Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Serena Williams

Neat pic of tennis champ Serena Williams.

bumper sticker mentality

If I had the disposable income, I think I would create a cottage industry with the help of a bumper sticker that read: 


            *******                   *******

                   FOR A CHANGE

scientific blue chips

Another field I knew nothing about -- the rewarding role of publishing scientific journals in the world of science ... a science which seems to get short-changed in the publication process.
Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?
It is an industry like no other, with profit margins to rival Google – and it was created by one of Britain’s most notorious tycoons: Robert Maxwell. By Stephen Buranyi
It's a long-ish read from The Guardian, but it sounds to me like a sophisticated game of Three Card Monte.

And you thought you weren't getting short-changed. :)

Monday, June 26, 2017

nothing left to buy? think again

$185 paper/money clip
Good design, it is said, should render an object invisible. Until you whack a designer logo on it, at which point it becomes the opposite: a talking point, a must-have, and (in this instance) the only Prada item that you could conceivably afford.
That, we’ll hazard, is the thinking behind its oversized silver paperclip, a snip at $185 (£145), and the latest in a litany of designer accessories inspired by the mundane and the everyday. In fairness, it’s a money clip with a logo, but everyone knows money clips are for rich people (people who deal exclusively in notes) so the irony is still there.
Imagine -- for some people this is serious stuff.

Republicans urged to ... uh ...act

Why do I have this sense that Republican difficulties will probably be ironed out by Democrat ineptness?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- At least one influential donor has informed congressional Republicans that the "Dallas piggy bank" is closed until he sees major action on health care and taxes.
Texas-based donor Doug Deason has already refused to host a fundraiser for two members of Congress and informed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., his checkbook is closed as well.
"Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed," Deason said in a pointed message to GOP leaders. "You control the Senate. You control the House. You have the presidency. There's no reason you can't get this done. Get it done and we'll open it back up."

women live longer; men....

I wonder if it's true that women live longer than men because women sacrifice for life while men sacrifice for ego (the stuff that puts food on the table) ... and life is more interesting than ego.
Although the gap in life expectancy had started to narrow in the 1970s, the overall death rate is again climbing, particularly for white American men, making it essential to understand why the state of men’s health is going from bad to worse.
Buddhists, among others, frequently give ego a bad rap and it certainly deserves investigation, but to suggest that ego is without its uses is a step too far. It takes a toll, telling so many half-truths, bolstering and waxing boisterous and locking horns.

I don't know. I just wonder and figure my half-baked speculation is as possible as some BBC quasi-scientific speculation. Probably not, but it might make for a beer-drinking topic.

the IS in Israel

A high-profile body that liaises between Israel and the Jewish diaspora has reacted with fury at a decision by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to in effect abandon a plan to allow men and women to pray together at the Western Wall.
The Jewish Agency has cancelled a gala dinner with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and is to discuss the ramifications of the decision at a meeting this week.
The Israeli cabinet decided on Sunday to scrap a compromise agreement made 17 months ago, which was intended to resolve a battle lasting more than a quarter of a century over equal rights for women praying at the Western Wall.
The longer I live, the more I appreciate the ethical potential of spiritual life and the less I appreciate its unwillingness to dig deeper and, common-sensically, set aside spiritual life in favor of a life that could not be un-spiritual if it tried.

If you have a god, it is wiser to stop picking his/her/or its nose in my opinion. God, after all, is fine and ascertainably 'true' ... or 'untrue' ... so stop mucking about. Practice, clarify, don't be believer-lazy ... get with the program.

The stupidity among smart people is a marvel of sorts.

PS. As a possible addition to the cheering section, the White House has broken with a 20-year tradition and decided not to host a Muslim meal that marks the end of Islam's Ramadan ... a quasi-fasting ritual of the religion.
For the first time in over two decades, the White House did not host an Iftar or Eid celebration dinner to mark the month of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month when Muslims fast during daylight hours....
Iftar dinners inviting prominent members of the Muslim community to break their fast at the White House were continued each year during the administrations of both President Bush and President Obama.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also broke with tradition by not hosting an Iftar dinner at the State Department during Ramadan, as has happened for the past two decades.
Building bridges and building fences ... how about it?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

shaking the foundations

I had thought my neighbor Doreen was going for a brain-cancer operation yesterday, but instead I heard her talking across the street on her porch, ambled over and learned that the operation (remember to call it a 'procedure') had been bumped to Tuesday and she had returned. She, her mother, and another neighbor were chatting.

Doreen had a newly-minted C-shaped and stapled scar in the vicinity of her left ear and another shorter scar high on her forehead, at her hair line. She seemed to be in fine fettle -- chatting and touched by all the attention she was getting (there's some worldwide prayer circle rooting for her, among other things). When I asked what the doctors had told her, she said, "They got it all."

The cancer had migrated from her lungs, for which she had an earlier ... uh ... procedure. Steroids kept her pepped up. She was not allowed to take a shower and other indignities circumscribed her newest lifestyle, but ... she had the energy to keep up a good face. Had the doctors 'got it all?' I don't know, but I hope so.

After a while, the two of us were alone on her porch and Doreen said she always enjoyed talking to me. She said things had changed -- her priorities ... the stuff she considered important. She couldn't really nail it down, but her words made me think that something inside was shuddering, sort of like jars on the shelves that tinkled in an aftershock earthquake: The jars stayed in place, but it was clear they might fall and break and ... life's presumptions and assumptions were not so easy or assured.

I think everyone has a reality motor that hums below with surface of social being. It's the way things are and everyone knows it, but it takes a jolt of some sort to float it to the surface. It's nice to have assumptions and presumptions and go about life's business dressed in some affable underwear. I don't want to linger over my health and its fragility. It's boring and nothing gets done and yet ... well, there it is, insisting, in the wake of an aftershock.

Well, I guess that's the way of things: If you don't think about or address death, that's no reason why death will decline to think about or address you. It really is annoying ... thinking about health and what to do to preserve it. Since others do not yet pick this particular nose, thinking about death puts people at a lonely remove from the general flow of social interaction. And you can't unthink it. Worse, you cannot fix it: Everyone knows the truth when they hear or live it. So, if previous assumptions are tinkling on the shelf, how do I reach the false assurances I once commanded? I want to believe and yet, all of a sudden, belief simply doesn't cut it.

Things are clearer than they once were but clarity does not assure relief and release. Certainty, even when fabricated, is so much cozier than uncertainty. Shitpissfuckcuntcocksuckermotherfuckertits ... as George Carlin might say. The best I can figure is that when something is inescapable, the only useful activity is to go towards it....

Not that that solves much of anything. :) Revamping a long-standing habit like belief is exhausting just to think about and yet ... what other choice is there?

Friday, June 23, 2017


A once-in-a-lifetime offer is a bit of hyperbole describing something special, isn't it?

Birth -- unless you are into multiple lives -- is a once-in-a-lifetime offer. It only happens once.

Death -- unless you are into multiple lives -- is a once-in-a-lifetime offer. It only happens once.

In this realm, birth and death are special -- a shiver-me-timbers possibility or actuality.

But if birth and death are so special, why are they happening all the time and in the all-around? Look around. True, you or I may only get one shot at it, but that doesn't seem to constrain birth and death. Birth and death seem as common as salt. Is that special?

My Zen teacher's teacher, Soen Nakagawa, once commented, "There is birth and there is death. In between, there is enlightenment." I never did get to ask him what he could possibly mean by "in between." Would I have understood his answer? Would it have been special?

Another once-in-a-lifetime offer, I imagine.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

remembering beauty

I have always been a sucker for beauty: It can lay me out. It is, quite literally, something to die for. But what is it? I don't know and still, I am a sucker for beauty.

-- Before she died, I once begged -- and I do not beg -- my younger sister to play the piano for me. She admitted that she played, but said she only played for herself. I begged and begged to no avail. Why did I begs?
In earlier times, when she and my older sister had no married lives or children, I one day heard both of them ... downstairs ... taking piano lessons.
My older sister got all the notes right. It was good.
My younger sister got the same tune wrong and yet, and yet, her playing made my heart soar. There was passion, there was love, and there were errors that made absolutely no difference. Beauty does not mean perfection.

-- I have seen numerous beautiful statues of Gautama the Buddha -- wonderfully carved, expressive, yummy. And yet there is only one I really remember. It was made out of what was clearly a piece of fire wood. Blackened by time, with chisel or knife marks entirely apparent. Someone, somewhere, had sat down and done that work, perhaps after a long day of work. It was chunky and clunky and it pierced me to a place I cannot name.

-- Once, at the University of California at Berkeley, I went to a gymnasium to hear the violinist David Oistrakh play. He was not my favorite violinist. He stood beneath a basketball backboard that had  been folded up to create space around this virtuoso. I sat in an uncomfortable folding chair along the upper track section of the gym. Oistrakh stood alone with his violin in a place whose acoustics were poor at best. And he played. And the music was so beautiful that it was like staring at the sun -- there came a time when I simply could no longer listen. I had to stop ... had to for reasons I cannot name. I was being sucked into some ineffable forever. I was being burned alive with beauty.

-- In Berlin, I went to hear the great guitarists Andre Segovia and Carlos Montoya. First came Segovia. He entered the stage and sat in the chair provided. He sat and he waited. He waited until all whispering and coughing and fidgeting had died away. He insisted that it die away. He was the maestro and he demanded reverence for his achievement. It was an uncomfortable series of moments. Finally, he played something classical and recognizable. He didn't miss a note. There was applause and perhaps an encore. When Montoya entered the same stage some months later, he reminded me of a rumpled sock at the bottom of the laundry hamper. His music was folk-based, dance-based. Montoya paid no attention to coughs and whispers. He played and let the music do the talking. It made me feel like a dog rolling over on a lawn -- all waggy-tailed and wiggly with delight. The audience seemed to feel the same. Again and again the audience called him back. Everyone was in love with the man who recognized and loved the music. Again and again they would not let him go. I too was wild to have him return. Finally, he came out one last time and spoke in English because he did not seem to speak German. "I am tired," he said approximately, "but let me play some scales." And he did -- hammering-on scales that did nothing more than go up and go down ... and honest to Christ, I thought the concert hall would collapse with the adoration of the applause. Me too! Me too! Take me too!
-- Once, when deeply immersed in the brown-rice circuit of spiritual practice, I had a friend who was into shiatsu. She asked if she could practice on me. Sure, I said, not quite sure if shiatsu or some more intimate connection were in the offing. And she began and continued and continued and bit by bit, I was a goner. Was she just beginning or had she ended? There seemed to be no edges to what was happening. If someone had put a snub-nosed .38 behind my ear and whispered, "this is it," I would have been forced to agree, "this is it ... shoot me now."

-- In a largely-empty art gallery, I was staring at a painting of a mountain. It wasn't a very good painting, but it had swept me in. And at just about that moment, I heard the fruity, ersatz voice of the gallery owner behind me, crooning, "Beautiful, isn't it?" And I was suddenly enraged. I was within an ace of beating the shit out of him. I hated... hated... hated ... But what did I hate? Don't talk ... don't move ... don't praise ... just DON'T!!!

Which is precisely what I am doing here. And yet I want to remember that there have been these times and others like them when everything came together or fell apart or whatever ... and took me with them.

Not you. Just me. 

Thank you... and apologies.

ban cell phones in schools

With a price tag of $1.3 million, you might think that education, as measured by student debt, was worth something. Instead, those who are most vocal about the wonders of education tend to keep spawning students who show many signs of becoming clones of Donald Trump.... boistrous, self-absorbed, and irresponsible... not exactly educated.

Liberals spawning mini-Donald's .... it has a ring to it.

The average student uses his or her cell phone for nine hours a day, not including school work. S/he spends more time texting and gaming than s/he does with parents. S/he is enmeshed in the suggestion that social media like Twitter and Facebook do indeed draw us all closer together. Instead, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Social media drive people down their own rabbit holes and leave them confused that they are lonely and suicidal. Did you ever try to get laid on Facebook?

I think it would be a good idea if today's grown-ups grew up and banned cell phones in schools. I can hear the righteous cavorting around crying, "Freedom of speech." But institutions of all sorts -- roads, sporting events, hospitals, etc. -- have rules. Why not schools? Why not no-cell-phones? Yes, there are those who might have nervous breakdowns without all their 'friends.' But who knows, they might make some real friends.

It's dubious that grown-ups will grow up and pronounce the word "no" in schools. For one thing, they too have bought into the ersatz connectedness that Donald Trump espouses. (Tell me just one person who is Donald Trump's honest-to-God friend). But schools can set aside, say, one hour per school day, where teachers and students may use their phones before returning to the work premised in classrooms .... education.

Tweets create twits who buy into a social matrix that hardly deserves the word 'social.' Is freedom of speech to extend to idiot speech as well? Well, of course it is ... but only during the prescribed hour in the school house. And if there is an honest emergency, let the school office field it and inform the appropriate student that s/he has a call.

I don't know ... it sounds like a plan to me. And yes, I am a big fan of the ACLU.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Canadian toe theft raises hackles

You can't make this shit up:
A barman in Canada's Yukon Territory is furious that the key ingredient to the famed "Sourtoe Cocktail" - a mummified human toe - has been stolen.
The severed toe, served in alcoholic drinks at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, was stolen by a Quebec resident, according to "Toe Captain" Terry Lee.
"Toes are very hard to come by," Mr Lee said. "I'm really attached to it."
The toe is estimated to be worth CA$80,000 (US$60,000 / £48,000) and is part of local folklore.
And here you thought Canadians were an easy-going and far-from-bizarre lot.

follow the (Vatican) money

Talk about a story that skirts the whole story:

The Vatican's first auditor-general has resigned abruptly two years after being appointed to help ensure transparency in the sometimes murky finances at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
A brief Vatican statement on Tuesday gave no reason for the resignation of Libero Milone, saying merely that he had presented it on Monday to Pope Francis and that the pontiff had accepted it.
But a Vatican source with knowledge of the events that led to Milone's resignation told Reuters, "It's a pretty ugly situation and I hope it does not get worse."
"Follow the money" is among the surest of all journalistic admonitions. And if I were a teller in clerical garb these days, I would be glad to own a flak jacket. The Vatican is, I believe, the richest corporation in the world. With that much money floating around, there's bound to be a certain competitive spirit, I imagine... isn't Italy the home of the stiletto, the garrotte, and the lupara?

heat grounds AZ planes ... et al

As temperatures climb in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 40 flights have been cancelled - because it is too hot for the planes to fly.
The weather forecast for the US city suggests temperatures could reach 120F (49C) on Tuesday.
That is higher than the operating temperature of some planes.
News snippets like this make me wonder if the God-is-punishing-us-because-he-loves-us crowd are whispering, "You see -- I told you so."

A little even-keel, peaceful news would be welcome ... but that's the kind of thing fuddy-duddies like me are wont to say.

Still, there's Donald Trump who never found a hard-won victory he couldn't undo; forest fires in Portugal; and (setting aside wars and various kinds of hatred) then there's the added indignity:
Coffee drinkers could face poorer-tasting, higher-priced brews, as a warming climate causes the amount of land suitable for coffee production to shrink, say scientists from London’s Kew Gardens....
"In Ethiopia and all over the world really, if we do nothing there will be less coffee, it will probably taste worse and will cost more,” Dr Aaron Davis, coffee researcher at Kew and one of the report’s authors, told the BBC.
Brits, of course, survive on tea.

I am not a Brit.

Monday, June 19, 2017

critical thinking maybe

Being a little slower than the other kids on the block, it wasn't until my first year of college that the stuff I liked thinking about fell fairly neatly into something called "philosophy." Up until then, I hadn't really known that people made a profession of parsing the nettles of human existence. As a newcomer, I was delighted with "philosophy," not least because I realized I wasn't the only crazy guy in the neighborhood.

The first book assigned in class as "The Republic," by Plato and one of our first homework assignments came when the teacher divided the class in half and asked each half to take one half of some two-sided conundrum and then return to class prepared to debate the issue. I dove into my assignment (though I can't remember the topic) as I might have jumped into a chocolate milk shake ... woo-hoo! I studied my ass off, combing and re-combing my arguments. Finally, at perhaps 2 a.m., I realized I had done as much as I could.

I had just shut the book and straightened out my notes when I was smacked down hard: It wasn't enough to know what my arguments would be: In order to win the day, I would have to know what the opposing side would be likely to say. And so I began again, marshaling the arguments from the other side of the fence. It simply was not enough to know what I thought, no matter how dearly I loved it. I was exhausted, but determined. I plowed through, bringing the same verve to my opponents' probable views as I had to my own.

I didn't sleep much that night.

This, I guess, is one description of "critical thinking," though at the time I thought of it as a pain in the ass. How much easier to have my point of view and the hell with all the others. How much more soothing to assert my bias and stick with it irrespective of any counterpoint.

There is a point. There is a counterpoint. Being ignorant of either qualifies as ignorance. And no matter how closely combed and re-combed, there is always a bit of ignorance at the end -- the time when sleep demands its due and the word "approximately" gains a toe-hold.

Still, in an age of argumentation and bluster, I am happy to think that there was a time when I was willing to turn the subject on its head. To rethink. To critique a bias which, by self-sustaining definition, is pure as the driven snow.

And at this point, a silly video pops once more to mind:

That's right: Turn it around.

Harvard's elephant in the living room

Harvard motto: Veritas... truth
Harvard University's decision to rescind admission offers to 10 incoming freshmen because of offensive Facebook posts comes at a time of heightened attention to free speech and student conduct on U.S. college campuses, and has stirred debate far beyond the halls of the Ivy League school.
Harvard University, the school that has reported increasing numbers of A's as the price of tuition rose, has popped a bubble of another sort. Should largely incoherent teenagers -- and which one of us hasn't been one? -- be held accountable for raucous, rude and insulting behavior/loud-mouthing? Even when it is as members of the anti-social network billed as bringing people closer together?

To borrow from Disney, who mashed up Shakespeare, "Bubble, bubble/Toil and trouble...."

Yes, there is free speech and there is something within that longs to speak freely, especially in a politically-correct era. Donald Trump is president, after all.

But yes, as well, there is something to be said for the old reminder, "Keep a civil tongue in your mouth." With any luck, Donald Trump's days are numbered.

When my mother heard the first use of "fuck" come out of my mouth in about the second grade, she sat me down and ran down every cuss word there was. She told me its literal meaning, its slang meaning and finally, she told me when I might use cuss words.

"You can use them with your friends. You can use them in front of me. But you may not use them in front of my friends."

When it comes to making decisions, that always struck me as sensible and equitable.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

eating myths

Anthony Warner

Living as I do in a community that would 'just die' if anyone suggested it was uncaring in any way, it was kind of nice to hear about a chef who is fed to the teeth with unscientific fads passing for compassion or truth or some other hi-jinx.

Anthony Warner – alias blogger turned author the Angry Chef – is on a mission to confront the ‘alternative facts’ surrounding nutritional fads and myths.

Father's Day

Column submitted to the local paper but is unlikely by this time to get printed:
At a time when my only daughter and first child was showing all the signs of entering the world, I grew nervous. I was going to be a "father," but what, exactly, was a "father" supposed to do? Since I had never been a father before, I needed pointers -- a "Fatherhood for Dummies" or something like that. As it happened, it was my younger sister, with two kids in her rearview mirror, who gave the most useful advice.

"Adam," she said with a wry and somewhat wicked gleam in her eye, "when it comes to being a parent, you can either read every book about child-rearing that was ever written or you can read none at all: Either way, you won't know squat."

Other fathers may be more sure of themselves as Father's Day (June 18) approaches and family members rush out to buy another pair or socks or fire up the barbecue. But I am still somewhat uncertain of my status. So many years after my three kids made themselves known, I could still use a "Fatherhood for Dummies." Twenty-odd years later, what do I know?

I know I love my kids, but I have a hard time taking credit for it. I did what I could, but based on the wonderful complexity of human beings that included my children, it doesn't feel that I have done quite enough. I love them, that's one positive point.

And the other positive point is that my love is based largely on the inconceivably hard work my wife did as the kids toddled, walked, ran, laughed, cried, hated math, expressed complex thoughts ... all of it. It beats the hell out of me how any mom could endure the crabby wails that can erupt towards the suppertime part of the day. Just about the time anyone needs a break -- and maybe a drink -- kids put their parents in high-alert, keep-'em-in-line mode.

My wife, Elizabeth did that. And Olivia, Angus and Ives, the children I love, benefited. Me, as the "father" -- honestly, I stood and stand in awe. I have done hard jobs in my life, but never anything as tough as that. We weren't rich enough to afford a nanny. We had no family nearby to pick up occasional kid duty. Elizabeth did it.

And from my point of view, Father's Day boils down to one thing: Mother's Day.

I worked a swing shift (4-12, 5-1 for example) and that meant Elizabeth, who worked part-time mornings, caught the evening-into-night shift. We had a couple of vacations, I think, but they weren't many. And I took all of the kids to a shooting range once when guns came into their consciousness. I volunteered one year at the local grade school. I tried to talk them out of a fear of math. And probably there were other adventures, but none of them convinced me I had entered the realm of some shining example of whatever it was to be a "father." Diapers, sure. Dishes, OK. But where was the crown? As far as I was concerned, Elizabeth wore it. Other men may see their father-dom as clear as day, but I'm still in the back of the pack.

I wish I had done more than make money, though without it we would have been hungry and the house would not have been ours. Still, Elizabeth did the serious stuff, the subtle stuff, the stuff that turned my children into people I love. This was not a world of perfection. It was not a flawless land. AND ... from where I sit, it turned out fine. My kids are in their twenties now and -- knock wood -- not one of them has robbed a bank.

That's Mothers Day for you. I wish I could have done more to relieve the strain I could sometimes see in Elizabeth's face, a strain she seldom complained about. How the hell did she do that?

It beats the socks off of me -- which may be one reason a new pair of socks, ugly or otherwise, may be just what I deserve on this Father's Day. It's a little late for "Fatherhood for Dummies."

I'm stuck with the dummy status.

the potential luxury of wealth

Imagine if all the well-creased silences of the wealthy were redirected from protection to understanding.

Since it's unlikely to happen, imagining may be the only game in town.

pressurized prayers

Passed along in email:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"The Graduate"

A couple of days ago, BBC news reported that the 1967 movie, "The Graduate," was scheduled for a re-release in Great Britain in a tribute to its 50th anniversary. I decided to watch and see how well it held up.

Together with the Simon & Garfunkel music, I thought it held up surprisingly well ... but what do I know? Edgy, psychologically persuasive ... not too many cardboard characterizations. And I do love that music.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Swami Vivekananda

Vivekananda, front row, 2nd from right
Now and then a mother or father comes calling and so it was today as 'my father's' words popped into my head and I had the opportunity to be grateful once more for his kindness.

In 1893, Swami Vivekananda attended Chicago's Parliament of Religions. Judging by the newspaper accounts of the time, he knocked 'em in the aisles. He came as a representative of Hinduism -- a man whose home base was Vedanta and would die at 39 in 1902. He was a prolific writer and, according to my hunching, would have been a Buddhist if he hadn't loved his teacher, Ramakrishna, so much.

From where I sit, Vivekananda really kicked the spiritual can down the road. But it is not so much the volumes he penned or the centers he encouraged to open in his teacher's name. That, from where I sit, is minor stuff compared to his pointing at the moon, so to speak. Yes, there is a blue-haired-ladies contingent in Vedanta. Yes, there is an almost Roman Catholic awe of real estate and gilt statues and incense.  That stuff is sometimes necessary.

But it was Vivekananda, 'my father,' who said without lying: "The mind [he meant intellect] is a good servant and a poor master." Intellectually, the words mean squat. But in my heart of hearts ... well, my father did not let me down.

"The mind is a good servant and a poor master." Straighter tracks were never laid.

a small, sassy analysis of stupidity

 An offering from The Guardian:

It’s sometimes argued that we should be grateful for stupid leaders, since at least their stupidity makes life less hazardous: imagine if they were sufficiently focused and clever to implement their worst ideas! But that wasn’t the view of the late Italian economist Carlo Cipolla. In 1976 he published a tongue-in-cheek essay that’s been gaining new attention in the age of Trump.

Angus in transit

Angus in transit along the Va./W.Va. border section of the Appalachian Trail as he and a buddy head south for the high school track team's meet.

remind me why we are in Afghanistan

The U.S. is going to add approximately 4,000 American troops to its forces in Afghanistan -- the 'war' yet to be declared by Congress after 16 years.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief. The deployment will be the largest of American manpower under Donald Trump's young presidency.
Lurking somewhere in the background is some unprovable-but-inflammatory link to the 2001 demolition of the World Trade Towers (et al) in 2001 that stands as the reason for U.S. involvement. But it occurred to me today that I really don't know why -- even from the exceptionalist point of view -- we are there. Is it oil? Is it military strategy? Is it a diversion from problems at home -- the usual legerdemain kind of thing where you are encouraged to look there so you don't see what's here?

Today's news comes on the heels of President Donald Trump's handing the authority to raise troop levels to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ... a move that, dare it be said, takes the onus off the president when the new infusion of American blood works no better than previous infusions.

Seriously, is there some reasoning, however bereft, for being there?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Japan steps boldly into the sewer

Together with its latter-day push to build up a military held in check since the end of World War II, Japan has added a sweeping 'anti-terrorism' law that smells suspiciously like the 'anti- terrorism' efforts in other countries like the U.S.
Japan has passed a controversial law targeting conspiracies to commit terrorism and other serious crimes, despite a warning by the UN that it could be used to crack down on civil liberties....
Japan has passed a controversial law targeting conspiracies to commit terrorism and other serious crimes, despite a warning by the UN that it could be used to crack down on civil liberties....
[C]ritics point out that offences covered by the law include those with no obvious connection to terrorism or organised crime, such as sit-ins to protest construction of apartment buildings or copying music.
Opponents see the legislation as part of Abe’s broader mission to increase state powers, and fear ordinary citizens could be targeted, despite government assurances to the contrary.
How nice to see that a country that credits itself with an elevated culture, can get down into the sewer with the rest of us.

buying a jackknife

I went to the hardware store today to buy a jackknife.

The store no longer sells them.

I felt gypped that I should have to go to the juiceless Internet.

But it's just old-age crankies.

Buying on the Internet ... what a sissy of a pastime.


powerful poseurs

"Famed for his pictures of Spanish miners, the French photographer Pierre Gonnord has turned his lens on young people, creating powerful pictures that look like – and have the depth of – oil paintings."

(There is also something disturbing (crypto-kiddie-porn? my own neuroses?) here but I can't quite name it.)


wrapped in a wet sheet

In the long-ago -- and in the present for all I know -- mental patients were wrapped tightly in wet sheets as a means of stilling their writhings. A wet sheet ... imagine that. Immovable ... it scares the shit out of me just to think of it.

This morning, a friend sent along a news story about the Southern Baptist convention in Phoenix. The gathering finally reached a quasi-agreement that "alt-right" (largely white supremicism beyond the boundaries of more camouflaged or taciturn conservatism) was not tolerated by Christian constituents such as themselves.

Honest to goodness, gatherings like that -- or like the Taliban -- scare the pants off me in the same way that any large-scale-gathering does. A wet sheet. Large gatherings of people, with or without a religious overhang, tend to segue into group-think-stupidity that wraps all and sundry into an immovable whiteness. It does not encourage imagination or breadth or creativity ... it imposes the will of the many. Christ, it feels good! If we all ascribe to the tenets, then the tenets must be true. Scaaaaarey.

LaRochefoucauld, for all the arrogance an aristocratic backdrop can confer, was closer to being right when his maxim observed approximately, "The intelligence of the mass/throng is inversely proportionate to its number."

Groups can accomplish some very good things, perhaps, but preying on the human propensity to bask in the agreement of the many and hence divest the individual of responsibility is despicable ... and scary.

I am who isn't

I am who isn't.

The past,  present and future writhe in my mind, giving form and substance to whatever is there is and yet, simultaneously, carrying with them the wry and condescending smiles that used to accompany Japanese monster movies -- all herky-jerky and contrived even as the title characters screamed out their very real fears and hopes.

If the only true thing is what is fake, where will "fake" any longer find a meaning?

The universe roars with a fire that hasn't the decency or substance to toast a marshmallow. Stand aloof and it'll burn your face off. Enter in an attempt to extinguish and it erases block after city block of certainties and support systems.

Rely on the past.
Rely on the future.
Rely on the present.

I am who isn't.

Stop fixing things. Even Godzilla deserves some room to roam.