Showing posts with label This Time We Do It My Way. Show all posts
Showing posts with label This Time We Do It My Way. Show all posts

Thursday, March 28, 2019

An Advance Note

Random Barking 
(From October, 2012)

I'm fond of saying that there are three people and a super-intelligent Parakeet who read this blog on any regular basis, and since the Fall of 2008 it's been a semi-regular conduit for one level of personal creativity.

Out here in The Intertubes, anyone can promote the most bizarre theories, show hardcore adult material, or the 10,000 photos of a trip to Milwaukee, share the most deeply esoteric or intolerant religious doctrines. And (what corporate America sees as the Net's true purpose) you can look at, buy and sell stuff.

Whatever you want, man; it's the Wild West out there.
____________________________

What makes all that possible is the current democratic structure of the Net.  At least in the West, it isn't yet controlled by corporate or government interests in an obvious way -- though the Net is heavily mined and monitored by those same interests, for security, intelligence and marketing. But for individuals, the 'Tubes are still fairly democratic, and I understand there are differing opinions about this. You vote with your Mouse -- utilize a search engine; surf in, look around, click away.

If your primary business is web design, pushing product, or message, or expressing an opinion, your Alexa or Klout numbers, total Facebook followers and Twits are all-important. On that level it's a popularity contest, which develops in any media dependent on Market Share.

At least outwardly, that's why Fox decided to ditch Little Glenny Beck, and why the MSM continues to pay so much attention to a vapid hack like Drudge.  If more "media consumers" believed they were nothing but gleeful pushers of right-wing lies, they might vanish (but no other network has been willing to develop an opposing business model to challenge Fox or ClearChannel).

Then, there's the opinion section of Blogtopia -- mostly personal blog sites like this one, though Opinion Street includes heavy hitters like TPM and Daily Kos and FiveThirtyEight, and specialists in Investment or Finance, Law, and Public Policy.  How it is that people like what they like in this part of the Net is a tricky question. So, this seems like a good place to quote myself:
There were a large number of blogs I used to follow when it was a new phenomenon -- Hey, you can hang out there and pretty much say whatever you want! By now, as with any industry, for those bloggers who have continued providing analysis and entertainment to the Intertubes, they've developed into tribes, circles of mutually-supporting friends, each with their own sites.

Woe betide you if you bore them, piss them off, or are identified as a Troll. Commenting at their sites is a bit like appearing, the stranger, at someone's party and if you just don't quite fit in... Well; I believe the Intertube Tradition is they don't get to sit at the cool kids' table, and for the most part, that's pretty much the level of where it's at.

I don't try to sit at the kool kid's table. I'm not a concise or original blogger when it comes to social commentary or Left politics, and even when I make jokes as a commenter it's occasionally as if I'd made a bad smell in the room.

But if acclaim as a blogger, or a name as a commenter on other blogs, is the reason why someone posts... That's the functional equivalent of going into acting just to read the reviews.
Und, Noch Eimal:
Some pundits with a large soapbox to stand on... deserve to be ignored, vilified; to have their IP addresses blocked and sent to dwell in the land of Little Rupert, East of Podhoretz...  but they won't leave. They won't perform a swan song -- a GBCW! post: Good-Bye, Cruel World!

...Sometimes, the GBCW is purely voluntary. At some level, the Blogosphere -- Left or Right -- mimics high school. Bloggers and regular commenters tend to affiliate, and like any other association of humans can be exclusionary. On occasion someone appears whose style in posting comments is grating, awkward. They insist on being right, on dominating a thread; they just don't express ideas well. They may be off-topic, [or] are thin-skinned when teased -- as they will be (humans are humans, and anonymous ones even more so).

Usually, these people have a blog of their own. They want to be one of the Kool Kidz, too, and have lots of site traffic -- to be popular.  To "be someone".
The problem is, they already are someone, and they've confused the raison d'etre of their blog, or commenting on someone else's post, with wanting to appear on something like the old Gong Show.

So, when no one reads their amazingly important, detailed, lengthy blog posts; and they're ignored when adding to threads on other sites... they may write that GBCW post, clomping off the Internet stage with a final, long soliloquy explaining ad nauseum why they are right and the rest of the world is wrong, wrong, wrong; and also, bad. 
 I'll get back with the three people and the super-intelligent Parakeet a little later.
____________________________

Monday, August 27, 2018

I Lift Mine Eyes To The Hills

And See The Naked Fat Guy


Back in the day, I was associated with the Billboard Liberation Front (a little odd, considering what I once did for a living, but there you are). 

The basic concepts of the BLF (and don't take my word for it: read the Manifesto) were essentially that the materialism and commercialism expressed in billboard advertising were part of the mass deadening of our culture, and so fair game for artistic manipulation which revealed said deadening -- like Adbusters, except the BLF came first and wasn't available in bookstores. You had to look up and experience it -- or, actually do it. 

So when I recently noted the art collective, Indecline, had been out and about in Los Angeles, it stirred a few memories.

(Photo: ©Indecline, via Art Newspaper, June 22, 2018)

Consider the logistics necessary to do something like this in an urban area -- reconnoitering the site; having access to the platforms; creating the artwork to match fonts, sizes and background colors; hauling all materials up narrow ladders; and completing the work rapidly enough to avoid being seen, and any unpleasantness with the local constabulary. Normally, this is done in the dead of night.

Indecline had already garnered some notoriety prior to the 2016 election by creating, and publicly displaying, life-sized statues of a naked Wonderboy in several large American cities (regarding their naked Il Duce statue, placed in New York City's Union Square, a spokesman advised, "NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small").  Earlier this year, they had created a jail cell in a Trump hotel in New York for a Trump lookalike in a MAGA hat.

I should note that, sadly, no one performs this sort of consciousness-raising exercise on a billboard regarding the state of the Democratic party. But don't worry; it's all in Good Fun, and the future is bright and shiny and tasty and fun.

And, Wonderboy continues to gain weight in office, while the rest of us are driven mad -- meaning there will most likely be future billboards in need of liberation. Like this one:

(Margaret Bourke-White, 1937)
_______________________________

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Random Barking: Wondering

Wandering
Murrika: Enshrouded; Lost; Guided By A Trickster (Foto: Joseph Beuys u. Coyote)

Big Box Of Terror 
In conversations with friends over the past few weeks, we admitted experiencing an uneasy, underlying sense that The World had fundamentally changed in a way we can't fully grasp, validate, or prove. We were the same, but everything around us had shifted, slightly -- like a kid's party game, where you guess which items have been moved on a table.

The Oldest Friend came close: "It's like I went to bed one night, and woke up in an alternate universe that was just a little bit different than the one I went to sleep in. Nothing immediately definable -- it would be like discovering there had never been Abba-Zaba Bars, or the original 'Star Trek' ran for three seasons, not two. I'm fine; I'm okay -- but, the World feels 'off', different -- 'stranger in a strange land'-ish.

"That's completely subjective, I know," she said, "but it takes a while to go away, and it's pervasive."

While all of the people I spoke with defined that experience a bit differently, there was common agreement that we perceived some difference between ourselves and The World that hadn't existed before -- which led us to feel mildly alienated from everything, except possibly each other.
________________________

When we said The World, we didn't mean the planet, the natural landscape. Climate deterioration aside, the Natural World seems to be solid, abiding. 'The World' we referred to is the one built out of social fabric, stretched on a framework of collective relationships and stitched together by the cultural Ways our society accepts and agrees to in those relations. It was in that world we felt, suddenly, out of place.
_________________________

The Girl Who Refused To Be Mrs. Mongo said it reminded her of the Cold War -- what it meant to live in the knowledge that nuclear war was possible (guess what? It still is). It was an understanding we kept, down in the basement of our consciousness, jammed in a dark corner, along with the box that has the big, yellow label with red lettering -- Terror: Or, we are Mortal and Death is Mystery.

There were times down those years when we woke up in the middle of the night after a particularly bad news cycle, thinking what if the sirens just went off? Now (the people I spoke with agreed), nearly every morning when we get up, we wonder what new outrage has been committed, what new boundary was crossed, while we slept. We come awake expecting bad news. One way or another what we're really thinking is What? What Has Trump Done Now?

Someone noted, 'Trump is the new Cold War' -- meaning, like that time in our collective past, he has become the symbol and avatar of that dark corner in our own basements. His antics are a reminder that The World is just a construct, and the control we think we have over the Natural World is an illusion. Trump is the embodiment of unpredictability.

As a 72-year-old, Trump has to know that he will not live forever. Spasmodically, he acts out and splatters America with his own feces, then revels in the disgust he provokes, the impotent anger of others, all to feed an endless hunger for validation to avoid the Big Box Of Terror at the center of his own being.
________________________

So I wake up in the 2:30AM, sometimes with the Terror, sometimes not. I remind myself that we're animals, hard-wired to survive -- and self-conscious animals, who understand that our lives are finite, and demand answers.

Our world (the actual one around us; the perceived one in our heads) is changing.  It has always been unpredictable in its details -- but not in our beginnings, rites of passage, ecstasies and sorrows, and our end. No one, alive or dead, can say why we came to be or where we're going -- but we demand our Reason Why, even if it's not possible.

And I remind myself: all of our Details are in The Stories. It's why Gilgamesh. It's why Homer and Herodotus, Chaucer and Pope; Dickens and Melville. It's why statuary and panel and canvas and paper, camera, movement and words on a Stage. It's why music from Cantos to Paart, Bach to Ravel, Joplin to Pere Ubu -- and all of it bent to the virtuous effort of telling the Story of What Happened To Us When We Went Through It. All of our details go; only the Stories remain.

I considered this, and because I'm only a Dog and not a philosopher, passed my observation on to friends in the version used at the Soul Of AmericaBe Kind, Motherfuckers. They could get behind that.
_____________________________

This Bathroom Is Occupied

I'd picked up Peter Fritzsche's 2016 book, "An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler", now out in paperback. Browsing it at a bookshop, I was idly looking for resonances with the perspective that we're living in an occupied country, under Trump and his creatures. As if the nightmare were something alien, forced on us by an invader.

I do actually know better. My life in America is not even remotely similar to the European experience between 1939 and 1945. As swinish, bloated and mendacious that Trump and his crew are, they aren't foreign invaders. They don't speak a different language. And they aren't nazis  -- though some of  Trump's "fine people" parading in Charolettesville last year would like to be.

I'd like to say Trump's government doesn't demand your identification, perform roundups of civilians, make it easy for companies to provide the population with food, water, or products which are unsafe. But they do these things, and much more. And while Trump and the opportunistic leeches he's dragged in his wake are not nazis, there are people in America who are treated by that government as if nazis had landed -- primarily, the Usual Suspects: immigrants, the marginalized poor, people of color; LGBTQ Americans; women.

You know the drill. None of this is news; we see it on television or online, every day. But so long as it isn't happening in more affluent neighborhoods, or to your friends and families or you -- Meh. Doesn't concern us. Have a beer. Watch the Big Game.
_______________________________

In the 1970's, I visited Europe. Walking through cities I noticed (with surprising regularity) something rarely seen in America -- it seemed a significant percentage of adults in their late forties to early sixties had serious facial scars, eye patches or glasses with one darkened lens; crutches, missing limbs.

At a bus stop on a warm morning in southwestern Germany, a man stood waiting, wearing a Tyroler hat, a topcoat and gloves. His face was a smooth mask of shiny, oddly pink skin, which made discerning his age difficult. His nose had been reduced to a smooth bump. Plainly, he'd suffered serious burns -- except around the eyes, where a pilot or air crewman would have worn a set of goggles. I must have been staring; the man looked over at me, took in my non-European appearance and clothing, and said, "Good morning," in a British-accented English.

I nodded back, said nothing, and so missed the opportunity for an insightful conversation with someone who at the least had an interesting personal story. He also might have confirmed what I was already guessing: that the European experience of the Second World War seared everyone by degrees, civilian and military, the persecutors and persecuted, right down to their souls.

Those who weren't killed in occupied Europe continued to experience degrees of cruelty, humiliation, betrayal, anxiety and uncertainty, at levels that would have been unthinkable before 1933 -- and all because it became acceptable and popular in Germany to believe ideas which first became policy, and then law.

One aspect of the Holocaust is as a teaching moment for humanity about intolerance and hate, and where it can lead. Fritzsche's book shows clearly what the power of belief can do to individuals, and groups, in even more detail than any other look at the period I've seen -- something I didn't think was possible. Using only contemporary documents and writings, he shows how The Leader in an authoritarian system provides permission to his followers for accepting astonishing levels of violence (if not committing it), and how he becomes a psychological scapegoat for the violence should it all go bad later.

America's history has already burned us, as Europe's before WWII had done to its own cultures and societies. We aren't living in an occupied country, but we are changing (“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig... but already it was impossible to say which was which”). We run the risk of being seared down to our souls (as Europeans were, over twelve years of nazism) by whatever at the moment seems to be coming.

I'm not sure what it will feel like to live here, when the country gets to wherever we're headed. We can try to be kind, first; perhaps that's all we can do. Perhaps it's the only real act of resistance, in the end.
__________________________________

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Big Guy Barrel-Bottom Time

It Has Come To This


What, you expected 'culture'?

When Gorjira gets bored, look out. Liked His lead-guitar solo vocals, though. We'd better hope the Apocalypse, too also, has its "light moments".
___________________________

MEHR, MIT CONTENT-FREE BONUS:

Hopefully, there will be content over the wochenende, but as is painfully obvious for now, I Got Nothin'.  It happens, sometimes:  you're moving through your day, and bam -- there's just nothing in your head. And, it's kind of peaceful. All those important and meaningful topics you were just thinking about are still present but oddly muted, outside on the street and only dimly registering in your consciousness. Meanwhile, you are gently nestled in the cocoon of  a whole buncha Nothin', and for a few moments not even entirely sure what species you are.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Conway Twitty.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo At End Of Blog Filler
_____________________________

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Random Barking: Boomba Boomba, With Skunk

Sit Up; Roll Over; Rig The Stock Market

Obligatory A.I. Advertisement Parody In Blog Thing

As is said over at The Soul Of America, I tell you three times: We are being reprogrammed.

Looking at Jeff Bezos' WaPo last week, it's clear to Wall Street traders that a good amount of recent market volatility is exacerbated by 'automatic trading', performed by algorithm-driven software, a rudimentary form of artificial intelligence.

Then, opening the online Paper Of Record, I saw a banner ad by The Zuckerberg Company (let's call it "ZuckCo") showing a photo of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, wearing a Lion costume -- what the fuck? -- beside the legend, "An Explanation Of A.I., Featuring Dogs".

The ad shows an Artificial Intelligence (let's call it "Jeffy"), which can identify a photograph of a Dog based on visual Pooch characteristics. Now, show Jeffy a picture of a Lion; can it tell the difference? It can! So smart, that Jeffy.

Then, show Jeffy a photo of a Dog, wearing a fake Lion's mane; how about now? Whoops. Jeffy fucks up, and Has A Sad.

"Puppy Or Muffin?" Actual A.I. Test. Can It Tell The Difference?
(Karen Zack / Hahvad Business Review, July 2017)

Then Jeffy gets mad. It cuts all power from the North American Electrical Grid, causing mass higgeldy-piggeldy and forcing scores of nuclear reactors to malfunction, turning the continent into a radioactive wasteland where there's lots of Whoa Jeezus going on, and where the living envy the dead (Kind of like Nebraska, as we now know it).

Jeffy allows one electrical connection to remain -- powering the Public Address system at the (abandoned) Missoula, Montana International Airport (swear to god; they call it that), which will play a recording of Justin Timberlake singing "Purple Rain" over and over, until the end of time (Exactly like Nebraska, but without Missy Sarah Huckiebee).

But whatever media house is doing ZuckCo's ads, they're attempting to trick your Slave Brain into associating "A.I." with ideas most of us hold about Dogs: Cute. Loyal. Occasionally Goes To The Bathroom Indoors. And, Lions: Proud, regal; don't even think of fucking with me.

They're using cute Pooches to sell something potentially dangerous. Sehr ganz typisch for something like ZuckCo; but I tend to come down on the 'potential hazard' side of the A.I. argument, so if we're going to compare Artificial Intelligence with anything, they should be using an unexploded bomb. A perfect metaphor for a potential future. Or for Nebraska.
____________________________

Oh, and Our Sainted Leader is a bloated, raving skunk.

2019 Tax Plan: Changes Over 6 Years Where Tax Burden Falls  (NYT)
Clicky = Bigger! Easy And Fun!
____________________________

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mad As Hell And, Y' Know, Mad As Hell

Unless Of Course There's Free Cable In It For Us 

When I'm alone, and things are getting me down, I can always suffer weight gain, gross disfigurement, have urges to Make Time with girls, engage in cross-dressing, and dance with pom-poms. Just so you know. This is Murrika, after all, where our ability to debase ourselves is the crowning glory of our civilization.


Yes, it changes nothing. That Other Pig is Murrikan Leader. He says he is Not Racist. He says not crazy but stable. He says all is Fake, and my head goes into its Third Reel.  I mean, it's not like he's Alan Watts or something. The earth is facing an unthinkable series of environmental catastrophes, the dying species don't even get they're being taken out of the Big Parade, and Our Wealthy are doing everything to keep their soft lives and privilege as long as possible -- at the expense of everyone else, of course.

And when It Is Too Much and we come to this crazy-place in our Dog brain, we sit down and refuse to move -- until our request, that everyone will now please to dance the Rhumba Charleston until we can get a grip, is granted.  So, everyone get with it. Shake that thing. Thank you.

_____________________________________________________________

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Random Barking: Your Illusion Of Normalcy Weekend

Get Out The Big Hug Mug
(A variant of this post has appeared earlier.)


Every morning, I wake up, pad into the kitchen and unplug the stupidphone from its charger, then check the UK Guardian and BBC websites to see what new outrage, what new rape of civil decency and the human spirit, which Trump has committed while I slept. It's my Daily Monster: What The Fuck Now?

I anticipate that, one morning, I'll discover the United States is at war. Or that Trump has fired four Supreme Court Justices. Or has finally had sex with a goat in the Oval Office before a delegation of Republican Senators -- all of whom will be unable to recall what Trump said and did in their presence, except the single Democratic Senator in the room.

And, Little Paulie Ryan will only remark that Trump's act of bestiality was "generally unhelpful". Sean Hannity will remind his many viewers that the President of these United States cannot be prosecuted for any "alleged" behavior while in office, and will call the Democratic Senator a "liar". The 'Jawhol Sturmfront For White Purity' website will post a demand that the Democratic Senator retract his comment or "face justice as a species traitor".
________________________________

Still, I have a belief that things will change. They always do. Whether that will be a Same As It Ever Was change, or whether The Daily Monster becomes something more serious, who knows.
__________________________________

Recently I went through a True Detective / Season 1 marathon, and find myself drawn back to the lines Nic Pizzolatto had written for the character of Rustin Cohle, as delivered by Matthew McConaughey: Existence as bearing witness to the Unsolvable, the bottomless and apparently no-limit ability of humans to fuck with each other; the unfathomable What of all and everything. 

One of my favorite quotes: Episode 7, "After You've Gone"; Hart and Cohle interview an older black woman who winds up spouting about Carcosa and death is not the end, another link in the investigative chain leading them on, upriver, looking for Kurtz, the deep madness hiding in the Bayou.

McConaughey lights a cigarette and says to Harrelson, "Sure hope that old lady's wrong."  Puzzled, Harrelson asks, "About what?"   " 'bout death not being the end," McConaughey replies.
______________________________

McConaughey's character looks at the Daily Monster and doesn't flinch; he wants, and doesn't want, an answer to the What question (an old Suicide Club acquaintance once said, preparing to do a handstand on the summit of the west tower of the Bay Bridge, an age ago, now: "You're scared, but you do it anyway"). 

In the end, Cohle has an epiphany of a kind -- in my imagination, he comes to some understanding that some days the universe is that bottomless, reductive, time-in-a-circle-eternal-recurrence, Dantean pit. On others, it isn't.
_________________________________

And on days of either kind, here in the vastness of 'Murrika, we can have ice cream if we want. This is okay, but I have some qualms about it. 

I'm aware that in other places, people don't have ready access to ice cream. They are being denied ice cream. They face hoots of derision and worse if they ask politely for their ice cream. Their ice cream is being stolen from them. They are getting into leaky, undependable boats and setting off on long journeys whose outcome is uncertain in order to find ice cream. 

I mean, what the fuck; all people want is some ice cream. Is that too goddamn much to ask? Hand it over -- or, never mind. We'll figure out how it can be distributed. Just get out of our faces, right now, before we start looking for lampposts.
_________________________________
RUST COHLE:  I tell ya, Marty -- I been up in that room, lookin' out them windows, thinkin' -- it's just one story. The oldest. 
MARTY HART: What's that? 
COHLE: Light versus dark. 
HART: Well...  I know we ain't in Alaska, but (looks up at the night sky) -- it appears to me the dark has a lot more territory. 
COHLE:  Yeah, you're right about that... but you're lookin' at it wrong.  
HART: How's that? 
COHLE: Once, there was only dark... You ask me, the light's winnin'.

-- Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson / True Detective (Season One, 2014)
____________________________________

Friday, November 10, 2017

Galatically Stupid Is Our Buddy

One Year

Before we begin, here's a perspective you might consider : The physical remains of a Bronze-Age human were found on a glacier in 1991. He was dubbed 'Ötzi The Iceman'. He had died in the mountain pass where his body was found (between current-day Italy and Austria) roughly 5,300 years ago. 

Use the link; go look at this man's reconstructed face. Let me repeat: He Died Five Thousand, Three Hundred Years Ago. He died at least 3,000 years before there was Greek civilization, or a Roman empire. 2,000 years before the Pyramids of Egypt were built.  

He lived and died four thousand years before the Buddha was supposed to be alive, and at least 2,300 years before either Jesus or Mohammed were supposedly doing their community service. Consider that.

Also consider: he was discovered because the glacier, which held and moved his body, was melting.
________________________________

Where we were, before November 8, 2016. Compare in your own minds with where we are now.
  • Climate Breakdown:  The effect of human life on the planet's ecosystem continued. There was no way to know if the Paris Accords, if put into action, would have a measurable effect on dampening trends in global temperature, precipitation and extreme weather. Some critics complained the accords did not go far enough; others that it was too late to reverse climate effects, no matter what we do. However, the planet's political representatives (including the United States) had committed themselves to an agreement, and that was no small feat. But, it's just a few paragraphs of language, unless and until legislated into action.
  • The upward flow of wealth, to Those Who Have from Those Who Don't, continued in 2016. Important people being paid large salaries released reports detailing what a bad thing this is, which were tut-tutted by many (Inequality; must do something about that). Anyone born in the United States in 1980 -- the generation which should be in its prime, income-producing years -- has a 50/50 chance of making less than their parents. The top eight wealthiest persons in the world have more collective net worth than 50% of the human race (See "Panama Papers" below). That's a ratio of  1 : 437,500,000,  if you're curious. Or, not.
  • North Korea and the Kim-Jong Un regime continued development of nuclear weapons, and an ICBM delivery system capable of hitting the United States. The North claimed to have successfully launched a submarine-based IRBM in August, 2016; two test launches of surface-based IRBMs/ICBMs in mid-October apparently failed.  North Korea had also conducted three underground nuclear weapons tests -- one in January, and twice in September, 2016.
  • China continued to spread its influence. Chinese companies made large acquisitions. Foreign currency reserve money (i.e., USD) flowed out of the country.  Development of the "one Belt, One Road" initiative begun in 2014 continued as a strategic direction. Tensions continued in the South China Sea with Japan and the United States over islands China had 'enhanced', expanding China's definition of territorial waters into what the U.S. sees as open shipping lanes. Encounters between naval vessels and aircraft were tense, and the possibility of an 'incident' seemed likely.
  • War in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen continued. Russian military support for the Al-Assad regime had allowed Syrian government forces to retake territory from rebel forces in the north of the country (in particular, the brutal retaking of the city of Aleppo), and from the so-called Islamic State. In Iraq, the IS still controlled large areas, but counteroffensives by U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces had begun in 2015, and by the fall of 2016 the Islamists were in retreat
  • In Turkey, a military coup in July 2016 against its increasingly authoritarian leader, Racep ("Kiki") Erdogan, failed, resulting in curbing of civil liberties, censorship, closing of any media critical of the Erdogan government; mass firings of civil service employees suspected of being sympathetic to the coup, and summary arrests. 
  • Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric who had long been critical of that country's Sunni majority in January 2016. One result were violent protests held at the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Iran (where the Shia are in the majority). The Saudis closed the embassy and severed diplomatic relations with Iran -- all this is related to the ongoing war in Yemen -- where since 2015, rebels backed by Iran have tried to overthrow a government supported by Saudi Arabia. 42,000 people have died. In August, 2016, talks to end the conflict collapsed, and Saudi airstrikes -- which have terrified local populations -- continued.
  • Great Britain's citizens voted for 'Brexit', 52% to 48% in June 2016. The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron (who called the vote to silence critics, believing it would result in a victory to 'remain' in the Union) resigned. Implications for the rest of the EU weren't immediately clear, but weren't positive. Conservative Theresa May (a diehard 'Remain' supporter), was chosen as new PM and barely able to maintain a right-wing coalition in Parliament against tremendous pressure from the Labor Party and its leader, MP Jeremy Corbin.
  • France elected Emmanuel Macron, a Centrist, in a May 2016 election which pitted him against the far-Right Nationalist Marie LePen, 66.1% to 33.9%. This was seen as a bellwether of nationalist, anti-EU and fascist-leaning politics in mainstream Europe, and LePen's failure was seen as a defeat for those extremist viewpoints. What Macron as a 'centrist' would do with French internal and economic policy? well, that's a different matter, c'est non?
  • Roderigo Duerte was elected President of the Philippines in May, 2016. A populist candidate, Duerte instituted a ruthless campaign against drug dealing in the country, utilizing vigilantes and police, leading to reported thousands of murders. Duerte also hinted the Philippines' would be ending its long-standing relationship with the United States, and its troops would have to leave the country by 2018.  He made clear overtures to the government of China as a new ally, and made headlines by referring to then-president Obama in a public speech as a "son of a bitch".
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) had been in negotiation since 2009. It was an American-led vehicle, providing leverage for the U.S., and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, to determine how trade in the Rim would be conducted, and was clearly aimed at containing Chinese economic influence (that it would also become part of a network of prior, similar trade agreements which provide, uh, 'rewards' to the usual large financial interests was obvious but ignored). The TPP was not popular among many politicians in the U.S., Right or Left; even so, then-president Obama hoped it would be ratified by the Congress in lame-duck session before the end of 2016. Good luck with that.
  • In April 2016, the "Panama Papers" were released in the media,  over 11 million documents dating from the 1970's forward which detailed how a long list of wealthy clients of a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, used offshore shell corporations to move and protect income from taxation. The documents were copied by an anonymous whistleblowing employee of the firm, who initially provided them to a German newspaper. Almost no one was surprised, including the governments which had been potentially defrauded of tax payments.
Left out here are mass shooting episodes in America (the Orlando, Florida nightclub attack) and continued police shootings of unarmed people in urban cities. There were the July Bastille Day terror attacks in Nice, France, and also in Germany by lone attackers. There was resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. Anton Scalia died in his sleep ("Whales weep not").

The existence of gravitational waves, created by the collision of two black holes trillions of miles from Earth, was confirmed. Hundreds of the oldest footprints of our ancestors (in fossilized mud, some 19,000 years old) were found in Africa. People found Ube on their doughnuts, Poke holding their veggies and fish, Raclette scraped on their eggs, and "fairy bread", in the year since November 8, 2016. 
____________________________________ 

After the 2016 election: I'm going to agree with Ian Welsh on this one. It is no bed of roses, but
... I say that we are moving out of an era where problems could only be solved if they made someone a billionaire and are moving to an era where we will be able to start actually fixing problems that matter. This is a high-risk period ... But unlike in 2009... we now have some real reasons to hope along with all the baked-in catastrophes we’ve had handed to us. 
Oh, yes, Trump. Yeah, he’s bad, and he’ll be bad for a lot of people, but I am not worried when it comes to the big picture because he’s ... far too incompetent.... Someone competent, running on actual right-wing populism, say, Bannon with charisma, could well have turned America into a fascist state for two generations... [Trump's] failure provides a clear warning of the danger and may discredit those policies.
Trump's behavior, which we can count on to be consistently erratic and polarizing, is an important factor in how near-term events (say, three to seven years) could play out. Put simply, Trump is his own worst enemy.  He's already proven it.

His behavior galvanizes opposition and identifies alt-Right extremist conservatism with his own Batshit-Crazy, galatically-stupid incompetence. A more competent mendacious person might do real damage to America, and the rest of the world -- so in a way, we got lucky with Wonderboy. His inherent nature is our best friend, just now.

This isn't to say that if he were about to be indicted for -- treason, perhaps -- Trump might not do something which had maximum Shiny Object value in the media as a distraction. And his target(s) would be (like immigrants, like the Dreamers, like the women he bragged about groping) someone who couldn't really hurt him, couldn't really fight back.

It's important to remember that Trump's closest political advisors, his go-to guys, are all general officers, whether they wear a tie and a blazer or not (Rex Tillerson isn't part of that team, but they seem to get along). Someone made the observation that we've already had a military coup, and no one noticed; if we're lucky, it's only half-wrong.
________________________________

Our old-order politics in America, with the two parties serving the Usual Suspects, is no longer viable. Something will replace it -- the what, how and when, we don't know. It may be pretty and joyous, or not.  Change will continue -- and, we're only one year into the Occupation, and haven't yet seen how crazy it can get. We need to remember the past, and we need to remember the future.
________________________________

Things, in their relative way, abide: Here's my only solution, just now. Imagine standing in some specific place in the world, one you hold close to your heart. One you can close your eyes and all your senses light up at the memory; see, smell, feel, hear that place. Imagine being in that spot for one year.

The wind blows; birdcalls come and go; clouds appear, thunder and rain, and then pass; night falls; the great bridge of stars appears and twists on its axis above you, until the next sunrise -- and all of it 365 times, passed in an overarching quiet which ignored your presence, as if you were simply an element in that landscape. A rock, a tree, a lost Quarter.

Now open your eyes again and remember that during the year since last November, in all it's terrible beauty; despite everything; your place stood, full of change but rooted, exactly so. Consider that.
____________________________________

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kleiner Mann, Was Nun?

Die Dreiziger Jahre


Ja aber, kleiner Mann, was nun?
Wenn's morgen anders ist, was tun?
Bedenke, dass die Welt sich dreht
Seit sie besteht!
Ja, kleiner Mann, was nun?
Wenn dich das Glück vergisst, was tun?
Oft wie ein Traume schnell vergeht
Im Winde verweht


Yes; but Little Man, what now?
When it's tomorrow, what do you do?
Remember that the world has been turning
since it was born
Yes, Little Man, what now?
When luck's forgotten you, what next?
It's often how a dream quickly passes
Of course, on the wind

Und musst du heut' vielleicht auch beiseite steh'n
Kann es doch morgen schon wieder aufwärts geh'n
Nur Kopf hoch! Kleiner Mann, was nun?
Wenn's morgen anders ist, was tun?
Vielleicht wird's auch, sei dir selber treu
Dann geht das Glück nicht vorbei!


And today perhaps you'll have to stand aside
Tomorrow you can continue on your way
Just keep your head up! Little Man, what now?
When it's tomorrow, what do you do?
Perhaps [tomorrow] will be true to you,
and luck won't pass you by!

-- "Little Man, What Now?" (1932)
    Music: Harald Böhmelt; Lyrics: Richard Busch
________________________________________

(MEHR, MIT EIN TIEFES U. BLEIBENDES GEFUL DER ANGST: Whoa Whoa Whoa with the emails about the quality of this translation, already. It's why I have a deep respect for everyone who ever translated a novel or poem from one language to another. My ability with German is a few degrees past utilitarian; I like to imagine I have an apprehension of the Geist in Der Sprache -- and can approximate it in a way that's true to the author[s]. But, you know.)

 ________________________________________

Monday, November 28, 2016

This World At Night

Dusk


As I punch this in, it's twilight on the Left Coast and almost too obvious an image. At work, in the aftermath of the election few people spoke about the results. Even fewer people mention what's to come, now, except with a lot of who-the fuck-knows eye rolling and shrugging.

For now, there is an adult, no matter what you think of his policies, in the White House. We can push the image of Trump and his ilk, of Mike Pence telling the media to "buckle up", out of our minds -- but everyone knows that this (relatively) liberal presidency is ending; the light is fading.

I wrote a long post claiming to know something of the future, but this was bullshit: I don't know, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. I let those who can analyze and translate current events well, or those with louder voices, or with a penchant for ego masquerading as humble simplicity, do their thing.

Something else I understood -- the future is very present. It's going to play out in the faces and the lives of friends, and total strangers whose fates seem more important now than they did a month ago.

I'm not a very deep reader, and when uncomfortable tend to chew on the familiar. So I grabbed Alan Furst's The World At Night to read over the long weekend. It's a story of Paul Casson, a Parisian and a producer of films, in France at the fall of the Third Republic, and the choices he makes after. It's about morality, love, and the courage and venality of life during occupation.

Casson has been recalled to the army in the late spring of 1940; the Germans are already invading the Low Countries (and eventually, as everyone knows, France itself via the Ardennes). He is part of a propaganda unit filming the French army as it heads toward the front.
     ...Casson was stopped. The sentries were drunk and unshaven. "What brings you here?" one of them said.
     "We're making movies."
     "Movies! You know Hedy Lamarr?"
     "Dog dick," said another. "Not those kinds of movies. War movies."
     "Oh. Then what the hell are you doing up here?"
     The second man... offered Casson a bottle through the window... [and] laughed as he took the bottle back. "Come and see us, squire, after this shit's done with."
     The hard Parisian sneer in his voice made Casson smile. "I will."
     "You can find us up in Belleville, at The Pig's Ass."
     "See you then," Casson said, shoving the clutch in.
     "Red Front!" They called after him.
The German army is successful; Casson melts away, towards Paris, more a vagabond than a fleeing soldier.
     ... Sometimes, in a cafe, he heard the news on a radio. Nothing, he realized, could save them from losing the war. He left the roads, walked across springtime fields... He shared a campfire with an old man with a white beard, a sculptor, he said, from Brittany somewhere, who walked with a stick, and got drunk on some yellow stuff from a square bottle...
     ... "We'll all live deep down, now," the sculptor said, throwing a stick of wood on the fire. "Twenty ways to prepare a crayfish. Or, you know, chess. Sanskrit poetry. It will hurt like hell, sonny, you'll see."
Casson is a character who lived a comfortable, creative life, a Parisian life, and after the nazi victory he only wants to get back to living it -- and he does, until he discovers that he actually is a moral man. And, while it takes time for the corrosion of the Occupation to seep through to him, eventually he has to act against it. He had no other choice, really; it just took some time for him to become clear to himself.

At the end, Casson makes another choice -- as much an act against Occupation and exclusion, division and hate as joining the Resistance. But for a purist or Marxist it will appear a fool's move, sentimentalist garbage. Only, it's our deepest passions, sometimes hidden from ourselves and spurring us to act, that define us.
_______________________________ 

For the Left, the appointment of Bush in 2000 was a shock unlike any other in American politics -- and what followed was an eight year chapter in the Banality of Evil.

Life under Bush, a limited, Dauphin of a man, was Life During Wartime -- one reason Obama's election in 2008 was greeted with street parties -- here in Kiddietown, it was like the Place De Concorde in 1944 -- The nazis are gone! Vive La France!  We were Liberated!

But, Bush and the creatures that swept in with him had some legitimacy as part of the political mainstream. Not so with Trump or his creatures. Lil" Boots played at being a loud, crude Man Of The People but was always the son of a Yankee, blue-blood, Old Money family.  Trump has all the sophistication of an infomercial, the intellectual depth of a racetrack tout -- and, it's not an act. No one knows what will happen this time, but it's almost certain to be bad.

 Obligatory Cute Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Ogg Ogg
(From Mongo Interviews Mitzy, 2012)

And this time, it feels more like Occupation. Like the real thing -- as if Bush had been a dry run, a testing of limits. Just outside our field of vision, we sense men in Field Grey on the corners, but they're waiting, not asking for Ausweis; not yet.  Unconsciously, this was why I had taken Furst's book down from the shelf in the first place.

It's going to take time for the corrosion to sink in. And it will take time for people to act against it from our moral centers -- some sooner than others, but act we will have to. And the values and passions at the core of our Selves will direct us. We don't have any other choice, really.
_______________________________ 

From the Post That Never Was, some tasty links as you cook that Crayfish. Pass the square bottle of yellow stuff, would you? And, which way to The Pig's Ass?

"Red Front!" They called after him.

Alastair Crooke, Without Any Masterpiece Theatre  --  and who he quotes, Raul Meijer.

ARTHUR, Once Upon A Time In His Head, who self-references. It's totally okay.

Richard Rorty, though he be dead (quotes below -- see The Paper Of Record's original 1998 review.)
"[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

"At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …

"One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet...

"This world economy will soon be owned by a cosmopolitan upper class which has no more sense of community with any workers anywhere than the great American capitalists of the year 1900... [This group included intellectuals who are] quite well insulated, at least in the short run, from the effects of globalization."
__________________________

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Going Back

No, Thanks; We Can't Stay


We were going to provide you with the secret to unlock time and discover the blinding, heartbreaking sweetness of existence -- but you elected this Creature and yes we're aliens and we are Outta Here.

No (get that McDonald's Value Meal certificate out of my tentacles, dude); thanks very much, but we have to go wash our 1500-foot spacecraft. Or something.

 ___________________________

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Random Barking: Tears In The Rain

Still Crazy After All These Years

So we don't believe that life is beautiful because we don't recall it; but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten smell, we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead because we don't remember them -- but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.
-- Marcel Proust
In My Head, The Theme To (The Original) 'Magnificent Seven' Plays, but The Dog grows old. Physically, mentally and spiritually (at least one of these three categories are very subjective) I am doing better than most of my chronological peers, but I am now officially, by government standards, old.  I was already that in the eyes of the Kiddies of Kiddietown (bless their tiny white cotton socks), where The Olds are treated by degrees as Replicant life forms; hideous, useless eaters, grown in vats.

Some days ago, The Girl Who Refused To Be Mrs Mongo (the heroine of yet another unpublished Steig Larrson novel by that name) took me to a seaside restaurant in an All-White enclave by way of celebrating. There was a view of The Bay, and the venue was architecturally pleasant -- but the food was oddly muted, not quite tasteless, reminding me of the old Woody Allen joke about his mother, "running the chicken through the deflavorizing machine."  I enjoyed the wine, though, as Dogs do, and The Girl and I discussed politics.
GIRL: Well, I voted. For Hillary -- and don't tell me about how much of a tool she is.
DOG: This election puts everything that's horrifying about America's political structure and our culture on display. Forget Trump; but I can't vote for her.
GIRL: But it's simple: you vote for Clinton, or you get something even worse.
DOG: So, choose between the lesser of two weevils?
GIRL: This is going to make me crazy. If Trump gets elected --
DOG: He's can't. It's simply not possible. Clinton is already elected. That should make you feel better.
GIRL: Okay; let's just drop it. What did you mean about ' two weevils'?
DOG: A bad Captain and Commander joke, but it applies to this election.
Over the weekend, I re-read an article by Laurie Penny about the DNC's Convention this year which made me want to puke, endlessly, like Ron sicking up Banana Slugs at Hogwarts after a spell gone bad.  Then, I read:  
... Al Franken... chants “Hillary, Hillary.” Fuck that guy. He’s not helping. The only way this could get more embarrassing is if they wheeled out Paul Simon to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water. Which is exactly what happens next. 

Now, before I say what I’m about to say, I want you to understand that I have been a fan of Paul Simon and his work since my father first played me the Greatest Hits when I was six years old.

... Outside, an epic summer storm is breaking over the Democratic Demilitarized Zone like the world’s laziest metaphor. ... I spend an hour sheltering ineffectively outside the Wells Fargo building [where] an independent internet journalist wearing a giant crystal pendant and no shirt starts explaining how he’s hoping for a Trump presidency to usher in the coming collapse of civilization.
Paul Simon's Greatest Hits, Etc., was released in 1977 (meaning Penny was born at roughly the same time that I was participating in America's geopolitical containment strategy in Southeast Asia), and I remember the cuts "American Tune", and Kodachrome, and Still Crazy After All These Years well.

But I could walk it back farther than that. It was here that I had a Proustian moment, stumbled across a forgotten glove: I knew Simon and Garfunkle when they were brand, spanking, never-before-heard new -- Sounds Of Silence; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; 59th Street Bridge Song, Feelin' Groovy; Bridge Over Troubled Water, El Condor Pasa; Bookends and Mrs. Robinson brand-new.

I listened to them with my now long-gone High School friend, JJ, while stoned on pot in the basement rec room of his house, the doors locked and the blinds drawn because, you know, pot was illegal. JJ's tastes in music were more reflective than most of the stoners in our small town, which leaned heavily towards Cream, Butterfield Blues Band, Spirit, Creedence Clearwater.

(JJ also introduced me to Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention -- and to Leonard Cohen. Wherever you are, buddy; for that, I am grateful.)

I listened to them outside the U.S. on a PX-purchased TEAC reel-to-reel, and in a string of apartments afterwards -- until the day I stood in an elevator and heard a version of "Feelin' Groovy" by Montovani or 1001 Strings oozing out of the Muzak -- and thereafter found myself listening to Bowie, the Stones, and later (Gott; Hilfts Du Mich) the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever and the BeeGees' Odessa album.

The TEAC R-to-R is still around, in need of repair; but the SNF and BeeGees albums are long gone. Some day, we'll say the same about Trump and Hill-o, and about America; and it will also be said of us.
________________________________

MEHR, MIT HUNDE:

STONE: Aningaaq. Is that -- is that your, is that your name? Aningaaq is your name?
ANINGAAQ:
["May Day? Aningaaq. Aningaaq, May Day?"] (Laughs)
STONE:
No, no, no. My name is not Mayday. I’m Stone. Dr. Ryan Stone, I need help. [Dogs barking]  Those -- are dogs. They’re calling from Earth.... Woof, woof; yeah...
ANINGAAQ:
(Laughs) ["Woof, woof ! May Day? Woof Woof Woof!"]
STONE:
Yeah... Aningaaq, make your dogs bark again for me, would you please? Your dogs. Dogs, you know. Woof, woof. Dogs.
ANINGAAQ:
["Dogs don't sound like that -- they go, Aooooo!"]
STONE:
Aoooooo. Woof Woof. Aooooo!

ANINGAAQ: [Aooooooooo!]
STONE:
Yeah... Aoooo... Oh; I’m gonna die, Aningaaq. I know, we’re all gonna die. Everybody knows that. But I’m gonna die today. Funny, you know, to know that. But the thing is; I’m still scared. I’m really scared. Nobody will mourn for me; no one will pray for my soul. Will you mourn for me? Will you say a prayer for me? I mean, I’d say one for myself, but I’ve never prayed in my life; so. Nobody ever taught me how.

-- Sandra Bullock
(Stone), Orto Ignatiussen (Aningaaq), Gravity (2015)  
__________________________________

Monday, July 25, 2016

Coming Of The Inevitable One

Update The First
You know -- I don't understand these people who trash-talk about America! Who say, 'we're in decline!'  -- She
We inaugurate a new blog category: Coming Of The Inevitable One, wherein we follow the media's coverage of this political contest -- knowing in advance that it shall be presented as being close, so very close.  Closecloseclose.

We shall use Fivethirtyeight dotcom as The Source for polling analysis. Periodically we will remind all humankind that this election is close, so close.

Episode I: The narrative Begins; A nation, already divided by race and class and wealth, was threatened from within by Bad Forces from The Right; and how, at the last moment, America was saved... by a little girl from Park Ridge, Illinois.

But it is so close. It is; it is. Be worried -- be very worried. Because... it is so close.
The first few polls conducted after last week’s Republican convention suggested a small to medium convention bounce for Donald Trump, with Hillary Clinton holding on to narrow leads in several surveys. But a series of polls released Monday morning show bigger gains for Trump. In particular, Trump leads by 1 percentage point in a CBS News poll, by 5 percentage points in a CNN poll, and by 4 points in this week’s edition of the Morning Consult poll. He’s also extended his lead for 4 points in the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times tracking poll, although it has generally shown good results for Trump.
The election will take place next week. Okay, next month. All right, all right; November -- But this takes nothing away from the fact that we must be worried!

Yeah. So give -- give money, and blood and sweat and tears and time you will never get back, ever -- all that; all for She -- so that She might save America, and Continue The Gravy Train usher in a New Era of Fucking The Peasants sacrifice for the amusement of the distant rich betterment of all humankind.  We will be so grateful.  Here endeth the Lesson.

She Reaches Across The Aisle: Mit Ein Grosser Kriegskriminal
__________________________

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Monster Truck And The Rubber Duck Collide

And The Universe Was Born
O Happy Zion: Your Reward Awaits You In Jesusland™

What, you have a problem with this cosmology? It's as valid a Creation Myth as any other. I'm not fond of Monster Trucks (no matter how much I liked the series, House), true, but The Great Duck is our savior; He also floats, and is appealing as a chew toy:  I like my saviors to be multi-purpose.
Obey the Great Duck in all His forms. 

But yes, What Is All This? Why Are We, and What's It All For? Ah, the age-old questions -- life in all its multitudinous forms.  We won't be finding any answers today, but there is still fun social commentary for YOU, which is almost as good. Possibly.

( Click For Huge and Readable Version; It's Easy And Fun! )

MEHR, MIT EIN GESICHTE:  Speaking of Cosmology and Ducks and Fun, here's a true story: I once had a friend, who is now (just by the luck of the draw) famous and wealthy, someone who has in fact added to human culture in a not-so-small way, and who once told me a tale about his hitchhiking days. It relates to the Big Questions Of Life, but only just barely.

He was seventeen, and one Fall day, splitting from his home on the Great Lakes (which also involved a brush with John Wayne Gacy, but that's for another time), began thumbing it up north into Canada. He hooked up with two men, a classic Mutt-and-Jeff team, driving up into The Maritimes ostensibly to make and sell chocolate fudge. Jeff was tall and spindly in his forties or early fifties with a shock of black hair greying at the temples; Mutt was short, with a close-cropped buzz-cut (known from my Army days as a 'high and tight') who smoked cigarillos and looked a little like Popeye. 

My friend had a well-developed radar for Crazies, and after a time riding along read these two as fairly routine types (at least they weren't serial killers).  They had a station wagon pulling a U-Haul style trailer filled with fudge-making apparatus and a sales stand. It also became fairly clear that their business, while necessary, wasn't the prime focus of their travels.

It didn't take long for my friend to determine that Mutt and Jeff had Little Black Books, and their trips were like unto the routes of sailors, reaching ports of call where they knew the names and telephone numbers of every love-starved and rapacious widow, divorcee, and spinster librarian under thirty from Vancouver to Newfoundland. 

Apparently, they drove across Canada during the year, making fudge, making some money, seeing women they knew (and being introduced to a few new ones), then taking another route back west before starting all over again.

My friend passed himself off as nineteen, out of high school and just bumming around. Mutt and Jeff nominally appeared to accept my friend's story, and offered him the chance to tag along and join their team. Their normal routine was to drive into a town, file whatever paperwork, sell fudge by day and live well by night. My friend, at seventeen, was flabbergasted at the frank availability of the, uh, ladies Mutt and Jeff knew -- who also had friends very happy to, uh, get to know a young man. This all went on until needs financial and physical were satisfied; then, they pushed on to the next wind-swept Canadian town.

Canada: Renowned Worldwide For Its Beaver, 
And You Knew This Joke Was Coming

Somewhere in there, Mutt and Jeff also picked up The Kid. Not the Kenosha Kid -- this one was nineteen, tall, painfully blonde to the point of being a near-Albino. He was also Mormon, who had been out on his Year Of Witnessing (or whatever it's called). Young Mormons performing this rite of passage do so in the company of other Young Mormons, or with an Elder whose job is to keep a watchful eye on them.  

The Kid had a crisis of faith on the road. He wasn't sure if he was Mormon, or what, any longer, and had simply walked to the nearest highway and put out his thumb: If you don't know which way you're going, it don't matter which road you take. To the other Mormon(s) he was traveling with, The Kid had just up and disappeared.

I refer to him as The Kid because, even two years older than my friend, The Kid was clueless. And hitchhiking alone across Nowhere Canada, with dwindling finances, ashamed and frightened at the idea of returning to his family in Utah in his confused state.  

My friend's take was that Mutt and Jeff sized him up as Not Crazy, just Trying To Sort Things Out, and felt sorry for him. While he wasn't a danger to others, he was a Kid alone on the High Way, and Mutt and Jeff decided to take him into the Empire Of Fudgelandia for a while until he could decide his next move, and offer him an opportunity to make a little cash in the process. Plus, he got to meet girls in a way that he wouldn't have been able to do in the shadow of the Big Temple in Salt Lake City. The Kid, as the trip progressed, seemed to like that part of it.

He was given, however, to questioning the religious beliefs with which he had been raised -- volubly and frequently. He argued for them, against them; back and forth, a mirror of his own inner conflict, thinking out loud. Mutt and Jeff were fairly tolerant of these outbursts, which were greatly toned down if The Kid had ready access to Girls.

The drive up into The Maritimes continued. It began to get colder. Mutt and Jeff, my friend and The Kid drove in the station wagon-and trailer into a town that had a medium-sized mall with two floors of shops on all four sides of a large, open area, and topped by a skylight. The mall was heated during the winter months, and the open area was a perfect location for the fudge stand.

One day around noon, Mutt, The Kid and my friend were manning the fudge stand inside the mall. The sun had been trying hard to break through clouds most of the day; sales were slow, and The Kid had been banging on about religion in a general way since the morning. Mutt, dressed all in white when making and selling fudge -- white pants, apron, white T-shirt and a small white fry-cook's cap -- was leaning against the fudge machine, his face screwed up like Popeye's as he looked up every now and again at the skylight, listening as The Kid explained some aspect of Mormonism to my friend.

Even though Mutt's attitude toward The Kid's diatribes was kindly, he usually declined to join in.  Finally, The Kid turned to Mutt and asked, "So, what religion are you? I mean, what were you raised as?"

Mutt slowly took his omnipresent cigarillo out of his mouth. "I'm a Hueyist," he said simply, and looked up towards the grey sky above the mall. 

"What -- you mean, that big duck in the cartoons?" The Kid was nonplussed for a moment, then laughed at Mutt -- no; he guffawed. " 'Baby Huey' ??"

Mutt paused, as if in thought, still looking up, then quickly looked at The Kid with an utterly rock-solid, serious expression and said, quietly, "Don't make fun of Huey."

At that moment, the mall was flooded with light, pouring through its glass roof; the interior of the little arcade blazed as if someone were testing a nuclear warhead in the sky above. The Kid looked up, eyes wide, mouth slack-open in Awe and Fear, utterly speechless. It was clear he was at least considering that it might not be wise to mock the Power and Glory that was Huey in future.

As The Kid stood gobsmacked, rooted in place and staring up at the heavens, my friend looked over at Mutt. A tiny smile was creasing his face, just for an instant, before he replaced the cigarillo in his mouth and turned back to the fudge machine. He had been looking up, watching the clouds through the skylight, and timed his response to The Kid just as the clouds parted and the sun, at zenith above the mall, suddenly broke through.
________________________

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Du Kannst Mit Mir Sagt, "Bow Wow"

Translatory

A new feature available on Before Nine: we can now be translated into a wide variety of languages, all courtesy of the Gogglemachine (or, Das Googlegerät). This satisfies our annual technology requirement in service to the Superintelligent Parakeet who reads this blog.

So, now, if you have nothing better to do you can read these moderately amusing Things in French, Hindustani, Arabic, or good-old meat-and-potatoes English. Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys of all nations -- welcome!

Oh, and Trumpo !  Grand Turtlebear Teddy (Church Of I Kill You!) , and Hillary The Inevitable !
___________________________

Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Favourite Joke

The Annual Miracle Of Purim

(Actually, this has nothing to do with Purim. It is in fact my favorite joke, containing a willfully stupid grocier, 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?"
_______________________________

Monday, March 14, 2016

We Have Found Our Leader

It Is Mandatory To Look Upon Him 

Yes; this is a cartoon metaphor for fascism.  Go ahead and look. You know you want to -- what the hell; after the election, you'll have to !


Soothing, After A While.  (Courtesy Futurama)
 
After Liquidating Your Bank Accounts And Giving Them To Me, 
I Will Purchase Many Exciting Plush Toys To Venerate The Hypno-Toad
________________________________

Monday, March 7, 2016

Der Amerikanischer Politik

Schaum-Saugen Schweinhunde *

Mr Fish, keepin' it Real.

The Gory Death Of A Panicked Animal Is Terrifying To See (Mr Fish)

SEE the thrashing of the WOUNDED BEAST as it CRASHES ACROSS THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE !! It is THE TEA PARTEI against THE GOOD OL BOYS OF THE GOP in a DEATHMATCH for control of the GRAVY TRAIN and SWINE TROUGH ACCESS !!  BECAUSE FREEDOM !!

 Girls, Girls, Girls [Say Obama Was Just A Realist] (Mr Fish)

HILLARY THE INEVITABLE will ensure that everything APPEARS TO CONTINUE AS IT ALWAYS HAS and that NOTHING WILL CHANGE in the future except for THE BETTER. The fact that a layer of society WILL STILL BECOME RICHER THAN BEFORE can be ignored as INAPPROPRIATE.  BECAUSE FREEDOM !!

(* Scum-Sucking Pig-Dogs)
_______________________________