Bunch Of Geniuses   (2017Feb24)

marinerj

Friday, February 24, 2017                                                 8:19 AM

Why is everyone so excited about a new solar system 40 light-years away? Do you really think we’re clever enough to suss out interstellar travel, when we can’t even pick a president?

We still have a whole branch of government that does nothing but kill or be killed—but don’t worry—we only use our military when it’s absolutely necessary for national security, i.e. when the Wall fails.

And even though Jewish people have been around longer than anyone else, we still manage to teach kids to hate Jews—shouldn’t it be the Jews that hate us, at this point?

If you can’t look at a woman without undervaluing her or thinking of ways to mistreat her or take advantage of her—that’s not a definition of what it means to be female—that’s you, being an animal. But I get it—women are strong, women are powerful—they’re scary, and we men need every handicap we can heap upon them, to avoid being totally intimidated and outclassed.

Any man who can afford a suit and tie, and has the ability to have his voice heard on television—has no business commenting on the poor, the underpaid, or the underserved. Miss a meal or two, be ignored for a week—then maybe you’ll have the slightest idea about it. Until then, your entitled, elitist, overbearing, smug thought-bubbles are worse than useless and you should really be keeping that verbal embarrassment to yourself.

I’m all for guns—everybody should have them—especially kids. Take some kids, kids who’ll only be thirty-five or so when the rising ocean levels are due to wipe out all the coastal cities—give those kids some guns, and the address of the Koch Bros. compound. Second Amendment rules!

And let’s stop blaming Trump for everything—he’s an idiotic clown, yes, but he’s an idiotic clown who’s being propped up by cynical, wealth-grubbing Republican party-leaders and a willfully misinformed constituency. These suicidally foolish people maintain their support for Trump, even after proof that the Russians have their hooks in him, and helped get him elected. Oh yeah, let’s get that group of geniuses together and design that starship.

marinerg

Aspera Ad Astra   (2017Feb23)

Thursday, February 23, 2017                                           8:26 AM

20170223xd-trappist-1_02

The discovery of seven earth-sized planets orbiting a dwarf star, Trappist-1, makes me wonder how big the ‘goldilocks’-zone is, when talking of a star that isn’t much bigger than Jupiter—and if the orbits of all seven planets could all fit in that little slice of space. Being the same size as Earth means the gravity would be the same—but without placement in the ‘goldilocks’-zone, a planet will be too cold or too hot to live on.

I’m so used to thinking in terms of science fiction that it’s hard for me to get excited about seven planets orbiting a dwarf star forty light-years from Earth. But even from a non-fiction point of view—forty light-years is a ‘fer piece’.

Do the math: one light-year equals 5.8 trillion miles (that’s 10 to the twelfth, for those of you playing at home). Here—we’ll do it the kids’ way: 5,800,000,000,000 miles. That is a very long walk. If we traveled at 1,000 mph, it would take about 6,600 years to travel one light-year. If we traveled at 10,000 mph, it would still take over 660 years to travel one light-year. Thus, in practical terms, a light-year is a distance that a person has never traveled—and has no way of traveling, at present, within a single lifetime. The new solar system that was just found—that’s forty-of-those-things distance from us—that’s just a ridiculous distance away.

Light-years, the unit of distance, was created by and for astronomers—it allows astronomers to discuss the relative distances of stars—but don’t let that fool you into thinking of light-years in terms of human travel—it’s not a human scale of distance.

Plus, if you want to fly through space at 10,000 mph for 660 years, you’re going to need a very big gas tank. Carl Sagan told us that we could avoid this problem by using a Bussard ramjet, a spaceship that collects hydrogen atoms as it moves forward—and uses fusion to propel itself. The Bussard ramjet would use the near-vacuum of space as its fuel—imagine!

But that still leaves you with the need for food, water, and breathable air for however many people for however many years—and even with great recycling tech, that’s a lot of supplies to push through space. And again—forty light-years—if we could travel one light-year, we’d still need to do it forty times to reach that dwarf star with its seven planets.

Also, once you arrive at the dwarf star, you are completely cut-off from Earth—and Earth from you. Forty light-years means that even a radio message would take forty years to go in one direction—which means, if you got on the phone, said ‘hi’, and waited for the other end to say ‘hi’ back—that’s eighty years.

If we ever send people out there, we won’t be ‘colonizing’, we’ll just be sending little samples of humanity out into the cosmos. Maybe their great-grandchildren will communicate with Earth, but never in a “Hi, How are ya” kind of way. Assuming they survived, they would become a totally separate civilization from our own.

And this is the sad truth—space exploration will not ‘save’ the Earth. Sending people to space, even into our local solar system, will help protect the human race from extinction—but it won’t do anything for the people that remain on Earth. And living in space will never be as safe and easy as living here, on the cradle of life.

There is enough raw material in the asteroid belts and the Oort cloud for us to build several ‘earths’—but we will never be able to move significant numbers of people up from Earth ‘s gravity well without a space elevator—and we still don’t have the technology to build one of those.

In summary, space exploration is not easy or simple. It will take more determination than the human race has shown itself capable of, to date, to get there in any meaningful way. People often theorize that an alien invasion would help to unify the human race—and, in the same vein, the destruction of our biosphere would help to motivate people into space. But why do we need a global disaster to get our asses in gear? Can’t we just be grown-ups? Let’s reach for the stars.

20170223xd-trappist-1_01

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

Monday Blahs   (2017Feb20)

Monday, February 20, 2017                                             1:14 PM

It’s February, it’s Monday, and I’m feeling fatigued—I’m tired of Winter, I’m tired of watching politics, and I’m especially tired of wondering why—did you ever just throw up your hands and say ‘people are crazy’?

Why do people see governance as a team sport? How does gerrymandering work—do all the rich people get together and decide on which crook is getting elected this year? Isn’t there a point at which even wealthy people say to themselves, ‘Jeez, what about our children, our grandchildren—what kind of future community will they live in?’

People try to justify their support of the Republicans, or worse, of Trump, but I never hear a lot of carefully reasoned objectives and agendas—I just hear a lot of anger and confrontation and defiance—and these people aren’t really mad at the Democrats, or even the Left as a whole—they’re mad that the world has become a place that belies their conservative nature. That the Republicans, and much worse, Trump, are willing to play on those fiddle-strings is a shame and an unexposed scandal.

Science is king. Defy it in small things if you want—but notice that you take an airliner to get to the rally, that satellites inform the GPS in your rental car on your way to the venue, and that the Internet has made it possible to gather a large crowd at short notice.

Science rules. It even controls our money—cash was already a mathematical construct, even as mere paper—a utilitarian fiction for the sake of liquidity, but now cash is stored digitally, magically, like a genie in a bottle—kill the science and you kill the cash.

Advanced tech keeps us all clothed and fed and safe and warm—kill the science and you find your family living in a cave—if they survive. People talk about the economy—about how we need money to maintain order and security. Well, you need science just as badly—and that’s just the existing science—that’s not even going into the question of what happens to countries that fail to keep pace with science, moving forward.

Yet science is under attack in America—it’s downright oedipal. Where’s the erstwhile pride in ‘Yankee ingenuity’, in being first on the Moon, in inventing the Internet? We have taught the world that the real Olympics, the truest of international competitions, lies in science and technology—how have we managed to lobotomized ourselves in the process? How did the country that invented Public Education sink lower in scholastic achievement than Zimbabwe? People are crazy—and I’m tired of it. Trump is a traitor, not just to America, but to humanity—but then, that just makes him one of the Rich, doesn’t it? O right, it’s Monday….

***

To-Do List   (2017Feb15)

godessette

Wednesday, February 15, 2017                                       12:37 PM

We get it—you guys love a good debate—if I had Kelly ConJob as my truth-squirmer, I would too. Spicer, as well, though no Kelly, has been described as “the M. C. Escher of bullshit”. So, let’s say that your delusional reasoning wins every argument—that still leaves the question of what to do. And, on that score, even “He won—shut up and sit down” doesn’t really cut it.

Let’s look at the proposals we’ve heard so far. At the top, there’s ‘build a wall’, which I consider more of a ‘what not to do’—it’s efficacy is questionable, over and above (if you’ll pardon the wall analogy) the question of the cost and logistics of the actual building. We made it through two centuries and two world wars without a wall—the crying need for it, here in 2017, still eludes me. And if America truly requires a wall, why are we stopping at one? Where is the wall for the Canadian border?

Then again, sea-walls on both coasts would actually be of use, in the global warming and ocean-level rises to come—why are we building a wall in the only place we don’t really need one? Never mind.

Moving on—we have the travel ban, the refugee freeze, and the repeal of Obamacare—but these are things being undone, not things we’re going to do. They all represent giant steps backward—and even if you don’t agree with that sentiment, there’s still the question of, outside of what we’ll undo, what (again) are you going to do?

Trump’s excuses for re-upping our carbon-footprint may sound like they are designed to bring back manufacturing and other jobs—but that’s not what they actually do—they simply make profit for Big Oil. The opportunities we are losing by our reluctance to embrace alt-energy industries is the real, long-term effect of his petroleum-friendly policies—and his bent towards commodifying education isn’t going to help the job market either.

It may be a misnomer to label Trump a traitor to his country. I suspect that wealthy people don’t see countries as rallying points in the way most of us do—they look at concentrations of wealth as the sovereignties of their world—and they’re not far wrong, though their patriotism is mere lip-service.

His continuing confusion of his presidency with a more familiar role, that of a commercial executive, is further indication that when Trump commits treason, he is ignorant of that aspect of his actions. He thinks he’s running a business, or worse yet, a TV show. Unfortunately, neither of these roles ever expects responsibility of its holder—except for the bottom line. And we’ve seen Trump’s bottom lines—often in the red—so, there’s little joy there, as well. Yet there are still those who insist they voted to put a businessman in the top slot—I might agree more fully if they’d specified a successful businessman.

Trump might have more readily caught on to the fact that ethics were involved, had he not become a member of the Republican party—but they are the Party of the Rich, so what choice did he have? As Vonnegut said, ‘we are what we pretend to be’. So, even if Trump is not the billionaire he pretends to be, he stills has to act like one.

In the end, I point out the lack of goals not to spur Donald to create some—truly, the less damage that a-hole does while in office, the better for all of us—but to point out its very comfortable absence from Trump’s agenda—he’s a fighter—he loves confrontation—but he ain’t much of a doer. His egotistic impetus to run for the office contained no vision of a better America—he only meant that, if elected, he would consider America great again—because we had elected him. And in this he is very much a Republican.

combwbattle

Trump Is God   (2017Feb11)

inferno25

Saturday, February 11, 2017                                             10:02 AM

Supporters of Trump show similarities to evangelicals—blind faith, blindness to the truth, and an eagerness to pick a fight with non-believers. And I think we can put some of the blame for our political chaos on our collective blind spot—religion. Do you have a religion? I do not. Many Americans have a religion which they are deeply invested in—and many Americans have absolutely no belief in the supernatural—horror-, or Christian- based.

America believes in religious freedom and the separation of church and state—which is good in that it protects Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists. The trouble resides in its protection of orthodox and extreme religious sects—anything short of public terrorist acts is permissible—including science-denial, misogyny, and racial discrimination—all features of certain, otherwise ‘legitimate’ religions.

Just as freedom of speech is sometimes misused—as when a neo-nazi’s public speaking goes unmolested—so, too, is freedom of religion misused to perpetuate ideas like those of Julius Evola (a hero of Steve Bannon’s) who was a little too radical for Mussolini, but is enjoying a resurgence due to Trump’s administration.

America made a great leap forward when it founded itself on the idea that religion was too iffy to form a basis for our laws or our government—where, hitherto, no government was without its state religion—a partner of the secular power structure, enforcing a deeper obedience than can be achieved by mere physical intimidation. Nonetheless, in separating the church from state, we only solved half the problem.

colethomvoygolife3-d3

Atheism’s numbers are growing—now that we have ‘magic’ in flight, in medicine, in digital electronics, etc., we have less interest in the non-responsive magic of angels and deities. Open study of archeology and variant scriptures such as the Dead Sea Scrolls have given us a clearer picture of the human side of religion—offering proof that, even if the original supernatural encounters had happened, the leaders of subsequent sects modified the original faiths to meet the exigencies of change and power.

Over the centuries, changes in society and culture caused changes in religion—and modern findings of this destroy the monolithic, unchanging image that religion likes to project. If God were real, neither he (nor she) nor his rules would ever change—which makes today’s religions either false, or sacrilegious, i.e. false unto themselves.

We also have a much smaller world now—the different religions across the globe are used to being insulated from each other. But now, especially in America, one can have a neighborhood containing members of every religion on earth—and while religious freedom protects each of those faiths, it can’t protect people from noticing that these other faithful are blindly true to something entirely unconnected to that which they are blindly true to. It may seem a small thing—but the old joke is true: everyone is an atheist about all religions except their own. It is only a small step from recognizing that everyone around you believes in hogwash, to recognizing that you are in the same boat.

colethomvoygolife3-d5

Aside from the competing magic of science and technology, and the pitfalls of ‘comparison shopping’ for religion, perhaps the most insidious threat to organized faith is our recognition of the hollowness of authority. Where we once looked to religious leaders and political leaders and respected journalists as authority figures, we rarely get through a month without one of these archetypes being indicted, exposed, or debunked. Today’s surge in atheism is just a symptom of a larger tendency to distrust those in power.

To me, the whole thing is an issue of being wishy-washy or not—you either accept the magical thinking of your faith or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. If the afterlife exists, if souls exist, if God exists—then a lot of what we are doing is wrong—and we shouldn’t be doing it. I respect the Amish for their refusal to indulge in tech. I respect the Christian Scientists for their refusal to use modern medicine. If you’re going to believe in magic, don’t be half-assed about it. These religions with one foot out the door seem hypocritical to me.

But they are in the majority—and their dilution into something modern people won’t laugh at is a far greater retreat from faith than all the furor over abortion or evolution. Their own embarrassment is a far greater enemy of their faith than any argument we atheists can provide.

pcnto33

I remember when, as a boy, the Catholic Church demoted all the saints that were too close to fairy tales—my own name-saint, Christopher, and other popular saints like St. Valentine, St. Patrick, and St. Nicklaus—were considered too apocryphal to be included in the Church’s saint’s-day calendar. They were not entirely disowned or erased, but their high visibility became an embarrassment to modern Catholics, and they were no longer to be part of our serious rites of worship. That may be where the seeds of my atheism were sown—don’t name me after the guy who supposedly carried the infant Christ across a torrential river (the Christ-bearer) and then turn around and tell me the guy might just be a fanciful legend after all. That’s no way to cement my faith.

Times change—and religions change with them. The fact that times change slowly—and that each generation is presented with a religion as if it were a static foundation—has kept this simple truth from becoming an obvious fact—until now, when change is swift and communication swifter. Religion has become pitifully threadbare in modern times—the idea that a man can have a special connection to the eternal is hard to maintain when that man gets busted for pedophilia, or when that man decides that suicide-bombers are his favorite converts.

We are stuck now between a rock and a hard place—the Muslim extremists would be perfect poster-boys for atheism, if we weren’t so dead-set on pretending that there is a significant difference between one Judeo-Christian-Muslim faith and another. People even go so far as to argue that Christianity has never indulged in murder or terrorism—a patent falsehood that only reveals a deep ignorance of history—and not very ancient history, either.

colethomwhitemtnpass

To me, the most ugly, yet hilarious, paradox is that we, as a nation, are not ready to contemplate a presidential candidate who is an avowed atheist—yet we are completely unable to take a presidential candidate’s faith seriously. While ‘God will provide’ might make sense at home, it is beyond the pale when speaking of public policy. Reagan, Bush, et. al. were always at their most laughable when they reached back for their fundamentalist rationales to explain their decisions. And that’s overlooking the more basic paradox of one faith’s extremist becoming the leader of a multi-faith nation—or designating one faith as more quintessentially American than all the others.

Then there’s the darker issue—that, for many Americans, money is their God, and hypocritical playing on religious heartstrings is fair play, as long as there’s a profit to be made. Religion has been used as a prop for the powerful since the dawn of civilization—Karl Marx was very clear that he felt religion was used to keep the masses subject to state-determined morality. America is famous for having severed the direct link between power and faith—but such things have the ability to morph into other paradigms. We have recently seen many Americans embrace the return of faith as a political power-base—an ignorance that saddens any educated student of American history.

Religion fills a need. Even I, knowing that faith is an imaginary construct, still feel the lack of its warmth and security. My atheism has not made me feel happy or safe—I have simply had to accept that religion is false, and live with that. I even avoid promoting atheism, since I wouldn’t wish it on a happy believer. But when religion gets on its high horse, as if it were real, I am the first to rise in opposition. This defensive posture is a weak one—and the rise of atheism has spurred a sudden strength in the religious—but religion itself has weakened in its obsolescence.

inferno34

So now we have a new president who got himself elected mostly through demonizing violent extremists of a certain religion—and pretending to support the more popular Christian one. No one is blaming religion itself for any of these problems—most Americans react to Muslim extremism by redoubling their faith in Christianity—even though their differences are minor details. The insistence on blaming Muslims for terrorism is a backhanded way of avoiding religion as the true culprit. Extreme religion of any kind always puts faith above reality, worship above humanity—and there isn’t a one of them that hasn’t descended, in the end, into bloody violence.

So why this blind faith in Trump—why do facts simply bounce off the Trump supporters? My theory is that religion has become too embarrassing, but people still need something to believe in—and Trump fills the bill. Like a god, he offers easy answers, no explanations, and an unbounded self-regard. Further, he sees no obligation to jive with observable reality. If you are an evangelist, or have evangelist leanings, in a world that is slowly waking up from the dream of heaven and hell, Trump is a perfect substitute. Plus, he allows you to attack someone else’s religion without even having to stand up and declare yourself a member of your own.

Xenophobic Nonsense   (2017Feb07)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017                                             6:47 PM

Okay, time to slow things down. Trump’s blitzkrieg of incompetence has the overall effect of forcing us to play his game, on his timetable. He does and says so many inflammatory, imprudent, borderline-illegal things that we simple folk are spurred into instant response—there’s never time for sober discussion—his stupidity is faster than light.

And while it may seem impossible to justify ignoring Trump and his minions for even one second—I sense that pulling back from his shit-storm of non-ideas, and taking the time to laugh at him and them—and to remind ourselves that life goes on, madness in the White House be damned—is the correct course. When caught in an inane conversation with a drunk, we don’t try to win the argument—we try to move away from the drunk—and this seems the sensible course in the case of Trump’s fascist Justice League of Losers and their obsession with media-storms.

Granted, Trump’s Electoral College win is a huge blow—in spite of the majority voting against him, he holds the presidency for the next four years—and that’s a lot of power for a crazy egotist. But the sub-set of Americans identifying as Trump supporters is still, in many ways, a far more ominous threat in the long term. These people are trapped within the echo-chamber of ‘alternative’, resentful, paranoid fantasies about how the world works, outside of their town.

Where their existence was once threatened by the ubiquity of information, the rise of biased information sources has now strengthened their grip on such self-excusing delusions. Bigotry is back in fashion. As long as Trump (and their portion of the Internet) reinforces their balky refusal to open their minds, they’ll feel infinitely justified in maintaining even the craziest notions.

These people have even been convinced to vote against Health Care, for themselves and their families. Think about that. It’s not far different from offering someone a juicy steak dinner—and them punching you in the mouth, like you’d insulted their mother.

You tell them the globe is warming, sea levels are rising, untold disaster awaits—and when their boss at the oil company, or the coal mine, sez, ‘No, it isn’t’, they dutifully jeer at the scientists. Scientists! People who make a career out of sweating the details—and who, more to the point, have no dog in this race—unlike their deniers.

I’ve seen regular people—not rich business owners or anything, just regular folks—who actually oppose the Minimum Wage. The sole purpose of a minimum wage is to make it hard for employers to pay you less than you deserve. Do these people think that the rule will only apply to immigrants—and even if it did, do they hate immigrants that much? How will they feel when their own kids can’t find work that pays their rent? Minimum Wage might start to look a little more attractive then.

So, in my humble opinion, there are some tragically, self-defeatingly, self-destructively stupid people out there—and a lot of them vote. For the most part, they don’t really oppose the changes that the Left promotes—they simply fear change—and that is their only real point of agreement with their leaders, especially Trump. Imagine a 21st-century American putting billions of taxpayer dollars into a wall—a big, stupid wall. Hasn’t he read Clausewitz?

A wall can be swum around, tunneled under, and flown over—if Trump’s idea was to stop immigrants, he’s a failure—if he merely wants to inconvenience them—good work, Donald, spend away. Although it should be noted that immigrants are no strangers to inconvenience. The act of building a big wall can be seen as less of a practical exercise and more of a desire for the world to be so simple. It is a statement more than an achievement—and those familiar with Trump’s pre-presidency resume will recognize this theme.

The sad truth is that rich people raise lazy kids—and rich countries raise lazy citizens—America maintains its preeminence by constantly blending in fresh blood. And if the newcomers are not creamy white, that is beside the point—they are eager—even desperate, for a chance to make something of their lives, and their families’ lives. They work like dogs. They take everything seriously. They listen to what’s going on around them. Basically, all the stuff that you and I are too ‘over’ being Americans to bother with.

These people prevent the rest of us from drowning in our own toxins of apathy and entitlement, selfishness and irresponsibility. They recharge the battery of America and they always have—our own ancestors were part of the process. Deciding to stop now, to shut it all down, to ban travel and build a big honking wall—suicide—sheer suicide for our country and ourselves.

Don’t take my word for it—look at Europe. A lot of those countries are accepting refugees, not simply out of the goodness of their hearts, but also because their populations are becoming too small and too aged to maintain their economies. They need immigrants—and the only reason we don’t is because we’ve always had them. We’ve never known what lack of change, lack of growth is really like—stagnation is foreign to us—but not for long, if we keep up this xenophobic nonsense.

ttfn

DeVos Wins Electoral College   (217Feb07)

betsy-devos

Monday, February 06, 2017                                             9:27 AM

I’m sorry—is my title “DeVos Wins Electoral College” a misleading, inaccurate statement that does more to confuse than enlighten? I thought that was how we were doing journalism now. My bad.

Name one reason to endorse Betsy DeVos. Senator Frankin nailed it—the $200,000,000 she and her family have paid the GOP—the one and only reason she was picked. She flunked her hearing—she was so unfit that even a GOP-controlled Senate had to bring in Pence for the tie-breaker. She appeared on television, demonstrating to the whole world that she has no experience, insight, or education for the job she’s supposed to undertake—and that she has become a partisan hack without having first even become a politician. We know she’s a hack—because if you or I were to embarrass ourselves so completely in public, we’d slink away in shame.

This could never have happened if Trump hadn’t already made Unfitness the hallmark of a Republican. But if a game show host is sufficient for the Presidency, why not have an empty-headed rich bitch head the Department of Education—it’s a free-for-all—don’t think about it too hard.

Trump is a fraud and a lecher. Bannon is a hate-monger. Kellyanne has a PhD in Pants-on-Fire—but, well, they all lie like rugs—she merely enjoys it the most. The Cabinet appointees are all shills for the wealthy. And every last one of these pigs, from Trump on down, is incompetent—they have no idea how to run our government—except perhaps as a game show.

The far right will make equally inflammatory remarks—but their outrage is based on delusion, or hypocrisy, or ignorance—not, like mine, out of disappointment that these con artists have hijacked a once-great nation—and that you Trump-supporting yahoos will cheer him on, as this country’s proud heritage dies.

But then, people are stupid. I’m stupid. You’re stupid. We none of us knows what we’re doing or saying half the time. We look at computers, space stations, and airliners—we think, oh, how brilliant we are—but those things were created by unique, educated, highly-trained people—individuals and small, tight-knit teams. You want to see how smart people in general are, as a group—just look around.

Banks make profit from indenturing college students. Prisons make profit from prisoner labor. Employers scoff at a minimum wage—as if having someone work for you all day doesn’t entitle them to live. People rail against socialized medicine, even though it seems to work better than the Insurance Industry’s idea of profiting from tragedy. And distinguished-looking farts in fancy suits will tell you that saving the environment is for sissies.

This is the wisdom of the greatest country on earth. Couldn’t make so much as a paper airplane with that bunch. And don’t point to that precious bottom line—money don’t mean shit when you’re choking for air, dying of thirst, expiring from the heat, or living in chains. If the economy can’t take responsibility for our survival, then the economy is a mental disease—beyond the mere stupidity, into the insanity of the mob.

How many of us are ransoming our children’s future for the sake of a paycheck? Too many, I’d say—since a bunch of people who live off of destroying the planet (like coal miners) will tell you that their jobs are much more important than global anything—but they’re not being selfish—oh, no. They’ve got ‘mouths to feed’. They’re wasting their time—if we don’t change soon, all those mouths will perish in a poison wasteland—so what was the point? It’s just math—how the hell do they politicize simple math?

Oh, I know! Betsy DeVos.

Hail Mary Pass   (2017Feb05)

20170205xd-supbowl_li_grfc

Sunday, February 05, 2017                                                2:30 PM

Super Bowl LI today—it may have started already, for all I know, but even non-sports guys like me can’t help but hear about it—and the commercials, and the half-time show. It’s a national institution, there’s no denying that.

And a business watershed—the ad people can spend the whole year getting ready their Super Bowl commercial—and if they get it right, it’s an instant classic, a feather in their cap for the length of their career. Between the ratings fluctuations and the reviews of the half-time entertainment, it’s a show-biz watershed as well. And, of course, it’s a sports thing, first and foremost.

My experience of football was brief and uninspiring—so I don’t want to get all ‘sour grapes’ about the game—it’s exciting stuff. Still, I can’t help worrying that Football will go the way of Cigarettes. With cigarettes, we had that first study showing it was dangerous—and that made the sensible people quit.

But, between industry pushback and personal inertia, smoking remained quite commonplace. Then a second push, following a few court cases lost by Big Tobacco, virtually wiped cigarettes from the face of society—and that was a good thing—I remain a rare smoker, still, but I’m not complaining about the non-smoking movement.

So, too, with football—we’ve already had the big announcement—that hundreds of micro-lesions can form in the brain through repeated concussive blows, making football a very risky way to get rich. Industry has pushed back fairly successfully, minimizing the risk and making noises about helmet sensors and increased vigilance—but the basic facts have not changed.

Now that symptoms can be linked to their true causes, and autopsies include inspections of brain matter for long-term damage, the connection between a youthful football career and a middle-age of drooling vegetation, or suicide, will become nakedly obvious. If we are just now getting rid of bullfighting, how long can we continue to support a sport that kills its human players a few years after they retire? It doesn’t look good for American football.

 

Still, chain-smoking somehow seemed to make a World War into a bearable ordeal—so, if we need a weekend of football to get us through the new World Order fumbling into being, down in Washington, so be it. At this point, any diversion is a gift from above.

And I come bearing gifts of my own—two new improvs with pictures of the world’s finest baby. The music is so-so, but the pictures are adorable. Somehow, the Big Game got politicized—but all I care about is the new “24” series that follows the game—hey, if Keifer isn’t in it, why are we watching? Couldn’t they just call it something new? Well, I’m ‘too old for this shit’, as they say—maybe Sutherland is too.

 

 

ttfn

Nation of Fools (2017Feb02)

Friday, February 03, 2017                                       10:56 AM

A Promise To Pollute   (2017Feb03)

Lots of phone calls and Facebook posts wishing me a happy birthday today—I’m glad everyone else is enjoying my turning 61—I’m of two minds about the aging process, myself. I think I’d celebrate a lot harder if I got a year subtracted from my age—but you work with what you have.

People pay a lot more attention to politics when it’s all going up in flames, as it seems to be doing right now. Back when Obama was being a competent president, with a firm grasp of world affairs, nobody gave a damn—there were even people who said, ‘I don’t know—I don’t think I’ll vote for anyone.’ Well, they voted without even realizing it, by letting the far-right win enough votes to elect Trump.

America doesn’t believe in the ‘Check Engine’ light—we worry about our problems only after the engine block has burst into flames. Well, the car’s on fire—are you happy now? The female half of this country is up in arms. The environmentally-conscious are up in arms. Anyone who doesn’t have pasty-white skin, or who talks with an accent, is up in arms. But Hillary had an email server—so what choice did we have, right?

The army of redneck supporters, ignorant enough to be taken in by the alt-right alternative facts and the subtle racism and the fear-mongering—those people are numerous enough to give Trump his electoral college win. But they are the least of it. The cynical power-brokers behind the scenes—the spreaders of the new fascism’s propaganda—are not the leaders of these shoeless morons. They are using them, not leading them—and they are using them to divert our efforts away from regulation, ethical watchdogs, and much-needed social programs.

The wealthy love the status quo—and all the suffering that implies. A real leader makes real change—and change is the enemy of the wealthy. They never argue this stuff head-on. They create a fog of controversy about a hundred little things, twisting the truth and stonewalling against accusations as if they really care—meanwhile, their true agenda carries on virtually unnoticed. It’s diabolical—but it’s working like gang-busters. For instance: Trump didn’t campaign on a promise to dump coal waste into our rivers and streams—but that is one of the first things he did.

Thursday, February 02, 2017                                           7:17 PM

Nation of Fools   (2017Feb02)

In the early 1700s, the Protestant Huguenots fled persecution in France. These educated and successful people took all their skills and energy to other countries, mostly in Great Britain and the colonies. This ultimately weakened France and strengthened her neighbors and enemies—at a time when the exodus of nearly one million was not the ‘blip’ it is today.

Nazi Germany would make the same mistake—destroying the University system that had made Germany the intellectual hub of the world (although they would make deadly use of some of that scientific development) and driving the finest scientific minds of the day to foreign shores—many of them, thankfully, here to America.

Todays’ warning of the dearth of young scientists America now produces, combined with our new draconian xenophobia and divisiveness, shows the US seemingly poised to shoot itself in the leg, in like manner to Louis XIV and Hitler. And, truly, when stupid rules the roost, can we expect our brightest to hang around?

There is a cost to idiotic foreign policy, to populist-partisan domestic policy, to science-denial, religious reactionism, ignorance, bigotry, and especially to the dilution of rigor in public discourse. Those with the energy and brilliance to excel in society are not going to keep themselves in a dumbed-down America out of pride—not when our pride becomes transparent bluster and our legendary Yankee ingenuity is focused solely on such post-modern breakthroughs as the world’s biggest cement wall.

Where are booster rockets built? Russia. Where is solar technology being developed? China. Where is tidal power being researched? The Netherlands. Who’s building the electronics of tomorrow? Everybody but us. The question is: whose boot is most heavily pressed against the neck of America’s collective intelligence? Is it our school systems? Is it our politicians? Is it our ubiquitous media-trance? Why have we become a nation of fools?

Is the Internet nothing but a subtle form of mass lobotomy? When faced with dueling fact-checkers, is it not obvious that one of them is a lying, faithless scumbag? I give up. The world is too full of dogmen—humans are too rare. It is too cruel to teach me to love this country, sixty years now, only to see it transform itself into insane asylum.

I made a commitment to face down these drooling dogs of ignorance and hate—but I feel my determination flagging. Stupid is a powerful foe. And like an exorcist faced with a body possessed by a demon, it’s hard to decide how to exorcize the stupidity without destroying the victim—a lot of these people are not evil, per se—merely trapped in a web of alternative facts and fear-mongering that makes them zombie followers of the king of the brain dead—Trump himself. Telling them they are in error only hurts them, causing them to reflexively clutch their delusions to their breasts all the tighter.

Evil’s got us in a pretty tight corner, just recently. It’s ironic that I get some of them spewing the most outraged denouncements at me, when all I was trying to do is save them from their own mistakes. Granted, no one likes to be called an idiot—but for some reason I thought being brutally frank would help cut through the BS. I lose—same player plays again.

I was wrong. And that’s the tragedy—we’re all wrong, at least ten times a day. To err is human. But, when a group of cynical hypocrites start institutionalizing their own brand of self-serving Wrong—well, that’s evil—and those fuckers need to be exposed and neutralized. We use to rely on journalists for that. What happened? “They’re calling from inside the newsroom!” Noooo!

Trump the Traitor   (2017Feb02)

delightr_Detail_01

Thursday, February 02, 2017                                           10:35 AM

By and large, Americans self-identify with liberty, equality, inclusion, and a class-less society. But there are those so in love with their religion that they really don’t care for Separation of Church and State—America’s oldest and most important ideal. There are those who insist that one’s skin color does make a difference—and we just aren’t giving Separate but Equal a chance. There are those who say, “Of course, women are different—how can you say they are equal?”

There are those who think that Islam is fundamentally different from Christianity. (I’m an atheist and, trust me, they’re the same damn thing.) There are those who insist on owning a gun because it’s illegal to stand around in public with your dick in your hand. There are those who say we should mind our own business and let business owners piss all over our heads and call it ‘trickle down’. There are even people stupid enough to think that a 2,000-mile long wall on the Mexican/US border is a valid thought.

These people will tell you that these mistakes are ‘alternatives’. They will insist that Freedom of Speech gives them the right to be wrong in their own way. In former times, many stupid ideas were championed in the name of state’s rights—today, they are championed as the right of ignorant people to disagree with people who know better. It’s kinda the same thing. And in the Land of the Free, the voices of the galactically stupid do deserve a hearing—they even get to vote—it’s one of the pitfalls of the humanitarian approach: not condemning people for disagreeing—or even for their bottomless, willful ignorance.

Yet while these yahoos cannot be thrown in jail (our jails are busy founding a modern form of slavery, anyhow) they can be publicly contradicted by people who understand the intent of the Founding Fathers. BLOTUS, the champion of the galactically stupid, is not leading our nation—he’s leading the assault on America’s core values. He’s got his liar-in-chief, Kellyanne, and his Nazi-in-chief, Bannon.

But worst of all, Trump has on his side the most un-American political party we’ve ever known. They call themselves Republicans, but they are undeniably the Traitor party—their ‘rules’ change to fit the occasion, their facts ‘alternate’ to fit their PR, and their allegiance to the Constitution is like their allegiance to the Bible—they cherry-pick the parts that fit their unholy agenda, and dismiss the troubling parts as ‘typos’.

The fact that our liberal idealism is the only thing making their hypocritical, traitorous, money-grubbing, hate-spreading, and ego-stroking corruption possible—is entirely lost on them. They see Freedom of the Press and view it as an opportunity for Propaganda—they see Freedom of Speech and view it as on opportunity to Lie with impunity. They see rules meant to enforce fairness and twist them into a means to an end. And all the while they use their positions of responsibility to further their fortunes and power, never to serve the public good.

Trump hates Public Service—that’s why he ignored it for seventy years, and only got involved when he saw a shot at the high chair, grasping for power and fame in an office that, for over two centuries, has been filled by men of honor and responsibility. And now that he’s in there, he’s acting like a game show host—because that’s what con-men do, to distract you, while they’re rifling through your pockets.

delightr

 

This traitor and his gang have walked the extreme boundaries of credibility and professionalism, honing the public impression towards what we’re used to, while their de facto impact is an assault on what it means to be an American. They are helped greatly in this villainy by the fact that our ideals are subtle, fragile things which shatter in the hands of the disrespectful. Words can be twisted. Denials can be made—and false equivalences. Intent is the crux—and intent can be masked—is being masked, behind a barrage of bullshit the like of which this country has never before seen.

So that’s Trump—a traitor, pure and simple. But let’s move on to an even more unpleasant theme—those who voted him into office. What can be done to save these people from their own inanity? Mandatory Public Education?  Maybe just to remind them what it’s like to have an educator at the front of the classroom, correcting them when they say something bat-shit crazy stupid. What can you do when people believe the lie and scoff at the truth? Will the dishonesty and willful evil of the empowered go unchecked, as it did in 1860, until we have no alternative but to start taking pot-shots at our neighbors and set the country aflame?

For most of us, the Right, the Truth, is always there, right in front of us. We are rarely confronted, personally, with the evils of bad government. We see politics as optional—‘if we had more time, maybe, or if something were to go really wrong, then….’ And then there’s the inertia of one day after the other, our little lives seeming to have little connection to the big doings in the halls of power.

delightW

But I find myself obsessing lately over that old adage ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. If we had voted better, none of this would be happening. We see it now, when it’s far too late to fix—but it was visible back in November, for those who cared to look closely. And this recent playing around with ‘the  rules’—who are they kidding? They make the rules—and by they, I mean all of them. If the Democrats are not filing a thousand lawsuits, right now, then they’re part of the problem and have gone as far off the rails as the GOP.

I hear Democrats telling us to stay engaged—hey, how about some tit for tat? Why aren’t you people raising hell and a half, every day? Are you really okay with this assault on everything we live for, everything our soldiers, down through time, have died for? Is every civil rights victory for the past century to be wiped away by this monkey in a Chinese silk suit? We knew there were disgusting little rich bastards, hiding in the shadows, supporting ISIS for the distraction value of their bloodthirsty tyranny—but who knew one of them would be the President of the United States? Up off your lazy asses, Democrats—it’s all hands on deck time.

delightX

More Bitchin And Moanin   (2017Jan31)

inferno32

Tuesday, January 31, 2017                                                10:18 PM

Okay. It’s Tuesday. All’s well here at home. Nothing to worry about. Remain calm. That’s what’s important here. Getting all worked up about what might happen or what tomorrow may bring—that’s all wasted effort—energy wasted that you may need, should tomorrow’s fears come to pass.

I can’t bring myself to watch the news anymore—a combination of not wanting to hear what’s really happening—and not believing half of what I see on TV, anyhow. And I can’t enjoy most movies anymore—I’m overexposed to cinema from a lifetime of movie fandom—and now, the new stuff is so facile, so puerile that I can’t sit still for it. So I’m left with books (not without its problems and limits), piano (ditto), and the computer.

And what of the computer? Here I am, typing away again. Talking to nobody—how is this different from having voices in my head—from being crazy? Well, it keeps me indoors, anyhow, instead of running through the streets screaming and pulling my hair out.

And who am I to complain anyway? My life is a bed of roses—if you leave out the crazy and the stress—and the world is full of people who would literally kill to take my place, here in a cozy, peaceful enclave of Upper Westchester, with all the trimmings—good food, dry and warm, soft bed, cable TV and WyFy—what’s to complain about? I live like a king—and I’m not even one of what you might call the wealthy. Still, to 90% of the people walking this earth, my life is cloud nine and only a crazy person would bitch about it, sick or otherwise.

20160730xd-selfportrait

Still, I think I deserve a few points for being sick. I used to be Mr. Happy Funtime—look at my face now. That’s the face of a sixty-year-old who’s had to fight to stay alive, to stay mentally there and physically upright, every minute of every damn day—and while it may look easier than holding down a full-time job, it isn’t. I’ve tried both—I’d gladly go back to 50-hour weeks as a systems manager if I could have my health and my intellect back—but that’s a dream.

What used to be that life, my life, ended decades ago. I’ve spent the time since about 1988 trying to survive cancer, chemicals, memory loss, and depression—all while having chronic fatigue and atrophied muscles—some muscles, in my abs, were even cut during the liver transplant—they just hang off my bones, unemployed but with nowhere else to go.

Thus, in spite of all the assholes who like to pretend that disability is a free ride for lazy people, the truth is that disability is a shit-show—those smug bastards wouldn’t last a single day of it, without crying for their mommas. ‘I work for a living’, they say—and you can just hear the smug. Big fucking deal—I’ve done work—it’s easy-peasy, compared to what I’ve been through—what a lot of disabled people have been through.

Imagine how bad off you have to be for the government to decide ‘Yeah, let’s just pay that guy money so he can stay alive.’ If you walked into Social Security with a splinter in your finger, they’d laugh in your face—and if you lost the whole hand, they’d still find you work. Me they just stamped ‘paid’—imagine the shape I’m in.

Not that I’m complaining. The rule is: if you go through a meat grinder and come out the other side still breathing, you’re supposed to be grateful that you’re still alive. So I’m grateful—get off my back. You go ahead and flit around—with your steady hands and clear memory and sharp eyesight and strong muscles and your sense of balance and your whole life to do with whatever you please—I’ll be sitting here, being grateful.

Don’t mind my bitter resentment if your mind is too lazy to crack a book, when my reading has gone from ten hours a day to three, tops, on a good day. Excuse my sharp criticism if my barely-held consciousness still has enough light in it to identify your confused, mealy-mouthed excuses for political acumen as the trash they are worthy of being called. And don’t be surprised when someone who spends his every waking moment experiencing the fragility of life finds your childish, locker-room jock bravado (masquerading as political ideology) so far beneath adult consideration that I lose my patience and call you an asshole. That’s just the way it is, bub.

No, there is no teacher at the head of the room—we are no longer schoolchildren. But when you’re wrong, you’re still wrong—and you know it—deep down in the bottom of that empty head, you know damn well that hate and fear and selfishness are negative forces that corrupt and destroy—and even the people on top, for now, will eventually suffer from poor judgement and bad leadership. And if you think you can just screw up the world and die, leaving others to suffer, think again. None of us gets out alive—but none of us escapes our fate, either. Karma’s a stone cold bitch.

Even you, Trump—when you stroke out, trying to do a job you aren’t fit for, think of all the criticism you’ll never be able to tweet back at—it’ll all just hang out there, unanswered by you or anyone else. And your tremendous ego, under the distraction of President Pence’s ascension, will dry up and blow away, never to bother anyone ever again. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

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.

tenniel_tea2_parlor

Our Fallen In Yemen   (2017Jan29)

20160702XD-RevWar_02

Sunday, January 29, 2017                                        10:51 AM

Well, it’s become real—or is it ‘realer’? The first Trump administration counter-terrorism operation in Yemen has ended with the loss of a US serviceperson. Blood has been shed. We can all hope that Trump’s phone call to the grieving family will prod him into taking this job slightly more seriously, now. All this time, all this campaigning, and Trump is finally confronted with the fact that America is the arsenal of freedom—and freedom ain’t free.

Not that Trump is much worse than the rest of us. Will that fallen soldier be headline news all week? Or will he have sacrificed his life for his country while his country neglects to so much as notice, beyond a column in the New York Times? Will our armed services personnel retain their sense of duty and honor, while 99.9% of their countrymen obsess over inaugural crowd sizes, or repealing health care coverage for twenty million people?

Who would have thought that an elitist egomaniac who slaps his name onto any building he can find, in pursuit of brand-recognition, would discover that his name on a building (now that he’s the leader of a nation which ISIS is sworn to attack) makes that building a somewhat uncomfortable stopping place for most people? It’s ironic that his family’s businesses are now in a position of hoping that ISIS, Boko Haram, and others will repeal their fatwas against the USA and ‘replace it with something better’.

Then again, America’s pride in being ‘the land of the free’ is going to take a hit, what with Muslim bans, 2,000-mile walls, repealing women’s right to choose, and attacks on the fourth estate (if not facts themselves). Perhaps our armed services will lose their loyalty, not because they fall unnoticed, but because the country they defend no longer exists. Up until now, they operated on the premise that the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots (and tyrants—but let’s not get the Secret Service all het up). But without the tree, why bother with the watering?

If America becomes no different from any third-world dirt-hole, why would we even bother getting excited by the thought of invasion? Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss, right? According to Trump, our elections are a farce, anyhow—anyone who didn’t vote for him voted illegally—or whatever conundrum that fevered head came up with. So, we’re not really a democracy. Add in the voiding of the Constitution, and the trashing of our tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees—and it’s not really America anymore, is it?

Just add a new SCOTUS appointee who hails from 17th-century Puritan Salem, as a cherry on top, and you’ve got a whole new country. All we need now are people willing to die for it, and people willing to live in it.

20160702XD-RevWar_03

America Foisted   (2017Jan27)

inferno34

Friday, January 27, 2017                                          10:07 AM

What Trump doesn’t understand is that “America First” sounds fresh and exciting to him—because no one else has used that phrase since the American Bund, whose motto it was, were exposed as Nazi fifth-columnists in the 1940s. “America First” has been—and to all appearances remains, as Trump uses it—the rallying cry of Fascists, Racists and Anti-Semites. Just because Trump is ignorant of History doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

He compounded his ignorance by using this motto, mere seconds after taking the oath of office—which he apparently wasn’t listening to himself doing—because the oath clearly states that he is not to preserve and protect our boundaries with big walls—his job is to defend the Constitution.

And this is why it is dangerous to put a dummy in that office—America is not a patch of dirt that we love—it is a collection of principles written down by our founders. America is an idea—if you throw out the ideas, we’re just a patch of dirt, no different from anyplace else. Animals fight over territory—Americans fight to defend their ideas.

That is why ignorance in America always fancies itself as an ‘alternative point of view’—those who hear ‘freedom of speech’ as a simple rule, rather than a complex idea, will naturally use that rule to counter ideas against which they are incapable of arguing cogently. In the same way, the ignorant tell us, “He won. Get over it.” They do not see that having the Electoral College legitimize their mistake, making it official for four years, does not make their choice any less incorrect—or dangerous, sad to say.

I have even heard it said that a man who lies so profusely as BLOTUS may not be lying, so much as deluded enough to believe his own lies—which, to me, only begs the question: which is worse—a congenital liar or a raving lunatic? Well, fear not, America—by all evidence, it would seem that we have elected a man who is very much both.

What is so very striking about BLOTUS is how proud he is—I have always wanted to feel pride in my accomplishments, as any normal person does, but I never realized that it is possible to be proud as a personality tic, devoid of any cause or achievement. His dismissal of the real accomplishments of others, and of the nuances of allegiance to a Constitution, rather than a piece of property, are just the flip side of that empty-souled, dim-witted persona.

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!

20170126xd-petenmebudsup_logo

 

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.

 

Four Book Reviews   (2017Jan24)

Monday, January 23, 2017                                                9:36 PM

Of my recent readings, four books have stood out as enjoyable to the point of recognizing their worth and sharing my enjoyment with others:

“Xenophobia” by Peter Cawdron   –   “The Sculpted Ship” by K. M. O’Brien   –   “The Simpleton” by Mark Wayne McGinnis   –   “Feedback” by Peter Cawdron

Below is a re-post of my Amazon reviews for each:

“Xenophobia” by Peter Cawdron

xenophobia

[‘Super 8’ in Africa]

Do not be fooled by the generic title—this book is unique and exciting in many ways. First of all, I love it when a science fiction story starts out as a regular novel, bringing the reader into a real-world scenario both interesting and engaging—meanwhile, very slowly and subtly at first, the introduction of the strange—and the total lack of expectation of anything otherworldly on the part of the characters—adds greatly to the sense of dislocation one would feel, if confronted by, say, an alien—rather than simply reading a story that has an alien in it.

Perhaps I’m over-explaining myself—all I’m saying is that the protagonist, a young doctor working in a war-torn third-world country—and her UN-assigned military team of protectors—have more than their share of drama unfolding throughout this book. The introduction of some kind of First Contact, late in the story, was superfluous in terms of good story-telling. The woman’s struggle is as much about the human condition as anything else—quite gripping, all on its own—and, as I said, the realism of this story only adds to the sense of alienness concerning the visitors from the sky, when they finally appear.

As a child of Clarke, Asimov & Co., I have no set requirement for literary excellence in my science fiction—though when I come across it, as I have done here, I’m very appreciative. What I do demand is that there be, if not originality, at least uniqueness to the concepts or the science—and that is also here, not so much in the ingredients of the story, but in the interactions of the various players and in the frustrating of comfortable assumptions and expectations.

If a combination of the movies “Tears of the Sun”, “Rescue Dawn”, and “Super 8” sounds like something you’d enjoy, then Xenophobia is right up your alley.

 

“The Simpleton” by Mark Wayne McGinnis

simpleton

[Flowers for E.T.]

While the representation of a story through a mélange of movies is not something I’m entirely comfortable with, it sometimes seems quite apropos—and in the case of “The Simpleton” by Mark Wayne McGinnis I’m tempted to say that it is a combination of “The Lawnmower Man”, “Flowers For Algernon”, and “E.T.”—with just a hint of “Ender’s Game” thrown in for good measure, at the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed McGinnis’ take on the familiar ‘enhanced intelligence’ concept—it has always fascinated me. That the alien feels concern for enhancing the intelligence of a living thing without its consent is a great doorway to ruminations about the paradox of life being a violent exercise, yet intelligence urges us to seek peace. I appreciate writers who, like Tolstoy, take side-trips into the philosophical in the course of their story-telling.

On the down side, I’ve never been a big fan of the sci-fi trope in which the aliens are too peaceful to defend themselves and thus require us savage humans to fight their war for them. How is that not just using humans as second-hand weapons? But, whatever—it also allows for alien characters who are more savage than humans, rather than less—so balance is maintained.

Being anti-authoritarian, I’m also a big fan of stories where the security forces and the military are so paranoid and knee-jerk violent that they practically doom the planet in their narrow-minded quest to control a situation they don’t understand—so I enjoyed that aspect of this story as well.

I’m very story-oriented—when I read, it is basically just to enjoy myself. This makes it difficult for me to discuss my impressions of a book without a great deal of ‘spoilers’—but rest assured that “The Simpleton” is far less simple than the little bits I’ve given away in this review—and the whole story is complex and entrancing in the way only good sci-fi can be.

 

“The Sculpted Ship” by K. M. O’Brien

sculptedship

[A Fairy Tale of Space]

Any good adventurer needs a little luck and a few helping hands to make it through the dark forest of inexperience—that is the message of most fairy tales—and it is also the theme of this delightful sci-fi fairy tale.

A young lady who just happens to be a genius at starship engineering just happens across a very special starship that has fallen on hard times. As her quest to get the ship back into the dark parallels her coming of age, she runs into a Star Wars-like collection of good, bad, and just plain odd people—smugglers, bots, royalty, and charm-school matrons, just to name a few.

While there may be little doubt as to what happens next, the reader is diverted by the exhaustive creation of a future society, complete with political intrigue, fashion faux-pas, and space-naval traditions. There is, in some books, such a pleasure in inhabiting the story that the lack of much surprise in the plot is beside the point—we simply enjoy the work of a good story-teller.

I certainly enjoyed “The Sculpted Ship”—I dashed through it, and it ended way before I was ready to let it go. I only hope there will be sequels.

 

“Feedback” by Peter Cawdron

feedback

[Even If You Don’t Care For Time Travel]

Time Travel as premise is not something I care for, most of the time. For one thing, I dislike getting the feeling that I understand the physics better than the author—which has happened to me too many times. For another thing, many authors err either on the side of ‘Time Travel makes everything possible’ or the side of ‘Time Travel can’t change anything’—in such cases, either way, it seems an exercise in futility.

But sometimes, as in “Feedback”, Time Travel is both taken seriously as a physics hypothesis—and is neither let loose to cover everything nor confined to where it hardly matters. In “Feedback” we are treated to a nice demonstration of how a Time-Travel premise can be tweeked into something that both preserves the past and yet allows for human determination to help shape the ultimate future.

This story gives a new level to the term flash-back, as we bounce back and forth from two different story-lines, both equally engaging and both quite distinct until nearly the end, when all things become, at last, not just tied together, but twisted into an infinite loop. And it is a rare book that saves the surprise ending for an extended epilogue—and for that new experience, for this old, old bookworm, I have to thank Mr. Cawdron.

Having just finished reading this enthralling story, I suspect that I could spend a great deal of time poking holes in it—Time-Travel tales are notoriously loose-logical. But this book keeps you moving right along—and it would take a keener mind than mine to have noticed any glaring errors during the course of my reading. And, hey, if it’s good enough to support the willing suspension of disbelief until the last page, it’s hardly fair of the reader to try and tear it apart, after the fact—we’ll leave that to the poor fool who has to write the screenplay adaptation.

I would have to give the author a nod simply for writing a Time-Travel story that I enjoyed. But “Feedback” was more than just acceptable—it was a great sci-fi ride through space, time, and science—and that’s all I ask from any book.

Hardasses   (2017Jan21)

clowntrump3

Saturday, January 21, 2017                                               9:48 AM

Hardasses like to rag on the Arts as if one-tenth-of-a-cent on every tax dollar is going to kill them—meanwhile, they wouldn’t give up their Sunday football games if it were they that were getting concussed, instead of their ‘heroes’. These are the same bozos who want to institutionalize Islamophobia, driving hordes into the arms of ISIS just so they can hug their hate ever so close. I think we should relocate all the anti-watchdog advocates to Flint, so they can see what they’re pushing for.

George Washington did not lead a rebellion so that we could each sit back and say, “What about me?”—he was thinking more along the lines of “What about We?” Selfishness may be natural, but when overindulged, it becomes downright un-American—or should I say Trumpian? Listen to me, hardasses—you think you’re being tough? Maybe in a barfight—but in the world of ideas and understanding, you’re all a bunch of whiny little sissies.

clowntrump2

You all think you’re so tough, being against the Other. But guess what happens when it’s your own kid—or anyone you really care about? All of a sudden, being gay, or poor, or sick, isn’t the crime you thought it was—suddenly, it’s just a human problem. We’ve seen it a million times—so don’t pretend you’re tough on the issues—you’re just unconnected to them, ignorant of the full spectrum of the human condition. You’re trying to make a virtue of being unable to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

This clown you just elected president is going to embarrass you, just as all your weak-minded judgements ultimately leave you walking around in the emperor’s new duds. His first act as President?—Putting his wife’s jewelry e-store on the White House web page. Signs of things to come. I would have been shocked, if he hadn’t spent the last year showing us how stupid he is.

clowntrump

Dear Mindy   (2017Jan20)

firstfam2

Friday, January 20, 2017                                          10:58 AM

Excerpt from a friend’s email: “….Have a good day. I’m paying for a friend’s moped repair today. I who live on disability’s low end will help a fellow human in need on this day with no expectations of repayment. To me, this is how to spend inaugural day by helping a fellow citizen.

—Min”

Dear Mindy:

Is there a high-end to disability?

Yes, DeVos is a piece of work. Sen. Franken asked her if she and her family had donated $200-million to the Republican party over the last few years and she said yes. Then he asked her if she thought that had anything to do with her being appointed to a cabinet post and she very haughtily replied that she didn’t see any connection. Then he asked her some technical questions about modern educational methods and testing—and she had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

And all of Trump’s picks, really, seem to be that ‘special place in hell’ for each of the departments of government they’re being assigned to run—it’s Opposite Day at the White House. On the other hand, they match very well with the President who should never have been. And the Congress refusing to do full ethics reviews on his appointees jives nicely with the voters failing to disqualify Trump for his own ethics—or, I should say, lack of ethics. I have no special plans for today—Trump’s inauguration coverage will simply be of a piece with all the news coverage I never watch anymore.

It all reminds me of when I was a programmer—people respected me, at first, because they needed my help with a talking/printing machine that helped them all make money. But when I had made all the programs very easy to use and very reliable, people began to take me and the computer for granted—and all they ever did was bitch about the little inconveniences that came up—or they asked me to make the computer do things that a machine can’t do, etc.

America, in the same way, has run pretty smoothly for a long time—and we have taken it so for granted that we’ve elected a man who doesn’t understand the nature of government, the point of public service, or the importance of the Constitution. And I have to agree with you about doing a favor for someone today, as a form of protest—at this dawn of an era of blatant corruption and incompetence, a humane act of any kind is as much a protest as if you marched down Fifth Avenue with a sign on a stick.

And a lot safer, too. If you recall, one of Trump’s campaign promises was to shoot a man on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight.

Love,

Chris

firstfam

ttfn

XperDunn Returns   (2017Jan18)

photo-jan-03-1-48-58-pm

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.

photo-dec-23-3-22-21-pm

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.

photo-dec-23-3-21-37-pm

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.

photo-dec-20-5-10-56-pm

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.

 

photo-jan-01-11-47-54-am

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.

Embarrassed To Be White   (2017Jan15)

20160702XD-RevWar_03

Sunday, January 15, 2017                                        12:42 PM

Honesty has gone by the boards—and it’s not just the Republicans, although they are, by far, the most avid spreaders of delusional misinformation. The lies that enrage me the most, however, are the shadowy racist ones—where they lie about African-Americans (especially the President), Mexicans, and Muslims—but they don’t have the guts to admit they believe in White Supremacy. Bad enough you’re a bigot—but a coward and a liar to boot? In the words of the PussyGrabber-elect: “Sad!”

The 2008 election of Obama roiled up a tidal wave of racist hate—but most of it was channeled into thinly-veiled bigotry disguised as political commentary. Nobody was fooled by this—did y’all really think we would take your bullshit at face value? I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s first act as president is to commute Dylann Roof’s death sentence. They’re two-of-a-kind, but Roof only killed nine people—Trump will kill us all.

Supporting someone with just half of Trump’s red flags could be, just barely, chalked up to pitifully poor judgement—but to support the entire Trumpster-Fire is plain old reactionary racism—revenge for a black man making it into the Oval Office—and getting re-elected. After Bush went to war by mistake and left the global economy in ruins, you’d think White Supremacy was a dead issue—if that’s ‘Supremacy’, give me a ‘2nd-class citizen’ any day.

But judgement is not the issue. To suggest that you voted for the Donald out of good judgement is to invite me to laugh in your face. We outlawed slavery. We outlawed Jim Crow. But the hate still runs strong in this country—and Trump rode it all the way to the Electoral College.

The most laughable part is when these racists suggest that Obama didn’t do a fantastic job as president. They ignore statistics, they have amnesia about Bush’s trainwreck, they insist that any evidence of Obama’s success is untrue—or they change the subject to the few mistakes he made. You try being President of this overcrowded kindergarten class for eight years and see if you make an error or two.

Then they pretend that this dirt-bag-elect can read a newspaper, or get through a whole briefing without getting bored, or recognize an ethic if one conked him on the head. Please. He’s a perve. He’s an entitled brat. His record of public service is listed here: ‘_______’. Anyone who would vote for this clown is not choosing him for his ability—they’re just voting against Obama’s legacy.

Too late. Obama will go down in history as a great man. Trump will make history too—but not the kind we want to be here to live through. No one with their eyes open is fooled by your cutesy-pie, I’m-not-a-racist, racism. Some days, I’m ashamed to have white skin. I hate the fact that people might look at me, and think I’m one of you assholes.

What To Expect When You’re Objecting  (2017Jan11)

MrToadsWildRide

Wednesday, January 11, 2017                                          8:51 AM

I’m waiting for the day when we can all look back and agree that making Hillary Clinton’s email-server a big issue was purely political—and that any sensible person would have said ‘so what?’ rather than passing her over for the craven citrus cretin. Unfortunately, he now has four whole years in which to perform feats which disgust and appall. Long after he’s given us more-than-enough cause to rue our dismissal of Hil, he’ll be piling further misogynous misstatement upon further malfeasance.

Why do I so confidently expect Trump to do wrong? Because I’m a student—I’ve always been a student. I’ve studied Trump. His past shows him to be a cheat in business, a bald-faced, shameless liar, a disrespecter (and accoster) of women, and a stone-cold racist and Islamophobe. And the campaign revealed (to those of us paying attention) that he doesn’t have clue one about American history, particularly in the area of civil rights—a stranger can tweet out any propagandist nonsense and Trump will re-tweet it, as if quoting Barbara Tuchman or Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Someone with his business history does have a familiarity with the law—but it is an adversarial knowledge, things he learned in the course of avoiding jail-time—that’s a different knowledge base than, say, a constitutional scholar, like Obama.

There’s a fascination factor, yes—people are mesmerized by his comfortable embrace of all things sleaze, the confidence with which he can insist that up is down. But lots of dangerous creatures are fascinating to look at—that doesn’t mean you let them out of their terrariums.

There’s only one real question about Trump’s upcoming presidency. During the campaign, he and his shills managed to spin the truth into a psychedelic hallucination—and get their lies reported as ‘real news’ by certain biased outlets (one cannot call them journalists). So, while Trump is doing the ignorant thing, the unethical thing, and the egotistical thing, he will be breaking rule upon rule—but whether or not the American public will hear it reported, and whether or not they will understand or believe what they hear, is (in light of the election’s shenanigans) an open question. I can assure you he will do wrong—I can’t say with certainty whether we’ll hear of it, or believe it, when he does.

Most people are struggling with the problem of whether or not to pay attention to a narcissist for four years. There’s talk of boycotting his inauguration (a no-brainer from my point of view—bad enough he’s being given the oath—don’t make me watch). On the one hand, the worst thing we can do is reward this pig with the attention he so desperately craves—on the other hand, he’s going to be in the White House—so if we pay attention, it shouldn’t be long before we have grounds for impeachment. He’s like a TV commercial—you want to ignore it completely, but you’re waiting for the show to come back on, so you don’t want to miss that the commercial has ended. We want to give Trump only enough attention so that we notice when he acts in an impeachable manner—it’s a conundrum.

President Obama’s Farewell Address last night was very emotional—he did his best to inspire hope for change, to remind people that Trump is a downward jag in an ongoing story, not the end of it. But I still struggle with despair—Trump alone I could handle (Bush was no prize) but the delusional electorate that allowed itself to be so easily manipulated by hate-sponsored interests—that is a monster that banishes both sleep and hope. Meanwhile, the actual work of government lies gathering dust in some forgotten closet.

marinern

Nobody Tricked Us !   (2017Jan07)

pcnto29

Saturday, January 07, 2017                                               1:51 PM

Well, it’s off to the races again for the Drumpf-Dupes. They’re scrambling mightily to ‘spin’ the Putin hacking scandal—desperate to deride proof that they were taken in, led like sheep to the slaughter.

I don’t know what these people are experiencing—what must they have gone through? To see the bloated scam-artist leering from his podium—and think to themselves—‘yes, there is our hero’. I don’t know—I don’t think even Putin can take credit for that level of brainwashing. I think he had help from the whores of media—and from that jackass Comey, at the FBI.

But mostly it was years of conditioning—and for that we can all blame the Republicans. Ever since they started a war by mistake and bankrupted the country, they have been on the wrong side, the inhumane side, the greedy side, the unscientific side—for so long that their entire approach is a matter of denying reality, of calling the night the day. They only stop lying long enough to call good, honest people liars—then they go back to lying.

It’s gone beyond dishonesty—the GOP are actively spreading mental illness—a fugue state in which decency is a mistake, insults are arguments, and a greedy, conceited, handsy pig is our new role model.

They’re still talking about their damn wall, when anyone with a brain in their head is long past exhausted with discussing how stupid an idea a wall is. They’re about to cancel health coverage—it’s so important to them that they haven’t had a moment to spare, to plan an alternative. And this is important—it doesn’t matter what happens to all of us afterwards—all that matters is that they cancel health coverage. This is the clarity of purpose of a two-year-old—no wonder they spent the last eight years having a temper tantrum.

The saddest part is that their constituents elected them to have a temper tantrum—they elected them on the understanding that they would not govern—that they would obstruct governance. What is the deal with these voters? The whole idea of democracy is the people change what they’re unsatisfied with—you don’t destroy the machinery of change. No, that’s something manipulative, wealthy pigs try to convince you to do, with their propaganda—you’re not supposed to fall for it, you idiots. And now they’ve got you actually defending Putin, so you don’t look like a gullible rube, taken all the way to the cleaners. Don’t look now, but it’s only going to get worse.

pcnto12

Trump Casts Intelligence Aside   (2017Jan06)

inferno32

Friday, January 06, 2017                                          10:32 AM

I’ve stolen today’s title from the New York Times headline—because in their piece, they’re discussing his rejection of intelligence-gathering agencies—but I think it is just as important to point out the truth of this headline in more general terms. Trump has an animal cunning, so it’s not that he’s casting his own intelligence aside—he’s plowing the intelligence of others aside as he sweeps the road clear for graft, corruption, and misconduct.

He started by belittling the experience and intelligence of his opponent—inveigling the voters to cast aside their own intelligence and good judgement, and vote as if they were watching the reality game show that gave Trump such prominence among the illiterate. Then he began belittling the importance of the truth—pretending, like a toddler, that saying “Is Not!” was sufficient response to charges that he is unfit to be trusted with responsibility.

inferno25

Now, the New York Times has run op-eds that discuss the finer points of calling Trump a liar—claiming that it is unfair to accuse someone of lying, if that person is unaware of their own untruthfulness. Now, I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit—Trump has blatantly, grinningly presented us with lie after lie, as if daring someone to prove the truth while the airways remain crowded with fake news and bullshit artists like Kelly Conway. Pretending that he has said these lies often enough to start believing them himself—that’s giving him far more credit than he deserves.

If Trump is faced with the choice of convincing people by reason, and bamboozling them with lies, he obviously prefers the second method. Do you remember his shit-eating grin, while he declared, “Obama is the founder of ISIS”—were we not supposed to see his obvious enjoyment of trashing every decent thing in the course of his campaign? Is it because he’s not so good with reason? Is it because he actually enjoys telling lies? Who knows—and frankly, who cares?

Him and his lackeys have parsed the grammar, inverted the morality, questioned the reality, and mugged their way past the sincerity of all the decent people that oppose them. Trump calls people names—that’s his policy. Trump says the professionals don’t know anything and he knows it all—what an asshole!

What Trump, his coven, and the whole GOP, really, do NOT ever do—is offer solutions, alternatives, plans, or ideas. They are full-on negative—because negative has two advantages—it lets them attack their opponents, rather than debate them—and it allows them to do nothing at all—and pretend that that’s their job.

If the media were honest, they’d be pressing Trump hard about what he’s going to do—he still hasn’t said, in case anyone was wondering. The media should be saying, “Yes, yes—bitch, bitch, bitch—we get it—but what are you going to do?” Paul Ryan won’t say what he’s going to do, either—I don’t mean to imply that the fartbag-in-chief is the only scum coating the halls of the Capitol. Their latest plan is to repeal Obamacare, but have cancellation take effect in four years—taking credit for a victory, without the need to solve the problem—these are the kinds of assholes you voted for—you have no one to blame but yourselves.

Imagine if someone turned seventy years old—never had a thought for public service his whole entitled, spoiled life—and decides he wants to be President. Yes, delusional is the correct term for that. What the word is for those who voted for him—I don’t know. Super-delusional? Yes, Trump casts intelligence aside, alright—but he sure has lots of company.

pcnto33

No More Mr. No Comment-Reply  (2017Jan05)  

colethomvoygolife4-d2

Thursday, January 05, 2017                                              4:32 PM

I’ve witnessed the entire cycle. Back in the hippie days, no one ever shut up about ‘issues’ and ‘injustices’. Then there came a time when people got tired of the constant ferment of social friction—they started thinking that they were too busy getting through their lives to ‘blue-sky’ about civil rights and social justice all day. After the Yuppies, there came the Moderates—basically our last three presidents’ terms.

But now the Foolishness, of which Bush-43’s worst faults were merely a foreshadowing, is upon us with a vengeance—and the funny thing about foolishness is that it’s all fun and games until people’s lives are at stake—and then, it’s just plain evil. Hitler was ridiculous, too—a laughably foolish prat—right up until Kristalnachte.

I’ve been civilized (for me) on social media—and I plan to continue being as civil as conditions allow. But I used to tell myself that the less attention I gave to the foolish people, the better for everybody. I would see stupid comments—transparently bigoted, sexist, xenophobic—whatever—or all at once, even—and I would scroll on by. I didn’t want to start nothing—and I knew from experience that the only thing greater than their ignorance is their close-minded-ness—which makes arguing with them a waste of time. Why should I start futile arguments with the brain-dead, especially on some friend’s Facebook post?

But that’s all over now. I still know that arguing with these redneck-nazi assholes is a waste of time—I still don’t want to cause trouble on a friend’s post. But I will not let a single one of these damn hate-bubbles get past again. If I see Stupid online, I’m calling it out—whenever and wherever. Unfriend me if you must—I won’t blame you—I plan to be as abusive as possible towards any and all stupidity and hatred I find online from now on.

If you have Kellyanne Conway’s School of Alternate Reality running inside your brain—then come get some. If you don’t like religion unless it’s your religion, come get some. If you voted for the city-slicker whites-only real estate mogul—come and fucking get some, you insult to the very idea of America.

Won It By Minus-Three-Million   (2017Jan04)

colethomvoygolife4-d2

Wednesday, January 04, 2017                                          1:47 PM

Although President-elect Fuckface von Clownstick has won the election by negative-three-million votes, I continue to cherish these last days of Obama’s term. While the disgraceful pervert has yet to be inaugurated, America is still being led by a great man—a man everyone respects—and we can still take pride in our nation.

I know a lot of people want to go along and get along—but the chain is broken. ‘Coming together’ over the victor of any election always seemed inevitable before—but when the disreputable huckster who emerged victorious from this election is a lying, cheating, sexist, racist, ignorant puss-bag who more properly belongs in prison—well, then, ‘coming together’ would amount to divesting myself of any ethical decency, any humane empathy, and any knowledge of the difference between right and wrong.

colethomvoygolife4-d1

I don’t plan to break the law—or even disturb the peace—what would be the point? But don’t ask me to feel like a proud, patriotic American again until after that horrendous mess has been cleaned out of the Executive Mansion in 2020. Not that I expect voters to grow an ounce of brains by then—but the Trumpster-fire is special. We have to cede him that much—the GOP will never find anything as creepy, cold, and slimy as the Donald to run in 2020—such excrescence only comes once in a generation.

I shan’t escape him, however—I have no hope of that. The craven whores who run such things will be rolling out red carpets for this clown, letting his Electoral-college/Russian-meddling technical-win be a huge eraser for every ugly, stupid, dishonest, ignorant thing he’s done or said over this past year’s time. They’ll even pretend his history of real estate chicanery and bankruptcy never really happened either. They’ll give this jerk all the respect and dignified attention that people like Obama, Bush, and Clinton earned—just because he snaked his way, through an election-made-game-show, into the same office.

colethomvoygolife3-d5

We’ve never had such a low, small, self-regarding pest get anywhere near the presidency before. An honest media would be harping upon the unique, end-of-an-era, end-of-a-dream aspect of his ‘coup’ over reason. But not these shills—they’ll just go on gassing the audience, pretending that Trump has the respectability one normally associates with a President of the United States.

I can avoid the news shows—and certainly the news channels—but there’s no getting around the late-night monologues and comedy stand-up that attends our every political hiccup nowadays—so I’m still going to have this jackass’s leer on my TV more often than I would wish. With any luck, he’ll be revealed as the laughingstock he is, as promptly as possible—and all the clodhoppers who thought they accomplished something by voting for him can crawl back in their holes.

colethomvoygolife3-d3

Before Sundown, Every Day   (2017Jan02)

colethomvoygolife2-d2

Tuesday, January 03, 2017                                                1:03 PM

Congress voted to do something truly stupid the other day—then they changed their minds in the space of 24 hours, and decided not to do that particular stupid thing. I’m not sure which is worse: the poor judgement that first led to the initiative, or the mercurial, chicken-without-a-head nature of this totally corrupt majority in Congress.

But I do not call them corrupt because they were trying to disintegrate an ethics watchdog (created not so very long ago—because of all their corruption). I refer to the corruption of their wetware—the bad programming in their heads. These people get elected through gerrymandering legerdemain and mass media tap-dancing—they answer to sponsors, not to voters. They have no ethical motivation—and they have no need to make even a pretense of it.

They are misguided, thinking that to succeed in politics is to succeed in government. They are misguided, thinking that winning at Capitalism is winning at survival. But what misleads their thinking most often is this idea that having the world’s most powerful military gives us the most influence over the world.

The best idea is always what has the most influence on the world. Our nation’s preeminence can be directly traced back to the best ideas—even our vaunted military is the product of thinking, done in an open-minded society that valued creativity and vision—and many other freedoms.

Our penchant for ownership of creative and scientific efforts is the latest and most deadly infection of Capitalism—first created to protect inventors and artists, copyright and trademark laws now operate as a means for corporations to ‘own’ the efforts of its best and brightest employees, without any requirement to give them equal value in return. It also acts as a shield of legal secrecy about any shady dealings that can be labeled (however pretentiously) ‘proprietary knowledge’.

Monday, January 02, 2017                                                1:11 PM

The airwaves are supposed to be for the public good, but they have become ‘profit centers’ instead. We can weigh, one supposes, the value of all the people employed by the entertainment industry—who support their families through television, and through advertising—against the total lack of value, for the viewer, in any of the garbage that gets broadcast one way or another to the various screens that fill our lives.

The schools are supposed to be for the public good, but now they either snooker you out of your money with fake classes, a la Trump U., or they give you an ‘actual’ education by handing you over to the loansharks. The loansharks will be a bigger part of your future life than the education, in many cases—so now many people seriously consider whether they really want to bother ransoming their youth for the sake of a sheepskin, or whether they might be happier in a trade. That sort of attitude is bound to keep America at the forefront of innovation—he typed facetiously.

Government is, of course, supposed to be all about the public good, but its rules against bribery and corruption do nothing to protect our legislators from lobbyists whose sole task is to influence in favor of special interests. Add in all the nonsense about fund-raising and campaigning becoming the higher priority than the actual job one was elected to do—all bound up with the perceived primacy of media-spending over fitness for office—and you get the kind of ‘democracy’ that we find ourselves stuck with today.

Capitalism goes beyond money and transactions—even beyond a way of life—it is a way of distorting reality, to make nonsense seem oh-so-sensible. Our public forums, our educational system, and our government are all baldly under the sway of the wealthy—one would laugh at the notion of ‘self-government’ were it not for that terribly sour taste in the back of the mouth.

Our interdependence is intrinsic, it is undeniable. Competition is a nice way to introduce energy into our culture’s interdependence—but Capitalism puts the competition before the interdependence. Wealth is a club—and there is no law against beating people to death with it. As we have seen, there’s not even any law against demolishing our values with it. Money makes monsters of us all—clutching our own to ourselves, more worried for our own skins than whether anything has a right or a wrong to it.

People say money is the root of all evil—I disagree. Surely people found ways to mistreat each other before specie was invented. No, I think of money as more of an enabler of evil, an enzyme for cruelty, if you will. If there are thousands of laws protecting our grasp on our money—and no laws that insist that every person be sheltered and fed before sundown, every day—then we have some messed-up laws.

FP410aT19580701

 

What Is It Good For?   (2016Dec28)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016                                               5:04 PM

There are levels of civilization—there are communities that are more comfortable with brutality than others—and brutality can take many forms. When we look backwards in time, to an age when women were denied their full personhood under the law, we can appreciate the brutality of what was, to the people of that time (including the women), normal daily life. If we look at history we see civilizations that were comfortable with slavery, with debtors’ prisons, with stoning, with so-called honor-killing—and even war.

In many cases, we do not need to research the dim past to find these behaviors—they live among us still. Their very intransigence is often used as a rationalization by those who would suggest that society rules don’t apply uniformly—and may thus be ignored when inconvenient. However, here in the soft underbelly of 21st century, middle-income, suburban New York, we have reached a level of awareness that makes it possible to look at something as old and accepted as war—and say to ourselves that humanity is just a bunch of assholes fighting over thrones while the rest of us endure whatever madness and waste that leads to.

But lest you think I’m all het-up about the stupidity of war, settle back, bub. War is just the stupidest example. In every case of conflict or injustice, we can always see an easy solution—being generous. But this path is unfailingly left idle, while we wear grooves in all the very stupidest alternatives. Why? Well, because you can’t go feeding stray kittens—that’s why. If we’re too generous, we may end up with nothing left for ourselves!

And that is certainly a risk faced by overly-generous individuals. However, the global community could easily provide a comfortable life for every single soul on the planet—if it weren’t for one small detail: Modern civilization, as full of potential as it may be, is also predicated on greed and competition.

We search in vain for ways to make a competitive system a humanitarian system as well—we even run into bloated fat-cats who think universal healthcare is overly generous. Point one—if it weren’t for the selfless humanitarian pioneers in the field of medicine, there wouldn’t be these bloodless Big-Pharma and Insurancing entities, sucking their profits out of the veins of the sick and infirm. Point two—it is more efficient to provide universal public healthcare than it is to squeeze maximum profits from the solvent and let the poor slip between the cracks. While individual profit-centers may suffer, the overall public expense is less when using the charitable option.

And let’s face it—most people don’t want programs giving away free stuff to poor people, because they hate their damn jobs and they resent anyone who gets something out of it, besides themselves. They don’t stop to think that their stingy boss is getting most of the profit from their work—and the boss, besides getting out of working hard, even gets to boss them around. But sure, go ahead and resent poor people, if you think that’s your enemy. And don’t forget to kiss ass at work.

The truth is right in front of us—being generous is the best way to lower violence and suffering—and it is far more effective than coercion or scare-tactics, because once you have a community that feels secure and comfortable, you couldn’t break them out of their living rooms with dynamite. Jobs that pay a lot of money create people who spend a lot of money. Paying big bonuses to hot-shots in upper management doesn’t create any commerce—it depresses it by creating a huge group of non-consumers.

The concentration of wealth among 1% of the population creates the same kind of stagnation that keeping all your money in a safe creates—those bloated, confused billionaires don’t have the slightest fraction of the energy for commerce, for buying and selling, for growing and making, that the same money would find in the hands of large numbers of the working classes. Those billions of dollars might just as well not exist to begin with. And that is all beside the point of the unacceptable injustice of Post-Capitalism—where everyone works harder and harder, getting poorer and poorer—except for the greedy pigs and the corrupt legislators.

And that is my point today—we spend a great deal of time bewailing the horrendous injustices of our Capitalist paradigm (as well we should) but we should spare equal time for considering that this unfairness is not merely wrong and cruel—it is also stupid. It is idiotic to base our lives solely on competing for money—but if you ask any Trump voter, they will assure you that that’s the American way. And by Trump voter, I mean to suggest a stupid person.

We are about to get quite a show from the crowd of leeches that constitute the incoming administration—they’re going to slash and burn every vestige of liberalism they can find. The sad thing about these money-grubbing turds is that they will not be replacing anything they tear down—they will not add one note of grace or gleam of bounty to our lives—they may even destroy themselves as they tear at the delicate fabric of so many reasonable men’s and women’s efforts to form a better union. They offer nothing but spite and bile—and it is a great shame that we did not see them coming, before we were stuck with them.

Mid-Holidays   (2016Dec28)

20161219xd-ourxmasguest_026

Wednesday, December 28, 2016                                               12:38 AM

Okay, I’m getting back on track—we still must wait for Big Sen to come, after New Year’s, before the whole family can be together—and then he will be here only one short week before all three of them fly back home again. I don’t know if I can take it. Having Lil Sen here is like having sunshine being piped into every room of the house. It’ll go hard with me—returning to making-do with mere photo and video feeds, thousands of miles away.

I got a new camcorder for Christmas—yay! It has all the latest low-light tech—and I think even the audio mike is better. You can judge for yourself—I’ve just finished making my first videos with the new equipment. I’m not rocking all that hard at the old eighty-eight—but then again that’s not appropriate when playing for a five-month-old.

Grandchildren are a little like crystal meth—they make you think you are stronger and steadier than you actually are—and when you walk away, you wonder why you feel like you just got hit by a truck. Who needs a gym membership with a baby around? I’ve been rolling around on the floor like I’m training for the Olympic gymnastics team lately—it’s ridiculous. But I like it.

In fact, there’s nothing I don’t like about this kid—but I suppose that’s pretty obvious.

 

20161223xd_xmas_tree-12

Lunch and Shopping   (2016Dec23)

20161222xd-grandnana_05

Friday, December 23, 2016                                               1:34 PM

The ladies will be having brunch at PJ’s today—although it may be just lunch—we’ve gotten a late start on the day and everything’s sideways, in the best possible way.

Friday, December 23, 2016                                               4:45 PM

Make it lunch, definitely lunch—they’ve just gone an hour or so ago—and Spence has been through with a vacuum to get all the pine needles. We got a nine-footer this year—and it looks grand, just like the old days—way too big for the room—perfect.

Marie was by for a visit last night—and just before, Great-Nana was by for a look at her latest tree-branch. Sen gets along with everybody—she’s a real charmer. We’re all having the happiest of Christmases—except for the new dad—who is stuck at work until after Christmas—it doesn’t seem fair.

But I guess there’s no getting around the reality of being a restauranteur during the holidays—just like performers, this is their rush season. There should be a second Christmas, an unofficial one—about Jan 3rd or so, for all the people that have to work to make the rest of us happy during the holidays.

I remember enjoying going Christmas shopping on the Friday before Christmas—I used to be skinny and quick and I loved to slip through a crowd of people—crowds can be very intimate. But it’s only fun when you’re young enough to think that everyone else’s head is also dancing with sugar plums—I imagined a Christmassy glow coming off all the busy, noisy people, though I imagine some of them were quite grumpy, without me noticing at the time.

And now the girls are back from lunch and shopping! Hooray!

Russia Holds UN Hostage To State Terrorism   (2016Dec20)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016                                           5:13 PM

It’s time we faced the grimy truth about the gangsterism that passes for government in Russia—they invade, they shoot, they kill, they disrupt, then they lie about it all and point to the USA as the ‘usual suspect’, the popular piñata. All that comes with ‘sovereignty’—countries with thugs in power (and what country lacks them?) need to know that their neighboring governments will turn a blind eye. This is based on the theory that one government cannot know how horribly another government is being annoyed by both rival thugs and those damned bleeding-heart humanitarian busybodies. All this is business as usual—power attracts violence just as surely as money rots the soul.

But the unity of nations—mankind’s greatest hope for a future—is also being held hostage by the Russians. They defile the very concept of unity by vetoing any vote that might impede their greedy, bloody rampages—and the rest of the nations allow this bald-faced hypocrisy on the suspicion that ‘Russia in the UN’ is better than ‘Russia kicked out of the UN’. But the strength and survival of the UN is moot—as soon as you turn it into this joke it has now become.

The UN was forced to modify their resolve to monitor Aleppo’s civilian evacuations, to allow Russians to stop any monitors who approach areas the Russians don’t want seen. It makes the whole thing an evil, twisted joke—and I, for one, am tired of that tiny little shit Putin having the last laugh. Any Russian with an actual soul would have put a bullet in Assad’s head and helped the coalition fight ISIS—but not this wretched excuse for a human being.

To give this asshole’s minions veto-power in the United Nations is Kafkesque-level farce—it insults the United Nations—and the intelligence of any literate observer of world affairs. I grant that we here in America have just chosen a purveyor of evil and malice to our highest office—but the one area in which Trump looks like a boy scout is in naked violence. Perhaps he’s just warming up to the possibilities—and with Pootle as a role model, who knows how far an ambitious puss-bag like him will go?

But as of right now, the level and density of evil coming off the Pootle far outshines the black-light of the Trumpster. He is committing murder, on TV, in front of the whole world, and then he’s going to the UN and saying, “Hey guys, back me up on this.” I say, “Fuck that asshole.”

–O, and Happy Holidays, everyone!

sam_2313

Christmas Retaliation   (2016Dec17)

201609214xd-charlottenc_04

Saturday, December 17, 2016                                           2:32 PM

There are only five weeks left—after that the Oval Office will be de facto unoccupied. Sure, there’ll be someone sitting there—and they’ll be causing any number of new problems. Still, there will be no one presiding over the nation, looking out for the public good or concerning himself with our national security.

We’ll miss that—it was frustrating enough having a real president, and have him be stymied wherever and whenever possible by the cowards in Congress—replacing Obama with someone who doesn’t even try… Well, at least we won’t get the agita we would have seen if Hillary had had to take up the fight where Obama left off—all those cowards are still comfortably ensconced.

Congress—ha—just a bunch of pols-who-would-be-trump—I guess that’s what they see in him—he does all the bad things they do, but he has no shame about publicly demonstrating his lack of character. Cowardly Trumps—that’s what Congress is made of—a whole institution full of men who are just as selfish and craven as our president-elect, but with just enough self-awareness to know shame.

But they did alright, really—this whole worm-tongued, alt-reality world of living lies was their idea—they paved the way for the King Clown—and if he steamrollered over a few of them along the way, they still deserve credit, along with the media, for forging this brave new world of Doubt, where nothing is true if you don’t want it to be.

obama-proud

So, I know what I want for Christmas—President Obama, please follow through on your response to Putin’s hacking (and denial of hacking, as if he were Trump, too). I want you to make that bastard feel it. I want your cyber-warriors to wipe that Russky smirk off his ugly face. President Obama, you’ve been a model of probity and restraint for eight years—you’re the most well-behaved and civil president this country has ever seen—and that’s great.

But there’s only five weeks left until Doofus takes your chair—so, no more mister civilization, Barry—give this guy what for. He’s got it coming, like nobody’s business. That SOB has already gotten away with it—don’t pass up the opportunity to, at least, make him regret he ever fucked with the USA. And so what if you leave a little mess for your replacement to deal with? What’s good for the goose….

didobama-480x318

Travel Broadens The Mind   (2016Dec16)

pn-017

Friday, December 16, 2016                                               12:35 PM

I’ve often thought of traveling—they say it’s very enlightening, very broadening. But then I think of Paris, where being rude to tourists is a proud tradition, and remember that there are many places where Americans are, at best, tolerated. Tourists are people who have the leisure, and the wealth, to walk away from their own daily lives and go gawk at strangers in far-away places—it is easy to see how that would create resentment among the strangers, who have not enough of either to do the same. Unless we can all be tourists, occasionally, then resentment of tourists will last as long as resentment of the wealthy in general.

To be a tourist is, to a degree, a matter of saying to a community, “I am strange to this place—I may not even speak your language—but I have enough surplus wealth to come here and wander around.” You might as well have a sign around your neck inviting people to squeeze every last coin from your pocket before you leave. If that’s ‘travel’, then I could just as easily walk through a nearby center of poverty—in a Capitalist world, you don’t have to cover a lot of ground to become a stranger. Sharp differences in average-incomes lay cheek-by-jowl, geographically—and those differences make a greater foreign-ness than any change in mere life-style, though it be halfway around the globe.

For many countries and communities, tourism is a life-line, a way for them to stay head-above-water in a world that is out-producing them in other ways. But it strikes me as a false equivalence, a wrong path—in the same way that letting out rooms in your house is an easier income-increase than finding a better job, but it leads to other problems, other expenses, and makes you less likely to go out and find that better job. And, in the meantime, the chances of failing to resent the interloper who provides the new revenue, nice as they might be, are vanishingly small.

Yes, I am a homebody, as you may well have guessed by now. But I admit to the pull of adventure—all healthy young people should seek all the adventure they can find, while they’re still healthy enough and young enough to endure the hardships of having an adventure. That is especially so, since the young learn from experience, and the more varied experience you have, the faster you learn.

But tourism absent of great wealth is relatively new—born of the fifties, when hard-working Americans could take two weeks off—and were paid enough to take their families on a trip. At first it was road trips, camping trips: ‘See the USA in your Chevrolet..’, Rt. 66, Rt. 1 on the coast, and the Grand Canyon. But subsequent generations began to extend that to European excursions and before anyone knew what was happening world tourism had become an industry.

Now, however, the number of Americans who enjoy the security and income that vacationing requires has begun to narrow down to a small sliver of the population. Tourism is returning back to a preserve of the wealthy. Mobility in general is down—where large numbers of working families once re-located from state to state, looking for that fresh spring of economic growth that always included employment, we now have labor surpluses everywhere—and most new businesses needing less labor than they historically would.

In fact, the greatest instance of relocation-for-work was the recent ‘oil’ boom in Oklahoma—but that was mostly fracking. And now that Oklahoma is experiencing major quakes due to fracking, that business is losing employment as fast as it once gained it. America is no longer in motion—we no longer have a reserve of human kinetic energy. And that may help account for the sharp division of our politics and even the calcification of differing perceptions of reality we see in our recent current affairs—we understand each other less, because we mix less with each other than we used to. Perhaps there is an element of enlightenment to travel.

Or perhaps America could only remain a cauldron of growth while its people remained less settled-down than the rest of the world.

History Repeats –or- Et Tu, Cooper? (2016Dec14)

james_fenimore_cooper_by_brady

Wednesday, December 14, 2016                                               9:57 AM

History Repeats –or- Et Tu, Cooper?

During my reading of Joseph Henry’s biography, I’ve acquired a sudden interest in the history of New York State. As I researched the reference material, I ran across someone’s comment that there were scant histories of the state, which they found odd, considering its size and importance—and that would appear to remain the case. Amazon is strangely ungenerous when searched for the ‘history of New York State’ specifically.

The first book I came across was “New York” by James Fenimore Cooper. One passage stopped me in my tracks, right off:

“We are not disposed, however, to look for arguments to the debates and discussions of the Convention, in our view often a deceptive and dangerous method of construing a law, since the vote is very frequently given on even conflicting reasons. Different minds arrive at the same results by different processes; and it is no unusual thing for men to deny each other’s premises while they accept their conclusions. We shall look, therefore, solely to the compact itself, as the most certain mode of ascertaining what was done.”

[Cooper, James Fenimore. New York (Kindle Locations 190-193).  . Kindle Edition.]

I couln’t help thinking that nothing has changed in this regard—and that we are careless to overlook it. No matter what excuses or rationales are offered for a given legislation, all that truly matters is its effect. If poor people and prisoners can become ‘profit centers’ using the existing laws, then no amount of blather can forgive the fact that our laws promote a form of Capitalist slavery. If pro-business legislation gives power and security to businesses at the cost of fairness to the people, then such laws are unjust—and all the BS in the world isn’t going to change that.

Then I came to this part:

“A great deal that has been done among us of late, doubtless remains to be undone; but we are accustomed to changes of this nature, and they do not seem to be accompanied by the same danger here as elsewhere. The people have yet to discover that the seeming throes of liberty are nothing but the breath of their masters, the demagogues; and that at the very moment when they are made to appear to have the greatest influence on public affairs, they really exercise the least. Here, in our view, is the great danger to the country—which is governed, in fact, not by its people, as is pretended, but by factions that are themselves controlled most absolutely by the machinations of the designing. A hundred thousand electors, under the present system of caucuses and conventions, are just as much wielded by command as a hundred thousand soldiers in the field; and the wire-pullers behind the scenes can as securely anticipate the obedience of their agents, as the members of the bureaux in any cabinet in Europe can look with confidence to the compliance of their subordinates. Party is the most potent despot of the times. Its very irresponsibility gives it an energy and weight that overshadows the regular action of government. And thus it is, that we hear men, in their places in the national legislature, boasting of their allegiance to its interests and mandates, instead of referring their duties to the country.”

[Cooper, James Fenimore. New York (Kindle Locations 287-296).  . Kindle Edition.]

Déjà vu all over again, huh? Could our King Clown have won the late election if he had not, however contrivedly, attached himself to the Republican party? And how many Republicans, while eschewing Trump’s lack of ethics or character, were nonetheless still staunchly behind his candidacy, because he ‘stood’ for their party? The more things change, the more they stay the same, James old man.

Moreover, one of Trump’s endless empty promises was to abolish this partiality to party over public good, to ‘drain the swamp’—a problem he thoughtlessly claimed to be able to solve, in spite of the fact that Cooper saw its operation way back in the years leading to our Civil War, and attributed it, rightly, to human nature—which is something even Trump cannot ‘solve’.

I purchased two other references from Amazon: “Colonial New York: A History” by Michael Kammen, and “New York State: Peoples, Places, and Priorities: A Concise History with Sources” by Joanne Reitano. I’m looking forward to reading them, especially since I expect their prose to scan somewhat more lightly than that of James Fenimore’s.

There is nothing more exciting to a hopeful writer than to catch the scent of a hitherto-unexploited scenario, full of unfamiliar stories and strange new characters—and the history of the State of New York seems to offer just such a niche. With some notable exceptions, up to and including “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin, I believe it was Cooper himself who last took advantage of the wealth of material inherent in our State’s story.

 

psalms83

Fan Mail?   (2016Dec14)

As an unabashed and vocal atheist on social media and elsewhere, I sometimes garner the special attention of evangelicals—I consider it a point of pride that I can sometimes bother them more than the average atheist does.

Ms. Sue B. of White River Junction, VT, out of an abundance of solicitude for my immortal soul, has sent me a letter—well, an envelope, at least. Inside was a typical Jehovah’s Witness flyer, with exhortations about how much God cares for me and how He can make me a better family man. I examined it closely, wondering why a stranger would send me anything by snail-mail (with a Christmas stamp, no less) and have nothing personal to say—and there was a handwritten note added to the inside of the flyer. It said ‘see Psalms 83:18’.

 

Psalms 83 (A Song or Psalm of Asaph.)

 

Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.

For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.

They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.

They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.

For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:

The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarites;

Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;

Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.

Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kishon:

Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.

Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:

Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.

O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind.

As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;

So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.

Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Lord.

Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.

 

The eighteenth ‘verse’ is that last line: ‘That men may know…’ The entire Psalm appears to be an exhortation to God to punish the unbelievers, to make us ‘as the dung of the earth’, or as wood burning in a fire—to make us afraid with His storms and fill our faces with shame and let us perish, etc.

Now, I don’t mind so much—that’s an old Book from a rough-and-ready era of history—from religious freedom these folks did not know. But it does strike me as rather snotty—here’s Jehovah, who is supposed omniscient and omnipotent, and then here’s his people, all in his face, telling him what he should do and which of his ‘children’ He should be smiting left and right.

I suspect this Psalm was authored by ‘management’—it has the flavor of an inter-office memo advising the staff not to decorate their desktops with personal items, family photos or potted plants. You know the type—always enhancing their own authority by reminding everyone he or she speaks for the big boss.

I consider it one of the obvious pitfalls of religiosity—if one serves the all-powerful, then one must have power, n’est-ce pas? If religious zealotry makes a person a ‘cop for God’, that person can spend a lifetime regulating the behavior of others, without having to waste an uncomfortable moment examining themselves. It’s literally a cop-out, if you’ll pardon the pun.

But all evangelicals have that velvet-glove thing going on: God loves his itty-bitty childwen—but if you don’t love him back, well, don’t forget to duck, brother. Some parts of the Bible are patently childish, making it clear that it was written long before people had the self-awareness to hear the ‘whine’ in their supplications, or the ‘mine!’ in their fervor.

So, Sue B., whoever you may be, I appreciate your concern for my waywardness—and I don’t much mind the slap on the ass that lies behind it. But you and I aren’t going to get very far, condescending to each other’s apprehension of reality. I chuckle (fondly) at your blindness and you chuckle at mine—we’ll both be fine if we don’t confront each other with ultimatums—that’s where the trouble always starts.

It’s ironic, really—my atheism was born partly from an overabundance of enthusiasm for my childhood faith, Catholicism. I was willing to be a soldier of Christ—hell, I wanted to be a Kamikaze for Christ—and I soaked up every word, every idea that was taught me. But I was a logical little kid, and certain things began to sully my perfect reality. Nuns, for instance, would never miss a trick when delimiting our behavior in CCD classes—but their own behavior seemed to cut a few corners in the service of classroom law-and-order, even going so far as to contradict their own previous reasonings to suit a new scenario of rebuke.

My parents, also, were happy to have me indoctrinated into faith—but if I should criticize anything based on my CCD teachings, it was waved away like a pesky fly—apparently, only those in authority could cite the rules of Christian behavior. My life became the reverse of the Parable of the Talents—I was to ‘render unto the Church what was the Church’s’ and otherwise just shut up and do what I was told.

As the years passed, I learned all kinds of things about history, society and people—I accumulated a mountain of contradictions that disprove the seriousness of people of faith. But all that came later. My original fall from grace was the result of simple observation—grown-ups wanted me to take religion seriously, but they weren’t taking it very seriously, themselves.

It was a more-serious, year-round version of Santa Claus—aimed at kids, but scoffed at between grown-ups. And that condition remains—if you look at the way we live, it’s difficult to claim that most of us are ‘Christians’ in anything more than lip-service. We use Christianity when it suits us—and discard it just as quickly when the going gets tough.

I would gladly live my atheist existence away without once raising my voice against the faithful, but for one thing—I’m a little too OCD about the truth. Faith may be many things—hope, conscience, a dream, an anchor in the storm—but it is most definitely not the truth. Sane people don’t fight and die over the truth—they seek and find it, or they do not—but they don’t fight over it—that’s for opinions.

There is often conflation of argument and fighting (see my previous post on the art of argument) but argument is, in purest form, an investigation after truth—it only becomes a fight when it goes off the rails and becomes a debate, AKA ‘fighting with words’. The religious have the advantage in debate because language grew out of a religious society and inherits a bias towards it, down to the very vocabulary we use—much like misogyny, the assumption of faith is built-in to the fabric of our speech.

Thus, I am always willing to argue the question of God, but I stop short of debating it—uncovering universal truth is impossible enough with a friendly devil’s-advocate—to verbally spar over someone’s adherence to an ancient, easy solution is a complete waste of time.

Two Movie Reviews   (2016Dec13)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016                                           11:30 PM

“Suicide Squad” & “Florence Foster Jenkins”

suicidsquad

“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.

florfostrjenkins

“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”.

Sweet Decorations   (2016Dec12)

20161212xd-xmas_01

Monday, December 12, 2016                                           11:48 AM

I like a Christmas tree—who doesn’t love a Christmas tree? For many holiday homes, the tree and the colored lights outside the house comprise the totality of decoration for the season. Since we all lead busy lives, it would be petty to expect anything more from the average home. And one could easily make the case that having a felled tree in the living room for a month should be enough seasonal spirit for anybody. And climbing a ladder around the outside of the house to string the lights, especially if snow has arrived, is no small chore either.

20161212xd-xmas_02

But some folks don’t stop there—seasonal tchotchkes, embroidered hangings and runners, sleigh-bells on the door to announce visitors, tiny china crèches—or Santa-sleighs with the full eight caribou—one’s house can be liberally sprinkled with panoply of Xmas-alia. My favorite—and you don’t see them all that often nowadays—is the sprig of mistletoe hanging from an arch. Nothing combines fun, romance, and extreme awkwardness like hanging mistletoe.

20161212xd-xmas_03

I blame their rarity on the lack of outlets for the product—when you buy a tree, you can usually get wreaths, sprigs of holly, boughs of pine for the mantle, etc.—but very few spots carry mistletoe. There are no mistletoe farms to match the many fir farms that supply the holiday’s chiefest need—perhaps their rarity limits mistletoe to the upper-incomes’ homes—I don’t know. But IMHO it speaks poorly of the American spirit that a ‘kissing’ decoration has become a fading tradition.

20161212xd-xmas_04

All of this is from my grown-up perspective—the only decoration that impressed me, as a boy, were candy-dishes. The most popular decoration, for grandmas and such, are the fine-china bowls of assorted hard candies in primary colors—very festive, very gay—and while, if polled, kids could unanimously tell you that is their least favorite candy, even children are delighted by the colorful sight—and there is candy in that bowl, and any candy is better than no candy.

20161212xd-xmas_05

But a real grandma—those magical grandmas that know how to make kids’ eye dance—will augment the pretty candy with good candy: sour balls, taffy, jelly beans—and holy of holies, chocolate. Of course, the furniture will take a hit—not to mention some parents’ best outfits—and the sugar-rush will only enhance the present-anticipation hysteria—but a party’s a party, right?

20161212xd-xmas_06

As a child I judged holiday home decorations by the amount and variety of the candy bowls—the rest was just background noise to my sugar-seeking senses. Our health-conscious society frowns upon candy, as a general rule—but it is a mistake to overlook the love affair between children and candy, especially on festive occasions. Kids will sing along with the carols, they’ll eat the big holiday feast at the big table, they’ll be excited about Santa coming—but it’s not really a party without the treasure-hoard of childhood—candy.

Now, money is the candy of the grown-up world—and just as children love to eat candy, grown-ups love to spend money. This is a dangerous time of year for me—mid-December. I’ve already done my basic Christmas shopping, but these few days before Christmas I’m always tempted to get a little something extra, something special. If I’m not careful, I’ll hope onto Amazon.com and drop a few hundred bucks—for stuff that, likely as not, won’t be delivered until after New Year’s.

20161212xd-xmas_07

Impulse purchases are problematic for many people—but my memory problems make me even more vulnerable—I can’t tell you how many books I own two copies of. And if some little gift strikes me as perfect for a certain friend or relation, it’s like as not that I think so—because I gave them the same thing last year. Then I get in that quandary of trying to re-apportion gifts to people they weren’t meant for—‘the thought that counts’, my foot!

How I mourn the days when kids’ favorite gift was the one from Uncle Chris—I used to really get into Christmas and, since I never really grew-up, I had a good eye for children’s gifts. But years of incapacity have made my participation in the festivities a faded memory—and that’s just as well, since I still can’t do Christmas the way I used to. If I mess up on presents now, everyone is very understanding—but boy how I wish they didn’t have to be.

Losing The Argument   (2016Dec10)

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_2

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.

Christmas Is Nice   (2016Dec05)

Sunday, December 04, 2016                                                       2:57 PM

I have to write something nice to post. I’ve started to get some conflict between my gruesome, acidic rants and the videos (of baby-granddaughter and the Xmas-carols) that go with them. I don’t want cute photos of our little Seneca to be stuck beside my venomous diatribes and gloomy Eeyore-isms. So, if I don’t write something pleasant, I have no post to put the new videos in.

Monday, December 05, 2016                                                     8:46 PM

Christmas Music sweeps a broad path—it isn’t a genre—it’s more of a filter applied to every genre. It has the sanctity of church music and the jollity of Santa Claus, the grandeur of Hallelujah and the intimacy of a newborn’s cradle, it has angels in heaven and Elvis in a Blue Hawaii—there are very few things that can’t be squooshed into a Christmas Song, when you get right down to it—including silver bells, one’s two front teeth, and Grandma’s vehicular demise.

I like to be chronological about my annual return to the Christmas-music pile. (When we were younger, I made a point of putting them back in the library bookshelf every January, but lately, they just sit in a dusty pile by the piano until December comes round again—it’s like: why make your bed, if you’re just going to sing it again next December?)

So I start with the carol books—songbooks that focus on the ancient and traditional standards. By the time I work my way up to Irving Berlin and Jose Feliciano, that stuff sounds downright snappy, compared to stuff that was written contemporaneously with Gregorian Chants—or hymns written by Martin Luther himself (does that guy have to do everything for you Protestants? Write a hymn, dammit.)

This year, I’m recording Christmas Carols for YouTube videos like it was my job or something. I guess I hear a skull chuckling at my elbow—and this is my way of setting myself up for absent Xmases. But it’s a good thing I started early this year, in November—here it is December 5th and I’m only half-way through the first book of songs.

I have about five different caroling books—and if I get that far, I have some George Winston sheet music, too. I feel like Winston’s “December” Album is the last modern-day addition to the Xmas-music repertoire. That, and Lennon’s “War Is Over”, and Joni Mitchell’s “River”, represent the furthest reaches of Xmas-music evolution for my generation—younger people could probably cite more recent ‘classics’, but such would be dross to these fuddy-duddy ears.

The rare instrumental Xmas-tunes are my favorites—but they are unanimously difficult on the piano—Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker excerpts, Handel’s Messiah excerpts, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Bells”, March of the Wooden Soldiers—you name it: if it has no lyrics, it’s a bitch to play. But I get a little better every year. Come to think of it, if my other musical efforts were seasonal, I’d probably be making better progress with them as well. I should have an era a month, from Elizabethan to Swing—that would probably be fun. Hmmm.

But December is taken—and I am on a mission. In future years my carol-playing may become worse, but it’s highly unlikely that it will ever get better than it is now—so the video archive of all of it will make a repeat of the same thing unnecessary next year and in years to come. Maybe next year I can try for the whole Nutcracker, or the entire Messiah (which would be tricky without a full chorus, but there are arrangements…)

Someday, I’d also like to do a good recording of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, all twelve months—it’s not official Christmas music, but there’s something about the winter months that’s very seasonal—and it does end with December, after a November ‘sleigh-ride’. Plus the fact that it ‘circumnavigates’ the year makes it kind of New-Years-ey, too. It’s Xmas-ey to me, anyhow.

I’m reminded of my good fortune in being an amateur musician—while doing these books from front to back, I find some of the fun is fading and it’s becoming a bit of a chore. Music is all fun and games until you’re committed to doing a pre-determined set-list, one after the other, easy or hard, like it or not. It’s a whole different animal—and I’m not even performing.

Friday, December 02, 2016                                               9:21 AM

Living Today   (2016Dec02)

If my health were a small child, I would give it my sternest look and say, “I’m very disappointed in you.” Our bodies are a miracle of moving parts, of chemical balance, of evolutionary design—I should be grateful that mine works at all. Bodies are fancy British sports-cars—genius engineering, incredible performance—but get some moisture in the fuel line, a little air in the brake line, a slight under-pressure in the tires—and, suddenly, it’s all hobbled, wobbly and life-threatening.

I’m feeling tremendously empowered today—for a rarity, my body is mobile and my mind relatively clear. That is a glaring contrast to the last few days, when I had so-many-more-than-usual pings and ratchets, I felt ready for the junkyard. But this is something healthy people (and I remember, once, being one) do not have the capacity to appreciate—to wake up in the morning with a clear mind and a body that does what you tell it to—such incredible power—such potential for this day.

I love to write. I bitch about ‘who cares?’; ‘is anyone listening?’; ‘do I have anything to say?’; and so forth, but the truth is I do this because it feels good. Sometimes I go off the rails—but I don’t post everything I type—I give myself liberty to write whatever-the-hell, and then I decide whether it’s fit for public exposure. Like most people, my privacy is important to me—and I try to respect the privacy of others—but that means I’ll never be good writer. Actually, the desire to keep myself to myself is just half of it—I’m also a lousy liar—and a good story-teller has to be comfortable telling stories.

But I don’t need to be good at something to enjoy the hell out of it—take my piano-playing for example—horrible stuff—but you can see that I’m very into it. And I write the same way. I’ll just be sitting around or watching TV and I’ll be struck, out of nowhere, by a notion that propels me to the keyboard—it’s almost inconvenient, except that there’s a thrill that comes with the compulsion.

I suppose it’s an obvious adaptation to the lack of people to talk to—or maybe it simply reveals that I prefer to do all the talking. You have to admit, I do have plenty to say—whether or not it’s worth saying, aside—I really crank it out—I can’t shut up. But there are people wandering the street-corners of New York City that could make the same claim—and they’re actually collecting change—maybe they’ve got more on the ball than I do.

The trouble is that writing is an industry, music is an industry. It is virtually impossible for me to enjoy my hobbies without the thought sneaking in, unwelcome, that other people make money this way—it’s like trying not to think of a purple elephant. I fucking hate money. I’m lucky my wife handles all of it—it makes my skin crawl. But whose head would not be turned by the thought of all the glittering prizes, the fabulous wealth, of the successful—rarer than power-ball winners though they may be?

Shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent whisper to us that the point of enjoying the arts is to win. Better that more people enjoyed the arts as I do, for their own sake. The talented would still shine out, would still be plucked into the heavens—but the rest of us could just be comfortable with the immense pleasure that amateur artistic pursuits offer us.

To be of less-than-professional training and ability is a very modern concept—a few generations ago, gathering around the piano and singing was as natural as sitting down to watch TV together. And writing correspondence was as much a part of an evening as saying one’s bedtime prayers—volumes of such source material inform our historians. Maybe that’s why we bloggers are so legion—letter-writing is gone out of style—and we’ve all taken to writing letters to Ulysses’ ‘Noman’.

It’s an ironic concept—I’ve learned to use all these social-media apps, WordPress, Facebook, YouTube—and all these graphics and audio editing software suites—just so I can approximate the 19th century habit of playing piano in the living room and writing letters to distant friends.

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.

20161207xd-binkleydrawing_01

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.

20161207xd-kruchkow_newsweek

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.

20161207xd-petenmebudsup_logo_02

Working Area   (2016Dec01)

 

pn-017d2

 

Thursday, December 01, 2016                                         10:25 AM

I’d recommend Haydn—particularly the piano works. Tell your digital concierge, “Play Haydn keyboard sonatas.”—and you’re good for several hours of peaceful working- or reading- music.

If the raw sunlight gets in your eye-line, tape a piece of colored construction paper on your window—the room stays lit, but you don’t get that one headache-inducing reflection in your field of vision. And it looks cheery—like a child’s art project—but you have to replace it once a year because construction paper fades and becomes very dreary-looking, in the end.

As a smoker, I’ve taken to confining myself to two rooms of the house—here in the front room, where I work, and my bedroom, where I watch TV and read. If the doors are kept faithfully closed, the rest of the house doesn’t reek of smoking—but it must be noted that I often open the front door for front-room ventilation, and I have a window-fan on exhaust in the bedroom, year-round (yes, it does get a little chilly in winter).

I’ve also surrendered to the smokeless ashtray—it’s stupid and noisy and uses too many batteries and is a pain to empty every time it’s full—but if you use one, it will demonstrate that most of the smoke in a smoke-filled room comes from the cigarette smoldering in the ashtray, not from the smoker’s exhalations. And studies have shown that smoldering butts give off the dirtiest second-hand smoke—much more unhealthy than ‘smoked’ smoke, and more of it.

Grapes, celery sticks, and baby carrots make the best working snacks—you can eat all you want and it won’t do the kind of damage that chips, crackers, or candy can do. Also, for smokers, hot tea provides a bit of steam-cleaning for the lungs—and drinking tea all day won’t fry your nervous system like coffee. There is something about tannic acid that makes tea bother my digestion more than coffee—but only if I’m really chugging it down, cup after cup. Moderation in all things, as they say.

Don’t multitask. Do what you’re doing and leave the rest for later—it may seem slower, but in truth, when each task is focused on, it gets done better and quicker—and if you go from one to the next without pause, the overall time-use is less than if you hop from one thing to another all day long—the hopping around makes you feel busy, but you’re actually wasting time interrupting yourself. And focusing on a task reduces the number of errors.

Enjoy your work—it is a choice. Even the most menial tasks can become a game in your mind. Indeed, the more menial jobs lend themselves to mind-games better than complicated ones. Insisting to yourself that you hate what you’re doing is counterproductive—and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Stop when you’re tired. This is certainly something you don’t always have a choice about, but when the choice is available, take it. Nobody ever did great work while running on fumes. I often found that tasks that take an hour in overtime can be done in five minutes when approached fresh the next morning. Answers that play hide-and-seek in the darkness of fatigue will stand out clear as day in the clarity of morning.

Even in the middle of the day, pausing to refresh can do wonders for your productivity—much more so than dutifully slogging on. Short breaks are like remembering to breathe—something else you should try to do. But here is where ‘multitasking’ can actually be useful—if you get stuck on one project, and you have something else to work on that will take your mind off it, that can be as good as a break.

Get a comfortable chair—if your workplace won’t give you one, steal one. I remember one workplace where the office manager was a real stickler about furniture—I would steal a good chair from another room. Every night she had the janitor put the chair back where it came from—and every morning I stole it again. Improvise, adapt, and overcome, as the Corps likes to say.

Don’t get ahead of yourself—whenever I do that, I always skip a step. People used to ask me why I always walked with my eyes on the ground—and I would answer that I didn’t like to step in dog-poo. Ah the good old days, when picking up after our pets was considered beneath us. Still, there are things to  trip on, slide on, and stumble over—watch where you’re going.

pn-017

Well—who knew I had so much free advice to give. And you know what they say—free advice is worth every penny you paid for it.

 

pn-016d

20161201xd-poem_communalblog

Feces-in-Chief   (2016Nov30)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016                                              2:52 PM

sexual_activities

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….”

Time: the 4th Dimension   (2016Nov26)

20161128xd-babez_16

Saturday, November 26, 2016                                          10:14 AM

One of the ways in which my inner ‘math geek’ expresses himself is by dating things. For instance, people born in the 1980s are in their thirties now, people born in the 1990s are in their twenties now, and anyone sixteen or younger has never set foot in the twentieth century. Any movie released before 1991 is over a quarter-of-a-century old. The Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies were premiered when my parents were toddlers. Most of the interstate highway system was built during Eisenhower’s administration—making it a little over sixty years old. No wonder we have infrastructure problems.

One of my favorite movie lines comes from “Kate and Leopold” (2001). Leopold (Hugh Jackman) having left Kate’s 21st-century apartment to wander New York City, comes across the Brooklyn Bridge, and wonderingly exclaims, “Roebling’s erection—he completed it!—and it still stands…” (which cleverly lets the audience know that Leopold was transported from the past, sometime between 1870—when construction on the bridge began—and 1883—the day the bridge opened).

The passage of time fascinates me. In studying physics, one comes to accept Time as a dimension—it is even used to name a distance: the unit of measure known as a Light-Year is the distance Light can travel in one Year’s time. That’s a pretty parochial unit-naming system, when we consider that a Year is defined as the time it takes for our planet to orbit the sun—a unit of time which means nothing to anyone from another planet—and other planets are the only things that are light-years away. Not to mention that our planet’s orbital time will increase with entropy over the millennia—a million years from now, a Year will be a different amount of time. Will we then change the unit-of-measure name, or its value?

Then again, all units-of-measure are iffy—that’s why there are institutions whose sole purpose is to maintain standards for a unit of measure. A gram was once defined as a cubic centimeter of water. But water is tricky stuff—and a centimeter can be measured using many different degrees of precision. Nowadays, according to Wiki, there’s a chunk of metal stored in a secure facility that represents exactly one gram.

It reminds me of the time I was a lab assistant at the Old Life-Saver factory in Port Chester, NY—it had been converted into the research and development labs for Life-Savers chewing-gum products. One of my duties was weighing a stick of gum (they had to have standard dimensions and weight) and they had an electronic gram-scale that was accurate to three decimal places. After tare-weight adjustment of the scale, I’d put a piece of gum on the weigh-in plate. The weight of the gum was displayed digitally—but it was not standing still—it was counting down. The lab-worker training me explained that the declining weight value was due to evaporation of water from the stick of gum—as the water left the gum, the gum got lighter. You had to round off the value—because the gum was getting microscopically lighter every moment. I suppose the Weights and Measures guys had similar difficulties when using water as a weight-related constant.

All units of measure are parochial and serendipitous—when you get down to it, science is a club—school is where you learn the secret handshakes. It is in the nature of science—it starts with labeling and categorizing and inventing words for measurement systems that never existed before someone in the lab needed to make measurements. Not that a lab is required—Euclid apocryphally drew his geometric diagrams in the sand—Oppenheimer and his team required a whole desert for their test-bench. We say ‘lab’ a lot, talking about science—it is the one thing that society never had before science—a laboratory. Obviously one doesn’t need a lab to do science—it was only science’s increasingly complex and stringent needs that required the laboratory’s invention.

And so I size things up—just as another person might estimate the weight of everyone they meet, or their shoe-size—by Time. Having read a lot of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens, I’m familiar with the evolution of language over time—I can pin an author down to their century by dialect alone—down to their decade, for the more modern writers, who saw faster changes.

That’s another cool thing about time, with regard to people. It doesn’t just flow at a steady pace—in many ways it accelerates. Population growth, for example, can be a geometric progression, depending on the mortality rate and the average life-span. Celebrities don’t just plod their way to stardom—they explode into a ‘fast lane’ of success.

Technology, which builds on all of its previous work, can’t help but rush onward, almost faster than people can keep track—today’s professionals are required to return to school-classes, periodically, for the remainder of their careers, to stay current. Gadgets that once cost thousands of dollars now get given-away as free gifts—or remain, as standard-components in more advanced gadgets—data storage, processing power, ease of use—it all grows from its last best ideas—and it never throws out the good ideas—technology is in many ways a runaway train.

I’m not sure about acceleration being consistently ‘cool’, though. We have entered a time when things can change so fast that we lose ourselves—computer AI approaches the singularity; robotics destroys the labor market, creating a crisis for Capitalism; genetically-modified foods replace less-efficient seed stores, without the millennia of field-testing (you should pardon the pun) the less-efficient seeds contain in their genome; and genetic modification also looms over our own genetic heritage, offering us the chance for customized in-vitro improvement—with a side order of the risk of extinction.

Money used to be the limiting factor—our safety-line. No one could afford to build so many factories that the air itself would get dirty—no one could manufacture that many cars—no one could build so vast a fishing fleet that it would sweep the seas of life. No one could build so many fracking-wells that the state of Oklahoma would collapse in on itself. And Money kept us safe for most of the industrial revolution. But Time has stepped in and given Money a hand—that many factories, that many cars, that many fishing boats and fracking wells have been built—not by one greedy tycoon, but by thousands of ambitious capitalists over decades.

Like all accelerations, pollution and habitat-loss started out slow—hardly noticeable. But they’re really getting on their horse, now—a terrible time to elect a climate-change denier (if you’ll allow the non-sequitur). Time is becoming our hostile enemy—tipping points have already been reached—and worse ones are close behind. Yet climate-conservancy and habitat-preservation remain subjects of debate, rather than hard targets for global effort.

My own, personal time-line is inching towards its end-point. Unfairly, we who have created the mess will not live to suffer the consequences of our neglect. Time doesn’t give a damn about me—it was going before I got here and it’ll just keep on after I leave. And it will do the same to all of you—evaporating the water out of your old chewing gum, giving you children to raise, rushing you out existence’s doorway, without a moment’s thought to your own schedule.

Yet time is good. It adds an undeniably sweet flavor to our days and nights—nothing bad lasts forever, and if nothing good does either, that’s a fair trade, really. And it gives our minds something to play with—when we’re scared, the mind slows time down—when we’re happy, the mind rushes time right along, before you know it. And it makes a nice change from Height, Length, and Width, don’t you think?

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.

20140517xd-renaissncmusiclinstrumnts_ridouvf_01

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.

20160702XD-RevWar_01

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.

20160627XD-Garden (20)

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.

bayeux-tapestry_04

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.

20160107XD-NASA-MagneticReconnection

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.

20160217XD-JustBeingSilly (3)

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.

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_2

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.

20150825XD-Rijks_Shipyard_AmsterdamAdmiralty_LudolfBakhuysen

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.

20160312XD-DisabledRights_LivesWorthLiving_t614

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.

SAM_2277

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.

20130605xd-googlimage_maxfieldparrish_evening-shadows

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.

20160702XD-RevWar_04

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.

20121002xd-googlimages-guidorenifresco

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.

gardensallah

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.

20160703XD-DFrontYard (12)

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.

20141107XD-WalkPix (40)

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.

20151106XD-Rijk_Invention_of_the_compass

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.

OldPic 008

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.

pn051

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.

pn014

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.

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_6

Journal Entries   (2016Nov23)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016                                           5:58 PM

I watch TCM today—they showed “Act One” (1963) based on Moss Hart’s autobiography, specifically the part when Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman first meet and collaborate on a play called “Once In A Lifetime”. “Once In A Lifetime” was Hart’s actual first play (well, second, technically—he flopped in Chicago with “The Hold-Up Man”, but the movie leaves that out)—and was made into its own eponymous movie in 1932. I found that out from IMDb, which also cleared up a great mystery: Even as a little kid watching TV game-shows, I was always at a loss as to why Kitty Carlyle was considered a great celebrity. Well now I know—she was Moss Hart’s wife—celebrity.

Then I went with KT to grab some Chinese at Imperial Wok—he had the chicken and broccoli—I had the Taiwanese rice noodles—you can always count on Imperial Wok. It was great to see KT—it’s been nigh on twenty years since last we met. He takes guff from the locals for being a rich guy, so I guess he’s doing pretty well—I certainly don’t get hassled that way, but I doubt I would mind. His daughter graduates in a week or so and already has a job lined up—things are going great.

Then Dee called. I’d seen on Facebook earlier that Malcolm’s multiple surgeries had been successful—only to find, yesterday, that all three of them got sick—Dee a sinus infection, Bossy bronchitis, and Malcolm developed a post-op infection. But they are all feeling a little better—it sounded like Dee had to get off the phone because she had children crawling all over her—I don’t know—it was weird.

So now I’m looking at Sen videos, emailed from Jessy. I’m almost too tired—it’s been a long day. I have a new shirt—very fancy and comfortable—it has green stripes and I think it’s made of a silk blend—it’s shiny. More later.

20161123xd-sengrfc_02

[10 minutes later:] Oh, those are sweet videos!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016                                           8:16 PM

Very tired now—I played some more piano, and now I’m back at the videos. I had something—but it’s gone now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016                                           9:31 PM

Ugh!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016                                    12:03 PM

That’s better—it’s funny how people (or at least I) get run down at the end of a day, like drained batteries, and then wake up feeling fresh the next morning. I didn’t notice as much—when I was younger. Sleep then was more like a switch turned on and off. But now I notice the steady decline in energy and focus as the day wears on—and the fatigue at the end of the day is so much greater now. But, as balance, I’m very appreciative of the freshness and acuity of the morning hours.

I’ve created two new videos using Jessy’s new videos of Seneca—for the first one, “Water Babies”, I lowered the volume of the piano-playing, so you can hear the baby. For the second video, “On ‘Xmas Comes Anew’”, I muted the volume of the baby-video, so you can hear the piano. “Water Babies” is older—I recorded it a few days ago and waited for baby pix—that’s why the dates are different.

Claire signed us up for Spotify—it’s nice to have every classical music recording I can think of, available for my listening pleasure, while I work away here. It has popular music, too—I just don’t listen to that stuff while I’m working. A lot of my work is my own music videos, though. It’s always been difficult for me to go from my own paltry music to the professionals and back again—I suffer from the comparison—but less now than I used to, so that’s something.

 

Investing In Space   (2016Nov18)

20161118xd-astmining_04

Friday, November 18, 2016                                              1:46 PM

Analyze the situation mathematically—one planet, seven billion people. That’s not good—and there’s only one real solution. Before you get all contrary about that statement let me clarify that I am not suggesting moving ourselves and all our stuff up, out of the gravity well we all live at the bottom of. That’s impractical—and it’s not the argument I’m making.

The energy resources and the natural resources available to us at the bottom of our gravity well have been bounteous and convenient. They are far more convenient than the mechanics of humans in space—and we perceive that as a dividing line—but it is not. With robotics, we have explored much of the solar system—and robotic space exploration is still in its infancy, long-term—and robotic asteroid mining is still only in its planning stages.

20161118xd-astmining_01

Robotic asteroid mining is therefore a volatile investment, to say the least. If we look at the beginnings of the electronic revolution, we see that many companies came and went—picking the right company would have been the wildest of crap-shoots. But investing in all of them would have meant having a stake in the beginnings of firms like Intel, Sun, IBM, Microsoft and Apple. And robotic asteroid mining will have the same volatility—but it will also end the same way—with a handful of those companies making the earlier investments in the old digital boom seem like small potatoes.

So nobody is getting rich on robotic asteroid mining today—but if you are looking for something that will allow your grandchildren to retire in luxury, one hundred years from now—that is where you put your money. There’s no question about it.

20161118xd-astmining_02

Think of the vastness of space, of our solar system alone—instead of one planet, you have several. And you have those asteroid belts—basically planets’ worth of resources, pre-chewed for your convenience. They come in three popular flavors—mostly ice (meaning water), mostly metal, and the assortment-pack asteroids, which have a little bit of everything in them.

Transportation is the problem. It’s hard to bring anything up there—and it’s hard to bring anything back down. The mechanics of accessing things outside of our gravity well have been considered and summarized many times. It is often referred to as ‘bootstrapping’ humanity’s escape from Earth. It is a zero-sum game—if humanity establishes access to the resources of space, it will survive—if we use up the planet’s resources past the point where we can attempt this, we will be trapped on Earth forever.

20161118xd-astmining_03

Less visionary people will counter that we cannot waste so much of our resources on such an outlandish scheme. They ignore the fact that seven billion people will quickly become fourteen billion, and soon thereafter, twenty-eight billion. The math doesn’t work. The false economy of turning our backs on space merely extends humanity’s expiration by a few years—whereas access to the solar system extends it for the foreseeable far-future.

Notice that I’m not saying ‘the people of Earth’, I’m saying humanity. The people of Earth will over-populate it, they will make a desert of it, and they will die in droves, maybe even die out completely—that’s just math.

20161118xd-astmining_05

I imagine you’re thinking of birth-control—why not have population control? Well, you can’t control population growth—ask the Chinese. Any void created by one group is filled by another—you may suppress foreign workers, or deny them human rights—but they are still mouths to feed and capable of breeding more of themselves. Only a global government could do the job—but an overcrowded planet with dwindling resources is not fertile ground for a global government, is it? Checkmate.

20161118xd-astmining_14

I mean—you could destroy civilization, I guess. That would slaughter most of the people—especially in the developed countries. But people, like weeds, would just grow back—the harder those post-apocalyptic survivors worked to re-build society, the faster we would get right back to where we started. If it seems cold-blooded to destroy civilization, murdering billions—think how psychotic it would be to do all that, just for a ‘delay of game’.

20161118xd-astmining_06

No, people can use tools and think critically—but in our biology we are still no different from fungus—if we run out of room to expand, we fill up the available space until we choke on our own waste. Yet, while the people of Earth face a dire future, humanity itself has an out.

First of all, we don’t need to send everything out of our gravity well—if we can establish a working asteroid-mining system, we can begin to process raw materials in space as well, and manufacture our needs without Earth. Bootstrapping would require a massive amount of Earth’s resources—but once a foot-hold has been established, space-dwellers will eventually free themselves from any needs formerly required from the surface-dwellers.

20161118xd-astmining_07

The automation of factories and the use of robots create problems on Earth—they take jobs away from people. But in space, it is very convenient that we are just now beginning to produce robots with impressive ability. Anyone who goes to space will never do more than supervise the activities of the robots and automated facilities—and they don’t even need to be in space, necessarily, to do the supervising.

20161118xd-astmining_13

The hardest thing about space is growing food there—but while that is difficult, it is not impossible. That too will have to be bootstrapped—biomes will have to be created using soil samples and such from Earth—but once begun, such biomes will be self-sustaining. And, while we could never send all the people into space—we don’t really need to. Just send a few—they’ll take it from there . (Just make sure you have a diverse genetic sampling.)

20161118xd-astmining_08

So, to re-cap, we can do little in space until we’ve developed a foothold, using robotics—and while we can’t send all the people to space, we can send their genome. Humanity saved. But we were speaking of investments in the future. What, you may ask, do I get out of saving humanity?

Here’s the part where luck has something to do with how this all plays out. I don’t know if you’ve heard—but scientists came up with a plan for free energy a long time ago. All you have to do is create solar panels in Earth orbit and transmit the energy to the surface as microwaves. No fuel required, no pollution emitted—unlimited free power. Why don’t we do that? We don’t do that because nobody wants a microwave-cannon with the power of the sun pointed at whatever part of Earth’s surface it happens to be pointed at.

20161118xd-astmining_09

There are many things that science won’t do, or can’t do. If you remember, the space-shuttles always landed dead-stick (in the words of one of the pilots, ‘it flew like a brick’). If asteroid mining developed sufficiently, it could send raw materials back to earth—instead of mining for metal, we could have steel gliders in from space. Sounds crazy, I know—but it can be done.

One of the things science can’t do (right now, at least) is create a material strong enough to support Clarke’s space-elevator. But if we are lucky enough to find such materials and building techniques in the near future, we could create a conveyor belt capable of both sending things to space, and getting stuff back from space, without any great need for energy, or rockets, or rocket fuel.

20161118xd-astmining_10

If we got lucky in that way, then the development of the solar system’s resources wouldn’t just save humanity, it would save the people of Earth as well. It would provide more resources than we could imagine, it would provide a cheap and easy way for people to leave Earth—or return. It would mean that the benefits of going to space would not be confined only to the people in space.

That would be great—a lucky break for everyone. But there is no guarantee that any of this will happen—there isn’t even any guarantee that we will begin to try to do any of this. The only guarantee is that, if we do it, it won’t be easy. My only purpose in writing this is to set the facts in evidence before you.

20161118xd-astmining_11

Establishing a self-sustaining foothold in space is the big issue—everything else is a side-issue: wars, governments, even money are trivial things by comparison. It is human nature to expand—we can’t help ourselves. But we are trapped in a bottle right now, running out of room to grow—running out of materials, destroying environments. You may think of space exploration as childish—but I think of the short-sightedness of failing to go to space as even more childish. It is little different from hiding under the covers, hoping the boogeyman will go away.

In short, investing in space is a long shot, not to mention a really long-term investment that will require decades to make a return. But I believe that if we don’t develop space, no investment in anything has much of a future. So, in balance, it’s where the smart money will go. And remember—it’s not always necessary to be smart—sometimes you can simply listen to what the smart people say. And this is what they are saying, as far as I understand it.

20161118xd-astmining_12

Big Numbers   (2016Nov15)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016                                           3:24 PM

20161115xd-nancyhd_s_pottery-6

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.

i-want-i-want-engraving-199x300

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.

 

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 Woman’s Touch   (2016Nov02)

20161031xd-batbabysen_01b

Wednesday, November 02, 2016                                              5:08 PM

I just heard President Obama give as simple and straightforward a case as possible for voting for Hillary Clinton. There might as well have been a QED at the end (mathematicians put it at the end of a formal proof—it means ‘Quod erat demonstrandum’, or ‘Thus it is proved’). The case against Trump, the case for Hillary, and by extension his legacy—Obama laid it all out just as nice as you please. It was a beautiful speech, reminding us that cynicism is the enemy of democracy—that not caring who you vote for, or worse, not voting, is the enemy of democracy.

Pardon me for getting upset about this. It was wonderful—but that fact that it is necessary disturbs me greatly. We have things explained to us so well that an infant could understand it—yet half the country seems satisfied with ignoring the basic facts, eager to buy in to anything other than dreary old common sense—because for a long time, facing reality has given them nothing but grief. They feel it is time to lash out, to kick things over. We are either going to elect Hillary—or we are about to throw a temper tantrum that will destroy the human race.

20161031xd-batbabysen_02b

I can’t pretend to know how others feel—I’m a shut-in; I’m disabled; I’m sixty; and I have kids and a grand-kid. For all of those reasons, disruption and upheaval don’t appeal to me at all. The weak and the helpless (among which I am now forced to include myself) never get a good deal when things get rough. We do far better when things go smoothly—we can even find our conditions may improve, once in a while. That’s the kind of steady helming that Hillary Clinton represents.

20161031xd-batbabysen_04

Had I been a younger man, I might like the idea of turning everything on its head—opportunities could come of it. Who knows? Maybe the backlash would make America even more progressive in another twelve years. But would I personally survive upheavals even greater than those already confronting us? I don’t like my odds. And the Earth’s climates are similarly weak, helpless, and disabled—will they survive a period of dog-eat-dog petroleum use, or the rescinding of the Climate Accords in America? So it’s not just about the crabby old guy from Lincolndale. I know I’m a statistic waiting to happen—but I want to be one of Hillary’s statistics, not the other guy’s.

Besides, this joint could use a woman’s touch.

Today’s video contains a woman’s touch—Jessy made her baby into Bat-Baby for Halloween, and made her stroller into the Batmobile. Jessy herself dressed up as Catwoman, and Big Seneca dressed as Clark Kent. I ripped-off the Batman theme, so this isn’t a true improvisation—but I just needed some excuse to post the pictures, so here it is:

 

And here’s a link to the original TV theme.

So much for Halloween–let the Holiday madness begin….

 

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.

20160826XD-HillaryClinton_01

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.

hillforceone_image-a-6_1473090761767

A Noisy Afternoon   (2016Oct29)

20161029xd-grandpetunia-1c

Saturday, October 29, 2016                                              4:21 PM

The peace and quiet of the suburbs is a myth. In the spring you have chain-saws and wood-chippers, in the summer it’s weed-whackers and mowers all day long, in winter it’s either snow-blowers, snowmobiles, or the collective grumble of an entire neighborhood full of individual emergency generators keeping their furnaces working during a power outage. That’s all discounting the delivery trucks, garbage trucks, septic trucks, oil trucks, moving vans, road-crew vehicles that clank in a variety of rhythms, and the occasional hot-headed hot-rodder with a muffler problem. The ‘summer special’ is the ice-cream truck that plays a Stephen-King-rendition of a nursery rhyme for hours on end—but never passes in front of your own house.

However, in the fall we get the king of noise-makers—the mighty leaf-blower. The guys that operate these things wear muffler-headphones like they use at an airport—but they fail to hand them out to the rest of the neighborhood. I miss the good old days—when the only loud noises were people playing their stereo too loud—or some drunk beating up his wife with the actual Hollywood soundtrack effects. There really should be laws regulating the manufacture of these unmusical noise-makers. I know that it makes people feel like they’re really working when it’s loud—but a car makes less noise, driving by, than these hand-held lawn-tools do—there’s something wrong with that, and very oppressive.

You may hear the whining of this thing during my videos—if I waited for them to stop, I’d never get anywhere. I played a few song-covers from my Looney-Tunes Songbook today—Warner Bros. published an oldies-songbook comprised exclusively of pieces used in the classic cartoons—it’s great fun. Some of the lyrics are very un-PC, but I just play the piano on those tunes, usually. I also attempted new improvs—it was a struggle, but there might be something there.

I’ve got the latest snaps of princess poopypants—they’re included in the videos. She’s such a charmer. I’m just crazy to finally meet her! If I wasn’t such a wreck I would walk to California, just to see that little baby. But at least I get the movies and the pictures—and they’re coming for the holidays (I hope—young peoples’ lives are so hectic).

Anyhow, here it is one o’clock in the morning and I’m still finishing up these videos—I just want to talk. And this imaginary piece of typing paper is my friend. I type and words come out on the screen—it’s just as if I were communicating with someone. Well, at least it’s quiet now. All the leaf-blowing men are snug in their beds, or drinking at a bar. I wonder how the Cubs did tonight?

O, no! Now, their only chance is a big upset. Go Cubs. (I’m a Mets fan, but a century is long enough to wait.)

This Has Got To Stop   (2016Oct29)

dircomey

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.

dircomey_02

Thanks, GOP   (2016Oct28)

Friday, October 28, 2016                                         2:43 PM

Ten days left in the election and the FBI announces it’s re-opening its investigation into Hillary’s emails. That doesn’t seem the least bit partisan, does it? It seems Hillary Clinton did not break the law by using a private server—so they have to go after her for misusing her private server. And even that didn’t turn up any great catastrophe—so they had to let it go. Now, they’re just messing around, trying to throw cold water on her campaign at the last minute. But, sure—the Democrats are rigging things.

Bernie said it best: “Can we just forget about the damn emails?” Hillary hasn’t been Secretary of State for four years now—if her private server was putting America at risk, it was then, not now. And no evidence has yet been produced showing she did anything seriously damaging, four years ago. Yes, we can keep looking into it—but it is old news, unless you have an undying desire to destroy Hillary Clinton. After all this time, and all this investigating, with no results—to re-open the case ten days before the election is pure politics.

But that’s par for the course of this election season. A disgusting egotist gets more respect than he deserves—and a fine leader gets mud thrown at her. Show me one decent thing that Trump has ever done—you can’t, because he’s lived a life of self-absorption. Now he wants to save America from itself—yeah, right. Did you hear him talking about ‘ghettos’ today? Yes, he’s seventy—hell, I’m sixty—I’ve heard the word—we used it (improperly) in the sixties. But nobody uses it now. See, Donald doesn’t get it—yes, anyone can become president—but only if you’re qualified to be president—otherwise, no sensible person would vote for you.

Lucky for Donald there are so few sensible people in this country. He’s still got a shot at this thing. Can you believe that? He should have never won the primary—Republicans, I’m talking to you. How did a TV entertainer out-campaign your best and brightest? How did you nominate possibly the only person who could lose to Hillary, after all the years of trash-talk you’ve all laid on her? With the media so eager to follow every red-herring you dream up about the ‘horrors of Hillary’, you’ve got most of the country seeing her as an evil witch, instead of the competent leader she actually is. Only one problem.

By turning your base into deluded crazies, you set the stage for this idiot. But he’s such an enormous douche that Hillary has a chance to climb out of the hole you’ve dug for her. I hope you’re happy. I know I will be, when Hillary takes the oath of office. Thanks, GOP.

 

P.S.  Hey, people are talking about a post-election revolution. Yeah, good luck with that. Plenty of Second Amendment folks are voting for Hillary—so if you start shooting, they’ll be shooting back, believe you me. And they are not cowards, afraid to let Muslims or Mexicans find a place in this great land—or afraid of you idiots, either. So come ahead—just remember, if you think ISIS is scary, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

*****

Okay—Now—today’s video includes a life-study that Claire drew last night. She’s really going to town on this art stuff. In the middle I put baby pictures from our new granddaughter. I also played a Rodgers & Hart cover: “Where or When” in the middle of improvising. So this is a kind of patchwork performance. Hope you like:

Birthday Girl   (2016Oct27)

Thursday, October 27, 2016                                             3:47 PM

Today’s video isn’t really a present for our future president—it’s more about my daughter and granddaughter—but their lives will be so much better for having Hillary Clinton in the White House for the next eight years—that’s right—eight. So the video is for them—but consider it a thank-you-in-advance to Hillary, as well.

I know that Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s birthday was yesterday, but you don’t turn 69 every day, so I think an extension is in order. And she does kinda look like a little girl up on the platform next to Michelle Obama—she’s really adorable. I know that Wiki-Leaks dumped some more emails about the Clintons profiting from their positions or their charity—but the State Department has nothing to say about it, and the alignments of government decisions concerning foreign actors that paid the Clintons is hard to prove (though easy to suggest) and proving that those government decisions were against the country’s best interests is an even harder case to make.

However, if I wanted to prove that her opponent was actually a threat to this country, rather than a fitting leader of it, I could easily do that to the satisfaction of most Americans—or so the polls would suggest. Or rather, the polls suggest that such proof has already been made—a bell that cannot be unrung, try though Fox News might.

He isn’t really the issue though. The general anti-Hillary tone of America is the subject that has aroused my ire this afternoon. When I hear those whiny people, squirming with delight at being on TV, yet saying things they should be ashamed of—repeating things they heard Trump say, or some other Republican, to the effect that Hillary is an untrustworthy, dangerous criminal—I could just spit.

For starters, we have this fine old tradition here that says no one is guilty until proven so in a court of law. Further, Hillary has been to court; she’s been to the Hill (for eleven hours); she’s been interrogated by the FBI. Usually, fugitives don’t make speeches on TV, so I’m going to assume that Hillary is not a criminal. Only during a campaign can someone call their opponent a crook, and not suffer for it—it’s slander. Criminal accusations are usually accompanied by evidence rather than innuendo—only during a campaign is innuendo sufficient.

Over thirty years of public service deserves more respect from us—it certainly gets respect from the people that pay her a fortune to come and talk to them. They must be interested in her ideas and her experience. You know, the talk-circuit is an industry in itself—many great and famous people make a good living off it—and there’s nothing illegal about it. I’m sure that Hillary’s fees make many people jealous—but that is their problem—not ours. We need only recognize that the most powerful people on Earth want to hear what Hillary has to say.

People tend to call the birthday girl ‘the lesser of two evils’—well, people, try this: you get yourself a law degree, spend some thirty-odd years in public service, be attacked by conservatives the whole time, raise a daughter, keep your marriage together, and start a world-class, global charity before you run for President, twice, while people say the ugliest things they can think of about you—then you, too, can be ‘the lesser of two evils’. Y’all’s got some fuckin nerve, is all I can say.

Have you seen the Republicans? Bunch of slimy toads—not a one of them I’d trust with grocery money. And lie—these bastards lie like they’re Michelangelo painting the Sistine ceiling—they lie like Mozart composed music—if an honest word came out of one of their mouths, I think the whole of Washington, D.C. would sink back into the swamp it came from. But the nice lady who wants to help children—she’s the dangerous criminal?—yeah, right. How stupid are we supposed to be?

You people get your heads on straight. Look at what’s in front of you and ask yourself, ‘Who am I gonna believe?’ Happy birthday, Ms. Clinton.

Happiness Is Music   (2016Oct25)

20161024xd_senecaduffy_grfc_01

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.

pn-020

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.

pn-005d

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.

creature-sp008

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.

sam_2285

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.

sam_2286

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.

 

Things Pile Up   (2016Oct22)

pn051

Thursday, October 20, 2016                                             8:33 PM

The recordings pile up—so the graphics I create for the videos piles up too. So, the YouTube upload count ticks upward. Meanwhile, I’m writing this stuff—and posting it—so the WordPress blog-posts tick upward and these documents keep piling up essay-titles. And, with all the PC activity, my files and folders get longer, bigger, and more numerous.

pn048

The books get bought and, sometimes, read—and while I no longer create a pile of actual books, my Kindle is getting severely crowded. And if you though it was hard to remember what you had already read, when they were actual books—forget about the Kindle’s ‘Library’ listing. Plus, there’s the incessant stream of new TV shows and new movies to keep track of.

pn043

The point is—I’m retired, disabled—I do nothing all day—and yet my life is a steady stream of data, too much, and too fast, to keep track of. I can’t remember what it was like when I had a busy, complex job on top of all that—and a social life, once upon a time.

pn040

So don’t think I’m complaining—I’m just stating a fact—I would not be surprised if your life is far more complex, and your firehose of data is choking you even worse. There may be an internet-access gap that separates the human race into digital haves and have-nots, but the digital haves are not without their share of problems.

pn038

Businesses and governments will find ways to dump a lot of data processing in our laps—there’re insurance forms, tax returns, bill-paying, car registration, subscriber services, cable-package options, and wyfy-speeds to choose from (and pay for). There’re school applications and job applications and loan applications and grant applications and business plans and budgets. There’s chores and meals and shopping and laundry and the kitchen sink (I threw that in too).

pn014

When you get down to it (and if you leave out the suffering and deprivation) the poor really have much better lives than we do. A poor person would have to work awfully hard to hurt as many people as a corporate executive can with a simple paperwork mistake. The more power one has, the greater the damage one’s mistakes can do. And it is far simpler to live life without a nice house full of comfortable things, than to spend every waking hour worrying about losing a nice house full of comfortable things. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve had occasion to be poor, hungry, cold, and tired—and that’s no bargain either—but it is simpler.

pn013

Of course, I’m just being foolish—having had occasion to be short on funds, I’m well aware of the high cost of being poor—the piecemeal existence demands more man-hours and more cost per reward. And the complexities of stretching a dollar are, in truth, more, not less, than those of maintaining a high-income lifestyle. But the grass is always greener, isn’t it?

pn012

I’m starting to wonder what I’m going to do when the election is finally over and done with. I’ve been blogging about the presidential race for two years, pretty near, and it’s time for me to find a new subject. I’m thinking the guaranteed minimum revenue idea deserves at least as much thought and analysis as I’ve given to this lopsided popularity-contest-cum-constitutional-crisis.

pn010

It doesn’t fully address the far future, but it is a reasonable idea to begin the transition from a labor-based economy to a labor-free one. Trying to reform capitalism, in one fell swoop, into something completely different, would be like throwing the transmission of an ocean liner into reverse at full revs—you’d tear the engine apart. But a guaranteed minimum revenue for the unemployed, without conditions, would provide consumers in areas without jobs and, more importantly, give people some financial security outside of the job market.

pn-025d

It would also serve as a de facto minimum wage—the higher the guaranteed minimum revenue, the more employers would have to offer to get a person to come to work. Politically, you can call it socialism if you want—I can’t deny it.

But you tell me—if manufacturers and business owners produce more goods with less labor (an ongoing trend with a potential zero-sum result) then we must ask, “Do the people that own things become the only people with any revenue?” If the answer is ‘yes’ then we must further ask, “Who are they going to sell this stuff to?”

Henry Ford only paid his workers generous wages because he wanted them to be customers, too. He didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart—he wanted to sell a lot of cars. No one ever got rich selling stuff no one can afford—and without jobs, people can’t afford anything. Okay, dead horse well-beaten—I think you get my point by now.

In a world without jobs, you have to give people money. They buy the stuff, the businesses make a profit, the businesses pay taxes, the taxes pay the guaranteed minimum revenue to the people, so they can buy more stuff—and round and round it goes. The only difference is that computers and robots do the actual work—the salaries once paid to workers now take the form of taxes paid to Big Brother. The taxes are disbursed more uniformly than the salaries ever were, so it’s actually a much fairer system in some ways. We just have to get past our conditioning—our belief that a man makes his bread by the sweat of his brow—we can still do work, but we will not have to have jobs.

pn051

We will have to accept that doing almost anything by hand is pure therapy—that it would be easier and quicker to have a machine do it. Human life once included defending ourselves against wild beasts—it was so much a part of how we defined ourselves that men still hunt and fish today—for things they could more easily get at the supermarket. Soon, labor will be equally vestigial—like running on a treadmill to stay in shape, instead of fleeing from a mountain lion or a pack of wolves.

pn048

Who knows? Perhaps, at some future date, we’ll even need some artificial form of stress, just to keep us mentally fit—in the same way we exercise to stay physically fit, in a world without walking, lifting, or carrying. You know, most people don’t work in busy offices resembling zoos because they have to—they do it on purpose because they get off on the energy of it. Without stressful jobs, we’ll be desperate for challenging activities to match that energy—especially the younger people.

But I digress.

pn043

I’m starting to feel sorry for Trump. I still need him to lose the election—nothing about that has changed, only intensified. But this guy really has issues—once he is without Secret Service protection, I hope his loved ones can stage some sort of intervention and get him the help he so clearly needs. Did you know he has numerous siblings? But forget the eerie absence of his kin—let’s talk about his mother. What political candidate has ever failed to dote on his or her mother, to harken back to her sure, steady raising—that made them the person they are today?

pn040

Where is the love? Is that the true purpose of his presidential run—to be loved? Is Trump crying out for attention, much like an abandoned child? It’s kinda startin to look that way. His fear and mistrust of women is readily apparent. His avoidance of babies and children is publicly documented. Trump has intimacy issues. The poor guy—no wonder he’s this close to pulling the whole country down around his ears—and doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Melania, give that poor bastard a hug, wouldya?

Losing this election isn’t going to help him any—but self-destruction and self-loathing go hand-in-hand, so it’s inevitable that it should come to this. Still, I’m really starting to feel sorry for the guy.

pn038

Reviews   (2016Oct18)

20161013xd-babyday03-5

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.

What Have We Learned?   (2016Oct18)

20160727XD_HillaryClinton_04

Tuesday, October 18, 2016                                               8:32 PM

Tomorrow night is the third and final debate. For most people, it will be a spectacle, rather than an education. This campaign is on its second year—if you haven’t heard it all, already, you’re just not paying attention—and you haven’t seen a TV since 2014.

I have learned a lot about this country and the people who live in it. I learned more than I wanted to know about Trump. I have learned a lot about the media, especially media journalism. And, of course, I’ve learned about our next president, Hillary Clinton.

I find Hillary Clinton so impressive that, to my ear, all those who can’t abide her sound like a lot of sour grapes. She’s tough—in a very tough game—world power. You know those people who always win at Risk? Well, she does that—in real life. Do you know how rare it is for capable people to throw their lives away on this inexcusably wretched, yet crucially important, circus called national politics?

Only a martyr to public service like Hillary would put the intelligence and drive that most successful people put into forging empires of their own—into a lifetime of helping our ungrateful, apathetic asses. Look at the crap she has to take from us, before we will deign to allow her to work herself gray-haired, in the toughest job on earth, for four years. Oh, no, no—wait! We might prefer the racist pig idiot clown with the stupid face. Hmmm—let us think. Hmm—think, think, think. Well….

Are you joking? Are you seriously joking right now?

Watch the last debate—watch him tell every lie three times—he thinks that makes people believe it. Even children see through him. What is wrong with the grown-ups?

20160727XD_HillaryClinton_05

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.

lewis_carroll_-_henry_holiday_-_hunting_of_the_snark_-_plate_6

[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.

img_2570

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)

20160729XD_HillaryClinton_08

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.

20160729XD_HillaryClinton_10

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.

20160729XD_HillaryClinton_09

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.

20160722XD_HillaryClinton_01

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’.

20160809XD-HRC_03

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’.

hillforceone_image-a-6_1473090761767

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.

20160826XD-HillaryClinton_04

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.

ht_bill_clinton_hillary_clinton_charlotte_jt_140927_16x9_992

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.

20160729XD_HillaryClinton_07

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!

ap_hillary_clinton_plane_2_jt_160905_4x3_992

Pete and I   (2016Oct10)

20161010xd-petenme-improv_grfc_01

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”

Cautiously Optimistic   (2016Oct12)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016                                         10:42 AM

This is more like it. I don’t feel like a lone voice crying in the wilderness anymore. Most people seem to have caught on—electing Donald Trump would be just like electing a hog because it had won the blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair. That’s a good pig—that’s a pig above its peers—but it’s still a pig.

Donald was (and is) a scheming skeeve, first as a real-estate conniver and Manhattan ‘playboy’, then as a reality-TV star who entertained by being pompously cruel. That he had fourteen seasons is a sad commentary on the American TV audience—but enjoying his perfidy, as semi-fictional guilty pleasure, is a far cry from finding him fit to lead the nation.

Cmdr. Spock could have told you right off that a human doesn’t indulge himself at the expense of others for seventy years—and become a model public servant the next day. He’s not a plotline, he’s a person—he doesn’t ‘pivot’, or suddenly transform in any other way—anymore than you or I do. Thus we conclude that his candidacy was nothing more than a quest for self-aggrandizement and power—in other words, an ego-trip.

And I can forgive Trump and Billy B. for their lewdness on the tape—I can even forgive Trump running for President, for the most venal of motivations, and pretending he’s been ‘called’ to public service, out of idealism. I can forgive all that. To forgive is divine. But I ain’t gonna vote for him—no, that’s a fer piece beyond forgiveness.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, began her life with a passion for helping children. As her life brought her to positions of influence, she used that influence to help children—and learned that helping families is a great way to do that—and found that a community (or ‘a village’) is a great model for raising every American to a place of opportunity, security, and freedom. Thus her passion for children and her love of country melded into a single driving motivation.

Comparison between the two candidates is laughably unequal. Those who hate Hillary Clinton have very vague and diffuse rage against the status quo—the hysterical intensity of it marks it as a prejudice, rather than a reasoned judgement. When they try to tell me that Hillary is ‘just as bad’ as Trump, I can’t think of how to answer them—except to call them ‘dumb people’ (which rarely helps).

I truly think that the world is getting too complicated for a certain segment of the populace—they view the election as an unfair test—a test they are afraid to fail, as if life had become one long math class—and Trump is waving at them, saying, ‘Easy answer!—Over here!’ They are voting their frustration, not their judgement. Emotions and Democracy don’t mix, any more than emotions and the judicial system, or emotions and the practice of medicine. Passion has its place in politics, but only as passion for good, for the truth, and justice.

Has thirty years of campaigning, media fire-storms, scandals, political infighting, and partisan attacks blunted Hillary’s idealism? I should hope so. Imagine, if you will, what such a ‘refining fire’ would do to your dewy-eyed, youthful dreams, or what it did to mine (and I’m just a regular guy). A battle-scarred pol may seem an uninspiring option to the young absolutists—but we should keep in mind what fights she fought while earning those scars.

They were not legal tussles with creditors and unpaid workmen and excluded minorities. She fought to end school segregation. She fought to get disabled kids the right to be included in our public education system. She fought for health care for people who weren’t rich enough, or healthy enough, to get their own. She has served the public her whole life.

Trump, at the 2nd debate, said she’s been in power for thirty years and ‘has nothing to show for it’. That’s right, Donald—by your lights, Hillary has nothing to show for a lifetime of public service—she hasn’t become a billionaire, or a celebrity TV bully, or cheated decent people out of payment for the work they gave in good faith—nothing to show for her life. Well, except maybe millions of grateful people whose lives have been improved, even saved, by her work—and the respect of decent people like myself.

I was very excited about seeing Hillary Clinton be elected the first woman president of the United States. I didn’t think the Republicans could field an opponent that had a chance against her. I was pretty shocked to realize that the campaign to impugn Hillary Clinton was not only alive and well, but had become rabid—and that the majority of Americans were starting to believe, through sheer persistence of repetition, everything her opponents were accusing her of—no matter how wild.

This was complicated by the fact that Hillary Clinton—the actual human being—is indeed less than perfect. She has made mistakes—and she has been a politician—and decades of attack have spurred her to a few unfortunate verbal rejoinders. I get the feeling she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Neither do I. But none of that—and certainly none of the hogwash peddled by her haters—changes the fact that she is a whip-smart, doggedly capable person—and we’d be hard-pressed to find a better leader for the next eight years.

But enough—28 days from now, we’ll vote, and then we’ll, finally, know whether we are safe. Vote as if your life depended on it. VOTE.

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.

20160827XD_Trumpet_02

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).

hillforceone_01

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.

20160826XD-HillaryClinton_04

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.

ap_hillary_clinton_plane_2_jt_160905_4x3_992

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…..

Banana Time   (2016Sep30)

Friday, September 30, 2016                                              11:08 PM

Where is the love, people? Where is the love? Are we so afraid of something bad happening that we can’t spare a moment to consider something good that might happen? We can argue about the size of government and try to make that the issue, but—communities used to do a much better job of taking care of their own—states used to subsidize their state colleges enough to keep tuition down to a reasonable fee, instead of a small home mortgage. Welfare was roundly condemned for having a few bad apples—but back in the welfare days, a company had to pay a de facto minimum-wage that was high enough above welfare to make it worth working full-time, instead of collecting checks.

20160921xd-seneca_n_nina_01

And why are we starved for jobs when the infrastructure of all fifty states is either unsafe or outmoded? We could spend money on infrastructure and count it the same way a homeowner counts home improvements, as a good investment—with the added bonus of jobs aplenty. The enhanced infrastructure will spur business growth.

20160930xd-improv-aphoenixi_grfc

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember—when Eisenhower started the interstate highway construction, commerce exploded. In the New York metro area alone, the bridges and highways that made all of Long Island to the South—and all of Westchester to the North—brief, pleasant drives to and from the city, turned lazy little backwaters into bedroom communities for city-workers. The construction boom alone lasted decades. The commerce both in city-to-suburbs, and in services industries for these exploding communities, was part of what made my early years a time of seemingly endless growth, here in New York, and all over the nation.

20160928xd-gramma_n_spence_02

And, believe it or not, if the economy booms loud enough, you start to see a labor shortage. Labor shortages are good for labor—increased demand forces increased salaries. If you want to grow the middle class, get the economy growing at a rate fast enough to create a labor squeeze—we haven’t seen a labor competition in a long time. But, let me tell you—it is a beautiful thing. When employers simply can’t get enough workers, they start paying people more money. You should see it—beautiful, I tell you.

20160928xd-gramma_n_spence_01

I sometimes suspect the rich actually suppress growth to keep the 99% on the back foot, demand-wise. And then there’s foreign labor—that’s us turning a blind eye to unfair conditions in other countries, just for cheap stuff at K-Mart. Big mistake, long-term—not to mention ethically blind. Don’t buy shit from China.

20160915xd-joannabinkley-1

But this is the world we live in now. Who ya gonna believe, my facts, or the other guy’s facts? It doesn’t matter—I write for the pleasure of hearing myself talk (in my head). There’s a shit-ton of infrastructure in this well-developed country—but it’s all pretty old by now, a lot of it needs re-furbishing or outright replacing. Add in the clean-energy industry, and the need for a modernized power-grid from coast-to-coast, replacing half-a-nation’s worth of lead water-pipes (and disposing of them safely), and a resurgent manufacturing sector—you’re talking about a lot of jobs.

20160920xd-baby_supa-toes_10

 

So I expect Hillary to do something immense with infrastructure projects. If the government invests in the country, I’m sure American businesses can take care of finding a use for a vibrant, modern business environment. And if she taxes them for the privilege, well, it’s about damn time, is all I can say. I’ve heard enough rich-folk mumbo-jumbo about ‘trickle-down in my face and call it rain’. Pay your fair share, you sleazy bastards. It’s all take, take, take with you scumbags… Well, break-time for you—reality check. Even rich folk don’t get something for nothing.

20160921xd-selfportrait_03

I blame a lot of this on the media—those people are always chasing after the butterflies, they never show us the onrushing train of current events, just a bunch of sensationalist trash. But it’s our fault too—they go by ratings, and we have no one to blame for high ratings but ourselves. But we don’t expect TV or the internet to be serious, like a book—we expect it to give us escapism, like opium. That’s what we want, so that’s what they air. We have to want information to get information. But we’re just a bunch of monkeys—we don’t care, as long as we get our banana on schedule.

Photo Aug 16, 1 10 44 AM (1)

Now, here’s a little something I played earlier today:

Hope it suits.

 

20160929xd_russ_joearena_etc

…Russ, and Joey, and ?, ?, ?

Sex Matters   (2016Sep29)

fdr_in_1933

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.

44_bill_clinton_3x4

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).

hillary-clinton-foreign-policy-speech-06022016-large-169

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.

bill_n_hill

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?

ht_bill_clinton_hillary_clinton_charlotte_jt_140927_16x9_992

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?

20160722XD_HillaryClinton_01

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.

20160809XD-HRC_03

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.

20160827XD_Trumpet_04

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.

20160727XD_HillaryClinton_06

Thirty Years   (2016Sep27)

20160826XD-HillaryClinton_01

Tuesday, September 27, 2016                                                    11:27 AM

Of all Trump’s bombastic BS, the ‘thirty years’ attack is the most exasperating. Trying to turn Hillary Clinton’s preparedness into a negative is as convoluted an argument as his claim that an unprepared ‘outsider’ is what this country needs in a leader.

Let’s take a page from Seth Myers and take ‘a closer look’ at this ‘thirty years’ nonsense. Hillary Clinton earned her law degree and was active in public service long before she became the First Lady of Arkansas, never mind First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). Beyond that, of all the people who ‘serve at the pleasure of the President’, I think we can place FLOTUS at the head of that list.

In other words, while First Lady, Hillary Clinton tried to help her husband’s work, succeeding in creating (and passing) the Children’s Health Care bill and other notable good works. She met with elected officials from around the country, with foreign dignitaries, and with charitable efforts leaders, learned about the workings of the White House and the challenges of governing—but she did not govern.

After the White House, she won election to a Senate seat from New York—and was an able partner to the senior Senator from her state and worked diligently with both sides of the aisle—but she did not govern—she wasn’t even the minority whip.

Then she became Obama’s Secretary of State. Again, serving at the pleasure of the President—not governing.

So, all this experience is excellent preparation for becoming the President—but never gave her any opportunity to make her own decisions. I won’t deny that those were positions of influence—but influence is not power. Any decisions made by her husband, by Congress, or by Barack Obama, were theirs, not hers. And she couldn’t even publicly talk about any disagreements she might have had with the two presidents she worked beside—people don’t do that.

So the last thirty years of Hillary’s life have been an historically excellent preparation for the job of President—but they haven’t been thirty years of governing, as Trump would have us believe. He is simply trying to turn one of her greatest strengths into a negative.

Well, two can play at that game—Trump, you’ve had seventy years to engage in public service and you have never once bothered to care about other people—what’s makes you think you can convince us that you suddenly do care? Seventy years of self-serving, sometimes fraudulent, piracy have prepared you to do nothing other than lose to a qualified candidate. No amount of bombast can change that.