Tuesday, June 30, 2020

the gig economy

Taken in the aggregate, arson is a pretty good crime.

For one thing, of course, the evidence is often consumed by the crime. For another, insurance companies may bemoan their arson losses after so many years of blithely collecting payments, but the fact is that an arson investigation is more expensive than it is worth to the company's bottom line. It is cheaper to write it off and go back to collecting payments.

Of course, there is always some dimwit who, as I once saw in a post-fire folder, claims an entire room and its furnishings when the room was not part of the extant structure.

There are a few tips for the would-be arsonist (don't forget the roof, for example, make sure no one is at home, etc.), but otherwise arson is not a bad gig.

It wouldn't surprise me a bit if arson claims began to rise in these parlous times.

Monday, June 29, 2020

re-entering nature

A couple of nights back, my son returned from work to find a skunk in the driveway. A skunk in the driveway and rabbits sitting still as salt on nearby lawns and lawns going untended ... and bit by bit, it feels as if nature were reclaiming the land.

Still as salt.

The U.S. unemployment rate hovers around something like 15%.

An old clip on TV showed one of the giants of industry addressing the advent of advertising with the observation that "advertising is the art of getting people to buy what they don't need."

The world is filled with stuff that people don't need but somehow must have...'you know, the back-scratcher that will simultaneously scratch your balls or other hidden itch-factories.'

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

tearing down statues

It's like swimming in wet cardboard ... the thick, viscous slime of staying in, staying 'safe,' staying unlinked and un-connected. The TV purveys an endless litany of same ol' same ol' and the president runs around without a mask.

Down south and elsewhere, people are busy ripping down statues of those who made the Confederacy great. Wrong move, I'd say. Let the statues stand as a reminder of the mistakes of the past and the need to acknowledge mistakes made in the past. Will tearing down a statue of Jefferson Davis or Andrew Jackson or whomever root out slavery or the viewing of a black or brown person as inferior? No. Was it a mistake? Yes. Was it in aid of making money? Yes, among other answers. Is there a man alive who has not made mistakes and then been forced to shoulder that responsibility? Hell, even the former Nazis (under some duress, I admit) kept the gates that proclaimed in wrought-iron, "Arbeit macht frei..." over the entrance to a concentration camp.

Leave the statues alone.

Look in the mirror.

This is not blaming-the-victim claptrap. I figure it rather as an act of adulthood. The past cannot be undone. Remembering and honoring mistakes is better than thumbing a nose. Did I fuck up? You betcha! Now what? Let's not pretend. Fuck all the kum-by-ya nonsense ... this mistake is mine and I made it. Can I do better? I sure hope so, but acknowledging my ever-present capacity to make the same damned mistake again is part of the mix.

Precepts are precepts not in order to lop off the responsibility, but in order to nudge and remind me of precisely how vulnerable (and perhaps interesting) I remain.

The International Monetary Fund has said the global economy will take a $12tn (£9.6tn) hit from the Covid-19 pandemic after slashing its already gloomy growth projections for the UK and other developed countries in 2020.
The IMF said it would take two years for world output to return to levels at the end of 2019 and warned that governments should be cautious about removing financial support to their fragile economies.
In an update to forecasts published in April, the Washington-based IMF said it now expected the global economy to contract by 4.9% this year, compared with a 3% drop expected in the spring.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Stonehenge discovery

Stonehenge -- the smarter you get, the more your ignorance is revealed. How 'bout them apples?
A circle of deep shafts has been discovered near the world heritage site of Stonehenge, to the astonishment of archaeologists, who have described it as the largest prehistoric structure ever found in Britain.
Four thousand five hundred years ago, the Neolithic peoples who constructed Stonehenge, a masterpiece of engineering, also dug a series of shafts aligned to form a circle spanning 1.2 miles (2km) in diameter. The structure appears to have been a boundary guiding people to a sacred area because Durrington Walls, one of Britain’s largest henge monuments, is located precisely at its centre. The site is 1.9 miles north-east of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, near Amesbury, Wiltshire.

"bivouac" and "gaslight"

My daughter, her husband, and the mighty dog "Sugar" took a camping vacation over last weekend. "I am not really a camper," my daughter observed in the tone she seems to reserve for stuff she hates. We chatted idly on the phone yesterday about the outing and it put me in mind of bivouacking during basic training in the army.

"That's the second time this week that I've heard the word 'bivouac' " my daughter said. It was just a word she had, previously, no occasion to use. And that put me in mind of the word "gaslight," which had popped into my mind earlier in the day... a good word that I wasn't entirely sure of, so I looked it up. Like my daughter, I had (if that can be believed in this Donald Trump era) little or no cause to use the word and it struck me as a good word that was not deserving of an early grave.

"Gaslight:" ... some occasion to use a little-used term, though in our current era it would seem a rightful, useful word:  

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's beliefs. Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
The term originated from the British play Gas Light (1938, but originally performed as Angel Street in the United States) and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations (both titled Gaslight). The term has been used in clinical psychological literature,[1][2] as well as in political commentary and philosophy.[3]
It was just sort of nice to find that others ran into 'serendipitous' activities (knowing words but not knowing and then all of a sudden, the word flowers to life unbidden.)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

police revisions

Well, it seems I have been put on the local newspaper's shit list since I wrote in a while back and sought to rein in my column-writing duties: Several columns have simply disappeared into the newspaper maw without remark...

Oh well,

Here's the latest un-run maundering:

Strange to think that at the same time others are calling (as in Minneapolis) for the shutdown of their police departments, my son is doing everything he can to get into the police academy in Amherst: He wants to be a cop.
He wants to be a cop and I support him. Me, a card-carrying liberal.
Because by the time the current chaos shakes out, there is going to have to be someone to keep order and the police, however imperfect, are probably the best instrument of that order. All of the other options I can think of smell of Donald Trump or some religious franchise or of an anarchy that will be more discombobulating than the Covid-19 virus.
It’s a little early in the game to say who is best equipped to lead the next parade, but I think it needs to be an entity for everyone. Will this hypothetical leader make mistakes? I think we can count on it – cops (among others) are people too and people make mistakes. OK, so the question is not so much how many, but which mistakes will be made. That, and the willingness to admit to errors where and when they are made.
Someone is bound to iron out these wrinkles and I would like to think that my son, mistakes and all, would be part of a ‘solution,’ however fragile. He has wanted to be a police officer for a long time, so … like others … he gets my vote and my best wishes.
My son has probably heard enough of my arguments against becoming a cop: every day, you get out of bed suspecting the world – a soul-searing point of view. Now is the time to dive right in. As Winston Churchill once observed, “Democracy is the worst form of government … except for all the rest.”
Until someone proposes a more universal solution, I think I will say that cops stand the best chance of helping to turn lemons into lemonade.
PS The potential militaristic faux pas may loom large in the police scenario, but compared to the others ... well, it's just a thought.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

unhappy Americans

As if the world were not already swimming in polls and prognostication, here's another:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — It’s been a rough year for the American psyche. Folks in the U.S. are more unhappy today than they’ve been in nearly 50 years.
This bold — yet unsurprising — conclusion comes from the COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. It finds that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31% who said the same in 2018. That year, 23% said they’d often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks. Now, 50% say that.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

skip the news?

It was with a sense of amorphous relief that I heard my friend Dave say that he had pretty much stopped watching the news. Ahhh... I wasn't the only one. The epidemic, sweeping the world, the waxing and waning of transmitted illness. The ills inflicted here and inflicted there -- each pretty much the same and yet pretty different in particulars ... over and over and over again. My mind simply cannot process it all or, when it can, it gets lost as to what country or county or city or minority is involved ... or what good will come from processing it all.

Yesterday, I didn't watch TV at all.

I don't think, judging by the TV today, that I missed anything.

Dave has started watching reprise sporting matches -- tennis, football, baseball and the like -- in other years. As so have I. And movies from 20 years ago.

I am too busy feeling relieved to have company to feel guilty. It used to be that watching the news was part and parcel of my day. Now it is becoming the part and parcel of my not-day.

Moving backwards into game shows and B-movies and ... well, anything that claims little or no current turf. Being depressed or soddened with the "overcome" of it all ... well, why bother? The load is lighter when you unload the "ain't-it-awfuls?"

Monday, June 8, 2020

"the end"

I seem to have loved stories forever. Part of the reason is that stories had a "the end" to append and digest. There's a 'thunk' as the last page is turned, the last sentence read. That's it. That's the end. Finis. Wouldn't it be nice if life were like stories ... compact, wrapped-up, digestible ... something you can hold in the palm of your hand. The end. Complete.

But of course, nothing is ever complete.

When I was a kid, it didn't take me long before I recognized after the Saturday-afternoon movie binge that I wondered about this western or that war movie ... "yeah, but what happened AFTER the end?" after the guy kisses the gal, after the sun sets so perfectly?

Stories have an end. They are as satisfying as a good chocolate mousse. Thunk!

But, but.....

Why can't the satisfying thunk be extended further, into the great out-there of real life? Can't there be an extension of John Wayne's heroic and inspiring good guy who does right?

After the end....

Plato, some say, put the words in his teacher Socrates' mouth: "The unexamined life is not worth living." If this is true, what is life like when life IS worth living?

No thunk, I think. But the nostrum itself is glowing with ... uhhhh.... a cozy thunk-dom.

Oh well....

Friday, June 5, 2020

who will keep order?

An old rule of mine, sometimes badly observed:
Whenever there is a problem, the first thing to do is ... slow down.

And so, at the moment, with tensions of all sorts tugging and nattering, I want everyone to return to a neutral corner. Have a good, wholesome weep. Utter the words you find most compelling and heart-felt.

OK ... got that out of your system?

Now, let's get to work: The emancipation proclamation first given and then rescinded by a white master race said, au fond, "all men are created equal." It is hardly a difficult proposition: "all men are created equal." From muzzle to butt plate, that's it. Equality for blacks, whites, browns, women, men ... tous! All men are created equal.

The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 declared, ' "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."' From that evolved the freedom of all.

Someone has to ask Republicans to take a stand. Where do they stand on "all men are created equal?" If they stand with it, they cannot stand with a twerp like Donald Trump. But wherever they stand, they need to be asked and others need to hear the answer.

All men are created equal.

There are calls today for the trimming of police department budgets. Where will things stand if police are no longer a force to be reckoned with? Doesn't someone have to keep order? Who?

"Equality" is not something anyone really wants, if you look into it a little. But still, let's look into it minus what the Brits call the "whinging." I am, and I suspect others are, sick to death: turn any corner and someone's ox is getting gored, someone else is whinging ... lotsa righteousness in the midst of a huge stasis of feeling.

This blog post has no focus. It is essentially a climbing into my rabbit hole and pulling the hole in after me. I turn the TV on in search of news and then turn it off in order to escape its unfocused ministries.

A black man is lynched with a knee on his throat.
Unemployment that would do a tin-pot dictatorship proud.
Covid19, the epidemic chasing around the world ... runs its undaunted course in silence.
People gather and foregather.
Police take a knee in sympathy for those whose equalities have gone begging.
Donald Trump talks in ever-widening ripples of lies and misstatements and the Republicans who want Trump's monied coat tails say nothing, shoulder no responsibility, lift up no honor, and yet want to be seen as blameless. In my time, cowardice was to be shunned; lying was a bad thing; the 2020  presidential election is seen at a distance.
A dictator hovers in the wings, not quite taking shape as yet.

I have a hunch we're going to need the police ... or if not, then perhaps a dictator of the Martin Luther King Jr. ilk. At the moment, Democrat presidential contender Joe Biden attempts to don the mantle of leadership. A good fellow, but a bit icky. We need a bit more pepper in the stew ... Bernie Sanders and his never-adequately-defined-'socialism' come to mind.

Oh well, time to skim the TV channels ... maybe there's a good rom(ance)com(edy) out there somewhere.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

being hectored

With less and less actual news to report, news anchors and reporters, among others, have resorted to hectoring their listening constituency with virtue and criticism. "Democracy," "transparency," "immorality," "shame," "patriotism," "flag," "we all..." "together," "heroes..." the list goes on and on. Republicans are not heard from at all.

"Hectoring" means to "talk to (someone) in a bullying way." It's tiring. It's too much like Donald Trump himself. Oh, ain't it awful?!

"Hectoring" -- a word I have seldom if ever had occasion to use. I don't like being hectored by either the virtuous or the malign. And I really don't like to see news personnel devolve into a judgment of what they claim to be reporting. I guess news people are about like anyone else -- seeing the potential to lose their jobs, clambering in what may be their death throes to be heard and thought useful or even indispensable.

Treacly, high-school drivel.

one single nut

I hunch that at the core of every spiritual persuasion -- religious and otherwise -- there is a single opalescent nut -- a glowing gem akin to its brothers and sisters elsewhere and yet utterly unique.

It is this nut, in whatever shape and sound it comes, that is the step -- perhaps the last step -- every acolyte or disciple must take. This nut MUST be cracked and it is up to individuals to crack it. Without such action, spiritual persuasions will remain forever immured in books and scriptures and wisdom and enlightenment and ... and... and... utter confusion.

Find the nut and crack it. It's not a group effort. It is an individual effort made by members of a group.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

a latter-day lynching

On Monday, May 25, 2020, a black man, George Floyd, was strangled to death on camera by a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chavin, who has since the incident been arrested and charged, among other things with "third degree homicide -- a charge that seems to have been made up to fit this incident, but no other. Third degree murder is simply homicide.

The Floyd death has many of the hallmarks of a latter-day lynching.

Floyd's death and the filming of it have loosed a pent-up wrath not just among black citizens. Streets across the country are awash in people of many hues who are sick to death of the crass cruelty meted out not just to blacks but to anyone under Donald Trump's presidential reign. Poverty and the maladministration of justice seem to be at the root. The likelihood that the upper echelons of wealth will be held accountable is small, from where I sit: Let the riff-raff-squabble ... that seems to be the calming hum coming from the choirs with plenty of money as they view those who live pay-check-to-paycheck.

All if this is playing out against a backdrop of corona19 epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands worldwide and threatens to renew itself even as the rallies persist.

I would be a liar to say I were anything but confused by this tsunami of unrest.

Donald Trump all but (everything is "all but" for him) declared martial law on TV last night. National Guardsmen took a knee in sympathy with the protesters yesterday. The presidential election of 2020 inches closer and closer. The disparity in wealth and poverty hones its edges. I am almost literally afraid to seek out the "news" on TV.

A "latter-day lynching" is what I set out to say as I searched for a period to put on this blog-post sentence. The period refuses to adhere.