Fragile Masculinity is a Disease

As a genuine, card-carrying man I’d like to offer my opinion on the study I’m linking to here. In 1967 I set out to discover what was happening up in San Francisco, specifically in the Haight-Ashbury district of the city. It was the end of the summer. I had a little money and a fair amount of wetness behind the ears.

I spent the next couple of years living on and (barely) off the streets. I slept in parks during the day, on lots of couches, and was at times able to rent a room, sparse as it may have been. I spent a lot of time dealing with strangers, some of whom were possibly dangerous. Although I had some experience fighting (it was hard to grow up as a Jewish boy without running into some anti-semitism) it wasn’t something I relished or had a great deal of experience at.

I had to learn to protect myself and I learned two valuable lessons very quickly. The first lesson was that the best way to win a fight was to never get into one in the first place. The second was somewhat of a corollary and speaks to the substance of this article. I learned that even the appearance of quiet confidence (no matter how twisted your gut was with fear or anxiety) went a long way toward making all but the craziest think twice before going after you physically.

I also learned, as a part of the second lesson, that the men who exhibited the most braggadocio, the ones who (figuratively) pounded their chests or banged their fists on the table, were almost without fail the most insecure and fearful of failure.

In my less than humble opinion, any man who looks up to Donald Trump as a strong man or role model is seriously lacking in self-confidence and self-assurance. Trump (aka #TFG) is demonstrably one of the most insecure and unmanly men I have had the displeasure of encountering in my over 75 years. No man, in my experience, who is secure in his masculinity has to brag about the size of his dick, as if that had anything to do with his worth as a human being.

Fragile masculinity is a disease and is far too widespread, and paternalism and patriarchy are poisons to a truly just and egalitarian society. More men need to speak up, IMO, and this includes defending our LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters.

/<soapbox>


I’m Not a Chef, But …

My very first job, that is the first one I got paid for, was at a McDonald’s in Arleta, CA. I was sixteen years old and had just gotten my driver’s license. My first day I did nothing but make milkshakes. My second day I bagged french fries. Then they discovered I knew how to work the cash register and to make change. From then on I worked the window, taking and fulfilling orders. I had nightmares involving endless lines of people who ate every meal there (at least lunch and dinner; McDonald’s didn’t serve breakfast in 1963) every day. These dreams were based, in part, on the fact there were several customers who did eat there every day. It was a frightening thought.

My second job was as a bus boy at Pancake Heaven, which no longer exists but was just around the corner from the McDonald’s I cut my working teeth on. I eventually became a fry cook there for a while and learned how to make breakfasts, for the most part. At least, that’s all I can barely remember. I also worked at Mike’s Pizza on Van Nuys Blvd. for a while. The only thing I remember about that job was sneaking out a bottle of Chianti in a trash can filled with the sawdust I was responsible for changing out every few days so the floors were reasonably clean.

The Summer before I graduated High School, which was actually the Summer after I should have graduated High School, I worked as a “bus boy” at Pacific Ocean Park (POP). My job was to walk around the pier on which the park was built and scoop trash into one of those self-opening dust pans and empty it into one of the larger trash bins that were placed all over the “park”. It actually had nothing to do with food or food service, other than that most of the trash was created by people who had purchased something to eat and were too damned lazy to deposit the trash in a receptacle themselves.

I didn’t work in or around food service again until 1973, when I tended bar at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, where I was raising money for my upcoming trip to Cuba with the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I had studied Hapkido with Ed Pearl, the owner of the club. It was a favorite target for anti-Castro Cubans and was burned down for the third and final time shortly after I worked there. I don’t think we had a liquor license; only a beer and wine license, so tending bar wasn’t quite as intellectually challenging as it would have been had I been required to remember dozens of mixed drinks, but it was a busy venue and I enjoyed my time there.

Shortly after returning from Cuba, in my first year of law school, I secured a position as a “wiener clerk” at The Wiener Factory in Sherman Oaks, CA, where I served up the finest hot dogs, knackwurst, and polish sausage to ever cross a taste bud. Even though they closed on December 31, 2007 (15 years ago) it’s still talked about as the top example of how a hot dog should be presented to the discriminating public. I loved it there. PS – Click on the link and you might find my posthumous review of the place, which I posted almost 12 years ago.

I didn’t work in food service again until sometime in the mid-nineties. I had left my job at Rocketdyne to rejoin my brother in a family wholesale food/restaurant supply business our father had started when I was 13. After less than two years it wasn’t going well and I decided to leave and fend for myself. One of my customers was Les Sisters Southern Kitchen in Chatsworth, CA. The owner at the time, Kevin Huling, was working his butt off and wanted to be able to take a day off during the week. I offered to run the place for him on Wednesdays and, until I returned to Rocketdyne, I managed the restaurant once a week. My favorite day was when I had to wait on tables. I made quite a bit more money than I did from just managing the place (hint: tips!).

In addition to all these jobs, my father was working at the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles when I was born. He worked at Faber’s Ham Shop, which was a stand in the market that sold lunch meats and fresh chickens. He liked to refer to himself as a butcher, but my birth certificate lists his occupation as “Food Clerk”. I remember my mother taking me shopping there when I was about five years old. We took Pacific Electric’s Red Car on the Red Line that stretched from San Fernando, running right through Panorama City, where we lived, to downtown L.A. My father put me in a far-too-large, white butcher’s coat, and put a Farmer John paper campaign hat on my head, stood me on a milk crate and had me selling lunch meat for an hour or so. I learned my first three words of Spanish behind that counter, which were “¿Que va llevar?” literally “what are you going to carry?”, but was more loosely translated as “what’ll you have?” or “what can I get for you?”

Later on, specifically right after I handed over every check I received for my Bar Mitzvah gift to my father so he could buy a truck, he went out on his own. He became the broken wienie king of Los Angeles, buying (essentially) mistakes from packing houses and selling them to his old boss, as well as to other small markets scattered throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Until his death in 1984, I spent virtually every school holiday being his “swamper” on his route or later on delivering and selling on my own as part of the business. Somewhere around 1994 I left my job at Rocketdyne to rejoin my brother in the family business, once again selling almost exclusively to restaurants.

My point is, I have no formal training in the culinary arts, but during a rather large portion of my life until I was around 50, I spent quite a bit of time working in jobs and being involved in businesses that involved food; at times merely delivering it and at other times preparing and serving it. I know my way around a kitchen and I know quite well how to operate a successful food business. It’s not easy. People can be real assholes when they’re hungry, and people who cook can be real prima donnas, so learning to satisfy your customers can be a painful experience. It is, however, quite rewarding when it works out. I think you have to genuinely like people in order to do it well.


From a FB Friend

I didn’t write the following. However, I think it adds to my last post about Sun Tsu’s admonition to know one’s enemy and know oneself. It’s well written and says much more than I did in that post of mine.

A big part of the freakout you’re seeing from Elon and the rest of the rightwing crowd is that they just ran a whole campaign against the “woke mind virus” and LGBTQ people in an electoral environment that should have favored them heavily–and they lost.

They thought they had a big popular majority for “anti-woke.” They did not. They lost. Elon is going anti-woke, and going broke. All their rightwing startups are going belly-up. They lost a Senate seat, and without new illegal gerrymandering they would’ve lost the House.

Normies voted against them. Women were more furious about Roe than they expected. Young people voted big against them. They’ve lost the culture, and they’ve lost faith in electoral solutions to it. Who is gonna save them? Trump 2024? DeSantis 2024? Lol.

Tech is stacked in favor of the GOP: the Facebook groups/algorithms & YouTube algorithms favor them. They dominate AM radio & cable news. Twitter was the most balanced & responsible, so Elon bought it because the far right couldn’t stomach even a hint of social responsibility.

But they still lost. They lost the popular vote in 2016. They lost in 2018. They lost in 2020. They lost embarrassingly in 2022. They lost in Brazil. Putin lost in Ukraine. White Christian Nationalism is failing. So they’re taking desperate measures for control.

As generational replacement continues and the failures of authoritarianism become more obvious, they will lose even harder. The desperation for control will increase. Times will get more dangerous. But as long as the rest of society resists, we will win.

This “rest of society” is what the far-right calls “The Cathedral” as if it’s some conspiracy. They see themselves as a brave rebellious resistance to it. But of course none of that is true. They are defending the hegemony of good ol’ boy power.

Meanwhile, “the cathedral” is no such thing. Creatives, the well-educated, scientists, real altruists and curious all lean left. Young people are economically disadvantaged, and lean left. The big problems like climate change do not have rightwing answers.

Now even big corporations seem to lean left in their public comms only because 18-45 year olds are the target advertising demo. And guess where we live, what our values are and how we vote? The Fox News audience isn’t the target demo anymore. Too bad.

So now you’ve got a coalition of theocrats with aging, declining followings, and megalomaniac billionaires who think only an dictatorship under their control will lead humanity into a sci-fi future of their grandiose and self-serving delusions.

But normal people aren’t buying in–especially the vast majority of people under 45. They’re going to lose. As for twitter? Either Elon gets bored and makes it normal again, or he turns it into Gab and destroys it as the people who actually provide value on twitter move elsewhere–to places like here.

And regarding Elon’s “longtermism”? No worries–progressives and ethical science will get us to a sustainable sci-fi San Junipero future just fine. And we’ll get there faster and more safely the more that Dunning-Kruger tyrants like Elon are sidelined from control over it.

D. Atkins

Conservatism Will Lose

“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.”

~ Sun Tsu

For me, this quote explains why conservatives are eventually going to lose the “culture wars”. They consistently insist on ascribing thoughts and values to liberal and progressives that are figments of their overactive imaginations when, in fact, they are more often than not projecting. They don’t know their “enemy”, nor do they know themselves.

This isn’t to say they won’t cause a lot of damage, destruction, and even death as they attempt to control the narrative and impose their values on everyone. But I do believe their “causes” will never prevail in the long run, in large part because they’re clueless about not only our motivations, but even their own.


Bye Bye Twitter?

I first joined Twitter in March of 2006. At the time part of my job at Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, a division of The Boeing Company, was to examine platforms described as examples of what was then referred to as Web 2.0, as well as new applications being referred to as “social media.” I was doing this as a member of the Knowledge Management team for the division, and as the Knowledge Management lead for the Space Shuttle Main Engine team.

In 2002, I had been leading the team that introduced one of the earliest “social media” applications to the SSME team and the organization as a whole. We didn’t think of it as social media at the time, however. Our main goal was to provide a tool (we called it an “enabler”) that made it easier to locate subject matter experts (SMEs) and facilitate not only communication between those seeking knowledge and those possessing it, but to capture that knowledge and make it easily accessible for others who might need it at a later date.

The name of the tool we purchased 1000 seats for was AskMe Enterprise. It was, if memory serves, based on a former website of the same name, but was now a proprietary tool meant to stay within the firewall of an organization. Rocketdyne needed something that would be useful internally and had no reason to use something that was open outside the organization’s firewall. In fact, given the nature of its products being open to the outside was anathema and a matter of national security.

At the same time, we were looking for a communications tool that provided one-to-many capabilities and short-form text sharing and publishing. There were several tools that were coming online around that time, including Jive and Yammer, but Twitter seemed to be the most interesting. Nevertheless, it took me something like six months before I could identify a use case for it. At the time it seemed merely a tool for non-productive jabber and gossip.

What changed it for me was when I found out the team preparing the Space Shuttle Orbiter for the next launch was using it to communicate their activities and progress. There were something like two dozen people who were working on various tasks that were independent in numerous different ways. If you’ve ever done project management, especially if you’ve used a tool like Microsoft Project, you know there are several types of dependencies between activities, e.g. finish-to-start (the most common). The Orbiter team, much like many of the teams that organizations (not just Rocketdyne) have to accomplish their work, would meet every morning to present progress and discuss how to proceed with remaining activities.

Twitter changed the dynamic significantly. Now, instead of waiting until the team gathered each morning, team members who were out in the field accomplishing tasks could communicate in real-time with their colleagues (all of them) when they had finished a task which was a predecessor to another team member’s task. All they had to do was Tweet. They didn’t have to compose an email, direct an IM to two dozen people, or make a phone call. They just had to follow each of their teammates.

This may seem a trivial thing, but if a predecessor task was completed at, say, two in the afternoon and that fact could be communicated to the entire team, anyone who needed that information to know where they stood in the flow of activities didn’t have to wait until the following morning stand-up to find out what their status was. Work on complicated engineering projects can be expensive and even apparently small savings of time could add up to saving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

So, that was my introduction to Twitter. I never could get my colleagues at Rocketdyne to use it. I had a hard enough time getting them to use AskMe and soon after I accepted an early severance package in May of 2010 (as the Shuttle program was coming to an end) it became obvious without my constant agitating for its use it wasn’t going to survive. It didn’t.

However, I kept a kind of love/hate relationship with Twitter over the years. There were times I didn’t pay much attention to it, and periods where I was quite active. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, after nearly a decade and a half, I was permanently suspended after I suggested a certain former guy might benefit from a coronary episode (I was only looking out for his best interests!). I created another account, which I am still using. Actually, I created two more accounts, one of which was also suspended, but reinstated upon appeal, though I no longer use it. Now, instead of @rickladd I’m @retreado.

I really wish I still had my real name, but it looks as though Twitter may not survive the petty indulgences of the world’s richest 10-year-old. Toward the end, I found Twitter to be an invaluable source of news, not so much as a primary but as a pointer to in-depth analyses, opinion, and good, solid journalism. It was a great way to keep track of trends and what movers and shakers were thinking, as well as hints as to which direction developing issues might go in. If Twitter does go away, I will miss it, but it won’t be the end of the world. I’ve already created an account at Mastodon and am considering other apps. Time will tell. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind taking a break from the immediacy and constant movement of Twitter. I’m getting old and I appreciate moments of silence more than ever.


It’s A Mystery!

I really enjoy Jim Wright’s rants, especially when he gets riled up. He reminds me of a famous sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, Jim Murray who, sadly, passed away nearly a quarter century ago (kinda shows you how old I am). Jim Murray had a way of making and remaking a point without the reader getting tired of the exercise. Jim Wright has that same quality in the political world, IMO. I came across this post today and shared it with my friends and anyone else who might stumble across it – my posts are all public – and I thought I would share it here as well. I also added a few thoughts of my own that sprung out of Jim’s post and some of the resulting comments, most notably those suggesting the work of protecting against fascism is hardly over because of this one election. In fact, I vividly remember the “America. Love it or leave it” crowd that attacked those of us who were protesting the war in Vietnam back in the sixties and seventies, as well as the majority of Republicans since who want to restrict our freedoms and tell us what to think, who to love, and how to relate to the universe. My comments follow this Facebook embed.

The concerning part is there’s still a disturbingly large swath of the electorate who embrace fascism and authoritarianism and likely an equally large group of people who haven’t a clue what’s actually happening and merely respond to the right-wing propaganda that permeates our culture and vote reflexively, not thoughtfully.

My time on this planet is coming to a close, even if I live to be 100, but I still care deeply about the kind of society, economy, and environment we’ll be leaving those who come after me. While I have two daughters who are 19 and 21, and whose future matters a great deal to me, I would feel this way even if I was childless.

The forces of darkness are not soon going away; they’ll most likely never go away – at least not for generations to come. Therefore, we must be eternally vigilant as well as discerning in our choice of those we allow to have the power to make decisions affecting our lives and the lives of our fellow humans. This means paying close attention to elections at every level and for every office, as they’re currently the most impactful activities that determine how we live.

I honestly believe we need a socialist revolution, but I don’t see it happening soon, nor do I see it happening in the manner others have gone down. We’re not early 20th century Russia or mid 20th century China. Neither are we similar to Cuba or any other country I can think of that had a revolution and attempted to become a communist economy.

My knowledge of Marxism, which is admittedly incomplete, tells me that Marx and Engels did not believe a country could go from an agrarian or feudal economy directly to socialism. If you’re not familiar with their theories, they believed that human economic systems evolved and there was a progression from tribalism (primitive communism) to slavery, to feudalism, to capitalism, to socialism, to communism, to anarchy (which didn’t mean crazy-ass bomb throwing, but the absence of the coercive organs of the state, i.e. the “withering away of the state.”) Neither were these transitions/evolutions necessarily smooth or linear, but they were overall inexorable.

Materialistic Dialectics also requires us to understand the situation in which we find ourselves and our society in its historical context, not as some abstract notion of how things “ought” to be, but as they truly are; a seemingly Herculean task given the complexity of today’s world.

I don’t have all the answers; I’m not even sure I have any answers. However, of this I’m reasonably certain – believing that capitalism is the zenith of human economic activity is foolish and counter productive. As well, we have a long way to go just to honor the principles on which the United States was ostensibly founded. Liberty and justice for all is still a goal; an apparently distant one at that.

Semper Vigilantes!


Use Every Tool Available!

I am 75 years old. I have been voting since July 4, 1968, my 21st birthday and the day of the California Democratic primary. My introduction to voting was to have the person I voted for assassinated the night I voted for him. I have never missed voting in an election, including any special elections.

I have been a socialist since my first vote so, in reality, I’ve never been able to conscientiously vote for someone who represented my actual views or for the system I would like to see implemented. Sure, there were socialists running for office but, lets’ face it, this is a two-party political system and I’ve never wanted to waste my vote.

My point isn’t to argue the validity of voting for the lesser of two evils or the value of the protest vote. I had my reasons, but I’ve always voted – always, and if you don’t get off your ass and vote I don’t know what to say other than I have no use for you. Not voting is akin to voting for the worst possible choice, IMO, especially when those who support the worst possible choice vote en masse every. damn. time.

Vote, goddam it! Just vote.


Neil Young Can Kiss My Shriveled Ass

So there I was, minding my own business, living my best life when all of a sudden this old guy snuck up behind me and took over my body. I don’t think I can kick him out, either. Maybe some day, but it will probably be fatal. Tis a bother.

You may find I will be harping a bit on this subject. You see, I’ve never been this old before and I’m learning how to be a senior, or an old fart. I’m not used to it. I find it interesting that I look far older in pictures than I do in the mirror. Why is that? (Don’t answer; it’s rhetorical.)

You may now move about the cabin.


Gobsmacked!

I am absolutely blown away. In writing my autobiography, or a couple of memoirs, whatever-the-hell-it-is I’m doing, I’ve found it necessary to do some research to confirm things like locations, relationships, personal history, even a little genealogy.

I’ve never been big on family history, but I’ve been told or have heard things throughout my life that fill in a few blanks. For instance, as far as I know my paternal grandfather was an orphan from Poland who settled in (what I grew up knowing as) “The Ukraine.” His last name, as my father spelled it, was Wladofsky. My mother’s maiden name was Moldofsky and, since the suffix “sky” means “from”, I’m pretty sure that means her family was from Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the southwest. There is also a town in the far east of Poland, right on the border of Ukraine, called Wlodowa. It’s conceivable that’s where Wladowsky (Wladofsky, Wladovsky) comes from.

Regardless, as I’ve said I haven’t really been terribly interested in discovering much of this. However, I have on occasion attempted to search the database of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation to see if I could find anything. I’ve not been successful, until today.

The real irony here is that I haven’t found anything about my paternal grandparents or my maternal great grandparents (my maternal grandparents where born in the U.S.) but I finally found a listing of someone. It’s not an immigration record, though. It’s a record of my father returning to New York, via Dublin, Ireland from a Murmansk Run during WWII. He was born in Chicago, but quite high school to join the U.S. Navy and was deployed aboard the U.S.S. William H. Webb.

All these years I thought he was aboard a United States Navy vessel, but I know now he was part of the Navy referred to as the Navy Armed Guard. These were small detachments of sailors who manned the guns on merchant ships. I believe the William H. Webb was a merchant ship outfitted with guns that were manned by the 29 sailors aboard a vessel which also included 41 merchant seamen. My father was the lone radioman.

Here’s what is said about the Navy Armed Guard: “The U.S. Navy Armed Guard was a service branch of the United States Navy that was responsible for defending U.S. and Allied merchant ships from attack by enemy aircraft, submarines and surface ships during World War II. The men of the Armed Guard served primarily as gunners, signal men and radio operators on cargo ships, tankers, troop ships and other merchant vessels. Disbanded following the end of the war, the Armed Guard is today little known or remembered by the general public, or even within the Navy. But without the courage and sacrifice of the men of the Armed Guard, victory in World War II would have been much more difficult and taken much longer.” https://www.armed-guard.com/.

He seldom talked about it, but when I was a child I learned early not to be near his arms when waking him up for dinner. He came out of sleep ready for action. I always “knew” the reason, but never felt it quite as clearly as I do now. I’m attaching a portion of the document that’s the very first thing I’ve ever encountered about his service, other than a certificate he received on February 23, 1944 upon their vessel crossing above the Arctic Circle which I’ve had since his death in 1984. I had to fight back tears. I’m still getting goose bumps.

I don’t expect to suddenly go off in a full-blown genealogical search for my roots, but I have found a few other threads I’d like to pull on. I must, however, ensure it all serves my greater purpose, which is finishing this book (whatever) of mine fairly soon. Certainly before the end of next year.

PS – His name before he and my mother changed it when they got married, was Isadore Edward Wladofsky and he was a Radioman 3rd Class aboard the William H. Webb, all of which is included in the full document of which I’m sharing only a part.


Quantum Spirituality

I included this video in a blog post I wrote over ten years ago. In the process of compiling some of those posts, along with other material, into a memoir I encountered it again. It still moves me to tears.

I am an atheist, but I do feel a certain sense of spirituality in the universe. Not the supernatural kind, but one borne of the reality we are all (as Joni sang) stardust. We are all made of the same stuff and on a quantum level we are deeply connected. I believe this to be true though most of us are blissfully and completely unaware of it.

I was fortunate to be a member of the Space Shuttle Main Engine program for nearly a quarter century, beginning a year after Challenger was destroyed and ending a year before the Shuttle program was forever cancelled.

I have long considered it our “sacred” duty to get off this planet and establish not merely a scientific presence, but also a cultural presence in case we suffer an extinction level event. In that way we might assure ourselves the human race will continue, rebuild, and flourish. It’s a big reason I was able to stay so long on that program despite the insufferable bureaucracy of the three corporations who owned Rocketdyne during my tenure: Rockwell Int’l.; The Boeing Co.; and Pratt & Whitney/United Technologies.

I hope some of you enjoy this as much as I did.


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