Archive for July, 2010

Maybe

July 31, 2010

Maybe

Maybe I will clean the house
Maybe I will make my bed
Maybe I will write a book
Maybe I will bake some bread

Maybe I will lie around
Maybe I will watch tv
Maybe I’ll go back to bed
Maybe I’ll just let things be

Maybe I will paint the house
Maybe I will do my chores
Maybe I’ll take out the trash
Maybe I will scrub the floor

Maybe I will eat some cake
Maybe I will smell some flowers
Maybe I will play some tunes
Maybe I will dream for hours

Time is all we have to spend
We never get it back
I’m ready for this poem to end
Because I’m late to take my nap

by Richard W. Bray

Adoles-Sense

July 29, 2010

Adoles-Sense

Dad said my room was messy
So what’s a girl to do?
It’s a pity, but I guess he
Thinks he can tell me what to do

You’ll forgive my not extolling
Someone who doesn’t have a clue
I’d say the man’s a tad controlling
And he has ego issues, too

Of course, my room’s a private matter
Just like my mother’s cigarettes
She should be thankful that her
Kids don’t follow those footsteps

Nobody’s perfect, is all I’m saying
Please respect my point of view
Or I will tune out all your braying
Nobody tells me what to do

by Richard W. Bray

I Hate

July 27, 2010

I Hate

I hate you cuz the sky is blue
Why can’t you make it green?
Everything you say and do
Is just to make me mean

I hate it when you wear those pants
It makes me feel so fat
Always thinking of yourself
I’ve had enough of that

I hate the way you buy new things
When I am out of money
Don’t you know what pain you bring?
I’ll bet you think it’s funny

I hate to see your smiling face
When you are feeling glad
It’s obvious that you don’t care
For people who are sad

I hate you when you laugh out loud
At folks who are not funny
We know that you are insincere
You just want their money

I hate it when you call your friends
You’re always on the phone
If I had phony friends like you
I’d rather be alone

I hate you morning, noon, and night
You think that you’re so cool
History will prove me right
You’re just a silly fool

by Richard W. Bray

So Many Fishes

July 22, 2010

So Many Fishes

Well I was drinkin’ whiskey outside my local bar
When a fine young Southern beauty pulled up in her car
I sidled right up to her just as suave as I could be
To offer her a chance to share my splendid company
I said, “Hello Little Darling, how exactly do you do?
I reckon that you realize that I’m the beau for you
So sit your fine young body on the hood of my car
And I’ll take the time to tell you just how cute you are.”

That beauty just looked up at me
Without a hint of sympathy
And opened up her lovely mouth
I couldn’t believe what done come out:

You don’t look that good
Your eyes ain’t blue
You dance like a mule
And you smell funny too
You pants are too short
Your hair’s too long
You don’t wash your car
And you never clean your bong
You ain’t been to school
To learn good grammar
Most of your kin
Is livin’ in the slammer
You ain’t got no job
You live with your mom
And I wouldn’t date
Any Harry, Dick, or Tom

Well one bad apple don’t deter a buck like me
Cuz there’s so many fishes in the deep blue sea
So I stepped inside the bar and had myself a seat
I was scoping out some honeys, the kind I love to meet
When I spied the type of vixen who couldn’t resist my charms
It was my duty as a gentleman to sweep her in my arms
I said, “Now hey there darling, where’ve you been all my life?
Your stunning gracious beauty, it cuts me like a knife.”

The buxom bombshell turned on me
Consumed with vile hostility
And in the course of one deep breath
Explained how much she’d love my death:

You don’t look that good
Your eyes ain’t blue
You dance like a mule
And you smell funny too
You pants are too short
Your hair’s too long
You don’t wash your car
And you never clean your bong
You ain’t been to school
To learn good grammar
Most of your kin
Is livin’ in the slammer
You ain’t got no job
You live with your mom
And I wouldn’t date
Any Harry, Dick, or Tom

by Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on Primates and Philosophers

July 20, 2010
Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal

Some Thoughts on Primates and Philosophers

Morality is a human concept devoid of cosmic origin.

All of our notions of morality are predicated on the fact that human beings are mortal social organisms living in a world of finite resources. If there were only one immortal and indestructible being living in a land of unlimited resources, and none of her actions or decisions could negatively impact herself or others, she would require no rules. But human beings are not the only animals which require social conventions in order to ensure social cohesion. Thus, the laws and cultures we have developed are a “direct outgrowth of the social instincts that we share with other animals” (6).

Human beings have developed elaborate rules and rituals in order to function as members of a group. This makes sense because “Evolution favors animals that assist each other if by doing so they achieve long-term benefits of greater value than the benefits derived from going it alone and competing with others” (13).

Despite the obvious fact that human beings are hardly the only social organisms, biologists have been extremely stingy about acknowledging the possibility that other species are capable of making conscious moral decisions. Scientists with the temerity to suggest that even the most mentally developed non-humans such as primates, dolphins and elephants might be more than simple automatons are often accused of lacking objectivity due to their alleged sin of anthropomorphizing their subjects.

Enter Frans de Waal, the eloquent and outspoken primatologist who argues that morality is not the sole domain of human beings. He makes a convincing case that the same factors which have allowed human beings to develop ethical thinking exist in the higher primates. De Waal argues that continuity is the norm between evolving species in all manner of development, physical, emotional and moral. Therefore, the burden of proof should rest with those who argue that human beings are radically different from even our closest cousins when it comes to behavior and decision-making: “If we normally do not propose different causes for the same behavior in, say, dogs and wolves, why should we do so for humans and chimpanzees?” he asks (62).

In Primates and Philosophers (some brief essays from de Waal along with commentary from Josiah Ober, Stephen Macedo, Robert Wright, Christine M. Korsgaard, Philip Kitcher and Peter Singer) de Waal blames the “behaviorists” (a group for whom he harbors unconcealed contempt) for the widespread antipathy to biologists who credit animals with anthropomorphic tendencies:

“The behaviorists’ opposition to anthropomorphism probably came about because no sane person would take seriously their claim that internal mental operations in OUR species are a figment of the imagination” (66).

Decades of close observation have convinced de Waal that certain higher primates possess all the prerequisites necessary to act upon ethical precepts. Despite being at odds with a substantial proportion of the scientific community, de Waal has an influential ally in his belief that humans possess “continuity with animals even in the moral domain”—Charles Darwin (14). Unlike many “Darwinists,” Darwin argued that:

Any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts, the parental and filial affections being here included, would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers had become as well developed, or nearly as well developed, as in man (14).

If, as the Apostle Paul wrote, There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, then humans are not the only beings capable of such devotion. Famed primatologist Dame Jane Goodall believes that, on occasion, chimpanzees will deliberately risk their lives to save a member of their species. Although they cannot swim, Goodall has often observed them making

“heroic efforts to save companions from drowning–and [they] were sometimes successful. One adult male lost his life as he tried to rescue a small infant whose incompetent mother had allowed it to fall in the water” (33).

De Waal notes that “it is hard to accept as coincidental that scientists who have watched these animals [he’s including dolphins and elephants along with the certain primates] for any length of time have numerous such stories” to tell (33).

De Waal believes that in addition to possessing altruism, some primates have developed a concept of fairness. In a groundbreaking study capuchin monkeys would eventually reject a treat when another capuchin within view was given a preferable reward for performing the identical task. (See Brosnan and de Waal, 44-49)

It is clear that human beings are not the only creatures on earth which demonstrate highly complex mental states (and perhaps even in some cases, a Theory of Mind, 69-73). For example, de Waal is convinced that chimpanzees in captivity like to have a good laugh by playing practical jokes on their human masters:

Often, when human visitors walk up to the chimpanzees at the Yerkes Field Station, an adult female named Georgia hurries to the spigot to collect a mouthful of water before they arrive. She then casually mingles with the rest of the colony behind the mesh fence of their outdoor compound, and not even the best observer will notice anything unusual about her. If necessary, Georgia will wait ten minutes with closed lips until the visitors come near. Then there will be shrieks, laughs, jumps, and sometimes falls, when she suddenly sprays them. (59)

It is difficult to disagree with de Waal’s conclusion regarding the question of whether or not anthropomorphizing certain animals is a “dangerous” tendency for biologists:

There is a symmetry between anthropomorphism and anthropodenial, and since each has its strengths and weaknesses, there is no simple answer. But from an evolutionary perspective, Georgia’s mischief is most parsimoniously explained in the same way we explain our own behavior–as the result of a complex, and familiar, inner life (67).

by Richard W. Bray

My Funny Farm

July 13, 2010

Monkey Driver

My Funny Farm

My monkey makes my mother mad
He also aggravates my dad
He took his car the other day
And drove it to the Hudson Bay

My kitty cat is kooky too
He likes to strut down to the zoo
And tell the tigers to all stand back
If they don’t want to get attacked

I have a hamster named Houdini
And though he is rather teeny
He’ll quickly pick a thousand locks
You could not hold him in Fort Knox

My kangaroo’s a real joker
Up all night playing poker
His friends come to destroy the house
I think I shoulda’ got a mouse

I got a hippo last July
He really is one swell guy
Everything he does is super
I got a giant pooper scooper

Living on this funny farm
I know my pets don’t mean no harm
But both my parents moved away
And no one wants to come and play

by Richard W. Bray

Myrtle Myers

July 11, 2010

bad seed

Myrtle Myers

Myrtle Myers bought some pliers
At the hardware store
She took them home and all alone
She broke down the door

The next day she found a way
To make the toilet flood
She took a wrench from daddy’s bench
And made a great big thud

Unperturbed, her mother purred
“Well, girls they will be girls
All this rage is just a stage
She has such darling curls”

Then Myrtle took an evil look
At her mother’s dress
It made her think and with some ink
She made a lovely mess

Yet with rage unassauged
She shaved her sister’s head
With kerosene and gasoline
She burned her brother’s bed

Undistressed, her father guessed
“It’s just a child at play
They’re just jealous, those who tell us
To have her put away”

Her parents planned a party grand
Just to celebrate
Her twelfth birthday, and by the way
Myrtle showed up late

No girls nor boys bearing toys
Decided to attend
Although assured the girl was cured
They feared their lives might end

As her family huddled, scared and befuddled
By her piercing stare
Myrtle growled and then she howled
“I publicly declare

“This can’t be true! What did you do
To make them stay away?
You’ll all be blue and live to rue
This catastrophic day!”

Myrtle made a bomb that day
Intending to destroy
Her own home town and miles around
And every girl and boy

But in her hurry, she forgot to scurry
Away from her invention
She’s gone away, I’m sad to say
Results of ill intention

Her parents pleaded all she needed
Was love and understanding
And though it’s true that we all do
Life is more demanding

It takes affection to give direction
And most kids do not mind
Those restrictions and prohibitions
Which seem to some unkind

by Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on American on Purpose

July 9, 2010

Craig Ferguson

Some Thoughts on American on Purpose

There are only about five million Scots, which is amazing when we stop to consider Scotland’s capacious record of supplying the world with brilliant and industrious citizens. This minuscule divisor makes Scotland, on a per capita basis, the second greatest contributor to what is often referred to as Western Civilization.* (I figured this all out with a slide rule. It was actually a statistical dead heat between Scotland and Greece, but Scotland won the tiebreaker–fashion. Kilts beat togas.)

But despite the fact that they have provided us with so many outstanding writers, thinkers, engineers, industrialists and explorers, the Scottish people are often portrayed as a bunch of brassy, belligerent, bibulous, bargain-hunters.

In his memoir American on Purpose, the immensely gifted actor, comedian, writer and late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson asserts that, Scrooge McDuck notwithstanding, the inhabitants of his native land “are very generous” (46). Otherwise, he does little to dispel the dominant stereotypes about Scottish people.

For Ferguson, the most dreary and oppressive institution in Scotland was the public school system where teachers were extremely liberal with the lash. Ferguson realized that he wanted out of the “redbrick gulag” on his first day (31). And strap-happy teachers weren’t the only threat. Ferguson soon discovered that “what was especially perilous to do at school was to stand out in any way” (22). School was a scalding hot cauldron of anger and resentment where “if you were noticed, you got hit” (67). (Ferguson recalls his brief teenage sojourn to America with this stunning observation: “And nobody wanted a fight. Not once.”) (40)

But this is not a bitter memoir, and Ferguson isn’t one to blame others for his problems. He is extremely honest and reflective about how his innate sense of seclusion contributed not only to his profound feelings of alienation at school but also provided a fertile ground for his burgeoning addictions:

it seems to me that this profound sense of isolation, resentment, misanthropy, and fear in a prepubescent child is an extraordinarily ominous portent. I should have put my name down for rehab then (23).

Ferguson first tried marijuana at a concert when he was just thirteen-years-old, and it was love at first puff:

From this moment on I would dedicate my life to rock and roll and take as many drugs as possible.
What could possibly go wrong?
(42)

Despite blacking out the first time he drank as a teenager, Ferguson was soon off and running on a binge that lasted for over a decade. His motto is, “Between safety and adventure, I choose adventure” (196). And Ferguson was a true daredevil in pursuit of a buzz, eventually adding cocaine (the “wonder drug”) and even heroin to his repertoire (114). But this adventure story eventually transmogrified in a horror show: “More shame brought on by behavior instigated by alcohol, which only fueled the need for more alcohol, and on and fucking on” (160). The vicious downward cycle eventually led Ferguson to contemplate suicide. In a fit of total desperation Ferguson contacted his friend Jimmy Mulville, a television producer and recovering alcoholic, and confessed, “I can’t drink and I can’t not drink. I’m too sick to live and too chickenshit to die” (174)

I’m a sucker for a story with a happy ending, and American on Purpose is full of them, particularly the birth of Ferguson’s son Milo, his successful endeavor to become American citizen and his third marriage to Megan Wallace Cunningham:

She makes me feel like I’m lucky, and I know because I have her that I am. I’m happy to be her husband, and I can absolutely positively categorically swear that this marriage is definitely-and-without-doubt-I’m-not-kidding-you-I-really-mean-it the last one for me (262)

Despite being hard on his homeland at times, Ferguson acknowledges that “Scotland made me what I am and America let me be it” (268).

American on Purpose is an enlightening and entertaining memoir.

* You’re not necessarily an anti-Semite if you have to ask which group has made the greatest per capita contribution to Western Civilization, but the answer is pretty freaking obvious.

by Richard W. Bray

Dirty Filthy People

July 3, 2010

Dirty Filthy People

The way that girl was dressed
I bet her mama would be pleased
Like I keep on telling you
This world is just diseased.

It gets my blood to boiling
Ever’ time I think
Of dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things
Slimy scummy devils
Who make the whole world stink
Dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things

Now just check out them yungins’
Out in public suckin’ face
Such putrid exhibitions
Are a national disgrace

It gets my blood to boiling
Ever’ time I think
Of dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things
Slimy scummy devils
Who make the whole world stink
Dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things

When I’m at home relaxin’
And I turn on my teevee
Every manner of perversion
Is the only thing I see

It gets my blood to boiling
Ever’ time I think
Of dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things
Slimy scummy devils
Who make the whole world stink
Dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things

I try to get away
But even when I close my eyes
I’m consumed with nasty thoughts of
All those other girls and guys

It gets my blood to boiling
Ever’ time I think
Of dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things
Slimy scummy devils
Who make the whole world stink
Dirty filthy people doing dirty filthy things

by Richard W. Bray