Category: Corruption

We Are Not The Ultimate

We must consider the power of infinity and eternity. Given the endlessness of these two factors, the truth is that anything, any event, any moment, any product can happen, and it will. With limitless time and limitless distance, the evolution of the universe will continue far beyond our measly scope. We see ourselves at the top of the pecking order; we kill jungle cats and rhinoceroses, we build elegant towers into the clouds, we explore the moon and other celestial bodies. Yet, we are just one tiny rivulet in the relentless flow of time and distance.

We chase property, we covet jewellery, and we build mansions as if we are to be here forever. The fact is, our time on Earth has been but a blink, compared to the vast evolution that has taken place. Earth, air, and water has brought us to this level of intelligence and ingenuity. The mistake that many people make is the idea that we, here and now, are the pinnacle of development.

circleoflife

Most of us are familiar with the graphic that we see of human development from Neanderthal to homo sapiens. Few of us think about the continuation of the little line of people that evolve from apelike to a person standing tall and proud. Most of us clamour for prosperity plus. Multiple homes, multiple cars, and a life of luxury amid sumptuous surroundings is the goal. The fact is, we’re taking in and putting out more than we need to, and more than we should. If the world were to suddenly end, the billionaire and the homeless wretch would each be equal amounts of doo-doo.

I know people who possess great amounts of property, power, and wealth. I know people who choose to live simply, earn a good living and enjoy their time. Ninety percent of the time, the simple life encourages happiness. Most of the time, the acquisitive people are stressed and unhappy. We take our chances when we make our choices on how to live our individual lives.

Treasure Lake – Running With Gold

They heard the plane take off again from the lake.  They knew that the people who want their treasure back were going to be searching. They paddled hard for the refuge offered by a large Balsam Fir that was leaning far out over the river.

“Just our luck if it falls while we’re under it,” Solly said.

“Meanwhile, it’s hiding us from the plane, so don’t be such a negative putz!” Rob said.

They could hear the plane circling, looking for any sign of anything. They would assume that it would be a small vessel, otherwise it would have been unable to negotiate the narrow, shallow creeks. Twice, they buzzed by at low altitude, right over the two hidden canoes and four worried teenagers. Soon the sound of the plane faded into the distance and the canoeists pushed off again.

They came to a place of open water.  It was a small lake that they would have to cross to get to the next small tributary they would need to travel to get to their car. There was some discussion about what route to take.  The short way was to paddle straight across the lake to the mouth of the continued tributary. The safe way was to hug the shoreline where they could hide in foliage. There was virtually no wind, so they would be neither helped nor hindered in crossing the lake and getting on with their run, so they took the fast way instead of the safe way.

They were less than half way across the lake when the dreaded sound of the amphibian aircraft returned. A minute later it passed over them, and they knew they must have been seen. The plane circled to make a landing on the water where the young people were. At the same time, Rob commanded that they were to stroke like hell for the other side.  It was a race to get into foliage before the pontoons touched the surface.

The plane landed as close to the canoes as it could, then revved up the engine to plow along on the water toward them. Just before the canoes could disappear up a narrow, weed filled creek, they could hear gunshots over the roar of the plane’s engine. Only one bullet came near them, and made a small splash a few feet away from them just as they were able to disappear into overhanging bushes. They hoped the plane would be stopped at the shallow mouth of the creek.

The plane’s engine was shut off, and they could hear angry shouts. It sounded like the pontoons had run aground, and some guys had to get wet pushing the plane off the shore and turning toward open water. Meanwhile, a steady stroking of the four paddles carried them toward safety.  They heard the plane take off and fly away, and they were able to settle down and paddle.

While the boys handled the canoes from their stern seats, the girls got some food out of the packs and made peanut butter and jam sandwiches so they could each have something to eat without stopping. After a few hours, they heard another engine nearby.  It sounded similar to the plane engine, but different.

“It’s a damn air boat,” Rob Snitzer said.

“What the hell’s an air boat,” Caroline Rich said.

“It’s one of those tubs, you know, that zips through swamps with a big propeller on the back,” Solly Cohen said.

“Oh, god, no!” Phylis Snitzer said. “We’re in deep shit now.”

Treasure Lake Chase

They pulled four Krugerrand out of a top row and each looked at one, and to see what it felt like to hold an ounce of pure South African Gold.

“Each coin is an ounce of pure gold. It’s recognized the world over as a reliable measure,” Rob Snitzer said.

“How much is an ounce of gold worth?” Solly Cohen asked.

“About fourteen hundred dollars,” Rob said.

“But that means this chest could be worth millions,” Caroline Rich said.

“We should count how many there are in one row, and multiply by the number of rows,” Phylis said.

“Fifty coins in one row,” Caroline said. “I just counted them.

“It’s exactly fifty Krugerrands,” Rob said. “Six rows across and four rows deep.”

“Six rows across makes three thousand times four deep makes twelve hundred Krugerrands,” Phylis said. “Wow!

“If gold is at fourteen hundred dollars an ounce or so, this chest is worth… uh… “ Rob said

“Over a hundred thousand fucking dollars,” Caroline said.

“One hundred and five thousand dollars,” Phylis said.

“We’re rich!” Solly Cohen sang out.

“Not so fast,” Rob said.  “Don’t you think somebody’s gonna miss this stuff?”

“Sure, the guys who dumped it,” Solly said.

“I mean the people to whom it actually belongs,” Rob said.

“We don’t know, so we keep it, right?” Phylis said.

“I doubt it.  First of all, what does one do with a Krugerrand?” Rob said. “We can’t just walk into a bank and deposit a few Krugerrands can we? I think we should stash it somewhere safe and see what we can learn about the loot.  We wouldn’t want to steal it if it was meant to educate kids in the Congo or something, right?”

“Maybe if we can return it to somebody, we can get a reward,” Solly said.  “After all, they’d still have plenty.  Better than nothing, right?”

“On the other hand,” Caroline said, “if it’s money for an arms deal, selling weapons to terrorists, we would be obliged to keep it, right?”

“I don’t think it’s right to discuss it now, when we don’t really know what we have,” Rob said.

“What’s our next step?” Caroline said.

“In my opinion,” Rob said, “our next step should be to pack up and take off before that plane returns.

“That might not be for weeks or months even,” Solly said.

“Or it could be any minute now. Let’s hustle!” Phylis said.

They broke camp and packed everything securely in the two canoes. They left the Krugerrands in the chest and placed it on the floor of Solly and Phylis’ canoe. They pushed off and paddled calmly but swiftly along the small tributary toward another creek that will take them back to their car.

The sound of a single engine plane could be heard in the distance. As it drew near, the canoeists found a place where tall reeds grew out of the riverbank and overhung the river. The two canoes were guided beneath the reeds and rested against the bank. The aircraft was low over the treetops as it prepared to land on ‘Treasure Lake’. As soon as it passed, they pushed off again until they heard the plane returning.

“That’s it,” Rob said. “They know the chest is gone and they know it can’t have gone far. They’ll be hunting us down, for sure.

Treasure Lake – Diving Into Danger

The sun rose into a brilliantly golden sky.  When the sun’s warmth reached over the bushes, it set the tents aglow. Before long the bright light and warmth of the morning sun penetrated the two small tents and prompted Rob Switzer and Solly Cohen to rise from their respective tents and start the day.  They had gathered firewood the evening before, so they structured the kindling appropriately and started a happily crackling fire. Before the girls emerged from their respective tents, the boys were gazing out onto the water, memorizing as well as they could the location of the chest and the body.

Breakfast was prepared by Solly. A pan of bacon and eggs sizzled fragrantly beside a metal coffee pot that bubbled happily. A discussion went on about what the macabre scene of yesterday meant. They agreed that the most likely scenario was that some criminals had stolen something valuable and discovered an undercover detective had infiltrated them. Or one of their own people was doubted.  Obviously, the plane would return at some time to collect the chest after the loot was no longer making news.

“What do you think we should do?”, Rob said to the group assembled around the fire.

“I think we should get away from here,” Caroline Rich said.  “If they somehow find out we saw them, we’re screwed.”

“She has a point,” Phyllis Snitzer said.  “Maybe we better pack up and take off.”

“I want to go after it,” Rob said.

“Do you have a plan of some kind for this crazy stunt?” Solly said.

“I figure the girls stay here, you and I paddle out.  One of us stays in the canoe as a base, and the other dives.  I doubt it’s terribly deep there.” Rob said.

Solly thought for a moment, while the two women protested being left behind. He put in a suggestion that they should dive together, and the women should be nearby in the canoes.  Fully pack the boats for a quick getaway, and it wouldn’t hurt to have the benefit of ballast for the tricky move of getting out of a canoe without tipping it. Then Phyllis put in that she had diving experience as a camp counsellor and she should be one of the divers too.  In the end, it was agreed that brother and sister, Phyllis and Rob dive for the chest while Solly and Caroline manage the canoes.

The siblings stripped down to swimwear and helped launch the loaded canoes. Solly took the stern of his boat so Phyllis could slip into the water at the bow. Caroline was in the stern of the other boat with Rob at the bow.  With only a few dozen strokes of their paddles they were hovering over the area where they’d seen the body and the chest dumped. The two canoes circled slowly in ever widening arcs.  The four treasure hunters were staring down into the crystal clear water.  Phyllis was the first to spot the body with the rope leading to the chest. Rob took out the World War Two army surplus sharpened bayonet that he used as a camping knife.  They had all agreed to leave the body there, and take just the chest.  They couldn’t do anything with the body anyway.  It was better that it stay where it is, deep in cold, dark water.

Using carefully learned techniques for leaving and entering a canoe, the Snitzers slid carefully into the uncomfortably cold water. Phyllis swam to the chest while Rob went to the cadaver and cut the rope from him. He took the free end of the rope up to the surface and handed it to Solly. Solly lifted the trunk up, hand over hand. Phyllis followed the ‘treasure chest’ up from the depths. At the surface, she held the gunnel and helped Solly lift the trunk up and over so he could gently put it on the floor of the canoe. Solly was a powerful specimen of young manhood, and could just manage to set it down without it doing any damage.

“Let’s get out of here now!” Rob said as he carefully climbed into the canoe.  Caroline was an experienced canoeist, and held her stern position while Rob became the bow paddle. “It’s damn cold, too!  We have to get a few kilometres up a tributary and make camp under some trees with heavy foliage.”

They didn’t go back the way they came because that would have meant paddling upstream, which would be slower and more work. They stroked briskly across the small lake and entered the mouth of a small tributary that fed out of the lake.  Their GPS showed that, although narrow, this waterway led to another via which they could return to their vehicles.

As the sun rolled toward the western horizon, the canoeists found a spit of sand tightly surrounded by enormous Maple trees that provided dense cover from overhead.  They all were pretending that they weren’t bursting with curiosity about the contents of the chest and busied themselves setting up camp. At last, tents up, fire crackling, food frying, they gathered around and cut the rope from around the chest and opened it. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Krugerrands! In neat, tight, horizontal rows. Eight rows to a layer, eight layers deep.

“There must be hundreds of them,” Caroline said.

“Thousands,” Rob said.

“Millions of dollars,” Solly said.

“What are Krugerrands?” Phyllis said.

“Each Krugerrand is one full ounce of pure gold,” said Rob. The four adventurers just stood in a circle, looking at the loot and at each other, each wondering, “what next?”

Where have all the bohemians gone?

By James Hannaham

April 11, 2008 | Imagine that you are an insect. A rare butterfly, perhaps, or an iridescent beetle. An economist named Richard Florida has discovered you, and figured out that you can be used to fuel the engines of profit in the world of international commerce. As a small arachnid (or whatever) you fancied yourself immune to the workings of the larger profit-seeking world. You lived modestly, rolling your dung, biting the head off your mate during copulation. But it turns out that you and your kind serve a purpose. Florida picks you up by the back legs and pins you against a display case. This is the experience of a member of the “creative class,” as defined by Richard Florida’s books on modern economics and sociology.

Florida first cataloged the behavior of this upwardly mobile group, characterized by bohemianism and a tendency to reinvent the workplace, in his 2002 bestseller, “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Whereas New York Times columnist David Brooks, then a conservative, had sneeringly dubbed the same demographic “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians) in his 2000 book “Bobos in Paradise,” Florida took a different tack. He noted the potential business benefits of open-mindedness, progressive values, and city dwelling, cramming his book with statistical support.

Florida observed that thriving gay communities indicate vibrant creativity in an area. They also have a tendency to prettify borderline neighborhoods — the technical term, according to “Queer Eye’s” Carson Kressley, is “to zhoozh” — and generate tons of revenue in industries like fashion. None of this surprised many urbanites, though some Americans, unaware of trends in popular culture and oblivious to the Internet, may have been shocked to find that queers and quasi-bohemians do anything other than sin. For an economist like Florida to recognize and quantify the cost benefits of a liberal lifestyle was enough to shock the system.

With “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Florida, once a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz School of Public Policy, zhoozhed his career, in part because he defined creativity rather loosely. Clearly we have not yet become a nation of Web designers, filmmakers and hair stylists. Florida generously opened the category to include scientists, healthcare professionals and businessmen, on the watered-down assumption that everyone is creative in some way. More than anything, these non-revolutionary ideas established Florida as the “swami,” as Karrie Jacobs put it, of the class he defined.

Since 2002, Florida has turned his eye on the once disenfranchised into a franchise, following “Rise” with “Cities and the Creative Class,” “The Flight of the Creative Class,” and now, breaking the pattern, a volume called “Who’s Your City?” a title whose play on the catchphrase “Who’s your daddy” implies, a little too erotically, our submissive relationship to place. But by this point he has stretched his ideas so thin that “The Creative Class vs. King Kong” would do just as well.

Florida intended “Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life” to be a self-help book. “I wanted to write a book that would actually help people choose the best place to live,” he writes. He limits his consideration to American cities, though he has chosen to emigrate to Toronto himself. And that’s just one of the book’s many problems. Most basically, it’s a careless assumption that anyone, least of all a member of the creative class, would need such a self-help book. People who move around freely usually aren’t thinking about establishing a career, ambitious people already have a clear sense of where they need to be, and wannabes know but can’t get off their rusty dusties and go. Go-getters who don’t know what they want to do become lawyers, criminals or something in between. Nobody reads a book to decide where to live. People who can’t find work won’t pay $26.95 to figure out where to get a job. Anyone who can leisurely contemplate switching cities for work purposes probably has the resources to visit.

Then again, in a world where everyone is constantly connected via electronic media, why move at all? In the course of answering this question, Florida begins “Who’s Your City?” by overstating the case that place matters. Business leaders, he reminds us, have espoused the concept of a “flat world” in which place is irrelevant. Theoretically, they say, one can maintain a career in the new creative economy while stationed in Nuuk. Not so, says Florida, because “[t]he … less obvious side to globalization is the tendency for higher-level economic activities … to cluster in a relatively small number of locations.”

A variety of factors influence the creation areas of high creativity, but they aren’t all strictly business related. Concentrating creative industries in certain locations allows people to switch jobs without moving, for instance, and creates diverse, open-minded communities in those places. This increases the draw of, among other things, certain “mating markets,” as Florida ickily refers to them.

No one who has searched for an apartment in a desirable city has ever had the luxury of imagining that location didn’t matter. Florida puts it more dryly: “The key to our new global reality lies in understanding that the world is flat and spiky at the same time.” “Spikiness” — a term he works hard to turn into a catchphrase — is the tendency of people in particular fields to cluster in specific locations. Mildly more interesting is Florida’s assertion that the world’s economic activity occurs mostly in “Mega-Regions,” which he defines by using satellite images created by graphic designer Tim Gulden to create maps of areas lit continuously at night. A few of these economic hot spots cross borders. “Tor-Buff-Chester” spans Toronto, Buffalo and Rochester, for example, suggesting that such melding might someday erode national identity.

In contrast to the sharp eloquence and detailed research of his first book, Florida has developed a fondness for clichés, bullet points and long lists. “Urbanites,” he tells us, “prize their access to diverse cultural resources such as theaters, museums, art galleries, live music, and vibrant nightlife filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants.” So now you know what “cultural resources” means, and “nightlife,” too.

If our conventional impressions of urbanites and their cities are correct, one might ask, why read about that for 300-odd pages? A trained rat could match American cities with their respective creative industries. With his research, Florida simply reassures his readers that their presumptions — that New York is the center of the U.S. financial, fashion and publishing industries, for example, and “Nor-Cal” the center of the high-tech industry — are absolutely correct. It’s almost as good a scam as when Malcolm Gladwell reassures people that snap judgments are good judgments, or when James Surowiecki tells the masses how smart they are (even more so if they buy his book).

Florida believes so strongly in lists, bullet points and surveys that at one point during the book, he and a policy analyst from the Cato Institute map the country in terms of “the five basic dimensions to personality,” like a Cosmo quiz turned wonky sociology book. From the “personality maps” this experiment generates, one can tell that people in Georgia are extroverted, agreeable and conscientious, while there’s a dark blotch of neurotic people concentrated in the Tri-State area. This might prove something, but only in the way that pointing out that Madonna and Bill Clinton are Leos proves that Leos are egotists.

Presumably Richard Florida now qualifies as a member of the class that he has described for the last six years. It’s hard to imagine that his sense of what makes a good argument about this segment of the population has deteriorated so much between 2002 and now. It must be that he feels his audience — uncreative, closed-minded rural farmers? — isn’t getting the message, and that he needs to dumb down the text and provide more visuals.

Some People are for Rent

Prostitutes are for rent, and they’re not the only ones. They rent the use of their bodies for a short time, to people who prefer brief relief to genuine feelings. There are also the kind of prostitutes that wear good suits and carry attaché cases. In some cases, these executives sell themselves completely, in order to get ahead. For these people, ‘get ahead’ means to move into the more corrupt level of business, where money can be made in exchange for one’s spirit.

I don’t know what it is that makes a ‘bad boy’ behave badly. When we were kids on our country-like suburban street, I was close with Jimmy Goodman. It was a long time ago, when a breakfast cereal offered sheets of collector cards in every box. I think the cereal was called All-Wheat. I don’t remember the subjects on the cards, but I think they might have been World War Two equipment, like aircraft and tanks. The cards were popular, and many kids wanted that cereal so they could collect the cards, and use them in games or trading in the schoolyard.

I liked Jimmy, although he was a bit of a bad boy. On one occasion, he stole money from his mother’s purse and used it to buy several boxes of the card-bearing cereal. He took them to a vacant lot at the end of the street, tore them open and dumped the contents on the ground. He happily collected many of those cards. I saw him do all this, and tried to talk him out of it. I will never know why he didn’t think about, or care about the consequences of his actions. Consequences were my greatest concern. Why were Jimmy and I so different?

Our lives diverged as we entered our teens, and I didn’t see Jimmy for many years. Then, one Friday I was in my favourite delicatessen with my Friday lunch with friends, when Jimmy Goodman walked in with some friends. We greeted each other, and Jimmy eagerly told me he was a lawyer, doing well, just bought a new Oldsmobile and so on. I congratulated him on his success. I did not see him again for several years, until I saw him getting out of a little delivery car in a working class neighbourhood.

I stopped my car and got out to greet him. He came quickly to me, babbling personal information that seemed out of place. I later learned that part of addiction recovery is to make a clean breast of things to people you misled in the past. So here he was, telling me he was a courier delivery guy because he was a gambling addict. He became indebted to the Mob for big money that he was unable to pay.

Jimmy was offered a way out, to pass counterfeit and unwashed money for the mob, and to misappropriate trust fund monies. He was inevitably caught, disbarred, punished, sent to rehab, and was now a simple working man. He was suffering the result of getting himself into a position where bad people rented his spirit. He will spend the rest of his life paying for his misdeeds.

Perhaps naughty children can grow up to become larcenous. Perhaps children who care about consequences are less likely to be naughty adults.

The Formerly Attractive Ms Goulding

When she was sixteen, Elanna Goulding had a face and a figure that could take your breath away. She was the most beautiful woman any man ever knew, personally. She needed no cosmetics, no figure enhancing garments or undergarments to be a stunning beauty. She was also from a wealthy family. In spite of these advantages, young men that sought her and dated her did not do so for any great length of time. It seemed incongruous.

When she finally married, in her early twenties, it was to a wealthy associate of her father’s who was ten years older than she was. He used her as arm candy and treated her very badly in private. However, they did have a son and a daughter together, although the children’s contact with their father was sparse and burdensome. Elana left him after a decade of unhappiness, and went looking for love.

Elana’s social life soon blossomed again, and again, no romantic connection melded into a meaningful relationship. A stunning woman with money and taste, yet no man sought to make her his own. Elana began to peruse the “Lonley Hearts” columns in magazines and on line, and dated several gentlemen that ceased to call after two or three dates. Elana subscribed to a dating site and spent evenings reviewing men’s ads. Again, she dated several, and each failed to follow up after a few dates.

Imagine you receive a gorgeous package in a box from Tiffany’s. Gently, you unwrap it because it is from the most famous jewelry store, and is probably a gift of diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Almost salivating at the anticipation of beauty and value, you finally reach the contents. Within this incredibly beautiful package, you find a cellophane bag that contains a plastic spoon, a plastic knife and a plastic fork. These boring items are the same utensils you get free, in any fast food outlet. That is how one of Elana’s dates described her.

Three of the men that dated her agreed that after you get past the stunning beauty, there is nothing there. Showing photos of Elana and her family from the Internet, he pointed out that each person is absolutely gorgeous. He also pointed out that none of them are ever doing something. They are posing. That’s all, in every photo, they are posing. There is nothing to these people but looks. Elana, in her seventies shows a gorgeous face. Eye wrinkles are hidden with tinted glasses. Neck flab is hidden with a fabulous, expensive Hermes’s silk scarf. Large, loose, black garments disguise the bloated body.

In the end, she went off with a large, handsome black man. His job was to pretend that he loved her deeply, as she believed she loved him deeply. The façade of love was actually a ‘deal’, and the man was actually a gigolo. Elana convinced herself that it was real. She was not intelligent enough to perceive the false emptiness of her life, even when her paid lover went off and married his true love, a black girl from the neighbourhood.

Elana lives alone in her splendid high-rise apartment, furnished with the best of everything. Every wall and cupboard door is mirrored. Any way she turns, Elana sees herself looking back. She never learned that there is more to life than looks because looks are only skin-deep. A plain looking woman with a bright personality and an intelligent outlook is easy to love, because the most attractive part of a woman is her brain.