Wednesday, September 30, 2015

the elderly prostitutes of S. Korea

South Korea's hot and upscale economy has served a cold and bitter plate to many of its aging women and men.

The Confucian reverence for family loses its footing.

It is sad.

"Life is too short to learn German"

"Life is too short to learn German."

I had never been aware of the quote but appreciate its wit, which is used to set off a Reuters correspondent's feature about immigrants who need to -- but are not always constrained to -- learn German in Germany where the economy is fat.

Strange how handicapped Americans are when it comes to knowing foreign languages ... and consequently, without really being aware of it, how arrogant in their ignorance. I was fortunate to have gone to what was then called the Army Language School to learn -- ick -- German.

Tocqueville was right: America is defended by two oceans. He neglected, to the best of my recollection, to note that America was similarly hemmed in.

ad hominem leanings

Anyone who is seriously interested in a topic recognizes the mistake of an "ad hominem" argument.

"Ad hominem" (Latin: "to the man/person") arguments critique the person espousing a position and by extension dismisses the position involved. Briefly, an asshole making an argument is making an asshole argument. As Wikipedia puts it, ad hominem argument "means responding to arguments by attacking a person's character, rather than addressing the content of their arguments."

In serious discussion, ad hominem arguments are generally frowned upon as both fallacious and idiotic, however common. Deriding a (wo)man is hardly a reason to deride or dismiss the position that (wo)man advances.

In serious discussion, such a technique is frowned upon.

I wonder, in light of this approach, why it is that thinking highly of a (wo)man should not excite a similar displeasure when hearing his/her arguments. Whether the person involved is a sage or an idiot ... either way, ad hominem thinking can only infrequently be involved in assessing the issue at hand. And yet such skepticism is sometimes given a 'bye' when listening to someone who is admired or lauded.

If the Dalai Lama says so, well ... maybe I like the Dalai Lama. If Karl Rove makes an argument, well ... maybe I dislike Karl Rove. Is my skepticism and critical-thinking capacity bruised by my personal leanings? I imagine it well might be.

What then happens to the issue at hand?

eyecatching headstone

Passed along in email:


all middle and no side


Not "WH-ooosh" but "oooosh" -- that was the nature of the rain that fell in this morning's predawn darkness ... fat and strong and positively everywhere ... in every direction there was nothing but the middle of it. I guess that's the nature of everything, but it's hard not to fantasize that there is a beginning and end to things, that there is an accomplishment or an escape or an excuse somewhere out there.

Where do you go when there is nothing but the middle? Of course the "middle" means the edges, but what happens where that meaning is erased and everything is just, somehow, the middle ... the oooosh of the moment?

Through this guzzling, dolloping rain, Tracy arrived with the newspaper at 5:49. I stood in the porch doorway to greet and thank her and receive her delivery. She tossed newspapers on various stoops and stood in the middle without ever worrying about the "middle" or the "oooosh." Tracy is a plump woman in her late forties or early fifties ... delivering newspapers in an economy said to be on the upswing.

I admire Tracy and people like her -- the ones who actually break a sweat on behalf of those whose only sweat involves trying to cement a lifestyle in which they won't have to break a sweat. For every man or woman who sits down to a second latte of the morning, idly perusing an iPad or other bit of electronic "connectedness," there is someone who must literally break a sweat and does so unnoticed, even by themselves. Theirs is a middle like anyone else's but at the end of the day, they have actually accomplished something, as in delivering the newspaper.

It is too much to praise the 'working class' or some similar segment of social life. And yet, for me, to let the sweat-breakers go unnoticed isn't quite right either. Yes, the upstairs-downstairs dichotomy makes for yet another British recollection, but aside from that, I admire those who break a literal sweat so that, among other things, others may speak in dulcet and well-modulated tones. At least the sweat-breakers may have a loaf of bread to show for it.

That and, perhaps, something like honor.

Kim Davis "met with pope"

Passed along in email:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples says Pope Francis told her to stay strong when thetwo met briefly during his visit to the United States last week.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, didn't deny the encounter took place but said Wednesday in Rome he had no comment on it.
In an interview with ABC, Rowan County clerk Kim Davis says they hugged during the meeting last Thursday and the pope thanked her for her courage.
Davis, an Apostolic Christian, spent five days in jail earlier this month for defying a federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In the ABC interview, which aired Wednesday morning, Davis said knowing the pope agreed with her validates her efforts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kim Davis, the "modern fundamentalist"

Passed along in email was this Kim Davis send-up. Using Gilbert and Sullivan music and witty rhyming may be a stretch, but someone went to a lot of trouble.

And, for those who insist on using the word "namaste," here is an alternative approach.

trust you? why?

There is something both wonderful and reassuring to me in being reminded that there actually are people out there who know what they're talking about. This is especially true when the news outlets bury their constituencies in the skim-the-waves assertions of politicians and policy makers who never seem willing or able to plumb the depths. Instead there is the implicit "trust me, I'm oh-so sincere" mantram. It's like listening to teenagers.

Yesterday, in a small fit of pique, I wrote to a long-ago acquaintance in California who knew about bread. I was sick of paying premium prices for "artisan" loaves that, despite their hype, seemed to have no heft. How does one talk to a baker, I asked, in terms that will skirt the hype and get down to the meat and potatoes of a loaf that is dense and filling and consequential?

In return to my email query, I got a five- or six paragraph response that told me more than I wanted to know or was likely to remember. It wasn't the information that delighted me, especially, but rather the rediscovery of the fact that there always seems to be someone "out there" who knows the muzzle-to-butt-plate of any given topic.

These knowledgeable people -- you, me, anyone -- are almost always left by the side of the conversational road. They may be dying to share their information, but who asks? Snails, screws, bullet velocity, political motivations, how to mix paint ... pick a topic, any topic.

In a world drawn more and more into a 141-character appreciation of even the most complex topic, it is nice to think that someone is still capable of thinking. The information may go begging, but it is nice to think someone put some elbow grease into learning it.

losing track of 300 kilos of cocaine

I suppose it shows my lack of sophistication that the idea of screwing up the delivery of 300 kilograms (600-plus pounds) of cocaine seems ludicrous. Prices of cocaine seem to vary according to circumstances, but figuring $30,000 per kilo street value, that's a nine-million-dollar fuck-up. Governments may have their $400 toilet seats, but that's just the bureaucratic lobotomy in action: Who in the serious business world doesn't keep an eagle eye on $9 million?
BERLIN (AP) -- German authorities say 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of cocaine have been found hidden in a container loaded with engine parts that had been shipped from Brazil to the Belgian port of Antwerp....
The cocaine had been divided into 283 packets and packed into nine sports bags. Police say the shipment originated in Santos, Brazil and they suspect that whoever was behind it failed to retrieve the drugs in Antwerp before the container was put on a truck heading to Germany.

Monday, September 28, 2015

in the shadow, in the light

Beneath a blood red moon that was then eclipsed yesterday, the Roman Catholic pope, Francis, left the United States after a six-day visit. To one of his farewellers he was quoted as saying,

"Pray for me. Don't forget."

The words of a man of substance.

Perhaps the goal of any consequential spiritual endeavor is to unify what is already unified.

And the practice is to repeat and repeat and repeat until there are no more repetitions left.

In the shadow, in the light: One complete act.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

anything can happen

Each day, during my ritualized walk around the block with my "story stick," I stop a while by an open expanse of unused greensward. It belongs to the sewage treatment plant nearby, I think, and every now and again, someone mows it.

There is nothing really to see, but because there is nothing going on, anything can happen.

I have seen butterflies darting and sipping, birds flying to nearby trees to build their nests, an occasional long-necked water bird standing still as a stick among the longer pieces of grass, squirrels making a dash across the open space for the greater safety of the trees on the perimeter, and now and then a great riding mower, turning on a dime, cutting back what seems to have gotten out of hand.

But basically, there is nothing to see, but because nothing is going on, anything can happen.

eclipse in the offing

If skies are clear, the phenomenon will be visible from North and South America, Europe, Africa and parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific. In the United States, the eclipse begins at 8:11 p.m. EDT. The total eclipse starts two hours later and lasts for one hour and 12 minutes.

spiritual legacy ... pul-eeeze!

Woke this morning in what I think of as "legacy mode" -- sweeping together thoughts that will somehow sum up or codify the ways in which I have spent my life. Old farts do this, I suspect, and even if they don't, still I do. It's not very different from the pipe dreams of a teenaged male dreaming of getting into some cheerleader's pants, but it's a way to make the ferris wheel go around, the bright lights twinkle, the sights and sounds of the fair come alive ... or anyway, alive-ish. I suppose I could be accused of seeking "meaning" though I dislike getting caught with those pants down ... oh well, it's just another bare ass mooning the universe, which cannot be offended.

Much of my energy and attention has been directed at what could roughly called "spiritual," so my legacy mode runs off on that railroad spur. What importance, what lessons, what conclusions will I sweep together in this cheerleader wet dream?

Nobody who ever took up a spiritual practice did so because s/he was so damned happy. The tenor and tone of this observation may be too impish for those similarly inclined but I take it quite seriously. If it is true, as I think it is, the first thing anyone is likely to do is to take out after the needles and spokes of unhappiness. That makes some sense, of course: Investigation of the problem requires a lowering of this body and mind into a cauldron of sizzling confusion and habit and uncertainty: Let's put the bad stuff in its place; let's make the bad stuff good... something like that.

But notice ... notice in the midst of that often hard, hard work: If no one ever took up a spiritual practice because s/he was so damned happy and if the reaction to recognizing the piercing sorrows and grinding errors is focus, attention and hard, hard work ... well, what ever happened to that part of the observation that concedes without fear of contradiction that being so damned happy was a possibility? In the haste that addresses the attachments and habits that gloom the scene, what ever happened to the part where being so damned happy would throw the whole spiritual vortex into a cocked hat?

True, there is laziness that asserts happiness at the drop of a new car or a one-night stand, but isn't there also some true realm in which being so damned happy is a concrete, unfettered reality? How much of spiritual life is nothing more than papering this over with endless recognitions of what is so damned un-happy?

I think neglecting the happy part -- however much anyone might yowl and beg to be happy -- is a mistake. Sure there are glitches, but the bedrock is whole ... lousy stuff, good stuff ... poof!

The image that comes to mind for spiritual adventure is of a refrigerator in the kitchen that is plastered over with post-its on which wise reminders are noted in brief. More and more and more post-its until one day, it's just time to clean up ... take down the post-its and use the refrigerator.

No one can write about spiritual life ... or anyone can -- same difference. It's like writing about a "piano" and imagining it might somehow be a piano. But there's something to be said for learning to enjoy whatever foolishness is embraced.

Legacy, my ass ... but good ass or badass, it's the only ass I've got.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dalai Lama cuts U.S. tour short

Even as 78-year-old Pope Francis headed for Philadelphia in a winding-down of his six-day U.S. visit, the Dalai Lama, 80, abruptly cut short a tour in America for medical reasons yesterday.

Strange how the spot-lighted and popular heavy-hitters get old and advance towards memory, just like the rest of us. Both of these men have a background in a disciplined spiritual effort and yet radiate kindness: How's that for a lesson that cannot be learned simply by aping kindness?

some Mormons await apocalypse tomorrow

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A rare confluence of a lunar eclipse and a supermoon set to happen this weekend has prompted such widespread fear of an impending apocalypse that the Mormon Church was compelled to issue a statement cautioning the faithful to not get caught up in speculation about a major calamity.
Sunday night's "blood moon" and recent natural disasters and political unrest around the world have led to a rise in sales at emergency preparedness retailers. Apocalyptic statements by a Mormon author have only heightened fears among a small number of Mormon followers about the looming end of time. The eclipse will give the moon a red tint and make it look larger than usual. It won't happen again for 18 years.
It's unclear how many Latter-day Saints buy the theory, but Mormon leaders were worried enough that they took the rare step this week of issuing a public statement cautioning the faithful not to get carried away with visions of the apocalypse.

keeping your word

When I was growing up, there was some value placed on the notion that a man or woman might "keep his/her word." People who could keep their word were those who meant what they said or would do what they promised. These were people to have as allies or friends. They were credible. They had substance. They deserved to be praised as people who would "keep their word." They were not feather merchants or airheads or, more bluntly, assholes.

Without venom, these days I guess I am trying to retrain myself. It is nice to run into people who promise this or that. But better than believing that they will keep their word is the delight that can rise up when they actually do: "What a nice surprise." Don't rely on it, just enjoy it when it actually happens.

A surprise rather than an assumption fulfilled. Praise fogs the picture. Credulity is a step too far ... much as facile skepticism might be.

But then....

Nineteen-year-old Liam Lyburd was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of eight years for planning a massacre at Newcastle College in England that had 'disrespected' him.

Judge Paul Sloan QC commended the member of the public who alerted police to Lyburd's behaviour.
He told Lyburd that, if they had not, "it was only a matter of time before you would have put your plan into action".
"Your emotional coldness and detachment and your lack of empathy to others was self-evident," he said.
Given the cache of weaponry and social-media statements attributed to Lyburd, it seems clear that he was both angry and dangerous. But in point of fact he had not yet done anything. He gave his word ... but had not yet made good on it. Shall people be imprisoned for what they plan or imagine or fantasize about? It's a sticky wicket, but the question deserves to be asked ... just look at the imprisonment system at Guantanamo Bay where the 'might' and 'could' allegations are rife. If my thoughts or associations were the arbiter of my freedom, I hate to think of the dungeon I might be languishing in. The wood-chipper deaths of terrorists like Dick Cheney or Karl Rove is not outside my zone of imagination ... and probably keeps me in line: after all, I don't really want to keep my word.

Can anyone keep their word? How accurate or useful can words be in the end? If growing up is a matter of getting comfortable with the realm in which word lose their purchase, how useful is "keeping your word: or, put another way, "how damaging is not keeping it?"

Just blithering this morning.

Friday, September 25, 2015

the ahhhh of a papal visit

I really don't mind much if the pope is lying through his teeth. What I like is the fact that the news media -- which never met a feeding frenzy it didn't like -- have refocused the reporting of events, putting the Francis' message of kindness in the top tier of "big news." It is nice to think that people could be enthusiastic about their own potential for decency, even if they're not entirely sure how to demonstrate it. Something within seems to say "yes" to the pope on his six-day U.S. tour.

Instead of the self-serving inanities of the Republican presidential candidates, there is the pope talking about immigration and wealth disparities and, basically, selfishness. Instead of the cruelties of war and deprivation, there is a suggestion that another, more nourishing, possibility exists. And there are many, albeit in a feeding frenzy, perhaps, who are touched and moved and hoping and sick to death of their own 'realistic' assessments that rely on putting someone else down so that they might rise up.

Even if it is another eyewash fabulousness, still the reminder and the heart seem to be given room to breathe and dream and stretch.

Will it fade away? Of course. But at least there was a "once upon a time...."
 What good is a (wo)man who is an expert in the market place and yet finds no willingness to reflect?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

our patron saints

Joseph Goebbels, a saint among organization men.
As the Roman Catholic pope, Francis, pursues a triumphal six-day tour of the United States, there are bound to be skeptical voices raising up the old questions of priest sexual abuses of small children. The Vatican has expended millions of dollars and in some cases dioceses have gone bankrupt paying off those seeking redress for past horrors. The payoffs are basically a way of keeping the allegations out of court where the Vatican might be held up not just to ridicule but also to legal account.

Over time, I have been vastly outraged by the pain inflicted and the cover-ups employed by an institution seeking to maintain its good and powerful name. If it would not arouse such powerful blowback, I have a sense that the Vatican would not have been shy about canonizing Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister who made such fruitful use during World War II of the Big Lie. For those sympathizing with the once-children-now-adults whose souls were riven, the Vatican's minions and words were a travesty beyond naming.

I have been interested and outraged, not as someone directly affected, but as someone who dislikes the self-anointing bullshit employed at the expense of those without powerful recourse.

And yet today, listening to the radio news and hearing of the pope's plans and actions and the sidebar criticisms of Vatican inaction on behalf of those abused, a very small fact creeps in around the edges. It is not something I mention as a way of excusing or explaining or of seeking out some oleaginous, TED-talk "closure" on the matter. I just noticed....

That in my time of interest in this matter, what began as a description of "alleged victims" has turned now into a routine willingness to refer without restraint to the "victims." The news media, which lays claim to an impartiality and a search for a balanced truth, uses the word "victim" without a second glance. I am glad, but I am also interested. Joseph Goebbels did not win this round and, while it may be too early to say he lost, still it is a small step in the right direction.

As I say, this is my perception over a span of, say, 20 years. Just my perception. I really don't want to convince anyone or excite a more refined caterwauling. Use of the word "victim" is a well-deserved slap in the Vatican's cherubic and self-anointing face. It solves nothing, but it is a step. People got hurt ... that's people, not some theoretical group or philosophy. Lives got wrecked under a banner of goodness and virtue. No shit -- no joke.

Among the take-aways, from where I sit, is this: Entering into a world or effort the purports to seek out the good and virtuous and decent -- joining a religious group, donning an over-arching philosophy, lighting candles in support of "the least among us" -- does not issue a ticket of exemption: A group or effort that does good things is by its very nature an effort that is capable of and often exercises a wide-ranging capacity for evil.

This is no reason to avoid whatever effort is espoused. Every effort has the same capacity. But ... imagining your effort is somehow exempt is demeaning to whatever true goodness that effort advances. This is not a philosophical argument ... it is an ipso facto fact. Imagining some immunity because of "God" or "enlightenment" or "compassion" or "altruism" is the broadest form of self-deluding nonsense.

And so the important part is to enter into an effort not so much with skepticism as with acknowledgment and acceptance and a willingness to keep an eye on the very personal corruptions that are part and parcel of the realm. A forelock-tugging, toe-in-the-sand, show-off humility is not enough. There is no escape. At every turn, Saint Joseph Goebbels accompanies the footsteps.

Is there goodness? Sure. Sure as the acid rain that falls at the mention of "goodness."

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

Poisoned waters are water nonetheless.

Pure waters are poison nonetheless.

It's your halo...

Your noose.

Pay attention.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"kissed by a giraffe"

A Dutch charity makes terminal patients' last wishes come true.

RIP Yogi Berra

NEW YORK (AP) — The lovable legend of Yogi Berra, that ain't ever gonna be over.
The Hall of Fame catcher renowned as much for his dizzying malapropisms as his unmatched 10 World Series championships with the New York Yankees, died Tuesday. He was 90.
Berra, who filled baseball's record book as well as "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations," died of natural causes at his home in New Jersey, according to Dave Kaplan, the director of the Yogi Berra Museum....
His wife once asked Berra where he wanted to be buried, in St. Louis, New York or Montclair.
"I don't know," he said. "Why don't you surprise me?"

a new old car

A bureaucratic sandstorm comes up with the sun this morning. I no longer do well when facing the slings and arrows of bureaucracy, but I will give it a shot.

A while back, my younger son was in a car accident (no one hurt) that was minor except to the extent that today's automobiles are no longer built to sustain even minor injury without collapsing. The old Nissan looks as if it had been hit by an Oklahoma twister. Yesterday, after sifting and searching, a new old car was purchased. Naturally it took a bite out of my fixed-income lifestyle. $4,700 may not be much, but it's also a lot. My son will pay it back over time, but in the meantime ....

He picked up the new old car yesterday -- a snazzy Nissan Maxima that is over 10 years old with 105K but is clean as a whistle and I can remember coveting when I was in the car-owning realm. Woo-hoo -- it has a sun roof and seats that warm and support the ass. Pretty ritzy. Now it needs to be registered and insured and ... well, welcome to the bureaucracy. My son has college classes to get to today so I will do some of the bureaucratic lifting by going to the insurance company. I know they will want the money, so it shouldn't be too difficult, but still, I get lost in bureaucratic curves ... which, of course, is what bureaucracies count on. The prospect sandstorms my mind.

Somehow, at the moment, my mind is full even before the day has properly gotten off the ground.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

copyright in selfie lawsuit

This 2011 photo provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a selfie taken by a macaque monkey on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with a camera that was positioned by British nature photographer David Slater. The photo is part of a court exhibit in a lawsuit filed by PETA in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, which says that the monkey, and not Slater, should be declared the copyright owner of the photos. Slater has argued that, as the “intellect behind the photos,” he is the copyright owner since he set up the camera so that such a photo could be produced if a monkey approached it a pressed the button. (David Slater/Court exhibit provided by PETA via AP)

Monday, September 21, 2015

old drugs get brand new prices

Passed along in email was this New York Times story that details all the, uh, convincing reasons that, as the headline says,

Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight

Cameron denies being pig-fucker

Passed along in email today was this:
LONDON — “I did not have sexual relations with that pig.”
It’s not the sort of denial any world leader wants to make, and Prime Minister David Cameron has yet to respond to allegations that he once inserted his penis into the mouth of a dead pig.
The bizarre, and possibly illegal act, allegedly took place during the initiation for a debauched and secretive society at the University of Oxford. The lurid details are described in an extraordinary, unauthorized biography of the British prime minister written by the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.
It's just too good to ignore. How come the politicians in my country don't say juicy things like, "I did not have sexual relations with that pig?" Is it because they're not stupid enough or perhaps they consider the act too morally minor to be worth noting?

short-circuiting mass murders?

Lord, spare me the good-heartedness that camouflages so much!
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Can mass killings be predicted and prevented?
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., hopes its new online tool will do just that by making both sophisticated statistical analysis and feedback from experts publicly available for the first time. The goal is to produce early warnings that can help governments, policy makers, advocacy groups and scholars decide where to concentrate their efforts.
Such efforts may be "better than nothing," but the excuse wears thin when people like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are thrown into the mix. Israel's attention to the Palestinians might be part of the mix as well.

Oh well. I'm old ... and tired of being told that sincerity is a credible substitute for fact.

antidote for the insufferably happy

Passed along in email:

in the clutch

When I first arrived in what was then called the Army Language School in Monterey, Calif., in 1962, it seemed utterly impossible that I could really be fluent in a brand new language, in my case, German. Language is vast and I did not feel vast at all, despite whatever facility and interest I had had in learning languages in the past. My ignorance made the prospect of actually tucking German under my belt seem ridiculous and insurmountable: I knew a couple of German words and expressions, but otherwise had command of precisely squat. Six months later, it was a different matter.

This recollection crossed my mind this morning when I considered the poor bastard trying to learn English, which is a pisscutter of a language -- full of irregularities of pronunciation and meaning and confounding with a capital C. Looking back at my language school training, I do wish I had taken a "hard" language like Arabic or Chinese or even Russian. The school was first-class and it was a pity to have 'wasted' time on something as comparatively easy as German. But ... well, all that's so far in the past that the facility I once had is now almost entirely forgotten, literally. When I once mentioned this maw of forgetfulness to my friend Bill McKechnie, he was upbeat: "All you've got to do is revisit Germany, get drunk three times, and you'll remember all of it," he said.

This entire trickle of thought came up as I considered the phrase, "in the clutch," an old-time-expression used to designate times when the going got tough and a good friend might stand by you and see you through. Good friends were the ones whose allegiance was unwavering, even when the shit hit the fan. They were with you "in the clutch."

Now imagine not knowing English.

"Clutch" as a verb means to hold tight-tight-tighter.

But "clutch" as a noun refers to a position on the car's gear shift when the motor is not engaged. It is a rest period between first or second or third gears. A car can be running and yet it will not go anywhere if the clutch is depressed. For those who any longer know how to drive a stick-shift vehicle, use of the clutch (which allows you to go nowhere) is the prerequisite of going somewhere. So, in one sense, a "clutch" suggests rest and non-involvement -- the reverse of holding something tight-tight-tighter.

Friends who stick with you "in the clutch" are the ones willing to stand at your side in opposing winds.

But I wonder if it might not be a bit confusing ... seeking out friends who might stick with you when nothing special is afoot, when pro or con have not yet been engaged ... and if "in the clutch" might also designate a time of no difficulty... A friend who is at your side when days are hot, the beer is cold and the backyard hammock beckons... something like that.

None of this amounts to even a tempest in a teapot, but this morning I felt sort of sorry for anyone learning English ... or trying to decipher my own.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dick Cheney bulldozes the facts

Former vice-president Dick Cheney
It is impossible to research every corner of the neo-conservative's exceptionalist views of world events and the wrong-headed roles others are playing in those events. It's just too fucking exhausting ... which, I imagine, is part of what the neo-conservative constituency counts on: They can say what they like, they can make it sound sonorous and important, and no one has got the time or energy to call them to account.

And among the top-drawer neo-conservatives in this country, former vice-president Dick Cheney's is one of the visages chiseled on the Mountain of Exceptionalism. Neat, clean, tough, allegedly in the know ... someone is bound to listen and absorb and feel good to have an ally who will kick some White House black ass. Congressmen and other talking heads flock to banners like Dick Cheney's or Karl Rove's.

But then ... but then ... someone actually takes the time and expends the energy to dissect and lay out the particulars. The nuclear deal with Iran was a bad deal? Oh really?

In the Sept. 9 issue of The Atlantic, (passed along in email), author Peter Beinart pins down some of the particular lies and misconstructions that neo-conservative Dick Cheney can spew with such self-indulgent aplomb. I am grateful to Mr. Beinart even if I am fatigued to think that a public servant such as Mr. Cheney could be so transparently self-serving.

Dick Cheney wants to go to war and is willing to sacrifice the lives of others to prove his vision is true. This is not a man swayed by reason. He has a vision and his willingness to call that vision "patriotic" is beyond all reasonable comprehension. He's a man who sees no irony in labeling someone else as a "terrorist."

Oh well. Dick Cheney's safe. No one reads The Atlantic.

sacred realms

Elsewhere I was reading someone's appreciations of "sacred spaces" -- meaning, in that particular instance, altars, temples, gadgets and even places where remarkable events took place.

And maybe "sacred" really does have some usefulness.

But as I rolled the word around in my mind like a hard candy, I wondered without snarkiness at what point what was called "sacred" took on the designation. Seriously, wasn't there a time when this "sacred" item or place or time had not yet been anointed? At what precise point did it morph? Was it the less sacred before that point? If so, what does that imply? If not, what does that imply?

I guess I think the usefulness of sacred stuff is to be found in the fact that it invariably circles back on the one doing the designating. And if that's the case, the question becomes, "am I sacred?" If so, why? If not, why not?

The questions may seem frivolous and unduly self-important until you consider how many may put their money down on one bit of sacredness or another. Isn't that worth a second look?

Does the chocolate taste different?

high-profile invisibility

Scientists said on Thursday they have successfully tested an ultra-thin invisibility cloak made of microscopic rectangular gold blocks that, like skin, conform to the shape of an object and can render it undetectable with visible light. 
The researchers said while their experiments involved cloaking a miniscule object they believe the technology could be made to conceal larger objects, with military and other possible applications.
Strange to think what a wide swath of human longing expresses itself in the desire not to be so goddamned invisible. Veterans, the elderly, the poor, minorities, majorities, immigrants ... the list seems endless, each despairing from time to time that "no one sees me; no one cares."

And yet simultaneously there is wonder and awe and longing to be capable of invisibility ... and hence more noticeable?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

guns 'n' gravy

Japanese troops march into Mukden in 1931.
Welcome to Japan's militaristic past ... a proud and exceptionalist past that is deftly allowed to flourish just below the surface of the country's pacifist constitution. Far be it from a proud nation to relive and take responsibility for the 1931-1945 invasion and occupation of China ... the "rape of Nanking" is just a myth, right? Pacifism is for pussies. Depriving and despoiling and ruling others is a manly pursuit. A policy of guns 'n' gravy is much more in keeping with a proud constituency which is hardly limited to Japan.

Since Friday's vote in Japan, China is increasingly on edge (it too has agendas), but the Chinese critiques echo sentiment that has been steamrollered into submission in Japan itself:
China has said Japan is endangering peace in the region after it passed controversial laws expanding the role of its military abroad.
Japan should learn "profound lessons from history", China's defence ministry said after Japan's parliamentary vote.
The vote allows Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since the end of World War Two 70 years ago.... 
Critics have focused on what they say is ambiguity in how the principles of the legislation will be interpreted, and the possibility that future governments will interpret them more broadly.
Oh, it's all so complex...
Oh, it's all so caring...
Oh, it all carries with it the stink of "peace and stability"...
Oh, there's no getting around it:

Guns 'n' gravy: Maybe this time Japan can be on the winning side and, coincidentally gain access to some business-rich opportunities.

Welcome to the past.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rachel Maddow interviews Bernie Sanders

Two nights ago the news station CNN broadcast what was billed as a Republican "debate" on TV. The show generated a lot of advertising money for CNN but little by way of political substance. National and international issues were hardly mentioned. Here is Democrat Bernie Sanders being interviewed by Rachel Maddow. Politics aside, it is nice when a candidate addresses issues in a serious way.

better than love

Glenda Elliott
As in a mother's enfolding arms, so there are stories that take me into their edgeless assurances. They can purely wipe me out, erase me and hold me safe in ways I cannot speak, nor would I want to ... and yet here I am, speaking.

Perhaps it is a little like the young person who, after a newly-tested world of sexual adventure, suddenly realizes that there is being naked with another individual and yet beyond that is a nakedness far more profound and perfected and surrenderful. It is safe, but there is no safety in it because it is, indubitably, safe. Scary from the agenda point of view, but that doesn't change the safety ... the truth.

These are stories I would literally die for. It doesn't matter if they are "true." I would die for them. Literally.

This morning, such a tale came from the car radio as I drove home after dropping my wife at work. It began as what I imagined was going to be another you-think-you've-got-it-bad plaint from the LGBT community. I am sympathetic to those whose lives have been twisted and painful and niggerized. I might even listen to another TED talk on the topic. This morning, I wasn't much in the mood for virtuous posturing, but I was too lazy to change the station.

And a little at a time, this enfolding mother of a story took me away, erased me, loved me. It was a story I would die for ... because ... because ... because I long to be erased and enfolded. Politics and agenda do not play well where the mother's arms enfold and I am beyond naked. Endless heart-felt rants about marginalization and cruelty are warranted in many cases and yet, out there as well, there is a wider world.

The tale was recorded by Story Corps and it was the first-person story of a woman who grew up in the deep south before homosexuality was on the social radar as a positive possibility. Glenda Elliott just told the story of falling in love with another woman in the 1940's. She just told the story of an unrequited love. Here are her words and that story.

She did not whine or splice in anything extra. And what I heard was something incredibly beautiful and true. This was real and loving life and no descriptive could touch or manipulate it. This story invited me in and made me feel safe and welcome and unlied to. It opened me up like a kumquat. It did not matter to me if Glenda Elliott had learned to shade the truth ... there was the truth and I found it touching beyond touching, naked beyond naked and beautiful beyond beauty.

Glenda Elliott enfolded me and I was home ... willing to die no matter what the delusion. Home -- a place I guess others would find in other stories that don't touch and undress me ... God, what a simple matter exuberance and peace is! ... making things endlessly, indubitably safe.

Is there anything better than love?

Of course there is.

There is love.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

surfers, eat your hearts out!

An Australian photographer has captured a rare moment of animal communion with a shot of a seal surfing a humpback whale off the New South Wales coast....Ms Malcolm insisted that the photo was not doctored.
"I'm positive, because I don't know how to use Photoshop. And I do still have it on the camera so I can prove it," she told the newspaper.

cloud in a cloudless sky

I'm sure it means something to somebody....

I'm sure it's important....

I'm sure someone can make money and outflank competitors....

I'm sure that not knowing and understanding it leaves me at a distinct disadvantage....

I'm sure it's a sign that age is taking its toll....

But I haven't got a clue as to what "cloud computing" means.

More, there is some element within that doesn't want to know and backs away and is suspicious and wonders what cloud there might be if the electricity went off ... and wonders as well how reliance on whatever it is that "cloud computing" is contributes to the general world of the ignoramus: Yes, you may know what "cloud computing" is, but can you find your own ass with both hands?

There is good reason to wonder in this era if the ignoramus I am prone to assessing isn't actually the guy in the bathroom mirror.

Still, listen to Wikipedia:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources. Cloud computing and storage solutions provide users and enterprises with various capabilities to store and process their data in third-party data centers. It relies on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale, similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network. At the foundation of cloud computing is the broader concept of converged infrastructure and shared services.
And that's just the lead paragraph.

Honest to God, and without any particular criticism, I would rather be reading Urdu, a language in which I have precisely zero capacity. Who writes this stuff? Who imagines that it transmits much more than an inside-the-intellectual-beltway smugness? Who talks like that and do you really want to live next door to them? Have you ever noticed that people who really know what they're talking about are capable of transmitting their beloved bit or bits of information to even the least among mortals ... and that those who resort to gibberish have not yet really plumbed their field of expertise and basically are ego-tripping?

OK, OK, I admit it: I can't help but wonder how any of the rest of us survived and even advanced when there was no mechanical computer and hence no "cloud." Weren't we forced to be our own storage units, to connect the dots all by ourselves, to remember and build a storehouse of critical thinking that did not require an electrical outlet?

Not that such a mechanical storage unit is necessarily bad ... except to the extent that it entices and addicts and encourages individuals not to do their own computing: What the hell -- I can look it up. And yes you can ... but can you think and how does your reliance on a computer file box impact the rest of us? It may be argued that such an electronic storage unit is just an advanced library, but the same question applies to libraries: Books are not the answer, they merely inform the questions.

Yesterday, in the local Daily Hampshire Gazette (can't winkle out the exact link), there was a long puff piece about using Google applications in classrooms. There was a learning curve involved for the kids. Most took to computing like ducks to water, but there was one boy who said it wasn't so easy for him:

He said he does not tend to go on the computer at home unless it's a rainy day.
"Usually I'm outside playing with my friends," he said.
Becoming his own cloud, perhaps?

Obviously, learning about computers is a must-do these days. But relying on them has its limits and those limits deserve respect, I think. So what are the limits? I honestly don't know. I just know that an individual relying on someone else's cloud is cruisin' for a bruisin'... or anyway, the crabby old fart within thinks he knows.

What cloud is it that floats in a cloudless sky?

Can you cook or wash clothes or saw a board or braid a rope or scrub a floor or paint a wall or assess a blowhard like me ... or any number of other things which do not deserve exalted status but might come in handy when all the jibber-jabber improvements have had their say.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

no time like the present

Getting on for 4 a.m., there is a kind of double-dip silence to the day. The birds are not yet up, so it is clearly not "today" and yet whatever tailings remain from what came before have lost their swagger and assertion ... they are out of steam... it is no longer "yesterday" either.

It is all a little like an old man rolling over in his sleep ... needful but unremarked.

It reminds me a bit of the times when I would get up early in New York and walk the twenty blocks to the Zen center I attended. Someone's always awake and stirring in New York, so there were some trucks, some cabs and the traffic lights changing. There were also the last remnants of last night's drinking spree in the various bars I passed. Here and there, people might puke into the gutters or walk with a precision that let you know they were pretty drunk but wanted to pretend, as the new day whispered, that they were prepared and sober and competent even if they had spent a good deal of time and money trying to escape those very chains.

They were drunk and saucy and stupid and I knew precisely where they were because I had been there too. But I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, off to an adventure in something akin to discipline and virtue. There was something vaguely funny and yet informative in ways I couldn't get my head around ... there I was being 'good' and there they were being, if not 'bad' then anyway naughty or self-indulgent or paying the price for earlier pleasures.

And it all happened simultaneously ... and tons more like it, no doubt. Everything happening all at once, all at the same time. And putting a stamp of approval or disapprobation on it was like using a teaspoon to gather up the Atlantic Ocean. I was going to go and chant and meditate and they were going to do what they could to move seamlessly into a new day of responsibility ... a seamlessness that could not be avoided and yet they needed to look kool and competent in the process....

Much as I somehow wanted (but subtly and virtuously, dontcha know) to look kool and competent and Zen all over.

Looking back, I am struck as elsewhere by the focus I placed on Zen practice while Zen practice was all around me without ever raising a finger. Chanting, sitting, puking, looking kool .... I'm not trying to be sexy or 'inclusive' or 'wise' here ... I really mean it.

Oh well. Live and learn. Somehow it feels as if the double-dip silence of the morning darkness/morning light lends an ineffable hand, but I don't suppose emphasizing that will be of much use either. John Lennon wasn't wrong: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." But the fact is not improved by his observation.

Sept. newspaper column ... Pope Francis

Published today in the local Daily Hampshire Gazette:

Songs in the key of Pope Francis
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
(Published in print: Wednesday, September 16, 2015)

NORTHAMPTON — The pope’s arrival in the United States next Tuesday has revved up the Christian aspect of my 45-year interest in spiritual life. It has also put me in mind of a time when my half-sister snookered me into joining her church choir.

“But Reid,” I argued, “I’m not even a Christian.”

“That doesn’t matter,” she replied irrefutably. “Even non-Christians can sing. C’mon — it’s Christmas for heaven’s sake!”

I said I didn’t know the hymns, didn’t read music very well and my singing voice was far from sweet.

None of it worked. Reid had recently joined a small, struggling Episcopalian church in one of the well-heeled suburbs outside Boston. She wanted to support her church and I, as it turned out, was one of her means of lending a hand.

“Don’t worry,” she soothed. “No one will hear you anyway.”

In the end, the irony of singing songs I didn’t know in a faith I had my doubts about was enough to arouse a silly but sacred obligation of all adults — that of being a fool from time to time.

“OK,” I said. “I’ll do it.”

When the appointed Sunday arrived, it turned out she had shaded the truth a bit. The entire choir, dressed in obligatory little white smocks, consisted of precisely three people.
But by the time I found that out, it was too late to give her a piece of my mind. And if the audience did hear me, they were all polite enough not to mention it.

And I had a wonderful time, not least because I got a front-row seat as children from the congregation all brought their stuffed toys up to the altar to be blessed. The kids loved it because they loved their toys and I loved their loving their beloved friends.

But I digress. The pope is coming.

On the one hand, Francis is the CEO of the world’s largest and richest corporation. With a worldwide constituency of something like 1.2 billion adherents, even non-Christians would be wise to take heed of this cultural and political behemoth.

The Vatican is a player with a capital “P.” Its holdings in American financial institutions alone leave even Donald Trump in the shade.

On the other hand, despite the fact that there is no good thing so good that it is incapable of cruelty and corruption, it is pleasing when someone in the human spotlight can encourage what Abraham Lincoln referred to as “the better angels of our nature.”
Put bluntly, I like to think I can do some good, even if I can’t do it very well. Francis has managed to build a persona that seems to rely less on a sense of whip-cracking obligation and more on an overarching decency and kindness.

And he smiles: Even a non-Christian can smile.

The pope is coming.

If my father were alive, he would be sharpening his intellectual carving knife. His father had been a Presbyterian minister who insisted that my father memorize great hunks of the Bible, sometimes by candle light.

As is often the case in such circumstances, my father fell away from the faith with a vengeance. He became an English professor at Smith College, teaching Shakespeare and falling deeply in love with James Joyce, a writer who might arguably have been called a pope of the English language.

Like other popes before him, Joyce soared to heights that left “the least among us” gasping for air and simultaneously inflamed devotees with a soaring fervor. My father chose the religion of the intellect. Amen!

But he was not about to let his biblical savvy go to waste. Every now and then, he would go out for a beer at Rahar’s, a bar that no longer exists here in Northampton, and engage in theological fisticuffs with some local cleric who was likewise sipping beer.
There they sat, mano a mano, religion vs. religion, each trying his best to live up to the exceptionalism that is part and parcel of any heartfelt faith, each trying to answer the nagging of any religious persuasion: “If I’m so smart, how come I’m not happy?”
The arguments may have varied dramatically, but the beer was equally good.

The pope is coming and I guess I am willing to be a little bit foolish. The exceptionalism of humanists, atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and whoever all else may strike me as suspect, but a song, a smile, a beer and a beloved stuffed animal can call me out.

Am I right? Probably not, but I am more willing nowadays to meet my sacred obligation and be a little bit foolish on behalf of a better angel, however poorly discerned or defined.

The pope is coming and his arrival calls up a poem I wrote long ago:

Sing loud in church
And be off-key!
Abandon sacred

Sing loud and in
That singing see
The untamed heart
That’s always free.

Adam Fisher lives in Northampton. His column appears on the third Wednesday of the month. He can be reached at

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lynn Anderson death

Quite by accident, I ran across the news story today of the heart-attack death of Lynn Anderson last month.

Anderson, 67, was probably best known for her hit song [I Never Promised You A] "Rose Garden," which could send Nashville country music purists into paroxysms of disgust but nonetheless left others -- including me when no one is looking -- moved and melted.

computers fail classroom hopes

Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils' performance, says a global study from the OECD.
The think tank says frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.
The OECD's education director Andreas Schleicher says school technology had raised "too many false hopes".
It used to be joked that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in front of an infinite number of typewriters, one of them would eventually produce Shakespeare's works.

Sorry, Virginia, you're going to have to break a sweat.

Or, just because you go to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

the assassin's bullet

If I understand it correctly, an assassin will stalk his target a bit before executing his task. And one of the aspects of that stalking is to note the target's bits of habitual behavior: when does s/he go jogging; when does s/he leave for work; what time does s/he get up or go to bed; where and when does s/he shop for food; what are the favored places for a dinner out, etc.? And by learning the habits, the assassin can pick a time and place that will make the execution most likely to succeed without incurring subsequent punishment.

All of this passed idly through my mind this morning as I assessed my discontent in household events that disrupted my habits and patterns. It was nothing serious, but I disliked being thrown off my habitual course ... coffee, writing, emailing, walking -- I wanted my habitual ducks lined up, however mundane and old-age-y they might be. Habits were easier and more companionable than spurs and side tracks. No curve balls need apply and, where they did, a certain crankiness/quasi-panic rose up: I resented having to recalibrate and bring things back to 'normal.'

And it was then that I thought of the assassin and how easy my state of mind would make his task. A creature of habit fits neatly into the sights of some mildly-imaginative assassin.

The only trouble with this comic-book scenario was that at this point in my life, I don't really do anything that would be worth the assassin's bullet.

And that was mildly depressing.

The rule of thumb is to "dodge the bullet" or elude the danger, wherever it comes from. No one wants to get hurt, much less assassinated. So, in other times, there were all sorts of maneuvers to duck or parry or preserve and protect. Social graces, able philosophies, defensive ramparts, the buck and shuffle that keeps things coherent.

There is something gloomy about recognizing that I am not even worth the assassin's bullet. It makes me want to rush right out and do something naughty or offensive. But that would take more energy than I want to or can expend.

It would be nice, in some sense, to think I was worth an assassin's bullet.

Oh well.

Monday, September 14, 2015

back to exceptionalism

In the course of trying to cobble together a newspaper column for Wednesday, I circle around once more to the conundrum of exceptionalism, a grisly or glorious bit of potential that strikes me as inescapable when espousing any heart-felt persuasion.

Exceptionalism ... my way as distinct from the highway.

I use the word in a sense wider than what the dictionary provides, to wit, "the condition of being different from the norm; also :  a theory expounding the exceptionalism especially of a nation or region." Exceptionalism in my lexicon is also quite personal -- a choice of direction or practice that, like it or not, is distinct from other persuasions and, more important, deserves special and excusing treatment.

By my yardstick, then, even the most "inclusive" spiritual persuasions is by nature exceptionalist in that it sets itself in contrast to non-inclusive diets. The distinctions may be subtle and suave or coarse as splintery toilet paper, but the exceptionalist stamp is clearly in evidence.

And so it should be.

And that's the conundrum. In making a choice, something else is automatically downgraded and set apart from that given choice. Life may be inclusive, but choices are not ... but how else is anyone to discover the honest inclusivity without exercising an exceptionalist verve?

Beats the socks off me.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

'shaming' fat people

Comedian Nicole Arbour has raised some hell by calling out fat people in a six-minute video that got so much attention that YouTube shut it down for a while. Yup, it's insulting in one sense, but it is also laced with some serious and altruistic focus. I particularly liked Arbour's self-deprecating observation that it was a blonde pointing these things out.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Serena's still the best

Despite her loss yesterday, Serena Williams remains No. 1 in my book.

sell drugs, get a college education

In one sense, I suppose, it's kind of nice to think that the world's drug cartels are financing some of the college educations so prevalent in my neck of the woods. The cartels, whether in Afghanistan, Mexico or Colombia, are not composed of altruists and the innocent and guilty blood that follows in their wake is both cruel and huge. Like Donald Trump, their credo is, "your weakness is my gain" ... and the gains are huge.

How this dovetails with little freckle-faced Johnny or Sally attending one or another of the institutions of higher learning in the Pioneer Valley where I live was brought home to me yesterday when an Associated Press story detailed the purchase by grade schools, high schools and, I imagined, colleges, of an opiod overdose antidote ... the fast-acting naloxone.

I mentioned this story to my younger son, who does a bit of hanging around with students at the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College, both located six or eight miles away. His face screwed up into a twenty-something grimace of certainty: "What a bunch of assholes," he opined as if that were the beginning and end of the topic. People who used heroin simply because it was cheap and available were not people he was willing to hang around with. As a parent, I was relieved.

But then the conversation trailed off into 'lesser' drugs -- cocaine and marijuana and the like. As usual, the greatest addictive drug problem -- alcohol -- went unmentioned. These 'lesser' drugs were clearly not so bad in his oh-so-certain lexicon. And then he got around to acquaintances who peddled drugs on campus ... and how much money they made. I didn't press or probe of seek out details, but one fellow, by my son's word, made $10,000 in a month while another scored $40,000 over a similar time span. "He's paying for his college education," my son said of one such peddler.

The amounts caught my attention. That's a lot of money. Even subtracting for the self-important inflation that criminals may attribute to their deeds ... that's a lot of money -- enough to cover many of the bills a star-spangled America attaches to a "college education," the kind of education that can turn out Donald Trumps.

The trouble with the tales of those whose crimes escaped detection and retribution is that the details go begging. Yes, there is something slick about "getting away with it," but there is a price to pay. A friend of mine -- a one-time hippie who made a lot of money selling drugs on the west coast before becoming a Zen priest -- told me that the life of someone selling illicit drugs may be lucrative, but it is also jam-packed with paranoia. Every knock on the door, every new acquaintance, every pedestrian or blue Chevy that seems to shadow your moves, every second of every day is fraught with the fear that you might get caught and spend a very long time in prison. Such fear, aside from interfering with sleep rhythms, can lead to bloodshed that is both literal and metaphorical.

But hey -- the kid's getting a college education, right?

The details of drug dealing generally focus on the individuals and families that are shattered. And as the offspring of a single mother who was an alcoholic and a pill-popper, I am sympathetic to the enraging sorrows and angry conclusions that allow my son to be at least partly right when he calls drug-users "assholes."

But as I pointed out to my son, "everybody commits suicide in his or her own way." This is not to excuse or condone drug dealing. It is to wonder how the rest of us were lucky enough not to have walked that road, finding solace in some powder or pill when life seemed to be moving too slowly or too fast, but in any event was strangely under- or over-whelming.

And who wouldn't like to be making a lot of money? And who wouldn't experiment here and there with the crazier side of life? And who wouldn't ignore the fallout of their actions? And who wouldn't think the universe is all about me-me-me?

I suspect, but don't know, that there simply is no moral high ground. (The higher the ground, the greater the nose bleed.) There is simply the question of who anyone might like to see in the bathroom mirror.

Friday, September 11, 2015

schools begin stocking opiod antidote

Back-to-school supplies updated:
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Schools aren't stocking up just on pencils, books and computers anymore. This year, count a new tool at many schools nationwide: the heroin-overdose antidote naloxone.
Many schools are now keeping naloxone on hand, and some states allow or encourage schools to stock it. 
One, Rhode Island, now requires it for all middle, junior high and high schools. A survey of 81 Rhode Island school nurses who participated in a naloxone training program last year found that 43 percent of high school nurses who responded reported that students in their schools were abusing opioids.
Fifteen said they had to call 911 at least once in the past three years for suspected student substance use or overdose.

by hook or by crook

Is it true? I suspect it is:

No good (wo)man ever got that way by being good.

S/he got that way by hook and sometimes cruel crook.

news stuff

News stuff --
A boy walks among some of the 3,000 flags placed in memory of the lives lost in the September 11, 2001 attacks, at a park in Winnetka, Illinois, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young
Relatives of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are due to gather in New York, Pennsylvania and outside Washington on Friday to mark the 14th anniversary of the hijacked airliner strikes carried out by al Qaeda militants. [Reuters ... which managed to write a news story without injecting the word "terrorism."]

-- And, passed along in email, this campy video assault on the Kentucky town clerk who was jailed after refusing to process marriage license applications for homosexual couples:

... and news of the ongoing refugee migration in Europe, floods in Japan, Republican attempts to desparage and/or derail a diplomatic agreement between the U.S. and Iran ... if you want the news, I guess it's best just to look it up.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

chess player kicked out

I guess if there's a game to play there's a desire to cheat....
[BBC] An Italian chess player has been kicked out of one the country's most prestigious tournaments after allegedly using a camera and Morse code to cheat.
Officials at the tournament became suspicious when Arcangelo Ricciardi, who is ranked 51,366 in the world, began beating far better players.
Mr Ricciardi was reportedly blinking in an unusual manner and holding his hand under his armpit.
Confronted by referee Jean Coqueraut, he refused to open his shirt.

hot weather

Another fat and fetid day in the making, a sluggish slug fest that William Faulkner might have made hay from -- metaphorical homicidal thunder growling on the horizon... ugly, rancid incest passing the time and everywhere delicate porcelain overlooked with praise... a time when stupid people are contradicted at your very real peril. It's too hot to think and woe betide the fool who tries.

Yesterday was in the 90's (30's Celsius) and today promises more. Survival mode. The woodpile needs straightening, but ... well ... who knows? In California, a friend's lungs are under forest-fire-smoke assault. In the Middle East, I'm not sure if the massive sandstorm has run its unusual course. But where the air becomes a threat, what else could possibly be serious? Children and the elderly are warned. I am among the latter while feeling as pervasively inept as the former.

One hundred and seventy miles to the south, Serena Williams beat her elder sister, Venus, at the U.S. Open championships last night in New York. Two powerful, skillful women enduring the heat and eclipsing, in my mind, the male counterparts who are due to play later. It is hard to say "wow" in the thick, thick thickness of the environment.

Laughter seems to have taken a vacation.