Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"nucular," "axsed," "jagwires"

 
"Nucular" (used in place of "nuclear"), "axsed" (to replace "asked") and "jagwires" (instead of "jaguars") are three malapropisms that leave me unable to see how anyone ever got from the actual word to its popular, limping cousin. "More importantly" I can sort of comprehend as sounding cooler (and more adverbial dontcha know?) than "more important."

When I was a kid, advertisements on the backs of comic books -- besides being for Charles Atlas muscle-building and Red Ryder B-B guns -- included a book that would improve your vocabulary: "Use a word ten times in a day and it is yours," the ad suggested ... which in turn suggested that an improved vocabulary might contribute to a more august lifestyle.

In ninth-grade high school, one guy in the clan I hung out with, took a test and was found to have the vocabulary of a 35-year-old business man. We in the clan were all pretty wowed, but nonetheless felt a lingering sympathy for Tony, whose sole, burning, and almost single-minded desire was to get laid. Getting laid was an uphill chore since we all attended an all-male high school and Tony was not gay. (Yes, he eventually managed it.)

Mideast drones in Kansas

Combat has its particulars. A view. A target. A pulling of the trigger. It is nice, every once in a while, to slow down a bit and consider those real-time particulars. Some of those particulars, as in the middle of Kansas, require that the participating unit have a chaplain to ease the long-distance dis-ease felt by a unit paid to run the U.S. drones in the Middle East.

Who is the enemy and who thought this stuff up? And, once having thought it up, who presses forward into action that will take human lives. Is there a war without "collateral damage?" Is there really a reason or reasoning? If everyone is cheering, who will find the man or woman in tears? Seriously.

Anyway, this Guardian article, while a bit thin, is a story about particulars. The intoxicating marvel of machines is that they are perfect. The intoxicating marvel of human beings is that they are not.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

sex and the married chef

With politicians and other celebrity power players falling left and right in the United States in the wake of alleged abusive sexual behavior in the past, it is interesting to see how the Associated Press greeted the demise of Paul Bocuse, 91, "the pope of French cuisine."

American media's sexual feeding frenzy is, of late, palpable in its outrage and anguish. Hell, even the pope is in hot water. Evidence is credible, no matter how old. These are guys who deserve to have their feet held to the fire, although why Washington and Hollywood and sports venues and cathedrals cannot simply open a couple of upscale brothels (for men and women?) beats the socks off me: Monogamy has some good points, but failure to reconsider it is a bridge too far.

Anyway, here is the AP in its obituarial tiptoe through the tulips:
While Bocuse’s kitchens were meticulously in order, his personal life was on the unorthodox side. He acknowledged in a 2005 biography that he had been quietly sharing his life with three women — simultaneously — each with a pivotal role in his life.
“I think cuisine and sex have lots of common points,” Bocuse said before publication of “Paul Bocuse: The Sacred Fire.” “Even if it seems a bit macho, I love women.”
Was he lying or simply excusing his faults? Did he love women or simply love himself? Were his faults out of line with life? Was he mean and manipulative with his conquests? I don't know, but I do know that I think AP skirted an issue about which it might have been in full cry on this side of the pond.

I have to admit that I like this guy because his favorite ingredient -- contrary to my sincere and well-meaning doctors -- was said to be butter. When he was alive, my father once told me that his idea of a gastronomical treat was eating a stick of butter. Is there anything more inviting than something with the potential to kill you?

silly du jour

A silly received in email ... may lighten your load as it lightened mine:
I do not understand why prescription medicine is allowed to advertise on TV or why anyone would think of trying one of the medicines after listening to the laundry list of warnings of possible side effects.

But this is definitely an exception!
Do you have feelings of inadequacy?
Do you suffer from shyness?
Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?
Do you sometimes feel stressed?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident. It can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you are ready and willing to do just about anything.

You will notice the benefits of Cabernet Sauvignon almost immediately, and, with a regimen of regular doses, you will overcome obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past. You will discover talents you never knew you had..

Cabernet Sauvignon may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use it but women who would not mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include:
dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration, loss of motor control, loss of clothing, loss of money, delusions of grandeur, table dancing, headache, dehydration, dry mouth and a desire to sing Karaoke and play all-night Strip Poker, Truth Or Dare and Naked Twister.

Warnings:
The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may make you think you are whispering when you are not.

The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may cause you to tell  your friends over and over again that you love them.

The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may cause you to think  you can sing.

The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may create  the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster and better looking than most people.

Please feel free to share this important medical information!

LIFE IS A CABERNET OLD CHUM”!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Greeks tamp down smoking habit

Oh lord, another reason to feel 'left behind!'

In Greece, the rate of nicotine consumption -- smokers, in other words -- has plummeted. Addiction, like misery, loves company, and I am not exempt!
In [Greek] hospitals nationwide doctors think nothing of lighting up, in parliament MPs unabashedly puff away while police stations, invariably, are manned by officers with cigarette in hand. An attempt to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces has been merrily flouted from the day it was announced at the start of Greece’s economic crisis in late 2009. Such was the innate anti-authoritarianism of their customers, bar and restaurant owners declared they were simply putting ashtrays back on tables.
But if role models are in short supply in a country where even the health minister is prone to light up, recent studies have also shown a dramatic shift in attitudes towards tobacco. This month, Behrakis announced, the number of smokers had dropped 9.6 percentage points over the past five years. In 2012, his last survey, 36.7% of Greeks said they were either regular or casual smokers. In 2017 the figure had fallen to 27.1%.
Sometimes I do wish others would stamp out the desire to improve things. On the other hand, it is exceptions that burnish all rules.

pundits of yore?

For some reason, the ponderous pundits of the past rise up in my mind this morning. It is hard to remember the pre-internet days when the likes of Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, William F. Buckley Jr., or Eric Sevareid might deliver, with self-assured languor, not only the tableau of one national or world story, but also add a distinct sense that since these men believed in themselves, the viewer would be profoundly remiss if s/he failed to agree with that belief. Their deliveries all had a bit of Mount Rushmore about them. Mind you, this was in a day when television was just getting its majority footing around the country. It was a time when there were social and cultural connectives and starry-eyed kids were still told they could "grow up to be president."

Those seeking a taste of those earlier days can sample George Will in the Washington Post or elsewhere. How that man keeps from strangling on his own profundity beats the socks off of me.

Anyway, I always had the feeling that such men in the old days did not really care about the facts as much as they cared about their own ornate digestion -- rather than the viewer's -- of those facts. Yes, they were commentators, but there was always a soupçon of something extra, some egotistical little cowlick. Of course it was all sotto voce -- just a comfortable (or was it comforting?) presumption and assumption of power that should be allowed to spearhead a clear and uncluttered understanding of a situation. Upscale education, upscale intellect, upscale credibility ... and you were an idiot if you did not see it that way. Issues were not so much the issue. Or maybe I am just looking in the mirror.

I kind of miss what I always thought of somehow as arrogant assholes. Nowadays, the posturing has got the best of us and nothing is any longer educated. Everyone wants to be on Mount Rushmore. Demonstrable credentials need not apply. Facts, of course, are still given a seat in the nose-bleed section. And you have to ask now, as then, can thinkers actually think? True, there is showing off and showing off, but the veneer between clap-trap and well-dressed is thinner.

God bless the fucking internet: Not only are the facts not enough or worth digging into, now the deliverers beg for attention and beg and beg and beg until ... Wait! What were we talking about? Something about mountains, wasn't it? Mount Rushmore here I come. Have you noticed -- see pic above -- that they saved a place for me?

Friday, January 19, 2018

where the obscenely rich frolic

Last weekend the vicar of Freie Evangelische Gemeinde, the “English church” in the centre of the Swiss town of Davos was handing out the sacrament.
This Sunday holy communion is cancelled, because the church is one of more than a dozen Davos buildings that have been rented out to multinational companies for hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs during the World Economic Forum, the annual business “festival” which starts next week.
As more than 70 world leaders – including President Donald Trump, Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron – prepare to fly to Davos, the locals are packing up and leaving town

influenza echo

A hundred years after the Spanish Flu infected an estimated 500 million worldwide and killed between 50 and 100 million, the latest yearly bout of flu appears to be picking up steam.
NEW YORK (AP) — The flu season in the U.S. is getting worse.
Health officials last week said flu was blanketing the country but they thought there was a good chance the season was already peaking. But the newest numbers out Friday show it grew even more intense.
“This is a season that has a lot more steam than we thought,” said Dr. Dan Jernigan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One measure of the season is how many doctor or hospital visits are because of a high fever, cough and other flu symptoms. Thirty-two states reported high patient traffic last week, up from 26 the previous week. Overall, it was the busiest week for flu symptoms in nine years.
The 1918 flu epidemic killed my mother's mother. It also posed a conundrum for the U.S. government which was sending soldiers to fight in World War I by the only means they had ... closely-packed troop ships in which the chances of contracting the disease rose. For this reason, I think I remember reading, news about the pandemic was kept on the public down-low. The internet was not yet a twinkle in its daddy's eye.

LATimes newsroom unionized


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Times journalists have voted to unionize for the first time in the paper’s 136-year history.
The National Labor Relations Board on Friday announced results of a Jan. 4 newsroom vote.
Reporters, copy editors and other workers voted 248 to 44 for representation by NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America....
The Times vote followed rising discontent with working conditions as the paper slashed jobs and struggled with declining advertising revenues and falling circulation in the face of online competition.The Times vote followed rising discontent with working conditions as the paper slashed jobs and struggled with declining advertising revenues and falling circulation in the face of online competition.
Did I hear someone saying something about shutting the barn door after the livestock ran off?

the slavery of freedom?

Of all the things to fear in this life, I sometimes wonder if freedom doesn't top the list. Here is a Guardian article (yes, it takes time to read) that tickles and teases around the notion of a world without jobs.

Even if the lefties say so, still, there is something redolent and accurate about imagining a world more infused with freedom to do what you want with your 'free' time.

playing the game

And in the world of staking-out-a-position ... sort-of:

Donald Trump may love pissing on Pakistan as a safe-haven for 'terrorists.' He may cut off aid. And then, too, he may learn to genuflect to the nuclear-tipped neighbor of Afghanistan, the home of America's longest war.
-- WASHINGTON (AP) — As bad as President Donald Trump describes U.S.-Pakistani ties today, they can get far worse.
Over 16 years that included hundreds of deadly U.S. drone strikes, Osama bin Laden’s killing on Pakistani soil and accusations Pakistan helps insurgents that kill Americans, the reluctant allies never reached one point of no return: Pakistan closing the air routes to Afghanistan.
It’s an action that could all but cripple the U.S.-backed military fight against the Taliban. It could also be tantamount to Pakistan going to war with the United States.
Even if such a step is seen as unlikely by most officials and observers, Pakistan’s ability to shape the destiny of America’s longest war is a reminder of how much leverage the country maintains at a time Trump is suspending hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance.
In Thailand, a million-dollar collection of expensive watches has (in the public eye) put the lie to the ruling generals' promise five years ago to root out corruption.
-- BANGKOK (AP) — Entering their fifth year in power, Thailand’s ruling generals may be running out of time and it’s not for a lack of watches.
A growing uproar over the deputy prime minister’s mind-boggling array of luxury timepieces is damaging the military government’s image so badly that some observers believe it could eventually pave the way for its downfall.
Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan — a career military man who receives only a modest salary — has so far been spotted wearing a total of 25 opulent time pieces, none of which appears on his last declaration of assets. His belated explanation — that he borrowed them from friends — has been met with ridicule.
In Chile, the Roman Catholic Pope Francis hit a serious speed bump Thursday in his efforts to heal if not quell public outrage about the priestly pedophile scandal. Speaking as he left the South American country, the pope said that short of concrete evidence, he would view accusations against priestly offenders as "calumny."
-- SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.
Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”
The pope’s remarks drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn’t lacking.
In doing this, the pope touched on one of the core difficulties of sexual abuse as it occurred in the past: The testimony is credible, but the case boils down to he-said-s/he-said. There are competing desires to punish the guilty and to adhere to a policy of innocent-until-proven-guilty. In this arena, volume is wont to replace facts. On the other hand, facts -- even circumstantial or uncorroborated ones -- be damned... sexual blackmail is a calumny that should not be brooked. Everyone takes a stand, frequently without folding in the fact that that stand is a choice for which the chooser is willing to take responsibility.

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest corporation in the world. You might think it could afford a little humility. But that's just my stand. Laying claim to a good name while indulging in bad acts -- it's a great game, but it won't wash forever.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Reuters photos ...learning from Gandhi?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spins cotton on a wheel as his wife Sara looks on during their visit to Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A Palestinian girl looks through a plastic sheet as raindrops are seen, outside her family's house in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
A crocodile that has had a motorcycle tyre arouund its neck for at least 2 years, sunbaths on a beach in Palu City, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Antara Foto/Mohamad Hamzah/ via REUTERS    
A murmuration of migrating starlings is seen across the sky near the village of Beit Kama in southern Israel. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

calling all hackers!

Hacking into and disrupting various internet data bases may give hackers a wonderful buzz, but it makes the rest of us nervous. It's a "privacy" issue, we whine as we proceed to reveal even more about ourselves on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like.

But here is a modest proposal to those fleet-fingered hackers:

Pick a day in the future -- sometime in the summer, perhaps -- hack into Twitter and Facebook et al. and shut down every or any reference to U.S. President Donald Trump. For just ONE DAY, block all transmissions as one might block transmissions from Islamic State or other so-called terrorist organizations.

All praise, all criticism, all parsing, all offense and defense, all news and fake news, all senders and receivers, assertions and counter-assertions ... anything that references Trump ... just...

SHUT IT DOWN.

FOR ONE DAY.

Patriotism is not just for the patriotic.

Yes, I can hear the First-Amendment yowls, but that doesn't mean I can't dream.

Trump mental acuity test

Passed along in email was this -- what I am assuming was the actual mental acuity test that U.S. President Donald Trump passed with flying colors.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

and, in the fake "fake news" ...

News -- maybe it ought to be dubbed "fake" but it seems to be true... maybe it should be dubbed fake fake news ... hell, I dunno:
-- President Donald Trump asked that a cognitive test be included as part of his first physical exam.
Trump’s physician — Navy doctor Ronny Jackson — says the president achieved a perfect score on the test, which was included in last Friday’s medical checkup....
The doctor says he’s found “no reason whatsoever” to think the president has any issues with his thought process.
Have I misremembered or is Donald Trump Dr. Jackson's boss?

And, in the fuck-the-poor department:
-- WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Tuesday cut tens of millions of dollars in money for Palestinian refugees, demanding that the U.N. agency responsible for the programs undertake a “fundamental re-examination,” the State Department said.
In a letter, the State Department notified the U.N. Relief and Works Agency that the U.S. is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment. The letter also makes clear that additional U.S. donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticized by Israel.
-- NEW YORK (AP) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has decided to reconsider a key set of rules enacted last year that would have protected consumers against harmful payday lenders.
The bureau, which came under control of the Trump administration late last year, said in a statement Tuesday that it plans to take a second look at the payday lending rules. While the bureau did not submit a proposal to repeal the rules outright, the statement opens the door for the bureau to start the process of revising or even repealing the regulations. The bureau also said it would grant waivers to companies as the first sets of regulations going into effect later this year.
The cornerstone of the rules enacted last year would have been that lenders must determine, before giving a loan, whether a borrower can afford to repay it in full with interest within 30 days. The rules would have also capped the number of loans a person could take out in a certain period of time.
If allowed to go into effect, the rule would have had a substantial negative impact on the payday lending industry, where annual interest rates on loans can exceed 300 percent.
-- Is Donald Trump the most corrupt president in American history? We may not be able to give him that title quite yet — after all, he’s only been president for a year. But he sure is working hard at it.

another nuclear oops

Japan’s public broadcaster mistakenly sent an alert warning citizens about a North Korean missile launch and urging them to seek immediate shelter, then retracted it minutes later – days after a similar error occurred in Hawaii.
NHK television issued the message on Tuesday on its news websites as well as on Twitter, saying North Korea appeared to have fired a missile at Japan. It said the government was telling people to take shelter.
Wasn't there once a song that included "killing me softly with his song?" Or, more relevant perhaps, another song titled "boom, boom ain't it great to be crazy?"

Trump's health sort of

WASHINGTON (AP) — A fuller readout of President Donald Trump’s health following his first medical check-up is expected later Tuesday.
Trump’s White House physician - Navy doctor Ronny Jackson - declared Trump to be in “excellent health” following last Friday’s exam at the Walter Reed military hospital in Maryland.
While waiting for a report that is unlikely to suggest anything negative, there were the following satirical observations (passed along in email) from the president's sister:
Trump’s older sister is not happy about the behavior of her little brother, the President of the United States.
Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald Trump’s older sister and a United States Circuit Judge, told reporters over the weekend, “Donnie’s not acting right. ”
The 80-year-old also says she believes that President Trump might be forgetting to take his pills.
“I don’t recognize the Donnie who’s in the White House right now,” added Judge Trump Barry, who friends describe as very loyal to her younger brother.
“Donnie was never a smart boy, no matter what he tells you. In fact, the neighborhood kids used to call him ‘Donnie Dimwit.’ But recently he seems to be operating at an even lower IQ, and that’s not good for the country.... He acts like a hooligan, but it’s a cover-up — he’s really insecure and very tender underneath that stern facade. Frankly, I always thought he was gay."
Interesting that so much well-crafted imagination has to substitute for nail-'em-to-the-journalistic-wall reporting. Increasingly, the wet dreams that anti-Trump advocates harbor are the best anyone can seem to muster. Ho-hum, he's a liar -- so what else is new? Line after presidential line is crossed, but, well, the upshot is that there are no lines anyone is willing to or capable of drawing.

Monday, January 15, 2018

preserve the "gormless"

Hangin' around wondering if some connection might be made between a woman who is pregnant-out-to-here and is sometimes said to be "expecting" and the arguably youthful person who "died unexpectedly" the other day. Both have expected for whatever reasons. Both, in most cases, get fooled. So much for "expectations" great and small.

For whatever reasons as well, that thought thread led me to the word "gormless," a word I admire for no particular reason ... except, perhaps, if I were angry at someone and wanted to hurl an epithet, "gormless" has a great, insulting ring to it. A veritable pillar of a sound ... sort of like, "shit!"

But I wanted to check my footing and so offered "gormless" to Google for clarification and clarity purposes: Was it really a good epithet? Ahhhh, yes. It was. How nice to reestablish a friendly link!

But, wait....

There, spliced into Google's offerings was this comment: "According to merriam-webster.com, "gormless" does indeed mean "lacking in gorm", which was originally the middle-English word "gaum" or "gome", meaning "understanding, or attention". I would have to say that "gorm" as its own word has fallen out of the modern lexicon, though, and is not at all likely to be understood. Dec 30, 2010."(emphasis added)

What?! Not at all likely to be understood? Is everyone out there as gormless as I? This simply will not do and I implore all self-respecting readers to use this word at least ten times a day in the upcoming month.

You think I'm kidding?

Gormless twit!

some journalistic warp and weft

I'm not sure that "consoling" is exactly the right word to apply to the Russian military drills announced Monday. But the rocket exercises seem to "fit" with this morning's and other recent news.
-- MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian military is conducting massive drills involving truck-mounted intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.
The Defense Ministry said maneuvers involving Topol-M and Yars missile launchers began Monday.... 
The maneuvers are the latest in a steady series of Russian military drills. Russia's armed forces have intensified their combat training amid tensions with NATO over Ukraine.
 Meanwhile:
-- ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Monday he was really afraid about the danger of nuclear war and that the world now stood at “the very limit”.
His comment, made as he flew off for a visit to Chile and Peru, came after Hawaii issued a false missile alert that provoked panic in the U.S. state and highlighted the risk of possible unintended nuclear war with North Korea.
Asked if he was worried about the possibility of nuclear war, Pope Francis said: “I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things."
 -- BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Japan's prime minister says his country is seeking to strengthen relations with Serbia and other Balkan countries....
Abe also said North Korea is "a great danger" and noted that its missiles have the capacity to reach Belgrade. 

-- JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli leaders slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Monday for a fiery, invective-filled speech against President Donald Trump, in which he proclaimed the U.S. role as arbiter of the Mideast conflict over, attacked the administration's envoys and described Israel as a colonial conspiracy.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Abbas had "lost his senses" and had given up on the prospect of peace negotiations in favor of open confrontation with both Israel and the United States. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Jewish Home Party, said the speech represented Abbas' swan song.
-- Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has accused the US of forming a “terror army”, after Washington announced plans for a 30,000-strong force inside Syria to protect territory held by its mainly Kurdish allies.
On Sunday, the US-led coalition said it was working with its Syrian militia allies, the mainly Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to set up the new border force.
 -- Ending one of the fiercest jetliner-order competitions in recent memory, British budget carrier easyJet will buy jetliners from Europe's Airbus instead of adding to a fleet that now consists entirely of planes made by U.S.'s Boeing Co. [a military hardware provider]
-- WASHINGTON, January 8  - The Trump administration is nearing completion of a new "Buy American" plan that calls for US military attaches and diplomats to help drum up billions of dollars more in business overseas for the American weapons industry, going beyond the assistance they currently provide, US officials said.
President Donald Trump as early as February is expected to announce a "whole of government" effort to ease export rules on purchases by foreign countries of US-made military equipment, from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery, according to people familiar with the plan.
If you can't convince 'em, then scare 'em: The "terrorism" is not within: It's out there, waiting to pounce. And Bernie Sanders shouts into the wind ...   yes, I know that at least he's shouting:
If we stand together against powerful special interests we can eliminate poverty, increase life expectancy and tackle climate change.
Right, and if pigs had wings, I'd be able to find my American flag lapel pin. I'm so sick of being sick of stuff. Maybe I've just turned into the arch-typical Trump enthusiast.

newest Trump acquisition?

Am I wrong to imagine that the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai might provide Donald Trump with a perfect addition to his branded properties?
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Ritz Carlton in Saudi Arabia’s capital may be reopening its doors in time for Valentine’s Day, after serving for several months as a prison for the country’s elite caught up in what the government has described as a crackdown on corruption.
The Ritz Carlton’s website on Monday showed bookings available beginning Feb. 14.
The motto "Lock 'em Up in Style" comes to mind. Or "Hooker International?" Or maybe there could be a naming contest.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

joy and perfection

Is there a difference between joy and perfection? I think perhaps there is.

Joy subsumes and includes failure.

Perfection cannot match that success.

Trump-thumping

Passed along in email:

1. "The word “shithole” was projected onto President Trump’s D.C. hotel Saturday."

2.
(CNN) President Donald Trump is "in excellent health," White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, said following his physical Friday. But it's not clear whether any mental health tests were conducted, despite urging from mental health professionals.
Jackson received an urgent letter from dozens of doctors and health professionals Thursday urging him to perform basic mental health tests on the President.

nuclear tactics

The scare-'em-to-death tactics of those who have no policy for peace was ratcheted up in Hawaii Saturday when, for about 40 minutes, thousands were advised that there was a nuclear missile bound from North Korea to their land of milk and honey and hula skirts.
For nearly 40 minutes people waited. Then came the second mobile alert: someone hit the wrong button, there was no missile.
Some people abandoned cars on the highway and others gathered in the interiors of their homes to wait for what seemed like the inevitable, a blast that would cause widespread death and destruction.
The message sent statewide just after 8 a.m. Saturday read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s administrator, Vern Miyagi, said he took responsibility for the mistake. He said officials would study the error to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Obviously, it was enough to scare the pee down the pope's leg. Panic was understandable: Where could anyone hide and be safe and save the children and save themselves and ... well ... survive? Strangely, as in the past, no one seemed to care about the results awaiting anyone who actually did survive. Is survival actually something someone might wish for? Seriously, is it?

John Hershey's "Hiroshima," which was published in 1946, makes it clear that those who survived the nuclear bomb dropped there in 1945 were consigned to a world of ravaged anguish. Flesh slipped from bones; radiation's fallout was gruesome ... the list of awful consequences made it clear that a quick incineration might have been preferable. But no one mentions that stuff -- the hell of the heaven of survival. Wishing to survive may be a natural human instinct, but that doesn't mean survival is the best possible outcome.

The U.S. capitalized on the Cold War fears of nuclear attack:
Beginning in 1954, the entire nation took part in an annual defense drill called “Operation Alert.” For the first exercise, on June 14, 1954, the FCDA pretended that nuclear bombs had hit about 100 American cities....
During the drill, everyone was supposed to get off the street and find shelter while government officials and volunteers practiced what their duties would be in an actual attack scenario.
I remember participating in one such defense drill (late 1950's or early 1960's?) in New York. While everyone headed for his or her designated shelter during the drill, I sat outside on the steps at Columbia University and considered what it might be like if a bomb actually hit New York, if it decimated the skyscrapers that were everywhere, if the resulting rubble might not entomb those who had fled to safety in subway tunnels or other below-ground shelters. And if they did survive and did manage to dig themselves out, what world might await them? Instant incineration, however frightening, struck me as the only sane alternative. But no one seemed or seems to want to consider the fallout from the fallout... no food, no water, no medicine, no help that could possibly help enough. Which is worse, dying or waiting to die?

The flashback takes on a new rainbow of color with the likes of Donald Trump as president. Bellicosity is one of his trademarks. Bad-mouthing the North Koreans and setting up other straw men to replace an earlier day's Cold War villains ... it's all a wonderful diversion from the needed jobs, improved health care, infrastructure repair and other peaceful pursuits that take time and patience and tenacity and responsibility. If we're at war -- and Kim Jong Un seems a less deranged adversary than some -- then thinking things through can be set aside: We need a bigger and better military establishment; we need a better-heeled bevy of industrial giants bellying up to the federal trough; we need to wave the flag and rattle the sabre and ... what better way to accomplish all that than to scare the pants off the people who pay the bills?

imponderables

Where does the light go when it meets the shadow?
Where does the shadow go when it meets the light?
Gautama ('the Buddha') suggested that it is wiser to steer clear of "imponderables" (what happens after death, etc.) but he was in the teaching business, the business of pointing. Teachers nudge, students do the walking.
After a bit, the imponderables are what make the most sense.
Ponderables only produce answers -- the stuff that C+ students might attain in a world where no one gets an A.
So, yes, steer clear of imponderables, the only questions worth answering... the scrumptious stuff, juicy and mysterious as a kumquat.
OK, so you find the answer ... only to discover the question had fled ... sort of. How convincing is that?
Damn!
Stick with the imponderables. They make better sense.
 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

samovar

Like a painter whose works over time may begin as representational and then slowly segue back and back and back in future works until nothing is left but a single brush stroke, I wonder if all those interested in the arts or life don't do much the same ... back and back and back until a single ball on green baize is all that there is to indicate the symphonies and intricacies of a billiards match.

The word "samovar" crept into my head today and lingered like a peppermint lozenge. Even as the implications and associations of the word rose up dancing in my mind, still I did not want to give them force or favor. "Samovar" -- that was enough, if not too much.

The wolves, the tundra, the tall hats, the cold, the warmth of friendship, the romance, the tall actions and embroidered gowns ... no, none of that. Just "samovar."

The singularity may be annoying -- art, after all, is said to 'communicate' -- but still, the travel back and back and back seems inevitable. Back to a place where all things communicate by nature and defy the blather of "communication."

Anyway... for the moment ... samovar.

the loneliness of Facebook

It has been the better part of a month (12/18/17 submission) since I sent in the following to the local paper. The article makes no mention of local links (name of a town or region) so I suspect whatever consideration it is being given as a "guest column" is in the rear-view mirror. Anyway, I'm tired of waiting for the editorial stamp of approval. It ain't great, but it ain't that bad either. I'll put it here:
THE LONELINESS OF FACEBOOK

In an age of loneliness and gilded gadgets, no enabler of that loneliness stands out more sharply than Facebook, the lucrative internet format that allows people to imagine they have friends and enemies.

But now a shadow has crept across the sunshine of this internet platform. As a Guardian article suggested recently, "Facebook has acknowledged that social media use can be bad for users’ mental health, a sign the company is feeling pressure from a growing chorus of critics raising alarms about the platform’s effect on society....
The company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has asked for forgiveness and claimed his new mission was to “bring the world closer together.'"

Zuckerberg's mea culpa is leavened of course with the knowledge that the man has made billions of dollars promoting the notion that somehow Facebook already brings its users closer together instead of driving them further into the quicksand of loneliness and separation. "Bring the world closer together?" Don't make me laugh.

When it comes to addictions, I really am not sure which is more pernicious, opiods or Facebook. Some may see this statement as overreach: Facebook, they may argue, never killed anyone. My reply is two-fold: 1. Are you really sure of that and 2. Facebook nibbles at the human spirit. It does not gulp. But where there is enough nibbling, the result is likewise corpses. Is Facebook addictive? My guess is a resounding "yes," which is why I have done what I could to stay away from it and opiods. Both opiods and Facebook have some legitimate and informative uses, but there is no denying the addictive potential.

To rewrite Beatle John Lennon's observation about life, "Friends go begging while you were busy making Facebook "friends."

Facebook is very much like the widely-available pornography on the internet. Yes, it looks like sex. Yes, it is graphic. Yes, it reminds users of a potential reality. But what is that reality? Sex on the internet can hardly be called sex in all its actual-factual wonder and giggling and epiphany and despair. Similarly, Facebook "friends" or "enemies," with some rare exceptions, can hardly be equated with the wondrous complexity of having a real friend or enemy.

Turn off the phone and users of Facebook and porn are likely to find themselves every bit as lonely as before they turned it on and got so engulfed that they walked into light poles or ran over pedestrians. Friends and enemies require time and patience, stops and starts, surprises and doldrums. They are not based in the ability to type some long-distance witticism or lie or quick-hit observation.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Facebook or porn. What is wrong is the belief that this medium represents an honest and soothing human reality. No one has as many real friends as they can cobble together on Facebook. No one has as much sex -- even the no-giggles, one-dimensional sort -- as porn sites offer. But, to mix the metaphors, if you believe that Facebook actually brings people closer together, you're screwed... and left wondering why the loneliness of our time and gadgetry remains unassuaged. No one can have a beer or a cup of coffee with a pair of agile thumbs.

I grant that there is/are the occasional Facebook romances that turn into marriage. I grant that there are the shared interests in worm farms and astrophysics. I grant that there are connections that crop up and blossom. But into this mix I would add the deep suspicion that in the midst of it all, as reliance on Facebook grows, real friendship goes begging. I'm sorry, but the people I count as real friends have halitosis I have smelled as they have smelled mine. Building a friendship is subtle and not always as deliciously complete as a quickie message. And finding an enemy is much the same.

In the midst of Facebook's mea-culpa soul-searching, the answer proposed to the potential for a depressed user was every bit as gob-smacking as the notion that the institution might weigh its flaws at all. A study found that using Facebook "passively" (just reading it) could inspire depression, but that the cure was to be found ... wait for it ... by becoming more actively involved with Facebook. Join the fray. Add your comments. Dispel the loneliness.

It has been suggested that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Drug addicts have a similar psalm: "If one's good, two's better."

Wouldn't it be better to expend the energy to make a real friend than to wallow in a fragile belief system whose warmth dissipates at the push of a button?

Loneliness, after all, is no joke.

Friends are not a dime a dozen.

Friday, January 12, 2018

old news, new day

Everyone else may have known, but ...:

-- Julian Assange, that spiller of Wikileaks wire-tapping beans, has been made a citizen of Ecuador, the country in whose London embassy he has lived for five and a half years. The Brits are not impressed -- "go fuck yourself" might easily have summed up their reaction to a request to recognize Assange as a diplomat. The Brits have and continue to play handmaiden to the United States which hasn't got the balls to admit Assange won and if "treason" is the word chosen to describe Assange, then perhaps the same word might be tried on an American president.

-- Bill Cosby, the American comedian whose past predations retrial is scheduled April 2 even as reruns of his sitcom "The Cosby Show" seem to be enjoying healthy reruns on TV, quipped recently that he would prefer not to be added to Twitter's #MeToo laundry list that has swamped and dashed other politicians and similar entertainment personalities.

-- I did know that Oprah Winfrey's name has been bandied about as a potential presidential candidate, but the sense of suicide-by-Democrats lingers and waxes in my mind.

-- And through it all, the entertainer-in-chief manages to shine as Donald Trump is called out for referring to Haiti and various African nations as "shithole countries." A majority of the news media seemed unwilling to NOT QUOTE the president verbatim. There were a few lackluster stories about Trump's denial that he ever used such language. His batting average for telling the truth is below average.

On the radio yesterday, I heard an AP report that federal aid to Puerto Rico -- a commonwealth/unincorporated territory still reeling (spotty electricity at best) from a Sept. 20 hurricane -- has yet to be ironed out in any tangible form. A cluster-fuck at best. A cluster-fuck in a shithole, perhaps? The aid spigots are on in Houston and environs that were likewise hurricane-ravaged. And well-heeled, non-shithole Montecito, Ca., and Santa Barbara County will get help for the mudslides the followed in the wake of devastating and denuding forest fires.

I suppose my granddaddy was wont to observe that it was a life-skill worth learning -- separating the chaff from the wheat. I wonder what he might have said when so much is chaff and so little is wheat.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

the road to peace

As the United States and 'friends' pursue a 17-year-old, easier-than-peace, Afghan war effort, a single man in India seems to be demonstrating the inescapable observation that peace and honest sweat are intimately linked.
A man in a remote eastern Indian village has single-handedly carved a five-mile (8km) road through hilly terrain to help his children attend school.
It had been taking Jalandhar Nayak’s three sons about three hours each way to navigate the narrow, rocky route to class. So two years ago the vegetable seller from Odisha state picked up a chisel, a garden hoe and pickaxe and began building a shorter route....
“My children found it hard to walk on the narrow and stony path while going to their school. I often saw them stumbling against the rocks and decided to carve a road through the mountain so that they can walk more easily,” he told News World Odisha.
Amen.

if you've got it, don't flaunt it


A retired Japanese crime boss has been arrested in Thailand, ending more than 14 years on the run, after photos of his yakuza tattoos and a missing little finger went viral.
Shigeharu Shirai, 72, was apprehended while he was shopping on Wednesday in the central market town of Lopburi.
Japanese authorities had sought his arrest over an alleged role in the shooting of a rival in 2003, after which he fled to Thailand, married a local woman and drifted into a seemingly peaceful retirement.
That was until a resident posted photos of the diminutive retiree playing a streetside checkers game with his intricate gang tattoos on full show and a missing little finger – yakuza members often slice off a fingertip to atone for an offence. [Agence France-Presse]
Modesty. Omerta ... what ever happened to the good ol' days? When even the crooks are as dumb as Donald Trump, what is the world coming to?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

starving from the inside out

I guess everyone starves from the inside out. That's just the nature of starvation from crackle-dried fields in Africa to the old age homes. What was gathered and utilized and brought to fruiting use is now nibbled-nibbled-nibbled. What was muscle is now mere sustenance ... rolling back, rolling back, rolling back. It is all beyond up-beat discussion. It is beyond loneliness. It is alone and it is sure.

The same gravity that compelled the rise and acquisition is thrown into reverse like some skillful skateboarder rolling up one side of his or her miraculous curve begs for a return and re-rise up the other side ... back and forth until gravity claims its due in the stillness of the middle, the bottom, the end.

I have eaten my fill. To eat more makes dwindling sense. I do sometimes wish things wouldn't dawdle so much. Obviously more gravity is required.