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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Name:
Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saddam's Revenge



If I can be permitted to set aside, just for this moment, the overpowering grip that temporizing has on him, never seen more clearly than in his first debate with M. Romney during the 2012 election, I think it likely that, by this time B. Obama is deeply sorry that, nearly a year ago, he didn't take my advice to go with a U.S. strike in Syria, right after he revealed that it was in the wind, in whatever unknown form that his military experts proposed it to him.   And they must've had something out of the ordinary and even brilliant in mind, otherwise what good are all those Pentagon types with all the scrambled egg on the bills of their caps?   Instead in September 2013 he took the easy route in which a large part of the country was sloshing and wallowing, and he decided to bring Congress in on it, with the all too predictable blah results that you always get whenever those 535 drags on the country are brought into anything.

At the time there was a non-stop torrent of blather about all the dreadful things that would happen, should Obama give the order -- outcomes for which not one of these doomsayers had reasonable evidence, whereas Obama could’ve pointed out how, with his assistance, NATO intervention had prevented a Gaddafi bloodbath in Libya.    But that didn’t stop those negators from endlessly belching out fiddle-faddle that amounted to nothing except essentially saying what a bad idea it would be to try to slow down and even stop the wholesale slaughter of Syrians that had already been going on with hardly a pause for the previous two and a half years.  These “wise heads” had no eyes or putting themselves out for some brown people in the Middle East, who, moreover, weren’t sitting on top of as much oil as some of their neighbors.

Bobby Fischer, the late, great Brooklyn-bred chess grandmaster, said, "Timing is everything," and he demonstrated that in game after remarkable game.  One of the things he meant was that a player shouldn't hem and haw, once the idea for a sharp, hard-hitting combination takes shape in his head.  The sacrifice that can't be refused must be made while it's sitting there to be made and even when the ultimate success of that combination isn't quite clear as yet.

That opportunity, like all those lives, was squandered in Syria, with Congress likewise trumpeting and braying, “Nay,” and the wise heads went back to scratching their butts and throwing back a few, while congratulating themselves for having been on the side of something that they were pleased to call “prudence and peace."  It didn’t matter to them that thus, unhindered by the international world and instead feeling themselves being cheered on by Russians, Chinese, and a host of "sometimey" American progressives, Syrians kept on killing other Syrians by a great variety of means, for no more reason than to keep the government in Damascus headed by an Assad.

Having missed the boat on Iraq, everyone was determined to avoid making that blunder again, though only complete dummies could have missed seeing from the start that the GWBush drive into Iraq was a large-scale exercise in penis-wagging and nothing else.  But Syria was more a mess in 2013 than Iraq was in 2003, despite Saddam's constant misfires and the attentions Iraq had been shown by American sanctions and air power.  Iraq’s water, electrical, and health systems were all still working, and for a long time Saddam had been spending most of his days huddled quietly in his palaces and doing much more stewing than brewing, with not one weapon of mass destruction to his name.

Now, in 2014, Saddam is long gone from this life, and until very recently the Americans were also gone -- trying to stitch their minds back together in V.A. hospitals -- and the bubbling in the Iraq pot had been nearly drowned out by other drum beats.   But the mix in that pot never really simmered down, and in the past several weeks things there have started popping and crackling and boiling over again.  A new version of Al Qaeda, called “ISIS” and seemingly arisen from almost out of nowhere, went on the move in Iraq and captured cities and started closing in on oilfields in the Kurdish areas. and this time, Obama hardly hesitated, nor did he talk much in advance about what he was going to do.

 In the interest of doing a “Bobby Fischer” for a change, he didn’t let himself get hung up on the possibility that, after he acted, the U.S. might once again get its brogans mired deeply in the Iraqi mud.   Instead I think he saw this as good timing, and he must’ve been relieved at being given the chance to hit ISIS with some air sorties that, among other things, allowed the Kurds to re-take two of their towns, while at the same time he ordered other American airmen to drop badly needed supplies and later some personnel to aid an Iraqi minority called the Yazidi, who were bottled up in the mountains while having suffered as many as 500 deaths at the hands of the murderous ISIS forces.

 Also these moves were forms of redemption, for, in a notable instance of bad timing, Obama had screwed up on Gaza just a few days earlier, when he and his advisers bought in on the Yahus’ assertion that one of their soldiers, one man, had been kidnapped in Gaza, and -- just as B. Netanyahu had also charged Hamas with kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teenagers, which he used as his excuse for unleashing the pit bulls of war on the whole captive population of Gaza – Obama quickly charged Hamas with grabbing that soldier, only to find out that the man had been killed in combat.   But that didn’t stop an instant Israeli operation that resulted in no less than 50 Palestinian deaths in one day.  Fifty for each one Israeli death!  But oh no, Gaza can never be likened to Lidice!  So say the Yahu apologists.

Ironically, there is a movement in that same Congress that opposed Obama’s acting in Syria in 2013 that is attacking him for not intervening in Syria now with much more force than he has exerted so far.

But the trouble is that now the good guys are not so easily distinguished from the bad guys as they seemed to be a year ago.  On the part of the former “good guys,” the insurgents, things went to pot pretty fast while no one was looking, and now those insurgents, acting under the guise of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), are even worse than the original “bad guys,” Assad’s forces.   This suggests that there’s hardly any room left in Syria for good guys.  For, in addition to the slaughters that have remorselessly been carried out by ISIS, Assad can proudly point to a total of over 200,000 Syrians killed so far on his behalf, together with the UN declaration that 3,000,000 people, fully half of Syria's population, are now refugees.

So whose side should a government ostensibly on the side of ordinary human decency take?  Definitely not ISIS.   The choice is clear, then, but that is a very sad state of affairs that just maybe could have been averted or transformed in some way, earlier in the day, before the borders were obliterated and militants in Iraq, taking new heart, joined forces with like-minded extremists next door in Syria.

“Saddam’s revenge,” I think you would call this very sticky development, though it’s far from unprecedented.  Recall how the USSR and the USA stood with each other in 1943 and how that situation was the complete opposite just 10 years later.

What did the man say?   “Timing is everything?”    By now Obama might be also regretting that his game is basketball, not chess.   -- Not that anyone else in his position far into the future would be any better equipped to see a sufficient number of moves ahead.  Real chess players are never seen to be as qualified for high office in the U.S. as are second-rate film performers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Maybee Sunday



 When you deeply love someone, it can happen that the pain of their leaving can actually be greater than the enjoyment you feel when they’re around.

If that pain not only persists but also grows stronger, you could start thinking that actually you’re better off when she is not around.

This discomfort increases all the more if it occurs to you, next, that all you were thinking about during the whole time when she was around was that in just one more  hour or two or three at most, that loved one would leave, and there you would be, left with nothing but a fast-dissipating memory.

And that's not all.

The acuteness of this situation inflicts special pain because of your awareness that that loved person gives little if any thought to you in that much larger compartment of their life that exists without your being around, so great is the delight that she is taking meanwhile in a Preferable Other or Preferable Others. 

Yet that's still not all, because then there's the added knowledge of how that Preferred Other or those Preferred Others, who usually have not been acquainted with her for nearly as long and have not thought about her nearly as much as you have, nevertheless, because they are so much more qualified to do so, suddenly get to see your loved one not just for a few hours but throughout the day, and every day, and in the most intimate relations possible, whereas you've always been restricted by forces over which you have no control to only a few hours at a time and then no more often than once every three weeks or a month of that person's presence, and then without personal contact of any sort.

This is just one of many forms in which, besides being as beneficial and ecstatic as songs and stories endlessly would have it, and despite being impossible to avoid, love is nevertheless also often one of the cruelest forces that one can experience.

What’s the sense of it all?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Three Sentences, or the Story of My Life

It's a very difficult thing, to see how many times your dreams are realized by others, as if somehow they were spirited out of your head and transferred into more deserving and possibly also more capable entities.

Eventually, however, you find that you can keep going on in spite of that, not comfortably but bearably.

That's why there are so many reasons not  to buy into anything  that is wildly popular.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Elderly Walking



         The other day I reached my 83rd birthday, and that means (it must mean) that in addition to being a slow thinker and a slow talker, I am now also a slow walker.

Yesterday, accompanied only by my 6-foot-long walking stick that once had been a tall, straight stem of an Osage Orange tree, I visited a neighbor lady and her husband.   Not counting their driveway, they live exactly one mile from here, downhill on our gravel road to a river and across the bridge over that river and then uphill to H and K’s driveway, when there is still that quarter-mile of their driveway to negotiate even more steeply uphill.

To get there I hitch-hiked a ride to the bottom of H and K's driveway with another friend and his wife, who come here every Tuesday that their schedule allows, she to go on a walk with my wife, often over that same stretch of country road, and he to play chess while we wait for the ladies to return.

But to get back home I vowed to see how it would be to walk the whole way back.

(Meanwhile it’s necessary to mention that I went over to H and K’s to watch, for a moment or two, in absolute silence, while K was attending, online and therefore from afar, the 2014 National Conference on Autistic Children.  She’s been teaching autistic children for many years, and she loves it,  and therefore she probably knows a lot more about it than do a lot of the speakers at that conference, I would think, though she, of course, would never say such a thing.  And I had been helping (I hope I helped) her and H to get their wireless service set up so that she could sit in the comfort of home and take notes and quizzes and stuff instead of having to drive all the way up to Ohio and Pennsylvania or wherever and attend to all the expenses, troubles, and other things that that would have involved, to attend in person.) 

Among many other things, I am fortunate that my legs and my feet are still the same ones that, unlike my teeth, I had when I was born, and they’re largely intact and fully functioning, and I saw no reason why that walk back home would be much different from all the walking I do here at home because of sheer inefficiency.

And I was right.  It actually wasn’t much of a thing, except that I should’ve worn my trusty straw hat, because what I call the “eye flies” were out in force, and it would’ve also helped if I had drunk something before setting off.   Instead it was quite an experience because it had been many a year since I had last walked that far along our gravel road all in one jump, and in the meantime the trees had gotten much taller and the distances between various points much farther.   Still it was all a matter of taking one step and then another and another and so forth and so on, while stopping as little as possible, for what seemed like an extremely long time that involved taking many more steps than I had thought would be necessary.

My wife and this lady’s husband, H, had been a little concerned, however.   They must think that I’m literally on my last legs.   Therefore, just when I was only 100 feet or so away from the point where our property starts, on the south side of the road, three-quarters of a mile I would say from those folks’ steep driveway, my wife showed up in her Saturn and drove me the short distance of the rest of the way home.  But I wasn’t huffing and puffing, nor was I thirsty or any the worse for the wear in any other way.

Obviously I must look a lot worse than I actually am.   I have no idea whether that’s good or bad.  A little of both, I would guess.   That’s usually the way things are.

      









Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Middle East -- the Navel of the World

Among the many ways that Israel apologists use to justify the enduring evil being perpetrated decade after decade upon the far weaker Palestinians, is what happened to the Jewish population of Europe during WW2.  The apologists keep screaming, "Never again!"  when actually the connection of that population with the Israelis has, with constant use, gotten frayed away to almost nothing, and the crowning irony instead is that it is happening all over again, except with the Palestinians instead of the Jews being hammered, and with the hammerers this time being the Israelis instead of the ....  Well -- on the pain of apologist killer bees descending on us from all sides with the most righteous, convoluted, and absurd rationalizations imaginable -- attempts are made to keep us from putting "Germans" and "Israelis" in the same sentence and from saying what is clearly plain for all to see.

Instead the apologists in effect keep suggesting, under the cover of all sorts of weasel words that on the surface sound so rational and temperate, that the Palestinians must go on being slaughtered en masse, noiselessly, invisibly, and without comment or protest.   It's all in the interest of "survival."   But it is completely beyond me how any people with hundreds of modern attack planes, nuclear bombs, tanks, submarines, and the backing of an overseas sponsor that has more military hardware than quite possibly the rest of the world combined, compared to almost nothing, relatively speaking, in the hands of those whom they victimize can be so constantly concerned about their survival.  (Though of course they are not at all concerned.)

I think it can be said that, despite all the deserts and the absence of trees, the Middle East is not just any place.   Instead it can be seen as being the Navel of the World, because of all those religions that through the ages have set up shop in those parts..   But in 1949, a dagger was thrust into it, and ever since there has been a lot of blood spilled, though the steel intruder is still intact and in place, though now the dagger has expanded into being a full-fledged sword.   And not for the first or the 20th time that sword is being twisted in the world's belly yet again and bringing forth copious amounts of new blood and pain.

And it is the great tragedy of today's world that maybe for the first time in human history, there is no moral force anywhere on the planet with the will, an ordinary sense of decency, and the strength to place a restraining hand on the wielders of such a sword.  That is why major attention should be paid to what is happening these days in Gaza and in the West Bank instead of blathering on and on ad infinitum about everything else but.

Many of those weasel words that I spoke of involve calls for the Palestinians to come to the peace table "in good faith."

Isn't it strange, how, when it comes to negotiating for peace, all of sudden the Palestinians become equals with the  Israelis, and as such, with nothing to concede except to shut up and keep baring their breasts to the IDF bullets, the Palestinians are expected to match the Israels in concessions, point for point.  Yet when it comes to preparing for war, the Palestinians are denied all possession of the armaments and munitions that the Israelis receive in huge profusion from the U.S. and others in the West..

It never seems to occur to those who would urge the Palestinians to the peace table, that in negotiations like these, much, much more should be asked from the Israelis than from the Palestinians, simply because the Israelis are so much stronger than the Palestinians, by factors of hundreds and thousands.  Or maybe these disparities mean nothing to the apologists, because, as has often been pointed out by many people, the Israelis are quite happy with the way things are, complete with the sport afforded by their Gaza killing fields.

So how can Hamas, stymied by being unable to accomplish anything else meaningful except to keep the Israelis running to their bunkers, be faulted for firing their rockets that hurt almost no one?

Their purpose seems to be to remind the Israelis that the Palestinians are still there, and that worms and also fortunes have been known to turn, and, in these much faster, modern times,  much more frequently than just once every 2,000 years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The "New World Outcome" in the Middle East

What is Israel's endgame in the highly one-sided contest of wills and weaponry that is going on in Gaza?   That's one of the main things that I keep wondering, because Israel can forget about any of its neighbors ever forgetting or forgiving its numerous transgressions as the new bully boy on the block.  For example, take the current massacre that the Israeli leadership and the people who voted for them are carrying out in Gaza against their regular whipping boys, the Palestinians, not one of whose forefathers, according to all probabilities, participated in any of the transports to the gas chambers of the 1940's.

Everything points to one and only one answer to that question: the Israelis have long since decided to go for a "New World Outcome."

This Outcome consists of the process wherein a group arrives on the shores of someone else's longtime home with a sky-high sense of their own racial superiority, along with plenty of advanced weaponry and pretensions cloaked in religion, following which they proceed to manipulate, betray, and kill off or drive off the people who were already living there till scarcely a trace of those people or of their culture remains, and to colonize or "settle" those thereby "empty" lands. 

That explains why you see so little indignation among the supposedly always moral American people about the obvious and gross mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis for almost 70 years.  A large number of Americans  can identify with this kind of thing, because so much of it is a big part of their own history.  In their minds the Israelis are those exemplary types of human beings called "the winners," case closed.  On the other hand they see the Palestinians as being exactly the same as "nigras" or "redskins" and therefore are not human, case closed.  Let as many Palestinians be killed off as possible and let the hopefully few remaining survivors operate gambling casinos, case closed.   Applaud while Israel expands its territory at gunpoint and at the expense of its nearest neighbors till it is ten, twenty, or thirty times its original size. (Should anyone dispute this, they have only to see the maps that Juan Cole regularly shows on his Informed Comment site.)  Case closed  And if anyone yells in protest, let the Israelis brandish their F-16's and rattle the nukes that they are too dishonest to admit they have, and also let them sic the Americans, like so many junkyard dogs, on any objectors.  CASE CLOSED!

It is an extremely safe bet that just as in the past, without exception everything that the Israeli leaders do in the future will continue to be in full accordance with bringing about this "New World Outcome."  See if they don't!

Not being privileged to be so oblivious to obvious wrongs as many Americans are, I have additional reasons to pay close attention to the Middle East, and they come not at all from concern about the contents of my car's fuel tank, but instead from what builds up in a person who is now well into his ninth decade of close acquaintance with history as well as from paying close attention to many things that are going on now.

Membership in a widely castigated group called "American blacks" allows a person to sense quite easily that an uncomfortably large segment of the dominant "white" group in the U.S. has allowed itself to become so worked up with fear and anger that they would like nothing better than to see us all jammed up together in a narrow strip of land just like Gaza, where we could likewise be shelled and bombed at will and without any means of meaningful retaliation or escape.  The successful Republican courtship of that segment, the hoarding of weapons, the admiration for everything that the Israelis do, and the incredible hatred for President Obama for no detectable reason other than his melanin count strongly suggest that that hidden longing for fait accompli eradication of huge groups of one's fellow humans is actually more alive and well now than at any other time in American history, now that the German example with Israeli modifications shows how it can be done -- and gotten away with, since the quality of conscience seems to have almost completed its mutation right out of the human genome just about everywhere, especially in the U.S. and Israel whenever they join forces, come together, engage in sexual congress. or whatever.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Going for Lidice, in Israel

In  June 1942 British-trained Czecho-Slovak paratroopers in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia managed to spot and terminate a high Nazi official named Reinhard Heydrich as, somewhat overconfidently, he was motoring through the city of Prague.

  In reprisal for the killing of that one man, and for some reason choosing to vent their fury on Lidice, a small town 20 miles from Prague, the Germans promply rounded up all the townspeople, summarily executed 173 of all the men and the boys older than 15, packed the 184 women off to concentration camps, sent 88 children to another camp where a few were picked to be "aryanized" while all the rest were gassed as soon as they got there, and the town's infrastructure was completely reduced to nothing more than a bare field.

 Though Lidice was the most famous and perhaps the most extreme example, these mass reprisals were a common practice of the Nazis.  The most popular formula that one heard about was to kill 10 of the invaded citizens to each one death inflicted on the German invaders, and the extra-added ferocity of the Germans in Heydrich's case must have been because he appeared to have been something of a Nazi poster boy.

Just a few months earlier, in January, the German higher-ups had picked Heydrich to ramrod a conference held in a Berlin suburb called Wannsee, wherein the policy was drawn up and soon implemented for what became known as the "Final Solution" to the most efficient method of the mass incarceration  and removal from this life of millions of Jewish people that had fallen into German hands through their numerous invasions all over Europe during World War II.

Today the Palestinians in the Middle East have long run afoul of a set of invaders called "the Israelis," who have adopted many of the tactics of their spiritual ancestors, the Germans of the 1930's and '40's, the most recent of which is the application of something approaching the Lidice ratio in retaliation for rocket attacks by the Palestinians that cause scarcely more damage than the fireworks set off here in peaceful rural Virginia every July 4th.  Thus the current ratio in and around Gaza is 125 Palestinian deaths inflicted by the Israelis with their 800 tons of bombs dropped so far, in retaliation for 0 Israeli deaths (that is, zero, none, zilch) inflicted by the obviously non-lethal Palestinian rockets.   125 to 0!
 
      --Numbers like that (for instance we have not gone into the highly unbalanced number of Palestinians that have been incarcerated by the Israelis vs the number of Israelis that have been detained by Palestinians, and that's just one of many such situations) make it easy to think that if there were an actual just and merciful God observing this, as it stands now the Israelis are deeply into deserving and some day receiving a Judgment of Nuremberg delivered on them that would rival what the Germans experienced because of their wholesale use of the Lidice Syndrome and other such crimes. The Germans of three-quarters of a century ago, believing that they would be in full possession of the future, never expected to be brought to justice for these acts, and today's Israelis have clearly inherited the same attitude, as shown by their endless mistreatment of the Palestinians.

It makes one wonder what is being taught in the math and ethics departments of all those highly vaunted schools in Tel Aviv and other such places.  Surely there must be wholesale condemnation of practices like this in the Torah, if nowhere else.

"But hey!" as cruel people like to say in the depths of their misdeeds, as if it is the irrefutable justification for everything heinous that they do, "who's counting?"  

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Curse of the Unspoken -- Part 2



       A film that I saw a few years ago (in fact, close to the time when I wrote the first draft of these two posts – these things take time, you know!), "Barney's Version," starred Paul Giametti as one such inarticulate hero, though I suppose that that bothered absolutely no one except me, especially because Giametti has such a big cult following that everything he does is greatly admired, though I couldn't see anything in this film that could have boosted his rep.  Giametti’s title character here, Barney, was a nasty, spiteful, and thoughtless slob through and through, and it was just not at all believable to me that nevertheless he had a succession of three dazzling women who saw enough in him that they consented to share his life in marriage.
       I guess we are supposed to think that Barney was somehow above the first two wives because they were unfaithful to him while overlooking the fact that he was no model of devotion to either woman, while, after pursuing the third woman relentlessly till she said "Yes," he nevertheless didn't make things too peachy keen for her either as time went on, which she testifies to when she isn't on the other hand unaccountably saying how great their years together were.
      Giametti’s character indulged in a lot of uglinesses that made no sense and that he didn't try to excuse, though there were plenty of occasions when he badly needed to explain himself – and audibly -- to his wives, to the viewers, and also to himself.  But the moviemakers saved a lot of work on the part of the writers who would’ve had to write more dialog, to say nothing of having also to be much more careful about the always sticky business of motivations, while the director and the actors had far fewer lines to have to deal with.  And so Giametti’s character had free rein to just keep slopping right along while saying nothing to justify himself or to enlighten others.
       One scene that illustrates this especially stuck in my mind.   In the beginning of the period when his marriage to that third wife that he continues to love so much is starting to go wrong, Barney is in the kitchen doing that favorite kitchen business of all film directors: using a very sharp knife to chop up an onion into expertly thin and uniform slices with lightning fast strokes while all the while the character is talking to someone, (at considerable peril, I would think, to the actor's fingers).   That beloved third wife tells Barney that he should freeze the onion first, because then cutting it wouldn't bring the well-known onion tears.   Barney says nothing, as if he hasn’t heard a word.
       Later, when the marriage is on the rocks, he comes home to find the house empty, and while he is looking in the freezer compartment of his refrigerator, he sees a lone onion sitting there unaccompanied by anything else in there that looks like food.
      He takes in that sight for some time before carefully closing the freezer door, still without saying a word or having touched the onion.
      What did he think that meant?   He must've thought something.
      That complete silence struck me as being very strange.   Did his character have no inner voice that was constantly speaking to him, loud and clear?   I have always had such a thing, and it talks to me throughout the day and in the nights, too.   I thought it was like that with everybody, and I have trouble believing that it's not.
       I can only think that it's taught at film schools that to leave things unsaid is the most effective way to go.   Let the viewers furnish their own words.   But I don't agree.   I think it would be a better world if people in all situations would explain themselves clearly and truthfully at certain, applicable moments, even in something as make-believe as a movie, and the fact that so many movie plots turn on things going wrong because so much was left unsaid that could easily have been said aloud backs up that contention.
       I guess that's why fate or my own inclinations never placed me even remotely in a position to be a screenwriter.  And even if I had been lucky enough to realize that dream, all the extra lines that I would’ve taken the time to write to convey a character's inner thoughts, even if I did that only occasionally, would still have been lopped off relentlessly by the arbitrary, hidebound committees that I am told make most movies.   In movies, as in real life, people just do things, and there is never any need to say why they did such and such, even if they knew why -- or were articulate enough to say why.
      In real life people often may not get the chance or the inclination to say why, or they don’t take the trouble to do it, but in movies the characters do get the chance, given a few extra seconds or minutes of running time, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be helpful if they availed themselves of that chance a time or two, or at least more often than in just one “House of Cards.”

Monday, July 07, 2014

Curse of the Unspoken -- Part 1

There are numerous times in movies when I wish the makers could've moved themselves to have a character say out loud exactly what he's thinking.   In the original. 1990 British "House of Cards" film,  the main character, played by Ian Richardson, did so in profusion, and I thought it added greatly to the film's effect.   But that was a big exception.   Otherwise, what used to be called "dramatic asides" are heard so rarely nowadays that it must mean that there's a hard and fast rule of movie-making to avoid them at all costs.  At some unknown point it must have been decided that the inarticulate hero or heroine is superbly chic or cool or awesome, while the moviegoer cannot be expected to tolerate anything even remotely approaching audible self-revelation.  A reflection of modern life?

Oh well.   I guess that does save the writing and the speaking of hundreds of extra lines, even it it does mean populating the average movie with animated lumps who seem to be indulging in endless sleepwalking and little else.

A few years ago I struggled through a Russian film that exhibited this glaring defect in painful profusion.   Titled "How I Ended My Summer," it could much more aptly have been called, "How I Spent My Summer Looking Stupid and Acting Accordingly by Saying Not a Word."

It tells of two men maintaining a cold, bleak existence at a weather station somewhere on an island in the arctic wastes.    One day the older and more serious of the pair is out fishing, when  the younger man gets a radio message saying that his co-worker's beloved wife and child have just been killed in an auto accident.   The younger worker is told to pass this along to his co-worker, along with assurance that a ship is being sent to bring the man back to the mainland in his bereavement.

Because this is a movie made by one of your "most clever people," when the older worker returns from his fishing trip, the younger man tells him absolutely nothing and instead keeps all that strictly to himself, for reasons that naturally we are left to figure out for ourselves -- necessarily unsatisfactorily, because that young guy's vocabulary doesn't extend past occasionally uttered four-letter expletives.  Of course it all eventually comes out anyway, but with consequences that are far, far worse than they would have been if the news had been conveyed as was requested.

But this is how by far most of your bad and even worse movie plots go.   Things are carefully kept concealed till it's too late, when real life keeps telling us that everything and even the very worse news is always best revealed RIGHT NOW, and in language a little past the grunts of a bored polar bear.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Nights of Unnecessary Noise

It is now a little after midnight following another July 4th, and the night is no longer being disrupted by the incessant detonations of fireworks in the nearby countryside -- sounds surpassed in toxicity to the sacred peace of rural nights only by the endless barking of a neighbor's dog.

The next official Night of Unnecessary Noise will come soon after the next solstice, just as this one has done after the solstice just passed.

On the last day of December in this year the Noise-Lovers of America will again get out into the dark and mainly fire their guns, using as their excuse the coming of the New Year, just as tonight those who were capable of any thinking at all wanted to be seen as observing the Birth of the Nation, when what they really celebrate both times is merely the invention by the Chinese, centuries ago, of gunpowder.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Wise Old Skink



I found the first draft of the following post in one of my writings folders where it wasn’t supposed to be.  I wonder if I already posted it here a year ago, which was probably when I wrote it.  Doesn’t matter.  I will just post it again, not least because the changes since then are no more significant than a finger’s single whirl of the hands of a clock.

It's always great to see in the Spring, after the vegetation is almost finished with turning green, to see that all the moving little animals and insects have come back from wherever they go and whatever they do in the long, cold Winters, when nothing is seen or heard of them.   In the cold weather their absences are so total that it seems that that situation will be permanent.   Though maybe those absences are not at all total.  Maybe, every once in a while, my senses -- challenged these days in several ways -- do nevertheless catch little things but they're not loud or vivid enough to cause me to take special notice -- a slight trill in the wind, a small scurrying under the dead leaves, a quick darting of something small and dark just beyond my fields of  vision.

But now here in the Spring the little moving things are at it again, in the same numbers as always, as if the cold and the darkness didn't diminish them in any way, here, there, and everywhere, in increasingly full color, sound, and definition with the passage of each successive day.

For the last several years an old five-lined skink has been living on the front deck of my workshop, under a big slatted box where I store firewood, and yesterday I was glad to see him for the first time this year.   And I know I will see him again and again, not always but often when I climb the three steps onto the deck.   He likes to scurry into sight from the edge of the deck, stop suddenly, and stay motionless for quite a long time, staring at me, and it's as if he's waiting to hear what I have to say for myself.   After a minute of that, he decides that I quite idiotically can't speak five-lined skink, and he scuttles on under the wood box, disappearing.

I call him "the wise, old skink," or "George," and I'm sure, though I can't really know, that he's the same one that reappears there, year after year.   I know he's old because he's a dark grayish brown all over.   Those who haven't looked it up always call his species just "lizards," though the likes of those who are graduates of MIT and who are therefore responsible for such things have classified them as being "five-lined skinks."  That's because when they're young their bodies are marked by a series of stripes that extend from the tips of their tails to their necks.   These lines, which must have most to do with the usual reproductive purposes, are a yellowish brown that alternates with same-sized stripes of blue that are so bright that these younger skinks  are among the most beautiful things to be seen in the animal kingdom around here.  

This year the wise old skink looked slightly different.   He stood higher off the deck than I remembered, and his body looked larger but shorter and more rounded.   Maybe his legs have grown longer, and maybe he's gotten a paunch.

I wonder if he saw comparable changes in me.   I'm sure he did.   But as always he kept his observations to himself and eventually stopped waiting for me and hustled on off about whatever his business might be.  

It's sobering to think how little we humans fit into the equations of the wild life around here.  They stop and wait for us to follow whatever whim comes into our minds or otherwise get out of their way.   Meanwhile they always do the same stuff that they always have done and always will do, give or take an eon or two, and they don't spend a lot of time showing up for examinations or applause.  I doubt that the same will ever be said of us, on the cosmic scale of things.

"My" Creek

Wow!  Can it really be that I have made no new posts in all of 2014 so far?

Yes, it actually looks to be that way!   Yet it can't be that in all that time I had nothing to say.  Nearly every morning I awoke to the ringing of lots of things in my head that I might have wanted to say and to post.  The Republicans and other Nasties of the world are still as toxic and repulsive and destructive and imbecilic and inexcusable as ever, with no signs whatsoever of lowering their voices or of raising their standards.  Nor did I stop writing things.  I just did those in other areas -- emails and some of my past stories.

I feel that I can't take credit or discredit for this seeming negligence on my part, and instead it would be convenient to blame it all on the passage of time and its ever increasing rate of speed wherever I might be involved.   Or it could all be summed up by one of the greatest glories of this property where I am so lucky to be spending most of these days building a new bridge, across "my" creek.

Time has definitely taken on the identity of my creek -- a masquerade of sorts.

Most days, like now, my creek -- our creek --  just ambles along, averaging about 10 feet across and about eight inches deep, clear, quietly eloquent.   But every once in a while, and not even every year, but definitely more frequently than in past periods, enough rain will fall all at one time that the water will have no time for all of it to soak into the ground, so instead it runs off to my creek and then to the river a mile away and then to another, larger river maybe 10 miles away and then to the ocean 200 miles away.    And when that happens, back here at home, it's never smart to get too close to my normally ambling, casual, absolutely safe little creek, because then it becomes nothing less than a raging monster, almost the same width as ever, but now ten times as deep and with the water pounding through with unbelievable speed and ferocity and carrying along rocks, logs, and any other projectiles it can get its hands on.

We are the only property owners who live full time on this creek, and it doesn't even become a full-fledged creek until the outlets from four springs much farther upstream unite just before coming onto our land.    So, as we have the lion's share of it, we get to see more of what it's doing all the time than anyone else, including when the heavens above turn it into a whole army of raging lions.

We are really lucky to have this creek, just a stone's throw down the slope from our house, and we know it.

What else can I say?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Perished Assumptions

When I was 18, I thought that from then on I would always be 18, and for quite a long while that seemed to hold true.  

When I turned 40, I knew that I had left age 18 some distance behind.   Still, I thought that henceforth I would always be 40 or thereabouts.

 But then more time passed.

Two decades later, when I reached age 60, I believe I thought that thereafter not much would change, and I would always be somewhere in the neighborhood of age 60.


But after that still more years passed, and this past summer I reached age 82.

Now, however, I have learned my lesson, and I am quite well aware that in every one of the days that wait ahead, I will be that much less of age 82, or any other age that I might reach,  than I was the day before.

I place the lion's share of  the blame for this new enlightenment on all thoughts of having to go up on my roof -- any of my several roofs -- though there are dozens of other culprits or "teachers" close at hand as well, especially my increasingly wobbly feet -- or is it those all too comfortable crocs?.

I can happily live with that.

But of course, I have to, don't I?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Unposted Comment on Iran/Israel

Below is a comment for an article titled "Top Ten Ways the U.S. and Iran Could Prevent a Catastrophic War," by Professor Juan Cole on his "Informed Comment" site, though I don't think that such a war is likely, unless the Republicans are allowed to grab the White House.   But I finished it too late.  The article had been online for several days and new comments were no longer allowed.   This kind of thing quite often seems to be the story of my life, though usually I try to be early for things.

I notice that  the Israeli leaders seem to be absolved from any responsibility in this matter.   In Prof Cole's 10 steps Israel is not mentioned, while in the commenter Amir's alternate 10 steps it is only briefly lumped in with the U.S.  Yet Prof Cole has long shown that no one is more aware than he is of B. Netanyahu's perfidies and other pertinent aspects.   Even though this article was specifically about U.S. and Iranian efforts, this must mean that herein the Israeli leadership has been totally written off, when it comes to keeping the flames turned down low or even off in the Middle East.   Yet they are by far the main aggressors in the matter.

More than once Prof Cole has reminded us that for 20 years or so B. Netanyahu has been screaming into all available ears the "horrific" news that the Iranians are on the verge of developing a weapon within a year or so, but one decade and then another passes, and none ever appear.  Meanwhile no one seems to doubt that for a long time Israel itself has had at least 200 completed nuclear weapons sitting somewhere, ready for use.

Can one be blamed, then, for seeing something awry in the still weaponless Iranians being asked to do all the accommodating, while nothing at all is to be required from the armed to the teeth and always blustering B. Netanyahu?

This must mean that nowadays, after just a short time in office, the new Iranian president, Rouhani, along with Khameni, is already seen as being the reasonable and sane party in the matter, while the best that can be hoped of B. Netanyahu is that one day soon a pebble hurled from Heaven will conk him in the head and thereby put into a more sensible state his badly addled thought processes -- possibly making possible the most logical first step in the process, which Amir mentioned though only in his second step -- an international inspection of Netanyahu's, not Rouhani's, nuclear facilities, even if the Israeli PM would then be deluged with friendly suggestions from all his neighbors that, since his warheads don't seem to have been tested as yet, he try one out -- in the Negev Desert.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Keeping "Nigger" Nauseous




It is always interesting to see all the conniptions into which the use of what they are pleased to call the “n-word” (i.e. “nigger”) drives a great many people descended from all the European settlers in North America.   (And, by the way, it should never be forgotten that each and every one of these immigrants was decidedly illegal, from the point of view of the millions whose numerous groups had already been firmly established here for thousands of years and who had long since shown themselves to bave been wonderful custodians of the land, mainly by not doing much of anything with it – a system of land management that works perfectly every time.   Furthermore these Original Occupants had been quite happy with knowing absolutely nothing about the existence of all those cross-waving devils on the other side of the big seas to the east, and it didn’t matter how many Shakers of Spears, Mozarts, Newtons, Caesars, or Da Vincis they had produced, or even how much nonsense various shamans among the tribes’ own numbers,  having just smoked some bad peyote from somewhere, had cooked up  about the chance of “white gods” one day showing up from the east.)

Getting back to good ol’ “nigger,” the latest example of what I started out talking about is a woman of the lighter persuasion named Paula Deen, who, until recently, apparently was big on a TV food show of some sort.   For some reason she admitted to having said “nigger” in some context that she said was years ago, and for that she was promptly dropped from the show, and shortly afterward she was also disconnected from a couple of other lucrative enterprises as well, and the costs to her for her verbal indiscretion (or her revealing of it) seemed to keep climbing sharply.

   In response Bill Maher, another TV personality and well known for his acerbic attitude, which is often pointed in a good direction though sometimes not, came to her defense, asking plaintively – but quite rightly – why do people always have to “go away” when they use that word?    In other words, what’s happened to American freedom of speech?   And it’s just a word, isn’t it?  

But it wasn’t at all what Maher said that I found so interesting.  Nor was it the attitudes shown in the lengthy comment section that followed an Internet account of his involvement in this business, because there wasn’t anything novel about what those people spouted either.  They made the same sort of empty and not at all well-considered remarks that you hear or read after any such article or whatever on a racial subject, especially when use of the word “nigger” is the subject.  No, the interest arose from noting how, after all these years (I am now 82), nothing is changed in a great many Europeno (aka “white”) reactions.

Can it be that in the matter of those humans, that, in spite of everything, they have been raised to consider inferior to themselves, large numbers of Europenos are forever incapable of learning anything or giving any sort of constructive thought to it, generation after generation?  Instead, if the subject is racism in any context, they just grab the nearest empty cliche that comes to their minds and hang on to it for dear life, before going on and with great relief to another topic.

A few hardier souls among them, however, are not as quick to drop the subject, and their main thing is pretending to be incensed that the people that they call “blacks” (but which I call by the much more pleasant and apt term “rainbows” because they exist in all the hues of the human spectrum in a glorious display of inclusiveness, whereas the only thing that sets gay people off from the rest of humankind is their strong gender exclusivity, and I see nothing about that that merits their waving of prismatic flags) are allowed to call each other “niggers,” and even in an admiring way, while Europenos, though they’re the dominant group, strictly are not, in any manner.  These dominants consider it the worst kind of outrage and outright racial discrimination imaginable, that they, though superior to all others in all situations except basketball games, should be forbidden anything, and especially – especially! – something that those lowest of the low, “blacks,” are allowed to indulge in liberally.

  This indignation reaches such a bitter and ridiculous fever pitch that some even demand that if “whites” cannot be allowed to use the “n-word,” then “blacks” should never be permitted to use it either, simply because that kind of usage is blatantly discriminatory against “whites,” and also because “nigger” is such a godawfully terrible epithet, and it is time, they argue, that “blacks” smarten up enough to realize that fact and to recognize that every time they hear it used, they should feel inspired to hit, kick, and even kill.  

This is exactly where, in my expert and long-considered opinion, nearly everyone, of all pigmentations, completely misses the Big Point that should be involved with any use of the word “nigger” – a point so large that it is an enormous failure of collective eyesights to keep overlooking it so completely.   This point is not at all the horror of the word “nigger.”   Instead it is the idea that no effort should be spared to de-fang the word instead, to strip it as completely as possible of all its vitriol, the same as had long ago already happened with  “black.”  To me personally, on a scale of 1 to 10, achieving this would have merited a resounding 10, whereas being admitted to a fancy restaurant would have had trouble rating even as high as a 2.

So little is known of even the latest chapters of “black” history that few if any will believe me when I say that as recently as my younger days, from 1931 up to about 1965,  to the descendants of the slaves brought over from Africa “black” was a pejorative word and just as lethal to us as “nigger” (coming out of the wrong mouths), so much so that even today I am highly uncomfortable with being called “black” by anyone or on hearing people like me being referred to as “blacks,” as the most notorious member of the Supreme Court conspicuously did just the other day.

   But at the same time that Reverend King and his allies were doing all their good work in bringing about a number of civil rights, competitors of theirs in much the same cause, the “black militants,” accomplished a language miracle, by pushing the (at times overblown) concept of “black pride” so hard that in just a few years, some time in the mid 1960’s, the word “black” completely lost its sting and instead gained a usage status wherein today it is considered to be an always harmless if not always laudatory term – as short-fallen as I still see that idea as being.   And I’ve never seen any reason why it was that the “black” militants like Stokeley Carmichael, Huey Newton, H. Rap Brown, and the others were not able to do the same thing and more with “nigger” and why people of all kinds cannot unite in doing so today.

Correction.   Of course, I do see exactly why that is so hard to accomplish, and every time somebody – almost always a Europeno -- “slips” and uses the word “nigger” in any spirit at all, it is all too easy to see the cavalry and the infantry being instantly drawn up to make sure that  that term never loses one particle of its punch and poison, and to see that any attempts to sanitize it are stamped out without delay .  And you will see all that false fire and fury being raised hardly at all by rainbows but instead almost solely by members of the pale-visaged brethren.   It is all in the cause of “white” racism, unconscious or not.

Here we should always remind ourselves of two interesting things in this matter.   One is that there is no word denoting “white” people that is anywhere near as virulent as “nigger” is supposed (and hoped) to be, and Majority America couldn’t be happier with that circumstance – while disregarding the all too obvious fact that this suggests only that the “white” capacity for extreme hatred far outstrips “black” abilities in the same direction.   My question is, how can the dominants be happy with that?

 Another key aspect of all this is that usage of the word “nigger” by rainbows is part of their never-ending struggle against their much stronger and more numerous opponents, dating from slavery days, when, lacking any other means of defense and retaliation, those chained imports from Africa hit on ways to express themselves that would not be easily comprehensible to  their oppressors.   That was not hard to do, because, like the millions of George Zimmermans today, by their very nature,those oppressors were not the brightest bulbs in the world.  One way to do this was to stand language on its head and to give words meanings that were exactly opposite to how they were commonly understood

In my earliest days the most obvious instance of this was to say that something was “bad” when all the listeners of your color instantly understood that you were saying that the thing was actually “good,” and even more often it meant “great” and “fabulous.”   There were other such inversions of usage, but that is the one that pops quickest to my now ancient mind.

This standing language on its head is exactly the reason why, when applied by one rainbow to another, “nigger” can be an expression of great approval and friendship, instead of being a curse word.  It also serves the  purpose of reducing to a state of near apoplexy those who want to see that epithet having quite another effect, and this is why it is actually so laughable when someone in a comment section demands that rainbows stop using the word “nigger” altogether.   That critic has no claim to the word, especially if the bulk of his ancestors came from north of the Mediterranean.  He doesn’t own that word in any sense, because an epithet, once used, like a bullet from a gun, belongs ever afterward exclusively to the target of the fusillade, instead of to the shooter. 

This turning of things on their heads is not peculiar to rainbows, and you have to suspect the motives of those who are so outraged at any use of the word “nigger” when you have such an experience as I did, in coming from a largely rainbow world to the newly integrated Air Force in the early 1950’s, when I quickly noticed that guys of Italian descent were quite fond of referring to themselves as “dagoes.”  Before then I had been given the idea that calling somebody a “dago” was highly offensive, and I had no trouble sensing that those men didn’t accept anyone of a different ethnicity using that term in a playful or any other sense.

I didn’t run into enough Latinos or Jews to know whether they felt the same about terms like “spics” and “hebes,” but I suspect that they did, just as, if movies hold any truth, Irish guys, among each other, are not above calling themselves “micks.”  Yet, unlike the frequent cases of “the n-word,” you seldom if ever hear similar bursts of outrage on behalf of the “offended groups going up all over the media, with widespread suggestions instead of substitutes like “the d-word,”  “the s-word, “the h-word,” or “the m-word.” 

Funny, that – though not actually.  I suppose that we rainbows are supposed to feel gratified by such displays of indignation that appear to be on our behalf but actually amount to being quite the opposite.