Austin Chronicle – Oct. 17, 2014


You get accustomed to the nonsense that passes for commentary. It functions as the political equivalent of elevator music. You get so saturated with empty views that when, say, The Economist editorializes a whopping absurdity, it buzzes right by until you stop in your tracks and ask aloud, in a public place, “What can these pallid motherfuckers possibly be thinking of?”

To wit, The Economist, Sept. 27: “America … seems swamped by the forces of disorder, either unable or unwilling to steady a world that is spinning out of control.”

Control of whom, by whom, and for whom?


Michael Ventura is retiring from writing his Letters at 3 a.m. column.  I can’t begin to express how sorry I am to hear it.

http://austinchronicle.com/columns/2014-10-03/letters at 3am-a-long-goodbye




A pleasant surprise to find myself quoted within a column written by someone for whom i have had the highest respect for the 30 years since i first discovered his work.


Austin Chronicle – August 22, 2014


A 19-year-old shot an archduke.

That happened on June 28, 1914, in a country that was then called Austria-Hungary and is now called Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Almost instantly, many dots collided and connected. As usual, most leaders expected a quick, predictable war. As usual, that was nonsense.


There is a Will Smith movie called “I, Robot” in which the cop says to the computer guru, in exasperation, “you’re the dumbest smart person I know.” That’s us.

Michael Ventura’s latest “LETTERS AT 3AM” column:


Austin Chronicle – August 8, 2014

 Dark Angel premiered October 3, 2000. Created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee, the Fox series pilot opened with eerily crew-cut children in their jammies fleeing in the snow and getting shot. Cut to Jessica Alba on a motorcycle in a dilapidated Seattle with drones patrolling overhead.

Alba narrated: “They used to say one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day. It was sort of a joke until the June morning when those terrorist bozos whacked us with an electromagnetic pulse from 80 miles up. You always hear people yapping about how it was all different before the Pulse – land of milk and honey, blah, blah, blah, blah – with plenty of food and jobs, and things actually worked. … Americans really thought they had it dialed in, money hanging out the butt. But it was all just a bunch of ones and zeros on a computer someplace. So when that bomb went klabooey, and the electromagnetic pulse turned all the ones and zeros into plain old zeros, everyone was like, ‘No way!’ America’s just another broke ex-superpower looking for a hand-out and wondering why.”





Austin Chronicle – May 30, 2014

A street kid – I was a street kid. (No. There is no “was” to the street. Still a street kid, down deep.)

If “street kid” conjures in your mind a tough, svelte, hip urchin – well, street kids like that exist, but they’re the ones the street kills first. For every movie-worthy street kid, there were dozens of us hanging out in the background, alert as cats – fire escape kids, rooftop kids, alley kids who knew how to blend right into the bricks and survive.

“Street sense” is not like in the movies – it’s not digging the score about every badness on the block. Street sense is knowing any shadow might hurt you. Street sense is respect for those shadows, with the knack to spot capital-C Crazy from across the street, and even from around the corner. Knowing how to go from here to there without getting your ass handed to you.


For some reason this remembered column has been on my mind, so I thought I’d share it once again.

Letters at 3AM


By Michael Ventura

Friday, February 27, 2009

Screens, screens, screens – everywhere, screens. Right in front of me, in arm’s reach, are three: the three computers accessible from this chair (often I work on two at once). Another screen’s across the room – the TV. My cell phone, also in arm’s reach, has a screen, even though I bought the simplest device possible – it cost 10 bucks, but it can take and transmit photos and movies. You see screens at checkout counters, restaurants, laundromats, waiting rooms, and on the dashboards of cars. Millions preen for screens on YouTube and Facebook, marketing their images like politicians or starlets. What with BlackBerrys, iPhones, and my 10-buck cell, few Americans go anywhere anymore without a handy screen that connects to every other screen in some way or another, linking to any event, broadcast, or data source anywhere, including satellite photos of every address you know. The screens disconnect, as well: I work where I live, so, theoretically, I need never leave my apartment – I can order shoes, pet food, people food, parts for my car, and lingerie for my girlfriend right here on this screen, to be delivered right to my door. Now that I think of it, it seems half the people I know met their present significant others via the screen.

The power of these interconnected screens is such that a virtually unknown woman can step before the media on a Friday and by the following Wednesday be a superstar nominated for the vice presidency of the United States. Conversely, a man touted as a promising presidential candidate uses the obscure racial slur “macaca,” someone videos the event with a cell phone, within hours every news outlet replays the video, and the viability of a presidential hopeful evaporates into Cyberspace.


Bruce Kallsen posted this on Facebook, and I took the liberty of re-posting, and I share it here. All these damn wars keep taking their toll, years — decades — after they are officially won or lost or abandoned. Bruce Kallsen’s brief moving story of one man’s re-awakening gives us the slightest glimpse of the awful reality. 

Bruce Kallsen

Memorial Day has finally become a special day for me. I had never honored the day, until MD of 2006. For whatever reason, I decided that weekend to put out a flag to recognize the holiday. My wife Becca has strong opinions about her Victorian house, and my placement of the flag didn’t meet her expectations. I immediately went into a rage….so strong that it was obviously inappropriate…even, or especially to me. It had finally happened. The ghost I carried inside had finally raised its ugly head, and in a manner which made it very recognizable.

In 1972 I crashed upon landing on the USS Midway after a night mission over North Vietnam. My Bombardier-navigator, Bix, and 5 others were killed. Bix ejected and went over the side of the carrier, probably drowning in an unconscious state. Five others were struck by my aircraft or parts of other aircraft I hit, or ingested fuel when their refueling rig was broken by the contact of my aircraft.

As I rode the aircraft up the flight deck, trying to power it off and into the air in order to eject, it became apparent the aircraft wouldn’t fly, so I shut it down and rode it out. My awareness was incredibly accelerated, and it became apparent to me my little piece of the cockpit would end up between two aircraft. The plane might be destroyed, or nearly so, but where I was headed looked safe. I rode it out. Some very courageous flight deck fire fighters followed right behind me extinguishing the flames from my critically damaged aircraft even as I was still moving. As they got closer to my aircraft, their vision was obscured by the flames and smoke of my aircraft. The Air Boss, in the tower, talked them closer to extinguish the fire.

The next day we held services for those killed. I attended, but experienced no emotion at all. I was flat-lined, no feeling, and it was immediately apparent to me this was inappropriate. PTSD wasn’t a term in the normal lexicon in 1972. But I knew I should have feelings, very strong ones, and wondered how to bring them forth. The flight surgeons were only interested in how soon I could fly again. I started flying combat flights 10 days later.

But now it was Memorial Day, 2006, and my rage told me the ghost had finally arisen. Five years followed of recurring anger, therapy, and inner search. I am very thankful to report that Memorial Day finally has the special meaning for me it should always have had.

Here’s to those we’ve lost, and to those still with us who are lost in their inner conflict. We lose 22 veterans a day to suicide, more to remember on this special day.

This account is the shadow of a shadow of the experience, of course, but perhaps it will give an idea of how it was. These programs are always a blend of the techniques and exercises, the interaction with the trainers and other participants, and the group energy that builds when people spend time in a common endeavor. I know of nothing like it.

Lucid Dreaming intensive, April 12-18, 2014


The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ll learn the value of this course (one way or the other) by how it changes or doesn’t change our lives – or rather, how we use it or don’t use it. But here is my interim record of how it went from the inside.

Omitted here (mostly) are the stimulating conversations at mealtimes, the jokes, the personal stories, the addressing of each other’s puzzlements that took place here as in all TMI programs. Omitted are our enjoyment of the warm Sunday and Monday, and our dis-enjoyment of the rapid cooling that began Tuesday and persisted into Thursday. Omitted are the chats by the snack counter, and the endlessly available coffee, tea, and fruit juice, and the meals prepared by others and cleaned up by others, that freed so much energy to do the things we were there to do. Omitted, too, is the healing work participants did for each other. All these things contribute to making TMI programs so warm as memories, but you can’t go repeating it all the time. Just be aware that it is the vital and (usually) unmentioned background to everything else. My notes unfortunately do not include the jokes and the general fooling around that always accompanies not only the gathering of participants but the light-hearted approach of the trainers:


For the past few months, I have been writing a series of mini-essays, say a thousand words per topic, on American history beginning at the year 2000 and working my way back. This, in response to my friend Charles Sides, who used to say he didn’t like history, but found that he liked hearing stories i told about it.

Today i decided i might as well share the stories with a wider audience, so i brought my other blog back from the dead and made my first entry.

If you take a look and are interested in seeing more as i put it up (i intend to do so pretty regularly, though we all know what good intentions are worth), i suggest that you subscribe to the blog so that you get notified automatically when i put up a new post. (You can always unsubscribe if you decide you don’t like it.) Saves wear and tear on the neurons, trying to remember to check for it.






Austin Chronicle – May 16, 2014


Lots of scrawled or printed-out scraps in three bulging manilas: sentences without a home, sketched notions, occasional quotes, and bits cut from columns because I was short of space or because they distracted. Once in a while I save what’s worth saving and empty the manilas onto this page.

* As to understanding: Look for patterns. Be it a historical event or a family fight, once you find the pattern you’re halfway home.