Saturday, December 10, 2016

cell-phone revenge fantasy

Passed along in email:


Trump du jour

Passed along in email:


postmortem art

"A new exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum recalls a time when portraits were seen as a way of remembering and celebrating life outside of mere memory."

Friday, December 9, 2016

city of love, city of rats

Ah, la citéde l'amourappears to have suffered a couple of setbacks  

1.'When Parisians are literally tripping over rats on the sidewalk, it is clear that the City of Light has a problem." and 

2. "With more and more asthmatic children needing hospital treatment in Paris amid an exceptional bout of pollution, France's government is putting medics on alert and warning residents to limit outdoor activity over the weekend."

shut up



A little silence never hurt anyone and so, as an early Christmas present, it might be nice to take a moment and just shut up. I don't mean some new and improved and goopy activity: I mean personally, in a time when no one is looking ... when, in fact, even you aren't looking and chewing and digesting and protesting and extolling and relaxing and improving. Just shut up. Literally. For a literal minute. Shut ... up.

I don't know about you, but for me, these are times that feel like a case of national rug burn. Volume has replaced veracity and, even when I am not discussing or dismissing the arguments of others, still there is a sense of discomfort in my mind. Common decency dwindles as the president-elect issues some new round-house edict that lacks supporting evidence. The delight of one persuasion is dependent on the discomfort of another. The ills are real enough, but the raucous anger seems to find no rest or reprieve.

My friend Dave sent me an email: "I don’t get it.  The state of being angry is almost considered a badge of honor by many – an emotion one should aspire to. But when I was growing up, I was taught that anger (though we all experience it times) is a negative emotion and that angry people were not to be admired or emulated."

Everything is for sale. Honor goes begging. Is this my country? Is it yours? Discussions that begin as sharing and caring and all the other nice words shudder and slump into something akin to my-sorrow-is-more-sorrowful-than-yours. Or, alternatively, my-joy-is-more-joyful-than-yours. Words like "Marxist" or "socialist" are hurled, yet there is little evidence that anyone might be willing to investigate their actual meanings. And the volume increases, even when there is no one there to listen. Even when there is no one listening, still I am forced to listen to myself.  

In general, I dislike relying on the words of others as a means of expressing my opinion. But today, I will borrow the words of Max Ehrmann's 1927 "Desiderata," which encourage a politer form of my sense that shutting up and letting the silence have its say is a good idea. Anything -- anything at all -- can happen in the silence.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.


Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.


Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.


Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.


You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.


With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.


One minute.

Shut up.

What's that like?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"Welcome to the Age of Anger"

Thus far this morning, I have been immersed in an article in The Guardian entitled "Welcome to the Age of Anger." ("The seismic events of 2016 have revealed a world in chaos – and one that old ideas of liberal rationalism can no longer explain.")

Of late, I had pretty much sworn off Donald-Trump-linked hair balls of analytic thought, but the willingness of the article to take a look at both liberal caterwauling and conservative triumph -- and to look beyond the easy I-can-explain-that's -- kept sucking me deeper and deeper into the article's maw... people of good will infused with viciousness; people of viciousness veined with good will....

People are people first and intellectuals or red-necks, atheists or believers, infuriated or joyful only later. The arrogance of leaving out the people when discussing the "voters" has made my teeth itch.

This is a hell of an article, even if I have to concede the author is smarter than I by miles. It's a long, long article by Internet standards and it is probably far from perfect, but there was enough there to force me to say it felt like something closer to the truth.

Anyway ... that's how I've been spending the last hour.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

why did god create man

For the godly in the crowd, why did god create man?

By whatever definition or parameter accorded to god, why create man?

Was it boredom? Was it the fact that no one had invented video games?

And to those who would stroke their luxuriant beards and say that the question is "imponderable -- don't waste your time," the obvious follow-on is that if you can't/won't answer that one, how could anyone prattle on and on about the other prattling stuff that follows in the wake of man's creation?

Somewhere, there must be a tale of sorts to respond to this question, but I can't remember it.

And if there's a tale to tell, did god make it up or did man?

I'm only half-kidding about any of this. It's kind of weird in my head at the moment.

having children ... NOT

The other side of the coin ... or, perhaps rather, the point at which heads and tails intermingle and wonder is no longer a bright and shining star but rather a dust storm with bright spots or a bit of wheat within the undeniable chaff. Having children is, if you listen to the whispers, a "blessing" that, ipso facto, cannot be gainsaid in social settings. There is no room for "but," and yet any parent who has taken the trouble to be a parent has slammed into the "but" wall. Rituals shudder where "buts" assert themselves. And yet, without the "buts," how honest could anything be? Is ritual more important than honesty? I don't know.
French author Corinne Maier has two children but can't wait for the youngest to leave home, saying they have left her "exhausted and bankrupt".
Her attack on "idealising parenthood" struck a chord with many mothers and fathers around the world. Here are some of their comments - followed by the responses from others who completely disagreed.
Perhaps some TED talker will come up with an oleaginous, one-size-fits-all approach to all this, but I have a feeling that the bottom line is simply learning to live with the I-don't-knows. Good, bad, having kids, not having kids ... it's nice to air the laundry, I think.

PS. And associatively there is a study:
The regular use of Caesarean sections is having an impact on human evolution, say scientists.
More mothers now need surgery to deliver a baby due to their narrow pelvis size, according to a study.
Researchers estimate cases where the baby cannot fit down the birth canal have increased from 30 in 1,000 in the 1960s to 36 in 1,000 births today.

Monday, December 5, 2016

ignorance/knowledge

As is her occasional wont, Janet sent out one of her multiple-recipient quotes from her late husband Isaac Asimov yesterday and I was on the list:
There is a cult of ignorance  in the United States, and there always had [sic] been.  The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.
Given the on-going horror/anger/surprise/anguish/outrage/delight over Donald Trump's winning of the 2016 presidential race on Nov. 8, the quote carries with it a series of up-to-date barbs from one point of view. Without getting terribly specific, Trump's stream-of-consciousness campaign volume dissed a great deal of what the intellectually-inclined held dear. Women, immigrants, outsourcing of jobs, racism and a host of other issues were just the surface of what he was willing to trash. Never with much intellectual specificity, mind you, but with enough so that a lot of people just knew what he meant. Hard-working, church-going, health-care strapped, three-job-holding Americans had had enough.

For some time, I have felt that drugs has skewed the activities of the ignorant ... and the smart ... but slowly it becomes clear that blaming drugs is too easy:
US police have arrested a man wielding an assault rifle who entered a pizza restaurant that was the target of fake news reports it was operating a child abuse ring led by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her top campaign aide.
Also worth considering is the sensitivities [enforced ignorance] of ....
"To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"  have been suspended from the curriculum in some Virginia schools, after a parent complained about the use of racial slurs.
But back to the quote: I find myself not quite convinced: On the one hand, ignorance can be unspeakably cruel, confining, consoling ... and just plain dumb. I find it unspeakably stupid, for example, to dislike a person just because of his or her color or sex and that stupidity deserves a slammed door from where I sit. I also find it pretty damned dumb to deny history.

And yet the quote would not resonate, I suspect, if those laying claim to intelligence didn't sometimes smugly overlook the ignorant and less-fortunately endowed. Kindness is lovely ... if you can afford it, if the kids aren't hungry, the bills unpaid.

No, "ignorance" is not as good as "knowledge," but it is a knowledgeable person who is likely to know this. It is the knowledgeable who must learn to exercise the patience and courage to turn back to the tide of ignorance. This means education and a certain comfort level. The knowledgeable get tired of saying "no" and the ignorant get tired of being said "no" to.

Never mind ... I'm losing the thread of this argument. I guess maybe smug-dumb and smug-smart both make my teeth itch.

Color me Dumbo.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

snooker champion

An entire news story, as near as I can see, in which the winner was lauded and the play extolled but the name of the game went utterly unmentioned. A lot of sports writers seem to take that liberty, which makes me wonder why they should consider themselves adequate news writers.

Not until the commentary at the end of the story did I learn:
Former world champion John Parrott on BBC Two: "That was one of the finest games of snooker I've ever seen. The evening session really was snooker from the gods. Everything about that match from both players was just stupendous. It's going to be hard to top a final like that this season. It really was that great."

silent monks sing "Hallelujah..."

Passed along in email:


spic 'n' span

Grey day, vaguely crabby....

I guess I wouldn't mind so much if feather-merchant millennials reiterated "it is what it is" if 1. they showed some evidence that they had actually looked into what "it is" or 2. showed come capacity to wash the supper dishes properly. And the same goes for "living in the moment" or the insistence of tacking "artisan" or "hand-crafted" onto shoes, toothbrushes, beer or whatever.

Doesn't anyone else get tired of the fact that a 2x4 is no longer a 2x4 and yet is called with a wave of the laced cuff, "a 2x4?" From my crabby perch, I think of them as "the app assholes." Without electricity, the sense of loss would be enormous.

But never fear ... there's an explanation. Explanations explain stuff, right? And with an explanation in hand, you've got an app. And with an app, you've got...

Another asshole?

Ah well, I'm probably just hungry. How's that for an explanation? Soma here I come.

Why wash dishes when there are dishwashers -- blessings on whose name -- to do the work?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

progress in spiritual practice

If there is progress in spiritual practice, you're not doing it right.

If there is no progress in spiritual practice, you're not doing it right.

Of course, I could be wrong about all that.

Friday, December 2, 2016

a blivet of tears

Over a lifetime, I suspect, there has grown within me a blivet of tears filling drip by drop. Last night, watching the news from the war-savaged Middle East, the blivet began to leak and the tears slid down my cheeks. It was all, somehow, just too damned much.

Two 27-year-old young men, each with not much more than a modicum of medical experience, were treating the young children deliberately wounded by snipers in Aleppo. The men, Americans I believe,  knew from the wounds that these injuries had been deliberately inflicted and were not just collateral damage. There were no doctors. There was no anesthetic. Everyone was hungry and frightened. The voice-over informed the TV viewer that this man or that woman had lost a brother. A father kissed his young son's forehead. The boy was petrified.

Both of these young men did what they could. One boy would not lose his leg. The girl shot in the face died despite all best efforts. One young man said that seeing any child die was horrific. He estimated he had seen 200. On the TV screen, the drip-drip-drip mounted and my blivet of tears-withheld bulged until I began to feel the wetness on my cheeks. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the man whose snipers were at work, appeared on the screen, long and lanky and dressed in a clean suit.

Suddenly I was ravenously sad. No amount of cajoling and consoling helped. I was crazy with sorrow. I didn't care that my self-serving anger and sadness went nowhere. I didn't care that few if any problems was ever solved out of an emotional vortex. I could no longer hold it together. This was vile. Screaming went nowhere and nowhere claimed the scene. Was I indulging myself or was it simply that not-indulging-myself was no longer an option?

As a news reporter, I had always did what I could to put sympathies to the side, to stuff them in a tear-filled blivet because sympathies and screams clouded any possible solution or resolution or diminution of whatever latest hell presented itself. Get the facts, stuff the reactions. In the hellish heat, cool the atmosphere.

But last night, somehow it was all too much. I was a Donald Trump supporter sick of filling my blivet so that others could proceed with creating the conditions that filled that blivet. Two young men doing what they could in the face of conniving and well-dressed forces ... a part of me roared, "SHOOT THE FUCKERS!" Fuck the dignity of silence and perseverance and holy-roller serenity! Please, please, please don't tell me how you would fix it!

But it was all going nowhere and I knew it. The boy would not lose his leg. The girl died. The two young men did what they could. Few if any cried on the TV screen and I sat there crying, raw as a popped blood blister ... and woe betide any asshole who tried to conjure solace. It was all too much. How do you say "no" in a world where no is no-where near the mark?

I am reduced to tears. Is that better or worse than being reduced to understanding?
 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

high-schoolers recreate price-gouged drug

A group of Australian high school students have managed to recreate a life-saving drug that rose from US$13.50 to US$750 a tablet overnight after an unscrupulous price-hike by former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli.
The Sydney Grammar students reproduced the drug, Daraprim, used to treat a rare but deadly parasitic infection, in their high school laboratory with support from the University of Sydney and global members of the Open Source Malaria consortium.
Business being what business is in the U.S., it wouldn't be legal to sell the Australian students' product in the U.S. without going through a lot of ... uhhh.... business hoops.

psychedelic salvation

Is that Timothy Leary I see dancing in the streets?

NEW YORK (AP) -- The psychedelic drug in "magic mushrooms" can quickly and effectively help treat anxiety and depression in cancer patients, an effect that may last for months, two small studies show.
It worked for Dinah Bazer, who endured a terrifying hallucination that rid her of the fear that her ovarian cancer would return. And for Estalyn Walcoff, who says the drug experience led her to begin a comforting spiritual journey.
The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY'-bihn).
When I was reading some book about the magic of psychedelic drugs and asked my then-shrink, Jack, why I couldn't just down a tab and skip over all the talk sessions we were going through, he kept a straight face that would have done the Las Vegas poker championship proud. Gently, but firmly, he steered me away from the notion of magic bullets.

The upside of epiphanies is that they lay out the potential for a wider vision. The downside is that where there is no capacity or muscle to digest the discovery, a bad-trip sense of failure can enter and fester. I think Jack's point of view was to proceed patiently and deliberately to build the foundation on which an organic understanding might be nourished. A wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am opening, while enticing, was just too iffy by half.

The key phrase in these discussions of psychedelic-drug-use is "under proper circumstances." The trouble is that the people relying on such reasoning imagine such circumstances can be controlled. Sometimes they can. But equally, sometimes the psychedelic takes control and outstrips the capacity of the reasoning and reasonable controller... let alone the patient in question.

But it is interesting, in an age of Facebook and texting and other quick fixes, to see Timothy Leary back in the running. The pain and confusion of psychological black holes are real and compelling. The longing for a Tooth Fairy is compelling.

Compelling ... and then there's the question of what actually works.

men and women

Dandling my toes lightly in some speculative pool, I think...

Men concern themselves with imagination, with parkour and with chaos. Women are concerned with no-fucking-around lullabies although, living as I do in a town that concerns itself from time to time with raucous sexual assertions, it's probably well to remember the fact that it is the female lions who do the serious, slinking hunt and kill.

No one ever gets all of the kudos, which is probably reason enough to put all kudos on the back-most burner.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

spiritual practice

... helps clarify what is not obscure

... eases the sense that the universe doesn't care

... maybe

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

support for Edward Snowden


The campaign to persuade Barack Obama to allow the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to return home to the US without facing prolonged prison time has received powerful new backing from some of the most experienced intelligence experts in the country.
Fifteen former staff members of the Church committee, the 1970s congressional investigation into illegal activity by the CIA and other intelligence agencies, have written jointly to Obama calling on him to end Snowden’s “untenable exile in Russia, which benefits nobody”.

volume as veracity

With the presidential election of 2016 in the middle range of the rearview mirror, I guess it's as good a time as any to consider the encroachments of volume-is-veracity. Not that even Donald Trump could lay claim to creating the paradigm, but it does seem to be part of today's warp and woof: The louder it is, the more it must be true.

Given the repeatedly-proved ludicrousness of the proposition, you might think that this would be or might be a quieter and more judicious time. But it hasn't come to pass and news shows have ever-increasing numbers of talking heads, many talking at cross-current to the person currently speaking ...

But I am out of step.

I once took one of my sons to see a Red Sox game. It was a birthday present. The bus took us 90 miles, deposited us outside the stadium and we found our seats which were made of hard-wood slats and didn't have enough knee-room for someone as tall as I. It was a night game and the field was beautiful. But when the game got going, sitting on the uncomfortable seats was not an option. Everyone seemed incapable of watching the game from a seated (and pricey) resting place. There was no "watching" the game -- there was just the option to stand and have beer dribbled on you while someone who was likewise standing made his was back to his seat. Standing was louder, somehow, than cheering from a seated position. The volume and group-ness took over for any enjoyment of the game.

Oh well, I knew from the get-go that I wasn't a fan of crowds. And my son had a good time. And the bus ride home could be enjoyed while seated and in relative silence.

Monday, November 28, 2016

"infinite speed"

João Magueijo, of Imperial College London, and Niayesh Afshordi, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, propose that light tore along at infinite speed at the birth of the universe when the temperature of the cosmos was a staggering ten thousand trillion trillion celsius.
Question 1: If light moves at "infinite speed," does movement any longer have any meaning? Wouldn't everything (including light) be everywhere simultaneously?

Question 2: Am I wrong or is there something simultaneously wacky and weird that people should be paid to study such matters?

making a buck on atheism

Nice to wake up to a smile, which, in a couple of instances, was provided in emal today:

Making a buck on atheism

and

The Bud Lite clothing drive.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

l'état, c'est moi

It may be a long or a short haul to the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States. It depends on the point of view, I suppose. But here's what feels like a relatively sane depiction of the businessman-turned-president's potential conflict-of-interest pitfalls:
Constitutional lawyers and White House ethics counsellors from Democratic and Republican administrations have warned Donald Trump his presidency might be blocked by the electoral college if he does not give up ownership of at least some of his business empire. [The Guardian]
Louis XIV's alleged-but-undocumented bon mot, "l'état, c'est moi" (I am the state), comes to mind.

It is hard not to munch on the idea that Donald Trump might create a leadership coterie, decline or be denied the role of president and then ... and then ... all of his properties gain in value. His claim to fame, as he has often said, is that he is a businessman. What's one more rat-fuck for a man of such shameless, blameless stature?

challenging the 'best-before' sticker

Picture-perfect food ... NOT.
A UN panel said earlier this month that supermarkets’ preference for perfect-looking produce and the use of arbitrary “best before” labels caused massive food waste that, if reversed, could feed the world’s hungry.
Nearly 1.3bn tonnes of food are wasted every year, more than enough to sustain the 1 billion people suffering from hunger globally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said.
The "best-before" label, as I understand it, has everything to do with the producer and nothing to do with the store that may be hawking it. Best-before medicines encourage more sales. Best-before bananas find green bananas for sale. Best-before grapefruit places a thick-skinned, little-juice fruit in the bin. Well-gassed tomatoes are red-red-red where what's on the vine varies in hue. Upscale pork loins, sold at a well-trimmed premium price, have become premium-price meats that need fat-trimming once brought home. And avocados are seldom less than rock-hard green. In toto, the shelf-life of a product is extended through reduced quality.

Naturally, the markets mewl, "it's not my fault." Only of course it is. If I buy a product and then resell it, whose responsibility is the quality? Markets hire public relations firms to counter any criticism or resemblance to the truth.

Come harvest season, news stories and pictures depict mounds of tomatoes or oranges that were not perfect enough and are destined to be plowed back into the soil. It is hard to look at such pictures and not be aware that there are people literally starving. But of course this is not the market's fault. And heaven forbid that it should be my fault.

Well, in Denmark there seems to be some pushback:
It may be past its sell-by date, but for many Danes it’s a tasty proposition: surplus food being sold in a Copenhagen supermarket has proved so popular that a second store has been opened.
After launching in the district of Amager earlier this year, the Wefood project attracted a long queue as it opened a second branch in the trendy neighbourhood of Nørrebro, this month.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

RIP Fidel Castro, 90

Cuba's Fidel Castro dead at 90.

UK passes "Snoopers' charter"

May our children learn never to forgive us:
After months of wrangling, Parliament has passed a contentious new snooping law that gives authorities - from police and spies to food regulators, fire officials and tax inspectors - powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country.
The law requires telecoms companies to keep records of all users' web activity for a year, creating databases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers.... 
Officials won't need a warrant to access the data, and the list of bodies that can see it includes not just the police and intelligence services, but government departments, revenue and customs officials and even the Food Standards Agency....
Some aspects of the new law remain clouded by secrecy. Not all internet companies will have to comply - only those that are asked to by the government. The government won't say who is on that list, and the firms involved are forbidden from telling their customers.
And if the UK can put its stamp of approval on such a thing, it's a sure bet the U.S. will want one too. "Terrorism" has such an enormous and diverting wardrobe.

Friday, November 25, 2016

John Currin exhibit
































Well, there's a display of some of the works of an artist named John Currin. It's in London so you don't need to feel bound to go, though I admit I would like to. Currin seems a bit weird. Weird is good. I can do weird ... especially if someone else is doing the doing.
Filled with visual jokes, art historical pastiche and unlovable people, Currin’s paintings are hard to take seriously – in fact, hard to take at all, and certainly not at surface value, although surface is all they are. As absurd and decadent as their high prices, and the art world in which they circulate, Currin’s canvases stop you in your tracks....
Things happen to the people in Currin’s paintings and things happen in the paint. He paints people and scenes that are really hard to take. Misanthropic, misogynistic, cruel, absurd, silly – all these criticisms could be – and have been – thrown at him....
This group of new paintings is more than a laugh, a recoil and a grimace – though it is all these things. Once you get over the initial knowing wince, there is an awful lot to unravel. I don’t think I could live with a Currin; I certainly wouldn’t want to live inside one. But perhaps I already do.

not speaking



I stopped speaking on my 27th birthday in 1973....I decided not to speak for one day, as a kind of gift to my community. My girlfriend thought I was doing a nice thing. When I woke the next day, I didn’t see any reason to speak, so I didn’t. When others spoke to me, I mimed that I was being silent. They were thrilled.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

fantasy coffins

Joe, who turned 69 this week, is Ghana’s most prolific coffin artist and, after five decades in the funeral industry producing some of the world’s most extravagant designs, his work is being celebrated in a major exhibition in Accra.
Joe’s work – which includes coffins in the shape of Porsches, naked women, Nike trainers, cameras, Coca-Cola bottles and chilli peppers – is designed to represent the life of the deceased, with each item handcrafted and painted for the funeral procession, which can last up to three days and three nights.

high school reunion

My wife informed me, as she and my sons loaded up the car for a Thanksgiving get-together in New Jersey, that my daughter would be returning with them this evening after the festivities. "It's her 10th high school reunion," my wife explained.

What?! How did that happen, some voice inside me asked. In some part of me -- as no doubt with a lot of parents -- children would always remain children ... sort of in the 5-8-year-old range, thigh-high and deeply committed to one Walt Disney adventure or another. But now, instead, my daughter is married and has been out of high school for 10 years.

All of which took me back to my own high school. High school -- a time of teetering and tottering on the edges of adult-dom and all the confusions that occasioned. I graduated in 1958 and was as confused as any high-schooler might be. Would I ever get laid ... a lot? It seemed improbable since I went to an all-boys school. And yet the population kept growing so perhaps there was hope even for such a confused individual as I.

Like any high school person, I had little or no perspective, no wider contrast or comparison. Everyone wore a jacket and tie where I went to school. We went to school because going to school was what high schoolers did. The first hint that I was going to a high school of note was when one student stood up in the middle of an English class, walked across the room, and punched another student with whom he was having an argument about the homework assignment under consideration. Actually punched him. Somehow I knew that was the mark of a good education and not just a teaching moment. Imagine being in a class where someone got that pissed off.

We studied Latin and French and had a Bible course tucked in in deference to the school's religious beginnings. Nothing heavy -- just a nod to the culture we lived in. Everyone was expected to go to college and when one kid decided to join the army, I was flabbergasted. There was "chapel" each morning before classes began. There was grace said before lunch. For fun, I took an after-class course in Italian. It was a time of the Beat Generation upsurge and when some of us tried to mimic the writing style of Kerouac or Corso or Ferlinghetti, the English teacher -- an exceptionally-tightly-wrapped homosexual was my guess -- slapped us down hard with lousy marks. He was one hell of a good teacher.

As a college sophomore, I once wrote a paper on the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, most of whose stuff I had read in high school. The teacher of the college class pissed me off so badly (teacher burnout, I think) that I made up most of the paper out of whole cloth ... the plays referred to were real, but the source material quotations and commentary AND publishing houses that published those analyses, were entirely fictitious. The paper was a quite ornate fuck-you. I was never quite sure if I was sad or happy that I got an A-minus on the paper.

In the high-school student body were people who would become Hollywood directors and bartenders and bankers and ... well, everything, I suppose. I was fortunate, but had no way of knowing it. I was too busy being confused and horny and a teenager and ... didn't someone have the answers that would still the confusing waves?

Of course they didn't, but I was just beginning to learn that faking it was the only option.

It seems impossibly long ago and far away. And now my daughter collects her own version of long ago and far away.

Confusion's not that bad.