Tuesday, July 29, 2014

out of the hospital

Out of the hospital today after a week's stay. Came home with a bushel of meds and a laundry list of good and sometimes well-intentioned advice and I am exhausted. Heart and liver seem to be of interest. I am grateful for well-wishes and thankful for those held in reserve. Thank you, everyone.

I see Joshu Sasaki died in the week's meantime ... there always seems to be a "meantime."

I see no one has discovered who put up the white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City over a week ago. They ran DNA tests. The cops came out with guns ... but somehow no one could get the story. One of those robotic, buxom newscasters with shoulder-length hair and a sense of self that would do Gaza and Israel proud commented about the flags, "we are not amused," as if perhaps her wisdom would flush the perpetrators.

I see Israel and Gaza are talking once again as if they really did care about a ceasefire.

Across the street in the 4:30 afternoon light, a gaggle of small brown sparrows seemed agitated by the fact that some of the flock had become trapped behind the screening on a neighbor's porch. There were birds on the outside of the screens while others fluttered within -- as in a rich man's airy collection. I called over my neighbor since I could not walk across the street and asked him to let them go.

And he did.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some news...

To the readers of my father's blog,

I am here to inform you that he has been hospitalized with some stomach pain that has been ailing him for weeks now. Everything seems to be alright as of now, and the doctors have a plan to get everything back into control, however he wanted me to write a little post about it.

Angus Fisher

Monday, July 21, 2014

waste not, want not

Perhaps he said it, perhaps he did not: Either was Ben Franklin is often saddled with the bon mot, "Waste not, want not."

And wherever it came from, my father was a devotee: He never threw away a perfectly good gin bottle.

Instead, when his supply grew low, he would make a connection with a chemistry professor at the college where he taught, pour the gallon or so od 90+% alcohol in the bathtub, mix with water, add a little juniper juice brought at a local pharmacy, stir and decant into the old bottles. No one ever knew ... or if they did, they didn't complain.

Likewise, he had a walk in closet for his clothes. He never threw old ties away. Instead, against the entire six- or 8-foot-back wall was a wire on which he hung his ties, year after year. Sure enough, ties that had outlasted their fashion statement would be replaced shortly by ties whose new-and-novel became new and novel once more.

I wonder how many spiritual adventures are like that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

ties that bind

"A giant yellow rubber duck floating on Nanming River in China's south-west Guizhou Province has reportedly been swept away by floodwaters just months after it exploded on display in Taiwan.....The duck has been on tour since 2007, popping up in cities including Sydney, Sao Paulo and Baku as a way of bringing people together."  
The Israelis and Palestinians are at it again, brought together in a conflict that as usual seems to put the body count at something like 20-30-40 or more Palestinians killed for each Israeli. On public television the other night, a long-time negotiator said neither side really wants peace because peace would involve self-sacrifices neither is willing to make.
"MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Move over, pot brownies.
The proliferation of marijuana edibles for both medical and recreational purposes is giving rise to a cottage industry of baked goods, candies, infused oils, cookbooks and classes that promises a slow burn as more states legalize the practice and awareness spreads about the best ways to deliver the drug."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

the "good person"

 I dislike borrowing, but this seemed worth borrowing:

We should do good for the sake of goodness, not in order to become a 'good person.'
If you are a 'good person,' then you will suffer.
Just be a human being. Otherwise you will always be annoyed by those who are not 'good people.'
The Buddha taught non-attachment. We should not even be attached to goodness because it leads to suffering.
-Ajahn Chah


YOSHITAKA HAMADA - Daily Hampshire Gazette
Jessica Russell pets "Scout," a mix of poodle and Australian Shepard, during the Blackberry Lane block party in Northampton Saturday, July 12, 2014.
Will someone please tell me when a dog becomes a "mutt," the word I always understood to mean (a la an Internet dictionary) "a pet dog, especially one that does not belong to a particular breed?"

Does it depend on the neighborhood you live in? Does it mean that some aspect of the animal has been blessed by the American Kennel Club, the premier ring of doggie desirability here in the U.S.?

Does it matter what color the owners are?

When slicing the canine lineage pie, does "a half" rank higher than a "quarter." And how do you measure, genetics being what they are?

Is a "mutt" your dog but not mine or vice versa?

If I own a Ford and you own a Rolls Royce -- is my dog a "mutt" and yours a "mix?"

Is a "mix" a polite way of saying that some aspect of this mutt is pricey but another aspect ... well, hell, who knows what happens behind the woodpile late at night?

And, at the other 'end' of the spectrum, how would you know that something was authentically pure without the mutts of this world to authenticate it?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

top military dog

As the purveyor of the following pointed out, the U.S. can't seem to win the war on drugs, can't seem to care well for the sick, can't seem to educate our children, can't win the war on 'terror,' can't reform economic imbalances and can't ... well, fill in the blank.

But we can:

age wasted on the elderly?

Because I have been off my feed, the following is a newspaper column I won't pass in (too much of a mess and no energy to correct) for publication tomorrow, my 'regular' day:

Youth is wasted on the young.

The Irish playwright and wag George Bernard Shaw once quipped, "Youth is wasted on the young."

A similar barely-concealed resentment was woven into a recent email I received from Janet Asimov, widow of the prolific American writer Isaac Asimov.  I had sent Janet a couple of suggestions about movies I thought she might enjoy watching.

She responded promptly. "mostly, I read, which is also difficult because my vision is certainly not what it used to be. I don't think you are in your eighties yet. Be warned -- they are not fun."

As if to bolster Janet's and Shaw's tart and somewhat snarky appreciation of old age, there are the one-two-three-four... stories per week in the Gazette about antidotes for encroaching age -- a tai chi class here, a little gardening there, some golf, a yoga class, travel, time with the grandkids, a lecture, a stint as a volunteer, another appreciation of approaching death; a diet that includes chocolate and a hundred other ways to remain active and connected and relevant and fun and ... young. Energtic trianers with hand-stitched shoes and an insistence on using the word "we," assert at every turn: youth is good,  healthy, improving and, in the end, fun-er.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. But the quiet question that remains unanswered is, if old youth is wasted on the young, is old age wasted on the elderly?

Maybe it's a little like the pregnant woman.

For all the wonder and delight and perceived blessing of her situation, a pregnant woman may be forgiven from time to time for feeling cranky as hell about this caboose at the front of her freight train. What she wouldn't give to roll over in bed at night! And in the same breath, perhaps an elderly person can be forgiven for feeling something similar: There's no escape but that doesn't mean the longing to escape doesn't come calling. As Janet observed, not everything is "fun."

And it was in this vein that I revisited Mr. Shaw and his resentful wit: If youth is wasted on the young, is it possible that old age is likewise wasted on the elderly? I guess I think it is.

Old age slows things down. Mentally and physically, things grow less do-able even as the recollection remains of a time when doing and improving and fun were all the rage. And the recognition can lead to a case of the blues that no peppy thirty-somethings can squelch with their newspaper good news. 

There is no escape, but what might happen if, instead of trying to escape, the energies were put elsewhere?

The American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., once observed, "It is not what's wrong with the world that really scares people. What really scares them is that everything is all right."

Those who are religiously-inclined may hear such an observation and bunker down in their belief system: "God's in heaven and all's right with the world." Those who are psychologically-inclined may see in King's words a recipe for a passivity and lifelessness.

But setting aside the facile critiques, I think this is the realm in which advanced age may find an opportunity. What would things be like if anyone stopped insisting on improvements and fun? What would it be like to stop imagining that "change" was something to effect [cq] and instead was something that simply happened? Isn't this the way things actually happen anyway? Isn't it time to get with the program?

It is easy to write about a change of perspective, but less easy to make real. Suddenly, the activities that anyone chooses are simply activities that they choose. Some are fun. Some are not. Things change and insisting that they change according to a schedule or social agreement is extra. Working to improve things is fine: Expecting they will be improved is unnecessary. Fun is lovely, but an insistence on fun is for ... the young.

In advancing years, the energy may be less, but the capacity for wisdom is increased. Marginalized by energy does not mean marginalized by reality. No point in wasting old age on the elderly.

Or, put another way, just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help. 

It takes more discipline to have what you've got than to wish for what you have not got.


Friday, July 11, 2014


"Flâneur" popped up, enticing as a morsel of cheese on a rat trap, in the newspaper yesterday.

What is enticing is its tapestry of meaning that varies from user to user:
The terms of flânerie date to the 16th or 17th century, denoting strolling, idling, often with the connotation of wasting time. But it was in the 19th century that a rich set of meanings and definitions surrounding the flâneur took shape.
So ... is a flâneur an idling dolt with too much time on his hands or a secret sage on the prowl? By this time, with copious essays to support the view, a more approving description has taken shape (no one wants to be called a Lazy Bones), but I prefer to keep at least one foot in the camp that suggests another idjit is on the loose.


After the better part of three years in the army in the early 1960's, I was given the usual pep talk about all the advantages I might enjoy if I "re-upped" (signing on for another three-year hitch). My mind, however, was pretty much made up: I really did not want to work for an organization from which I could not be fired.

But sub-rosa, another understanding also asserted itself. I had  been in Berlin for almost two years. I had been trained to speak the language. There had been some wonderful and not always decorous times. I liked Berlin but ....

Friends and acquaintances who were getting similar pep talks were also weighing their options. One guy wanted to get out of the service, travel to Africa and become a mercenary soldier. Another fellow had a girlfriend with whom he wanted to remain. And the large majority just wanted to get the fuck out.

But there was another, somehow surprising, revelation that snuck up on me: I missed my homeland. Flag-wavers may say "d'oh!" but I had a comic-book idea that somehow I was a world-traveler, someone who liked to go places and do things and learn all sorts of stuff: I was not tied down or dependent on the country of my birth.

The revelation popped out of my mouth unbidden one evening when I was talking with a buddy about getting out of the service and going "home."

"I want to live somewhere where I can say 'the Lone Ranger,' and make an instantaneous connection."

And from that single sentence, a hundred-hundred other restful connections asserted themselves ... slang, punch lines, baseball, politics, religion, books, Boy Scouts, poor beer, music, Hollywood, a kind of youthful boisterousness that goes with a lack of history ... I guess it qualified as "culture" or something close to that. The more I thought about it, the more I felt I had to be honest. And the more I relaxed ... OK, I was stuck with the American farm ... just try not to fuck it up too badly or create too much harm.

Going home.

I guess the thought crossed my mind because today the BBC had a small article asserting that NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden was likely to have his yearlong visa extended in Russia. I felt sorry (based on my experience) for Snowden and grateful to him. Most principled positions these days seem to be tossed away like Kleenex at the end of a good blow. Sticking with it, gutting it out, paying the price, and bearing the criticism of 'true' Americans takes grit when it is not busy being insane.

Imagine (from my point of view): In order to be a patriotic American, you have to live in another country. I would like to apologize to Mr. Snowden and tell his terrorist, neo-con critics to stick it where the sun don't shine.