When Sex Goes to the Dogs

thumb_art_deco_dogLet me begin by saying I enjoy having pets.    Pets are great companions,  and they give you unqualified love in return for very little.  To be the object of adoration,  you just need to pet them, feed, them, change their cages or little boxes every now and then, and take them for a walk.  Pets are healthy for our spirit and made even add years to our life.   And when their life ends, it leaves us wanting and missing them.

I have had at one time or another, either because of children or on my own, a pretty rich assortment of pets.   I have had a couple birds, a frog, an Iguana, enough turtles and fish to populate a small lake, the brief stint with a cat left by a runaway neighbor, and at least a half dozen dogs.   All things considered, I prefer the dogs.

I have loved my dogs, some more than others.   I grew up with a dog loving parent who kept Dog World Magazine in the bathroom for comfort reading.   I went to dog shows and probably knew more types of breeds at nine years old than most adults.

I have experienced the terrible moment when you have to put them down.    I have taken them with me on long trips and spent time walking them and doing all the things dogs love to do. The thing is, no matter how much I have enjoyed my dogs, or other pets, I realize they are not people.  Dogs are much simpler, but still require much attention.  People are  far more complex and tougher to deal with.   Some animal lovers deal well with animals, but have it rough when dealing with relationships, no matter how casual.

Lately, I have noticed more people are pet centric and less people centric.   They adore their pets, bestow on them the affections and attention folks don’t seem to be getting elsewhere.   Pets are not only pets but objects of transferal.    They lavish the kind of love and attention on them they have normally reserved for close friends, family and the people with whom they engage in romantic relationships.

What used to be reserved for people love and romance,  those with whom we have sex, share histories and develop relationships, we give to the dogs.   Perhaps it is the economy and daunting times that people need so much reassurance without complications.   Perhaps it is life and all its disappointments and knowing that tail wagging fur ball loves and accepts you know matter what.    Perhaps we are experiencing levels of arrested development and any relationship more complex than that with the pet or a twenty minute reality show is far too daunting for our childlike sensibilities.

I would like to think this perception applies largely to aging Gen Y people or Boomers.    Here it is somewhat understandable.   Whether for good or bad a lot of Boomers, especially, for reasons unknown to me, are winding it down and resting on what they mistakenly consider their laurels.   They have been hurt in love, carry enough baggage to settle in Paraguay,  and are too set in their ways to adjust to another human brain pan.     Besides, as they are climbing in the years, romance is scarce, sex for a good many is near nonexistent, and there isn’t a whole lot going on, anyway.

For those who were married with children, the kids are out of the house and are soliciting not desiring your advice and counsel.    The children are no longer dependent and will rarely show up for the holidays yet alone paddle every night up to their food dish, do a little begging or lick your hand.   Or give you the dog breath kisses so many seem to adore and even boast about on Facebook.   Notice in Facebook all the people who instead of themselves post photos of their dogs.   Subliminal desires?

So to put it bluntly, the kids are ungrateful little assholes that can barely remember to buy you a birthday card.   The dog is nothing but an everlasting expression of gratitude.   Your kids will barely let you touch them.   The dog will curl up in your lap and in your bed.   When was the last time your teenage or older kid with lie in bed with you as a gesture of affection.  You would have to be sick and dying, or close to it, before most of you would see that day again.  As for those who don’t have and never had children, will then the dog is a definite convenience.  No nasty sex with strangers, in vitro sessions, or adoption overtures.   Just a trip the the pound or a few hundred bucks if you are determined to acquire pedigree.

I see a great many women I know, and  some men.   I watch them thrust their affections on their four legged lovers.    They hug them, kiss them, buy them gourmet food and cute little dog clothes that have the kind of price tags animal rescue groups would covet as a generous donation.   They talk baby talk, and if there is a prospect of a relationship, the dog comes first.  Maybe it is smart, and maybe it is just another rationale for a missed opportunity.

But that is not the only place the pet fetish has fully taken hold.  Blame it on the lousy economy, maybe, but more and more younger people  are not only acquiring dogs but taking them wherever they go.   Living in a high rise building I can see the increase in dog ownership.   I can also smell it in the elevators or see the little urine trails the overanxious canines leave on the floor as they scramble to make it to the great outdoors of Los Angeles.

Ad when the dogs take sick or are o the verge of dying?   It is a sad moment.  As I have said, I have been there.  But the dog is old, or it is sick, and while we can reconcile it more often with people we have a tougher time letting the animals pass on to pet heaven.   Rather than let old Fluffy go when it is terminally ill or has reached the age where it is barely functional, these people are spending a small fortune for the kind of medical treatment half the people in this country do not receive.   In short, they do more for Fluffy than they would for Aunt Mary, yet alone the ailing kid down the block.

Okay, I am grousing.  And what, you may ask, is the point of all this grousing?   I will tell you.   I believe this sudden embrace of the obsessive canine code is more of a testimony to our abject failure to engage in relationships with people than anything else.  I think it tells us more about our dashed expectations, fed and fostered by relentless commercials and magazine write ups about all the glitz, glamor, and drama that is ephemeral at best, and nonexistent for the most part.  We embrace an illusion and then grow disappointed when it shreds in our hearts.

We think love with a human will be some kind of fairy tale, and life will be a constant adventure.   And then when it doesn’t turn out that way, we shun the possibility and turn to our dogs.    After all, they will give us unqualified love and a surfeit of affection.   They are grateful that we take care of them, and I am sure grateful to the good and caring souls who volunteer at the animal shelters but not the hospitals and hostels.

But the dog can give us affection, but it cannot give us the intimacy that only humans can provide.   Sure humans will give us more grief and disappoint us more than any beast, but they also leave us with complex and richer memories.   Humans are the material from which civilization moves forward.   In our relationships with humans we come to understands ourselves in ways we can never do with animals.   We realize the complexities of love and the nuances and predilections of our sexuality.   We are gifted by their involvement in the arts and sciences.

We will miss the dog, and we will love the dog.   But the people who have impacted our lives are subjects of ongoing reflection.   Through our relationships we comprehend our personal breakthroughs and failures, the measures of our personalities.   We become wiser through these human relationships and we pass this wisdom on to forthcoming generations.

So why the breakdown, besides some of the things I noted?  Why are we finding it so tough to relate to people and preferring to romance our dogs instead of men and women.   I believe it is our reliance on technology that has caused so many to turn away from people and turn to their dogs.   Maybe they have sex and maybe not, but deeper relationships are difficult to develop and sustain if your main form of communication is texting.   If the relationship is broken down to categorical components, behavioral mosaics that either fit or don’t fit into your own lifestyle, it is difficult to advance the romance.     If you want undying and one dimensional love and affection, well people can be tough and more demanding that that.

So with our dogs, we don’t text or email.  We don’t even phone them.  We spend time with them.  We talk to them.  We listen to them.  Part of that listening if to take note of every nuance, every expression, the slightest movement.   We know from their body language what they want.   We understand their nuances and can make the distinction between our dog and another dog, even one of the same species.   We are intimate and affectionate for reasons other than sex.  Well, in best case scenarios.

With people.   It’s different.   We simply don’t have the time to nurture the relationship.   It’s a few characters on a liquid crystal display and a quick roll in the hay.

Good Taste and Dog Food Pate`

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Once upon a time quality branding followed quality product.   In order to be recognized as a premium line, the manufacturers, designers, whatever, had to actually produce quality goods.    You, the consumer, could tell the goods were of high quality because of the materials used and the art and craft of their finishing.   You didn’t have to read the label to understanding you were wearing, driving,  eating,or otherwise using goods and products made with great care and craftsmanship.  Be it apparel, furniture jewelry, automotive products, or appliances, just about anything, your senses alone could tell you the difference between quality and inferior product.

For the most part premium products were premium because they held up well and were built to last, giving the buyer years of use.     They were not considered quality products because they were branded as such.  They were deemed as quality because they actually were better made.   Consumers were raised to know the difference.  At least some consumers were.  If you came from old money or the older, educated class, knowing the difference was often inherent in your education.   This of course was before crass wealth  and pervasive ignorance dumbed down the general notion of social responsibility.  Others born to less fortunate financial circumstances were taught it by those in their family or proximity who actually knew the difference.

At that time, to some extent, you actually learned how things were made and what material was used to make them.   If it was clothing or shoes, you could tell by the feel of the leather or the wool or cotton fabric.   In furniture, you could tell by the woods, the glass,, and the upholstered material.    You knew by the color and the dye, the seams and texture.  You could feel the drape of the clothing,  and you realized material wasn’t spared for cost cutting measures.  You could tell how things were sewn, or fitted together.    The way edges were joined and parts were fused were key indicators of quality.   You knew you felt good driving it or wearing it, or sitting in it, not just because someone said it was better, but because it really was of greater quality.

It was a time when quality preceded branding.  Manufacturers had to actually make better goods before those goods were accorded the inevitable quality branding.  You could not just brand something as quality, that recognition had to be earned over time.   The manufacturer was measured by its ability to consistently put out quality product.  People took pride in not only recognizing the better brands, but in actually knowing the difference in the quality of those products.

But then came branding.   Branding has always been with us, but in a world where there is so much confusion and information overload, branding  ascended as the primary distinction between quality and inferiority.   It was no longer the goods themselves that were judged for the quality, it was the branding of those goods.   Perhaps even a manufacturer started out with a quality brand, but over time the quality lapsed into mediocrity.   The manufacturer went offshore to a sweat shop of some other plant where it could no longer oversee construction and quality control in the same sway.

To be competitive the once quality brand needed to cut corners.  And with it, the manufacturer cut its quality as well.   Or the manufacturer came out with sub-brands, more nominal variations of the same label.   Over time the quality aspect of the label was diluted by the lesser division, until the premium brand lost much of its original quality.  Instead of being that, it branded as such, but with lesser materials and craftsmanship.

Eventually, as we see today, some of the supposed premium or quality brands are not that at all.   At least they are not made with quality materials and construction.   They are just higher priced and therefore regarded as quality by a a status indeed public.  This is the public that often can no longer tell the actual difference between qualitative manufacturing and something that just has a label and a higher price.  Often, it doesn’t even matter.

It doesn’t matter if the good are quality or not.   Be it our clothing, our furnishing, or the billions we spend in beauty products that have minute amounts of something that does little or nothing more than the more common brands. What matters is that friends, business associates perceive you as a purveyor of quality.   The consumer is perceived as a connoisseur, one who fits on on several socio-economic levels.   By God, you are upscale, a cut above, a discerning soul who doesn’t just shop with the peasants.   You know the the difference and what makes it work.  You wear the right labels.

No matter that this consumer is only buying a label.  Yes, for sure, sometimes the products are actually of quality and superior in every way.   But just as often they are no different.  Just as often they are made in the same sweat shops as the lesser brands.   Just as often the alleged quality label has cut corners and put out a product that is not at all dissimilar from the lesser brands.   Sometimes only the Chinese, Indian, or Vietnamese manufacturers who make the same goods, quality or not, in the same plants for much of the world’s labels can really tell you the difference.  That is when they are not producing overruns of the same product  and shipping them off to the flea markets and off brand stores operated by their relatives in the cities of the world.  But I digress.

All right, so where does that leave us?   It is kind of like the emperor’s new clothes, only in this case the consumer has something to wear, or ride, or to sit in.   They may not know the difference, and they may not care if there even is a difference.  As long as they can afford it.    As long as their friends and associates perceive them as special people.

But then comes the recession and people are having second thoughts.  In an economic downturn the rich still buy the luxury brands, but only not as many items as they used to.    They buy, but not in that quantity.  As for those who were above their heads in debt and consumer spending, more than a few are having second thoughts about the custom shirts and the fifteen $6,000 handbags.    Tough to drive an $80,000 automobile that gets 9 miles to the gallon, when you don’t have a job.

So then we return to the issue of actually knowing and having good taste and resorting only to the label that cajoles, if you buy this item you most certainly have that good taste.   Well, not really.  Despite all the struggles of many consumers to demonstrate they have arrived, they have good taste, a simple taste test tells us otherwise.  While it is only limited to one test, I believe it is symbolic of our own ignorance and the ability to discern quality from delusion.

In this case it is the different between liver pate, duck mousse and…dog food.   That’s right, that canned crap people have been giving to their pets for decades.  That stuff.   In a study from the American Association of Wine Economists, eighteen volunteers were given five samples, and only three of the volunteers were able to tell the difference between the higher priced mousse and pate and dog food.   Two people claimed the high end pate` was the dog food.  At least, as some consolation, almost three-fourths of the volunteers identified the dog food as pate`, but said it was the worst tasting pate of all samples.

Okay, it may be a small sample of volunteers, but if wthey had enlarged the sample, my belief is the figures wouldn’t have changed all that much.   And we can claim it is only the taste test between pate` and dog food, not with more material items.   True.  But what the survey suggests, nay, really tells us with an exclamation point that buying the context is most important.  If someone says it is quality or luxury, then that is the context.   And that is how we perceive it.

Which we can pay $300 for tees hirts and $400 for a pair of jeans.  Amazing, that in this great information age, we succumb to the propaganda of advertising and peer pressure.   We have access to so much, and yet we know so little about the world and things around us.

Well you spent your money on trinkets and beads.  And dog food.  So eat hearty.

Kindle Posts Minstrel’s Alley Book, The Guys Who Spied for China

(Los Angeles) “The Guys Who Spied for China,” by Gordon Basichis has just been posted on Kindle, Amazon’s EBook publishing arm.   The novel is based on his real life experiences uncovering Chinese Espionage Networks operating in the United States in the eighties and nineties.

“The Guys Who Spied for China,” is being published by Minstrel’s Alley, an independent publishing and media group.   This is the company’s first effort.   The book was also released as a trade paperback and is available through Amazon, Baker and Taylor and is available in bookstores around the country.

“We are very excited about the publication of “The Guys Who Spied for China,” said M.J. Hammond, publisher and president of Minstrel’s Alley.    We are excited to see the book listed on Kindle as we believe E-Publishing is the wave of the future.”

“The Guys Who Spied for China,” is our first published offering, so we naturally wish to oversee every stage of our marketing effort.  The novel should draw not only from spy freaks but from a wider, more literary readership as well.

“This roman a clef is a most unusual spy book as it breaks the mold for this genre.  It tells the story of what it is like to be suddenly thrust into the world of espionage.”

Hammond describes the book as quirky and authentic with touches of dark humor that will engage the reader.   “If you are looking for more than the basic mainstream spy book , you are in for a pleasant surprise.   This tells a much richer story.  This is a timely book, given the ongoing headlines about Chinese Espionage and the growing tensions again between the United States and China.”

Gordon Basichis is the author of two previous books, “The Constant Travellers,” and “Beautiful Bad Girl, The Vicki Morgan Story.”   He is the co-founder of Corra Group, a Los Angeles based company that conducts employment background checks and corporate research for companies throughout the United States and around the world.

M.J. Hammond is a former entertainment industry executive who founded Minstrel’s Alley to publish popular books not found in mainstream publishing.

“Mainstream publishing has its purpose,” said Hammond.  But the industry’s focus on celebrity and genre based books has left readers wanting.  We hope to help bring a sense of adventure back to books and publishing.”

Background: Minstrel’s Alley is a Los Angeles based independent publisher that seeks to bring adventure back into the publishing industry by publishing books that have popular appeal but with more complexity than the standard mainstream fare.   The new publishing group distributes its books through Amazon, Kindle, and assorted Internet outlets as well as through bookstores around the country.    You can view Minstrel’s Alley at www.minstrelsalley.com

The Language Deficiencies of Jargon and Buzz Words

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Language can be an art form.    It is the tool, the medium with which writers and orators work to define the human experience.   With the best of writing and, in fact, in the best or oratory and even casual conversation we use language to drill down on those experiences, to define a more precise description of our senses and emotions.   It is also the brick and mortar of societies and civilizations.

Language enables us to make distinctions in what we mean.  Through language we explore nuances and distinguish the severity of lack of it  between one sensation or emotion and another.   We organize our thoughts through language and can convey those thoughts and assign shadings of value to what is relatively the same experience.   Language gives us the psychic leverage to not only interpret experiences, emotions, and idea with greater precision, it creates the means for the access to an even broader understanding of the human condition.

So, after centuries of honing and refining language, what do we do?  We dumb it down.  We take these complex experiences, ideas, and events of the human condition  that have been passed on for generations and assign easy phrases and cheap jargon to cover the spectrum.   We communicate in broad strokes and then fail to understand why there is so little understanding.   Even our deeper emotions are communicated in sound bites and bytes and bits of phrases and jargon we employ for the general sensory experience.

And then we wonder why we screw up in romance, go to war, and can’t get across the complexity of social and political solutions.  In fact, we encourage generality.   We pretend to be distinctive, and issue buzz words like we are all unique in our own special way, we are like snow flakes, truly one of a kind.  Yet we bow down to the altar of  category and conformity.  It seems that any message or idea that requires actual thought is scorned upon.   We would rather have it short and sweet, even if in the end we find it confusing and unusable in our efforts to determine fact from fiction, to discern what someone is really trying to get at.

We encourage dumbing down in everything from our news programs to our entertainment.   Love stories are over simplified with easy buzz words of engagement, loss, alienation, and then re-engagement.  If only the world went like that.    We watch our supposed movie heroes stumbling awkwardly like pre-adolescents when confronting the opposite sex.   We find regal and entertainment that boys from the comedic boy groups don’t have the linguistic wherewithal to even ask girls out, yet along find ways to charm them into bed.  In a world of free sex and mutual sexual aggression on both sides of the gender aisle, the viewing and reading audience is supposed to find it a major victory when our young heroes actually do it.

Forget about the nuances of relationships, the involvement and complexities of actually living together, of getting to know one another and absorbing the related personality and psychological changes our mates realize over time and experience.   It would take far too many words to explain the vagaries of romance, as it does the vagaries of violence and the socio-political process, so we boil them down to simplistic jargon.

So in communication, when we try to communicate, even about our deepest emotions, we resort to buzz words and phrases.   We stammer and stumble, as it is awkward enough trying to explain ourselves, and more so because we try to do it in general and often impenetrable terms.   And when we try to explain concepts or issue forth on social, political and economic issues, we fear belaboring points and instead resort to sound bytes.   Sound bytes that are encouraged by the media.

Sound bytes that are also encouraged by our friends and associates.   Everyone is overworked and the input from so many information sources has created an overload.   We can no longer focus and have witnessed a serious diminishing of attention spans.    We are easily distracted, and while time management skills are not always the best, we simply don’t have the time for deeper explanations.  We want it short, and we want it to the point.   Simple phrases for complex issues.  Who cares if we can’t understand?

Now there is a change and a need for change in communication forms.  Some years back people did have time, and they would belabor points, deliver laborious and useless preambles, before getting to the point.   We would sit and sigh, biting our tongues while they rambled on in tangential and desultory forms hoping there is a point to what they are saying.   Many people still resort to this as their principal measure of communications.  We roll our eyes as they try to decided what year the year took place–was it ’81 or ’83?– was it Sam or Steve?  And all this discourse is replete with ridiculous biographies and personal tidbits about people you know nothing a bout and don’t care to.

But then on the other hand, when information is relevant and may strike a point where nuance is significant in distinguishing the elements of one idea or emotion from the next, or at least explore them on deeper levels, we find the person we are addressing issues for the summary “got it.”   They are telling us they full understand what they are saying.   They knew where we are going, so no need to continue the conversation.

But, in fact, the majority of the time they really don’t “got it.”  They got part of it.  The broad strokes.  And the broad strokes will only give you so much understanding.   When it comes to romantic relationships or going to war, innuendo and greater detail have special significance.   If we are to promote understanding and not just add to the confusion, the drilling down into greater explanation can make all the difference between war and peace or love and abandonment.  It can make the difference between the successful implementation of a program or action and its failure.

So for expedience we encourage the dumbing down and discussion in general terms.   We have texting now, which further encourages generality.   And so with countless sources for our information, feed lines for every subject, and all the modern technological delivery systems for that information, we are more confused about life and its experiences than maybe ever before.  We talk to people in messages created by Madison Avenue, or Wall Street, on populist pundits, or cable news.   Terms, jargon, buzz words to describe ridiculously complex situations and emotions.

Perhaps it is because all the technological advancements we are more exposed to the complexities of life and society, than ever in hisotry.   Perhaps this very exposure, especially on a global level, is so overwhelming, we are compelled to simplify.   In the face of our confusion we utilize jargon and buzz words as weapons to manage the world around us.      We wish for the easy answers, and believe that like the kid who finds horse manure in his Christmas stocking, there is a pony down there somewhere.

There is no pony.  Just horse manure.   Unless we teach our children to realize the world in complex terms and attempt to define it accordingly, we will continue to degrade our society and civilization.   This, of course, means education.   Not the education where for the convenience of teaching 97 kids to a classroom where we resort to simplistic terms to chronicle the events and lessons of world history and all the cultural attributes within.   No.

We need to teach them how to think on complex levels.   We need to show them how to absorb this information overload from all the reference channels and create from it the cognitive process that can best serve their expansion in the 21st century and beyond.   We need to teach them there isn’t just one way of approaching a subject, but there are many, and they all may have varying degrees of merit and credibility.   Most will warrant consideration, and in the end, despite our best intentions to live simply defined and well managed lives, there often isn’t the correct and incorrect approach.   There are only decisions to be made that are either prudent, effective or principled.

In other words, on communications levels, we have to attempt to keep them from making the same mistakes we are making.   We have to teach them that convenience is not necessarily expedient and the simplistic approach to the complex elements of life won’t make you happier or more uncomfortable.

We have to teach them the love for language.  And then, the few of use that still remember, have to show them how to use it.