Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 12, 2016

My Father’s Tools – original poem by Mark Nielsen

My Father’s Tools      (9-12-16, by Mark Nielsen)



"Made in the USA." As if I didn't already know that...

“Made in U.S. of A.”   As if I didn’t already know that…


I need a phillips.

I keep one in Dad’s old toolbox

in my car trunk.

I go get it,

then still hold it briefly in my hands

after I’ve used it.


These objects define him, in a way–

and yet could not possibly do so entirely.

They merely stand in for him now,

which is all they ever did.

They say he was here.

He fixed things. He made things.

He changed things.


That light on the porch at our house?

He put that there–

using this pair of “Kleins” to cut the wire,

that Craftsman screwdriver to attach the wires,

that keyhole saw to cut a circle in the wallboard.

We don’t live there anymore,

but he left something behind there,

forever, …or till they tear it down.


I could buy a newer, sharper saw,

as some have suggested.

But why would I?

These tools have the spirit of old things

–and of eternity—

infused into them.


A wood-handled screwdriver?

Wood? Who does this anymore?!

It still has my father’s sweat and skin oil

embedded somewhere deep in the woodgrain,

just like I have something of him

somewhere deep within me,

especially at times like this.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 4, 2016 and the Decay of America

The non-virtual Amazon is under siege, while an Internet behemoth has its way with us.

I turned 51 a few weeks ago. In a way, I always wondered if I would actually make it this far. But I did. [High five!]  Thanks to all who have kept me safe and (relatively) sane over the years.  I’m feeling good, so I plan to stick around awhile longer –if you’ll have me. [Knock wood…]

Also, since by now I have earned the standard-issue “old fogie’s right of complaint”, let me get a few things off my chest about what is bugging me these days.

Firstly, despite what our shallow United States (or “developed world”) opinion-makers would have us believe, the world is not a marketplace, and I am more than the numbers on my weekly pay stub, or what I buy with that money. 

I’ve been discussing the whole question of what, why and how Americans buy stuff for decades now. I do it occasionally on the blog, and Facebook– but I ain’t got a big cadre of followers, so you may have missed those posts. Most recently (like the past six years), I’ve just privately traded stories with a few close friends or family, and presently pretty much just with my fiancé Susan. Nobody else seems to care about my amateur sociology and economic critique anyway, so I mostly don’t rant about consumerism and corporate hypocrisy as much as I used to.

However, the small incident last month that brought it up again was yet another errant purchase of a defective item from : a DVD Susan got me for my birthday. It was a sealed two-disc set of the remastered “Singin’ In the Rain”, plus all the bonus material. I opened the case a few days later, and there was only a bonus disc. No movie. 

That makes at least six problem products –out of about eight total purchases– which either went “bad” immediately or else had delivery problems. That’s in just the three years since she and I have been together. Not a good average for Amazon, right?

Mostly it has been shoddy (probably all Chinese) consumer electronics, manufactured by third-party companies: two small “hybrid”  laptops with detachable touchscreens (one by ASUS and one by Acer), one phablet style smart phone. Then there was a full-spectrum light therapy light that arrived damaged, a crafting desk/cabinet for which the third-party freight company screwed up a *scheduled* delivery, and now the DVD.

When Amazon started, books and DVDs were their bread and butter. (That was in 1994,  …yes, the Dark Ages as measured in Internet Time…)  Now they sell everything, while their Borders Books and Circuit City competitors are mostly bankrupt. But they get more than half of it wrong. The UPS Store guy confirmed yesterday (when we returned the DVD) that their biggest volume is from Amazon returns.  So apparently Amazon is big enough now that they need not care about quality anymore. They get the repeat business anyway, …or else make better money instead by selling us virtual products made up of 0’s and 1’s (streamed content, ebooks, and the like). 

There were once anti-trust laws that reduced this level of “monopoly/collusion” bullshit, but those laws have no teeth anymore. Same goes for consumer protection and Quality Assurance laws (if they ever did have an impact, which I doubt). So now, unless a product is literally killing people, manufacturers can cut corners all day long, knowing we will just buy a new one in a year when the present item breaks. 

When’s the last time you had a pair of shoes repaired professionally?

I’m not sure who to blame here. But I will think twice about buying from Amazon from now on, just as I started doing with Wal-mart a long time ago, over similar quality issues, plus their unfair labor practices. 

Susan and I may be just two Davids in the face of these Goliaths, but even a gnat can get the better of a clumsy, lazy lion almost every time, if we are to believe that old fable from Aesop.

But when it comes to governance, commerce and an ethic of fairness… Where is that Ancient Greek wisdom now, when we need it most? Who’s minding the world’s biggest store?

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 30, 2016

Hindsight Is Hell -a protest song

(Neil Young, in a simpler time…)

Below, my first attempt at a Dylanesque or Neil Young-ish modern protest song (chords to follow… maybe). Blurted onto the page in about 20 minutes.
_Hindsight Is Hell_ (working title)
The hippy honcho now takes his orders 

from the red-faced dwarf who closed the borders.

Seawater’s warm and the bees are dying,

But the green party fairies just waste their time crying…

While Sambo and Rambo both tapdance a tango

To the ratatat tunes of Mr. Bojangles.

I ain’t seen you, girl, since that night in the hills 

When we worked it all out (except who’d pay the bills).

And it’s 2020 and hindsight is hell.

The past few decades ain’t gone so well.

I still sing for my supper, and business is good.

But I cant go back to my old neighborhood.

I kept up the fight, though my sword is dull.

Seems I just can’t get nothing thru Jonesy’s thick skull.

But Smith and Wesson, they’re doing just fine,

Though it’s ’cause of them Jonesy’s back doing time

For being wheel man to some bank-Robbing Nazis.

Now They’re all in a prison that feeds inmates matzoh.

Time travel’s a bitch. We can never get home.

It’s all gone now, like the fall of Rome.

I saw you last week on your way to church,

On Sunset and Vine, in that tangerine hearse

With Ontario plates –there’s a sight for sore eyes–

Then I followed you in, which was far from wise,

‘Cause you made my ears bleed with your Caterwaul Choir.

You used to get high, now you try to get higher.

But you crashed on the rocks, then rolled out of that joint.

I was still in the pew, but I’d lost the point.

        Chorus x2


Home is where the heart is,

But home is where it’s hardest. [Repeat last two lines, x3 to end]

— —

inspired in part by Marc Maron’s podcast interviews with the black comedian Godfrey and with musician Neil Young

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 8, 2016

Joe The Racebaiter Walsh & His “Real America”

I’m sitting here in the so-called Heart of America, in central Illinois, and I can see the plaque on our arteries plain as day.

This is said in the wake of this week’s shootings of unarmed black men/boys by white police in Minnesota and Louisiana, and the seemingly retaliatory shootings of armed white (or all races?) police in Dallas last night.

Let me first add my voice of grief and frustration to the near-useless cacophony, to the shrill echo chamber, that Facebook especially has become. The public discourse is devolving quickly, especially in mass media during a presidential election year. I can do very little to counteract that trend. But I won’t stand silently by, either.

It should be obvious that :

1) all lives matter, especially to God 

2) black and brown lives are statistically more at risk (of violence, poverty, racism, starvation, imprisonment, addiction, ignorance, nationalism, illness, neglect…all the Love of Power’s wicked children). 

This is simply scientific. Look at mortality rates, CDC numbers, census stats, and firmly established history.

That black/brown/minority lives are more at risk of violence is also true not just in the U.S. but thoughout the world, which has been dominated by armed white Europeans and our progeny for going on, like, 5,000 years now. 

It does not make me a cop-hater to point out the obvious. Shootings by police or of police –regardless of race– are really about the legacy of power/fear dynamics in human civilization. All the rest is just context, or irrelevant noise.
But guns as a constitutional, ideological, criminal justice, media-debated and yes, racial hot potato: that’s unique to *America*.

We used to love all them ol’ Western Cowboy shoot-em-ups, dint we, Vern? So in my view, we’ve been trying to work out the whole pros/cons gun violence and law-and-order thing since well before the Civil War, if not since the American Revolution itself. 

We (especially whites looking to preserve the status quo) are conditioned to react fearfully with violence, and skin color is simply the easiest way to define the “other” whom we have been subtly or overtly coached to fear.

So… How are we doing in this crucial dialogue, lawmaking, and enforcement? Not so well, I’m afraid –since it seems to be getting worse here, especially for black and brown people. By the way, all our military actions overseas nowadays are against various Brown Others, too. 

Speaking of war, blowhard former congressman and sometime radio pundit Joe Walsh declared a race war just last night. So all the above is also said in the wake of blustering and ridiculous tweets by former IL congressman Joe Walsh. For the details on that story, the Washington Post has done the legwork for us here.

For those who don’t click thru, Walsh’s most incendiary tweet went like this, just before midnight, a tweet which he has since taken down:

  “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

I think Philando Castile’s life mattered. Does that make me a punk? You coming after me, Joe? But I’m white. And I don’t have a gun, in fact I’m a true pacifist–wouldn’t use one even to defend myself (though I might hunt with a gun if I had to, or felt like it).

You going after President Barry, Joe? But he’s half white –and the other half is really Kenyan, not what the majority thinks of as “black” when discussing U.S. racial politics. 

You going after “punks” (in the musical/rebellious sense of the word)? Most of them were/are white, and a good number are even conservative like you. Well, maybe not asses like you, just working class whites unhappy with the socio-political system that you represent. I’m that kind of punk.

Most importantly, who/what is this Real America of which you speak? I want to be able to see them coming.

This war of words is getting bloodier by the hour. But I don’t even know what side I’m on, when all the shootin’ starts. Can you help me out, Joe? 

Where IS this mythical Real America anyway? Because I’m sitting right here in the middle of the Corn Belt, with decent, hardworking, seasonal Latino factory workers sitting right over in the next room, but I can’t find YOUR America around here to save my life, Joe. Here, they are the majority, I am the minority, …and I am not one bit scared of them.

Your Illinois is not mine, and it’s certainly not that of those blacks, Latinos, Muslims and “others” with whom I stand in solidarity (even if I DO have to compete with them for a job now and then).

I also can’t find those racist tweets you took back down from your Twitter, either. Don’t you stand behind what you’ve said anymore? What kind of weak-ass warrior and propagandist are you? 

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 8, 2016

White Owl (a song by Josh Garrels)

Read the lyric, stream the track –>
“White Owl”
by Josh Garrels:
White Owl 

When the night comes, 
and you don’t know which way to go 

Through the shadowlands, 

and forgotten paths, 

you will find a road 
Like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye, 

And use your instinct as a guide, to navigate the ways that lays before you, 

You were born to, take the greatest flight 
Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love 

To carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow 

Every hollow in the dark of night 

Waiting for the light 

Take the flame tonight 
Child the time has come for you to go 

You will never be alone 

Every dream that you have been shown 

Will be like living stone 

Building you into a home 

A shelter from the storm 
Like a messenger of peace, the beauty waits be released 

Upon the sacred path you keep, leading deeper into the unveiling 

As your sailing, across the great divide 
Like a wolf at midnight howls, you use your voice in darkest hours 

To break the silence and the power, holding back the others from their glory 

Every story will be written soon 

The blood is on the moon 

Morning will come soon 
Child the time has come for you to go 

You will never be alone 

Every dream that you have been shown 

Will be like living stone 

Building you into a home 

A shelter from the storm  

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 21, 2016

“What I Did at Work Today”, by The Terminator

I stopped a sad, circling-the-drain drunk/high young man who got fired yesterday (and had the EMTs called) from trying to re enter his former workplace. I treated him with dignity, he appeared to be unaware he was fired, but he left quietly.  
I often wish life was less interesting than it is.
But as long as he doesn’t come back armed, I’ll be okay.

Will he be okay? Not without the Higher Power he won’t.


It’s a temp assignment for me anyway. I may even apply for this poor kid’s job (a better fit for my skills and my nature than security work will ever be).
Last week, the drama was a heroin withdrawal patient and other lost souls (not all, but too many) coming in at a hospital ER in Peoria.

When I’m tempted to think I’m in a bad place, for awhile to come, now I’ll probably remember the man I sent packing today, and his long walk home back across the parking lot (he had no car).

As a friend of mine once said, the Good News makes a lot more sense when we see and admit the bad news is often pretty bad.


Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 8, 2016

George Carlin Predicts the Future


At YouTube …

Carlin’s American Nightmare

In 2005, George Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) reviews the selling out of America from Reagan through Trump/Clinton:
“They want obedient workers– people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the moment you go to collect it.”

Here’s the prediction part: ” Good honest hardworking people, blue collar, white collar– doesn’t matter what color shirt you’ve got on, these are people of modest means– continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don’t give a fuck about them. They don’t care about you. At all. At all. At ALL.”

And don’t miss the clincher, the reason this clip is called Carlin’s “American Dream” meme-generator, and possibly the best three minutes of this singular genius’ career:

“It’s called the American Dream, ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.”

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 1, 2016

Memorial Day In the Age of Endless Wars


I found myself checking out emotionally, curling up in a fetal position spiritually, as I thumbed through my Facebook newsfeed the day after Memorial Day, as I looked back over the previous day’s material.

I’d like to feel grateful for “freedom”, and for those who “paid” for it. And I do, on occasion. But I mostly just feel grief. As in: who stole my country?, who stole my peaceable church tradition? (Yes maybe it happened over a thousand years ago, but why keep at this fruitless violence?), …even who stole my Jesus?

I needed to comfort my grief (one similar to how I feel every year during the busy, materialistic and “stolen” Christmas season), and to turn back toward the gospel (and/or the sense of belonging and belovedness) that first made me believe in the saving power and great mercy of Jesus. So I started reading this today:

_A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace_, by Brian Zahnd (David C. Cook publishers, 2012)

Some Catholic and Lutheran pals from Redeemer Church in Park Ridge/Chicago recommended it, and it’s so far, so good. (Plus it was free, so I may as well do the author a solid and give him a buck or two worth of publicity.) Anyone who cites theologian Stanley Hauerwas right off the bat is most likely a friend of mine.

As we consider the Prez’s recent visit to Hiroshima, and head toward a big election, and continue to send the dupe troops abroad as cannon fodder for future Memorial Days, let’s take the long view for once.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

After 1945 we lost our blind faith in the inevitability of human progress. A threshold was crossed, and something important changed when humanity gained possession of what previously only God possessed: the capacity for complete annihilation. In yielding to the temptation to harness the fundamental physics of the universe for the purpose of building city-destroying bombs, have we again heard the serpent whisper, “You will be like God”? When J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, witnessed the first atomic detonation at Los Alamos on July 16, 1945, he recalled the words of Vishnu from the Bhagavad Gita—“ Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” When the monstrous mushroom cloud rose over the New Mexico desert, did the human race indeed become Death, the destroyer of worlds? It’s more than a legitimate question.” (Chapter 1)

Anybody have an answer to that last question that makes you feel even remotely comfortable, or at least resolves this longstanding inner human conflict? (i.e. Fight vs. flight, or  “do unto others” vs. self-interest –inner conflicts from which all external conflicts seem to spring).

My only answer will be found on my knees, I suppose. So why am I asking you? Maybe just to give a few more people permission to grieve, not just our veterans, but our own headlong, rash, ideologically explosive rush toward death.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 21, 2016

Joe Walsh Says “Not Me” to GOP


I’m re-posting this one at my blog, because once in awhile something a mere entertainer does (or in this case won’t do) actually matters out here in the “real world”. I’m especially a fan of Joe Walsh because in the recent past he’s recovered from over twenty years of drug and alcohol addiction, and become a worthy spokesperson for the recovery movement. The “Ordinary Average Guy” is a definite good guy…


(CNN) For the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, the show must not go on.

The musician pulled out of a concert scheduled for July 18 in Cleveland, Ohio, after he said he learned of the show’s ties to the Republican National Convention.

“It was my understanding that I was playing a concert which was a nonpartisan event to benefit the families of American veterans on Monday, July 18 in Cleveland,” Walsh said in a statement he released Wednesday<;. “Today it was announced that this event is, in fact, a launch for the Republican National Convention.”

Walsh said he also discovered that his name would be used “to raise sponsorship dollars for convention-related purposes” and therefore he felt forced to withdraw from the event.

“I am very concerned about the rampant vitriol, fear-mongering and bullying coming from the current Republican campaigns,” Walsh said. “It is both isolationist and spiteful. I cannot in good conscience endorse the Republican party in any way.”Walsh is scheduled to co-headline the “One Hell of a Night Tour” with Bad Company, which kicks off May 12 in Dallas. He apologized to any fans or veterans who may have been disappointed over his decision on the Cleveland gig and promised to do a benefit concert for vets later in the year.


Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 1, 2016

Worldmakers’ Creation Station Workshop

[A promotional flier to paste on the lamp post at the edge of the Milky Way]

Angels and WorldMakers’   “Creation Station” Workshop

.                     .                       .                   .

Angels! Hamicrobytes! Time Bridgers! Come one, come all… to the

Angels and Worldmakers’ Creation Station Workshop

First and Third Tuesdays at…

Third Planet from Sol (Star 8342.91v), USA, New York, Soho YMCA (in the alley, behind the wheel of the dumpster, on Bacterium 20047565, Conference Room)

Session 7, April 5, 2016 (Earth Calendar)

TOPIC – Jacob’s Ladder

GUEST PRESENTERS – Jacob, Son of Isaac and his collaborator Guardian Gil, of the 12th Generation Guardians

Come meet the Man with the Plan, and the Angel who whispered it in his ear. See how they transformed a planet, starting from a ragtag tribe of well-intentioned homo sapien desert-dwellers, a few rotten apples, and the simple idea that even a bad race of beings deserves a second chance.

  • “Atomic Brainstorming Techniques”: Put some Quantum into your Physical Manifestations
  • “Micro to Macro and Bacro Again”: Learn economies of scale, practice the “bait-and-switch” sales and propaganda strategy, and see how the “Too Big to Fail” revolution brought the Roman Empire to its knees —then 2000 years later taught American economists how to fit a camel through a needle’s eye!
  • “Beat Peculiar” : Watch guest performers Homer of Greece, Allen Ginsberg of Greenwich Village and Common of Chi-raq engage in battle-rhyming and protest poetry. Hear how the finest minds of each man’s generation were turned to oatmeal. Then write some rabble-rousing epic poetry of your own, creating a story that will create a reality that will inevitably either save or ruin millions of lives. (Take your pick! It’s all in good fun.)

Wear loose clothing or no clothing, and absolutely no metal, so that you can move between universes easily. Bring a friend for a 5% discount on admission.

And above all, come prepared to have fun! The Family of Man is depending upon it!

Admission: 10 Comet Credits, or barter by offering your services for 3000 years.


Inspired by a writing prompt and blog post at:

fun with writing prompts

Illustration above, for article ‘The Scientist, The Humanist, and Us’ (1981) by Ron Walotsky in Future magazine.

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