15 January 2019

Two Intelligent Uncles Chatting to the Beat


A Short Story
by Zurys A Feplo, LQE

M
orwenna Khan looked at the ripped hawk in her hands and felt sad.
She walked over to the window and reflected on her wild surroundings. She had always loved noisy Liverpool with its nosy, nice nooks. It was a place that encouraged her tendency to feel sad.
Then she saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Sally England. Sally was an intelligent painter with ruddy lips and hairy eyelashes.
Morwenna gulped. She glanced at her own reflection. She was a stable, malicious, tea drinker with ruddy lips and grubby eyelashes. Her friends saw her as a villainous, vigilant vicar. Once, she had even jumped into a river and saved a mighty toddler.
But not even a stable person who had once jumped into a river and saved a mighty toddler, was prepared for what Sally had in store today.
The drizzle rained like thinking gerbils, making Morwenna puzzled.
As Morwenna stepped outside and Sally came closer, she could see the gentle glint in her eye.
Sally gazed with the affection of 8222 virtuous high horses. She said, in hushed tones, “I love you and I want equality.”
Morwenna looked back, even more puzzled and still fingering the ripped hawk. “Sally, you must think I was born yesterday,” she replied.
They looked at each other with shocked feelings, like two low, lonely lizards smiling at a very stupid wake, which had orchestral music playing in the background and two intelligent uncles chatting to the beat.
Morwenna studied Sally's ruddy lips and hairy eyelashes. Eventually, she took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” began Morwenna in apologetic tones, “but I don’t feel the same way, and I never will. I just don’t love you Sally.”
Sally looked barmy, her emotions raw like a hungry, hurt hat.
Morwenna could actually hear Sally’s emotions shatter into 465 pieces. Then the intelligent painter hurried away into the distance.
Not even a cup of tea would calm Morwenna’s nerves tonight.
THE END

14 January 2019

The Feast of the Ass


“F
ormerly, the Feast of the Ass was celebrated on this day, in commemoration of the ‘Flight into Egypt’ says Chambers’ Book of Days, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, though I can’t remember ever noticing it before, and it does seem like the sort of religious festival I would have noticed. We are informed:
The escape of the Holy Family into Egypt was represented by a beautiful girl holding a child at her breast, and seated on an ass, splendidly decorated with trappings of gold-embroidered cloth. After having been led in solemn procession through the streets of the city in which the celebration was held, the ass, with its burden, was taken into the principal church, and placed near the high altar, while the various religious services were performed. In place, however, of the usual responses, the people on this occasion imitated the braying of an ass; and, at the conclusion of the service, the priest, instead of the usual benediction, brayed three times, and was answered by a general hee-hawing from the voices of the whole congregation.
Those were simpler times, I suppose—at least I hope they were. The book doesn’t actually say when this festival was celebrated, but I am assuming that it was one of those medieval frolics that used to engage the minds and bodies of our ancestors in the absence of more sophisticated mass media (think of the asinine antics of Ann Coulter or Benny Hill).
Our present Feast of the Ass is a triptych depicting President Trumpkoff begging the Democrats to save his sorry Ass, then sitting in an empty room waiting for help to come, and finally contemplating a feast of crow. I’m almost sorry that I voted for the guy—no, that’s right, I voted for the actual Republican in the race, Hillary Clinton. You’d have to have been dim as a burnt-out bulb to vote for a failed con-man agent of RasPutin like our Idiot in Chief.
Well, since America has shed its government along with its pretence of greatness, may as well adopt this ceremony as its own. Let the President conclude his address to Congress by braying three times, and let the Senators and Representatives respond in kind. It’s a fitting end to our misbegotten Republic, and a warning to those in the future who might attempt to follow in our failing footsteps.

13 January 2019

De Ole Folks at Bay, or Massa's in de Cole Cole Ribber


I
t’s Stephen Foster Memorial Day in the United States, for what that’s worth. This racist composer of some of the most insipid songs ever to bore into a listener’s brain apparently has his own day—the day of his untimely death, like those honoring Χian saints and martyrs. Why I don’t know. It’s not as if we don’t have real composers in this country to honor—Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, Ornette Coleman, Florence Price, or Billy Strayhorn (to name but a few).
Ah, but who can forget such beloved compositions as “Massa’s in de Cole Ground,” “Gwine ter Run all Night” (a.k.a. “Camptown Races”), “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair,” or “Old Folks at Home” (a.k.a. “Way down upon de Swanee River”)? I sure as hell wish I could. I could extend this list easily, but nausea overwhelms me. I mean, seriously, these are the lyrics to one of his most celebrated songs:
Camptown ladies sing dis song, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
Camptown race-track five miles long, Oh, doo-dah day!
I come down dah wid my hat caved in, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
I go back home wid a pocket full of tin, Oh, doo-dah day!
Gwine to run all night!
Gwine to run all day!
I’ll bet my money on de bob-tail nag,
Somebody bet on de bay.
Really? This clown deserves his own day? I guess in all fairness he’s not as fucking awful as Francis Scott Key, but that’s a low bar to get over. And he did write some catchy melodies, almost at a level with Barry Manilow. (Who can forget “Like a good neighbor | State Farm is there” or “You deserve a break today”? Again, I wish I could.) But is that really enough?
Seriously, anybody can write a Stephen Foster song. Just plunk away at the black keys on the piano, set it to a primitive harmony, ladle in syrupy lyrics about de ole plantation days, and you’re ready to go. An instant American classic.

12 January 2019

Toxic Femininity


I
 see in the news that a thirteen-year-old girl managed to escape from the man who kidnapped her, murdering her mother and father in order to keep them from being “barriers” to his violent project. I feel confident that Nancy Rommelmann and her fellow journalist Leah McSweeney will soon be explaining how this is an example of “toxic femininity” and urging that the girl “just get over” her parents’ murder and learn to live with things—you know, choose not to be a victim and all that.
I mean, gee whiz, shouldn’t we think of what poor Jake Thomas Patterson must be going through? What young man hasn’t at least considered murdering a teenager’s parents and carrying her off to a remote cabin in the woods? That’s just how young men are. It certainly shouldn’t be allowed to blight his future prospects—boys will be boys etc. Let’s all try to forgive him and put this whole unpleasant business behind us without getting into victim culture and all those sorts of distasteful things. Brett Kavanaugh would understand.
Think about it. In a few years maybe we’ll be seeing Justice Patterson nominated to the Supreme Court. He’s certainly got the qualifications for it—at least in the Dopey Don’s America. A callous indifference to human life, a strong desire to achieve his own ends whatever the cost to others—and not one, but two actual murders under his belt. Maybe they didn’t have the prominence of Jamal Khashoggi, but surely the removal of every “barrier” counts.
President Trump should consider it. That is, assuming he can ever manage to get the U. S. government open again.

11 January 2019

Another Corrupt Politician Out (2008)


[Originally posted at Rational Rant on 11 January 2008]
A
ccording to the New York Times, John T. Doolittle, who along with fellow-travelers Richard Pombo and Tom Delay did so much to gut environmental laws for the benefit of private corporations, is planning to step down.
WASHINGTON — Representative John T. Doolittle, a California Republican who has suggested he is almost certain to face criminal charges in a Congressional lobbying scandal, announced Thursday that he would retire from the House next year.
The announcement by Mr. Doolittle, 57, who is in his ninth term in Congress and was once seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, made no reference to the criminal investigation by the Justice Department, which has centered on his connections to the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Last April, Mr. Doolittle’s home in suburban Virginia was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of that inquiry, and his wife, a campaign fund-raiser, was subpoenaed for her financial records.
The aptly-named Doolittle spent his time in Congress attempting to destroy the endangered species act and to make sure that nothing was accomplished on virtually any environmental front. Given this record it is no surprise that the California Republican had ties to corrupt lobbyists. The Times added:
Justice Department officials would not comment Thursday on the status of the criminal investigation against Mr. Doolittle, who is among nearly 20 House Republicans to announce that they will voluntarily leave Congress over the next year. Prosecutors appear to be focused on business connections between Mr. Doolittle’s wife and lobbyists, including Mr. Abramoff, who might have sought to influence his vote.
...Until this week, Mr. Doolittle publicly rebuffed calls for his resignation and said he was eager to seek another term. Branding his critics within the Republican Party as “weasels,” he continued until several days ago to seek donations for a re-election campaign this November.
I wonder what happened to change his mind. [11 Ja 2008]

10 January 2019

The Washington Clown-Fest (1999)


[From my pre-weblog, 9 January 1999. Yeah, it’s a day late.]
T
here’s probably no good reason to put in anything here, really, but this impeachment farce continues in Washington, and I might as well get something down about it. It’s unbelievable that Congress has sunk this low, to use the power of impeachment for what can only be described as narrow partisan ends, but there it is I guess. Nobody I’ve talked with gives a damn about any of this—the general opinion seems to be a let’s-get-this-damn-thing-over-with attitude. Detachment is the only way to handle this idiocy. This bizarre defense the Republicans (my own party, God help me) keep coming up with is like an incredibly bad sleight-of-hand trick. It’s not what Clinton did that’s important—it’s the fact he lied about it. That’s the real issue. Don’t look at the goldfish bowl I’m trying to hide behind my back—you’re supposed to be looking over here, where I have the sheet in the shape of a bowl. Come on, audience—now I’m going to do it again, and this time try to follow the trick—look at what I want you to, and not at what I’m really doing. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. For God’s sake, people, come off it! The only issue here is whether having an “inappropriate relationship” with an employee is in fact a high crime or misdemeanor on the level of treason or bribery—or election fraud or selling arms to our nation’s enemies. If so then the issues of lying under oath or obstruction of justice assume a serious cast and we can talk seriously about maybe removing the president from office. But without that it’s all dust and cobwebs. And when the Republicans themselves keep on saying that the issue isn’t sex, it’s perjury (for which so far they haven’t presented the vestige of a case, as far as I can see, since no one has even addressed the question of materiality), or lying under oath, or obstruction of justice, or something or other like that—well, hell, they might as well just come out and say We don’t have any kind of a case, but we’re hoping somehow to get Clinton on a technicality. While I have little respect for the American people on the whole, this time they’re quite correct in their perception that the case is about Clinton’s sex life. Period. And the Republicans have only a lame magic trick they can’t quite get to work. [9 Ja 1999]

09 January 2019

Martyrs Day (Panama)


I
t’s Martyrs’ Day in Panama, and as this is the fifty-fifth anniversary of the event, I attempted to write something a bit more substantial than I’ve been able to manage recently, but events have conspired against me, and I’m now out of time to do anything.
So to hell with it. Maybe next year. There’s a decent article on it by Eric Jackson preserved at The Internet Archive, and some fascinating links at maestravida dot com. You can check them out if you like.

08 January 2019

Raccoon Incident (1993)


[Passage from my journal for 8/9 January 1993:]
T
oday. I got up about sunset—four or five in the afternoon—and went downstairs to see my father and have some stew. He had added considerably to the stew, and the flavor had improved somewhat. We conversed about various news items, and then he headed off for Canby. I watched May to Decem­ber (appeared to be the first episode), Are You Being Served?, and Waiting for God. The British comedy evening on KOPB. Worked some on notes dealing more or less with my Shakespeare book; mostly dealing with other Elizabethan playwrights, however.
The raccoons came by about 2:30 a.m., two of them, and they accepted eggs from me gladly. They seemed really happy about the unfrozen water I put out for them, and things seemed to be going well until one of them attempted to mount the other. The female (I suppose) ignored her assaulter for a minute or so, and then suddenly turned on him viciously, biting and clawing. He fought back, and they both zipped around the porch at high speed, bang­ing into things and making noises like cats fighting played back at twice normal speed. Eventually they fell off the porch and the one (I think it was the male) took off stiffly and unhappily, or so it looked to me. The other seemed shaken by the conflict too, and walked off a little later. Somebody came back and ate the rest of the food later, though. I didn’t see it; I was writ­ing. (In all fairness, I don’t know what sex either of them was; I would suppose the one attempting to mount would have to be male, but I’ve seen dogs attempt to screw other male dogs, so who really knows? And what do I know about the sex life of raccoons, anyway?)

07 January 2019

Another Brick in the Goddamn Wall


A
nd things continue to wobble uncertainly this Plough Monday; maybe it has something to do with it also being St. Distaff’s Day this year. It is the seventeenth day of the partial government shutdown here in the United States, and President Trump is apparently preparing to finally address the nation to make his case for a destructive and expensive wall along the nation’s southern border, instead of tweeting and twittering like a high-school kid.
I can’t imagine what he’s going to say. It will be pointless, of course, and stupid, and filled with lies, because that’s the kind of guy he is. A liar, a boaster—what else could it be? But that’s not the important part—rather, can he put on a performance that will turn the numbers around for him? Can he throw a spectacular enough tantrum to convince American voters to line up behind him? I mean, that’s what it comes down to. He needs something like Reagan’s stack of dollar bills reaching to the moon to pull that off—and even that may not be enough. He needs the American people behind the wall, rather than up against it.

06 January 2019

The Get Back Sessions: Third Day


O
kay. It looks like another not-so-joyous Yuletide season has come to its inglorious end with Three Kings Day, also known as Theophany, Þrettándinn, Epiphany, or Hierophany. (One of those I made up.) In Iraq it is Armed Forces Day, and in Laos Pathet Lao Day. Locally it is Recycling Eve—the day on which we put our recycling containers on the curb, hoping to find them empty the next day.
Fifty years ago at Twickenham the Beatles returned to work after a weekend break to attack their ill-fated Get Back project with enthusiasm bordering on apathy. Some effort was devoted to “Two of Us” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” but nobody seemed much interested in Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” or Lennon’s already-recorded “Across the Universe.” “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” also received some attention.
The fates of these songs were to be, well, varied. The Beatles never did record “All Things Must Pass” Harrison would eventually record it on a solo album. The band also passed on doing anything further with “Across the Universe”; the already-recorded version would come out on an album benefiting the World Wildlife Fund. “She Came In Through the Bathroom” would appear as part of the second side of Abbey Road in a rather different incarnation. “Don’t Let Me Down” would appear as the B-side of a single.
As for “Two of Us”—its fate, like most of the songs intended for this project, was to be consigned to Limbo. In point of fact the Beatles, as a functioning group, never did issue any version of “Two of Us.” Or “The Long and Winding Road,” or “Dig a Pony,” or “For You Blue,” or “I’ve Got a Feeling.” By the time the album Let It Be came out, the Beatles were no more. Nor did its former members agree on the product.
And that, I would argue, makes it a posthumous production, with all the disadvantages posthumous publication entails. Worse yet it was explicitly condemned by one of its creators, relegating it to the Beatles Apocrypha.
I intend to pursue this issue at excruciating length in subsequent installments. But don’t hold your breath. I have the attention-span of a firefly.

05 January 2019

Impeach the Motherfucker Day


A
nd another day goes by with Homeland Security furloughed while our Clueless Leader tries to figure out how to get the government running again. (Hint: it involves not throwing a fit because some middle-aged woman called you a joke.) Gutless Mitch McConnell dithers indecisively, caught between a pillow and a soft place. Millions wonder about how to pay for their food and their housing, while garbage continues to pile up in our national parks, a visible symbol of the end of American greatness.
It’s like the old song says, I suppose—“I close my eyes and try to smile; I know things are bad and getting worse, But after all this I can rest awhile…” At least I wasn’t murdered in the back seat of my mother’s car like seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes. She didn’t do anything to provoke her killer, the authorities keep on saying. What the fuck? Of course she didn’t do anything—what could she have done? What could anyone have done to provoke anybody into opening fire on her? I mean, maybe if she’d been armed and about to blow the guy away, then maybe—just barely—you could argue some sort of provocation. Maybe. But otherwise it’s just so much empty gas.
If people are holding the notion that gun ownership confers with it the right to randomly blow people away when they “provoke” them then they have seriously misread the Second Amendment. (Not as badly as the Supreme Court did, maybe, but still pretty damn badly.) Freedom of gun ownership no more conveys the right to use it as you like than freedom to own a car conveys the right to run somebody down if you feel that they’re blocking your way. (I’m looking at you, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah.) Or freedom of speech conveys the right to order a hit on a journalist you dislike.
Childish nonsense. Don’t talk to me about provocation. Get this guy off the street, and get this goddamn government working again. Otherwise I suggest that the slogan for this twelfth day of Χmas 12019 HE should be a hearty “Impeach the motherfucker!”

04 January 2019

Bleak Moment: Still At Large


I
t’s Independence day in Myanmar, as well as the Day of the Fallen against the Colonial Repression in Angola, the Day of the Martyrs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, World Braille Day, Ogoni Day, and of course the Eleventh Day of Χmas. Anti-American nuts are flipping out because one representative took her oath of office on a copy of the Quran, while another used the Constitution. (They should have used the old 1611 Bible translation, blessed by Saint James himself, I suppose. At least they took the oath of office, unlike those freshmen Republicans a few years back who skipped out on the whole business to get drunk.) Some of the rest of us are looking in awe at the pictures coming in now from places as close as the far side of the moon and as far as Ultima Thule. The killers of Jazmine Barnes (shot for no reason while riding in the back seat of her mother’s car) and Fallon Smart (killed by a hit-and-run driver whom the Saudi Arabian authorities helped escape from custody in Oregon) are still at large. Criminal polluters are being given a free hand to poison our air and water by the current corrupt administration in Washington. And in local news—I can’t get back to sleep after my dog woke me up to go for a walk.

03 January 2019

Festival of Sleep


T
he Republicans having failed at keeping the government open when they had control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, now look to the Democrats to bail them out of the difficulty they created for themselves. What’s in it for the Democrats is far less obvious. On this tenth day of Χmas the Dopey Don’s reckless gamble is looking more and more like a bust. Maybe sleeping in should be the order of the day.
But setting the Festival of Sleep aside, today is the fiftieth anniversary of the second day of the Beatles’ infamous Get Back project, a project that rode the roller-coaster of despair from a high sense of ennui to low and bitter recriminations. The concept was simple enough—the Beatles would write and rehearse an album’s worth of material which they would then perform live before an invited audience. The recording of that concert would then be released as their next album, and the film of the whole ordeal could serve as a television special or something. It would take a band a lot less talented than the Beatles to pull this feat off.
Still, at this point in the project spirits were as high as they would ever be, and boredom had yet to transform into umbrage. On the first two days the various members put their wares on display. McCartney had “Two of Us,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Oh! Darling,” and “Let It Be.”  Lennon had “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Dig a Pony,” and “Child of Nature” (the last still evolving from the White Album sessions). Harrison had “All Things Must Pass” and “Let It Down,” while Starkey had “Taking a Trip to Carolina” and “Picasso.” They also took a look at “I’ve Got a Feeling” and resurrected “The One After 909” from their early days. (I may have left some out.)
Some of these would indeed end up being performed for the project, while others would turn up on Abbey Road or later solo albums. There were a number of passes at things that never did turn into proper songs and would probably be now forgotten if they hadn’t been immortalized by the tape recorders that the film crew kept running for possible later use. Some bits from the day did end up in the eventual film—Harrison getting an electric shock, for one, and part of a run-through of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”—but for the most part the material was left in decent oblivion.

02 January 2019

Playing Chicken Day


T
oday is the ninth day of Χmas, Isaac Asimov’s birthday (observed), the Feast Day of Saint Macarius of Alexander, and Run It Up the Flagpole and See If Anybody Salutes It Day. In Haiti it is Ancestry Day, and it’s Berchtoldstag in Switzerland. It is the twelfth day of President Trump’s partial shutdown of the American Government in protest over his not getting his way on funding a pet project. It is the last day of Republican control of the U. S. Government.
None of this exactly inspires me, to be honest. The American government shutdown is both stupid and suicidal, with Trump playing chicken with the incoming Democrats, who have nothing to lose. It’s like the scene in Groundhog Day when Bill Murray bets that the train is going to swerve first. It’s probably not going to happen, and there’s no reason that it should happen.
I don’t know why my party—the Republican Party—has decided to embrace such anti-American values as torture, welshing on debts, and breaking contracts. (Americans have of course done such things all along, but that doesn’t make them American values. What makes them values is embracing them, and celebrating them.) I guess I don’t care that much either; it’s just another milepost in American’s long degradation and fall.

01 January 2019

Happy New Year!


O
kay, it’s now the 12019th year of the Holocene Era and species are going out one by one as the water rises along with that old cosmic thermostat. The President of the United States is a blithering idiot who is incapable of figuring out what he needs to do just to keep his own government running. Americans are murdered by Saudi Arabian nationals, protected by their government, with seeming impunity. And all I can say is—ignore it, everybody. Enjoy our ride to extinction. It turns out that having large brains and an unparalleled ability to process data is not all it is cracked up to be. That we can see our own doom coming is useless when we can’t muster up the will or resolve to deal with it.
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