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Thursday
Feb142019

And what not, and everything like that

Consider the phrases,

1) and what not

2) and everything like that

3) and what have you

and

4) whatever it may be,

The next time I hear someone utter any one of these phrases I'm going to say something about it, I'm going to ask what they mean when they say and what not, or one of the other three phrases, and why they always wait until the end of whatever they're saying to say and everything like that, what such utterances mean to them in the context of what they've already said; and then I'm going to actually listen to what they have to say.

 

'Anti-what not' protective gear developed by author, and everything like that.

Sunday
Feb102019

The sound of tires

I woke up this morning to the news that there's a bird that's half male, half female. The bird, a cardinal, was reportedly seen in a backyard in Erie, Pennsylvania. Scientists say it may be a so-called gynandromorph, a creature with both male and female traits, a sexual split that's also been reported among reptiles, butterflies and crustaceans. 

Robert Ryman died. I always loved his paintings, every one of them them that I saw, and I don't know why I loved them, which may have been the point. I had the good fortunate to know a lovely Swedish woman, a doctor who chain-smoked cigarettes and was a serious collector of contemporary art, who said it was her goal to own a Ryman. We lost touch, as she lived in Sweden and I lived in California: I don't know if she ever acquired a Ryman, though I heard the other day that she'd died a few years ago. From that point on whenever I see a painting by Robert Ryman or even see his name, I think of her with the thought that maybe she had acquired a Ryman and it was the last thing she saw before she died.

I once enjoyed phone discussions with my friend MH about the last thing we'd see. Neither of us could come up with anything tangible, at least I can't remember anything tangible, but the thought kept us amused for a few minutes before we'd move on to other subjects. I think now that it was our way of talking about death, but in a kind of code that we developed to preserve death's mystery.

When living in France I learned a little about how to think French: the French think as much by thinking about what something is not as they do by thinking about what something is. It's a really neat trick which I've tried to actualize in my thinking ever since

I'm applying French thinking to the road trip I'm considering taking across the US: is the road trip more about the road (the places we'll go, the people we'll meet) or about the car itself? At the moment I'm thinking it's more about the car--the steering wheel, the front windshield, the rear-view mirrors, the gas gauge--than it is about the countryside; that the car itself is the environment. And the sound of the tires, the sound tires make on asphalt at 65mph, is also a real consideration. 

Ibuprofen pills rolling across the kitchen counter, February 10, 2019. Photo by author.

Thursday
Feb072019

Trump: State of the Union: a guest blog by Thomas D. Raher

When I listen to and watch Trump, two physical reactions take place. First, I shake my head from side to side continuously. Second, I chuckle in rhythm with my head shaking. Why? Because I'm agog! My political consciousness goes back to the Kennedy murder. I'm old. So my head shaking has spanned many and varied presidents. And I've chuckled at the lies and hypocrisy of pretty near all of them. Although, in my opinion, Nixon and Little Bush have run neck and neck as the most absurd. But, at least, all of the previous "leaders" consistently, at one moment or another, were actually presidential. Until now!

Let me state, I'm not an educated man, but I've read a book or two, which I think qualifies me to be a bit critical in my observations. I'm certainly not critiquing the whole talk as if I was a PBS pundit, but a couple of issues touch me. Also Trump's style, his bullying, is of particular interest.

I thought his hour and a half sing-song address touched very little on the actual state of our union. His tired generalities, platitudes with no substance, and slogans were disingenuous to a fault. Why in God's  name did he feel the need to resurrect World War 2 veterans, and, what appeared to be, a very uncomfortable Holocaust survivor? From my back row seat, I thought this prolonged display, totally irrelevant and misguided. I actually felt sympathy for the old boys, having been so exploited. Of course they may have relished the attention, I don't know. But I do know there's no shame in Trump's game, and his self-praise is embarrassing.

I recently watched, again, a few early episodes of "Mad Men," a show reminding me of my dad during that period, and the inevitable demise and dysfunction of our family, but I digress. I was struck by the real similarities between Don Draper and Don Trump. I saw in the TV depiction of an era and its male dominated culture, exactly what Trump symbolizes. His whole agenda is an AD campaign, filled with unverifiable facts, lies, serious manipulations, jingoisms, slogans and fear. His goal of course is to sell a product the consumer, the voter, us, doesn't need.

THE WALL

His sales pitch for "The Wall" is simply astonishing, manipulating our fear. Our Fear! The Trump train continues thundering down the rails. The noise forces us to take notice even though we try to stifle it, to muffle it, to silence it, but it's inescapable. The bombast, the lies, the manipulations are relentless.

Once again I refer to a film, life imitating art or vice-versa, "The Taking of Pelham 123." The similarity to the Trump train is unmistakable. A psychopath and his gang hijack a subway train and chaos ensues. The crazed leader thrreatens to kill everyone on board unless the city pays a large ransom. Sound familiar? Thousands of government workers are held hostage, unless "The Don" receives ransom money for "The Wall!" The saga continues.

Frankly, I feel like a hostage. I've spent the last two years trying to avoid the Trump train. I haven't publicly expressed my sentiments because I'm from a generation that doesn't talk about politics or religion. I don't follow "The Don" on social media, which, by the way, is another presidential travesty, and I tune out news concerning his shenanigans. That said, these have been some of my thoughts, and now I retreat to the shadows.

 

Thomas Raher lives in San Francisco. His book, "Letters from a Working Stiff" (2013), a collection of letters spanning the years 1988 to 1995, is available from Lulu.

Tuesday
Feb052019

The Academy Awards

I watched the movie "The French Connection" the other night, thinking there should have been a wall between France and Africa, or wherever the heroin was coming into Marseille from. Was the heroin coming into Marseille from Africa or from somewhere else? The movie didn't make that clear, or if it did I missed it, I suppose the heroin might have been coming from Turkey or from Afghanistan; the movie did make clear that the heroin was coming into New York City from Marseille, that much was clear, so perhaps a wall might have been built somewhere in The Atlantic, just offshore the west coast of France or the east coast of the United States, to stop the heroin coming from Marseille to NYC and, as the movie intimated, and then being distributed up and down the east coast.

I'd forgotten what a fine movie "The French Connection" is, and how timely given the current opioid crisis in the USA and the wall now being proposed for this country's southern border. There are several scenes set in Washington D.C. where Fernando Rey, who plays the drug smuggler Alain Charnier, is pictured in front of the White House and the Washington Monument, which suffuses the movie in a poignant yet completely contemporary glow given the current situation. Rey's such a great actor, it's no wonder Luis Bunuel employed him in so many Bunuel films. I wondered while watching "The French Connection" how Bunuel might have made the movie had he directed it instead of William Friedkin: I'm guessing it might have been a touch more violent, even surrealistic.

"The French Connection" won the Academy Award for 'Best Picture' in 1971.

I don't know why I was so surprised to learn there's a sequel, "French Connection II" starring Gene Hackman who reprises his role as Detective Popeye Doyle, and Fernando Rey, but directed by John Frankenheimer, who incidentially directed the original "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), a movie that also has contemporary resonance and itself was remade, not as sequel but more straightforwardly as a remake in 2004, directed by the Jonathan Demme and starring Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber.

According to Wikipedia "French Connection II" has Hackman chasing Rey to Marseille, Rey having escaped capture in the original "French Connection." Not having seen the sequel I don't know how it turned out for either of them.

Tuesday
Jan292019

Report from Davos

First, news from the Congo:

Felix Tshisekedi, an opposition leader whose victory in presidential elections last month is widely considered to be illegitimate, took the oath of office on Thursday vowing to tackle the country's endemic corruption.

Then from the USA:

Bonnie Guitar, who had hit records as a country singer and guitarist, died on Jan.12 in Soap Lake, Washington. She was 95. In 1969 Ms. Guitar married Mario DePiano. The couple raised cattle and quarter horses together on an 80-acre ranch.

It's cold in Switzerland this time of year where there's public talk in Davos among Masters-of-the-Universe posing as corporate exec's that the upcoming 'inevitable' robotic workplace poses a real danger to their workers job security, and private glee among the same exec's about the possibilities of hiring robots instead of humans at a sub-minimum or, better yet, a zero-sum wage.

The race is on to be first to the new 5G network. South Korea is in the lead with China a close second, Japan and the USA are slightly, but only slightly, behind. China would like the contract to build the network in Germany (Europe), but the USA sees that possibility as a security threat as "grave as terrorism." Meantime the health risks posed by the building of 5G towers, which many believe will substantially increase exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields harmful to humans, animals, and the environment, are being studied.

A layman's working definition of economics in a time of climate change: the method of dealing with the consequences of a specific system--capitalism, communism, totalitarianism--not the system itself. 

Reading the cover story on Mitch McConnell in the Sunday New York Times (January 27, 2019) "Mitch McConnell Got Everything He Wanted", it's entirely plausible to read McConnell as a classic Southerner in the tradition of John C. Calhoun, a politician who espoused the values of liberty and freedom while enslaving blacks. In the 1830s, Calhoun's heyday, slavery came under attack not only from abolitionists but also, in Calhoun's view, from a federal government overstepping its bounds. Rather than enslaving blacks McConnell's enslaving the Left, which of course includes many people of color, and in the name of less federal government not more, the bedrock Republican principle of hypocritial duplicity.

Yesterday I threw the first draft of a novel into the trash. Today more trash has covered it so that it can't be seen and, as such, is irretrivable. However it took very little imagination for me to follow the trash bin to the landfill on Thursday when the Recology truck picks up our trash, and watch my novel tumble out of truck on to a trash heap there and then be completely buried by one of the giant earthmovers. Extinction can be so exhilarating some times, as long as you back it up on some sort of hard-drive.

 

Mosaic, section of wall, Herculaneum, 79AD, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy, 2016. Photo by author.