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 .... voilĂ !

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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

up with cranky Christians!

Being the good Christian he is ( (: ), my neighbor across the street, Joe, got pissed as a hornet this morning after a parking enforcement vehicle parked across the street from his house and prepared to take pictures of Joe's car in front of Joe's house ... with, be it said, a lawn sign touting a tour by evangelist Billy Graham's son.

I've known Joe for a number of years. He's not some lock-step asshole Christian who won't give anyone permission to do anything other than come to Jesus. Joe never mentions Christianity. He goes to church. He helps to build schools in Africa. He gets to the senior center to buck the bereaved up.

And now the parking enforcement woman was about to ticket him because, technically, his advertising for the younger Graham was too close to his driveway ... or anyway, that's what Joe believed .... and was pissed about. "It's one-way tolerance" he fumed. Anything that says "Christian" is immediately suspect.

And he's right in one sense: My town is so goodie-two-shoes-left-leaning that it risks flying up its own asshole and disappearing. Lesbian, transgender, homosexual, black, brown, 'Native American,' women and other victims, blah blah blah.

It's all OK with me ... except when Joe's lawn sign appears to be the focus of a wrath attack. For my money, Joe gets to be a Christian if that's what he chooses. My own appreciation of Christianity is not the issue, though I do think slightly more of it since seeing Joe in action.

Everyone gets to be the asshole (s)he chooses, and as long as it doesn't harm others ... well, have a ball.

Joe was furious.

I don't blame him. The person who called the parking enforcement folks (we live on the relative outskirts of a sometimes impossible-to-park-in downtown) obviously didn't want to take responsibility for his or her disagreement. And when you don't want to take responsibility, one of the easiest ways is to cite the rule book, call the law ....


Yeah ... right.

John Oliver on death investigations

Monday, May 20, 2019

fitting last words?

Somewhere, out of the corner of my ear last night, I heard a TV documentary about a devoted Alabama gardener refer to what sounded like "Mark Twain's last words." Though I was dozing, the words, which didn't sound much like Twain to me, were: "There's no one to play with any more."

A good-ish explanation/epitaph it seemed to me ... no one to play with any more.

I tried looking it up on the internet -- did Twain say such a thing? -- and got no where. No matter: I still like the words.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

"Rev. Adam" gets an email

"Hello Rev. Adam," yesterday's e-mail began, before reminding me that it had been 12 years since I signed up to become a minister at something called the "Universal Life Church Ministries."

Twelve years ago, I vaguely recollect, a Zen friend had asked if it were possible for me to officiate at his wedding and I went about finding out how that might be possible, and, in pursuance of that goal, signed on to the church in the belief that bureaucracy loves bureaucracy ... et voila! in a few moments on the Internet, I was a minister, somehow.

Now, 12 years later, there was additional paraphernalia the church thought I might want:
Have you been taking full advantage of your status as a legally ordained minister?...
No matter what activities you might have planned moving forward, we've worked hard to ensure that our site is stocked with all of the information and supplies that you may need to meet any challenge that comes your way and continue your mission to make the universe a better place. ...
[Y]ou've probably officiated your fair share of ceremonies by this point, but are you doing so in full regalia? If you'd like to add a bit of flair to your clergy outfit, consider picking up an official ULC stole! Our stoles feature tasteful gold stitching, high-quality tassels, and are available in a range of color options.
"Tasteful gold stitching ..." I especially liked that. What is a minister without a stole with tassels?

There is no real need to get snarky about such email plaints. Everybody's doing it and it ain't cheap. The email I received mentioned no prices but I do know that Zen paraphernalia costs a bundle (hats and robes and sticks and ... well wowsers!) No doubt the Zen tassels are 'tasteful-er.' You need fins on the car if the car is to be believed, I guess.

But what a strange blast from the past. Just about the time my 'religion' is fading in the rear-view mirror, here comes a reminder of the excesses I was prone to in the past. "Hot dogs here! Getchyer hot dogs!" Do people believe more or less in this internet age? It's so nice to have someone leading the charge ... and well-dressed into the bargain! It's nice to have a serious cast to what feels like a serious step like marriage, so ... getchyer hot dogs!"

But religion feels to me -- or is it just me? -- as if it were dwindling-dwindling-dwindling. My Zen teacher said simply, "take care of your family." He didn't have any tassels that I knew about, but maybe he stowed them away or only put them on for Halloween. Did this make him wrong or apostate in some Zen Buddhist sense? I don't know. He was a prickly, spike-y little man who didn't take crap from anyone.

My anniversary has come and gone.

So much for "Rev. Adam."

Saturday, May 18, 2019

making friends

In an era when "social media" drive people further apart, it pays to make a friend ... maybe even two. Who knows when who will hit the wall that lurks at the other end of the constructs and feel-goods erected in the course of being "connected" these days?

Of course no one can tell anyone else about this and the observation does carry with it the whiff of old age and sour grapes, but check it out -- sometimes the bedroom ceiling really does reach out forever at 3 a.m. Neat and clean and can-do turns messy and dirty and can't. Rushing away into some electronic hug becomes inadequate and pale. The tribes of improvement -- religions and exercises and verbiage and who knows what all else -- ah ... wouldn't a friend be nice? Someone with whom to break the bread of whatever brick wall has been erected and maintained.

A friend is the one who knew and knows you are an asshole, just like everyone else ... and vice versa. Let's get past it and sip beer and don't, as my mother suggested, "get too holy by next Thursday."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

abortion ... again

In the early 1970's there was a spike in the number of news stories detailing the defections of Roman Catholic priests. The press, ever anxious to remain at the shallow end of the reporting pool, focused on the desire to marry and to overlook the priests who did not leave. And it was in this mix that I conceived of writing duet articles -- side by side -- about those who had decided to leave and, equally important, those who decided to remain as unmarried priests or other monogamous clerics.

Finding priests who had quit was not hard though their reasonings were often more subtle than simply wanting to get married. But finding priests who stayed was harder. Why stay? "Jesus Christ!" one exploded at the other end of the phone, "you want me to talk about my faith!" And my question remained -- why DON'T you quit? Aren't you in the faith business? Shouldn't there be some coherent thought process behind that choice?

I guess this comes to mind because Alabama's legislators have just passed an anti-abortion bill and I keep wondering how it is that those who view abortion as murder or some such plan to care for the unwanted pregnancies and life-forms they claim to defend. Have they made a concomitant vow to adopt and raise such children in a healthy, secure setting?  Will the Roman Catholic Church do likewise? Seriously ... if you want to ban abortions, what's the next step?

record-holder on Mt. Everest

Kami Rita, 48
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Sherpa climber Kami Rita scaled Mount Everest on Wednesday for a 23rd time, breaking his own record for the most successful ascents of the world’s highest peak.
Rita reached the summit with other climbers Wednesday morning and all of them were reported to be safe, said Gyanendra Shrestha, a Nepalese government official at the mountain’s base camp.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.
“It is my profession, but at the same time I am setting new world record for Nepal too,” Rita told The Associated Press last month before heading to the mountain.

kids teach themselves to read

If their 'adult' population is too busy and crazed with unkindness and ignorance, perhaps the kids can teach themselves:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The challenge was to develop software that could easily be
downloaded onto tablets that poor children around the world could use to teach themselves to read, write and do simple arithmetic. The incentive was $10 million for the winner.
Nearly 200 teams from 40 countries around the world jumped at the chance to become the latest winner of an XPRIZE, a coveted international award funded by future-looking entrepreneurs, billionaires and philanthropists who have banded together with the goal of making the world a better place through technology.
After 15 months of building software, putting it on tablets and having thousands of children in 141 remote villages in Tanzania test it, judges narrowed the competition for the XPRIZE For Global Learning to five final teams from New York City; Pittsburgh; Berkeley; London; and Bangalore, India.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

global warming yawn .... not

If nothing else, this John Oliver clip is worth it just to watch Bill Nye, public TV's "science guy," step outside the framework of capped teeth and gentle information injections.

In email this morning, a friend passed along an article about the blackouts planned in Calif., where faulty power lines are credited with recent forest fires. Pacific Gas and Electric -- the power purveyor -- has apparently folded into its planning the possibility of instituting black-outs on days when winds are likely to rise and thereby threaten power lines that sparked and lit previous fires. Nobody's really ready because, of course, the earth is flat and danger is something the Other Guy has to shoulder.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

fallen, part deux

As a matter for my own forgetful records, I note here that today I fell down for the second time in the recent past. That's right, "I've fallen and ... I don't want to get up." On the front stoop while retrieving the paper today... flooompf!... things collapsed and down I went.

Nothing too serious, but I think it makes a marker.

And someone will probably ask me when my last 'incident' was. As I righted myself and pawed back up the six or eight concrete stairs, I was aware of the irony ... learning to crawl before getting up to walk and now relearning how to crawl.


Nothing broken, I don't think.

"cheaper than a four-dollar suitcase"

A keeper:

Floating out of the three-person assessment of the week's news on Public Broadcast System NewsHour's "Shields and Brooks" yesterday evening came rumpled journalist Mark Shields' "cheaper than a four-dollar suitcase."

In the midst of all the talking-head assessments, the phrase planted its feet on the ground and hung in the air. The rest of the assessments followed routine analytic guidelines of 'taking things seriously." Shields broke the mold with a little English.

The phrase was used to describe the cheap-date maneuverings of U.S. President Donald Trump ... everything on the cheap; everything pointing back to the suitcase-in-chief ...

I had never heard the phrase before. It was tastier than good chocolate in my mind.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

the tipping point?

"It seems that I am cutting off more toes these days," the surgeon mused as he regarded the longest toe of my left foot yesterday as we moved, doctor-fashion, towards an amputation date of my own. There's a wound on that toe's 'knuckle' and it is in a place that is unlikely to heal over. And as your grandmother observed, "a stitch in time saves nine:" not cutting the toe off might lead to worse infection and the amputation of more than the toe.

I wonder if all doctors hit a tipping point in their practices -- the point between keeping the patient healthy as for a longer life -- and the recognition that death is part of life and if you can't handle that, you're in the wrong profession.

The whole discussion was delicate. Who knows how anyone will react to the notion that an appendage that has come so far must now be removed as a precursor to death. It's all diabetes-related in my case. Actuarily, I have four or five more years to go. Propping up what is bound to decline takes on an increasingly over-energetic effort ... i.e. a fool's errand. Healing and energizing and kissing things better is a young (wo)man's sport.

Anyway, the 45-minute operation (a 'procedure' dontcha know), is likely for sometime later this month.

I wonder what "cutting off more toes these days" means to the surgeon. What does that imply about his skills and experience and the health care system as it currently exists in his mind?

Going to the the doctor at 3 p.m., when I am used to taking a nap, took some of the starch out of me. Am I fretting (and ergo sub-rosa fatigued) in ways I don't know behind a curtain I can't see? I was tired when I got home. Didn't feel like eating. Napped. Ate peanut butter and crackers. I don't feel especially anxious that I know of ... but then, what do I know?

The wound-clinic doctor, when she raised the possibility of amputation before shunting me to the surgeon, said en passant, "you don't need that toe much anyway." OK, but now that this old companion is fixing to move away, I wonder what it was doing there all this time.

And time seems to slip away lately. There are occasional hallucinations, which sounds fancier than it is in fact -- a man, quite clear and whole, across the room. He has a somehow mildly disfigured mouth. He poses no threat or joy, he's just there. Or a small bird behind some black-string netting ... once again, clear as a bell and yet placed in the room where where was not netting or bird earlier. No threat or joy or noise. It takes a few moments to reorient the room, the man, the bird ... and then they're gone. And time itself -- was it ever all that necessary?

If you see things that are and see things that aren't, how much difference is there really?

The sun's out. Air is warming. The tree of the hanging squirrels across the street has burst out in its Japanese maple red and plays with the passing breezes. There are daffodils. I figure if you're gonna make shit up, it might as well be stuff you like ... sun, air, Japanese maples, tousled hair, trying to get the mourning dove's four- and six-note calls fixed in my mind.

I figure as long as I don't do something harmful or hurtful, things are basically OK.

Doctors or anyone else for that matter: Over the tipping point. A tipping point suggests two ends to a teeter-totter -- a weight at one end and a weight at the other .... balancing, toying, smiling.

Two ends.

"Ends" is a bit bizarre.

Sort of like "two."

Was it Rinzai or his teacher Obaku who chastised the Zen monks in his care: "Your who problem is, you do not trust yourselves enough."?

Two ... one ... poof!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

drifting apart, eating alone

As a nation [United Kingdom], we have also become less self-conscious about solo dining. The bookings website OpenTable recently reported that reservations for one have increased across the UK by 160% since 2014. Bar seating and communal tables are increasingly popping up in restaurants.
While destigmatising solo dining in all its manifestations is liberating, our new dietary habits steer us into uncharted territory. Until now, eating in groups has been a universal human ritual.
Another shift in the gearbox of human existence. I wonder if "communal tables" is a good idea ... I sort of think so.

Monday, May 6, 2019

if Trump weren't president ...

Congress may shudder at the notion of pulling the trigger on U.S. President Donald Trump -- and thus risk diminishing the cash infusions future re-election bids may require -- but legal eagles appear not quite so Emily Post about it all:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 400 former federal prosecutors have signed onto a letter saying President Donald Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice if he were anyone other than the president.
The letter was signed by more than 370 former Justice Department prosecutors who served under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It was released Monday by Protect Democracy, an advocacy group formed two years ago that is critical of the Trump administration.
The former prosecutors say special counsel Robert Mueller’s report “describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge.” Those actions include Trump’s efforts to have Mueller fired; Trump’s attempts to limit the scope of the Russia investigation; and Trump’s tweets and public statements aimed at discouraging aides from cooperating with prosecutors.

more retrograde mumblings

Practice a little. Try going a whole -- or perhaps just a half -- a day without using the word "so" at the beginning of a sentence. In these times, "so" is the new "uhh," a space-maker and an invitation to find room for some sort of agreement, a stall tactic.

In my retrograde times yesterday, I rewatched the original "Blade Runner," a strangely evocative movie from the shelves of director Ridley Scott.

And then, to check my original enthusiasms for the book, a re-reading of "Plainsong," by Kent Haruf ... was it really as good as an initial reading insisted it was? The answer is yes. It still rocks me like a baby who has a colicky moment or two. I'll finish it in a day or so.

Scrubbed from the reading docket was T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and James Jones' "Whistle." The former was too ornate and intelligent and antique for me.

The latter attacked the topic of wounded soldiers returned from battle. Their fate ... the fate that every combat vet faces with a sense of helplessness. Who will care for and heal the wounded rither within or without? Answer: No one. It's a lost cause trying to ease what can never be easy. What civilian, of however loving a heart, can connect and relieve and hug and erase? A lost cause. Sometimes horror remains what it always was: horror.  Easier to run around labeling the "heroes" -- those poor damned bastards.

Dry tears do not get "dry-er."

The rubbery scars go bumpity-bump over flesh that was once smooth but is no longer.

I think I will go back to "Plainsong" and its slow, swinging lullabies.

Things are happening in the world. Israel is putting a good face on its latest rocket attack against Gaza ... a bad face would be "anti-semitic" and thus not allowed... the anti-semitism of the Jews is not open for discussion. Brexit is tussling. Various locations are licking their storm-borne wounds. The U.S. is looking for a war (in Venezuela? or Iran?) that will rally us round an ill-defined flag.

Wouldn't it be nice to "win one for the Gipper?"

Saturday, May 4, 2019

skulkers et al

What well-intentioned bureaucrat thought to organize things in such a way that the Department of Unintentional Virginity should be set cheek-by jowl -- in the same hallway, for crying out loud -- with the Sympathy of Skulkers. Luckily, a schedule in the lobby below shows that acolytes of either do not meet at the same time and hence fuel the flames of fragility, if you get my drift. Imagine the fisticuffs if disciples should murmur and shuffle at the same time.

Pterodactyls are left intact, but it is an uneasy world when these two should brush, however lightly, against the tail feathers of the other. Stay tuned for the TED talk. The ages-long friction shows all the makings of a catastrophe but to date the enmity has been muted. But where there is friction, there is someone who has found a way to make money from it and smile the smile of indecorously-straightened teeth.

Each remains discreet and winning and ... well, you know what I mean.

Someone will fix it.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

blurry times

Somewhere in the recent past the number of lies and misrepresentations of the president of the United States became fodder that was included in the morning mix of news stories presented on the wires. I cannot remember a time in my past when the president's prevarications rose to the level of news.

All politicians lie ... OK. But the line is being blurred from my perspective, which includes the notion that lying is simultaneously a no-no ... and the moreso when it is attributed to the man charged with running the United States.

A blurry time. A time when everyone becomes a victim.

Men become women.
Women become men.
An era when comedians with no adequate humor to offer resort to "fuck."
"Fuck" "Fucker" Fucking" "Fuckee" ... until the music is gone and only the notes remain.
Unarmed black people get shot.
The dangers faced by police officers goes largely unreported.
There is a feeding frenzy around "opioid addiction."
No mention of the fact that opioids have demonstrable pain-killing capacities.
The Washington Post pulls the trigger on presidential lies...
Even as the Congress cannot seem to muster the backbone/trigger that would allow them to put Trump out of our misery.

The president is a congenital liar. How 'great' can America be?

Where will America's next war erupt -- Venezuela? Somewhere in Africa?

Foreign policy, alliances, nuclear treaties, dodging climate change ... blur, blur, blur ... everything moving in retrograde and not a single positive position on anything other than a Tweet.

It blurs in my mind. Literally.

A strange, blurry era in my strange, blurry brain.

Hurricanes and forest fires of a raging voraciousness gobble up not just trailer parks, but suburban neighborhoods as well.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

the battle to "privatize warfare"

Erik Prince
Looking for a chance to make a buck for the bang?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince - the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump - has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.
Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles. In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch....
For Prince, the unlikely gambit represents the latest effort in a long campaign to privatize warfare. The wealthy son of an auto-parts tycoon has fielded private security contractors in conflict zones from Central Asia to Africa to the Middle East.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

let them eat cake

LAS VEGAS (AP) — At a farm outside Las Vegas, a herd of pigs feasts on lobster, sausage links and beef. In town, people at a community center sit for a dinner that may include sliders and truffle mac and cheese....The federal government has estimated more than one-third of all available food in the U.S. is wasted.
An EPA initiative has partnered with more than 1,000 organizations — including grocers, restaurants and hotels — to tackle the issue. The agency estimated participants in 2017 prevented about 648,000 tons (587,856 metric tons) of food from going into landfills or incinerators, avoiding more than $30 million in landfill tipping fees.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

composting human bodies

It may soon be legal for the dead to push daisies, or any other flower, in backyard gardens across Washington state. The state legislature recently passed a bill that, if signed by the governor, allows human bodies to be composted — and used for mulch.
As the nation ages, U.S. funeral practices are changing. Rates of cremation surpassed 50 percent in 2016, overtaking burials as the most popular choice. The Census Bureau, in a 2017 report, predicted a death boom: 1 million more Americans are projected to die in 2037 than they did in 2015. Human composting, its supporters say, is an eco-friendly option that can meet this growing demand. A Seattle-based company called Recompose plans to offer a service called “natural organic reduction” (it has two patents pending) that uses microbes to transform the departed — skin, bones and all.
There is something wonderful about common sense floating to the surface.

a good idea?

Stop dreaming you are dreaming a dream.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

photos in Guardian

I haven't a clue as to what's what either in photo or cutline, but the whole thing nudges my curiosity. Enlarge the photo and... there's a whole lotta shakin' going on!

School for Villainy

Perhaps it has already been done, but I missed it: An uplifting TED talk about matching people with their own, personalized, custom-tailored villain.

Don't you think someone could make money off that -- a School of Villainy? No more generic brands. The real deal, scientifically calibrated and available on an installment plan if you're a little short of ready cash? Your own, personalized villain.

Generic villains are a dime a dozen. Trump has the press or whatever once-praised acolyte who  has most recently been fired. Boyfriends have girlfriends and vice-versa. Husbands have wives and vice versa. Bosses have workers and vice-versa. That's all easy peasy.

What is really necessary is the fits like a glove villain, the one who fills the every need ... kind of like love only with villains standing in.

The School for Villainy ... I'll work on it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

my journalistic white flag

OK ... I've skimmed the news wires as usual this morning and honest-to-aunt-fannie, I surrender. My mind simply refuses to winkle out who hates whom, who has killed whom and why ... there are bombings and slaughter in every direction. Who's the good guys and who's the bad, I cannot keep up with. But more, I don't want to.

I don't need some au-courant touchstone to wrap up the case for all this. In the 1950s/60/s, the Kingston Trio hit the nail on the generic head (for my taste) with ... I surrender ... everyone is part of the pig pile:

your unique life

Your life is so unique/unusual/special//intricate/fulfilling/meaningful or some-other-pick-a-resounding-word, that it has never been tried before. You are the only one and it is fine because, in the end, there is no other choice.

This environment of observation has a smile built into it. No one has ever lived this life before and will ever live it in future. Since it is unique, you are free. Fucking up is not possible. The bonds of critiquing and improving ... nah!

The problem with this happy-making or easing scenario is that if anyone lives a life according to its dictum or direction, s/he will have screwed the pooch.

Unique? Yes. Living as if you were unique? Fuggetaboutit! Don't be an asshole.

the guarantors called facts

The more facts you gather, the closer you get to the truth:

I read that somewhere yesterday (newspaper?) and wondered a bit. Surely it is sort of true -- true in a socially-pleasing sense -- but is it true? I doubt it. Facts point to the truth, but is the implicit promise that eventually facts will cough up the truth goods reliable? No, I don't think so. Facts make people less stupid and that's always nice, but as keepers of some The End chalice, facts don't really cut the mustard.

In my hand, let us pretend, I hold a rock. It is a rock, and that is a no-shit fact. But is it a "rock?" Serious up for a minute. Gather as many facts as you like ... more and more and more and more ... and does the truth of a rock really display its luster?`

I think it's something to consider: Facts are nice. Being less stupid is nice. But are facts the best -- the closest to what may or may not be called true? And if not facts -- based on empirical evidence -- what then?

Something to consider.

Monday, April 22, 2019

John Oliver on the Mueller Report

I can't pretend to hold all the reins in my hand, but there are at least bits and pieces that float up and tap me on the mental shoulder during John Oliver's assessment of the "Mueller Report."

Among the taps on my wussy shoulders:
In fact, the report said: “If we had confidence … that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”
Others, I hope will understand and piece it all together better than I.

attacking student debt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election, wants to cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt and make college cheaper for students going forward.
Warren, in a post on the website Medium, proposed canceling $50,000 in student loan debt for anyone with annual household income under $100,000, which her campaign said would amount to 42 million Americans. It would also cancel some debt for those with household incomes between $100,000 and $250,000....
Anticipating Republican criticism that her proposal would be too expensive, Warren said her debt cancellation plan and universal free college could be paid for through an “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” which would impose a 2 percent annual tax on families with $50 million or more in wealth.
With the presidential election scheduled in 2020 and with a gazillion politicians already claiming to run for chief executive, the whole kerfuffel is largely bullshit at the moment. Nevertheless -- and despite feminist and liberal caterwauling -- I like Warren's proposal ... a good idea that is highly unlikely to fly. Gouging 42 million people is a sport more popular even than politics. And taxing the ueber-wealthy? Forgeddaboutit.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter parade

By one astrological rendering that I remember only in a wispy format, individuals were given monikers in accordance with data picked up in The Ephemera. Gautama Buddha, for example, was tagged as "an empty hammock between two trees."

My own data landed me with "an Easter parade."

And here it is Easter. I imagine the parade is out there or in here somewhere.

Happy Easter.

Happy parade.

Is astrology really any worse than other, more credible, yardsticks?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

born in New York City

I was born in New York City.

Towards evening, when I was a kid, a man with a hand organ would stand in the street below the apartment windows and grind out a tune. A monkey -- dressed perhaps as a bellhop -- would 'dance' at the end of a short leash and residents would throw pennies down from the apartment windows above. Naturally, as a kid, I secretly tried to bombard the man with the organ. My pennies always missed and I think the man with the organ knew what was going on ... but his collection of pennies was the central issue. A penny was real money.

Also, there were trucks that filled the kid's eye -- great, grinding things propelled by supersized bicycle chains, some on tires that were solid rubber, some that were inflated. They delivered ...
coal that sluiced from the rear of the truck, down to to basements awaiting fuel; strong men bearing blocks of ice to cool the residential "ice boxes" that had not yet gone out of vogue; a knife- and scissors-grinder; and a rag man who collected cast-off clothing to a purpose I never really understood.

We had roller skates that clamped onto our shoes after a proper tightening with a key that always seemed to get lost. The Good Humor man parked around the corner and wooed kids with jingling bells. There were not yet advertising jingles. I never did like the ice cream much, but I liked the Popsicle sticks they came on ... they were great for sharpening against the sidewalk.

Now and then the cadets at Columbia University around the corner would march and strut their stuff to the awe of onlookers. It was a time of war, but what did a kid know about war -- World War II or any other? 1940-1-2-3-4. The cadets looked very spiffy.

Who could know that when enough of them had perished, suddenly they would become a "greatest generation?"

Looking back, shall I call it "bucolic?" "Bucolic" suggests greenery and flowers in my mind and New York was full of Macadam and cement.

Friday, April 19, 2019

the Purina Diet reprise

It's old. but I'm in the mood for a smile ... which leads me to reprise the Purina Diet tall tale that seems to have been posted (wish I'd said that, but I didn't) first in 2008:
When someone asks you a dumb question wouldn't you like to respond like this?.....
Yesterday I was buying a large bag of Purina dog chow for Athena the wonder dog at Wal-Mart and was about to check out. A woman behind me asked if I had a dog. What did she think I had, an elephant? So since I'm retired, with little to do, on impulse, I told her that no, I didn't have a dog, and that I was starting the Purina Diet again.
Although I probably shouldn't, because I'd ended up in the hospital last time, but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.
I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is to load your pants pockets with Purina nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry and that the food is nutritionally complete so I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in the line was by now enthralled with my story.)
Horrified , she asked if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no; I stepped off a curb to sniff an Irish Setter's ass and a car hit us both.
I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack, he was laughing so hard!
WAL-MART won't let me shop there anymore.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

decline in religious affiliation

NEW YORK (AP) — The percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has plunged by 20 percentage points over the past two decades, hitting a low of 50% last year, according to a new Gallup poll. Among major demographic groups, the biggest drops were recorded among Democrats and Hispanics.
Gallup said church membership was 70% in 1999 — and close to or higher than that figure for most of the 20th century. Since 1999, the figure has fallen steadily, while the percentage of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation has jumped from 8% to 19%.
On a guess, I think I would vote with my younger son's frequent observation, "no worries." 

As Voltaire suggested, "if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." 

Trust is such a yearning. Mystery is so pervasive. And as Arnold Schwarzenegger coined it, "I'll be back."

It is easier to have a god in a hallowed house than to do the work required otherwise.

last will and testament

I would rather die like a fool
Than live like a sage.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Notre Dame fires the world

A billion-dollar repair kitty has apparently evolved in the wake of the huge fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris two days ago. Rich, poor, Catholic, Muslim, ordinary and extraordinary felt the sting, apparently.

The pope, beleaguered as he is with pedophile-priest difficulties, must have breathed a short-lived sigh of relief. See how important we are to the warp and weft?

The ordinary went down on their knees with hopes for the best. Notre Dame is an icon. But it is not really, in this instance, an icon of religion. More, I would guess, it is an icon to hopes for some something-or-other, some je-ne-sais-quoi lurking in every heart.

A billion dollars and people far and wide are hungry and lack water ... and here's a billion bucks for a building. Who could begrudge hope? Everyone seems to agree the fire is a first-tier important issue. Hope. But hope for what and who will take the next step to realize that hope?
The global reaction to images of flames chewing through the roof, up the spire that pointed to heaven before the blaze brought it down, and threatening the entire cathedral made clear Notre Dame was bigger than any one faith still touched the faithless.
"Faithless" is such a clunky, disrespectful word. To imagine that those who profess no religion are therefore "faithless" is ludicrous.

Who lacks faith in hope? Is s/he better or worse off?

The hungry and thirsty are hopeful, I suspect.

Hope is then but this is now. And still, who would disparage hope?

primordial ignorance perhaps

The greatest enlightenment oozes ignorance.

The greatest ignorance oozes enlightenment.

Did someone mention "primordial ooze?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

blowing up Brazilian ATM's

Willie Sutton

Brazil appears to have taken a lesson from American bank robber great Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, is alleged (but only alleged) to have said, "...because that's where the money is."
Such attacks have become commonplace in Brazil: Last year, an average of two banks or ATM machines were robbed every day, mainly in small towns without a major police presence.
The spoils can be substantial.
Each ATM has four boxes storing up to 2,700 bills apiece, meaning one cash machine stuffed with 100-real bills can yield up to 1 million reais ($263,000). Bank robbers skilled with dynamite - working quickly - will often blow up several ATMs at each bank or go directly for their vaults.

pick-me-up for the old-age factory

Today, the idea floated across my mind:

1. Find some healing-closure-volunteering millennial willing to stop people on the street and record their favorite joke or two. Everyone has a joke -- dirty or clean -- somewhere in the past.

2. Collect, type up and collate those jokes.

3. Collection in hand, let someone visit the local senior center and ask individuals sitting around whether s/he would like to hear a joke and if so, should it be dirty or clean (some people are still appalled by dirty words)? Limit: two jokes per customer.

4. Read a joke to those who admit they might enjoy it.

5. Move on to next customer.

Life with laughter does not mean the tears stop. It just means the load may be lightened.

This is not a universal solvent suggestion. It's just a little chemistry to add to the mix.

attention span of a gnat?

Wondering about the inability or unwillingness to focus?
It’s just as you suspected; the information age has changed the general attention span. A recently published study from researchers at the Technical University of Denmark suggests the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public. Released on Monday in the scientific journal Nature Communications, the study shows people now have more things to focus on – but often focus on things for short periods of time.

Monday, April 15, 2019

John Oliver on the purveyors of opioids

Is "revolting" enough of a word?

Oh well, how many bought their way to the front of America's political line by selling booze during Prohibition and building -- naturellement -- Camelot.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

frenzy of power, frenzy of rabble

History is not always kind to those who sit at her feet. John and John Quincy Adams bear witness to the subtle swords of those who adore "aristocracy" and those who adore "democracy."
The Adamses were students of human psychology. In their wide travels through Europe they observed the abuses brought on by monarchy. But they also saw fundamental flaws in the quasi-religious adoration of the spirit of democracy....
While humans remained subject to their passions, positive outcomes were never ensured. This is dangerous territory – after all, no one wants to be told that the dynamic story of the rise of democracy is an exercise in mass self-delusion.
The article is longish and requires thought, but perhaps it is worth it in the current climate.

Friday, April 12, 2019

fucked if you do, Fuct if you don't

(Editor’s note: contains language that some readers may find offensive, paragraphs 2, 13, 14, 16, 19, 22 and 23)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the staid world of the U.S. Supreme Court, where decorum and etiquette are prized and silence is enforced by court police, the F-word could create quite a stir.
Yet that expletive and others will be the focus on Monday when the nine justices hear arguments in a free-speech case brought by Los Angeles-based clothing designer Erik Brunetti. His streetwear brand “FUCT” - which sounds like, but is spelled differently than, a profanity - was denied a trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
If you're going to have a scandal or a sense of outrage, the problem as I see it is that first you have to find a pool of agreement about what is scandalizing or outrageous. Can anyone find such a pool any more?

To my taste, those who use the word "fuck" these days have no class, no rhythm, no agreement. The result is that saying "fuck" is about like saying the word "banana" 100 times fast: Blah, blah, blah. I think it's a pity, but that's just me. Dumbed-down 20-something-and-up uncouth-sayers ain't sooth sayers in my book.

Oh well, I can't fix it. But I can miss it -- the sense of scandal or outrageousness or goody-two-shoes-ism. It's easier when some things are naughty. Or maybe I mean I find them easier and somehow fun-ner.

One thing this court case gives me is what I take as permission to reprint a column I wrote in 2014 and always kind of liked:
ONE OF MOM'S LESSONS HE'LL SWEAR BY Published March 19, 2014, in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
NORTHAMPTON — On TV the other night, a stand-up comedian was camouflaging his lack of comedic material with liberal doses of cuss words when it occurred to me how far cussing had come in my lifetime.

Certainly usage and acceptance on radio, TV and the Internet had risen from what I will refrain from calling “the good old days” of the late 1940s. But had it really advanced or had the music gone out of it? I didn’t really know, but I remembered ...

• The first time I came home from grade school and used a dirty word in front of my mother, she was ready for me. My second-grade peers had reported their own homegrown results in this realm and those results weren’t pleasant, ranging from a verbal harangue to a spanking to an intimate knowledge of what Ivory soap tasted like.

My mother, however, was a pretty good writer in her time. Language was her garden and there were no weeds in it. Good and bad, naughty and nice weren’t so much the point when it came to language. Language was music and there were no bad notes. But there was the matter of skill and it was in this regard that she greeted my use of what these days is referred to as “the f-bomb.”

She sat me down ... uh-oh!

Something serious was afoot, though I didn’t see any soap in her hand.

And then very quietly and very patiently she went through all of the dirty words and their compounds. There were religious meanings, literal meanings, metaphorical meanings and physiological meanings. My mother didn’t overlook any of them and did not spare my eeeeuuuuuewww embarrassment when it came to the physiology part ... girls and boys did that???!!!

My mother gave me both barrels and then laid down the law:

I could use the words among my friends.

I could use the words in front of her.

But I could not use the words in front of her friends.

These were rules even a second-grader could grasp.

But as with all initial rules and original teachings, there were refinements to learn, both mentally and socially, as the years passed.

• It was at 16 that I got my most refined lesson in cussing. I had a summer job picking up trash. The guy who drove the truck was a young man who had graduated from high school, landed his job and had a new baby he adored. He had a pleasant disposition and I felt comfortable with him.

But like a lot of 16-year-olds I had gotten into the habit of using the f-bomb. It sounded — you know — grown-up. But one day, my companion turned to me and said in the friendliest possible fashion, “You know, if you don’t know how to use that word, I wish you wouldn’t.”

I was gob-smacked. It wasn’t as if he didn’t use the word. He did. With regularity. But he obviously wanted to lend me a hand.

I hardly knew how to respond, so I just began listening to him talk. And as I listened, I realized he was right: There was a music to language and he knew the music where I only knew the notes.

• After I got out of the Army, where cussing was a norm, I came home and conceived an interest in Zen Buddhism, a practice that includes a suggestion about “right speech.” And one day I announced to my mother off-handedly that I had decided to give up cussing.

She looked at me with an honest shock. “Oh please don’t do that,” she said. “I wouldn’t know who you are!” It was nuts from where she sat. And as I thought about it, it was nuts from where I sat. And so, as it turned out, I gave up trying to give up cussing.

• When my sons were both at about the age when I had first received my mother’s counsel, they were as delighted as I had been with cuss words. But one day, driving home with them, I had enough. I stopped the car on a deserted road out behind the fairgrounds here in Northampton. And I offered them a challenge: For one minute — not more and not less — they would scream out every dirty word they could think of. No quitting allowed. One minute. They looked delighted. And as I restarted the drive home, I shouted, “Go!” They let loose with gusto.

But after 15 seconds, they ran out of steam. They faltered. “No!” I shouted in the spirit of the moment, “No quitting! Keep going!” And they tried. They tried hard, but the laughter and naughtiness and enthusiasm were spent. Twice more I encouraged them and twice more they complied with diminishing vigor. They never did cross the one-minute mark.

In later times, I would treat my sons to bits and pieces of what my mother had given me in a single sitting. They too learned some of the skills that go with the music of language. No doubt they too will have experiences that refine their understanding.

All of which is OK with me.

As long as they don’t turn into second-rate comedians.


A strange trait among overt and covert supremacists:

How can they be as good as they are if they spend their time talking about being better than someone or something  else?

Is there a tribe anywhere -- and I mean anywhere -- without this characteristic?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

latest tin-pot dictatorship

With Israeli Prime Minister once again ensconced after an election that overlooked the scandals plaguing him, finally someone mentioned the Palestinians and the fire being rained down on them by an apartheid Israeli government.

And the Americans chimed in ... but wait ... it wasn't quite as smooth as all that:
Under intense questioning about why the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights was good but the Russian seizure of Crimea was bad, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, told senators that there was an “international law doctrine” which would be explained to them later.
It turned out there was no doctrine. The state department’s clarification of Pompeo’s remarks contained no reference to one, and experts on international law said that none exists.
Did I hear someone whisper "tin-pot dictator?"

Nah ... my hearing is probably just playing me foul again.

dialing back suicidal solemnities

Grieve. Heal. Weep. Closure. Caring. Death. Love.

OK, have we got those out of the way? -- the safe-sex touchstones around which to weave serious/solemn millennial workshops and 'caring.'

There is nothing frivolous in these efforts or their searing implications. Somehow, those riven in life's maw need to put one foot in front of the other and maybe it all helps ... and helps and helps and helps and yet, somehow, nothing really helps much. Maybe helping is the best anyone's got. OK, so help.

This misasmic thinking arose the other night while I watched what seemed to be a 40-something woman on PBS' NewsHour reflect on her father -- her "rock" -- and his suicide. The whole tone of the public broadcast segment was ... well ... serious: Old people think about and commit suicide and somehow this was news to the news hour.

It's hard from my to my doddering vantage point not to point out to these au courant arbiters of the news, "Get a life!"

No one on TV took the trouble to turn the question around: Why WOULDN'T an elderly person consider suicide? It's not a big deal. Your life is yours to do with as you will. Let's dial back the solemnity. It may be that elderly people consider their own musings important or vast or whatever, but I have a hunch that the only people looking for balm and surcease are those in the focus groups who try to cope with the aftermath.

On the NewsHour TV, the forty-something woman teared up. She wanted to help others ... I think that was the drift. Suicide is serious ... I mean, I think it is. But why should it be? Isn't it a possibility among a number of other possibilities? Why NOT consider it? The church and the focus groups might not approve but they're in business. A business. Most of those considering suicide do not consider themselves to be business. Aren't they just reviewing the dwindling possibilities?

On the TV, the woman's father, if I am not mistaken, left a suicide note whose core was approximately, "sorry for the inconvenience." Yes. It's always a mess for someone. Isn't that a legacy everyone needs to own up to. In our wake ... the mess, whether by natural or 'un'-natural causes?

The monk in “Spring, Summer, Autumn

and Spring” did what he could to avoid

the future’s mess and even he

was unsuccessful.

The TV segment signed off with the presenter suggesting that anyone contemplating suicide contact one hot-line or another. This is serious stuff, the presenter's tone suggested. Solemn stuff. Help us fix you ... sort of like the old days when homosexuality was viewed as and aberration that could be somehow reversed or fixed or set right.

Suicide is possible. Just a possibility, for crying out loud. Why shouldn't any sane (or even a little insane) person consider it. There's suicide and then, in old-age homes across the country, there is the possibility that there will be something half-decent for lunch.

How about wishing that those considering suicide ... how about, "I wish you what you wish." and stop dithering about something that belongs to someone else. If you truly love someone, why would anyone decline to give a beloved what is already clearly hers or his?

The elderly, like the South Pole, watch as bit by bit of their mass calves away and returns to water that shows signs of drowning Miami Beach, the fun part, the convivial part, the energetic part. For the elderly, there's not much left and little or no energy to exercise what is left. And then there's the pain and pills and morticians known as doctors or healers or grievers.

Let's serious up and get less serious.

spring robins

The robins,
People the mcadam
Outside my house
Pecking up bits of food
Or stones for their gizzards
To chew that food
And thus
The springtime sky
Is blue.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

bees in your eyes

When a young Taiwanese woman named He took herself to a hospital this week complaining of a swollen eye, she expected to be treated for a simple infection.
Instead, the 29-year-old and her doctor were horrified to discover four bees living under her eyelids, feasting on her tears.
On the same day that the Rodrigo Duterte (extra-judicial killing of alleged drug dealers) of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, appears headed for a fifth term in office despite corruption charges, here comes a story that might make anyone blink.

Or anyway, I did.

Dictators are a dime a dozen these days, but bees in your eyes?????

Monday, April 8, 2019

John Oliver on mobile homes

Why is it that a night-time 'comedian' has to do the work that one-time news reporters used to do?

clean, safe drinking water

There are more than 10,000 factory farms in Iowa now. The state is home to 26 million hogs that produce the equivalent waste of 65 million people. That waste has to go somewhere.
Clean, safe drinking water is the substance of life but assuring its existence and availability is not a battle for sissies.

Big business needs it, wants it, pays for it and ... well, those getting stuck with the bill are the very ones who need it as well.

Clean, safe water is not a local issue or one threatened by only one or two industries. It's your kids and mine. Hell, even politicians-bought-and-paid-for occasionally drink water.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

hey mister, there's a shark in your roof!

One April evening in 1986, Bill Heine was sitting on the steps opposite his newly purchased terraced house in Oxford, drinking a glass of wine, when he turned to his friend and asked a simple question: “Can you do something to liven it up?”
His friend, the sculptor John Buckley, provided an answer in the shape of an eight-metre (25ft) shark which would sit on his roof, perpetually appearing as though it had just crashed into the house from the sky. The fibreglass fish, which became known as the Headington Shark after the Oxford suburb, led Heine, a local journalist and businessman who died last week, into a six-year legal battle with the local council.
God love the Brits!

Rejoice, Monty Python!

General Pulaski was a ... female?????

Researchers believe a famed Polish general who fought in the American Revolutionary war may have been a woman or possibly intersex.
A new Smithsonian Channel documentary examines the history of Casimir Pulaski, a Polish cavalryman who became a protege of George Washington.

lawless in Texas

Nine killed.

Lives ruined.

Mayhem enough for anyone.

And no one, in the end, got convicted.
A district attorney has dropped all the remaining charges in the high-profile mass shooting, leaving questions for authorities.
Such was the mayhem of the gunfight that erupted between biker gangs at a Texas restaurant four years ago, that it may never be entirely clear how the clash that left nine people dead and 20 injured actually unfurled.
But the public now knows exactly how the criminal investigations into the bloody shootout ended: after 177 arrests and 155 indictments, there was one trial and no convictions.
Barry Johnson, the new district attorney in McLennan county, announced this week that he was dropping charges against the remaining 24 defendants because he does not believe that prosecutors can win their cases against them.
In the Instagram/Facebook world of today, who has time to reflect on what actually happened and what it might portend? People with phones are too busy to think (if they could in the first place), too busy talking to wonder about lawlessness, too busy with their opinions about 'biker gangs' and the like.

The U.S. is turning into the old-west, pistol-packin', murder-for-a-nickel emporium. I wonder if Central American countries -- which can at least claim drugs as a reason for violence -- might now be willing to help build Donald Trump's border wall ... to keep the Anglos at bay.

bagging the biggest python

Snake hunters have captured what they say is the largest python ever found in the swamps of the Florida Everglades: a pregnant female more than 17ft (5.2 metres) long and weighing 140lb, or 63.5kg.
The team from the Big Cypress National Preserve posted news of their record-setting catch in a Facebook post that also noted the giant reptile was carrying 73 eggs.
Environmentalists have been struggling to find ways to eradicate Burmese pythons, a non-native species, from the 1.5m-acre wilderness since the 1980s, when some were released into the wild as overgrown pets. Others escaped from a breeding facility wrecked by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Some Florida searches for pythons offer a quick look at the seriousness with which the hunt is being conducted:
Other efforts to remove pythons have proved less successful. Everglades National Park scientists trained a beagle puppy named Python Pete to sniff out the snakes, but had to abandon the venture when Pete wilted in the heat of the Florida summer.
In 2017, two renowned snake catchers from India’s mountain-dwelling Irula tribe bagged only 33 pythons after chanting across the Everglades for two months.
Is there a child out there in the world looking wistfully into his or her mother's eyes and saying, "Mom, when I grow up, I want to be a snake catcher?"

at what point does 'then' become 'now?'

In the night, beyond the street lamps outside the porch, I can catch sight of a twinkling star. Twinkle, twinkle. Who knows what massive explosion or passing shadow twinkles its twinkle? And then, as well, who knows when precisely the twinkling activity occurred ... was it yesterday or the day before ,,, it's so far from there to here: Who knows the 'when' of it all?

I sit on the porch now.

It twinkles then... a gazillion miles away. It takes time for the activity to reach forward to the likes of me.

At what point does then become now?

It's a past twinkling in a present. There's no separation and yet separation separates the scene -- me on the porch, twinkling of the past infusing the present which is none other than the past.

If the past does favors for the present, what favors does the present do for the past ... if any?

Time is a strange and fractious cuss ... though I have a hard time imagining that the stars or the porch are discommoded.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

from the imagined podium

The other night, slipping off to sleep, I was assailed by a lecture on Buddhism as I have not been in a good10 years or so ... just thinking about what I might say to those starting out all wobbly and uncertain on a spiritual endeavor. In my lecturing mind, of course, everything was slicker than Vaseline on a thermometer. In reality, I suspect, turkey shit might be a more resounding lubricant.

God how I yearned in those long-gone days to get closer to this path I seemed to have pegged out for myself! Spiritual stuff beckoned. Spiritual stuff made me suspicious. Lord how I wanted to own and personify all the good traits and eschew all of the bad ones. And as a footnote, I wondered what a Buddhist might look like. Would a 'real' Buddhist consort with the likes of me? I was earnest, but figured I could not possibly be worthy of such a kindness.

And as I lay in bed, I considered putting myself forward at some local college as a specimen that religion classes might size up and pick apart. I too had known the half-hidden feeling that spiritual life and its adherents were somehow -- but very sincerely -- crazy. I wanted to get up close and sniff the crazy winds I had once secretly wondered about.

"Put myself forward" -- what a bizarre fucking notion. On the other hand, I probably had learned a thing or two over the years and perhaps I could ease the yearning and anxiety I had likewise once felt.

I lay in bed wondering if some old-man's medication had occasioned this train of thought. Is B12 a mind-fucker? Maybe taking a B12 uncorked this talkative miasma. Or maybe it was just time to empty a particular mental Dumpster. Or did I just want to get out and feel some small spotlight .... eeeeeeyyyhaw! I'm important!

One version of the Dhammapada has it approximately: "If you find no equal or better in life/ Go alone./ Loneliness is preferable to the company of fools."

Anyway, I finally got to sleep. Buddhism was not-the-less-for-wear. And when I woke up, things were back to normal and all I really had to do was take a piss.