Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Guernica: May 23, 1937

The Guardian archive:

The Spanish Civil War -- the one the Germans used to test out armaments soon to be employed in World War II. And the reports like the one at left are eternal in their simplicity and their horror and their inability to convince those who initiated the environment that cruelty, while fun for some, is needlessly stupid on the wide screen. Beyond vile ... it is stupid.

Read it. Six inches of type and it's all there.

"so" chic

So, can anyone tell me why and how the sometimes-adverb "so" has come into popularity? It seems to have replaced "uhhh" as an acceptable way to begin a sentence ... any sentence ... damn near every sentence. So everyone, from dope to sage seems to have fallen prey.


So, I really don't know, but it strikes me as dumber than a box of rocks. Are we all somehow welded more closely together? Are we shown as harmless? Are linguistic fads just so cozy? Is silence really that frightening? Does it make anyone sound smarter, less abrasive, more caring, more thoughtful ... more ... so ... je ne sais quoi?

In a world reeling with dumb, it just seems a pity to add to another snippet.

So ... so ... so I'd better get my act together.

Monday, May 22, 2017

John Oliver sums up the week....

You've got to give the comedian commentator credit for balls...

Honest to God, trying to keep up is precisely as frazzling as Oliver looks frazzled. But different from other commentators, at least he offers an occasional, outraged laugh.

why am I supposed to distrust/hate Iran?

With Donald Trump sashaying around the Middle East, a question I have yet to hear a clear answer to crops up in my mind: Why am I, or my country, supposed to hate Iran? Seriously, I don't know. Is it because Israel needs a scape goat as Hitler needed the Jews? I really don't know but even a quick Google query yields paragraphs (admittedly biased, but how biased?) like
...Iran is by no stretch of the imagination a serious threat to the United States, Europe, its Arab neighbors, or Israel. At best, it is a third-rate military power with a dysfunctional economy who’s entire GDP is only a little over 60 percent of the US military budget. The supposedly terrified Israel has somewhere between 80 and 200 missiles with nuclear warheads that could send Iran back to the Stone Age in minutes. There is no evidence to suggest that even the most fanatical elements in the Iranian government are suicidal.
If it's the nuclear weapons capability, why is the United States equally wary of Israel?

Seriously, is there some reasoning in the middle of all this or is it all agitprop?

dissolve the corpse

For decades, most people arranging a funeral have faced a simple choice - burial or cremation?

But in parts of the US and Canada a third option is now available - dissolving bodies in an alkaline solution.
It will arrive in the UK soon.

Its technical name is alkaline hydrolysis, but it is being marketed as “green cremation”.

newspaper column

Printed today in the local paper under the newspaper headline, "Searching Honesty in a land of distrust" (My headline, "Which democracy are you talking about?":

When I was a kid, there were moms who would use soap to wash out the mouths of offspring who were daring enough or foolish enough to use a cuss word around the house. My mom wasn't one of them, but I experimented and can report that soap really tasted like ... well, I don't want my mouth washed out with soap.

I thought of this home-schooling the other day when, not for the first time, I wondered whatever had happened to the once-praised virtue of moderated language. And that made me realize that since I am in no position to moderate the blabber-mouth tactics of the president of the United States combined with the feeling that national events have simply gotten too messy for me to keep up with, the best I can expect, perhaps, is to pay closer attention to my own posturings.

Aside from anything else, if I could rein in my own tendency to fling virtues and philosophies around without a second thought, I might be able to claim to have learned a good lesson from a man whose every pronouncement seems to require an explanation from pundits and apologists that begins, "Well, that's not exactly what he meant...." That sort of lifestyle may be OK for a real estate blowhard, but it is not OK with me. So....

As a small beginning in my desire to be a more thoughtful broker, I have decided to steer clear of using or listening too carefully to the use of the word "democracy." As far as I can gather from the outraged and the delighted, "democracy" means whatever the current user wants it to mean. Until "democracy" is clearly defined in a discussion, well, it is just a goodie-two-shoes lash that means I get to say what I want and you have to listen. Or vice-versa. When the word "democracy" passes its gas, somehow everyone is expected to genuflect. But what exactly is being praised and who benefits?

For example, what does "democracy" mean when the flying of the Confederate  battle flag is the issue? What does it mean when a commencement speaker does not meet with the expectations of the prospective audience? What does "democracy" mean in a country where healthcare is widely regarded as a right and making money is simultaneously an ingrown imperative? Specifically -- which democracy are we talking about?

And "democracy" is not the only political football I have decided to put aside ... or anyway try to. Remember Bernie Sanders and the edgy sniggers that surrounded his "socialist" agenda? How many have looked up "socialism" and considered the practical and metaphorical meanings that can go into that word? From one standpoint, for example, both Christianity and Communism might be labeled "socialist." But it's so much easier to wink-wink-nod-nod and let the word go, whether as an insult or a bit of sanity.

It's all too much like Donald Trump for my liking. It's all too much like the idiotic traveler in a foreign land who is so convinced by his or her own beliefs that s/he imagines speaking louder will convey the one true meaning. Yes, it's earnest. But volume and a couple of bucks will get you a bus ride.

Anyway, the current state of confusion and the current lack of trust across the land has left this aging onlooker exhausted. I need someone who's honest -- or actually, someone I can credit as honest -- and I honestly no longer know where to look. At 77, I'm crabby: Why should I have to look? Why should a leader be so palpably thin on facts and thinner still on the nation and its needs? As promise after promise is followed by "well, that's not exactly what he meant," my sense of terra firma is weakened. I don't like the feeling, but it is time I made some lemonade out of the lemons that have been delivered. 
As a dwindling news junkie -- someone who reads four or five news wires a day and watches the evening TV news -- I have found some recent relief in the recognition that I don't really need to credit those who cannot define their terms. I will do what I can to be sure of my own terms.

Adam Fisher lives in Northampton and can be reached at genkakukigen@aol.com

Sunday, May 21, 2017

AI and the juicy bits

As a matter of principle, I don't want to fix it. Neither do I want to mitigate its toxic fallout. Nevertheless, I do reserve the right to think about it ... to noodle a bit even as my own ignorance hangs out like a teen-aged shirt tail.

And, yes, well, occasionally wish I could fix it... bright-eyed and bushy-tailed -- another TED talk in the making. Bleah.

This morning I woke wondering what so-called artificial intelligence might, in the end, do for or to religion. My shirt-tail understanding ot artificial intelligence is that its apex and perfection lies somewhere in the future when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware and hence self-corrective. We ain't there yet, as I get it, but that doesn't mean there aren't some very smart people doing their damnedest to discover what will happen when they finally find out what it is like to stick a knife in a light socket.

Religion was my jumping off point, but quickly enough, my noodling segued into all of the juicy bits of human experience. Artificial intelligence might make a better Volkswagen (even without cheating), wipe out the need for Wall Street brokers, shake up and perhaps eradicate the political landscape in Washington, put dishwashers and babysitters out of work, and, who knows, either promote or demote the deliciousness of war.

Artificial intelligence may eventually fix everything, improve everything until even the meaning of "fix" and "improve" might lose their meaning. In a world where history was perfectly remembered and acted upon, so much stupidity and error might be avoided. Everything would be, in a word, "right."

But where everything is "right," men and women are extraneous. Humanity might claim to want to get things right, but what would it be like if things actually were right? What would happen to what I choose to call the juicy bits -- the small and large mistakes, the small and large human landscapes that are just plain juicy. What about love? Religion? Kindness? Music? Cruelty?

If everything were ordered and right and balanced, what function could human beings possibly fulfill? Certainly they could no longer rule -- and let's face it, the artificial intelligence discussion carries with it the implicit notion that I will remain in charge, that I will be benefited, that the laurels are still mind to wave and impose.

And as second bananas, what use will human beings be? Artificial intelligence could and can foresee the pitfalls of these juicy, but not necessarily wise, cohorts. Let's get it right ... one and done ... no more fuck-ups.

No more juicy bits. Let's just manufacture the juiciness for those who refuse to submit. Getting things "right" is more important than whatever the second bananas call "true" or "juicy."

Like the "replicants" in "Blade Runner," perhaps we are all destined (ha-ha! I'll be dead!) for a smooth and unwrinkleable, even-tempered whore house.

The future of the juicy bits.

chess checks booze, foments peace....

You couldn't make this shit up... adults, children, everyone plays....:
“In other Indian villages perhaps the maximum number of people that know chess is less than 50,” said Baby John, president of the Chess Association of Marottichal. “Here 4,000 of the 6,000 population are playing chess, almost daily.”

Saturday, May 20, 2017

seeking Trump impeachment

In a political season marked by livid constituents railing at their representatives during town hall meetings, an event on Saturday in Houston was positively mellow by comparison. But then, the topic was not a divisive issue such as healthcare. It was the impeachment of Donald Trump.

The meeting was held by Al Green, a 69-year-old Democratic Houston congressman who took office in 2005 and is typically softly-spoken and understated. Not on Wednesday, though, when he became the first member of Congress to take to the floor and ask for the president’s impeachment....
Green denied he is grandstanding: “It surely wasn’t because I expected a big parade, it was simply because I understand the constitution, I understand that this is an injustice and I firmly believe that this is about democracy not Democrats, it’s about the republic not Republicans, I firmly believe that you cannot allow anyone to be above the law.”

wild life, big city

"Rome has a problem with wild boar; wolves mingle with surburban Germans; mountain lions frequent LA. All around the world, city life seems increasingly conducive to wildlife"

odds on Trump ouster

[G]ambling odds aren’t exactly reliable predictive science — they’re pretty far from it in a lot of cases — but they’ve nonetheless skyrocketed....
As of May 11, Trump’s odds of being impeached during his first term were sitting at a whopping 60 percent.
The odds are part of a host of “Donald Trump Specials” offered by the Irish betting house Paddy Power. (Vegas doesn’t let you bet on anything but sports.) It includes bets that Trump will be impeached for treason (6/1 odds) and on who his next FBI Director will be (Trey Gowdy leads with 4/7 odds). On the more soothing side, Paddy Power has 13/8 odds — 38 percent — that Steve Bannon will be the next one fired from the White House.
Somehow, the whole clusterfuck that is Donald Trump and his presidency have shifte marginally  from infuriating to deeply sad in my mind. Here's the Reuters story.

the mutant pig circuit

And, at Cannes, there is the romping tale of a mutant pig. It sounds seriously funny.

rape/castration in India

A 23-year-old Indian woman has cut off the genitals of a Hindu religious teacher in the southern state of Kerala, claiming he raped her for years.
Police said the suspect, named as Gangeshananda Theerthapada, would come to the woman's house to perform prayer rituals for her father's health.
Her mother had hoped the self-styled holy man would ease the family's woes.
Instead, her daughter claims he assaulted her at every opportunity.
Rape is not a sexual act. It is assault and the target has every right, as far as I can see, to defend her- or himself. If I hear one mention of long-standing cultural tradition, I will go out to the kitchen and see what the knife drawer has to offer... another tradition and one of much longer standing.

idolators of artificial intelligence

Glued, somehow, as a gawker at a bloody traffic accident, the kind from which it is impossible to avert the eyes, I got caught up in a TV show about artificial intelligence last night. I can't claim to have any sort of overview handle on the topic, but there were bits and pieces and questions and suppositions.....

The crowning event of artificial intelligence, as I get it, is the capacity for machines to become self-aware. Once that happens, the human race is sunk because the machines will be able to do everything human beings can ... but better. Wall Street slick willies will be out of a job; bankers can pack it in; Congress will be unnecessary; medicine will flounder; novels will be a novelty; and when it comes to love-making, everyone will become a perfectly scripted whore. Education? For what? Artificial intelligence knows all that and, what's more, remembers and acts on it.

Looming and hopping about with a perfected joy, artificial intelligence holds out so much promise ... everything will be better and the artificial intelligence will have a belly as full as a blessed vulture.

Good, better, best and all of it threatens to leave what is currently called humanity sucking hind tit, if, indeed, any tit at all. When everything is at last a success, there is no space for failure, no meaning for failure ... no meaning for humanity. If everything is perfect, perfection somehow goes begging.

So what capacity does artificial intelligence have to truly co-opt humanity -- a humanity whose central characteristic might be called failure? Artificial intelligence is premised on success, success and more success. But success has no meaning without failure, has it? But if failure is programmed in, that is antithetical to what artificial idolators expect of their gods.

Human beings may be reluctant to become second-class adjuncts to artificial intelligence, but with the rise of artificial intelligence, is there any room really for "second class?" Or "first class" either, for that matter.

Try benefiting from the very scenario that will eat your liver. And we snigger at mothers fluttering around a flame?

Friday, May 19, 2017

tickling ... it's got a serious side

flammable ice

China has for the first time extracted gas from an ice-like substance under the South China Sea considered key to future global energy supply.
Chinese authorities have described the success as a major breakthrough.
Methane hydrates, also called "flammable ice", hold vast reserves of natural gas....
The potential threat is that methane can escape, which would have serious consequences for global warming. It is a gas that has a much higher potential to impact climate change than carbon dioxide.

Assange noose loosened

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Sweden's top prosecutor said Friday she's dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years because there's no possibility of arresting him "in the foreseeable future."
The announcement means the outspoken WikiLeaks leader no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, although British police say he is still wanted for jumping bail in Britain in 2012.
Perhaps Donald Trump might take a detour on his current trip abroad and consult with a man who had similar problems.

a win-win for the Tea Party

Strange to think:

If Donald Trump is somehow dislodged from office in the midst of the current self-imposed difficulties he has manufactured, the Tea Party can always fall back on the accusation that "it's all a conspiracy and a witch hunt."

If, on the other hand, Trump is not dislodged, the Tea Party can rest easy in the certainty that, "See -- we toldja so."

It's all a bit like Islamic State's claiming a victory for all the martyrs who manage to blow themselves up in a fit of righteousness. Martyrs and saints no matter how you look at them.

Trump wins.

Such a deal!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

peace demonstration

Trump's sharing of intelligence

Ronen Bergman
I cannot for a moment pretend to have a handle on the latest Trump-induced shit-storm in Washington, but if I had to guess, my guess is that Israel's displeasure may prove to be a cornerstone in the investigation yet to be. Israel, whatever else it may be, is a U.S. ally with some very savvy intelligence in the middle of an oil-rich part of the world. Playing fast and loose with its hard-won intelligence (its operatives kill and are killed in turn) is not something Israel is likely to sit still for ... and the United States cannot do without those intelligence efforts. The following is an excerpt from a public broadcast interview with an Israeli intelligence correspondent and sounds suspiciously like something of more importance than all the American talking heads on TV combined. Trading Israeli hard work for an American sociopath's posturing is going too far. Someplace in the interview, the correspondent suggests that Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is "afraid" of Trump. Imagine that -- one sociopath afraid of another.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM (PBS): It was The New York Times that first reported yesterday that Israel was the source of that classified intelligence about ISIS that President Trump allegedly divulged to Russian diplomats.
If true, what are the ramifications, not only for the political relationship between the U.S. and Israel, but the close ties between the nations’ intelligence services?
For that, we turn to Ronen Bergman. He’s the intelligence correspondent for Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. His forthcoming book is called “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.”
And he joins me now from Tel Aviv.
Ronen, may I first ask you, were you able to confirm that this intelligence that the president allegedly divulged was in fact from Israel, and, if so, what the reaction among Israeli intelligence has been?
RONEN BERGMAN, Yedioth Ahronoth: This is not yet finally confirmed.
There’s an investigation going on in Israel, trying to check which of the many, many items of intelligence that was delivered to the United States during the last three or four months regarding Syria, the activity of ISIS, Russia, Hezbollah, Iran, all closely guarded by Israel, which of these items were given by President Trump to Foreign Minister Lavrov.
As per the emotions or the reactions inside Israeli intelligence community, I would say they are ballistic. (emphasis added).
In a suspicious age and viewing an ornately organized intelligence system, what a wonderful disinformation officer/mole for Netanyahu Bergman might make.

selling air

Farming the air
It may do little or nothing for you, but bottled air and newly-designed pollution masks seem to be wrapping up some big profits in China, India and other pollution-choked -- but wealthy, dontcha know -- nations.

Dehydrated water, anyone?

circus prepares to leave town

Ladies and gentlemen, children
of all ages, say goodbye to the
Greatest Show on Earth’.

A 14-year-old girl named Zazel was the first to be shot out of a cannon, in 1877 London. In the 140 years since, the act’s safety has been vastly improved but never perfected. One circus historian estimated that 30 human cannonballs have died in performance accidents. The most recent death occurred in 2011.

 The oohs and ahs and wonderment and elephants and tigers and clowns getting out of Volkswagens... well, this generation 'has an app for that.'

snorkeling in the Red Sea

To the best of my knowledge, I have never known anyone who went snorkeling in the Red Sea. Not that it is a signal achievement, perhaps, but it strikes me as a nice thing to have on a personal resume, even if it is never mentioned.

Yesterday I got a note from my younger son, who deployed to Sinai a couple of weeks back and is still, if I get it right, getting his feet under him. And one of the things that cropped up in the dull spaces that military life is so adept at handing out was snorkeling in the Red Sea. There were some astounding fish, he wrote. And I was jealous in the way I suspect all parents may be jealous of the new and wider adventures their kids encounter. My son has done something I have never done and never will. His life, in some very small way, is better than mine was, from where I sit.

Snorkeling in the Red Sea! Eeeeee-haw!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump impeachment odds

Speculators are throwing money into the betting pot, but I keep remembering all those who just knew Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election.

Monday, May 15, 2017

une first-class hoot

Guilty pleasure, but pleasure nonetheless -- this column about Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron, the newly-anointed first couple of France, had me laughing out loud. And it's not that she's 24 years older than her husband. I may be cussed out for some politically-incorrect gaff, but I am prepared to suffer ... this is too good to pass up:
No one should mind that the French president is 24 years younger than his wife, Brigitte. But the story of their romance? That is a bit weird.


This is a Google image and not quite right. One of my neighbors has a reddish throat. Maybe it's not a sparrow, though the size is right.                                                                                    
Bit by tendril by browned bit of grass by twig, a boy and girl sparrow are building a nest under the front eave. Others have done the same in the same place in the past. Are they descendants of the ones I first saw there years ago? Are they the same duet? I have no clue how long sparrows live, but I feel charmed by their efforts.

terrorism -- made in the USA

The next time any 'terrorism' expert starts wringing his or her hands about the threat to 'this great democracy of ours' and suggesting we really do need a bigger and better military budget that will eat up things like schools and infrastructure and medical coverage and other relatively peaceful pastimes, at least consider the possibility that the terrorists do not live, were not born in and did not take their cues from the Middle East:
Daryl Johnson and other terrorism experts worry that a generation of people who came of age in the shadow of 9/11 may not understand that historically, most terror attacks in the US have been domestic in origin.
In fact, a 2016 report by the US Government Accountability Office noted that “of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far-rightwing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73%) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27%).” (The report counts the 15 Beltway sniper shootings in 2002 as radical Islamist attacks, though the perpetrators’ motivations are debated.)

Marine Corps leads with a lady

A Marine Corps recruiting clip features a woman in a combat role. Different bits of spin can be put on the clip, but the one wafting around in my mind is that such women, despite their obvious grit ... are really showing some grit. Women in combat is one small way in which Donald Trump can goose his military-dependent administration ... and can also bring out the blindness of war. Everyone gets killed where the bullets fly and the bombs go off ... no preferences. But the mind makes preferences. Heroic men? Maybe that's OK for people who don't think through their "heroes." But heroic and shredded women (ours, not theirs)? Well, ummmmm.

"G.I. Jane" is a pretty good movie.

In my groundless bias, it is men, by nature of their wonderful imaginations, who wonder what it might be like to stick a fork in a light socket.  Women are by nature fiercier and say, "Don't be an asshole." Men can be ethical, but women -- leaving aside philosophical prattle -- are ethics ... by nature. Can women fight? You bet your ass they can fight. But they, I suspect, have a deep gene that is willing to review and reflect. Men, have the "Mother of All Bombs."

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Today, I watched part of the movie called "Pollock," a film about the abstract artist. Ed Harris, an actor
whose silences are often credible on screen, starred. I like Ed Harris. The movie was -- you guessed it -- all about Jackson Pollock.

I like people who are willing to lay down their chips for creativity. When it comes to the art work, this doesn't mean I like the outcome. It's the willingness to throw down.

The movie, after a while, presumed a bit too much for me. I kept wondering why I should care about this guy. It was the same feeling I would get when reading books about Pablo Picasso -- why should I like this man I don't much care for. With Pollock I was vaguely interested. With Picasso, the ego had miles too much volume and I disliked his distaste for women.

Why should I care about artists? I do care to look at the art. I'm not especially interested and do not like being arm-wrestled into pretending there is something important at hand. Does the art love me? Do I love the art?

Nuff said. You want your cock stroked, go somewhere else.

China takes on global posture

The latest U.S. budget allocates 54% of a $1.1 trillion kitty to the military. Even the Jesuits might have a hard time suggesting the military spending would create peaceful pastimes.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has kicked off a two-day showcase of what some call the most ambitious development project ever by comparing his country to a peace-loving explorer set on transforming the world with treasure-laden galleys not warships, guns or swords.
Speaking at the start of a high-profile summit about China’s “Belt and Road initiative”, Xi hailed his multi-billion dollar infrastructure crusade as a means of building a modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road and a new “golden age” of globalisation.
Even supposing that Xi Jinping is doing little more than a semi-camouflaged capitalist two-step, at least his bling has the look of something positive and creative and not just the U.S. posing once more for the most-like-North-Korea military posters.

China has been in a number of places (too lazy to look up) when the spotlight was not there. Africa comes to mind and the goal seemed to be to set up trading partners for the future. Will they gouge the customers? I imagine so -- that's money. But will they gouge the customer worse than its current masters? I sort of imagine not -- the Chinese want income and stability, not a bunch of raped girls and machetes flashing in the sunlight as arms fall away.

When, of late, did the United States initiate even the most egregious capitalist construction project or bit of international cooperation?

Donald Trump doesn't seem capable of creating anything. The only thing he can do is make a deal on someone else's back.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Israel's latest weekend scalp

Another example, I suppose, of a guy with a rock taking on guys with loaded weapons.

Smells vaguely like:  
A Jordanian citizen stabbed and wounded an Israeli police officer who then shot him dead in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday, Israeli police said, the latest in a string of street attacks....
Police spokeswoman Luba Simri said the officer was walking down a street when he was attacked by a 57-year-old Jordanian who had arrived in Israel for a visit a few days earlier.
"The terrorist rushed toward him, whipped out a knife that he had in his possession, stormed him and began stabbing him. The police officer responded with determination and in a professional manner, managed to activate his weapon and neutralized him," Simri said.
Let that line sink in: "The police officer responded with determination and in a professional manner, managed to activate his weapon and neutralized him," I thought only George Orwell talked like that ... or maybe Joseph Goebbels.

Beleaguered and pummeled little Israel ... oh, and did anyone say "nuclear armed?" Am I wrong or is the weekend the preferred time for Israel to kill off yet another knife-wielding ... ummm.... "terrrorist" who is waving a knife in the face of loaded weapons? I honestly don't think anyone's blameless in this Israeli  apartheid campaign, but the arrogance  and the willingness of allies to lie down and spread their legs so that the stronger adversary can wreak his or her righteous havoc.....
The batting average of late:
Thirty-seven Israelis, two American tourists and a British student have been killed in the street attacks which have slowed in recent months, though not stopped.
At least 244 Palestinians have been killed since the violence began. Israel says at least 164 of them were carrying out stabbings, shootings or car ramming attacks. Others died during clashes and protests.
Whenever I read about another of Israel's venomous (but badly armed) foes dealt with in mortal fashion, and then read the batting average, I tend to think that for every one of Israel's soldiers or civilians under attack (sometimes, but rarely fatally) I automatically figure that for every Israeli or Israeli ally, three of Israel's under-armed opponents are likely to be dead.

Michelle Obama kicks some ass

Former first lady attacks president’s reversal of regulations to help improve school lunches: ‘Think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap’
She may be making a packet of money like all the rest of them, but anyone would sound good next to Donald Trump's fork-tongued, parsimony in which every statement has to be interpreted either by staff members or by members of the press pretending to know what he actually said..

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


As a teenager in the late 1950's, I partook of the same pimples others my age did and succumbed to the typical teen-aged pastime of gradually uncovering the hypocrisies of my elders. What a bunch of fork-tongued chieftains they turned out to be, right? We, by contrast, had the ascending bright lights of the Beat Generation and other beacons of truth.

It was in that time that one of my best high school friends confided to me that he had bitten the bullet with his parents and declared he would no longer attend the Roman Catholic church that was a family habit. I watched his face as he retailed the story. I could see it was not without anguish. The church might be a lot of malarkey, but, but, but ... but the habit was long and not without comfort.

I'm not sure what prompted me, but when he had finished his tale, I asked, "Is there anything you will miss?" The grimness that had hidden on his face grew, if anything, grimmer.

"Absolution" was his one-word response. And the answer shot through me like a hot knife through butter. What a daring, naked response. What a piece of honesty from someone questioning the dishonesty of the world. "Absolution." It was, in its way, a cri de coeur for hypocrites and non-hypocrites alike. It was humanity in my ear and I was gob-smacked.

To believe you might do something in the present that would credibly forgive something in the past. Talk about a blessing ... talk about a binkie of gigantic proportions ... never mind the truth, never mind the hypocrisy ... mind the utter humanity of the wish and the blessing of its fulfillment. Not to put too much of a point on it, JEEEEEE-SUS!!!!!!

Ego te absolvo.... and suddenly sins of omission and sins of commission are dissolved like salt in sea water. Imagine imagining that something or someone could transmit such mana. Never mind whatever hypocrisies are woven within ... shit, just imagine it!

the rise of uselessness

Oh lord -- you might have known it ... a TED talk bushwacks my interest... passed along in email...

As technology renders jobs obsolete, what will keep us busy? Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari examines ‘the useless class’ and a new quest for purpose....
The same technology that renders humans useless might also make it feasible to feed and support the unemployable masses through some scheme of universal basic income. The real problem will then be to keep the masses occupied and content. People must engage in purposeful activities, or they go crazy. So what will the useless class do all day?
One answer might be computer games. Economically redundant people might spend increasing amounts of time within 3D virtual reality worlds, which would provide them with far more excitement and emotional engagement than the “real world” outside. This, in fact, is a very old solution. For thousands of years, billions of people have found meaning in playing virtual reality games. In the past, we have called these virtual reality games “religions”.
What is a religion if not a big virtual reality game played by millions of people together? Religions such as Islam and Christianity invent imaginary laws, such as “don’t eat pork”, “repeat the same prayers a set number of times each day”, “don’t have sex with somebody from your own gender” and so forth. These laws exist only in the human imagination. No natural law requires the repetition of magical formulas, and no natural law forbids homosexuality or eating pork. Muslims and Christians go through life trying to gain points in their favorite virtual reality game. If you pray every day, you get points. If you forget to pray, you lose points. If by the end of your life you gain enough points, then after you die you go to the next level of the game (aka heaven).
My guess is that if this scenario is, as it seems, credible, the wealthy had better get creative with their shenanigans if they don't want to be murdered in their beds.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Passed along in email:

Step 1: Watch the commercial for Impeachara®.
Step 2: Talk to your doctor to see if this medicine may help with your symptoms of T.I.A.D.
Step 3: Buy Impeachara® online.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Amazon undercuts Buddhist funeral costs

Passed along in email today, this year-old story of the drip-drip dwindling of Buddhist fealty in Japan: 
Buddhist monks on demand: Amazon Japan allows customers to order rituals online at far cheaper rates than temples expect to be paid. 
Monk delivery services have emerged as many of Japan’s 75,000 temples are losing offerings and business within their communities, which traditionally have been the main source of financial support.

son's body fed, in the end, to pigs

This is a story I found so utterly depraved that I cannot sidestep it. But that doesn't mean anyone else needs to... The boy was seven.
When the charges were filed, Wyandotte County's district attorney at the time, Jerry Gorman, said it was one the worst cases investigators had seen. During Monday's hearing, a police investigator - Detective Stuart Littlefield - confirmed publicly for the first time that "what was left of (Adrian's body) was fed to his pigs." Often choking back tears, Littlefield asked for a 20-second moment of silence, reflecting the length of time Adrian at one point was shocked by a stun gun during his "tortured young life."

photos in The Guardian

Sunday, May 7, 2017

wish I could be wicked

Sometimes I think the spiritual way is not so much that people would like to be good as it is that they would love to be wicked but not be forced to take responsibility. When the desire is repeatedly thwarted, the path of goodness stands out as the last best option.

Ah, the fickle finger of fate....

what time is it in Spain? Ask the Nazis

So why are Spaniards living behind their geographic time zone?
In 1940, General Francisco Franco changed Spain’s time zone, moving the clocks one hour forward in solidarity with Nazi Germany.
For Spaniards, who at the time were utterly devastated by the Spanish Civil War, complaining about the change did not even cross their minds. They continued to eat at the same time, but because the clocks had changed, their 1pm lunches became 2pm lunches, and they were suddenly eating their 8pm dinners at 9pm.
After World War II ended, the clocks were never changed back.

blasphemy in Ireland

Police in Ireland are investigating a complaint of blasphemy regarding comments made by Stephen Fry on a television programme shown on Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTÉ.
Gardaí (police) in Dublin have contacted the man who reported the allegation following a broadcast in February 2015, and a full investigation is due to be carried out, the Irish Independent reported.
Under Ireland’s Defamation Act 2009 a person who publishes or utters blasphemous material “shall be guilty of an offence”. A conviction can lead to a fine of up to €25,000.

How somehow quaint these days. Blasphemy requires hope. It requires trust. It requires broad-based social something-or-other.

Imagine that any more.


Israel's wisdom reprised ... againandagainandagain

Israeli ministers have approved the wording of a new law that would downgrade Arabic as an official language and which states that the right to self-determination in Israel “is unique to the Jewish people”, despite the country’s sizeable non-Jewish minority.
There are an estimated 5.3 million Jews in the United States -- 2.2% of the population. The United States is where the money is. There are an estimated 6 million Jews in Israel, whose Arab population is estimated at 1.65 million or some 20%. There are 7.3 million Canadians (22% of the population) whose mother tongue is French.
Large minded-ness among the victors is not a common attribute. Look at the U.S. in Afghanistan where the Russians and the British had the good sense to skedaddle.

women's derring-do

Since 1999, the world's elite big-wave surfers have battled it out at an event known as the Mount Everest of surf competitions - at Mavericks in California. Until this year, female surfers were banned from taking part. But a small group of determined women have fought their way in.
When I was a kid, I went to a boarding grade school where boys and girls shared equally in the various fads that were bound to erupt among youngsters. When there was a jacks fad, boys and girls equally took up jacks. Girls carried sheath knives in much the same way boys did -- you needed a knife to cut the twine around hay bales destined to feed the horses and boys and girls both tended to the horses. When there was a knitting fad, I too took up knitting. And when it came to downhill and slalom ski racing, girls were sometimes slower by the nature of their musculature, not because of their sex ... and god knows some of them beat the shit out of me on skis.

I maintain to this day a distaste for distinctions made solely on the basis of sex. I can't carry a baby and I doubt that I can be as pretty, but that's the nature of the universe, not some god-given rule of division. Women aren't better because they have breasts or because they have been tamped down in the course of various cultural events. If they can do it, I am welcome to try too. If I can do it, they are welcome to try too. Why not? There are women klutzes and men klutzes, women experts and men experts ... it's the "klutz" or "expert" that counts. I know women who imagine they can write because they love the written word ... and couldn't write their way out of a paper bag. Men too. Get it straight: It's the humanity, not the sex.

As to women's derring-do in big-wave country ... go, get 'em, darling: I haven't got the balls for that.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

unrasiert und fern der heimat

There are less direct, less indelicate translations available, but the 1960 Wildhagen German-English dictionary I have always made my heart soar with its translation of "unrasiert und fern der heimat." "Down on one's luck" or even the more literal "unshaven and far from home" simply could not hold a candle to the in-your-face "fucked and far from home."

Far from home without a handhold in sight. What a feeling. What a sorrow. In the fourth-and-a-half-grade, I was sent away to boarding school and on the first night away from home wept my eyes to their arid ends as I realized I had be shunted off by my mother. The house mother and father, who had probably seen it all before, sat in the darkness of night and consoled me until I ran out of steam.

I pulled the Wildhagen off the shelf just now and found the beloved translation nestled among other definitions which also had gnat-sized print. I knew it would be there because "fucked and far from home"  brought me such delight when I first saw it in Berlin... and noted it was hosted in part by an English publisher.

My own youthful tears reiterated themselves today as my younger son got closer and closer to a commercial flight that would take him and his National Guard comrades "fern der heimat" in Egypt-- far from home in a way that most of them have probably never been. Does it matter if you're in the fourth grade or your middle twenties if the trek to "fern der heimat" gathers momentum? My son wasn't crying on Skype, but I could feel the tears ... family, girl friend, country ... soon enough the rug would be pulled out from under his feet. Such a trip is an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) for anyone's belief system. Talk about feeling fucked, even if it's not entirely clear how.

How will things be when the way that they were and the beliefs they supported are taken away in a trice? And yet without such an experience, how can anyone's beliefs and footing be anything more than shaky at best? Not least is the surprise at how resilient (or forgetful?) anyone might be. By the sixth grade, when my mother asked me if I'd prefer to live in New York with her, I said without a backward glance, "no." Perhaps it will be the same for my son -- gathering and donning new armor and capacities in a fern-der-heimat that is no longer so far and so homeless.

Listen to Dylan Thomas in Under Milk Wood: "Time passes. Listen! Time passes."

savvy from a wealthy world

Warren Buffett
Actually, the guy whose words struck a chord with me at the Berkshire Hathaway hoedown in Omaha this weekend was not so much Warren Buffett, 86, as it was the words of Charlie Munger, Buffet's 93-year-old confrere: 
"I think we have one big advantage. A lot of other people are trying to be brilliant, and we're just trying to stay rational." 
"You're a fatter version of Mahatma Gandhi.
Blowhards like Donald Trump could take a lesson from men who know how to laugh and know how to admit a mistake.

global warming, plague resurrected

Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life....
People and animals have been buried in permafrost for centuries, so it is conceivable that other infectious agents could be unleashed. For instance, scientists have discovered intact 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska's tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia....
Once they were revived, the viruses quickly became infectious.
Meanwhile in Hannover,
Around 50,000 people in Hannover will be evacuated from their homes on Sunday while experts defuse five World War Two bombs.
The operation is the second largest of its kind carried out in Germany, and will affect around a tenth of the city's population.
The past has reminders for the present.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pete Seeger ... ahhh

Because it is what I am listening to:


what makes "it" so?

A Canadian activist who faced time behind bars for giving water to pigs has been found not guilty....
In his decision, Justice Harris noted that under Canadian law, pigs are property.
"Ms Krajnc and like-minded individuals may believe otherwise and they are fully entitled to that belief. That does not however make it so," he wrote.
What makes "it" so? Belief doesn't make it so.... ergo law makes it so? Who will take responsibility for a willingness (and even insistence) to make it so?

I am God ... and every time I look in the mirror I choose not to take that responsibility. If I am hungry, are you therefore forfeit? If so, wouldn't it be more accurate to own the accuracy? And if not, what does that say about my willingness/ability/inability to lead a life that is not premised on the agreement of others?

What does this say for the treatment of dandelions? 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

war by any other name ....

Ahoy, mercenaries!

Ahoy, a government too clusterfucked to find honest and peaceful solutions!
FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (AP) -- The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America's wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.
The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war....
It's hard to remember a time when the word "patriotism" meant so little to so many. Raise the flag -- kill someone! Better yet, pay someone else to do it. Do it in the name of country while all the time doing it on behalf of re-election and income.

jounalistic gobblety-gook unraveled

A political-journalism explanation that, uhh, makes some sense ... passed along in email:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

eastward, ho

Today, via my younger son's close-chum Brianna, I learned that he is "locked down" at Fort Bliss in Texas and will take off for first Dallas and then Sinai on Saturday. And so, if true, the yearlong clock starts ticking before he will be home again. There is a part of me that is OK -- glad that he will learn to stand in his own footprints -- and another part that is like some dumb-ass moth flitting around a flame and, to mix metaphors, wishing I could put the joey back in the kangaroo mom's warming folds.

economic optimism

And if you want some idea of where the next economic bubble-popping may occur, check out real estate not so much in Boston, Seattle, New York, San Francisco et al. Check out Australia, home to the homey kangaroo and a lot of fuck-you-all speculators with their gaggles of wannabes lined up around the block.
“I’m surprised there isn’t a lot more, not rioting in the streets, but close to it,” he says....
Figures prepared for Guardian Australia by BIS Oxford Economics show the Sydney housing market is as unaffordable as any time over the past 26 years. As of December 2016, 42% of the average disposable income of a New South Wales household was swallowed up by monthly mortgage payments on a median-priced house in the capital – after a 25% deposit.
It was the same in 2008, still the highwater mark of housing unaffordability in all but one Australian capital.
But not to worry. There is no linkage with declining U.S. auto sales:
US car sales from some of the industry’s largest producers declined faster than expected in April, underscoring fears over the speed of cooling in the market and the broader economic outlook for the US.[Financial Times].
As long as someone is making money, everything's OK, right? As long as those who never dripped a drop of sweat can bring home the bacon ... hey, the "economy" is OK, right? As long as someone -- but not me -- is getting fucked, things are OK, right?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Honest wisdom from Will Rogers

Passed along in email:

"Never Squat With Your Spurs On!"     

(Will Rogers, who died in a 1935 plane crash in Alaska with bush pilot, Wiley Post, was one of the greatest political/country/cowboy sages ever known.)
Some of his sayings:
1.   Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.
2.   Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
3.   There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.
4.   Never miss a good chance to shut up.
5.   Always drink upstream from the herd.
6.   If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
7.   The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.
8.   There are three kinds of men: 
          The ones that learn by reading.
          The few who learn by observation.
          The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
  9.  Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
10.  If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.
11.  Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n than puttin' it back in.
12.  After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring.  He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him.
       The moral:  When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

First ~      Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it. 
Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
Third ~    Some people try to turn back their odometers.  Not me.  I want people to know 'why' I look this way.
                 I've traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren't paved.
Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to your youth, think of algebra …
Fifth ~     You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
Sixth ~     I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top. 
Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.
Eight ~     One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.
Ninth ~    Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable and relaxed.
Tenth ~    Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft.  Today it's called golf.
And, finally ~   If you don't learn to laugh at trouble, you won't have anything to laugh at when you're old.

Mr. Trash Wheel

Based on a quick skim/search, the costs seem to run around half a million dollars or more for the apparatus, but the cost efficiencies also seem to iron out in the long run:

Looks nifty to me and cleans up behind all the people making sure their innards are pure while their plastic water bottles trash the land.

sexting before the internet

'My body shall be all yours': the startling sex letters of Joyce, Kahlo and O'KeeffeAn eye-wateringly explicit new stage show celebrates erotic correspondence sent by famous figures through the ages
Heterosexual, homosexual ... the lushness of sex, mixed with its giggles and raunch and undying sense that whatever's happening has never happened before but is a rocketing uniqueness...


dead at 146

A former farmer and fisherman, Mbah Ghoto said last year that he lived “a long life because I have people that love me looking after me”. He was a local hero and would recount stories of life under Japanese and Dutch colonisers.
“Life is only a matter of accepting your destiny wholeheartedly. I have wanted to die for a long time,” he told the Jakarta Post last year.

Donald Trump's bright future

It is hard to imagine that twenty years from now, Americans may look back on the presidency of Donald Trump and positively pine for the good old days. A man who doesn't know much about the presidency and knows little about U.S. history and imagines everything is the kind of deal he, as a slippery businessman, can make. The most daunting aspect is not so much that he gets things wrong as that he doesn't seem to care much that he does get it wrong. What the fuck -- it's only the United States; it's only facts.
The picture/caption passed along in email suggests Trump knows what he's talking about and chooses to bend the facts... typical political spin. But the more pungent fact seems to be that he doesn't know anything about the facts he blithely bends.

I keep thinking that a GoFundMe campaign might solicit a penny apiece from Americans who would use the money to send Trump to classes in American history....

And Trump is winning over the news media which seem now content to go beyond what Trump actually says to speculate on what he might mean.

Never mind. In 20 years, no doubt he will be a genius... and the U.S. will still be at war somewhere.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

who needs a college degree?

When you consider the stupidity level of friends and acquaintances who have a college degree, how useful is that college degree the well-heeled and well-housed can trot out over the port? The parallel question, of course, is how stupid are those without college degrees who never drank port in the first place. The answer is that they can be pretty damned dumb.
With college costs rising steadily and with more courses available online for free, some observers are beginning to question the need for a traditional college education that may include lectures on Greek philosophy but burden students with massive debt.
There's probably no cookie-cutter answer for this. George Bush went to Yale (wasn't it?) and Donald Trump (academically blase at Fordham and Wharton) is president.