Sunday, November 10, 2019

details, details.....

Ever notice ? --

1. Horses ridden in western adventure movies are uniformly spic and span, whereas anyone who has ever curried a horse knows it gathers caked-on shit on its flanks and some portion of the belly before it is dutifully scrubbed. Tack, though harder to see, is also spiffy with much care and little use.

2. The underside of human shoes in TV movies are almost always a brand-new-leather color between the heel and where the toe-portion of the sole hits the ground.

3. Autos out of the 1930's 1940's and 1950's(and earlier/later) in retro movies almost never show a spot of mud or slush .... always in spanking-new, perfectly-waxed condition.

I'd like to get paid as much as the worker who gets a paycheck and yet overlooks such details or cannot get the changes past cost-conscious executives.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Trump for sale?

Of note of late:

1. The piece of apple pie my neighbor Joe gave me the other day was THE BEST PIECE OF APPLE PIE I HAVE EVER EATEN. The pie was so good that plans to share it evaporated as I inhaled it. To run into "the best" anything at the age of 69 is rare as hen's teeth.

2. I can no longer watch the news. Specificially, I cannot keep up with the impeachment players and more than that, everyone on the news shows seems to talk too fast. Literally, I cannot keep up. Literally, I am confused. Literally, it's no longer worth the price of admission. It all seems important and my brain cannot absorb and process that seriousness. I feel better when I stop trying to keep up and I like feeling better.

3. I am sick of being confused.

This passed-along satire (why is it satire?) eased the gaff a bit:

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg upended the 2020 Presidential race on Friday by offering Donald J. Trump ten billion dollars to leave the White House by the end of the day.
“I will deposit ten billion dollars into your account in Moscow, Riyadh, or wherever you do your banking these days,” Bloomberg announced. “All you have to do is go.”
In addition to the ten-billion-dollar offer, Bloomberg told Trump that he would cover the moving expenses of Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, and any other associates “that you haven’t already gotten rid of.”
On Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats expressed sadness that Bloomberg’s offer, if successful, would eliminate the need for impeachment, which many of them had been looking forward to.
But Representative Adam Schiff of California struck a more philosophical note. “If ten billion dollars gets rid of Donald Trump, that’s a quid pro quo I’m okay with,” he said.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

ice eggs in Finland

A rare collection of “ice eggs” has been spotted in Finland, a phenomenon experts say only occurs in highly particular conditions.
Risto Mattila, who photographed the eggs, said he and his wife were walking along Marjaniemi beach on Hailuoto island on Sunday when they came across the icy balls covering a 30-metre (98ft) expanse of shoreline.

N.Z. climate change

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

real apple pie

Gift from the gods....

Joe, my neighbor across the street, brought me a piece of apple pie he had made from apples on land he owns in Canada. Spies apples among the mixture. Deeeeeee-licious. Real apple pie. Gawd! When you eat store-bought drivel long enough, real apple pie is a blessing and a half.

Or anyway, I would eat it eight days a week.

fear of the perfect

Watching Public Television's "Frontline" take on artificial intelligence last night, I tried to sort out what it was that was scaring me bone-deep to death.

The best I could come up with was "perfection."

I am a lover of beauty and what is beautiful about human beings is their imperfection -- an imperfection that artificial intelligence is hell-bent on eradicating.

If everything becomes perfect, how perfectly imperfect is that? A world without beauty is a world minus any semblance of beauty. It may sound like gobbletygook, but it is no laughing matter for me.

Tyrants of all sorts are dipping their oars into such perfected waters. The rulers will rule. Things will be perfect. Is this the time to leap into the leaf shredder? Without imperfection, what room is there for humanity, for vision, for juiciness?

The perfect widget (car, computer part, whatever). The perfect mind. The perfect intelligence.

Oh well, someone will cope...

I hope.

Anyway, it scared the pants off me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

blame the electorate

Another loser:


LETTER TO THE EDITOR 1023
 
OK – you can feel the political stampede gathering strength – politicians hustling for the bolt holes that will exclude them from the lash of Donald Trump’s collapse. Republicans didn’t do it. Democrats didn’t do it. I know – let’s blame the electorate!

Well, as part of that electorate – and seeking to make some common cause with Joe Palermo’s (10/23/19) letter to the Gazette – I would like to remind Republicans and Democrats alike: I get it: You want the money Trump could generate … but not the blame. May I ask where you were when the heat was hottest? Sure, you are a principled person who never liked Trump – but did you speak out? Did you really speak out? I doubt it.

Yes, the MONEY, Money that could assure re-election. Money that would assure others could see you in a principled light. I’m sorry, but I choose not to bite down on that bit of bait.

Rather than a principled person who spoke up for ‘democracy’, I choose to remember the enablers who extended Mr. Trump’s tenure (through namby-pamby doubts or outright silences) and filled the re-election coffers. In this sense, politicians like Richard Neal (never knew an issue he couldn’t be silent about) is not that different from toe-the-mark Republicans.)

Democracy, as Palermo asserts, may be fragile, but who was it who contributed to that fragility most directly? Was it something as conveniently vague as “the electorate?” Bottom line: It’s the money, honey. As a member of the electorate, I decline to don the mantle of an enabler. Was I confused? Yes. Angry? You bet. Dismayed? Yes, and then some. All that and a lot more. But no one hired me into a role as an honest broker who might lead.

OK, you’ve got the money. Now shoulder the responsibility. Where were your principled stances when principled stances were most needed? If you’re such a good guy, I hesitate to think what a bad guy might look like.

Maybe we should re-elect Donald Trump?

viva the victims

Sent out but apparently not making the cut:


Is anyone else sick of “victims?” I am. It seems that not a day goes by without some new and improved victim to point out and parse.

Donald Trump is a victim.
A woman who had her behind grabbed 20 years ago is a victim.
Liberals are a victim.
Democracy is a victim.
Israelis, like Palestinians, are a victim.
Empathy is a victim.
Black lives matter … another victim.
Conservatives are a victim.
The economy and weather and ecology are a victim.
Choir boys and priests are a victim.
Those who live in the stratosphere of wealth and the perennial magma of red ink are victims.
Free speech like speech sequestered is a victim.
News outlets are a victim.

Pick your day.
Pick your victim.

Dawn breaks and I’m in no hurry to enter full consciousness, not least because I know it will entail bringing my attention to some newly-revised world of victim-hood. Whether it’s the moral cowardice of the White House or the black-face someone donned as a teenager in the distant past, I can feel it out there, waiting like a catamount: I am the victim. Sleep is preferable in those early hours. Victims await.

Well, I’m tired of it and offer a possible world of pushback for those who may likewise be sick of victims and victim-hood. It’s just a small exercise that declines the bait.

Take it slow. Take it a step at a time. Take a page from the Christian playbook. I have no special preference for or against Christians, but good advice is where you find it: On the seventh day, God rested. If God can rest, so can man and taking a break from victim-hood might be a good starting point. So….

Today, for just five minutes perhaps, practice imagining that no matter what happens, there is no victim. Hell, it’s just five minutes. Since nothing is going to change, you might as well go with the flow. This…is…it. Just five minutes. Or even one.

No victims need apply.

And when the minute or five is complete?

We now return you to your scheduled broadcast.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

top of the mediocre mountain

Most, when ascending the ladder of some new-found interest, look to their betters for instruction. For example, the newly-anointed tennis interest is oiled and honed on those whose edges are demonstrably sharper.

But it occurs to me that those of demonstrable skill would be put to the real test by playing against those of demonstrably lesser capacity. Can the real "pro" keep sharp in the face of such obvious mediocrity? Why not just relax into an obvious victory? Will the real "pro" release his or her grip and coast or will s/he play his or her best game ever?

It's no mean feat, I suspect.

fly away invitation

Day of the Dead Fest in Mexico City/ Reuters

Thursday, October 31, 2019

grim reaper shadows pig world

About a quarter of the global pig population is expected to die as a result of an epidemic of African swine fever (ASF), according to the intergovernmental organisation responsible for coordinating animal disease control.
In the last year the spread of the disease has taken policymakers by surprise, and has been particularly devastating in China – home to the world’s largest pig population. The disease is also established in other Asian countries such as Vietnam and South Korea, and continues to wreak havoc in eastern Europe, where the current outbreak began in 2014.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

cheering for Trump boo's

U.S. President Donald Trump got booed at one World Series game. Other people may be more serene about it, but I have to admit the incident made me feel like a man who hasn't bathed in 40 days and 40 nights and finally gets a shower ... and wallows in it.

This compendium was passed along by a likewise-scuzzy email friend.

Monday, October 28, 2019

another perspective on U.S. cities

Idly watching a TV documentary about New Orleans the other night, I heard words attributed to an author whose name I have forgotten. The words, pretty nearly, were these:
There are three cities in the United States. There is New York. There is San Francisco. And there is New Orleans. Everything else is Cleveland.
There is something almost Mark Twain about the observation. It makes me giggle. I can feel some kind of dig intended.

Anyway it tickled my ivories.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

foundations ashudder

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Catholic bishops from across the Amazon called Saturday for the ordination of married men as priests to address the clergy shortage in the region, an historic proposal that would upend centuries of Roman Catholic tradition....
Some conservatives and traditionalists have warned that any papal opening to married priests or women deacons would lead the church to ruin. They accused the synod organizers and even the pope himself of heresy for even considering flexibility on mandatory priestly celibacy.
They vented their outrage most visibly this week when thieves stole three indigenous statues featuring a naked pregnant woman from a Vatican-area church and tossed them to into the Tiber River.
 Imagine that ... "heresy" in this day and age.

Friday, October 25, 2019

rivers suck up carbon

In the turbid, frigid waters roaring from the glaciers of Canada’s high Arctic, researchers have made a surprising discovery: for decades, the northern rivers secretly pulled carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a rate faster than the Amazon rainforest.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, flip the conventional understanding of rivers, which are largely viewed as sources of carbon emissions.
I sense that this is important, but it is above my intellectual pay grade or energy level.

World Lemur Day

Friday is World Lemur Day. Lemurs are the earth’s most threatened larger group of mammals; there are more than 100 species and almost all are under threat of extinction. Bristol Zoological Society has been studying lemurs and working on their conservation in north-west Madagascar for over 10 years

fomer SecDef James Mattis

I want to remember former defense/war secretary James Mattis who opined a week ago at a safe-sex black-tie roast of President Donald Trump that he (Mattis) had won his spurs on the battlefield "He (Trump) won his (bone) spurs from a doctor."

Trump, who never met an appointee he couldn't malign after the appointee was shown the inevitable exit, "denounced Mattis as “the most overrated general” when he met members of Congress on Wednesday to discuss his recent controversial decision to pull US troops out of Syria."

Sometimes I wonder if there is a difference between a physical and a moral coward.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

super duper computer speed

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google announced Wednesday it has achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing, saying it has developed an experimental processor that took just minutes to complete a calculation that would take the world’s best supercomputer thousands of years.
The feat could open the door someday to machines so blazingly fast that they could revolutionize such tasks as finding new medicines, developing vastly smarter artificial intelligence systems and, most ominously, cracking the encryption that protects some of the world’s most closely guarded secrets.
Wowsers! I guess. Super-duper-whooper speed... for as long as the electricity is on.

Meanwhile, as a footnote perhaps,
LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of thousands of residents of Northern California whose power will be shut off in the next two days got even worse news Wednesday: Another, even larger, blackout is likely over the weekend.
The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Corp., or PG&E, began shutting off electricity to nearly a half-million people Wednesday afternoon, the second massive blackout in two weeks. It said hot, dry winds and low humidity were creating a high risk of sparks and "rapid wildfire spread" from its long-neglected power lines.
And, as a P.P.S. as I skim the news wires this morning, I have yet to find any tale that addresses the question of an EMP (electro-magnet pulse) bomb that targets electrical capacities. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

paralympian commits suicide

I wish you what you wish.
Paralympian Marieke Vervoort said when the day arrived, she had signed the euthanasia papers and was prepared to end her life. That day came on Tuesday in her native Belgium, her death confirmed in a statement from the city of Diest.
Vervoort, 40, won gold and silver medals in 2012 at the London Paralympics in wheelchair racing, and two more medals three years ago in Rio de Janeiro.
In an interview at the Paralympics in Rio, Vervoort described living with unbroken pain from an incurable, degenerative spinal disease. She talked of sleeping only 10 minutes some nights, described severe pain that caused others to pass out just watching her, and detailed how sport kept her alive.
The smug sorrows of those who lived to see the day are not enough. What is it that compels people to withhold best wishes to those who have chosen? Why should the blessing I hope for be the blessing you have chosen?

Blessings.

I wish you what you wish.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

serious H2O concerns

CAIRO (AP) — The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater for its large and growing population.
Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is around 70% complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people....
The Nile supplies more than 90% of Egypt’s freshwater. Egyptians already have one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 570 cubic meters per year, compared to a global average of 1,000. Ethiopians however have an average of 125 cubic meters per year.
**************************

A 120-year-old lighthouse has been put on wheels and rails to move it away from the North Sea, which has been eroding the coastline of north-western Denmark.
When the 23-metre (75ft) Rubjerg Knude lighthouse was first lit in 1900, it was roughly 200 metres from the coast; now it is about only six.

Call me an alarmist, but I hope my son's pistol is somewhere around this house.

Monday, October 21, 2019

"Spiderwoman"

Indonesia’s Aries Susanti Rahayu broke the women’s speed climbing world record

take an ax to the door

Like thin eddies slipping up a low-tide beach...

There's a house for sale across the street -- all spanky and yellow and inviting occupancy ...Hershel's house that for so long was a kind of French blue. Hershel was like a half-hewn log of a man. He had a bum leg from his time in the Korean War. He was loud and his apartment in the now-yellow house was stacked with books he read. Hershel wasn't quite right, but he never did me any harm.

Once Hershel missed his meds and went around in the night with an ax, chopping at the front doors of several other neighbors who for some reason offended him ...  millennial types who had never been to Korea and knew about Mozart. Hershel made mincemeat of several doors, but not mine and I was always sort of proud of myself that my door remained intact. They said Hershel was crazy, but hell, he just had ghosts, like the rest of us.

Dave Pottinger, another chum of the past, said that in Korea, the North Korean forces would steal into American lines in the night. No one ever heard them. The North Korean forces wore sneakers. You could tell from the foot prints. Sneaked into American lines and chopped off the heads of soldiers in the foxholes and snuck away. There was no noise: Maybe that was the worst of it. No heads, but no noise. Did Hershel and Dave see the same things? Did they bring with them the same ghosts? Dave wasn't as crazy as Hershel, but he had been to similar asylums. Silence ... headless silence.

If ghosts sneak in, there is no sneaking them out, I guess. A noiseless permanence. A violent, vile silence. No joke. Doors reduced to kindling in a carefully-coiffed neighborhood.. Who forgot to take his meds?

I wonder who will buy the now-spanky yellow house across the street.

Somebody hustled Hershel off to an old-age home. Or maybe he's dead. I miss him and I miss his ax, but the wispy, ghosty pride I once felt lingers.

Sometimes Mozart reminds me of it all.

House for sale: It's a two-family.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

mind-fucker du jour


What happens if your mind lives for ever on the internet?
It may be some way off, but mind uploading, the digital duplication of your mental essence, could expand human experience into a virtual afterlife
In the P. Lal translation of "The Dhammapada," the words are attributed to Gautama the Buddha:
All fear dying.
All fear death.
The fact that anyone might want to live, in whatever form, forever strikes me as a strong piece of evidence. Why would anyone even consider living forever, let alone take a shot at it? And ... is anyone likely to be any happier?

Still, talk about a mind-fucker.

Escape death????? Your aunt Fannie!

It's all enough to consider the gracious exit that might be provided by the barrel of a .38 placed beneath the chin.

mothers and fathers

The old doggerel asserts itself:
A daughter's a daughter
Until she's a wife.
A woman's a mother
The rest of her life.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no parallel aphorism for a father.

Or maybe, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" will do?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

dying is for the other guy

Pete Buttigieg's tragedy

Living as I do in a land that sometimes feels awash in self-satisfied sensitivities, it was a pleasure the other day to catch a TV snippet in which Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (how does he pronounce that name?), mayor of South Bend, Ind., responded to an interviewer whose sensitivities appeared to be over the top.

Sure, he worried about the trashmasher a gay man might face in a presidential race, but he also took time to care for others. "I grew up gay in Indiana," he said more or less. "I can take care of myself." But he worried for those (like his husband perhaps) who might be caught in the political blowback.

Buttigieg said no more about it, but his words lingered in my mind. This was a person of substance on my radar, a man who might be willing to say, "If I want you in my bedroom, I'll invite you." He doesn't say it but he doesn't back away from the issue either. Eyewash "transparency" and "caring" and "empathy" and "democracy" and "freedom" and unexamined "socialism" (yoo-hoo... Jesus was a socialist) could all take a hike where the issues of the day meant trouble for the country.

People get ignored. People get hurt. That's people!

Ignorance is no excuse.

Hurting afflicts one and all.

That's people, people.

Buttigieg will probably slide off the Democrat roster of those alleging they want to be president. But for the moment, I like the cut of an intelligent man's jib. Buttigieg's Texas-Hold-'Em delivery and presentation and intelligence appeals to me....

But no one cares much, I suppose. Donald Trump is busy getting impeached of late and the airwaves are full of the moment-to-moment revelations on that score.

In the long-ago-and-far-away, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, widow of solo pilot Charles Lindbergh, was asked in a TV interview how it felt to have her toddler son kidnapped in 1932. The interviewer had to ask the question. And Lindbergh, if I had to guess, knew it was coming. There was a long pause after the question was asked. And then Lindbergh responded

"I think everyone has suffered a tragedy."

And ain't that the truth? Everyone has suffered a tragedy and everyone has to move on. Homosexual, heterosexual, sensitive and insensitive alike -- everyone has suffered a tragedy, no matter how grievous the wails.

Pete Buttigieg struck me as having a handle on his own scrapes and bruises. Who knows if he has actually risen above the pains he may have suffered? But whether he has or hasn't, his candidacy does not seem to be laced with any smug whining.

There is serious stuff at hand. The earth is not flat. I am not the center of the universe. Idealism turns invariably towards dictatorship when given half a chance. Can it be avoided? Probably not.

Friday, October 18, 2019

eyes on the prize

If smoking were my worst habit, I reckon I'd be a genius. Everybody's got a tit one way or another and I've got mine ... and then some.

N-E-X-T.

Strange thought to be 69 years old and resolved into a scullery maid ... washing up the dishes from last night, putting away the clean plates and flat ware.

I thought I might not make it this morning (fatigue nuzzled and nudged), but, having started on the chore, I completed it and it was time for a cigarette. Keep your eyes on the prize.

"Eyes on the prize" -- how's that for a bad habit and a tasty tit?

Lord save me from my beliefs!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

arrogance near and far

Arrogance is an interesting commodity ... one of which I am all too capable.

Still, didja ever wonder about the New York Times -- a diminishing bulwark in the American journalistic world -- and the fact that to this very day, it still bears the quote of one of its scions ... on the front page .... every day:
"All the News
That's Fit to Print"
When I was growing up in the 1940's and imagined that newspapers were for grown-ups, the U.S.S.R. had somewhere between 10 and 13 time zones (depending on who was counting and how) and yet on any given day, the newspaper might run precisely NO stories about our storied enemy. None. Zero. Zilch. 200 plus-or-minus million population and not one story fit to print? 13 fucking time zones.

Adolph S. Ochs, the owner of the Times, coined the phrase in 1897 as a means of stating the impartiality of his product. It may ring tinny these days, but by 1897, European countries had gathered in Berlin (1885) to divvy up the colonial spoils of Africa. Where there were no boundaries, the countries drew the lines in ... straight lines that remain today as markers of colonial arrogance. It wouldn't do for gentlemen to squabble over the spoils.

The late 1800's and early 1900's were likewise the time when men might gather for cigars after dinner and chortle about the notion of a Mother's Day. What did women -- then often seen as chattel -- expect? Their job was to make and care for babies ... and move on. Vote? Forgetaboutit!

My mother once said that if women reporters were going to be dismissed as "news hens," shouldn't men reporters be known as "news cocks?" It was a time of men and cigars and slavery and ... arrogance.

But no one who's in the throes of arrogance -- liberal, conservative, whatever -- ever imagined his or her approach might be arrogant. Oh no ... my approach is caring and thoughtful and sensitive whereas yours ... well, I'm not so sure about that.

Takes me back to school days:
I love myself
I think I'm grand.
I go to the movies
And hold my hand.
I put my arm
Around my waist.
And when I'm fresh,
I slap my face.

"anti-Semitism" again

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017. First amendment advocates see the potential spread of such laws as a major threat to free speech on campuses. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Rightwing activists are attempting to spread new laws across Republican-controlled states that would ban criticism on public university campuses of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territory.
Lord knows the Guardian can be rightly accused of skepticism at a minimum when it comes to the burnished reputation Israel would like to maintain, but it's tiring in the U.S. seeing the word "anti-semitisim" repeatedly co-opted and used to mean anti-Jewish.

It's all a great diversion for corruption-draped Benjamin Netanyahu to sweep up support among American Jews who claim to remember a vile and violent Holocaust ... but ... well ... stay away from the kids ... stay away from thinking ... stay away from confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians in which Palestinians seem always to be armed with knives while the Israelis bring guns and shoot Palestinians dead: Hell, even the Chicago police aren't that brazen.

"Never again."

And yet the Israelis paint themselves into a corner when the very tactics that stained European streets in the 1930's now stain the streets of a hard-won homeland. Why must those who suggest there was a time when Arabs and Jews got along ... oh well, never mind.... Netanyahu's corruptions linger and linger and seek cover and seek cover.

"Never again" is one of those lines that fairly begs its hearers to ... well ... try it again.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

marathon run in under 2 hours

Eliud Kipchoge crosses the finish line in first-ever sub two-hour marathon.