Saturday, May 28, 2022
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
I’m writing this about today’s Texas schoolhouse massacre.
I was in the ferry line at Anacortes.
Going to Lopez Island, if the ferry didn't break and if the crew showed up.
I knew that was not a given confluence of factors.
So I was already stressed.
The "Breaking News Posts" were just beginning to flood my iPhone home screen.
Fifteen people dead this time.
For those into body counts that was above average.
I thought to myself: "Any minute now we should be able to begin hearing all the standard post massacre chagrin, dismay, gnashing of teeth and demands for gun control".
Let's face it.
We keep going through this.
At least weekly.
This for now is pretty much a scripted exercise for the next few days; the script is getting so worn and so torn that somebody will need to make a copy before long.
But by the time this copy of that script completely disintegrates we won’t need it anymore; we’ll have it memorized; all we’ll have to do after each new massacre is all run in circles and shout in unison “Oh chagrin and dismay, et cetera”.
There is nothing wrong with that script; it says all the right things; it’s just that the majority of anybody with time on their hands and guns in their house, or in their car, or under their bed, or gun lobbyists among their campaign doners, really don’t think a few dozen men women and children being shot to death most weeks of most years is any kind of reason for denying the right to keep and brandish implements of destruction.
And there are more guns than people.
And there is more faction-driven hate than guns.
By the time I got to Lopez the body count was twenty one.
And later President Biden said what needed to be said in the manner in which it needed to be said.
But nobody of consequence - the imminent red wave being imminent - cared; he was just being theatrical, they all said.
And the next morning Ol' Mitch said whatever it was that everybody who cares about ongoing mass murder in America knew Ol' Mitch and the Boys would say until the next massacre, when they will say it all again.
He looked more like a turtle than a crocodile; but the tears were crocodilian.
So shut up, hunker down and wonder where and when your number is going to come up.
Monday, May 23, 2022
I posted this in February 2019.
Too bad it didn't happen.
(I can't accept the idea that it did, except it was Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, not Bernie and Pete.)
Having said what I say in this post, at that time I had no feeling for the depth and breadth of hate that had taken over the land.
My optimistic belief that Bernie and Pete could have won was obviously ridiculous.
But the last 17 months of the Biden administration seem to indicate that I was spot on about one thing: Biden is just too old.
Here is what I said February 2019.
I have been low on hope relating to the 2020 presidential election for some time now.
The candidates that I think would beat donnie, Joe Biden, Jerry Brown or Bernie Sanders are just too old.
They could win, but could they live – with vigor – for the eight years that are two terms?
That question surrounds those candidates with a pall of gloom.
And gloom is not conducive to hope.
For a couple weeks now, though, I have been feeling hopes descend upon me.
Here is hope one: Bernie wins the nomination.
Here is hope two: Bernie picks Pete Buttigieg as his running mate. Pete is the most articulate and clear thinking person I can remember ever hearing speak.
A Bernie and Pete – a Democratic Socialist and a brilliant Millennial – can win.
And the age problem is solved.
Having someone like Pete as Vice President puts a completely competent replacement at the ready.
And if Bernie can deliver two terms of competent leadership it puts us in the position to get two more terms with a well seasoned Vice President who would only be 46 years old in 2028.
Those are my hopes.
Saturday, May 21, 2022
Later this year I am going to Paris for a month.
In the last twenty years I have lived in Paris for about two of those years.
In 2019 for no apparent reason, I decided not to go.
If I had known about the looming nightmare I would have gone for the entire year of 2019.
But I didn't.
So here we are.
And I'm betting that it will be possible to go to France in 2022.
I know people who went in 2021; I know people who are going this year, imminently, in 2022.
So I must be able to go there and celebrate my 80th birthday with my family in 2022.
We shall see.
I take my ThinkPad with me so, if it works out, expect, daily blog posts.
Because that is what I do.
In the late afternoon/early evening, before I go to le Départ St-Michel, or la Frégate or le Bonaparte, or, my favorite la Citrouille.
None of these are on the chic de Paris list but I always feel welcome and at home in each of them.
Le Départ has the additional feature that it is at the terminal point where the RER and the Metro disgorge huge segments of the world's population every few minutes; most people coming out of station St Michel are tourists; a table in le Départ is seeing what might be if there weren't nations in the way.
And what might be looks pretty good to me.
So I guess it's time to get to the point of this post.
I just sent this text to my friend who is imminently departing for Paris.
I like the story that it tells.
"Re: baguettes, the Parisian thing to do is, while you are walking home, break off the end - Le quignon - and eat it ravenously. It's OK to rip more off after you have consumed the quignon. The downside is that if you have a long walk there may not be a baguette left when you get home. This experience is especially delicious if you get a still warm/hot baguette. If you buy around 16h30 you have a pretty good chance of that happening".
Here is a still life I once shot in my Paris apartment with a baguette as a key feature.
Having nothing to do with anything said above, here is a still life I shot in my apartment on American Thanksgiving day 2018.
It had taken some time, travel and interesting conversations with the locals before I finally had finally been able to assemble the makings of Bloody Marys in Paris.
Tomato juice was the biggest problem: "jus de tomate" didn't seem to get me anywhere; it's tomate marmande; how stupid of me not to know that; and how French of them not to tell me that they knew what I was asking for; god, I love the French, especially Parisians.
But to the Bloodies: I was so excited.
When I got all that stuff together.
Isn't the celery a work of art on its own?
I got so drunk.
I think I spent the better part of an hour on Facetime with Ann Claire and Joe.
But I don't remember.
This was the last entry in one of those emails that make the rounds consisting of a never-ending pithy sayings in recognition of some perceived injustice or conspiracy.
It was the last one of a long series.
The series consisted of zingers that were just amusing enough to keep me scrolling rather than hitting delete.
Then I came to the last one.
This one made me laugh.
It was unattributed, but if the author sees this, please let me know your identity so I can attribute.
"I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., I called the Suicide Hotline. I got a call center in Afghanistan, and when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck".
Thursday, May 19, 2022
I heard an hour of quality radio analysis today.
"What else, you obvious-stating disciple of redundancy" I heard shrieked from that arena just beyond life, that I can't penetrate, but can't elude.
So it constantly harasses me.
From the void.
The interview was about infant formula.
You, know, the stuff that can't be found any more, and without which, American infants are going to start dropping like flies?
Net, net: the problem is that that business, infant formula, has been ceded to a monopoly ("lot more efficient; we can cut national contracts; we can control prices; poor people can get the stuff for nothing").
The parenthetical remarks are from our government.
But, like the FAA, FDA has produced its own Max 8.
In that monopoly, one big company, a conglomerate, has as one of its LOBs (lines of business) an infant formula company.
Since being a monopoly with an unavoidable product - food for the very young of the human race, especially the very poor of that race - seems to be such a no-brainer that no corporate executive of any consequence would pay any attention to it.
The big company didn't.
Pay any attention to it.
The plant that produced the stuff was a cash-producing cow.
There was something resembling milk coming out the back, after all.
Unfortunately the stuff began to have bacteria that killed infants.
That was a problem.
But problem aside - the FDA and the plant manager had a long-time friendship so little aberrations like lethal bacteria were easily handled - running that thing for shareholder value was like flying an airplane on auto pilot.
Actually I made most of that up for literary emphasis.
It turns out that the software that runs that LOB had been purchased from Boeing Software Services.
I made that up also.
The first time they tried to launch the thing it had a mission killing software "anomaly".
The second time they had to cancel the attempt due to corroded valves.
I hear they are pretty sure that the third try will probably work.
I guess the same thinkers of great thoughts in tall buildings that brought the world the nose diving 737 Max have been working on space craft as well.
If I were an astronaut I would only fly SpaceX.
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look, but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown, the dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb
Pink Floyd: The Wall
In the last few days, I have been seeing things out of the corner of my eye.
There is movement.
There is bulk.
There is color: dark slate.
I turn to look but it is gone.
Or maybe never was.
But I know I saw it, out of the corner of my eye.
So, what might it be? I heard somebody say.
I not only thought I saw it, out of my eye's corner, but I briefly felt I recognized it, each time I saw it.
But that recognition has been fleeting, out of the corner of my brain; or out of the corner of my conscious.
But I think that it is a version of the shadow that my mother used to see imminently prior to life changing events.
Like Annie's death.
So, what is imminent?
The pressure cooker that is America, described by me recently in another post, comes to mind.
Globalization has spawned many things, among them an excruciatingly efficient, just-in-time supply chain that has worked to fill Walmart with easily affordable merchandise, geegaws and mandatory marks of modernity.
There are some guns too.
That supply chain, under pressure, has disintegrated.
A century of one-of-a-kind in history growth fueled by unleashing the power of stored carbon has heated the planet such that the answer to why Mars has no atmosphere seems to be pretty obvious; but the beneficiaries of carbon release don't live on earth; they are merely passing through, so any attempt to eliminate carbon release, and with it the vast wealth continually generated, is met with total blockage: the Carbon Releasers own the various governments of the world and governments call the shots - after being advised as to what the shots are.
The industrial structure of the world has been constantly refined over the last 50 years under the banner bearing the words "bigger is best; mergers prevail; monopolies generate the most shareholder value".
A symptom of the effectiveness of that rush to bigness is the fact that Americans are in imminent risk of having their infant children starve to death.
Another such symptom of the efficiency of the business of big is the fact that the time lapse between the latest bad news about the increasing cost of oil in the ground and the price posted on the pump is less than 24 hours.
Damn that's fast.
And the pickups in the queue at the gas pumps and their owners all have guns; and there are few vehicles other than pickups at those pumps.
Religion reigns supreme in the land.
Politics of extremes reign supreme in the land.
The republican party has wrapped these two things up in a flour tortilla and are serving that product at mass rallies nationwide; the product is called the MAGA Wrap.
Hate lurks, leaps out of dark republican and dark religious quarters, and reigns supreme in the land; an existential fear of white people being replaced by almost everything cohabits all the dark quarters where hate reigns.
A new wrap of hate, replacement fear and virulent white supremacy - called the Non-Replacement/Hate Wrap - is being served up at MAGA events and republican dark dens.
A fusion of wraps appears imminent: Non-Replacement and MAGA are reaching critical mass.
And the rallies have lots of guns.
And the Wraps, with their associated frictions, the disintegrated supply chain with its associated scarcities, the intensity of unwillingness to acknowledge the cooking of the planet with its increasingly violent confrontations between the acolytes of the Carbon Releasers and the "Other Side", the imminent starvation of the babies of the land with the inevitable associated despair in the face of that looming event, and the price of living in a non-competitive economy with its implicit never endingly growing profit margins and bonuses and hyper concentration of wealth, and even cash flow, taken all together, are sources of new frictions.
Luckily there are lots of guns.
Guns are great way to settle things and deplete friction among warring factions.
There is more, a lot more.
And what I have said could have been said much better than I have.
But this is all the time, energy and talent that I have at my disposal; it's all I can offer preparatory to getting back to the title of this post.
The question is "is America still a country or is it a pressure cooker bomb"?
Friday, May 13, 2022
After decades of the desire to remain neutral (big bad wolf being on their border) Finland has faced facts.
The big bad wolf is really bad.
Finland beat the wolf last time, but the Finns are a pragmatic lot: why not get the protection of Article Five?
And I can't think of a people that I would personally be more happy to welcome into that sort of protective envelope.
The Finns punch way above their weight class: they have some of the best educated people in the world and they have endorsed a real democracy as their ruling principal.
NATO would benefit from them being in the alliance.
But the Joe Manchin of the NATO alliance, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of Turkey is going to vote no.
Because that to be inducted into NATO, all 30 members need to vote yes, that kills the deal.
Much like Manchin and most of his republican cronies, Erdoğan is in thrall to Putin.
The only downside I can see to purging Turkey from NATO is that Erdoğan would immediately sign up for a military alliance with Russia.
Since we already have that situation, I don't see any downside to such a purge.
Right now Erdoğan has it both ways: Turkey is in NATO so it has Article Five protection, AND Erdoğan buys Russian weapons systems, which don't mesh with NATO weapons systems, AND he allies with Putin at every fork in the geopolitical road.
Finland is too important to let Erdoğan continue to screw up the Atlantic Alliance.
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
There is, we are told, a new bird flu.
It only kills birds - so far; eagles are especially vulnerable, we are told.
But nobody - except weirdos - eats eagles.
Or so the story goes.
So, nobody would care, except, turkeys are dying in the millions.
So, I guess, next Thanksgiving, Ol' Uncle Newt is going to be able to pontificate about the election steal of 2020 over the golden-brown carcass of a marmot - the new Thanksgiving Bird.
Or maybe it will be a racoon.
I go to Manchester every now and then, so it should be possible. I was a manager for IBM in Jefferson City from 1981 - 1983 and spent some time in Springfield. What a great town. And there was a restaurant outside of the city - Joe remembers the name - that had the best frog legs I have ever had; I think it is out of business now. Speaking of out of business landmarks, Jefferson City had Nick's Homestead: the best fried chicken in the world. Veit's in JC had really good boiled (bolled) shrimp and good martinis, as I recall. We lived halfway to Columbia on a lake. Joe walked across the lake in winter to meet his friend Chris who was kitty corner from us on the lake. I always wondered if Joe was going to hit a soft spot; I guess he didn't. Chris died a while back in a mysterious fire. We caught a lot of bluegills in that lake; and skied a lot of water. Missouri is a favorite stop that I have had in my wanderings. Too bad it's so bought in to hate driven politics.
We live mostly these days on Lopez Island, a member of the American San Juan's; we are closer to Canada than we are to the United States, which is strangely comforting.
The Goldfinches have returned, en masse, so I guess the world is more OK than it would appear to be.
I realize that the other bird in the first image is a pine siskin.
Monday, May 9, 2022
What could better document the total failure of a country, by all measurements, than that it's biggest day of the year is the celebration of a victory in a war, (a victory shared in equal parts with two other countries, by the way) a war that ended 77 years ago?
Has nothing of consequence happened since 1945 to contribute to the greatness of that country?
Maybe a movie made in America with an Egyptian leading man?
But, oh, yes, I forgot; they have purged the Nazis from their "Near Abroad".
So they say.
With falsetto bravado.
Sunday, May 8, 2022
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I am so excited.
I can hardly wait to receive my Master Card so I can get my money.
Saturday, May 7, 2022
I pointed out recently that the way Boeing always built great planes was that the engineers and the accountants, the riveters and the welders, the managers and the executives - everybody who worked for Boeing knew everybody who worked for Boeing and they all had the right to wander the floor to see how things were going and, after work they all ended up in a few downtown Renton bars and grills and talked shop into the evening hours.
That was probably a little romanticized, but that's kinda how it was.
And that's how great planes got made.
That worked for most of the Twentieth and into the Twenty First Century.
Then Boeing acquired McDonnel and things changed.
The Missouri crowd didn't like the stench of all those workers either on the shop floor or in the bars and grills.
They felt the need to move off to tall buildings to immaculately conceive the future of Boeing.
So they moved to Chicago.
And that spawned the 737 Max 8, which see, below.
Thursday, May 5, 2022
In Catch 22 there was a phase of the story where everyone was compelled - all the time, at every normal daily transaction like standing in the chow line - to sign a loyalty oath.
donnie has endorsed some 50-odd candidates across the country in the upcoming primary elections.
One of them, J.D. Vance has already won.
All of them have signed a loyalty oath.
The oath says, among other things, that the signee agrees that the 2020 election was stolen from donnie.
I find that unsettling.
That's a lot of liars and abject idiots vying for elective office.
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
I have an amazing number of them.
The quality improved markedly in 2014 when my wife and I had walked back to rue St Honoré from Parc Monceau.
It had gotten dark.
I guess the settings on my camera were the result of some high intensity light need to compensate images I had been taking in the Parc.
So we were in the dark on rue St Honoré; or it could have been le Faubourg, I really don't know.
I started shooting images.
When I saw what had been captured I was dazzled.
How ... I looked at the settings and saw how; those settings were totally counter-intuitive.
Here are some images I have shot since.
The settings work the same on any of my Sony cameras.
Monday, May 2, 2022
I have been seeing video segments from all across trumpland of the slates of republican candidates all vying in upcoming primary elections.
It's hard not to invoke the cliché of the bar scene from Star Wars.
The first most unnerving thing - for me - has been how hard it has been to tell which one donnie has endorsed.
Endorsed or not, they all sound the same: they spew stupid shit mingled with fantasies of never-were bygone times and insert all that into a bullet-proof trumpian envelope of maliciously calculated hate.
And someone from among them, in every case, is going to win.
I don't mean win the primary; that's a given; I mean win the general election.
How do I know that?
I know that because I saw John Yang of The PBS Newshour interview a table-full of MAGAs in some brink-of-nowhere part of Ohio in that brink-of-nowhere's premier salt of the earth diner.
The MAGAs were all about my age, really old, and they all had some kind of facial hair, and they all swore eternal allegiance to donnie.
And they seemed to be exceptionally stupid, which we have learned from J.D. Vance, the trump endorsed candidate for Senate in Ohio (perhaps a tactically astute choice: at least J.D. can read and write, he wrote Hillbilly Elegy) that "being stupid" is all an act; this apparently stupid Appalachian residue is really a cadre of latter-day descendants to the founding fathers.
The interview proceeded.
I listened to what the Nuts of the Roundtable said.
To John Yang.
"That", I thought to myself, after hearing all of their thoughts "bodes ill for the rest of us".
It was a Tolkien moment.
I kept hoping to see Strider.
Lurking somewhere in some dark corner of that salt of the earth diner.
But all I saw was John Yang, looking crestfallen.
I need something to hope for; but there is nothing.
To hope for.
All is darkness; all is sadness; all is just super-anodized hatred.
As Pogo once said, "we have met the enemy and he is us".
After wandering around the Jardin des Plantes for days chasing parrots that I saw flitting between trees or following up the sound of their raucous conversations I was walking by an enclosed wooded area that I had never paid much attention to.
There was a small group of adults and children looking at something.
I had to laugh: if you want to see parrots, go to where the food is.
I had never noticed the four Droll Yankees feeders.
The parrots had noticed.
Sunday, May 1, 2022
That's Bells Up Pinot Blanc (Rhapsody) 2018 in the Chez Panisse glass.
And pineapple salsa.
And a chunk of grilled pineapple.
And amazing risotto.
And grilled shrimp marinated in half lime juice, half olive oil, whipped.
Not in the picture: Barn Owl bread and a salad verte avec tomate.