Monday, February 19, 2018

traffic warning improvements

Passed along in email was this wonderful adventure in safety and optical illusion.

Where else but in Iceland?

photo exhibit

After a nine-month battle, Islamic State was finally expelled from Mosul, leaving devastation and residents physically and psychologically scarred by the war. Abbie Trayler-Smith’s new exhibition records the devastating effects of life under Isis control in northern Iraq and the bewildering aftermath of conflict. After Darkness is at Anima-Mundi, St Ives, until 27 March.

Even if it is one of those photographer-contrived photos, still, I like it.
Sara, age 24, arrives at Hasan Sham camp for displaced people after being taken by bus straight from the battle

presidential sex life

With all the political chaff in the wind these days, it's hard to sort out or 'prioritize' presidential sexual peccadilloes, but as observations/background material, I enjoyed this today:
Robert Dallek, a biographer of Lyndon Johnson, has written that “when people mentioned Kennedy’s many affairs, Johnson would bang the table and declare that he had more women by accident than Kennedy ever had on purpose.”

Sunday, February 18, 2018

100 pounds of sleep, please

As if shyly, the birds can be seen trickling back and skittering between the houses up the street. They are notable against a backdrop of two to three inches of snow that fell last night. Their ritual chirruping has not yet begun to fully announce the possibility of yet another spring, but their presence is visible and thus promising.

Yesterday I misplaced the reading glasses that would have allowed me a soporific as I lolled before sleep, but even without them, sleep arrived in the darkness that was the only alternative without reading material.

I wonder what the salesman might say if I announced from my side of the counter, "I'd like 100 pounds of sleep, please." Would he be flummoxed or would he be used to old people and their peculiar requests? Perhaps I'll try it out, but more likely not: There is something within that rebels at being classed among the elderly and peculiar. From where I sit, I am not peculiar and hence decline to be classed by some ignorant second opinion.

There are enough leftover books on the porch shelves and I read leftovers these days -- books mostly forgotten and so worthy of a reprise. Sometimes they are too familiar, but hey, they still hum like some lulling housemaid vacuuming the living room rug ... just a murmured hum that remembers something and yet the precise what of what is remembered is forgotten.

Enough books to hum me to sleep.

"we love war" photo

Bigger than the elephant in the living room ... a photo I liked:
A demonstrator carries a poster reading: 'We Love War' as they protest against the Security Conference, MSC, in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. dpa via AP Sebastian Gabriel

Read more here:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

the imaginings of radio times

At the time (late 1940's?) when the Grolands got the first television set in our neighborhood, I was used to listening to radio dramas. Radio dramas included "The Lone Ranger" and "The Shadow" and "The Green Hornet," most during the early evening hours when a kid like me might be expected to stay up. Action stories, tough guys and not a lot of meat on the bone.

But later at night, after I was supposed to be asleep, I would turn the radio on very low and listen to serious drama written by serious writers like Roald Dahl. Some were scary (the man who was about to be embalmed even though he was still alive -- if paralyzed -- after an auto accident) and some simply keep you wide-awake (as the man who took up a bet that he could light a lighter 10 times consecutively or, if he failed, have pinky finger cut off; winning meant he would have access to the beautiful wife of the man who posed the bet). As anyone can tell you, listening to scary stories in the dark is scarier still.

Radio was all listening. The listener filled in the colors and shapes and movements of the voices that etched the stories. That imaginative participation was crucial to radio ... and delicious.

When the Grolands got their TV and I was invited over to see "Howdy Doody," I recognized immediately how limiting a visual medium could be. Howdy Doody was assinine. I didn't even wait for the show to end before I manufactured an excuse to go home. If I wanted to see a movie-like story, the Saturday afternoon matinee was good enough for me, even if I did wish I would watch movies in my own house and not just in a movie theater.

Adding a visual component was a wonderful addition, but it also truncated the vast opportunities provided by a radio tale and its imagination-compadre. Dress, looks, scowls ... all that and more leapt off an infinite palate when whispered late at night on the radio. On the screen, you only had one choice... and of course the first TV's provided only black and white tableaux.

To fill in with imagination -- it was as natural as apple pie, until it wasn't. And at that point, I think, imaginations began to wither on the vine.

Death by dessication.

Or maybe not for others.

cleaning up the U.S. mess?

NEW DELHI (AP) -- India and Iran said Saturday that they would step up cooperation in combatting extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan in an effort to restore peace and stability to the war-wracked country.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the two countries would also make efforts to improve energy security and regional connectivity to reach landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia by developing Iran's Chabahar Port and road and rail routes.
It used to be that the United States acted as intermediary in cleaning up other people's messes. Now that role seems to have fallen to others who may help clean up America's mess.

dog-shit-powered street lamps

In keeping with my dwindling sense of perspective, reports today say that there was a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Mexico and that the U.S. has charged Russia with interfering in the American electoral process in 2016, and a variety of other stories oozing with journalistic importance. But the tale that grabs my attention is the one about a dog-shit-powered street lamp.

Who knows if it's true but even if it's not, still, somehow, it would be nice if it were. On the truth-likelihood side, it does seem to be British in origin and the Brits are by culture quirky enough to suggest it may be true. Further, those like Donald Trump who wallow in purveying "fake news" are not generally imaginative enough to come up with a story like this, however cockeyed the science may or may not be.

So, for a few moments, I am convinced and delighted with a possibility that might ease a lot of lives. A positive note in a negatively-charged world.

Friday, February 16, 2018

keep your word

When it comes to bedrock crabbiness -- that aspect about which I believe everyone has one or more examples -- one of mine is this:

Keep your word. If you give your word (your promise), then keep your word...

OR admit with full-frontal responsibility that you did not keep it.

It's as close as anyone can come to a clean getaway.

My pissed-off-as-a-wet-cat syndrome comes calling again and again when I run into or hear about some dipwad who, as a means of thinking well of him- or her-self, promises to do something and then neither does it nor admits to having failed to do it.

You'd think I might get over this.

I haven't.

It's still like fingernails on a blackboard.

No doubt I too have failed ....

I DON'T CARE: it still pisses me off.

another school shooting

Perhaps if, every time a child or teacher or other school worker were shot to death, a lottery-picked member of the U.S. Congress or executive branch were summarily executed, there would be more action on school shootings. Maybe not, but maybe so.

Seventeen people were shot to death by the latest gun-toting loon in Florida Wednesday. Others were wounded.

Everyone cares, but the fact is, no one gives a shit.

So, shoot a politician or political professional....

And revise the American outlook: America executes its children and those who look after them. Political cowardice is well-documented, so let's stop pretending ... we kill kids because politicians need money to get re-elected. It is easier to digest once the word is spoken aloud ... just once ... cowardice.

Who might carry out such executions -- they ought to come as a surprise, don't you think? -- is pretty much a no-brainer: The U.S. has JSOC and if they're too busy, Israel's Mossad seems to have the requisite sang froid.

If anyone uses the word "barbaric" to describe such a solution, how then would they describe the American penchant for executing those attending schools?

at the pharmacy :)

Passed along in email:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

something to (dis)believe

Perhaps the inability to swallow and believe one thing or another is, in itself, a fulfillment of the bone-deep desire to believe something.

How tired I am of the weeping public official I simply do not believe. How tired I am of suspecting that the picture of a doe-eyed, wide-eyed child staring out of some shattered window or door is just a result of a photographer's setting it all up. These are but two of my veils of latter-day skepticism. How I would like to look at a picture or read a story and slump back into credulity: Yes, I believe this because I can imagine feeling the same.

But increasingly, I don't.

And increasingly, I dearly wish I could be bowled over or quietly drowned ... and believe. I too would like to rest and relax in a social matrix of agreement and sorrow or joy. But instead, I am nagged and dressed in doubt. This morning, it makes me growl.

Is it sensible and realistic and all those other kool words? Sure. But I'd like to be as irresponsible as the next person and I chafe at the enforced donning of some responsibility serape. And I'm sick of all the one-stop-shopping, TED-talking mutts who are convinced they can improve and have found the wisdom that will confer comfort and clarity at a single blow: Go peddle your wares someplace else! "How lucky you are!" And by implication, "How lucky and wise I am!" Go fuck yourself.

Yes, even if I'm wrong, I'd like to believe and bask. And it ain't working. Maybe that's why music seems to come closest: Its potential for visceral love that bypasses the senses of sight and speaking ... well, that can warm this chilly corner.

Just muttering in my beer. Just circling what may be Voltaire's fire hydrant, looking for a place to take a piss: "If God did not exist, we would have to invent him." Without belief is, of itself, too often just another belief to be skeptical of.

In a book on astrology I once saw, Gautama the Buddha was labeled briefly as "an empty hammock between two trees." I, on the other hand was, "an Easter Parade." Go figure.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


This morning I have a case of what might be called squishy-mind, a realm in which everything seeks out respite and devolves -- everything, from A to Z -- into lullabies.

Yes, I am interested in passing that Israeli police have suggested that Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted for bribery (and wondering why someone might not do the same for Donald Trump.) And yes, I am interested in passing that Kuwait has offered $2 billion +/- to help rebuild Iraq and Saudi Arabia has pledged $1.5 billion ... and Turkey ponied up $5 billion ... all in the face of America's mess and all falling short of the $88 billion Iraq says it needs ... these are important matters, but I am in squishy mode ... unable to process and digest what is important and resorting to...

Lullabies. If everything is perfect and soft and smoother than a still pond, lullabies seem to speak most volubly, though, of course, speaking is redundant.

I don't want to think. I want to loll ... or perhaps "demand to loll" is better.

Lullabies like this one perhaps....

News has too much information for me today. Too much and strangely, not enough.

Lullabies have enough.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

just a descriptive

... Donald Trump, a man of all volume and no music ....

Monday, February 12, 2018

herbicides for all ... that's an order

Monsanto and its herbicide-prone kin are on the move... with a little help from Uncle Sam:
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of soybean and cotton farmers across the country are taking free but mandatory training in how to properly use a weed killer blamed for drifting and damaging crops in neighboring fields.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required the training and other restrictions last fall in a deal with three major agribusiness companies — Monsanto, BASF and DuPont. All three make special formulations of dicamba for use on new soybean and cotton varieties that are genetically engineered to resist the herbicide, using seed technology commercialized by Monsanto. The products are increasingly popular because they give farmers a new weapon against aggressive weeds such as pigweed that have become resistant to other herbicides such as glyphosate, also known as Roundup.

Trump diatribe

Trump diatribe passed along in email... a flavor of times when the likes of the Associated Press routinely makes room on its news budget for a compendium of false news, much of it uttered or incited by the president of the United States.

"Wisdom is redundant" ?

I'm not sure if it's true or redundant or just hot air: "Half of life is just a matter of getting over yourself. The other half is a crap shoot."


"Wisdom is redundant."

and you thought Trump was a one-off

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's attorney general has asked police to delay issuing their recommendations into two corruption allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until the Supreme Court hears a petition against them.
Police were scheduled to present their long-awaited findings this week. But officials say Avichai Mandelblit wants the court to first rule on the petition of a right-wing lawyer who is seeking a gag order on details of the investigation.
One probe reportedly concerns allegations Netanyahu improperly received lavish gifts from Hollywood and business figures.
Another is over secret talks with the publisher of a major Israeli newspaper in which Netanyahu allegedly requested positive coverage in exchange for reining in a free pro-Netanyahu daily.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing and has dismissed the accusations as a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media.

does banning it change it?

‘Hurtful language that has oppressed the people for over 200 years’ … Brock Peters and Gregory Peck in the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photograph: Allstar
When everything is nice, how nice could anything actually be? When art does not rattle one kind of dishes or another, is it any longer art? When banning "nigger" becomes the rule, does that free the "nigger" on a thousand street corners?
A school district in Minnesota has pulled To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its curriculum, arguing that the classic novels’ use of racial slurs risked students being “humiliated or marginalised”.
The Duluth school district will keep the titles in its libraries, but from the next school year, they will be replaced on the curriculum for ninth and 11th-grade English classes, according to local newspaper the Bemidji Pioneer....
The Duluth move was supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People....
[T]he move was strongly criticised by the National Coalition Against Censorship....
Sometimes the niceness of nice people can drive you nuts, not least because, in the end, its kindness is cruel and unrealistic (you should pardon the expression), in spades.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

walking barefoot in the snow

Walking barefoot in the snow
At the monastery long ago,
I imagined and nudged some 'samurai' spirit
But never slipped and fell....

Though lo and behold,
I certainly lost my footing
And left the monastery,
So much the wiser for it.

wrong day of the week

Mostly, I tend to ignore it or stick my head in the sand when it comes to proofs-positive that I am old: Can't see as well? OK. Can't hear as well? OK. Can't do chores as well? OK. Can't breathe as well? OK.

But every now and then, old age can get infuriating. Eg. Today, as has happened in the head-in-the-sand past, I thought it was Monday instead of Sunday. I goofed. But today, there was something really irritating about it.

In the long ago, knowing the day of the week was a 'given,' a piece of information that simply came with the moment. No doubt it had to do with the work week and its framing devices.

There is no real need to know what day of the week it is, but today I felt like getting it right ... and I didn't. The proof was in the fact that the garbage bins were not out in front of my neighbors' houses. Monday is trash day. There was that and also there was the small pill dispenser handing out the wrong day's collection. Then the computer confirmed my sense of having goofed. The computer is good for something, assuming I'm willing to believe it, which I am when it comes to days of the week.

Well shiiieeeeet!

I'm over my hissy fit now, but for a while there, I was pretty pissed.

mud festival in Brazil

Teenagers playing with mud started the Bloco da Lama in 1986 and it has since become an annual event in the city of Paraty. Hundreds of people wrestle, coat each other in mud and throw it around to the sound of samba and reggaeton at a [Brazilian] carnival beach party. Clothes are optional, but mud is not.

Ives returns to the U.S.

Sounding as squished and groggy as a worm run over on the turnpike, my younger son, Ives, informed me today that he was back in the U.S. (Texas) after his yearlong National Guard tour in southern Sinai. A 9,000-plus-mile flight et voilà.

It is uncertain when he will be home, but at least he's back and this old fart is happy for it.

mining for bitcoin in Iceland

Something to create nothing? Or, not exactly nothing, since a lot of store is put in what human beings are willing to believe.
KEFLAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Iceland is expected to use more energy mining bitcoins and other virtual currencies this year than it uses to power its homes.
With massive amounts of electricity needed to run the computers that create the precious bitcoins, large virtual currency mining companies have established a base in Iceland, a chilly North Atlantic island blessed with an abundance of renewable energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants....
The energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing virtual currencies....
“We are spending tens or maybe hundreds of megawatts on producing something that has no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation,” he said. “That can’t be good.”
It is hard not so speculate that in the world of nuclear fear-mongering indulged by the United States (oh those wicked North Koreans!), targeting Iceland might be a more fearsome target than, say, Cleveland or Seattle.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

not old enough to vote? become governor

Teenage candidates for the Kansas governor race spoke at a forum in Lawrence in October. From left, Ethan Randleas, 17; Alexander Cline, 17, a candidate for lieutenant governor; Jack Bergeson, 16; Tyler Ruzich, 17; and Dominic Scavuzzo, 17. Credit Christopher Smith/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
If Donald Trump can be taken seriously as the president of the United States, I see no reason why a teenager running for the post should not become the governor of Kansas. Never mind that he's not old enough to vote.
In a state where the youth voting rate is even worse than the dismal national average, more than half a dozen Kansas teens are running for statewide office in 2018 — a sort of viral movement against apathy that could, in theory, make a high school student governor.
Naturally, adults are trying to stop it.
Based on responses some youthful candidates gave to mainstream media, the young people sound straightforward. Whether they lack depth is hardly a question that needs asking in an era when prevarication seems to pass for historical perspective.

Pentagon gets a budget W

If there were any longer any doubt about it, the latest spending bonanza out of Washington does some wonderful things for the Pentagon, America's war-making arm:
WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s the biggest budget the Pentagon has ever seen: $700 billion. That’s far more in defense spending than America’s two nearest competitors, China and Russia, and will mean the military can foot the bill for thousands more troops, more training, more ships and a lot else.
And next year it would rise to $716 billion. Together, the two-year deal provides what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says is needed to pull the military out of a slump in combat readiness at a time of renewed focus on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan and the threat of war on the Korean peninsula.
Peace is hard. War is easy. And the American taxpayer, me included, makes it all possible. I wonder if it would be possible to add a cabinet post status to a Department of Spines.

Friday, February 9, 2018

sumo world seeks to right itself

The Mongolian sumo grand champion Harumafuji
While daily doses of whisper, allegation and insinuation send American entertainers, politicians, and sports figures to one distant slag heap or another, sumo wrestling in Japan is suffering a different and perhaps more decorous bit of fallout.

A grand master (yokozuna), among other sumo members, "is expected to display exemplary behaviours at all times" and one such grand master, Harumafuji, crossed the line when he beat the crap out of a junior wrestler. A three-month-old Guardian article noted:
The incident comes just as sumo was beginning to rebuild its reputation following a string of scandals and criticism that the sport’s authorities had failed to address a culture of violence outside the ring.
There are a variety of other malfeasance incidents (eg. driving a car without a license) riveting the Japanese public, which seems to attribute to the world of sumo a dignity and purity worthy of ... what? ... Arthurian knights? Clearly this is not the slobolicious and lucrative World Wrestling Entertainment institution.

The latest bit of grist for the sumo mill (which strikes me as more interesting than Donald Trumps' minions):
Every one of Japan’s sumo wrestlers is to face questioning by outside investigators after a series of incidents tipped the sport into crisis.
The Japan Sumo Association has setup an external panel to question 900 members, including wrestlers and elders of the sport. Former members will also be invited to submit details of old incidents that may have gone unreported.
In Washington, we've got the chisel-faced Robert Mueller hovering over Trump's insanities and perhaps lies. I wonder if Japan has a counterpart or would that be too gauche in a world so raffiné.

GOP deficit spending

Was it only a couple of months ago that Republicans were pissing and moaning about the deficit spending that Democrats were so prone to? And now, artfully hidden in a story that relies on a government shutdown, there's this:
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday signed a $400 billion budget deal that sharply boosts spending and swells the federal deficit, ending a brief federal government shutdown that happened while most Americans were sleeping and most government offices were closed, anyway.
The House and Senate approved a bill to keep the government funded through March 23, overcoming opposition from liberal Democrats as well as tea party conservatives to endorse enormous spending increases despite looming trillion-dollar deficits. [emphasis added] The House voted 240-186 to approve the bill just before dawn Eastern time, hours after the Senate had approved the measure on a 71-28 vote.
And, as well...
“With this deal, we will experience trillion-dollar deficits permanently,” said Andy Roth, vice president of the conservative Club for Growth. “That sort of behavior, the last time I checked, is not in the Republican platform.”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"nuclear chicken" column

The following column -- lopped and chopped -- appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette yesterday (Feb. 7; Viewpoints Section)

Tuesday, February 06, 2018
The erroneous back-to-back warnings that a nuclear attack was imminent — first in Hawaii on Jan. 13 and then Jan. 16 in Japan — may have sent an understandable shiver down a lot of spines.

But the first thing I thought of was American comedian Will Rogers and his observation that “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Rogers’ smile-inducing quip is not meant to minimize or trivialize the seriousness of the potential catastrophe, but it is to suggest that many of us have been there and done that. Government has long nourished its capacity to frighten its citizenry and thereby, perhaps, divert attention from the business of governing ... you know, the fractious stuff like jobs, health care, infrastructure or climate change.

Serious discussion of nuclear disasters goes begging with survival sloganeering like “duck and cover,” the touchstone of the 1950s and early 1960s.

But I am not interested so much in another knee-jerk liberal peace rant. What I am interested in is the answer to the question, “Yeah, but what happens after you duck and cover?” What brass ring is there for those who might possibly survive?

"During the 1950s, the nation took part in an annual defense drill called “Operation Alert.” During the first exercise, on June 14, 1954, the then-Federal Civil Defense Administration used a scenario of nuclear bombs hitting about 100 American cities. The drill involved everyone finding shelter while government officials and volunteers practiced what their duties would be during an actual attack."

I remember participating in one such defense drill in the late 1950s or early 1960s in New York City. While everyone headed for his or her designated shelter during the drill, I sat outside on the steps at Columbia University and considered what it might be like if a bomb actually did hit New York. If it decimated the skyscrapers that were everywhere, would the resulting rubble entomb those who had fled to safety in subway tunnels or other below-ground shelters? What other result was possible?

If anyone did survive and did manage to dig themselves out, what world might await them? Instant incineration, however frightening, struck me as a sane alternative. But no one seemed or seems to want to consider the fallout from the fallout ... no food, no water, no medicine, no help that could possibly help enough. Which is worse, dying or waiting in considerable pain to die?

John Hershey’s “Hiroshima,” which was published in 1946, makes it clear that those who survived the nuclear bomb dropped there in 1945 were doomed to a world of ravaged anguish. Some 146,000 died. Flesh slipped from bones; radiation’s fallout was gruesome — the consequences made it clear that a quick incineration might have been preferable. But no one mentions that stuff — the hell of the heaven of survival. Wishing to survive may be a natural human instinct, but that doesn’t mean survival is the best possible outcome.

Living as we do in a time when a self-absorbed president of the United States is willing to play nuclear “chicken” with North Korea and Iran while overlooking the potential nuclear provocations of, say, Israel or Pakistan, here is a modest suggestion to add to the latter-day version of survival braggadocio.

I herewith call on internet hackers around the world to pick a day in the future — perhaps next summer — on which to hack into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media. Block all references, direct or indirect, to Donald Trump. Just for one day. No reporting, no analysis, no speculation, no praise, no blame, no press releases: Anything mentioning or penned by Trump will be barred in the same way that utterances from Islamic State or skinheads or other deranged or irresponsible “geniuses” might be blocked.

C’mon — just for one day! Imagine what a relief it might be.

Yes, I can hear the yowls about First Amendment rights. But that doesn’t mean I can’t dream.

Adam Fisher is retired and lives in Northampton. He can be reached at


Last night, my wife went into the hospital and later was diagnosed with appendicitis, which, if my guess is correct, has been dealt with as of this morning. When I was growing up, appendicitis was something contracted by some, but not by others ... but all of them were kids like me.

Now a couple of older Americans (to be delicate about it) are confronted with a discombobulation accompanied by snow that needs to be shoveled. What do we do when both of us reach the fragile end of the stick? Well, maybe there will be a couple of teenagers looking to make a buck shoveling the snow in front of this house.

Well, it'll work out or it won't, but I concede I am resentful of my weakness and need to sit down when to-ing-and-fro-ing to the hospital or (assuming I can make it a reality) shoveling snow.