Showing posts with label Stuff Not Launched With Voyager 1. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stuff Not Launched With Voyager 1. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Forty-Five Days In The Hole

A Long Rant

Everyone's Favorite Moment In The Action-Packed Rallies Briefings

Healthcare resource allocation is the easiest way to describe what I do, when I'm not speaking through the persona of a smart-assed white dog online. It involves Physical Space and infrastructure capabilities; Resources (human beings), Durable and Disposable Medical Equipment (beds; ventilators; swabs; masks; PPE gowns and gloves), medications -- requirements versus availability. It's logistics and negotiation. The past few months have been busy, preparing additional overflow sites for the kind of New York City-level surge of CoVID-19 cases in the Bay Area.

That hasn't developed. It's a relief. But, with the demands of the bloated Child-Leader, we could see another spike in cases as America is forced back to work, the Leader determined to have his moment of fantasy validation though many may die. Well... we could get lucky. I hope so, but it's a hope that only extends through the Summer. Then comes Fall and Winter.

I sit in multiple videoconferences; we talk about the Winter of this year. We use words like 'anticipated'  'likely probability', and when we look at potential effects to healthcare system capacity, the numbers are frightening. If the CoVID-19 virus is seasonal (and no one knows if it is), the end of 2020 could be bad. Wuhan-bad; Northern Italy-bad; New York City bad.

I don't say this to raise anyone's already elevated fears. My way of dealing with things is Whole Sight: straight on, for the most realistic appreciation of whatever comes. We need to do everything in our power, now, to prepare the System for a New York-level of shock, for months on end. As individuals, we need to plan how best to cooperate, for our collective sakes, and for the future.

There is some (relative) good news. In a presentation I saw yesterday, the data seems clear that all the effort to ramp up for a surge which never came helped develop slack capacity that will be essential going forward. Time has been made, but we need to increase capacity to continue preparing for Winter, and after. Eventually, there will be a vaccine; we just need to get through the next eleven months and be waiting in line when it's distributed.

We could be better prepared -- but the lack of coordination from the federal government is astounding (It's been detailed in the press; I don't have to repeat it here). And the politicization of whatever efforts that government does make is staggering: a CDC alert I saw just this morning started with the phrase, "The Trump administration is taking aggressive actions..." As if He were guiding, watching everything, the master of all phraseology and human destiny; the Good Daddy.

But when he is the Angry Daddy, the Bad Daddy -- He must be appeased in the smallest ways by the sycophants he gathers around him. There is an obvious requirement that medical professionals at the national level kiss Trump's ass just to stay in the room, and be allowed to offer informed opinions they hope can counter the ignorance, the bias against 'know-everything types'.

The disconnection from reality that we all brush aside with Trump, just to keep from having our heads explode; the hours-long 'briefings' replacing Trump's 'rallies'; the lying and vicious small-minded pursuit of More by himself, his family, his satraps and toadies, while people are dying -- all of it is magnified, now.

Hopefully, it will be a stain he can't wash. The portrait of Dorian Grey, failing to contain the rotten core of this person and so revealing him, failure and bully, as he does his drunkard's weaving while standing behind the podium.

Every day we waste on this sociopath's spewings, on the ranting and insane bullshit of conservative politicians and social leaders, when we could be preparing for the coming Fall, is time we will not get back. Time literally means lives, now.

Every three days, I go into different medical centers operated by the Behemoth corporation which employs me and do things there I cannot do via Skype. I've always considered that, as jobs go, at least I could say I did things with a social benefit; now, they are one set of actions in a chain of events that matter, tangibly, to specific people.

Every time I go into a facility, the risk of contracting a disease (referred to by the younger set on Twitter as "Boomer Remover") that could kill me -- an Old with an underlying health condition -- increases by approximately 40%.

I'm in no way a hero -- my job is administrative, logistics; the real heroes are floors below, wearing full PPE garb, trying to adhere to protocols in biologically hot environments, for hours. Rarely, I see them in common spaces, outdoors, and we're well-separated. They're the kind of exhausted you get when you push your adrenaline levels to meet calls to action over and over for long periods.

I've been in situations in bad places in my long-ago; real life-and-death situations. You do things in those situations, and only in the silences afterwards does it become clear exactly how dangerous it was; that's what PTSD is about. I will tell you: it takes a special level of consciousness to go into situations with high risk -- and then do it again, and again, daily, having had moments in the times between to understand exactly what you're getting into.

This is what thousands of physicians, nurses, and support personnel are doing around the world, right now, over and over, and have been. For months.

They do the most critical caregiving tasks, and the most humble. They are there for others when they are dying, alone and isolated from everything familiar and loved, drifting away. They watch this and they perform that last connection with light and earth and all that we know, over and over and over. My respect for them is clear and unambiguous. There are few times in life when I could say I felt that, unreservedly, towards other human beings.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing

When I come home to my small apartment on a hill in The City, I leave my Outside Shoes by the door, remove and bag clothing for separate laundering; I shower, and I scrub. The other five days in the week, I only leave my building a few times to walk at dusk, to stand on the steps of Grace Cathedral with the sun going down, surrounded by the condominiums and co-ops of the Wealthy, the huge landmark hotels, the brownstone Beaux Arts Pacific-Union Club.

In the handful of times I walk every week, I'm in the street, facing oncoming traffic, but there is very little. SFMTA buses whine past with only a few riders, as they have for weeks now: no one wants to risk public transit. Other people are out, runners and walkers, none of them masked; couples in their twenties amble slowly on the sidewalks, laughing. Knowing what I know about CoVID, I stay well clear. I walk in the street.

On my every-two-week walk to a neighborhood market, there are people lined up, waiting to enter. It isn't a tiny business: in mid-March it was packed with panic-buying, unmasked people in thick lines waiting for checkout. Since March 19, the owners instituted a policy of allowing fifteen people inside at a time -- one person leaves, one allowed in -- but until they painted lines six feet apart on the sidewalk, few people seemed in a hurry to keep social distance. For weeks, I was nearly the only person in line wearing a mask.

Today, inside, there are plenty of people without masks, even the cloth variety, or those wearing them only over an upper lip, nose fully exposed. They ignore social distancing to lean in front of you and peer at a half-empty shelf -- as if it were just another day before CoVID.

I wear an N95 mask because I've been issued them. When I ask people to watch themselves or please step back, they turn their heads to look up at me and frown. "Sorry," their voices say, but they don't move. They want you to move; they want that last can of kidney beans.

The market owners also set up plexiglass screens at the registers early on, and found enough N95 masks and nitrile gloves for their staff. Early on, they began refusing to accept cash -- paper money being a transmission vector; credit/debit only. They found a local manufacturer willing to make and provide hand sanitizer. I pass the small shopping cart I use to an employee, who immediately disinfects it.

I check out and walk home. The market's paper bags will stand by themselves for the next two or three days, untouched. When I noted the first reports in early January of a novel virus appearing in China, which appeared to be respiratory with a good probability of human-to-human transmission, I began slowly buying whatever I thought might be needed. I'm not a Prepper, and not a tinfoil hat person. But when panic buying began in early - mid March, it was one more aspect of the situation I didn't need to feel anxiety over.

Everything purchased is sanitized with wipes bought three months ago; hard to find them, now. I don't buy produce or fruits -- I take vitamins, which also seem in short supply. I have gallons of frozen milk, frozen gluten-free bread (likewise, hard to find) and GF-pizza (I refuse to give up my comfort foods). Rice and beans are a staple (with Pesto, or Tomato paste), and so is Norwegian Kippered Herring.

And the obligatory wine and Single Malt: yes, I find myself self-medicating more frequently in, as Bill Burr would say, "the current environment" (I can even 'drink at work'; bwa ha ha ha ha ha).

This is how we -- or, at least how I, live now. And have done, for forty-five days. Part of me is proud of being resourceful. The rest of me wants to weep and beat all conservatives with a shovel and launch their corpses into the sun. But, that's just me.

Current Coronavirus Cases, FLA: 25,576   Deaths: 976
All that personal nonsense wasn't what I wanted to talk about.

Indeed, if [Nassim Nicholas] Taleb is chronically irritated, it is by those economists, officials, journalists, and executives—the “naïve empiricists”—who think that our tomorrows are likely to be pretty much like our yesterdays.  
(-- Bernard Avashai, "The Pandemic Isn't A Black Swan, But A Portent Of A More Fragile Global System," The New Yorker, April 21, 2020)

There is an assumption: once we just get a handle on this virus, by brute force, everything will revert to some pre-CoVID default. That electing Biden will erase four years of something unprintable and degrading. That by magic, all will be as it was.

What that assumption ignores is the massive (and that isn't enough adjective to describe what's happened) disruption to the global economy which CoVID has produced, the societal and political changes already set in motion.

Recently, the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Robert Barr (R-Stock 'n Property), unanimously announced it supported the combined U.S. Intelligence Community's earlier report that the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, had intervened in the 2016 presidential election to ensure the election of Donald J. Trump.

On Twitter, some commenters assumed this was significant -- that the Old-Boy Network had delivered a message to Trump: they had finally had enough, and the 25th Amendment was waiting to be invoked. I didn't believe this was even remotely possible, but had five minutes of fantasy enjoyment thinking about it (One, really, because we would immediately have President Pence).

At almost the same time, Fat Billy Barr announced that he might prosecute governors who went against the wishes of The Leader (whose mottled ass Barr tenderly kisses), and defy his order to Put America Back To Work! There were other assumptions, there -- about Barr's authority as Attorney General, and that threatening state Governors could make them toe the line and kiss Trump's ass, too.

But I also thought: let's play this out -- the Players in each situation acted as they did because they assumed the structure of things -- America's government, its finances, its society (as  F. Scott Fitzgerald said, a framework of "religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and exact relations ... between the classes") was operating exactly as it always has.

But -- what if, as Nassim Taleb noted, the structure is no longer that way? For me, the image that comes up is the old, fat Russian officer, marching new recruits to the front in Doctor Zhivago; they encounter a mob of deserters, who entreat the recruits to defect; the old officer orders them from the saddle, "Form ranks! Get back in ranks!" He assumed his authority and everything that supported it was the 'local reality'; the soldiers pulled him off his horse and beat him to death.

Roughly 30,000,000 Americans are out of work. In my neighborhood, I overheard several managers of apartment buildings (not the wealthy co-ops, of course) saying half their residents or more couldn't pay April rent, and likely can't pay in May.

The $1,200, one-time "Donny Trump Fun Bucks" check with The Leader's heavy, spiky signature will probably be spent on food. Mortgages are going unpaid. Business rent. Insurance coverage. Car payments. Student loans. Credit Card debt. Wireless bills. Medical bills. Cable bills. 

Trump and his Republican toadies are making their own assumptions -- even about something as stupid, at a time like this, as insisting The Leader's signature be on each check. The right-wing thug strategists assume people will make positive associations between 'Getting Fun Bucks', and The Leader: Free political advertising. 

It's an assumption that we're still living in the world where politics as usual is the shared reality. In truth, people getting the checks will deposit them and not give Leader's EKG arrhythmia-shaped handwriting more than a moment's notice. By the time Winter comes, businesses -- who also assume we're living in a world ruled by the same ideas of obligation, debt, creditworthiness -- will expect what they're owed. So will landlords, property owners, finance companies and banks.

As someone on Twitter noted, TeeVee commercials are appearing now, showing America's big corporations as empathetic, "understanding and compassionate; they will be happy to 'discuss arrangements' for payments. There's nice piano music playing behind these images. Just don't expect soft music and compassion when they send your account for collection".

This isn't a Civ102 class, where you spend one session skimming over 1929 and its aftermath, just as a way to segue into the Second World War.  The media notes this CoVID-fueled effect to the economies of the planet will be "Worse than the Great Depression of the 1930's" -- not having the least notion what that means. No one does.

If you read the article on Taleb, his main point is, the CoVID disaster exposes all the stress points, the assumptions we've made about interconnected global finance and supply chains, our dependence on fossil fuels (not to mention the politics of oil), and just how vulnerable we are as a species.

CoVID-19 is bad enough -- but if it had been more like Ebola, we might be looking at global deaths in the millions, now, and a global heath system which could not cope with it. And, nature isn't through with us. This was just our first pandemic in 102 years. It isn't over.

Yes, there was an immense relief bill passed, to show that the Congress "Did So Care!" about the Little People, and of course the Bundist Billionaires and Oligarchs. And, it was done to show that no one need panic: money was on the way.  Only, it was trickle-down, again; same at it ever was. As  Ian Welsh notes,
Virtually all the relief money has flowed to the top, not the bottom. Landlords and tenants are in crisis. Unemployment is going over 30% and in many places higher. A vast swathe of American small business will be destroyed, and is unlikely to recover in a generation.  
Firms which borrowed money to do stock buy-backs, or to give money to their private equity purchasers are slopping at the trough, but many of the actual businesses on the ground (like Nieman Marcus) will go under. 
PPE can’t be found for hospital workers or logistics workers. Important pieces of the logistics hubs like meat packing plants are shutting down. Warehouse workers are protesting, truckers are scared... 
America is unable to make or procure an adequate number of masks or prioritize who gets them (though, really, everyone should). The ventilators made by GM are inadequate, because Trump wanted to keep the price down. Hospitals not only don’t have enough PPE, they’re going bankrupt because they haven’t been given enough money.
All the assumptions Republican Senators, Billy Barr, Trump -- even you, and me -- are making about how things are supposed to work in America and the world doesn't address the reality of what's just happened. Its effects are so big, we can't put our arms around it and can't know how it will affect us.

We can say all our assumptions about the future will change. Not that it will be so radically different -- but just as Fitzgerald saw the old assumptions about his world before WW1 dissolve, the same will happen to us. And the domino effects of CoVID, and continuing Climate Deterioration, will drive it.

Some observers believe America is headed towards regional dissolution, food riots once transport and supply chains break down, and who knows what political structure will emerge -- maybe a semi-United States; maybe the Republic of Gilead, run by evangelical 'christians'.

But, maybe not. Maybe when the chickens finally finish coming home to roost (as they have been since Trump was granted power), our future doesn't have to be exploitation by Neoliberal politicians and rat-faced corporate leaders, or domination by christian fascists. I like to think human beings -- even Americans -- have better imaginations than that.

When we leave our assumptions behind, perhaps they'll be about fossil-fuel dependency. Or healthcare. Or ideas that lies and propaganda are just 'alternate facts'. That income inequality, and throwing children into cages at immigration stations, are just part of the fabric of our country; just one of those things. That we can't fight City Hall. Or climate change. Or even a housing crisis. Perhaps we can abandon the assumption that the fix is in, and no solutions are possible.

There's a long road with CoVID ahead -- it won't end until treatment therapies that mitigate the worst effects of this organism are proven, or an effective vaccine is created. These are months, even years, away. When we come out the other side: what kind of culture and political realities do we want for each other? Our tomorrows do not have to look like our yesterdays.

MEHR, MIT EIN ANDERN MEINUNG: (Repeating myself, but...)

...We're living through history. When we read about events in Europe during the Interwar Years (1918 - 1939), there's a feeling of inevitability, of being slowly sucked down a drain -- the revolving-door failures of parliamentary governments in France; Britain's declining empire; the manic Totentanz of global capital leading to 1929 and the Great Depression; the rise and fall of Weimar; the apotheosis of Italian and Japanese, and finally German, fascism. Regional war and civil war. 

... and we know where the story is going. ... But we always read about the years leading up to [WW2] with a mounting sense of horror precisely because we all know how it ends. 

And we have the same feeling, looking at major global currents in our own time. ...  America, ruled by Babbitry, greed and illusion, retreats from the world stage. Its leader is Bloated, Raving, delegating the running of a government to corrupt, car-wash dilettantes. Other nation-state players are happy to rush into the vacuum we leave behind. The balances in the old alliances we created after WWII have been squandered, all but unraveled. 

A regional conflict -- between India and Pakistan; Kim Jong Fat Boy's Fun Republic Of Chuckles and South Korea; Iran and Saudi Arabia, almost seems like a sure thing -- 'of course that's where all this is going'; no one would be truly surprised if one started tomorrow. What we wouldn't be prepared for is what would happen the day after, and the day after that.

Kleiner Mann; Was Nun?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Reprint Heaven: January 29, 1933

You Want It Darker

(From December 3, 2016)

"Waiting For The Barbarians", Chris Hedges, Truthdig; November 27, 2016, via Mr. Fish:
... The desiccation of our liberal institutions ensured the demise of our capitalist democracy. History has amply demonstrated what was to come next. The rot and political paralysis vomited up a con artist as president along with an array of half-wits, criminals and racist ideologues. They will manufacture scapegoats as their gross ineptitude and unachievable promises are exposed. They will fan the flames of white supremacy and racial and religious bigotry. They will use all the tools of legal and physical control handed to them by our system of “inverted totalitarianism” to crush even the most tepid forms of dissent.

The last constraints will be removed by a crisis. The crisis will be used to create a climate of fear. The pretense of democracy will end.

“A fascism of the future—an emergency response to some still unimagined crisis—need not resemble classical fascism perfectly in its outward signs and symbols,” Robert Paxton writes in The Anatomy of Fascism. “Some future movement that would ‘give up free institutions’ in order to perform the same functions of mass mobilization for the reunification, purification, and regeneration of some troubled group would undoubtedly call itself something else and draw on fresh symbols. That would not make it any less dangerous.” ...

... There will be rebels. They will live in the shadows. They will be the renegade painters, sculptors, poets, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, dancers, organizers, activists, mystics, intellectuals and other outcasts who are willing to accept personal sacrifice. They will not surrender their integrity, creativity, independence and finally their  souls. They will speak the truth.
Read this. Read it allAnd by everything I hold dear and sacred, I hope he's wrong; that what will develop in our future will be an aberrant episode in the American Experiment and not the end of it. And, everything I was raised to believe says It Can't Happen Here.

(And it has to be pointed out: My perspective on the American Experiment is rooted in the 'High School Civics Class' definition of America, which has status quo spray-painted all over it. And we all know what the Status Quo is about, who benefits from it, and who suffers in order to keep it going. I can't be blamed for wanting the stuff We Learned In School to be true -- but it isn't true for All, and that's the problem.)

At The Place Of Witless Labor yesterday, I had another conversation with Archibald "Harry" Tuttle. Unlike other people at the POWL, Harry goes right at Recent Events -- a 60-ish black man, he has no illusions about what's 'permissible' in our culture. I had mentioned the Chris Hedges article to Harry, who listened as I described it, and said, "And? Your point?" (Harry, incidentally, is an actual person, not a fictive alter ego for my own opinions, and the conversation was for-real.)

"You think a police state, in America, isn't possible?" Harry said. "Curfews, checkpoints, 'illegal' searches and seizures? Being singled out because you 'meet the profile'? Just because the Constitution this and the Bill Of Rights that? Or just because it's never happened to you?" Harry laughed. "It's been happening to us forever. Fuck the Constitution -- it doesn't mean shit, if they don't want it to. That ain't news to me. This guy [he meant Hedges] sounds like he's just catching up."

"Sometimes I wonder -- movies and television have been showing us for decades all kinds of bad events happening," Harry said. "Terrorists get the bomb, use it in some big city; another nine-eleven. Or a virus gets loose. Or space aliens -- and monsters are just symbols for real shit we're afraid of anyway.  

"But there's always a state of emergency, a lockdown. Army in the streets. What those movies don't ever show you is how long all that lasts -- everyone watching makes the assumption, 'When the monsters are gone, everything will go back to normal.'  They'll go to work and go to the mall and take their kids to school, or whatever.

"What if it doesn't?" Harry said. "After nine-eleven, we ended up with 'Snowden' and a war in the fucking Middle East, and drones, and the economy went to hell so the Usual Suspects could get even richer. The prisons are full and they are still shooting unarmed people in the back. None of that has changed. It didn't go away. It's the new normal. 

"When something big goes down here, some people are gonna have a rude awakening when they find out what a whole lot of people already know about power, and rights, and how far your arguing about the Constitution's gonna get you. And, with the fuckin' clowns about to go into office, it wouldn't take a flying saucer landing in Washington to give them the excuse."

MEHR, VON DIE VERGANGENHEIT:  All this reminds me that a week before the election, I rode a Cable Car up the hill to my stop, near the border of a Very Wealthy Person's District. I sat beside one of these Persons, a white woman of indeterminate age -- honey-blonde hair done with just enough grey; excellent plastic surgery gave her the facial features of someone vaguely fortyish, but her hands were spotted, bony claws of the fairly elderly. I'd seen her riding the line in the past, but we'd never spoken.

She was dressed in a classic blouse/wool skirt/camel's hair topcoat/print scarf ensemble, as much a signal of class as School and Club ties for men once were. I don't remember how we began talking about the election -- in a city like Kiddietown, the assumption was that everyone was voting for Clinton, anyway. She wasn't direct about saying she was a Republican, but her assumption was that I (white-haired, white man in a suit and tie, topcoat, grey Fedora) might be One Of Us -- if not in Net Worth, then in spirit. 

"I know she'll win," the Person said, quietly. "But it would be so nice if it were -- you know; if he would win. All these unpleasant things would stop, then," she said, and her smile was shy, conspiratorial, like a wink. As if we had been on the S-Bahn in Berlin, long ago, and she had flipped back the lapel of her very expensive tan coat, just for a moment, so I would see the Parteiabzeichen pinned on it's hidden side.

Assumptions. All the unpleasant things, stopping. One of Us.

Fuck that, man.


MEHR, MIT EIN ANDENKEN:  And, a reminder of a deeper focus that needs to underlie our everyday attention, courtesy of The Soul Of America.  Woof !


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Eat Your Pie

Every Bite

For All America: We Ordered It. Now, We Eat It.

I'd felt compelled in the past months to make a scale model -- of a random tree, one planted by the City of San Francisco, growing for at least twenty years near a streetcorner. The scale would be 1 inch = 3 Feet: roughly thirty feet of tree would be rendered in ten inches. I'm a visual artist, among other things; it was within my range of abilities.

My vision was to recreate as many fine details as that scale would allow, including at least a thousand leaves, and an uncanny crispness in the detail was the goal. I didn't really begin, but did preparatory drawings, bought supplies, took reference photos. But -- sculpture or modeling in any form isn't a normal impulse for me. So: a puzzle.

Over the past few weeks, it finally struck me: I'm part of a physical world, where every living thing in it is now threatened. I'm also living in a world of ideas, created by other humans -- a political world, now mutating away from everything familiar.

In that, the desire to recreate a familiar, primal living form, and reduce a part of the world to something, through an act of making, which I could control, suddenly made sense.

In 2016, like almost everyone else, I assumed the fix was in -- that Clinton would become President. Of course, there was no possibility Trump would win (though I toyed with the thought in February of 2016). Even the MAGA Bundists didn't believe it.

He was a joke. His rabid base in Flyover Country were underclass jokes, 'deplorables' who believed his anti-immigrant, White supremacist / fringe-separatist dogwhistling. His campaign was a sideshow, allowed (or, if you preferred, conspired against) by the Powers That Be.

Trump said and did things which broke political and cultural norms. And no matter how crazy things seemed? He'd never actually become President. The best pollsters didn't believe it. Pundits and insiders laughed about it. Reportedly, Trump didn't believe he had a chance, either -- but he was getting a months-long Trump, Inc. infomercial, paid for with other people's money.

Some in early 2016, like university professor and Washington Post columnist Daniel Drezner, read things differently.
Turns out those few voices had spoken up for good reasons. Now, every one of those reasons has borne fruit -- rotten, nauseatingly spoiled, rancid -- slopped as filling into a pie that 99.09% of America has been eating for over three years.

It is making us sick. It's killing us. But it's what America ordered, and we will have to eat our pie. We will eat every bite -- even if it takes ten years, or twenty. We'll eat it all. We won't have any choice.

Like everyone else, I had grown up repeating the Pledge of Allegiance. And if you didn't get the Pledge, you did understand the power of the State it represented: One Nation, Bigger Than You; Under God, Too: Believe It, and Square Yourself Away In That Bulkhead, Marine.

The majority of our fathers had fought in WW2, for pete's sake. We'd hear the stories. America kicked Japan and Germany's ass (Italy was apparently just a place to have a war in, not an actual enemy), and by God, America won that sucker. Get on the other side of that equation, and see what happens (or, paraphrasing from Stephen King, "we'll just loose some pioneer spirit on ya'), damn Commies.

I accepted the High-School-Civics-Class-View of the United States. We were an exceptional People. History didn't apply to us; we were writing it. Even later personal experience overseas (where we did not win), and at home didn't really touch the bedrock assumptions I carried around about race, and class, and gender, and geopolitics -- or, that one could say Liberty and Justice For All and still not understand it was a slogan.

Trump won. Everyone in Washington expected him to play by the rules of conduct and engagement between Congress and the Executive. He couldn't be who he appeared to be and function as President.  But he didn't play by their rules; if anything, he played by Stevie Bannon's rules (that is to say, Josef Goebbels', or Josef Stalin's), Rupert Murdoch's rules, Vladimir Putin's rules.

With the help of people like Pompeo, Barr, and the Republican leadership, Trump has hollowed out America's governmental institutions, muzzling the FBI in a Justice Department organized to investigate those The Leader charges with the 'crime' of not being sufficiently loyal. Thousands of children are kept in virtual concentration camps, abused and mistreated.

Trump and the GOP charged a $3 Trillion bill to ordinary Americans in order to pay even more money to Our Fabled Wealthy; he runs a foreign policy sideshow which appears to benefit Russia far better than the United States. We, The People, have paid $118 Million to fund his weekly golf trips since taking office. The EPA exists in name only. National Weather Forecasters are muzzled when their opinion counters that of The Leader.

The new Federal judges, appointed for life by a Republican-controlled Senate, many without any qualifications whatsoever. Two (more) right-wing appointments to the Supreme Court -- in particular the nasty, entitled Frat Boy -- and the push by evangelicals to finally overturn Roe v. Wade. The list goes on and on.

But: even if Trump were removed from power, immediately; even if Mikey Pence were shown to be living with a rent-a-boy in a Motel 6 outside the Beltway; and McConnell and his wife were caught selling the North American SIOP to Russian agents, it wouldn't matter: Trump has trampled the boundaries of what is permissible in American political life -- and the Republican party, now nothing but a crowd of vicious suckasses, have enthusiastically helped him.

Even worse, Trump has given the cover of Presidential support for 'very good people' -- openly fascist, separatist, white nationalists. Fascist ideas are now something not to be fought, but given legitimacy, to be debated, to be allowed to sit at the table.

Trump has, with assistance, broken the United States of America. And if it isn't intelligently repaired -- if Trump goes on and on; if the GOP pays no electoral penalty for what they've participated in -- then after the next Crash, we're within a few short years of living in a failed Fascist State.

And Trump won't be our worst nightmare -- it'll be waking up to find there's a popular new conservative Leader, someone colder, more focused and sociopathic than Trump ever was. Someone who promises order and safety with the smile of a rapacious predator. America becomes just another authoritarian dictatorship: god help you if you're a minority, or LGTBQ, or a woman, or any stripe of Liberal.

Or, even worse, American society descends into real conflict, the "boogaloo" our fascist Right currently hopes for. Disorganization and violence rises... until some group of 'christian' leaders (perhaps 'The Family') decide that god has willed they step in and turn the nation towards the path of righteousness.

At that point we wake up to find we're living in a new country, with a new name, and with multiple, cold, focused and even more sociopathic leaders. And they won't just demand a political allegiance -- they'll want you to give them your soul.

On Twitter this morning, I responded to a comment on an article -- that Trump's popularity had taken a slight dip in Texas, the reddest of Red States. Most people responding thought it was cause for cheer -- I replied,
What should frighten every thinking person in America is -- how popular would a right-wing candidate be in Texas if he were smoother, more cunning, more 'attractive', more evangelical? Trump isn't what we should be afraid of. It's what he's made possible.
Not long after, I scrolled down to find Newsweek columnist Seth Abramson observed very much the same thing:
The list of things now officially permissible at the highest levels of our government -- because of GOP cowardice -- is enough to permanently degrade our democracy: foreign interference in elections; pathological lying without shame; personal conflicts of interest never resolved... 
The worst part: the GOP will vainly, even grotesquely try to do a take-backsies on destroying America the second there's a Democratic president. At the first lie, they'll howl. But it'll be the boy who cried wolf... 
Part of it is that the culture in Washington -- already toxic; already chasing away most good people --is now permanently fatal to any goodness or integrity. But part of it is Trumpism generally, which is going to be with us for decades no matter what happens with Trump specifically. 
When and if Trump leaves office, he'll either start Trump TV immediately and be in your house daily pretending he's still president or, if he's indicted ... he'll go somewhere overseas he can't be touched and from *there* be in your house daily. 
There's one chance—and not even a great one—to avoid this. A historic reversal, revolution, and rebuke arising in the Senate that sends Trump reeling out of office. Would the GOP likely have to sit on the nation's political bench for a few years? Yes. But they could save America. 
Obviously, that's never going to happen. And so it's the alternative: a permanent diminishment of America that nothing can stand in the breach to avert. The Rubicon is the Senate trial, and if it's crossed -- no matter who wins in 2020 -- it's crossed, and Trumpism is made *permanent*.

MEHR, MIT DER NEUEN KRIEG ZU KOMMEN:  Yesterday, an American drone strike killed the Iranian General in charge of that nation's Republican Guard special forces, and one of the principal architects of Iran's paramilitary strategy in the Middle East.  He was simply assassinated, without any Congressional consultation -- "on order of the President", The Leader; the child-man dictator. 

As I keep saying: This cannot continue; and, This cannot end well:  Consider this.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Reprint Heaven Forever: Still Missed

John Lennon: October 9, 1940

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass; they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on across the universe;
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way,
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views; inviting and inciting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me
Like a million suns; it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world...

Across The Universe (Lennon / McCartney, 1969)

We don't care what flag you're waving,
We don't even want to know your name,
We don't care where you're from or where you're going,
All we know is that you came;

You're making all our decisions,
We have just one request of you,
That while you're thinking things over,
Here's something you just better do:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well we were caught with our hands in the air,
Don't despair paranoia is everywhere,
We can shake it with love when we're scared,
So let's shout it aloud like a prayer:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now

We understand your paranoia,
But we don't want to play your game;
You think you're cool and know what you are doing,
666 is your name;
So while your jerking off each other,
You better bear this thought in mind:
Your time is up you better know it,
But maybe you don't read the signs

Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well you were caught with your hands in the kill,
And you still got to swallow your pill,
As you slip and you slide down the hill,
On the blood of the people you killed

Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now...

Bring On The Lucie (Freda People) (John Lennon, 1973)

The Soul Of America reminded me that I missed the actual day. Normally, I put up a memorial on December 10th. Better, I think, to celebrate someone's birth.

... I can't say I listen to Beatles music too much myself, these days (though I did listen to the Magical Mystery Tour album last weekend, by chance, while padding through the Haight).

So:  Absent Friends. Happy Birthday, John.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Reprint Heaven: Edge Of The Volcano Edition


(Originally From 2016)

Cousin Ignatz, Asleep At Princip's Post: Sarajevo, 2014 (Matthew Fisher / Postmedia News)

Roughly twelve hours and 105 years ago, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Grand Duchess Sophie, were shot by Gavrillo Princip, a member of an assassination team sent to the Bosnian city by the government of Serbia.

Collectively, the team was the gang which couldn't shoot straight: armed with crude grenades, a few pistols, and carrying some form of suicide pill, they waited along the route Franz Ferdinand's car would take as it drove beside the Miljacka river, which cuts through Sarajevo (local Austro-Hungarian authorities had helpfully published the Archduke's route beforehand).

Most of the team either was poorly positioned, or chickened out at the last moment.  One conspirator did throw a bomb at the Archduke's car, which bounced off its folded-back fabric top and exploded near a second car traveling just behind. Several people in the car had minor injuries and it continued on to a local hospital.

The Archduke's driver, Leopold Lojka, continued to Sarajevo city hall. When Franz Ferdinand arrived, he effectively unloaded on the hapless administrators about the state of their local security ("I come to your city and am greeted with bombs!"). Meanwhile, back at the river, the would-be bomber had jumped into the Miljacka and swallowed his suicide pill -- which he promptly threw up. The police arrested him, barely managing to keep him from being lynched a mob of pro-Austro-Hungarian citizens, and so save him for later trial and execution.

At approximately 12:30 PM, having finally accepted the thanks of the Sarajevo city fathers, Franz Ferdinand and his wife got back into their car, planning to go to the local hospital to see those wounded in the bomb attack that morning. They used the same route, in reverse, that they had taken into the city, driving along the river. But when the Chauffeur, Lojka, came to a particular intersection -- to his left, a street; to the right, a bridge over the Miljacka river -- he was confused.

 The Royal Couple (Seated, At Rear) Leaving City Hall: Fifteen Minutes Left

Believing it to be the route he needed to take to drive to the hospital, Lojka slowed and turned left into the street.  Almost immediately, he realized he'd made a mistake and stepped on the brakes. The car came to a stop a few yards into the street, and Lojka moved to put it in reverse gear.

 The Intersection, 2014: The Archduke's Car Turned Left, Into This Street;
The Restaurant Where Princip Bought Lunch, Now A Museum (Photo: CNN)

At that same intersection was a small restaurant. Gavrillo Princip, last member of the Serbian assassination squad, had gone inside to buy a sandwich, angry and dejected after the team's failure that morning. Standing on the sidewalk outside the cafe, he saw a large, dark-green automobile turn out of the boulevard and come to a stop directly in front of him. In the very rear seat were the Archduke and his wife.

The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne had been delivered, less than ten feet away, from an armed assassin who had come to the city specifically to kill him. If you were writing a novel or screenplay, anything that coincidental would be branded as implausible. No one's gonna believe that.

Princip didn't hesitate. He dropped his sandwich, pulled a pistol out of his jacket and stepped towards the car, firing several shots, managing to mortally wound both the Archduke and his wife. Lojka, the driver, was ordered to rush the royal couple to the local military governor's residence. Sophie died on the way. A military officer in the car, checking on the Archduke's condition, asked the wounded man how he was; Ferdinand said, "Nichts (It's nothing)", and died.

Just over a month later, Europe was at war. Over the next four-plus years, the entire social fabric of the continent and much of the world changed, irrevocably. Monarchies ended; millions died; the map of the world changed as the victors annexed territory from Germany and Austria Hungary, and new countries were created. New technology was developed -- and in the Versailles Treaty, the groundwork was laid for a second, even more horrible war to begin by 1939.

(And, in 1918-19, the Spanish Influenza infected 500 million people, killing 40 million, worldwide. It was the largest number of fatalities due to pandemic disease since the 'Black Death': the coming of  Bubonic Plague to Europe in the 14th century [which killed an estimated 200 million].  In the U.S., millions were made sick, and 675,000 died [~0.6 per cent of America's 103 million population at the time]. It's often referred to as the "forgotten epidemic" -- just one more terrible event in an ocean of violence and atrocity.)

 Cousin Ignatz, Worn Out By All The History

Why the history lesson? We're living through history. When we read about events in Europe during the Interwar Years (1918 - 1939), there's a feeling of inevitability, of being slowly sucked down a drain -- the revolving-door failures of parliamentary governments in France; Britain's declining empire; the manic Totentanz of global capital leading to 1929 and the Great Depression; the rise and fall of Weimar; the apotheosis of Italian and Japanese, and finally German, fascism. Regional war and civil war. 

... and we know where the story is going. It ends in Nanking, the Anschluss; Kristalnacht, Dunkirk; Auschwitz; Stalingrad; the Warsaw Ghetto; D-Day; the Führerbunker; Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But we always read about the years leading up to all that with a mounting sense of horror precisely because we all know how it ends. 

And we have the same feeling, looking at major global currents in our own time. While Brexit may be not have been a "shot heard 'round the world", the Tories are still (unbelievably), in power in the UK. The Scots still wonder about independence. The Greek, French and Italian economies are still at risk. Putinland, the Great Bear, still pushes the envelope here and there -- in Ukraine, and Syria. As IS loses on battlefields in the continuing slow-motion atrocity that is the Middle East, suddenly they appear in a Philippine city, on a London street. Disproportionate numbers of Black people are shot in major American cities on a routine basis. Climate change is not fake news.

America, ruled by Babbitry, greed and illusion, retreats from the world stage. Its leader is Bloated, Raving, delegating the running of a government to corrupt, car-wash dilettantes. Other nation-state players are happy to rush into the vacuum we leave behind. The balances in the old alliances we created after WWII have been squandered, all but unraveled. 

A regional conflict -- between India and Pakistan; Kim Jong Fat Boy's Fun Republic Of Chuckles and South Korea; Iran and Saudi Arabia, almost seems like a sure thing -- 'of course that's where all this is going'; no one would be truly surprised if one started tomorrow. What we wouldn't be prepared for is what would happen the day after, and the day after that.

Kleiner Mann; Was Nun?

Monday, June 24, 2019

Your Cephalapod Monday

Jobs For Suckers

At Least Cephalapods Don't Find Excuses To Release Toxic Levels Of Societal Stress
By Assaulting Each Other At A Child's Baseball Game

Today is Cephalapod Monday. Take a Cephalapod to lunch -- and, no, having Cephalapod for lunch does not count, barbarian. The average Cuttlefish is at least as smart as your Dog -- just because it can't do the NYTimes Mini-Crossword or know who Tucker Carlson is doesn't mean it couldn't beat you at 'Jeopardy'. We recommend not trying to eat things which have the potential to be smarter than Tucker Carlson -- which is a long list of Things, beginning with kitchen appliances.

There are many jobs in Amrica -- at least, until the Crash comes. You may wish to have one of them (Note: Cephalapods And Dogs Need Not Apply!)

Acting Defensive Secretary: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His wise stewardship of Amrica. If you know what the front and back of a boat is called it is a plus. Also missiles! Some experience suggested, but if you're a friend of the Mercers, Ralph Reed or 'lil Stevie Bannon; well, allowances can be made. There will be some travel in this position. You will wear Blue. They will play Die Präsentiermarsch whenever you get up to go to the restroom. And, do not worry about That I-ran -- you're just an Acting Secretary! You're only acting, and don't have to be a real secretary, and take dictation or make coffee, very often. Learn to change color to blend in with your surroundings. Don't ask questions about those UFOs and you should not fuck up and be okay.

Acting Department Of Homeyland Insecurity Secretary: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His Big Hands, grabbing Amrica by the genitalia, like he had tentacles. You must have a home on the land, somewhere, and be ready to sweep all those who are bad in The Leader's eyes from within our Borders, except for the ones He wishes to clean His toilets and trim things on His golf courses. You must be hard, and do the hard things so that The Leader will not fire you. Mostly, you will be in the Bunker. Wear black, and they will play The Bonny Blue Flag for you whenever you scratch yourself. And, do not worry -- you're an only an Acting Secretary! Which limits your potential culpability at the International Court at the Hague for crimes against humanity, maybe. Just acting! Still, you are prohibited from fucking up in all time zones. A real secretary would quit, or ask for a raise, or work from home.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo
In Middle Of Blog Rant

Acting United Nations Ambassador: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His Amrica, the bestest country -- not like those scheisshole countries like France and Sweden. As with Nick Haley before, you may defecate on the floor in front of foreign dignitaries, like a goat.  And you must go to that UN building and repudiate every alliance and destroy as much Good Will as we may have had with all other countries, and isolate Amrica from the community of nations for no explainable reason, except that The Leader wishes it. You will be graded on this! You will wear Plaid and they will play Pop! Goes The Weasel for you whenever you fart into the seat cushion. And, do not worry -- you're only an Acting Secretary,  A real secretary would wear a Vicky's Secret brassiere, and eat Calimari, see. So, don't fuck up!

Acting Chef of Staff: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and the shrewd way He takes things, here in Amrica, and hides them at More-Lego. Once the job of Wash-n-Rince "Nancy" Preibus and General Kelly, holding this position with both hands will make you responsible for everything, including purchasing many Treats for Leader, and being Ivankagalonka's PB (Personal Bitch). It is a thankless job, and as long as you have it you will never thank anyone, for anything. You will wear Gray, be required to Hold Your Squid, and the Murine Band will play the 'Love Theme' from All The President's Men for you, on the hour. Do not fuck up.

Additional Obligatory Small Animal Photo
(Image: Screenshot, Foxtel Network [Australia], 1997)

Acting Federal Emerging Meringue Agency (FEMA) Director: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His huge intellect and His immense hands and his knowing that in Amrica, climate science is just Hooey. This is a really big job, getting ready to make Amrica the Greatest Disaster Movie of all time -- and you get to be the Director! How cool is that? Not very, given the global heating. There will be plenty of travel for you, and the food in those all-expenses-paid trips to meet Coal and Plutonium and Fozzilfool executives is supposed to be "really something". You will get to say, "We will look to the science" and "There is some question how much humans have affected our flexible climate." You will wear Poly-esther and be photographed eating some form of Crisps made from reef-dwelling aminal species. The 'Gutzholtz Rangers Band' of Preeborgen, Minnesota, will play a medely of tunes from Richard Rodgers' Victory At Sea on Alpenhorns, made from the tusks of African Elephants, every time you check into an exclusive hotel, courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Taxpayer. And, don't fuck up!

Acting Icky Combustible Enfoodment (ICE) Director:  You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His deep knowing of Amrica and its desire to be the whitest of all cold, icy whiteness. No milk or snow or never-worn, briefs-style underwear is as white and cold as the Amrica that you must create for The Leader. He campaigned for and made promises to The Gasket Of Unmentionables that all the bad people from 'somewhere else' would be made to go away. By Soon! So get right on that. You will wear sky-blue and will be Shot From Guns, as the 72-voice Aquarium Church Choir (now with 50% more Cephalapod!) sings Marching, Marching To Shibboleth. Good luck! Didya fuck up yet? No? Keep trying.

Acting Federal Aging Airplanes (FAA) Administrator: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His terrifying desire to fly, crapping on all Amrica, like a diseased seagull. You will be responsible for so little to so few that this job is a cakewalk. You will be required to eat cake, also, and that's as tough as it gets. You may have to appear on TV after large-scale air disasters, oh, maybe eight or ten times a year, but those poor people had to know the risks when they put themselves on the planes. Right? Oh, ah-yuh. And remember the useful phrase, "pilot error"; it's not like you built the damn planes yourself or anything.  It's not like you're a bloody octopus, multitasking genius that you may be! No blame! No collusion! You will wear Red, and every time the FaLaLa Orchestra plays the "Up In The Air, Junior Birdman!" song, you will do a Tequila shooter. The only way you can fuck up is to miss out on that cake!

Acting Sturgeon General: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His wonderful form, his manly arteries in the Big Hands; like a twenty-year-old, he's is so healthful, and that you have never seen a man-child so trim and fit in all ways. Be prepared to say that. You will be provided with guidance so that any decisions about public health will not discomfit large drug companies, or the Persons who hold with their suckers blocks of Pharma stocks in Off-The-Shore accounts. And remember -- you're not really a doctor; you just play one in the governament. A real doctor would wear scrubs all day. You will wear Teal, and the Hester Street Rentgirls Band will play "Like A Sturgeon" for you. Often. If you fuck up, no one really notices.

Extra Random Barking Questions Monday:

1.)  Is it a definition of madness, when parents of children who were murdered by assault weapons in Amrica are threatened by those who believe the children's murder never took place?

2.)  Might it be disingenuous when, having become wealthy from decades of peddling spurious information and divisive monologues in Amrica which made the Triumph Of The Leader possible, that media demagogues conclude The Leader may have many flaws?

3.)  True Amrican Missy Sarah, shamed by the Chicken, has gone away, when many believed she would stay in the Bunker to the end. Will being an obvious and shameless liar stand in the way of becoming governor of a Trumptrue™ state? Aber nicht natürlich.

MEHR, MIT TINTENFISCH:  I was just thinking, in my artless Dog way: Check out this Cephalapod!

UND MIT IMMER MEHR:  Deep-sea Cephalapod for real!

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.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Centenary Ferlinghetti

Happy Birthday, Larry: An Anecdotal
City Of Paris Sign In The Conversation (1974)

Almost half my life ago, a friend took me to an event in support of saving the Eiffel Tower-shaped sign which had graced the roof of the old City of Paris department store on Union Square. CofP had been there for generations -- since the Gold Rush; before and after The 1906 Earthquake and fire -- but business setbacks forced it to close.

The property had been purchased by Neiman-Marcus; they intended to build what still looks like a featureless beige box around the old CofP's oval, central core, topped by a stained glass skylight (you can see the old City of Paris building, and its trademark sign, in Coppola's film, The Conversation).

Replacing CofP with Texas-based Neiman's struck many San Franciscans as a cultural loss (dear god; Texas???) . Trying to save a landmark sign from a landmark local business was a way of saying No. A meeting was held to raise funds to purchase the sign, before finding a suitable location for it: and there would be poetry! Gary Snyder would read. So would Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

I went, I listened.  Snyder had been a particular lodestone favorite of mine for a long time; I'd only heard him read once before in Berkeley, and Ferlinghetti not in person at all.

When he did, he set "In Fascist America " in front of us like a dish well-cooked but spicy enough to be a challenge to eat, like reading The Fire Next Time all in one sitting -- dig in if you've got the spittle for it, baby. And he read it in the Beat cadence you can see, fortunately, in film and video clips.

The applause at the end was genuine. Everyone knew Ferlinghetti as a national treasure, a cultural icon, someone who had gravitas and knew it and used it. He was on the side of Right and it appeared in his work like a sword on fire. We applauded for all that as much as the reading.

They never were able to buy the City of Paris sign. I went on to dinners over the years with friends and occasionally did (or was asked to do) my impression of Ferlinghetti, reading -- I'm gifted as a mimic; people laughed, which was the point (particularly about the repeating line in that poem, with a specific pause in his cadence when he would say, "In Fascist / America"). One person I knew in particular, who loved Ferlinghetti's poetry and had heard him read multiple times, always dissolved in laughter when she heard that.

Fast-forward a number of years: My acquaintance was taking lessons in a foreign language in the City through a cultural exchange group; Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in the class. The last, penultimate assignment for each student was to take a short piece of literature or poetry, translate it into the Language Other Than English, then read it to the rest of the class. Ferlinghetti chose, "In Fascist America".

My acquaintance said later she was able to hold it in "almost until the end", before exploding with laughter. Apparently she slipped and fell trying to exit the room but made it outside, leaving Ferlinghetti and the rest of the class somewhat mystified.

I lived in North Beach for over a decade. In (for me) the old days, before heading to Vesuvio's or Spec's or Tosca's -- the real Bermuda Triangle -- I might stop off in City Lights Books; occasionally, you might see Ferlinghetti on the ground floor, talking with someone at a table in one of the alcoves. More rarely at night, coming out of Pearl's jazz club across the street, you might catch a glimpse of him, working late, through a window in City Lights' second-floor offices.

Most long-time residents in North Beach knew his house; it was roughly a block from my flat, and we passed each other at least twice a week for years, he walking up Stockton street towards Columbus, me walking down: two guys who wore fedoras. We made eye contact; I smiled, and sometimes said hello (it would have been odd if, after years of occurrence, I hadn't) but it was only a short time before I left the neighborhood that he began responding back.

The last time I saw Ferlinghetti was during a sentimental walk back, over a decade after I left North Beach -- walking across the grass of Washington Square on a warm, sunny afternoon, and there he was, wearing one of the trademark hats, lying on the grass with his head propped up by a day pack, a faint smile on his face as he tilted it up toward the sun.

At some point today I'll walk over to the old neighborhood and past his house, and put a good thought out for him. A century is a long time for a person, but it's not even a blink in the universe. Very few of us get to impact the Geist of the culture, live in people's hearts, and so sail on into time. But he will.

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!!