Saturday Morning Post #91: Prelude to an Obsession

In the original prologue to “24 Exposures,” find out how a photographer will wind up weaving himself through all of the stories even when we don’t know he’s there.

This is the first story from the collection that served as the prologue which I left out when I first posted here. However, it’s also the shortest piece in the book and would fit into one installment, so it made sense to run it now. That’s because starting next Friday will be my annual Holiday Countdown, featuring a different video on a different theme each day of the week from the day after Thanksgiving (which takes place on November 25 this year) through to New Year’s Day.

Yes, it may way of arranging a little vacation that time of year since I can curate it and let it run on its own — but can you blame me?

He learned an enormous lesson from an abandoned moldy bag of bread. He hadn’t been looking to learn anything when he’d picked it up. The best lessons were always like that.

It was that long, underused stretch of beach off Playa del Rey, bounded on the east by LAX’s runways, the north by embattled wetlands and the south by the main sewage plant for all of Los Angeles county, which was improbably called Hyperion, the mythological Titan who was father of the sun, the moon and the dawn.

Then again, his father was Uranus, making the name imminently appropriate.

And all that shit flowed out to the sea, the endless western boundary, the final roadblock to manifest destiny. It was an inspiration to everyone who lived here, but also the reason they were all a little mad, trapping them as it were in the edges of the west coast, pockets of innovation that could just not escape.

To go east was to go backwards, into the past, back to whence most of them had come. It was unthinkable, an admission of defeat. And that was the delusion of Los Angeles. So many dreams were promised here that no one could conceive of not succeeding.

But so few did, and those fifteen minutes dangled ever ahead, a golden carrot. To be here was to be a success in itself, and yet not. It was Valhalla’s waiting room, but it was also a perpetual Ragnarok, the destruction taking years.

Perhaps it was really Purgatory, a room to be endlessly circled but never left, with no point to it at all. But there had to be people in this city who expected… less. The ones who were content just living here, working some anonymous and uncreative job for someone else, cashing their checks, having their families. Were they the real gods, or just Loki’s footstools?

Is it “hell is what you make it” or “it’s hell until you make it?” He didn’t know, least of all right now, on a winter’s day as he wandered the empty beach, the sky clear but cold. His camera bag was slung over his shoulder, one hand hooked firmly around the strap, thing trapped under his arm. It was an old habit, one he’d developed when he was sixteen. There was that one, and the hand on the lens move when the camera was hanging unused around his neck, and…

Goddammit.

He shook his head, realizing that all of his odd photographic habits weren’t his at all. Every last one of them he’d learned from his father. Just like that right arm across, left elbow on right hand, left thumb on chin thinking pose he always did when feeling dubious about a sales pitch. But his father had never been a professional photographer — Air Force didn’t count — and he, the son, was. That was different.

He was a pro up until a few weeks ago. He’d been doing full-time work for a local weekly, doing really good work, and then his editor suddenly let him go. There were feigned excuses, all of them horseshit, and absolutely no warning, but he’d actually felt relived to be rid of the place. The editor, Brendan Montauk, was a first class hypocrite who adopted children like he was collecting postage stamps and invented paranoias and conspiracies to convince himself of his own importance. Sure, Brendan had run a feature article about his star photographer once. But, ultimately, it all meant nothing.

It was a bizarre place to be, really. He’d been that close to moving up to something bigger. He’d been that close a lot of times, experiences that had all come to nothing. His work had been on the cover of Time once, with a feature, about a group of Civil War re-enactors. That had gotten a lot of attention and some studio work, but it was only directing photography for in-house training films that no one would ever see. He burned through a string of small newspapers and limited circulation journals, then landed at Melrose magazine, went over to Seventh Street when that had folded, and wound up on the beach today.

The building to his left said “Deauville.” That must have been code, so the lifeguards could direct each other to trouble spots. But the word was just too weird, because Deauville was the name of the country club to which his father had belonged forever. Still belonged to, although the name had long since been changed to the too cutesy faux Scottish Braemar.

It was weirder, because the first restroom building he’d passed had said “Kilgore,” which he most associated with World War II, his father’s war. His father was hiding everywhere out here, and was probably waiting on the bottom of the sea, should he chose that westward exit to his current state of mind.

But he wouldn’t. He was too afraid of death, that lurking nothing on the other side. No, he’d go on, survive, continue the struggle somehow. He always did. Just like his father.

Then he saw the flock of birds. They were a mix of pigeons and seagulls, taking turns at dashing up to a plastic bag quickly and pecking at it, then jumping away. The whole thing seemed arbitrary and pointless. The birds looked confused and helpless.

He waded into the crowd and it fluttered away in a feather shockwave as he picked up the bag. It felt nearly full and, when he opened it, it was — almost an entire loaf of sandwich bread, a little bit moldy, but otherwise intact.

He shoved his hand into the bag and grabbed. The bread crumbled in his hand, but he got hold of a big piece, pulled it out and tossed it to the birds. Some of them got it and darted over. Others were slower to catch on, but soon they all did, and he was flinging bits of bread left and right, conducting the flock like an orchestra.

Then he looked up and had the nearest thing to a beatific vision that was possible for an atheist without a good dose of LSD in him. Above and in front of him, against a deep blue sky, half a dozen gulls were just hovering, tail feathers fanned down to grab the breeze and keep them in place. It was an amazing sight, and he was standing in the middle of it all, part of this flock of wild creatures, the center of their attention, their random benefactor.

He moved slowly to a low bench nearby and sat, continuing to dole out the bread as he reached into his bag and pulled out the camera, flipping the lens cap off with a thumb to let it dangle on its keeper as he turned the light meter on and brought it up to his eye. And there was nothing but sky. As if on cue, the birds had descended, and the moment was gone. In trying to save it, maybe he’d been the one to destroy it. But at least he’d seen it so, in that sense, it was preserved, for a while.

Input visual, output verbal. That’s how he’d scored once on some personality quiz in one of the magazines that had published his work. The first part, yes, definitely true. But the second? He was the least talkative person he knew, at least to the world outside. Oh, the running monologue in his head never stopped, sometimes not even when he was asleep, but he assumed that was the way it was for everyone. Wasn’t everyone pretty much the same?

He continued throwing bread, watching the birds, singling out a couple of the more solitary seagulls for special tosses of particularly large chunks. In his personal hierarchy of common birds that were cool, seagulls were number two, right after crows.

Ducks were next and pigeons were somewhere way down the list. But they were not last. Last place for worst bird of all time were geese. Combine the stupidity of a turkey with the attitude of a pit bull with jock itch, you get a goose. Fail to pay attention around a goose, you get a goose with a beak, or worse, and always hissed at.

He hadn’t made up his mind about owls. They were huge and looked really amazing the few times he’d seen them soaring from one apartment rooftop to another. But the one time an owl had soared at him, landing on a tree branch not three feet from where he was standing on his apartment balcony, it had startled the hell out of him. And owl faces were just so flat and pale, anyway.

His other list was dogs, horses, deer, goats and sheep, the last item only referring to the four-legged kind. He hated two-legged sheep, and yet knew so many of them.

As he was noticing with the birds now. The pigeons were walking right up and pecking at the crumbs at his feet, oblivious to his presence. The seagulls, however, were keeping their distance, always keeping one eye on him, hopping into the air when he made the slightest move. If he’d wanted to, he could have reached out and gotten a handful of pigeon, but he’d never get near the gulls.

The pigeon were sheep, deluded into complacency by a pile of crumbs, not knowing whether the creature dropping them was benign or a predator. It was pure stupid luck which ones survived and which ones didn’t, and yet there were so many of them. There wasn’t a place you could go in the entire county and not see a pigeon. But seagulls only showed up inland to presage a coming storm.

Finally, the bag was empty. He dumped out the rest of the crumbs, then wadded the plastic and stuffed it into the nearest garbage can. The gulls departed as he stood, but the pigeons were still scavenging and fighting over crumbs as he left. Scavenging and fighting over crumbs. He’d seen a lot of that, and had had enough of it. He wanted to be a gull, spread his wings and catch the ample breeze, hover over the heads and out of reach of the others.

Pigeons do not hover.

* * *

Los Angeles was an odd duck, cobbled together from thousands of little pieces, neighborhoods whose physical separation was negligible but whose psychological distances were enormous. A few miles north of him now, up the coast, was Santa Monica, beach resort turned liberal haven and shopping magnet. If you went directly north a few miles, you’d land in the West Valley, land of old, white conservatives. Another mile or two north of that was purely Spanish speaking, sandwiched between the rich conservatives in the south and the richer conservatives in the north. That whole area was really more of a province than a part of the greater city, and provincial was the perfect word for it.

The photographer had grown up out there and had fled it at the first opportunity, never to return. The closest he’d ever come back again was eleven miles east, in a cosmopolitan mixed Hispanic-Anglo neighborhood thriving with the sounds of Banda and rap, both of which were definitely frowned upon back in Woodland Hills.

That was a name that had become a misnomer over time. The one real hill in the area, the one that had hovered protectively over his high school, had long since been removed to make room for endless rows of anonymous and overpriced condos, locked behind security gates and guards, a bastion of the most scared of the scared, the people who had fled there to get away from anyone whose skin was darker than a glass of milk or whose native tongue was not English.

But that wasn’t the only pocksolation of the city. Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood all ran together in a line, and the three places couldn’t be more different. Liberal money and haughty attitude on the west; trendy bohemian, gay, Russian, ultra left in the middle; poor, young, struggling musicians and artists on the east.

A circle with no center is, by definition, not a circle, but when the center is everywhere, the edge is nowhere. There were physical edges to this city-state plopped between sea and mountains, there were psychological edges within it, but it was amorphous, indefinable.

Los Angeles County alone was bigger than, and richer than, a lot of countries. You could drive for miles to the north or east and still be in the county, although there’d be nothing around you but desert or mountains, until you came upon yet another sprawling city that was Los Angeles and yet wasn’t.

You could walk the streets for hours and not see another pedestrian, or pull onto the freeway and be surrounded by thousands of anonymous car-armored motorists. You could walk the beach on a winter weekday for miles and not see another person, and then suddenly come upon a group.

Which is what happened when he finally got back to the building named Kilgore. Of course this would be one of the hotspots. It was at the bottom of the steep walkway that granted admission down the sheer cliff from the road above. Path of least resistance and all that, as the crow flies.

Today, incidentally, gulls had moved up a notch, dropping crows to the number two position.

He paused by the building, pondering what to do next. There was a sign nearby that warned, “Law Enforcement Monitors This Area. Lewd Conduct Will Not Be Tolerated.” Jesus, he hated passive voice, that blameless tense that said nobody is responsible. Why not, “We will arrest you?” But, as with most scarecrows, a little looking around revealed no apparent enforcement behind the words — no video cameras, no obvious police cars, just this green and white shibboleth of authority, which was hanging in the wrong place anyway. It was on the back wall of an outdoor shower area, but that wall faced the cliff. Anybody wandering up to get rid of sand would never see it.

He wandered on, around the corner of the building. A couple of surfers were under those showers, one of them with his wetsuit unzipped and pulled down to expose half his ass. Was that considered lewd? Or just necessary if one didn’t want to drive home with sand up the crack?

No sirens blared, no cops arrived. Something about the ocean was — or should have been — light years away from the Puritanical fear inland. Nature’s greatest power was thudding onshore a few dozen yards away. The rules of civilization should not apply here, at least not the artificial ones.

He walked on, past the picnic tables and onto the sand, toward the water. Offshore, a few surfers maneuvered the waves. On land, people wandered in ones and twos and threes, looking for seashells or watching the surfers or staring off to sea. The roar of the ocean was constant but muted, a reminder of what really controlled the world.

And then he saw her, walking up from the sea like Venus, a girl, probably not more than twenty, with long, brown legs, narrow waist, large breasts, dressed in the smallest of fluorescent off-orange two pieces, which was wet. She might as well have been naked, although the entire effect was tasteful, not lewd. Despite the sheer material, she wasn’t sporting a cameltoe. Maybe a toenail, but it wouldn’t have frightened the horses.

And her head, from the neck up, was wrapped in a sort of hood, like a mutant turban, which hid her face, except for her eyes, which were kept behind dark glasses. It was a very Lana Turner effect, except that even Lana never had a body like that.

The girl went to her spot on the beach, picked up her towel to dry herself off. He watched her, contemplating asking if he could take her picture. But what fascinated him wasn’t everything that was showing. It was what wasn’t showing. Why the hidden face? He would have assumed she was a Muslim or something, except that the outfit probably violated almost every religious code. And when she re-placed her towel to lie down on it, she took off her top and set it aside. There were no tanlines on her breasts, nor was there any silicon in them, as proven by their actions when she lay on her back.

He took his camera out of the bag as he moved away toward a lifeguard station. Maybe he could get a shot with his telephoto, not even have to ask. After all, her face was concealed. There were no rights issues there. He had just sat down, camera in his lap, using the heads-up viewfinder so he wouldn’t have to hold the thing to his face, when the girl suddenly sat up, twiddling at the hood, trying to knock sand from it. Finding that to not work, she knelt, unwinding the contraption, finally pulling it off to shake the sand from it.

The photographer gasped. This girl, who was so perfect from the neck down, had been hideously disfigured from the neck up, an obvious burn victim with barely a face to speak of, mottled skin, slits for eyes and a misshapen bump for a nose. She’d obviously started some sort of reconstructive work on one ear and her hair was coming back in sporadically, but otherwise the face and the body did not belong together.

He pushed the shutter release on the camera and heard a single, lackadaisical “thuk.” That was the mirror swinging out of the way for the shutter to capture the image, but the shutter didn’t open and the film advance didn’t wind. Instead, the “Battery Out” light flashed in the viewfinder, slowly dimming, then going out.

“Shit,” he muttered to himself, reaching into his bag and then realizing he’d committed the cardinal photographer’s sin. He’d forgotten to bring the extra battery packs today. All of them were recharging on his kitchen counter. He had mis-estimated the juice left in this one, and now the shot was gone, the moment over and the girl was re-wrapping her head.

His father would have checked and double-checked that he’d had at least one extra battery. His father wouldn’t have forgotten something like that. The photographer felt so stupid as he shoved the camera back in the bag. His father wouldn’t have forgotten because his father had never done anything spur of the moment or spontaneously. Everything was planned, deliberated, thought out in advance. Carefully orchestrated for safety, and all so utterly fucking boring.

His father had been an architect before he’d retired, not a designer but an engineer. Someone else created the fanciful concrete dreams, but his father was the one who figured out how to make them stand up under their own weight. His work was never seen, and it was regulated by a thousand rules and requirements. Straight lines, physics, geometry. Limits.

The photographer couldn’t drive for more than ten miles without seeing a building his father had worked on. And yet, they were works that bore someone else’s signature.

A seagull, maybe one of them from before, veered toward him and he watched as its tail feathers flicked down, stopping it dead in mid-air over his head. He wanted to reach up and just pet it, but knew that any movement would send it on its way. He just watched, seeing this holy creature float above this profane world.

Thinking about that profaned face floating above that angelic body, and realizing his father would have looked away.

Limits.

That was the difference, that was how he was not like his father. The old man lived in a limited world, out among the frightened Republicans of the West Valley. He’d been out there for forty years. But the photographer had no limits, had tried almost everything at least twice, and had come close to capturing an image that would have made his father turn away in horror.

The seagull let out a single call, then flew away and now he knew what he was going to do, how he was going to create his own, signed work.

He stood and walked back to the car. Time to go home, load up the batteries and set off on a mission. There was beauty in the world, and there was ugliness. The two together became grotesque.

He was going to traverse this giant freak of a county called Los Angeles, and his lens was going to capture the most grotesque thing he could find and, at last, he would be someone else no more. He would find himself…

* * *

Free-for-all… Wednesday?

Since Friday will see the beginning of my annual Christmas Countdown of various music videos themed to various holidays, regular features will not be as regular until 2021. This is basically my way of being able to take a vacation while not leaving my loyal readers without content.

So, since during Thanksgiving week Wednesday is really Friday, here’s Friday’s regular feature, in which I answer random questions from a website. Enjoy!

When’s censorship warranted?

Whenever someone wants the DJ to play Nickleback.

Okay, serious answer: We first have to remember what censorship is and is not. If a private entity, like a business, a website, a blog, a chatroom, or any other entity not affiliated with the government wants to prohibit the saying of any particular words or phrases or the posting of any kinds of images or videos, they are completely within their rights.

This is not censorship, and it’s why I’m ambiguous on the concept of, say, a bakery not wanting to make a cake for a same-sex couple because it offends the owner’s religious beliefs.

Honestly, and I say this as a queer atheist, that’s their right — just as it’s the right of people who do not agree with that stance to not patronize the business. Likewise, if I owned a business, I’d be within my rights to ban any clothing or jewelry with religious imagery or symbolism but, again, I’d also be free to suffer the economic consequences.

Of course, my second example isn’t quite the same, because it would take aim at everyone. To be similar in idea to the bakery example, I’d have to limit it to one particular religion.

What is censorship? It’s this same thing, except when it’s done by any governmental entity at any level. The analogous example to the bakery in this case is a city clerk who refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses because it conflicts with her religious belief.

The baker is making a business decision. The government official is practicing censorship. The logic behind it is that the former is a private entity that has the right to choose those with whom they will or will not associate or do business.

On the other hand, since the government is financed by all for the benefit of all, it has no right to refuse service.

So the answer to the question, “When is censorship warranted?” is never. That’s because it’s up to us, the People, to keep an eye on things like hate speech, and incendiary language, and use the powers we have to shame and shun.

Does it work both ways, in terms of political leanings? Of course it does. And if you’re going to push in one direction against the beliefs and statements of the other side, you have to accept that they’re going to push back.

At the same time, the government has no right to shut either or any side up, with one exception, and that falls under the concept of clear and present danger. But you can look into that yourself. It will make for fascinating pre-holiday reading.

Where do you like going for walks?

As usual, for my contradictory self, I love walking in two places: in a dense urban setting with plenty of buildings and people around, and in nature — in particular beaches and forests.

I love the former because there’s always something new and interesting to discover, especially if you’re doing it in a city you thought you were very familiar with but in a neighborhood you’ve never walked through. I’ve had many an amazing photo safari on the streets of L.A. neighborhoods I’d only ever driven through before.

The flip side of that is a good walk in nature, and a large part of why I enjoy the beach and forests is that the sensory overload is just so relaxing. The seashore has a distinct smell of salt and sea-life, and the air always feels electrically fresh.

Meanwhile, the sound and rhythm of the waves, particularly as they crash on shore, is like the Earth’s heartbeat, reminding you that she is a living thing as well. Visually, there’s nothing better than the beach to remind you what you live on: a big ball of wet dirt, and from the edge of the beach to the horizon at sea, you’re seeing the transition from the minority to majority surface of the planet.

That is, there’s a lot more water than there is land, and if you watch very carefully and live close enough to ports, you can watch the ships come and go over that horizon and vanish around the curve of the Earth.

Forests are just as enchanting, though. Not only are you surrounded by the smells of the dirt and trees, and any flowers or other plants that might be around, but if you just listen, you can hear that the place is full of life that you don’t necessarily see, but you can certainly sense it.

You’ll hear birds and insects, as well as small animals skittering around in the bushes and underbrush. If you’re lucky, you may even encounter a deer and be quiet enough to get to watch for a while before they sense you and pronk off into the deep woods.

If you’re not lucky, you might encounter a bear or mountain lion, but that’s why you have to choose your forest strolls wisely.

What should they teach in high school but don’t?

Well, other than critical thinking and a combination of political science and physics, the big things missing in high school education is a course covering basic life skills.

These are things like managing your own household and finances, and preparing for that transition into that time when mommy and daddy won’t be doing it for you anymore.

Ideally, this should be when you turn 18, but some parents still can’t let go, and they’re a big problem.

Anyway, it could be a multi-year course called “Adulting 101.” Modules would include things like budgeting, covering how to balance your checkbook and why you should, why you should avoid getting credit cards as long as possible, alternatives to student loans, and whether an expensive college is really worth it anymore, depending on your career track.

Other things to cover would be the “Domestic Bliss” module. They used to teach this in high school and call it “Home Economics.” But, guess what? That was eons ago, and the classes were meant for only the girls.

Why? Well, home economics was all about cooking and cleaning and baking and making the home a castle for hubby. It was also all about figuring out how to make the household budget work based on the allowance he gave you out of the salary that he went off to earn.

It should have been called “How to be the perfect little housewife.”

But forget all that sexist hoo-hoo. The core stuff is genuinely necessary for everyone: How to cook, how to bake, how to clean, how to stretch the food budget the farthest and in the healthiest way, and to keep it practical and modern, “How to get along with your roommates” is definitely a part of this class. How to allocate chores, how to settle disputes, how to split bills and finances, and so on.

And then there are all those other bits, like laundry, auto maintenance, negotiating a lease/rental agreement and tenant’s rights, how to open a bank account, how to make a resume and do a job interview, how to negotiate a raise, and so on.

The problem is that, currently, the schools are too focused on teaching the kids how to pass standardized tests instead of actually teaching them, and that’s got to change.

But I think another disincentive to bringing back the basic “blue collar” vocational-style programs that schools used to have is the mistaken belief on the part of the schools that the parents are teaching this stuff to their kids.

And the parents probably either think the same thing about the schools, or just assume that their kids will figure it out.

Well, I didn’t learn any of these from either entity, at least not officially. I sort of learned cooking by watching my mom do it, but she never officially trained me.

Hell, I didn’t even learn typing in school, I had to learn that myself — but that’s probably the reason I can often hit 95 wpm by touch without errors. I didn’t learn the “right” way. I learned the right way for me.

What would happen to a society in which no one had to work, and everyone was provided enough food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare for free?

This seems like the inverse of the previous question. If we can’t train our kids how to Adult and take care of themselves, then why not provide everyone with all of the necessities?

A common answer, I’m guessing (and I’m not trying to strawman) is that if people were given that kind of freebie, then they’d all just become lazy and dependent and never do anything.

Fortunately, that’s not how human nature works. You’d get maybe 20% of the population that would decide, “Okay, this is great,” and just kick back and enjoy all the freebies.

But the key to it is this: We’d only get the necessities for free. Your food isn’t going to be steak and caviar. It won’t be crap, but it won’t be fancy. Likewise, depending on your family size, you might get anything from a studio apartment up to possibly a small single-family home of the type that was once called a “starter,” but nothing fancier.

Oh yeah — clothing falls under shelter, actually, but it would be a basic wardrobe — maybe enough tops, bottoms, socks, and undies for a two week cycle, one or two fancy outfits, and the minimal assortment of shoes — business, business casual, and sport/leisure.

But again, all of it off the rack and not fancy, although you should be able to choose your colors, designs, and sizes from a catalog.

Education could be handled through the tons of existing online free courses that libraries and universities already have, and educational advancements could actually serve as a credit system to up the “niceness” of the previous categories. “You’ve mastered Italian 1? Congratulations, your food and clothing allowances are now increased by 20%.”

Healthcare would cover all the keeping you healthy and not dead stuff, but none of the unnecessary procedures like rhinoplasty or breast implants or liposuction.

Note that entertainment, hobbies, and any other luxury items are not covered, and this is where the system creates incentive.

See, it doesn’t say “Nobody ever needs to work again.” It says, “No one who doesn’t want to has to work again.”

But if you want to, and there’s something you’d like to earn money for, then the jobs are out there for you to find. The best part is that you don’t have to work full-time because you’re not trying to pay for the basics.

Instead, it’s an ad hoc thing. For example, say you want to go to a concert and take your SO, and the tickets you want are $250 each. Not covered under the basic minimum programs. However, you’ve got an app and can pull some gigs, and you can plan exactly what you need to do and win to earn enough for the tickets and some incidental cash on top of that.

If you’re more ambitious, with all the time you have not working for mere survival, you can create — whether it’s art, music, ideas, businesses, whatever. And, again, you’ll still have enough consumers who will be able to afford your stuff because there are plenty of people for whom “just the basics” are never enough.

Finally, there are those who would not go back to work for money in any active way but, instead, would volunteer their time and talents because now they could — and that’s the 20% of people on the other end of the spectrum.

So, we have probably 20% never working at all and 20% volunteering, leaving the 60% in the middle. Out of that bunch, maybe 10% would start their own businesses or other creative ventures, and the remaining 50% would effectively be the workforce.

And there’s a lot of work, because you have either corporations or government who have to manufacture, allocate, and distribute all of the aforementioned freebies.

The obvious question is this: If no one is paying for those things, then where does the money come from? The honest answer is that we’d have to redefine money first — but given the scenario, we already have.

Remove the need to pay for the basics, and you’ve removed the need for money. Everyone is provided everything when we all share all the resources with each other. So the subsequent economy is one in which skill and knowledge are directly traded for needs and desires.

It becomes the ultimate barter economy. And yes, maybe we create a currency based on that — but instead of it being “This piece of paper is worth X amount because the government says it has credit enough to cover it,” we’d wind up with something like “This barcode (or blockchain) is valid in exchange for 250 standard labor units based on work done by the bearer,  [Name].”

The person or entity receiving that code has now acquired 250 standard labor units, which they can turn around and spend on what they please. And the economy is still flush with money. The only difference is that it is now truly capital produced by the workers — who are controlling the means of production — and not bullshit produced by bankers.

But don’t call it communism. That’s naïve. Call it what it really is: A future that will leave no one behind, but reward those who really do have ambition and talent. If you’re the kind to bitch about “lazy welfare queens” (a myth created by Ronald Reagan), then you should actually love this system.

Why? Because under this system, there’s no way that someone who doesn’t want to work at all is going to get those mythical big-screen TVs, or even be able to buy alcohol or weed or whatever. If they want it, they’ll have to become part of that 50%.

And wasn’t that the goal all along?

Happy Thanksgiving, all! Here’s to smooth sailing on into 2021.