cartoon on his computer screen. I’ve worried about him since we met, just because this is no safe world for a man who knows when to laugh.

“I love the trans-racial idea,” he said. “It explains so much! When John Fogerty was ‘chooblin’ on down to New Orleans,’ what race was (more…)

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