Thursday, November 15, 2018

parsing Trump's lies

An email friend passed along this interview with a linguist who parses the lies Donald Trump loves to spread ... and what to do about it.

a small phantasm

Today, for no reason I can figure outside a general fragility, I imagine:

Death comes, of a morning, to sit in my lap while I smoke and drink coffee. We chat amicably in an unspoken language that is akin to water burbling in a shallow, flowing river -- each small sound resounding, across the small waves, and harmonizing with yet another across the way.

He sits in my lap, light as a ring of exhaled tobacco smoke, and we talk. I worry that if I die, he will be lonely. It's obviously a ridiculous worry since he already keeps company with a majority of others ... he will not be lonely ... and yet I worry. There is no friction between us. Everything is light and bubbly and fair.

As light as smoke, sitting in my lap for a morning chat. He is as comfortably situated in my lap as once my baby children were -- hammocked in the crook of my right arm -- and yet requiring no rock-and-murmuring. He is whole and grown and burbling as I too burble. Does he fret, I wonder, that he might die and leave me lonely? I want to reassure him that there is no need to worry.

We chortle and bubble and harmonize and time passes as I smoke and sip coffee.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

a mantle of irresponsibility

A strange and intrusive sense of irresponsibility has filled my lens since yesterday. I simply don't want to be responsible for things like doctor appointments, chores, cooking....

My whole life, I have probably done more than most to be responsible in little and large matters. Probably to a fault. But now... well, if it's that damned important, let it come to me. Let the phlebotomist make an appointment and come to my house rather than the other way around.

It's not an easy shift. A whispering sense of guilt exists. But I persist and, in flashing moments, I feel relief. What if they had a war and no one showed up? what if there were a responsibility and I simply didn't meet it? Childish, perhaps, but notice how relaxed kids can be.

Let's see how well it works after what preceded it worked, I guess, moderately but never perfectly, well. I am unwilling to allow others discomfort and yet, I suppose, that may be what I am, ipso facto, doing. Well, in the words of the poet, "fuck it."

boob wars

How the push-up bra fell flat: the rise of quiet cleavage
Profits are plunging at Victoria’s Secret as a proudly bra-less look takes hold. The most fashionable boobs are now no longer in your face
Don't worry, gents -- if it's anything like men's ties, the flat and the globulicious will return as sure as narrow and thin ties. There is only so much you can do with a limited subject matter. How designers can imagine they have anything 'original' to say beats the socks off of me.

embracing the holy and perfect

Do not embrace what is holy and perfect
Without first enfolding what is rash and ugly.

Do not embrace what is rash and ugly
Without first enfolding what is holy and perfect.

Besides being fortune-cookie cute, this is pretty important.

Should we consider inaugurating the word "enswoon" in the English language?

and lo, there was snow

Pinpricks of white dotted the street spaces this morning. I wasn't sure whether it were some random ash from a nearby wood stove. But that proved wrong as the whiteness accumulated here and there on the shingles of visible roofs.

And lo
There was snow -- the first I have seen this year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

a sense of class

Talked with my older son this morning. He had been to his woman-friend's-parents housewarming in Georgia and was... was... was, if I am any judge, was flummoxed by how "the other half lives." On the surface, the whole affair might be written off with the word "money," but money never quite tells the whole story.

Yes, there are those who have more money than I.
Yes, there are the bourgeois elite rich who flong their monied dongs... buying into some imagined 'couth.'

But also, there are those with money who simply don't know how to act differently and have been weaned on winters in Gstaad. It is this lot with whom it is hard to communicate. After all, that is the world they grew up in. Mansions are not mansions, they are houses. Servants are not servants, they are part of the furniture. And 12 bathrooms is hardly a peculiar number.

If that's the way you grew up, what else might you know ... or, more precisely, how much would you not know? Working-class sabre-rattling and speeches about "equality" bounce off such a world as oil bubbles away from water.

It may sound like -- or indeed be -- presumptuousness that guides the assessment of those with gobs of wealth, but I think my son fell for the fallacy I too have fallen for: If it has two arms, two legs and a head, it's likely to be human, the kind of human I can interact with comfortably. But the fact is, I can't. Calling on or calling out a genetically-engineered rich person is probably as hard as calling on or calling out genetically-engineered less-well-off person... sorry, I don't speak Urdu.

I too have felt that life-on-Mars feeling my son expressed to me as he described the party. Luckily, he said, the caterers were available for a little conversation. But that doesn't change the weird disconnect that, on first encountering the recognition, can rise up and leave you confused. You half expect that if someone has reached a pinnacle, they must necessarily know the ladder rungs that preceded the peak. But this is patently false. Better is the observation once made of U.S. President George Bush: "He was born on third base imagining he had hit a triple."


Afghanistan: Pause and reflect

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — When U.S. forces and their Afghan allies rode into Kabul in November 2001 they were greeted as liberators. But after 17 years of war, the Taliban have retaken half the country, security is worse than it’s ever been, and many Afghans place the blame squarely on the Americans.
The United States has lost more than 2,400 soldiers in its longest war, and has spent more than $900 billion on everything from military operations to the construction of roads, bridges and power plants. Three U.S. presidents have pledged to bring peace to Afghanistan, either by adding or withdrawing troops, by engaging the Taliban or shunning them. Last year, the U.S. dropped the “mother of all bombs” on a cave complex.
None of it has worked. After years of frustration, Afghanistan is rife with conspiracy theories, including the idea that Americans didn’t stumble into a forever war, but planned one all along....
The entire article was a nice wrap, I thought.

And, perhaps as a fitting PS, there was this AP article about training Ukrainian children:
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The campers, some clad in combat fatigues, carefully aim their assault rifles. Their instructor offers advice: Don’t think of your target as a human being. [emphasis added]. So when these boys and girls shoot, they will shoot to kill.
Most are in their teens, but some are as young as 8 years old.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

latest bed-time soporific

Last night I grabbed a book from the other room with an eye to a little pre-sleep reading: The book I grabbed was "Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant" by Daniel Tammet.

I thought from the title it might be one of those touchy-feely 'girl books,' as my mind insists on labeling certain 'oh-so-sensitive' stories or soliloquies. Generally I give such books a pass, but hell, I just wanted to go to sleep, so I began reading it ... and found it strangely entrancing.

I only read seven or eight pages out of 225 and felt in that short span gently transported to a simple-yet-intense realm. The author seemed to be straightforward in a way that would not behoove another story-teller. Stories generally need friction of some sort but this was just straight as a string and, I felt without any particular proof, somehow sexless. It was both light and engaging and I was damned if I could figure out why. It was just very, very nice.

The author is just talking and I enjoy listening. In fact I enjoyed listening quite a lot. He didn't whine or stir up the kind of friction another writer might feel compelled to manufacture. He just talked. I was not entirely sure of my footing on the "Alzheimers" or "asperger syndrome" link-ups, but that realm or focus sort of faded as a point of concern. An Illness Reprise was not what I was after. Reading was like listening at the edge of a burbling river or brook -- no need to do anything but relax and enjoy and be rinsed.

Who knows what the rest of the book will bring, but it was nice to come up against what felt like
an entirely new, never-met-before, glad-to-meet-you format.

It felt somehow brand new and finding something brand new at 78, is a bit odd and a bit wonderful.

ditty from the past

From the days-of-yore skein:

I eat me peas with honey,
I've done it all me life.
It makes them taste so funny, but
It keeps them on me knife.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

if I were a member of the Washington press corps

Thought it might turn into a newspaper column, but it's too wishy-washy....

I suspect I am not alone in sympathizing with the supporters of Donald Trump who, from time to time, are seen uttering on TV some version of, “Yeah, we know he didn’t say that, but we know what he means.” Trump's angry and we’re angry – we get it.

Even the news media are wont to put their shoulder to this wheel as they ever-so-delicately try to unpack from Trump’s ungrounded outbursts and observations some rational meaning and direction. Promoting what they claim to disdain.

Yes, I am accusing the news media – which is between a rock and a hard place – of colluding to some extent with those whose hero currently sits on the presidential throne.

But like a lot of other Americans lately, I suspect what once might have been a rational or quasi-rational train of thought when it came to the issues of the day has descended into a quagmire of what-if’s.

It’s a throwback to the times when moms and dads read bed-bound children fairy tales and those children imagined … what if I were the prince or princess?

What would things be like if I belonged to the Washington press corps? What would I do? How would I react? What would I ask? Would I be decorous and polite? Would I call out what needed to be called out?

Would I name a lot of fancy names to prove I knew which famous buttons to push, which credibility to claim? As a former five-year newspaper reporter and 20-year stint in newspaper editing, I am a nobody on the great fame rainbow. But still – isn’t that like the rest of us great unwashed who sit around wondering what-if and getting progressively angrier?

What I would do/ask as a member of the White House press corps ranges from the impossible to the implausible, but since that’s what a Trump ascendancy has handed us … well, why not?
If I were a member of the White House press corps, the first thing I would do would be to try to galvanize the entire corps – a group that prides itself on protecting and informing the electorate – into boycotting the next official press briefing. En masse. Is that electorate served by the current press-briefing format? Would it be less well served if such a conclave simply failed to materialize?

This suggestion is clearly implausible. No media outlet would have the nerve. The man behind the news media’s green curtain is someone whose interest in democracy and the electorate relies on income. And if nothing happens, where’s the income?

But then there are the questions – however impossible – that might be asked.

1.   Mr. President, would you define “democracy” in terms of what it is and what good it might be to the United States?
2.   Mr. President, you have been voluble on the topic of “fake news.” Would you give a few examples of news that was not fake and in what way listeners might verify its truth?
3.   Is there a point of view you might not agree with and yet nevertheless be willing to engage?
4.   Do you consider yourself a responsible person? Based on what evidence?

There are others, but as I reread this thing, I realize it is going no where. I had thought it might be a newspaper column, but it’s too wussy for the big boys and too boring for the little ones.

I really would like it if the use of the word “democracy” were disallowed except in the mouths of those willing and able to define it in context.

That goes for everyone.

Friday, November 9, 2018

"catapulted" during sex

A woman left paralysed after being “catapulted” to the floor during sex has lost a high court damages claim against the company that supplied her bed....
[Judge Barry] Cotter said he was not satisfied the bed was defective, adding: “It required a most unfortunate and unusual combination of positioning on the bed and movement which I do not believe would have been foreseeable by any reasonable person prior to the incident.”
I wonder if there are para-olympics for the sexually athletic... or a gold star for judicial decorum and restraint in describing the difficulties life can provide.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

world chess championship

The reigning world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, with Fabiano Caruana (right). Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

The last time an American challenged for the world chess championship it was seen as an almighty clash of civilisations: west versus east, capitalism against communism, a cold war by proxy fought over 64 squares between Bobby Fischer and the Soviet Boris Spassky.
Chess has never been as cool or relevant since that epic contest in 1972. But at the launch of the 2018 world championship match between the Norwegian champion, Magnus Carlsen, and his US challenger, Fabiano Caruana – which begins in London on Friday – organisers promised that a global audience of millions would tune in for the most anticipated match in a generation.

Todd Snider

For whatever reason, I discovered/encountered Todd Snider for the first time today. And since it's a political season, here's a not-necessarily-typical political musical rumination:

a press briefing to which no one came

Does anyone else wish, as I do vaguely, that the White House press corps might start defending the body politic it claims to defend by declaring such-and-such a day a time when no one in that press corps would show up to one of the so-called White House "press briefings?"

Yes, declare a single day of surrender to Donald Trump and his accusations of "fake news." If it's all fake news, there is no need for news outlets to attend the "briefings" that are already as sanitized as a monthly tampon. Let press spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders lecture the ether. Let Trump have his way ... but how would he disseminate it? No matter -- he knows the truth that lies so far from the "fake news" he can ballyhoo. Let him ... indeed help him ... speak the 'truth.' His truth.

But wait -- his "fake news???"

Hell, it's just one day.

If the press corps simply didn't show up one day ... well ... quoi donc? What then? The obligatory news cycle would be reduced and hence the "fake news" with it. Citizens might be allowed to breathe free of a news industry that could probably use a breather of its own.

Is it possible that the best defender the public weal might have is a press corps that simply refused to be party to an on-going fiction?

True, leaving all the seats empty at the "press briefing" might leave news organizations confronting the issue of how to earn their daily bread -- where's the income stream? -- but a day on behalf of the body politic might look good on the media's curriculum vitae.

"What would happen if they announced the war and nobody came?

"What would happen if they announced the press briefing and nobody came?"

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Roald Dahl and anti-Semitism

Plans to celebrate the life of Roald Dahl with a commemorative coin were rejected because of concerns about the author’s antisemitic views, it can be revealed.
Official papers obtained by the Guardian using freedom of information laws also disclose that the Royal Mint dropped proposals to issue a coin to mark the centenary of Dahl’s birth because he was “not regarded as an author of the highest reputation”....
In 1983, against a backdrop of widespread criticism over Israel’s invasion of Lebanon a year earlier, Dahl told the New Statesman: “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”
[A pretty savvy friend of mine once observed that one of the probable (if lesser) reasons Hitler targeted the Jews for vitriol and horror was that the Jews claimed to be "the chosen," a label Hitler reserved for his Aryans. There could not be two "chosens," so something, obviously, had to give.]

I like Roald Dahl's output. "Nonpareil" might be a word for those works. Imaginative, quirky, and lying in some hidden valley between fairy tale and real life.

But my teeth itch when someone starts running the "anti-Semitic" schtick. No where have I seen the word defined or delineated. It just seems to morph from person to person with little or no recourse to a meaning other than the speaker's preference. The phrase "lack of generosity towards non-Jews" hits a mark for me. Not one quibble about Judaism -- and by extension Israel -- is allowed without arousing the door-slammer, "anti-Semitism." Why?

Why is there no agreed-upon definition that would allow for some reasonable discourse? Is it anti-Semitic to ask why Israel feels no compunction about using live ammunition when facing down Palestinian protesters wielding stones and knives? Even the most lawless American police force can do better than that. When it comes to Judaism, too often there seems to be a presumption of righteousness -- no need to explain or define ... our cause is just and long-suffering and woe betide the anti-Semite who questions or even inspects the particulars.

What, specifically, constitutes anti-Semitism? Will someone define it clearly? Why is it not anti-Semitism when Israel dispossesses Arabs who might prefer to remain in their homes or villages? No, never mind my particulars, just lay out a clear definition ... with positive and negative aspects duly noted.

Roald Dahl is a hell of a writer who, for my money, deserves kudos, even if he doesn't need them. It is conceivable to me that he is an anti-Semite, though not in the raucous-disparagement-sense that hangs from the word when used by an American.

Good and (maybe) bad -- is there any person or subject that does not contain both and that cannot be leavened by a decent definition of any and all aspects of the discussion? A "one-sided discussion" is an oxymoron ... and moronic into the bargain.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

let things be light and fluffy and weightless and clear.

OK, I am a racist.
OK, I am a sexist.
OK, I am a bully.
OK, I am whatever other rubric anyone might care to lay at my conversational doorstep.

But it occurred to me today that it would be nice to take five minutes in some nearby day and acknowledge the fact that it is possible neither to accuse nor to be accused, that there is no coat hook whatsoever on which to hang the latest coat.

I mean, doesn't anyone else get sick of it all? All these teachers and priests and actors and politicians shriveling like a caterpillar on a hot griddle ... disappearing themselves not in shame but in the knowledge that once the accusation is made, they're fucked and there is no point in prolonging the agony.

Well, take back what rightfully belongs ... a place in which accuser and accused are erased for some small period of time. Let things be light and fluffy and weightless and clear.

Poof -- just like that.

Poof -- just for a little while.

Go ahead. No one will know.

I won't tell if you won't. It can be our little secret.

photos in the Guardian

A strange and strangely-evocative photo array from the Guardian includes:

A declaration of independence for the Republic of Finnskogen takes place every July. It is a three-day celebration, complete with an outdoor play 
Portrait of Rahilii, a healer and clairvoyant living in the Swedish part of Finnskogen. Forest Finns are often associated with magic and mystery

Monday, November 5, 2018

John Oliver on 'immigration' politics

Of all the issues and lies being considered in tomorrow's mid-term voting, I find none more compelling than the idea of taking children from their parents as a point of political leverage:

Bernie Glassman dies

A friend sent along email word that Bernie Glassman (Roshi Tetsugen) died Sunday/yesterday at 79. Wikipedia entry is here and Tricycle notes are here. Wikipedia, while hasty, is a bit more abundant.

I feel, somehow, that I should feel more, but the plain fact is, I don't especially. Bernie was a slender thread in my memory cloth ... a part of the past. I met and chatted with him a couple of times in my Zen adventuring, but I didn't take to him much. (Full disclosure, I was no doubt an even thinner thread (if thread at all) in his memory banks.)

Bernie had long been filed in my mind under "macher" -- a hubba-hubba business man whose teacher, Taizan Maezumi Roshi, was said by rumor to be pleased as punch when Bernie moved himself from Taizan's West Coast and took his business interests with him. Bernie became an unqualified success on the East Coast. True tales, false tales, true rumors, false rumors, true labels, false labels, Zen labels, no-Zen labels ...

Bernie is a small thread in my memory weave. Another thread down. He once, when I mentioned wanting to change my Dharma name, offered to do exactly that. "I can do that," he said. But I demurred with a thank you. Somehow he didn't feel right/credible to me.

I guess I would like to feel something today because I would like to feel something or something more about my own sometimes energetic years embroiled in Zen practice. I admired Bernie's work in the market places of the world -- a lot of earthy stuff -- but..... It's hard to take up enthusiasms for my own past: Perhaps that excuses my inability for enthuse for Bernie's.

I have no doubt he did good stuff. Probably bad stuff too, since it comes with the territory. But I don't much care except to the extent that another thread in the weavings of my past has been removed. My palette of memory is now missing another small bit of hue.

I hope he is happy ... the same hope I have for anyone who has joined the majority. I am mildly weakened, but I suppose it's not the end of the world. From color to tinting to sepia to black-and-white -- that's the way things go these days.

Guardian photo

A photo from the Guardian web site:

Sunday, November 4, 2018

what day of the week did you say?

If even an intellectual can know that naming the days of the week is mere convention, it can't be rocket science. And yet it is so strong a convention that I continue to marvel and flutter at the recognition that I have forgotten what day of the week it may be. You might think I'd be a-twitter that I had remembered and not that I had forgotten.

Today is Sunday, but of course it's not really Sunday except by social convention. Social convention weaves us together, so convention has some peaceful purposes. But still, you might think we could keep things honest, with or without social convention. Let us bond and cling and hug, perhaps, but "Sunday" is not actually Sunday, right?

And by extension, I am the amalgamation of my conventions -- conventions that make me socially acceptable, perhaps, but not assuring any sort of actual-factual truth. In a conventional sense, I am Sunday -- I am I -- but must this recognition eradicate or dispose of the facts? I don't think so. A pulsing and insistent convention is just that. But the fact that it is "just that" needn't necessarily turn its nose up to the fact that Sunday is not precisely Sunday any more than I am actually I.

Increasingly, these days, I have to check in with someone or some computer thing to recall my social convention. It's Sunday, I am informed. OK, no need to worry. I am on terra firma ... except that the terra firma, while being terra, is much less than firma.

I guess all of this jibber-jabber takes root in the fact that daylight saving time is about to reverse course in the wee hours of tomorrow morning: Clocks will be set back an hour to accommodate the farmers of yore.

"Tomorrow" -- another social convention that's hard to break away from however intellectually obvious it may be. I am the sum of my conventions and my conventions need readjusting.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

autumn winds

It is hard not to want to personalize the wind that seemed to descend with pinpoint purpose on the Tree of the Hanging Squirrels in my neighbor's yard. Yesterday its not-really-vermillion (but I like the word "vermillion") leaves (it's a Japanese Maple) were there. Today the ruddy-reds are all but gone ... with the wind. The tree is all-but nekkid with the coming of a ground-zero wind that seemed to "do it on purpose."

What link this has to other hanging-chad thoughts in my head is not entirely clear. It's in the same head. Maybe that's my excuse:

Those chads include:

1. I wonder what would happen if what happened in the second grade were fast forwarded to today. Back then, it was an occasional bit of tom-foolery for one student to put a literal thumb tack on another student's chair; for the victim to be victimized (ouch!); and for life to move on without a backward glance.
Everyone just sucked that one up. It was part of the second-grade agenda. Analysis or adult lectures were the furthest thing from anyone's mind: There was stuff that hurt in life and that's just the way things were -- even a kid (even the victim) knew that... joke or no joke. Making a touchy-feely federal case out of it was for nitwits. Today, of course, we'd probably need a TED-talk bit of psychoanalysis to squelch and explain and improve. Let's form another study group. Everyone deserves to be safe. Everyone wants to suppress the fact that life isn't safe ... and even a kid knows that. OK ... let's talk it to death.

2. My left index finger has an x-worth of three scars on the outermost phalanges. The scars bear witness to the fact that in the fourth-grade, the boarding school I was at did not frown on kids carrying knives. By knives, I mean sheath knives. I mean that over time more than one of the knives I owned reached from my belt line to the raw hide tie just above my right knee. I mean a knife ... not some dinky pen knife. I carried more than one such sheath knife as the years passed -- a real knife. I carried it not least because bales of hay needed to be cut open during barn chores. Or maybe mumbletypeg. Or throwing it at a tree. But there were accidents and often I was the victim of my own accidents ... and hence the X of scars today. One of those scars, I believe but don't know, cut into a tendon. A slight lump remains together with the scars.

That, like the tack on a seat, was the price of doing business ... the price of being alive. No one ever threatened anyone else with a knife that I knew of and I think every student would have been surprised if such an event occurred. Today, of course, we need to mull and discuss and make life safer for little Johnny or Sally. Oh yes -- girls carried sheath knives as well if they wanted to. No one blinked or looked askance. It was just the lay of the land. Accidents happen -- hell, life happens.

Just mumbling and muttering and hanging the chads of no particular connection.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Trump awaits Netanyahu tutorial?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Friday backtracked from his suggestion a day earlier that U.S. troops sent to the U.S. border with Mexico would be free to fire on migrants who throw rocks at them, saying that rock-throwers would only be arrested.
“They won’t have to fire. What I don’t want is I don’t want these people throwing rocks,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “If they do that with us, they’re going to be arrested for a long time.”
Won't people just cut poor ol' Trump some slack?! He hasn't yet had much practice in doing what Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and his minions have done routinely to the Palestinians for years.

When I was a kid, there was a wry bit of praise/disparagement that ran, "Slicker' 'n snail snot."

all in all, this morning

Ralph Steadman art
Even as U.S. President Donald Trump stirs up an unconstitutional stew (“This is an invasion,” he said) as regards the migrant caravan making its way through Central America en route to the Texas border, so I find myself swept up in the diminution of the flying squid catch in Japan.

It's not that I balance one human tragedy against another, but has something to do with individual suffering and statistics. Generations of comprehensible Japanese families are swept up in the loss of a living that derives from the sea. Human beings. The caravan, at 7,000 or 2,500 or whatever the guesstimated number is today, is made up of individuals but the mass seems to oil the way towards a statistical sweep of the generalizing hand.

I wonder if those who don't see human adventures as being composed of human beings find it easier to bring a political twist to the discussion. Or, as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was alleged to have said, "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." 

Trump is constitutionally incapable of imaging other, individualized human beings. The caravan is a "national threat," a statistic against which he will deploy -- either by optics or reality -- the National Guard.

The loss of flying squid and those it affects is ... well, affecting, in ways I can get my mind around.

Oh well, this is leaving me confused about what I am trying to say. I did read the flying squid story. I didn't read all of the several caravan stories on display today.

Lazy as charged, I suppose.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

fake news from the realms of fake news?

Passed along in email ... it's so stupid it beggars the imagination that even a Trump supporter could have thought it up, let alone created it:

Honestly, I can't figure out ... I'm left gobsmacked ... wubba-wubba.

"The Spoon Lady"

This morning I was distracted from Trump, distracted from horror and bloodshed, distracted from lie heaped upon lie, distracted from war and hunger and dessication ... and instead read pretty thoroughly a Washington Post story (amorphous around the edges for me, but still interesting) about The Spoon Lady and her fellow musician.

Playing the spoons is not new to my vocabulary, but the adventure and struggles and observations of the article sunk their hooks in.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

lobster boom, lobster bust

Ted Ames, a former commercial fisherman who became a scientist and helped found the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, is worried about lobstering’s future here.
The thriving crustaceans have created a kind of nautical gold rush, with some young lobstermen making well into six figures a year. But it’s a boom with a bust already written in its wake, and the lobstermen of the younger generation may well pay the highest price. Not only have they heavily mortgaged themselves with pricey custom boats in the rush for quick profits, they’ll also bear the brunt of climate change – not to mention the possible collapse of the lobstering industry in Maine as the creatures flourish ever northward.
It's nice to read something about people with an honest profession, whatever the dangers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

choosing life companions

Of all the companions anyone might choose in life, I vote for attention and responsibility. Setting aside the snuggle-bunny philosophies of classroom discussion, these two, while not perfect, are as close as I can figure to something like common sense.

This thought dropped in on me again last night as I watched a documentary about the treatment/internment of Nisei in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack prompted a willy-nilly, outraged and in some sense understandable rounding up and interning of anyone who looked Japanese at the time of the attack.

I watched the show and felt my 20/20 hindsight kicking in.

Every sweeping and sometimes 'democratic' action has collateral damage. Innocent or guilty, a generalized guilt was imputed to those linked in any way to the perfidious Japanese. Mob rule... if we all agree, that's democratic; democracy is a good thing; therefore interning those tarred with the 'enemy' brush deserved it ... no need to think about it.

I found myself, not for the first time, suspecting egregious agreement. Easy in hindsight ... though it did make me wonder a bit about the Me Too movement of late or the clerical abuse in the Roman Catholic church, among others. So much that is innocent and beyond undoing is thrown to the wolves in an effort to punish the guilty. Lord knows the pain is real and wracking, but is that an excuse for forgetting a variety of less-crystal-clear backgrounds? ... as for example that the bird-dance of sex is, well, fun or part of the human skein ... yes, yes ... and potentially cruel and manipulative.

So on the one hand, I distrust what often passes for democracy. Someone's got to straighten out this easy-peasy group hug.

And that someone is, as often as not, those group-hugging in the matter of exclusivity. Dumb-bunny hoorahs need a few smarts and there is always someone around to claim those smarts ... often to the point of demagoguery and dictatorship.

So, on the other hand, I distrust exclusivity and smarts.

As a personal matter, as I say -- not just as a classroom philosophy. Everyone would like a rock-solid solution and direction, but it simply does not exist: You cannot embrace the honey if you cannot likewise embrace the raw wrecking ball of the shit. Those laying claim to exclusivity -- America is the best; smart is better than dumb; a college education counts; a 17-year-old war in Afghanistan is good for a few more years, etc. ... ah, a rock-solid support and applause section in which participants seldom do the bleeding.

Looking back on the Nisei and their travails, I am once again horrified. But so many agree that suddenly democracy/mob rule/man is a social animal is suspect. And likewise suspect are those who toot their own Pied Piper horns: "We'll make it better/kinder/more compassionate ... maybe."

I dislike the stupidities that hurt others, which, as often as not, means the intelligently-confected bits of wisdom. Winston Churchill (is often said without proof to have) observed, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest" in an effort to cover the collateral damage that comes with every good and caring idea. It didn't work.

Bit by bit, I slip back to my own best (which is not to say it is best) experience: Attention and responsibility are the best companions. To agree is OK. To disagree is OK. But to agree merely because others agree is highly suspect and is bound to leave you in tears. Naturally, an assured (winner's) payoff is longed for when taking up a cause or course of action. I want to be at peace with my own oh-so-peacefully-inclined decisions. Gimme the silver bullet. Gimme plaudits and hugs.

But only attention and responsibility can do that ... and that not fershur. If things are a crap shoot, it's better to make it your own crap shoot and not just some warm and fuzzy classroom crap shoot. True, it's exhausting. True you can never get it "right." But you can stand a little straighter for having owned what you have chosen to own ... the action from which there is no turning back.

Yes, I do things because I think they are right. But likewise, I do things -- often the very same things -- that I know are wrong.

Monday, October 29, 2018

coal miners back Democrats

Is it possible that Trump supporters are getting it and that talk is cheap?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. coal miners union has put a larger share of its campaign donations behind Democrats ahead of the Nov. 6 elections than in 2016, as dimming hopes for a coal industry revival led by President Donald Trump reinforce fears about the safety of worker pensions.
The United Mine Workers of America has donated nearly 84 percent of its money to Democratic candidates and committees in national races, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance data. That is a roughly 20-point jump from 2016, when Trump courted coal miners with promises of an industry comeback....
While the Trump administration has rolled back some environmental protections in its first two years, the promise of a coal comeback has yet to be fulfilled.
Instead of the war chant directed at Hillary Clinton -- "Lock her up!" -- perhaps a new chorus and signage will read on behalf of the Liar in Chief: "Full of shit!" Just because someone is stupid doesn't mean they have to be stupid.