Dear Turner Classic Movies: (2019Jan15)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019                                                10:34 PM

Dear Turner Classic Movies:   (2019Jan15)

Being a disabled half-a-shut-in, I’ve spent more of my life watching your channel than is natural or healthy—and I am grateful for it. Like many of your viewers, I’m fascinated with the breadth of cinema, the depth of history, and the complexity of a century-plus of moving-picture artistry.

One of the great charms of movies is the caught-in-amber historicity of the figures-of-speech from distant decades. The Runyonesque dialogs, the gangster patter, the particular speech of Americans during WWII—many different accents and expressions are jewelry-settings of distant times and lost neighborhoods. It is an essential part of each movie.

My hearing is so good that I often (i.e. always) use the closed-captioning while watching TV. And here is where I find the one annoying thing about TCM—the CC’s are typed by a young person with no ear for chronological jargon, without any experienced supervision. On some movies, typos and mis-hearings abound with every other screen of dialogue.

I recognize the expense of closed-captioning subtitles is prohibitive. However, with so much energy directed towards the restoration and preservation of the movies’ images—it seems wrong to attach, eternally, a faulty transcription of what is being said.

And it wouldn’t hurt to add music-titles and foreign-phrase-translations—though I suppose that’s extra. Anyway, in a perfect world, right?

A big fan,

Xper Dunn

Presidency As Hate Crime   (2018Jan11)

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Thursday, January 11, 2018                                              9:53 PM

Presidency As Hate Crime   (2018Jan11)

Bigots are resurging today only because they try so hard to forget that their hatreds were shamed into silence by the courts, the legislators, and the media of a few decades ago. Not so long ago, morons such as Joe Arpaio, Roy Moore, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Steve Bannon, or Trump would have been derided offstage (never mind being ejected from the political arena).

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While the bigots celebrate their big comeback, they carefully avoid discussion of what sent them scurrying away, years ago—an outbreak of awareness and decency that pushed back against ingrained racism, sexism, homophobia, et. al. That enlightened Americanism embraced inclusion and fairness.

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Yes, that ‘fairness’ is the real enemy of the one-percent. The one-percent want us to dogfight over ‘inclusion’ while we overlook the inescapable unfairness of income-inequality and modern capitalism. The inclusion battle was hard-fought, its victories dearly earned—the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the LGBT Rights Movement, etc. took decades to bring enlightenment to the citizenry and to the law of the land.

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Now the hate-and-fear-mongers are trying to tell us that none of that happened, that white nationalism has regained a place in America. Not true—a small collection of backwaters have clutched their bitterness to their chests, through thick and thin, beyond sense or reason—they are now attempting to nurse their kindling back into the bonfires of old. They are champions of ignorance and autocracy—enemies of the America most of us believe in.

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How long will the Republicans keep pretending? Is there anyone left who truly doubts Trump’s unfitness, bigotry, criminality, ignorance of his elected position, complete blindness to ethics or compassion, and his inability to speak truthfully—or even coherently?

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His ‘presidency’ is a sham, a hate crime, an act of treason, and a con job.

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The Republicans have lost any semblance of credibility or idealism–becoming a team of poker players, rather than statespersons. I’m beyond sick-and-tired of dead-eyed stonewalling in place of honest admission of the truth. There comes a time when bluffing is over and cards must be shown. It’s alright, Republicans, we know you have a Trump card. Fess up, or destroy yourselves—along with your country.

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No man can serve two masters, Republicans. You either serve the lobbyists or the voters—doing one while pretending to do the other is no longer an option. You’ve all just been too brazen about your corruption—it’s staring us all in the face. I know some of your morons-on-mailing-lists are still being taken in—but the other 85% of people in the USA can see perfectly well what you idiots are trying to do.

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Trump should have been impeached months ago—the longer you put it off, the worse it will be.

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Trump’s Xmas Party  (2017Dec26)

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017                                           1:12 PM

Trump’s Xmas Party  (2017Dec26)

The present platform of the Republican party is a disavowal of any responsibility towards every citizen. The disabled, the children, the elderly, the sick—these people should pay their own way—or die. The Republicans are equally disinterested in the female gender—except insofar as to tell them what not to do. Men should get a job—or die. And however low their wages are, they should just make do. Students must pay through the nose for education—and no new citizens are welcome (unless they’re white, that is).

This is ‘small government’—brought to you by CEOs who are too cheap to hire American labor or to use American manufacturers—economic traitors, in a word. When we look at low-wage, part-time, no benefits, no security employment, and outright unemployment, in this country we should point our rage at the business leaders, not the measly immigrant influence. Who are they kidding? Immigrants are a proportionally tiny factor compared to job-losses due to labor-exporting and manufactory-exporting.

Not only are the wealthy treasonously eager to send their commerce overseas, but they are too cheap to do a clean job when at home. They want the freedom to just dump their crap in the town that supports them, and downstream of that town—and downwind of that town. Capitalists are despoilers by nature. They bitch and moan that regulations are choking business—but we know that regulations barely restrain them from their worst excesses and greediest manipulations.

These are all simple facts—yet, if you watch the news, people on the news strangely talk about another world—a world in which America is as well-served by Republicans as by any other party. This could only happen if the media were owned by Republicans. I think it’s self-evident now—treating the Republicans as ‘another side’ of the story is nothing more than a polite fiction that helps disguise the naked evil of Trump’s party.

The Republicans’ subtle manipulation of the undereducated and disaffected has become a national Skinner experiment—super-charged spin that has rural Americans cheering for treason and lawlessness. It is the most shameless hypocrisy. From where I stand, right now, the GOP as a whole is not so much a political party as a criminal organization—they’re the mob-run Vegas of government. A greater insult to the intent of the Founders is impossible to imagine.

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Oh My Word!   (2017Dec17)

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Sunday, December 17, 2017                                                       2:34 AM

Oh My Word!   (2017Dec17)

Okay, let’s just say there’s nothing left to add—our situation is obvious, even though the cable-news would have us think much is afoot—Mueller will make it impossible for the Republicans to leave Trump unimpeached, or he will fall short, and leave Trump in the White House the entire four years.

That’s the long and short of it—I’m tired and I don’t want to hear any more about it until it’s settled, one way or the other. Stupidity has become the towering mountain range of our mental landscapes, ever since Trump started questioning Obama’s citizenship. For years, every day just gets stupider and stupider—in keeping with our empty-head-of-state and the pack of skeezballs known as Republican legislators.

They’re supposed to be politicians, right? But what group of politicians gets together and decides, “Yeah, let’s back the child-molester”? They want to tax the poor to pay the rich—and they’re not even hiding it. They just took CHIP away, by letting it lapse—but they’re in a big hurry to throw all the DACAs out of the USA. How the hell is this politics? Aren’t you supposed to make people like and trust you?

To think that one of those assholes shouted “Liar!” from the back of the room, during Obama’s first SOTU Address—and no one has even whispered it, during all the times our blowhard-in-chief started spouting his bullshit! I would think at least one Democrat would do the right thing and give these bullies a taste of their own. Someone should be shouting “Liar!” at the top of his or her lungs—every single time Trump opens his fat trap.

And talk about politically-correct snowflakes—have you seen the thirty-word phrase that Trump wants to substitute for ‘science-based’? It goes like this: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” And that, roughly translated, is: “If your science goes against our religion, keep it.” Who’s the cuck now, tweet-fucker?

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Republicans vs. Reality   (2017Dec12)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017                                           3:48 PM

Republicans vs. Reality   (2017Dec12)

There is a limit to objectivity—after the sun rises in the east long enough, you assume it will rise there again, every morning. When, after the airing of Trump’s taped confession of sexually inappropriate behavior, twelve, then sixteen, then eighteen women came forward, they all said, “I can attest to that confession—he treated me in an unwelcome, aggressively misogynistic way—and it made me sick.”—or words to that effect.

The White House’s response to this has been that Trump won the election, and he denied ever knowing any of these women. To the first point, I can only say that an election is not a trial. To the second point—what difference does it make if he knew these women? The whole point of his TV confession was that he accosted strange women willy-nilly—where does ‘not knowing them’ enter into his defense?

And you Trump-supporters are all to blame—not just the voters, but the Republicans in the House and Senate. Did it surprise you?—that electing and supporting a confessed serial mauler of women—made the women in America react more strongly than in any previous age. Or maybe you thought that while dozens of chauvinist pigs are dropping like flies, in entertainment, business, and politics—that everyone would just forget about Trump’s accusers. They were just part of the election, right? Nuh-uh, buddy—these women have serious grievances against our elected president—and there are just so damn many of them.

You can’t just have Senators and Congressmen being ejected left and right (no pun intended) without someone saying, “Hey…. What about Trump?” And even if no one would, once he started backing the accused child-molester Roy Moore, he kinda forced them to do it.

Now, the Republicans have known all this in more depth and accuracy than we civilians who have to sift through the media, as if scrying among chicken guts. Their stalwart support of Trump (who has proven incompetent, unstable, ignorant, divisive, and really, really gross) seems to overlook even the possibility that he might be an agent for Russia. In a way, it’s no great leap for the Republicans to support banned-from-the-mall Moore to join their ranks—after Trump, what can truly be disqualifying to the GOP?

Also, I saw many Republicans trying to get the smear-campaign going on Robert Mueller (who is getting guilty pleas—and getting too close to Trump) in spite of these same people being on tape, from just months ago, lauding Mueller as a great choice—fair, professional, incorruptible.

And today we see the President being virtually obsessive about broadcasting his misogyny—tweeting lurid ravings, insulting Senator Gillibrand, that bear little resemblance to the Gettysburg Address. The fact that Trump prides himself on bearing little resemblance to any other president—is as deeply embarrassing as the pride he takes in tweeting out his twisted, sick mental processes.

No one would claim that the Republicans are stupid enough to swallow their own hogwash—we assume that these are cynical misanthropes who put themselves before country—and knowingly push their alternate-facts reality on the unsuspecting mob. I can’t imagine that most Republicans truly believe that Moore is not a child-molester, that Trump is not a treasonously bad president (and a sexual assaulter), or that their Tax Bill is going to help anyone but themselves and their wealthy donors.

But we can’t totally dismiss the possibility of ignorance. Either way, the entire Republican Party has rode this train all the way—they are all complicit—either in their corruption or their idiocy. Then again, my money is on cowardice.

You see, people without character are weak in many ways—and the most common weakness among them is fear—their fear makes them ambitious, but it also makes them cowards. They only want to succeed because they think they’ll feel safer being a big-shot—they haven’t the slightest interest in good government. My god—look at their platform—they want to destroy this country economically, ethically, and judicially—they are the rot that calls to us from darker times. Resist.

The Daily Poop   (2017Nov29)

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017                                              11:21 PM

The Daily Poop   (2017Nov29)

After Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos and one ISIS propaganda video, Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday morning, “Whether it is a real video, the threat is real”. I presume she means the threat of one Dutch teen beating up another, while a third makes a video—and that is a threat, don’t get me wrong.

Both the Dutch and the British governments lightly castigated Trump later today—they’re not from ‘round here, so they don’t know—that only excites him. I think, as a TV celebrity, Trump came to conflate criticism with popularity—or perhaps even ratings. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?

Is it all distraction to pull our eyes away from the ‘Tax Cut’ bill? They really wanted to pass that pile of dung before anyone smelled it. Sorry, GOPs, too slow—the news is out—and even 49% of Republicans polled don’t like the idea of giving the super-wealthy what little they don’t already have—and putting the rest of us in debt to do it.

But Trump’s week has been phenomenal—even for him. He’s started to rave quietly to people in the White House, questioning reality like the senile old man he is. And to hear him sound off on the harassment-claims avalanche—like a little choir boy—who doesn’t have sixteen accusers of his own. Sometimes, the newspeople just stop, look at each other, and start laughing—then they get all flustered and start mumbling about professionalism.

We must sympathize with them—politics used to be downright serious stuff—words too—even facts, sometimes—but now…. How can anyone maintain a serious attitude when discussing the daily poopings and upsets of the world’s biggest, richest baby?

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Heedlessness   (2017Nov26)

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Saturday, November 25, 2017                                          11:40 PM

Heedlessness   (2017Nov26)

On the recent PBS documentary, “Rolling Stone At 50”, Hunter S. Thompson says something to the affect that American voters crave a ‘used-car-salesman, lie-cheat-and-steal, win by any means and destroy all others’-type of autocrat. Thompson offered as proof: the reelection of Richard Nixon to his second presidential term—the one Nixon won by an historic landslide—the one he would be forced to resign from, a year-and-a-half later.

If the average for expelling unfit presidents, whose campaign committed felonies, is roughly one-and-a-half years then we should be getting close to ejecting the present Fool-in-chief. Remember, patience is a virtue. In the meantime, I think it important to drill down on our national schism between Red and Blue.

Firstly, it is important not to make this a purely political division. Blue prevails in urban areas and Red in rural—there is an element of culture (or at least environment) at work here, as well. The people in the Red states are not naturally ‘conservative’ any more than those in the Blue are ‘liberal’—there is a healthy mix of both in every state, Red or Blue.

Then again, words like Liberal and Conservative have become the dogs that spin-doctors wag. Yes, they have literal ‘dictionary’ meanings—but in common usage, they are merely flavoring to whatever group is being fed the BS.

Here’s another word whose meaning is oft overlooked:

heed·less         [ˈhēdləs ] -adjective

showing a reckless lack of care or attention.

““Elaine!” she shouted, heedless of attracting unwanted attention”

synonyms:  unmindful, taking no notice, paying no heed, unheeding, disregardful, neglectful, oblivious, inattentive, blind, deaf

Heedlessness is often used to demonstrate power, as in—“I don’t care about your excuses, just get it done.”—a sentence that no one but a blowhard would ever dream of saying to another person. These blowhards that ask for 110% effort and total loyalty—are the same people who never really make one’s acquaintance, or remember one after one’s immediate usefulness has past.

America courts heedlessness, almost as a virtue. Freedom of Speech means we can all say what we want—and no one can stop anyone else from saying anything. Implicit in that is the need to be able to ignore what some people say—if you disagree with or despise the words of another, the only way to avoid losing your temper is to ignore what someone else says.

Naturally, in a perfect world, we’d all just debate our differences into oblivion—but that will never happen. People will always have differences—the point of politics is to build a consensus towards a compromise, leaving all parties equally unsatisfied. But, even if politics succeeded in doing that, all those differences which people have would remain—we would simply have integrated our differences into a patchwork that was fair for everybody.

Additionally, we believe in Democracy—we believe it is very important for the majority to hold sway. It becomes easy to confuse majority opinion with actual fact—since both hold equal importance in America’s value system. Even requiring a unanimous jury verdict to condemn a man to death is a form of democracy—and that vote holds the power of life and death. Any scientist will tell you that stating an important (proven) scientific fact has no such power over our daily lives.

I have personally witnessed over fifty years of obfuscation by greedy business-people, pushing back against the plain facts as presented by Rachel Carson, Ralph Nader, and a cast of thousands of well-meaning researchers whose only miscalculation was the amount malfeasance, smearing, and even violence they would face from those greedy, cold-blooded, ransom-their-heirs’-planet assholes.

Being willing to indulge in journalism that merely legitimizes their flimsy tissue of pushbacks, we end up looking like we’re actually that stupid—that we can’t see through their greedy defense against plain truth. Yet, at the same time, we wait for each of the fighters to fall—like tobacco did, like coal did, like asbestos did—we wait for the full weight of history to crush their greedy pretense to ‘alternate facts’. We know it will happen—we just don’t know how many lawyers will retire off of each battle before ‘simple fact’ is permitted to turn to some new front.

Thus, media conglomerates stretch the principle of ‘hearing both sides’ to include the most self-serving, misleading, and hypocritical voices on the same screen as knowledgeable folks who are only there to speak the truth as they know it. It’s a very subtle judo, that’s not-so-subtly destroying our confidence in what we know—and thereby, the fabric of our democracy.

While the media faux-nobly upholds this ‘objectivity’ they’ve concocted, while con-men use false majesty to pretend that their egos have real worth, while Free Speech is fast becoming a ‘caveat emptor’-situation with regard to listening, and while autocrats stir up emotional frenzies to distract from the lack of plain justice and decency—I’m still waiting for everyone to remember.

Remember that information has a source—the only way fake news can fool you is if you don’t check your sources. Remember that the world is not your friend—some facts will be other than what you wish they were. Remember that democracy requires an informed electorate—we ignored the reality of our politics and half of us didn’t vote. Now we have the ‘president’ such lazy neglect deserves—a cross between a senile moron and an enemy agent, hell-bent on destroying the federal government from the inside—from the top, no less.

I get it. We thirst for distraction—we want videos and games and VR and concerts and sports events—we want beer and wine and booze and pot and speed and coke and opioids—we want talent contests, hot-dog-eating run-offs, star searches, dancing with stars, and bickering ‘real’ housewives. Nobody wants to face the dreary challenges of practical politics—the nuts and bolts of programs that will truly improve citizens’ lives, make us all safer, give us all more opportunity.

And the politicians certainly don’t want that! They want things as they are—where one’s public persona is all the fitness required to be given enormous authority and responsibility—where even squeaky-clean idealists can be smeared, one way or another—and where you can invent and stand by your own truth, reality be damned. They don’t want practical politics—that’s never been part of the equation—that’s never been what the game was about.

But a grassroots movement could create pressure to address practicality. We could start complaining that we don’t want any candidate who wastes time criticizing an opponent—or makes vague claims about very detailed, technical issues. We want candidates who brag about their support staff’s CVs, who release white-papers with detailed, in-depths plans to alleviate some unfairness, red-tape, or neglect in several issues—not just one (because the world is too big and fast these days).

We want candidates who will go after the big fish—and we shall know them by the amount of money the fat cats spend trying to destroy him or her. This world is on the express train to tomorrow—it’s changing faster than we can keep up with—it’s more complicated than any one person can even grasp—it’s coordinated to keep all the food and fuel and power distributed to all the people on a regular, non-stop basis. The world is a mighty machine that must be kept ticking smoothly—or we all die.

Now, if you’re a religious type, who hears ‘we all die’ and figures that’s ‘just the way (huh) God planned it’—you can pretty-please just go fuck yourself. The rest of us are going to live the hell out of our lives—and plan futures for our children and our grandchildren—and, should the fucking world come to an end, we will be too busy living to notice, until five full minutes after the Apocalypse. So, if you have faith in such bullshit—keep it to your god-damned self.

Getting back to the real world—it has a thin rind of fragile life all over its surface—and we have lain an even thinner, more fragile layer of technology over that—it is ironic that the machinery of humanity’s world is both titanic and flimsy, indestructible yet delicate.

Everyone knows that machines need order to function efficiently—but we avert our eyes from the obvious—that humanity needs organization, too, if it is to enhance society with machines. For one thing, this sovereignty thing, that hangs on—and stymies the intended role of the United Nations—that is a huge waste. And who do these boundary lines profit? Dictators, arms manufacturers, smugglers, and hate-mongers—that’s who. And don’t start whining about the UN—if you don’t like the UN, start another one—just don’t oppose global unity because “the UN’s broken”, you lazy ass.

I’m waiting for us all to get wise to these salesmen-politicians, selling us a story instead of governing (never mind governing well) and start paying heed, instead, to people with credentials, people without a dog in the fight—even when those people say stuff that threatens some fat monopoly’s bottom line. I’m waiting for us all to pay heed to the clock that’s still ticking—that one that the GOP tells you doesn’t exist—environmental impact.

I’ll tell you a little secret—some of the filthiest-richest people on Earth make their money by being the most toxic, the most destructive, and the most unethical. If you ever wondered why we’re still discussing environmental issues fifties years after the first warnings were made—that’s why. And that’s another thing we have to heed—Capitalism was great stuff (as far as it went) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—but it has metastasized into something dark, cruel and hungry in this new century—and we have to start punching back at what is now a tiny enclave of people, each with more money than is good for one’s mental health.

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My Sincerest Condolences   (2017Oct23)

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Monday, October 23, 2017                                               2:13 PM

Condolences   (2017Oct23)

I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the United States of America. Losing so many of your treasured offspring, all at once, must cause unimaginable heartbreak.

Your Separation of Church and State—your eldest—the engine of your supremacy–finally succumbing to the vermin gnawing at her roots.

Your Democracy—between being sold out and being taken for granted—has unbarred the door to ignorance and division, becoming a front for autocracy.

Your Republican Party has devolved into a virtual cesspit—quite openly and publicly–and the fact that they still beat the Democrats proves that the Voters (though less than half of them have earned the right to describe themselves so—except as, perhaps, ‘abstentions’) have forgotten that ‘We the People’ implies some minimal amount of involvement.

Your Freedom of the Press has been imprisoned by media conglomerates—seeking only our attention, not our health—and the news has become a siren song, distracting us from the deadly rocks before us—to focus on an old man’s Twitter-feed.

And that same dirty old man has obliterated your most august Office of the Presidency—coating it with the slime of incompetence, disrespect, oafishness, and treason. His treason is multi-pronged—he attacks the Constitution because it won’t let him be a dictator—he attacks our ideals because he is a misogynist, racist, classist prig—he attacks our education because he doesn’t value knowledge as much as money—and he attacks our self-respect by telling blatant lies, right to our faces, daring us to do anything about it.

O America! You’ve heard bullshit before—it shouldn’t surprise you that the pig who claimed it wasn’t great, by saying he would make it great ‘again’, has leached out every drop of greatness garnered in your two-hundred-plus years of glory. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.

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Camera-people—Reset the Stage   (2017Sep28)

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Thursday, September 28, 2017                                        4:01 AM

Camera-people—Reset the Stage   (2017Sep28)

Trump ran his campaign as if it were a live sequel to his TV game show, playing the crowd, trading dignity for attention. Now his presidency is more of the same. And I know, now that he’s president, you news-people can’t NOT cover his statements. But I have a suggestion….

Please stop forcing us all to watch Trump’s compulsive, neurotic hand-semaphoring. If you would simply zoom in tighter on his face, we wouldn’t have to deal with his wormy finger-dances—and, we could get a good look at those beady little eyes while he’s lying to us.

And if he shifts out of frame—let him. He’s been disrespecting the office and the spirit of the nation since he waltzed into politics. If he can’t speak calmly to one camera in direct address (like a president) that’s his problem—it’s not your job to help him make this into some ‘reality series’. He’s a goddamned government official—give him his camera but, please, don’t give him a stage.

Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017                                              3:24 PM

Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)

Trump spouts an endless stream of lies, hate-speech, willful obtuseness, and the rhetoric of a school-yard bully (or is it ‘a junk-yard dog’?) yet the media displays these assaults on our society, these insults to our intelligence—then they turn around and talk about the ‘Administration’s policies’, discussing them as if they were ‘thought-out’, or ‘a settled matter’—neither of which is ever the case.

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To talk of a Trump policy is to posit a theoretical—unless we count ‘a pompous attitude and suppressed rage’ as a policy stance. Look at health care (ignoring the GOP for the moment—which, trust me, is the best you can do for them at this point). Trump’s office has never specified a single item of detail on health-care legislation—and Trump has never said anything on the subject that he hasn’t contradicted in some video archive somewhere. He has blamed specific people for his failure. He has attacked his opposition (everybody?) for thinking there is anything good in Obamacare. But positive input? No, Trump doesn’t play that.

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Now everyone is discussing tax reform—referring to Trump on this or that point—but Trump, being pointless, simply functions as a screen for GOP wealthy-donor pandering. He’ll say stuff (My god—as if this overgrown lap-dog could ever stop his yapping!) but it won’t have any bearing on anything besides himself.

The GOP will try to publicly reconcile their overall stinginess with their generosity towards the fat-cat donors, in statements that will push bamboozlement to new heights—but it’ll all be so much bullshit. Nothing new there—except perhaps the new, raw, nakedness of the GOP’s pandering to the wealthy, counter to any public-opinion-poll that shows 98% of citizens wanting the opposite. The wealthy, IMHO, are painting themselves into a corner. When there are only a dozen of them, and ten billion starving outside their mansion walls, what will their money be worth then?

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Alas, we are ruled by people who specialize in winning campaign fights—a mark against them, if anything. Look at HRC—woulda made a great leader—but she lacked Trump’s capacity for hypocrisy and bullshit. It was never about which would make a better president—lucky for Rockhead Man.

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Trump Cherry-Picks Our ‘Freedoms’ For Us   (2017Sep25)

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Monday, September 25, 2017                                          4:50 PM

The recent episodes of “Trump’s Tweets” show our hero indulging in his own freedom of speech to condemn others’. He seems to misapprehend the distinction between authority and constitutionality—as if the Constitution’s Bill of Rights were a takeout-menu selection type of thing.

Trump’s so sure in his presentation of his opinions, it’s as if he had reason to be so sure—as if he had carefully pondered all the imponderables, after decades of discussion and experimentation, years of study, etc. But let us not forget that Trump is just blowing opinions out of his ass, strictly top-of-his-head, off-of-his-cuff bullshit that occurs to him, out of the blue—and he rushes to share it with his doting cultists.

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I know that nobody wants to—and I know nobody wants to bother. But let’s take a moment with his ravings-of-the-cycle: We may presume that the president is leaning hard on his own right-to-free-speech when he calls a bunch of people ‘sons-of-bitches’ in public. But he is not—he is using the phrase in a familiar fashion—like a ‘regular joe’, see? He’s so popular.

The more important argument—does this Kaepernik guy have the right to kneel during the singing of the anthem, in protest against civil injustice? Well, let’s see—he started out ‘sitting it out’—and then when people got ‘tudinal about that, he knelt instead—in deference to the flag and the anthem—but still making a protest. This Kaepernik actually had the grace to make concessions in his protest—out of respect for others’ feelings. Trump is more graceless.

But most important, to my thoughts, is that Trump doesn’t see the difference between a deal, a PR stunt, and the hallowed traditions of American ideals. He is of the class that has always gleefully used the USA’s greatness for their own purposes, while giving lip service to its truth—the class that makes it necessary to fight and re-fight these tired old fights about race, gender, religion, and rule of law. Entitled assholes, in other words—but we the people have never before been so well snookered into electing one of these sons-of-bitches.

And now he’s making hay while his son-in-law is shining—while the rest of those worthless GOPs balk at the ever-more-inevitable impeachment. I’d be tweeting random BS, too, I suppose—if I was living in the White House, and had no good goddamned reason to be there.

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What Happened? I’ll Tell You What Happened   (2017Sep12)

New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the reporters at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Clinton conceded that she should have used a government email to conduct business as secretary of state, saying her decision was simply a matter of “convenience.” (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017                                          11:07 AM

What Happened? I’ll Tell You What Happened   (2017Sep12)

Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened”, has been getting a multitude of similar reviews—all of which summarize her reasoning and smugly find it lacking, for a bunch of self-assured reasons. It makes me crazy to see this reek of misogyny continuing on, as if the election were still in progress.

We all know exactly ‘What Happened’. Hillary Clinton offered the country an intelligent, reasonable choice—and we, in our collective wisdom (or lack of) chose Donald Trump—an idiot we would be hard pressed to find the equal of. It is not Hillary who has to explain herself. ‘We have met the enemy—and he is us.’

The GOP blamed Obama for eight years of struggle to recover our employment rate—forgetting that Bush made the crater Obama then crawled out of. Did Hillary fail to recognize the spasms of rage and resentment being stoked by Republicans, Alt-righters, and Russians? Did she keep her head in an environment where quiet common sense had gone out of fashion? Yes. Does her being a minority of one mean that she should have acted like a carnival barker—that she was the one making mistake after mistake? Sadly, no—that was us.

The media, especially social media, whipped us all into paroxysms of hysteria over the 2016 presidential race—and only in such a fact-free, reason-free, top-of-your-voice environment could we have been turned around enough to have voted in a TV con-man with his hand out, groping for pussy. But hey—that’s What Happened.

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POEM:  Ode to Navigation   (2017Aug26)

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Saturday, August 26, 2017                                                7:58 PM

Ode to Navigation

 

Gusts of emotions push me askew and awry

No star or sun do guide me across the sky

The yaw and roll of time and heart

The mystery of end and start

Awash on a quantized sea, afoam with tessellations

Sighting a castled isle, athwart with crennelations

Spraying up flumes of probability

Dashing upon the rocks of mortality

Knowing that my past had got the best of me

Leaving the rest of me

Sailing into the dusk of danger and death

Parsing the delta twixt fact and faith

Pressing the limits of love unboundeth

Hiking the summit of truth and grace.

Media Milquetoasts   (2017Aug24)

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Thursday, August 24, 2017                                               4:29 PM

Media Milquetoasts   (2017Aug24)

As we know, Trump has a fetish for “I know you are, but what am I?” During the campaign, Trump echoed every accusation HRC made against him: unfit, corrupt, collaborator with Russians, using charity for personal gain, etc. Every time Hillary described an aspect of Trump, he found some paper-thin rationale to throw the accusation right back in her face.

The media, instead of reporting on his fetish for “I know you are, but what am I?”, decided to run every statement he made, as if he had as much reason to say it as she did, even though he had never said anything about any of these things, until someone with a sharp mind had thought them up.

Then, after those countless PR ‘gimme’s, they had to report some facts about Trump lying. Then he, of course, called them liars and ‘fake news’—and, instead of filing a slander lawsuit against him, the media reported on his ‘fake news’ statements, as if he had as much reason to say it as they had, even though he had never said anything about any of these things, while the media had been playing for his side.

Today I felt the assholery peaking at maximum—Trump isn’t just mirroring his critics anymore—his latest psycho-reversal: explaining stupid to smart people. He and his cronies are following up his recent word-salad public statements with commentary about how it all makes a sly kind of sense, if you look at it from Trump’s point of view. Sorry, BLOTUS—‘five dimensional chess’ is just a buzzword, meaning: you’ve crawled so far up your own ass that you can’t back out.

Yet, still, the media hops onboard with the agenda-setter-in-chief—never mind the real actions and consequences happening behind the scenes of this apocalyptic presidency—let’s just keep re-tweeting him and his friends. Sure, that sounds about right…yeah, sure. Besides, real journalism has that pesky ‘work’ element to it—eh?

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Crisis of Controversy   (2017Aug07)

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Sunday, August 06, 2017                                         4:22 PM

Crisis of Controversy   (2017Aug07)

I just watched a report on the opioid crisis—our country is being decimated by it. In a way, the opioid crisis is the natural next step, after sixteen years of fear-mongering and internecine bickering in our politics. Politicians rang that “post-9/11 threat level” like a cowbell, keeping the entire country on tenterhooks for years, starting reflex-wars that still haven’t ended. People are fleeing the pain and negativity in many ways—opioids being just one, our present clown-presidency being another, desperate example of wishful thinking.

This country has finally run low on the only thing it always had too much of: Morale. Our chants of “USA! USA!” have a hollow ring to them, as if we were clapping for Tinkerbell’s life. We need another Franklin D., to re-teach us that we have nothing to fear except being afraid. And we certainly need some retro (i.e. fit for the office) president to come in and point this country towards the future again. These wealthy, corrupt elites are like fifth columnist agitators, who start a riot—just to provide cover for their looting and violence.

Our government is not some special reality show being broadcast on special channels—it is, at root, a fairly straightforward affair, that people of good will conducted poorly—but still, it was better than these soulless people now making a rat’s nest of neglect and privilege out of offices they’re not fit to fill. It is unfortunate that journalism has spawned two idiot half-brothers, Click-bait and the 24-hour News-cycle.

These new industries thrive on our disruption, confusing the needful work of a free press with entertaining gossip and hypotheticals—exacerbating problems under the guise of ‘providing information’, mixing the opinion-based editorializing and spin with the hard news. The ‘information’ thus provided uses the term so loosely that it impacts peoples’ faith in the real journalists—who are then vulnerable to accusations of ‘fake news’ from the dick-head-in-chief.

Someone like Trump finds a friend in these outlets—but they provide no assistance to any serious public servant who isn’t prepared to vamp for the ratings. The neo-realisti-cons have even carved out a demographic convinced that their propaganda is an alternative to the reporting in the NY Times or the Washington Post. And while journalists clearly are not famous for their precision, the journalism practiced at those papers is far more rigorous and objective than the Foxified alt-reality.

As always, there’s a dead giveaway, if you know where to look—I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the retractions. A paper like the Times will print a retraction at the drop of a hat—if an error of fact is pointed out to them, they will correct their error without a second thought.

A salient feature of the alt-right ranters, including Fox News, is their instinct to debate a refutation—they grasp their ‘facts’ to themselves much more tightly than an objective journalist. In their very rare instances of being forced into a retraction—it’s always partial, conditional, mealy-mouthed, unapologetic, and dismissive of the whole affair once it goes counter to their wishes. That’s a far cry from even an attempt at objectivity—and a sign of their ignorance, that they haven’t the good grace to be ashamed of such transparent mendacity.

It’s a tricky thing to call them out on—their bad impression of real journalists is an insult to ideal of journalism, and of being a journalist—but it passes muster for the distracted, upset viewers it’s targeted towards, so it works for them—when it really should have made them a disgraced laughingstock.

You know why Bernie is a Socialist? Do you know why we need socialism in America today? It’s because Capitalism has been gamed to such an extent that only some aggressive spread-the-wealth programs have any chance of stopping our slippery slide into a Cash Dictatorship. If we can’t find a way to deke all these lobbyists and campaign-contributors, we’ll never rescue our democracy from the banks and the fat-cats.

No Time Off For Rachel   (2017Aug02)

Monday, July 31, 2017                                             4:15 PM

In Post   (2017Jul31)

Post-project depression—it’s an old friend—the deeper I dive into making something, the more invested I get, the sharper the jolt of being dumped back on the sidewalk, project-less. Sure, I’m really just between the end of one endeavor and the beginning of the next. But at that moment of cathartic, exhaustive completion, the distance from where I am—to some future point where I will again have the mental effervescence and strength of will to start a new thing—seems like an impossible distance.

It’s a low point in my process—hence the depression, I suppose. But in general I really appreciate that cyclical aspect of things. I love the way it seems as if I can hardly move, hardly open my eyes—almost dying—every night—and then wake up every morning just full of energy. It’s so cool—it’s like magic. I mean—I get the eating food for fuel and getting energy from that. But to be recharged overnight by Sleeping—that’s just very cool and mysterious.

The track coach used to chide me about stopping once I reached the anaerobic burn phase—they call it a ‘second wind’. (It’s a great sensation—all of a sudden, the muscles stop the burning ache and you feel turbocharged—but it really means that your muscles have stopped burning oxygen normally—they’ve switched to a faster, but more toxic, anaerobic process. This floods the muscles with poisons, so, if you keep running on a ‘second wind’, you can seriously hurt, or even kill, yourself.)

But it was hard to give it up—once I was in that moment, after many hard laps, suddenly granted a ‘power-up’ that made me feel superhuman—I always struggled with myself to let it go. I even enjoyed waking up all stiff the next day and having to move around for a while before I could loosen up. I’m not sure I remember it properly, but I think we spent most of our childhood with aching muscles from the non-stop moving and doing.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017                                           1:27 AM

No Time Off For Rachel   (2017Aug02)

One good thing about post-project depression—it passes quickly. I feel normal today, no great high or low, just steady. I was saved, in a way, from starting something right away (it’s always best to take a metaphorical breath before you start something completely new) by my camera dying. It’s recharged now—but the world will never know how I played this morning—it sounded okay, some of it—but I always think that, so I’ll never know without a recording.

But I’m not the only one with problems. A few Republicans are starting to say things that oddly resemble things I wrote in my blog-posts, last summer—about how Trump makes a terrible president, so bad a president that we’d be safer if he spent four years without leaving the golf course. I felt bad when he won the Electoral College—so they can suck it up and feel even worse, knowing that they’re on his team and they’re just now realizing what a mistake that was.

For educated people, there are values to America that have nothing to do with business or profit. Even if they spend all day in finance or commerce, they realize that all this free enterprise depends on a respect for the whole system—if civility collapses, the value of money is the first casualty. But Trump is an ignorant bully who believes that all of that is hogwash. Trump admires Putin for being ‘strong’ enough to have his political opponents murdered. That’s the kind of stupid we’re stuck with.

So, I’d say we all have some worries. My granddaughter has a slight fever—she’s been given a little grape-flavored Tylenol or something, and she’s being a very brave baby. Jessy says she has the same cold—poor Seneca has two sick girls on his hands. I hope his health holds out.

There were three obit-notices on Facebook today—it is simply not a good day. And I understand that this clown-car administration has journalists running themselves ragged—but why would they call it the Rachel Maddow Show and then let her take a vacation—and in the middle of summer—it’s just crazy, right?

(Joy-Ann Reid–I love you too–I’m just joking.)

Meditations on F**kery   (2017Jul16)

Sunday, July 16, 2017                                              2:41 PM

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Meditations on F**kery   (2017Jul16)

It being Sunday, our thoughts naturally turn to God. What is God? Right now, I’m inclined to believe that God is the Summer—that bounteous blooming that gets Life through the less biddable Seasons, especially dread Winter.

Good, now we’ve gotten our Sabbath meditations out of the way, we can move on. I watched some TV news today (always a mistake) and heard people on the Right trying to call into question whether any laws have been broken. Well, yes, my law has been broken—when your entourage spends every day bending and twisting into unnatural positions, attempting to hair-split their way out of blatant perfidy, something has been broken—call it faith, or ethics, or morality—Trump’s administration has a black-hole where most people have these things—and we can all sense the absence of decency in this gang of apes that abuses authority under the guise of governing.

They like to latch onto a buzzword and throw it about until it loses all meaning—in this instance, ‘collude’ is on the chopping block. Fine, forget ‘collude’—‘collude’ makes it sound like something done in the open, anyway. This was done skulkingly, and still it tries to wrap itself in lies and claims of confidentiality and privilege. This was more ‘conspiracy’ than ‘collusion’ and that’s what they should be charged with: ‘Conspiracy’. They have conspired against the Constitution itself. They have conspired against us, the American people.

They have conspired in secret and withheld the truth from FBI investigators and Congressional hearings alike—their credibility would be zero—should be zero—but I believe, not in the president’s tweet-storms, but in the unbalanced mind they represent. HRC warned people, “When Trump tells you who he is, believe it.” And, while nothing else said by Trump et. al. could be taken on faith, we can say ‘If he tweets like he’s crazy, believe him.’

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I noticed one reporter asked Trump’s lawyer, J. Sekulow, when the president knew about his son’s meeting with Russians—and the lawyer responded vaguely, saying it wasn’t very long ago—and this is emblematic, systematic of their habitual recourse to thumb-twiddling when caught in a scandal. If someone asks me ‘when?’, I’d say a date or a time or both—or I’d ask to get back to them, if I didn’t know. But this lawyer knew, and wouldn’t say—he also avoided perjuring himself by giving any real answer—one assumes because there may be paper-trails that show Trump knew months ago, or even as it happened.

But for Sekulow to pretend that the president just got a quick notice a few days ago, or some such nonsense, that his son, son-in-law, and then-campaign-manager all had a meeting with a Russian posse with close ties to Putin—as if this wouldn’t have come up in discussions about Russia investigations over the last six months—or even before inauguration, when oppo-research on HRC still mattered. Expecting listeners to suspend disbelief enough to make that sound normal or sane—is asking too much of TV—even when you blanket the entire Sunday morning talk-show circuit.

But that is the ultimate Trump-camp hallmark: to strain credulity with shabby pretense of credibility. If it’s important, they’ve forgotten it. If it’s valued, they’ve dismissed it. If it doesn’t fit their narrative, they’ll cut off its feet and make it fit, by gawd. And finger-pointing? OMG—six months in, and Trump is still blaming Obama for problems with the Trump presidency—Thanks, Obama! And it’s always a little bit Bill and Hil’s fault, too—of course.

I can’t wait to see the ass-end of this f**ker—so I can get back to laughing at the inane and enjoying the ridiculous. Finding them among state policy is no joke. Let’s put f**kery back where it belongs—in a Monty Python sketch.

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New Thoughts (2017Jul13)

Friday, July 14, 2017                                                2:10 AM

marinerd

New Thoughts (2017Jul13)

“no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”  —The U. S. Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 9

Technically, the excerpt above would not apply to the Trump campaign, since he was not in office until the inauguration. But it seems likely that, if the founding authors felt this strongly about an elected official’s behavior in office (with respect to foreign influence) they may have simply assumed that no one flouting these important ethics, during the campaign, would have a prayer of being elected—by the people, or the Electoral College (whose sole purpose was to act as a stopgap against charlatans of such sort).

That Trump—and his administration—continue to dismiss the perfidy of attempting collusion with a foreign power to influence a national election—claiming that ‘most people would have taken that meeting’ goes beyond political inexperience, into amorality. This, in the face of precedent— in September of 2000, close adviser to Vice President Al Gore, Rep. Tom Downey of Long Island, N.Y., received an anonymous package of purported info on the Bush Campaign, and turned it over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That only a single precedent exists is no doubt due to the hare-brained nature of such over-the-top aggression—few presidential candidates, never mind an entire coterie of such a culture, so single-mindedly pursue the destruction of their opponent, without bothering to offer anything positive about their own character. That Trump and his goons miss that they miss that—is deeply troubling. I heard someone say the other day that Trump’s administration couldn’t be more generically ‘bad-guy’ if they had been written into a superhero comic-book as the villains.

If, as with the rest of us, any old guy could walk into court and file a criminal complaint against Trump, most judges would probably find probable cause for a grand jury—his son’s emails are more than enough to get the ball rolling. But that is not the case—we have to wait until the Republicans in Congress have decided that Trump has gotten too hot even for their ice-cold, cynical hands. Meanwhile, they can point to ‘congressional hearings on the matter’—but somehow it has neither the urgency of HRC’s Benghazi hearings nor the presumption of guilt we saw at HRC’s ‘server’ hearings. Why is that, we wonder?

But anyway, I wanted to say something about healthcare that everyone seems to have forgotten—we didn’t use to have any. We used to have insurance companies that could do whatever they wanted—in the name of free enterprise—and business was great—for them. For the millions of people who only dreamed of taking their kids to a doctor—or spending another few years with their sick grandparent—or trying to raise a disabled child on a low-middle income—it wasn’t working so good—it wasn’t working at all.

You may remember those days—it was only eight years ago they changed it—and forever, before that, there had been no responsibility taken by our government to care for every citizen’s health. We saw people being admitted to emergency rooms and we told ourselves that anyone, in an emergency, could be treated by a doctor. We didn’t think of all the ways that health issues can impact people and families and businesses, aside from being allowed in the ER when you’re almost dead.

We saw other countries switch to socialized healthcare—and heard the domestic industry pooh-pooh those other countries’ fairness as not being as dynamic as our competitive business-model. Plus, it would wipe out the present health-insurance industry—and—lots of Americans just hate the idea of giving free stuff to poor people. They hate it as much as I hate the idea of making poor peoples’ lives more difficult than they are already.

Michael Moore made a wonderful movie once—I forget which one—where he showed a ‘Canadian slum’, which was a lovely-looking, crime-free neighborhood—with free childcare for working mothers and, of course, free healthcare. See, now, I could live right next door to people like that and not feel bad about having more money than them—because they wouldn’t be suffering from their lack, they would simply have less money. Plus, if I went broke, and became poor, my life would change very little—as a sick old man, my entertainment expenses are minimal.

Anyway, the point is—the Democrats had to scratch and claw their way to passage of Obamacare—because it was a game-changer. Now that Americans have had affordable health care for some years, Republicans will look like total dicks if they just repeal it—not a single voter will be without a relative that suffers from a repeal—and even Machiavellian gerrymandering can’t undo that.

Now they struggle to pass a ‘repeal and replace’ bill—but they can’t do it. They can’t repeal it outright. And they can’t replace it with something that is effectively a repeal-in-other-words—the CBO has called them on that dodge three times in a row already.

They can’t work together with Democrats to make real improvements on Obamacare—because they don’t have the political stones to sink their careers for the sake of the citizenry—like Obama did when he signed it. There are real problems with Obamacare—and it hurts the country to leave them unaddressed—but the Republicans persist in trying to put this egg back in its shell, when they should be cooking.

marinern

Thursday, July 13, 2017                                           5:35 PM

I think it is important to recognize that there is always more to things than the simple explanation. Now that the Trump/Russia Collusion scandal has expanded to include election-tampering in general, we will inevitably reach a point where the insidious disinformation-campaign by the Russians, working with the Alt-Right or not, will be compared to mass media.

In my rants I have frequently ranted the same thing. But the mass media disinformation problem is more like the healthcare problem than the Trump/Russia debacle—because, as with the medical profession, the aim is a pure one: doctors try to help, and do no harm—and media is meant to inform and entertain.

In both cases, the transition to profit-based paradigms has created massive amounts of business: Medicine spawned Big Pharma, the Health Insurance industry, Corporate research, surgical and care devices from stents to remote-control surgical bots. Media has spawned the Networks, Cable, E-books, Computer Graphics, Streaming services, Online researching and metadata massage, movie franchising, social media—and, of course, cable news.

In both cases, profit has proven to be a dehumanizing influence in industries that are based, nominally, on humane goals. Our country’s medical care is the best in the world—for about ten percent of citizens, perhaps less. For the other 90%, care is more expensive and less professional than in socialized-medical-care countries—so when someone tells you that socialized medicine will be a big step backward, they are referring only to the fabulously wealthy.

Likewise, introducing the profit motive into a free press makes a lot of money and endless access to data for that ten percent or less—and distorts the so-called ‘news’. This could be fought against if it weren’t for the further distortion of people’s perceptions wrought by our click-bait culture. By narrowing our focus down to one issue, one headline at a time, cable news does two harms: first, the blindered presentation of individual issues makes them seem even more unsolvable and more numerous than they really are, and by removing the context, they prevent us from seeing the whole, where many of the answers we look for may be found.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017                                                1:51 PM

It’s sad the way I’ve lost interest in people. Whenever I talk to people now, I find myself waiting for them to get bored and go away—while I hypocritically try to sound interesting so they won’t think I’m boring. I’m not really as selfish as that sounds—I’ve lost interest in myself, too, in a way—that is, I don’t push myself or dream of big goals anymore. I’ve soured, is probably the most concise expression.

For most of my life I was on a manic search for the new—I thought I was in love with learning, but it’s nothing so noble—I just feel stifled when things become overly familiar—I ‘need’ to find something new, all the time. Do you have books you keep telling yourself you’ll read? I don’t—I’ve read them all already. Do you keep telling yourself you’ll try this or that, someday? I don’t—I have already done everything I know of (and, yes, lots of things are fun the first time). But none of that stuff is fun anymore—it’s old.

Then, so am I.

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Trump and Putin need to stop misusing their elected offices to market their brands. Corruption has gone beyond ubiquitous, to in-your-face. Around the globe, we see it—starting with our own GOP, and a president who neither fully divests nor refuses emoluments–who puts his family members on staff as if running a mom and pop store instead of the USA.

But corruption is even more malignant in Mexico, and in both Central and South America. Corruption is more sophisticated in Europe and the UK—as one might expect. But we see the worst of it in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, China, and Russia. Russia is the supreme example—their ‘democracy’ was hijacked by the head mob-boss in post-Soviet Russia—and he has been getting reelected for 17 years. And this thug still has veto-power on the UN Security Council. Same as the other two thugs—Trump and Xi Peng.

But I’m not pointing fingers—my point is the opposite—that corruption is an ingredient of society—the only variables are: how deeply ingrained, how inhumane its profit-motive, and whether the ‘townspeople’ can stand up to bad government without being gunned down. It’s certainly more nuanced than that, but you get my concept, I hope.

Health Care Legislation was a very different thing before the Affordable Care Act (what there was of it). The ACA (or ‘Obamacare’, as I like to call it, for short) was the first law to require the health insurance industry to provide coverage that was less profitable, but fairer. Coverage that protected sick people, Obamacare virtually stated, could not be purely for profit—it had to have standards of an ethical nature, since Health Care was a business of life and death.

The health insurance industry felt obliged to resist lowered profits and increased regulation—they thought in terms of profit and loss. Like most industries, insurers can see no middle ground between maximum profit and a threat to their rights to do business. They can talk that way—corporations have many of the rights of a person—but they aren’t ‘person’ enough to have to face their own family after saying some of the cold-blooded, hypocritical press-releases they do—neither must a corporation tell individuals, to their faces, what they intend to do to them—or take away from them—or cheat them out of.

The law may say that a corporation is a person in the eyes of the court—but, outside the court, I think we can all agree that a corporation is the shittiest person anyone has ever met—not that anyone can meet those flat-faced, lobby-laminated excuses for human flesh. If a corporation sues someone, it’s never about the corporation’s integrity, as a person—it always because someone threatened their profits, their cash-flow, their public image. I could loiter around and spit on a corporation all day long—it’s not a person—it won’t even get its feelings hurt.

I’m stumped about what gives these actuarial fictions any Constitutional rights—it’s as if there’s a carney-ride gateway for piles of money, with a sign that says, “You must be this high to have all the rights of a person—without any of the consequences.”  Someone will have to explain it all to me someday. Then explain why such a stupid idea endures, like it was the friggin Emancipation Amendment or something.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017                                             2:25 PM

When will we face our embarrassment that we let Russian disinformation and hacking—and the media hoopla—trick us into letting crooks into the Administration? Trump’s gang have shown themselves without honor, without competence, without honesty, and without any regard for the Constitution—and, in spite of that, the Republicans scruple to impeach him (perhaps because he’s only slightly more cynically unethical than they are). But someday we’re going to have to face it—we’ve been had.

And the Russians go right ahead with their global program of disruption of democracy, attacking unity wherever they find it—especially in the United States. We take for granted that word in our country’s name—but it has been our shield and buckler, without us even really appreciating the power of unity. Our government had the wits to appreciate the strength of unity when FDR said, ‘let there be labor unions’. Business owners fought against it, but not having any moral ground to stand on, they were overruled.

Inclusion is just our modern way of saying ‘Unity’, when unity has become an old-fashioned expression. But old things are best—and there’s nothing like unity—teamwork, looking out for the guy next to you, etc.

And the media go right ahead, making a circus of the most serious aspect of our lives—money, taxes, legislation, infrastructure, consumer protection, et. al.—they talk about it in throbbing tones, dramatizing and stirring the pot of what is really a bunch of vote counting and legalese. I’m not saying journalists shouldn’t cover the news—but stop making it into some Shakespearian comic tragedy full of personalities and gossip. Stop making money broadcasting our political fate as if it were a football game, goddammit.

They usually reply that they’re just giving the public what they want—but that’s bullshit—if that were true, they could just broadcast porn and ESPN, and skip the news altogether—but if they’re going to do it, they should do it as a public service, not as a competitor in the ratings wars. They way they’re doing it now, it’s more like they’re cheerleaders for the devil—at their most thrilled when our country is on the brink of disaster. Cronkite did not announce Kennedy’s assassination breathlessly, like some Shopping Channel shill—he did it with tears in his eyes. Why? Because he was a human being—with a slight taint of decency.

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Friday, July 07, 2017                                                6:10 PM

I lost my memory and I can’t remember where I left it. I lost a liver and received a stranger’s to replace it. I’ve lost my health and all I have is writing to distract me. I lost my cigarettes when they diagnosed my emphysema—and I lost what little self-respect remained when I found I didn’t have the will to quit smoking, while slowly dying of emphysema. How stupid is that?

Very stupid—but I’m allowed to be. I used to be semi-intelligent—I know what intelligence means—and I no longer have it. If HepC made my brain stupid and I have to live with that, then I’m not going to blame myself for being stupid. I’m not really blaming myself for anything—that’s the beauty of learning to stop blaming other people—you get to stop blaming yourself, because the same excuses apply, no matter whose fault something is.

What excuses do I allow other people, in trying to stop blaming them? Well, there’s the thing about everybody being a product of how they were raised—genetics makes us all unique, but a common upbringing tells in most people. I use this one for parents and teachers—I tell myself that they were raised in an earlier, rougher period of time—by parents that were raised in an earlier, rougher period of time, etc., etc. If kids didn’t swear to raise their kids better than they were raised, we would all still be living in caveman times.

Conversely, a variant of this excuse, for contemporaries, is: I tell myself they were raised by weird, strict parents with weird, narrow-minded ideas. Basically parents are an excuse and a reason to be excused—as a parent myself, this comforts me. This rule is not reflexive however—good outcomes do not imply good parenting—goodness, in fact, often occurs in spite of bad parenting—and some terrible people have very nice parents (or, at least, one of them is, sometimes).

But it doesn’t really matter what excuses we use—the goal is to stop blaming other people. This is our goal, not because these people we blame deserve forgiveness, not because time has passed—not even because it allows us to take the moral high ground—none of these really require forgiveness. We want to stop blaming other people because it simplifies and improves our own head-space.

I am not, however, a forgive-and-forget person. If someone lies to me, I won’t rely on their word any longer. If someone takes from me, I won’t do business with them ever again. I don’t do these things because I hold a grudge—I do them because it would be crazy to ignore someone’s character. I don’t forget information, even if it is negative information. I stop blaming because it is a useless activity, but I don’t forget. Memory is a useful survival skill.

But I am no machine—I’m sure I contradict all these words half the time—when I write, I sometimes talk about me as I wish I was, not as I really am. Some of my thoughts make perfect sense in the moment, and then sound like idiocy deluxe a moment later. Life is a shifting target.

pn010

The Toddler’s New Clothes   (2017Jun29)

 

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Thursday, June 29, 2017                                          12:11 PM

The Toddler’s New Clothes   (2017Jun29)

In the past, presidents have had staffs, media consultants, and press secretaries who were protective of their president’s image. They tried to highlight his successes and downplay his errors, as any good political team will do. Today’s president has a propaganda factory going—denying truths, if not reality itself—attacking journalism to blunt journalists’ accusations—and, worse of all to my mind, being just plain rude.

Never before in presidential politics has the concept of lèse-majesté  been so entirely rejected. And the putrid smarm that oozes from them when they are caught in a situation where civility is mandatory (such as an Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn) defies our containment of reverse peristalsis.

We think Trump is at his worst when he’s insulting ethnicities, religions, or women, or when he’s defrauding job-seekers, voters, or small businesses, or when he’s leering at his own daughter, discussing casual sexual-assault, or peeking into dressing rooms—but I say No.

I say Trump is at his most blatantly sociopathic when he plasters that grin on his face and goes into his ‘kindly uncle’ act. He almost looks like a loving parent embracing Ivanka—until his creepy little fingers start to automatically wander. He can’t shake hands with a man without going into spasms of paranoid egotism. And he has a terrible time trying to act nice to others while still focusing entirely on himself—you can see the struggle on his face. He knows he should be sincere towards others, but worries it might distract him from his obsessive self-regard—or, worse, it might show weakness.

 

Trump tries to drag us backwards, towards tribal-chieftain paradigms, long after the world has learned that enlightened inclusion (and some thoughtful socialism amongst the capitalism) produces the most civilized, secure, and economically-stable society. The strong, the wealthy, the sexist—bullies of every type—react against this, seeing their usual muscles being cut by the forces of reason and civility.

The wealthy like to promote conflict. ‘Surface’ crises help keep people from facing the more ‘infrastructural’ aspects of our way of life—chaos helps maintain the status quo by keeping people too busy bickering to look at the bigger picture. I see Trump in this context, not as a mastermind, but as a gift to the wealthy’s agenda—a hugely popular sociopath that has all of us up in arms, ignoring the sweep of the last five decades—and giving zero thought to the onrushing wave of the next five.

Trump tells his crowds, “I do what I want.” Then he turns to the serious people and tells them, “I didn’t know anything—I didn’t know I was breaking the law.” Trump tells his crowds, “It will be easy to fix.” Then he turns to the serious people and tells them, “I didn’t know it was so complicated.” Trump behaves in a way that even a six-year-old couldn’t get away with—and all his base, who wish they could behave like six-year-olds, in one way or another—they cheer with rage. And that’s a very 1930s-Germany kind of sound.

Then, of course, there’s the lying. A grown-up knows when he or she has been caught in a lie, and has the maturity to face up to being found out—a child will continue to insist on the falsehood, as if insisting on it will make it so. In times past, we would have described the Trump administration as childish. But those people act as if lying is a new fashion they’ve trend-set—and the media, for some ungodly reason, has gone along with this to the point where a lot of viewers wonder what’s happened to reality.

 

And so we all are on the edge of panic—because the world is on the cusp of titanic changes—and America, leader of the Free World, is currently being administered by naughty, irresponsible children.

Mighta Been Me   (2017Jun15)

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Thursday, June 15, 2017                                          11:16 AM

I have found myself frustrated enough—after the racist backlash that marred Obama’s two terms, and the madness that gave his haters’ champion an electoral win—after seeing hypocrisy make Congress even more useless and toxic than it traditionally is expected to be—after seeing that diseased knot of disinformation, FoxNews, become a popular channel—I’ve felt myself enraged. I’ve felt the fury at seeing American ideals be dismissed as ‘political correctness’. I’ve seen red while hearing crazy old white men make political footballs out of science, education, and women’s health.

I thank my lucky stars that my mental health (while far from perfect) doesn’t let me slide into Hate, to get lost enough in Hate to start stalking the streets with a rifle in my hands. The misbehavior of the Trumps, McConnells, Ryans, Sessionses, Kushners, Mannaforts, Spicers and Huckabee-Sanderses does, however, create Outrage—second cousin to Hate.

Alongside this confusion between decent outrage and indecent hate, we also have the confusion of whether our politics is suffering from extreme partisanship—or if it is actually a struggle of good vs. evil. It would be foolish to ascribe nothing but good intentions to the Democrats—they are politicians, after all—but if the Republicans have become a force for pure evil, then those who resist them, Democrat or otherwise, are, by default, on the side of the angels.

When a party becomes as morally bankrupt as the Republicans have, and then characterize the outrage engendered in the rest of us as ‘partisanship’, they muddy the water—as with most of their sophomoric debate-team syllogisms. The great experiment of America has always thought of itself as a long-term project—a matter of centuries. But today’s Republicans are not American in that sense—they are a bunch of traitors looking to cash in, short term, and get out of the game before the indictments come down—that’s political success for today’s Republican.

So while I sympathize with the people who were attacked on the ballfield yesterday—and, while I support those who call for non-partisan cooperation—I think the GOP should look at this lone gunmen as a kind of canary in a coal mine.

If their grubby-fingered mauling of the Constitution, and of social justice in general, continues to grow—if their sense of privilege and entitlement continues to blind them to their responsibilities to their constituents—they could conceivably transform that sociopathic would-be killer into a martyr. Not that he deserves it—his mental illness is to be pitied, as is his death.

Likewise, our attention-starved media lends a patina of legitimacy and respectability to unconscionable dunces like Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and Sessions—who threaten our very way of life as Americans—when, in fact, we should simply pity them for their mental illness—and the shamelessness of an industry that uses them for click-bait just as thoughtlessly as they use yesterday’s violence in Virginia

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Goodness Me   (2017Jun02)

Friday, June 02, 2017                                               12:16 PM

The media have put our society into a glass jar—and forgotten to poke any holes in the lid. Why would a News-channel talk about one thing all day—and still claim to be News? Newspaper editors go crazy, trying to decide which of the thousands of significant News stories they can fit into each issue—while CNN and the rest confine themselves to one subject—and then struggle to find something new to say about that one subject, for weeks on end—until the next ‘top priority’ subject wanders in.

Denzel Washington recently quoted Mark Twain’s quip to the effect that one can ignore the News and be uninformed, or follow the News and be misinformed. But, Twain lived in a world of Newspapers—nowadays, we can remain uninformed—even with a cable-News channel blaring into the room all day.

Printed News cannot show the same sentence over and over—it cannot type two peoples’ essays, one on top of another, so that we can’t read either one’s words—Newspapers don’t distribute re-runs of previous days’ papers. But, when the medium is a noisy light-show, as with TV and video, content becomes optional—this hypnotically vacuous disgrace is open to them. Yet they’ll still swear that it is Journalism.

Plainly, TV News could supply far more information—if information delivery were truly its goal—by airing the prompter. Just turn that camera around and let us read it for ourselves, why don’t you? But then, it’s not really Journalism—no, no—this is Infotainment. Big business—why is it so easy to make money by degrading people?

It’s all about terminology—any old thing can claim to be ‘News’, but ‘Journalism’ is a different animal—a more rigorous bar to be met. We have many TV News shows—even News channels—but we don’t have much TV Journalism. The attention-based economy has stomped its footprint into our lives. While this predator ranges the landscape, we’ll have to look to books and newspapers for our hard facts—any info from media more ephemeral is tainted—ensnared by the commodification of sensational attention-getting—and thus suspect.

And most of all we must look to ourselves—the easiest thing we could possibly have an impact on—our own thoughts and feelings, how we live, how we treat others—one could conceivably spend an entire day ‘making the world a better place’ simply by being a better person—and it’s so convenient. I mean—you’re right there, already.

To avoid unnecessary conflicts without letting fear be the guide—to stand tall without the need to coerce others—these are the real problems of life. The rest is just details. If I mean well but do nothing, I am failing to interact with reality—but, if I do something, it’s hard to be sure it’s the right thing to do.

I have to search my heart carefully—ask myself what my true motivations are—whether I act out of righteousness—or just some tempting ego-trip that looks good. Then there’s the thinking through of an action, beforehand—will it get the results I seek, or simply show me off as a crusader? And will there be further consequences, beyond my immediate acts, that would ultimately worsen whatever situation I’m trying to help?

The bottom line usually is this—I can’t be of use to other people if I’m not with other people—if I don’t get involved in my community personally, I can’t really know what their problems are. So, I usually confine myself to not doing anything to cause trouble for others—living as a shut-in makes it hard for me to help others—but it’s still very easy for me to make other people miserable, if I’m not careful. Still, I miss being of use—the challenge and complexity of being a good person amid the hustle and bustle—those were the days. Not that I was very good at it—but I love a challenge.

Motivation means everything to me—when I catch myself doing something for unacknowledged motives, it really embarrasses me. I don’t like the image of other people seeing me argue for something and seeing what I’m really trying to say, and that I don’t even know it.

Motivation is, to me, like Body Language—in the way that Body Language can say much more than the words someone says—and can say it without that person’s awareness—motivation is the personality behind someone’s actions.

When I look at the talking heads of the News—or the politicians the News is about—I take note of what they say and what they do and how they vote—but I also keep an eye out for where they’re headed with the sum of their activity—I ask myself, where are they going with this?

I get dismayed by the number of public figures whose motivations are impervious to reason—people for whom facts can get in the way. I simply don’t understand it—if my stance on an issue runs counter to the facts, I cede the point—life’s too short to get mad because things aren’t the way I wish they were. Better to move forward towards something that promises a better future—and leaving reason out of that is madness (well, by definition, too, yeah).

We get a lot of debate about ‘alternative facts’ lately—people argue over what’s true or false, partly or *wholly, proven or merely alleged—and paste labels onto facts which they dislike, as if to cast them out. We all know that such a situation could only arise if one party were working very hard to obscure the plain truth—although, by now, we are dangerously close to it being all parties that are jumping on the bandwagon, when it comes to ‘fact-curation’.

I’m tempted to point the finger at the party with the ties to Russia—but I’ll let you puzzle that bit out for yourselves. Maybe it was incautious to so completely empower a man who’d made a career out of pushing the ethical envelope—that’s not very presidential. He’s so good at surprising us, keeping us off-balance—it makes some people nervous—even panicky. But not Congress—nerves of steel, those folks.

 

* (I spelt this ‘wholely’—but Word corrected me to ‘wholly’—I googled it—the first is English spelling, the second is American. Guess I read too many Brit authors.)

We All Better Hope (2017May12)

Friday, May 12, 2017                                               4:06 PM

We All Better Hope [ or – The President’s Tweets – ]     (2017May12)  

One of Trump’s tweets today was to the effect that “Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our dinner…” And I find this representative of Trump’s virtuosic ability to appropriate the culture of the liberals. Every time we find a new way to express our dismay, it is flipped back at us. People have been using the phrase ‘we better hope’ a lot lately, mostly in terms of the few things that stand in the way of Trump’s autocratic vision of the presidency—and his dark purpose in destroying the established order in DC.

So, of course, the phrase turns up in Trump’s PR blasts, i.e. his tweets. He glories in his ability to obscure the truth in any paradigm: he’s done it in his rallies, his interviews, his debates—and now that he has a five-person team to further explain both what he said and what he meant—well, let’s not even talk about the 25 or so news-anchors who add their own translation of what those five (and the president) said, and what they meant—plus, what he Tweeted.

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I saw Sean Spicer say to a reporter today, “The president’s tweet speaks for itself and I have nothing to add.” This was the response for four questions in a row—and on the fifth try, Spicey said, ‘I’ll move on now.’ So, somehow, the President’s Tweets have become some sort of oracle which the press secretary is excused from divining—it’s just supposed to be read—like the Ten Commandments or something—can our president become any more publicly unhinged than he already is?

I also enjoyed his whining about how a busy president finds it hard to coordinate his messaging with his staff—and an ex-press secretary commented, on air, that “Yes, it was difficult, but the former president felt it was important to get accurate information to the public.” I think that news-panel was overlooking the extra time involved in getting the narrative straight—as opposed to simply transferring the facts, without embellishment—I think that may be what the present president is too busy for—lying is hard work—even harder as a team of people who don’t really trust each other. Or should I be polite—and change ‘lying’ to ‘spin’?

This business about loyalty—that takes us to a new level of crazy. Trump isn’t satisfied with being president—he wants his ring kissed, or his dick sucked, I don’t know—he needs to be kowtowed to, overtly—he’s really quite pathetic.

I remember when Obama whined about having to surrender his Blackberry PDA upon taking office—it was considered a security threat, because it was vulnerable to hacking. Obama felt the loss of a technology that allowed him to more easily keep up with a complex agenda. It’s a stark contrast to the Tweeting moron who holds the office today—the national security threat here is what Trump wants people to hear—not what secrets he’s keeping.

My overwhelming reaction to President Trump is shame—not just for what he is—but for the army of fools who voted him into office—at the prodding of Putin’s spies. It’s just like when Bin Laden flew two planes into our biggest skyscrapers—and misled America into decades of panic and hysteria—starting wars by mistake, bankrupting our banks, dumping half our people into unemployment—make no mistake—Bin Laden won that fight—hell, we’re still fighting—and he’s been dead for years. America’s new image in the world is, apparently: the Most Gullible Stooges on Earth—go ahead, trick them—they never look past the nose on their faces—it depresses me to say this—but I can’t lie.

And because Trump embarrasses me, as an American, I burn with a desire to see him impeached—just to say to everyone, here and abroad—‘fool me once…’

I can understand that, in the heat of a two year campaign, all of Trump’s shock-jock tactics kept everyone off-kilter. But for us to allow him a full four-year term of malfeasance and misanthropy—that would seal our reputation as the country that voted itself to death. His incompetent pretense must not stand.

DrEvil

Double Standard Much?   (2017May08)

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Monday, May 08, 2017                                            6:48 PM

This afternoon, Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, and James R. Clapper Jr., former director of national intelligence, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism – Russian interference in the 2016 United States Election. I enjoy these hearings when, as a by-blow, they point up our new president’s habit of discrediting all authority: Courts, House, Senate, scientists, journalists, or recognized authorities of any kind—leaving us to wonder what his ‘special sources’ are, that so compellingly contradict all known information from every normal source?

I also enjoy watching professional, ethical people being questioned by pols—as both sides of the committee try to ‘message’ with pointed, weighted questions—questions that tell a goddam story before they end as questions. It’s fun because good folks like Ms. Yates simply answer yes, or no, or they give a specific date or number or name—and the occasional ‘I don’t know’. When she is invited to give her opinion, she demurs.

At one point I was distinctly annoyed by one GOP Senator making a point of Ms. Yates having ‘determined for herself’ that Trump’s original Muslim ban was unconstitutional—he even asked very snidely when she had been appointed to the Supreme Court. However, Senator Franken promptly re-directed, allowing Yates to point out that “any first-year law student could determine that a Muslim ban is unconstitutional”.

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That first senator’s smug assertion that the former AG had a lotta nerve, thinking for herself, is a compounding of the annoyance that the Senator himself did not see the point as glaringly obvious—which seems ignorant. Perhaps I’m being too harsh—or listening too closely—the Republicans hate it when anyone else tries to split hairs or stickle over details.

One detail from today’s spectacle stands out—the several weeks between Trump being apprised that his NSA pick was disqualified as a security risk—and Flynn’s eventual firing ‘for lying to the Veep’. If I remember the Benghazi hearings correctly, Secretary Clinton was often questioned about how many days it took her to act on intelligence—at some points she was asked about hours and minutes—at no point was she ever asked why she lolled about for weeks before doing her job. I’m just saying—double standard much? Flynn attended weeks of high-level security briefings, after he was revealed as compromised by the Russians—were they feeding him disinformation to pass on to Putin? Or we’re they just flailing around like incompetents? Hmmm.

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But my favorite scandal this week is that Stephen Colbert said Trump was “Putin’s c**k-holster” during his recent monologue and suddenly, he’s a walking hate-crime who should be drummed out of the media. First of all (and it seems this never gets through from the last big huff) it was a joke. Secondly, Colbert has done a pretty good job of scaling back the scathingly raw humor that made him such a hit on cable TV, first on John Stewart’s Daily Show, and even more popular as host of his own satiric talk-show, Colbert Report.

Trying to domesticate Colbert to the ‘family-standards’ of CBS would be hard enough—without this maddeningly stupid president providing a daily dissolving of all that made us civil in years past. To jump all over him because he got a little racy on late-night—please. Talk about McCarthyist tactics—they’re actually calling for hearings—on that one joke! I think it might have been a funnier joke, but it certainly isn’t a crime to let one’s frustration with corrupt politics creep into your nightly monologue about same. Long live Colbert—and comedy—and freedom of speech.

Operation Iraqi Stephen

Stephen Colbert greets troops and civilians at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, June 5, as part of his “Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando” tour.

 

Friday, May 05, 2017                                               1:24 PM

Saying Goodbye to Health Insurance   (2017May05)

DrEvil

I’m not interested anymore. The politicians can’t be a source of constant controversy—having proven their disability to govern properly, their unashamed bias towards the moneyed interests—these folks can’t be reported on as if they were inherently interesting.

The tragedy of their being elected to public service is old news—all we get now, daily, is a progress report on the rot that accompanies corrupt governance. Meanwhile, stories that lay low for a while simply disappear—it doesn’t matter how big the stories seem—if there’s no movement on a story, it disappears. In a way, it’s evidence that the news-media isn’t practicing real journalism.

It’s all very exciting and entertaining—sure—in its own small-minded way—the hustle-bustle of tweets and rants and bombs and back-walking and self-contradiction—whoopee! But no one talks about the new paradigm: voters can be misled to the point of voting against their own best interests—so, how badly can the GOP overtax them, and screw them over, before the con stops working? And will it ever stop working? Is it an iron-clad mind-fuck—or can people awaken from it? These are the real issues of today—and inquiring minds want to know.

A blow-by-blow of what these public servants (that lied their way into office) are destroying, daily, isn’t so much news, as a death knell.

Think about it—this new healthcare legislation is supposed to scrape 24,000,000 people off the health insurance rosters—and put the onus of paying for serious illness only on those who are seriously ill. And the question isn’t whether people want that—the only question is whether people can be convinced by this, that Obamacare was worse.

Now, the people have been told to hate Obamacare—but they have also gotten used to having health insurance. When it disappears, will they blame the Republicans? Will people have the presence of mind to see they’ve been betrayed? And, with supposedly the free-est press on earth, how did they get conned in the first place?

The truth is that hate and fear have won this round—simple as that—the forces of good got their asses kicked and we have to wait ‘til next time. I can’t help wondering how the bad guys got so much better at getting elected—that’s just not right, is it?

Now, don’t listen to me—I’m an old man, and sick to boot. I can’t get out there and run for office or help someone campaign or protest or any of that good stuff. Maybe you can. Odds are you’re younger and healthier (my sympathies, if you’re not). Maybe you can make a difference—people can, you know. They do it all the time. I used to, in my small way—it felt good. All that is necessary for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. Be good.

Eternal Argument   (2017Apr19)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017                                              1:51 PM

A good person, we are told, avoids fighting unless it’s absolutely necessary—but the one who throws the first punch has the best chance of winning a fight. A good person, we are told, cares about others—but then again, one is supposed to look out for number one. Honesty is the best policy—but a little white lie can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

If these sound familiar, it may be because they are often the crux of a drama: to fight or not to fight, to give or to take, to be honest or not. So, one might assume that ethics adds drama to life—ethics tell us to find a way around our animal impulses—and that’s where the drama comes in. But, if we are successful, we feel that we’ve risen above our animal nature—ethics is our way of proving to ourselves that we are above dogs.

No offense to dogs—some of them are far nicer than people—but if you try to reason with a dog, you won’t get far. Then again, trying to reason with some people is no different. They use the pretense of reason to rationalize the behavior of an animal. Even math can be warped into the service of bullshit—4 out of 5 dentists agree.

Some claim that ethics are pretentious luxuries, a thin veneer that falls away at the first sign of deprivation or hunger. But the same could be said of friendship—and while that may be true of many friendships, or ethics, it is not true of all of them. Some people are kamikazes about their friendships, or their ethics—are these people mad? Or are the rest of us missing out on some key factor?

I think it depends on how much you value yourself—if you consider yourself a part of something, you’re less likely to see yourself as irreplaceable—you’re more likely to see sacrifice, on your part, as benefitting the whole. If you think of yourself as a ‘lone-wolf’ individual, you’re more likely to see your own survival as the bottom line.

So, it seems our choices are: 1. suicidally sacrificial or 2. selfishly self-centered—at this point, we realize that everything has two sides and there is no simple, rote answer to any question. A-little-of-each presents itself as the obvious answer—but is it really that simple? Sorry—no, nothing is simple—then again, it can be, if you shut your mind to the endless variety of existence. This accounts for the effectiveness of some douchebag giving out with a derisive ‘whatever’ as a rebuttal to common sense. Apparently, ‘I don’t give a shit’ is an acceptable substitute for ‘I know what I’m doing’.

I don’t respect people that walk away from a losing argument—to me, losing an argument is the most educational experience there is—to find out that there is a better answer, a better way of seeing things. What could be of greater value? When I argue, it’s not to win the fight, it’s to communicate a different point of view—and if I lose the argument, I’m obligated to recognize that the other person had a better grasp of the issue than I did—and that I’ve learned something.

Even if someone hears me out and insists on disagreeing with me, because of their ‘faith’ or some such non-rational bullshit—even that I can respect more than someone who enters into an argument just to be belligerent—and walks away with a ‘whatever’ when they can’t bully me with their rhetoric. That’s just being a jerk, in my book.

The glut of such jerks online is similar to the increased hate and xenophobia that we see today—and it has the same source. Trump is a bully-arguer, and a racist fear-monger—and he won the election (or, at least, the Electoral College)—so, other bully-arguers, and racist fear-mongers, feel emboldened, having such a prominent role-model. And in the end, the bad example of our head of state may do more lasting damage than his bad governance. Bad laws can be rescinded, but encouraging people to hate is a poor lesson that can have a life-long impact on our society.

That is my strongest reason for wanting Trump impeached—conduct unbecoming an American. A leader should be an example—and his incompetent, unethical leadership isn’t nearly as damaging as his bad example. Trump isn’t just a bad president—he’s a bad person. #Sad!

Improv – Late in the Day

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017                                        3:29 PM

The Job of Jazz   (2017Apr19)

The R&B brass section, the vocal back-up trio, the echo effect—and then the electric guitar comes in. It’s got smooth power—and makes you feel like you’re madly in love. But the drums seal the deal—you fall into another world—a world that was hiding behind the silence. At that point, anything the front man sings will sound like sexy poetry—he could be reading from a phone book. And that’s the artifice in art—to the audience it is transporting—to the creator it is hard work, made to seem effortless.

Poetry is much the same—Eliot called it ‘a mug’s game’. Writing in general is a matter of pacing and rhythm—even the graphic arts have a sweep to them that is the visual equivalent of rhythm and pacing—composition and contrast, highlights and empty space.

The paradox is pure—self-expression is not for the creative worker—it is for everyone else. It is an expression—which presumes a listener, a viewer, a reader. Yes, it is your unique and personal self-expression—but it is still an expression—a message sent—and why send a message if not to connect to a recipient?

That is the nakedness of it—to be honestly self-expressive is to reveal who we are—and who we are is the sum of our lifetimes. Thus honest self-expression becomes one’s life story—who we are and how we live. Its revelatory nature is the thing that frightens many people away—and they are all quite sensible people. Apparently, strong feelings and conflict drive some people to creative self-expression—contented people can enjoy art (I’m in that group) but they aren’t as driven as those who live and breathe their art as an almost exclusive preoccupation.

Some people insist on being the audience. They’ll call out to a celebrity actor by their TV character’s name—ignoring both reality and the hard work of the actor in an unconscious effort to merge entertainment with reality. To the actor, I imagine, that’s a double-edged compliment—the high regard of the delusional—but with their numbers so high, ratings are guaranteed—in some way, he or she is making their living by feeding that delusion.

And am I any saner, just because I know to turn off my willing suspension of disbelief as the credits roll? We all crave seeing our lives as something other than the reality—we love to connect to feelings we share, to experience vicariously and empathize with the challenges and exertions of heroes and heroines. Reading a good book isn’t much different from living in another time and place as another person. Coming to the end of a great movie is like waking from an incredible dream. Sex, drugs, and liquor have their place—but there is no escapism like the arts.

Hadyn – Sonata in C (Excerpt)

Friday, April 21, 2017                                              12:42 AM

These new videos I’ve posted today include one that is a sight-reading of the 2nd and 3rd movements from a Haydn Sonata in C (I forget the number). First of all, I misspelled Haydn’s name in the video, which is always embarrassing, yet I always do it. Secondly, I don’t keep any kind of rhythm and everyone knows that you have to keep a steady rhythm. Try to think of it as conversational sight-reading. Talented musicians sometimes take exception to my posts—they are the antithesis of good technique—and I get tired, sometimes, of explaining that I can’t play the piano as well as I would wish—but I like to do it, and I like to share it with people who aren’t so picky. I had a run-in just the other day and I wrote it up, but then I decided not to share it with you. Now, however, as a preemptive disclaimer to my poorly-played Haydn, I share it herewith:

 

Friday, April 14, 2017                                              6:28 PM

YouTube Scuffle   (2017Apr14)

“Every Time We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter (2013Jun06)

https://youtu.be/4BMa7HEE1Uo

This is a video I posted four years ago. Three years go by—nobody watches, nobody cares—then, a year ago:

plica06 (1 year ago) This is so bad. You could have at least practised a bit before uploading.

xperdunn (1 year ago)  plica06: What a perfect opportunity for you to show us all how it’s done with your own video performance. Or are you all talk and no go?

US GameRat (4 months ago) xperdunn: good thing you know how to handel this and im not being sarcastic at all, im being serious. dont worry about what he or she said, because even if you did or didnt practice that is one beautiful song and you deserve the love because i know what music is. i know why this was so good and it still is, so thank you for making this video become true because without this video i woulndt have any other help, and this is the only video i found because i have the same music, and i found it online and so youre basically helping me learn this song. but this video was better that what i thought than what i would find. you impressed me thank you! i dont care if this plica06 guy calls me some random 13 year-old-piano-player-wanna be, i dont give a shit. i love music, and no one can make me stop. i really have an extreme, basically addiction, or really really deep love over music. but yea. thanl you. at least you made this come true than someone judjing you by who you are because i know truly youre an amazing person. really. and im talking to xperdunn 🙂

xperdunn  (4 months ago) US GameRat: thanks for the support, guy! We music-lovers must fight the forces of musical snobbery, encouraging everyone to enjoy music, no matter the trolls. Be well.

US GameRat (4 months ago)  xperdunn yeah! thank you 🙂

pianoplaylist (2 hours ago) plica06 was extremely lacking in tact.  I disagree though that he or she is a mere troll or a just a musical snob.  You, sir, should fight the forces of mediocrity and make a version that is worthy of your years of investment of time and worthy of the genius work of art that this song is.  It’s a free country and you can upload whatever half-baked, sight reading practice session you desire, but you obviously have the talent and the knowledge to refine your rendition and make it more pleasing to the ear.  That would be more encouraging to the learners.  Sorry for being harsh.  I wish you the best in all things.

xperdunn:

So, you can see that plica06 is critical of my poor piano playing—and because I post my videos to encourage other non-talented music-lovers to go ahead and share what they love, I don’t take crap from nobody—that’s part of it, showing people that a troll is nothing but a guy wasting his time at the keyboard.

But pianoplaylist is critical because he thinks I can do better. That’s the trouble with the internet—everyone has an agenda and nobody knows the whole story. I can barely hold a cup of coffee in my left hand—intentional tremors are just one of the symptoms of nerve damage—poor short-term memory is another. My decades-long struggle with HepC and liver cancer and a liver transplant—and all the permanent damage that was done to my body and my mind—make my poor attempts something of a triumph, even though they suck by the usual standards.

And that is the reason I post my videos—anyone else out there who has been told that they weren’t meant to play music—ignore the critics. Anyone out there that is embarrassed to post their music—post it anyway—be brave. If you have even a pinch of ability, you will soon be much better than I am, or will ever be. As long as you love music—play it—share it—don’t stop to listen to anyone else—they should be playing their own music, not stopping your bliss.

I was extremely gratified that my sight-reading was able to help US GameRat to learn to play this beautiful tune by Cole Porter, an American legend. If he is the only person that takes heart from my posts, so be it—good enough. But who knows, maybe there are more young beginners out there….

Improv – First Star

Bear’s Birthday   (2017Apr10)

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Monday, April 10, 2017                                          9:53 AM

It’s my lovely Bear’s birthday today—may she live forever! O, how the celebration will ring out across the universe. O, how joyous are the people of Earth to have the mighty Bear in all her glory, marking another year with all of us.

The Bear celebrates her day with special yoga sessions and perhaps a jar of lingonberry preserves. We don’t know—the mysterious Bear moves about the community with speed and stealth—she is not presently here.

Improv – Jones Beach

 

Bear’s home! And it’s time for bagels with lox and cream cheese—yay! I got Bear a selection of Swedish jams and soda-bread for her birthday—from Hemslojd, you know. I think she liked the printed tin more than the food. Well, enough of that—Bear doesn’t like to be talked about online.

Improv – Pop Patchouli

 

Monday, April 10, 2017                                          7:34 PM

Pete came by today—we got just one improv out of it—I haven’t been playing well lately. It’s very frustrating. But Pete is great and we had fun, so one improv is all we get. Considering how much trouble the piano has been giving me lately, I’m grateful for the one.

 

Improv – Five Dollars

 

Improv – Appalachian Trail

 

Cover: “Girls On the Beach” & Improv (Coda)

 

Improv – Breezy Meadow

 

Improv – Water Sprite

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017                                          6:59 PM

I’m almost done with new videos—including Pete and I from yesterday. I watched “Hidden Figures” today—what a great movie—I’m going to get the book—movies about history always leave out a lot from the book. It’s one of the few times you can still enjoy reading it after watching the movie—because it still has surprises in it.

 

Improv – Crocuses

 

POEM:    Belonging   (2017Mar09)

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Thursday, March 09, 2017                                                1:49 PM

 

Belonging

The piano growls at me from the corner

The wind blows memories against the window-glass

The ache circles within me, an adversary in waiting

The air stings my skin with the numbness

The time flails my thoughts, world encompassed

Within my tiny brain of electrified glop

The computer invites me to crawl inside

The speakers hug my ears—the monitor titillates

Then the music ends.

Alone in a room with the atmosphere battering

At the house as the only sound—eerie and lonesome

I can’t type you away.

 

By Xper Dunn

 

ttfn.

Flippy

 

Hello?   (2017Feb28)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017                                             11:42 AM

Feeling a little disappointed lately with the traffic on my blog and YouTube channel. Makes sense, though—I’ve been so busy writing posts and posting videos that I haven’t spared any time to appreciate other people’s blogs and music videos. I do follow some bloggers and YouTube musicians—I’m not completely self-absorbed—and besides, isn’t the point of the Internet to allow us all to bounce our ideas off each other? Sharing ideas and creativity is the only real communication—everything else is entertainment—click-bait and eye-candy to lull the masses.

So, I’m thinking maybe the end of Winter is a particularly fertile period for people to get work done, get new ideas, and feel inspired to create. Like me, everyone else is too busy doing their own thing to check in with my stuff. Either that, or I’m getting old, predictable, and uninteresting—always a dark possibility that I’m sure I won’t recognize when it happens—if it hasn’t already.

Today’s videos use new pictures of the baby—some of them are a little dark because I just used them, as is, to make the video. I’ve been processing hundreds of pictures lately, and for this batch of 376 new ones, I decided to take the easy way out—no photo-shop, no enhancement, just the candid camera. Fortunately most of the pictures are just perfect, like their subject, and my only worry was in recording some music that would be suitable accompaniment to such a beautiful baby.

I tried to play one of Bach’s French Suites—the b minor—but my left hand is getting so spasmodic that I may have to stop sharing my piano-playing and go back to playing for my own amusement. It’s never been that good, but it’s really starting to mess up everything I play. And I really hate not being able to play a strong bass line—it’s my favorite part, dammit.

With our new president, I have a bug up my ass about something he says or does nearly every day—so I’m struggling to come up with non-political posts, just to break the monotony of my constant bitching. I need ‘happy’ posts because I don’t like to put my beautiful granddaughter’s videos on the same page as a post about that horror-show.

But here I am, bitching anyway—and about people ignoring me, no less. What an idiot. I look at YouTube Creators notes sometimes—they always talk about requiring a minimum of 1,000 subscribers for certain programs they offer—and I go check my channel and see that, for my eight years of posting videos, I’ve amassed a whopping 60 subscribers. Usually I’m grateful that there are that many—but YouTube always reminds me that I’m not really ‘in the mix’, as it were. It’s depressing to be a music-lover and be such a terrible musician. Still, it beats living without music in my life.

All’s I can say is—if global warming is going to destroy the world, it’s surely offering us some lovely weather for the apocalypse. Last day of February and it might as well be the first day of June. The crocuses, snowbells, and what-all are simply exploding out of the ground. I should get my camera out there while it’s all blooming—those flowers come and go in the blink of an eye. Even indoors, we’ve got red and white amaryllis blooming all around the kitchen. It’s a very flowery day—too nice a day to complain. Hello.

Hurry Spring   (2017Feb21)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017                                             4:06 PM

Well, today settles it—I get maudlin towards the end of Winter. I start writing poems, I start playing piano in a minor key, I write bitter diatribes with far more than my usual cynicism. My taste in music gets a little weepy, a little dirge-y—I read more than watch TV. It’s a whole ‘Spring-better-show-up-soon’ depression-fest.

Also, I tend to write a lot more personal stuff—half of what I write this time of year is either too personal or too depressing to post—and I go on and on about stuff that I’m pretty sure isn’t driving the throngs to my blog—but that’s February for me. I’m fading fast—and I need some sunshine.

Well, things have settled down a bit—I’m used to either rooting for a Democrat administration, or I’m worrying about the one, really-big mistake that a GOP administration is currently making—I’m not used to purely dysfunctional—that’s a new one on me—and, I suspect, on all of you as well. But normalization is inevitable—short of storming Penn Ave, we’re stuck with the Clown until 2020—and the more avidly we stare, waiting for an impeachable offense, the less likely one is—‘a watched pot…’ and all that.

I’m still getting used to an America that is not actively trying to exceed itself—I’ll miss that forever, or until it returns, whichever comes first. Never before has a candidate won an election with a message of despair. “Make America great again”—I’d like to punch that fucker right in the mouth—the only thing that isn’t great about America is your benighted ass, you fucker, and the cowering, feebleminded jerks who voted for your sick agenda.

But let’s not get ourselves all worked up, every damn day, over the same old tragedy. What’s done is done. The odds on Trump sitting his whole term are long—one definite drawback to not knowing what you’re doing: you don’t know the rules. And while Trump may rubber-stamp some of the GOP’s worst legislation, they will find it hard to actually work with him—everyone does.

Fortunately for the Republicans, their platform was already custom-tailored for wealthy bastards with no public conscience—but they will inevitably try to mollify their base with something—and that’s where they and Trump will part ways. Trump’s penchant for blaming the establishment will ring rather hollow in 2020, after four years of being the establishment, so it’s hard to see him pull this off a second time—unless he actually does something.

But like most of his kind, Trump’s greatest ally would be military strife—even Bush-43 looked more dignified with Americans dying all over the place. Thus, it isn’t that I don’t want Trump to do anything—it’s that I’m afraid his ‘anything’ has some dark options waiting. Improving education, creating jobs, fixing our infrastructure—these would all be laudable accomplishments—if Trump can improve anything on such fronts, I’ll be glad to reevaluate—but I’m not going to hold my breath.

As much as I look forward to the coming of Spring, it will be all the more bitter for being a time of rebirth in an new age of tyranny—for 2017, T. S. Eliot will have got it right: “April is the cruelest month….

Today’s poem and videos all contain cannibalized artwork from my one and only book of illustrated poetry, “Bearly Bliss”. It may seem ironic that my hand-tremors make me unable to draw, yet I still try to play the piano with the same hands—this is because I’m used to sucking at the piano, whereas I was once pretty good with a pen.

20170221xd-ddistanceofabsence_01

Journal Entry   (2017Feb19)

Sunday, February 19, 2017                                               3:28 PM

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I’ve spent the day creating new piano videos for my YouTube channel. These are something a little new—I’ve taken my ‘masterpieces of art’ graphics collection and interleaved them with baby pictures of Sen—so you see one old master, then Sen, then another old master, and so on. The baby watches the videos at naptime, some days, so this will give her something to look at besides herself—and all the paintings are colorful with vivid images (which was why I collected them in the first place).

One of the videos is fairly long—that’s partly because it includes a ‘cover’ of the old Carpenters tune, “Yesterday Once More”, which I play rather freely, for a wonder—and the following improv is about twelve minutes—so, a rare recording in several ways. The other one is shorter, just an improv, and only remarkable in that I chose to name it ‘Toothpick Charlie’, for no reason on earth—it’s a funny name, is all. But I’m satisfied with both performances, making it a good day’s work.

My mom’s not well—the doctors are trying to figure her out but so far the best they can do is a morphine drip. I wish I could travel—I’d take up residence in the bed next to hers—I could use a good morphine drip—and those damn doctors could get around to me once they’ve figured out my mom. Meanwhile, we’re all pretty concerned.

Been doing a lot of reading lately—nothing to write a review about, but passable fare. It’s like that old bumper-sticker about ‘a bad day of fishing vs. a good day of work’—a bad book is still better than your average TV show.

Nothing much else to go on about.

20170218xd-courtingcouples

ttfn.

I’m Already There   (2017Feb13)

Monday, February 13, 2017                                             7:11 PM

Actively dysfunctional—is that a thing? Do some people go through life thinking that their job is to screw everything up? Is it possible that people realize the fragility of the status quo—and some are actively making it as bad as possible? I mean, you wouldn’t think so, would you?—because it wouldn’t make any sense at all. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

People do lots of disruptive things—and for a wealth of rationales: to strike back at ‘authority’ (whatever ‘authority’ may mean to the disruptor—and whoever is picked as its representative)—or simply to feel empowered by being capable of disruption—or to use disruption as a diversion for something else that won’t bear close scrutiny.

This is something I don’t think a lot about. I’m overly earnest in thought and deed. It would never occur to me to kick over an apple-cart, because that would just mean someone had to pick up all the apples. I’m all about cooperation and efficiency—thinking otherwise, for me, is a trip across the line into insanity—but I’ve come to recognize that we all have our own sanity. Just because I can’t think of a reason to put a knife between my ribs doesn’t mean no one else is thinking about it.

Surely you have wondered, like I do, how we can reconcile the incredible powers of communication, where people from twenty distant parts of the globe can interact as if in the same room, with a globe that is such a shit-storm—how can this be? How can we have reached a point where we can do momentous things, as if by magic, but we don’t do any of them—because of the rules we’ve set up? What crimes do we commit against each other in our enslavement to Capitalism? Beyond poisoning the planet, that is—I’ll leave out the obvious.

I’ll grant you the fact that imposing order is easy if you don’t care about people’s rights or feelings, and a just organizational plan is far more complicated than trying to rule the world by fiat—but with modern organizational tools and our ability to transport materials and communicate with each other, it remains a mystery how we could be so shoddily led by our government, or all the world’s other governments, for that matter, absent a tremendous lack of will—or possibly even intentional disruption. I’d like someone to explain to me how we can make progress in every avenue—except that which makes government more efficient and transparent, life less scary, or people less helpless.

The whole world sits around while Aleppo is bombed into rumble, for years on end—and yet the whole of the world’s nations can’t summon the will to defy those two or three countries for whom all the deaths and blood and suffering are part of some cold calculation of power and profit. We have the technology to watch the whole thing on TV, in real time—but we act like it’s fucking Twain’s weather—everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it.

And when the helpless women and children come crawling from the ashes—do we spring into action then? Oh no—those people are a threat—they might blow us all up at any minute. Let’em suffer.

I tell you—I wrote a blog the other day about how I am still embarrassed to be white—but I think it’s becoming more pervasive than that—I’m about to become ashamed to be an American. Too late—I’m already there.

I’m still in love with the idea, the history, the memory, and the dream of America—but I’m living in a country I don’t recognize—a country where hate and fear have become, somehow, popular—popular enough for them to elect a modern incarnation of Hitler. Truth itself—and Science, are both under attack by forces that can only be bent on disruption. America may recover some day—I haven’t given up—but I still don’t know how we got here—so how will we ever get back? It’ll take more than a twitter-war.

You think Trump is crazy now? Just wait until they try to tell him his term is over.

thought

Chopin   (2017Feb11)

Saturday, February 11, 2017                                             9:48 PM

Fryderyk Chopin was tutored in piano by Wojciech Żywny from age six until age eleven. From age 13 to age 16, Chopin (a child prodigy) studied at the Warsaw Lyceum, then composition under Józef Elsner. Chopin lived in Warsaw until the age of 20, in 1830, when he and several friends decamped to Paris—just prior to the November Uprising that same year. This marked the start of a doomed Polish struggle against Russian rule which Chopin is noted as supporting from afar throughout his brief adult life.

Chopin was such a consummate pianist that some of his compositions, when they do not cross into virtuoso territory (which was often the case) are technically accessible even to someone like me—though reading-through and playing the correct notes (mostly) is still a far cry from a true, capital-P performance of a Chopin work. His delicate lyricism and serendipitous, near-improvisational freedom of expression are found nowhere else in written music—and merely playing the notes as written is just a beginning towards reaching the full effect.

But I try—there is something about playing a piece oneself, on the piano—it is the reason that I play, albeit poorly, and with no hope of ever mastering the instrument. When we listen to music, we hear only the sound it makes. But in reading the music, as written by the long-dead genius (or any other) and in pressing the keys with my own hands, I feel an understanding and a connection to Chopin that is easily equal to relationships I’ve had with living people—I get not only the end result, the sound—but also the roots, the human source of whatever musical invention I happen to be playing. It is a wonderful kind of rush that transformed the way I listen to music, as much as it included me in the making of music.

Thus, when I play Chopin, I can stop dead in the middle of the piece—odds are I had to, but even still, I speak to Chopin—I say, ‘clever, that bit—and very beautiful.’ And Chopin replies, ‘I thought you’d like that.’ It’s amazingly like a vicarious composition of my own—as if I was creating it instead of playing it off the sheet music—as if I were Chopin. Despite the fact that my end results are hardly praiseworthy, in the playing of the music myself, I can hear it as Chopin first imagined it—in some ways, sounding more beautiful than the most polished artist’s performance of the same piece.

I was a weird kid. I enjoyed classical music in grade school—I had a lot of LPs, and many more that I borrowed from the Katonah Village Library. I sometimes fought with my siblings about playing classical music on the big stereo in the living room (rather than their rock n’ roll—not that I didn’t enjoy some of that, too) but most often, I would stack’em up on my record player, turn out the lights and lie on the floor to listen in the dark. My dad hated that—he’d burst in and turn on the lights and say, ‘What the hell are you doing in here in the dark?’ or whatever.

But my point is this—I’ve always loved classical music. But it wasn’t until I was fifteen (way too old) before I took piano lessons. There’s something about hitting the keys and making the notes play—feeling the music as an activity, as a part of you, instead of listening to music—it gave me a heightened appreciation of music that I don’t believe is possible without some experience, with some instrument, or with the voice. Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings, for instance, went from relaxing to fascinating—without changing a note—it was like a veil was lifted for me. Music is a wonderful thing to hear—but it isn’t until you make your own that you get the full picture, as it were.

And I’d say that’s why I improvise at the piano every day, too. I can’t make great music, but I can make music—and there’s something very empowering about playing music that no one else has written down, music that I make up as I go along. Survivalists prepare for a life after civilization—I suppose I’m preparing for a life after I-tunes?

ttfn

To Fight For The Simple Truth (2017Jan31)

imperialism-victorian-era-empire-cartoons-tenniel-punch-magazine-1878-11-30-247

Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        3:11 PM

If people of a different gender, race, religion, or birthplace engender feelings of superiority and of fear—you should own that as your personal weakness, rather than try to legitimize it as public policy. It’s okay, you know—people don’t control their feelings, their feelings control them. Finding kindred spirits who collude in your rationalizations only encourages you to hug them more closely. The fear and ego remain clearly visible to the rest of us—hard as you may work to blind yourself to such ignorance.

Don’t work towards making your weakness into a part of our public discourse—work instead towards understanding yourself and these illogical feelings. And just because your daddy or your priest tells you something’s so, that’s just ignorance become a legacy of tradition—that doesn’t alter its incorrectness.

Stop looking around for enemies to blame—the torture inside you is your own. No one is going to find your happiness and make a gift of it to you—you have to find your own—and the answer is inside your head, not out there. Gripping tightly onto every external excuse, you strengthen your hate, increasing the distance between yourself and any hope of happiness.

The smile on a poor kid’s face isn’t due to he or she having all the things they want—it is there simply for lack of the bitterness and venom that experience is waiting to lay upon them. If we can gain experience without accepting the temptation of blame, we can retain some of that happiness, even into old age. People are not the groups they belong to—it’s pretty simple.

Human nature causes conflict. Individuals often conflict with each other. Trouble has many origins—categorizing people for the purpose of blaming groups only helps to camouflage the true causes of conflict. So when we seek to blame a group for a problem, we not only trumpet our weakness to the world—we actually strengthen the causes of our unhappiness, by masking them with ignorance.

The people who gain power and grow fat off of the status quo watch with glee, as all their neglect, posturing, and corruption get a pass—overlooked by the rest of us, as we foolishly fight amongst ourselves.

Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        5:43 PM

FB Comment:

Surely the humor of your argument doesn’t entirely escape you? We men eschew murder in theory, but will fight for our ‘rights’ or our ‘honor’, thousands opposing thousands, upon battlefields bathed in blood—it is justified. But a woman, about to lose her hopes, dreams, and plans for her future, due to an unplanned, unwanted insemination—oh no, there’s no justification for women to remove those potent cells before they become viable. Her fight for freedom is ‘murder’, simply because those cells have the potential to become a person. But all men’s actual murders—the heaps of corpses produced by war and whatever other nonsense we get up to—each dead body a waste of his mother’s nine months of travail, not even counting her raising to adulthood every one of the corpses—that’s all necessary, honorable, explainable. Men are justified—but not women. Funny, right? Try to be reasonable. I fear the theocracy you appear to dream of would be a little too ‘good’—for men.

Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        7:49 PM

What am I doing? I’m not teaching. Teaching requires a willing student—these people assume they know as much as I do, which may be true in a general sense, but not necessarily true of a specific subject. But that’s a fine point that goes by the boards—and with thinking that sloppy (and that’s the average, give or take) it’s no wonder that these back-and-forths on Facebook are such an exercise in futility.

The key is that word ‘social’, in ‘social media’. People type things onto social media in the same way that they converse—mostly for the pleasure of hearing their own voice. I, as a writer (of sorts) mistake all this typing for writing. I may be thinking very hard about what I’m writing, but nobody else is—they’re socializing, they’re having fun, they’re spending time.

No wonder they think nothing of saying the most horrifically ignorant things, but burst a blood vessel when I allow myself to be, shall we say, brusque. ‘You’re so rude! I don’t allow name-calling on my posts.’ You can be as big a monster as Trump, as long as you remember to be courteous at all times. But calling stupid by its proper name is beyond the pale.

I don’t think I have the patience for this. I got onto the Internet because people had begun to give me a pain in the neck, and interacting with other nerds as disembodied entities was fun. But now, everyone’s on the Internet, with pictures and videos and ‘brief biographies’—I might as well be hanging out in a bar, as far as the social thing goes. It’s worse, really, because in a bar you can walk away from the assholes. I’m one of the few people still doing this at a computer terminal—most people are doing this stuff by phone—so we don’t even have that in common any more.

You can see where the biased-feed problem comes in—I’d be glad to only interact with the people I like—but by creating a way for that to happen, Facebook has also created a dark space, where the ignorant and hateful can find each other, unify, and congratulate each other on how well they all agree. And that peer-reinforcement makes any kind of idiocy into a mighty cause.

FB Comment:

My resolve to confront Trump-supporters whenever and wherever has prompted many of them to decide they can’t stand the heat, and have blocked me. I know this because I see a lot of my friend’s threads, where they are debating someone who isn’t ‘there’. Apparently, these cowards only want to argue with friends who won’t be brutally honest about their ignorance. Well, if they support BLOTUS, I shouldn’t be surprised if they prefer their ‘truths’ censored and managed.

FB Comment:

I love these memes falsely claiming that Obama or Clinton did something equally criminal to Trump’s recent fuckups—the funniest part is, they seem to think that these false equivalences settle the debate. I guess they never heard of that ‘two wrongs’ thing….

Tuesday, January 31, 2017                                                3:38 PM

This whole social media thing is like a National Park that’s been overrun with so many tourists, discarding so much of their trash to the point where the beauty is hidden behind a lot of human garbage. The Religious Right started all this crap with their ‘teach the controversy’ BS—the PR version of covering your ears and shouting “La-la-la-la-la-la….” They, of all people, should know what happens when you start to deal with the devil. And if cutting yourself loose from science and reason is not making a deal with the devil, I don’t know what else could be.

Large numbers of people earnestly latching on to friendly-seeming misinformation being spread by a small group of hypocritical thugs—it’s not really PR anymore—it’s a lot more like Psy-Ops—as the Russians have apparently noticed, and jumped on board with.

Americans are used to fighting for liberty, freedom, and human rights—who knew we’d ever have to fight for the simple truth? And introducing such toxic mind-fucks into the seemingly harmless playground of social media—evil genius! Those of us who’ve spent a lifetime taking honesty for granted had better get our acts together.

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Digging Out   (2017Jan29)

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Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        1:00 AM

Spencer gave me a music book for Xmas—piano arrangements of works by Joe Hisaishi, a famous composer of anime films by Studio Ghibli and video game music, he’s also issued some albums. I’m loving getting to know this stuff—the melodies are fantastic, but bear with me—it’s not every day I get new sight-reading material and it’s still unfamiliar ground. I plan to post covers of every piece in the book, eventually.

I’m still digging myself out from under the profusion of photos received and recordings made during the holidays and the rest of this month. Today’s posted videos include one from a month ago, and three from a week ago—but they also include over one hundred photos that I’ve just gotten to processing. So, nothing in today’s posts is recent except the effort.

 

You’ll excuse some of the holiday photos—there’s still mostly nothing but baby pictures, so you can live with a few ornaments. That baby gets cuter every time I look. I barely listen to myself play the piano on these videos anymore—I just gaze at my adorable granddaughter and remember her recent visit.

 

It’s been a long week—but I used the time to get my backlog cleared, so it wasn’t a total loss. I needed to have a lousy day or two, just to convince myself that photo-shopping picture after picture was a pleasant enough way to pass the time, compared to the rest of what was going on around me—so, there’s no cloud but has a silver lining, once more.

I long to return to a time when I play for the camera, process the video or videos, and post them to YouTube—all in the same day. This playing catch-up is for the birds—and I’ve got a crick in my neck from repetitive keystrokes during the hours of photo-shopping. I’ve gotten to where I prefer receiving videos of the baby, rather than a slew of photographs—much less processing involved for five minutes’ worth of background graphics.

Enough shop-talk. Sometimes, I swear, I type just to hear myself think. This blog is supposed to at least try to be interesting.

The Time-Space Orchestra   (2017Jan26)

Thursday, January 26, 2017                                              9:21 PM

The Buds-Up Time-Space Orchestra was delayed last week by a cold my partner caught—but Pete’s all better now, and here’s another fine mess he’s gotten me into. Seriously, though, I think some of it came out pretty good.

We almost didn’t get to the music, what with discussing the craziness in today’s politics—things are getting weirder, and not in a comfortable way. Eventually, however, we were able to move along to the Gershwin brothers—the song “Clappa Yo Hands” is one of their unfortunate efforts to force a patois onto the lyric—but it’s a nice song.

Then we tried Yellow Submarine and Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, both of which I suspect we’ve done before—but we mostly do the covers to warm up for the jamming (at least, I think we do) so no harm done. It’s hard for me to follow a professional drummer when I’m goofing around—add sight-reading and the results are suspect at best. But it’s fun to try—maybe don’t call the covers ‘music videos’, call them videos of us having fun—that’s the idea.

I’m pretty happy with the two improvs—I tried to play along with the drumming and mostly managed it—and the music isn’t awful. Five stars, as far as I’m concerned. Well, it’s been quite a day, what with the playing and the processing and the posting to YouTube—so, th-th-that’s all, folks!

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Stupid In A Crisis   (2017Jan24)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017                                                7:46 PM

I’m exhausted from responding to alt-right trolls on Facebook. I know that nothing that happens on Facebook matters worth a damn—and I know I’m never going to change the mind of any of these hysterical jingoists. Still, with things as they are, whenever any of that pro-Trump idiocy appears on my feed, I’m going to keep on responding, contradicting and insulting the people who post it.

I didn’t use to. I used to look at their stuff and say to myself that no one could ever be so blind as to be taken in by the charlatan and his creepy minions. But the Electoral College has proven that I was wrong about that. So now, whenever I see a stupid, thoughtless post in support of criminals who just happened to get elected—I post a reply of my own. I don’t want to—I’ve got better things to do—certainly nicer ways to spend my time. But I will no longer let these lies go unchallenged—even in the wasteland of Facebook.

Is it wrong of me to insult these people? Under ordinary circumstances, yes, it certainly would be. And if they are truly so deluded that they believe in Trump, it’s actually cruel of me to torture them with my scorn. But a lot of these people are just feeling the oats of their misogyny, racism, nationalism, and plain old resentment over how shitty their lives turned out. The miserable irony of it is that they have been conned into staunchly supporting the very people that keep their lives so miserable.

Can you imagine it? These rich, powerful people—who can create major changes with the stroke of a pen—accuse the poor, the sick, the displaced, and the immigrant of causing all our troubles. These cynical pigs stand there, with their hands on the switches, their fingers on the buttons—and they expect us to believe that the most powerless, vulnerable people on this earth are causing the problems. It’s beyond tragedy—it’s even beyond farce.

Their eagerness to smear anyone who stands against them is a sure sign that they have no conscience, no real concern for anyone but themselves—they echo the true accusations we make against them, like little children—yet enough people were taken in by this childishness that he won the Electoral College.

So, I apologize to all you people who I may call Stupid (and other things) over the course of the next four years. Please understand that I wouldn’t insult you without reason—you have been stupid, you continue to be blind and ignorant to the real threats, and you show no sign of wanting to become un-stupid in the foreseeable future. If the situation allowed for me to be polite enough to ignore your empty-headedness, I would gladly let it pass—but stupid in a crisis is a real danger, and I don’t have the luxury of etiquette anymore. However meaningless and futile my comments and posts on Facebook may be, they are my only point of push-back against the cretins—besides, evil pisses me off.

 

XperDunn Returns   (2017Jan18)

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017                                          6:18:47 PM

I’m finally coming back down to Earth—this last holiday was the nicest time anyone has ever had—I got to meet our new granddaughter and visit with her and her Mom and Dad—a nice long visit, but not long enough by half. And, in the confusion, I have neglected to post any YouTube videos for the longest dry-patch my channel has ever gone through.

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It isn’t that I haven’t been playing the piano. In fact, some of my best performances ever went unrecorded—played, for once, for the people in the room instead of to the camera.

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The baby enjoyed my piano-playing in three different ways—she was charmed when I sang a song to her, she went to sleep faster when I softly improvised, and she loved to sit on my lap at the keyboard and play the piano with me. Had I been in my right mind there would be a bunch of video documenting all this—but I have nothing to show, since the camera was never on my mind—never turned on—it’s a shame, but nothing new—all my best work inevitably happens when the camera is not on.

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I miss the baby. She’s the sweetest thing that ever drew breath. And a baby is a fitness regimen—not even having a baby, but just hanging out with a baby—involves all kinds of rolling about and lifting and holding—it’s a lot of work for someone who lies in bed all day. If they didn’t need caring for, babies would make great fitness-coaches for the infirm.

Anyway, it’s back to normal, here at the Dunn’s. Part of this extended hiatus was due to the hundreds of photos and the handfuls of baby videos I’ve been processing, in preparation for including them in the piano YouTube videos. Today, I’ve finally posted four new videos—part of the harvest from my ongoing processing of the visit’s photographic record. And, as a special bonus, I’ve included a cover of Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me”, which Bear and I sang to the baby.

 

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I’m Gonna Laugh, Too   (2017Jan18)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017                                          12:08 AM

I think I’m getting a handle on this thing—I’m pretty sure that by the inauguration, I’ll avoid my head exploding. But it’s a big adjustment—losing that reasonable, measured presence at the head of the nation. I had gotten used to the luxury of having the ‘final authority’ be a better man than I am. I had forgotten the patience I acquired while Bush Jr. chuckled his way through his self-actualized shit-storm.

My concern with Bush-43—I doubted he saw the longer game, the problem taken out beyond the short term, or seen in a wider context—I didn’t expect wisdom from Bush, but I expected a modicum of caution and restraint—as a person might show, when responsible for the fate of the world. And indeed it took him the full eight years to cause all the damage of his administration.

The thought of Trump in the same position made me panic because, in Trump’s case, never mind the longer game—he doesn’t appear to see the short game—or the nose on his face, in many respects. He compounds his ignorance with an unstable personality—which could light up the whole ball of wax, in myriad scenarios and in shockingly brief time periods. Once sworn in, I wouldn’t be surprised if he could outdo Bush’s mistakes by an order of magnitude, and in a mere eight months.

I haven’t decided which scenario frightens me more—the transforming of ourselves into neo-Nazi nationalists—or the various forms that World War III could assume. The irony is that now, when the Tea-Partiers have won through, I agree with them—no legislation should be passed for the next four years—Congress should do nothing until they have completed the ethics reviews of Trump’s cabinet appointees (that should take most of four years, anyway, if they do a good job of it).

I’m curious about how the Republicans are going to spin things, now that they have both Houses, and the Administrative branch, and their pick of Supremes—if the employment rate doesn’t rise, if wages don’t rise, if health care and health insurance costs keep rising—who are they going to blame then? I would consider the possibility of their success—if they had offered any clear vision of their version of things.

They’ve been knocking the Dems for so long, so fixedly, that I have to wonder if they’re capable of switching gears, of getting anything useful done. Their present focus seems to be on undoing the Affordable Care Act—most sensible people would want to have a clear model of a replacement first, but everybody has their own style, right?

And it’s all coming back to me now. That was Jon Stewart’s big explosion as a satirist—when Bush was President, if we didn’t laugh, we would have had to cry—and this is certainly still a temptation. But I’ve become so serious about all of this that I hardly see the clownish side of the Republicans anymore.

Plus, we are always tainted by the enemies we fight—in this case, Trump has absolutely no sense of humor—he thinks insults are humor, because he enjoys insulting people—he doesn’t realize that insult-comedy has to be clever to work. And we really can’t expect an appreciation for satire from a man who seems born to be its target.

And so, during this death-march of an election, I slowly but surely lost my own sense of humor. It wasn’t just Trump and his team—the news media as well became a vacuum of humor. When the Trump spinnerets tried to pass off his Pussy-Grabbing comment as ‘locker room talk’, no one behind a news-desk had the dignity or grace to laugh in their faces. And as I watched what should have been farcical, treated with leaden gravity, I lost my sense of humor along with my sense of sanity.

But I’m getting it back now slowly but surely—as people are wont to do when they pass through what they used to see as an upper-limit on crazy. I voted. I blogged. I argued with friends. In my tiny way, I did what I could. But it’s over now—and if I didn’t win my case, I have won the right to sit back and watch my warnings come to fruition. People have a thing about saying I told you so—but I’m fine with it. If you refused to listen and went ahead and cut yourself, I’m gonna go ahead and say I told you so. And, yes, I’m gonna laugh, too.

Trump has lied and connived himself into a position he has no business holding—and I’m going to ridicule him until he leaves that position. If he can make a joke out of this country, I can certainly make a joke out of him. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it, Donald.

Big Book of Christmas   (2016Dec16)

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Friday, December 16, 2016                                               11:29 PM

I’m trying to post my final Christmas carols before anyone gets here—I expect to be posting far less once the house gets full-up. I have the raw recordings from last night, but editing them will take some time. This always happens to me—I’m about to complete my big project of recording the entire Christmas songbook—and before I finish, I’m already feeling foolish for having bothered. After all, who wants to watch a long piano recital by a half-assed piano-player, no matter the theme of the concert?

But then I remember that family will watch. Poor piano-playing can actually add a homey touch to a video—and these videos are as much baby-albums of all little Seneca’s pictures and videos, as they are piano performances. I haven’t really created a Playlist—I’ve created a deluxe photo album of the first four months of my granddaughter’s existence (with holiday soundtrack included). And that is certainly worth a little effort on my part.

Just as few words about the completed playlist of: the Big Book of Christmas Music. There is one song missing from the book—“Joy To The World”, strangely enough—somehow the page came loose, and I couldn’t play just the first page, and stop in the middle. It’s not important—I’ll just include it in the next book’s recordings (“Joy To The World” is in every Xmas songbook).

Also, there are a few of these that I don’t play so well. Some pieces use figurations, especially in the left hand, that are difficult for me—I usually avoid them, but this was a clean sweep of the table of contents, from beginning to end, so I did the best I could with the ones I shouldn’t have been playing. The good news is that I won’t be posting these carols ever again, now that I’m sure I’ve done the whole book.

In doing this sight-reading every year, I’m always struck by the carols and songs that are of an earlier popularity—the ones that you can only barely remember hearing before—and then in childhood. There’s really an endless supply of Christmas and holiday music—I was just watching Bill Murray’s “A Very Murray Christmas” (2015) on Netflix yesterday—and that whole musical special was a list of songs I don’t have the music for—great stuff, too. I hadn’t realized there’s this very show-bizzy-type side to Christmas music as well—and Paul Shaffer is fantastic at that stuff. It was excellent fare—for a Christmas Special.

As for the words—this was a big project for me—and close-captioned lyrics would have made the whole thing take ten times the work. If you want to sing along, the lyrics to songs are easily searched online—so, I left it to you, if you want them, they’re out there. I did supply the title at the beginning of each song, so you’ll know what song to do a lyrics-search for.

The entire playlist can be heard here.

But if you want to find a song, here’s the detailed list:

 

Thirteen (13) Christmas Carols – November 21st, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – November 23rd, 2016

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Eleven (11) Christmas Carols – November 27th, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – November 28th, 2016

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Twelve (12) Christmas Carols – November 29th, 2016

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Thirteen (13) Christmas Carols – December 1st, 2016

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Nine (9) more Christmas Carols – December 1st, 2016

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Twelve (12) Christmas Carols – December 6th, 2016

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Four (4) Christmas Carols – December 12th, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – December 12th, 2016

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Seven (7) Christmas Carols – December 12th, 2016

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Twelve (12) Christmas Carols – December 15th, 2016

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Nine (9) Christmas Carols – December 15th, 2016

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Th-th-that’s all, folks!

 

Two Movie Reviews   (2016Dec13)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016                                           11:30 PM

“Suicide Squad” & “Florence Foster Jenkins”

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“Suicide Squad”:

There was a burst of potentially-watchable movies in my video menu this morning—all kinds of movies—must be the run-off from the summer-movie influx in theaters. It’s strange for those of us who wait for the movie to leave the theater and get onto cable—we see the summer movies in winter, and the holiday movies in summer.

I started with “Suicide Squad”. I’ve pretty much had it with comic book retro-fits—and Suicide Squad is a poor excuse for even a comic book. But I like Will Smith—and I always enjoy it when some hot young actress does a star turn as a psycho-killer, as Margo Robbie does in this. But sometimes the over-arching concept of one team of good guys against a team of bad guys can strain the bounds of credulity—even within the ‘willing suspension’ paradigm.

In this movie, a ‘transdimensional’ witch with seemingly unlimited power, both natural and supernatural, stands against a group of admittedly tough customers—but none of them equipped to face down something from beyond the limits of time and space. Well, there’s one—a reluctant pyrokinetic with supernatural powers of his own.

But the rest of them have to be kept busy fighting minions of the witch, to distract from the fact they can’t possibly fight her. It’s just senseless—and believe me, I’ve swallowed a lot of sci-fi and comic book foolishness in service of maintaining my willing suspension of disbelief—and enjoying the story—but there has to be a minimal coherence to the thing. I need to be accorded that much respect.

Anyway, for a two-hour movie full of nonsense, it went by fairly quickly and painlessly. I gave it a few hours, then I went back.

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“Florence Foster Jenkins”:

I went back earlier this evening for another film, “Florence Foster Jenkins”, starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg.

There was a French film on Netflix recently, “Marguerite” (2015), with a similar story—a moneyed matron of the arts is surrounded by sycophants who never tell her that she has a terrible singing voice—a secret carefully kept by a mad-cap retinue, using carefully-curated venues and selectively-bribed music critics to maintain the illusion until the catastrophe of a large, uncontrolled, public performance threatens to expose the entire charade.

Both films claim some basis in historical fact—but the French film is set at the turn of the century and the American film is set in 1940s New York. This leads me to wonder if rich woman are historically misled about their true abilities—and, if so, why? But beyond that question, there’s the tone of such a movie. In the case of “Florence Foster Jenkins”, much like “Marguerite”, there’s a contradiction between the hilarity of bad singing and the tragedy of a person being lied to by everyone around that person—supposed friends and lovers who, whether through kindness or avarice are, nonetheless, doing the poor woman no favors.

Even the surprising tenderness that Hugh Grant brings to his role as FFJ’s husband cannot render this story a happy one—or a particularly funny one, since the impending slip-on-a-banana-peel is always the looming exposure and destruction of the woman’s sense-of-self. Meryl Streep brings humor to the character, but for me, the set-up is more suitable for a psychological horror-thriller, such as ‘Gaslight’, than for any light-hearted costume-comedy.

No one could fault the technical efforts, or the performances of the cast, in this film—but I guess I’m just too squeamish to enjoy laughing at someone who insists on making music badly—perhaps it cuts a little too close to home for me. Yes, that’s probably it—I see a little too much of my own musical strivings in the story of “Florence Foster Jenkins”.

Christmas Caroling   (2016Dec13)

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016                                           11:43 AM

Every year I post YouTube videos of myself playing Christmas Carols on the piano, occasionally singing along. I don’t do it because I play them so well—I just do it to celebrate the season. Also, singing Christmas Carols is one of my earliest childhood memories of a happy activity—sing-alongs, to me, are one of the greatest pleasures in life and, when it’s carols being sung, it just doesn’t get any better.

Caroling is one of the few times I can feel that great feeling from my youth—that God is in his heaven and all’s well with the world. The average carol only lasts a few minutes, but for that short span, I can almost believe—it’s very cozy. Usually, I don’t allow myself the indulgence—day-to-day life is only made more difficult by subscribing to wishful thinking—but Christmas only comes once a year, so what the hell. A little fantasy never hurt anyone.

This year I somehow decided to get very serious about the caroling videos—recording the songbooks from first song to last, so that I don’t have to wonder which ones I’ve done or which ones I’ve left out. I sometimes get serious about my YouTube videos—like with this one trio of Brahms Intermezzi I recorded last year, or the various Bach suites and partitas for keyboard. But my amateur-level piano technique doesn’t really stand up to serious scrutiny, so the projects usually fall apart before I’m finished recording the whole mess.

I’m getting more tenacious in my old age though, I guess—I’m closing in on the full Big Book of Christmas Songs—with today’s posting of twenty more carols, I’ve reached the ‘S’s—so, alphabetically, I’m almost to the finish line. And I am eager to finish this largest and most traditional of my Christmas Carol songbooks, because then I move on to the more popular-song Christmas music songbooks—and they’re a lot more fun/familiar and easier to play. Also, for all subsequent books, I plan to skip any carol already included from a previous book’s videos.

Time, as always, is chivvying me on—less than two weeks until Christmas, and these videos seem to take more time and effort with every post. I always over-do the Carol-playing—so, as the holidays go on, I get more troubled by back-strain, hand-tremors, and weakening eyesight (some music publishers are criminal in their demands on sight-readers—such tiny print). I reach a point where I’m actually conserving my strength for the live Christmas caroling—when a roomful of people are expecting me to accompany actual singing.

In the final result, by New Year’s Eve, I am more than happy to put the carol books away for another year—a full-month’s immersion in any genre is usually enough for me. But I wouldn’t give up my Christmas carols for all the tea in China.

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ttfn.

 

Losing The Argument   (2016Dec10)

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Saturday, December 10, 2016                                           9:56 PM

Have you ever argued with someone who is wrong? Have you noticed that they are just as sure of being right as you are, even though they are wrong? And here’s the funniest thing of all—when we realize that we’ve been arguing for the wrong side, when we suddenly see the other side of the argument as correct—oh, what a symphony of confusion, embarrassment, and frustration we go through, how we choke on the gall of it. Some people get so upset that they just stalk off, pissed. I always make a point of swallowing that mistake and facing up to being the idiot that lost the argument.

We all are the idiot, eventually, at one time or another. There’s little use in pretending we are the one person who’s always right—that person doesn’t exist. And I firmly believe the most important part of an argument is not letting the argument itself become the point of conflict. In truth, when I lose an argument to someone, I eventually come to accept that I have learned something I didn’t know. I may never have the grace to be grateful for that, but I concede to myself that I should be.

Don’t get me wrong—I love to win an argument. But my motives are based on my belief that I’m thinking clearly about a problem, avoiding the temptation to ‘bend’ things in favor of my personal preferences—or my desire to be the ‘winner’ of the argument. I force myself to concede the other’s point, when a point is valid—sportsmanship is as important in argument as it is in sports—perhaps more so.

When arguing, it is good to cite reliable sources for one’s information. And that becomes a problem in the modern world—when something like ‘Fox News’ becomes a source for false information, the argument quickly devolves into a sub-argument about the validity of one’s sources. The reverse is also true—when an asshole like Trump tries to invalidate actual sources, such as The New York Times.

Trump is the champion of the dull and the easily-swayed—and he has spawned a whole counter-culture of people who imagine their own truth, outside of the popular, ‘observable’ variety. They believe in argument shorn of either sportsmanship or sources—argument where denying facts need only be shouted louder and longer than the opponent’s words to become ‘fact’, where talking about something else is the answer to uncomfortable, undeniable facts. Kelly Conway has made a career of this kind of argument, if you can call her rantings argument.

I’m sorry, KellyAnne, but if your mind is incapable of conceding anything said by your opponent, you’re not really arguing—you’re cheerleading. That’s all well and good at a ballgame, but it gets rather threadbare and feeble when it comes up against real life. Every time you ‘win’ an argument on TV, you’re making the whole country that much stupider—and for what? Let me tell you—I wasn’t always this way—I had a penchant for willful contrariness myself, once upon a time—but you can only juggle logic for so long before it bites you in the ass. I found that out—and you will too. Time is the great teacher.

Afterword: I nearly forgot my main point—which is this: You can have arguments all day long, but unless someone wins, it’s all a big waste of time. And if you haven’t changed a person’s mind, you haven’t won the argument. Even if you did succeed in making them feel hurt or sad or angry, you’ve still wasted your time. Miracles do happen—a person might change your mind, instead—and even that—even losing the argument (and maybe learning something) is time better spent than simply arguing with no end.

Pete has Left the Building   (2016Dec07)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016                           3:00 PM

Pete has Left the Building. Ladies and gentlemen, the legendary, the incomparable—Pete Cianflone!! The Buds-Up Symphony Hall-Space welcomes you to return to us soon and—have a safe drive home now.

What a day—Pete came by (as you may have surmised) and brought with him an old drawing of mine—Joanna Binkley wanting to return it for safekeeping—for which I thank her. It’s great to see an artifact from the steady-hand-and-sharp-eye days of yore. I was pretty good, while it lasted.

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And I had something to show Pete—Bea Kruchkow forwarded an archival copy of Newsweek—from 1989—a ‘look back’ at 1969 (then, a ‘whole’ twenty years ago). Time sure is funny. Funny—ha-ha, not funny like fire.

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So anyway, after girding our hairy-purple loins, we set forth to do battle upon the field of sound. First we did a selection of Spirituals that are traditionally connected with Christmastime—and for good measure, threw in two popular songs of Xmas as well.

We did two rounds, or maybe three, of improvisation—I can’t remember. One of them is very loosely based on the Swanky Modes tune, “Any Ordinary Man” (from “Tapeheads” (1988)). Movie-credits soundtracks often have something catchy about them that makes me go straight from the end of the movie to the piano, to try and find the melody of what I just heard. That was the case, yesterday, with Tapeheads—but I soon realized, after finding the notes, that this was one of those energetic songs that I’d have a hard time keeping up with. But Pete had never heard the song—and I’m not exactly a natural-born blues-player—so it’s a toss-up whether you want to call it a bad cover, or just a different piece of music.

Pete and I were happy with all of it, so that’s all that matters. Poor Bear has had an uncomfortable head-cold for three days now—why is it impossible for the holidays to pass without colds? Spence has been renovating the attic room and the cellar, preparing for our royal visitation later this month—all must be just so, ya know. It’s quite something to have an infant come into a house that hasn’t seen one in years—I’ve started noticing dust where I was hitherto dust-blind.

It’s a sign of just how busy life can be—the Buds-Up ensemble has nothing to show for last November. We try to gather once a month, but even that tiny schedule can be impossible to keep to, in this hurrying, rattling time-stream. Still, I’m pleased enough that we had such a good time, today—I think it makes up for the gap—and I hope people enjoy these as much as we enjoyed playing them.

It’s been a busy day—rarely on any December 7th do I fail to stop and think about the ‘day of infamy’. A Japanese Prime Minister visited Pearl Harbor last week—the first-ever Japanese State Visit to the site—and this is the 75th anniversary of the start of the War. There are many Pearl-Harbor-themed movies on TV today—I guess I’ll go watch some of my favorites.

My Dad was a war-movie fan—we used to watch John Wayne movies on TV in the living room—my Dad was a Marine in Korea. Watching war movies is the closest I’ve ever been to actual murder among men—I don’t mind, I tell you. I respect the hell out of veterans like my Dad—but I don’t feel bad about living an un-blooded life. I suspect I would have made a lousy soldier anyway.

December 7th is special though—there’s something awesome about an entire globe in conflict—it may have been evil and stupid and lots of other things—but it was ‘awesome’, in the literal sense of the word, without the implication of admiration young people give the word today. It fills one with awe.

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Feces-in-Chief   (2016Nov30)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016                                              2:52 PM

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President-elect Donald J. Trump (wait a sec—I just threw up in my mouth a little bit) is the most disgusting excuse for an American I’ve ever known. He is ignorant to the point of delusional. He is delusional to the point of childishness. He is childish to the point of being a psychopath. Burning a flag is nothing compared to the slap in this country’s face of having voted for this crap-pile impersonating a man.

My health being what it is, I may not see the entire four years of a Trump presidency. But I’m trying to adapt—it’s like situations I’ve been in before—where disaster is whispering at my ear and I have no choice but to laugh at the hysteria of certain doom—it’s a cheap high, in a way. I, personally, will survive this insult to our history, for now—this end of America’s respectability—the end of the assumption that democracy is a safe way to govern. But I feel bad for America—once so proud, so upright—now we’re just a bad joke.

He’s still tweeting. Can you believe that? Fucking asshole. Bad enough he’s going to be making bad decisions about vital issues—the media has decided we need to hear his every tweet, as well. Do you want to know what Trump is tweeting? I don’t.

That idiot tweeted throughout his campaign—and not once did he tweet anything a grown-up would say. But then, we know now that the media helped elect him, by mirroring his abysmal judgement and his unflappable ignorance. The media is the only thing as stupid as Trump. CNN, Fox, MSNBC—you can all go fuck yourselves—I haven’t tuned in since the election, and I have no plans to, in future. I only hope there are a lot of people like me—poor ratings are the very least of what you traitors deserve.

There is a lesson here—both Trump and the Media care for absolutely nothing except making money. They will drag us to the depths of Hell, and beyond—and they won’t even notice—consequences be damned, if the money’s good. Now that I think about it—maybe climate-change is God’s way of telling us that money isn’t everything.

You’re out of a job? You’re having trouble paying for your kids’ college? You’re worried that America isn’t safe? Okay fine—now explain to me how having elected a jack-ass is going to fix any of that?

It’ll be a job, just bringing the jack-ass indoors—if Trump’s transition team needs anything, it’s plenty of newspaper to put down in all the indoor areas of the White House. This will help, not just with the piles of shit he’ll be dropping all over, but with the vomiting of those poor benighted people who can’t avoid being there and have to hear him speak. His voice makes me vomitus, even for the instant it takes me to reach for the remote and change the channel.

There used to be two schools of thought on humanity—people would say we were basically good, with a few bad apples—and other people believed that people were basically animals, with a few kind souls to leaven the mix. But now we have an accurate count: decent people number a little over half of all people, and the wastes-of-spaces number just under 50%. I’m approximating, of course—a case could be made that all non-voters are just as deplorable as the Trump-voters (which would lower the decent people to only 25%)—but we can’t know that, so I split them 50-50.

But the important point is: the mix of good and bad in the human race is pretty close to even. We’ve never noticed this before—because all prior elections had two fairly decent people to choose from. This is the first time anyone (1) lied more than he spoke truth, (2) admitted he didn’t know anything about government (by saying things only an ignoramus would say), (3) admitted to misogyny and sexual misbehavior, (4) called for an end to religious freedom, (5) felt that America would benefit from a big wall around the Statue of Liberty, and (6) was endorsed by the Klan and the Russkys. You can’t even really call him a man—he’s more like a slime-outline of where a man should be.

Yet rather than slink about in shame, half this country is celebrating their victory over decency and common sense. Their beast is slouching towards Pennsylvania Avenue like a giant snail—yet they glory in his ascendance to power. Like it or not, democracy is dangerous—this has been proved. “We, the People” have been exposed as an unreliable, unfaithful pack of cowards.

I used to hug my patriotism close, warmed by the pride and the power of America—and now my arms are empty—encircling a wisp of smoke, where security and sanity once resided. Now, nothing but a bitter memory chills my bones.

I will hate this fucking asshole until the day I die—and it can’t be too soon, now that our entire country has sworn him allegiance, betraying everything America stood for. I have lived too long. Was this clown really so hard to see through? As the Monkees once sang, “Disappointment haunted all my dreams….”

If It Ain’t Broke   (2016Nov23)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016                                              5:06 PM

20161115xd-nancyhd_s_pottery-2Like me, you may have wondered at times how to fix people, how to make society better—that sort of thing. The answer is that you don’t—or rather, you can’t. Imagine a world where everybody is kind and caring and generous. Now forget that—because people are kind and caring and generous, at certain times (if at all—some of them) but that is not our constant state. That’s not how humans work. Being kind and caring and generous is part of what we are, but it is only a part, and it is not permanent—it is an intermittent thing that we do when we are not being something else, something less angelic.

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Think of all the time we spend without eating—most of our time, right? But it would be silly to say, “Why can’t people ‘not eat’ all the time?” We don’t spend most of our time eating, but we still must eat. The same with sleeping—eventually, we need to sleep. There are a bunch of other things we have to fit into our time—less basic things, but still important—pay bills, gas the car, go to the bathroom, even. Many parts of our lives have little or nothing to do with our character—they’re just included in the deal, the ‘parts and maintenance’ of living our lives.

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Whatever list of things you collect as basic parts of living your life, if that list becomes too big and life becomes too precarious, the opportunities to find gaps in that life which allow you to display your character will dwindle. Living in poverty can create a treadmill so exhausting that poor people can find no time at all to look up from their grind and ponder the good and bad of things. Conversely, the wealthy often contrive to make themselves very ‘busy’ to create the pretense that they’re in the same situation. Either way, you end up with a lot of people who either can’t care or won’t care about all the causes and charities and politics and ethics.

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So I say—don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t try to turn people into angels right off—start out by trying to make a world where people don’t go hungry or naked, where their education is easily available—a world that isn’t just crouching there, ready to eat us alive. Then, maybe, start worrying about people being good. You can’t throw someone’s ass into a wood-chipper, and then lecture them on ethics.

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And another thing—stop worrying about how intelligent people are. If everyone around you seems to be acting like an idiot—enjoy it—you’re of above-average intelligence. If you weren’t, someone else would be watching you act like an idiot—and maybe they are. How can you know? Human intelligence is a range of values—that’s just the way it is. Being on the high end may be frustrating, but it beats the alternative.

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I’m grateful for all the education I’ve received in my lifetime—but I don’t assume that those without it are uneducated by choice. Education is something your community and your family provide—without that infrastructure, some people never get a good education—and that isn’t up to them. Also, if a whole area is weak on public education, even the best intentions have a hard time ‘injecting’ education into a neighborhood where it’s never properly existed before.

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Thus, while I am always eager to badger some poor bastard for being willfully blind or proudly ignorant, I accept that people will be quick or slow, learned or not—and shouldn’t be judged on that, either way. It’s no different from judging people by their physique or coordination—we all have our places on the various scales of ability, mental or physical. These are not the measure of a person’s character.

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I take all of the above as contextual—a given. Even so, when I complain that someone is being ‘stupid’, and I’m assuming that you, dear reader, understand all that—I’m really only saying they’re being mentally stubborn or arrogant—but I still worry that someone might think that I despise people who aren’t real smart. And that would go against what I really believe. So I try to avoid it—but I get angry enough to use the word sometimes—I should find a better word.

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The difficulty lies in the difference between political correctness and the hard truth—yes there are people who lack intelligence or education through no failing of their own—but then, there are people who could and should know better than they pretend. These people hide within that ‘range of values’—they dare you to prove that they’re knowingly embracing an ignorance. They glory in their willful blindness, as if having the right to our own opinions gives them the right to ignore truth, and to go on hating something out of pure spitefulness—these people need a good kick in the ass.

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Regardless, there are limits to how broad a range of understanding we can allow for—clever people are busy day and night, trying to think up new stuff to make life better. They invent cars and computers, medicines and space stations—but as they proceed, life becomes more complicated. Now that we have enough industry and energy-use to threaten the atmospheric environment, for instance, we have to be smart enough to see the threat coming before it’s too late. If we create complicated problems, we can’t rely on a handful of clever people to keep a lid on all the trouble.

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The recent election of a simpleton is a perfect example—being the head of the United States puts him at the center of a web of complex interactions. Someone as ignorant as Trump could cause a variety of disasters, just by virtue of what he doesn’t know or doesn’t understand. And he was elected by mostly uneducated people—most of whom chose him out of desperation, without thinking through how dangerous he is.

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So we are living a demonstration of my point—this country’s development by clever people has built up a house of cards—and if the majority of us are careless enough, the whole thing will collapse at the first bump of the table. It doesn’t matter what we invent, achieve, or figure out a plan for—once it is in the hands of people who don’t understand it, they will misuse it, or break it, or let it go to waste.

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American democracy can survive a range of values of intelligence—but there has to be a minimum average of intelligence commensurate with the complexity of our nation’s functioning. You can’t build a nuclear arsenal—and then hand it to a baby. That’s trouble waiting to happen. Maybe it’s time for the clever people to ask themselves, “If I am clever enough to use this, will it be safe to assume that everyone else will use this, and not abuse it?” Maybe it’s time we design society to fit the least-common-denominator of carelessness and obliviousness—I bet those same class-clown types would quickly start to complain that they’re not as stupid as we seem to think they are.

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It’s human nature—expect people to be on-the-ball, and they’ll act like they’ve just been hit on the head—but if we expect people to be dull, they’ll bust a gut to prove how on-the-ball they really are. The electorate just recently so much as insisted that they be allowed to roll in the mud of ignorance—I say, let’em. Once they sampled the leadership of someone who isn’t just pretending he’s a moron, they’ll wise up surprisingly.

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It is far past the time when we can continue to conflate humanity with reason. Reason is unnatural—humanity is far more influenced by feelings than by reason—our judgements are emotional, not rational. Democracy sounds like a good idea—but it tends to give us what we want, not what we need. The biggest failing of democracy, it seems, is that there are no wrong answers in an election, just a consensus. It’s like taking an opinion poll of reality—it tells us what we feel, but it doesn’t tell us if we’re right to feel that way.

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Still, I support the supremacy of feeling over reason—I support the will of the majority—not because I admire these ideas, but because they are the only fair way to go about organizing ourselves. Even within that paradigm, we find ourselves surrounded by unfairness and violence—but without those principles, it just gets worse. Government by fiat and firepower—a proven cancer on any hope of economic development, or personal security.

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So, here I am, at the far side of a long life of reading and learning, having found that people (including myself) are both far more and far less than we believe ourselves to be. Cynicism and nihilism plague me—I’ve gathered enough knowledge to learn that knowledge is itself a relative term, without the rock-sure permanence the word implies. And when I consider the dysfunction in the world around me, and feel that urge to ‘change the world’—or even merely ‘improve my neighborhood’—I must ask myself if I’m really the proper person to do that? Would I want everyone else to end up like me? I don’t think so.

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Changing society is little different from raising kids. When two kids are arguing, my impulse is to break it up and bring peace to the situation—but kids grow up better if they learn to work things out—so my impulse may be the worst thing I could do. Or it may be the correct choice. I’m not the sort of nurturing person who could easily discern which is which. And if I’m unsure of myself while supervising two children at play, I should perhaps think twice before I decide I’m going to change society. Is society perfect? No. Is it useful for me to think in terms of changing the system? Maybe it would be better if I confined myself to helping out a single person, in a single moment, as I go along—of thinking as much about the people around me as I do of myself.

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But then, I might get tired of helping person after person with the same problem—I might decide that they are all being victimized by the same flaw in the system. At that point, I might consider becoming an activist for change, because I would have a specific issue that I knew about and understood. That makes plenty of sense. But for me to just speculate on broad changes to our whole society, based on whatever tweaked my beard that day, would be the height of arrogance—especially if I’m doing so from the remove of my office, basing my opinions on what the TV says, rather than mixing with actual people.

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And this is something that goes for TV and media, in a broader sense. We watch these programs and reports—and we absorb the idea that the universe being presented is the complete reality. The globe is reduced to a chessboard, the players become whatever labels the media puts on certain groups—and it is presented to us as a contest, where enjoying the contest is as much the point as who wins or loses. You don’t see kids in Aleppo watching CNN—and if they did, they’d be horrified by their commodification as info-tainment, their lives and the lives (and deaths) of everyone they know concentrated down to a brief segment-subject.

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You want to know the World? You can’t. Okay? The world is too big. So you can watch the world news, if you enjoy it, but don’t kid yourself—you’re watching a show. You don’t know nothing. (Hey, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded—I mean, I don’t know nothing, either—I’m just making a point.) When I think about it—my neighborhood is never on the news. Does that mean nothing happens here? Does that mean we aren’t important? No, it just means that we don’t bleed enough to make it onto the show.

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Beaux Artes, in Passing   (2016Nov19)

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Saturday, November 19, 2016                                          12:44 PM

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore—send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

—Emma Lazarus (from “The New Colossus”)

I can’t vouch for perfect accuracy of the above quotation—I typed it from memory. Sometimes it feels good to type something out, instead of just remembering to myself.

I suppose if I lived in a city, I’d spend part of my day on a soapbox. Once this journal-writing/blog-posting/daily-commentary thing gets under your skin, you become a wild-eyed prophet of sorts—whether you’re smart, stupid, or just plain crazy (or all three, as in my case). And it is odd that an activity so clearly aimed at others’ ears (or eyes) should reveal itself to be pure self-involvement. I start out expressing what I think others should know—and, without fail, I end up telling them what I want to say.

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I was just playing some Haydn on the piano. Haydn is the guy—he always puts me in a good mood. Whether you favor Beethoven or Brahms or Stravinsky or Tchaikovsky, you’ve got to give it up for Haydn—he has the best sense of humor of any composer in history. I always loved the drama and the towering emotions of the other great composers—but as I get older, it occurs to me that Haydn was the only composer who regularly laughed at himself. And it takes a certain genius to write music that makes people laugh—I have a hard time telling a joke, with words—it’s kind of awesome that Haydn can do it with sheet music.

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I have always loved art and music and poetry. When I experience the great peoples’ masterpieces, I am always a little bit tempted to envy them their seemingly superhuman talents. But I always yank my focus away from that, so that I can just enjoy the wonder of their works. Envy is always just under the surface with me—but I try to rise above it. When you spend your life trying to do something worthwhile, envying the greats is hard to avoid—especially if, like me, you’re a little defensive. But because it pollutes my enjoyment of their stuff, I always try to turn away from envy.

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In fact, it kind of bugs me, as an atheist, that I respect the Seven Deadly Sins—but, like the Ten Commandments, there’s a lot of good advice under all the mumbo-jumbo. Religions have that going for them—between the mythological parts, there’s a whole lot of experience-based, how-to ‘life-hacks’ included. It is the codified version of advice from old people—and now that I’m old, and know something about human nature, I find myself in agreement with many religious principles, in spite of my rejection of religion as an institution.

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Once you’ve gotten five or six decades under your belt, you witness how people can self-destruct through Envy or Lust or Pride, et. al.—religions label them sins, but even un-washed savages, once they reach a certain age, come to recognize these things as dangers—and that younger people don’t usually see that clearly. Religion includes a lot of old-people-advice. Perhaps that’s why a lot of people get ‘Saved’ or ‘embrace Islam’ in prison—it may be the first time in their lives when they’ve received advice from an experienced source.

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Another reason even we atheists have to give it up to religion is the inspiration it has provided to artists and musicians over the years. Bach seemed to feel that his compositions were prayers of a sort—when his fugues invoke a sense of grandeur, they are his way of glorifying God in music. Now that’s religion I can get behind.

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And it’s funny that a section of Germany that became so progressive about musical religious strictures (and music was bound by many limitations, back then) would produce, in rapid succession, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. One might speculate that any portion of Europe that enjoyed a sudden freedom in the creative arts would have produced similar giants—talent equal to our historic composers may have resided in many people, living in many places where such expression was illegal or sacrilegious. We’ll never know—this is the way it worked out. So, that’s a point against religion, as well.

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You can tell I’m a lapsed Catholic—we are the only atheists who obsess over religion more, as unbelievers, than we ever did as members of the church. But I’ll tell you why that is. Catholicism is very strict, very powerful—Catholics would make good Jihadists (just kidding—although, in the past, that was actually true in a way). My point is that they make this world seem like a temporary inconvenience—as if the important stuff is outside of reality. That was my home. And now I live in reality—dusty, achy, pointless, bothersome reality. I miss my home—recognizing that Catholicism is a delusion doesn’t change the fact that I was happier under that delusion.

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Recent archeological studies have raised doubts about the biblical account of the Jews who left Egypt for Canaan—scripture would have us believe that Joshua led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan, and renamed it Israel, or ‘the promised land’. But it appears that the writers of Exodus may have indulged in a bit of revision of history, for appearance’s sake. Digs in the area now indicate that the Canaanites held sway long after the appearance of the tribes of Abraham, and that rather than conquer the land, the Hebrew culture insinuated itself into the area over generations. It seems the children of Abraham were not conquerors, but simply a more productive and stable society than the one it lived among.

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That struck me, when I heard of it, as an odd sort of propaganda—after all, conquest isn’t very godly—and the fact that the Hebrews changed the lands, and the people, of the area they settled in, non-violently and almost purely out of living in a better, more civilized way than the natives, says something better, to modern ears, than that they ‘kicked ass’. But it also proves that the Old Testament is as much an exercise in creative writing as it is a historical document, or the ‘revealed word of the Lord’.

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But there are other, more recent, records that serve as a source of controversy as much as they serve as a source of information. The Bayeux Tapestry, for example, is as much a collection of mysteries as it is a treasure trove of historical information. To begin with—it is not a tapestry—technically it is an embroidery. It is over two-hundred feet long and twenty inches high. And although it commemorates William the Conqueror’s Norman invasion of Anglo-Saxon Britain, the tapestry was worked in the Anglo-Saxon style over several generations. And it is worth noting that French historians are only recently admitting that it was not done in the Norman style.

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Damage to the Bayeux Tapestry is to be expected—Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry, has said “Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous…” And while that is true, the beginning panels and ending panels are either missing or beyond repair. Historians speculate that the tapestry was always stored rolled up—and, depending on how it was rolled, either the end panel or the beginning panel was exposed to air and moisture far more than the rest of it. Thus the story told on those missing or damaged panels remains a mystery—over the centuries, many enthusiasts have attempted to recreate possible replacements. The missing panel at the end, in particular, has inspired several artists to re-imagine the tapestry’s continuation, telling the history of England far beyond its original story of the Battle of Hastings.

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The story the tapestry was intended to tell is obscured by the damage and by the various interpretations of certain scenes and Latin phrases (the exact truth of which has been lost or forgotten over the centuries). But the tapestry still illustrates for us a host of facts about the Norman invasion—and tells another, unintended, story—about how those 11th century Britons lived, worked, and fought. Above and below the main scenes in the tapestry are borders that depict a variety of subjects. People are shown fighting, hunting, weaving, farming, building, and in other activities. Animals, both real and fantastical, are also used as border decorations. Many tools, weapons, and techniques of the times are clearly illustrated. And the story told by the major scenes is augmented by Latin labels, comments and explanations (which are referred to as tituli—which I guess is Latin for ‘sub-titles’, or something).

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All in all, it is an awesome thing—a piece of embroidery, showing what amounts to an historian’s paradise—and it outlasted a multitude of castles, fortifications, and whole nations—a roll of fabric that only becomes more priceless as it disintegrates. And the most capricious aspect of all is that this ‘Britain’s first comic-strip’ tells us more about that time than all the source documents or written accounts that survive from that age.

Sunday, November 20, 2016                                            5:24 PM

I’ve been pondering the beginnings of formal music in Western Civilization. There has always been folk music—or so I assume, since even children will hum or whistle or stomp to a rhythm—but since folk music was ephemeral, passed from parent to child, never notated, never recorded, that is the only assumption we can make about early folk music.

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Some records have survived—the Bulgarian Women’s Choir famously performs songs that reach back to the work songs, love songs, and laments of the peasants of Tsarist Russia. Musicology researchers in 1920s USA found folk music among the hill-people that may be near-perfect preservations of that of the Elizabethans who first settled there—and British, Irish, and other musicologists have found similar hand-me-down relics of the folk music of the British Isles, closer to their origin. Many sources from many places give us remnants of the music that existed before music became the formalized fine art we practice today.

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But when I speak of our ignorance of folk music, I mean that we don’t know where the surviving fragments evolved from, what came before that, and what came even earlier. We can never know—because music has its own pre-history, which dates to far more recently than pre-history in general. I assume that people made music for millennia, but the ‘civilizing’ of music in the formal notation and harmonies that we loosely call ‘Classical Music’ is the first time that any records of music were made. There is some notation stuff from the Roman Empire—but nobody knows what scale it’s based on, and other important contextual stuff that would allow us to translate it into a performance—that isn’t an exception, so much as an example of my point.

So, aside from whatever we might guess, or imagine, or assume about music’s history, the very beginning of its recorded history was Gregorian Chant. Original manuscripts of Gregorian Chant still exist today—and they are still often sung as written, today, by groups that specialize in archaic music. I believe there is an ensemble of monks who are famous for their recordings and performances. The Vatican preserves some beautifully illuminated neumes on original parchment.

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In the late 800s, something called the Metz project developed a system called ‘neumes’, which would develop into today’s standard staff notation. The Gregorian chants from all the surrounding areas were collected and recorded using neumes—and thus the church standardized its musical portion of the liturgy. These chants were very simple by today’s standards—to our ears they sound quite monotonous, but there is a rough grandeur to them—and their main purpose was in singing the words from scripture—or, really, chanting them.

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As with anything, formal music then developed through a combination of new ideas butting up against established norms, popularity overcoming prurience, and tradition often stifling innovation. And there was a lot of ground to cover, if we were to get from Gregorian chant all the way to Ariana Grande, so it isn’t too surprising that it took centuries for music to reach the variety and sophistication we enjoy today.

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The church would remain the sole source of formal music for centuries—until the advent of court musicians, members of a royal household whose sole function was to create musical entertainment. After that, further centuries would see formal music confined to the church and the nobility. Don’t worry—the regular folks still had their folk music—and if I had to choose, I might have preferred their entertainments over the renaissance and early baroque composers’ refinements.

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Classical music would not see verve equal to Folk music until the advent of Ragtime and Jazz. Even when a composer like Brahms would adapt a Hungarian folk tune, say, its wildness would be contained by an over-civility inherent in composed works of the age. So don’t feel too bad for the poor riff-raff excluded from the fancy music chambers of royalty—they knew pleasures far more vital than those heard by the stuffed shirts at their concerts.

In those pre-industrial times, a commoner’s life was hard work—the chance to gain a post as a church musician or a court musician was no small advantage—and the internecine rivalries and petty squabbles of the musicians vying for these posts was a constant. The film “Amadeus” shows us something of this, but in a rarefied form, since its ‘villain’, Salieri, is tortured by envy over Mozart’s heavenly talent more than his professional position.

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We also note the high number of composers who come from musical families—Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and others had musician parents, even musician grandparents. A sure sign that competition for these sinecures was fierce: once someone got their foot in the door, they did their best to secure the same for their children. Though in fairness, every trade and career in those times was primarily handed down from father to son. Women, with rare exceptions, were excluded from the music profession.

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I used to think of composers as wise men who sat writing down notation all day—but I’ve come to realize that many of these great composers led lives of constant busyness. You can read it in their records—complaints about the amount of work expected of them, their students needing training, their ensembles and choirs needing rehearsing, problems with money, instruments, venues, and preparations for big events—and in their few, free, hurried moments they would jot down the actual music we love them for, even today.

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I doubt most people consider the effort involved—writing down every note sounded by every instrument and choir-voice, in separate manuscripts for each performer’s music-stand (and this was back using a quill pen and rough paper)—the notation alone must have been incredibly tedious, notwithstanding the need for the finished product to create beautiful music. Thus I have come a long way from seeing my books of piano music as ancient, alien diagrams from the forgotten past.

Today, when I play, I think of that person—the life they led, the place and time they lived in, and the shared humanity between myself and this or that guy who lived in 15th century England or 16th century Germany. If you listen closely, you can almost hear them saying ‘hello’. It’s a little miracle.

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Big Numbers   (2016Nov15)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016                                           3:24 PM

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It’s a large-number day! Jessica forwarded 50 new pictures of the family, mostly of princess-baby-granddaughter—and I am working as fast as I can to process them into a new video slide-show with piano music—my hands are stiff and numb from sitting here in the front room typing all day on this rainy, chilly November Tuesday.

Claire received her case of professional pastels—a big wooden chest containing three wooden removable drawers, each with rows of different-colored pastels. I assume it is meant for the studio—schlepping this thing around would give someone a hernia. I used to dream of getting such a set, back in my artsy days—but such panoply of choices would paralyze me—that’s probably why I mostly stayed with ink and paper. Claire will put them to good use, I’m sure—she’s not afraid of color. She’s even dipped a toe into oil-painting recently.

I was not left out—I received several pieces of pottery from Nancy Holmes-Doyle in the post today. One of them—a heartbreakingly gorgeous pinch-pot bowl—was shattered in transit. Just another reason to feel bad about missing the ceramics party, from which I could have carried them home unharmed—and gotten to visit with the Holmes-Doyles. It’s been too long—but every day it gets harder for me to get around. Still, we have two beautiful new mugs, two beautiful new candle-houses, a decorative platter, and a little spoon-rest in the shape of a hand—incredible stuff. I’ll try to photograph them all for this post—you really oughta see them.

 

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016                                              9:52 AM

Can We Be Rude To God?   (2016Nov16)

Believing in God is not a neutral act—it is an offense against reason and a surrender of sanity. I don’t say that to be cruel—it is simply a fact. It’s even part of the rules—ask your preacher—if there were any practical proof of God, then there wouldn’t be any faith—or any need for faith. God says, “Believe in Me.”—He doesn’t say, “Look over here.

Recent ‘Questions’ posted on The Humanist website seem to be subtly asking, ‘How do Humanists make allowances for our group psychosis?’ In a way, they seem to be asking how far we’re willing to go with this Rational Thinking business—and whether or not we non-believers reach a point where we are willing to be rude about the differences.

And that is a valid question in a country founded on religious freedom. After all, it was our religious freedom that allowed us to eschew religion without being burned at the stake—it stands to reason that Christians would wonder if we’ve been given too much freedom—if perhaps it is they, or at least their faith, that will be victimized.

It is a thorny question. Obviously, I am an American, and Americans believe in freedom of religion—but freedom of religion doesn’t address an important issue: How much respect is shown for another’s beliefs? People who believe in something that no one else respects usually get put into mental institutions—it is only natural for believers to be concerned with the amount of respect they are given.

Yet how much respect can a non-believer have for the fanciful tales and notions of theists? Shorn of their ‘given’ legitimacy, the arcana of the major faiths become ludicrous—heaven, hell, angels, an old bearded guy in the sky, transubstantiation—these fantasies are no more acceptable than Greek or Norse mythological tales. As a rational man, I can’t possibly respect these ideas—yet, as a man, I can respect other people having other ideas.

If someone says to me, “I’ll pray for you.” I am capable of holding my tongue—there is little to be gained by insulting someone who has just expressed concern for my welfare. If, at a funeral, a child is being reassured that grandma will be happy in heaven—I’m not going to be the cretin who decides Grandma’s funeral is the place for discussing atheism. But I behave this way because of my respect for other people’s feelings, not my respect for their beliefs.

So please, Humanist-question-contributors, stop asking questions that are sneaky attempts to force us to show respect for your faiths. We don’t respect your faiths—we are unable to. It’s nothing personal—we are simply practicing freedom of religion by answering ‘no’ to all of the above. What we can and do respect are your feelings—if you want to believe in God, we will try not to laugh about it or argue against it.

But if you insist on believing in something that isn’t there, there are going to be conflicts of perception—women and gays are two good examples. The whole point of freedom of religion is to avoid the kind of bloodthirsty nonsense that’s playing out in the Middle East right now. Yet Religious Freedom can only do so much—there will always be disagreements between people of different faiths—and people without faith—the point is to try to live side-by-side, in spite of the disagreements. That’s the reason for separation of church and state—so that no one can make rules to enforce their beliefs, or to criminalize another’s.

But you are probably asking yourself—wouldn’t I, as an atheist, try to criminalize theism, given the chance? I would be tempted—there are many aspects of faith that seem little more than child-abuse or bigotry—indoctrination from infancy, or bias against women and gays—these things are wrong from my point of view. But then again, they were deeply religious people who came up with freedom of religion, and separation of church and state—and those principles kept us atheists from being declare outlaws, back when our lives could have been forfeit. Turning your own good ideas against you would be the height of ingratitude and incivility. I like to think I’m better than that.

So please, Humanist question-submitters, try to stick with questions asked out of curiosity and avoid questions that are little more than subtle digs at ‘the other’.

 

I keep hearing all this BS about how we have to come together now. Yes, he won the election—that doesn’t mean he stopped being a monster. Yes, your candidate won—that doesn’t make you right. I’d love to ‘come together’—but not with Nazis. You people come back to America—we’re waiting right here. Meantime, try not to turn this place into too much of a friggin nightmare.

I’m starting to think the only reason for Republicans is to turn out the Democrat vote, every other election.

—-0-

I’ve seen a lot of Trump-supporter memes, crowing over their victory all over the internet. Let me remind you of something. The Nazis attacked Britain—and the British invented a thinking machine—a computer—and Germany ended up as smoking rubble. The Japanese Empire attacked America—and Americans invented the ultimate killing machine—the nuclear bomb—which destroyed Japan to its very atoms. My point being that intelligent, imaginative, open-minded, decent people don’t like to waste time on belligerence and rancor—but it’s still a really bad idea to piss them off.

Queen of the Nerds   (2016Nov13)

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            12:20 PM

The election is over and people still want to talk about it, even protest about it. I don’t think they understand what the word ‘election’ really means. I was happy to argue over the choices, while the election was still to come—indeed, I did little else. But we are no longer arguing about what Trump might do—he’s president-elect now, and he’s gonna do pretty much whatever comes into that fool head of his.

The time to stop him has passed. You lose. Or, rather, we lose—I lose—and I don’t feel much like talking about it anymore. It’s painful enough to know that half the voters didn’t even show up, that Hillary got the most votes of those who did show up, and that Trump won the race anyway.

What else is there to talk about? Are we going to torture ourselves, watching every stupid move this clown makes, every mistake that sets the world a-shudder? Not me—if the country is this stupid, I’m not watching it self-destruct on TV—I’ll wait until it shows up at my front door.

In the meantime, I’ll try to stay busy and stay positive. I try to remind myself that, underneath it all, Hillary probably feels great—she’s free as a bird, she did her best—it was the country that lost out in not getting her for our president. What did she lose? Four, maybe eight years of the most grueling job on earth—she’s well out of it.

From a personal point of view, Hillary won big. She got a million more votes than Trump, but she doesn’t have to be imprisoned on Pennsylvania Avenue for the next few years—she can take it easy, take some time for herself.

An eighteen-month presidential campaign is no picnic (and she had to bull through pneumonia along the way) so I’m sure she could use a little downtime. Truly, I’m almost as happy for her as I am heartbroken for myself. Hillary, you win Nerd-dom hands down—this is the supreme example of the cool kids not listening to the head-down, hard-working, smart girl—you are the Queen of the Nerds for life.

It’s done wonders for us here—after the initial shock of disappointment, Claire threw out her TV and got intensely busy with her various projects; Spencer seemed galvanized to start doing all kinds of projects (I think this election has convinced him that there is a threatening world out there—something I was loathe to teach him myself, but that may have some good come of it); and I am emerging, too, into a fresh, new world that doesn’t revolve around watching news channels and writing my election blog-posts.

I enjoyed the last eight years of politics, particularly after the preceding eight years of frustration (and war and economic crisis). I felt the arrow of time bending towards progressivism—which only makes sense in a world growing ever more closely-bound together. But the future must wait. The next four years will be an epic hiccup in our social progress—and excuse me if I choose to ignore it entirely until 2020.

I am impatient with any waste of time—and following politics, for the present, will be nothing but an exercise in masochism. I’ll just keep my head down and hope for something better, next time around. You younger, healthier people should spend the next four years getting your ducks in a row, preparing to take the government back from the dickheads. I’m not saying everyone should be old and sick like me, unable to bounce back from this debacle—in fact, you should be working on getting some Dems elected in the 2018 races—you’ll want a plurality in both Houses, when and if you get another Dem for Prez.

But I am done. I’ve watched Cronkite report on JFK’s assassination, LBJ’s war protesters, Nixon’s tapes, Ford’s fumbles, Carter’s hostages, and Reagan’s Cold War victory. I’ve watched CNN’s Wolf report on Bush Sr.’s Iraq War, Clinton’s peccadilloes, Bush Jr.’s Iraq War, and Obama’s Health Care. I’ve seen enough—and the turd that just rolled up has no place among these past leaders.

Yes, somehow the world manages to become a better place, year by year, but not without a lot of problems lingering, or even getting worse. President-elect Aberration is a perfect example of that. But Trump’s election is no reason for total despair—his incompetence is still preferable to the polished evil of his VP. And four years of practice will prove to his supporters what they refused to face during the election. The Republicans have finally ousted all their favorite excuses—what will they say when they have no Obama to blame, no Hillary to scapegoat?

Oh, they’ll still lie—they’ll still make excuses—getting elected doesn’t change anything. But they’ll have a lot less cover. And the truth will out—no matter how many biased news-reports try to hide it. Congress will still suck—and now they’ll be working with a president who doesn’t know what he’s doing—should be great fun, eh?

But I don’t watch reality TV—and now that politics has commingled with that genre, I’m going to watch something else for the foreseeable future. Please let me know if journalism makes a comeback, or if voters become engaged, or if a competent person replaces our new president-elect. And don’t worry, I’m not gonna hold my breath.

But I will not torture myself by following every dick move this guy pulls, day after day. I gave up two years being mesmerized by TV, watching them play this media game, where the truth is hidden under one of the shifting teacups—‘that’s right, viewer, just keep your eyes on the swirling teacups….’  I’m done, I tell you.

Now that I’m much older than 99% of the talking heads, I see them more clearly than they see themselves—and the kernels of truth squeezed in amongst all their sensationalism get rarer and rarer, like gems in the mud. I’m like one of those old master-butchers—you give me a carcass of story and I’ll trim away all the fat with a few expert slices of the knife, leaving only the lonely fillets of factual info—but present media reporting is a conveyor-belt of animal parts fit only for dog-or-cat-food. Presenting such a fact-free wasteland to an old butcher like me is an insult, and I won’t take it anymore.

 

Sunday, November 13, 2016                                            5:24 PM

Even If Flames Surround Them

 

As the veil of anti-depressants falls away

The mind doesn’t clear so much as catch fire,

The clarity cluttered by the rawness.

The first thought is ‘Retreat!’—losing a grip on the cotton

Clouds, peering over my shoulder at the long fall

Back down to the ground.

And between that downfall of an election

And the constant shouting of the still, small voice

That says, ‘Quit smoking!’ this may seem a bad time

To stop softening the edges of the world in my head.

Yet down we must come. Down we must be,

Here on the ground where we can touch the

Things that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

As the grumbling gremlins become visible,

And all-too-well heard, shoulders hunch in revulsion.

Words jumble; memories tumble, stumble, and fumble.

Why do I need to be here? What’s my job?

I stand on that lone promontory, confused.

How do emotions get broken—and how do we

Clear them from the road ahead while they remain

Too heavy to shift? If I can climb over, if I

Can get through, if I can keep moving,

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

And descend to the valley of the real, down

On the ground where I can touch the

People that matter, even if flames surround them.

 

Monday, November 14, 2016                                           12:08 PM

Something Everybody Does   (2016Nov14)

You know that feeling when you’re just starting to wake up? It’s comfortable and fluffy, but you don’t know anything—where you are, who you are, what day it is—that sort of thing. It’s a beautiful moment—I remember enjoying that immensely. But now I never get passed that feeling. I can’t get a firm purchase on the surface of my thoughts—they slide around me like wisps of smoke. I miss having a working brain—they are handy.

So many things can be accomplished with good wetware—I’ve been exiled from their kingdom, but I refuse to join the people who hug their ignorance to themselves like a fur coat in a strong breeze. Maybe I can’t think anymore, but I can still tell the difference between what is and what I wish would be. All this pretending is so childish.

We pretend that we are not animals. We make excuses for our impulses, pretending there are reasons behind them. It makes me laugh—the more ignorant we are, the more proud we are of our opinions—intelligent people are never sure of themselves. The world is a complicated thing—thinking you’ve figured it out is a sure sign of idiocy.

There is nothing as hilarious to me as someone with the confidence of his or her convictions—I remember when I was that young. I was so sure I was right and everybody who thought otherwise was wrong. But I was a little kid, then—there’s no excuse for that kind of childishness when you’re a grown person.

People can be very demanding—they want what’s theirs; they want their rights; they want their fair share; they want free speech for themselves—and a little peace and quiet from everybody else. And they don’t even see the paradox in their hypocrisy. We want our kids to behave—and we want them to think for themselves. We want our parents to give us everything we want—and protect us from the things we shouldn’t have. We want to make a killing in business, but we want businesses to be fair to us. We don’t understand why we have to wait, when we are so busy. We try to get past the rules we don’t like, but we want to punish those who dare to break the rules.

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William Blake once drew a picture symbolizing childhood—it was a child at the foot of a ladder that goes up to the moon, the child reaching up and crying, “I want! I want!” I think he was going easy on the human race, implying that all that sort of thing ends in childhood. I certainly have little more to offer the world than my urges, my needs, and my desires—and I can’t think of anyone else who could honestly claim differently. I suppose his point is that children don’t climb the ladder—they wait for someone else to fetch them the moon. But while an adult may climb the ladder, it’s still in thoughtless pursuit of the bright object—little different from a myna bird seeking tin-foil for its nest.

We still seek food and shelter—but we do it in this deferred-reward capitalist square-dance that trades time and effort for money, then money for food and shelter. The stress of this requires escapism, so some of the money goes to our leisure pursuits—though the fact of ‘leisure’ being necessary to the system tells you something’s off about the whole thing. Then there’re the layers of pretending—the wealthy get to pretend there’s a reason why they have it easy, the poor get to pretend that the system that keeps them poor is a good one.

We’re just a bunch of animals who’ve learned how to play pretend on a grand scale. But for me, the pretense takes something out of the grandeur. A culture based on facts and common sense would undoubtedly be less imaginative, perhaps even less fun—and that is probably why Progressives have such a job getting people to change the way they think. Their mistake is in assuming that thinking is something everybody does.

 

 

ttfn.

 

Effing Democracy  (2016Nov09)

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Monday, November 07, 2016                                           10:27 PM

We Americans say the word ‘Democracy’ as if it were intrinsically good—but that isn’t necessarily so. When you think about, every time we have a presidential election and a peaceful transfer of power, it’s a minor miracle—and we pull it off every four-to-eight years.

This election race in particular has shown that Democracy lives on the knife-edge of public opinion—not on hard facts or past performance, but on public opinion. And a media-saturated, media-balkanized culture like ours is as unreliable in its judgement as the uneducated masses of early America who spurred the founders’ decision to have an Electoral College—a group of supposedly educated people who could countermand unwise popular votes.

That the Electoral College has never done this, or felt the need to, is very complimentary to the average voter. And at this point, any member of the College who went against their state’s popular vote would have a lot of explaining to do. The idea that our democracy can be overturned has bothered many of us over the centuries, and many have begun to question the need for the Electoral College, since it was instituted before the days of public education, or reliable polling.

The Electoral College aside, the idea of Democracy has still further problems. If we look at the population as a whole, that’s about 600,000,000 people—not all voters, of course, but it’s a rough number. Now, of all those hundreds of millions, one million of them will be the best-educated minds in the country—and one million of them will be the least-educated minds in the country. Those are the outer limits of the group. But overall about 300,000,000 voters will be of below-average education—just by nature of the word ‘average’. We can speak in terms of IQ or intelligence, but those are more nebulous values to measure than education. And either way the principle is the same.

So Democracy, by definition, includes the slow as well as the quick, the illiterate as well as the schooled—voters get to vote whether they are good at it or not. I tell you, it’s unbelievable that we get through any election—or that more of them aren’t as crazy as this last one has been.

Democracy itself is crazy—the only excuse for it is that no one can claim to know what’s best—so a consensus is the only fair way to decide public issues. That doesn’t mean that a consensus choice is always what’s best—it’s just the best we can do.

I was terribly shocked last night that the GOP won the presidency. I knew it was possible, but like all disasters, I hoped it wouldn’t happen—hoped so hard that it surprised me to have my hopes dashed. I remember my deep disappointment with my fellow Americans when they re-elected Bush-43—it seemed abundantly clear from his first term that he was not a good president—and he proved my point with his second term.

But that was nothing compared to the heartbreak I felt last night as I realized that my America is dead—that the uneducated were the majority—and that becoming president-elect will do nothing to change Trump’s unfitness for the office he has won. I know more about being president than that jackass—and I’m not anyone special, I’m just a reasonable man with a little education, is all.

It’s very comfortable to be narrow-minded; it’s a lot of fun to knock Hillary; and it’s almost as easy to go and cast a vote. But when the fruits of those votes come home to roost, I hope they are prepared to own it. I would never wish anything bad on this country—but when it comes, over the next four years, I will hardly be surprised. Nor will I accept any blame—the will of the people has spoken. And neither my vote, nor my eighteen months of daily blogging about it, did anything to alter their will.

Every day I attempted, in the clearest possible terms, to explain the choice we were all about to make. I wasn’t alone—lots of people wrote op-eds, articles, and essays about this battle between good and evil. Let that be a lesson to us—next time, don’t bother pretending that anyone reads—well, not Trump voters, anyway (which means the majority, now). People too ignorant to see through him are not going to be big readers—I see that clearly now.

Democracy is the worst part of being intelligent. To know that the majority are being misled—to know that nothing I do can stop them—worst of all, to know that these morons are choosing not just their own government, but mine, is beyond frustrating. I’ve spent my whole life trying to not condescend to stupid people—because I don’t judge people based on their smarts. But some stupid people are quite sure they are intelligent—and, being stupid, nothing can convince them that they’ve made a mistake.

Well, guess what, stupid-with-attitude—you made a mistake. You left this country stripped of its dignity and you let yourself be bamboozled by a pile-of-shit in a suit. There’s nothing I can do about it—enjoy your new home, this new America, where a reality-show clown has won the presidency.

And let’s all give a big hand to FBI Director Comey—our new America has a joke now, in place of a revered agency—I think it goes well with the new presidency—corrupt, incompetent, and shamelessly self-absorbed. I don’t know which is worse—the Director without balls, or the big-balled bigot he helped to win the election.

They all disgust me—Trump, Comey, that blank-eyed cow Kellyanne, Christie, Giuliani—liars, crooks, shills—they make my skin crawl. I never thought I’d live to see the day that Americans became this mindless herd of assholes. Oh, and thanks, African-Americans—turning out to preserve Obama’s legacy was much more of a hassle than turning out to elect him twice—we understand why you didn’t bother.

But nobody deserves more credit for Trump than the Media—you fucking jack-offs had nearly two years to present this contest objectively, but I guess making that green is all that really mattered all along—fuck you very much. No, I mean it: “Fuck you!” Do you know my wife threw out her TV today? Her fucking TV, you ass-wipes. I won’t be going that far, but I also am never watching the news ever again—I’ll find something less far-fetched to listen to. Hope you made some money off this election—it won’t work a second time.

Anyway, now that democracy has been hacked, polling has been discredited, and the people have spoken (in ignorance), both Putin and Assange can crawl back into irrelevance. The Republicans will now proceed to show that, even with everything going their way, they still cannot govern like responsible adults. Perhaps it’s a lack of memory that cripples them—they don’t remember our last GOP president and the ditch he left us in. They don’t remember that president-elect ass-hat wasn’t someone they wanted either. They don’t remember that being allied with Russia usually makes one an enemy of the United States. All hail President Pussy-Grabber!

The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte   (2016Nov06)

magrittepipe

Sunday, November 06, 2016                                            3:18 AM

This famous painting occurred to me today as I thought of the difference between Hillary Clinton and her opponent. The writing underneath translates into English as “This is not a pipe.” Magritte was making the point that we are not looking at a pipe, we are looking at his painting of a pipe. It is a fine image of a pipe, but it can’t be filled with tobacco, or put in the mouth, or lit or smoked—it is not a pipe.

In much the same way, Hillary’s opponent in the upcoming is not a politician, he is the image of one. He wears a fine suit and tie. He styles his hair and puts on make-up. He says words behind a podium and does weird gestures with his hands. He looks just like a politician. But he cannot be used as a politician.

He cannot devise sensible policies. He cannot be trusted to obey either the spirit or the letter of the law. He has no dignity, no gravitas, and no respect for the United States of America—his desire to be in charge is unconnected in any way to a desire to be a good president—he just wants to be president. He is a façade—an image of what we are looking for, but not the actual thing we need.

And he has taken up the Republicans’ habit of disguising Hillary Clinton’s actual ability to be president with an overlay of innuendo, aspersion, and suspicion. In her case it is her public reputation that is the illusion, the image—and they have fairly successfully convinced most of us that Hillary is not what she is, but only what they say she is. They substitute their opinions of Hillary for her actual persona. The media repeats their opinions as if they were news and suddenly, Hillary Clinton is not a hard-working public servant, but a female version of Trump. (Ugh, what a nightmare that would be!)

But the truth is that her opponent is a joke in a suit. The truth is that Hillary Clinton is not her husband, she’s not an embezzler, not a congenital liar, and not actually a murderess—she is just an experienced, reliable politician with a lot of people trying to keep her down. Don’t let them. This is not a pipe.

 

 

Vote for Hillary!

Last Licks   (2016Nov04)

Friday, November 04, 2016                                              2:53 PM

Tuesday is Election Day. Hopefully, this will be the last time I write about Trump. Even if this country’s voters are sane enough to elect Hillary on Tuesday, in future I will be writing about Hillary and all of her many obstructionist opponents—but I will happily ignore his name for the rest of time. Once the danger of seeing that expletive-deleted man-child elected president has passed, a lot of the urgency will be gone.

I was always going to vote for Hillary. Way before Trump announced, I trusted Hillary as much as I would trust any politician. She is respected by people I respect. Her life story and her curriculum vitae are impressive, without any regard for gender. Finally, her job experience is as close to ‘presidential trainee’ as you could get if you had planned it.

But as the election went on, it became clear that the most important reason to elect Hillary Clinton was to make sure we don’t elect Trump. At this point, if Hillary wins, all the great things she will do will all be gravy—she will have already saved the country, the economy, the environment, and the planet—simply by beating Trump. Oh, and we’ll finally have a woman president—something her opponents would like us all to forget.

Choosing our first president from that half of the citizenry, the half that has had the vote for a just shy of a century, is no small thing. We like to think we live in a post-racial, post-misogynist culture—but we don’t. Bias is not so easily banished. And gender bias is the most intractable. Electing Hillary is as important because she is a woman, as it is because she is Hillary Rodham Clinton—and it matters to every little girl (and boy) in this country because of the example it sets.

Even a President Hillary would still have a Congress of mostly males, a Cabinet of mostly males—as in business, the higher up the chain you go, the less women you find. That’s no accident—and that’s not women’s fault. Chauvinism is alive and well—Hillary’s election won’t end it, any more than Barack’s ended racism—but it’s a darn good start.

The Republicans, and their Faux News channel, describe Hillary as the worst person that ever lived—but if even part of what they’re saying had any facts behind it, you wouldn’t see the First Family trying so hard to get her elected. And remember, Obama is a guy who does what’s right, even when it’s not politically smart. Many Faux News stories are laughed at outright by more level-headed journalists—and, in my opinion, even the anti-Hillary rhetoric with some grounding in truth is overblown to the point of unrecognizability.

In trying to make her quite-human lapses seem equal in horror to the monster running for their team, the Right have made themselves ridiculous—and dangerous. If this country had a lick of sense, the Democrats would run the entire ballot, up and down—the Democrats would screw it up, of course, but they would get some things right. The Republicans have gone so far to the right that they don’t even hew to American ideals any longer—and their policies are just their way of turning the country into a for-profit business. That goes beyond opposition, all the way to treason, if you ask me. And it doesn’t help that they nominated an ignoramus who makes Bush-43 look like a gosh-darned genius.

But there is the great conundrum all of us are faced with—do we want a guy who doesn’t read the paper—or a woman who has made the news the papers write about? Yeah, I can see why this election is so close….

Today’s video is called Kindergarten because it was played while I was remembering my own kindergarten days. They’re pretty thin memories, at sixty, but those early experiences are so full of emotion that they seem to retain their impact, even when they degrade into shards and flashes.

A Loud Nothing   (2016Nov01)

Tuesday, November 01, 2016                                           10:50 AM

It’s such a mess. FBI Director Comey decides to entangle himself in the presidential election—by very loudly saying nothing. Trump very loudly declares that Comey’s nothing means everything. The Justice Department says they told Comey not to say nothing. And Hillary Clinton says Comey said nothing because there is nothing to say. And the White House very quietly says nothing about Comey.

After a year of furious depositions, investigations, and hearings, and despite the over-eagerness of Republicans to see Secretary Clinton brought low, no one has yet found the Holy Grail—actual proof of wrong-doing. The private server was an honest mistake—and pretty understandable, when we consider that it was obsessive Republicans that created Hillary’s penchant for privacy. It is easy to point fingers here in 2016, but at the time of HRC’s service as Secretary of State, she was just one of many people in government who were ‘winging it’ when it came to cyber-security. Neither were there any laws on the books involving email security.

Hopefully, by now, the State Department has an IT Czar, an IT staff, and IT security consultants for any new Secretary from day one. One assumes that any future Secretary of State will not be expected to create their own communications network from scratch. You see, Hillary did have a secure .GOV email account, which she used for confidential and secret government communication. But she needed a personal account, to communicate with regular friends and family (people without security clearance) to do things like helping plan her daughter’s wedding and so forth.

Otherwise, appointment to the cabinet sentences those persons to remaining incommunicado for the length of their terms—and while it is cute to hear the President whine about losing his Blackberry, you can’t have an entire administration confined to itself. And it is worth noting that, of all the email accounts hacked by the Russians, the Clinton’s private server is strangely absent. HRC surrendered her emails to the FBI and thus to Congress—but the Russians never got their hands on them—and if they had, according to Director Comey, they wouldn’t have found any state secrets, just wedding plans.

The people who scream for HRC to be imprisoned over her email server are conveniently forgetting that email is a relatively new gadget—and that senior citizens were especially unfamiliar with both the concept and the hardware, never mind the hacking possibilities, of email. Viewed objectively, HRC’s email trouble will live in history not as the great crime some would label it, but as the tipping point when the establishment finally came to grips with the cyber-security problems inherent in our shiny new age of electronics.

So we see that our two-party government system is deadlocked and tied in knots of incompetence and rivalry. It has no need of Trump to add to its dysfunction or its insanity—and it certainly isn’t going to be improved by someone who is dishonest 70% of the time. If he has broken the Republican party, so be it—they made their own bed—but we mustn’t let him break the whole country. Let him move to Russia, where all his friends are.

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Vote for Hillary!

It’s Kinda Important   (2016Oct30)

20160826XD-HillaryClinton_02

Sunday, October 30, 2016                                       4:07 PM

Well, I’m still mad about Comey—the pig-snout! Fire that hack, President Obama—or whoever is in charge of FBI Directors. It looks like Trump isn’t the only unfit person involved in government these days. These unspeakable people harass after HRC, trying to bring her down with technicalities, while they trample all over the spirit of the election. And I’m not even sure what Comey did was legal—if it is, it shouldn’t be. Actual lawyers have rules preventing them from this behavior—but blowhards can do as they please.

You see, to some people, a position of responsibility is an opportunity, not a burden. Their only purpose in seeking such positions is to further themselves, not serve the public. And they assume that everyone is as empty inside as they are. So, of course, to them, HRC is plotting to take over the world—that’s what they’d do, given the opening. They scoff at the idealism inherent in a lifelong public servant like Secretary Clinton—and they invite us to join them in their bitter conviction that the world is as ugly as they perceive it to be.

Listen to the people that rail against her—they all have a delirious rage to them. It is as if HRC has become for them the symbol of helplessness—she represents women’s equality; her career is an attack on fundamentalism; her marriage is both imperfect but unbroken—which is more than many of her detractors can say; and she is just as pugnacious as her tormentors, but a lot smarter about it—which drives them mad with rage. She is the embodiment of the irresistible force of change—of our ongoing history of social progress and human rights.

I would even go so far as to say that Hillary Rodham Clinton is America, in a woman—flawed but dreaming of greater things, successful but concerned for those who have less, strong and ready to fight—but only for justice and human dignity. And, certainly, cursed by many—for various reasons. But come to think of it—remember that the USA, and we its citizens, are none too well loved in many parts of the world—we’ve made mistakes, and we invite envy with our success—and we’ve been bad-mouthed by people that want to see us fail. Well, in this domestic affair, our presidential election, Hillary is the USA—and Trump and his GOP cronies are the Third-World dictators-of-finance that are bad-mouthing her and want to see her fail. Bullies are everywhere, both at home and abroad—and they can be easily identified by their actions. See these two candidates for who and what they really are, please—it’s kinda important. And please Vote.

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This Has Got To Stop   (2016Oct29)

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Saturday, October 29, 2016                                              8:11 PM

If Secretary Clinton did something truly wrong, I want to know what it is—and I want to know right now. I have had enough of this pussy-footing B.S. about hearings and investigations and witch-hunts. I will consider any lack of straight answers or compelling proof, by election day, to be an admission that the vast right-wing conspiracy has been finding welcoming friends among the Republican party for thirty years—and that all their outrage is hypocritical hogwash that they have sold to us on the basis of pure repetition and pig-headed refusal to drop any rumor they ever started.

Face facts. If anyone belongs in jail here, it’s Trump. If anyone is lying their head off here, it’s Trump. If any FBI director has ever pulled this stunt eleven days before Election Day, I’d like to know which presidential race that was.

Sorry, Trump supporters—I’ll try to say this as kindly as I can. If you support that mountain of bull-crap, then you should take a long look inside yourself and ask if maybe it’s resonating with some bull-crap of your own. Hey, life is unfair—but blaming potentially your best advocate for that, on the word of a bunch of trolls, is worse than unfair—it’s self-destructive. Go towards the light. Don’t listen to the scary man’s voice.

The news and the press are faced with a tough decision here—if a man is proven to be lying about 70% of everything he says, are they still obligated to give him equal time? I understand Vice President Biden’s urge to beat this jack-off to a pulp—the way he thinks and talks about America outrages my patriotism as much as if he were insulting my mother. And, considering the man, I’m sure he would do that, as well, given half a chance.

This TV personality only looks like a respectable person—he’s got wardrobe and make-up people. But when he opens his mouth he reveals a complete ignorance of the Constitution, the law, the powers of the presidency, international relations, education, or social engineering. Both his actions and his associations strongly suggest bigotry, sexism, and nationalism as part of his character. He’s a pig—how can I explain to you something you should be seeing for yourself?

I call for the immediate dismissal of Director Comey for interference in an election. (I would suggest waiting until the day after the election, so as not to seem partisan, but if the Director can’t wait, I don’t see why we should.) And I call for his replacement to immediately release whatever new information the FBI has pertaining to the Clinton email investigation. This crap has got to stop. Innocent until proven guilty, godammit—especially during an ongoing election.

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Happiness Is Music   (2016Oct25)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016                                               11:55 PM

On the one hand, I could hate myself for becoming too old to have any ambition in music any longer; but on the other hand, I’m not so sure the intensity of my grasping for music was entirely helpful. There are certain aspects of my piano playing today that I believe are enhanced by my lack of fixation on exactly what I’m doing. I’ve always known that certain activities are done best when least thought of—and music is certainly a great example of that, but I’ve only recently seen certain aspects of that which have ‘held me back’ to a degree.

I always knew my physical limitations would hold me back in piano-playing. So it wasn’t until I accepted that, at sixty, I had probably reached wherever my physical abilities would take me, that I became aware of some mental limitations I had placed on myself—at least in the way I thought of my playing as it related to making sounds. Music is such a wonderful gift—it changes with maturity, always morphing into something more richly-layered, like one’s self, but never degenerating, like one’s body does.

So I accept that the music I play today is as good as it will get. It’s not as much as I hoped for, but it’s far more than I ever dreamed of, back when I started. It has been both a challenging and comforting companion—the best kind of friend.

Today I played a nice long improv. I’m not sure what it sounded like, so, we’ll see.

 

Then I played a bunch of classical arrangements for piano. Three of them were decent enough to post.

 

Then I played a little ‘trailer’ at the end.

 

So much for the musical portion of my day.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016                                         6:29 PM

The Enemy of My Enemy   (2016Oct26)

It’s funny—here we are with two weeks left—everyone’s pretty sure of the outcome of the election—more than that, everyone’s pretty clear that Trump was an evil anomaly—a thing that we narrowly avoided mistaking for a fit candidate. Yet one can still hear conservative pundits talking about his policies—as if he ever had any firm, practical, thought-out policies in the first place—and as if it still matters now, with early voting heavily in Hillary’s favor. Trump is fortunate to find the Republicans so in denial, and so blindly partisan, that nothing he says or does prevents most of them from pushing for the defeat of their arch-enemy, Hillary Clinton.

And this seems indicative to me. The Republicans have adopted an unhealthy habit of using any old rationale, provided it is anti-Democrat, and calling it a policy. The fact that these policies are impractical (like building a wall and deporting millions) or unconstitutional (like banning a religious group) or just plain crazy (like “bomb the hell out of them”) doesn’t seem to matter as much as whether  a policy can be used to beat Democrats over the head. The blind partisanship, and nearly overt bigotry and sexism that lies at the heart of conservatism, have shed the restrictions of logic, science, and sense.

The influence of money hangs over both parties, but the Republicans seem to favor the plutocrats philosophically, as well—as if they approve of a classist view of the citizenry. This hit-or-miss business of the American Dream was like winning the lottery, even back when it had more frequent examples. To think that we can go along as we have been, with people being helpless in the face of big businesses, just so we retain the illusion of economic mobility—is to ignore the oncoming waves of change that will make employment a very different, and much less common thing than we are used to.

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Republicans and Capitalists see the system as set in stone. Their focus is entirely on the status quo and the quarterly forecasts. They fear the true future—the reality behind their pushy forecasts—because time is no respecter of wealth or property or law. The Democrats (the good ones, at least) are more willing to face the future, and to say that people have rights that transcend profit.

When Democrats attempt to enact social safety nets, business regulation, or consumer protection, the Republicans always claim that the government does these things badly—and that the free market would do all this naturally, given free rein. This is false. It reminds me of a time when I was a young man working for my father’s company. I went to him and asked for a raise—I told him I couldn’t afford to live on my current salary. He replied that the company doesn’t pay people what they need—it pays people what they’re worth. (He could be a real hard-ass sometimes.)

Now, in a business paradigm, that makes perfect sense. But as a person on disability now—a person, in other words, who is worth nothing to a company—I can tell you that the free market doesn’t care if you are happy or sad, alive or dead—all it knows is mathematics. The Republicans get partial credit for their claim, however, because it is indeed rare that a government program runs any better than a square-wheeled bicycle.

Still, politics makes everything into a win/lose proposition. If a program isn’t perfect, it’s worthless. If a program is working, you shouldn’t criticize it. This is all very ineffectual and immature nonsense. Outside of political speeches, it is obvious to all of us that if something important doesn’t work, you don’t throw it out—you fix it. And one thing the Republicans don’t make a lot of noise about is this: government programs are complicated as much by wealthy influences and corporate lobbyists as they are by their inherent complexities.

And the whole ‘small government’ argument—please. You don’t hear Russia or China talking about ‘small government’. Our beloved Constitution is the rule-book for our government, such as it is, so we have to have government. And if we have a government, shouldn’t we have a good one, rather than a small one? What is the virtue of small, in the context of the 21st century? It would be nice to pretend we all live on our own farms, and don’t need no G-men snooping around—but that was two centuries ago. These fifty modern states, plus assorted territories, need an up-to-date, fully-functioning government—and anyone who wants it otherwise is a fool or a traitor.

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When you don’t know if you’re being hacked by the Chinese, the Russians, or the North Koreans—do you want small government? When hurricane surges flood New York City—do you want small government? When the Republicans extol the virtues of small government, they are cheering for the idea that businesses can make a profit from abusing people’s trust—but only if the government turns a blind eye. That’s what ‘small government’ means to big business—and that’s why Republicans campaign on it. I’ll believe them when they start to advocate for ‘small military’. You don’t hear that one much, do you? ‘Small government’, my ass—the freedom to rip us off, more like.

What I really can’t understand is why people are so willing to believe the worst of Hillary Clinton. Have you seen The West Wing, or Madame Secretary, or Scandal? To be a politician, even a well-meaning one, you have to play the game—and it’s a rough game. When the Alt-Righters try to blow up her every machination into a demonic conspiracy, it works much better on Hillary than it ever did on anyone else. Why is that? I can never see the point.

Is it the old female catch-22—that if they’re tough, they’re crazy bitches, and if they’re not tough, they can’t handle a man’s world—is it that bullshit? Maybe partly—but I’ll tell you my theory: you remember how we went for good ol’ boys for our last four presidents? Bush Sr., Bill, and Bush, Jr. were none of’em geniuses—and Obama got away with being smart by being so darned charismatic no one noticed. But in all those elections, there were smart, capable, but non-charismatic eggheads that would have made decent presidents—and we practically thumped our chests in defiance, as if to say, “We don’t need any pencil-necked geeks running this place.”

And now we are stuck with Hillary—smarter than us, more reliable than us, harder-working than us—of course everyone hates Hillary. We’re all looking around for a president we can ‘have a beer with’—the most important credential America knows of, in a president. The candidate we want is missing—and boy are we ticked off that we have to vote for the candidate we need. We’ve never made a practical choice for president before—and wouldn’t you know it—it’s a woman this time. Ooh, my aching back.

That’s my theory. The presidency gives one person too much power—we can live with that, but we’re sure not going to vote for someone who’s smarter than us—that’s a step too far. Fortunately, most voters will (as they say on the news constantly) ‘hold their noses’ and vote for her. As if…—Hey, we’re lucky to have Hillary—take a look at the guts of your I-phone and tell me it’s okay for America to have a moron for president.

I have to laugh when the Republicans bow to the inevitable, and tell people to vote for Hillary for president, but to make sure they vote Republican on the down-ballots—to keep a ‘check’ on her power. Yes, sure—the woman whose life has been all about helping children and families—be afraid of what she might do—be very afraid. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to re-elect the bunch that thought stymying every initiative of President Obama’s, just because he’s black, was a great idea—oh, yes—let’s put them back in Congress, by all means. Although, personally, I think they should all be lined up and shot. Effing traitors.

The Republicans are just Trump-Lite—they both advocate the same things—testing us to see how self-destructively stupid a lie can be, and still work on the electorate. The Republicans never win an election because they are right, they win because we are stupid enough to believe their lies.

What no one talks about is the Russian interference in our election. Why are they doing this? Well, let’s see—they’re only attacking Clinton—not one email from the Trump camp. Can we deduce anything from this? It seems to me that they want Hillary to lose. Why would the Russians want Hillary to lose? Maybe they’re afraid of her. If they were afraid of Trump, they’d be trying to sabotage Trump’s campaign. But they don’t care about any other candidate—just Hillary. Am I the only one who sees some significance in that?

I think they’re afraid of her. If I were Russia, I would be afraid of Hillary. She’s gonna shut down their little expansion party—she’s gonna stare them down and, if need be, shove a cruise missile up their asses. You don’t mess with Hillary. Trump hasn’t gotten any endorsements to speak of in this campaign—it’s a shame that Putin is the only one who wants him to win. Thus, the Wikileaks are something of an endorsement for Hillary, if you think about it. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Moving Along   (2016Oct23)

Sunday, October 23, 2016                                       4:45 PM

I’ve been trying to plan what to write about in future—after the election. If there’s an upset, I’ll be too upset to write for quite some time. But if Hillary Clinton wins as expected, I’ll be needing a new topic—I’ve spent over a year raging against the threat of Trump. When I felt that I was seeing something dangerous in him, that seemed to be invisible to others, I was desperate to express my misgivings. I saw our great nation tottering on a precipice.

Now, though, the truth has come to light—Trump is unqualified and unfit for most everything, but most especially unlimited power. The charges made against Secretary Clinton are the sorts of things we’d cheer if they were done on behalf of our own ‘side’—mostly it amounts to her being a juggernaut who gets things done. This is only a problem for people who don’t want the things she’s going to do—I’m more than ready, myself, to see some changes being made to the near-plutocracy the one percent have managed to make of our system.

So, case closed (But don’t forget to vote!) and new topic wanted. The trouble is, these last two years I’ve been consumed with resistance to an approaching disaster. How am I going to find a topic that is equally pressing? In a sense, Hillary’s election will be a ‘happy ever after’. I’m confident she will proceed from victory to victory in making our government better, and hopefully our lives better.

Not that doing so will be quick or easy. Nothing good ever is. But I will have little to say about it. I need to begin a new crusade—I’ve gotten used to trying to convince people of something important that I believe. I’d like to keep doing it—but nothing has ever been so obvious and so dangerous as the threat posed by Trump. And the focus on a single individual made the whole issue a very simple one. If I tried to do the same with, say, the Environment, there are issues upon issues, piles of data, commercial pressures, international pressures, and the whole ‘do no harm’ problem that always arises when we press for change without being too sure of exactly what change we want.

The world is very interconnected. Trade, communication, and transportation have all gone global—making any kind of change a complicated piece of business. What works on the plains doesn’t work in the mountains—what works in the desert doesn’t work in the jungle. Whenever we try to plan for a sensible change, we have to figure out how to insert it into the organic goat-tracks of the existing culture—and no two cultures are the same. Plus, there is a clock on anything environmental—saving biomes and habitats is only feasible if we succeed before they are destroyed.

Many potential environmental fights have already been rendered moot by the disappearance of a species, or a forest, or by rising sea levels. The environmental fight is therefore a heartbreaking commitment—I don’t know if my heart could stand it. If I had the strength, I’d go get myself arrested at that pipeline protest—my god, haven’t we taken advantage of the natives long enough? Not to mention, they have a point—water is life, and no amount of money can change that.

No, life is rarely as simple a question as whether Trump could be trusted with the leadership of our country. Nothing else has ever appeared so blatantly, simply unwise. It will be hard to find something new that fires me up like that. But the problem is not in any dearth of issues—the problem is finding something I know enough about, that I could debate intelligently over.

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I was paying a great deal of attention to politics, long before Trump showed up—and I’ve studied American history extensively—I know which people protested and fought and died for the national ideals that Trump is so willing to trash. And I know enough about it to know that Trump doesn’t know any of the important ideas behind the job he’s asked for. I don’t know of any other subject I’m so comfortable with. So I may have to retreat to poetry or some such writing.

Still, it’s better this way. If I can see the whole country about to jump with both feet into the worst mess imaginable—well’s, that’s a pretty sorry state of affairs, regardless of my writing ambitions. I wouldn’t want to become like the media—eager for trouble so that people will pay attention to me. That’s not who I want to be.

And perhaps I will even reach some new understanding through all of this stress and angst—maybe I’ll turn to something completely new, something hopeful—an idea of a new renaissance, even. Who knows? Perhaps all of this pent-up urge to write will come out in fiction, and I will finally write a story that entertains while I bore people with my opinions. It could happen—even if I am sixty already. I’m not too old to try something new—just limited in what I have to choose from.

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The election will soon be over. The news channels will soon be seeing a nose-dive in viewership—which is a good thing, as I mentioned above. But they will take a hit, still. The news rarely involves something that touches everyone so closely as their vote—the one time we get involved in government, every couple of years. International news is pretty bloodthirsty stuff: drowning refugees, sex-trafficked girls, besieged cities under heavy bombardment—it’s a shitstorm out there in the big world. And domestic shootings hardly draw viewers as much as outrage. It’s bad news for the news, alright, the end of this election season.

But I will approach it as a positive—a new beginning for my writing efforts—something more about myself than ‘the worst person ever’ running for president. Hmmm… I’ll have to give it some thought.

bye now.

 

Reviews   (2016Oct18)

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016                                               2:14 PM

Beautiful day. Leaves is fallin. Sun is shinin. Can’t beat that. Sarah McLachlan may be an acquired taste, but her music is fantastic—what a voice. I’m making a video—I just played Bach’s keyboard arrangement of a Vivaldi Concerto in D, an early transposition from an early influence of old J. S.’s.

Then I played an improv—I don’t know what I’m doing, but it felt good. Now if it only sounds good. I called it “High-End Stroller” because that’s what baby Seneca rolls in these days. There’s a break about a minute in—the camera does that every twenty minutes, making a new file, but it loses a second or two of recording. I took too long with the Bach, I guess—it’s not usually a problem because I rarely play piano for more than twenty minutes—and I often restart the camera recording when playing for longer. What I really need is a film crew, I guess.

 

Shall we discuss politics? No! It’s far too nice a day for that—and tomorrow’s the final Shootout at the OK Corral, so let’s wait, shall we?

Autumn preys on my weakness—if anyone ever wrapped themselves up in melancholy, it’s me—and that time of year (thou may’st in me behold, when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang…) sorry, Shakespeare got me—this time of year makes me dive deep into memory, loss, and the unending cycle of change that is living.

I fairly delight in depression while the summer fades, the leaves fall, and the winter looms. We must remember that ‘clinical depression’ is an imbalance, that modest, occasional depression itself is natural—a way of crawling into bed and putting the covers over our heads, while working or relaxing. Chronic Depression, the problem, is much in the news nowadays—but if you get depressed, sometimes, there’s no need to panic—it is only when it takes over your life that it becomes a problem with a capital ‘P’.

I used to prefer the grey, rainy days—but now I settle for leaves falling—the wet weather chills me to the bone, making me stiff and achy. I still enjoy breezes—you’d have to be dead not to enjoy a breezy day. But enough about the weather.

I just read a sci-fi book called “Machinations” by Hayley Stone. I was disappointed that the plot was a straight rip-off of Terminator, but it was well-written, with good characters, so I finished the book. Dear Ms. Stone: It isn’t science fiction if you don’t have a new idea—it’s just writing, however good. I took one star off of my Amazon rating—because it was a good book, but it wasn’t good science fiction. (If I finish a book, I usually give it full stars.)

I saw the “Ghostbusters” re-make—loved it—loved everyone in it. I don’t see how they could have pandered to fans of the old original any more than they did—and it was nice. Anyone who wasn’t satisfied is just too hard to please.

I enjoyed a few episodes of “Lucifer” on TV, but as with all outlandish premises, they try to ‘mealy-mouth’ it down to a drama, instead of juicing it up into a comic-book fantasy. I watched nine episodes of “Luke Cage” on Netflix, but I’m getting too old for the kid stuff. I’m having trouble with stories that contain corruption, violence, and amorality—they just upset me. My options are narrowing tightly—I’m down to mostly biopics.

I’m trying to read the new Bruce Sterling book, “Pirate Utopia”, but it’s hard—I’m sorry, I just can’t stand ‘alternate history’ sci-fi—it’s a bridge too far for me. Woulda, shoulda, coulda—that’s all it means to me. But Bruce Sterling is heavy-sledding—I’ll keep on for now, and see if I get drawn in. It might be one of those books you don’t get until you re-read it. Sometimes, they’re the best.

The Running of the Snark   (2016Oct17)

Monday, October 17, 2016                                               1:58 PM

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_1“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,

As he landed his crew with care;

Supporting each man on the top of the tide

By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:

That alone should encourage the crew.

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

What I tell you three times is true.”

—from “The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony, in Eight Fits)” (1874) by Lewis Carroll [Fit the First : The Landing]

The idea that repetition suggests authority is no doubt rooted in the days when anyone who would gainsay the head man rarely got to repeat themselves. In fact, the value of free speech is more than mere human rights—it is the assertion that truth exists outside of, and in spite of, authority.

This can be used and, just as easily, misused—the Scientific Method is an example of the use of truth-seeking through disruption of the established consensus—science-denial is an example of the same principle, turned on its head, by conflating Science with Established Authority. The latter use amounts to saying, ‘I’m not gonna be bullied by all this provable, reproducible experimentation.’

This is irrefutable logic within the bounds of free speech, but it still falls outside of common sense, and is suggestive of a motive or agenda, rather than pure objectivity. Pure Objectivity doesn’t help matters any, by being an imaginary ideal that we aspire to, rather than obtain—so the arguments persist, simple by virtue of the complexity of the ‘knot’.

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_2Propagandists, thus, still live by the rule—say anything three times, and people start to believe it. Trump states this in his Art of the Deal—as if he discovered a big secret. Whenever Trump lies (or rather, whenever he speaks) I always listen for that third time. It would make a deadly drinking game—a shot for every third repetition of a lie—the whole party would be passed out in the first fifteen minutes.

But Trump has become too used to this concept of the pliability of reality—his flights of fancy become ever more outlandish, more self-evidently false. Or, as he put it, ‘the shackles are off’. What gets me is, every time he lies, he’s saying that we are stupid enough to believe him, just because he says it three times in a loud authoritative voice. I find that incredibly offensive—not much different from the time he asked a crowd of Ohioans, “How stupid are the people of Ohio?”

He insults our intelligence with all these lies—I find it hard to grasp why people would take so much disrespect from him. But then, I’ve always had a great big chip on my shoulder, so I react pretty strongly to that sort of thing. He doesn’t ‘get’ that, yes, many politicians lie during campaigns—but they limit themselves to lies that can’t be technically disproven, at least not easily—like, with a quick Google search. Yes, ‘the Donald’, politicians lie, but within the bounds of reason—they don’t force cognitive dissonance upon their constituents, making their continued support require a blind rejection of the obvious.

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_7I think, after this election is finally put to sleep, the media should start to take stock of the Outlandish factor: ‘Obama is a secret Muslim, alien Kenyan’, ‘Death Panels’, ‘Obama founded ISIS’, ‘Hillary is a she-demon’, ‘Trickle-down economics’, ‘Muslims are dangerous’, ‘Weed is dangerous’, ‘Poverty is a choice’—you name it, the Republicans are allowed to go on TV and say whatever crazy bullshit comes into their heads.

The media needs better ground rules—Trump supporters have been spreading their unblinking, shrill crazy-talk across America for a year—everyone, including the anchors, knows they’re lying, twisting the facts, and supporting a dangerous psychopath, yet they are rarely cut-off, or even interrupted, while saying things that make me physically ill. WTF, media? Mental disease can be just as contagious as germs, you know—you’re creating a health crisis by your lack of quality-control on the disingenuousness of your guests—in the name of fairness. It’s not fair, it’s a false equivalence and everyone knows it.

Journalism has a responsibility to give both sides of an argument—not one side of a very lopsided issue versus plain old crazy. That’s not ‘both sides’, that’s an invitation to inanity in nice clothes. And the media has had a parade of that from the day Trump declared. Once we are saved from ourselves, assuming Election Day isn’t a death knell for America, the media needs to rethink their ‘equal time’ policies—crazy doesn’t need any help—and it sure don’t need any free air-time.

Which reminds me—Trump says the media is rigging the election. Is this the same media that gave him billions-of-dollars-worth of free campaign advertising by reporting on his every word, obsessively, daily? Like I said—plain old crazy.

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[Fit the Eighth : The Vanishing]

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee,

He had softly and suddenly vanished away —

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016                                       5:25 PM

Made a video today—not too bad—but then the darn camera’s charged died before the very last note—Arrgh! But the pictures of the grandiloquent granddaughter more than make up for the music’s shortcomings.

As you can see, when Seneca goes out in her stroller, she looks a little like a tiny granny-lady—very fussy and querulous—it’s so adorable.

 

Now, Finally   (2016Oct14)

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Thursday, October 13, 2016                                             7:45 PM

With all the problems in this world, we nevertheless have one clown ready and eager to burn it all down to satisfy his ego—Donald Trump, and three people who won’t let their inevitable failure keep them from their ‘right to run for president’: Evan McMullin, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein. If Trump wins (God forbid) he will have done it with their help. And people say Hillary is ambitious.

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Friday, October 14, 2016                                                  12:04 PM

It is a season of extremes. If Trump wins, I will feel a greater despair than when Bush-43 was re-elected. If Hillary wins, I will feel an even greater elation than when Barack was elected. And that’s not hyperbole—those moments of deep disappointment and sky-high celebration are both burned in my memory.

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Though I resented Bush and felt happy for Obama, my deep disappointment was in my fellow American voters—my celebration was, too. Democracy means self-government—we rarely contemplate that such a system depends entirely on the knife-edge of people’s judgement. It’s terrifying. An uninformed, or misinformed, electorate will have the judgement of a drunkard—which is to say, no judgement at all. And as we become more and more a culture with various ‘genres’ of truth, judgement becomes something of a commodity.

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The complexity of modern life requires not only that we reveal the truth, but that we also beat back the misinformation. Children are educated in schools, where there is some quality-control on the information being taught—but the rest of us get our information from the media. Some media-combines have a political agenda. They promote this agenda by cherry-picking their info—but they also have to cast doubt on the rest of the media, which contradicts many of their premises—and even their ‘facts’.

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It is a very fancy, very cyber-age form of lying. It’s lying. The whole point of Journalism (with a capital ‘J’) is to be impartial, to report the facts, without any filter. But we live in a complex world—reporting all the facts is virtually impossible—no one can read that fast. So today’s reporting is, by necessity, an abstract of the research—rather than printing 2,000 pages of a report, reporters try to convey the sense of the report. Objectivity is an ideal—and such reporting almost begs to be interpreted subjectively—so a journalist has no easy task trying to give us nothing-but-the-facts. If media outlets go into that process with an agenda, their results can’t be truly labeled ‘journalism’.

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The differences in our politics used to be philosophical differences—this ‘genre-fication’ of our news-media twists our politics into a battle of air-time, spin, and financial backing. This is, no doubt, what convinced the SCOTUS to find that ‘money is speech’ in the Citizens United ruling. Personally, I think they can only truly find so if, and only if, speech is also money—which it ain’t.

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The beautiful thing about the truth is that it has a ring to it. When propagandists go too far, we can tell. When the entertainment value of Trump’s rallies wears off and we revisit what he has said, we find nothing but the vacuous nonsense and bitter resentment of a spoiled child. When Fox News fails to air Obama’s speech this morning, we can still watch it on all the other news channels. There may be millions of bitter, frustrated Americans who eagerly latch on to Trump’s ‘hate train’, but the rest of us can easily see through his machinations.

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I put it to you that Hillary Clinton has been investigated in courts, Congressional hearings, and by the friggin FBI—if she belonged in jail, don’t you think she’d be there? The Republicans have been stalking her for thirty years—if there was even a hint of real criminality, wouldn’t they have convicted her by now? And, since that hasn’t happened, can we now, finally, begin to question the motives of those who stalk her? Can a lady who has done so much good, also manage to do so much bad—and do it so secretly that no one can find any hard evidence of wrongdoing? Please.

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If the Wiki-leaks hack of Podesta’s emails shows anything, it shows an engaged career politician hacking her way through the undergrowth of others’ mendacity. Granted, politics is nothing if not manipulative—but it is manipulation for a cause—private and public policies are a reality. Only a history-illiterate newbie like Trump would deny that Lincoln was a politician as much as a leader. Trump is not a candidate so much as an insult to our intelligence—to even begin to compare him to a real leader like Hillary, we would have to first find, in his seventy years of existence, one instance where he thought of someone else’s welfare, ever. ‘Nuf said.

Vote for Hillary!

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Pete and I   (2016Oct10)

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Monday, October 10, 2016                                               9:25 PM

My good friend Pete came by today and we talked briefly about the presidential race and the disgusting Donald. We had a wild session today—I’m still not sure exactly what happened, but I’ve edited the videos, so you can decide for yourselves.

Right now, however, I have a big back-log of musical offerings. Some were delayed by waiting for fresh baby pictures of the princess—there are several improvs and a Haydn piano sonata. Then there are five song-covers and one improv, from Pete and me collaborating this afternoon. All together, it’s quite a concert—but don’t feel like you have to watch it all at once. A lot of production work, after the actual recording, goes into these videos, so I’d prefer they be savored, wherever possible.

Between the inspiration of becoming a grandpa and the turmoil of the campaign season, I’ve had all my buttons pushed lately—and I flatter myself that it’s coming out in the music. I’ve been doing satisfying stuff lately—not all of it recorded and posted to YouTube—but I like to think that what I do post is representative of my recent work. Pete encourages me—so blame him, if you like.

“Wrong Guy”

“Four (4) 60’s Covers”

“MacArthur Park”

 

“Music Room”

“Haydn-and-Improv Hash”

“Philosophical”

“Cautiously Optimistic”

“Sight-Reading a Haydn Piano Sonata”

“Storms May Come”

“A Phoenix, I”

“Mickey’s ‘Mama’ Song”

Playing Grown-Up   (2016Oct08)

Saturday, October 08, 2016                                              2:00 PM

What a roller-coaster of emotions. Initially, of course, disgust and mind-boggle-ment. Then an unattractive glee over this ethical implosion (but we were so frightened he might become our president—you really can’t blame us). Then back to disgust—but this time, over the fact that our politics have come to this. Then an overwhelming sense of relief—as in ‘he can’t win now.’ Then a chill of worry—after all, his cult following isn’t going to care—their support has no relation to judgement. Then ‘self-reassurance’, because he can’t win with just his existing base of zealots.

I’m positively dizzy with disorientation. But, as Rachel Maddow says, “You are awake. You are not dreaming. This is really happening.” I’ve long since stopped thinking about Trump at all—it became painfully clear that the problem is in the vast numbers of voters who see him as presidential material. People like Trump (and Trump himself) have always been there—but they’ve never had a shot at the presidency before. People have never been accepting of such a filthy, perverted creep before. Sure, there was Nixon—but he had the presence of mind to hide his lack of character as well as he could, not to revel in it.

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But let’s not overlook Julian Assange completely—he has waited for the perfect moment to drop his ‘bomb’ on the Clinton campaign. Well, the Billy Bush video kinda messed up that timing—but even without it, we are hard-pressed to understand how he could have thought Hillary’s speeches to businesses would destroy her. I’ve read what he leaked—it’s all pretty reasonable stuff, assuming your life is not dedicated to despising Hillary Clinton.

We are mature enough to watch Trump’s damning video—surely then, we’re mature enough to grapple with the paradox of democracy. An elected official needs to present themselves so as to be elected—if the right thing to do is unpopular, you only talk about it in private. That’s the crux of what is revealed about Hillary in this latest leak—small potatoes compared to the revelations about Trump’s character (or total absence thereof).

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The truth is—I don’t really know enough about international trade agreements to gainsay the people whose job it is to formulate such things. I do know that Europe has seen borderless-ness as a goal for generations—a sign that civilized people can live side by side without armed guards and walls. In examining their history, we may find ourselves embarrassed to be fixated on so bad an idea as a Big Wall. It’s a really stupid idea—and in so many ways.

I’m so desperately hoping this election comes out right—democracy has shat the bed twice, recently—first with Brexit, then again with the Columbians voting ‘No’ to peace with the FARC. It would be nice if the cradle of democracy could score one for the good guys. My nerves have had it.

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Catchphrases work well as political tools, but they are worthless as policy. If NAFTA is unfair, we should modify it until it is fair. Killing it is a simple idea—but rather simple-minded, if we remember that there were reasons why NAFTA was created. TPP is neither good or bad, either—it is an agreement, which can be changed if it is unfair. And, our experience with NAFTA will tell us what problems to look out for.

In the same way, the Affordable Care Act was a vital bill—that has been revealed to be flawed. Now, we can throw it in the trash—bumping 20,000,000 people off of health insurance—or we can modify the bill to be fair and economically feasible. Legislation and Trade Agreements are complex works which can be modified when faulty—but in using them as political footballs, we reduce the question to ‘live or die?’ We don’t want to trash these things—we want to tweak them until they work. You don’t fix a computer by taking a hammer to it.

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The Republicans are slippery on this—sometimes their objections are that the bill doesn’t work, sometimes their objections are that ‘socialized medicine’ is bad. In the end, they conflate both arguments, and say that we have to repeal Obamacare. Not that we have to fix it. And honestly, everyone knows that the Insurance Lobby blocked the single-payer-option because it makes the industry more competitive—and everyone knew that blocking the single-payer-option would make the bill a nonsensical mish-mash. They don’t want to fix the bill, now, for the same reason they fought the bill’s passing.

Tomorrow night’s debate should be fascinating. I hope Hillary knows that she’s already won—she should take it easy, not for his sake, but just because she’s gracious in victory. Then again—let’em have it—he’s earned it. Making us all look bad—grumble, grumble…..

Storm Break   (2016Oct07)

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Friday, October 07, 2016                                         11:58 AM

I have family in Hilton Head, SC—though they are not presently at home—they are safely inland at some hotel in Georgia. And a lucky thing, too—Hurricane Matthew seems to have a beef with Hilton Head. Forecasters say the brunt of the damage will slide past Florida and give coastal South Carolina a good pasting.

In spite of excellent efforts in evacuation for all four states, there will be inevitable loss of life and property—it will be a tragedy. The only question remaining is the extent of the destruction. If there is a silver lining, it is in the media’s focus on the storm. For the first time in weeks, we are thinking of others, worried for the well-being of strangers.

It is a healthy break from the incessant battle for our approval by two titans of publicity. Every four years we become heroes of the ballot-box, patriots of preference—and, while the talk is all about the two candidates, the true focus is on us, the voters. We are polled and polled again—it’s not just about the two nominees, it’s about how we all feel about them.

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It does our American egos good—but this time around, we’ve gone a little over the top about it. ‘Undecided voters’ shiver with delight at the contortions being performed to entice their acceptance—everyone wants to know what they’re going to decide. But our preeminent attention has an expiration date—by mid-November, we’ll all just be regular schmoes again. It’s just as well we have this hurricane right now—to remind us that the upcoming election is but a single judgement-call out of the many we need to make with every new day and every unexpected turn in the weather.

As the storm front passes, residents are warned not to return too quickly—they should wait for the back-end of the storm to go by. Storm surges lag behind the initial wind-damage of this hurricane—and coastal flooding could end up causing greater damage than the storm that preceded it. People, naturally, focus on the event and overlook that which comes after.

In the same way, we conveniently forget about many extraneous issues when the hoopla of the presidential race is in full swing. A president can’t wave a magic wand and fix the whole planet on election day—but we overlook the tripartite balance of power in our frenzy to pick the one leg of the stool that is elected as a single man or woman—the head of the executive branch of our government, the president.

Some commentators are broadening their view, now that things are coming to a head. They’ve switched from ‘Hillary or Trump?’ to ‘What Senate will Hillary be working with?’ Trump’s unfitness may well be a favor to the Democrats—giving them both the presidency and a Senate majority. I would love to see what Hillary could do with some open-field running.

I think the Republicans no longer represent a different way forward—conservatism for its own sake seems to have usurped the party’s power. Their focus now seems less trying to prove themselves preferable, and more trying to keep Democrats from proving they were right all along.

There was a time when social justice could be demonized—fear-mongering about change was easy-pickings, back in the day. Now, though, we have evidence that social justice is good for the economy, good for law and order, and good for international relations. Sudden change has become such a constant in our lives that Conservatism itself may have become obsolete—and Trump’s candidacy its last hurrah. Complexity is forced on us. Subtlety becomes a requirement. Narrow-mindedness becomes dangerous, a handicap on our ability to compete.

Conservatism would be even more obsolete if it hadn’t become a sponsor of big industrial concerns—Climate Change threatens Big Oil’s profits; Gun Control threatens the NRA’s profits; Women’s Equality threatens the major religions—nearly every progressive cause has a profitable opponent—rarely are they challenged on idealistic grounds, as was normal in earlier times.

Renewable energy makes a big difference—it’s not the environment versus the economy anymore—now it’s the tech of the past versus the tech of the future—a much harder argument for oil barons to win. And it doesn’t hurt that the latest oil-drilling technology, fracking, has turned Oklahoma into one big sinkhole.

Not to mention Hurricane Matthew. But he’s just one storm—there have been major storm disasters across the globe recently. In the tension of dealing with preparations and outages and rescues, nobody’s talking about where this storm came from. Hurricanes happen every year, but historically dangerous ones over a short span of years—that’s a symptom of Climate Change—a phrase that Florida conservatives are loathe to speak. Talk about whistling past the graveyard.

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….

 

Julian Assange, Pony Up   (2016Oct04)

Tuesday, October 04, 2016                                               4:51 PM

My two most-recent Facebook Status Updates:

“We’re supposed to vote for a guy who lost a billion dollars of his own money in a single year—because he’s good at business—and we’re not supposed to vote for the lady who gave her whole life to public service and helping kids—because we can’t trust her? Okay—that makes sense.”

“Trump says and does things that would be troubling in any man, far more in a man asking for the ultimate responsibility. I wouldn’t want him in my home, much less the White House.”

**–**  ___  **–**

 Julian Assange is enjoying his moment in the sun—holding a sword of Damocles over the Clinton campaign—threatening to destroy her image with revelations so awful that no one can defend them. This I have to see.

When dealing with people who like to get down in the mud, one sometimes is forced to make hard choices. If, in her thirty years of being hounded by a right-wing conspiracy, Hillary Clinton has made some hard choices, I won’t be surprised. I can be as headstrong as the Trump supporters—you better come at me with something that bites.

If the whole truth about Trump is as bad as his opacity suggests, Assange is going to be hard-pressed to find dirt on anyone that supersedes it, much less dirt on Hillary. Of course, Hillary does have some cyber-blindness—as most 68-year-olds would—and may well have had some memoir rough-drafts hacked, in which she is brutally honest in a way no politician can afford to be. I would enjoy debating that sort of thing—honesty is inconvenient in public discourse, but can be ultimately healthy.

Hillary Clinton is the gold standard in modern politicians—not hardly forthcoming, but seen to have the good of the people as her ultimate goal. If this were to be a mere façade behind which lurked our darkest fears, we would have little course but to surrender to despair—our illusions snuffed out entirely, at long last. If that is the case, then this little prick Julian had better produce something more than innuendo—he’s suggesting he’s in possession of something that will rock 600,000,000 people’s world.

But Assange talks about his ‘revenge’ dump as if it is proof of criminality. Fine, if he’s got legitimate documentation of wrong-doing, instead of a lot of smoke, let’s have it. He’s done a lot of talking. Time to pony up or shut up.

Sex Matters   (2016Sep29)

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Thursday, September 29, 2016                                        3:20 PM

Let’s discuss presidents and sex. I don’t want to go back too far—let’s start with FDR. That great man was confined to a wheelchair and he still managed to have multiple affairs while in office. Truman, a great man as well, was also a good man—no known affairs, though he enjoyed drinking and gambling. Then there was Eisenhower—definitely an affair while SCAEF, but I’m not historian enough to know whether he fooled around in office.

Then we had Kennedy—I think we can put him in the plus column. Then we had LBJ—no affairs that I know of. Same with Nixon—though we’d be hard-pressed to call him a ‘good’ man. Then Ford—another no; then Carter—another no, though he ‘lusted in his heart’. (And what hetero man doesn’t—or gay, come to think of it?) And Carter was followed by Reagan—two wives, but no known affairs.

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Then we had Bush-41—a definite no. Bill Clinton was then the fourth modern president with publicly-known, documented affairs—but he was the first to be hounded for it while still in office. Then Bush-43 came along as the matching Puritanical bookend to his father. (If we can call a hard-partier like the young Bush-43 ‘Puritanical’, it is only in the fidelitous sense.) And last but not least, we have our present President—who, like Mary Poppins, is practically perfect in every particular (and certainly doesn’t have affairs).

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So there you have the modern roster—affairs aren’t exactly common among presidents, but then they aren’t exactly uncommon either. And, if we are honest about it, the Presidency is one of the few jobs where such a thing would still impact one’s position. Married men having affairs is no rarity. In today’s society, no one goes to jail or loses their job over infidelity alone—with the exception of politicians and priests. Likewise, in today’s society, Divorce has very little baggage—heck, Trump’s on his third marriage and nobody says boo about it—even with him as presidential candidate for the Conservatives.

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Yet as a man with five kids by three wives, he seems to be considering bringing up Hillary’s husband’s infidelity as a black mark against Hillary—he claims he denied himself that ‘weapon’ at the debate because he had scruples about embarrassing Chelsea. Bringing up Chelsea’s name in this context seems like the sensitive way to go, alright. But I still need to have explained to me what Bill’s peccadilloes have to do with his wife running for office?

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Is Trump going to criticize her for not abandoning her family when she suffered the embarrassment of Ken Starr dragging this affair out over two years’ worth of prurient headlines? That’s how Trump advised his daughter—saying that if she were sexually harassed at work, she should quit her job and find a new career. Does he believe that Secretary Clinton, as a woman, is also supposed to run away when a man hurts her feelings?

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Or is he going to try to blame Bill’s behavior on his wife? A lot of stand-up comics have gone that route, suggesting that, if Hillary had been more sexually inventive, Bill would have never strayed. I can see Trump going that way—it would fit with his apparent theme: ‘no lie too big, no statement too idiotic’. And his advisors clearly have trouble explaining the difference between a presidential campaign and a stand-up routine to the GOP nominee. Wait—scratch that—stand-ups rehearse their acts.

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I don’t know how Trump is going to tie Bill Clinton’s notorious hound-dogging to his wife’s character. Still, he blames the last thirty years of federal governing on her alone, without any problem with the logic of saying so. But even Trump supporters are going to have trouble with tarring a wife by her husband’s affairs—at least the women, I presume. The married ones may even resent such an implication—if Trump supporters even hear the words that come out of his mouth in the first place. There is no evidence of that at present.

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The world, and especially the media, await this idiot’s next words with baited breath—though for the life of me I can’t understand why. There’s no reason to fear this clown—we fear only the crowd that supports him and will, apparently, vote for him to be President of the United States—and the education system that is so broken that these crowds exist. President Clinton (the faithful one) will have to work on that.

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Disgrace in Syria   (2016Sep20)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016                                          12:50 PM

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What’s happening in Syria is some bullshit. For years, they’ve been deconstructing an ancient civilization—ancient cities, like Allepo—and sites of historic importance to all of humanity. They’ve ruptured their society, spilling millions of displaced, forever exiled, into the world around them—exiled, not because they can never return, but because the place they fled has ceased to exist.

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No one even knows who he or she is shooting at anymore—Assad’s troops, Rebels, Jihadi-extremists, Kurds, Russians, Americans, now Turks—this isn’t a war at all—it’s a civilization-free zone. The pitiable millions remaining were promised a cease-fire, waited day after day for the shooting to stop, then finally got a relief caravan moving—and, poof!—the cease-fire was over, and they shelled the relief trucks, killing innocent civilians and aid-workers alike. Fucking assholes.

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And I’m not just talking about Assad and Putin. Where is the UN in all this? Where are the Saudis? Where are the Egyptians? What about all those little caliphates full of oil-rich poohbahs? I live in the suburbs, an ocean away, and I can hardly stand this—what is wrong with those people?

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This is what happens when people have to fight for their voice, for their dignity. This is what intolerance gets you. All these people are so busy fighting for their side, they don’t even realize that the best way to stop the killing is to accept that there are other sides. And, of course, you do what you know—half-a-lifetime these folks have been clocking in each morning by picking up a gun. It’s a shame they’re raising a new generation, in the rubble, who will never know anything else.

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It makes me want to cry. There are a lot of problems behind this violence. It’s a shame that killing each other is the only solution—O, wait a fuckin minute. It ain’t. Goddam fucking assholes….

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Alright—deep breath. There’s nothing I can do about any of this stuff.

I have new pictures of my beautiful granddaughter. She just gets more adorable every day. This time she has on Supergirl socks (with tiny red capes!)—it’s just too delightful. And just look at those delicate hands and feet. People are fragile things—but babies just flaunt it, don’t they? Still, none of us have armor—just flesh. We should treat each other like we were as fragile as babies. Because we are.

I know—because I used to be healthy and indestructible—nothing could hurt me. Then I got sick, and then disabled. Little friggin microscopic bugs took me down. How can we waste our lives fighting each other? I know talking things out is boring—but it beats living in rubble, with babies starving. Just sayin.

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[below was previously published on Medium.com]

Monday, September 19, 2016                                          7:26 PM

ISIS is Bombing   (2016Sep19)

29 people were injured by a bomb in NYC—another was found two streets away, before it could go off. The Marine Corps marathon in NJ had a late start, so no one was hurt when a bomb there exploded. Another IED exploded while bomb-squad robots tried to defuse it. Unexploded devices allowed investigators to identify and hunt down a suspect—and, as of now, it appears that he was acting on his own.

All in all (and with sincere sympathies for the 29 wounded in New York—and the NJ police wounded during his apprehension) this was an excellent terror attack—a complete and utter failure to engender unease, much less terror. Our police and other agencies acted professionally, quickly, and successfully. It’s really little more than a campaign talking point, 72 hours after the event.

Americans do not terrorize quite so easily—certainly not anymore. And with top ISIS leaders being taken out day after day in the field, a laughable flop of a domestic terrorist attempt is only made more ridiculous by the knife-wielding Jihadist in Minnesota (again, with sincere sympathies for the wounded in that mall)—if they’re going to take us out hand-to-hand, they’ve picked the right country—come and get me, nutjobs.

Still, we must remember that school-shootings, mass-shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Anthrax mail-hoaxes of the past—all were carried out by the mentally disturbed—and even if we wipe terrorism from the face of the earth, violence will always lurk in the dark spaces of the mind. And we should remember that, outside of the buzz of current politics, these radicalized people are also mentally disturbed.

The will to violence is not so common as the media might suggest—if it were, we’d have people popping off every ten yards. The rare individuals that perpetrate bombings or shootings—even in the name of an organization—are still being culled from the ragged edges of our society. Most of us are too busy trying to get along—too busy living—to trouble with violence.

And that is why it is so important to uphold our ideals and our inclusion—every time someone is marginalized or neglected, they are pushed in a dangerous direction. When these people act out, there is a failure, too, in those around them—those who didn’t enclose that person in the security and comfort of a community. Those who overlook the underserved, the troubled, and the stigmatized, only put off trouble, and allow it to grow into a greater problem.

A Word About Arithmetic   (2016Sep16)

Friday, September 16, 2016                                              1:46 PM

A Word About Arithmetic   (2016Sep16)

As the polls stand today, HRC has a slim lead over DJT in a head-to-head, but they are dead even, when the poll includes Johnson and Stein. People tell you to vote your conscience—and that is very good advice. However, judgement is also a factor—if you vote for someone who polls at or below ten percent, you are casting a vote for your conscience—but you’re not electing anyone.

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Someone will be elected, but it won’t be Johnson or Stein. They could be angels come down from heaven, their policies could be solid gold—they are not getting elected. That’s arithmetic. Either HRC or DJT will win the election. So while you vote your conscience, ironically, you are also abstaining from voting for who will be elected.

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And that would all be hunky-dory, if you don’t care which major candidate wins. Since there are big differences in the two major candidates, it is unlikely that anyone has no preference of one over the other—but if you really don’t see any difference between them, go on and vote your conscience. But, personally, I would also add—go and get your eyes checked.

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Trump continues to hide his taxes. He just announced that he’s giving up the birther conspiracy—but no apology or explanation was given for the years of racist (and ludicrous) aspersions cast on the serving President. I could write all day and still not complete a full list of his nonsensical posing as a serious adult, and his unfitness for a position of responsibility. I’d need another entire day to review the lies he’s told, not just about his opponent, and his President, but about nearly everyone and everything.

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To be fair, a lot of it is just ignorance—he actually believes some of his own lies. But most of it is purposeful manipulation of the people he looks down on—yes, I’m talking about you, Trump supporters—you poor, deluded suckers. He’s pushing your buttons, hoping you’ll push the button for him in November—and once you’ve done that, open that envelope from Reader’s Digest—‘You’ve just won a Million Dollars’! Ha!

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Hillary Clinton has been unfairly attacked, over and over, for thirty years—but no one has ever taken her down, because she’s legit. We’ve all been lied to—she’s no monster, no criminal, no liar, no inept bumbler, no traitor, and no fool.

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Here’s an easy point to make—Secretary Clinton, over the years, has been accused of so many things that they contradict themselves. She can’t be a monster and a weakling; she can’t be sneaky and a fool; she can’t be helpless and be the most dangerous person on the planet. In their over-enthusiasm to smear this fine lady, they’ve called her mutually exclusive things—so at least half of them are lying about her, right off the bat, by the sheer logic of it.

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We’ve all been to high school—we’ve all seen the mean kids say mean things about the nice kids, and get away with it. But that nonsense doesn’t fly in the real world—with the one exception of Hillary Clinton. She’s got a mob of very good people, all vouching for her—no, shouting her praises—are you going to believe them, or Donald Trump and Fox News? Please explain your answer. If only to yourself.

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Pete and Joanna — In That Order    (2016Sep15)

Thursday, September 15, 2016                                        6:50 PM

A long and productive day—Pete came by, we recorded most excellent musical diatribes, but he had to cut our visit short and return to the world from whence he came. Then Joanna came by to see Pete—moments too late, very frustrating—but she and I had a pleasant visit, at least. This time I remembered to take a picture:

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Today’s posts bring my total YouTube uploads to 2,005. Of those, 59 are videos of Pete Cianflone and me, collaborating together on improvisations and song covers. The audio-cassette archives of our 20th-century recordings are lost in the mists of time—after many years of pursuing separate paths, we resumed our monthly journey together in January, 2014. It’s all on YouTube: Pete n’Me playlist

I’ll grant you, it’s an uneven catalog (always with the caveat that the problems are all mine—Pete’s a professional who’s nice enough to indulge me) but as we’ve gone along, Pete has figured out an impossible trick—drumming for a pianist with no sense of rhythm. He always makes me sound better than I sound by myself—it’s really something. Today’s videos are a perfect example—no matter how badly I mess up, Pete keeps things going.

 

 

 

Well, it’s been a very busy week. I think I’ll go back to bed for a few days.

Balance   (2016Sep14)

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016                                              1:45 PM

La-dee-da…. I don’t care. Let it all swirl around me. I usually feel obligated to pay attention, to try to sort the wheat from the chaff. But it all roils on, with or without me—I could live the rest of my life without a glance at the world and no one would ever notice. I could stop watching TV or going online, wait until November, vote for Hillary—and the result would be the same as if I had obsessed over all the political reporting, day and night, leading up to election day.

Those of you with the health and strength can rush down to campaign headquarters and volunteer to get out the vote—you may even decide that you’ve found in Politics a lifetime career—you can make a difference. I am unable to do so—but that’s okay—like I said, my lack of involvement frees me from worrying about my level of engagement.

We live in a media-centric culture. It is a mirror that we hold up to ourselves—and so our lives are judged not just on what’s happening, but whether we find ourselves entertained. It’s a lot to ask of ourselves—as if the whole family-of-man was driving its car down the interstate, admiring itself in the rearview mirror, trying to keep one eye on the traffic and the road signs. We must pay attention—but there are some things that don’t require our attention—they get in the way of the stuff we must keep watching for—dangers, opportunities, and responsibilities.

Not that we don’t need entertainment—I’m not saying that. Ever since fireside storytellers lit the imaginations of their tribe to mark the end of the day, people have hungered for entertainment. It is a part of who we are—just as much as eating or sleeping. In modern America, we’ve found that an overabundance of tempting foods can transform nutrition into a health threat. By the same token, it seems that we have the ability to over-indulge in entertainment to the detriment of our mental health. Sensationalism leads us on, to shorter attention-spans, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, and carpal-tunnel syndrome.

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As a bookworm, I was an early-adopter of today’s media overload. Long before it was popular to spend the entire day staring at a rectangle in your hand, I was reading a book during every free second of my time. Even back then, I found that reading books (a supposedly relaxing activity) could become a binge activity. I’d reach a point where the eye strain, stiff neck muscles, and headaches made it necessary to stop awhile—even at three in the morning, with only one chapter left to find out the ending.

I got a lot out of those books—I learned a lot and I was exposed to new concepts and perspectives that broadened my understanding. But I also missed out on a lot of other things—the kinds of things other people did—which narrowed my understanding. It’s that whole ‘balance’ thing—it always bites us in the tush. And when it comes to the popularity and ubiquity of the I-phone, balance goes completely out the window.

People in olden times often resisted having a phone put into their home—if they wanted to talk to someone, they would go and see them. Nowadays, landline home-phones are only remarkable in that younger people have begun to feel landlines are superfluous. And, as in those days, we have many people today who don’t wish to ‘be online’—if they want to talk to somebody, they’ll call them on the phone. But like the people before, their children are using texts and Twitter and Skype, et. al., to keep in touch—so they are forced to adopt the new tech, if only to talk to their kids.

But what if you’re among the millions of people without the money for gadgets, without access to the internet, perhaps without even literacy? We are creating a divide between the digitally-enabled and the dark-zoners—and these two groups live in worlds that the other cannot comprehend, much less share.

We are approaching a point where digital illiteracy and lack of access will become more disabling than a lack of money. It is a new form of what film-director Godfrey Reggio called ‘Koyaanisqatsi‘ or ‘life out of balance’. Only, in this case, it is specifically Humanity that is putting itself out of balance.

Prototypical ‘wild’ humans evolved to live a life of constant struggle and frequent deprivation. We have built civilizations that free us from such rigors—but being free of the necessity of fleeing from predators, free of hunting, gathering, and finding water and shelter—that doesn’t change the way we evolved.

We still need to exert ourselves. We still need to balance food with activity. We still need to bond, to form social groups, and to share stories. We still need to keep these animal bodies of ours balanced on the tightrope of biological function. Any extreme unbalance of exertion, food, leisure, entertainment, or self-regard causes problems—as lack of balance always will.

So, in the end, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with eating McDonalds or playing Black Ops or Tweeting—the danger lies in imbalance, in overdoing any one thing to the exclusion of a diversity of activities. Just as a conversation must include both talking and listening, our lives must balance our pleasures with our requirements. We take our bodies for granted—but we ought to stop using them occasionally, just long enough to listen to them and give them what they need. But I should talk—I collect unhealthy habits like they were baseball cards.

Okay, videos for today—one new one, and one from a week ago that I’ve put off posting.

 

 

So I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

Get Well Soon   (2016Sep13)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016                                          11:22 AM

Okay, that was uncalled for—whenever I write one of those profanity-laden posts—the ones that sound like a transcript of one of Donald Duck’s hissy-fits, I know that the poisonous insanity of Donald Trump’s campaign has gotten to me. I know I should be better than that. But my outrage is real. The divisive delusions, the media repeating gossip—and reporting on how they can’t stop repeating gossip, and the orange Godzilla trampling the landscape of our ethics, ideals, and traditions—eventually I just snap.

‘I know you are, but what am I?’—now there’s a campaign theme to be proud of, right? The only candidate ever to refuse to show his tax returns—no, that’s no biggie—we can just take his word, can’t we? So many, many things wrong, so many disqualifications—you get bored, hearing people like me drone on about them, don’t you? What an ingenuous strategy—horror overload. It’s new—it’s dynamic! He’s ‘looks’ like a leader too, doesn’t he? Bullies always have that stubborn expression on their face. One gets the impression that, when Trump loses, it will be the first time anyone will have ever told him ‘no’.

Let’s talk about something pleasant. I hope Secretary Clinton is feeling better today—she’s so nice. I really like her. And she’ll need all of her strength when the Democrats sweep the election. Without the obstructionists in Congress, she’ll be rolling out bills and appointments like a hurricane. People can stop complaining about government inaction, and start complaining about what the government is doing, like they used to.

Just think of it—infrastructure repair, so many jobs we’ll have a labor shortage, fully-staffed SCOTUS, EPA, federal agencies galore—and Hillary will scare the crap out of all the bad actors, heads of backward countries all taking the hint from ourselves—disrespecting Obama, and rattling their machetes. Let’em try that nonsense with Hillary Clinton—it will not end well for them.

America is headed for a very good morning—and I can’t wait for this endless night to be over.

Finger-Pointing   (2016Sep10)

Saturday, September 10, 2016                                          3:01 PM

I am a bitter, angry old man. Have you ever wondered what an angry old man does with his time? Well, here’s how my day usually goes:

I get angry at the media for forcing a fifth-grade reading-level on public debate—and for lunging at any wisp of sensation. But then I tell myself that the media aren’t the problem, Trump is.

So then I get angry at Trump for trashing our global image, for sowing ignorance and fear, and shredding any solemnity we still felt towards our quadrennial ritual of choosing the Leader of the Free World. The gravitas of holding the fate of the globe, of humanity, in the palm of a single hand—is totally lost on this grubby con-man. But then I tell myself that Trump isn’t the problem, the Republicans are.

So then I get furious with the Republicans for choking the breath out of our government. Their obligation to lead their constituency is forfeited, for craven pandering to the most vocal, extreme, ignorant minority, for fear of being criticized by a mob of besotted malcontents, who hate the USA as it is, and yearn for a ‘return’ to some fantasy, fascist past.

Blocking appointees to vital offices and judgeships, strangling our economy with a sequester that punishes Democrats for the crash the Republicans made—and keeps that crash lingering, well… I could go on, ad infinitum, about the neglect and cynical sabotage the Republicans call ‘service’, but we all have things to do. So, anyway, I get mad. But then I tell myself that the Republicans aren’t the problem, the voters are.

And then I realize that calling half of American voters gullible, clueless, and deluded is not going to make me any friends—neither will it change anyone’s mind. Then I get mad at humanity in general, for its propensity towards destructive and lazy ideas—ideas that contain more inertial persistence than our rare insights into love, and all the work it entails. I get mad at the super-rich for toying with the whole of humanity, absent of any ethics and overcome with selfishness. I get made at the NRA, the arms-makers, and the arms-dealers for profiting on death. I am enraged at the injustice of seven billion mostly good people, used and misled by a mere handful of greedy, hateful pigs.

Then I go lie down and try to get my pulse back to normal. So what’s your day like?

Media Backs New Hitler   (2016Sep10)

Saturday, September 10, 2016                                          11:26 AM

Is there anything Trump can do or say that will deter people from voting for him? Is there anything he can say that will finally push the media to report it as a lie, instead of just reporting his quote, and having a debate over it? Will this toxic confluence of media sensationalism, nationalism, and misogyny actually propel a border-line-psycho ignoramus into the Oval Office, edging out the best potential leader our country has ever seen?

They say the best way to win a fight is to act like a madman—it unnerves the opponent. This is the first time that strategy has been employed in an election campaign—because, prior to now, people who act crazy have been disqualified by the voters. Apparently, we now have voters for whom ‘crazy’ is acceptable. When fact-checkers report that 95% of what a person says is False, that usually disqualifies as well. But in this election, it actually helps Trump, because one of his lies is that ‘we can’t trust Hillary Clinton’.

I admire the way Trump obscures his total lack of experience by accusing Hillary of not fixing anything for thirty years—yes, she has done the hard work of public service, for thirty years, and more. But she hasn’t been President for thirty years—blaming her for all the (supposed) mistakes of her husband or Obama or Democrats generally—that only works on Survivor or The Apprentice. It shouldn’t be working in an election—it should be disqualifying in an election.

If a seventy-year-old visits one black church for the first time in his life, does that erase his racism? If his close friend, the alleged sex-assaulter, isn’t an ‘official’ member of his team, does that erase his chauvinism? If the one unchanging feature of his ‘supporter-commentators’ is that they never answer a direct question, does that make him a man we can rely on?

One thing that Hillary has done for thirty years is study policy—most of Trump’s policies (if you can call ‘secrets’ policies) are thirty days old, if that. When are we going to stop harassing Hillary about non-issues, like her emails, or Benghazi, or the CGI—and start asking questions about the millions of dollars wasted on investigating, interrogating, and always, eventually, vindicating her?

And, speaking of, why is Hillary the only person in America who can be accused, investigated, cleared—and still be guilty? That’s not a conviction, that’s a wish. And the media, apparently, is in the wish-fulfillment business—always talking about Hillary’s unfavorables as if she had earned then, when they’ve been dishonestly smeared on her, and embraced by people who ‘just don’t like her’. Hillary’s unfavorables say nothing about the woman herself, they are a verdict of ‘ignorant’ against the public. Why do we never hear discussion about why people are gullible enough to fall for dirty-tricks politics?

Media people, enjoy those high ratings—much good may they do you when our new Hitler takes the oath (with his fingers crossed, no doubt).

Dumber or Smarter   (2016Sep08)

Thursday, September 08, 2016                                         2:14 PM

Has Trump’s candidacy made the whole country dumber or smarter? For the most part, he has suppressed our intelligence, particularly where news pundits are concerned. The title-chiron ‘Trump Supporter’ has come to represent a talking-head as cornered animal. Because media ‘requirements’ give equal time to opposing views, these people make up half of what we watch—a daily symposium on obstinate rancor and half-truths. What do we learn from this? We learn ‘never answer a question directly’. Actually, make that ‘never answer a question’. And we learn ‘when in doubt, shout about the opposition’.

We are smarter in one specific way—Trump’s easy victory over the crowded GOP primary field points up the weakness of having a party that relies more on talking points than public service, or common sense. And we learn that, no matter how modern we consider ourselves, we are eternally under threat from demagoguery.

Trump’s similarities to infamous fascists and other strongman despots have not stopped the angriest and most frustrated citizens from taking his populist bait. Governmental and political professionals, take note: if you neglect the common welfare in favor of the wealthiest, and do it long enough to turn discomfort into resentment and anger, any old bully with a smooth line can capture the electorate. Democracy, a system that relies on judgment, will always be vulnerable to strong emotional tides in the masses.

The dysfunction, frustration and anger can all be traced back to Republican obstructionism of the most flagrant, over-the-top quality. While the media drones on, echoing the rock-throwing harpies who haunt Hillary, and legitimizing the GOP’s novelty candidate, I’ve been driven to watching CSPAN2.

I’ve been watching Democrat senators beg the Senate to unjam the appointments back-log. Garland is just one of the appointees being ignored—hundreds of empty benches are causing a crisis for the few judges struggling to handle caseloads. The GOP’s refusal to confirm nominations prolongs massive vacancies in both federal judgeships, and agency and department heads. The vacancies in leadership can make it as though certain agencies don’t exist—effectively shutting them down, and makes a travesty of our institutional systems. This is government by forced unemployment.

Democrat senator after Democrat senator rose on the floor yesterday to declaim this political, cynical affront to public service and the most minimal bipartisan action, only to be answered with the word, ‘Objection’. That’s the response from the GOP.

Today, Senate Democrats gathered to honor Joe Biden (whose speech was cut off after mere seconds by GOP-controlled cameras). They also took the occasion to put it to the American public that the Senate managed to work out a bipartisan Zika-defense bill, sent it to the House, and the House Republicans added rider after rider, attacking Planned Parenthood, endorsing the Confederate flag, and other political BS that had no place in an national emergency funding bill. Then they doubled-down on this amorality by claiming the Democrats ‘voted down a Zika bill’. What kind of a dick does that? They all seem shockingly comfortable with this kind of childish evil.

It’s a sliding scale—GOP Senators seem to feel an occasional pinch of conscience, just enough to be embarrassed, not enough to act; GOP Representatives feel no shame at any of the bullying nonsense they pull; and the GOP candidate for President has lifted ‘bullying nonsense’ to an art form. But they’re all guilty of obstructionism and gamesmanship for its own sake, while the people they swore to serve languish in extreme distress.

The Democrats may blunder. The Democrats may get confused. But the Democrats never base their agenda on the opposition, they base it on getting shit done. Even a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative must recognize that a nation’s government must maintain what it already has. Even if you don’t want anything new, you still want to keep our roads, our schools, our military and VA, our justice system—you want to keep the nuts and bolts working. You don’t shut down, sequester, and obstruct any attempt to maintain the nation’s needs—that’s as good as treason—that’s an enemy within, more than any kind of public servant.

When Obama was elected, he doubtless felt a great weight on his shoulders—not just the weight that all presidents feel, but the additional weight of knowing that many would consider his presidency as a test of his race. Well, Barack Obama passed his test with flying colors—but we, the rest of the nation, have failed it miserably. Insidious bigotry and divisiveness in an effort to somehow deny President Obama the full honor of the office to which he was twice elected, especially birtherism, has made a sorry display of American politics these last eight years—and I am ashamed to be one of you.

Now, this orange clown, seeing the racism and nationalism ramping upward throughout Obama’s two terms, thinks he can win by running on the Nazi ticket. I mean GOP ticket. A debased and doddering tycoon hopes to bamboozle us all into ignoring the most able candidate—and the first woman candidate—that America has ever had. So says Barack—and so says her husband, Bill. And for what—a wall? Cracker please.

So, does Trump make us all Dumber or Smarter? I suppose that remains to be seen. November will tell the tale.

How Smart Do You Have To Be?   (2016Sep07)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016                                              12:34 PM

Debates are coming. Can Trump hide ignorance with sheer bluster? Can Hillary Clinton overcome public awkwardness to reveal her inner beauty? We shall see.

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People say ‘if Trump wins, I’m moving to Canada’—but for me, it’s more like cause to slit my throat—America is the greatest thing on Earth—we just can’t give it to a jerk who can’t see that greatness, who wants to replace it with his own conceited idea of what ‘greatness’ is.

But if there is a God (and even if there isn’t) Hillary should kick his ass. (And here I insert the obligatory reminder that we shouldn’t take it for granted—we must Vote—and get out the Vote.) If the world is made right again in November, and Hillary does win, I will feel a warm glow inside, knowing that America is safe from that bullying charlatan. But…

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Here’s the thing. We have ‘checks and balances’—the tripartite nature of our government is meant to prevent excesses in any one branch—including the Executive. It is not meant to paralyze our government. And it never has before now, when subtle racism has made the Legislative branch into a stone wall preventing the Executive branch from any action, not only in legislation, but even in filling the complement of the Judicial branch. This is cynical politicization of government beyond the bounds of responsibility, or of shame.

After the disaster of Bush-43’s presidency, the GOP did an autopsy to see why their bankrupt ideological platform wasn’t getting any votes outside of their carefully gerrymandered pockets of influence. They solved the problem, and then ignored the solution, because the solution was to be more like the Democrats—that is, ‘decent human beings’. Not their scene, apparently. So they went down a rabbit-hole of lies, rationales, and bluster against the Democrats.

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That conglomeration of ignorance and dog-whistling became so threadbare that a reality-TV celebrity was able to outshine them—when he should have been laughed off the primary-debate-dais by the contrast between himself and a dozen serious politicians. But by that point, he wasn’t facing rational, reasonable, serious politicians—he was facing Jeb, Marco, and Ted. Plus, the GOP had curated themselves a base of yahoos before the primary even began—so Trump won. They’re sorry now—but still, not because of their platforms, but because Trump made fools of them.

Now, these people are saying, “Okay, vote for Hillary if you must—but make sure to vote the party on the down-ballots, to provide a ‘check’ against Hillary”. In other words, if the GOP can’t govern, no one else should—and Democracy be damned. I say, if you’re going to elect a President, elect people who will work with her. We’ve had it, we little people—let someone get some goddam governing done. If the Dems fuck it up, elect a GOP president and Congress to replace them, but let somebody do something</