Exstasism

For many reasons, I need to run a repeat today.  I’ll tell you about it later.  Next week will be a good one, and this actually leads off some of what I have to say well.

Our current world, at least in developed societies, rarely has time for reflection.  Far too often we are expected to mechanically keep going through our daily slog.  The only antidote offered is selfishness, rebellion and retreat back into our own skin for a few moments of pleasure.

That system is obviously not bringing happiness to many people’s lives.  I would like to propose an alternative outlook on life which I will call “extasism”.
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A Holiday, Together

Happy Tax Day! If it doesn’t feel like a holiday, consider this – you are obliged to count up all your blessings from the previous year and spend time doing something you don’t entirely understand or enjoy all that much. If you’ve really procrastinated, like me, you may have to take off work. But if you haven’t filed yet, here is your last minute advice from Barataria: stop screwing around on the internet and file already!

This is an even more special day than your typical holiday because Tax Day means one thing to Americans everywhere – we all get to complain. Bitterly and constantly. Rather than whine about the amount of taxes, however, it seems more appropriate to take note of the incredibly complicated and expensive way we go about collecting the money that is necessary to run a government. It costs between $160 and $234 billion just to prepare the paperwork, or about as much as the feds collect in corporate taxes.

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The Race is On!

It became official on Sunday. The 2016 Presidential election cycle is fully underway now that there are candidates in both parties. We have 19 months of this to look forward to, so if you are underwhelmed now it might be best to find a cave to live in. As the sometimes hilarious satire site “The Borowitz Report” put it, “The two major political parties’ unconscionable waste of money officially commences this weekend, as Democrats and Republicans will soon begin spending an estimated five billion dollars of their corporate puppet masters’ assets in an unquenchable pursuit of power.”

Why care? If not for the spectacle, you might want to care for the simple reason that whoever becomes the next President may become an American icon through the blessing of really good timing as this depression winds down into a potential new golden era. It’s all about managing inevitability for Clinton, something that she appears to be doing a much better job of all around.

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Scenes from Childhood

My brother, Brad Hare, died this week from an apparent suicide. The news came like a ghost as my phone rang early in the morning as he had no contact with his family for the last 18 years. Depression clearly wracked his last years on this earth, but he made his passage slowly for reasons he never told us.

Though the grieving process started years ago, it is only fitting that I have some kind of wake. We are Celts, after all, a people who have raised suffering and depression to such an art form that we always find a way to celebrate it. This is an occasion to relate a few stories from our childhood together south of Miami in a world where craziness crackled through the air and condensed around us as reliably as a 3PM thunderstorm every languid summer day. It made us who we are, and in the end we are all nothing but stories like these.

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Cocktail French

Sorry to use another repeat this week, but our Robotics team 2491 No Mythic won the regional championship and is on its way to the World Championship in St Louis!  Needless to say, I’m bizzy.  Enjoy this rather valuable piece, IMHO.

Comprenez-vous? Since language is equal parts communication of ideas and status, conversational bits of French have long been a handy way to say, “I am educated.”  French was used as the court language of England from the Norman Conquest in 1066 until Henry V in 1413 (which, as the father of high English, has a lot to do with why Shakespeare gave him a good treatment).  An estimated 28% of English words are French in origin, but the words and phrases absorbed directly are the ones that set you apart.  They’re still used in the UK, at least in high-toned magazines like the Economist, but in the US it’s more likely to come off as obnoxious.

I call this “Gentlemen’s French”, or what you have to know to read old or educated books.  Naturally, fine ladies can use them for the same purpose. You may prefer to think of these words and phrases as “Cocktail French”, so pour something into stemware and grab a piece of cheese to get into the mood.

I have promised my kids a list of these for a while now so that, in my daughter’s term, they can sound “smarticle”.  Here is my list of French words I think every English speaker should know – for the fun, if not the hoity-toit.

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Eight Years On

Eight years ago, Barataria began as a humble blog like so many others. It grew out of a need, first and foremost, to get a few things out of my head that would otherwise rattle around and bump into the stories that paid the bills from my job as a professional writer. It has grown into a loyal community of readers who are hunger for new perspectives on this crazy world and respectfully offer their own.

A rapidly changing world needs a diet of more than high calorie headlines. It needs time for a slow meal, carefully prepared and savored through a lingering evening. In a visceral sense that’s what I mean by “I don’t break news, I fix it.” We are all in this together, taking time to chew and swallow before we open our mouths in a joyous moment among friends.

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Pragmatism

My team, 2491 No Mythic, is competing in the North Star FIRST Robotics tournament.  I have to resort to a repeat, but it’s a timely one that gets to the heart of this week’s posts.

You probably have a better idea about how to do something. But will it work? You’ll never know until you try. When you do give it a go, you may find that getting there requires a lot of compromises along the way before your dream is realized. Or, perhaps, you’ll simply give up – blaming your own inability to make it happen or blaming the world for being so darned unfair.

Both experiences are simply part of human nature meeting reality. We’re all idealists at heart, at least in a certain sense. Only a few people have the skills necessary to make those dreams a reality and much of the time they have to keep their eyes on the prize. A dream is one thing, but getting there requires wide-awake attention.

That is why an open, democratic political system can’t live by rigid ideology alone.

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