Saturday, March 28, 2015

laying cinder blocks

Passed along in email was what, for me, was a heart-swelling bit of magic that I cannot imagine either the magician or many in the audience will swoon for as I did:

sick day

A sick day for me today.

My son says, "Let's be fashionable and call it Ebola."

criminal ingenuity

In the world of criminality, I suspect that the public perception (as on TV) is turned on its head: Whereas criminality is often portrayed as wily and inventive, I think the majority of crooks probably fall into the desperate-dope department.

True. the stock brokers and bankers have got ruses slick enough to quash and elude punishment from the politicians paid to make laws for stock brokers and bankers, but in the wide-screen panorama of crime, wile and guile are more rare than common. For every Bernard Madoff, there are myriad crooks who accidentally leave their driver's licenses at the scene of the crime.

But every once in a while the guile does seem to be true, as for example the case of Neil Moore, who was being held on remand in England, accused of taking almost two million pounds that were not his. Neil, according to a BBC story, apparently got tired of his time waiting behind bars and emailed documents to his jailers that convinced them to let him go on bail. After three days, the ruse was discovered and Moore surrendered, apparently without fuss.

Did he do it just to show that it could be done? I don't know, but the ingenuity appeals to me.

Friday, March 27, 2015

bright and noisy people

I've probably seen this before, but I saw it again today and thought it worth keeping:
Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright - until they open their mouths.

the wiles of the samurai?

 A frothy and not terribly interesting article from the BBC, "Get Lost in Japan's Ancient Samurai Town," includes without further elucidation this paragraph:
Then I recalled something Nagashima had said on the tour: “To defend Kanazawa, the Maeda clan encouraged the samurais to focus on arts and craftsmanship instead of fighting. That way they did not pose a threat to the clan with the highest power, and so were not invaded. As a result, there was actually almost no fighting in Kanazawa for 400 years.”
Of all the courage any warrior might display, is there anything greater than setting aside the passion of an elevated persuasion?

irascible goose

For the second day in a row, out the front door, I could hear but not see a group of Canada geese flying north in their springtime ritual. The clouds and rain may camouflage the flight, but the noise is somehow reassuring ... as long as they don't land on my lawn.

I wonder if there is another creature for which the word "irascible" is so well tailored. Geese strike me as unendingly cranky. And if they crap on your lawn ... well, ick, and not just "ick," but an arrogant, me-first "ick" that defies all critics: This is MY universe!

Still, as guardians of the keep, as watch dogs around many an ancient fortress, was there any more reliable alarm than a gaggle of geese? "Get the fuck out of my territory!" they would announce to all comers, foe and friend alike. Guard dogs might sleep, but not the geese.

At a distance and in their chorus, the passing geese smooth the cowlicks of my mind: "God's in heaven and all's right with the world." But up close and personal -- "Get thee behind me, Satan!"

Thursday, March 26, 2015

can you identify this medal?

Pictured blow are the front and back of a medal that was among my mother's effects. I assume, but don't know, that it belonged to my grandfather (my mother's father). He was a captain in World War I, though where he served in Europe I am not sure. I figure the medal -- if that's what it is -- is either English or French. Any help appreciated.


Perhaps to make up for a lifetime of not crying -- of internalizing any tears I might rightfully have shed -- now I seem to be learning to cry. And it doesn't take much.

Yesterday, a friend sent a video (appended to this blog) of a blindfolded brown, bearded man standing on a Stockholm sidewalk, arms open, with a sign at his feet proclaiming himself a Muslim who was willing to trust all passersby and asking if they would trust him. 142 people stopped and gave him a hug and a few warming words. And it made my eyes well up. I'm aware of the bad shit people can run on each other -- the cruelties and unkindnesses in the name of one philosophy or another -- and I suppose that filled-to-the-gills awareness was part of why I cried. How simple and how equally true of human beings ... overt kindness that loses its savor when anyone waxes poetic about it, but of itself is compelling and lovely.

President Nixon with troops
Earlier in the evening, I was watching a television program called "Democracy Now," a somewhat frumpy news source that digs into the disasters and responsibilities for them. Interviewed was Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh, who had written an article about revisiting My Lai 47 years after a squad of American soldiers entered the Vietnamese village and slaughtered nearly 500 women, children and the elderly in a wilding pursuit of the "body count" that was all the military rage at the time ... the more bodies, the more the Americans could measure their progress in a guerrilla war they were hard-put to quantify or, in the end, win.

And a single aspect of Hersh's horrific researched recollections was a single soldier who had been ordered to "take care of" a group of women and children. At the order of a lieutenant, the crowd was herded into a ditch and, as usual, the kids were playful and the GI's played too and gave them candy. When the lieutenant returned, he was angry and pointed out to one soldier that he had been ordered to "take care of" the residents, meaning, in mafia or CIA speak, to kill them. And on hearing the order, one soldier who had horsed around with the kids began to cry ... and followed orders.

Back in Kentucky, an old woman (the mother?) greeted Hersh when he came to visit one of the My Lai Americans. She said the vet Hersh was looking for was inside, minus one leg. Before Hersh entered the house, she whispered to him "I sent them a good boy and they sent me back a murderer."

It was too much for me and I began to cry.

Earlier still on TV was a television serial called "NCIS." The episode concerned several young Afghan women who were separated from their families in a bid to escape the violence of their land. And by the end, a mother-character who had not seen her daughter-character in so long, who had lived without knowing whether the flesh of her flesh was still alive, was reunited with her daughter. A fucking TV serial ... and I cried.

I'm not trying to make a federal or psychological-breakthrough case for crying. I'm just noticing it and thinking vaguely that the contorted stiff-upper-lip approach has its share of vast misfortunes.

Tears speak the unspeakable and the unspeakable is one of the few things worth knowing.

my mother's apartment

Of course it's a grisly, rainy day today -- yesterday I got my wife's car washed.

And today, in a great piece of generosity, my wife and older son took off in a U-Haul van, bound for New York and picking up those items in my mother's former apartment that we might wish to keep. The trip and effort are outside my energy bomb zone.

Just what we don't need around this house -- more stuff -- and yet there is some compulsion to find it needful or sentimentally desirable or perhaps financially advantageous ... and even if it is none of that, to cope with it. Paintings, photos, papers, a bit of jewelry, a television, two vacuum cleaners ... and various other knicks and knacks. The only things I find myself vaguely drawn to are things I see as "beautiful."

The bureaucratic necessities of my mother's death seem to spurt like blood from a severed artery -- not all at once, but pump-pump-pumping in accordance with a still-beating heart.

And so, besides the physical items in the apartment where my mother lived, yesterday there were the papers necessary to relinquish that apartment to the property owner, a job that required scanning and signatures and ... left me confused even as I got them out out the door in a form that I hope will meet the management company's satisfaction ... an email and a hard copy. I hate paperwork, probably because I feel somehow overwhelmed by its tendrils. There is some ancient-habit compunction to be socially adroit, which is something that requires an energy I dislike mustering.

And then, with luck so to speak, later today there will be all that stuff to find room for around an already-overstuffed house when my wife and son return. No doubt it too will settle in and collect dust and be part of the overcrowded panorama, but looking forward to it ... bleah.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015