Band of Brothers

I was wondering why I was thinking about brothers yesterday and remembered that after class, Tuesday afternoon, a student ask if she could interview me for a paper she had to write for “Family Communications” on siblings, and since I had mentioned somehow in class that I had siblings, she thought I would do.  Also she wanted she said to interview someone that was “old.”  So ditto—I fit the bill.

So she interviewed me for about 20 minutes; she seemed to want to track siblings’ degree of closeness or non-closeness over a life span.  She wanted to know whether I and my three brothers had been close and when.  I said I really didn’t know.  I had no point of reference.  What’s close?  What isn’t?  Well, if something bad were to befall you, where would you turn?  First to my wife I said, then to my shrink to talk it over, and then to my brothers.  I know that if my little condo were to be hit by a meteorite and Job like I were to lose everything, one my brothers would take me in at least for a while and let me sleep on the floor or possibly even a bed, were one available.

We have kept in touch over the years, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Curiously, we are all computer literate and so have used email a good deal over the last 6 or 7 years.  Before email, we did not call each other much over the phone, because I think we all have a phone aversion.  We have not loaned each other money over the years.  That’s a good thing, I think, but then we haven’t asked each other for money because we haven’t had to.

Talking to the student, I realized suddenly that we are all non-religious.  None of us belong to a church or attend regularly.   I don’t know where that comes from, exactly.  But as a group we are not into institutionalized religion.  I don’t know if they are atheists, as I am. I think Brother Dan may be.  Brother Dave possibly.  Brother Steve though must have a spiritual side because at one time, as I recollect, his career choices were minister and captain in the merchant marines.  But I don’t believe he has been to a church in years.  In times of stress, I know for a fact, he does not read the Bible but Stoic philosophers.  So maybe he is a Pagan.

I don’t know if my brothers vote or not.  I expect possibly they do.  And we are all relatively of the same political persuasion.  Mostly we hate and distrust all politicians and think the current administration stinks to high heaven.

There was the mini-series on HBO called Band of Brothers about guys fighting together WWII.  These guys would praise each other to the high heavens, especially if they were praising somebody who died in the war.  But once they got home, it was clear they had little or nothing in common, though over time they did start to attend reunions.  What they had holding them together were common memories of horrible experience.  I think that may be what holds my brothers and me together: common memories of a miserable experience.  Growing up in our parents’ house.

Pennies on the Dollar

I have been visiting Brother Dan for the last few weeks after my guitar lessons on Friday.  So first I go to Dan, the guitar teacher, and then I get on the freeway for a little bit and visit Brother Dan.  He went back to work .50% about two weeks ago.  It’s hard to tell how he is doing or what he is doing for that matter.  But then, since he got into the computer game, I have never been sure exactly what he was doing.  But whatever it was he was successful at it; he kept moving up and getting paid more and more.





Generally, he seems to have been hired as a communicator.  He had some technical knowledge, I guess, and he would translate that technical knowledge into even less technical language so the sales staff would understand it.  He would be like, sell this and sell that and tell them what it was exactly they were selling and what it was worth.  At his old job this meant selling stuff of the kind that Cisco Systems makes, like enterprise multi-protocol routers.  Whatever the hell that is.

But after the big dot com crash, people all over the country were stuck with mounds and mounds of technical stuff that they couldn’t use.  The company he worked for—which he called a computer junk yard—bought up this stuff, sometimes for pennies on the dollar, and still in the original packaging, and would sell it again sometimes to small municipalities that wanted up to date stuff and sometimes overseas.  I seem to remember something about a connection in Rumania.

So he would be on the phone and make an offer, pennies on the dollar, for a bunch of stuff sitting in an abandoned office somewhere in Indiana, and the guy on the other end would be practically crying, like you can’t mean that.  And my brother would say, because it was true, I am sorry but that’s what it’s worth.  Like “Take it or Leave it.”

Maybe because he was in charge of making million dollar purchases of this stuff and was about the only person who knew what the stuff was and why they were buying it (because Brother Dan knew what was valuable and could be resold), he was put in charge of the company warehouses.  One of the warehouses—the biggest one I think—was in Dallas, TX.  So he would have to fly there from time to time and walk around the warehouse.

And that warehouse was a mess.  Nobody knew where anything was.  Valuable stuff would be piled over in a corner  unprocessed, other stuff would be mislabeled.  This was a pisser because you can’t sell stuff if you don’t know you have it, where it is, or what it is.  So he would go down there and give them a pep talk or tell them to concentrate on this and that, though he seemed to know whatever he did was going to be a lost cause, since the real problem was the company wasn’t paying its warehouse guys nearly enough to make them pay attention to any sort of details.

He worked for that place for a goodly amount of time.  God, could it have been ten years?  And before that he was at another computer place.  And before that he drove a beer delivery truck for 12 years. He was good at that too and I could understand what he was doing.

Death’s Dream Kingdom

 I knew Walter A. Davis way back when.  He is now professor emeritus at Ohio State and continues in retirement to write books.  I wish I had his energy.  He published recently: Death’s Dream Kingdom: The American Psyche since 9-11.  I started poking about the book; I don’t read books anymore.  I poke about and came across the following passage while thinking about zombies:

Belief in the self is the American ideology. Next to surplus value the self is our most important product: the thing we constantly proclaim and reassure ourselves about in order to cover over the emptiness of that concept and the void it conceals. Nothing is shallower than the inwardness of the average American, a subjectivity composed of little but the incessant mimicking of "signs" of success and affects that through ceaseless happy talk confer no more than a phantom substantiality. Beneath that chatter the truth of its inner condition continues to work on the American psyche: the death of affect, the deepening of psychic numbing, and a collective flight from anything that causes the least anxiety.

A zombie is a zombie because his or her psyche or subjectivity has been hollowed out.  He has one thing on his mind; and he isn’t going to see a shrink about it.  Maybe that’s why they like to eat brains.  They are trying to make up symbolically for their lack of interiority.





            I can’t quite tell what the zombies in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead stand for.  Us, of course.  But us as what?  Since Romero had the nerve clear back in 1968 to make the protagonist of his movie a black man—a sane and decisive black man to boot; compared to which the whites in the movie are raving selfish lunatics—one thinks perhaps that the zombies represent the unthinking mob and its manifest prejudices and general idiocy.

             But in The Dawn of the Dead (1978, I think), Romero’s second and equally classic zombie flick, it’s pretty clear what the living dead stand for.  Consumers.  The living characters—to get clear for a while of the pressures of moving around in a completely zombified universe—hole up in a deserted mall.  It has everything they could possibly want, including mall music.  And one thing they don’t want.  Zombies… They are there milling about in the parking lot, pounding at the doors, drawn to the mall as if by an instinctual force.  So what if they can’t buy anything—they just want to be in that mall.

Consumer as zombie.  Were I in an arguing mood or had the strength for it, I would argue that nothing has contributed more to the disembodiment of subjectivity than the consumer society.  We carry our hearts on our sleeves now in the form of advertisement for Nike.  

_     _________________________________________________________________________________

Above, please find a mall zombie from Dawn of the Dead. 

Carotid Duplex

I suppose it was the reasonable thing to do.

After all I am 61 years old, and I have a very bad forty year old habit.  Smoking seems at least partially responsible for every ailment known to man.  And WB, my deceased father, had in his mid seventies his carotid arteries reamed out.  He was getting light headed or something, I forget.  But they checked him and found both of his carotids were pretty clogged up, and because he had a very good heart and low blood pressure, they experimented on him a bit with a then relatively new procedure that involved going into the arteries with a miniature rotor router that had some sort of vacuum attached to keep the particles that broke off from going direct to his brain.




And then of course my brother Dan has a stroke and they find one of his carotids is 100 percent clogged and the other is 50%.

I sort of hem and haw about it.  I mean what good will it do if I do find out something.  But finally I make an appointment with my primary care person and go in and tell her what’s happened and that I would like her to authorize a sonogram of both of my carotids.  She says, like no way, because everybody in the world has family with heart problems, and if they started giving sonograms to everybody that had family heart problems they would go bankrupt.

So I say how much would it cost if I paid for it, and she says thousands and then starts to talking about these places a person can go to have some sort of scan and you pay out of your own pocket to have diverse body parts scanned.  And I ask her where the nearest place might be to go to get scanned because, now that I am in the mood, I plan to go get one of those things done that very day if possible.

But she must have been thinking about something.  Because she like points to that bed thing they have in every one of those little rooms and says lie on your back and I do and she listens to my carotids having me breathe in and out and says, Wait a minute, and goes out with my whole stack of medical documents, and is gone 5 minutes and comes back, and says, You got it.

She says she spoke with the internist on duty and, when he heard my history, he says like, “This guy needs to have his arteries checked out.”

Well, OK.  I guess that is good.  But now I am good and scared.  I mean why that complete and sudden about face?  I have to wait till June 5 to go in and have what they call a “carotid duplex” sonogram which is a fancy way of saying, Do both of them.

I don’t want to go.  But I guess I will because it’s the reasonable thing to do.  I guess.

I am nearly putrid with anxiety.

Zombie, Part 2, Kill Everybody

In preparation for the zombie movie, I didn’t eat any lunch so I could get popcorn and a Pepsi.  They got me on the upgrade things.  I ordered a medium Pepsi; but for 5 cents more I could get the monster size so I did that.  I don’t know why but when I buy pop corn, I want to eat it during the movie.  So I just sat there while they plowed through a bunch of features of coming attractions before I would allow myself to touch the popcorn.  Which I did as soon as the movie started.





I must have drunk all that Pepsi.  Anyway, with about 20 minutes to go in the movie, I feel as if I have to pee real bad.  I sort of shift myself around in the seat thinking somehow that will help but of course it doesn’t.  So right when the climax is coming up, I just have to go pee, so I race out of the theatre and run in exactly the wrong direction.  When I bump into a wall I figure out to turn around and head back the other way, and relieve myself and get back just when the climax is over.

Which didn’t matter much, since I knew what it is going to be.  I could fill in the blank pretty easily; just one person whacking one of the zombies….

On my horror-meter, I would give this baby about a six on scale of one to ten, ten being best.  Good production values throughout—this has to be said about horror movies since many of them have awful production values.  Pretty tasteful gore, nothing outright sadistic.  Hitchcock jump cutting during the violence sequences added an effective note of chaos while blunting a bit gory details.

But overall it just wasn’t as good as the first one, 24 Days.  The plot line didn’t set up the characters in a way they might develop.  The reviewer for the LA Times said the movie was sort about the way government screws things up, a kind of post-Katrina commentary on bureaucratic indifference and generally bungling.  Actually, the government had a good plan for the particular situation; in case things get out of hand, kill everybody—which they did with guns, bombs, and poison gas.  I guess you could call this bureaucratic indifference.  But kill everybody is always a pretty good plan.

Oddly, the problem wasn’t with the plan, but with the way the people down on the ground screwed up the works.  The devil is in the details; and down at street level, details screw the plan.  For instance, the government has under lock and key a carrier of the disease; she is like a typhoid Jane and they have her locked away pretty good, except that one of the people who works for the government, who survived the first round of the virus, is the Husband of the Typhoid Jane.  So he manages to use this key he has to get in to visit his wife—whom he had previously abandoned when they had been under attack by the zombies—and of course all hell breaks lose.

So what’s screwed up here?  The government plan.  Or the idiotic things human beings do when motivated by such things as love or hate or guilt or anger—The movie has a bleak out ending—the kind I prefer actually, but not because the government screws up but because a sister loves and wants to save her brother….

So what’s the message: people are either bungling cold bureaucratic monsters or horribly bungling human beings?

Or Zombies.


As the above shows, Zombies usually have really bad skin and bad oral hygiene. 


I was so depressed this weekend, I went to a movie at the movie house.  I go to a movie in the movie house maybe once every year or so.  Mostly I go alone.  I don’t know when but I got used to going to movies alone.  Carol doesn’t like the movies I go to.





For example, this time I decided I would go see 28 Weeks, the sequel to 28 Days Later.  28 Days was a zombie movie, my favorite sub-genre within the big genre called “horror flicks.”  There’s nothing like a zombie really for making a deep social or allegorical statement of some kind.  Zombies usually look a good deal like human beings except they are dead.  So if you get zombies, not only to look like human beings, but act like them, then you get the implication, symbollically, that we the living people are like the zombies and are ourselves among the living dead.

And if you think about that too much you might start to thinking—as I sometimes do—that this statement is more accurate than not..  But it’s hard to identify with a zombie completely not because it is dead but because it is living.  That’s the horror of the zombie, not that it is dead, but it came back from the dead.

People are just not supposed to come back from the dead.  That’s all there is to it. 

Why the zombies come back isn’t always that clear.  Myth has it the zombies come back because hell is full and can’t take anymore customers.  But sometimes they come back because of some environmental pollution.  Radiation maybe.  In 28 Days they come back because scientists were screwing around with some monkeys and developed this virus that turns the monkeys into raging beasts that want to do only one thing: kill whatever is right in front of it. 

Damn those scientists!  And there never ending screwing around!

So to be technical about it the zombies in 28 Days are not zombies because they don’t come back from the dead.  Rather people get infected by the virus and then they run around killing each other in mad monkey like mahem.  Indeed, for some reason, while they seem pretty intelligent, the infected like monkeys don’t use tools to kill each other—just their hands and then their teeth.

Like your regular zombies, these monkey virus zombies have only one thing on their minds: to kill.  And your regular zombie has only one thing on his or her mind: Eat Brains.  So in this way the monkey virus zombies and your regular orthodox zombie are alike; they both have one thing and one thing only on their minds.  They live to eat or at least to chew.  In this way too, they are like human beings.


I messed up the “gold mining” in the video game stuff.  The big game seems to be “World of WarCraft or Wow”; about 6 million people play it.  It’s a strange game—people don’t compete against each other.  It’s one of those games with levels; this one has 60 levels.  That’s how you develop a character, by going up levels.





But while the game is not about competing,  some sort of ego thing seems involved in character development.  Developing your character requires spending a lot of time online, and people with jobs have a hard time putting in the time.  So they pay people in China for the points—or whatever they are called—these people get while playing.  The people in China work in video game sweat shops; they get two or three dollars a day to play the game 12 hours a day.  Sometimes they live in dorms located in the sweatshop.  These are mostly young people happy for the 2 or 3 dollars a day.

So if you are a rich guy or gal living in the west you contact one of these sweatshops and send them money via PayPal, and they get one of their workers to pass points to you online because somehow it is possible for one character to walk up to another and give them virtual money online.

The owners of “WoW” are upset about this not because of the exploitation involved but because “WoW” is supposed to be a fantasy game and this gold mining stuff lets reality in through the back door.

A subculture has sprung up around WoW, involving T-shirt sales, music and such.  And on U-Tube you can video made about the game.   There’s even sort of a U Tube video show called pureponage (or something like that).  You can find a pretty good episode called WoW is a Feeling, about a guy who goes nuts playing the game.  And South Park did a good parody of the game.

If however you are looking for something more familiar and evocative of the days of your youth, you might want to check out the bits on pieces of Un Chien Andelou.

Like this is all totally strange to me.  I sit there listening to the students give their oral reports and I have no idea what they are talking about.  One guy is writing on these games because his younger brother became “addicted” and wouldn’t do anything but play the game.

I wish Borges were still alive so he might write some sort of story about all this.

Car Wash

Carol’s mom gave us a car since she can’t drive anymore.  Carol’s still driving the green Honda, and now I drive the new car, a Toyota because Carol drives a lot more than I and the Honda gets better mileage than the Toyota.  It’s a 2000 Sadona.  It’s not new but the closet thing to as new car I have ever driven since it only had 12000 miles on it.  Because it’s new and the paint isn’t all wretched and there aren’t cigarette burns all over the interior I have decided I have to keep the thing looking new.  I don’t like the pressure really.  I joked that if anybody wanted a ride in my old Volvo they had to get shots first because there was no telling what was living in it.  But I felt really comfortable in it and there was absolutely no upkeep pressure involved.

So I have only had this car a few months but I have taken it to this car wash place three times already.  It’s just a half a mile or so away located behind what was once a non-franchise hamburger place.  You drive around it and there are these big stalls with a hose hanging down from the ceiling of each.  You have to make sure you have quarters because you need 10 of them to get the machine going.  The little dial where you put the quarters has all sorts of settings on it like wash, rinse, and light rinse, and soap, and mop, and even wax.  It’s pretty confusing, so usually I just wash with soap and rinse and that’s it.

I had thought about washing the car but then when I was driving back from working out, I drove right passed the place.  Then I remembered and turned a U in the middle of the block and went back and realized I had only 2 dollar bills and started cursing, but then I felt in my pocket and I had like 10 quarters.  I don’t know how that happened.  So I pulled the car into the stall, and started pushing quarters into the machine.  But the machine would not take the quarter.  I flicked the quarter with my finger but it wouldn’t go in. Damn.  I thought maybe that particular machine was broken or maybe full up with quarters.

So I pulled out of that stall and drove into the one next to it, and started putting quarters into that machine and it wouldn’t take the quarter either.  Damn!  Then I looked at the machine and realized I was trying to put the quarters in the wrong slot.  The right slot was at the top of the machine.  You put the quarter in that and gravity pulls it down, but I was trying to put quarters into the bottom slot made for bent quarters to come out.  Damn!  I like just sort of scratched my head and thought maybe I was too tired to be out and about.  How the hell did I get the top and bottom slot confused?

Maybe I am getting aphasia like my brother Dan.  He had a stroke though.  As far as I know I haven’t had one of those.  But my powers of identification are excessive.  I was returning from one of those damn conferences once and watched the Rain Man on the flight, and by the time we landed I was damn certain I was autistic.

It was more of an adventure than I wanted it to be but I managed to wash the damn car without further mishap.

2 Frets Down

So I brought some songs along with me to my guitar lesson, and my teacher, Dan, politely informed me that in one song I had used the capo on the guitar (down two frets) and failed to move down two frets when I tried to back the whole thing up with the bass.  Dan agreed that it didn’t sound all that bad; but that’s not the way it’s conventionally done.  I didn’t even think to do it.

Dan also tried to show me how to do a fill (or little bass run) when I move between two chords, say G to C, but I don’t think I really got it at all.  And we listened to a bit of Paul McCarthy on Dear Prudence where he doesn’t hit single notes on the bass behind a G chord say, but plays the G chord scales.  I don’t know how to play the scales.  I don’t think I will ever learn the scales because I refuse to practice.

 This music stuff is really complicated.  I finally figured out how to find a C note on the piano and I can count from there to the other notes if I need to.

I was tired and worn out anyway and came away from this particular lesson feeling particularly stupid and wondering if I have the time left in my life to master any of this stuff.  I still can’t make a decent F chord on the guitar and I have been playing the thing for four years now regularly.  Of course my goal is not to learn the guitar exactly, but to write songs. 

 The last six or so songs have been a bit different.  More solidly constructed.  Dan says everybody now puts up his or her songs on MySpace.  Dylan has a MySpace.  So maybe this summer I will make a project out of getting some of my songs up on a MySpace Space.

I am pushing this music stuff too hard maybe because my shrink seems to feel that if I don’t have something to do should I live to retire that, after retirement, I will so go crazy and shot myself.  Preparing to retire emotionally for retirement is like preparing for a nervous breakdown.

My shrink was in her early 20’s a concert level pianist in France.  She’s 80 something now and still practices 3 hours a day.  For some reason, a while ago, see took to playing Bach; but Bach as I understand it did not write for piano, since they didn’t have pianos in his day.  She was playing Bach transcribed for piano.  But she wants to play him on the organ which is the proper way to play him.  So she made contact with the down town Presbyterian Church where they have a real, huge old organ, with 4 claviers she said.  So she is going to get to play Bach on the organ.  So that’s how she deals with retirement. Though come to think of it, she hasn’t really retired or she would not still be seeing me.

I don’t know what a clavier is really; but I think it’s the name for a keyboard.

One of the guys in the Writing Program reviewed the talk Len and Joanne Podis and I gave at the last College Conference on Composition and Communication for Kiaros (an online thing on writing and the digital age).  He wrote a really sweet review that does get some of the flavor of our talk. It can be found at.

Dave’s Inn

I managed to find an envelope and a stamp.  Actually a pretty big effort required, and filled out a check for $80 and addressed a letter to Wilson Memorials on Greenville Highway 14 outside of Laurens SC.  The $80 is to get Joan’s departure date (April 10 2007) chiseled in after her entry date on the WB and Joan Tingle Stone in the graveyard of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church in Ora, South Carolina.daysinn


Now I had better get the envelope in the mail.  I would like the dates to be chiseled in when we hold our little graveside ceremony for Joan.  Not having a departure date there would not contribute to a sense of closure.

The day we have set for the occasion, June 16th, a Saturday, the day before father’s day, is still a month off.  But modern travel requires advanced arrangements, especially if one does not wish to get totally screwed with plane fare.  So emails have been flying hither and thither as the California Tingle Boys (more properly California Tingle Old Men) tried to make travel arrangements.

 It appears a veritable horde of Tingles—Brother Dave with sister-in-law Teresa; Nephew Brian, son of Brother Steve; Brother Steve; Brother Dan; along with me and Carol—will be descending around June 15 at the Days Inn in famous Clinton, SC.  I don’t think Clinton is famous; but as a kid in Ora, I remember hearing about a place called Clinton, and so it was sort of famous to me, though as I recollect we never went there even though it was maybe 15 minutes away by car. 

At first I was confused by references to this Day’s Inn.  I didn’t know what they were talking about when they mentioned Days Inn in their emails because I thought it was called Dave’s Inn since the last time we went back there, last June for WB’s burial, Brother Dave stayed in the Day’s Inn.  So while we were back there, I got to calling it, as a joke I guess, Dave’s Inn and I forgot that Dave’s Inn was really Day’s Inn.  I kept googling Dave’s Inn and getting this place in Maine. Once I got that straightened out, things cleared up a bit.

At one point, I got the idea, from a too cursory reading of an email I guess, that Brother Steve was going to take the bus back to SC.  That sounded insane to me. I was preparing an email to strongly discourage him from the land route when I saw another email detailing his attempts—failed at that moment as I recollect—to get a seat on American Airlines.

The Days Inn says it has high speed internet access along with all sorts of other amenities.  But at about 50 bucks a night, one has to wonder.  But I base my idea of motel prices on Santa Barbara, which is the 10th most popular travel or vacation spot in the World.  Ahead of Rome, if you can believe. 


That’s a picture of a bathroom in the Day’s Inn in Clinton, SC.  At least that’s what the web site says; it could be a picture of a bathroom in a Days Inn located anywhere.  I don’t see anything in the picture that indicates its a bathroom in Clinton SC.  It does have one of those little coffee makers.  I wonder where those little packages of coffee I took from the last placed we stayed are.