Friday, September 30, 2016


Yesterday, watching a war movie I liked quite a lot -- "Hyena Road" -- there was a passing reference, just an itty-bitty scene, that got its hooks into me. In Afghanistan, where the war was being prosecuted anew after so many had failed before, the on-screen character made reference to "Pashtunwali," a word defined by Wikipedia as:
Pashtunwali (Pashto: پښتونوالی‎) or Pakhtunwali is a non-written ethical code and traditional lifestyle which the indigenous Pashtun people follow. It is a system of law and governance that began during prehistoric times and is preserved and still in use today, mostly in the rural tribal areas.
The character on screen said that this ancient code predated Islam and in some cases considered Islam as an unnecessary burden on matters that had long before been dealt with. And lord knows my superficial Internet surfing hardly qualifies me to speak of such a thing. But I feel the hooks of it all -- the before-ness: What came before the tinsel of civility and religion? And before that? And before that?

There is always a before-that until -- like the old joke about the bird flying in ever-diminishing circles around the mountain peak -- we all fly up our own assholes and disappear. Stop at any point on this before-that trajectory and there are nothing but green lights urging one and all further and further into the beyond-that.

Yes, civility is possible and probably wise. Yes, religion can have its time and place. Yes, war works and so does peace. Yes and yes and yes and yes ... before-that and before-that ... and it's not some philosophical bullshit. It's true.

Before-that ...

It's time for breakfast.

"Wonder Woman is queer...."

One day, when my daughter was still in high school, she came home crabby as a wet cat. It was "gay pride week" at her school and while she had nothing against homosexuality, still she didn't like it shoved down her throat. "Do we have a heterosexual-pride week?" she asked with an edge. We talked about the issue a bit and I encouraged her to ask her question in a letter to the editor of the local paper, which she did. My feelings, usually put more politely, were that "I don't care if someone screws doorknobs. What I care about is whether they are jerks or not."

And now comes the author of a comic heroine, Wonder Woman:
Rucka was critical of writers that shoehorned their characters’ sexualities into their narratives for the sake of doing so.
“The character has to stand up and say, “I’M GAY!” in all bold caps for it to be evident,” he said. “For my purposes, that’s bad writing. That’s a character stating something that’s not impacting the story.”
But in the case of Wonder Woman, he said, her queer identity was important to the narrative because Themyscira was represented as paradise, and with that came diversity.
“It has to be an inclusive and accepting society, for a number of reasons — paradise being one of them.”
It's the story, stupid!

But what a shift in my lifetime.

Today -- right now -- a woman is on the cusp of becoming the next president of the United States -- the first of her kind -- and all the wrangling and tangling that went into that eventuality is ho-hum to the young people who may or may not vote: Of course a woman will be president; what's the big deal? Of course Wonder Woman is gay; what's the big deal? Of course discussing a comic book character is relevant to my current culture ... the tattered national infrastructure, $1.3 trillion in student debt arranged by the donations to politicians, the wars that go on and on ... never mind ... here comes Wonder Woman. Relevant, relevant-er, relevant-est.

In my memory's eye, I can still see the wracked face of an army buddy who, as the two of us got a little drunk together, confessed he was gay in a unit which was four-square against the homosexuals who might be kidnapped and blackmailed into revealing all the secrets of our ever-so-secret organization... which, most emphatically, did not accept homosexuals. There was an awful-ness to the look on his face: He could not be who he wanted to be and it was painful. He was not a jerk ... he was just another pilgrim looking for paradise, I imagine.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Mother, I want a divorce"

Idly skimming The Guardian's "10 best first lines in fiction" (it's sort of like eating potato chips while seated comfortably in the bathroom) reminded me of what I once thought would be a pretty good opening for a D.H. Lawrence novel. The line was "Mother, I want a divorce."

Nowadays, the line seems a bit too raucous and contrived, but back then I thought it was pretty spiffy, the kind of lead line that would flow into the higglety-pigglety of men-women-Freud-et-al. Not bad for a ninth-grader, I guess, but too easy-trick for my taste today.

Now I prefer the quiet that may or may not invite and is not so concerned about whether anyone accepts the invitation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

who will kiss his face?

I wonder who will kiss his face,
Bestow the weightlessness of grace,
Remove a lifelong carapace --
Who then who will kiss his face?


As schools fire up the engines that will be a new school year, I get to remembering how much I too once hated homework. Book reports, science projects, essays on one topic or another, much of it stretching into the wee hours of the night. Gawd what a pain in the ass.

And yet nowadays, as yesterday, I realize how much I appreciate listening to people whom I somehow trust to have done the homework that underpins or supports the conclusions they might then make. How do I know they've done the homework? The honest answer is that I don't. But somehow I trust their minds and their efforts. It's an iffy business, one that calls the usefulness and truthiness of conclusions into question, but still....

The thought train rose up again yesterday as I caught a snipped of an interview with Andrew Bacevich, a former Marine Corps colonel during the Vietnam war. He is one of a handful of men whose thinking I trust. Why? Well. because he seems to have done his homework. But has he? The honest answer is, I don't really know. I know I agree with many of his conclusions, but that's not the same as saying he has done his homework.

Homework is like slashing through the undergrowth of some jungle. Slash and cut and collect and then slash and cut and collect some more until, perhaps, a pool of clear water is attained -- a respite and resting place at which to drink my fill. But such a pool -- such a place of ranging, pure agreement is no place to rest. All around, without surcease, is the very jungle that brought me here. The pool is just a reminder of the fact that no matter how much homework is done, still the homework is not "done" in some perfected sense. It is just a place where I choose to rest and learn to say, "I don't know."

For all that, there are a handful of people I do trust and do feel at home with and am pleased that they have, if only in my mind, done their homework. Those who have not done their homework are everywhere -- full of conclusions that rest on rickety legs. I can smell them; I can feel their thorns ... blow-hards and feather merchants who think because there is agreement there is therefore truth.

I am tired of those who get by or don't get called out when they reach conclusions that lots of others share. Blowhards and feather merchants ... and yet how do I know that those I admire are any better?

The answer is, I don't know and I am as lazy if not lazier than the next fellow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

be a horrible boss

29 tips on how to be a horrible boss

When non-profit director and blogger Vu Le asked his Facebook community to describe what makes a horrible boss, he was inundated with responses. Warning: you may recognise yourself here.
Anyone else get the sense that the wrong people may read this compendium?

presidential debate

If, as I do, you take Winston Churchill's definition of "democracy" to heart, then I would say Democrat Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton walked away from last night's TV 'debate' against Republican Candidate Donald Trump looking pretty good.

Churchill observed that "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest." Good, bad or indifferent, still democracy has parameters and it was Clinton rather than Trump who transmitted a sense that she could grab her ass with both hands within the maelstrom. Trump's bullying braggadocio came up pretty limp: A man who interrupts is a man on the run and Trump interrupted. "I'm rich" -- is that a statement of political or intellectual or moral capacity? For some, maybe it is, but not for me.

She'll win, but it was pleasant to suspect she had some of the qualities required for a winner.

body swap

Your Name, also known as Kimi no Na wa in Japanese, is a body-swapping fantasy with two teenagers at its heart.
Based on a novel, it tells the story of Mitsuha, a female high school student in a rural Japanese town, and Taki, a male high school student in central Tokyo.
Mitsuha starts dreaming of herself as a young man. Taki also begins seeing himself through the eyes of a female student in the countryside.

Monday, September 26, 2016

blog-naked sort of

The following was lying around on my desk top. I can't remember why it was there or what I had planned to do with it, but if I put it here, I can take it from there and things become a little less messy....


When my mother died at 98 in 2015, she left a stack of "journals" she had kept over the years. When I asked her, in earlier times, what she wanted done with them, she replied, "Burn them." Her answer brought me up short: So many thoughts, so many sorrows and joys, so many large and small adventures, so many times the universe had collapsed and then been reconstituted. Weren't these things important and worth preserving?

And when I asked why she had kept these journals at all, she said, tongue somewhat in cheek, "How do I know what I think till I see what I say?"

These days, I too have stacks of journals gathering dust in the basement. And I too sense that what was once sky-rending in its positive or negative impact is not so all-fired important. It's not that the universe is indifferent or cruel: It's just that the universe takes a longer view and, perhaps, has a better sense of humor.

There are 7000-plus entries on the blog I write in every day of the week. It's just an old habit, contracted from my mother, perhaps. Mostly it's just a bit of this and bit of that. But my old addictions are not so important and that is probably the most important part of my latter-day journal writing: I like and dislike things, but I would be a fool to imagine that my desire to find out what I think would interest anyone else. The usefulness of the entries -- at least as I assess it -- is to fill a three part need: 1. To attempt to quantify what cannot be quantified (life) 2. To lay out my point of view in such a way that whoever reads it can say, "Whoa Nellie! I'm not that stupid!" and 3. To attempt to fulfill what I think of as a very human drive to be as naked as no one can help but be.

One-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins once observed that "meeting your favorite author is one of life's most reliable disappointments." To come into communion with someone who has found a way to go naked and be convincing about it is pretty damned exciting. It's 'just like me.' I am not alone and lonely in the quiet times when nakedness may be overwhelming.

But the surprise and wonder has got a poor shelf life. How interesting for how long can nakedness actually be? You're naked, I'm naked and no addition of clothes or words written in a journal can change that. Hell, bare-nekkid is just bare-nekkid and what's on display is hardly new or novel.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I slept out along one branch of the
Westfield River up around Worthington. As the night came on, I lay in my sleeping bag listening to the chortling of the river. Sometimes it was as if people were talking as the river flowed. The next morning, as dawn began to light up the sky, I got up and walked upstream along the rocks poking out of the river. And as I rounded one bend, up ahead by a couple of hundred feet, lying on a big flat rock in the middle of the river, there lay a naked woman. She lay on her back as the sun rose higher above the hill across the flow. Soon the sun would touch and warm her. She was still and so was I.

And then I pulled myself back. The beauty did not deserve my interference, somehow, and I did not want the woman to be afraid. So I turned my back to her, lifted a large rock and sent it crashing against other nearby rocks. I kept my back to the woman and stayed that way to a count of perhaps fifty. By the time I turned back, she was, as planned, gone.

There is naked and then there is naked. Even a person dressed from head to toe with journal entries or blog posts can hide and hide and hide some more. People get naked at their own speed and in their own time and as the saying goes, "you can't push the river." Just because anyone gets undressed does not mean they are naked. Just because they say "naked" does not mean that nakedness can somehow be compassed and explained.

But if you want to get to Carnegie Hall, the only real option is to practice, practice, practice. Practice being naked long enough and one day, quite by surprise, the nakedness will come out and dance. The practice helps to get out of the way. To stop cloning BY cloning. To be real by being an utter phony.

It's an odd business, being what anyone already is.

nothing special and yet ....

For his mysterious series Provisional Arrangement, award-winning Slovakian photographer Martin Kollar hints at droll, tragic stories
‘We find ourselves in a complex world without a sense of permanence and certainty. We surround ourselves with temporary friends, we have temporary women, we have a temporary tooth replacement and we prefer temporary residencies to permanent address’

the 'most expensive' chocolate

A bar of To’ak chocolate sells for a tooth-splintering $345 – but a stay in a treehouse in the Ecuador rainforest where it originates costs just $15 a night.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, there will always be someone to make a twinkling religion out of it ... or, alternatively, a grinding and cruel poverty. In Ecuador there's a glittering jewel, balanced and storied. In Syria, there's a lack of food and water and decency.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

colorized historic photos

Colorized historical photos passed along in email:

Swiss approve improved snooping

GENEVA (AP) -- Swiss voters granted new powers Sunday to the country's intelligence services, allowing them to track internet activity, snoop on email and tap phones to better fight spies, criminal hackers and violent extremists.
A majority of 65.5 percent voted for the new law in the national referendum, Swiss media reported.... 
Until now, Swiss authorities had been barred from using anything more than publicly available information or tips from foreign officials when monitoring threats inside the country.

wonder and disaster

Rolling around like a hard candy among my mental teeth, with scant notice as to whether it were true or false, click-click, click-click....

War is an act of imagination and hence is the province of men. Men are imaginative. Women are serious. It is the women whose center of gravity is lower and more rooted. It is they who grow the flowers. It is men who spread the pollen far and wide, sometimes with gush-wonderful results in color and scent, sometimes with one disaster springing up behind another.

It takes care to grow the flowers and care to imagine the possibilities. Either way, the fields fill up in riotous array and children create bouquets to present to mom and dad.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

my son buys a gun

In the midst of it all ... in the midst of a sickening drumbeat of slaughter and depredation in the Middle East ... in the midst of random and not-so-random killings in the U.S. ... in the midst of some quietly-pleading and worn-out voice that says, "Make it stop!" ... in the midst of the fact that my wife is off to New Jersey today to visit with a sister whose daughter's two-year-old son has been diagnosed with leukemia ... in the midst of a saddened and saddening matrix within ... in the midst of all that, yesterday, my younger son purchased a pistol.

"You OK with that?" my older son asked in an even tone. And the fact was that I really didn't know. Pistols are for killing people. They are possible. The difference between an hypothesis and a pistol on the hip is far less of a stretch than is often portrayed. My son had taken all the legal steps to assure that the pistol was within the law. He showed me the pistol. It was surprisingly light. In his purchase, he had crossed a line between theory and fact: Everyone's got a killer instinct -- it's what they do with it that counts. Denial is not an option. Will my son make a mistake? I pray not. I pray that he will not be forced to confront the fact that hurting someone else is wounding oneself, sometimes grievously. I pray and yet failure to man up to the killer instinct, to own what you own ... it may be nice not to have to confront it, but not confronting it is cotton candy.

No, I didn't know what I felt. Was I OK? Well, everyone walks on his or her own road, no matter how hard they may pose on someone else's road. I was glad my son owned a pistol in the sense that in a confrontation with the 'lawful authorities' I suspect may be brought to bear against American citizenry ... well, a little push-back is not a bad idea ... or rather, it's a lousy idea but sometimes there is nothing left but lousy options.

I am ashamed that my generation has come up with no better than a gun-crazed citizenry. I am sorry. And simultaneously I know that I might kill someone else with the hammer I used for so many years to drive nails. My son will have to be his own kind of grown-up and I suspect that my implicit losing of parental control is part of my dust-stormy confusion about a pistol. I am proud of him for seeing the matter through and I pray -- as with all prayers that get answered in the affirmative -- that it will not be too painful an affirmation.

after the race

namelessness and relaxation

I suppose it's somehow sexier because the Zen teacher Rinzai suggested, "Grasp and use, but never name." He's 'important' after all, so what he says is regarded by some as likewise important.

But when anyone takes away the 'importance' and/or 'sexiness' and simply takes the man at his word, isn't it easier -- aren't things really more relaxed and less heaped with meaning or other bits of icing -- when the namelessness of things is simply acknowledged and there is some accord?

It may be a bit tricky because some nitwit is likely to point out the wisdom of "the namelessness of all things." But namelessness is not the point. Namelessness is the point. There is nothing corrupt or sinful about calling it a "hot dog," but too often the relaxation factor is missing.

It's nice to relax.

I think maybe Rinzai was talking about relaxation, not some numbnuts wisdom.

Friday, September 23, 2016

"drink corn likker, let the cocaine be"

Here in the United States, opiod overdoses and methamphetamines grab a good deal of press when it comes to "drug addictions."

Interesting that the single greatest drug addiction in the United States is, today, as it was yesterday, alcohol. The fact that alcohol is "legal" seems to throw dust in the eyes of anyone seeking a serious discussion of drug addiction. As far as I know, the addiction doesn't mind.

But this morning I woke up with the early-20th-century Appalachia folk song that lamented the encroachments of cocaine and the damage it could do. The song rattled around in my mind. The refrain went:
Listen to me!
Listen to me!
Drink corn likker
Let the cocaine be.
Cocaine gonna kill
My honey dead.
It was a time when laudanum (from the Latin laudare, to praise) -- a miracle of pain-killing marvels that wowed a mid-19th century constituency -- was getting attention as a drug that had previously been sold without a prescription. Opium, cocaine ... oh the magic. And alcohol remains the king.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

full-frontal ignorance

I don't know how others feel, but I find something refreshing about ignorance and bigotry that is front-and-center and has no shy-ness to it. It's tiring listening to those who gild their flat-out truths with a politesse that simply won't wash and insults those within earshot.

Case in point: Kathy Miller, Republican campaign coordinator in Mahoning County, Ohio, quit her post today after being recorded by The Guardian as she said, I assume with a non-rancorous honesty, that black people have only themselves to thank for their economic and educational failures over the last 50 or more years. Ohio is a powerhouse state when it comes to electing the next U.S. president and, although GOP nominee Donald Trump has said worse things than Miller, still he hasn't had the decency to assume the kind of responsibility Miller has. Excerpt from The Guardian:

Kathy Miller
The video included an interview with Miller in which she said there was “no racism” during the 1960s and claimed black people who have not succeeded over the past half-century only have themselves to blame.
“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you,” she said.
“You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”
Miller added: “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this … Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.”
Mark Munroe, the Mahoning chair for the GOP, said he immediately contacted the Trump campaign in Ohio asking for Miller to be dismissed over her “insane comments”.
Appalling? Yes, in a certain sense, it all is. Saddening and appalling. And yet I have to admit that there is something refreshing about getting it out in the open.  When I hear enough goody-two-shoes dancing around the gritty truths that may invest one mind or another, all I can think of is Clint Eastwood in his movie, "Gran Torino" ... a great and growly


Strange to think, perhaps, that the word "embrace" might carry with it it the meaning, "to let go."

A footnote perhaps.

But a footnote to what?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

one-man labor organizer

In 1917,  they broke down his door, yanked him out of bed, chained him to the rear of a car and dragged him over Butte, Mont.'s cobble stones. Finally, they hanged Frank Little from a railroad trestle. His efforts to organize the oppressed had largely failed. "'Slain by capitalist interests for organizing and inspiring his fellow men,' says the headstone."

monthly column

Appearing today in the Daily Hampshire Gazette:
Arm with words as well as weapons

EDITOR’S NOTE: Columnist Adam Fisher’s offering today is an open letter to Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe, Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard.

Dear Gen. Keefe: My son is assigned to the 1-181 Infantry Regiment/Gardner as a Specialist 4 infantry man. As such, he is scheduled for overseas deployment next year. I would like to make it clear from the get-go that I am not writing to you on my son’s individual behalf, but rather on behalf of any and all troops under your command who will likewise find themselves in an alien and potentially hostile land far from home.

When I, as a parent, first heard that my son and others like him would be deployed, I was naturally concerned. I realize that not every overseas deployment to the Middle East implies combat, but as a parent, the worst-case scenario arose.

I have no doubt that the training my son has received is as good as it can be given budget constraints, but anyone knows that there is always a difference between training and facts. Combat – when it occurs – has this in common with any other aspect of life: No one knows for certain what is going to happen next and the best anyone can do is hope that the training provided is equal to the circumstances that actually occur.

And it is in this regard that I am writing to you. When my son told me that a deployment was in the offing, the first thing I said to him was that besides learning his weapons and tactics, he should take the time to learn at least 100 words of the language most frequently spoken in the place where he was to be stationed. Just 100 words.

If you have kids, you can imagine the response I got. When I tried to suggest that a single word or a little bit of conversation might avert some potential bloodshed, he looked at me as if I were an extra- terrestrial ... and not a very smart one at that.

When I asked him whether he agreed with me that a good soldier could hardly be called a good soldier if he did not take the trouble to learn from his opponent, he paused and thought, but still remained unconvinced. When I said that one of the most obvious weaknesses of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the lack of personnel who spoke the native tongue, he gave me his “so what” look.

This old man realized that being a nag is hardly the way to convince a young colt and so I am asking you if shoehorning just a little language training into the National Guard curriculum would be not just possible, but also useful.

Our country is embarked on a course that studiously ignores former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about falling victim to what he dubbed “the military- industrial complex.” Our country is hip-deep in the military-industrial complex and yet anyone who has even a superficial understanding of history knows that yesterday’s enemies are frequently today’s friends. Think Germany, Japan or Vietnam, for example.

And as often as not, those friendships are built on small beginnings – as for example a few words in the local tongue.

I checked my suggestion out with a former Vietnam war Marine colonel who had been where the bullets flew. Not a desk jockey. And he agreed that there were times – however few they might be – when conversation might defuse a mortal combat alternative. Should the soldiers learn? “It’s doable,” he said.

“Please,” “thank you,” “put down the weapon,” “food,” “I am honored to meet you,” “where are the others?” “are you hungry,” “yes,” “no,” “please sit down,” “the dates are delicious,” “would you like some water?” ... the list of possible small phrases goes on and on.

Will an extra 10-20 hours of teacher-to- student language training work infallibly? Certainly not. But what if it worked just once?

The United States is embarked on a foreign policy strategy that relies heavily on military might. This is likely to go on for years.
Based on the assistance of your good staff, I understand that there are a couple of hours devoted to culture and language during the mobilization training that precedes any actual deployment. But as one staff member observed, “there is only so much time.”
I further understand that officers are sometimes hooked up with interpreters in the field. But not every soldier is attended by an officer and assigning an interpreter to every foot soldier is obviously impossible. Wouldn’t an internal interpreter, however limited, be more reliable? Equally unlikely is the idea that foot soldiers will teach themselves in the absence of some upper-echelon order. And for these reasons, I suggest a more intensive individualized training segment for those who are most likely to find themselves in harm’s way.

To the extent that you find this linguistic suggestion sensible, I sincerely hope you will act on your own authority and not simply kick the can down the road and send a memo or create a study group. It’s a simple matter that might save American lives ... or even just one.

Thank you for your attention and consideration.


Adam Fisher

Adam Fisher lives in Northampton and is a regular contributor. He can be reached at Anyone else who wishes to write to Gen. Keefe can send mail to him at the Joint Force Headquarters, 2 Randolph Road, Hanscom AFB, MA 01731.
PS. And the first email of the day appearing in the inbox (who gets up earlier than I do???) read

Dear Sir,
You are right on. Do you recall the true story of a Christmas Eve during WW1, when soldiers in opposite foxholes (French and German) came out and sang Christmas carols to each other? A similar situation. Or in my own experience in Germany in 1945, when an American soldier spoke to my mother, who happened to know English? A bond was established in the minds of us young children watching, which we have never forgotten.
Sincerely, and may your son be safe.
Inge Ackermann

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

one fighter = 3,358 years of college

Commentary: For $178 million, the U.S. could pay for one fighter plane – or 3,358 years of college

fakin' a spiritual life

Among the encouraging morsels once heard along the Zen Buddhist trail, there was the snippet of the samurai who had not eaten in a long time. Despite his desperate hunger, still, he walked down the street picking his teeth as if he had just finished a fine meal.

When I first heard this encouragement, I was into what I now call my Marine Corps Zen phase: No sacrifice was too great in the path to enlightenment; determination and sacrifice were required; no effort was too extreme and each was worth the expenditure. Hunger was a minor matter when compared with the payback.

And even today I do think that a raw determination is required in spiritual practice and I can snort derisively in the back of my mind when someone waxes elegiac about the kind and comely efforts that can win the day. There are brick walls that bar the way and each awaits a crushing demolition. Namby-pamby won't cut it.

Kool! Picking his teeth! What a mensch! What a warrior!

But as time passed, my views changed. I really didn't agree that fakin' it was the way to go. Which takes more courage -- to pretend you are full when you are hungry or to admit you are hungry and perhaps beg for a piece of bread? Which is more honorable? Which is more honest?

It is hard to beg. Very, very hard.

Determination is required.

And honesty is a sine qua non.

I leave others to decide what pretenses are most useful. I just know that I prefer not to lie where there is no need to lie.

the eye of the beholder

Adele Bloch-Bauer was an avid art patron at the centre of Vienna’s cultural life. And when she sat for a portrait by Gustav Klimt, she was transformed into an icon, writes Kimberly Bradley.

veterinarian suicides

Passed along in email today: Suicides among veterinarians.

Monday, September 19, 2016

WP editorial: No pardon for Edward Snowden

In a move that appears not to be the work of the satirical Onion, The Washington Post has called for the prosecution of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Washington Post has stunned many people in the United States, including a large section of the country’s journalistic community, by coming out against a pardon for whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Despite the newspaper having been responsible for publishing leaks by the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, its latest editorial urges President Barack Obama not to pardon him.
The sedate, but logically garbled editorial argument seems to be that Snowden should step up and take his punishment like the patriotic man he has allowed many to assume he is. Never mind that the exculpatory information Snowden might bring to bear at trial would be disallowed for "security" reasons. A fair trial is not the point. A moral purity that has not been in play in other pardons is very much in play here.

Were the editorial minders of the WP drunk or deranged or simply desperate that they should float such a balloon? The resulting clamor speaks well for the esteem in which the Washington Post was once held.

It's ... it's ... it's ... well, fuck!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

the castration option

In a column entitled "An obituary for the age of intervention?" writer Jonathan Marcus suggests:
Another fundamental criticism is the absence of any real thought about the aftermath of the conflict.
The report notes that "policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya".
The result, it says, "was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil [so-called Islamic State] in north Africa."[emphasis added]
Do the emphasized words NOT apply to any Middle Eastern conflict in which the West has seen fit to dip its oar? Everyone seems to say "oops" later, only to turn around and employ the same tool box to the next inviting and revenue-positive adventure.

Strange how involuntary sterilization has been used in various places around the world (mostly on the poor or otherwise disentranchised), but I have yet to hear of a policy of involuntary castration on those who insist on waving the flag to the detriment of others who have to do the bleeding.

Cut 'em off early and often!

un-empty nest

Caught in the talons of these times, my older son and middle child returned home yesterday to catch his financial breath as he continues to look for a computer-esque job and pay off the student debt that a robust set of politicians and brokers have colluded to suck out of him. He'll work for the moment at the high school as a teacher's aide and, as I understand it, adjunct track coach.

Now that he has filled out and grown and taken on appurtenances, the house seems very small. Younger son, older son, mom and dad in a house that is short on closets and filled with the detritus that goes with bringing up three children. My daughter seems to be the only one on a professional trajectory -- married, with a job, and living elsewhere.

My son's mattress and box spring are stored in the zendo for the moment. Although I don't use the space any longer, still I hate to turn it into some pit in which overflow acquisitions are placed without thought of how the fuck to get rid of them ... make more space.

One thing good about death (I hope) -- there is plenty of room.

a noisy silence

Where all communication has ceased, a constant jabbering arises. The moon is such a noisy kerl.

Buddhist teacher

Wrote this yesterday on a Buddhist bulletin board ... re. finding/having a Buddhist teacher:
In Zen, the story that illustrates the meaning of sangha may be a good one for defining a teacher as well. The story goes: A potato farmer harvests his crop, sticks the spuds in a burlap bag and tosses them into a nearby stream. The current rubs the potatoes together and removes excess dirt.
Everyone is in a burlap bag...
All the time.
With or without a "teacher," there is no lack of current.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

truth to tell

Since I seem to be on a belly-button-lint frequency this morning, I wonder idly what it might be like to interview me. "What do you consider your single most compelling factor in your background or upbringing?" I might ask. And I might respond: "The message of abandonment each of my parents sent me in different ways."

The answer, for an interviewer bent on completing some sketch or outline of a life, would be utterly piercing and utterly true ... and besides, it would fit into a profile of a given length.

But simultaneously, the answer would be, without paradox, utterly piercing and utterly false. Some later soul might seek to explain this true/false simultaneity in a hundred artful, caring ways. It would be bullshit, but it would be earnest.

Maybe that's the way of what is true and what is false: Each attempts to abandon the other and comes up, ipso facto, short.

RIP Edward Albee, 88

NEW YORK (AP) -- Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, who challenged theatrical convention in masterworks such as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "A Delicate Balance," died Friday, his personal assistant said. He was 88.
He died at his home in Montauk, east of New York, assistant Jackob Holder said. No cause of death was immediately given, although he had suffered from diabetes. With the deaths of Arthur Miller and August Wilson in 2005, he was arguably America's greatest living playwright.
Several years ago, before undergoing extensive surgery, Albee penned a note to be issued at the time of his death: "To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love."
Talk about a guy who could shake your salt cellar!

a flash of crabby

Somehow, the smiling female face on page 1 of the paper today kicks off a sense of crabbiness ... just an amorphous distaste for groups in which, like slenderized divorcees looking for a second chance, there is a gathering of people whose teeth are impeccably straight and, if they're not wearing a single strand of pearls, they might be. Everyone's smiling. Everyone's intentions are good. Everyone has a heartfelt mission hovering over a goblet of medium-to-good wine. They have a mission, a wrong to right and they are smiling in the process ... smiles are attractive in the camera lens.

The crowd eddies gently here and there. Très WASP-y and white, each willing to rub the mental genitalia of the next.

They all have check-books.

God, their teeth are straight!

But what will they do when no one is looking?

Probably more than I will. I'm just a crabby old fuck.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Israeli settlements flourish

JERUSALEM (AP) -- In his landmark speech to the Arab world seven years ago, President Barack Obama warned that Israeli settlements on occupied territories were undermining hopes for peace. "It is time for these settlements to stop," he declared.As Obama heads into the home stretch of his presidency, he leaves behind an unfulfilled vision. Not only did he fail to stop it, but he watched Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem thrive - despite repeated White House condemnations.
According to Israeli government data obtained by The Associated Press, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed a wave of construction during the Obama presidency that matched, and even exceeded, the amount of building that took place under his predecessors during the Bush years.
The figures show the limits of U.S. influence over its close ally and a reluctance to link financial support to Israel with policy differences. Despite the Israeli defiance over settlements and a long history of friction between Obama and Netanyahu, the two countries signed a deal this week giving Israel $38 billion in U.S. military aid over 10 years, the largest deal of its kind in American history.
And all of this exempts the United States from being a party to apartheid how?

being nobody

Bit by bit and week by week, the local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, is phasing out one of my weekly favorites -- a column entitled ID which, at least in the past, would corral a single person and ask what they liked, disliked, bought, enjoyed ... or other odds and ends of questions. The answers didn't always ring true, but there was usually some nugget of personality that slipped through whatever intended or unintended facade was thrown up. Not as good, perhaps, as "I collect squids" but some similar little something-or-other. It was fun to read. Evocative somehow. Or at least when someone with a business or do-good agenda was kept at bay. It was the nobody-in-particular quality that grabbed my attention. But now it's going, going, gone.

And as I imagined what it might be like to walk down Main Street and try to find a "nobody" to ask questions to, it occurred to me how impossible the task was. Except for the vain, no one walking alone when going to buy a bottle of milk ever thinks of him- or herself as "somebody." I'm just plain old me and you're just plain old you ....

Right up to the moment when someone asks for a preference or description of the life being led. Then, all of a sudden, everyone transforms from "nobody" into "somebody."

Trying to be a nobody is impossibly stupid: For those who already nobody, why try? And for those who already aren't ... well ... why try?

sexy without the sex

The sexier the world is, the less sexy it becomes.

Virtual reality got a little too real at the Tokyo Game Show on Friday when gamers lined up at one exhibition and got touchy-feely with a mannequin that with VR goggles transformed into a female anime character.
The show's organizer told software developer M2 Co. to stop visitors fondling the dummy's breasts, which with built-in sensors prompted the anime image in the goggles to move.
The hands-on display was meant to demonstrate technology to turn flat pictures into 3D images.
What I want to know is, where are the male dummies in all of this? Or was showing a robotic penis a step too far? Do women feel unduly excluded from libidinous romping in goggles? Where's the dong app?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Donald Trump's business dealings

Passed along in email was this depiction of some small contractors who worked for now-presidential-candidate and self-proclaimed businessman par excellence Donald Trump who came out on top by not living up to his promises.

"Lower than pond scum" comes to mind.

remaining art

 Edward Burtynsky's aerial photography is a reminder of just how much human activity has affected the planet.

U.S. religion as big biz

Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study.
The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

where the buck stops

Given the endless, endless, endless drumbeat of ersatz political news in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, it is hard not to look back and wistfully wish.

The interesting thing about standards is not so much that anyone might meet them but that they should have them in the first place and then try to meet them.

Former President Harry S. Truman had a plaque on his desk that read, "The buck stops here." He was also quoted as saying, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

It is hard not to wish that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would set a similar bar for themselves... on behalf of the nation. Instead, there are endless bits of jousting about health or the other's lies or anything but where the buck might stop.

And, I imagine, the same is true on a personal level. What standard am I willing to set for myself and then attempt to meet it? Not succeed necessarily, but at least try?

Put up or shut up.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

the searing of a blessed hell

If Dante Alighieri were alive today, I wonder if he would create a hell realm and reserve it for those who did indeed "count their blessings."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Edward Snowden seeks pardon

Edward Snowden has set out the case for Barack Obama granting him a pardon before the US president leaves office in January, arguing that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by US and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off.
The US whistleblower’s comments, made in an interview with the Guardian, came as supporters, including his US lawyer, stepped up a campaign for a presidential pardon. Snowden is wanted in the US, where he is accused of violating the Espionage Act and faces at least 30 years in jail.... The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.” [emphasis added]
[Part of the whole kerfuffle Snowden stirred up includes the calling out of views that assert damage was done but -- trust me -- to divulge it would compound the damage. We can't tell you and we are patriots ... etc.]

My guess is that there is not a snowball's chance in hell that any public figure will summon the backbone it would take to pardon Snowden.

That just leaves the rest of us to thank him.

mom births son.on Internet.

California mother gives birth in water. If this doesn't make you cry for joy, nothing will.

I am so grateful to mother, father and son. To call this clip "a blessing" is too little and too late.

Beyond music.

U.S. promises Israel $38 billion in arms

The United States and Israel have reached final agreement on a record new package of at least $38 billion in U.S. military aid and the 10-year pact is expected to be signed within days, sources close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
The deal will represent the biggest pledge of U.S. military assistance ever made to any country but also includes major concessions granted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to officials on both sides.
I wonder if there was a deal to provide sling shots and box cutters to Palestinians.

I don't wonder if America's arms manufacturers are applauding their prescient lobbying payouts.

Monday, September 12, 2016

air strikes and civilian (not) deaths

For almost two years, RAF jets have been targeting the so-called Islamic State (IS). British warplanes have now carried out more than 1,000 air strikes, firing more than 2,000 bombs and missiles.
And yet the Ministry of Defence still says there have been "no known" civilian casualties. In November last year the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon even suggested the use of precision weapons had "eliminated" civilian casualties.
Brits, Americans, Russians ... everyone wants clean hands or someone to believe they have clean hands. Let's hear a round of applause for Joseph Goebbels!


On Thursday morning
A beautiful woman
Came walking down
A well-worn track.

In her left hand
She bore
A sceptre
But what's that in her right?

A sycophant, perhaps
Or yet a symposium.
The ways of imagination
Are sometimes sibilant.

And sometimes not.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

bacteria resisting antibiotics

Passed along in email was this visual of bacteria growing increasingly resistant to antibiotics:

In a creative stroke inspired by Hollywood wizardry, scientists from Harvard Medical School and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have designed a simple way to observe how bacteria move as they become impervious to drugs.
The experiments, described in the Sept. 9 issue of Science, are thought to provide the first large-scale glimpse of the maneuvers of bacteria as they encounter increasingly higher doses of antibiotics and adapt to survive — and thrive — in them.
To do so, the team constructed a 2-by-4 foot petri dish and filled it with 14 liters of agar, a seaweed-derived jellylike substance commonly used in labs to nourish organisms as they grow.

9/11 anniversary

As a young pup newspaper reporter a lot of years ago, there was a period when I actually assumed that if you collected sufficient facts, readers would reach an 'obvious' conclusion as to the truth or falsehood, goodness or evil, of the given topic. Truth to tell, I can still be victim to that assumption and gather fact upon fact in the hope/assurance that a clear-eyed appreciation (often very like my own) would evolve.

But now, on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 (2001) attacks here in the United States, I find myself as lazy as any knee-jerk patriot: I have my assumptions and I am out of gas when it comes to defending what I assume, let alone trying to convince anyone else. The official story is that they -- al-Qaida or some such -- were responsible for the spectacular attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives. This assumption, with arabesques, has entered softly into the realm of popular assumption. No need to argue or dispute ... and besides, there's a refugee crisis in the Levant and a sale on broasted chickens. It's no biggie. It's just a boxed and tied with a bow building block of perception. No fault, no foul.

I am as guilty of soft and easy assumptions too ... now, so many years later. But my assumptions call up good reason not to buy into the official story. It's no biggie -- just my lazy assumption. Who stood to
benefit (eight billion bucks)? How did the World Trade Center towers collapse with the sweet neatness of an industrial demolition ... straight down into their own footprints? What of the engineer who said the towers had been built with an eye to collisions with aircraft? What of the heat generated by even something as flammable as jet fuel ... and the burning steel girders days after the explosion ... those girders so surgically sliced at a demolition-man's angle?

However strident the questions, still, subtracting the stridency, the empirical questions remain unanswered and unaddressed and they form my own current laziness and assumptions ... which, as I say, I am not interested in convincing anyone else about.

As I say, I am lazy these days and am glad if anyone will challenge the official version but also do not expect any challenge to the unofficial version. It takes more energy than is available to go back and parse and dissect and try to suck out whatever truth there may be in an empirical sense.

My myth, your myth ... it's hard to maintain a myth, however deserving or correct. It's muggy today and I have not yet had my breakfast.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

lie detector silly

Passed along in email:

Friday, September 9, 2016

close your eyes and....

If you're gonna create the horror, the least you could do is own your creation.
Facebook Inc on Friday reinstated a Vietnam War-era photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack, after a public outcry over its removal of the image including harsh criticism from Norway's prime minister...The company initially said the photo violated its Community Standards barring child nudity on the site.

Ohio police have released a graphic photo of a couple overdosing on heroin with a four-year-old boy in the car.
Rhonda Pasek, 50, and James Acord, 47, were charged with endangering children after they became unconscious during a traffic stop in East Liverpool.
The boy, Pasek's four-year-old son, was taken into custody by county children's services.
Authorities released the image to raise awareness of the Midwestern US state's heroin epidemic....
The city said: "We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry.
"But it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis."

The U.S. government has asserted that photos of the caskets of the war dead invade the privacy of the kin left behind. It won't wash. What they really mean is that pictures of the returning war dead, many in body bags, helped to reverse 'patriotic' sentiments during the Vietnam war and that since war is de rigueur these days, there's no advantage to grisly truths.

There is a difference between the understanding that you can't do a damned thing about an issue and the assertion that closing the eyes means the issue does not exist.

toe-tagging the past

Strange and somehow disconcerting to watch as what was once a pleasant point of interest turn into something valued in dollars.

Carson McCullers ©Adam Fisher
Yesterday, and again today unless I am wrong, I was party to a series of emails in which a publisher was seeking to get permission to use a photo my mother took of the American writer Carson McCullers. The photo is one of several in an album whose pages are falling out after so much time. My mother knew McCullers well enough so that, based on the photo, McCullers visited the house we then inhabited in New City, N.Y.

I was only a child and my mother's friends were, of course, grown-ups and thus more powerful than I. I was to keep a civil tongue in my mouth, but that didn't mean I couldn't have an opinion and at that age I go definite wing-nut vibes from McCullers.

Still, the photo itself is a family keepsake. Who knows what chemistry passed between my mother and McCullers when it came to taking the picture. Was McCullers allowing the riff-raff some entry into her imagined heights? Was she seeking on the basis of "any publicity is good publicity?" Were the two of them simply expressing a friendship? All of that is unknown as I look at the family keepsake which a publisher now wants to use as part of a two-volume collected works publication due out next year.

It's a memory with a toe tag. Somehow putting a price on a memory is ... is ... is what? It's not bad or naughty. It just feels weird, though it does align with my feeling that if you hold on to anything long enough, someone will call it an antique or a treasure of some sort. In America, "the price of everything and the value of nothing" is rampant. Donald Trump -- the incarnation of brand-selling Kim Kardashian -- has filled one piggy bank after another with his view of the suckers out there.

Perhaps I should just be content to let others see what they want to see and price what they want to price, but it still feels weird in my book. It reminds me of a time when I went into an art gallery and was smitten by a painting ... just stood stock still and stared and stared at it. Its beauty filled me up. And then the gallery owner approached me from the rear and began "explaining" it to me. He just wanted to make a sale, but in an utterly literal sense, I was within an ace of trying to kill him. A dollar sign on beauty ... talk about a visceral heresy ... I was pissed as a hornet. Even today, I can get pissed all over again.

Not that the McCullers photo is especially beautiful. It is too clearly posed. But it is part of a soft and enveloping past. A free place about which the word "freedom" does not compute. Cozy and plain. No toe tags or price tags.

Just, "C'est-ça."

World Nomad Games in pictures

Not much description, but nice pix:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Finger Food Fisher"

When I was a kid, it was still in vogue to don and maintain nicknames -- names other than the moniker parents had laid on. Some of these names stuck. Others fell away. Whichever the case, it was a mark of some kind to have a nickname and I wanted one.

Why? I don't know. Maybe it was just an assertion of the capacity to control and manipulate a life largely ruled by others.

Since none of the ones I tried ("Sam" is the only one I can remember) to assume or encouraged others to employ stuck, I decided this morning that I would give myself a nickname. Not to waste too much time over it, I settled today on the name "Finger Food Fisher."

Finger Food Fisher is, of course, the purveyor of the not-yet-but-soon-to-be famous Finger Food Philosophies. An amalgam of potentially-nutritious munchies. Not overwhelming. Tasty perhaps. Eat enough and you'll get full ... forego the pleasure and nothing is really lost. Finger Food suggests that a more filling diet might be warranted, but let's not make a federal case out of it.

Yes, "Finger Food" -- I can live with that. A nudge rather than a bitch-slap, over-filling seriousness.

Today, for example, a bit of finger food read:
For more than a hundred years, not a single year has passed when Britain’s armed forces have not been engaged in military operations somewhere in the world. The British are unique in this respect: the same could not be said of the Americans, the Russians, the French or any other nation.
Only the British are perpetually at war.
One reason that this is rarely acknowledged could be that in the years following the second world war, and before the period of national self-doubt that was provoked in 1956 by the Suez crisis, Britain engaged in so many end-of-empire scraps that military activity came to be regarded by the British public as the norm, and therefore unremarkable. Another is that since 1945, British forces have engaged in a series of small wars that were under-reported and now all but forgotten, or which were obscured, even as they were being fought, by more dramatic events elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

an evocative take on Trump ascendancy

It's too long if it doesn't get its hooks into you. It did get its hooks into me ... I found it touching in ways that most news analysts could only dream of being.
How the ‘Great Paradox’ of American politics holds the secret to Trump’s success.
In the heartland of the American right, people harmed by polluting industries have instead come to hate the government whose environmental regulations protect them. Now they’re voting for Donald Trump

30 questions

Scavenged from NewBuddhist:
  1. If you didn’t know how old you were, what would you guess your age to be?
  2. In the end of your life, will you have said more, or done more?
  3. If the average human lifespan was only 40 years, how would you live differently?
  4. If happiness was money, what would make you rich?
  5. Would you rather do the right thing, or do things right?
  6. What is better: a worried genius, or a joyful idiot?
  7. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or not be able to make new ones?
  8. Can you know the truth without challenging it?
  9. Have you ever actually encountered your greatest fear? If not – why is it your greatest fear?
  10. Are you simply alive, or truly living?
  11. What did you do today that you’ll actually remember?
  12. Are you doing what you believe in? Or simply getting by?
  13. How much have you actually controlled the path of your life?
  14. If you could offer someone one piece of advice, what would it be?
  15. Do you see the line between insanity and creativity?
  16. If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
  17. Would you give up 10 years of your life to be attractive or famous?
  18. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work doing what you love?
  19. Do you ever feel like you’re re-living the same day over and over?
  20. If we learn from mistakes, why are we so afraid to make them?
  21. How comes what makes you happy doesn’t make everyone happy?
  22. Why are you, you?
  23. What would you do differently if there was no one to judge you?
  24. what is it in life that you truly love?
  25. in the decisions you are making right now: are they for you? or for someone else?
  26. Knowing we will die, how should we live?
  27. Which is worse: failing or never trying?
  28. What are you holding that you need to let go of?
  29. Does something that upset you 5 years ago even matter anymore? Why?
  30. If not now, when?