Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Great American Songbook

Dick Robinson, originator of American Standards By The Sea, has announced the founding of The  Society for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook (GAS).
The official worldwide launch  of this Internet radio station will take place at midnight January 1, 2011.  A beta version is available now at the website http://www.theoriginalgasstation.com/ 

The mission of the Society is to preserve and perpetuate the music, character and history of the Great American Songbook featuring artists like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Jack Jones, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Hoagy Carmichael.
In three days listeners will enjoy non-stop hit songs around-the-clock and around-the-world ontheoriginalgasstation.com. 
From the few hours I have spent listening on line, I can report that famous singers do not sing all of the songs;  some are performed by lesser known talents (to me, at least) who deserve a wider audience.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!

Just a minute — just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was…Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harryto school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter. And what’s wrong with that? Why…Here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You…you said…What’d you say just a minute ago?…They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait! Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken-down that they…Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about…they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!

Timeless, isn't it?  As relevant then as now.



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Monday, December 13, 2010

7000 Chemicals

Several days ago, the Surgeon General's office issued a report which stated that one cigarette can damage a person's DNA.  The report went on to say that one whiff of secondhand smoke can be enough to trigger a heart attack.
The primary cause for these results is due to 7000 chemicals and compounds to be found in each cigarette.  70 of these chemicals and compounds are known to cause cancer while the remainder are toxic.
The two preceding paragraphs have me perplexed.  Where to begin?
Shouldn't there be some perspective on the probability of  suffering damage to one's DNA from smoking one cigarette?  Ditto for the chances of the one whiff scare?  Is this a failure to be more explicit the fault of the Surgeon General's office or is it the failure of journalism to fully report on the findings? 
7000 chemicals and compounds in one cigarette?  Who knew? Wouldn't this make a  carton of cigarettes a candidate for an EPA superfund cleanup?  Do you know of any other object or place that has that many toxic chemicals and compounds in it?
Another question.  How many of those chemicals and compounds were put in the tobacco by God and how many by man?
If the cancer causing agents are put in tobacco by the manufacturer of cigarettes, is this legal?  If it is legal, should it be?
Is this what is meant by "Better living through chemistry"?
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sample of revelations from Wikileaks documents.

Here is a summary of some leaked documents from the New York Times after they were redacted by same.  I was most interested in the statements on private contractors, a new element in American strategy that I complained about earlier.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Class Distinctions

I have noticed that people who reject class differences in the political sphere are able to find them everywhere else, especially in the worlds of 'taste' and 'culture'. 
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Thoughts On Wikileaks and Assange

My first reaction to the 'dumping' of secrets was negative.  I value my position as a tenth generation American with strong ties to and love for this nation.  (It is important to note that I said 'nation', not government.)
My eighth birthday was three weeks after Pearl Harbor so I lived impressionable years absorbing the struggles of World War II.  Slogans like 'Loose lips sink ships' were serious lessons learned.
I have a conservative personality.   As a teenager, one of my fictional heros was the title character of an historical novel by Kenneth Roberts:  Captain Caution.  Now that's not every American boy's cup of joe, is it?
No, I don't take such transgressions (dumping secrets) lightly.  However, recently I have been retracing the political history of American conservatism  in the years following World War II.  Such an enterprise always entails a number of interesting digressions when one reads a footnote here or encounters an obscure or little-known (for me) author there.
This reading shows a growing pattern of government secrecy, government overreach of power, and the beginnings of betrayal of what I consider the basic American value: liberty, or if you prefer, freedom.
From my point of view, the last sixteen years have left me feeling like a stranger in my own country.
We sanction countries resulting in the death of children.  We try to be the policeman of the world.  Over 4400 Americans have been killed in Iraq.   More than were killed in the World Trade Center.  Who is responsible for that?
Suddenly the government is the injured party.  I don't buy it.  Dump is a good word for what Wikileaks has done.  The government has been given a long overdue enema.
I like Ron Paul's assessment:  "In a society where truth becomes treason, we're in big trouble."
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stephen Vincent Benet Western Star

The American writer, Stephen Vincent Benet, is not forgotten but he is not remembered nor read enough in 21st century America.
A writer of fiction, essays and poetry, he appears to be most remembered for his short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" which has been made into a play for the theater and for the radio.
In 1928, he published "John Brown's Body", a book length narrative poem about the civil war.  The book was very popular and well received by most critics.
Mr. Benet had plans to write an even longer narrative poem about the United States but an early death in 1943 (age 44) cut short his plan.  He had proceed far enough to have one book on this subject  published posthumously called "Western Star".
This excerpt is from that book and appropriate to the day of Thanksgiving.
 "And then, no man knows why,
there came the savages, smiling, bringing corn.


Corngivers, why do you give
That these men live?
They think that you are devils of the wood
And you have fought them once and will again,
Yet, in their last extremity, you come
As if in answer to some forest drum
To bring the bounty never understood,
To bring the food that saves the starving men.


Gods?  You have seen them die like truculent fools
Where anyone one of you would live and thrive
And, if they have the iron and the tools,
The powder and the shot,
These things avail them not.
Their magic cannot keep their best alive.


Pity?  Why should you pity them or care?
They will be greedy, soon, when they are fed.
Look in their eyes and see
The felling of the tree,
The great vine-twisted tree of Powhatan.


Look in their eyes and see the hungry man
Moving with ax and fire upon the wood,
Spoiling the rivers, digging up the dead.
This is your own destruction that you bear
In venison and corn
and the red Autumn leaf
That falls before the snow,
This is the doom of werowance and chief.
This is the breaking of the hazel-bow.


And yet, before it happens, and the great
Passionate drum of wrong begins to sound,
Ere the dead lie upon the bloody ground
And the chief's sons lie drunken in the street,
Let us remember how this happened, too,
And how the food was given, not in hate,
Liking or dazzled wonder, but, it seems,
As if compelled by something past all plans,
Some old barbaric courtesy of man's,
Wild as his heart, red as his hunter's dreams,
-And for no cause the white men ever knew.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Black Friday

"It is a work of art,  that shop window,  a breeder of anarchism, a destroyer of contentment, a second feast of Tantalus."

Edna Ferber (1911)
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Monday, November 22, 2010

The American Mission

Russell Kirk, in a lecture delivered for the Heritage foundation in the early 1980's addressed the question whether America had "a mission, providentially ordained."
Kirk believed it did and, without expressing his own concept of the mission, aligned himself with the ideas of Orestes Brownson (1805-1876) whom he describes as "a considerable political philosopher, a seminal essayist on religion, a literary critic of discernment, a serious journalist with fighting vigor, and one of the shrewder observers of American charaacter and institutions."
Brownson described the mission as "not so much the realization of liberty as the realization of the true idea of the state, which secures at once the authority of the public and the freedom of the individual - the sovreignty of the people without social despotism, and individual freedom without anarchy.  In other words, its mission is to bring out in its life the dialectrical union of authority and liberty, of the natural rights of man and those of society.  The Greek and Roman republics asserted the state to the detriment of individual freedom;  modern republics either do the same, or assert individual freedom to the detriment of the state.  The American republic has been instituted by Providence to realize the freedom of each with advantage to the other."


Kirk refines this by writing "The American Republic has the mission of reconciling liberty and law."
This is a centrist position, somewhat like favoring a mixed economy.   It seems reasonable.


 In today's fervid political environment, some on the Right challenge the opposition with the charge of not believing  in American Exceptionalisim.  This term is very subjective in nature but at the present time it seems to mean that "America is the greatest country in the world now and forever."  That is not a mission, divinely ordained.  That is a state of being or consciousness that lives with the support of Pride, one of the Seven Sins.
Orestes Brownson used the terms humanitarian and social democrat to identify the threat to the American Mission.  "The humanitarian democracy," Brownson wrote, "which scorns all geographical lines, effaces all individualities, and professes to plant itself on humanity alone, has acquired by the (Civil) war new strength, and is not without menace to our future."   He forsees attacks on differences between the sexes, and on private property (as unequally distributed).   "Nor can our humanitarian stop there.  Individuals are, and as long as there are individuals will be, unequal;  some are handsomer and some are uglier;some wiser or sillier,  more or less gifted, stronger or weaker, taller or shorter, stouter or thinner than others, and therefore some have natural advantages which others have not.  There is inequality, therefore injustice, which can be remedied only by the abolition of all individualities, and the reduction of all individuals to the race, or humanity, man in general.  He (the humanitarian) can find no limit to his agitation this side of vague generality, which is no reality, but a pure nullity, for he respects no territorial or individual circumscriptions, and must regard creation itself as a blunder."


Brownson's remarks  have to be one of the earliest (1848) critical responses to the publication of Das Kapital and the advent of Marxism.  Of course, Brownson could not forsee that our humanitarian urges would sweep us into foreign adventures, said efforts variously described as 'improving the lives of others', 'meeting our obligations abroad',  'making the world a better place', etc.  The Nanny State is wrong but being a Nanny Nation to the world is not?  This is one of the major contradictions in the domain of modern conservative politics.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Evelyn Waugh on Obama

"Kipling believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defenses fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms."

I found this quote by Evelyn Waugh on a wonderful website maintained by one Roger Boylan .
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Conservatism: what is it?

"Conservatism, though a necessary element in any stable society, is not a social program;  in its paternalistic, nationalistic, and power-adoring tendencies it is often closer to socialism than true liberalism.   And with its traditionalistic, anti-intellectual, and often mystical propensities, it will never, except in short periods of disillusionment, appeal to the young and all those others who believe that some changes are desirable if this world is to become a better place.  A conservative movement, by its very nature, is bound to be a defender of establishment privilege and to lean on the power of government for the protection of privilege."

The quotation above was written by F. A. Hayek for his introduction to the 1955 re-issue of his famous book The Road To Serfdom. 
I have set out to investigate the history of modern conservatism in the United States.  This effort is strictly personal and for my own understanding of the forces at work today in our polity.
I began by trying to find a workable or satisfactory definition of a conservative and have concluded that there isn't one.  Political conservatism in America contains divisions of great importance to their adherents.  There maybe three or four definitions of conservatism.
I don't believe that Hayek's is a true definition.   I see it as reflecting  a problem within the domain of conservatism that has not been understood or reconciled with the philosophy.
There are other contradictions that exist within the conservative movement.  The result is unwillingness to call  myself a conservative when a well-known public conservative preaches ideas with which I disagree mightily.
I am using two books for a general history of the conservative movement:  "The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945" by George N. Nash and "From Dawn To Decadence" by Jacques Barzun.
I chose these two books because their authors are conservative and they are excellent sources for additional reading.
My first choices for additional reading are:  "The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things Are Written On The Sky" by Russell Kirk, and "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat.
Challenging works.  I'll see what comes of it.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

"Let no man ever, from henceforth say one word in any way countenancing war.  It is dangerous even to speak of how here and there the individual may gain some hardship of soul by it.  For war is hell, and those who institute it are criminals.  Were there even anything to say for it, it should not be said;  for its spiritual disasters far outweigh any of its advantages."

Siegfried Sassoon
English poet and war hero
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Speaking of excessive government intrusion....

Newspapers in Florida often carry stories about people who have been charged with "resisting arrest without violence".  On a few occasions this has been the only charge.
I have learned that The State of Florida has a statute known as 843.02 named "resisting officer without violence."  It is more commonly known as "resisting arrest without violence."  It is a first degree misdemeanor, and carries a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail.
Apparently the right to free speech and free assembly are not as inalienable as I thought.  Exercise of those rights may be interpreted by a police officer as resisting arrest without violence.
Cops don't like citizens explaining law to them, or refusing to cooperate with them.  When a cop asks a question of a citizen, he expects an answer, not a legal debate.  When a cop tells you to do something, he expects you to do it.  Failure to obey the policeman's orders can result in a bad arrest such as 'resisting arrest without violence.'
One gets the impression that the police don't like to leave a scene without punishing someone.
My research shows that Florida is the only state with such a statute on its books.  Thank God for that!
This example is confirmation of my long-held belief that the South doesn't care very much for the Constitution of the United States.
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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Damn the automobile

There are several examples  of how this economy is organized and managed that earn the adjective stupid.
Let me cite one (because it is one of the most important): the automobile, the pollution-dispensing, oil-consuming money pit that we must have in order to live in this economy.  Almost everyone must use a car to obtain whatever they need (food, clothing, education, medical care, etc.) and to do what they must do (work, play, visit, etc.). 
Why is this so?  Possibly General Motors and the Government felt it would be mutually beneficial and good for the postwar economy to build an interstate highway system.  Of course, it was presented as necessary for National Defense.   (Let's not forget that Ike's Secretary of Defense was "Engine" Charlie Wilson, former CEO of GM.)
If that sounds too conspiratorial for your taste, perhaps it was the working of "the unseen hand", that magical invisible property that moves the free market system described by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.
Conspiracy or magic?  Take your choice.

This massive concrete highway system destroyed the thousands of linked, self sufficient, full-service communities that made up the United States before 1950.  It wasn't long before families knew they needed more than one car.  Indeed, it wasn't long before they found that two cars weren't enough. After all, Father is working 50 miles away in an easterly direction. Mother is working twenty miles away in a northerly direction. Oldest son is working 35 miles away in a southerly direction. And all the stores have been moved out of town to a mall ten miles in a westerly direction.
Compounding the problem was the disappearance of a reliable extensive system of public transportation. Slowly but surely, railroad tracks disappeared, bus routes were curtailed, trolleys disappeared in nearly all cities that had them.
And thus did a freedom-loving America become dependent on the automobile.
But that isn't what we were told.  No, we were all having "a love affair with our car".  We were advised to "see the USA in our Chevrolet".  Americans, it was said,  looo-oved their car.
And today, my fellow Americans, when you are in one of those 14 lanes of backed-up traffic on the interstate at 6:00PM, moving at 15-20 mph,  looking out over what James Kunstler sharply calls "automobile slums",  praying there won't be a breakdown or accident, consider what we have done to ourselves.  Are you still in love with your car?  Are you seeing the USA?  Is she beautiful and exciting?  Not from where I'm sitting.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Corporate Overreach

The pricing of automobile repair is established by coded standards based on units of time. The labor costs based on these units of time are in excess of the actual time required. The system rounds upward the unit of time, usually in 15 minute increments. A 5 minute task will be charged 15 minutes. A 35 minute task will be charged 45 minutes. These charges start with a base labor cost of 60 minutes, due, I suppose, for the work required to start the process. Some call it a ‘hedge factor’ to offset possible losses in the estimate.



Added to these labor costs is the material cost of parts which is fixed at a straight 100% mark-up.


When the repairs are finished and billed, the customer finds at the bottom of the invoice, as a percentage of the subtotal for material and labor, a figure for ‘Shop Costs’, ie, rags, hand cleaner, paper floor mats, etc. This add-on percentage will run from 10% to 25% of the subtotal for material and labor.


I submit that the policy of coded pricing is a form of price control. I further submit that the Shop Cost add-on is passing the cost of normal overhead on to the customer. This is not free market capitalism. It is despotic capitalism and works only for the benefit of the corporate state.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

First Light

From love-warm bed I rise,
brush cobwebs from my eyes, 
go out to greet the dawn,
doilies tatted on the lawn
where spiders spent the early hours
setting table for our flowers.



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Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Just Saying....

  The free and secret ballot is the most important element of a political system. I believe voting should be thought of as serious and sacred and treated that way.
Early voting weakens that ritual.
I suppose there are a number of reasons why some states are taking this approach.  It is more 'convenient' for many.  There is no 'waiting' or 'wasting time in line'.  It increases 'productivity' and this is 'good for the economy'.  It makes life 'easier'.
And so it goes.  Take the Latin from the Catholic mass.  Don't honor Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays with holidays that may fall in the middle of the week.  Honor all the Presidents (even the bad ones) with a Presidents Day.  Make it always on a Monday so we don't interrupt the work week and affect 'productivity'.  That's bad for the 'economy' too.
All this, I say,  makes the sacred ordinary, the valuable cheap, the human character weak, the system soft.
 Just sayin'....
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Facing It

Everywhere I go I am confronted by how little I know.  And then there is all that I have forgotten.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Conundrum

A child can be born to a set of good parents who are completely wrong for that child.  As a result, much goes badly for the family.

A child can be raised to worship in a particular religion that is wrong for that child.  As a result, the child, when mature, will struggle with questions of faith and belief.

Some children will never do well in school.  Where modernization occurs, their lives become harder.

There is no place for blame in these instances.  Nor can it be ascribed to Fate.  It's luck, good or bad.

People like to say we are all the same.  That's true, but it's not true. 
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quotation

"Too much that we do is done at the expense of something else, or somebody else. There is some intransigent destructiveness in us. My days, though I think I know better, are filled with a thousand irritations, worries, regrets for what has happened and fears for what may, trivial duties, meaningless torments - as destructive of my life as if I wanted to be dead. Take today for what it is, I counsel myself. Let it be enough...We are in the habit of contention - against the world, against each other, against ourselves."

Another piece of common sense from Wendell Berry.
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Friday, October 1, 2010

A Senior's Letter To Her Bank

Shown below is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by an 86 year old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.



Dear Sir:
I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:

IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH
#1. To make an appointment to see me
#2. To query a missing payment.
#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
#4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping
#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
#6.. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home
#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.
#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.
#10. This is a second reminder to press* for English. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement


Your Humble Client

(Remember: This was written by an 86 year old woman -'YA JUST GOTTA LOVE? US SENIORS" !!!!! )

And remember: Don't make old people mad. We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to set us off.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Werewolves are real

 The mythical werewolf is activated by phases of the moon.  This is not an unreasonable proposition,  unless you deny that tides are controlled by the moon, or that woman's menstrual cycle has a connection to lunar time. 
The story of the werewolf is familiar.  A  friend, a neighbor, a family member  becomes transformed into a wolf-like creature that attacks people unlucky enough to cross its path. 
Adults don't believe in these creatures.  But children do, and with good reason. 
Many children have seen a loving and loved adult become a stranger who ravages them in differing ways, either physically, emotionally, or sexually.   The beasts these children meet do not grow hair on the face and body, or have paws.  But children see them as monsters.  They frighten and they make the myth become real.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Quotation

"In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts."

                                                                                                   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now who could disagree with that?
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Space and Motion Theory

Many years ago I attended a lecture by the philosopher, H. Youngman.  His ideas seemed slightly complex until he recited real-life examples of his theories.  As well as I can remember them, I relate two of them here:

Firstly, Mr. Youngman described a visit to a rural college town and his experience with the room he rented at the one local hotel.  He discovered the room was so small that when he put the key in the door, it broke the window.
Now, of course, we know this is not possible in any real sense yet we accept the concept of this space as described by Youngman for the power it has to make us laugh.  The impossible size of the room becomes possible indeed, and he proves that space is relative in size to the need that it fills, and that the need that it fills is inversely proportional to the space it occupies.

Then Mr. Youngman addressed his ideas on the laws of motion by describing an experience in a restaurant.  When the Maitre'd asked Youngman where he would like to sit, Youngman replied that he wants to be seated near a waiter.
The Maitre'd replied that this was not possible.  If such a request could be met, it would mean that the waiter was stationary and therefore not moving and serving and waiting on his appointed tables as he should.  Such a man would not be employed by any restaurant worthy of its name.
If, on the other hand, the waiter is a superior performer, then he is constantly on the move attending to the needs of the diners in his purview.  This desirable motion, however, would make it very unlikely that Mr. Youngman's request could be fulfilled as the waiter he wants is not near the empty table that will be his place to be served.
Mr. Youngman went on to say that he had a wonderful dinner, and was well-served; that it lacked only a companion for discussion of paradoxes.  Zeno, he said, yes, Zeno.  He and I, Youngman said, could have retired to the lounge for some wine and delightful conversation.  I would have liked that, Youngman said.
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Debt and the Economy

"For decades we have piled deficit on deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue the long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political and economic upheavals."


That was from Ronald Reagan on his first day as President of the USA.


We know that when President Reagan left office, the US had the largest deficit ever achieved in its history, had been changed from the biggest creditor nation in the world to the biggest debtor nation in the world, and the middle class had shrunk to the point where it was smaller than the poor and rich classes combined, first time ever..


All successive Presidents have done as badly or, in the case of Obama, worse, apparently in emulation of Reagan.


Yet all Presidents campaign against debt and deficit, and malign those who cause it. Are they lying? Are they hypocritical? Perhaps. But I think it is something else. What that may be I don't know. But  if we don't start asking questions we'll never find out.
There are some things I have learned from this latest financial meltdown that I didn't know before. The most surprising of these was to learn how important credit is to the daily operation of our nation's businesses.
Apparently most corporations, large and small, depend on ready lines of credit for the payment of salaries, overhead, and purchases on a weekly or monthly basis. To express this same fact differently, these businesses do not have a 90-day or even a 60-day cushion of capital as an element of their business model. Who knew?
Most individuals cannot survive without the credit offered by the credit card. Trillions of dollars of consumer household debt attests to that.
This is probably due to the not-talked-about-enough fact that real earnings have not kept up with inflation.
SO, let's sum up:
The Government needs debt in order to keep the economy strong.
Corporations need debt in order to survive and grow.
Individuals need debt in order to survive.
SO - why is debt a dirty word?
Why don't we admit we can't live without it and stop all this phony denunciation of it?
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Observation

A fox crossed the yard,
paused twice to turn its head
and sniff,  
then disappeared
into the wood,
alone, at risk,  
yet free.
From my cage
I saw him flee.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Second Coming (for the last time)

One of the most famous poems in the Western world is The Second Coming by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats.  Everyone has read it, or at least has heard some parts of it read to them, or seen those parts in print.  Most anthologies include it.
The well-known phrases are:  "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" or "The ceremony of innocence is drowned;  the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity".  And finally,  "...what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
These lines are favored by the impressionable young for their magical music as much as their apocalyptic promise.  The pundits of the world, on a slow day, will summon a vision of the Beast slouching toward Washington, approaching either from the Left or the Right, according to their ideological bent.  The poem has become a cliche.
I confess to having liked the poem while confessing also that I never understood it.
The problem, for me, lies in the title and theme.  The original Second Coming refers to a biblical prophecy that foretells the return of Jesus Christ, or the Messiah.
However Jesus did not slouch toward Bethlehem.  Neither did Mary, but it must be clear to all that whoever slouches toward the metaphorical Bethlehem to bear the Beast must be the Pregnant one, not the Beast itself.  Otherwise we are dealing with an event as unusual as the Virgin Birth.
Or it is just a bad metaphor formed from the conflation of Beast and Bethlehem infused with an evil slouch.
Flannery O'Connor overplayed the metaphor when she wrote the following:
"...nothing harder than Christian realism.  I believe there are many rough beasts now slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, and that I have reported on the progress of a few of them, and when I see these stories  (her short stories, ed. note)  described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror."
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Richard Feynman Quotation

I found this quotation of Richard Feynman's on the Internet.  I like his honesty.

"I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing.  I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.  I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything, and in many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here, and what the question might mean.   I might think about it a little, but if I can't figure it out, then I go to something else.  But I don't have to know an answer.  I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly.  It doesn't frighten me."

from The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of  Richard Feynman
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alan C. Hunter, 1935-2010. In Memoriam.

The poet and sermon-giver, John Donne, wrote that "no man is an island" and "any man's death diminishes me."  That's true, no doubt, but sometimes a particular death does more than diminish one's being or soul.
The death of my brother Alan leaves me bereft, hollow, empty.  Everything seems changed and altered forever.  I sense consequences that remain unseen, unknown.  Never before have I awakened to  the day without knowing he was alive somewhere and ready to answer my questions.  No more. 
A few years ago I mailed Alan a VHS tape of the movie The Straight Story, a film about two brothers.  He wrote back that he liked the movie very much.  He also said that he loved me and always had.  Those words made my heart sing.  I immediately wrote back saying "Please don't die before I do!"  Alas.


I have written about my brother before, a tale of how he was part of the most perfect day of my life.
  There was so much more.  We fought World War II together.  We dug our foxholes in the side hill west of the house.  I had my submachine gun made of 1/2" galvanized pipe, tees, ells, and nipples.  He had some kind of homemade wooden rifle.  We collected metal and paper for the scrap drives, had a Victory Garden, bought Defense stamps for War Bonds.  We met the troop trains to beg for shoulder patches.  We saw all the war movies and we loved them all.  Patriots to the core.  Our own little band of brothers.
We were cowboys too.  We built our own corral.  Rounded up cattle.  Had bar room fights.  Gunfights in the street.  We fought only bad guys, not Indians.  We liked Indians.  We had read the books of Ernest Thompson Seton and knew well the Indian ways.
We often discussed which movie was the best Western ever made.  Was it Red River?  My Darling Clementine?  The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck?  Or High Noon?  Then, one summer evening in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1953,  as I came out of the base movie theater, having just seen Shane, I said to myself  I have got to tell Alan about this movie.  He must see it, I thought, it is the best.  Of course, he did see it, and he did agree.  Shane was the best Western ever made.  Young men, now, we both realized how much better if we could have seen it as boys.

And that reminds me of what I will miss the most.  So many times over the years there was a news event, a book published, a movie shown, a TV program, a magazine article, or something personal, and I would think, I have got to tell Alan about this.  I desired and respected his opinion.  I needed to know what he thought.
Although I was sixteen months older than Alan, he was more an older brother to me than I was to him.  For whatever reasons there were, I was reclusive, an emotional cripple.  Alan was not without his problems but he was more normal than I was.  He made friends easily;  I did not.   He engaged with girls easily;  I did not.  He explored the outside world sooner and more boldly.  I hung back.
When I did make the move, I went with him and his friends since I had none of my own.  He accepted me as he always had.


I spent a few days with Alan in May.  There was great physical change and there were periods of mental drifting.  Sleep was sporadic and short term.  On two occasions, Alan, his wife Jerian, and I sat outside on the front porch of his home.  He spoke of the enjoyment that gave him, pointing out the game trails for the deer who crossed the road.  A bluebird flitted between a powerline and the gravel driveway.  A Maryland yellowthroat could be heard singing in the brush off the lawn.
At different times, we conversed about our childhood, people we knew, some politics.  Once he expounded on an article he had read about narcissism and how it is infecting our social and political life.  His voice strengthened as he showed how thoroughly he had read and understood the article.  I was impressed, as always.

On the morning of my departure, I stood before him as he lay propped by pillows on the couch.  What now, I wondered, does he know I'm leaving?  Then he raised himself slightly and held his arms open wide.  I knelt on the floor beside him and wrapped my arms around him.  I love you, he said.  I love you, I said.  A moment more, and then I broke to stand up.  I stood there unable to move. He looked at me and then, gesturing with a hand, he looked at my face and gave me my last advice from him:  "Just go," he said, "just get in the car and drive away."  Firmly, gently, the words bathed me.  I was released.

Alan died a few weeks later, much sooner than I had expected.  I'm told his last four days were ugly and painful.  Then the sooner the better, I thought, for him.
What now, I wonder.  Like the boy in Shane, I want to cry out "Come Back!"  But there is no going back. 
The rider rides on.


video


"Taking us where we would not go -
Into the boundless dark.
When what was made has been unmade
The Maker comes to his work."

by Wendell Berry
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Poem for June 8, 2010

Certain portions of the heart
die, and are dead.  They are
dead.
Cannot be exorcized or brought
to life.
Do not disturb yourself
to become whole.
They are dead.  Go down
in the dark and sit with them
once in a while.

by Gilbert Sorrentino
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Capitalism is failing

..or perhaps I should say it is failing us as a people. This is because  there is no moral component in the American capitalist system.  Corporations do not get involved with community or social life as there is no money in it.
Insurance companies  refuse to insure people who need medical care from the get-go. They  drop people who are too sick to insure any longer. Profit and the concerns of the stockholder are the only standards for their policies, not the health and well-being of fellow citizens.
Manufacturers have shipped their factories overseas. This left many communities devastated and jobless. This weakens our society and removes a solid base from the national economy.
Mergers and acquisitions have decimated many good American companies. American capitalists intentionally buy good firms, some with famous names, and proceed to strip them of their assets and sell what is left. Millions of dollars are made this way. It is legal, but it is anti-social and hurts the nation.
This blind loyalty to the profit goal and the shareholder is what concerns me about the privatizing of military activities. There are thousands of private contractors performing a variety of support and logistics for our men and women in uniform. I believe these contractors have no serious interest in winning, or ending war quickly. Why should they? No one wants to work themselves out of a job, especially one that pays so well.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Quotation - Max Frisch

"Technology ... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it."

Max Frisch, Swiss writer

Poor innocent Max.  He wrote that in 1959.
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day May 30 1960



Besides my self, there is only one other person alive today who knows the significant association of this date with the song.
The video, by the way,  is a clever blend of Sinatra singing mixed with a scene from the 1956 film High Society.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The 'Science' of Economics

From U. S. News of April 30, 2010:


"...economists think many of the 8.4 million jobs lost during the recession are gone for good.
"There's a global paradigm shift going on", said Mohammed El-Arian, CEO of the huge investment firm PIMCO, at a recent conference in Los Angeles.  "There's always a recognition lag.  People hold onto the old paradigm until the evidence of a new paradigm is overwhelming."


So, we, the people, are supposed to understand that the financial meltdown was the result of some inexorable tectonic forces deep in the substructure of economics.  And it's our fault if we can't let it go and catch up with the latest ideas in chaos theory. 

What pompous puffery!   "Paradigm shift' is a fancy euphemism for system failure.
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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sometimes...

I wish that people who speak approvingly of the 'intelligent design' of the earth were equally ready to approve the intelligent 'use' of it.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

H L Mencken on Bad Writing

"He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered.  It reminds me of a string of wet sponges;  it reminds me of tattered washing on the line;  it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights.  It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.  It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh.  It is rumble and bumble.  It is flap and doodle.  It is balder and dash."

Reading this always gives me a chuckle.
The "He..." was a reference to Warren G. Harding.
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Red Light Cameras

The installation of cameras at troubled intersections to catch and fine red light runners has just become approved by state law in Florida.
Prior to the state-wide action, towns across the state were doing this on their own and running into legal challenges supported by the courts.
The new law, of course, bothers many people.  Not only those who habitually run red lights but lovers of freedom as well.  I hold myself in the last category.
I have a better idea, even if it is an old one.  Put a police officer in the middle of the intersection to control and direct traffic.  The officer's presence by itself will eliminate the problem.
This may come as a shock to half the American population, at least those born here, but, once upon a time, a traffic cop at busy intersections was as common an occurence as a teacher in a classroom.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Maintenance Man!

Call him that, or janitor, or custodian, but the people who keep the workplace clean and whole perform a vital service. It is no small thing to maintain man's structures and machines from the assault of Time and Nature.  These are occupations that do not obtain a status equal to their value.
The daily routine of cleaning and sanitation serves to keep us healthy.
The oiling of hinges, tightening of screws, replacement of bulbs and fuses, the sharpening of blades, the testing of alarms, flushing, charging, breakdown & reassembly, cleanup, disposal, collection, refill, restore, replace, alter, modify and renew:  all these activities and more keep the social engine running.
Custodians are a kind of hero forming an aboveground resistance in the war to maintain stability which is the sea our ideas swim in.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Words and Ideas, and how they do change!

Many years ago people spoke of the biblical injunction 'Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men."  We were advised to take this seriously.   It was noble to seek peace and do good works.
Today those injunctions have been transformed into pejoratives.  Today we are supposed to scorn the 'peacenik' and pity the 'do-gooder'.

'Equality' is another word that has become contemptible.  We are lectured regularly by George Will and others like him that 'equality of opportunity' does not mean 'equality of outcome'.  As if those squeezed between these two contradictory forces didn't know that already;  they know what is missing in this equation is what I call the 'equality of the process'.
The power structure has changed the rules, altered conditions, instituted restrictions, and reduced compensation levels for those  who do not benefit from the advantages of inherited wealth or privileged position.
How have the rules changed?
 For one example, out of many, in the space of a century we have gone from a nation that was built and developed largely by high school dropouts (citing Paul Goodman here) to a nation where a college degree is a minimum requirement for most positions.
What 'altered conditions?'  The destruction of a vast and viable public transportation system in favor of the automobile is one example.   Urban renewal was another bad idea. That program took poor but livable housing,  declared it 'substandard' and therefore illegal and so destroyed it.
The proliferation of regulations at the state and municipal level that restricts activities, whether of the kind which allowed people to make money or save it.
Reduced compensation is found in the statistics that real income has not kept pace with inflation, and in the deliberate weakening of labor unions.
There are dozens of examples that make the 'process of equality' more difficult, from the minor (free calendars, road maps, water, air) to major ones (zoning, compulsory insurances, regressive taxes and fees, safety laws).
The United States is not the same country it was 50, even 40 years ago.  Then there was a rawness, a newness, a freedom that gave people a sense of opportunity.  I believe that sense is weaker now.
Today we are over-organized, over-codified, not to mention over taxed and over-regulated.
So when I read the lectures to the poor from Will or Brooks or Krauthammer or Friedman, I am reminded of President Ronald Reagan who told us about "morning in America."  And then I am reminded of that astute observation by a former senator from Minnesota who said of Reagan that he was a man "who could remember the future and predict the past."
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Unholy Trinity

I start with three names:  
The Right
The Republican
The Conservative
These names are not synonyms.
There are those who are members of The Right but are not Republicans.
There are Republicans who are not conservative.
There are Conservatives who are neither of the Right nor Republican.  (I put myself in that last category.)
I begin with The Right.   The word can hold meaning which is valid and supportable but the people who have constituted The Right for the last 60 years are not interested in that benign finding. The Right is a mean-spirited, sometimes vicious, movement which harms individuals, weakens the social fabric, and damages the nation.
Since the late 1940's, The Right has provided a never-ending series of charges, accusations, claims, and falsehoods.  Being fearful themselves, they spread fear among the people.  They create distrust because it works to keep them in power.
The Right began with the accusatory bleat "Who lost China?"  Then it was "Who promoted Peress?  Then came an assault on the 1st Amendment in their zeal for finding communists and communist sympathizers.  The House UnAmerican Activities Committee.  Loyalty oaths.  Subpoenas. Citizens persecuted for their beliefs.  The McCarthy committee.  The assault on the loyalty of the United State Army.
President Harry Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson were accused of treasonous actions.  A new word 'pinko' appeared, to stain people with the red color of communism.  Call it communism lite.
(I pause here to affirm there was a serious communist spy network in the US even as we were developing one in the Soviet Union.  But Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another conservative neither of the Right nor a Republican, in his book "Secrecy", describes how the US Government had cracked the Soviet code used to send messages between the Kremlin and agents here.  We knew who the agents were, their code names, and what they were up to.  All the famous names are there:  Hiss, Bentley, White, Fuchs, Rosenberg, etc.  This was called the Venona Project.  When this secret information was released in 1995-96, analysis showed that President Truman was never informed about the code breaking.  The American people were not told about it because no one wanted Russia to find our we had broken their code.  When Kim Philby, the British mole, defected we learned that he had informed the Soviets but still we kept it secret.  Moynihan maintains that if we had made this news public, we may have avoided the witch hunt hysteria that distracted and damaged the nation.  The spy threat was real, but under control and we knew who the spies were.)
(I digress again.  Today Truman and Acheson are praised by The Right  for their staunch defense of the US.  Go figure.)
During the 1950's and 1960's, China was the main fear promoted by The Right.  The John Birch Society was named for an American military man killed in China.  When Adlai Stevenson suggested in the late fifties that it might benefit our security to open up dialogue with Red China, Vice President Nixon criticized him for being soft on communism. 
During the Kennedy-Nixon Debates in 1960, the islands of Quemoy and Matsu were the source of heated argument over which man would be strong enough to defend them IF red China were to invade them.  After the election, we never heard of those two islands again.
When Nixon was President, he opened up dialogue with Red China.  The Right disapproved but kept their mouths shut.  Today China is no longer referred to as 'Red  China'.  Today  China uses free market and entrepreneurial enterprise to improve their economy.  Today China loans us billions of dollars to fund our wars and social programs because we lack the courage to pay for it ourselves or to reduce the number of people we help socially.  Nor do we scale back the number of military wars and operations that we conduct around the world. (All this military activity is called 'protecting the national interest'  or 'meeting our obligations abroad.' )
Then Vietnam.  LBJ knew the war was a mistake, and was unwinnable.  But he kept going because he knew the Right would slam him for any deviation from the decision to fight communists wherever they were.  This was (and is) the kind of fear The Right has instilled in us for too many years.
There is nothing wrong with debate over conflicting ideas and philosophies.  Even name calling is acceptable.  Even hateful speech of a personal character ought to be permitted but admonished.
Where The Right does wrong is their poisonous accusations of TREASON.
Year after year after year Right Wing zealots charge Americans with whom they disagree with slanderous names that smacked of treason or disloyalty.
That divides the country.  That damages the First Amendment.  That is totalitarian in nature and kind.
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Friday, April 2, 2010

April is National Poetry Month

I believe poetry should be honored twelve months around.  But if the nation will have its way and pick one month for this purpose,  then April is an excellent choice.
Think of the poems that ponder the mysteries and virtues of April, the first full month of Spring.

The dour T S Eliot begins The Wasteland:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Then the famous poem by Robert Browning that begins:

O to be in England
now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in england
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brush-wood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

Edna St Vincent Millay wrote a couple of poems centered on April.  Here is the first stanza of her poem titled Song of a Second April:

April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.

Then we have her wonderful poem titled Spring:

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only underground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lesson Learned

One of the most delightful feelings possible is when you find yourself hurrying to meet someone.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Quotation

"I believe that man must learn to live without those consolations called religious, which his own intelligence must by now have told him belong to the childhood of the race.  Philosophy can really give us nothing permanent to believe either;  it is too rich in answers, each canceling out the rest.  The quest for Meaning is foredoomed.  Human life 'means' nothing.  But that is not to say that it is not worth living.  What does a Debussy Arabesque 'mean,' or a rainbow or a rose?  A man delights in all of these, knowing himself to be no more - a wisp of music and a haze of dreams dissolving against the sun.  Man has only his own two feet to stand on, his own human trinity to see him through:  Reason,  Courage, and Grace.  And the first plus the second equals the third."

from The Blood Of The Lamb,
by Peter DeVries


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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dangling Conversations

Overheard at the Duck and Cover Diner
(home of the Scratch 'n Sniff menu)

"Commitment?  Why, that's like tenant farming, or being an indentured servant!"

"As a writer, she is very fond of Meaning No. 2."

"Sounds like he has a split personality."
"No, but he is half-assed."

"People who say risible are laughable."

"I used to run like the wind; now all I can do is break it."

"Young man", she said to me, "Young man, isn't it true that when I die and go to Heaven there will be only Americans there?"
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Poem for March, by C. S. Lewis

Each month I select for this blog a poem that is a personal favorite.  Here is my choice for March 2010.

The Future Of Forestry


How will the legend of the age of trees
feel when the last tree falls in england?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
the country's heart:  when contraceptive
tarmac's laid where farm has faded,
tramline flows where slept a hamlet,
and shop-fronts, blazing without a stop from
Dover to Wrath, have glazed us over?
Simplest tales will then bewilder
the questioning children, "What was a chestnut?
Say what it means to climb a Beanstalk,
Tell me, grandfather, what an elm is.
What was Autumn?  They never taught us.'
Then, told by teachers how once from mould
came growing creatures of lower nature
able to live and die, though neither
beast nor man, and around them wreathing
excellent clothing, breathing sunlight-
half understanding, thier ill-acquainted
fancy will tint their wonder-paintings
-Trees as men walking, wood-romances
of goblins stalking in silky green,
of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn's
collar, pallor in the face of a birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
catch from afar (for soul is watchful)
a sight of tree-delighted Eden.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Remember When?



When the singer sang the song instead of their 'personal interpretation' of the song?
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The Blood Of The Lamb

I am reading a novel, The Blood Of The Lamb, by Peter DeVries.  It promises to be a good read.  I am only into the second chapter and I find it to be funny and wise.  For example:

Humor:  "...my grandfather went out to the front porch, where he stood scratching himself in a manner said to be depreciating property values."
Wisdom:   "What people believe is a measure of what they suffer."

Now, that's my idea of a page-turner.
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Robins

The Field Guides report that the American robin is a common winter resident in south Florida but, for reasons that surpass our comprehension, we see robins in our neighborhood only at migration time, and even then, as a sometime event.
This spring, however, was very different. The sightings at migration time began the same as other years. A sizeable flock of robins appeared on the lawn and hopped about searching for food. We have three bird baths grouped together under the branches of a Senegal date palm (phoenix reclinata). Robins drank and bathed in happy communal groups and then exchanged places with those foraging on the lawn.
I saw that the water level in the baths was almost nil for the intensive use they received, but I was reluctant to refill them for fear of scaring the birds away. I was starved for the sight and sound of robins and I knew that, as in other years, once this flock was gone there might be no more until fall migration.
Then commerce intervened. A landscaping company, contracted to care for my neighbor’s yard, appeared with their roaring mowers and noisy blowers and whining trimmers. The songbirds fled.
I went outside to scrub and clean and refill the three baths. I told myself that another flock might come along in a day or so.
The landscapers finished and withdrew. An hour passed. Then - the robins were back! They were everywhere and the baths were crowded again! They seemed happier and more excited by their good fortune than they had seemed in the earlier visit but I may have been projecting my own feelings onto them.
I enjoyed their company until twilight when they began to drift away. Just before dark, I cleaned and refilled the baths for the resident birds to use in the day to come. Looking northward for a few moments, I visualized the robins in flight in the night sky, thanked them for their company, and said farewell.
The next day began with another flock of robins.  Or perhaps it was the same flock.   I say that because we had robins for a total of nine consecutive days!  This has never happened before and I believe it was the weather and that mysterious signal system which tells birds when it's time to migrate to nesting grounds.  It seems improbable that nine different flocks would stop in the same back yard for nine days in a row.
For the nine days the robins were here, south Florida had unusually cold weather with frost in the interior region.  Simultaneously, in the north, there were numerous snow storms including the record-setting snowfall earlier this month.
In any case, I was kept busy cleaning and refilling the bird baths.  I discovered that my doing so did not frighten the birds at all.  They simply pulled back and waited for me to leave.
All over now.  Great enjoyment while it lasted.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quotation

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things:  freedom of speech,  freedom of conscience,  and the prudence never to practice either of them."
Mark Twain (American writer)
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rambles & Grumbles

"I complain about the American economic 'free market' system and people proceed to tell me how much it has given to me.  They don't grasp that my complaint is about what it has taken away."


I don't enjoy people who get bored easily.  They always seem too quick to experiment, to change things thoughtlessly.  'There's nothing to do', they cry, 'every thing is the same, always the same'.   Before I can stop them, my world is changed; the things I loved to do are gone or altered forever.  Damn their tiny minds, their black imaginarys.


The world is full of experts who are prideful of their perceptive judgements of others.  For example, the meek man is often ridiculed as someone who lacked what it took to succeed, intimating that he had failed in life.
In fact, the meek man was quite aware of who he was, and, more important, who he wasn't.  He had the wisdom to know that all men are not the same, that some are meant to lead and some to follow, and the winners are those who are loyal to their destiny.  The losers are those who pretend to be other than what they are.


A young woman, a girl really, has just finished a stint at a studio microphone sing-talking a song without any melodic line.  She is asked to comment on her singing.  "I know it's not Broadway," she says, "but maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe we should start being open to new sounds."
Here is someone who is an apologist for her self and her time.  She welcomes a future without standards.  I believe this is called feeling good about yourself.


I am still trying to understand why so much of our life is spent on ideas and passions and goals that have no lasting useful relevance to our personal life.

Remember when you could eat without worry or fear or guilt?
When walking was a pleasure, not a duty?
When health insurance was something that people not only didn't have, but didn't talk about.
When blues music was an authentic cry of pain and not a forum for whining?
When one could choose to be poor, and afford it?
If you don't remember, you missed something good.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Quotation

"Back in 1964, I had a mortgage payment of $51, and I made $200 a week.  Four mortgage payments there.  What I make today will not hold four mortgage payments."

Finley, the barber
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Voice from the New Bourgeoisie

West Palm Beach artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan:
"My aim is to reflect contemporary man's ultimate desire for self-expression and living on the edge.  The latest in technology is how today's individuals define themselves and separate themselves from one another.  Even the lack of clothing is a statement of stepping out of established moral and social boundaries."
His subjects sport exotic tattoos, designer clothing and the latest de rigueur accessories.  His pictures also include meteors being pulled to earth by helium balloons, and there are mysterious symbols etched in sand and rocks.  He explained:  "They represent how society is re-examining its belief and understanding of the world, turning it inside out to see new possibilities."

From an article in Palm Beach Post, by Gary Schwan

Where are the philistines when you need them?
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

The avant garde

The term avant-garde is not used much these days.  At least I don't find it in the reading I do.  Thinking about that,  I wondered if one should say the term is dead, or perhaps the avant-garde has won.  It does seem that all art more than a year old is passe and valueless in the aesthetic sense.  Much art may continue to sell and draw huge auction prices but very little of it seems to be spoken of as innovative or challenging.
What risks are there for the artist today?  There are no barriers to self-expression, no statement too outrageous, no subject so vapid, no color so misused, no space so filled with dross, that art cannot find a way to transform it into its green web of commerce. 
Today, in museums and galleries, we are confronted with art works that look like materials left on the floor for the sweeper.  But this distribution of materials is intentional.  The jumble of wire, the splintered axe handle, the fine layer of sawdust, the irregular stack of newspapers are meant to speak to us by the unusual, even outrageous presence of their incongruity.  There is meaning here if we will give ourselves the unbiased chance to discover it.
Once the avant-garde artist flouted the norms of our culture and provoked us to feel and to think about how we see the world and how we spend out lives.  It remained moderately successful on the margins and was useful as a catalyst to the mainstream world of art.
Now the outrageous is the norm.  The avant-garde is the New Bourgeoisie. 
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