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Toke Up, Woke Up
Yes, it is true that we live in troubled, dangerous times. Chaos, mendacity, and willful ignorance are ascendant. Community has given way to individual aggrievement. The specter of oppression looms like a many-headed Hydra over our liberal democracy.

It is also true that we all know these things, so what is the sense in dwelling on them? We have to fight the darkness at every turn, yes, but if we become obsessed with this ugliness, then it will drag us down with it. We will need to be there, whole and ready, when the tsunami of stupid blows over and reason returns at last. So look on the bright side, I say. Light up that big Pollyanna doobie and take a nice, long hit. That’s it…now kick back…let go of the dread…cast your mind forward to a better time and a better world. It looks pretty good to me — in large part because of Donald J. Trump and his enablers.

Hear me out. Who is to say that reliable print media could have survived without the rise of fake news and strategic lying? Subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post have soared during this period because, all of a sudden, the value of truth has become so obvious. Newspapers were at the brink of death until the rising tide of bullshit made them indispensible. And that tide flows right out of the President’s mouth.

Similarly, the latest step forward in gender equality would not have happened so soon were it not for the harasser-in-chief. Millions of women were so outraged by his election that they came together in the #metoo movement and demanded that things must change. And they have changed — years before they might have. I’m not ready to thank His Repellency for that, but his rise to power has certainly clarified our thinking and galvanized us into action.

Activism itself, such a vital force within any free society, has been energized. People with strong opinions on every subject are stepping up to be heard, and violence does not seem to be a part of this trend. These movements — like the Parkland student uprising and the teacher strikes — are about righteousness, not partisan advantage. We need them. In fact, I predict that there is a healing coming for all of us. There’d better be, or none of us will survive on this shrinking, increasingly afflicted planet. Trumpsters, no matter how exasperated you may be with them, had to be brought inside the circle. They have been marginalized or ignored for too long, and we can’t afford to leave anybody behind. None of this could have happened so quickly if the last election had gone as expected. It’s the Trump Effect, and it came just in time.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s the doobie talking. And maybe you’re right, but we’ll never get anywhere by mainlining the opioid of despair. And so, I call your attention the bright side: our society was due for an upgrade anyway. If we keep our heads straight and seize the opportunity provided by this near-death experience, the Age of Aquarius is just around the corner.

Care for another toke?
Facebooks Balanced?
Zuck took our secrets
And he made out quite nicely
Then he spilt the beans
So do we get a slicely?
The Grille of my Dreams
For the first time in 35 years, I am in the market for a new car. A lot has changed in that time. Prices have gone way up, technology has introduced a higher level of quality, and everything is more complicated.

One factor, however, has remained constant. Although such concerns as mileage, reliability, safety, and cost are important items on any checklist, I think we can all agree that the number one consideration in choosing a new car is the look of its grille.

The grille, after all, is the face of your vehicle. It is the image you present to the world, and like it or not, it speaks to your character and your worthiness as a human being. You don’t have to believe me; just ask anyone who had the misfortune to own an Edsel. If you are too young to remember that sad late-50s Ford product, I will tell you that it was likened at the time to an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.

That is not the kind of look you want to be associated with you and your loved ones. The expression on the face of your car will be thought of as your expression, so there is good reason to choose carefully. Such judgments are, of course, matters of opinion, taste, and gut feeling. In this case, mine. But I have given the matter a lot of thought, and I hope that my modest assessments might help others who are in the market for a new automobile.

Although my observations deal only with passenger cars, I will note in passing that all trucks pretty much have the same expression on their faces. Nearly all of them feature rectangular grilles. The chrome “teeth” may be aligned horizontally or vertically, but the overall impression is one of effort and clenched determination. That grimace tells everyone that this vehicle is ready for anything. It’s not a friendly face, but friendly isn’t what you’re looking for in a truck.

Passenger cars are a different matter. There, you want friendly. Unless you are in the market for a muscle car (or something even more dangerous, like a Jag), you want your car to be a buddy. That is why most cars have grilles that appear to be smiling. Hondas are a good example. Though some models are a little goofy-looking, the entire line have expressions that are warm and supportive and very likable.

But there are smiles, and there are smiles. Mercedes and Caddies, for instance, have grins that seem less than sincere, even condescending. VWs smile, but I get the feeling that they are not genuinely happy. Priuses exhibit a prim countenance that can come off as smug. Other members of the Toyota family, by contrast, appear to be laughing heartily. Unfortunately, the poor things are sorely in need of an orthodontist.

I don’t have the space here to go through the entire market, but we should at least take time to examine the offerings from Detroit behemoths Ford and Chevrolet. Both sport the popular six-sided polygon configuration that closely approximates the human mouth itself. It is, no doubt, a pleasant look, but in my opinion the designers in both cases have gone too far. The subtle, suggestive curves of these grilles make them look too much like smiles. What’s more, they cross the line between friendly and sexually provocative. The Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu, for example, look positively randy. I don’t want to have an affair with my car, just a relationship based on mutual trust and caring.

If you are looking for a new car, I hope that you have found my research useful. For the record, I have made my choice: the Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid. The Clarity, like its stablemates at Honda, has a broad, sincere smile and a gentle aspect. And though Its grille resembles to some the gaping mandibles of a giant chrome insect, I am proud to call it my friend.
Gettin' Old
No, I am not going to talk about my aches and pains (although, to be honest, those stories are brimming with fast-paced adventure and compelling personal drama). Instead, I want to talk about cosmic aging.

Usually, when you hear someone utter the phrase “gettin’ old,” it is used in connection with an inability to remember, or a difficulty in getting up off the couch, or in coping with the latest technology. It is a reluctant admission that Father Time has finally caught up with the geezer in question. That is silly, of course. Father Time has been neck and neck with us from the beginning.

We all get stronger and bigger and smarter as we grow old, of course. It might even be said that we reach our peak in the late 20s or early 30s or (if you stay in shape) your 40s. But when it comes to gettin’ old, we’re doing that from day one. Some would put that day as the date of birth; others would point to the moment of conception. Both of those are certainly significant events on the timelines of our lives, but if we step back and take a wider view, aren’t they merely points along a much longer continuum?

Think of it. The particular sperm and egg that joined at our conception represent, between them, the totality of our being. There is only one way they could have joined, and the result could only have been us. Both of them were living things before that moment, so why can’t we add the spans of their individual existences to ours? The sperm might have come into being the very morning of conception, but the egg had been around (in the sense we are talking about) since our mothers’ conception. Using the same kind of analysis, our identity can be tracked back to her mother. And so on.

That’s what I mean by cosmic aging. We have been “alive” all the way back to the beginning of life on Earth. Which means we have all been gettin’ old for roughly 3.5 billion years. And if you believe, as some think, that our original amino acids were splashed here when an asteroid hit Mars, we are even older. In fact, once we get going on this line of thinking, we can reasonably trace our “births” back to the Big Bang itself — 13.8 billion years ago.

If you buy into the latest thinking among theoretical physicists, time will come to an end in just 5 billion years. At the heart of that projection, however, is the idea that our universe is constantly creating other universes through its black holes (adding more multiverses to an already infinite number of such entities), and that those cosmoses will have lives of their own that are billions of years long. Our universe, in turn, was created by an “earlier” universe where time has since stopped. That linkage extends both forward and backward without end.

My conclusion: we are immortal. We have always been around, and we always will be. Ergo, we are not gettin’ old. Never have, never will. That said, I can report that (from where I sit on the continuum) we’re not gettin’ any younger, either.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon