Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gordon Bok

There are a lot of his 12-string folk songs I like, but here are two:

Japan woos youthful recruits

Taking its cue from the United States, perhaps, or from historical trends that refuse to be silenced...
(Reuters) - Japan's military is wooing new recruits with images of smiling soldiers posing like pop stars in a series of photo books and DVDs that tap into youth culture.
Glory, adventure, heroism, patriotism, doing what under civilian law might incur a long prison sentence or the death penalty ... how sexy and grown-up and powerful is that?!

Was it ever different?

lie/cheat/steal in banking

You always knew, but a scientific study has confirmed ...
(Reuters) - - A banking culture that implicitly puts financial gain above all else fuels greed and dishonesty and makes bankers more likely to cheat, according to the findings of a scientific study.

"Peaky Blinders"

Watched the second season of "Peaky Blinders" yesterday. The Netflix/BBC TV serial is a wonderful turn-of-the-20th-century outlaw adventure in England. The characters are etched in ways that American TV serials seem hard-pressed to emulate. The filming is classy.

Worth a look for those inclined.

workers kill plantation owner

Asked about piracy off the Somali coast, a security official commented to an interviewer, "If you do not share your wealth with us, we will share our poverty with you." I always liked that line and wondered to what extent American capitalists might take note.

In India, the workers on a tea plantation killed the owner over unpaid back wages. Wages had not been paid for two to three months. I suppose western business executives are savvy enough not to let wages lag, but the expectations in this neck of the woods are higher and thus the provocations do not need to be so life-threatening before someone picks up a club.

a naked man fell through the ceiling...

BOSTON (AP) — A naked man fell through the ceiling of a women's bathroom at Logan Airport on Saturday, then ran out of the restroom and viciously assaulted an elderly man while he was still in the buff and bleeding, before being arrested, state police said.
You'll be relieved to know that the man has not yet be charged with terrorism, though having someone fall through your ceiling and go on a rampage must be pretty terrifying.

of swine and varlets

Overnight, the weather seemed to loose its chilling grip so that, by 5:30, the temperature has been reported at 15 degrees warmer than it was at the same time yesterday: 32 degrees today and I could feel the warmth as I sipped wake-up coffee on the porch.

Small things of the past floated into view as I woke up, turned lights on and shuffled over to fire up the computer. Small matters that brought a smile to my interior lips but would be unlikely to delight anyone else:

-- Hanging on the wall over the computer is a framed label from a meat packing house: "SWINE" is written beneath an etched picture of a pig, which may or may not be described as smiling. The label was a present from an old and now-dead friend, Bill McKechnie III -- a guy with whom I enjoyed the quirky and whimsical matters in life. He knew I'd like it and he was right.

Besides the picture itself, I like to know that I know the word "swine." Somehow "swine" is delicious, sort of like "shit!" or "varlet." A "varlet" is defined on an Internet dictionary as "an old word meaning a 'dishonest man.'"

Old words suit me better than sincere words like "moving forward" or questions whose answers begin with the word "so" -- both of them trendy these days. "Swine" and "shit!" and "varlet" have meat on a bone I find tasty. Like family, they go generally unnoticed until, like this morning, their pleasing qualities assert themselves for a moment and then are gone again.

-- When it comes to the upcoming 'lung cancer operation,' I remembered together with the "swine" of the past and present a horoscope prediction I once received outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

It was a sunny day and the museums be-fountained front sidewalk was littered with strollers and small-bore hawkers and, like me, people-watchers. Among other things, I was always fascinated by the very-small children being pushed in carriages. They looked here and looked there and had the attention span of a drug addict ... their eyes gorged themselves briefly and with an indifference that might have been sensible or might have been born of ignorance. But when they were strolled past the fountains, they became fixated. Their eyes did not shift to some new topic. They stared and stared ... what was that about? I didn't know but the question was tantalizing.

Tucked into the passing crowd, was a nut-brown man offering to do horoscopes for $10. He sat on a chair, another empty chair accompanying him and his sign. I was interested, but not $10 worth of interested. Finally his voice reached out to me, offering to do a reading for $5. I sat down in his chair.

He looked up my birth-time-date-place in (I think it's called) "The Ephemera," a book telling the positions of stars and planets in earlier times. And then he began his sketch of my life. He told me I would meet my future wife near to home: I met her in a shop 100 yards from my apartment. He told me other things as well, including my life span. When he finished, I asked him about spiritual adventure, which, at the time, I was heavily immersed in. He looked at me and laughed as if I were a foolish child. "Oh," he said between chortles, "Enlightenment in this lifetime. No doubt about it. No doubt about it." I figured he had a very flimsy appreciation of "enlightenment" and set it aside, though I admit some part of me was under-the-Christmas-tree pleased.

But there was the matter of when I was going to die: "83 to 85" he said without solemnity. I figured, based on actuarial tables of male deaths, that this was a pretty good guess, one he might have gotten from actuarial tables. But there was a soup├žon of doubt: Perhaps he was working from some other basis of knowing, one not dependent of actuarial tables. I had paid $5 for this sort of half-credited ooooeeeeooo and I was getting it.

The point of all this recollection was its link to the upcoming operation. Whimsically, it occurred to me that if 83-85 was my shut-down time, was there really a reason to take painful steps towards preserving or life-extending? If I were younger, perhaps I would not ask such a question, but, at 74, when the imagined or real deadline is within spitting distance ... well, what's gained from an operation on balance? A chance to live longer? Longer than what? Longer for what? I like my comforts as well as the next fellow and would dislike being hospitalized or as a friend puts it, "drugged to the tits," but is this actually an activity for something or is it merely another means of preventing something else ... something like life, for example?

All of this, at a lesser length, came along this morning on the wings of a whimsy. In the same travel kit as "swine." Who knows -- maybe all of this is just some sexy denial process and when the actual factuality of death comes along, I will be desperate for some mystical or medical magic. But that time is not now.

Just now I am gently pleased to be among the swine and varlets and the ability to exclaim, "oh shit!"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

released from Guantanamo prison

MIAMI (AP) -- A Saudi citizen who has spent the past 12 years detained at Guantanamo Bay has been released as the U.S. continues attempts to whittle down the prison population at its base in Cuba.
The Pentagon said Saturday that Muhammad al-Zahrani was sent to his homeland based on the conclusion of a parole-like board that has been re-evaluating whether it is still necessary to hold some of the men as prisoners.
Al-Zahrani will take part in a Saudi rehabilitation program for militants.
He is the 13th prisoner released from Guantanamo Bay this year and the seventh in just the past two weeks. Officials have said there will be additional releases in the coming weeks as part of a renewed push to close the prison where 142 men are now held.
The vagueness of this 'news' story is mind-boggling. 1. Held for 12 years without any judicial redress? 2. What specific charges were made and who underwrote the legitimacy of those charges? 3. On what basis did someone suggest "rehabilitation" might be attained? ... oh hell, pose your own questions.

Put yourself in Al-Zahrani's place. Imagine you no longer lived in the United States and had a right to judicial hearing. Then compare the reaction to 'terrorist' arrests of those even thinking about violent possibilities or philosophies in the United States.

Perhaps there was a good reason to "detain" (imprison) a man for 12 years. But without stating those reasons, without saying much more than "trust me," the incarceration speaks poorly of prospects for American citizens.

seeing the ocean for the first time

A 100-year-old woman got her wish and saw the ocean for the first time. With four children, Ruby Holt had always been too busy picking cotton and working in a shirt factory and trying to make scanty ends meet in Tennessee.
"I've heard people talk about it and how wonderful it was and wanted to see it, but I never had the opportunity to do so," she said....
"We don't have nothing like this in Giles County."
 Seeing the obvious for the first time -- what a pleasure.

operation date set

Not that it can hold a candle to the U.S.' ramping up of combat operations that were supposed to be on the wane in Afghanistan, but this week, a call from the doctor's office fixed the date on which I will have an operation on the nodule on my right lung -- a nodule whose exact cause cannot be named, but must be labeled cancer even if no one knows for sure.

Dec. 1 has been set for the "procedure" which is an operation with a nice name. For four or five weeks, there have been tests for this and tests for that to make sure the heart and body can take the stress involved in the operation. Now, although the heart is less than it might be, the decision has been rendered to take a wedge-shaped bit of lung, together with the nodule which can only be biopsied after it is removed:\.

There is no need to open the entire chest, as I understand it. The tests that preceded and kind of danced around the actual problem are now pretty much over and I am grateful: The downside of having the specific operation (statistically I gather it has a 95:5 life/death batting average and I gather it hurts a bit) begins to pale when I go for one test after another without actually going after the offending arena. The scariest part, to the extent that there is one, is any time I have to spend in the hospital, a place I have come to see as exerting a negative effect on anyone's spirit.

"Comparisons," the old saw once had it, "are odious," but it is hard not to somehow compare my life with the life of those who are in the line of fire at the whim of governments and politicians that can see the upside of perpetual war. It is hard not to indulge in a bit of odiousness.

Oh well, maybe a shower will help.