Tuesday, April 30, 2019

the battle to "privatize warfare"

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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

let them eat cake

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

Saturday, April 27, 2019

composting human bodies

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

a good idea?

Stop dreaming you are dreaming a dream.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

photos in Guardian

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

School for Villainy

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

my journalistic white flag

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

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

your unique life

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

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

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

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

the guarantors called facts

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

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

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

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

Something to consider.

Monday, April 22, 2019

John Oliver on the Mueller Report

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

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

attacking student debt

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter parade

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

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

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

Happy Easter.

Happy parade.

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

Saturday, April 20, 2019

born in New York City

I was born in New York City.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 19, 2019

the Purina Diet reprise

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

decline in religious affiliation

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

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

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

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

last will and testament

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Notre Dame fires the world

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

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

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

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

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

The hungry and thirsty are hopeful, I suspect.

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

primordial ignorance perhaps

The greatest enlightenment oozes ignorance.

The greatest ignorance oozes enlightenment.

Did someone mention "primordial ooze?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

blowing up Brazilian ATM's

Willie Sutton

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

pick-me-up for the old-age factory

Today, the idea floated across my mind:

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

2. Collect, type up and collate those jokes.

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

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

5. Move on to next customer.

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

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

attention span of a gnat?

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

John Oliver on the purveyors of opioids

Is "revolting" enough of a word?

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

frenzy of power, frenzy of rabble

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

fucked if you do, Fuct if you don't

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She sat me down ... uh-oh!

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

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

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

I could use the words among my friends.

I could use the words in front of her.

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

These were rules even a second-grader could grasp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of which is OK with me.

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


A strange trait among overt and covert supremacists:

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

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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

latest tin-pot dictatorship

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

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

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

dialing back suicidal solemnities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The monk in “Spring, Summer, Autumn

and Spring” did what he could to avoid

the future’s mess and even he

was unsuccessful.

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

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

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

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

Let's serious up and get less serious.

spring robins

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

bees in your eyes

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

Or anyway, I did.

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

Monday, April 8, 2019

John Oliver on mobile homes

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

clean, safe drinking water

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

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

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

Sunday, April 7, 2019

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

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

Rejoice, Monty Python!

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

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

lawless in Texas

Nine killed.

Lives ruined.

Mayhem enough for anyone.

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

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

bagging the biggest python

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

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

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

I sit on the porch now.

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

At what point does then become now?

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

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

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

Saturday, April 6, 2019

from the imagined podium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 4, 2019

early 20th century photographer

Aside from anything else, how nice it is to see photos of individuals who are NOT smiling some cheesy smile. True, subjects had to sit still in the early 20th century, and true, Jim Crow segregation was afoot in North Carolina, but still I am fed to the teeth with smiles staring at me from out of the local newspaper. A serious look is worth something.
During Hugh Mangum’s lifetime (1877-1922) monumental events occurred in the US. Laws separating white and black people arose, the last Native vs American battles were fought, women gained the right to vote, and laws to limit immigrants were passed. The personalities in Mangum’s images collectively symbolise the triumphs and struggles of these turbulent years.  
Beginning his career in the early 1890s, Mangum used a Penny Picture camera that was designed to allow multiple and distinct exposures on a single glass plate negative. Working in a step-and-repeat process, the order of the images on a single glass plate mirrors the sequence in which Mangum’s diverse clientele sat for him each day 
Photos Day or Night by Sarah Stacke, with texts by Maurice Wallace and Martha Sumler, is published by Red Hook Editions All photographs: Hugh Mangum / David M Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

stories, lies and the truth

Sitting idly on the warming porch yesterday, something seemed to just fall into place:

The stories that I love and love to drown in are all lies. Life laughs and corrects every period and conclusion that smooths vistas where I live. The laughter is not mean-spirited. It does not give the finger to the rules that stories confect. It just laughs a bit even as I bask in one lie or another.

What came before the cowboy and his gal rode off into the sunset? And after?

But the source of those lies is no lie. Can I prove this or posit it as some sort of over-arching rule or explanation or period on the sentence? Certainly not. It is just the truth I cannot tell, nor would if I could. The lies are wondrous and soothing and false and I love them. At every turn, some cowlick of a chuckle pops up and refuses to be stilled.

Lord, what a lot of magic. Bless the lies and the truth from which they sprang. May I learn not to lie too much about the truth. And not ignore it either.

Skip the "middle ground."

It is time to rest.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

dietary changes





Glazed doughnuts.

Let me count the menu items I can now say without chagrin ... I love 'em.

Since I am now legitimately old enough to die, I figure the yogurt-and-nuts crowd can take a hike and I can devolve in quite pedestrian ways. Ain't no one gettin' outta here alive, so ... a good piece of chocolate -- aside from being almost impossible to acquire in the U.S. -- is ... is ... is ... well, it's goddamned angelic: bittersweet, but not virtue-bound bitter ... lotsa butter fat, lotsa despair for the caring medical administrators.

Mind you, I like spinach too, but eating it as some sort of policy statement ... don't be ridiculous.

And later, of course, some strong black coffee and a cigarette!

Save me one .38 caliber bullet as a last resort against lectures on improvement and healthy living!

ritual and religion ....

Where the rubber hits the road:

On the one hand, (wo)man is a social being, naturally leaning towards the warmth of like-minded critters.

On the other hand, each has his or her quite individualized processing mechanism for the data closest to home ... a me that yearns to get outside the cozy box of mere social connection.

To lean too far towards the one aspect creates an imbalance in the other -- a human life is not, after all, a divided matter, fractured at will. And thus, perhaps, a line like this -- from a story out of the Andes:
“Ritual and religion were profoundly important in ancient states. It is not some new age-y thing,” said Stanish. “Ritual and religion structured people’s lives, it structured the economy and the whole of society. This is how these people were able to create spectacular ways to get along and have a very successful society.”
Ritual and religion lap or crash on the social sands, wash up the beach and slip back, back, back. I'm not sure that it's true, but I sometimes think Buddhism, for example, took nourishment from the ornateness of Hinduism and, by paring away the choking vines of ritual, established its own foothold on the sands. Everything so spectacular and ordered until ... until ... everything fell apart.

Closing a circle is no mean feat.

Rules are so important -- but only to those to which the ruled accede. Rules bind and keep-safe and warm the feet on a cold night. Archaeology is a wonderful science -- partly because you get outdoors and partly because what is discovered has a putative "the end" on it. To be an archaeologist requires some dig-it-up skills. Same ol' same ol' and yet brand new.

Neat and clean, back into the waters the rules were born from, looking for another bit of social sand to wash up upon.

Structure of people's lives works right up to the moment when it doesn't work... or finds another iteration by which to warm the feet on a cold night. And, perhaps as ever, there were "social punishers" (in the story of the Andes) overseeing those who might seek to stray or break too many boxes ... as per, for example, George Carlin's ("Religion is bullshit") observation:
No doubt that's just a minor hiccup in the spiritually-inclined (wo)man's lexicon of coziness and social grace.

Who will meet the challenge of trying to balance or integrate or set aside all this yin-yang stuff? I tried over quite a few years. Naturally, I was not successful, but I herewith transmit my efforts and foolishness to whatever soul might like to beg off such a quest ... I wasted my time: no need for you to waste yours.

Monday, April 1, 2019

the sacredness of life

Georgia appears to be the latest among American states to pass a bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat had been detected, typically at about 20 weeks.

Often such efforts and bills are based in the assertion that life -- and especially human life -- is sacred.
Garfunkel and Oates

I guess I would credit a "sanctity of life" argument more fully if those espousing it would lay out the ways (specifically) in which they might care for and nourish that sanctity. Otherwise the argument is left to founder in the religio-pompous dust.

And I am sorry ... the first thing into my head is this marvelously-produced anti-fucking satire. (Achtung! This video may not be for the thin of skin).

Me, I love their wickedness.