Showing posts with label Cofeve-19. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cofeve-19. Show all posts

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

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':

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:

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

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:

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

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, 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". )

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Laugh It Up

Because Freedom

(From a long-ago March in a time before Trump and Disease, and a diseased Trump. Actually, this has nothing to do with Freedom. It is in fact my favorite joke, containing a willfully stupid grocer, a passive-aggressive waterfowl, and the tantalizing promise of nourishment.

(It's also a good general example of how The Universe treats us. It has a has a habit of returning, with the same questions, until we solve them -- and then hits us with a change-up at the end: Wow! Didn't see that coming!).

A LITTLE DUCK walks into a grocery store. He waddles up to the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any duck food?"

The grocier thinks. "Um, no," he says finally.

The Little Duck looks up at him. " 'kay," he says, and goes away.

The next day, the Little Duck was back. He waddles in, looks up at the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any duck food?"   The grocier looks down at him; is this duck nuts? He was just in here!

"No!" the grocier says.  " 'kay," says the Little Duck, and he goes away.

The next day, the Little Duck was back. He waddles in, looks up at the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any duck food?"   The grocier spins around, looks down at him and says, "NO! I told ya -- I gots NO DUCK FOOD ! You come back in here askin' about duck food again and I'm gonna nail your little webbed feet to the floor!"

" 'kay," says the Little Duck, and he goes away.

The next day -- the Little Duck was back. He waddles in, looks up at the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any nails?"   The grocier thinks. "Um, no," he says.

The Little Duck shakes a little. "Ooo!  Okay ! Got any duck food?"

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Random Barking Sunday: Cognitive Dissonance Division

How We Live Now

I'm the product of a middle-class white family from a small town, born not very long after the end of WW2; college-educated, male. This past January, in my small, lower-mid-tier level in my occupation, I went off to work daily as I have most of my life, and put up with whatever was necessary to pay for basic expenses; to get the pension, to maintain the healthcare. I dutifully set aspects of things aside for someday, and in the meantime for everything else, it's SITFU, and I enjoyed living as best I could. This has been my daily frame of reference for a long time.

Observing the world beyond, I generally tuned out politicians (politics = ultimately, lies and compromise, limited benefit to people), external wars (an obscenity; and I've had mine, thank you), domestic violence; mass shootings (no end), police shootings.

And no matter how Left my views might be, I did little beyond donations, attending the occasional march, to show my solidarity in the political stream: and I did these things, not out of anger or desperation or necessity, but because I could afford to.

And I understood my participation did little to acknowledge, and nothing to change, the disproportionate agony of people below me in the food chain -- mostly people of color, still taking the blunt end of the culture, 400 years after the arrival of America's first African slaves.

The High School Civics Class view of America: myths which, when assimilated, were reflected all around us in the culture, ensuring we grew up as compliant members of society, good consumers.  We accept a consensus view that things aren't perfect, but I'm getting by. But we know it doesn't reflect reality.

And we understand -- questioning the difference between what we've experienced and observed to be true, versus reality-as-consensus, is a Red Pill / Blue Pill situation that most people explore at their peril. Supporting the consensus model has been the chief feature of stability in America for as long as I can remember. Everything about our culture -- particularly corporate media -- echoed that.

In the mid-1990's, that changed. The FCC under Reagan had eliminated the 'Fairness Doctrine' in 1984; broadcasters were no longer required to provide equal time for opposing political viewpoints. Over the next twelve years, Limbaugh, Wiener, and thousand wannabes sprung up on radio in the U.S., and built a public vomatorium.

Limbaugh -- just a bully, but now with a megaphone -- spewed his hate and mockery into the air, to be eagerly lapped up by right-wing listeners. They, in turn, vomited the same hate to others around them. And, 'hate radio' caught on as an organizing tool for not only mainline, GOP conservatism, but a wide spectrum of Rightist causes. Limbaugh, Wiener and other hate hosts didn't care what damage they were doing to the culture; suddenly, they were popular. And they were getting rich.

Rupert Murdoch, whose tabloid newspapers in Australia, the UK and America used a 'tits-n-tattle' formula that treated its consumers like children, saw the trends in the U.S. A cynical, opportunistic right-wing type himself, Murdoch believed there was plenty of money to be made in television, pushing right-wing conspiracy theories to a disaffected, conservative audience. Lil' Rupert saw an ocean of 'Joe Six-Pack' Rubes in America that advertisers would pay handsomely to reach.

Murdoch launched Fox as a cable channel in 1996 as part of a broader business model -- to coordinate his media as the propaganda arm of the English-speaking political Right. Helping elect more Rightist politicians would mean favorable treatment to expand operations when the Right came to power. It worked in the UK, the US, Australia; and eventually, the model would make his family empire indispensable to the racists, white nationalists and neo-nazis growing in the heart of American conservatism.

We've suffered 35 years in an America where truth and facts are whatever The Murdochs -- speaking through Hannity and Carlson, and an endless stream of blondebots -- say they are. The Murdochs have done more to divide America, to make it easier to exploit and weaken us into tribes over three decades than any other aspect of America's recent history.

They have made America a place where they, and the political Right wing, literally just make shit up -- and there are no repercussions. In Steve Bannon's quip, the Murdochs "flood the Zone with shit", and facts are lost in a sea of confusing half-truths and outright lies.

It's easier to lead the Rubes that way. And the Murdochs have personally benefited from it; they're very rich; and they do not care what damage they've caused to actual human beings in the process of that enrichment. Ask the family of Milly Dowler.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Ogg Ogg

Comes Trump: The endless parade of MAGA, the triumphant apotheosis of stupid. Fox broadcast it all, like an endless Leni Reifenstahl film; flags and chanting (Lock her up! Lock her up!). There was nothing Trump could do or say that wasn't allowed. And he lied; constantly, daily, about everything. The right-wing media and its talking faces amplified Trump's lies, and presented them as facts.

People were stunned at his brazen racism, his craven love of authoritarian figures like Putin, his dog-whistling to white nationalists and 'christian' dominionists.  We watched America disintegrate in the international community as a result of Trump's personal statements and incoherent political decisions; Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller laughed and laughed -- destroying America has been their goal, and they feel proud.

We were horrified, and laughing. There seemed to be no end to it, and no repercussions -- not even impeachment; the fix in the Senate was always in. The intelligence community as much as declared Trump an active asset of the Russian government -- but it all meant nothing; Trump doubled down, tripled down. He laughed at us. He strutted and preened and capered, and just kept on: Teflon Don.

Additional Cute Animal Photo For Right-Wing Media

It requires a significant amount of cognitive dissonance -- between the facts we know, truth, our experience; and myths we accept -- in order to be American. To live and work in this culture. How much cognitive dissonance you deal with depends where you are, and who you are, in America.

Then, two things happened that couldn't be spun, dismissed, or lied about -- although the entire political Right, and Murdoch's propaganda, have tried:  The Covid-19 Pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd.

Trump, aided by the Right's media, ignored Covid, dismissed it. He ignored it for six weeks -- then, even after suppressing testing for infection, when the case rates and deaths began climbing; when Trump showed no leadership whatsoever and threw everything in the faces of state governors -- when the Republicans could see their political repercussions in a collapsed economy and 200,000 dead by July... they did an about-face.

They used the Joseph Goebbels - Murdoch formula. They simply lied.  They said they had too cared, they had too been prepared and taken decisive action, all along. They asked us to believe whatever they said, even though it was utterly false. Because they made it up, and said it was 'true'.

And they pushed for America to Reopen Again! The Leader said everything would be back to normal in no time. Inconvenient medical spokespersons who said it was too soon, that it invited another spike in Covid cases; that there would be a likely 'second wave' of the pandemic in the Fall and Winter several magnitudes worse than the February-May wave we'd just experienced... Trump ignored them, too. He suggested people drink bleach.

And, America went back to work. Beaches were opened; the summer weather began in many places. And Covid cases are beginning to rise -- but there was another reason for that.

A black man was arrested by four police officers on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, apparently for using a counterfeit $20 bill. One, a white officer, put his knee on the man's neck to restrain him. And, despite consistent protests from the man that he could not breathe, the officer (aided by the three others) did not relent and asphyxiated, murdered, the man, George Floyd. This took roughly twelve minutes, during eight of which the officer's knee was pressed down on Floyd's neck. And all of it captured on multiple cellphone videos.

If you were trying to find a metaphorical image for the black experience in America, an image of a prone black man with a white man's knee on his neck seemed brutally apt. That it was a white police officer was an added layer of metaphorical irony.

Weeks of marches and demonstration -- including rioting and civil disobedience and looting, but primarily peaceful -- followed. Their focus has been on violent actions by militarized police departments, primarily against people of color.

Videos from those demonstrations showed scores of examples of violent and brutal behavior, by police against those ... ironically, protesting brutal police tactics. As if many individual officers and departments didn't care what those optics would do, or the repercussions of their behavior in the broader context of This Historical Time.

It's a defining, fork-in-the-road, Moment In America.  It's a national consideration of Race in America -- and everything connected with it around the distribution of wealth, power, and privilege. Where all this goes, and what actually happens, is hazy -- but the moment has started. Each of us, as individuals, have some responsibility for where it ends up.

The single takeaway I hope for in all this is, that the burden of maintaining conflicting perceptions about our society and culture has finally become too much for the majority of us. That we can't tolerate the cognitive dissonance any longer, reject 'alternate facts' and demand truth -- in public affairs, in science, in our relations with each other. That we can't suppress our lived experience and accept lies in its place.

I hope that people reject being so grossly lied to and manipulated, treated like children, Rubes and Marks. I'd hope Murdoch's media, and its business model based on brazen lies and manipulation, is finished in America and around the world.

And a part of this Moment has to mean confronting automatic assumptions about people of other races, gender and identification; the assumptions of white or heterosexual superiority, or of wealth and ownership. Is it the truth that all persons are equal, or are some more so than others?

Because this is all intimately connected to the distribution of power, and inequality of wealth in America, I don't have any illusions of how quickly this dialogue can result in meaningful change. Or that what's been triggered by George Floyd's death is anything more than a single step; others will have to follow.

James Fallows of the Atlantic recently noted that the story of America is about getting out of trouble, of facing and overcoming crises. America's current crisis has both a Leader utterly unfit to lead, supported by an entire political party in the Republicans; this, he agreed was unprecedented in our history. The question, Fallows went on, was whether our country had a sufficient counterbalance to the harm caused by Trump and the political Right -- that the sum of all things positive in America would be enough to overcome the damage, allow us to find a better resolution than division, exploitation, despair and death.

I'd like to think this moment is a wild card in that equation. That the sum of our best intentions as people will contain the weight needed to swing us in a different direction. I'm not often positive about the future; quite the opposite. But I'm willing to suggest that hope is not a bad thing.

We'll see what does happen. Hang on.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Probably Shouldn't Have Shown Yourself To Be Lovin' You Some Nazis In The Middle Of A Pandemic With 40,000,000 Unemployed, Huh

Remember: No One Is Coming To Save Us

1.)  "Everything Can Be Like It Was Again": America somehow calms down, the insurrection (because that's what it is) tapers off, and everyone on the 'Left' concentrates on organizing to elect Joe Biden in November. 
  • Covid-19 remains more-or-less quiescent through the summer (people still die, just not so visibly or rapidly). Another Covid support package rolls out of Congress, more money for struggling private-jet charter LLC's and Friends of Jared, and -- Oh Yes; enough trickle-down to keep 40,000,000 unemployed afloat and their children from starving, through the election.
  • On November 3, Biden wins by a large plurality: a wave of euphoria, a belief that Happy Days Are Here Again! send people into the streets -- not to scream rage, but to party. And in January, 2021, an addled, drugged Leader appears at Biden's inauguration; maybe there's an incident, maybe not. No one really cares, because Ding Dong; Th' Bitch Be [redacted]
This path is a re-affirmation of basic American principles, rejecting Trump as an aberration. It also relies on a general acceptance by black communities and People Of Color that more change can be gained under a Biden presidency, than four more years of proto-fascist criminals.

Somehow, America stumbles forward. Some 'social gains' are made, checks and balances are introduced. The Biden presidency spends more time trying to fix the damage wrought by Trumpism than actually governing. Things appear to be "getting back to normal".

The American Openly Fascist party criticizes Biden's lack of progress, taking no responsibility for enabling and supporting Trump. They demand austerity, an end to social safety nets as 'unsupportable', due to America's huge national debt in light of Covid. The virus, meanwhile, is tamed, even all-but-eliminated. Until the next one appears.

But most important, the structures of ownership of America by the 0.001%, are intact -- necessary to provide jobs, it is said. Some people say the inequalities laid bare in the spring of 2020 have only been painted over; but in the rush to Be Like It Was, few notice they are poorer, their social mobility, choices for employment and education, more restricted than before. That social surveillance and national security laws created since 2001 are still in place, and enhanced. Because Pandemic, it is said.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing

2.)  "Business As Usual" : America simmers into the summer. Governors in multiple states call out their National Guard; as in Minnesota, Humvees and troops in Camo hold spot checks at strategic intersections and enforce curfews (Note: civil unrest in poor 'minority' neighborhoods; cities on fire; National Guard troops in the streets -- was a routine occurrence in America, every summer, from 1965 to 1971).  
  • The unrest drops in intensity but never completely disappears. The National Guard is replaced by municipal police in some areas. Neo-nazis and militias make some attempts -- some, spectacular and disturbing, as in May -- to spark their dreamt-of Boogaloo, but the incidents are defused.
  • Trump continues to rage-Tweet, bellowing on 'Fox'n Friends', but more people recognize he is profoundly disturbed, unfit for office, than before. Biden is elected in November -- not by a landslide, and it's clear some Right-wing attempts to suppress or even falsify voting occurred. Trump claims the election is a fake for weeks until, abruptly, he says he will not contest the results. In a tense inauguration, Biden assumes office. 
  • Trump announces a 'joint venture' with the Murdochs: a new cable channel, broadcasting the Trump message alongside News Corporation's media. Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are executive producers and partners, along with Jared and Ivanka.
  • America stumbles forward, but the euphoria of Biden's election is muted. Republicans in Congress, eager to see Biden fail, remain obstructions to legislation: gridlock, partisan politics continue. Voters are frustrated, and whatever coalition the Democrats created for 2020 begins to slip. 
  • The Democrats may do what they've done before, and give the Thugs what they most want -- reductions to Social Security and Medicare, erosions to reproductive rights; more emphasis on religion through law -- just to move legislative packages through both houses. The Rethugs refuse to entertain any legislation to rebuild America's infrastructure. FDR's New Deal comes to an end.
America is uneasy. Armed militias and far-right groups, 'christian' leaders of megachurches, are now political fixtures calling openly for white power and preaching for a theocratic government. While most people dismiss them as fringe groups, local and regional politicians and legislatures are careful not to provoke them. Their spokespersons are interviewed on the PBS News Hour and Face The Nation. They are legitimized, part of the American mainstream. 

The social issues that sparked civil unrest in 2020 are not fully addressed, leaving communities of people marginalized, under-represented and still angry.  A disproportionate number of black men are still shot by police. There are fewer corporations; billionaires are still billionaires, but they're mentioned in the media less frequently. 

Unemployment finally stabilizes between 7 and 10%, but jobs being created are primarily in the 'service economy'.  Covid still appears in hot spots every winter; people still die, just not as many.

2023 comes to an end. For voters, the euphoria over being liberated from the rule of Trump has mostly dissipated. It isn't clear whether Biden has enough popular support for a second term. And a new Rethug challenger, a young, little-known Senator, from a second-generation immigrant family, appears -- sounding very much like a more reasonable, folksy, easy-to-like version of Donald J. Trump.

An unashamed 'christian', with a populist message of 'hard work' and America resurgent, he begins polling with likely voters in the high 40's, against Biden's low 30's, in campaign match-up polls. People respond to his open smile and gracious manner in television interviews. "I believe I've been chosen for a purpose," he says.

However, there are rumors that in private he is much less friendly -- vicious, in fact; that his smile never reaches his eyes; it's reported he once remarked privately that 'we ought to put these godless leftist sons of bitches in the ground'.

But many voters supporting him, and his GOP colleagues, don't care about the rumors: "He just seems like a leader." 

Additional Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Blog Rant

3.)  "When You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss":  Unrest over the death of George Floyd, a trigger for an ocean of anger over deep and unhealed currents in American culture and society, spreads.  Trump carries out threats made on Twitter to send Regular Army troops into the cities to restore order. 
  • The military may establish curfews, checkpoints. This doesn't end the protests. There are escalating incidents; more protesters are injured or killed.
  • Armed militias may appear, to provoke demonstrators and spark their fabled Boogaloo. If they end up in a hot confrontation with Regular Army forces, that is a significant and separate level of escalation.
Past a certain point in this extreme scenario, the fabled 8-Ball Of The Future says "All Bets Are Off". Trump could declare a State of Emergency and effectively lock the country down -- it could also muzzle Biden, while Trumpo dominates the media through press 'briefings' a la Covid for hours each day. The election could be 'postponed'. 

The Democrats would be left scrambling -- while the Thugs support Trump to the hilt, not knowing where The Leader is taking them, their party, or the country -- and they won't care; as long as their personal interests are served. The country can step into actual fascism and collapse, and like it.

If things reached this level of chaos (or, if someone saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity), it's probable some group would step forward -- with Trump as figurehead, or not -- to 'take control'.  There are very few layers in American society with the resources, or the absolute inner certainty that committing treason is a necessity. If you believed you were being directed to do so by god, for example. 

The country wouldn't know anything had happened until, suddenly, major media was disrupted (Fox, in all probability, would be given an exclusive to broadcast the Good News). Cellular and broadband service might become unpredictable. Banks might close, and restrict ATM withdrawls. Democratic members of Congress and the government might find themselves detained, or worse. The Army, already restricting travel and enforcing curfews, would execute last orders given until new ones came down. 

It wouldn't matter who the players were, or which figureheads would be chosen among the Rethugs to act as mouthpieces -- if their move to seize power succeeded, then the United States of America would end. Something else would begin.

The civil war in Syria started with the arrest of some teenagers, spray-painting anti-Al-Assad graffiti on a wall; protests over their arrests a few days later, which were really about the inequalities and authoritarian rule of Al-Assad's regime, ended with police opening fire and killing some in the crowd. This led to a rapid spiral of more protests and deadlier reaction by the government. Some anti-Assad group began using weapons, firing back, and the civil war began.

I'm not suggesting that any of these three views plays out, the civil war scenario particularly -- only to note that this seems a fork in the road. 

A disease, and events triggered by it,  have pushed America to a point where we can't go back to where we were. There are different groups, for different reasons, who see where we are, right now, as their chance to tear down the old structure and rebuild it. To what degree you would like to do that, and what means you feel are necessary and permissible, depend upon whose lens you view it through.

So, the future is not set.  For perspective, I do suggest looking at this, and then this.

MEHR, MIT WIR KOMMT, U. HIER WIR SIND:  James Fallows, staff writer at The Atlantic Monthly, quoted by Digby, echoing something I'd been thinking about:
I’ll give you my voice-of-history overview here. I did a piece for The Atlantic a couple of years ago where I said that I realized that every article or book I’d ever written had really been about just one question: Is America going to make it? The story of the U.S. is trouble and the response to trouble.
But one thing that’s particular to this moment is that national leadership is the worst in my lifetime, and arguably the worst in our history. We’ve never had a head of federal government as unmatched to the duties of that role as we currently do. 
The question is how all the other sources of resilience and health in the country balance that singular but very important point of dysfunction, and the party that supports him too.

Monday, May 25, 2020

When In These Coarse Current Events

Oh The Humanity
(From August of 2015. Human nature has not greatly improved since; trust me.)

I assumed that one idea behind Hitchbot (the solar-powered robot who could interact with humans on a limited basis, its travels tracked by a GPS chip) wasn't only a potential teaching moment around how we relate to technology.  The little robot was an electronic version of the kidnapped Lawn Gnome. It was impossible not to look at it and anthropomorphize.

The Canadian artists who created it knew that Hitchbot's progress required the good will and active assistance of humans who would (anthropomorphizing, again) treat it like a stranger or (given its size) a child who needed help.

The Bot was a visible extension of our better sensibilities towards each other. You could treat a fun-looking inanimate object with kindness -- the way you would hope to be treated if you had set out on a journey; On Your Own, With No Direction Home; needing a ride and shelter.

The Hitchbot turned into an event that people could photograph, Facebook about, Twitter about it.  Clearly, the Bot got taken to parties, and into people's homes; things occasionally got a little loose -- but the little guy was treated well. He was passed, hand to hand, through the world -- shared, in a way.  Proof the human community still functioned and small kindnesses were still offered, illusory as though all that may be.

None of this solved the sectarian religious struggles of the Middle East, or solved World Hunger™. It had nothing to do with politics, social inequality or the vanishing of the Megafauna. The Hitchbot was a symbol of good feelings; it went Trans-Canada without incident. It went all over Germany and the Netherlands, and returned home.

Then, its Canadian creators decided to send the little Hitchbot across America -- down the Northeast Corridor, and bound for California -- the label around its can-shaped head said, "San Francisco Or Bust!".  It got as far as Philadelphia before some lowlife wannabe gangsta punk kiddie stomped it into the gutter.

Pathetic Excuse For Sentient Life (; Click To Enlarge)
The person who found what was left of the robot, and posted what appears to be security camera video (above) showing it being kicked to bits by its suck-ass nihilistic whorespawn assailant, did not say how they came by the footage. Some people floated the idea that the attack on the Hitchbot was "a prank", and the security cam video a fake.
It doesn't matter. Whatever the motivation, someone in fact deliberately smashed the Bot, and shit all over what it had come to symbolize in the process. It was a useless, pathetic gesture.

And, know what? I wasn't surprised. This is the US of A, the Land of Jo Benet and O.J. Simpson; "Lil' Boots" Bush and Crazy Moose Lady and Grand Turtlebear Bachmann; of Hillary! and Herr President Obama, and Larry Summers laughing with Kenneth Lay, and millions of people losing their jobs and their homes. It's obesity and Goldman-Sachs and on-demand porno -- and some stupid asshole wearing his baseball cap backwards (you can see it in the actual video) as he stomps on an electronic ambassador of good feelings, tears off its arms and its head. That's a lot of effort and violence; yeah; the whole world gets to see that.

Thanks, kiddie. That's your America; thanks for sharing.  And while it isn't an image of people being barrel-bombed in Syria, or having their homes destroyed by wildfires or tornadoes, it was the functional equivalent of beating a child or stomping a puppy to death -- just because you're living The Faux Thug Life and you're All That and want lots of hits on UTub.

Give Him The Keys. Now.

Tell you what -- if it's an avatar of chaos and thuggery that you want in America, let's resurrect Ed209. Make him the symbol of "community", but in a way that really represents the Good Ol' Boy USA, the Kiss-Up-Kick-Down USA.  That's the kind of country the pudgy little-dick in the video lives in.

And, since we live in a country where making others fear us is as axiomatic in foreign policy as it is on the street, Ed's reappearance wouldn't be given much notice. You know where we live: Drones. 400 channel digital teevee. Gigantor trucks. Email, Internet and Cellphone surveillance. Southern Megachurches and President Boner and Tubby Ol' Mr. Sessions; The Very Wealthy Koch Brothers  and The Very Serious People and the manufactured excitement of  Hillary!  Jebby!  

The Hitchbot was a small reminder that we can live in a different world; but this is one of those moments when I'm reminded that it's just as likely we're on our way down La Chute, where all Empires travel on their way to the bottom; where we'll get everything we deserve (and an extra helping, Because Freedom).

So let's put Ed209 back in action. Let him hitchhike across America. I'll bet he'd make it in record time.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

This Should Tell You Something

(Originally posted in 2015; this, and the comparisons drawn, seem particularly apt in 2020. The bottom line here is: The Proles are expendable; the Rich are with us, always, like an STD you can't cure.)

Rick Bower, AP - Canal Sreet,; September 4, 2005
Most mainstream news organizations are hosting ten-year retrospectives of one of the most tragic natural disasters to befall a major, iconic American city -- the flooding of New Orleans at the end of August, 2005, caused by one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S.: Hurricane Katrina.

Not that unnatural disasters haven't occurred to cities in the U.S. -- the abandonment of Detroit is the most obvious; Love Canal in the 1960's, Manhattan on 9-11; even other natural disasters like the Great Johnstown or Brownsville Floods; the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. But the catastrophe in New Orleans was different -- because of who lived in the city; and who was in charge of the government which was supposed to protect and rescue its citizens. All its citizens.

It became a tragedy watched in near-real-time on cable and mainstream news, and it was magnified by indifference, arrogance and incompetence. Today everyone just calls it 'Katrina'.

Terms like Personality and Character are used to describe traits of an individual -- 'personality' referring to something mutable, changeable; while 'character' is something more essential and fundamental, the bedrock and framework unique to each person that animates a 'personality' like a suit of clothing -- the upshot being that personality can change, but not character: Blood will out. A Leopard can't change its spots.

For me this week, remembering Katrina is a short meditation on the idea of Character, as personified by two women -- one black and poor, the other white and a member of the top one-hundredth of our One Per Centers.

On Monday morning, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina had slammed into the coast of Louisiana; four major levees had been breached around New Orleans and much of the city was flooded. People had died. More were dying. Thousands were losing everything they could not carry.

To escape the flooding, 11-year-old Danielle Mollett helped her ill grandmother Diane Mollett, 64, up into the attic of their home in the Ninth Ward, the area of lowest elevation in New Orleans and the district that would be hardest hit by the flooding. 

In the aftermath of the Hurricane's landfall, the weather turned tropical, sultry; temperatures rose -- hard on those trapped in the confines of an attic. With no food and little to drink, they waited for help.

Danielle Mollett, Interviewed For The August 24, 2015 Edition Of CBS News (CBS)
On that same August morning, George "Lil' Boots" Bush -- the "Decider" -- appeared in Arizona to present a birthday cake to John McCain. He spoke about his plan for Medicare, and gave Katrina only a passing mention.

 Bush had been told that the New Orleans levees might not hold, that there was potential for a catastrophe. That this had happened, that 85% of the city was deeply flooded, had already been communicated to the White House on the evening of August 29th.

On August 30, New Orleans had descended into something out of Dante. At the same time, Lil' Boots appeared in California, at the Coronado Naval Air Station in San Diego, where he had delivered his 2003 "Mission Accomplished!" speech, claiming Vic'try in Iraq.  Bush spoke about those wonderful times -- and made mention of Katrina, saying help would be coming "any day now".  And he was photographed trying to play a guitar.

Lil' Boots left for Crawford, Texas on Air Force One,  intending to take a Labor-Day vacation at 'The Ranch'.  White House aides, aware of what was happening in Louisiana, suggested the situation was serious enough that the President return to Washington.  Lil' Boots was not happy, but agreed to cut short his vacation by a whole day, but through that night it became clearer just how bad it was in New Orleans.

On August 31st, Lil' Boots demanded that he be flown from Texas, low over the city, on Air Force One. The huge 747 buzzed the area repeatedly for over a hour -- interrupting relief efforts requiring helicopters. As Bush stared out a window, press secretary Scott McClellan later quoted him as saying, "It's devastating. It's gotta be doubly devastating on the ground."

Bush returned that day to the White House, held a cabinet meeting on Katrina, and spoke briefly in the Rose Garden to describe federal relief efforts.  FEMA's uncoordinated reaction before and after Katrina struck (and that of its polo-playing director, Michael Brown) had been stupefying. Mainstream television news had reported on the confused and ineffective relief efforts -- too little, too late, and most of it FUBAR.

Privately, Representative Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] urged Bush to fire Brown because of all that had gone wrong; "What didn't go right?" Lil' Boots replied, and on September 1st praised Brown publicly ("You're doin' a heckofa job, Brownie!").

8 days later, 'Brownie' was allowed to quietly step out of an active role in managing the crisis. On September 12th, he resigned as director of FEMA; in later testimony before Congress, Brown alleged "that Lousiana governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin bore most, if not all, of the blame for the failures in the response to Katrina, and that his only fault had been not to realize sooner their inability to perform their respective duties." (Wikipedia)

In New Orleans on August 31st, 11-year-old Danielle Mollett had managed to help her grandmother out of the attic where they had been trapped. Her grandmother's health was failing. They were lucky enough to be seen and rescued by one of the few boats bringing survivors out of flooded areas, taking them to the New Orleans Superdome stadium, which was situated on slightly higher ground than the rest of the city -- still, lower portions of the structure were flooded by three feet of water.

An estimated 30,000 people found their way to the Superdome between August 29 and September 2. Conditions were bad: limited food, water, sanitation and medical services; sewage systems were backed up by the flooding. The most seriously ill -- like 64-year-old Diane Mollett -- were given small folding cots to rest on.

Boots, On The Little Rupert Network From New Orleans
To balance public perception that he showed little concern for the tragedy on the Gulf, Bush quickly flew back to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and fumbled through a long, photo-op tour of the region. He even made an 'Address To The Nation' from New Orleans. A few miles away, at the Superdome, not enough of the thousands of survivors had adequate food or water, and no one seemed able to get any to them.

But by now, too many people had seen just how desperate things had become -- network news reporters at the Superdome were shaken by what they saw of the conditions there. On September 1st, Paula Zahn of CNN interviewed FEMA director Brown, who claimed to have "only just learned" 30,000 people in the damaged Superdome had no food or water: "Sir, you aren't just telling me you just learned that the folks at the Convention Center didn't have food and water until today, are you? You had no idea they were completely cut off? " she asked, incredulous. 

Brown appeared bored as he replied, "Paula, the federal government did not even know about [them] until today" --an obvious lie, since evacuations from the Superdome had been going on, slowly, for over 24 hours.

No one seemed to be in charge. In FEMA's inactivity before the catastrophe, and its mismanagement in the aftermath obvious to anyone watching the news, the government's response seemed too little, too late. Another fuck-up, like Iraq -- Because FUBAR; and because the people suffering and dying in New Orleans were poor and primarily black.

On September 2, NBC broadcast a live Concert for Katrina, to raise awareness and money for relief efforts. Standing beside comic Mike Meyers, Kayne West offered an observation about the disaster which was broadcast live across America -- except on the West Coast, where tape delay allowed NBC to delete his remarks:

Meyer's Look ("OMG: On Teevee??") = Priceless
"I hate the way they portray us in the media. If it's a black family, it says we're looting. If it's a white family, it says they're looking for food. And you know that it's been five days because most of the people are black... We already realize that a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way, and they have given them permission to go down and shoot us. George Bush didn't care about black people."

On September 2, Diane Mollett died on her cot, waiting to be taken out of the flooded city to the Houston Astrodome. Her 11-year-old granddaughter Danielle was alone, surrounded by strangers in a nightmare; she would stay, "balled up inside myself" for two more days before being bussed, by herself, to distant relatives in Texas .

As a show of their own concern (and damage control for the Bush brand), former President George H. W. 'Poppy' Bush had reached out to former President Clinton to found a charity organization for relief and rebuilding.  On September 5th, Poppy and his wife, Barbara, toured the Astrodome in Houston, now filled by thousands of refugees from New Orleans.

Barbara Bush had recently spoken about her son's invasion of Iraq, which wasn't going well ("Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? ...It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?") -- and after her tour of the Astrodome made this observation, broadcast on National Public Radio's Marketwatch program:
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is that they [refugees from New Orleans] all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the [Astrodome] here, you know, were underprivileged anyway; so this (chuckle) – this is working out very well for them."

Danielle Mollett wept, remembering the death of her grandmother. She has spent the last decade trying to remake her life and move beyond what she experienced in New Orleans. It's a proof of character, and its quality, that she's succeeded.

Then, there's Barbara Bush. Her remarks, and the social class she represents, provide indications and testaments as to the quality of her character, as well.  And, her son... well;  the less said about him, the better.

MEHR, MIT LUMPENHUND:  Lil' Boots -- too arrogant and limited to recognize that he has failed at almost everything he has attempted as an adult; too dim to recognize that he was an empty-suit front man for President Cheney -- appeared in New Orleans today to speak at a local school in commemoration of New Orleans, a city "which never gave up".

Auf Nicht Wiedersehen, Lil' Boots, you Poultroon *; you Lumpenhund nutter.

( * Poultroon = Archaic /Middle French: A rascal, a scoundrel; a coward. )

From When We Thought It Was Bad, Before

Setting Fire To The Boat

The Best Blog
September 28, 2011

"Now is there any new business," says Giblets.
"Well the boat's sinking," says me.
"Giblets seems to recall that coming up at the last meeting," says Giblets, "which would make that old business." 
"Well it's more sinking-er than it was last time," says me. "That's kind of new." 
"But I don't know whether to try to put out the fire or try to bail out the boat or scream and panic and scream," says me. "Come to think of it this is really the kind of discussion that calls for a Boat Burning Committee."
"Well it looks like there's no other choice," says Giblets. "The motion is for the rye. All in favor?"
"I think the Boat Burning Committee's first course of action should probably be to figure out if we're on fire now," says me. "And if so, do we Stop Drop and Roll, do we See Something Say Something, or do we Click It or Ticket?"
"In that an abstention?" says Giblets. "Cause that makes it one in favor and one abstention."
"I think we should call for a floor vote," says me. "Any seconds? Anyone?"
"Now for the new business," says Giblets. "Why's it so hot in here?"

posted by fafnir at 9:09 AM

I  wish Giblets would pipe down. Doesn't Giblets know that there is a new television season? The newest one yet? Instead we get all this noise about sinking and burning and imminent demise. We're trying to tune you out Giblets! Do you mind?!

Say, before you drown and stuff, could you sign over the drilling rights to your property? Thanks, cheers, etc.

That may not be Giblets. I'd say you may have overlooked a small zombie problem there. Try shooting him in the head and see how he reacts.

Giblets is half right. You should use the fire to put out the water.  Also figuratively, if you insist.