Thursday, June 20, 2019

grumbling in the scullery

Sixty-nine years old and a scullery maid.

Such is my lot, this morning and else-times ... washing dishes, cooking a slumgullion, putting crockery and utensils away. I don't care for it much.

If there be reincarnation cards in the offing and if I turn out to be a man, I believe I will find a woman who both knows how to cook and otherwise knows how to share the lob lolly chores.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

something for Japanese women

Sort of.... 
Women outperform men after Japan medical school stops rigging exam scores. Juntendo University says abolishing unfair treatment of women is behind rise in entrance exam scores.
 And speaking of 'rigging,' in my neck of the woods, the local Roman Catholic Bishop is headlined across the top of page 1 in my hard-copy newspaper: "We know we can do better."

The Japanese plan to level the playing field for women ... well, sort of.
The Roman Catholics are going to tighten the screws .....

Of the two, I believe I would bet on the Japanese reconfiguring their attitude towards women before I would believe the Vatican would clean house. The Catholics have the unenviable task of relinquishing their hold on power -- a synergistic love of power among the Roman Catholic power brokers and a lay constituency that loves their leadership.

The Vatican may hem and haw, but there will never be reform until they rebuild the house from the ground up. Power brokers simply will not give up the current structured settlement in which the clergy stands between Man (and did I mention his wallet?) and God. Yes, a little tugging at the hems, at little investigative tuck here or there, but not the central power, the position, the grandeur that pleases both the aggrandizer and the aggrandizee.

Yes, we can all do better.

Yes. pigs will fly.

Religion is slip-sliding towards a different animal. Not soon, perhaps, but a real re-visioning of man and his god(s). Clear the lot! Start anew. Set aside the moral and intellectual brocade.

PS. From here on out, I do hope those reading this blog will greet my words with doubt, if not outright scorn: I simply do not have the intellectual coherence/energy to make things fit. I associate and lack the coherence tools. It's not gonzo ... it's just my taste ... all of it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

spider eats pygmy possum

Pygmy possums usually aren’t on the menu for huntsman spiders.
But an Australian man from Tasmania has captured the rare moment a huntsman attempted to devour a tiny possum at a lodge in the Mount Field national park, 64 km north-west of Hobart.
If true, who knew?
If untrue, who knew?

Facebook's cryptocurrency

Facebook has announced a digital currency called Libra that will allow its billions of users to make financial transactions across the globe, in a move that could potentially shake up the world’s banking system.
Libra is being touted as a means to connect people who do not have access to traditional banking platforms. With close to 2.4 billion people using Facebook each month, Libra could be a financial game changer, but will face close scrutiny as Facebook continues to reel from a series of privacy scandals.
It could also be a welcome lift to Facebook’s profits: analysts are suggesting Libra could be a huge moneymaker for Facebook, arriving as its growth slows.
This sounds important in the world of the wannabe-dictatorship/rich-getting-richer, but it is beyond my capacity to connect the dots and sweep away the altruistic dross.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

serenity ... not?

Awoke this morning accompanied by what I guess might be a stand-alone antonym for "serenity:"

... A LARGE CAT IN GALOSHES.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

U.S. purges Chinese cancer researchers

This is important, I sense, and some more brighter and more energetic soul than I will read the whole thing (passed along in email today), I hope.

The U.S. Is Purging Chinese Cancer Researchers From Top Institutions

The NIH and the FBI are targeting ethnic Chinese scientists, including U.S. citizens, searching for a cancer cure. Here’s the first account of what happened to Xifeng Wu.
By Peter Waldman

Friday, June 14, 2019

an accidental murder



I'm not entirely sure why, but I found this first-person tale of accidentally killing a classmate with a javelin on sportsday ... moving.

There's enough tragedy already; is there any need to manufacture more?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

imponder-babble

Idly, I wonder:

If I had done things differently, things would be different, right?

But since I didn't do things differently, did I do them, ipso facto, "the same?"

And if I did them "the same," then "the same" as what?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

behold the lowly hedgehog!

The next time you twist your knickers as your favorite, loathsome politician goes on a rant, at least take some solace in this member of British parliament who was passed along this morning:


No, it is not a joke. Yes, it is Parliament. Yes, Monty Python is dead and gone.

Gotta say it made my day!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

frequently bandied, rarely examined

Natural.
Authentic.
Democracy.
Freedom.
Enlightenment.
Compassion.
Morality.
Terrorism.
Heaven.
Hell.
Hero.


et al.

How frequently bandied. How rarely examined.

Monday, June 10, 2019

"I want, therefore I am"

"I think, therefore I am"?

How about, rather,

"I want, therefore I am?"

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Four Seasons to Close in New York City

[C]ritic Jason Farago rhapsodized for the Guardian: “The restaurant’s heyday was the 1970s. Outside, the city came within days of bankruptcy, and the streets were choked with crime. Inside, tycoons and socialites conducted a choreographed spectacle of dining and table-hopping worthy of France’s ancien régime. “New York’s world of publishing gravitated to the Grill Room, as did magazine editors with expense accounts larger than the entire budgets of today’s viral content abattoirs.
And now the place will close after lunch on Tuesday.

I ate there three or four times, but as with other four-star eating venues allowed to me while I worked  in publicity for a book publisher in New York, there was too much about the setting that made my gorge rise.

First of all, the idea of discussing business over a meal is off-the-charts ("blasphemy" occurs to me but I'm not sure where to apply it). I'd use the line "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" but it has already been taken. You want to talk business. Talk business. You want to eat? Eat. The principle is one that seems to be pile-driver insistent in my DNA.

Second, minuscule portions do not necessarily make good eating. Artful decorations delivered by men whose accents are French and whose jackets are oh-so-body-hugging ... get bent! Eating is a deep gusto -- no simpering sissies need apply. This is LIFE and a blessing at that, asshole!

And most important: Eating is not a pretense, however pretentious it may be.

Why I get so cranky about a place I do not for a moment miss is nudging me. I guess it may just be my sub-rosa WASP background.

Maybe I'm just in the mood to jack myself up.

PS. In Iran, 547 restaurants and cafes were closed down Saturday for not adhering to "Islamic principles."

Friday, June 7, 2019

fake news vs. terrorism

[H]alf of Americans view fake news as a bigger threat to the country than terrorism, illegal immigration, violent crime or racism, according to a new study. ... The result, according to the study by the Pew Research Center, is that almost 70% of Americans feel fake news and misinformation have greatly affected their confidence in government institutions, and experts warn of a deepening crisis if the status quo is left unchecked.

moving right along

Somehow, there is a curious aptness to it, though I haven't got a clue why that might be ... suddenly the distinction between "apples and oranges" becomes, rather, its similarity. I guess the only thing to do is chalk it up to an old fart's vapors ... and move on:

1. Yesterday, my younger son got a motorcycle ... a used Suzuki .750.
2. A week ago yesterday, I had a toe amputated.

Something insists that these events are somehow "apposite" or "relevant" or "fit together." It reminds me of the short-lived humor wave a number of years ago ... which all rested on ridiculous questions like, "what's the difference between a bike."

Moving right along....

Thursday, June 6, 2019

previously unknown human group

Ancient Siberia was home to previously unknown humans, say scientists.... 
The results reveal these individuals were part of a previously unknown yet widespread group, dubbed the Ancient North Siberians by the team, who were genetically distinct from both Western Eurasians and East Asians...But, crucially, this population does not appear to be the direct ancestor of Native Americans.

Not quite sure who's on first here, but it sounds interesting.

a day without victims

Imagine it -- a Day Without Victims. Would that be something to practice/enjoy?

Or maybe not just one day, but five minutes.

Or even just one.

A Day Without Victims -- imagine it.

No improvements or protections or defensive maneuvers. Things, for a small moment, just are what they are. Additions are not necessary.

Don't worry -- you can have the victims back later; improve; uplift; excoriate ... but just not now. Now is a time without victims,.

Can't you hear the yowling?

I can.

Somehow this story about a history teacher's adventures on YouTube as he tried to portray Hitler and friends seems to belong here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

scab laborer

Since memory is what I've got and since memory seems to knock on the door of late ... oh well, what the hell, I might as well go with the flow. So here's one:

Even the sub-rosa recognition that I was acting as a "scab" -- an anathema word to someone suckled at labor's breast -- did not stop me. A scab is someone who fills in a job that belongs to a union member on strike.

I was in my thirties, then, and hip-deep in my 'Marine Corps phase' of Zen Buddhist practice. GO! Go! Go!... that sort of shit. I was supporting myself with a budding-but-not-yet-flowering business painting apartments in New York City and at the time I was woefully short of work. A fellow Zen student pointed out that with actors on strike, advertising agencies were pulling in people off the streets to fill advertising slots. He suggested I give it a whirl. I thought I would.

I filled out papers and waited about an hour before my turn before the camera came.

No one had told those of us in the waiting room what product we would be touting so it came as an utter surprise (I knew I was not fit to the task) when it turned out to be Ford pick-up trucks. I read the script on the story boards in front of me. I knew it was all wrong, but I was in the klieg lights, in the soup and there was nothing to do but swim .... see the try-out to its conclusion.

Which I did. I was a Zen student, after all, and all of life was a lesson ... blah, blah, blah. Not all of life's lessons are likeable or tasty or gratifying and this one, in the midst of the tryout, sucked.

I was mentally out the door and on the way home before I even left the set. No way in hell was anyone going to buy a Ford pick-up from someone who looked like me.

But the story had not ended, however much I wanted it to end.

A small, cocaine-anorexic producer approached me briskly after my tryout. "I'm sorry," she said in business-like, moving-right-along tones, "you're more the priest, cop or young daddy if you'd smile more."

And by God, she had nailed my life's hide to the barn door -- a priest, cop, or young daddy if I'd smile more!" She had me by the balls. Why was I wasting time seeing a shrink or diving into spiritual life when this cranked-up widget of a woman could nail it all so concisely? All my floundering and searching and tears and ... what the fuck! she had me in a trice.

Naturally, as in other instances, it took me years to absorb and find nourishment in the truth.

Even a scab can learn something.

flowery lingo, perhaps, but interesting photos

Every once in a while it's nice to see people without capped-teeth-ersatz-serene smiles, forced tears or other regalia. A book of pictures parsed.

Monday, June 3, 2019

homelessness declines ... in Helsinki

Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

London's mayor assails Trump

When the mayor of a foreign city reads off the president of the United States (where I live), there is something galling in it. How come London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, can retail point after point about the president due to visit London Monday, but the politicians and other wannabe sages on Trump's home sod scuff and toe the sand beneath their feet? They are clapped in confused and confusing double-talk cuffs. They are cowards that would be praised for 'principle' and 'care.'

Yes, I can retail the knee-jerk responses, but it is nonetheless galling ... and little wonder that Americans are left angrier than they were a few moments ago.
Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat. The far right is on the rise around the world, threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than seventy years. Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage here in the UK are using the same divisive tropes of the fascists of the 20th century to garner support, but are using new sinister methods to deliver their message. And they are gaining ground and winning power and influence in places that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

something touching

Friends:
The following link leads to something you may be familiar with but I had not been: "Stories from the Stage." There's a little dross to endure, but there are two (of three, I believe) individually told stories here that wowed my heart and may yours: a S. Korean woman's family adventures in the wake of a store robbery (it has to do with her father's creating a room out of bullet-proof glass); and the tale of a woman who wanted to give a kidney to a friend from the past. Both left me emptied out and glad to be part of the human race.

FWIW: https://schedule.wttw.com/episodes/427014/Stories-from-the-Stage/Chance/?tp=e4ba5381-ff3f-487c-9060-bc351e857271

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ben Higgins photo

Ben Higgins (1894-1981)
The confusions in my mind, sown in part by the Memorial Day holiday weekend, loll and linger. For unclear reasons, a photo of basket maker Ben Higgins (1894-1981) awaits attention in the photo scanner.

Why is it that this man continues to grab my attention and hold it firm? Ben Higgins built baskets from youth to death. I don't believe I ever met the man, though he lived a couple of towns away in the hills around here. In Chesterfield. Was he as assured as I credit him with being? Probably not. People are so much more interesting than the pictures others paint of them. Did Higgins have a handle where I frequently feel that I lack purchase or support? I don't know. Did his simplicities exclude complications? Doubtful at best.

Anyway, I seem to be fixated and grateful for ... for ... for something or other.

The black-and-white photo, passed along by antiques dealer Bill Samaha was taken by someone Bill described as a hotshot west-coast photographer ... what seems to be/looks like "Marco Julin (?????? ... cannot read the signature)" Bill knew I admired Higgins from afar and so passed along the photo ... who else would remember, Bill asked. Strange, Bill added, that Higgins was little celebrated in his own bailiwick and yet "everyone" (in the antiques world, perhaps) knew who he was in New Hampshire.

A man who did what he did and kept on doing it ... and ... so it goes.

r-e-s-p-e-c-t

Is it possible to be respected by others if you do not respect them?

I suppose it's possible, but it's a messy business I suspect.

Italian village for sale .... NOT

Last month a mountain village in northern Italy put all its assets up for sale. A website advertised that everything must go.
Street signs started at €1,250. A pilgrimage site cost around €600,000, with a 15% discount applied. The town hall was a bit cheaper – €200,000. Benches came at €280 each, but with an enticing three-for-two promotion....
The initiative attracted widespread national media coverage and scores of potential buyers. But on the day sales supposedly began online, something about the website looked off. Prospective customers were unable to purchase anything – instead, they were redirected to a page asking them to share pictures of the items on social media. The sale was “fake news”.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Mueller indictments of Trump

From The Guardian:
A new book from Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff says special counsel Robert Mueller drew up a three-count obstruction of justice indictment against Donald Trump before deciding to shelve it – an explosive claim which a spokesman for Mueller flatly denied.
The Guardian obtained a copy of Siege and viewed the documents concerned.
In an author’s note, Wolff states that his findings on the Mueller investigation are “based on internal documents given to me by sources close to the Office of the Special Counsel”.
Unless I am mistaken, this article is the chum in the waters that will allow the media sharks to pump up the book....

Ah, feeding frenzy! Let's see how many different outlets can say the same thing over and over again.

liberal arts sissies

Liberal arts receives a drubbing, now and then, from the uneasy and impecunious and yet an article in the Washington Post takes on the issue of liberal arts vs. a college degree that is little more than a stamp of approval for the obscenely wealthy and examines it. Basket-weaving 101 -- check it out. A liberal arts education doesn't provide the voke-school certificate sought by the power-and-prestige-prone bourgeoisie.

No one who is rich ever got that way by being nice. Liberal arts appears nice and kind of lessens the sting somehow. The rich and powerful are not sissies after all.

And yet the well-heeled are anxious that their spawn should be 'rounded' ... or at least appear that way.

The article provides some thinking points.

As a p.s. of my own, I vote with the Christians: it is not money that is the root of all evil. It is the love of money that nourishes a love of ignorance.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

heroes in a age of victims

Hedy Lamarr -- actress and inventor
In an age when everyone wants a bite of the victimization apple, I awoke this morning thinking of those I consider vaguely as my heroes -- men and women who stood tall in the winds that blew against them.

They were people of 'sand' as my father used to say ... a character that was willing to step out of the crowd mentality of its time. No, I have little or no evidence outside a documentary, perhaps, but still they flutter on the edges of consciousness.

Sharpshooter Annie Oakley who shot straight and had a firm backbone.
Actress phenom Hedy Lamarr, whose technological brain power of the 1930's was not in step with a Hollywood vision of her as a beautiful woman. It was not until the 1960's that the Navy adopted her ideas to its torpedoes.
Marine Corps General Smedley Butler.
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who spoke for and acted for equality when others only spoke about equality.
Tennis great Billie Jean King, whose homosexuality was widely and derisively whispered. She absorbed the bruising without any overt reaction. (Male joke of the time, for example: "Q. Who eats pussy? A. You, me, and Billie Jean King.")
Black-listed screen writer Dalton Trumbo, whose colleagues saw their lives shattered by the communist witch hunting of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
The Dalai Lama whom I once saw from a distance of under eight feet help an elderly Tibetan woman to her feet after she bowed her forehead to his feet in homage ... and then could not get up.
Charles Monroe, mail clerk in New Marlborough, Mass.
Ben Higgins (1894-1981) who wove his first basket at five (if you believe Google) in nearby Chesterfield, Mass., and kept at it for a lifetime... praise and blame were waters for others to ply.

All and more like them stepped outside their herd-driven roles as victims or heroes. Not least among them, my wife, Elizabeth, who managed to survive three children -- and me -- while I worked nights. Jeee-sus!

Through it all, one way and another, I guess some things hold water: Everyone, irrespective of color or sex or religious affiliation or feeling victimized is entirely capable of being an asshole. Likewise, everyone is capable of reflecting a little, looking a little bit in the bathroom mirror and finding shades of courage and kindness. Is any of it true? Is any of it isn't? I don't know, but I do know I wish I had done things a bit better ... a bit more in line with my heroes and guideposts and a little less with my own herd-instinct reflexes.

Friday, May 24, 2019

price fixing in the bond markets... and Asian carp

FILE - In this June 13, 2012, file photo, Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jump from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' commanding officer has endorsed a $778 million plan for upgrading a lock-and-dam complex near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite signed the final report Thursday, May 23, 2019. It now goes to Congress, which would need to give authorization and funding for the project to proceed. (AP Photo/John Flesher, File)
If you wondered exactly how you were getting fucked in an economy that sports such well-dressed and well-heeled and well-chauffeured traders, just take a look at the price fixing being alleged against some of the banking and bond-trading big boys. It's worse than the Asian carp stalking the Great Lakes.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s treasury department is accusing about a dozen large financial firms of working together to illegally inflate the price of bonds issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over seven years.
A federal court filing by Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella cites what his office says is evidence from a “cooperating co-conspirator” in a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into price-fixing in the secondary market for bonds issued by government-controlled companies.
Evidence cited in the filing late Thursday includes brief transcripts of what it says are electronic chats between traders from various financial institutions that are the largest dealers of the bonds.
In the discussions, the traders allegedly agree to fix bond prices at artificially inflated prices, cheating Pennsylvania and other buyers of the bonds. The price-fixing began in 2009 and lasted through 2015, and violates federal anti-trust law, Torsella’s filing said.
The whole thing is beyond my pay grade in terms of understanding, but it smells about right and the names ring familiar bells among those benefiting from tax breaks and other emoluments.

Of course the caring children of a caring generation may be more content to raise Cain about the potential for an Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes ... it's so much easier to be pissed off at a fish than some slimy Wall Street eel, right?

Maybe someone will figure out how to put a little electricity under the college-educated thieves. No, you do not want to hold your breath.

toe amputation

"Slicker'n whale shit," comes to mind as I think back to yesterday (5/23/19), a trip to the hospital and the amputation of the second toe on my left foot. A wound on the toe had exposed the 'knuckle' bone and there was not enough skin to heal it over. The best guess was to amputate and delay any potential for gangrene that might endanger the nearby environment of the foot.

The day began inauspiciously with the bumping of my surgical appointment from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight. I fretted a bit that I might not be fretting enough, that I was too concerned for the discombobulation the whole affair might inflict on my wife and family. But in the event ... poof! One minute I was chatting with the surgeon and the next I was waking up in the recovery room. Talk about a magical mystery tour.

There's some stinging and there is a clunky foot-brace shoe, but .... voilà!

At a "wound clinic" I visited during the lead-up to the 'procedure,' a doctor readied me for what sounded like the inevitable: "You don't need that toe much anyway." Still, it was a good toe and I am thankful for whatever hard work it did over the years.

Sic transit gloria mundi.