Year-to-Date   (2015Dec31)


Thursday, December 31, 2015                                         1:14 PM

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! I feel a lot better than I did yesterday—yesterday, I was just gnawing away at my own insides for some reason—I get like that sometimes—temporary insanity—I’d be more comfortable with full-time work, as far as that goes—but we don’t get to pick and choose our personal brain chemistries, so what can you do, right? I’ll append my unposted rant from yesterday below—but don’t take it too seriously—it represents a mood more than a state of mind.

But before I get to all the screaming and shouting, let me talk about today which, as I say, finds me in a far more temperate state of mind. I was just watching “A Night At The Opera”, starring the Marx Brothers and Kitty Carlisle—the shipboard music number, to be precise, when first Chico plays piano, then Harpo goes from piano to harp, with the male lead (I forget his name) singing “Cosi Cosa”. The Marx Brothers make music seem so simple and easy, like they’re not even paying attention to what they’re doing. It inspired me to the point of muting the TV and going to play some piano myself.

Today’s improv is me trying to emulate the breezy, simple music they always played as a feature in each of their films. Can I play the piano as if I’m shooting the keys with my forefinger, like Chico? No, sadly, I can’t. Can I add that soupcon of old-world classical style, with a hint of angelic despair, like Harpo? I wish. But I can play in the same spirit—and that is what I’ve tried to do with today’s offering.

As much as I admire the Marx Brothers, I must admit I’m glad it’s New Year’s Eve—weeks of movie marathons, Hallmark movies, holiday specials, and Top-10-retrospectives of the year—with commercials promising to resume first-run programming, airing fantastic new stuff—has me wishing that at least the late-night hosts would come back from holiday re-run hiatus. Why interrupt a re-run to tell people that good TV will be shown next week—are TV execs just frustrated torturers that missed out on the Inquisition?

I depend too heavily on TV as pastime to be comfortable with half-a-month without oxygen. I’ve started checking the year-of-release of all the cable movies—I say to myself, “1992—let’s see, that came out twenty-three years ago.” I wonder how many times I’ve wasted two hours re-watching this movie on cable over the decades. It’s a sad exercise—one I would gladly give up to watch a new release—but even the VOD-movie-releases dry up during the holidays—as if the whole world had ‘things to do’ during the holidays.

Some genius should start a new cable channel for TV addicts—no commercials and nothing is ever shown twice. I’d watch that, no matter what they put on. No, I take that back—the so-called Science Fiction Channel (or Syfy) taught me that TV can ruin anything. There’s very little sci-fi on Syfy—it’s mostly horror and paranormal garbage. There’s little science on Science—and scant history on History (unless you’re obsessed with Hitler—what’s with that?) TV can be so disappointing.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year, with lots of good TV to watch. Now as promised, I append yesterday’s horrible writing, by turns deathly boring and insanely spiteful—enjoy:

 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015                                               8:52 AM

Those NASA photos get to me after awhile—they’re pictures of things so immense that if the entire planet Earth was in the picture, it wouldn’t be big enough to make out against the backdrop of nebular clouds and lenticular galaxies. Then there’s the ‘pretty picture’ issue—when astronomers take pictures using radio-waves or x-rays, the pictures are the color of radio and x-ray, i.e. invisible—and so are displayed using false colors—which is fine. I mean, a picture that can’t be seen by the human eye is of limited use—using false-color hues to indicate depth and shadow is mandatory—but when you give someone a box of Crayolas, you have to expect a little creativity in the result. And while the resulting NASA photos are spectacular, they bear little resemblance to what I see when I go outside at night.

Not that I want NASA to be boring—I find the whole subject fascinating—humans spent centuries puzzling over the nature of light—which can exhibit the characteristics of both particle and wave—before we realized that light is simply that range of electromagnetic radiation which our optic nerves respond to. That is just wild, to me—imagine—radio waves with wavelengths longer than a grown man, and microwaves of (naturally) microscopic wavelength, are also electromagnetic radiation, but too big or too small to be sensed by human eyes.

There is nothing special about visible light—except to humans, which have evolved eyeballs to see green—that’s why green is smack in the middle of the visible spectrum—because human eyes evolved to better find food (green vegetation). The other colors are just extra, a way for our brains to separate out the green. Electromagnetic radiation in the infra-red range—now that’s special—infra-red is what we call heat—small enough to be invisible, but big enough to excite molecules (which is where the heat comes in). Infra-red’s wavelength is so close to that of visible light that we can make goggles that display infra-red imaging as visible—though I couldn’t say how they do it.

I get confused by the idea of imaging non-visible electromagnetic radiation—I know that the original discovery of x-ray photography was based on the reaction of photographic plates to x-rays—but how in the world do they do that digitally? Mysteries abound. How does a magnet know which end is positive? How does a circular magnet know where the ends are? What is the difference between electric current in a wire and electromagnetic radiation moving through space? I love physics, but it’s very confusing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015                                               1:08 PM

I don’t know why I’m so full of frustrated rage today—maybe I’m coming down with a cold or something—I have no patience, no mercy, and no interest in being polite. It’s probably best if I stay off of social media today—I was just cursing at the News on TV—just sitting by myself, watching the news, and cursing a blue streak at high volume, directed towards the subjects of the news, the interviewees, and the talking heads themselves, each in their turn. No one meets my apparently-too-demanding standards of common sense and objectivity—but I usually just turn the channel—not stay there, screaming at my TV. I need a change of scenery or something—I’m really starting to lose it altogether.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015                                               9:26 PM

Trumpelstiltskin   (2015Dec30)

Donald Trump is a pompous dick. He says he’s a successful businessman but he’s really just a successful greedy person—there are lots of ways to get rich off of strategic bankruptcy filings, which let principle officers walk away with all the cash and leave the creditors, suppliers, and employees with nothing—but that’s not ‘good business’—that’s just being good at unethical, yet still technically legal, dealings. Trump, in his Mussolini-esque way, would insist that that’s still business—which says a lot about his take on ethics.

He’s never held office or won an election—how do we size him up? Maybe we should ask the people he has done business with—or maybe ask the people who work for him. He does a lot of talking—but we don’t hear a peep out of the people that know him. He’s pretty good at publicity—how is it he’s never been able to introduce us to his friends and colleagues? What is he afraid they might say?

Does he need ethics for a career in politics? Sadly, no. Politics is a cesspool and always has been—but the Republican solution—to elect incompetents and delusional morons to the legislature—is actually making things worse. This last hurrah of the Tea Party—a bid to elect the most incompetent moron to the highest office in the land—has been side-tracked. There are so many candidates with equally empty skulls—Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Christie—that they should by all rights be spoiled for choice. But that has all been swept aside by a reality-TV personality who has years of experience playing to the mouth-breathers. The Tea Party constituency has forgotten this is an election—they think it’s a game show—and they want their hero to win.

The GOP has only itself to blame—they’ve trained these knee-jerk reactionaries to run counter to common sense—and the party faithful have learned their lesson all too well. The Republicans wanted stupid voters and they’ve got’em—and they’re all gonna vote for the bully who’s ‘on their side’—how little they suspect what an elected Trump would truly mean for them and their families, and their day-to-day reality.

President Obama has been notably focused on positive results—so much so that, even with all the push-back, he has almost undone all the damage Bush did—but that still leaves us sixteen years behind where we should be. Imagine what would happen with Trump in that office, knowing nothing except how to bitch and blame and criticize other people. As an atheist, I can only say, ‘God help us’ if that happens. On the other hand, Trump actually making policy, making decisions about America—is an even more terrifying prospect. Bush showed us how dangerous a simple idiot president can be (the fucking ‘decider’—what a tool)—and we don’t want to find out what a reckless idiot president entails.

Doesn’t this smarmy, entitled prick have enough? Does his ego truly require the destruction of the greatest nation in the world? Why doesn’t he go back to ripping off anyone stupid enough to trust him, and building surprisingly ugly buildings with his name plastered over the door? Fucking asshole.

I call this election the last hurrah of the Tea Party because it can only end one of two ways. Either they’ll lose, proving that the electorate is too smart to fall for another Bush, or worse, a Trumpelstiltskin—or they’ll win, which will mean the doom of America—either way, the Tea Party will die. Republicans will have to go back to pretending they believe in science and pluralism and all those things they hate—they will have to accept that voters are people, with all the horrible variety that implies. Sorry, right-wingers—the world is just too serious for your childish tantrums; too complex for your simplistic pretenses.

In a world where change is so frighteningly fast that nobody can keep up, the conservatives are bound to take a beating—and ever since the digital revolution, they have had to rely on misdirection and dirty tricks to maintain any kind of influence. In fact, for people who want to live in the past, they are surprisingly adept at absorbing new technology to enhance all the misdirection and dirty tricks. The fat cats love the right because nothing panics a fat cat like the prospect of change—or fairness—and Americans, historically, have a bad habit of changing things for the better, making things fairer—so conservatism is the only safety afforded the wealthy and powerful—it’s been that way since we kicked out the British.

We let ourselves be fooled by leaders like FDR and Kennedy—men raised in wealth who still had more concern for the people than for the ruling class they came from—and boy, did their peers hate them for it. But they were special men—great men. Outside of such rare exceptions, we should never be voting for rich people—rich people suck. I submit that Trumpelstiltskin sucks big red hairy ones—he’s special, alright—just not in a good way. If he wasn’t so afraid of political correctness, he’d probably ask for a wheel-chair ramp for his brain. Then again, he’s very sly and nasty—that’s almost like being intelligent, if you don’t look too close.

Children   (2015Dec28)


Monday, December 28, 2015                                           12:01 PM

I saw two thought-provoking items in the New York Times Art Section today. One was about laser-scanning ancient historical sites under threat from ISIL vandalizing—and the other was about Jennifer Jason Leigh’s return to movies after the birth of her son.

I love the laser-scanning—once completed, a good laser-scan allows us to buy up some real estate down in Anaheim (next door to you-know-who) and recreate an entire site—right down to the texture of the stones—suitable for family visits or archaeological study. Indeed, we live in a world where, before long, even the reconstruction will be unnecessary—virtual-reality headgear will allow us to visit the site without leaving our homes. Meanwhile, science-denying thugs wandering the deserts of the Middle East can crack all the stones they want—was there ever such a display of ignorance?—destroying the remains of our past out of fundamentalist superstition. What children. Our only remaining threat would be Chinese-ISIL—people who could hack our digital heritage sites.

It is fitting that the season of Santa Claus would be a time for Jennifer Jason Leigh to start wishing for a role in a film her five-year-old could see. We parents are careful to keep our children from growth-stunting stuff like caffeine, alcohol, or cigarettes—and we do the same with perceptions. We feel (correctly, I think) that children’s minds cannot mature properly if certain memes are presented too early—vice, violence, betrayal, and despair can overtax a growing mind, killing its spirit before it has a chance to grow strong enough to handle adult issues.

Thus we raise our children in a fantasy world of happy endings, magic, and limited evil—we lie to them about Santa Claus for their own good—even though we must be revealed as liars, in time. Movie stars like Jennifer Jason Leigh act in challenging roles that suit their young ambitions—but when they become parents, they invariably start to think about roles in family-friendly fare—they become Santa Claus actors. Are they surprised, I wonder, when they discover that it is just as difficult to act out fantasy as reality? Ask a children’s-book author—it is as hard to write an engaging children’s story with limited vocabulary, devoid of adult issues, as it is to write adult literature full of big words and complex problems.

And if it is truly necessary to raise our children in a bubble of innocence, why have we never addressed this scientifically? Scientists might be able to determine the exact age at which children are best told that Santa Claus is a fiction—instead of having those uncomfortable confrontations between kids whose parents let the cat out of the bag—and kids whose parents want to hang onto innocence awhile longer. It is one of those ‘givens’ that we recognize, but never study outright. Doctors and nutritionists give careful study to which foods are appropriate for growing infants—when to start on solid foods, etc.—but we leave the decision about emotional maturity to the MPAA, which determines how old you have to be to watch each film being released—and the MPAA, trust me, is not a scientific institution with our children’s mental health as their primary concern.

Of course, even if we studied this issue, there would be parents who would take exception for their kids—as some of them do now, with polio shots and other school-mandated vaccines. Ignorance is an important part of childhood—and we parents sometimes want to prolong their ignorance—yet no parent would admit that they want their children to grow up to be ignorant adults. Even though reproduction is the cardinal activity of living beings, we still have debates over whether we should enlighten our children with sex education classes. That attitude seems more for the parents than for the kids—wishful thinking that our kids won’t have sex. Some school systems even have so-called sex-ed classes that supply misinformation and focus on abstention, rather than giving kids the information they need to avoid early pregnancy or STDs.

We even lie to teenagers—take any class in business administration and show me the chapter that deals with bribes, protection, or corruption—unavoidable factors in real-world business that we nevertheless overlook when we study the subject. Criminality is like an unrecognized sovereignty—it doesn’t officially exist, but any real-world activity must take it into account. This accounts for the phenomenon of college-graduates who don’t know a damned thing about real life—for all the debt being incurred, that seems kind of wasteful.

Eventually, we must admit that the lying never ends—even adults can be grouped into levels of greater or lesser reality-facing. There’s a group that believes in the efficacy of group prayer. There’s a group that believes America is great because it is rich and powerful—and never asks how it got that way, or how it stays that way. People can be categorized by how much childhood innocence and ignorance they retain, and how much, and what kinds, of reality they embrace. We live in a world where, no matter how true something is, there’s a group of people that don’t believe it—and, conversely, no matter how silly something is, there’s a group of people that do believe it.

As T. S. Eliot once wrote, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” We have difficulty living in the present. We have difficulty accepting hard truths. Outside of the infinity of truths even a scientist cannot know, there is a further infinity of truths we refuse to acknowledge—it is troubling for me, a seeker of truths, to accept that for many people the avoidance of truth is a valid pursuit. Long ago, in my youth, I used to see religion as the prime avoidance technique—but now that mass media has come into its own, I see that misinformation has no limits. Some people are so insistent on falsehood that they can contradict themselves without embarrassment—or deny that they said something, moments after they said it.

It is fitting, I suppose, in this age when knowledge is exploding in every direction, that misinformation should explode as well—but that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

Breaking News: The Day After Christmas (2015Dec26)


Saturday, December 26, 2015                                           12:33 PM

The affectionate whip has snapped and lies still—all its uncoiled energy came to a head with the crack of Christmas—and it is now hung coiled and still on a hook on the wall. We wake to the absence of holiday and the unnatural warmth of winter in a world out of balance—as if petrol prices weren’t low enough, the eastern seaboard is sporting shorts to New Year’s Eve parties.

The Stock Exchange reminds me of the Republican party—good news for humankind (the unexpectedly speedy, easy progress of conversion to alternative energy) is bad news for Wall Street—which is the same as saying it’s bad news for the fat cats. The petroleum industry, combined with the military-industrial arms-makers, make humanity’s doom the largest global profit center—what’s good for us is bad for business. You can’t pull down that kind of profit selling food or clothes or books.

The whole idea of making civilization a competition is stupid. Cooperation is the only smart thing to do—but there’s no profit in that; there’s no excitement in that; and there are no sinecures in true cooperation—nobody gets ahead. Yet if we insist on a society that allows us to get ahead, we are insisting that someone be left behind. Individual freedom is sacred to Americans—but a person without civic responsibility or a willingness to cooperate with the community is not exercising freedom—just willfulness.

We tend to include amongst our freedoms the right to be impatient—if argument goes too long or reason becomes too complex, we feel justified in cutting the Gordian Knot, throwing up our hands and saying, ‘Nuke the bastards’ or ‘Build a wall’. Being willfully stupid has become Americans’ favorite way of exercising our freedoms. I watched a beautiful program yesterday—it was a movie of new citizens being sworn in—a ceremony in each of the fifty states of the union—with interviews of newly-minted Americans extolling what they most loved about their new country. A common thread was voiced by one of them—‘Americans take their freedoms for granted—they don’t appreciate the miracle that is the United States’.

But that is only true of the loudest and sloppiest Americans—many of us are deeply appreciative, every day, to live here—and to keep vigil over our history and our ideals—and feel real pain at the words of demagogues—especially the ones who become media darlings through their outrageous subversion of our American way. Does CNN really think that the constituency that elected Obama to two terms is going to vote for John Wilkes Trump or Benedict Cruz? No, they just want ratings—and the hell with public service. We lost an important sinew of American cooperation when the news media went ‘for profit’.

We used to have champions of the public good acting as journalists and editors—now we have paparazzi and businessmen in their place—people who give a megaphone to any nitwit with a sensational way of spouting their ignorance. People like Trump and Cruz have always been with us—but the media used to keep its lenses trained on the sober, rational leaders who focused on the public good—and trusted that their honest efforts would gain them votes, without millionaires backing expensive hucksters to pump out propaganda. Sensation now substitutes for substance in the media—but the substantial challenges abide, and the sensations only distract us from the work of real change. The fourth estate used to help—now it just gets in the way, another tool of those in power.

People ask how America became so sharply divided—simple—the media made politics into a sporting event, encouraging people to pick a side and root for their team, rather than think about issues or answers. ‘Playing the devil’s advocate’ can be a useful exercise, in moderation—but when it’s the only thing you do, you’re just a rabble-rouser—a trouble-maker who profits from a fight and doesn’t care what the fight’s about.

From Each According (2015Dec22)


a photo from our caroling party….

XperDunn's Poetry Graphics

20151222XD-POEM_FromEachAccording_01

Tuesday, December 22, 2015                                           10:53 PM

From Each According

The human eye has a lens that reverses the image

And a blind spot—and there’s always two—so

We’re scanning in stereo. Our brains do most of the work

Of seeing.

The human mind has conflations and paradoxes

Assumptions, rationales, and urges.

We think like animals. Our hearts do most of the work

Of knowing.

Our words use the same sound for many meanings

And many different sounds for the same meaning.

We talk to be heard. Our eyes do most of the work

Of speaking.

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Improv with Drawings No. 1 (2015Dec18)


Friday, December 18, 2015                                               9:37 PM

I’ve had an exciting notion that I hope will lead to new possibilities in future—when I was younger I would sometimes draw a crowd looking over my shoulder while I drew in my sketch-pad (back then I was well-practiced, drawing everywhere I went—so the drawings were more impressive than what I can manage today). Still, as I tried to think of a video to front for my audio track of piano music—it occurred to me that even watching me draw a so-so picture was light-years ahead of yet another one-shot of my ugly mug at the old eighty-eight—so I figured ‘Use the kitchen—there’s plenty of light there—and just draw whatever—it’ll be better than still photos or my usual wind-in-the-trees video from the front yard’.

We shall see. Let me just create the video—one second….

Okay, it’s processing now—it looks like it’ll be more interesting than my usual video—but this was just a trial run—I’ll have to come up with better subject matter in future—and I’ll have to try and put just a little more artistry into my drawing, if possible—I’m practically drawing cartoons in this first video. I’m helped by the fact that the drawings took me ten minutes—so I used the video at double speed to match the five minutes of music I needed to cover—and that makes my drawing look more deft that it actually is—I’m not complaining.

Now my head is whirling with all the possible videos I can do using the drawing as the visual part and my piano (or, as in this first one, my electronic piano) for the audio—and it makes me yearn even more for the days when I could fill a piece of oak tag with a very detailed ink drawing. Maybe this will give me the impetus to get back to drawing more seriously—who knows. I’m excited.

Piano and Rain (2015Dec17)


Thursday, December 17, 2015                                         3:22 PM

Been playing a lot of Burton Lane Songbook lately—it suits my mood—especially the ‘Finnegan’s Rainbow’ stuff—ethereal and lost-ish. Posting what I assume will be my last Xmas Carol YouTube video this season—I’ve already done four of ‘em and one with Pete—about twenty or more songs all told—that’s enough for one Christmas. Got a decent improv out of it, too—been lucky with the improvs lately—I’m pleased with the last few.

Raining today—not very Christmas-ey while we trim our tree—a little guy this year—barely big enough for all our ornaments. Gotta lot of cardinal ornaments—they go with the clan of actual cardinals that live outside our kitchen window. Got the door open it’s so warm outside—I can hear the dripping and the splatting and the occasional shushhhh of passing cars—not too Christmas-ey, I tell ya. And what’s with all the mist and fog these days? I feel like I’m living on a Game of Thrones set….

Absurdities and Fragments (2015Dec13)


Friday, December 11, 2015                                               11:26 AM

Absurdities

Like a waterfall in the ocean, or a cloud beneath the ground

Or if toes could type like fingers, or the flowers sniff themselves

Like rain all night in weather dry, or songs without a sound

Or heaven without angel wings, or Santa without elves—

If I could only fly aloft by lying in my bed

Or make a universe exist with a logarithmic word

I’d think up all the great ideas with nothing in my head

And make a world of common sense seem patently absurd.

Friday, December 11, 2015                                                        2:10 PM

Fragments   (2015Dec12)

I was struck today by the image of a waterfall in the ocean—see, you can’t have a waterfall in the ocean—you need solid ground to make a waterfall—isn’t that weird? Stoner thinking—I know. But while we stoners seem pretty silly, ceaselessly marveling at the simplest things—I can’t help wondering if a penchant for being blasé about the universe is such a great alternative. The ability to see things anew, with a fresh appreciation, isn’t a distortion—it’s a gift beyond price. Being bullheaded about everything is just as foolish—and I see people do that all the time—without benefit of any self-medication.

I’ve decided to back away from politics—not that it doesn’t matter—it matters plenty—it’s just that I see now that politics is just a bunch of people fighting over the steering wheel while no one is looking out the windshield. In the end, people run politics as much as politics run people—if the politicians go too far wrong, they’ll always get corrected by public pressure. Look at Trump—front-runner for prez one day, shunned by the entire globe the next. While politics is important, my giving myself a stroke watching it on TV doesn’t do anyone any good—especially nowadays, when TV anchors report both sides of the news—the sensible and the idiotic. They used to report on different sides of the sensible and simply discount the idiots—and I miss that—but that may have been my youthful ignorance and there’s been idiots all along—whatever.

Feelings are so confusing. Sometimes I feel that I’m on the cusp of a great notion—something new, an exciting idea, a fresh insight—then a gear slips and my mind is blank—nothing left but a vague notion that I had an idea. I’m confused about which part of my mind is malfunctioning—is it my memory that collapses every time I get inspired—or am I just delusional and never had an inspiration to begin with, just the notion of one? Given the result, it hardly matters which—I guess I just want to know which to grieve over.

Today’s post is a great illustration of my mindset—every paragraph is about a different subject—nothing coheres. I used to wield my mind like a chainsaw—buzzing through any obstacle—focused on one job at a time—but now my mind is more like a river that I sit alongside of and watch go by. The thoughts and ideas drift into view—then drift away—and while new ones come after, none of them can be held tight and examined closely. People think that intelligence and memory are separate things but I’m here to tell you—you can’t have one without the other.

And one could say that my near-lifetime of TV-watching during my infirmity is much like watching a river go by—a stream of media, if you will—yet I can’t do anything useful, like fishing if I was watching a real river. But I am struck often by the archival footage of old conservatives, espousing hatred of all the different groups—at every distinction they can find, really—and how one can match them up with people speaking today, on CNN, yet no one seems to see the direct line-of-descent of this changeless ignorance.

It’s holiday time—lots of Christmas carols on the piano (prepping for caroling parties) and watching lots of Hallmark’s latest seasonal TV films, but not enough buying of trees or presents—I’m better at celebrating in my head than actually celebrating. Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it’s also pretty confusing and emotion-laden to the point of stress—even more so for us atheists who don’t let our disbelief ruin a good holiday.

And as if there weren’t enough stress to the season, we’re experiencing a record-breakingly warm December here in New York—far from a white Christmas, we’ll be lucky if it even rains. With our climate, a white Christmas is never guaranteed—but in the past at least it managed to be cold! Pacific island nations may be in danger of disappearing beneath the waves, but a warm Christmas will probably do more to promote climate-consciousness in New Englanders than any other weather phenomenon—so perhaps it’s a good thing.