Showing posts with label Boneryänker's Almanach. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boneryänker's Almanach. Show all posts

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Reprint Heaven Forever: "Works For Me," Said The Whale

Hoo Boy Yet Again, The Birthday of Big Marine Mammal Avatar Creators

Moving through life, we find ourselves on occasion in the midst of experience or the presence of a thing which resonates and reminds that something, more than what we think we know or can perceive (if we would just stop and shut up and pay enough attention to see), exists.

Principally, this happens when we're 'out in nature', but it also happens when we encounter some art -- in particular, when it's been created by someone who made deep and illuminating connections and Brought Them Back To Tell Thee. From August 1st in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and today.
_____________________________

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
-- Herman Melville / Moby-Dick, or, The Whale
Over at the Soul Of America, it's a celebration of Herman Melville's 201st birthday (!), and things of the Sea, and a Whale, and other notables which Herman brought back, To Tell Thee.

I keep considering writing a post from the viewpoint of the Whale just for the potential Yucks (because, god knows, We Need The Yucks Wherever We Can Get Them), but gave it up and settled for the Humorous Image. I voice The Whale elsewhere on social media; he's not a bad sort, thoughtful, and is amazed at the delusional stalking being done to him by That Crazy Old Fart, Ahab.

The best thing about Blckdgrd's annual post, and the reason I mention it here, is -- Herman tends to be overlooked in a culture whose highest expression is a Rhianna / Pitbull remix; it's good to be reminded that he is still there -- as he reminds us that we are chased by our mortality; and that sometimes the Form Of The Destructor is large, albino, and aquatic.  

I was introduced to Melville when I was fourteen -- not through the novel he's most often identified with, but in the short work, "Bartelby The Scrivener" (1853), a classic in its own right. Ishmael's tale was next, and I was, uh, hooked. Later, I wasn't able to read anything by James or Conrad that didn't refer back to the narrative style I encountered first with Melville.

"Moby Dick: Or, A Whale" is ubiquitous. There is No Whale before He who populates a portion of that book (Yeah, okay; 'Shamu'  and 'Willy' are not the same thing). The Whale at least lurks, an unseen presence, in the background of all the on-ship action -- like Death, or Fate, or reruns of Three's Company. As if the Whale might chuckle and snicker in the dark during certain scenes:
" 'What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike.'   
" 'Heh heh heh heh,' " came a deep basso rumble out of the darkness which hid the waters. Ahab started, but did not otherwise acknowledge the presence of that upon which he had focused for so long."
That Big Marine Mammal is archetypal, now. And, aber natürlich, the moment something makes an appearance on "Family Guy", it's an absolute certainty that, whatever it is, it's now hard-coded into our DNA.

 Herman Left Out The Part Where Whales Prefer Raisin Bran
______________________________

[From 2016] MEHR, MIT KEINE POLITIK: My Very Own Hillaryite Colleague asks, "So you hate music, too?" (This, because of the Rhianna / Pitbull quip.) And I would agree, it's absurdist reductionism to claim that the essence of culture in Eusa is rap music and movies like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. I'm convinced that people (or, Whales; or very intelligent Honey Badgers) in the not very distant future will look back on this period as one of the most varied and vibrant in the history of our humanoid species -- until, you know, that thing happens.
________________________________

UND NOCH IMMER MEHR:  Once I saw this, I could not un-see it. It is an actual book. Swear to god.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-HzYH1qVAn2s/VLuVF_f9DWI/AAAAAAAABbI/SC32BIgWys4/s1600/Ships.jpg
_________________________________

UND: WAS IST AUCH SCHON WIEDER LOS? MEHR:  At one point, if you had $39.9K, Jim Morrison's Moby could have been yours.

At that price, you'd think the seller would have provided free shipping -- but, remember: this is Aremica, Land Of The Free and Home Of The Hip.






Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Reprint Heaven: End Of The World As We Know It

(This, from 2012, when I actually spent more time and energy writing and posting.)























Over the long weekend that everyone took, I went to see 2012. It didn't help that I began coming down with a cold right there in the theater, but it wasn't a bad film, really -- and as a friend warned me over Thanksgiving dinner, "You'll only go to see the special effects": They were spectacular, true; but Woody Harrelson's fuzzy-wacky Pabst-Drinking conspiracy radio host, broadcasting from the edge of the Yellowstone caldera as it erupted, almost eclipsed the digital magic...


Will Smith as The Man, and Abby (Or Kona), as Sam The Pooch


Back at home, lying around with The Cold, I flipped through some of my 200 DVDs and found the 2008 release of I Am Legend with Will Smith -- which was a fairly good film, but only in it's alternate release version. I glanced at the Criterion edition of Fritz Lang's M; I ran a finger across the cover of Beetlejuice; I considered Pixar's The Incredibles (Dudes!! Where's the SEQUEL???). But it was "I Am Legend" that gave me pause.


Ahnold's (Supposedly) 'Final Film', Canceled By Voters


Smith had been offered the starring role as Dr. Robert Neville, because the first Star cast, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had become the Governator. I strongly considered watching Smith (a more than decent actor), but finally passed on it to check out the simple, unexpected wonders of the Teevee, and I was glad I did.


Here in San Francisco, a local cable public access channel occasionally runs films when they need filler for a spare ninety minutes or so (occasionally, they don't even run the full feature). The prints are always bad, and the sound worse, but it's interesting to see what the kids down in the studio will pick. A few weeks ago, they put up Romero's original Night Of The Living Dead; this weekend, it was The Last Man On Earth -- which is, aber natürlich, the earliest version of 'I Am Legend'.


There have been any number of End-Of-The World-As-We-Know-It stories and films based on the elements of I Am Legend28 Days LaterThe Stand; the late-70's BBC series, Survivors (certainly, "Shaun Of The Dead"); in an odd kind of way, even The Puppet Masters and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.


These stories involve a nuclear war/alien incursion/mysterious plague (sometimes man-made) which kills and/or radically alters its victims; somehow, they turn into Zombies/Vampires/Unemotional Communists Alien Replicants; and, there is a single person/small band of plucky survivors, trying to find others who survived as well and get on with living in the Brave New World.


(Photo: The Incorruptable We Worship: Canada's dvdbeaver.com)


Last Man was released in the U.S. in 1965. It began as a property owned by Hammer Films in England, with Richard Matheson writing a script after his classic 1954 novella, "I Am Legend".


A Bantam Paperback: Forty Cents.


(Matheson later wrote another novella, "Bid Time Return", which became the 1980 cult film, Somewhere In Time; later, another novel, "What Dreams May Come" was turned into a fairly good movie about life in the Afterlife, with Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra and Max von Sydow.)


(Photo: You Will Sing 'O Canada': dvdbeaver.com)


Hammer Films passed on turning the acquisition into a film, but sold production rights to the 'concept' (without Matheson's script) to a cut-rate American producer who filmed it quickly in Europe to save costs. It was directed by Ubaldo Ragona, whose only other films were Fiesta In The Caribbean and The Virgin and The Bastard -- fortunately for Ol' Ubaldo, "Last Man' is a cult classic, the only work he'll be remembered for.


"By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading, begging for his blood!" Said the film posters. How they signed Vincent Price to play the title role and add the voice narration, no way to know -- except, he did get a European vacation!


Nope; It's Not The L.A. Coliseum... Price, Hunting Vampires In The Amphitheater At 'Eur',

The Rome Suburb, Home To Mussolini's 'Architecture Of Fascism'


As a kid, I'd read Matheson's novella, set in a post-apocalypse Los Angeles. As a sort-of Southern Californian, it was easy for me to visualize L.A. after a Zombiesque, vampire plague. However, Last Man wasn't shot in SoCal; it was filmed in and around Rome, the Eternal City: The architecture, the landscape, the foliage was supposed to be American -- but in college, as I sat getting loaded and watching this thing on teevee, it looked... well, Jeez; it was Italy, for cryin' out loud. Even after several bottles of Chateau Du Safeway, the bunch of us watching the film could spot most of its really obvious 'goofs'.


Wandering West Covina In Search Of The Undead? Nope; Still Eur.

(Photo: The Sublime: dvdbeaver.com)


My favorite "production errors" were seeing vehicles driving in the far background in a number of shots of 'deserted America'; or, Vincent Price (who has been out hunting vampires for two or three years), needing to stock up on garlic to keep vampires away -- and stopping to pick up a few garlands in an abandoned grocery store. Garlic won't last in my kitchen for two weeks, let alone three years.


My favorite bits were the cars Price drove -- which, between cuts in the same sequence, would change from Chevrolets to Fords and back again. I hadn't seen goofs that obvious in a film since spotting a dead slave wearing a wristwatch in the slow-pan-over-the-battlefield shot in the last reel of Spartacus.


"Not tonight, Bobby; I have a headache... be a dear and get me

one of our daughter's pet rats, a razor blade, and a straw?"

(Photo: The Inscrutable: Canada's dvdbeaver.com)


Following the line of Matheson's novella, Price played Robert Morgan, an ordinary man, uninfected (apparently due to a natural immunity) by a plague which arrived from Europe. In a series of flashbacks (also from Matheson's novella), Morgan's daughter becomes ill with the plague, but he and his wife try and nurse her to health. The daughter goes blind; his wife becomes ill with the plague; but he believes they can get through this... until first his daughter, then his wife, dies.


Vincent Price As Morgan, One Step Away From Cracking Up

(Photo: Your Best Friend: dvdbeaver.com)


Now he has a problem; he knows they'll become vampires. Morgan can't bear to stake-and-garlic his own wife and child, so he buries them a long distance from their house. As he knew they would, they return to their old home, every night, standing on the overgrown front lawn and calling out to him. In a grisly way which he can't even admit to himself (They'll come back, man -- and you want them to), Morgan can't bear to be completely separated from the ones he loves, his now Zombized Vampire family, calling to him out of the night.


"We Got 'Glow In The Dark' Play-Doh, Baby... It's So Koooool..."

(Photo: The Scrumptious dvdbeaver.com)


Even his best friend (also seen through pre-plague flashbacks) appears with them to taunt Morgan, crooning for him to come out and join them... strangely, his Sta-Press hairdo remains the same after he goes over to join the Legion Of The Undead... and occasionally, he tries the ol' White House State Dinner Gate Crash through the front door...


"We Want To Meet The Obamas And Suck their Blooooooood!!

(Photo: Canada's dvdbeaver.com, who shall not be named.)


But, he does more than fight the vampire-survivors just to stay alive; he actively hunts them, day in and day out. He broadcasts on radio, looking for other survivors, without an answer. Suddenly, he comes across an apparently uninfected girl, after not having seen another 'normal' human for years -- and slowly, Price discovers that she's one of them ... part of a developing new society -- of vampires.


Price Staking His Claim As King Of The Vampire Hunters


They've developed a serum which keeps the weird, bacteria-like contagion that results in vampirism at low levels in the blood, which prevents them from lusting for it to survive, and to venture out in daylight. It allows the girl to pass for 'normal', and to get close to Price so that he can be neutralized. Because they see themselves as victims of Price's relentless vampire hunting.


"Don't Talk Trash To Me About The Dodgers -- Ever!!"


This is the masterstroke role-reversal Matheson slowly introduces into his story: We initially see The Man as lonely hero, lost in a decaying, shabby world and surrounded by infected, homicidal monsters. But from the perspective of the New Vampires, trying to create order and structure in a world changed by a disease without a cure, they've adapted to survive -- and to them, Price is no hero: He's the Outsider, his daytime staking and killing the threat to their existence.


"But -- But I Can't Be The Monster -- You Are !!!"

(It's The End Of The World... And You're Wearing A Tie?)


Their serum liberates them from most of the aspects of Vampyrism -- enough to build a New Order. Price is their monster, the thing New Vampire parents use to frighten their children before going to sleep, a boogeyman who comes in the daylight with garlic and a stake. And, he has to die, so that they can live without fear.


Irony: A Bus In Rome (Where The First Version Of Matheson's Story Was Filmed), Advertising the Latest Version, "I Am Legend" (2008)


The next take on Matheson's story, The Omega Man, was released in 1971 with Charlton Heston -- who made Planet Of The Apes in 1968, and would go on to star in an honest classic, Soylent Green, in 1973. Oddly, in a bit of deja vu, 'Omega' was made after purchasing the rights from Hammer Films -- which still had been considering making a film from Matheson's script.


In Hammer's vision, the property had a new working title -- "Night Creatures" -- but British censors considered the concept of an empty world with decayed corpses and vampires too graphic for 1970, and again sold the production rights to Americans... but the plot wasn't entirely okay with censors here, either (there was plenty of real gore on the nightly news, courtesy of the war in Vietnam), so some changes had to be made.


Omega Man was set in L.A., and Heston's character was named Robert Neville -- both points identical to Matheson's story. But the plague survivors in Neville's Los Angeles were not nocturnal vampires -- just albino, deranged paranoids, wearing black monk's cowls and Ray-Bans, suffering from a terrible sensitivity to sunlight. They were Luddites, to boot, organized around an anti-technological dream in a group called "The Family".


ZERBE: These wigs itch. How long does it take to set up a camera?

KIRKPATRICK: Got that right. It's fucked up, man.

ZERBE: Hey, Lincoln; we wear these shades all the time. Right?

What the hell -- let's get high! Who's gonna know?

KIRKPATRICK: I'm down with that, man. You holding?

ZERBE: I think those two chicks who say, "More! Burn it more!" have

some pretty decent shit. Let's go ask. Not like we don't have time.

Heston's nemesis was the leader of the Family, a former L.A. Teevee news commentator named Matthias ("You -- you creature of the wheel!"), played by Canadian actor Anthony Zerbe (a strong supporter of Werner Erhard's 'est' training, back in the day). Before this, Anthony had a small, supporting role opposite Heston in 1968, as a ranch hand in the western, Will Penny. And, Matthias' right-hand 'Family' member, Zachary ("Just let me put some explosive to him, brother -- just a little nitro!"), was played by Lincoln Kirkpatrick -- who in 1973 would appear opposite Heston in Soylent Green as a Catholic priest tortured by the secret of Soylent after it was revealed to him in confession by Joseph Cotton.


Anthony Zerbe, Character Actor Par Excellance --

A Softer version of Anthony Hopkins, in the 1990's


I wonder if Zerbe, Kirkpatrick and Heston ever talked on set about prior shoots working together, or if that wasn't considered appropriate when you worked with someone whose credits included playing Judah Ben-Hur and Moses and Andrew Jackson and Michelangelo.


When The World Ends, You Get To Use Automatic Weapons.


It wasn't a terrible movie; it was Heston's second science fiction film, after Apes and before Soylent. It had a typical look-and-feel of back-lot production values possessed by many Columbia, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers films from the late 60's and early 70's. Watching Heston's acting (he seemed to be playing Robert Neville as if it was his Michelangelo from Agony and the Ecstasy) made me feel his career had to be headed for the toilet. The end of the film has Heston's Robert Neville dying in a posture that is too obviously like that of Christ on the cross, and no one watching could fail to feel the weight of the Ham we were being asked to bear.


Chuck; Ah, It's About The Symbolism, Man. Painful; Ya Know?


I felt excruciatingly embarrassed for him -- Heston, who had played so many great roles in film, was doing burned cheese sci-fi?. But, I took all of that back retroactively when he became the public face of the NRA -- and I've been an NRA member.


( I'm a fan of end-of-the-world films -- and, hey; you really want to be frightened? See the 1984 BBC production, Threads, which was the UK's version of 'The Day After'. I guarantee you won't sleep for a week. No shit: I Guarantee It.)


(In fact, if you look carefully at the film's poster, down at the bottom, below the credits in very small type is the simple statement, "This Film Will Not Just Frighten You; It'll Fuck You Up For Life". )




Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Reprint Heaven: Twilight At Noon

Misery Does Not Require Acts, Only Conditions
(From November, 2019. As true today as it was in the Olden Days)

Vanished World: Ours Will Also Seem As Remote
While from a Proud Tower in the town / Death looked gigantically down
-- Edgar Allan Poe, "City In The Sea" (1845)
The ... great age of European civilization was an edifice of grandeur and passion, of riches and beauty and dark reliance... The Old World had much that has since been lost, whatever may have been gained. Looking back on it from 1915, Emile Verhaeren, the Belgian Socialist poet, dedicated his pages, “With emotion, to the man I used to be.” 
-- Barbara Tuchman (1966)
______________________________

In The Proud Tower, popular historian Barbara Tuchman focused on describing Western culture in the decades leading up to the Great War -- a huge, red line of demarcation that finally separated the generations of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.

Her story is a chronicle of human folly (one of Tuchman's favorite themes), and because we know how the story will end, a leitmotif of nostalgia we sense in the background is really the collective despair of survivors who had lost everything familiar, an entire frame of reference for living.

Edward VII's Sendoff: Royal Procession Of Mourners, 1910

She opened her book with a spectacle: the funeral of King Edward VII of England, who had been on the throne for less than a decade after the death of his mother, Victoria. Tuchman described the brilliant funeral cortege, royal houses and empires in uniform. As Edward's coffin rolled along London streets, "The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock ... but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again." One of the last displays of presence and power of the Elite of the Gilded Age.

Tuchman closed the book with another funeral: this one for Jean Jaures, Socialist member of the French Chamber of Deputies, and a  principal, seminal Left political agitator of the age. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary had been assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, and with the interwoven alliances in that era, major European powers began slow-walking into war.

Jaures Speaking At A Socialist Rally, Paris; 1914

A general war had been building for the better part of a decade, and the Socialists in Europe knew working people in all countries would be the disposable cannon-fodder for nationalist politicians and industrial plutocrats. Jaures believed only a pan-European worker's strike, united under the banner of each country's Socialist party, could prevent the continent from being dragged into a catastrophe.

Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia, whose assassin had killed the Archduke, then mobilized to invade. On July 30, Russia declared a general mobilization; Jaures was pushing to organize the strike action with other Socialist leaders. While eating at a Paris cafe on the night of July 31, he was assassinated by a right-wing nationalist who had been stalking him. Jaures died at roughly the same time Germany's ambassadors were delivering messages in European capitals, advising it had declared war on Russia.

The Great War had just begun as Jaures' funeral took place in Paris on August 4, 1914. As the funeral cortege moved through Paris streets, Tuchman described a muffled bell of Notre Dame tolling, thinking of a poem by Schiller: "I summon the living / I mourn the dead."

Four years, three months, and the deaths of ~10,000,000 soldiers and civilians later, the war ended.
________________________________

We know we're living in a time of extremity. Everyone is figuratively holding their breath, waiting for ... something.  Tuchman's story led to a streetcorner in Sarajevo, and a few weeks in the high summer of 1914 -- and we read it with dread because we know where it ends. No one knows where our American story is leading.

Tuchman's story closed in 1914, 105 years ago. In 2019, there's no one reason to assume bad things are coming, in America -- because there seem to be an overwhelming preponderance of reasons. No one can be blamed for feeling the present moment is portentous, that we're approaching something, a Sarajevo moment, that will trigger a cataclysm. It's a continuous, negative feedback loop, difficult to shake off.
________________________________

America has ignored critical, obvious things for generations: contributing to climate disintegration; the inequality in wealth. We've ignored our real history of class, race and gender. We became an Empire, and behaved like one. We became a center to develop technology out of desire for novelty and profit, while reducing personal privacy and allowing our opinions, desires, habits to be harvested and exploited.

We ignored the rise of weapons availability and gun violence. We ignored evangelical christian religious extremism. We ignored right-wing domestic terrorists and white supremacists. We ignored a malignant right-wing media -- whose lies and distortion have created a separate, alternate reality, tailored for a specific segment of America's population.

Our great national weaknesses have been chronicled and discussed for decades. Then, we had 9/11, and the Forever War; the 2008 financial crisis; an internal struggle in the GOP (won by the Alt-Right); and a loss of focus or purpose by our political Left (ostensibly, the Democratic Party).

In the new Millennium, America became progressively more tribal, split along every fault line you can imagine -- Left vs. Right; Rich vs. Poor; Young vs. Old; Urban vs. Rural; christian vs. non-christian; White vs. Anybody Else; LGTBQ vs. homophobe; Men vs. Women. Into the mix, throw gun ownership, militias, private armies and private intelligence groups, and the daily drumbeat of lies, conspiracies, taunts and threats pouring out of the great echo chamber of the Right.

Never before have the 'deplorables', the Base, felt so empowered, so justified, so ready to take back what they have been told is theirs from a rag-tag crowd of liberals, hippies, immigrants, minorities, and devil-worshiping pagans.

And, I can't shake the feeling that there are too many 'responsible' conservatives who want some final, showdown battle with everything they hate in life, personified by liberals, women, and anyone different from them.
_________________________________

Sad Vlad's Pal.

Against that background, Trump was almost inevitable -- "I can drain the swamp"; the allegedly rich mogul with the blow-up doll trophy wife; America's Silvio Berlusconi. He is the personification of everything we've collectively ignored, the would-be Clown Emperor. Everything about his presidency is a symptom of the rot at the heart of America, and on constant display -- selfishness, arrogance; narcissism and misogyny; nationalism; religious extremism; racism and sexism.

If you were trying to find a political leader who, if elected, would blow America apart along those developed fault-lines -- someone who would subordinate the needs of a democratic nation-state to feed a bottomless, life-sucking pathological need -- Trump is precisely who you would pick.
__________________________________

I don't have any great expectations for the impeachment process. The hearings are important, historic. There will be moments everyone will recall with relish or anger. Generations will remember them, as  Watergate is remembered. From a legal perspective,  and for the historical record, they're essential.

Whether a majority of Americans understand this impeachment is about limits of Executive authority is an open question. The GOP will continue to push a conspiracy-fueled, barely coherent defense of Trump, designed to confuse and obfuscate, because that's what liars do.

Another part of that defense is the yet-to-be-released Barr report, which will attack America's intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement, claiming to document a titanic conspiracy by The Deep State to thwart a victorious, glorious Trump presidency. It's a lie, of course; a projection of Trump's distorted interior landscape, tailored by Barr and others to please and curry favor with The Leader -- and on that basis alone, it'll be astounding.

Barr intends people will go to jail because of The Leader's whims; that one cannot act against The Leader, lest they suffer. And Republicans in Congress, the huge megaphone of right-wing media, are eager to dominate any impeachment coverage with a constant smoke screen of lies.

The GOP will not walk away from Trump. He is their chance to roll back generations of Liberal political change, social programs, and legal precedents. That great work, blessed by evangelical pastors, is more important than anything. But they've gone all-in.

Last night on Amanpour & Co., journalists Jeff Greenfield of Politico and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame were asked about the current impeachment hearings, compared with those 46 years ago. Greenfield noted Americans seemed to be more involved and informed about the issues at stake, during Watergate -- and that they seemed to understand readily how Nixon had abused his office. More of an effort will be needed to 'sell' impeachment to Americans in 2019, Greenfield thought.
_____________________________________

I'm certain the hearings will lead to Articles of Impeachment in the Democratically-controlled House, but (my opinion) they will die in the Senate -- probably after an abbreviated trial; McConnell has already indicated what the result will be. After, there will be protests and civil disobedience (watch carefully how Trump and the government he owns will respond, as a preview of what may happen after the 2020 election).

Then, we'll head to the election. If the Republican attempts to confuse and obfuscate are successful; if the Democrats can't coalesce, and field a strong candidate; if our voting isn't secure against tampering; if voter suppression in key districts is successful... short of an act of god, America could end up with another 1,640 Days Of Trump.

There won't be a second attempt at Impeachment; the majority of Americans will be stunned, dispirited, and "sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science." (Winston Churchill; June, 1940)

I'm also reminded of a quote by lawyer and philosopher, Joseph De Maistre, in 1811: "In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve."
____________________________________

Let's put on our tinfoil hats.

Trump wins re-election. That would be enough to trigger mass social unrest. His response could end in a national state of emergency.

Or, before the election -- if his poll numbers indicate he's in serious jeopardy, an "event" might occur serious enough to trigger a state of emergency. The election is disrupted or delayed.

Or, Trump loses, and refuses to concede, saying the results are "fake news". He asks "very good people" to bring their guns and come to Washington DC to "protect your president". The result would look very much like the confusion in a banana, or central African, republic as the government disintegrates.

Another possibility: if Trump loses the 2020 election and is replaced by a Democrat, the current "Cold Civil War" in America could turn hot:  asymmetrical warfare by rightist, white supremacist militias demanding -- something -- would likewise end in a state of emergency, a quasi-guerrilla war, endless paranoia and heightened surveillance.

If these circumstances become dire enough, other actors may step in. The military is one possibility, but more likely is a cabal of 'christians', backed by elements of a private corporate militia, might decide that god has called them to take control of America, end the sin, and bring the nation to His judgement and the path of righteousness. These actors are the best organized, best resourced group to commit treason on the scale necessary to succeed -- and, they believe they answer only to god.

There are scenarios, of course, where the Good Guys win, and America appears to have been 'saved'. Unfortunately, Fox and the rest of the Rightist echo chamber will continue pumping sewage; a Trump loss will make 'The Base' apoplectic, and right-wing violence will increase.

Any Left political leader elected to the Presidency will find it hard to govern in as fractured a nation as America is in the second decade of the 21st century.
_________________________________

Before you completely laugh off the possibility of a Republic of Gilead option for America's future, please consider these two news items:

1.)  The Ohio State Legislature has passed House Bill 164, the “Student Religious Liberties Act.” Under this law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically inaccurate, as long as their reasoning is based on their religious beliefs.

If a public school student turns in a class assignment stating the earth is only 10,000 years old, if it's based on their religious belief, the student cannot be given a failing grade for the question.

The Bill also requires:
  • Public schools to give students the same access to facilities as provided to secular groups, if they wish to meet for religious expression;
  • Removing a provision that allows school districts to limit religious expression to lunch periods or other non-instructional times;
  • Allowing students to engage in religious expression before, during and after school hours to the same extent as any student in secular activities or expression;
  • Prohibiting schools from restricting a student from engaging in religious expression in homework, artwork or other assignments.
2.)  Former Time and Los Angeles Times journalist Joel Stein appeared on the PBS News Hour on Thursday, November 14, to discuss his new book, "In Defense Of Elitism".

Stein spoke about visiting the town of Miami, Texas, and his observations that Americans there were not uninformed or ignorant, but very determined that their point of view was true and correct:
...They [residents of Miami, Texas] were very white, and they were very christian.... And their anger about what is going on was different from what I thought it would be. And I found out that what they're upset about is, they feel really discriminated against. These are the people that, if you asked, 'are christians discriminated against more than black people', they will say yes. 
...So what they have noticed is that white christians have less power than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago. And they're panicked about that kind of change. ...These people are voting for what they want for the country. I think it's a dangerous vision they have, in my opinion, but it's not ignorant.
___________________________________

Friday, August 30, 2019

Stunning Protests Threaten The Fantasy

Friday
...The Democrats' continued failure to understand the scope of the GOP's shameless pursuit of power is stunning.
-- Digsby's Hullabaloo; Friday, August 30, 2019
.. since Parliament will be in session for long enough to allow a vote of no-confidence if MPs want... [Johnson's] act, while clearly shady and abusive, [is] just barely on the right side and I can understand why the Queen let it happen. 
If Parliament doesn’t want this to happen, they have plenty of time to make sure it doesn’t. If they don’t this means they aren’t willing to topple the Conservative government, then that is on them, they know the consequences.
-- Ian Welsh, "Boris Johnson Prorogues Parliament", August 28, 2019.
The balance between protesting for human rights as basic issues, and the protesters' use of business necessity as leverage, continues.
[Bejing is] taking a giant risk, because as Dennis Kwok says, the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong. What he means, and Beijing surely understands, is the end of Hong Kong’s status as a trade and finance center. 
Not a trifle matter for sure. Hong Kong has built that status over a long period... like the City of London and Wall Street. You can break that down in no time, but you can’t rebuild the trust elsewhere in anywhere near that time frame...
-- The Automatic Earth, "Hong King Kong", August 30, 2019
Led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, five Democratic senators argued earlier this month that the case was part of a drive to install a conservative majority on the court and strike down gun laws. The Democrats closed their letter by suggesting that voters may eventually demand the Supreme Court be “restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics” if it continues on its current course. 
McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Senate GOP said the effort “openly threatened this court with political retribution if it failed to dismiss the [New York] petition as moot.” 
“The implication is as plain as day: Dismiss this case, or we’ll pack the court,” the Republicans wrote in the letter, first reported by the Washington Post, adding that they would fight against any restructuring plans.
-- Politico, "McConnell to Supreme Court: We won’t let Dems 'pack the court' ", August 29, 2019
>>  "Dear Trump Advisors: Prop the Market Up Now and Lose in 2020, or Let the Market Crash and Win in 2020", August 29, 2019 
>>  "The Fantasy of Central Bank “Growth” Is Finally Imploding", August 28 2019 
>>  "Love It Or Leave It", August 26, 2019 
-- Charles Hugh Smith, Washington Blog
________________________________


 'James Comey' Breaks It Down For Us
MAN: Life... is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you're stuck with this undefinable, whipped-mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down because there's nothing else left to eat. 
Sure, once in a while, there's a peanut butter cup, or an English toffee -- but they're gone too fast and the taste is... fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits, filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts; if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you've got left is an empty box... filled with useless, brown paper wrappers. 
_____________________________________

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Time At The Bar

Random Barking Saturday: Last Orders Please, Ladies and Gentlemen

Storm Over Venice Lagoon; July 26, 2019 - © Chris Bertram
[The political right feels t]he old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined ... national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots [by] not merely outsiders and foreigners ... but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power... the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.
--Richard Hofstadter, "The Paranoid Style In American Politics" (1964)
Essentially, American conservatism is based on large central government bad! Not to be trusted; small government is good! It's the argument between Jefferson and Adams. It's a variation on the theme of "State's Rights!" which allowed some American humans to own, buy and sell other humans, and which caused some unpleasantness in the early 1860's. And since.

After FDR, some on the political and cultural Right said America's central government was more Big Brother than benefactor -- that 'Wide-Eyed One-Worlders' who created the United Nations, the multilateral global order after WW2, were out to destroy individual freedom and initiative, and serve America to the Commie enemy on a platter by weakening our resolve, and polluting the purity of our bodily essences.

If you noted the snark in that last sentence, it's there because most of the people pushing those notions were considered a political fringe (the John Birch Society being the most visible). But they included some with hereditary wealth or business power -- and when crackpot notions are fed on money, they're no longer just crackpot notions but genuine conspiracies.

(Remember the rich asses who had opposed FDR, who flirted with treason by organizing a plan to remove Roosevelt from power. After all, what would happen to them? They were the right sort; they owned America! No one would touch them... and no one did.)
__________________________


Now, 35 years since the FCC's Fairness Doctrine was eliminated under Reagan; after thirty-five years of sewage being pumped into the culture by Murdoch's Fox, by Limbaugh and Savage and all their wannabe-imitators; after decades of behind-the-scenes manipulation by the Mercers and other right-wing media families... the ideas of the crackpot Right aren't relegated to the fringes in American politics. They are mainstream conservative viewpoints, now.
___________________________

Trump gets up and spouts incendiary racist garbage -- ensuring, again, that all eyes are upon Him, the world subsumed by the eternally needy, carnivorous child-man -- and nothing happens. Republicans say absolutely nothing, except to defend Trump. Children are traumatized in a detention bureaucracy which industrializes indifference and prejudice.  -- and nothing happens.


So, Trump doubles, even triples down on his prior comments, becoming even more unhinged and florid in his display of a narcissistic personality disorder -- and nothing happens. The GOP is now, fully and completely, a political party of racism, overt corruption; even treason. And nothing happens.

Except another mass shooting, of course.
_____________________________

Each day -- every day -- Trump and the political and cultural Right beat America. They kick the country, and any chance to help it live up to its ideals, to the curb. Then they urinate on America as it lies bleeding in the gutter. They take America's wallet and car keys. They roar with laughter because it's just sport for these lowlifes; it's The Great Game. They're getting rich. No one can touch them; they run things!

No one wants to believe other humans can be so malicious, so swinish and venal; so filled with hatred and glee at the harm they do -- that it actually gives them pleasure to cause so much harm. That they put their own desires for money and for things above human lives and the reality of the world around us. They can't be like that. It can't be that simple. 

But, yes. It can.

And, with the help of 35 years of insane, babbling repetition from right-wing media (and decades of Democratic spinelessness), they've reduced the idea of an effective American central government to a joke. See? See how disorganized and useless the federal gov'mint is? They say. We need a strong man to lead us! An' we'll beat up anybody says different! USA!  USA!

And nothing happens. No one does anything to stop them. Not even when 31 people die because (among other things) their killers listened to the lies of The Leader. Instead of recoiling from Trump's toxicity, the Republicans say nothing, or actually back him up.


Nothing happens. And no one is surprised.
__________________________

What must it be like to live in a world where natural resources are slowly being reduced as its population continues to increase? Where nations have nuclear weapons? And all against a backdrop of extremes in weather and temperature? 

What must it be like to live in a country run by avaricious bullies, who deny climatic change in the World is even occurring? Where a sizeable number in the population have extreme, delusional political views, own weapons, and dream of a day when they can make the terrible rat-crazy feelings in their heads go away? Where television and radio and newspapers feed those crazy-rat feelings every moment of every day?

Tell me: for you, what is it like?
____________________________


These people hate you, and me. Because they have been instructed, over and over, for thirty years that you and I are the enemy. Men, women, and children; natives and immigrants; people of color (for white, too, is one of many colors), and politically left -- we have all been reduced to the level of Things, in their eyes.

Ironically,  it's the same way a wealthy elite see all of us, including Trump's base -- as chattel, worker-bees, disposable; nameless and faceless.

And These People have been taught, over and over, to believe that they live in a state of emergency,  of 'No-Go Zones' of Muslims and immigrants, LGBTQ people and sick hippies... a world manipulated by liberals with money, the ungodly and the evil. They are just surrounded by these terrible -- Things. 

And they are being told that, one day, they will have to deal with us. That they will be permitted, unleashed, to do that. Like a shooter in a Wal-Mart, a grade school, a synagogue or a night club.

They listen to The Leader, who tells them -- wink, wink -- if they can just remove the terrible Other, the Things surrounding them... then their misery will disappear. All will be well; a golden future; hallelujah.
_____________________________

This cannot continue, and This cannot end well.
______________________________

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

This Is Only A Test

Grand Name Money Game
Testing. Testing; One Two. Testing:
Hot Damn, Viet Nam -- Hot Damn; Viet Nam. 
-- PA Announcer, aboard the RMS 'Magic Christian'
   From the 1969 film by the same name (Full Script Here)
For some reason known only to the great Coding Gods, my return to barking isn't being received by a larger world. Hence this test. Looking for content? Go here.  This is only a test.

If this had been an actual post, you would have been treated to the same low humor and half-considered analyses as are regularly presented here, with a leavening of equal parts egoism and self-depreciating offhand remarks. You would have been directed to tune to 640 AM or 1240 FM to receive information and instructions about, you know; things.

Damn; knew I shouldn't have said all those crazy things about Jeffy and ZuckCo.
_________________________

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In Pursuit Of Normalcy

Never Take Your Eye Off The Ball

The Recall Of Actual Memory = Normal
So we don't believe that life is beautiful because we don't recall it; but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten smell, we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead because we don't remember them -- but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.
-- Marcel Proust
The Leader Is Clinically Insane With Poor Impulse Control = Not Normal
Brian Klass, a political scientist at UCL [said]: "We have a seriously dangerous normalcy bias, where we move on because we desperately want to pretend it's okay. Trump's Twitter meltdown today -- which shows a deranged and unhinged person -- will just be forgotten by Monday afternoon. But the deranged man will still control the nukes."
(Chris Cillizza, "Trump's Craziest Day Ever On Twitter", CNN)

The Leader Is A Liar = Not Normal
And then, Friday afternoon, it got worse. Responding to a question by an ABC reporter about whether he believed there was a growing threat of white nationalism worldwide, Trump responded, “I don’t really,” adding, “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”  Our own ears and eyes (as well as statistics) tells us that’s a lie.  Again, this reaction is because Trump gets his base better than anyone.
(Dean Obeidallah, "Trump Still Won't Name White Supremacist Terrorism And His Base Loves It", Daily Beast)

Delusional Cray-Cray = Not Normal
Donald Trump’s suggestion that Britain invented Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election has been branded “completely false” by the UK government.  The US president shared a tweet by William Craddick, the founder of right-wing conspiracy theory news outlet Disobedience Media, on Sunday evening. “Russiagate was designed in part to help the UK counter Russian influence by baiting the United States into taking a hard line against them,” Mr Craddick wrote. ...

... Late last week, [Trump] launched an extraordinary attack against Theresa May over her Brexit negotiation strategy, claiming she “didn’t listen” to his advice over the issue.  Sir Nicholas Soames, Conservative MP and privy councillor, told The Independent that Mr Trump’s peddling of the conspiracy theory was “foolish” and “ludicrous"...  "The trouble is he allows himself to be subject to these great flights of fancy, which unfortunately there are too many people who take seriously,” said Mr Soames, who is the grandson of Winston Churchill.
("UK Government Hits Out At 'Completely False' Allegation", UK Independent)

Republicans Cleave To Insane Leader = Not Normal But Predictable
I think the connection between scientology and Elizabeth Holmes is the “prison of belief”. Look at what happens to [Theranos board member] George Shultz – the grandfather of [eventual whistleblower] Tyler Shultz... Even when his grandson comes to him and says, “You know Grandpa, there’s rampant fraud at Theranos”, he can’t undo or retract or unwind the belief that he has. He’s in a prison of belief of Elizabeth Holmes. He’s committed to her, and for him to say, “Oh wow, that’s terrible”, would mean that he has to go back to the beginning and admit that he was duped and fooled.
(Julia Wong, Interviewing Alex Gibney; "Americans Have A Fascination With Fraudsters"; UK Guardian, March 17, 2019)

We Are Powerless To Resist ZuckCo (And Those Like It) = Not Normal 
Perhaps what the scandal has really revealed is a situation that is too embarrassing, too disastrous to acknowledge. We know that Facebook has been used to undermine elections all across the world, including our own. But we’re in this strange historical moment where we’ve realized it, but we don’t have the power, currently, to do anything about it.
(Carole Cadwalladr, "Cambridge Analytica, A Year On"; UK Guardian, March 17, 2019)


International Mass Shootings = Not Normal
The horror of the New Zealand massacre should be a wake-up call for Big Tech and an occasion to interrogate the architecture of social networks that incentivize and reward the creation of extremist communities and content ...

... Part of what’s so unsettling about the New Zealand shooting suspect’s online persona is how it lays bare how [social media and extremism can] come together for violent ends. [The killer's] supposed digital footprint isn’t just upsetting because of its content, but because of how much of it appears designed to delight fellow extremists.

The decision to call the attack a “real life effort post” reflects an eerie merging of conspiratorial hate from the pages of online forums and into the real world -- a grim reminder of how online communities may be emboldening and nudging their most violent and unstable individuals.
(Charlie Warzel, "We're Asking The Wrong Questions Of YouTube And Facebook After New Zealand"; New York Times, March 19, 2019)

Domestic Mass Shootings = Not Normal 
“Obviously there’s some type of situation that caused the husband to be extremely upset,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said in a press conference. “We’re trying to find the connection. Obviously these are not random shootings... Six people lost their lives in a very short amount of time. This is the new normal.”
(German Lopez, Vox, September 12, 2018; "... Shooter In Bakersfield Kills 5 Persons, Self")

The latest nightmare began on May 18 with the news: there had been another school shooting. This time, it unfolded at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, a town of about 12,000 people ... Paige Curry, a student at the school... [said it] didn’t feel unreal at all. “It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I’ve always kind of felt eventually it would happen here too.”
(Haley Edwards, Time, May 22, 2018; "School Shootings Are Becoming The New Normal")

Whiteman Daddy Strongman Oligarch As Leader = Not Normal
... there are the inherent structural failings in modern democratic politics. In the United States, unrestricted campaign financing continues to undermine democracy. The spectacular corruption of the electoral redistricting system -- gerrymandering -- only compounds the problem. On top of this, the polarization of traditional news media by Fox News and others is poisoning the capacity of the democratic system to build a sustainable consensus around what is left of the political center, as shown by the debacle of the American gun-control debate.

As Western democracies look increasingly sick, other systems of governance are now on offer. Russian nationalism represents a departure from Western political, economic and diplomatic norms. China has become increasingly confident in its own model, described as authoritarian or state capitalism. And its “Beijing consensus” is held up to the non-Western world as an example of a more effective form of national, and even international, governance.
(Kevin Rudd, "The Rise Of Authoritarian Capitalism", New York Times, September 16, 2018)
___________________________

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Random Barking: Duck And Vortex

In The Grip Of The Tentacle 

Oh-Dark-Thirty and down to the Bart:  Walking up to the Caffeine Dispensary Station on Tuesday, I passed a man in his mid-thirties, apparently well-dressed -- decent shoes (with a shine); newish Patagonia jacket with its hood pulled up; retro-fashion framed glasses, and carrying a black daypack.

I'd gone a few steps past him when I heard his voice explode ("How can you be so CONFIDENT!?! Don't you SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?"), and in two seconds had to undo all the unconscious, five a.m., pedestrian assumptions I'd made after glancing at his clothes. Apparently, Kleider Nicht Machen Leute.

One hand on the door of Coffee Station, I turn; he's four feet from me, hugging the daypack to his chest like a life preserver, his right hand extended into that space between us to display his third finger in the fabled Bird.

"You monsterfucker; Die!!!," he almost literally growled, hunched slightly forward and continuing to flip me off. "DIIIIE!!"

The intensity in the space between us was -- well, intense.  My instant response was to match his intensity level and unload on him -- but then thought: Hey; that's what stupid primates do. Never been called a 'monsterfucker' before; that was pretty creative. Let's try something else with the energy, here. I looked at him, continued opening the door, smiled and said, "Well; have a nice day!"

Still hunched over, Bird extended, he didn't move. "Diiiiiie," he whispered, as if expecting me to keel over, right there, as a result of an act of sheer will on his part. "Diiiiiiie!!"

Inside the Caffeine Station, two SFPD patrolmen (whom I hadn't seen) had watched this exchange through the coffeeshop windows. So long as neither of us had touched the other, no property damage had occurred, and I wasn't some pissed-off Citizen hotly demanding they do something about the Nutball, the police weren't going to get in a twist.

We nodded at each other ("How's it goin'?" "Ah; it's early"). "What'd he want?" Asked patrolman A, lifting his chin toward The Guy, still standing in the same spot and having rotated to continue flipping me off .

"Oh; yeah," I said, waving a hand. "He just wants me to die."

Patrolman B considered this and nodded. "What'd you say?"

I shrugged; "Told him I was working on it."

The Patrolmen (as Robert Graves once wrote in another context) thought this a great joke. Outside, The Guy walked past the windows, displaying his middle finger to patrons, policemen, and Caffeine purveyors alike before disappearing up Market Street.
__________________________________

Cute Small Animal Dies -- World Mourns, Or At Least Notices

RIP: Trevor, The Mallard, Near The Puddle
(2018: Rae Finlay / Agence France-Presse)

In January, 2018, a particularly bad storm in the southwestern Pacific carried a duck -- a male, standard Mallard -- to the tiny coral island of Niue, roughly 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand and not far from Fiji.

The 1,600 people living on the island had never seen a duck, had no idea what it would eat or how it preferred to live. Through trial and error, they found the duck liked oats, and corn, and preferred to stay near a large puddle left by the storm. The sudden appearance of food also attracted a local rooster, and a smaller chicken, which the duck tolerated.

The duck was a big hit with the island's children, and seemed content with the minor hubub he caused. As time went on, island residents and municipal authorities had to constantly add water to the puddle to make it viable for the duck -- which was finally named Trevor, after a New Zealand politician, Trevor Mallard (catchy!).  The islanders thought of sending Trevor to another island, such as N.Z., where he might have more Duck options, but didn't reach a consensus.

News about the arrival of what, for locals, was an unusual species began to circulate outside the little island. By the autumn (in the northern hemisphere), Trevor had achieved international status as "The World's Loneliest Duck" -- not entirely accurate, as Niue's residents paid a great deal of attention to the little creature: part pet, part tourist attraction. He became a landmark: it was apparently common to include the Mallard in directions to those visiting the island if appropriate ("go past the duck and turn right").

Sadly, it was reported last week that Trevor was attacked and killed by a local dog. His passing has been reported around the world -- which is more exposure than most ducks get (except this one, of course), and more than many humans can expect in These Times, and certainly more than all the species humanity has recently forced into extinction will receive.
________________________________

The Salmon Moose Tolls For Thee

Obligatory Cute Large Animal Photo At Opening Of Blog Filler

HOWARD: ... Don't see it that way, Jeff. Let me tell you what I think we're dealing with here -- a potentially positive learning experience, that --
DEATH:  SHUT UP!! Shut UP, you American! You always talk, you Americans! You talk, and you talk;  you say, "Lemme tell ya something!", and, "I just wanna say this!" Well, you're dead now -- so SHUT UP!
DEBBIE:  ... Can I ask you a question?
DEATH:  (Exasperated) What?!
DEBBIE:  How can we all have died at the same time?
DEATH:  (Looks around the table, then points) The -- Salmon -- Mousse.
[ ** Cue Snippet Of Dramatic Music ** ]
HOST:  Dear -- you didn't use the canned salmon?
HOSTESS:  I'm so dreadfully embarrassed. 

   -- Monty Python, The Meaning Of Life (1983): "Part IV -- Death"
      Graham Chapman (Host); Terry Gilliam (Howard);
      Michael Palin (Debbie); Terry Jones (Hostess);
      John Cleese (as The Grim Ree-pah)

Obligatory Photo Of Current Polar Vortex (New York Times.
Position Of Moose Is Approximate and Not To Scale.)
_________________________________

The Leader Gets Larger

The Leader has signed many Executive decrees since his arrival as the Great Orange. I thought a quick review of his handwritten signatures  (specifically, a comparison of their size over time) might direct additional light upon his sociopathology, but as usual others had gotten to it first.


Click To Enlarge -- Easy and Fun!!
________________________________