Monday, April 7, 2014

Comics, Satire and the Decline of Western Civilization

Before the days of single issue, one frame memes, there were comics! Comics, where the real questions
existence, the eternal struggle of the nature of duality and other awkward problems can be presented in a user friendly, safe (no one will judge you) format. You will be gently coaxed into understanding problems for which really smart* people have all the answers, so the rest of us need not trouble our pretty little heads. And how little trouble it is indeed for our pretty little heads. Thank goodness too, I am concerned with the preservation of my P.L.H.
Also don't forget Mad Magazine, and it's contribution to society-raising an entire generation who understands satire! In case you haven't noticed there are some folks who are painfully satire deficient. They can be recognized by their outraged responses to Onion and Borowitz report articles. Look out for them. If you meet one, immediately apply Mad Magazine to the face. You'll be doing us all a favor. It's not their fault that their parents were humorless comic-deniers. They deserve a shot at understanding humor, don't you think?
Another relevant tool that is available for anyone who is concerned about their lack of cultural knowledge, is the Classics Comics series. While these are lengthy, far more so than the 2-6 frame comic strip, the additional effort is worth your own personal development. If you can't get through the entire classic, fear not, there is a good chance that as long as the classic made it into movie or tv form, Mad Magazine will likely have parodied it at some point in time. Can't make it through Moby Dick? Mad offers Morbid Dick. You'll get the general gist of the story and you too can feel smart and cultured. Yay!

Some links:

Once you have completed this list, you may now safely refer to the Onion, Borowitz and other satirists secure in knowing that you will get the joke! Now get reading!

2014, Nanakoosa's Place/Adventures of a Flower Child

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Flower Child Legacy?

Sometimes I wonder if at some not yet revealed time,  a time with not yet established cultural rules and mores, if someone somewhere might encounter my journals, or my blogs posts or anything else I have written.
I wonder what they will think of it. What will they do with it? Will it arouse curiosity about the day to day life of a woman in the 20th and early 21st century? Will they toss it aside as useless clutter, or will they open a page, interact with a statement or paragraph and maybe they will slip it into a pocket of whatever futuristic gear they are wearing.
Beyond that the finder may forget about the book stashed n their pocket until while searching in frustration for a cigarette (or some other equivalent addiction) will grab the book, give it a puzzled or annoyed look before tossing it aside.
Or maybe they will scurry home and by the privacy of whatever light source illuminates the pages, she or he sits cross-legged on a bed, munching absentmindedly at a sandwich (or whatever manner of food source they eat in the future) and devouring my words.
"It's so retro" she'll say, bright eyes shining with persuasion and guile. Her listener will eventually, or quickly, relent and agree to read it as well.
Suddenly I'm an iconic voice from the past, an Anne Frank or Victor Frankl, only with much less severe tragedy.
How will my hardships, my 'tragedy', rate in their era? Will they be living in a militarily controlled world plagued by bloodthirsty gangs running wild in the streets? Will there be water shortages, power blackouts and curfews? Or will we finally learn to live together, to respect one another. If we cannot at least respect and accept each other will we have devised a way to maintain separate
living spaces, each with their own rules in effect so long as no one group encroaches upon or violates the safety and integrity of another group or tribe.
Either way, will anyone out there feel drawn in,  and connected to, the personal story of a  20th century woman who was always just a little different than all the other kids.
artwork courtesy of Elly Hazard

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Family Vacations in the Flower Child Era

In the 1960's gas was cheap, although you'd never know it by listening to my Dad. Camping supplies could be purchased from the local Army Navy surplus for next to nothing and campsite fees were a few bucks a night. Dad was a teacher at University and in those days he rarely taught summer school which meant the entire family, even the grownups, shared in that giddy unfettered dizzying state of freedom that engulfed us as we spilled forth from the metal and tempered glass doors of the public school we attended that year. We were, all of us, the entire family, free as fireflies once that final bell signaled the end of the day.

For a couple of years Dad tended to relocate between spring and fall semesters, timed to take place in midsummer, allowing at least a month between vacating the old place and settling into the next. It wasn't until many years later that much in the same way you catch a punch line long after the joke has been delivered, years later I figured this out. "Oh now I get it" slapping myself in the forehead, "this gave a rent free period of time right smack in the middle of summer". Very clever I observed with the knowing perspective and wisdom of the parent I had now become. This happens when you become a parent, the little tricks, slight of hand and trade secrets are revealed once you have acquired the Parental spidey sense to decode the clues. Because I was a precocious and, more importantly, nosy child, I picked up on part of the scheme even back then.

When my grade school Harriet the Spy mind made this astute and relevant observation I initially thought maybe it was because the old man couldn't afford to pay rent that month due to having the summer off work. I deduced that our gypsy vagabond lifestyle was really a thinly disguised episode of homelessness. It wasn't until stage 2 adult revelation that I realized that even with the low cost of trailer trash style travel we probably weren't actually saving any money. I think Dad ditched the apartment so we could afford to pull up stakes and indulge in our wanderlust, not the other way around.

Sometimes I used to envy the younger kids, the kids from his subsequent (and last) marriage. They were the ones who got him when he was settled. I envied that they had a stable address, went to the same school district for all 12 years. They had the benefit of music lessons, consistent friendships and financial security. When they traveled it was to big cities like New York or New Orleans or even overseas to England. And they frequently made the journey by plane or train, not crammed into the cookie crumb covered cracked vinyl back seat of a car whose summer trip was bound to be its swan song. On top of all that, they had an intact family, both parents, together in the same house. wow.

But the grass is always just a little greener when we are peering trough the fence When we look through the fence, you see, it is likely we are squinting one eye through a small knot hole This offers a pretty limited view. And you can be sure that who ever is peering back at us from their side of the knot hole, is probably seeing the same kind of out-of-context sunlit perfect little patch of oh so green grass.

On our side of the fence we'd load up the car with blankets, camping equipment, a box of dry goods, a cooler of perishable food, two sets of clothes for each kid (you brought what you could fit in a pillowcase), towels suntan lotion, fishing gear, yard get the drift. I have no idea how we managed to fit it all in and on whatever vehicle we were using at the time. I do know that towels often doubled as pillows or blankets and that antennas and wing mirrors can be used as hooks for drying wet swim suits. I also know that trail mix, dried fruit and certain brands of chocolate chip cookies can withstand atmospheric and temperature changes remaining edible for weeks. You no longer argue over what radio station to listen to once you hit mid Pennsylvania, because there is only one station (if you're lucky) and after enough hours in the car line even country western becomes tolerable. I know how to pee while squatting in any environment and quickly too. The license plate game and the alphabet game cycle through being fun, to being ok to intolerable and back to ok again, and semis were the best target for the licence game cause in those days truckers would be required to have plates from any state they regularly traveled through. Speaking of trucks, truck stops are one of the most delightful and decadent roadside attraction and they are worth staying awake for because if you are awake Dad will let you come in there with him when he goes in to pee. Dad would drive though the night to get us to our next destination. Night time was quiet. All us kids were sleeping, slouched against one another in a coppertoned sticky sweaty heap in the backseat, the highway traffic was light and no one would argue about the radio station. Once we arrived at the destination the first order of business was to set up the tent so Dad could climb inside and crash for a few hours. The second order of business was that whatever the second order of business was it needed to be done quietly enough to Not Wake Dad. Whatever happened beyond that was in the hands of my Stepmom, whose hands like a sculptor bringing life to a lump of clay, managed to create an outdoor homestead from the contents of the boxes, pillowcases and coolers. I like to think that we were helpful, but in retrospect the task of collecting firewood was clearly designed to make us wander off and disappear in the woods. "Don't bother looking close to camp, that stuff has all been used up by the people who were here have to go back a ways" And off into the woods the adventures began and carried on for the remainder of the summer like treasure hunt or a fairy tale that we crafted as we lived it, barefoot, happy and free.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Intuitive Activism

When I share information on social media it is because I am expressing opinions and/or facts regarding something about which I feel passionate. I try to avoid falling into the left-right paradigm and I attempt to educate myself about matters that concern us all as human beings who, like it or not, share this space we call Earth. We all know that research and the results that follow can be manipulated to support an argument for either side of an issue. As such I prefer to read and hear the actual stories and experiences of people who have been affected directly by policies and business practices that come to our attention. For example I oppose Monsanto's policies and actions not because some organization told me to, not because of a study or two that I read, but because I know that by upsetting the balance of our planet we set in action a chain reaction of events whose outcome we cannot control or predict. The Earth is an interconnected web of life forms all which are interdependent on one another, and that includes us. We have already done so much damage to our ecosystem that we cannot afford to condone policies that will continue to destroy the fabric of life.

"The notion that non-human life forms are of lesser importance is part of the Judeo-Christian Capitalist paradigm and therefore deserves to be challenged."

This is a statement that I presented to a group of people that likes to address problems in terms of economic theories, class structure and numerous 'isms'. I phrased my comment in this way in an attempt to relate to individuals in their own language so to speak. I felt it was necessary to do so because I have witnessed the dismissive attitude that erupts when we start talking about the environment or about concepts like human emotion and spiritual well being; you know those things that are not scientifically quantifiable. I did it not because I am ashamed of being labeled as an environmentalist, or even an idealist but because I truly wanted to engage people in a dialog about our relationship with Earth and her non-human inhabitants. Two days later I have not received any response, nothing. Did I really venture that far outside the comfort zone of concrete conceptualization?

Funny isn't it that we all who are so fed up with a system that places money and political power before human need would be so obsessed with economics and politics. I mean if our goal is to truly break free from the invented reality that is so well maintained by the corporate owned media then why aren't we looking elsewhere for answers? If you were trapped in a well would you look up at the light to devise a way to escape or would you sit on the floor counting pebbles?

Meanwhile, in other circles there is a growing focus on spiritual understanding and expansion of consciousness. 2012 has come and gone and the world didn't end but the time for a new reality is here. There is wisdom and hope to be found in many of these circles and as someone who always followed my inner voice I am comfortable with exploring myriad possibilities of human potential and consciousness. However I sometimes wonder if some of these people are aware of what's going on here in 3-D reality. I can appreciate the notion of not pouring one's energy into negativity, but I also am not okay with ignoring societies problems.

Fortunately I have finally encountered a few sources who know as I do that the spiritual and the political are, like everything, ultimately interconnected. The words spiritual and political feel too limiting here, perhaps I could put it this way; the quest for enlightenment and esoteric understanding and the quest for social justice are not separate journeys. In fact they are perhaps mutually inter-dependent. Naturally we all chose the path we travel in our quest and we are all free to choose a different path at any time. I know I have taken some detours but recently I'm finding that my detours always seem to lead me back home to my truth, to my most fundamental understanding of this life's lesson plan. In my version of the truth, because we all have our own versions you know, there is no separation between the intuitive and the scientific. I have tried to apply myself effectively in the world of social activism without the accessing the spiritual, or intuitive, because I felt awkward. I felt that the people I was relating to wouldn't understand that part of me and therefore would dismiss anything I had to offer because of it. They would throw out the baby with the bathwater. I now realize that, as my Mother used to say "If they are your true friends, they will accept your values even if they don't completely agree". I decided quite some time ago that I was no longer going to sacrifice my personal values and beliefs for the sake of maintaining some kind of false harmony in my personal relationships; why would my social and civic relationships demand even more of me than that? I need to be fully present in my entire being with all that is true and dear to me in order to contribute authentically and effectively in these groups. If that means I may speak out on behalf of the rights of butterflies and nature spirits along with the rights of the two legged beings that live among them, then that's how it will be. If people decide not to work with me because of that, then they are free to choose another path. I'll be on the one with the rainbows and butterflies.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How Tommy Tippy Blew My Mind

Hello Readers, I hope today finds you well. Due to my political burnout which I addressed in my last post I am going to spending more time recounting my Hippie Childhood Memoirs. I hope you enjoy them, and if not well. turn on , tune on and drop out....Peace.

How Tommy Tippee Blew My Mind

Most baby boomers will remember Tommy Tippee cups. They were a brand of training cup that were weighted on the bottom to avoid spillage, by tipping, and they came with a lid with a sippy spout. At age 2 or 3 I no longer needed a training cup but even as a child I was sentimental about favorite things and had a difficult time letting go. I continued to use my Tommy Tippee cup without the lid, for at least a year or two after becoming adept at drinking out of a regular cup (or as adept as I ever would be)

Tommy Tippee cups featured a picture of their name sake on the side of the cup. As long as you were right handed, as were all ‘normal’ children of the 1950’s and 60’s, the picture faced you as you lifted your cup to drink. The picture was of Tommy himself, a cute little bear, proficiently sipping with a self-satisfied smile on his face. Chin raised, eyes narrowed he seemed to beam proudly as if to say ‘good job with the big girl/boy cup!’ reinforcing our recovery from nipple dependency.
One day as I was sitting at the table drinking from my cup I stared at the smiling face of T.T. and realized that the cup he was holding was the same as mine. This meant his cup also had the same milk sipping Tommy Tippee picture. And in that picture was yet another picture and in that picture another and on and on…Tommy Tippees forever.
I called my Mom into the room to share my discovery.
 "Mom” I asked, “how many of them are there?”
"Well there’s one cup and one picture”
“But no there’s a picture in the picture and a picture in that picture and how many more?”
“Well it’s probably infinite” my Mom replied casually
“What’s infinite?”
“It means there’s no end, it goes on forever, you know like space”. She said this as if it was something I already understood and for a moment I was wondering if I’d missed something somewhere.
“What do you mean? The stars have to end somewhere?” For some reason I imagined a large wall somewhere in space.
My Mother, being a clever teacher, replied with another question, “But what would come after that?”
“I dunno, more space?” I was reaching here, hoping for the right answer, for as good a teacher as she was I was prepared to match her skills by being a good student. Secretly in my imagination I pictured something like the Wizard of Oz dwelling behind that great space curtain.
“Exactly! More space on and on forever”
I would have preferred the Wizard of Oz answer. I began to cry. “But it can’t just go on forever there’s got to be something else”
“We really don’t know Jenny, that’s all we know” I could see my Mother starting to become slightly impatient. She had been baking bread in the other room and now seconds later she was trying to explain an uncomprehendable concept to a child who was barely into the concrete operations phase of development.
I don’t remember where the conversation went after that, I seem to recall helping my mom bake bread which meant I got to pull off a small piece of dough, mold it into whatever shape I chose and bake it in the oven. Baking bread is a great grounding method when one’s mind begins to spiral into the realm of fear and panic.
Regardless of whether that was indeed the outcome or if I was simply told to finish eating lunch and do whatever it was I did in those days, I do know that in the following weeks and months I spent many a night lying awake in bed staring out my window at the stars overhead wondering how far infinity is. And why no one seemed to have a reasonable answer.

© 2013, Jennifer Hazard

Friday, January 11, 2013

Political Burnout

My most recent facebook status: 'watching the news makes my head want to explode'. My only New Years resolution is to balance the information I take in with images of things that make me happy. Kittens, wildlife, tiny houses, cartoons, faeries, things like that. Images that can transport my mind to a kinder happier place than the world that is shown on television, online and in the news. I feel like if I see one more dead child as the result of a drone attack or a school shooting, or hear one more story about a woman being brutally raped or think about the daily mass destruction of our environment, the planet that sustains our life, I will simply fall into a spiral of despair and give up entirely. I don't know what that would look like, what form of behavior it would take, to give up entirely but I don't think I want to find out either.

A lot of activists I've come to know over the past year or two have become rather withdrawn in recent months. Many of them describe feeling burnt out and I don't blame them. It's a tough and often thankless task. There are rarely immediate results and there are no medals or awards, no pay no fringe benefits. For every victory a new issue seems to come along and settle itself comfortably in the space left behind by the last problem. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and war is endless. And to make matters worse there is a huge segment of the population who has no clue as to what's going on and wonders why people like me bother to walk around chanting carrying signs and canvassing when there is no visible problem to their eyes. There is nothing like the despair one feels when you have spent an entire day in crummy weather walking the streets trying to raise some awareness only to come home turn on the tv and see the news briefly describe a 'handful of college students protesting' when you know damn well there were over 500 people representative of the full spectrum of the American demographic. That pit in your stomach grows even deeper when you realize the next news story is a good 5 minutes dedicated to a sausage recipe.

After as many decades as I have spent on this planet I am intimately familiar with the cycles of enthusiasm, despair and burnout and I have learned to recognize the signs of impending surrender. That is when it is time to let go of strict adherence to political correctness and symbolic sacrifice. There is no room for perfectionism in an imperfect world.

We don't have to have all the answers, we don't have to know intimate details of every horror that is being perpetrated around the world on any given day. Doing this only makes our task seem insurmountable and strips away any sense of power.

Some days you just need a break. You need to laugh. I would say these things are needed every day, in frequent doses. It does not mean you bury your head in the sand and turn your back on your values and ideals. Those will always be there when you are ready to face them. Adding a little fun, or humor or fantasy to life provides the strength and life force to be able to utilize your energy when and where it is needed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


December 21, 2012...doomsday? Or the Great Awakening? Or maybe just another day in the midst of an era of rapidly evolving spiritual and technological advancement.
After all my generation has already survived a few apocalyptic close calls. Heck we grew up in the Cold War, when every Friday felt like a close call as we practiced civil defense drills, hiding under our desks with hands over our heads in preparation for the big one.
I was 4 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated and for a four year old who sees the president as one of a Holy Trinity, along with Santa Claus and God, it certainly felt like a shadow of destruction was looming near.
When Ronald Reagan was elected president there were some of us who thought that signaled the beginning of nuclear war; he even joked about it saying 'we will begin bombing in five minutes'.
Then there was the Harmonic Convergence of 1987, which most New Agey folks felt would usher in an era of great Peace and enlightenment. Nice thought, but since then it seems we've been busy looking under rocks and bringing out all the creepy stuff in order to make way, perhaps, for a Great Awakening.
I really don't claim to know the answers although I am entertained my the numerous theories floating around out there, even if some of them border on the realm of 'disturbing'.
What I do know is this, our technology has evolved at a mind boggling pace over the last 100 years or so. I remember my sitting with my grandfather watching one of the several rocket launches of the 1960's (this was always a big event in those days, even in school we'd get to have the television wheeled into the classroom so we could all count down 10,9, 'we have lift off') My grandfather told me the story of the first car he remembered seeing. He was a child at the time, living in a small town in New York. The car was owned by a wealthy and eccentric woman who was eager to parade about the town square in her new toy. Apparently she hadn't bothered to learn how to drive..who would there be to teach her? So she circled around and around the town center, probably at about 5 mph. screaming that she didn't know how to make it stop. The townspeople were rather amused at her pride gone awry, but not entirely unsympathetic and ran chasing after her in order to try to figure out how to stop the car. Finally some men ran to the hardware store, bought some sturdy rope and created a barrier across the street in hopes of trapping the rogue vehicle. It slowed things down substantially until the car finally ran out of gas where it sat, the object of combined wonder and mistrust, until someone rigged up a team of horses to pull it away. Horses they understood, horses were reliable and cooperative, not so much with the 'horseless carriage'. I loved that story for so many reason, not the least of which being that the heroes of the day were horses, but on that particular day it took on a whole new level of meaning as I realized that in my Grandpas life he had seen humankind evolve from horses to moon landings. I realized how overwhelming it must have felt for him and how it probably enhanced the humor of the first car story in his mind.
Now in my own lifetime, I am seeing and using, devices that are not unlike what we saw as children on Star Trek (the original with William Shatner) and other futuristic sci-fi films. Not only am I using them I have become pretty well attached to them, although I hesitate to say I am dependent on them, that's a word I use selectively. Nevertheless they have become an integral part of my daily life, something I would only have dreamed of as a child.
Technology has opened doors that never existed 30 or 40 years ago. I can have an instant conversation with someone halfway around the world. I always call it time travel when I do this..because it is usually the next day for the person I'm chatting with. The Arab spring would not have been possible without the communication we have available at our fingertips. On the other hand neither would the sterile, frightening reality of drone warfare. Any development is only as ethical as those who make use of it.
I can only imagine, and there is some historical reference to support this, that the Renaissance and the appearance of the Gutenberg printing press, may have evoked some similar doomsday predictions. With any sweeping cultural change, especially that which opens doors of communication and new knowledge, there will be certain people who react in fear. Change can be scary, anything that shakes up our preconceived notions with new information, even if it promises a better life, also brings uncertainty. Sometimes it's easier to be comfortable in ignorance that disrupted by enlightenment.
So are we headed for doomsday or the golden age? Probably neither, but it does feel a bit like the human race is chasing the car around the town square trying to figure out how to slow it down until we figure out exactly how it all works.

© 2010-2012, Jennifer Hazard