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The Banana Peel Rule

Next to the Shinola rule, the next most important rule of human life that one can never afford to forget is the banana peel rule.  The banana peel is always there, right where you will know it is.  That’s right, we know  it’s there, in fact, if you don’t already know about the banana peel, then  I’m officially informing you of the existence and the location of the banana peel.

So, what the heck is the banana peel?  As is the case with most of the rules of human life, it’s a metaphor for something very important.  The banana peel is a catastrophic calamity that befalls a person, just before they win.  Or hit the home run.  Or finish the big project.  Or close the big deal.  Or finish the formula that will get you the Nobel Prize.  Or finally walking up to the girl that you can’t get out of your head and asking her out.  Anything at all that is considered to be a human triumph or victory or accomplishment; big or small, has a banana peel.

This is how it goes.  Among the plethora of qualities that abound in a human being, one of the most cantankerous is our incessant like of not using the tools that we have and that are wonderfully effective and powerful and useful in the course of living a human life.  In particular, I’m referring about what may be the #1 tool we have, and if it’s not #1, it’s definitely top three.  I’m referring to our ability to think; I’m not just talking about the human brain, mind you.  A human brain is there regardless of what you do with it but it won’t think unless we will it to, and we won’t will it to until we have no other choice or at the very least if he or she is super hot and irresistible.  As long as most people can find a shortcut, a cheat sheet, an advantage, a secret passage, an enchanted potion or even a magic pill that will allow for them to not have to think anything through, they will usually take it, regardless of the risk and only seeing the possibilities if they could actually get away with winning something, or solving a problem, or working to finish something without actually having to think or do anything, if possible.  Here’s the math:

Imagine yourself running a race.  A competitive foot race, let’s say a thousand meter race.  The race itself could represent anything; a job, an idea, a challenge, a problem, life.  The starter pistol goes off and you fly into the lead, running like no one has ever run.  You are a human gazelle and suddenly you have a one, two, three, five and finally a ten-man lead over the rest of the competition.  You are so far ahead that the crowd is in frenzy and your head swims with the thought of the adoration, adulation, fame and fortune that will be heaped upon your feet when you are named as the winner.   Suddenly, there it is.  You can see it; the finish line.  The long tape stretched across the track receives only one of the competitors in its warm embrace. It’s so close that you can smell it and you believe you can actually feel its proximity.  You risk a quick look back and the guy who will end up in second place is so far behind you that it is ridiculous.  You look at the finish line again and you could swear it was just a few inches away and then at that moment, is when we screw the pooch.  That emotion, because it is an emotion, that some call sloth, others call laziness, and a few others even call human nature; kicks in and sends a signal to your conscious rational cognitive thinking mechanism and tells you that you already won.  That’s it, nobody can catch you now.  You are the king, the winner, numero uno, the top man – and immediately after you believe it, a mere two feet from the finish tape, you stop trying.  You figure that the inertia alone will carry you across the finish line well before anyone else catches up and you BELIEVE that you are unstoppable and that certain victory is yours.  So you stop thinking and stop paying attention and stop running the race and you start to celebrate!  Right there, at that moment; 14 inches before hitting the tape and actually winning, that’s when you slip on the banana peel lying on the track – because you weren’t paying attention – and fall down and bust your ass.  You fall so hard that you can’t get up.  You may even have a fracture of the hip or the coccyx.  You agonize in pain but you can’t get up because your busted your ass when you feel.  You try to crawl and begin to sob, thinking you can drag your way across the finish line before anyone else gets near, but you are in too much pain.  A slip and bust-your-ass fall on a banana peel during a full-on sprint at the end of a 1000 meter race will bust your ass for real.  Suddenly, one, then two, then all of the other runners cross the finish line.  The guy that you were laughing at only minutes before because he was going to end up in second place (and everyone knows that nobody remembers who came in second at anything) WON, and the adoration, adulation, triumph and celebrity that were supposed to be yours are taken away just like that.

As you are being carried away in a stretcher to an ambulance, never having actually crossed the finish line at all, you scream, in a fit or pure anger at the sky and complain to whoever it is that you pray to.  You complain and say “It’s not fair!”   Not fair?  What is fair? As the saying goes; it’s not over ‘till it’s over or it’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings, the moral is the same.  There’s no excuse for taking your eye off the ball while it’s in play or for slacking off because you believe it’s a “sure thing”.  The moment that you do, I promise you; that banana peel will be there, waiting for you.  What a person starts, they must finish.  Mediocrity is not a human genetic trait.   So now you know and because you know, you do not have to slip on the banana peel. Life is a 24 hour a day, 7 day per week job.  Nobody gets time off from life, nobody gets a break.  The interesting thing is that we should never need to feel like we do.   None of us should ever forget about the banana peel, one day our very lives may depend on paying attention to what we’re doing, and if you don’t and then you slip and bust your ass; you know what’s next:   I told you so!

We can do better and remember; step OVER the banana peel when you see it.

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What do we really want?- redux

This was one of my very first posts.  It seems so long ago.  It’s also more relevant today than it was then.  It seems like the right time to re-read this math.

It is about time that we finally face this question, isn’t it?   Shit and fan have already collided and the only unknown at this point is whether or not the splatter which covers everything will leave even the tiniest space to squeeze through or to make camp in.   The few who try to speak about the issue are exactly that: too few and perhaps they have lost faith in the rest of us to do anything at all, even though they can clearly see what is happening and they are trying to do the right thing by following the natural, human instinct to DO something .

Our generation stands of the brink of the next, the biggest and very possibly the most important change in the human condition, ever.  This is the first time in our collective history where all of us know where all of us are and how to communicate with any one of us.  In spite of the bitter taste in our mouths which is the by-product of what we have done to ourselves, we are also waking up to something totally new and it is good and sweet.  We all carry with us this new sense of us – the real us: all 6.8 billion of us give or take, not the very old and tired version of “us” based on political boundaries.  If a sentence, an idea or even thinking includes an “us’ and a “them”, then that isn’t the real “us” because there is no “them”.  We are all we have and we have such an incredible opportunity to restructure what we do and what we think we know into something that works, if we really want to.  It is incomprehensible to look out upon our world and see almost everyone doing NOTHING about the only thing that really matters; the tiny speck of time that we are here, alive and human.  The machinery that runs the day-to-day life of humanity fell apart completely and yet we don’t even ponder the significance of the moment.  We simply watch everything that we think we know crumble around us and do what?  Wait to see what happens?  Hope that someone will figure out a way to fix the world that we created and which shatters our very humanity but which we refuse to let go of?  There are enormous pockets of people everywhere who are angry, or terrified, or depressed or just plain lost, and not a one of us can spark a conversation which contemplates something different?  Is it because what we are angry about is that “I never got my turn to enjoy money and success?” Is the thought that we might actually become inspired to do something new which would do away with money as we know it what terrifies us? Could it be that what we are depressed about is the harsh reality that nothing we’ve ever come up with to run our world has ever worked and even though we know better we can’t help but to covet money, because it’s all we know?  Finally, are we lost because we don’t know how to let go of our addiction to the concept of money and wealth and what it allows for us to do:  purchase other people’s envy and impose our will on those around us.  Is that it?  It this the best we got? Are we going to let everything that we are and have been and might possibly be, simply fade away into nothingness?  Have we become that weak and lazy and complacent and full of ourselves and so idiotic?  Have we become a world of pussies? If that’s what we want, that’s what we’ll get, unless we choose something different.

I think that we can do better and I REALLY WANT for us to have that chance. That’s a start.

So what do you really want?

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I promised, so here it is.

As to conspiracy theories, those unproven high-level conspiracies that include clandestine government plans, elaborate murder plots, the suppression of secret technology and even a grand master plot that will determine the fate of humanity by a secret ruling elite.  There are a lot of these alleged schemes that have consumed years of people’s lives following trails, piecing together events and looking for clues in the hope of finding proof of one.  Almost all conspiracy theories have two things in common:  1:  They are all related or linked to political, cultural or historical events, and 2: They part from a premise that someone or some group of people are in charge and in control of things.

The question IS:  Are any of them real?

The answer is:  No, they are not real, not even the ones that happen to appear like they might.  They are very human constructs, born from the same place as science and literature, but not real.

The math:

If one were to tackle the issue of conspiracy theories with any seriousness, it wouldn’t take very long to realize that the answer to this question is directly linked to one of the conditions always present in every conspiracy theory, namely the premise that there is a person or a group of people that maintain some secret method of centralized control over the infrastructure of the human world.  If one were to find whoever is “driving”, then whoever he/she or they are would also be the source of all of the real secret plots that no one was able to prove because they are simply that good.  The discovery of “who” is “in charge” would prove that conspiracy theories were true.

So, who is in charge?  That is another question entirely.  It is the title and the reason for calculation number 182114.  That math took me 10 years to do and I will never stop kicking myself for taking that long.  Who runs the world?  Who is in charge of making the top choices? Where does the buck stop?  My mistake in doing this math was that I took the questions literally and seriously.  I thought of candidates; The Rothschild-Rockefeller dynasty, the illuminati, a secret sect made up of the descendants of the Knights of Templar (the only group of people in history to ever control all of the wealth in the world, if only for a few weeks), any of the religions that might fit the bill and even the possibility of an unknown super-secret group of people, descendants of the first Kings & rulers.  It didn’t occur to me for a moment that all of these were simply other conspiracy theories. The answer had been staring all of us in the face all the time:  Nobody is in charge.  No one has the ultimate word.  Nobody is driving the Human Civilization bus.  We are today, what we have always been; scattered pockets of humans who run into each other in the course of a lifetime and see who can impose their will on the other.  Not one single leader of any “group” or country or empire has ever contemplated the world in the macro sense.  Nobody has ever considered “all of us”, it’s always been more important for people to believe that there’s us and there is them.  It’s a much more convenient control mechanism.

Conspiracy theories are not true because in the end, nobody is in charge.  There may be some people that think they are, but they are not.  They’re just the leader of one of the many “street gangs” of the world, protecting their turf and trying to look tough.

Finally, the conclusion is simply this:  Nobody controls the events in human history or this direction in which politics and society and people evolve.  If anyone were actually in charge, we would not be in the situation that we are in.  At the rate that our infrastructure is decaying, we don’t have very long before it all just falls apart and nobody benefits from it.  There are no winners when our story plays out, and everybody losing is not indicative of leadership, even bad leadership.

There are no conspiracy theories.  There’s just whatever we decide to believe and do.

We can do better.

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It’s all in the details…

Ever since there have been banks, one of their principal bookkeeping functions has always been  the daily reconciliation of every customer’s  account(s) and the posting of credits (on the right hand column) and debits (on the left hand column).  From the very first day that the first modern-day bank opened, the daily reconciliation has always been performed in the same exact way, probably because it simply made sense; nonetheless, every bank in every country has always posted the credits to every account first and then the debits.   There is no citable reference found up until now that establishes the order in which the functions of the daily reconciliation are performed, it has simply been that way always.  What this translates into visually can be described as follows:

Mr. H has a checking account at a bank.  On the morning of August 5, 2012 (for example) Mr. H had a balance of $50.00 to his favor in the checking account.  During the banking day of August 5, 2012, two transactions took place:  1) Mr. H deposited $2,000.00 in cash into the checking account.  2) A check, payable to City Gas Co. for $62.00 written by Mr. H and drawn on the bank was received for payment.  At the end of the banking day, when the accounts are reconciled, this is what has always happened:

  1. The $2,000.00 cash deposit is posted as a credit to the account, leaving a running balance of $2,050.00.
  2. The check for $62.00 is posted as a debit, leaving a running balance of $1,988.00.
  3. After posting all transactions, the account’s final ledger balance is updated to $1,988.00.  This is the balance that will be reflected for the account the next morning.

Simple, isn’t it?  After some pondering on the topic, I arrived at the opinion that credits were posted first as a courtesy to the customer, probably because courtesy still existed back then, but that is just my opinion.  If there is a law, a policy or regulation mandating this particular order of events, then it’s been very well hidden for whatever the reason, the point being that the posting of credits before debits is a matter of rote rather than a matter of statute.  It is also a pretty decent custom and a courtesy, which is probably why it’s never been an issue. Well, all that is about to change.

It appears that for some reason and at some unknown point in time, more than likely in the last 3-4 weeks, the banking system modified a custom.  Customs, require no authorizations, approvals or other mechanisms in order to be modified, they just are.  It can be accomplished by a simple inter-departmental memo or even by a verbal instruction; what’s the big deal?  It’s only a custom that’s being modified; it’s not like a major, official change or anything.   The custom that was modified is the very one exemplified in the opening paragraph; banks, at least two of them, are now posting debits before credits to the accounts held by their customers.   There was no announcement made, no newspaper articles or television reports, nothing on any of the news pages on the web; why should there be?  Legally, this was no different then moving the water cooler a little to the left in the lobby.

Let’s re-visit the banking day of August 5, 2012 and Mr. H’s checking account, only this time, the daily reconciliation will be run with the new modified custom.  It goes something like this:

  1. The reconciliation opens with a ledger balance of $50.00.
  2. An incoming check for $62.00 is posted as a debit, overdrawing the account.
  3. The check is returned to the bank that presented it for payment, with a notification that the account had insufficient funds or what is commonly referred to as ‘the check bounced’.  This leaves a running balance of $50.00
  4. The bank posts a $35.00 debit as a ‘returned item fee’ leaving a running balance of $15.00.
  5. The bank posts a $5.00 debit as a ‘misc. penalty’ based on the bank’s policy of charging a $5.00 penalty if any checking account’s balance drops below $20.00.  This leaves a running balance of $10.00.
  6. The $2,000.00 cash deposit made on that day is posted as a credit, leaving a running balance of $2,010.00.

-STOP- If anyone just thought: “Hey, he didn’t make out so bad; he ended up with more money than the other way.” Go back and do the math again, please.  Let’s continue because this doesn’t end here:

  1. The check that was returned had been deposited by City Gas Co in their general account.  It was sent to City Gas Co by Mr. H in payment of his monthly gas bill.  The Gas company’s bank will now charge the Gas Company a fee for a returned check that is anywhere between $10.00 and $50.00 depending on the bank.  The gas company is notified of the returned check and the fee.
  2. The Gas Company orders Mr. H’s gas service cut off and dispatches a crew to shut off his gas the next morning.
  3. The Gas Company puts the returned check fee that they were charged by their bank on Mr. H’s account.
  4. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $50.00 returned check fee.
  5. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $15.00 late fee for not having paid by the due date.
  6. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $50.00 disconnection fee and notifies Mr. H that it will cost him another $50.00 to re-connect his gas.
  7. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $15.00 ‘convenience fee’, because it can.
  8. The Gas Company will require Mr. H to put up a deposit of $500.00 as a guarantee of payment on account.
  9. Mr. H still owes the original $62.00 from his gas bill, and has no gas.  His house has all-gas appliances and heater, Mr. H lives in Gnome, Alaska.  It is mid-August, 2012 so Mr. H is lucky; today it was more than likely in the mid- to high ‘forties’.
  10. The Gas Company reports the incidents to the credit bureaus who in turn update Mr. H’s file and flag him.
  11. All of the banks that had issued Mr. H a credit card panic and close his account, regardless of the balance.
  12. One of the banks that had issued Mr. H a credit card not only closed his account in mid-cycle, when they wrote to him to inform him of their decision, they offered to accept settlement payment of $20.00 in lieu of the $80.00 balance on Mr. H’s credit card and the account would be considered settled.
  13. Mr. H’s three major credit card issuing banks, the two department stores that had issued him credit cards and the one gas station company that had issued him a credit card all turned over whatever balance (even $0.00) was left owing when they closed his accounts to their various collection agencies, even though Mr. H had never been late with a payment in his life.
  14. The collection agencies began a relentless telephone persecution of Mr. H; calling him at 7:00 a.m., yelling and screaming at him about being a lowlife and owing money.  They call his work, his father, his mother and pretty much everyone he knows, asking for him, or if anyone has seen him because he owes money.

It is very likely that this entire situation will continue, undisturbed and to a great degree, unnoticed.  It will take us, the general public, roughly two months to assimilate this new little detail, and by Christmastime, it will be simply another normal thing…normal.

Now, in the time when everyone knows that something has gone very wrong; half the world is desperately searching for a previously unidentified event in the recent past that can account for, be blamed for and ultimately be the foundation for the restoration of what was and the other half is bracing for something unspeakably horrible to happen, something that makes now feel like the warm up.  Nobody can predict the future, but there a very good probability that whatever caused the incomparably catastrophic collapse of human civilization’s infrastructure was neither a single event or one that hasn’t happened yet but instead a range of time where many little, tiny, insignificant changes in this mechanism or that system that were nothing more than details which benefitted only a few or even none at all at the expense of everyone, all achieved normalcy.

Personal Note:

Rarely do I personally interject in any math that I’m writing; this is one of those times.  Four days ago, someone that I’ve known for over ten years called me a “conspiracy theorist”, with a straight face – as if he were mentioning the color of the sky or anything else that might be considered ‘obvious’.   A conspiracy theorist?  I laughed for about 15 minutes, hard.  No one, ever in my whole life has called me that.  None of you; my subscribers, readers of the catalogue of calculations an those who follow my work (there are six digits worth) have ever even alluded to anything like that in all of the e-mails that I’ve received, which will require a long life to read them all.  I am about the farthest thing in the world from a conspiracy theorist; I’m a scientist, we don’t understand conspiracies, only facts.  Then I realized how this person could have come to such an outlandish conclusion; they found themselves having to compare (and therefore judge) the world and me, and from that perspective, I can almost understand, but I don’t.  That conclusion is an excuse to not think, to not see clearly, to simply be one more of what we are turning ourselves into:  pussies.  I’ll leave you with this for the moment:  first, the promise that I will answer the riddle of the conspiracy theories in my next post and finally; the image below.

What you are looking at is not a joke or a story, it is an actual button that was worn by the tellers of a particular bank chain between February and April, 2012 and then by the tellers of another bank chain between May and July, 2012.  I’m sure it’s out there somewhere right now.   It’s just a little detail; a promotion that is popular this year, from a certain point of view, it can even be considered ‘cute’ . . . NOT.

A little detail

A little detail.

It’s all in the details.

We can do better.




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Any minute now…

A little boy gets down from his school bus on his way home. The boy saw his mother about halfway down the block and ran, as fast as he could, to where she was.  He jumped into her arms, trembling and with tears streaming down his cheeks.

The boy’s Mother hugged him close and tightly and spoke to him warmly and in the way that only a Mother can.  She said:

-“There, there, my little man.  What’s this all about?  What’s got you so upset?

The little boy lifted his head from his mother’s shoulder and between sobs, managed to ask her:

-“Mommy, today at school I heard some grown ups talking and they said that the world is coming to an end.  Is that true, Mommy?  Is this the end of the world?”

Without any hesitation, the boy’s Mother giggled and then kissed his forehead and said:

-“Come, come now, you silly willy!  The world is fine, it’s not ending at all – it’s only  human civilization that’s collapsing all around us and a lot of people can’t tell the difference between one and the other, but don’t fret my little man, at least now you know and you don’t need to be afraid.”


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How I learned about Shinola

This is the way that the story was told to me, it is the way I remember it and the way it made sense, it still does.  I don’t know this actually happened or not, but it doesn’t matter, it puts the lesson into perspective. It will tell you the tale in the same exact way; after all it is one of the most important rules of all time.

The story of shit and Shinola.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the great depression that followed was undoubtedly one of the most horrifying and impacting things to happen to a people, ever. By 1933 it had reached its peak.  Most of the pictures that we are familiar with from the “Great Depression” were taken during this time; the soup kitchens, the lines of unemployed people seeking a meal, the apple vendors.  1933 was indeed a very bad year for many. Not everyone was affected, however.  “Most” of the rich from Wall Street is not the same as “all” of them.  There were a few who weathered the catastrophe and they may not have been as wealthy in 1933 as they were in 1928, but they were still “people of means”.

The story takes place during this time.  Among the hardest hit were shoe-shine boys.  No one thinks about this much, but shoe shine boys were as much a fixture on Wall Street as stockbrokers and bankers, after all, during the 1920’s, walking was still the method of transportation of choice and on Wall Street, this meant looking sharp; a tailored suit and shoes that were shined to a mirror gloss on a daily basis by the army of shoe shine boys lining Wall Street.

In 1929, to be exact, a new product was patented and put to market.  It was called Shinola.  It was a shoe polish with a wax base that gave birth to the “spit shine”.  Within a year of being introduced, even during and after the crash, it became the only shoe polish desired by anyone who could still pay for a shine.   By 1933, however, the army of shoe shine boys sat idly, their shine boxes, rags and brushes ready, but not one cent with which to buy Shinola.  They simply did not know what to do and so they took to assembling in the mornings near the Northwest end of Wall Street, where it meets Broadway.  They assembled quietly and just sat throughout the day; during the time that they would normally be shining shoes.  At the end of the business day, they would head back to wherever it was they called home, with nothing more than what they had in the morning.

By the same token, the few wealthy Wall Street gentlemen simply went without their beloved “shines”.  One day, during this time, one of the shoe shine boys decided to not walk up the street to where all of the others would be waiting with an ominous silence. On this day, this one particular shoe shine boy decided to walk the other way, and he walked.  He walked until he got to the Brooklyn Bridge and kept walking.  Back then, there were still cow pastures in Brooklyn, even though it is hard to imagine nowadays. The shoe shine boy walked until his feet hurt and then he sat down.  He put his shine box on the ground as sat on it like one would sit on a crate.  It was only then that he looked up and realized how far he had walked.  He looked in the direction from where he had come and could see the Manhattan Skyline.  He turned to look around and realized that he was in a vacant lot with some grass and a few cows.  The cows looked at the boy with a bored expression as they chewed.  Directly in front of where the boy had put his box on the ground, he saw a fresh, steaming and aromatic “cow patty”.  For a moment, he thought that if he had taken two more steps before stopping and sitting down, he would have stepped right into the pile of dung.  He sat and stared at the pile of shit; there was nothing better to do anyway and this way he did not have to share his misery with anyone, he could take the full brunt of how bleak life was.  So he sat, for an immeasurable and uncounted period of time, just looking at the pile of dung and then suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, he had a strange thought.  In some ways, the cow manure reminded him of the one thing he so needed and desired; the instrument with which he practiced his craft; Shinola.  He stared at it and stared at it and thought;
-“They’re almost the same color, and from here they could even have the same texture.”

That’s when it occurred to him.  He looked left and right so as to make sure no one was watching and reached out.  He grabbed a handful of the cow shit and swished it around in his hand, thinking.   He wasn’t sure exactly what he was thinking just yet, but he was thinking.  After a while, he just couldn’t take it anymore, he had to try and see what would happen so he scooped up some of shit in his Shinola tin, took his rag, dabbed it in the brownish goop and shined up the tip of left shoe (it was all that was left that could be shined).  He used his best moves and lo and behold, the poop gave a great shine, in fact it was so good that for just a moment, he could swear it was the shine that only Shinola could muster and for just a moment, he believed it.  That was all it took.  He filled up his tin and two empty cans he found in some trash and whatever else he could fill with cow dung.  Once he had all he could carry, he made his best effort to cover up the smell and ran back towards Manhattan, as fast as his feet could carry him.

The next day, the boy’s cries of
-“SHINE! GET YER SHOE-SHINE RIGHT HERE! ONLY FIVE CENTS!” greeted the rising sun, to the great surprise, and joy, of many.  Within seconds, the first man to get a shoe shine on Wall Street in almost 3 years, stepped up to the boy and said:

-“Well!  Just in time, too!  Looks like I’m first!”  The man boasted as he hoisted himself up onto one of the high stool-benches that were placed by the very patrons of the shoe shine boys, so that everyone walking by could see them and know that it was they whose shoes were being shined.

-“Coming right up, sir!”  The boy smiled back.  He took out his rag and his Shinola tin and got to work as if ne’er a day had passed since he last shined a pair of leather uppers.  The boy had let the cow dung dry out a bit during the night, and covered the tin quickly after dipping his rag so the smell wouldn’t give him away.  Once it was on the shoes, no one could tell the difference.  The boy was good; hunger is an excellent teacher.  In no time at all, the gentleman’s shoes where like two mirrors, gleaming in the morning sun.

-“There you go, sir.” the boy said, shyly and just for a moment, he almost hesitated, but he didn’t; he reached his hand right out, palm up where a shiny dime landed firmly, almost as if choreographed.  A dime!  A dime for a five cent shines!  None of the boys had EVER been given an entire nickel as a tip before!  The boy’s entire face lit up almost as much as his benefactor’s, who slowly got up from his perch, ruffled the boy’s hair and said: -“See you tomorrow, kid.” before continuing his walk; much slower now and making sure to greet everyone he passed.  Word spread quickly and by noon, the boy’s hands hurt.  He huddled backwards into a niche between buildings, and emptied out his pockets.  He had nearly three dollars!  THREE DOLLARS!  That would feed him, his parents and his two brothers for a week, and it wasn’t even high noon!  By the end of the day the boy added another two dollars to his daily total and it was only then that he realized that he has shined one hundred pairs of shoes and could expect the same every day!  He loved that cow manure!

One by one, the other boys approached him, simultaneously in awe and shock.  The boy looked at his friends coming towards him and reacted; covering up his tin and protecting it, like a prized treasure.  One boy asked:  “Where’d you get the Shinola?”  The boy hugged his box tighter and said “Leave me alone, all of you!  You’re not going to take it from me!”  He ran off like a bolt, straight home and fell right to sleep, exhausted.

The next morning, he gave his mother $4.50 of the $5.00 he had made.  People say that she cried tears of joy for a solid month. He kept fifty cents, thinking to buy a supply of Shinola and continue his journey towards his good fortune.  On the way to the general store, he thought; “Wait a minute!  Nobody knew the difference!  Why should I spend this money on real Shinola when the cow shit is free, after all, they do the same thing!”  He turned the other way and went to the Candy Store and had himself a Malted Milk with two scoops of ice cream for breakfast!  He had actually believed his own lie.

The boy shined another 100 pair of shoes that next day, and 100 more for each day after that for 5 days.  His grin was so wide it challenged the great breadth of Broadway itself.  Everyone was HIS regular customer and he was only shoe shine boy on Wall Street, all thanks to cow’s four stomachs and what they left behind.  He would run to the field in the late afternoons, filling up his tin with more of the precious brown goo that had made him so happy.  Yeah, it wasn’t really Shinola, it was better than Shinola!  He laughed to himself all the way back across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now, all of this took place in late July, did I mention that?  Oh, yes, it was the dead of summer – and a hot one.  Manhattan was hotter than anyone wanted to even guess at, and then some.  The few rich men who had been getting their daily shines from the boy paraded themselves back and forth on Wall Street; to their meetings, their lunches and dinners, their offices and their homes.  None of them were the wiser; no harm, no foul thought the boy.  The summer sun thought otherwise however, and after five days and five layers of cow shit on all of those shoes it began, to cook – actually to bake.  Baked cow shit on leather; I don’t know if I can even imagine what that would smell like.

On the fifth day after shining his first pair of shoes with the manure, the benefactor of that shine was having a luncheon meeting with another businessman together with their respective wives.  They were in the fanciest restaurant around, high noon on a Wednesday.  The place was packed with the few businessmen left in a country gone bankrupt.  At exactly 12:07 pm.  The caked on dung on that first man’s left shoe, where the first dab of cow shit was so carefully applied five days before, finished baking and cracked, a slim plume of heat escaped from the crack, rising higher from the ground.  In seconds the other shoe also cracked and a plume of shit-steam began to rise from it as well – and then another, and another!  In ten minutes, the restaurant smelled like an outhouse.  When it no longer became possible to ignore, it was that first man to have his shoes shined who spoke first.  He threw his napkin on the table in a fit of rage and gave his lunch companion the foulest stare he could muster and blurted:  ”Well, Sir!  I never…”  The sheer insolence of the accusation brought the other man to his feet immediately and he retorted “What say you, man?  Me? Look to your own loins for the source of the stench, non to mine!”  Almost immediately, the same scene played out at virtually every table, and the few rich men left in America, found themselves having a knock-down, dragged-out bar-type brawl in the fanciest eatery on the Lower East Side.

Back to the first man, the one who got the first shine and who started this brawl, he received a jarring left hook that floored him.  The man landed with a THUD, right at his opponent’s feet.  After recovering his wits, he realized he was no more than two inches from the man’s shoes and saw the cracks that had formed where earlier there was the shimmering mirror-like shine.  The man took in two enormous breaths of the stench before recognizing it and screamed; “Bull Shit! This man shined his shoes with bull shit!” and laughter roared from his belly.  It spread quickly too, calming heated tempers with the thought of a man resorting to bull shit to shine his own shoes!  That lasted for about thirty seconds before every other man realized they were in the same predicament.  The laughter suddenly came to a screeching halt and a dumbfounded silence hung in the air – no one knew what to say, they had all played the fool that day.  Once again, it was the first man who spoke:  “The shoe shine boy!  We all got our shoes shined from him; he’s the only one out there!  He’s made fools of all of us.”   The men stormed out of the restaurant and straight towards the boy’s spot on the side of the road.  When the boy saw the literal stampede of men coming at him, he didn’t have time to even react.  They were upon him at once and literally kicked the boy’s ass all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge where they warned him to never show his face on Wall Street again or they might just forget he was a boy.  He was never heard from again.   His first customer was ridiculed by all of his peers for being the first sucker to buy the cow shit shine and the ensuing lambasting ruined him and few others as well.  These were tender times, after all, there was a Great Depression going on – but not so great that an entire city couldn’t stop to laugh at one man who could not tell the difference between the cow shit that was used to shine his shoes and the Shinola that he thought adorned them.   Sure, you could hardly tell the difference in the shine.  In the end, they both shined your shoes, but one of them is SHIT.   No one is allowed to make that mistake, ever.  And so it was that it came to be that to know the difference between shit and Shinola is one of the more important things, literally or metaphorically, that we must all never forget.

That is how I head the tale, one warm day in December in 1973; I now give it to all of you.  Share it if you like, remember it or forget the story, but never forget the lesson.  Shit can imitate many things, but in the end, its shit and we know this from the onset.  Remembering this will save your life; more than once, without fail.

I always say that we can do better.  Maybe this is a start.   I love you all; all 7 billion of you.


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A metaphorical message (wink)

I just realized that I’m the only person that I know (and I know enough people to be able to do the math on this), who has not stopped paying their monthly housing payment since money and wealth died some six years ago.    In fact, once the math was done, it is astounding to see how people continue to live in the same house since it began even though they stopped making their monthly housing payment at the point when it hit them.  There’s no official count (nor would I expect there to be) but the math says is somewhere between “a lot” and “most”.

Given that the economic problem, specifically the fact that we are all broke (because there is no money left), has affected everyone equally, I still can’t help but to feel like I missed something, even though I know that I didn’t.  I think we all feel like that, in one way or another.

I wonder if any of them actually think they can bully their way out of this one, or even if they know that the wall behind which they have always hidden has been transparent for some time now.


We can do better.

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An observation as to death

“I fear not death, nor the fact that it will, one day, visit me; but I cannot bear even the thought of not living.”


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A different kind of math.

I do not now, nor have I ever subscribed to or validated the concept of ethnicity in any way, because the math says it is irrelevant to the human condition.  This is also why I have never written any math that takes ethnicity into account as a legitimate variable; as I have said before:  “There is no them, there’s only us.”

This is now how everyone else thinks, however.  The one only human construct more absurd and utterly evil than the word ethnicity is what was born from it: racism.  That’s all I have to say about that.  In spite of this, ethnicity looks like it might be a factor in the impending, inevitable and imminent change that we must all navigate to the human condition.  This does not change the fact that the word and its mutated offspring are unacceptable, it simply means that I wrote this single and solitary post from the perspective that we gave those words.  If it sounds contradictory to what you just read; it’s not; it’s just a different kind of math but it’s just as true and valid as all the math.  It is the same math that says that even though only about 40 people will undoubtedly understand what follows, (they will all definitely read this post) there’s a possibility than many others will understand it as well.  That would be a good thing, and it’s time for some good things.  Following is the only math I will ever include in the Catalogue of Calculations that is in any way based on ethnicity.  I won’t explain this math, I’ll let you figure it out; it may just be the only atom of value that exists when it comes to ethnicity.

The single biggest honor that as ever been bestowed on me in the whole of my life actually happened several times:  the same honor, bestowed by several different people at different times, who all genuinely treated me, and continue to treat me, as a black man. 

That says it all.



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…and while we’re on the subject of GOLD

Okay, let’s continue being serious for a moment about GOLD.  The gold phenomenon, as I like to call it, is very closely tied to the events that led to where we are today, which can accurately be described as a cluster fuck, but on a planetary scale.  If we take this disease that is killing the human race (because our idiocy has become a disease) and boil it down to the simplest possible explanation, it would be this:  When we developed trade and commerce and an economy, it was good – very good; we shouldn’t forget that the human race went from being little more than a handful of half-starved nomads always moving and looking for food to having excesses, luxuries, slaves, titles, position and properties in the span of a couple of thousand years.  After 250,000 years of looking for food and water all the time, this was the blink of an eye.  Civilization, as it were, was gourmet fare for the human ego, which ate it up with gusto; the way only we can:  by gorging on what felt good now without giving a second thought as to…well, as to anything.  We just kept heading in the direction of MORE!  Why should anyone think that we could run out of anything – the first 3,000-4,000 years after the Neolithic revolution was phat!  There was plenty for everyone, in fact we wouldn’t come up with the concept of poverty for some time; remember, you have to be free to be poor and you would be surprised at the percentage of the human race that were slaves and for how long.  We acted without thinking, planning or considering the consequences.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  It was the same 12,000 years ago.  We may have airplanes and computers but we have not curtailed our insatiable appetite for irresponsibility by even a little.  You can count on a human being to fuck something up, and that we did, especially when we picked a metal: gold, to be the raw material for this new thing we called MONEY.  Money was such an incredibly addictive and irresistible goodie that it simply froze our minds.  No one and I mean no one thought about or worried about what we would do when we ran out of gold.  Maybe there was some ignorance involved, but anyone who has ever been in charge of anything since we’ve had money had to have known that people multiplied, quickly, but not gold, in fact every year, it became just a tiny bit more difficult to find new gold.  We didn’t need to pinpoint a specific year, but just knowing that at some point in the future it just wouldn’t work anymore because there would be more people needing to use money than there was gold to be money was enough to act on.  It’s typical of us.  Right now, even at this stage of our descent into who-knows-what, if by some chance a huge asteroid made of pure gold were to pass within range of our rockets and we lassoed that planet-sized nugget of the stuff that dreams are made of, anchored it to the moon, took its measurements, and started to figure out exactly how much hold was on the asteroid, we would get to “more than what we need right now” and just stop counting.  Why bother?  We hit our nut!  We filled up the hole that we made!  We would, and we all know it.  We would have gold orgies and the filthy rich would become indescribably rich and be happy, and the poor and downtrodden would still be poor and downtrodden but happy because they would still have that shitty job that barely paid them enough to live on – the one that they lost at some point between 3 years ago and today.  We would continue to ignore half of all of us – the ones that there was never enough for in the first place and they would continue to starve to death because even though our own stupidity is killing us, we don’t want to change because change requires thinking and actual work and those things make our brains hurt – unless there’s money involved.

So we ignored the math and based our wealth on gold.  Fine, so how did the whole wealth thing work?  How was new money made?  Up until possibly the 1960’s (that’s a guess, but I think a good one) for there to be new money, there had to be new wealth. This requires a quick recap of the history of human wealth.   If you recall, the wealth  of the world and of nations had always been food, which may very well remain as the only real thing of value in human history, and then we came up with the concept of money to use as a medium of exchange because it was simply too cumbersome and tedious to trade in food directly.  We chose gold as the material from which we would make the money that would represent the wealth (food) and be much easier to carry and transact since it is a soft metal and easily formed into coins.  Then we got so used to dealing and transacting gold, that we forgot it only represented wealth and, just as Aristotle warned, we confused it with wealth – but no one said anything, we just took it as a given that gold was the wealth of the world and when food came up in conversation, it would quickly be referred to as a commodity, usually in the futures market – yes, futures, as in; not yesterday or today, but the future, you know that thing that we can not predict but for some strange reason can buy and sell.  This continued and evolved until trade and commerce became so widespread (because we love to fuck and reproduce like rabbits) that a sub-category of money had to be created: currency (including paper money).  The first bank notes appeared sometime in the 16th century of thereabouts, in Scandinavia (That’s an interesting story, remind me to write about it sometime.) and it caught on quickly.  By the 19th century, paper money was in common used and was valued at par with gold because they were redeemable for gold at just about any bank.  During all this time, gold was wealth.  Paper notes were portable representations of gold and therefore notes were only printed based on how much gold there was.  At some point we realized that the amount of gold was finite; that’s when wealth became a privilege and we began to acquire it by using war or theft or fraud, you know good old fashioned proven techniques.  Then, all of a sudden, just like that:  there was no more new gold.  That was it.  All the money there was, was all the money there was, but the human progress train didn’t notice, it kept right on going.  Oh Shit!  What do we do now!  There’s no more gold to make more money!  If people find out, it will be a freaking disaster!  What to do?  What to do?   It didn’t take us very long, we figured:  what the heck, if we’ve screwed the pooch, then let’s screw it properly!  Nobody said anything, not a word, then, suddenly (and I mean suddenly) in August of 1972, the President of the United States of America went on the air (TV and radio) early in the morning, before the markets opened and rattled off a list of “executive decisions” which included:  “a 90 day freeze on prices and wages, an immediate 10% import surtax and the severing of the link between the dollar and gold (meaning that one could no longer want into a Federal Reserve bank with a $20 and walk out with however much gold that got them).  It got a little attention at the time, it’s getting A LOT of attention now.  That single act literally killed the concept that we know as money.  The price of gold was fixed in dollars and the US dollar is the reserve currency of the world (gold being the official currency).   Here’s the part that we MUST understand if we are to survive this.  The link between the dollar and gold was cut, not because of any of the reasons given (which don’t matter); it was cut because WE RAN OUT OF GOLD and someone at some point realized that there were more bank notes floating around that there was gold, not much, but just enough to blow the whole thing to kingdom come if anyone found out.  They didn’t have to do it, they chose to do it because the alternative was to do what we’re going to have to do shortly:  build a new economic infrastructure.  They figures, what the heck?  Nobody knew what was going on, it would take YEARS before the decision would begin to stink as it does today, so they cut the link between gold and the dollar and the wealth that was gold stopped at however much there still is.  That did not stop us from propagating our species however and developing technology and adding more people every year to that exclusive club made up of people addicted to excess and other people’s envy.  We continued forward and our economy GREW.  (Screeching record sound)  Wait a minute; didn’t I just say that we had run out of gold?  How could our economy grow if there was no new gold?  No new gold, no new money, remember?  But there was new money.  Crisp and freshly printed dollars were pouring out of the US mint and currencies all over the world continued to be incrementally printed and introduced into circulation.  But how could anyone get away with this?  It was easy, we printed money based on new gold that was BORROWED (it also didn’t exist, because there was no actual gold to borrow, that was just how they did the math).  This fictitious quantity of borrowed gold didn’t exist; therefore the convertibility of paper currency to gold HAD to be cut – because there wasn’t enough gold, get it?  This new “way” of printing money based on the assumption that if there were gold that could be borrowed, we would, but there isn’t, but we would if there were, so we’ll act as if we did and print money based on the value of this new DEBT.  And there is was, that’s how the DEBT was born.  We owe nobody approximately 52 trillion dollars worth of  “borrowed” gold, which never existed but was used to print currency that was spent as legal tender.  It was made possible because our banks created this money by issuing, buying and selling LOANS.  In some part of our non-functioning brains, it could be said that these loans were what created the “borrowed gold”.  At first, loans were made by banks with our deposits; yes, the loan that you had for your car or for anything, 25 to 30 years ago was actually other people’s money, deposited at the bank that gave us the loan.  They had permission to do this and, after all, we weren’t using the money, we deposited it, remember?  Very quickly however, the banks didn’t need our money, the money that they created by lending out our money and charging interest on it was re-deposited by the banks, and by the 1980’s, they didn’t need our deposits.  They were making new money left and right, lending out larger and larger portions of this gold that doesn’t exist to themselves and then transacting money on that DEBT.  Our governments told us, “don’t worry about it, we’re good for it, trust us.” Maybe this is why it’s called fiat currency, because fiat means “authority” in the dictionary (sic), but authority is the basis for credibility and credibility is the foundation of trust. You see, the root morpheme fiat also forms part of two words that came from Latin and are used by romance languages:  confiar; which is Spanish for TRUST and fiar: which is also Spanish for TO EXTEND CREDIT TO, TO LEND.  Wow, is all of this a coincidence? I don’t think so.  Am I a conspiracy theorist?; hardly.  This is simply what we did.  When we ran out of gold and we borrowed the gold that we would need if the gold actually existed, but it didn’t, so the only way to get away with it was to treat the DEBT as real.  This would make the “borrowed gold” real, as it were.  And they did, and we bought it and theydid it more and we bent over and took it all.  

This “debt” that took Greece and Italy from our world (because they are no more) is not real, but it is killing us and it might just succeed.  Now if you’re thinking, if it’s not real, then it can’t kill us, then you get detention and here’s why.  It’s like WATER.

WATER?  Yes, water.  We need water in order to survive.  Without water, we die, quickly, of dehydration, this is a commonly known fact and the visual image that comes to mind is of a person in a hot and arid place like a desert, dropping dead from the thirst.  Scratch that image for a moment and replace it with this one:  You are in a life raft, floating in the ocean, lost and adrift.  You are the sole survivor of a shipwreck and you’ve been out at sea for two days now, in the raft, in the sun with no provisions left.  You start to get thirsty, very thirsty.  You become delirious and suddenly you realize Wait a minute!  I’m floating in an ocean of WATER!  You laugh and you drink and drink and drink and 8 to 10 hours later, your kidneys shut down and you die, of what is essentially DEHYDRATION, because it’s not really WATER, it’s SALT WATER.  Oh, they’re both wet, but the salt water is poison and will kill you.   The DEBT is our salt water.  We ran out of fresh water and just began drinking that salty debt water up in our delirium for more.  If you can imagine some math to convert salt water to debt and establish a parallel between the time it takes salt water to kill a person and the time it will take the debt to kill what’s left of the human race, you could say that we’re in the 6th hour of the last 8 hours of our life as we know it.  If we keep drinking the salt water for 2 more hours, we DIE, but if we stop drinking the fucking salt water we will have landed on a sandy beach with a beautiful fresh water spring nearby and we will LIVE.

I want to LIVE and I think that you do too.  Please, stop drinking the salt water, it’s NOT REAL WATER.  If we stop feeding this nightmare called the debt and stop believing that it’s real, then we can just throw away the civilization that we broke and BUILD ANOTHER ONE.  After all, whose planet is this, ours or the debts?

We can do better.


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