Wednesday, July 17, 2019

the universe cares?

I wonder:

The enormousness of the impact of religion is sometimes blithely attributed to a human fear of death and "what comes next." I don't know what things are like where anyone else lives, but around here there are myriad brick-and-mortar testaments to that sort of religion in one form or another.

What I wonder is this: Is it possible that the fear of death is nothing when compared with the twinkling understanding that the universe simply is unfazed and uninterested in my being and predicaments. A little soft-soaping is in order and religion is that soap. Something, however ineffable, cares as much as I do about me.

Only as time passes, the proofs mount that that hope or assertion is simply not the case. Bruisingly asserted, the world simply does not give a shit and that recognition is so painful and so lonely that a comforting comforter of some sort arises like crab grass. Religion becomes a bulwark beyond the ostensible bulwark that holds death's fears at bay.

I wonder.

If I care, is it possible to arm-wrestle the universe into caring too?

Nope.

PS. "Not giving a shit" is not intended here as a snarky or critical remark. Rather, it is the suggestion that the universe simply isn't built that way any more than a pound of cheese would be expected to ride a unicycle. It isn't built that way.

storm Area 51?

In one of its incarnations, "rat-fuck" is a less-cosseted expression denoting a "practical joke." These days, the line between a practical joke and reality is blurred (Donald Trump, the rat fucker in charge, has nourished it all). What's true? What ain't? A strange and wobbly world we live in.

And no where more so, perhaps, than in the rat fuck of Area 51 and its alleged alien remains that the federal government is withholding from the American public ... for reasons I'm not entirely sure of.
Now comes word of a "joke" in which the storming of Area 51 raises its head.
Urban legend has it that Area 51 is a weird place. Yet even if the conspiracy theories are true and the Nevada air force facility harbors extraterrestrial technology and/or life, it would still barely qualify as being weirder than the internet where, early this month the anonymous users behind a Facebook meme page proposed a jaunty group invasion of the restricted compound.In a Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” the creators explain: “We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”...
... 1.4 million people have RSVP’d as “attending” the raid, while 1.1 million more are “interested”.
Will a gazillion people turn up for the rat-fuck rally on Sept. 20? Why not? The alternative (more of the Rat Fuck in Chief) is a real inspiration. What better way to expose a falsehood than with a bigger and better falsehood?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

artificial intelligence article


AI will bring many wonders. It may also destabilize everything from nuclear d├ętente to human friendships. We need to think much harder about how to adapt.
Henry A. Kissinger Eric Schmidt Daniel Huttenlocher
August 2019 Issue of Atlantic

 Written in English, I thought this article was very good.

Dutch police corruption

Should we then be taking a lesson from the Dutch whose apparent widespread corruption within police circles has led to the sacking of high and low alike? If the police cannot trust the police, how much should the rest of us rely on their integrity?

This question is only half whimsical. A part of me honestly feels that there is a war (civil perhaps) beckoning in the not-so-distant future. As in the 1920's and 1930's, where law enforcement stands today is not necessarily beneficial to the man on the street. Government, in those times and perhaps these, sided with those in power. The blood that was spilled was almost invariably that of the working stiff. And so the Dutch model is not without its reminders.

U.S. President Donald Trump has surmised (correctly it often seems) that America's governmental apparatus is for sale. The Supreme Court Ruling on "Citizens United" allows the purchase and sale of political power and Donald Trump has merely taken advantage of it all. Having refilled the political swamp he once vowed to empty, Trump seems to spend most of each day stirring the cauldron of discontent on the one hand and good, loud-mouthed business practices on the other.

The cops are corrupt. The media is corrupt. The immigrants are corrupt. Blacks and women are corrupt. The church is corrupt. Climate change is corrupt. And it is hard not to think that Trump's business-buddy appointees are likewise affected -- open to a succulent bribe or enticement.

My younger son is currently going through a two-week National Guard training program in New Jersey. From afar, I want to urge him -- "study and learn your weapons. You're gonna need them." There's no reason why the guys with guns need to be the only guys with guns.

No, I am not a conspiracy nut. Yes, I am afraid of what the likes of Donald Trump can visit on a nation for which he has only a pecuniary regard. The Republicans, of course, want Trump's election clout but are not shouldering any of the responsibility. Will they pay for their cowardice? I hope so, but I doubt it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

the world of authenticity

There is no truth of which lying is not an element just as there is no lie of which truth is not an element.

This, I suspect, is the world of grown-ups.

Ain't it enough to piss off the pope?

Luckily or unluckily, there will always be some poor blighter who claws at and clings to the notion that somehow this is not true.

And in this way, the merry-go-round chases its endless, authentic tail.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

western science?

Sent this email to a couple of friends today, but thought I might post it here as well:
Is there any 'western scientific' study of acupuncture/acupressure that you know of. I tried looking it up on Google and everywhere I turned, western approaches all seemed to embrace the unspoken assumption that such eastern approaches were A. "anecdotal" (over 1000 years??????) or B. threatened the medical income of the western medical community.

I am asking because I simply can't find a rigorous scientific approach to something that might, as it has, benefit the patient community. I find it hard to believe someone hasn't taken this bull by the horns.... so I'm asking you because I'm too lazy.
It's so easy to assume something is right/wrong and then not even investigate the mirror image ...

cheating at chess

Gawd!

If everything is crooked, what then is straight?

Priests fucking little boys and girls ... hell, that's old hat. But chess for Christ's sake??!!

In this case, the performance-enhancing drug appears to be a cell phone in the crapper.

Cheating at chess??????? Holy mackerel!

Chess grandmaster admits to cheating with phone on toilet during tournament

  • Igors Rausis, 58, caught cheating during Strasbourg Open
  • Grandmaster says he’s retired after confessing in statement

If someone puts an 'authentic' "purity" on your plate, steer clear!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

behind the political leadership

In specific, I thought this article by the AP's Robert Burns was a compelling story that is largely overshadowed by the chaff president Donald Trump tosses into the air.

No one can be a leader while Donald Trump is leader.

Yo, American public (and me into the bargain), bend over and pick up the soap!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

women's soccer/football champs

Two nights ago, there was an attack of constipation that brought new and more lustrous meaning to "being an asshole." It was not a good night. Things seem to be on the mend today, but I'm still wary.

Megan Rapinoe
Yesterday, the women's soccer team was feted with a ticker-tape parade in New York City after the team won yet another world cup.

Of all the rejoinders to a self-centered and ignorant president of the United States, the team's unwillingness to make a trip to the White House for congratulations strikes me as enormously -- if not most -- telling.

Here is a flag, however inconsequential in the wider picture, around which Americans might rally. And here is a president whose gaffs and guffaws and cruelties are just too goddamned much to rally and unite the country he claims to represent. A political slam-dunk you might have thought.

Donald Trump's misogyny is challenged ... and largely by the team's openly-lesbian ace, Megan Rapinoe, who is on my list of heroines. What is a do-nothing president to do in the face of honest accomplishment? How about "Make America Great Again ... for a Change."

Yes, he got the tax relief the Republicans squeezed out of George Bush as well. The rich get richer.

But other than that, he is a loose and ignorant cannon who imagines that if he can't buy it, it ain't worth having ... you want peace in the Middle East? Just buy off the Palestinians. Rip up a nuclear peace treaty with Iran. Fuck global warming. Fire anyone who disagrees with you. Leave top positions vacant. Women can kiss his bloody ass. Separate and sardine-can children along the Mexico border. Hob-nob with dictators and the buyers of American arms and other goods.

And in the face of all this and plenty more like it, the Women's Soccer Team won.

From where I sit, I cannot help but think of the line, "Peace be upon them!"

Honest to goodness, it's damn near enough to make me cry.

And I'm not even much of a sports fan.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

farewell Volkswagen beetle

FILE - In this April 21, 2017, file photo a collection of VW beetles car toys seen on Volkswagen Beetle displayed during the annual gathering of the "Beetle Club" in Yakum, central Israel. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

religion loses its magic

.... A large majority of Americans make important decisions without calling on religious leaders for advice, according to a new survey released Monday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research . The poll finds three-quarters of American adults rarely or never consult a clergy member or religious leader, while only about a quarter do so at least some of the time.
Anyone who has traveled any distance in whatever interest knows there is magic. But with the rise of the internet, the willingness to imbue members of the clergy with the keys to the magic kingdom is draining slowly, slowly away.

And it's not just the Roman Catholic pedophile scandals. I suspect that across the religious board, Google has risen in stature: There are answers, all of which require credulity/idiocy, but the notion that even the best-hearted clergy member could possibly have the answers is ... well ... no longer as credible as once.

The difficulty, among others, is that the magic insists, the idiocy is required and the Bible or Quran or Vedas simply cannot get a handle on it, own it, and spread its good-bad-indifferent word.

If religious texts don't work and Google doesn't really work either ... well, shiiiit! I really would like to be happy and at ease in a changing, ball-juggling world. If I could find the answer -- whether clerical or otherwise -- what need would there be for the question?

I think it's best to become an idiot for something. Anything. Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Applaud. Kow-tow. Kiss the sainted relic. Wave the incense. Learn weird languages. Chant and sing and... and...and ... return to ground zero. In order to get smart, you've got to be willing to get stupid.

My Zen teacher said simply, "Take care of your family."

So I predict the return of magic, because magic is magical. It brooks no ownership. It swallows the universe whole. Here today, gone tomorrow. Call it "alive" and you miss the point. Call it "dead" and you miss the point again.

It's magical....

But you knew that. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

the white world of Wimbledon

Once upon a time in college, a billiard-crazed friend of mine (on a "snow day," we played billiards from 8 a.m. until midnight) pointed out that there was a badminton tournament scheduled at Babson -- an upscale business school near Boston -- and the two of us, as people who enjoyed tennis now and then -- should probably sign up. Which we did.

Badminton may be a backyard summer pastime for some, but of course others (as where the Britannic scepter has waved -- take it far more seriously. What did we know?

Anyway, Keith and I signed on. I found an old pair of slacks and cut them off at the knee for the shorts I didn't have and then scavenged a last-legs T-shirt to fill out my ensemble. And if I was Mutt, Keith was Jeff ... pretty much equally as raggedy. And then we showed up at the designated gymnasium at the designated time.

My first opponent showed up in tennis whites, a bag with three rackets whose handles protruded in gay and well-heeled array. The guy also had three salivating young women for company. I envied him. I think the contest was to win two of three consecutive games. I was beating the absolute crap out of my opponent when he (I believe) feigned an injury and withdrew ... taking his delicious ladies with him. The ragamuffins (that's me) were in the lead! If you can't be rich, be righteous, right? The scores were lopsidedly all in my favor when it came to racquets and shuttlecocks. Frankly, I think I would have preferred the curvaceous company. Oh well.

Mr. Three-White-Sweaters-and-six-breasts withdrew and in his place came my second opponent, a guy whose name I will never forget ... Bon Ke Yap. No shit, that was his name and if I was raggedy, I couldn't hold a candle to this guy. He was all diffidence and politesse entering his end of the court ... where he proceeded to trounce the bloody crap out of me. It seemed that wherever I hit the bird, Bon Ke Yap knew where it was going, knew how to get there seemingly without effort, and knew where I was not going to be for his wrist-flicking return. The only reason I got three points (of a cumulative 30) from the two games he beat me at was his sense that grinding an opponents poor play in his face was ungentlemanly. Jesus, did he beat the shit out of me.

And his clothes were worse than mine.

I subsequently learned (or did I just console myself?) that people from Cambodia and Thailand and similar lands exit their mothers' wombs much as Canadian off-spring do ... Canadians come armed with hockey sticks; Cambodians et al appear with badminton paraphernalia in hand. (How's that for a bias?) Rule Britannia!

All of this came flooding back this morning when I decided to watch a little of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. There were smatterings in the news about the 15-year-old phenom, Cori Gauff, who had managed to beat one of her heroines, Venus Williams. Imagine -- 15 years old and poise enough to withstand the adulation of Wimbledon ... and the fact that she's a brown young woman and tennis, like it or lump it, is a white man's world, a privileged world, a world of blonds etc.

Not true! the WASPs will whine. Anyone can play. Everyone has the opportunity.

Anyway I tuned in to Wimbledon and enjoyed remembering the enjoyment I had found in playing tennis ... and even badminton. It's lovely to see anyone do something well .... to feel the muscles react in an anticipation once felt. Man oh man! And I marveled at what I saw of Gauff ... 15-fucking-years-old! I hope she won't be too badly scarred.

And then I began to look at the crowds ... at the advertising for brokerage houses, and high-end automobiles and and slick watches and whatever all else held this program aloft. I peered at the crowds. White, white, white and often dressed in white. No doubt the girls who once went to the badminton match were grandmothers among them now.

I have long admired Arthur Ashe, the black tennis player who won Wimbledon and was once ranked as the world's best tennis player. I admired his grit, yes. But I admired him later, after his tennis days, when he would address young blacks and tell them that there were only 6,000 total sports jobs in all of the U.S., population 200 million or whatever it was at the time. The odds of their getting one was thus very difficult and they needed a Plan B -- an education that would sustain them if they found no athletic exit from the unspoken poverty and disillusionment and segregation that could pound a black man or woman down.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

free hugs

By the side of the two-lane road and beneath blue-all-over skies today, a man stood by his car that was parked on the verge. As traffic passed, he hoisted a largish and legible sign that said simply, "Free Hugs."

The smallness of it and the clarity and the fact that I am a romantic by nature drew me to him. The world might be going to hell in a hand basket but ... free hugs.

Icky? Yes, a little, but still ... pourquoi non? Why not stand and deliver in a world that may deliver for Amazon tomorrow, but seems to have difficulty meeting small and more important reminders.

After my wife and I stopped further up the road, had a hot dog and headed back home, we pulled over by the man. He said in a mildly-southern-accented voice that he and his daughter were going to all 50 states. He looked to be nosing around 50-year mark and there were stickers on his car to indicate what states he had already touched base with.

"We're all human," he said without bluster or zeal. Thank God he wasn't a Christian. :)

Sure, Donald Trump could get it for you wholesale, but isn't free better?

tribal lore

Yesterday's throttling humidity gave way over night to lighter air and being.

Not that it helped me to remember today the name of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the heavy cruiser hit by two Japanese submarine torpedoes July 30, 1945. Of the nearly 1,200 sailors and marines on board, some 300 were killed by the torpedo blasts... and then there were the sharks. It was considered the worst shark attack in naval history. Close to 900 men died.

But the air is lighter today ... today we can use the word "hero" in passing from the fogs of the past to the lightness of the present.

The other day, I woke from a nap thinking of the tribes anyone might ally him- or herself with -- the like-minded spirits who wallpaper your past and mine. Join the tribe ... but who was my tribe? Many rub shoulders with the high-profile vendors of tribal lore and imagine they are better off. And maybe they are. Certainly their teeth are straighter and their tits plusher.

I woke from the nap and thought of the famous people who were my tribe. Names floating upward. Carson McCullers ... a friend of my mothers when I was a child. Isaac Asimov, quite by accident. Kurt Vonnegut, again quite by accident. Truman Capote, another of my mother's chums ... and on and on. How is anyone to get a bead on the tribal elders who are layered in fame and neuroses and watching the world go by and trying to cope and helping (?) sustain a tribal presence?

How can you get to know a person of stature when s/he has been at such pains to lay on the layers of tribal stature? You gotta play the game -- the tribal game, the kinship game, the identifying-markers game ... and then, and then ... well, who the hell do you become?

Everyone smart as a peacock.

Is that a tribe? And yet only a fool would believe that this bright-as-a-new-penny braininess was a substitute for the naked one, the one inside, the one aspiring to join a tribe that might accept him or her.

I can sort of see why my younger son wanted to be part of the military. It's a verifiable (sort of) tribe. If enough people say "yes," does that mean the real answer is "yes?"

Beats the socks off me.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mad Magazine's demise

Alfred E. Newman: "What, me worry?"
Back then, there were adults.

The adults were separated from the children. The adults had the magic, they had the power and what the adults said was the law. So what was a budding teenager to do? Where could s/he look for someone to be on her or his team? Just about the time that adult hypocrisy came into focus, a kid could get lost in the confusion.
Enter, in 1952, Mad Magazine, salvor of the downtrodden and confused. Mad raised the questions that no adult ever seemed willing to answer. "Whaddyou mean 'take out the garbage?!'"
Mad magazine, the class clown of American publishing, is being shuffled off to the periodical equivalent of an old-folks home at the age of 67. After the next two issues, a publication that specialized in thumbing its nose at authority will no longer include new material, except in year-end specials, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. Instead, the “usual gang of idiots,” as the staff has long called itself on the masthead, will fill the magazine’s pages with old material. A giddy creation of the staid 1950s, Mad hit a circulation peak of 2.8 million in 1973. Since then, it has steadily lost readers and relevance, a victim of its own success, as its skeptical, smart-alecky sensibility became dominant in American popular culture.
Back then, there were adults. Only today, perhaps, can anyone see the need for such a monolith of power and agreement. If you can't point an accusatory finger at the oppressor -- if, in short, "the oppressor is us" -- then what relevance is there in an embattled world of confusion and crankiness? When everyone's a smart aleck, being a smart aleck loses its allure and bite and camaraderie.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Friday, July 5, 2019

if I don't see it, it's not there

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco will spend up to $600,000 to paint over historical artwork at a public school depicting the life of George Washington, a mural once seen as educational and innovative but now criticized as racist and degrading for its depiction of black and Native American people.
The “Life of Washington” was painted by Victor Arnautoff, one of the foremost muralists in the San Francisco area during the Depression. The San Francisco School Board’s decision to paint over the 83-year-old mural is prompting some to worry that other artwork from the so-called New Deal era could face a similar fate because of changing sensitivities.
At the end of 1933, when Adolf Hitler was appointed as Germany's chancellor, the author William Shirer, then a reporter, noted in his diaries that perhaps 200 people filled the space beneath the balcony from which he received adoring cheers. Was it possible that the crowd was small because there were those still alive who remembered the utter horrors of World War I ... and the fact that Hitler seemed bent on yet another war-like trajectory? No one who remembered could cheer another blood-letting. No, no and again no! Paint it over! Love the motherland, repaint the ugly past!

Changing sensitivities. If you paint it over, does that absolve those whose memories wave some crooked flag? If you paint over slavery, is it thereby dissolved?

Where I live today, there are colleges aplenty. The well-heeled pay $40-and-more-thousand dollars a year for their children to receive an Ivy League education which includes, in my neck of the woods, a willingness to disallow speakers whose hateful language and ideas. Selective editing allows "anti-Semitism" to apply to Jews, but not others, in Semitic lands. If someone is not allowed to fly the Confederate battle flag, is emancipation somehow more true?

Imagine paying $40,000 for an education that excises the mean and nasty ... Gawd what a bunch of intellectual sissies!

In which of his books does Mark Twain put a man with a double-barreled shotgun on a porch, squaring off with a lynch mob determined to hang the black man in the house behind that gun. True, the mob can overwhelm the shot-gunner ... but not before he sends some of them to their maker.

The internet flourishes.

The sissies abound.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

WMD revisited

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he informed U.S. President Donald Trump in advance of what Israel has described as a spy mission in Tehran last year to capture a secret Iranian nuclear archive.
Netanyahu said in April 2018 that Mossad operatives had spirited thousands of hidden documents out of Tehran that proved Iran had previously pursued a nuclear weapons program. Trump cited the Israeli findings in his decision, a month later, to quit a 2015 deal that had scaled down Iran’s nuclear project.
Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons and has accused Israel of faking the Tehran mission and documents trove... .
Netanyahu said that, when he later presented main findings from an Israeli analysis of the documents to Trump at the White House, the president “voiced his appreciation for the boldness”.
“I have no doubt that this helped to validate his decision to withdraw from this dangerous (Iran nuclear) deal,” he said.
Shades of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction...." you remember, right? -- the weapons that did not exist.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

sensitivities

-- The pale.
-- The victimized.
-- The traumatized.
-- An era of wounds....
-- Of past wounds made present
The shoes were not designed to offend.
Red, white and blue with the image of a historical American flag stitched on the heel and a July 4 release week, they seemed like an innocuous attempt by Nike to capitalize on the hot dogs and fireworks and patriotism that mark the holiday.
Instead, the company found itself at the center of a political firestorm. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly complained about the shoes, and Nike canceled the sneakers’ production.
Kaepernick, who is a face of the company, told Nike that he found the flag — designed in 1777 with a circle of thirteen stars for each American colony — offensive because of its connection to the era of slavery, according to the Wall Street Journal.
-- Various articles within the last month have suggested reparations should be paid to black people whose American ancestors had been slaves. None of the stories tells what sort of reparations might be paid or the per capita payment. Like the Israelis whose parents faced the Nazi "endloesung" or "final solution" of the concentration camp fires, it seems to be tacitly understood that to mention an actual payment ... well, who has the nerve or will for that?

-- I saw an article/column recentlty that asked where all the men had disappeared to in latter-day TV dramas. No doubt they all snuck away on flag-tagged sneakers... priests and other oppressors tip-toeing into the shadows where their unfix-able sins of the past can be viewed (sort of) and castigated and never adequately measured or monetized.

-- Ah, wait a few days and perhaps there will be another grade-school shooting rampage and another bid for gun-control and horror and grief and ... callouses.

Monday, July 1, 2019

AMA takes position on abortion

Passed along in email:
The American Medical Association is suing North Dakota to block two abortion-related laws, the latest signal the doctors’ group is shifting to a more aggressive stance as the Donald Trump administration and state conservatives ratchet up efforts to eliminate legal abortion.
The group, which represents all types of physicians in the U.S., has tended to stay on the sidelines of many controversial social issues, which, until recently, included abortion and contraception. Instead, it has focused on legislation affecting the practice and finances of large swaths of its membership.
But, says AMA President Patrice Harris, the organization feels that, in light of new state laws in the U.S. that would force doctors who perform abortions to lie to patients—put “physicians in a place where we are required by law to commit an ethical violation”—it has no choice but to take a stand. One of these laws, set to take effect Aug. 1, requires physicians in North Dakota to tell patients that medication abortions—a procedure involving two drugs taken at different times—can be reversed. The AMA said that is “a patently false and unproven claim unsupported by scientific evidence.” North Dakota is one of several states to pass such a measure.
Amen!

the end of the world

What do you mean, "the end of the world is not coming?"

Flies began carpet bombing parts of the Urals in the middle of last month. Gazillions, apparently. In Guadalajara, Mexico, a 'freak' hailstorm left kids to skitter and skid through up to five feet of ice Saturday/Sunday(?) after recent temperatures in the upper eighties-Fahrenheit. And, north of Mexico, Donald Trump is still president of the United States ... sorry Virginia, it was not just a bad dream.

Break out the placards!

The end of the world is nigh... a punishment for past sins, dontcha know.