Sunday, February 17, 2019

oops ... Chinese surveillance 'surveilled'

It sounds to me as if the Chinese may have a leg up on the United States when it comes to snooping its citizens' business. I'm not worried though: The U.S. is never likely to allow such a blot to remain on its surveillance escutcheon.
BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese surveillance firm is tracking the movements of more than 2.5 million people in the far-western Xinjiang region, according to a data leak flagged by a Dutch internet expert.
An online database containing names, ID card numbers, birth dates and location data was left unprotected for months by Shenzhen-based facial-recognition technology company SenseNets Technology Ltd, according to Victor Gevers, co-founder of non-profit organization GDI.Foundation, who first noted the vulnerability in a series of social media posts last week.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Florida is drowning

Florida is drowning. Condos are still being built. Can't humans see the writing on the wall?

Florida is sinking.

Builders continue to build.

Hope springs eternal ... right along with idiocy.

black cowboys


Thursday, February 14, 2019

is all thinking wishful thinking?

Is all thinking wishful thinking?
I think perhaps it is.

Put that together with your grandma's saying, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride," and maybe there is a foundation of sorts.

Just a little thinking.

guilty until proven innocent

Is it coming to a time when guilty-until-proven-innocent is slowly replacing the once sacrosanct (if fabulous) innocent-until-proven-guilty?

Lord knows the Catholic church and its child-sexual-abuse coverups (since way before 2012) deserve a long period of sunlight after years in the convenient, holy-roller shade.

But I wonder about the politicians and other power-brokers who have seemed immune to sexual assault charges ... but now decide to exit the stage at the first hint of accusation. Investigations take time. Accusations are a quick-hit.

Is a randy teen-ager the same as a grown man/woman? So many of the accusations seem to relate to times when idiots-R-us ruled the roost. This is not to say that damage is any the less as far as victims are concerned. But is now the time to initiate a flying-squad investigative unit to sort things out?

Perhaps the divide is just too ingrained:

"Guilty until proven innocent" relates to you.

But "innocent until proven guilty" is something I would prefer be applied to me.

absorbing the shock

I seldom watch TV news any longer. Instead, I scoop up bits of what the internet provides on the wire services. But yesterday, I was in couch-potato mode, feeling a bit off my feed, and turned on MSNBC. Three or four well-coiffed talking heads were parsing one thing and another. And, believe it or don't, I found myself somewhat shocked in an age when "shocked" is so passé. It had been so long since I watched regular TV.

When I was a kid, Saturday-matinee westerns made it clear that if one man called another a "liar," it was grounds for stepping onto Main Street to duel things out. On school grounds as well, lying was considered a major no-no, a no-no any man or woman might uphold if s/he wished to maintain his or her honor. No man or woman could abide the moniker. Calling someone else a liar was the gravest of insults...

And yet here, on MSNBC, there were three or four talking heads reaching millions of people, who, within the space of 20 or so minutes must have called the president of the United States a "liar" 15-20 times. No one blinked. No one shuddered. No one headed onto Main Street. 

Literally, they called him a "liar."

Is there another world leader who is so forthrightly assailed? I waited for it. Germany, England, France, hell, even Iran, which the U.S. and its cohort Israel (or is it the other way around?) can critique over and over again without taking much responsibility for its own actions/inactions ...?

A liar.

I waited for similar critiques of similar leaders. Those critiques were not forthcoming.

Donald Trump has put his brand on the U.S. the way a cattle rancher might brand a calf. His lies become my country's loss; his lies become my country's lies. I am complicit in Donald Trump's lies.

OK, I am lapsing into old-fartdom. Lying is no good. It shames the one lying and shames the one lied-to. But of course, this is no Saturday matinee ... except that it kind of is: Who is willing to draw what line where and then stick to it?

"Imagine that!" my mind burst out in shock as I watched MSNBC. "A liar." If there is nothing left to be shocked about, isn't it I who shows off his dwindling colors?

I hate the fact that Donald Trump is turning America into one gigantic shock absorber. He has re-election-hungry support, of course, but is one man's greed an excuse?

Oh well, I guess it's just another shock to absorb. "I was just following orders...." haven't we heard that line before? "Never again...." haven't we heard that line before?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Trump terrorism challenged

Lawyers for eight immigrant families separated under Trump administration policy have filed claims against the US government, demanding $6m each in damages for what they describe as “inexplicable cruelty” and lasting trauma.
In claims filed to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, released on Monday, the parents accuse immigration officers of taking their children away without giving them information, sometimes without even a chance to say goodbye.
Of all the heinous crimes that may be laid at Donald Trump's doorstep, the separation of Central American children from their mothers/families as a caravan heads north to the United States strikes me as most excruciating. A vile liar activates a vile lie and the United States is held hostage to those lies. Is this who the United States is -- turning away a crowd whose members may, but are seldom proven, to have criminals in their midst. The bottom line is purely visceral for me: How would I feel if someone of greater power took one or more of my children? Frankly, I would want to kill him/her/or it. Poor people often have little and are known to be devoted to their families ... and now this????? And the reasoning comes from a man who routinely fabricates facts and disseminates fictions. The same man who claims to be a good business man and yet paid over $200,000 as fallout from two sexual encounters?

Rabid dogs are frequently shot dead.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

the keys to the kingdom

The 97-year-old consort of the Queen of England has voluntarily surrendered his driver's license after an accident a on Jan. 17. As another old fart, I would like to have been a fly on the wall when the discussion was held and the prince handed over the keys. How 'voluntary' was it?

Can you imagine what it might have been like if Donald Trump had a similar accident? His eyesight is fine because he says it is fine and besides, he's God.

I can't imagine the prince was entirely happy about yet another reminder that, royal or common, faculties tend to wane, control is lost and, hélas, the clock unwinds for gods and men alike.

PS. It appears he was not wearing a seat belt either. Us old farts know that feeling.

backgrounder on blackface

Background on blackface [The Guardian]:
“America is a land of masking jokers,” the novelist Ralph Ellison wrote in 1958 in an essay on American identity. “We wear the mask for purposes of aggression as well as for defense, when we are projecting the future and preserving the past … the joke is at the center of the American identity.”
When white Americans dumped tea into the Boston Harbor, Ellison argues, they were wearing the costumes – the masks – of Native Americans; when white Americans wished to ease their discomfort with black Americans, they simply adopted blackness itself as a costume, a clown suit, attempting to at once crudely mimic African Americans through stereotypes and to create a caricature that could be easily laughed at and spoken down to. It was an act of both offense and defense: an attack through derision, and a kind of psychological defense against a deeply feared group. The entertainer in blackface – even when it was a black American forced to put on blackface makeup – “is [always] white”, Ellison noted.
At the height of its popularity in the late 19th century, seeing white performers adorned in coal-black makeup, woolly wigs and outlandishly red lips was one of the most beloved pastimes for white American families.
My now-dead friend William B. McKechnie III once told me that when his mother was little, the kids might go down to the local insane asylum and peek in at the crazy people and their crazy stuff. As ever, the habits of the past may seem antiquated and even cruel and yet there they are looking out of our very own mirrors. Blackface may make today's white man cringe, yet imagine how much worse than cringing the black man's burden was to bear.

sub-zero effects

Winter outdoor sports enthusiast Olesya Ushakova poses while throwing hot water into subzero air as she participates in the "Dubak Challenge", an intense cold challenge that is popular on social media in Russia, during sunset outside the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia February 8. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

Friday, February 8, 2019

Trump's slave laborers

At the same time that U.S. President Donald Trump thunders and berates for a border wall between Mexico and the United States (criminals, drugs, sex slavers and other undesirables are taking American space, don'tchaknow ... at the same time he vows to re-empower a working class whose work has been drifting away ... at the very same time ... construction workers are out of jobs that might pay $50 or more per hour, illegal Costa Rican immigrants laborers earning $8-$10 per hour have worked on President Donald Trump's golf course in New Jersey, according to the Washington Post.

The story needs editing -- or maybe my mind does -- but the smell of bullshit and hypocrisy and feudalism is overwhelming. What a disgusting little man.

How do people -- "the base" they keep being called -- keep loving a man who takes their jobs, impoverishes their families, undercuts their medical care and the best he can do is to call another raucous circle-jerk of adulation where everyone agrees to be angry or victimized ... though not by the man doing the victimizing.
A hat worn by a former worker at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster is displayed in a home in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

president's State of the Union speech

An 11-year-old boy called Joshua Trump who was invited by his presidential namesake to his State of the Union speech fell asleep and has been hailed as a hero of the anti-Trump resistance.
Joshua Trump, a middle-school student from Delaware, was invited to the delayed event by Melania Trump. He dropped out of school after being bullied because of his last name.
****

Poor photographers, working their asses off to get something serious out of a speech given by a man more known for lying and misrepresenting than anything else.
 



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

... turns into art

If you wait long enough, everything turns into art.

don't read the book, just skip to the last page

Well, we're probably all in hot water now with a new study that suggests women's brains are somewhat younger than male counterparts of the same age. Do I dare to quip, "and here I thought it was just better DNA that made them right"?
Women’s brains are nearly four years younger than men’s, at least in how they burn fuel, according to scans performed by US researchers.
Scientists found that healthy women have a “metabolic brain age” that is persistently younger than men’s of the same chronological age. The difference is apparent from early adulthood and remains into old age.
The finding suggests that changes in how the brain uses energy over a person’s lifetime proceed more gradually in women than they do in men. While researchers are unsure of the medical consequences, it may help explain why women tend to stay mentally sharp for longer.
Is someone bound to jump on that as "sexism" or some other no-no? I don't know, but in an era when allegation and conviction come increasingly closer before the evidence that once presumed innocence is entirely sorted out ...

You know, if one priest is a pedophile and other priests helped him to cover it up ... well, you know what priests are guilty of, right? And they did bring it on themselves, much like cops... pulling the goodness blanket protectively closer and closer to the ears.

And when governors quiver (Va.'s Ralph Northam is likely to quit over a photo in 1984 in which one of two men pictured wore black-face and one wore a KKK robe. He acknowledged/then denied being one of those men. Northam was born in 1959.) Now it seems that his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, is being dogged by sexual charges that relate to a time when he was younger. So the quarterback and backup quarterback are tarnished and like priests or presidents ... well, off to the conviction races! And for anyone who has been victimized, "it's about damned time!"

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the U.S. president, gears up for what is being billed as a conciliatory State of the Union address to Congress tonight. With as many lies as he has told in the past, are there still actually people who can believe this man? Answer, yes. Trump is not an honorable man, but he has trained the public to avert its eyes from anything resembling honor, decency or patriotism.

Shut 'em up. Wave the "guilty" wand. Everyone's lying except you and me and sometimes I'm not so sure about you.

taking the Google shaft?

OK ... I'm not sure what it all means, but it probably means I'm being sliced and diced according to Google, which, like, "Big Brother" is bound to know better than I do and will screw me as a means of underlining its point.

Following the announcement of Google+ API deprecation scheduled for March 2019, a number of changes will be made to Blogger’s Google+ integration on 4 February 2019.

Google+ widgets: Support for the “+1 Button”, “Google+ Followers” and “Google+ Badge” widgets in Layout will no longer be available. All instances of these widgets will be removed from your blog.

+1 buttons: The +1/G+ buttons and Google+ share links below blog posts and in the navigation bar will be removed.

Please note that if you have a custom template that includes Google+ features, you may need to update your template. Please contact your template supplier for advice.

Google+ Comments: Support for Google+ comments will be turned down, and all blogs using Google+ comments will be reverted back to using Blogger comments. Unfortunately, comments posted as Google+ comments cannot be migrated to Blogger and will no longer appear on your blog.

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Super Bowl

Yesterday's game between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams had a foregone conclusion (Pats 13, Rams 3) and all the excitement of flour and water. A defensive game. Millions and millions of dollars spent on advertising. Four or five guys parsing every inch and tactic and ... well, they had a job, I guess, and advertisers were happy.

If I don't write it down, I'll never remember who even played in the game, which is not their fault, but mine.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

my goodness ... whether you choke or not

Sometimes it confounds me that any of us lived long enough to learn how to tie our shoes. The blind spots of youth are just that staggering.

John Chau
Today, the Guardian has what appears to be a rewrite of a NYTimes story detailing the last days of John Chau, 26, who took it into his Christian-oriented mind to meet with the members of a tribe on a Pacific island in hopes of introducing them to the wonders of Jesus Christ... "the isolated Sentinelese people. The Sentinelese, hunter-gatherers who inhabit North Sentinel Island in the Andaman island chain, are considered one of the Earth’s last uncontacted peoples; their entire tribe is believed to number several dozen people." The Indian government had forbidden contact, but a Christian's mandate, among other things, is to spread the word.

And I have sympathy for this warrior for Christ -- his is the same mind set that used to find me sitting on the stoop of a New York Zen center, waiting for the doors to open for evening practice, wondering how all the rushing pedestrians could be passing by what I found so compelling -- spiritual life. Mine was just another bit of arrogant ignorance: If I've thought this through, how come you don't agree with me, see my point, and join my effort? It seldom if ever crossed my mind that it was I who was the odd man out -- the weirdo in a world of ordinary folks: I was right, right? I'm doing good so it must be good, right?

John Chau was apparently killed by those he planned to benefit with a dollop of God.

A good guy, no doubt, but an asshole ... just like me.

I guess everyone has to cross the mine fields of the narrow and upright. That the survival rate is as high as it is ranks as a marvel, I think. Christianity lines up as one of the more childish spiritual casts based on the order to go out and fight Satan. Not that Christianity is alone -- lots of persuasions say we-are-the-bestest-with-the-mostest -- but Christianity seems particularly given to treacle and a willingness to self-impute 'goodness.'

A smack upside-of-the-head is not always administered in cruelty.

dinner menu

Food. What a habit.

Last night, for "dinner," I had a little supermarket-cooked "rotisserie chicken," (tastes just like chicken, don'tcha know), a tablespoon of lukewarm rice that takes 90 seconds to heat up, two small seedless oranges and a teaspoon of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate morsels... Nestlé, the quality of whose chocolate seems to be following the downward chocolate spiral of Hershey, an American 'chocolate' provider whose offerings become less and less chocolate-y in a bid, I presume, for greater or equal profit.

I do love good chocolate, but it seems to be harder and harder to find outside the European brands. It may look like chocolate and I may wish it were chocolate, but it increasingly reaches the taste buds as some sort of filler.

Bleah.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

religion is a rich (wo)man's sport

The old saying, "idle hands are the devil's workshop" may not appear per se in the Christian Bible, but its roots appear to be there.

Idly, and without rancor, I wonder this morning if religion is not a rich (wo)man's sport, a way of addressing the vagaries of life and, coincidentally, finding a goldmine of adherents.

Money provides time in which to ponder and conjecture and weave a tale. As soon as the well-heeled open a mouth, those without money and education and perhaps handcuffed to a less-well-heeled station in life recognize their own need for explanation and understanding. And it's not just the irritation of the humanists we're talking about. Vagaries and change touch one and all.

Open a mouth and religion appears not so much for the thrall of it all but because "idle hands are the devil's workshop." If you have nothing better to do, well, how about religion? The well-to-do with their fuller stomachs have time and capacity to fashion a more 'know-able' world. Tell me a good story and I'm all ears,

The springboard for all this half-baked thinking was a picture I was sent of a man, Ben Higgins (1894-1981), who lived up in the hills around here -- in Chesterfield. My stepmother's longtime live-with, Bill Samaha, sent the picture along. Bill is a longtime antiques dealer who knows what makes and made quality items -- baskets like Ben Higgins'. "None of the kids care about the guy," Bill told me. But Bill cared. He cared for the old ways of making baskets. Higgins made his first basket when he was five, if Google is to be believed. Whether Ben Higgins believed in some god, I have no clue. But his hands, if I gauge correctly, were never idle. Life is mysterious enough without adding to the mystery. So Ben kept his tools in good repair and made baskets in ways that kids don't much care about, perhaps. Baskets take time; they take patience; they take skill; and perhaps, in an idle moment, they take God ... or not: Dealer's choice.

The photo Samaha sent along was -- according to Samaha -- by a snazzy west coast photographer I never heard of (C% Marceo Julin --- can't read it) who, like other photogs, took pictures of celebrities among others ... anyway I think it's the guy.) .... someone who probably kept his professional tools clean as well







Friday, February 1, 2019

early morning cold

The cold rests,
still and assured
as a cat.
The steam rises
from the hot coffee,
Frisky as a kitten,
Seeking the closeness
And attention
of its
mum.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

author, drug-trafficker pay their prices

Artistry, criminal and otherwise, has its prices, I guess:

Off the coast of Australia, author Behrouz Boochani has apparently been informed that his book "No Friend but the Mountains" had won both the non-fiction Victorian premier's literary award ($25,000) and the $100,000 Victorian prize for literature (same book)... top-drawer literary awards.

A Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker, Boochani could not collect his prizes because he is not allowed into Australia.

Meanwhile, in Spain,
A drug trafficker who managed to evade capture for 15 years by cutting and burning the skin of his fingertips and having it replaced with micro-implants has been arrested by Spanish police.... A police spokeswoman told the Guardian: “'He’d used very sophisticated methods to alter the fingerprints of both hands so that he couldn’t be identified. He used skin implants to change the shape of his prints so that the scars beneath couldn’t be detected. It was a very sophisticated, specialist process that took place over a number of years.'

weather patterns, I guess

-- Washington Post
A cold snap -- dutifully dubbed a "polar vortex" by numerous lock-step news media -- has gripped the upper Midwest in this country: Wind chills of -50 Fahrenheit, deaths attributed, schools and airports held in thrall. It's winter. It's cold.

In Mexico, the monarch butterfly migration from the north is said to be up 144% over last year. In Mexico, it's warm, winter or no winter.

Along the Mediterranean Sea coast where an Israeli power plant exhales warm water into the sea, unlikely sharks have teamed up as an apparent means of sustaining their diets that have been threatened by regional over-fishing.

Somewhere, somehow, something is always extreme and I no longer possess the muscle to ward it off. Somewhere, somehow, someone is willing to try to make things better. I just hope they can keep an eye on not making them worse.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

waning high school football?

For many decades, high school football has been a feelgood American institution. The sport provides pride and entertainment in small towns and big cities alike, inspires films like Varsity Blues and Friday Night Lights, and produces the next generation of stars in college football and the NFL.

Yet as fans prepare to gorge on beer and guacamole while watching the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, the sport is eroding at its roots.
In China, I once read, the grades of outstanding students were published and ballyhooed in local news media, while in the United States, football (not the soccer one) standings and hopes and pride were to be found on the sports pages.


Football participation has dropped among high school boys over the last five years
High school sports with most boys participating (w/ five-year % change)
2012-13
2017-18

0
200k
400k
600k
800k
1m
Football (-4.7)
Track & Field (3.3)
Basketball (2.4)
Baseball (2.6)
Soccer (11)
Cross country (8.4)
Wrestling (-9.1)
Tennis (0.6)
Golf (-5.6)
Swimming & diving (0.5)
Guardian Graphic | Source: National Federation of State High School Associations
There's too much money to be made, so football is unlikely to dissolve. There's too much pride/testosterone, so football is unlikely to dissolve. There's too little else, in many instances, for communities to rally around, so football is unlikely to dissolve.

Once upon a time the barrier-busting American black tennis player, Arthur Ashe, wowed 'em in the stands. Upon retirement, I once read, he traveled the country lecturing young black men about a life in sports as a means out of poverty: Ashe's argument was that there were a TOTAL of six thousand sports jobs in the country and the likelihood of landing one of them was slight ... so ... get an education.

Testosterone and prowess being what they are and kids being as they are ... well, I'm not holding my breath.

Education/prowess ... it's not easy to overcome long-standing male and female habits and swagger and strain and who's top-dog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

with words at a loss

I suppose I might have looked it up in some etiquette book, but I didn't: My sister/half-sister told me a day or two back that a cousin's (Bea's) daughter had died on breast cancer. I wanted to send a consolation card. Was there/is there a format? I have only tenuous links to the family/lineage of my clan, but such a blow seemed to me overwhelming ... a child who predates her parents in death ... it's breath-taking; a whirlwind; a howling that has no syllables. What does anyone say to such an event to a person most intimately involved ... it's, it's, it's ... poof!

I sent Bea a brief email with the thought that an email might more easily be deleted, forgotten, disposed of. Sympathizers always struck me as a bit self-involved -- as if the bereaved should comfort the comforter -- and I don't want to play that role. Yes, my first thought was of Bea and what a nice person I thought she was and how such a loss might howl.

And then I thought of a poem my younger son wrote when he was in fourth- or fifth- or sixth- or whatever grade. It seemed somehow appropriate, though I'm not sure how:
THE VERY BIG TREES

The very big trees
Are in my backyard.
I visit them every day
So they won't get lonely.
They give me shade
And keep me dry from rain.
I can climb them
And get delicious fruit --
The most delicious fruit.                 -- Ives Fisher
The most delicious fruit.

Love.

And amen.

the mysteries of the hagfish

A microscope image of a hagfish’s coiled slime thread (Courtesy of Douglas Fudge)
It's weird, it's mysterious and for all I know it is blatantly fake news, but a friend passed along this article about the hagfish ... and, well, it's weird/imaginative enough to draw my attention from top to bottom.
Hagfish produce slime the way humans produce opinions—readily, swiftly, defensively, and prodigiously. They slime when attacked or simply when stressed. On July 14, 2017, a truck full of hagfish overturned on an Oregon highway. The animals were destined for South Korea, where they are eaten as a delicacy, but instead, they were strewn across a stretch of Highway 101, covering the road (and at least one unfortunate car) in slime.
Typically, a hagfish will release less than a teaspoon of gunk from the 100 or so slime glands that line its flanks. And in less than half a second, that little amount will expand by 10,000 times—enough to fill a sizable bucket. Reach in, and every move of your hand will drag the water with it. “It doesn’t feel like much at first, as if a spider has built a web underwater,” says Douglas Fudge of Chapman University. But try to lift your hand out, and it’s as if the bucket’s contents are now attached to you.
It all seems to pose the question, "What do you actually know when you know it?"

Saturday, January 26, 2019

a pill for loneliness?

If there are pharmacological treatments for other social pains like depression and anxiety, why not loneliness?
The loneliness quotient of things like Facebook and other internet snares, has some searching out yet another pill.

PS.
The internet, while not officially recognized as an addictive substance, similarly hijacks the brain’s reward system by triggering the release of pleasure-inducing chemicals and is accessible from an early age...

Thursday, January 24, 2019

sky giblets

It has rained pretty much consistently today. Not big drops, but not small either. Just medium-sized blobs falling from above. Grey and grisly, in one sense. Nourishing in another.

"Sky giblets" comes to mind, though it hardly seems exact or fitting.

As kids, we learned how to gut out a chicken and -- bleah -- pluck the damned thing. Dunk the carcass in a vat of boiling paraffin and water and then pluck-pluck-pluck. Carefully cut the gizzard so as not to make a mess of the stones within. No one wore sanitizing or sanitized gloves.

It tasted OK on the plate later, you had to admit.

camel wrestling in Turkey

In this Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019 photo, camels bearing elaborately decorated saddles, wrestle during Turkey's largest camel wrestling festival in the Aegean town of Selcuk, Turkey. While smaller festivals are held across the country during the winter months _ traditionally camel mating season _ the one in Selcuk, just a few miles from the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, is the largest and most prestigious. This year's instalment of the competition brought together some 120 camels and their proud owners. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

coals of the past

Perhaps it is true -- the nearer the end, the more glowing the beginning?

It began the other day when, at 79, the word "bounder" popped into my mind. "Bounder" is a word I have admired and one, in more genteel times, I might have applied to the current president of the United States, Donald Trump.

A bounder was a loud-mouth whose bourgeois shenanigans had brought him or her to a wealth that a fraying European aristocracy might envy and attach its hopes of shoring up a dwindling capacity. "Bounders" were a crass but well-heeled constituency who might pay the grounds keepers and maintain the lacy style in which the lords and ladies had learned to live. Bounders were not terribly couth, but they had the wherewithal to prop up the six or seven silver forks on the dining room table. Bounders were not terribly well washed. But marry a bounder and the peacocks might continue to roam the grounds.

And yet the word "bounder" came with a slight smile on the face in more genteel times... the well-intentioned klutz, perhaps. Donald Trump does not occasion such a smile. He flaunts his unwashed ears and makes the lords and ladies go "eek! -- how much did you say?" Consider the lack of smile within just some of Merriam Webster's synonyms  for "bounder:"

bastard, beast, bleeder [British], blighter [chiefly British], boor, bugger, buzzard, cad, chuff, churl, clown, creep, cretin, crud [slang], crumb [slang], cur, dog, fink, heel, hound, jerk, joker, louse, lout, pill, rat, rat fink, reptile, rotter, schmuck [slang], scum, scumbag [slang], scuzzball, skunk, sleaze, sleazebag [slang], slime, slob, snake, so-and-so, sod [chiefly British], stinkard,  stinker, swine, toad, varmint, vermin
Lordy.

The upper crust cannot in many instances do without the input of bounders and yet they will go kicking a screaming in their reference books. Appearances must be maintained. Bring on the "bounders."

And still I like the word "bounder" as the end nears and the beginnings assert themselves. Chalk it up to my wussy mode. Donald Trump may not qualify as a bounder (though there was that moment during his September 2018 U.N. speech when someone saw fit to laugh at his braggadocio) with a smile, but in another time and place, an exceptionalist laird or lady might smile indulgently while accepting the cash provided by a "bounder." And there was the trenchant observation passed along in email a while back:


It was from the word "bounder" that I found myself slip-sliding into the fact that I know how to read and write and to wonder why I so seldom take that as anything other than a 'given.' What might my life be like without reading and writing? Who died and left me king?

What might it be like to be unable to read and write ... seriously. I ask this in a writing many around the world cannot ingest or digest or make hay with. Imagine that. Pretty arrogant from one point of view. No reading or writing and I become what so many have become -- chattel. You can kind of see why despots fear education ... a la Donald Trump, for example.

The embers of beginning/past inform the flames of a present. I learned how to read and write and now take it as a 'given.' I smile at the word "bounder" because I learned to read and write, but would I smile if I did not know how to read and write?

The embers glow. The flames leap. Slavery is not a pleasant notion, with or without the accoutrements of the manor.

I guess I just like the word "bounder" because it has a frisky lilt even as its fallout is far from being some frisky put-down.

Did I have a point when I started to write this? I think I did, but I can't remember what it was.

Imagine that there were no reading or writing in the daily mix.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

out of the blue

The other day, I received one of those out-of-the-blue emails from a woman on the Pacific coast. It had to do with the fact that this woman had once taken a class at Smith College with my father, a teacher of Shakespeare.

In this day and age, if I had been one of my kids, I suppose I might have searched the internet for some background on the woman, but that was not my first reaction. I like the magic of individuals coming into contact and then feeling the relationship burgeon. Only later did I look this woman up and find that she was a writer. And somehow, because I learned more about her, I knew less.

My kids might have gone immediately to the internet and its details that seemed to tell the tale and yet left the tale untold: Why had I received this email? What was the impetus? What magic had been aroused and why?

It's always an unsure thing, these blind emails. What is it that moves a person to take the time? How crazy -- if at all -- is s/he? The internet, which can assert its capacity to bring people closer together, is more given to increasing the spaces between them. What could I give in return to this out-of-the-blue magic ... and was it wise to do so?

I like the contact and yet am unsure how to respond adequately or appropriately.

Ah well, perhaps the whole thing will drop off the edge of some flat earth -- disappear into some change-of-heart silence that will remain silent.

My kids rely on the internet. And on occasion, I too am wooed to the smiles that are shadows of the Real McCoy. I'm a fan of an honest, face-to-face smile, relationships reaching out like some ravenous honeysuckle vine. The internet cannot provide that so....

I guess whatever I am trying to say here will be consigned, as elsewhere, to the basket marked "patience."