Charles Bukowski on Being Alone

I like reading Bukowski. And that bothers me some. And you’ll see why in the piece I wrote that follows this little essay of his on being alone. 

“I’ve never been lonely. I’ve been in a room — I’ve felt suicidal. I’ve been depressed. I’ve felt awful — awful beyond all — but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me…or that any number of people could enter that room.

Charles Bukowski, poet, 1920-1994

In other words, loneliness is something I’ve never been bothered with because I’ve always had this terrible itch for solitude. It’s being at a party, or at a stadium full of people cheering for something, that I might feel loneliness. I’ll quote Ibsen, “The strongest men are the most alone.” I’ve never thought, “Well, some beautiful blonde will come in here and give me a fuck-job, rub my balls, and I’ll feel good.” No, that won’t help. You know the typical crowd, “Wow, it’s Friday night, what are you going to do? Just sit there?” Well, yeah. Because there’s nothing out there. It’s stupidity. Stupid people mingling with stupid people. Let them stupidify themselves. I’ve never been bothered with the need to rush out into the night. I hid in bars, because I didn’t want to hide in factories. That’s all. Sorry for all the millions, but I’ve never been lonely. I like myself. I’m the best form of entertainment I have. Let’s drink more wine”

―Charles Bukowski

My Response to Charles’ enjoyable nonsense


I’d love to sit here drinking something heavy, reeking of ethanol, maybe with ice in a glass  ruining the finish on the wood table with its sweat. Writing poems about how little I care about other people and how little I care about what they think of me, and being immune to sex yet screws multitude of women and not screwing the rest when not masturbating or masturbating – it doesn’t matter.

To stay up at night with a typewriter and a bottle – make that two bottles, one for now and one for later. The liquor store is closed.

Beating the odds whether it be on the horses or on whether I shall make it past the next breath. Bragging all the time about beating the odds while living in filth. Glorifying a life of self-abuse and an uncaring nature towards everything outside of myself.

Fingers with dirty nails and nicotine stains. Overflowing ash trays. Full bottles. Empty bottles. Half empty bottles.

Like Charles I’d point out the horrors of everything in the world and then share with cunning humor that precious me within. Vomit. Shit. It doesn’t matter when you are so obviously better than everyone else. Everyone.

That spinning feeling while words would bounce about my mind looking for the keys on the keyboard before they are forgotten. Bragging about rejection slips as if they were the scars from the tortures of war. True evidence of suffering.

Dizzy and then asleep and then awake and then a drink and drunk and writing again and again and again. Imagine. The odds. You know. The odds like the fabled example of the monkey at the typewriter given infinite time will at some point write Hamlet, or some such nonsense. Instead, here, poem after poem after poem and then someone somewhere gives in and now you are, or I am in this dream, an author.

Drunk, and up late at night with cigarettes burning down to the edge of the ashtray leaving that dark dank stain of tar and spit  before finally going out. More bottles, more words, more anger.

Mostly more fear. To face one’s self is quite a task. That man was a master. A magician! He could make you see your self through words and more words. You can see the world through words and more words. But like the healer than cannot heal himself, Charles, you poor old delusional fuck, you simply could not find a way to make that magic work on you. You are, were, still am, in most ways merely just another asshole.

Christ I like reading his stuff.


―Eric Strayer




Phrase of the day: “REGULATORY CAPTURE”


Definition: [T]he process by which regulatory agencies eventually come to be dominated by the very industries they were charged with regulating. (Investopedia)
Arctic Drilling

From the Bill Moyers ‘Morning Reads’:

The “Keep it in the Ground” movement has been protesting each Bureau of Land Management auction of fossil fuel leases on public lands, and at times disrupting the process through which fossil fuel companies secure the rights to drill. In an effort to avoid the activists, the BLM has taken the leasing process online. Jack Fitzpatrick reports for Morning Consult. … the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has taken a similar approach. (Original credit: Morning Consult)

I found this term some time back. It is one of those terms that seems to soften the actual concept or practice. Like “externalities” – the process of letting someone else (usually the public’s taxes/government) perform a function that benefits a business or corporation. For example, the government generally handles environmental damage by institutions such as those who do nergy resource extraction. Roads and bridges take care of a crucial element to the benefit of businesses. Shopping malls and large stores get the city or county to create traffic patterns with the construction of modification of the roads and street lights. And so on, and so on. They don’t pay for that. You do.

On the other hand, it is nice to have some kind of phrase or term that works well in academia as well as certain areas of the popular media. Or here for that matter. It also serves double duty in that it may pique one’s curiosity, and thus highlight one of those things that we like to, well, not think about too much. As well, it legitimizes whatever issue or process is involved.

My favorite example of a term that “softens” an important issue is “climate change.” You may recall that we use to talk about “global warming.” That has a certain threatening tone – which it should. The term climate change was created by Republican political consultant Frank Lutz, who suggested the change in terminology for that very reason. (As a side note, he created the term “death taxes.” Look it up.)

All this is to say, what? I think most importantly here, is that while we intuitively know that our regulatory agencies are deep in the pockets of the industries that they are meant to regulate, that it is a process that you now find in textbooks. By legitimizing the process it puts some more credible light on it. Or, in the case of Mr. Lutz, just the opposite.


Our Fundamental Disdain for Freedom of Speech

Now figure this: The first amendment of our constitution is that of freedom of speech. We can say almost anything anytime anywhere. Yes, there are some obvious limits, but overall, we can say what is on our mind. That includes politics. In fact, it was the original intention of the first amendment to limit governmenblog-bar-fightt’s powers, and, as such, to allow for criticism of the government itself, i.e. politics. The rather complex issue of “real” sedition aside, we are allowed to publicly criticize out leaders and our institutions short of suggesting assignation, with the possible exception of letting Donald Trump do so, or whipping up a crowd to burn down buildings and the like.

Now I love public places. Especially bistros and bars and small restaurants. I enjoy the “company of strangers”. But upon occasion I do want some conversation. Or perhaps someone wishes to start one up with me. I am almost always game. But I have to tell you something:

I read quite a bit. And it is mostly philosophical/political and critical of government and most institutions in our society. Society in general I suppose. That’s where me being a sociologist comes in. And my favorite saying is “the ruthless criticism of all that exists.” I am reluctant to say who said that. Look it up. And the reason is I have been either thrown out of some pretty neat places, or, more frequently, scowled at so intensely that, well, the mood was ruined and I left on my own accord.

Here are some of the things that have come up in conversations that have not worked out too well. (Understatement.):

Anything positive about Cuba.
Suggesting that as flag is only a symbol, not something to fight over. (Flag burning was against the law prior to 1969.)
Suggesting that we are not a particularly good example of a democracy.
Asserting that we have been a class driven society from the outset.
Being supportive of more open immigration.
Asserting that the term “color blind” is absurd and that racism has increased, not decreased, over the past several decades.
Suggesting that the idea of capitalism is not now, nor really ever was, a particularly good idea.
Mentioning that competition is not necessarily innate in human nature.
Suggesting that cooperation often works better than competition in very many instances.
Any suggestion that America actually created the pseudo-science of eugenics.
That Denmark, and indeed most of the northern European countries, are actually more democratic than is the US.
Suggesting that in spite of some clear differences of the two main political parties in the US, that the end results have, since FDR anyway, been pretty much the same for the population at large.
Reminding someone that our history of manifest destiny was a literal genocide.
Any criticism of the use of the Atomic Bomb on Japan is out.
Noting that the US military policies are primarily due to corporate profiteering.
Global warming. (I mean, climate change.)
Saying anything positive about unions.
Comparing patriotism with ethnocentrism.
et cetera, et cetera

Any combination, or sometimes merely the expression of any one of the above, all too often results in a wrathful negation of the first amendment in a conversation. Such a termination is reached when the person I am speaking with says something terminal like “fuck you.” Or worse. “If you don’t like America, then leave”. When the veins in the neck start to bulge and such like that, it is indeed time to leave. Again.

In short, we do NOT talk politics publicly except at much risk to our well being. Perhaps that is why we are so intensely polarized in this country right now. Each side (well, there are more than two, really) is only talking to themselves.

Now that I think of it, it is perhaps significant that the French and American revolutions came out of coffee houses and the Nazi party came out of beer halls.

I need to think this through some more.


From Voynich to Boolean Logic and Back Again

Morning musings:

I did not intend to blog today. But I was trying to remember some stuff I had been reading which I had forgotten. Using my Web search engine’s “history” feature I got back on track. I’ll start in the middle:

The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and it may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance… WIKI
A 47 min video on the beginnings of it finally being translated is here (you don’t actually have to watch it):

Voynich was the husband of Ethel Lilian Boole (born on 11 May 1864). She wrote the novel The Gadfly which became popular with Russian Soviets and even Chinese Communists for its political and social context. It is suggested by Robert Bruce Lockhart that she was a lover of Sidney Reilly (Ace of Spies). This is not substantiated by anyone else. But look up The Gadfly and Reilly anyway. In fact, find and watch the BBC series “Reilly, Ace of Spies.” Way better than almost anything on TV right now. Almost anything.

Why did I look her up?

Yes. She was a daughter of George Boole, the 19th Century creator of Boolean Logic used in computer programing today.

That I read in a blog by Adam Curtis, which I found from watching his films/documentaries and having grown curiouser and curiouser as to anything about him. I am a fan. You really must check him out. Absolutely unique! [More on him later.] Here is an example of some short films dispersed throughout his BBC blog page:

So the path was thus:

Adam Curtis film(s)>Adam Curtis BBC blog page>his blog (containing a few of his shorter films)>his story about George Boole>his story about the Boole children>Ethel Lilian Boole (later Ethel Lilian Voynich of which her husband Wiifred Voynich, who was a book dealer and for a time owned the 15th Century manuscript bearing his name)>looking up the Voynich manuscript in Wikipedia (and elsewhere)>and now putting some notes down about the whole adventure.

Why share all of this?


Why not?




Ethel Lilian Voynich (Boole)

In God We Trust -or- “Do you believe in magic…?”

Not long ago a student asked me why the newly elected president of the United States swears an oath “under God.” I discovered that although not all Presidents have done so, most have.

I then thought of the national motto, “In God We Trust.” I had forgotten the dates but knew the motto was a relatively recent development.
“E Pluribus Unum” (From the Many, One) was replaced with “In God We Trust” as the official National Motto in 1957 and first appeared on US paper currency that same year.

We share “In God We Trust” only with the Republic of Nicaragua.” (Think Reagan and the Contras.)

That we should replace  “out of many, one” shows a troubling shift in ideology from a government “of and by the people,” to one that appears to require sanction from a supernatural source. Such a sanction it will inevitability receive regardless of its activities. It is a rigged game, here like everywhere else you find the theme of “God on our side.” In our feeble efforts to separate church and state, we instead forged the opposite. That was in the Eisenhower administration (1953-1961) I can’t help but think of the CIA led Iranian coup and BP oil’s stake in it. A good start for Dwight. With God on his side. And BP.

While rummaging about for my “I Like Ike” campaign button, I paused to look up more on Nicaragua, having just seen the film “Kill the Messenger” about Gary Webb and the Iran Contra affair.
I quickly grew dizzy from the complex history of the Sandinista government. But regarding the rather bizarre if familiar internal conflicts from then to the present, clearly is was the US that won the conflict. That is to say, basically things remain the same now as they had: poverty, disparity of wealth, a devastated ecosystem due to monolithic industrial agricultural methods, austerity measures and all the rest of it. Reagan’s legacy continues.

So I guess it is not, if it ever was, “from the many, one.” Unless you are referring to the One Percent. And then it all falls into place. Remember, it was from the “many” that the U.S. banks were bailed out. It is from the “many” that the European Union expects to get remuneration on Greece’s debt. It is from the “many” that the same is true of Spain, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and, and, and…

It is quite disturbing to feel as “one,” of “many,” while the many must serve the “one.”


A Poem I’ve Never Heard of ’till Now

If I could share a blog, I’d share one. This one will do, and you may leave here and go straight to it, or content yourself with this snippet I stole from it. But I am actually stealing from two places and persons. The poem contained here is in the introduction to the book “JohnMasefield1912On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Enough on that though, as that is another story from my busy morning. As for the poem, it is by  John Edward Masefield (1878-1967). I had not read this poem before as I am not one to read much poetry, although with the full knowledge that it is my loss. But I do read a lot about the worst in us, particularly as a society, and less so as disaggregated individuals. This poem grabbed me this morning before I even got out of bed (the second time anyway) as upon reading it I went on to find it, where I found the other blog, and so the day progresses. I will leave it to you now. ~e

Not of the princes and prelates with periwigged charioteers
Riding triumphantly laurelled to lap the fat of the years,–
Rather the scorned — the rejected — the men hemmed in with the spears;

The men of the tattered battalion which fights till it dies,
Dazed with the dust of the battle, the din and the cries,
The men with the broken heads and the blood running into their eyes.

Not the be-medalled Commander, beloved of the throne,
Riding cock-horse to parade when the bugles are blown,
But the lads who carried the koppie and cannot be known.

Not the ruler for me, but the ranker, the tramp of the road,
The slave with the sack on his shoulders pricked on with the goad,
The man with too weighty a burden, too weary a load.

The sailor, the stoker of steamers, the man with the clout,
The chantyman bent at the halliards putting a tune to the shout,
The drowsy man at the wheel and the tired lookout.

Others may sing of the wine and the wealth and the mirth,
The portly presence of potentates goodly in girth;–
Mine be the dirt and the dross, the dust and scum of the earth!

THEIRs be the music, the colour, the glory, the gold;
Mine be a handful of ashes, a mouthful of mould.
Of the maimed, of the halt and the blind in the rain and the cold —
Of these shall my songs be fashioned, my tales be told.

The Amazing Stuff That Just Shows Up

I came upon a priceless piece of writ92999-004-B6C0B4D4ing in one of my sociology student’s journal entries. I really have nothing to add. It says it all and he said I could share. So be it. Check it out:

“During my Ethnic Studies class, we talked about the Spaniards and their conquest over the natives living in Mexico. Our professor mentioned that the Spaniards had set up missions to spread their religion to the tribes living here. In an effort to keep a part of their culture and religion, the tribes from Mexico made a saint out of Jesus Christ’s mother, Mary, and gave her the name La Virgen de Guadalupe, proclaiming her the “Queen of Mexico”. The Virgin Mary was meant to represent one of their gods. The indigenous features were painted in an effort to keep their religion alive, as a form of private rebellion.
I thought this story was incredible and wrote this poem shortly after.”

Skin is a curse,
The color of Earth,
 Labeled as Gang Related,
My pride you have took,
Nervous glances,
I’m not invited to dancing,
Balls, Gowns, Sadies, even Swing Dances,
My line is thick like oil,
I spring like a coil,
I’m targeted where lightning strikes, your personal coil,
America’s foil,
My image is soiled,
My face is calm waters, below i do boil,
To anoint my pen, I bled out like rain,
I’m sacrificing my life, so we may rise again,
The coming of Gods, the coming of Kings,
We disguised the Virgin Mary with Indigenous Strings

~ Eduardo Velasquez, Mar2016

It Can’t Happen Here

FreakOut!It was at a recent conference on Equity and Human Rights put on by the California Teacher’s Association where I was exposed to Lawrence
Kohlberg’s “stages of moral development.” It astounds me the things that slip by me!

The six stages within three levels are listed below. There are various terms used to describe the “levels.” *

Instead of trying to restate that which is quite easy to find yourself, I’ll skip ahead. I was most concerned with the idea that according to Kohlberg, one cannot skip stages, so that stage 4 is only achieved after achieving and internalizing stages 1-3. This is a very important extension of previous observations and theorizing of children’s development (Piaget) and resembles also Erikson’s stages of personality development. I find the idea of moral development more intriguing if perhaps more risky.

As for stage one being applicable to adults as well as children (it is indicated being for ages 10-13) according to Pegasus UCF ( ) using the example of ‘soldiers during the holocaust who were simply “carrying out orders” under threat of punishment’ it is a “yes.” And certainly we have plenty of examples of this sort of behavior in our own histories as well.

However these stages are described, they are good cause for consideration and criticism. Indeed, are there definable stages in adult development that are predictive and necessary in a necessary order?

If so, I think it fair to surmise that this helps explain people’s tendency towards simplistic moral interpretations of complex issues. That is, being stuck, or stunted for whatever reason at one of the earlier stages, resulting in what we are seeing in the resurgence in the United States in the form of overt racism, anti-immigration, the rejection of refugees, and a generalized xenophobia, all justified under the guise of religion or nationalism.

I am reminded of the work of Theodor Adorno’s controversial attempt to predict the Authoritarian Personality with the creation of the “F-scale” (pre-fascist personality). But this is only in the sense that if observable elements of a personality may be predictive of particular outcomes, such as I have mentioned, we may indeed have the means to mitigate those horrors all too often manifest in our society, or in societies in general. If such traits emerge in a linear manner, so much the better for intervention. Of course, by whom?

At any rate, I had not seen the Kohlberg stages of development in any of the sociology texts I have seen so far, and think it worth including in my curriculum, particularly in my social problems classes.

Finally you might give all this some thought during the current spate of hate-politics that has emerged from the Right Wing during the 2016 election season. With shades of the early 1930s in another country, the character and moral development of those vying for power does give one pause.

But of course, as Frank Zappa on the 60s album “Freak Out” reassuringly noted: “It can’t happen here/I’m telling you, my dear/That it can’t happen here.” So no worries.

Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation
(How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation
(What’s in it for me?)
(Paying for a benefit)

Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity
(Social norms)
(The good boy/girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
(Law and order morality)

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience)

*Refer to Wikipedia or to

On Chickens and Universities: mini lecture on the social construction of reality

[This piece is directed primarily to my students. Or any students, You can read it too though. Being a hoarder of files, I ran across a number of “mini lectures” I had written to supplement the classroom. Although buried deep in the bowels of my computer for about three years, they still seem useful, although in need of editing.]

Social Construction of Reality (credit to Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman)

Hold up a dollar bill—or a twenty if you have one. Look at it. What is it? Is it money? Is it really twenty dollars? Or is it merely a piece of paper and ink? But if so, why is it so cherished? Why is it that it can be traded for commodities or services without any difficulty? Does it, then, have value? Certainly it does. But where does this value come from? twenty-20-dollar-bill

We have constructed the twenty dollar bill and in so doing have imposed value upon it. By itself it is nearly worthless. (Paper. Ink. Pictures. Numbers.) We have created value on the twenty dollar bill, on money, by consensus. It has value because WE say it has value. There are, then, no objective criteria for paper money’s value. It is to be argued that it is a promissory note? A promise to pay. But how? With what? And why is it of little or no value outside of the United States?

The twenty dollar bill is a model for the rest of the socialial reality in which we find ourselves; hat have we constructed versus what exists objectively? Or can those things we have constructed have objective reality themselves? Berger and Luckman would argue, “Yes, they do.” Those elements of society that we create out of consensus, those institutions, become real to each of us and exist after we have left the scene. In fact, those before us have created our institutions, our reality if you will, and we have come on the scene to merely accept them. Thus they have a priori significance.

Our social world is a reality little different that that of the physical world, as it acts upon us even as we continue to reconstruct it. Consider words versus bulldozers. We can touch we can touch the buildings of, say, “a” university, but the concept “university” is a fabrication. Like the twenty dollar bill, it has a function in society because of consensus, and its value and its social reality was constructed by those before us. It is two things.

Empty the university of its students and faculty and administrators. Fill it with chicken coops. Retrain the staff on how to raise chickens. Forgot about the faculty and administrators now. We no longer have a university. Now, our children are born, and they begin to grow up. There are not universities. But there are many buildings filled with chicken coops. (You may call them chicken ranches or anything else that you prefer.) The reality for your offspring may be different than yours in this sense, but they, and especially their children will not know this in their sense of “social reality.” Even if they read about it in their history books, it will not matter. Chicken coops are located in large sprawling brick and mortar buildings and that is just the way things are.

I use the example of universities to chicken coops for a reason. Our universities are indeed changing. While not into 02036_poultrychicken coops, into vocational schools. Trading liberal arts for political science, and science for technology, if we are not careful, we will live in a society in stasis; an unchanging technopolis run by “cheerful robots.” Then, as Malcolm X so famously said, it will be a case of the “chickens coming home to roost.”

For an extra boost on the concept, watch the film The Matrix (the first in the series). Focus on the scenes at the beginning where Morpheus describes the Matrix to Neo and how we “live in a dream world.”



You Now Know Everything – Or Should: A Word To The Student

There was, and perhaps still is, the axiom that “ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.” Whether it be a traffic law, or a trespassing law, copyright infringement, or the law of gravity.

Today it is the case that old-computer“ignorance is no excuse for anything.” Literally every bit of information you may need can be found on Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and on and on.

As well, not knowing the what and why of just about anything new to you is almost inexcusable. Old habits die hard, as well I know. It is often enough I find myself wondering about some odd phenomena that puzzles me, and has done so for perhaps decades. And yet, a simple Internet search will often find a reasonable answer, or at least lead to one, in seconds. Sometimes in milliseconds. Still, by habit I suppose, I ask my wife. That she is usually right is beside the point. As a note, however, while reading about brain surgery is a good thing, I do not suggest you actually try it merely from an article or two.

For the student, any student, this is both a curse and a blessing (a secular blessing, that is, if such is possible). Let me explain with an example. I had a student recently who, upon my explaining to the class that they should stop me if I use a word or phrase that they do not understand, told us that she (I’ll just use “she” here as it is so less awkward than she/he”) had had a very difficult time in another class because of the unfamiliar words used. Her obstacles were three-fold.First, English was her second language, second, she had little or none of the cultural capital (parent’s education and worldly background) which means that she didn’t know what she didn’t know. Thirdly, she had never though of her phone as an encyclopedia. She does now. And I still encourage students to ask for clarification in the class room. But…


Use it. I am, right now, writing on a laptop, with what I think is an important message. I am, in spite of my dubious status as a teacher, really not the greatest speller. As well, in my readings I do come upon a new or rarely used word that I do not understand, or perhaps the context in which it is being used. Note, that this has always been a problem to some degree, and understandably, much more so at the beginning of my education – long before the advent of the personal computer. However now, instead of going across the room to the dictionary, or interrupting whomever is in earshot, I highlight the word and choose “look up” or “define” and with extremely rare occurrence, have the definition in front of me instantly. Done deal.


Also, there may be a name or a place or a thing or a process that is new. Most often all you need to do is highlight the word, and depending on whether you are online or merely relying on a dictionary on your computer. If it is a date or a name or something a bit more complicated, then, when on the web, just start throwing search phrases into your favorite browser.

The point:

Don’t just sit there. If you don’t know the word or phrase or whatever, it is probably a few seconds away. I suspect you know this already, but here is the thing: As I opened with, there is no longer an excuse for not knowing pretty much everything.
The point of the point:

Being so informed, or capable of being informed, what about making those informed decisions on those issues that are really, really important to you. I am talking about voting. If you are not informed, you will likely either not vote which is essentially giving your not to someone else. This could easily result in leadership or policies that are counter to your interests – dangerously so.
Whatever it is that is befuddling you, whether it be spiritual, psychological, physiological, or intellectual in nature, the necessary information is probably only a few keystrokes away. Take a look at that phone in your pocket. Now use it.

As a point of irony, in my classes I encourage students to look things up even during my precious lectures. I even sometimes ask for someone in the class to look something up such as a date or a name. Sometimes I chide them for not taking advantage of cheating, so to speak – albeit this is a bit nuanced. Not everyone sees the utility of this. I actually got dinged on my evaluation once for poor class room management due to students looking at their cell phones. I eventually convinced my evaluators of the usefulness of the cell phone in the classroom, in spite of a rarely used thing called trust. (This was a college class mind you.)
As technologies keep emerging, so does the unpredictability of their application. A fellow named William F. Ogburn referred to this phenomena as “cultural lag.”

Stop lagging.