Monday, April 24, 2017

pain with the gain

Jack Ma
Artificial intelligence and other technologies will cause people “more pain than happiness” over the next three decades, according to Jack Ma, the billionaire chairman and founder of Alibaba.
“Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and walks of life,” said Ma, speaking at an entrepreneurship conference in China about the job disruptions that would be created by automation and the internet. A key social conflict will be the rise of artificial intelligence and longer life expectancy, which will lead to an aging workforce fighting for fewer jobs.

the humanity factor

It's just human, isn't it?

David Wyeth and Matthew Rees recount the inspiring end to the London marathon that saw Matthew help his exhausted fellow runner across the finish line.
And, among other things...
The state of Arkansas plans to execute two inmates on Monday evening, which would make it the first U.S. state in 17 years to put a pair of convicts to death on the same day.
It's just human, isn't it?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

spring notes

What was a grey and clouded pre-dawn has turned blueblueblue in its day-ness. A lone wasp buzzes around the porch and is immune to my suggestions that it dip from its ceiling veldt and make through the open door to the sunshine outdoors. Across the street my neighbor's Tree of the Hanging Squirrels has popped the nothingness of its winter branches and has created a thousand somethings that are its Japanese Maple leaves.

The sunshine is bragging in the street and across the rooftops. A solid spring day.

I keep hoping to see Doreen, the owner of the house with the Tree of the Hanging Squirrels. She has spent the winter fighting cancer, but today, without seeing her, I did hear her signature laughter -- a delighted cackle about one thing or another. Doreen is there and I am here. Spring is all present and correct. There has been changes -- Doreen battling her trolls, I battling mine -- but spring has not lessened its laughter. Perhaps I will go and buy Doreen a flower and plant it surreptitiously in the garden she keeps at the front of her house but has not tended that I know of.... just to piss her off a little that anyone would dare to touch her hallowed ground. A neighborly thought, I figure.

Spring. Sun. Leaves. Pissing people off.

Somebody's gotta sing the song.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

stupid is not the same as peaceful

Some part of me is tired of making room for voices that insist on elevating unexamined bullshit, of enshrining it without taking responsibility for it, of pretending that a good ol' boy is the same as a right ol' boy.

I'm glad scientists are out in some measure of force to accord with Monday's Earth Day.

There is nothing wrong with not-knowing. There is something very wrong about assuming that not-knowing is the same as an unwillingness to learn and to get things right ... and to keep your word. Sure, it's climate change ... but it's also brain cells and health and alzheimers and young men and women researching and ... so much else that doesn't deserve to be choked by self-applauding uncertainty whose only quality is loudness.

More than 600 marches held around the world, with organizers saying science ‘under attack’ from a White House that dismisses the threat of climate change.
 Why March for Science? Because when it is attacked, only elites benefit

winter's bounty, summer's need

An ice stupa created by the innovative engineer Sonam Wangchuk in Ladakh, India. Photograph: Courtesy of Sonam Wangchuk
Why do I suspect that an innovation like this, when placed in the hands of a macher like Donald Trump, would be little more than a 'deal' to be made and others to withhold from?

"Lady's Companion" on the block

When you think of sex toys, you may not automatically think of the Victorian era. Or Ireland.
But you would be wrong.
Over the weekend, Matthews auctioneers in County Meath, Ireland, is offering for sale an “antique carved ivory ladies’ companion in scarlet lined leather upholstered carry box with inset bevelled glass panel”. It’s also known as Lot 475.

Declaration-of-Independence find

"Two Harvard researchers have found only the second known parchment manuscript of America’s formative text in a West Sussex archive."    
‘The Sussex Declaration’ was made sometime in the next decade after the original declaration was signed, the researchers say. Photograph: West Sussex Record Office Add Mss 8981.

making Britain great again?

British miners drilling for coal in 1924
If those committed to Donald Trump as a political beacon want some idea of Mr. Trump's ability to follow through, perhaps a glance across the Atlantic pond offers a preview:
Britain went a full day without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the National Grid says.
The energy provider said Friday's lack of coal usage was a "watershed" moment.
Britain's longest continuous energy period without coal until now was 19 hours - first achieved last May, and again on Thursday.
The government plans to phase out Britain's last plants by 2025 in order to cut carbon emissions.
Friday is thought to be the first time the nation has not used coal to generate electricity since the world's first centralised public coal-fired generator opened in 1882, at Holborn Viaduct in London.

Friday, April 21, 2017

saves wear and tear on the other end

A man who was fined €70 ($75) after unleashing a sonorous post-kebab belch near an Austrian policeman has won his legal fight to have the sanction overturned.
Edin Mehic was issued the fine in February 2016 for violating “public decency with a loud belch next to a police officer” in Vienna’s famous Prater Park.
But a court document Mehic emailed to the Associated Press on Friday shows authorities have ruled in his favour. It says there was “never proof” that he burped to affront the officer....
Mehic’s belch resonated in Austria long after it was emitted. Groups organised to support him, and a kebab chain paid for both his ticket and an all-expenses trip to Istanbul.

silent city in the desert

Sometimes I can purely marvel, whether blessed or cursed, at the stuff I don't know.

suckled by sunshine

I always felt that Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italien" was the gustatory equivalent of being suckled by sunshine. So. Take a moment and, possibly, savor the sunshine.

Ives in Texas

Ives at Ft. Bliss, Texas, April, 2017

Written communication has been sparse since my younger son got to his Texas pre-mobilization training in Texas, but this picture arrived last night when my wife and older son went to dinner with Ives' lady friend.

Rube Goldberg redux

For those who may once have been smitten by the availability of "dehydrated water" ("just add water"), there is the somewhat chagrined "Juicero," which costs $400 and promises an "experience" in healthy ingestion if you're too damned lazy to squeeze your own juice.
A US start-up that sells a wi-fi connected juicing machine for $399 (£310), has offered refunds after the gadget was mocked on social media.
Wrongly attributed to P.T. Barnum: "There's a sucker born every minute."

More seriously, I sometimes think every newborn should be required to attend a six-month course in being a human being, learning how to DO something, BUILD something, and stop fucking around 'leveraging' stuff.

Rube Goldberg lives anew.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

happy ending ... again and again and again

What follows probably qualifies in the same basket as the old logic joke:

All tables have four legs.
My dog has four legs.
Ergo, my dog is a table.

Though wrong-headed, what follows has stuck with me and made me smirk ... or something like that. So I'll write it down and hope no one gets too serious ... me included.


Among the silver tongued and slick, you can sometimes hear the Chinese fortune cookie that goes, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." Examination (look it up yourself or open your eyes) shows this to be false, but it is so tasty on the tongue that it is hard to escape. I don't agree with it, but it came into my mind as a premise for a bit of thinking last night.

Premise: OK, the nutters do the same thing over and over in hopes of achieving some different and implicitly more acceptable result.

And if, for a moment, that is true ....

Last night I was flipping around the TV channels and ran into the reboot of "Cinderella." It's a movie version of the old fairy tale and I have to admit its bedrock gets to me -- the wicked stepmother treats the sweet, lovable girl badly but she gets her prince in the end. Up from under life's slings and arrows ... a happy ending ... bluebirds sing, as well they might. The older I get the more I like happy endings ... I don't give a damn if they're lies.

And while watching the movie, it occurred to me that no matter how often I watched it, the outcome would still be the same. A happy ending ... over and over and over again. I don't watch the movie expecting to run into a gloomy ending. No, I expect the same thing over and over and over. This is the mirror image of the slick definition of "insanity" above. And if that is true, does expecting the same outcome make me sane or insane?

Oh well, I'm perilously close to a brain seizure somehow. I guess I'll just be sane or insane and let someone else sort it out...


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

blue lobster

hermit hired!

Stan Vanuytrecht chosen from 50 applicants for post, which comes with no heating, running water, internet or pay

a country without constant war

Standing out from a Guardian article about those who left the United States in the wake of Donald Trump's presidential ascendancy was, for me, this quote:
“There is a psychological burden to living in a country that is forever in a state of war,” he said. “And I don’t think even politicized Americans can appreciate it viscerally until they’re free from it.”
It sounds true or perhaps it merely sounds like words you wish were true ... but is it true? I really don't know. How WOULD it be to live in a country that wasn't constantly involved in one military adventure or another? Surely it would have some effect ... but what effect?

How depressing to even ask the question.

sheep smarts

They're not stupid, they have sexual preferences (8% are homosexual), they prefer smiles, they defend weaker fellows of the flock, and their capacity to decimate the grass that feeds many is not to be trifled with.

For all that, human beings insist on calling sheep "stupid" and otherwise speaking down to the animal that adorns their sacrificial altars, fills their dinner plate and warms their sweaters.

I wonder if that is a descriptive human trait -- to label as "stupid" (or, pick your pejorative) that which a human being wishes to exploit without exciting a chorus of criticism or complaint.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

civilization collapse, my ass!

A BBC speculation today is headlined "How western civilization could collapse."

Oh goodie.
Oh gleee.
Oy vey.
Oh ain't it awful?
Oh the world is going to hell in a hand basket.
The air sucks.
The social structures crumble.
The people suck.
The cars suck!
Donald Trump is president.
Turkey has a dictator.
Africa has a variety of tribal slaughters.
Democracy crumbles .....

Oh weep
Oh moan


Relax ... western civilization may become more uncomfortable, but "collapse?" Never! Why? Because there's too much money to be made if it does not collapse ... there are too many weenies who want to flong their dongs and require subservient throngs to lick up their cuff-linked spittle. How can Tesla be kool if there's no one to salivate for it? Too many poorly educated men in Washington and elsewhere need a forum in which to believe that they, like British royalty, have the droit de seigneur ... someone will actually believe them and their spiff-dom.


And if I'm wrong, there will be no one left to contradict me ... nyah-nyah-nyah!

news bulletin: "there is no news"

... 87 years ago, on 18 April 1930, the BBC's news announcer had nothing to communicate. "There is no news," was the script of the 20:45 news bulletin, before piano music was played for the rest of the 15-minute segment.
The wireless service then returned to broadcasting from the Queen's Hall in Langham Place, London, where the Wagner opera Parsifal was being performed.
How different 18 April 2017.....

DOCTOR... Bashar al-Assad

"Bashar al-Assad trained as a doctor. How did he become a mass murderer?"

Don't worry -- this opinion piece includes Mengele.

40 marathons later

The first time Kathrine Switzer stood on the starting line of the Boston Marathon, it was as the lone woman in a men-only race.
The fact she dared to compete led one race official to try to rip the number 261 from her back, a few miles in.
Fifty years on, aged 70, Ms Switzer returned to the starting line wearing the same number.
 Blessings on those who choose to run the solo race that is their life.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Guardian photos

The Guardian: Honky Tonk Nun

I’m no great singer, but Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou only really trusted me after I had sung to her. “Something from your country,” she instructed. So I found myself in the tiny bedroom of this 93-year-old Ethiopian composer-pianist-nun, croaking my way through the verses of a Robert Burns song.
Given she does not agree to most interviews, I felt I should do what I was told. The room, at the Ethiopian Orthodox church in Jerusalem, was cramped and sweltering. In it was a small bed, an upright piano draped in Ethiopian flags, stacks of reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, and a jumble of handwritten manuscripts. On the walls were portraits of Emperor Haile Selassie – Emahoy knew him in the 1930s – and her own paintings of religious icons. The door was propped open and, from the courtyard, came smells of food and the sound of monks chanting.

I found her life more interesting thatn her music ... fish around.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

lotsa little tramps

barren in California

The 250,000 acres of California that no one inhabits:
"Despite being located less than 130 miles from downtown Los Angeles, few Americans have heard of Carrizo Plain."

"do you remember me?"

It's one thing to tease my advancing forgetfulness with friends or acquaintances likely to be suffering the same affliction. You can chuckle a bit or weep openly if necessary. This is cosa nostra, our thing.

But it is quite another to be bare-ass accosted ... out of no where ... by the same set of facts.

Yesterday, sitting on a low retaining wall outside the barbershop I had patronized some minutes before, I was enjoying the sunshine as I waited for my wife to pick me up. It was good to be outside, to feel the sun, feel the air, watch the almost non-existent activities as cars passed. And as I sat there, a man approached. Then sat on the wall next to me and said calmly, "Do you remember me?"

And I didn't, though his German accent rang some bells and it turned out Samuel's son and one of mine inhabited a similar high school class together. But I really didn't remember. He had the social-working demeanor of his profession -- taking care of 'challenged' kids in schools ... a poker face that remained in place even when confronting a serial killer. Texas Hold 'Em lips is what I think of. We chatted. He said I had once taken him to the zendo I built in the backyard here. I really didn't remember that, though I remember a general trend of trying to lure people in by giving a cook's tour of the 12x16 building. He wanted to know if I still did Buddhism. "I'll do Buddhism if you like," I said, feeling more at ease than when my cook's tour frequency had been in play. He laughed ... "you 'do Buddhism'" he repeated and we both chuckled. We had a nice chat and pretty soon my wife came and I wasn't a Buddhist any more ... or perhaps I was more so. How I loved it all once. And now .... Buddhism is sensible for those inclined.

But these days, my "finis" point so to speak refers back to a time when I asked a Zen teacher how to teach others. "Tell 'em 80%," he replied, "and let 'em find out 20." That never sat right with me, though back then I wouldn't have dared to contradict a "teacher." Then, by suspicion, and now by conviction, my feeling is, "tell 'em 100% and let 'em find out 100%."

As if there were some other choice.

Whac-a-mole salvation

A shrink friend of mine once told me that the world of sleep-time dreams had a saucy and silly facet in its firmament -- the most sublime things eliciting a torrent of wracking tears or the most horrific spawning uncontrollable laughter. Or, what ought to be metaphorical segues into the literal ... or vice versa.

It was in this realm that I woke this morning -- Easter morning by Christian reckoning -- wondering if the arcade game Whac-a-Mole took its inception from the resurrection story in Christian tale-telling and ritual: You can't keep a good (wo)man down no matter how tightly s/he is affixed to the latest cross. Saviors, to borrow someone else's words, "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'."

Resurrection is a way of life, but you gotta die first, right?

Those who may think I am flipping Christianity the bird might consider the discovery last year of the coffins of five (that's FIVE) archbishops of Canterbury stacked on top of each other and accidentally uncovered at a construction site. "Lost archbishops," the headline notes. How the hell do you lose an archbishop? Stacked on top of eachother ... "piled higgledy-piggledy on top of each other" ,,, sorta like Crest toothpaste in WalMart. Dead is dead, whatever the dreams may be ... but you gotta wonder how come these heavy hitters were ... ummmm ... stacked up like cord wood. Were officials pressed for space? Were they less smarmy than those who might come later?

Every moment a life. Every moment a death. Every moment a resurrection.

The pope excoriates the gas and other atrocities in Syria in his Easter message.

The United States pays homage to North Korea, which is managing to be the single biggest  resuscitator of the war footing that will allow Donald Trump not to address serious issues in the United States ... the ones that put him in office in the first place but have yet to acknowledge the fact that they have been sold out. A small armada with a lot of U.S. fire power is Korean-Peninsula bound.

The savior wears so many guises, comes in so many forms. Again and again, s/he rolls back the rock that was put in place after the last great horror. Again and again, resurrection is the theme and the fact and, when spoken about with the numbing solemnity of the moment, the cowardice.

Whac-a-mole, thou art risen.

PS. Please forgive me, but I am lazy and don't reread and allow my mind to wander without filling in the blank spots these days. I write because there's space to write and it may be better than picking my nose. But the illusions are fading ... imagining I could convince anyone to do or not to do. No one can convince anyone else. People convince themselves ... or not.

Ergo ... ?
After weeks of suspense, April the giraffe finally gave birth on Saturday to a baby boy, delighting of hundreds of thousands of people who have been monitoring a live cam feed from a New York zoo in anticipation of the long-overdue event.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

sheep farmer vs. A-listers

Jim Telfer can trace his roots on the rolling farmland outside Edinburgh back to 1915, when George V was on the throne and Allied troops were in the middle of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. Three generations later and Telfer, 82, is still up before daybreak tending to the newborn lambs that gambol round his smallholding.
But all this, he fears, may soon be taken away. Hollywood A-listers could next year be roaming the land after plans to build Scotland’s first purpose-built film studio were approved in principle by ministers.

correspondence with Abby

During WWII, when we were kindergarten-sized, Abigail and I were thrown together because our mothers shared a large apartment in New York City. Abby got back in touch more recently and now we converse from time to time. I spent most of my writing bolt reponding to her this morning ... not much meaning to anyone but me.

To: Adam Fisher
Sent: Fri, Apr 14, 2017 11:32 pm
Subject: Bye, bye Miss American Pie

"Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye singing this’ll be the day that I die.”

Just couldn't go to that link you provided! I'm superstitious enough already.

On to a completely different subject: the tyng of shoes. I went out on the porch this morning wth a cup of coffee and a section of today’s newspaper and with my sneaks untied. The back door closed on one of the trailing laces and I had a bit of a struggle getting free, during which time a bit of coffee slopped on the paper. Finally I get settled on the porch to discover that the lead story in the section I'd brought out with me was all about THE CORRECT WAY TO TIE ONE’S SHOES.

Even though I hadn’t tied mine yet, I was interested. BECAUSE for many years people have chided me on the way I tie my shoes (and bows on presents, etcetera) and I have always responded by blaming you!

I have this memory of us sitting side-by-side and you showing me how to tie shoes. Are you (or were you) left-handed? Has that been my problem all these years???

xx & oo
Abby --
What an utterly delightful note to wake up to. Thanks. I am not left-handed but am content beyond measure to think I could be the blamed-for-everything agent in someone's life. Sky fallin'? Adam screwed the pooch again!!!! Coffee on the newspaper? Probably Adam's Puckish streak. Shoe laces in square knots? I told you Adam was bad luck!!!

Finally I get settled on the porch to discover that the lead story in the section I'd brought out with me was all about THE CORRECT WAY TO

If you had populated the Brown Rice Circuit as much as I have over the years, you would know that the above adventure/occurrence/serendipity, had a D-E-E-E-E-P  M-E-A-N-I-N-G. God, I can almost see the glassy-eyed acolytes smiling slightly but knowingly while simultaneously reaching for the wallets that of course are required to any serendipitous/spiritual smog.

Ran across this the other day in an interview with British actor Bill Nighy:
"At some point, you just start to think: ‘I can’t live like this any more, this is ridiculous. When do I get to the bit where I realise apparently I’m OK?’ There comes a point where you get too long in the tooth to swallow your own bullshit. That’s my deep philosophical remark for the day.”

Yesterday, in the never-ending quest to break the Guinness Book of World Records for visiting doctors, I felt my sawdust depleted by yet another one ... a relatively sane fellow who is not afraid to address death with something other than a TED talk. Two things were of interest: 1. His vague-guess, you-will-die-when prognostication (nothing firm, of course) came into alignment with the Pakistani who read my fortune so many years ago and said I would die between 83 and 85, a suggestion that actuarial tables tend to applaud as far as guess-work goes. Tim, the doctor, told me he was doing what he could to keep me comfortable given the circumstances... which he then proceeded (2.) to laundry list: I had not heard everything put cheek by jowl ... it was quite a Christmas list and it jiggled my pistons. COPD, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, emphysema, peripheral artery disease, a bacterial toe infection after having tried to clip a toe nail ... and others that don't seem to fit on this morning's blackboard. I cannot keep up with the schedules required for all the meds ... literally, I cannot keep up. Although it may not sound like it, all this is not a whine ... rather it is just the tiptoeing of time that has managed to sneak up and, apparently, POUNCE. I try to keep every activity one-pointed. The infected toe and the anti-biotics required ... that's enough for me ... much as shoe laces may be enough for you.

Tim, the doctor, suggests I have six or eight more years. The fortune teller did much the same. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be easier to believe the magical mystery tour from the get-go and quit finding "scientific fact" coming to the same conclusions, give or take a bit. Alternatively, why not just believe scientific fact and be done with it .... fuck the magical mystery tour. If they're both going to agree sooner or later (parallel lines meet in eternity and Donald Trump is president), why not just cut to the chase? Fake news? True news? See below.

I have lost my thread here, so I guess I'll stop.

Hang ten and do tie your shoes the 'correct' way.' :)


Passed on  in email: 

Friday, April 14, 2017

White House logs

The Trump administration will not make public White House visitor logs, the records that detail who has visited President Donald Trump and his staff on official business, his office confirmed, in a departure from a practice that was established under former President Barack Obama.
It's not that Trump has done something exclusive -- Obama did the same in a different way -- but put it together with a burgeoning military budget and withholding necessities from those in need ... it feels like a step down the great, parsimonious, flag-waving road.

Massive Ordnance Air Blast

The "mother of all bombs" (actually, Massive Ordnance Air Blast) dropped on a faraway (few or no civilians to constitute "collateral damage") bit of Afghan territory cost "$314 million to develop and has a unit cost of $16 million."

The explosion apparently scared those in the neighborhood shitless. 36 alleged ISIS combatants were said to have been killed. The cost/kill ratio, if I've got it right, is close to $4.4 million per fighter. But of course there's untold ordnance hidden from view and the scare impact. I wonder if ISIS has ever felt so valued ("valued" in the Donald-Trump sense).

This big bang seems to dovetail nicely with Donald Trump's explicit promise to reinvigorate the military budget and his implicit promise not to come up with a policy that would nourish and build the nation it is easier to dismantle.

Perhaps it's irrelevant, but perhaps not:
More than 2,000 migrants trying to reach Europe were plucked from the Mediterranean on Friday in a series of dramatic rescues and one person was found dead, officials and witnesses said. An Italian coast guard spokesman said 19 rescue operations by the coast guard or ships operated by non-governmental organizations had saved a total of 2,074 migrants on 16 rubber dinghies and three small wooden boats.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

the "Mother of All Bombs"

The United States dropped "the mother of all bombs," the largest non-nuclear device it has ever unleashed in combat, on a network of caves and tunnels used by Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, the military said.
President Donald Trump touted the bombing as evidence of a more muscular U.S. foreign policy since he took office in January after eight years of President Barack Obama.
As the Nazis burnished their wartime sabres in the Spanish Civil War prior to World War II, so the United States et al appear to be gearing up for a new and improved weapons festival that will include the likes of the "mother of all bombs" dropped yesterday in Afghanistan -- the one almost (almost but not quite (?)) as big as the WWI tunnel explosion In Messen/Messines (Belgium/France) whose blast was said to be felt 120 miles away at 10 Downing St. in London. (The list of enormous explosions is pretty informative in Wikipedia ... just the number of those who felt abject fear, let along got killed.)

Boys with toys.
An all-white cabinet.
Shit oh dear!
Why don't we all get drunk, form a circle, and chant the word "penis" as if we were six again?

It makes me wonder if anyone attending an Ivy League College should be forced to take a two-year-course in civics ... against the time when they too will find their fingers on the trigger of the mother of all bombs. Or perhaps a couple of semesters investigating the fruitfulness of shame. Is there any shame at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Smith, Columbia, Mount Holyoke ....

tongue in a true cheek ... Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy gave a recent interview to The Guardian. The article wrapped up with a bit of tongue-in-cheek straightforwardness that seems to be part of the British actor's persona.
"At some point, you just start to think: ‘I can’t live like this any more, this is ridiculous. When do I get to the bit where I realise apparently I’m OK?’ There comes a point where you get too long in the tooth to swallow your own bullshit. That’s my deep philosophical remark for the day.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

park for free? move to North Dakota

North Dakota turned back a legislative effort to allow cities and towns decide whether to allow parking meters.

ND remains the only state that does not allow the meters.

really expensive stuff

$57,995.00 · Luxury Of Watches
Free shipping. No tax
Luxury Of Watches

A diamond-studded Rolex at 40 percent off the $34,000 retail price or an Omega Speedmaster Moonphase for less than $10,000? While still out of reach for most people, the increasing prevalence of such deals highlights the perplexing predicament in which luxury watchmakers now find themselves.
With sales falling, more unsold timepieces are finding their way from the Swiss-dominated industry's carefully controlled official retail networks to online platforms where they are often offered at steep discounts.
My own preference for snazzy stuff is the stuff without a single label. Otherwise I basically pity the poor soul who dons a label and ... and ... and what exactly? Labels for sports wear, men's wear, women's shoes, jewelry, autos ... where is the item that can boast no label but has superior workmanship? If the car keeps running, do I really need to know its manufacturer?

There is something impoverished and tribal about the bling, impoverished in mind and construction.

It's 3 p.m. ... isn't that enough?

The snazziest thing I ever owned was a ginkgo nut ... but I never said that to anyone.

bull sculptor sues little girl

The sculptor that [sic] erected Wall Street's Charging Bull statue is complaining about New York City's decision to allow a nearby statue to remain in place.
Italian-born sculptor Arturo Di Modica says the Fearless Girl statue, which was placed nearby during International Women's Day, is a copyright violation.
His lawyers argue that the new sculpture's presence changes the artistic meaning of his famous statue.
Mr Di Modica's statute was installed in 1987, without any city permits.
It is hard not to see the bull-sculptor's complaint. The (unpermitted) bull sends a very powerful message -- the kind of message that Wall Street winners might like but not always attain. The "Sez who" stance of the girl may in fact dent the testosterone-laden charge of the bull that no one apparently questioned in the first place (is it promoting the social good to encourage people to make a living by gambling?) In fact, to my mind, the girl gives the bull a much-needed reality check ... didn't we have a financial downturn in 2008 that no one dared to call a "Depression" because that name had already been used?

I do hope Mr. Modica finds the commissions he seems to be seeking by filing a suit against the little girl.

PS. Here's Reuters' somewhat more careful story.

if you haven't had your dose of dry wit today....

John M. Clarke, aka Fred Dagg, died April 9, 2017. RIP a very dry wit.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

capital punishment witnesses

Witnesses like Teresa and Larry Clark are a legal necessity. In Virginia, as well as some other death penalty states, the law requires people with no connection to the crime attend each execution.

pandering paper wins Pulitzer

A small-town Iowa newspaper with a staff of 10 people - most of whom are related to each other – has won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on powerful agricultural companies over farm pollution.... Cullen’s writing was lauded by the Pulitzer committee for “editorials fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa”. As well as hard-hitting news and editorials, the paper also includes local stories. On Monday, a front-page story told of how a second-grader found a four-leaf clover in the field behind her school. Cullen told the Washington Post that he knows what readers like. “We strive to have a baby, a dog, a fire and a crash on every front page, so, yes, we do pander,” he said.

Monday, April 10, 2017

army national guard photo

My younger son sent along the above photo from Ft. Bliss, Texas, where he and his team are prepping for deployment next month to the Sinai Peninsula. At a quick initial glance, I could not locate my son ... everyone looked the same. When I finally did sort him out (far right), it occurred to me that my earlier not-knowing was 100% more accurate. No smarm ... but which of these is not my son? No smarm ... but which of these is Donald Trump and family willing to send on a mission that lacks specificity or goal or policy ... and whose outcome might be a quickly-forgotten death?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

liberal lapdogs

I don't much care to backstop opinion pieces, but...
So now we know what it takes for an unhinged, bigoted demagogue to win liberal applause: just bypass a constitution to fire some missiles. It had seemed as though there was consensus among those in the anti-Trump camp. This man was a threat to US democracy and world peace. The echoes of 1930s fascist leaders were frightening. “This republic is in serious danger,” declared conservative writer Andrew Sullivan on the eve of Trump’s triumph. That this megalomaniac “pussy-grabbing” ban-the-Muslims ex-reality TV star would soon control the world’s most lethal military arsenal was chilling.
Liberal lapdogs ... so loving ... so snuggling for attention, licking the master's face ... oh, it's a positive ASPCA circle jerk. My heart swoons. My reflection in the mirror is so much more kind-of compassionate and yet firm.

"Make Trump Furious"

Jon Ossoff: "Make Trump Furious"
He looks like he's about 12 [he's 30], but Georgia Democrat candidate Jon Ossoff is rattling a few cages by running for a seat in the House of Representatives.
With Democrats desperate for signs of hope after Hillary Clinton's loss to Trump, Ossoff's underdog "Make Trump Furious" campaign [in Georgia] has endeared him to national anti-Trump activists and pushed him well ahead of 17 rivals in polls. The documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide raised a jaw-dropping $8.3 million in the first quarter, his campaign said.

good eats

The good thing abount living in New York City, when I lived there, was the restaurants. The population was large enough to support chefs whose recipes might be shunned by many -- and not all of them were artsy-fartsy two-bite art works -- and yet the chef might make a living on the few who remained.

In the small city I now inhabit, Northampton, Mass., there is much talk of the good restaurants but no talk at all about the doomed chefs who fall away because their specialties cannot appeal (money, flavor) to the masses (the income-producing Wonder Bread crowd).

When I think of going out to dinner, as I am today, I long for a doomed chef who makes what s/he makes and the devil take the hindmost. S/he may not be in business long, but I keep hoping I will find something weird and wonderful (or awful -- same difference) placed before me before s/he becomes an auto mechanic or just caves in to American 'hand-crafted' bullshit.

True, there are things I prefer not to eat -- anchovies, for example ... and I'm not a great fan of fish -- but there must be something that I like that can be made strangely, newly, and wonderfully off the charts. Public relations do not persuade my taste buds.

Where can I get something good to eat?

I think I may have to move back to New York ... which I have no desire or intention to. I know there are doomed chefs in my bomb zone, but I have no idea as to how I might find them, pay them something pretty outrageous (relative to my checkbook) and be filled with ... with ... what?... phantasmagoria, perhaps.

It all seems pretty greedy in this time that is so widely felt in terms of desperation.

buy your springtime ambrosia here!

Beware the Canucks!!!!!!

This is not a joke.
Maple syrup isn't just for pancakes anymore, thanks to a group of maple syrup producers in Quebec who are trying to turn a cottage industry into a global empire. Montreal chef Martin Picard says maple syrup runs through the veins of Quebecers like the sap that flows from the trees each spring in sugar bushes across the countryside.
 "He says people who have never tasted the golden syrup might be surprised by its unique flavour, which can have hints of toffee and spice, herbs and flowers." Tell me that doesn't sound like some languishing, limp-pinkied flower of the wine-cellar world ... waxing luscious over the riches stored on the musty shelving below!

The idea that maple syrup could indeed be seen as the world's best sugar is the driving ambition of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.

BBC too cute to keep up with?

The synchronised steps of Irish dancing are a mesmerising sight but not recommended for travelling in lifts, a Belfast hotel has advised.
A tongue-in-cheek sign posted by management of a Premier Inn warned Riverdancing residents against rehearsing reels while between floors.
The World Irish Dance Championships are being held at the city'sWaterfront Hall.
 A "tongue in cheek" sign??? Oh, those cute BBC reporters ... so full of whimsey they're just bursting to share ... and if that whimsey manages to sidestep a little journalistic lifting ... oh well, we're just jitterbug kids!

As far back as at least World War I ... and probably further ... road-marching soldiers were ordered to switch from synchronized "marching" to "rout-step" when they came to a bridge. Any bridge.

"Routstep" (probably called different things in different countries) is the personalized, no-synchronicity, individualized way of walking. Soldiers marching in unison (as perhaps dancers dancing in a large elevator?) are inviting calamity when the forces of gravity join with marchers/dancers U-N-I-S-O-N to create an extra serious weight factor.

 You might think a reporter would get it quicker than most: there is always something funny in the serious; and there is always something serious in the funny. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

alarm-alarm-alarm ... not

Now, together with an American president disseminating false or undocumented information, we have hackers in Dallas cutting into citywide alarm systems.
Hackers struck the sirens Dallas uses to alert residents to take shelter from inclement weather, triggering intermittent false alarms for about an hour and a half until officials deactivated the system early Saturday morning....The sirens began sounding at 11:42 p.m. Friday. Officials deactivated the entire system by 1:17 a.m. Saturday. Vaz said the sirens went through about 15 cycles of a 90-second siren activation.
What were once warnings are now threats.

What ever happened to the days when law enforcement didn't pretend to solve a crime before it was committed? It used to be crime-investigation-solution. Now, its intrusive investigation-seeking-a-solution-to-a-problem-in-a-future-no-one-can-tell and a lack of reliability in the liars who soak up assets chasing allegations without proof that can be publicly adduced.

"Trust me" ... a phrase that once accounted for something. But the points of trust seem to dwindle like a sundown. And more, the phrase too often seems to be a matter of who can make money by using a phrase.

WWI: America slaughters its own?

Dead if you do. Dead if you don't
One hundred years later, there are some who remember -- somewhat condescendingly -- World War I, "the great war," "the war to end all wars." We've come so far since that primitive effort in barbarity and glory. On April 6, 1917, America came in with England, France and others who had previously suffered alone "over there." The United States was not enthusiastic. Many were capable of remembering the horrors of a bloody Civil War. But German U-Boot depredations (how ungentlemanly!) helped to move things along.

The war was a reality check. Honor and glory and manliness dwindled. The machine gun, the submarine -- oh hell, the waxing ego -- shifted the wonder of decency in warfare. It was a Donald Trump sort of thing -- You want nice? Tell it to your Aunt Fanny!

Well, I am treating WWI with a thinly-tinted brush. Despite America's war losses which were overshadowed by those of other nations, what continues to interest me about WWI is the advent of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919.

Despite the virulence of the disease and the knowledge that close quarters helped to spread the 'drownings', America joined the war effort and sent its troops off to war in enclosed troop ships. I believe I read or heard somewhere that this salient fact was hushed up as America's young men were sent overseas.
[D]isease, including the 1918 flu pandemic and deaths while held as prisoners of war, still caused about one third of total military deaths for all belligerents.
Is there another way to read this: It was worth subjecting youth to death so that they might enter circumstances that carried a high risk of death? Slaughter them so that they may be gloriously slaughtered?

The flu epidemic claimed between 20 and 40 million worldwide. "An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war." 

PS.  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must be doing a little victory dance at his ability to lend a 'helping hand' with the was on "Islamic State." The boys with the katanas must be  salivating in the wings, just like exceptionalist everywhere.

Is there anyone left to parse this emperor-idea that is wearing a gown marked "terrorist?"

Friday, April 7, 2017

bogged down in D.C.? Kill someone

I once asked my mother if she was ever smitten with "writer's block" and if so, how she dealt with it. Writer's block is a wall that writers can be flummoxed by. My mother said that yes, there were times when she would sink into a slough of sluggish despond or an inability to make a story go forward. Everything you write looks like shit. And what did she do?

"There's no single thing that restarts the engine. But one pretty good technique is, I kill someone."

Of course she was speaking in a time when death of a person or a character was considered a social blow ... a sense of sorrow and loss ensued by social convention. Nowadays, it's not quite the same -- people die and it's more or less OK as long as it's not me.

Donald Trump 59-missile attack against Syria reminded me of my mother's writer's block.
"Trump has quickly discovered the magic principle of US politics: when things go wrong at home, start a military venture in the Middle East," London-based blogger Karl Sharro, who is half-Lebanese and half-Iraqi, commented.

living with monkeys?

Police in northern India are searching lists of missing children to try to identify a girl believed to have been living with monkeys.
The little girl, aged between eight and 10, was found a few weeks ago in a forest in Uttar Pradesh.
Doctors said she could not communicate and displayed "monkey-like" traits.
A senior police official told BBC Hindi she had been playing with a pack of monkeys and imitating their behaviour when police went to rescue her....
A senior police official told BBC Hindi she had been playing with a pack of monkeys and imitating their behaviour when police went to rescue her.
... The police official, Suresh Yadav, said the monkeys attacked his squad when they arrived to take her away.

PS. April 8, 2017
[T]he rapid improvement she had made since being hospitalised now led doctors to believe she had in fact been raised by people. “Initially she was crawling but now she is walking normally – so she hasn’t been in the jungle since birth,” Lal said.
“The truth of the matter is her family didn’t want to look after her,” said Ranjana Kumari a leading activist in the movement to promote the welfare of young girls in a society where female foeticide persists, and has severely distorted birth rates, especially in rural areas.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Israel's "incremental tyranny"

Two former heads of Israel’s powerful domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, have made an impassioned and powerful intervention ahead of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in June.
One of the pair warned that the country’s political system was sunk in the process of “incremental tyranny”.
Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon were speaking ahead of a public meeting at a Jerusalem gallery which is threatened with closure for hosting a meeting organised by the military whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence, one of the main targets of the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
May the U.S. pay heed.

Nazi pin-up struts her stuff

Kristina Söderbaum -- virulent anti-semite and movie star in Nazi Germany -- died in 2001 at the age of  88. She had
[S]tarred in 10 box-office hits in Nazi Germany directed by her husband Veit Harlan. She was the pin-up of the Wehrmacht, admired by Franco and parodied as the Lorelei. She also achieved a certain distinction as one of the few film actresses of the Third Reich who did not at some time enjoy a liaison with Josef Goebbels - a circumstance dictated as much by Veit Harlan's extreme possessiveness as by the propaganda minister's private predilection for dark-eyed brunettes. She was later tried by the Allies for war crimes.
As seen below, she was a good bareback rider and something of an archer.

i can't keep up

I can't keep up.

Or is it that I don't want to keep up?

To me, the lusciousness of a tale is found in its simplicities and slowness and caressing. Hard news or hard fiction. Slow and simple and plainly interesting. The zip and sass of later creations, of today's creations, increasingly put my mind in stall mode: Why is this story so interesting that I have to listen to you?

Early Thornton Wilder seems to fit in here ... and the mysteries of the very simple facts that weave themselves inescapably into ... what is it? ... love, perhaps, but not Fuller-Brush-salesman love. Stepping across my lines and explanations and beliefs -- there is something and it is important that I almost-but-not-quite know what it is. With the mystery, there is some confusion, perhaps, but without mystery things turn false and another TED talk is born.

I read the news and ... with rare exceptions ... stall out.

I am left behind.

Or is it that I refuse to move 'forward?'

I am no longer destined to be graceful.

shipping lanes swarmed by icebergs

More than 400 icebergs have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week in an unusually large swarm for this early in the season, forcing vessels to slow to a crawl or take detours of hundreds of kilometres.
Experts are attributing it to uncommonly strong counter-clockwise winds that are drawing the icebergs south, and perhaps also global warming, which is accelerating the process by which chunks of the Greenland ice sheet break off and float away.
As of Monday, there were about 450 icebergs near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, up from 37 a week earlier, according to the US Coast Guard’s international ice patrol in New London, Connecticut. Those kinds of numbers are usually not seen until late May or early June. The average for this time of year is about 80.

the money and muscle in Afghnistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Afghan government is trying to grab the attention of President Donald Trump and gain greater U.S. support by dangling its massive and untouched wealth of minerals, including lithium, the silvery metal used in mobile phone and computer batteries that is considered essential to modern life.
But tapping into that wealth, which also includes coal, copper, rare earths and far more that estimates say could be worth from $1 trillion to $3 trillion, is likely a long way off.
Opium, which props up better than a third of Afghanistan's budget if I recall, is a bit icky for the U.S., which prefers its heroin on the streets. But a good business "deal," as the bourgeois American president constantly reminds us, is another matter. Afghanistan does, of course, provide a war tableau (undeclared, the longest in U.S. history) that is so much easier for politicians unwilling to stake their political clout on something peaceful and creative.