11 March 2019

11 March 2019


 11 March 2019 is Commonwealth Day for members of the Commonwealth of Nations (which is what we call the ghost of the British Empire today). Apparently it started as a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday on 24 May, and somehow mutated to a celebration of the Commonwealth on the second Monday in March. If it keeps on backing through the calendar at this rate it will end up colliding with the Yuletide festivities in a century or so.

10 March 2019

10 March 2019


 10 March 2019 is Harriet Tubman Day in the United States, in honor of her work on the underground railroad and in fighting slavery generally. It doesn’t seem to have much of any other significance, and once again I’ve got absolutely nothing to add to a lackluster day. Well, “Sunday is the dullest day,” as the poet says, “treating | Laughter as profane sound, mixing | Worship and despair, killing | New thought with dead forms.” Maybe it’s simply what we have coming. Solis or dimanĉo, Κυριακή or Pazar, dimanche or Sonntag, it all comes down to the same thing—the day of preparation for the horrors ahead.

09 March 2019

9 March 2019


 9 March 2019 is Ornette Coleman’s birthday. It’s also Bobby Fischer’s birthday, as well as the birthday of P. Z. Myers. The day’s saint is Catherine of Bologna (1413–1463), patron saint of artists, against temptations, and of Bologna.
It snowed again last night in Portland, enough snow that the neighbors were building snow men and erecting snow walls. It is rapidly melting away, but I’m frankly amazed it had the temerity to stick around this long this late in the season.

08 March 2019

8 March 2019

 8 March 2019 is International Women’s Day. While it is a major holiday in much of the world, here in the United States it is largely overlooked, although it seems like a perfect opportunity for people to send cards or other tokens of appreciation to significant women in their lives—and thus keep our capitalist economy humming. Still.
In international news the failed peace talks between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have heightened the likelihood of conflict between North Korea and the United States—or more likely U.S. allies like South Korea or Japan. At any rate the North Koreans have not stopped building nuclear weapons at any point during this alleged peace process, and Trump (of course) has no plan in place for discouraging them. To the contrary, the only thing so far that has brought a sitting U.S. president racing over to pay court to the tinpot dictator is his possession of nuclear weapons. It is hard to imagine the circumstances that would induce him to give them up.


07 March 2019

7 March 2019


 7 March 2019 is, as far as my calendar knows, no holiday at all. It is Rik Mayall’s and Arthur Lee’s birthday, however, so it’s not a total loss. I’m feeling really crappy, which is but one reason this entry is so goddamn late in the day, and I’m sort of feeling that the end is somewhere up ahead almost in sight. Premonition? I don’t believe in them, but doom-shaped clouds lurk ahead, and my course is set, like it or not.

06 March 2019

6 March 2019


 6 March 2019 is Ash Wednesday. It is the birthday of Michelangelo, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ring Lardner, and Will Eisner. And it is also the anniversary of the famous last stand at the Alamo. And today it’s snowing right here in Portland.
And that’s about what I seem to have today. The news is boring, and I don’t have the energy to put out anything of any substance. I’ve got to get some sleep before nightfall.
Had he lived, my father would have been ninety-four today. I suppose even if he’d beaten that giant cell arteritis a couple decades back something would have likely gotten him by now. Still, ninety-four is by no means out of reach. I don’t expect to see it myself, but almost certainly some people who were born when I was will.

05 March 2019

5 March 2019


 5 March 2019 is Shrove Tuesday, alias Fat Tuesday, a.k.a. Mardi Gras. In Vermont it is Town Meeting Day. It is the last day to live it up before the horrors of Lenten austerity descend.

04 March 2019

4 March 2019


 4 March 2019 is Casimir Pulaski Day, Idaho Day, and Maha Shivaratri. It’s Guy Wetmore Carryl’s birthday, too—he’s the author of the extraordinary Kipling parody that begins “As I was walkin’ the jungle round, a-killin’ of tigers an’ time…” And it’s Halim El-Dabh’s birthday as well. The Egyptian composer is responsible for the standout track on the 1964 Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center album, “Leiyla and the Poet,” one of my favorite compositions of all time. Beginning and ending with a piercing whistle, the piece sets two contrasting voices to work in an expression of desire for a possibly unattainable woman. Against a rhythmic background of drums and plucked strings the one chants of love (the poet?) while the other bellows the name “Leiyla” in an unearthly sort of howl that starts low, rises a couple of octaves and drops again. It is a disquieting, even frightening, piece.

03 March 2019

3 March 2019


 3 March 2019 is World Wildlife Day, a relatively recent observance intended to remind us of the intrinsic value of wildlife and the part it plays in our ecosystem. It is the one hundred forty-forth anniversary of the premiere performance of Carmen in Paris. Georges Bizet’s work did not go over well immediately. At least that’s what I remember from the Big Book of Composers that I had as a kid. When the composer died—and he was relatively young at the time—he had no idea his opera would become a standard work, known to millions. I suppose that’s what makes Enoch Soames’ deal so poignant—the sense that the success that might have eluded you in life might come—too late. The catch is—the odds are that if your work didn’t catch on in your lifetime it’s even more unlikely that it will catch on after your death. Death is only a good career move for those who had a career in the first place.

02 March 2019

2 March 2019


 2 March 2019 is Texas Independence Day, commemorating the moment when a flood of illegal immigrants into Mexico boldly seized control of a chunk of Mexican territory and declared it an independent nation. Nine years later the illegal immigrants completed their theft by joining the United States as the pro-slavery state of Texas. And today descendents of the illegal immigrants who stole the state fair and square nearly two centuries back worry about illegal immigrants from Mexico reversing affairs and stealing the state back. The wheel turns, I suppose.
It’s also Eddie Lawrence’s birthday. If you remember him at all—and you probably don’t—it’s for his “Old Philosopher” routine, where he juxtaposes hideous but comic disasters (“and your Uncle Harold came in as a big jolly bear, and your father shot him”) with hollow uplifting advice (“Well lift your head up high and take a walk in the sun with dignity and stick-to-it-iveness and … never give up, never give up, never give up—that ship!”). My personal favorite character of his, however, is the noxious guy in the bar complaining endlessly about modern life—rock ’n’ roll, Christmas, New Year (“ring out the old, ring in the new—new what? New worries?”)—to somebody who periodically requests “Will you shut up?” Then there’s “The Visitor” with his obscure bits of wisdom (“The whole world’s patching up the same pair of faded blue jeans,”) that seem like they ought to mean something—but don’t. And his endless list of people to stay away from (“anyone who’d frame a Christmas card from a bank … anyone who’d play ‘knock knock’ on his honeymoon … off duty cops with attack dogs”). There was never anyone quite like Eddie Lawrence, anyway. He may be gone—but he’s unforgettable.

01 March 2019

1 March 2019


 1 March 2019 is Employee Appreciation Day, Read Across America Day, and St. David’s Day. Locally it is I Can’t Pay the Rent Day—the day I try to figure out how in hell I can continue to afford to contribute my share towards a couch in a basement that periodically floods. At least I have my blankets for warmth. And my dog.
Elsewhere idiots are attacking part of the key infrastructure that keeps all humanity afloat—our ability to deal with microorganisms that interfere with our ability to function. Some incompetent anti-vax loon in Texas thinks that measles is no big deal because we have “antibiotics and that kind of stuff.” Apparently he doesn’t know that antibiotics do nothing to stop measles. Dumbass Bill Zedler—who is a state legislator—claims to have had measles when he was growing up and “as far as being sick in bed, it wasn’t anything like that.” Bullshit. I really did have measles as a kid, and I was flat on my back for over a week and then had to fight off another infection thanks to a weakened immune system. That’s what happens when you really do get measles and aren’t merely faking it. And people do die of measles right here in America, as Bill Zedler would know if he wasn’t just a lying sack of shit sounding off about things he knows nothing about. He’s no different from those gibbering assholes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are setting fire to Ebola clinics for some asshole political reason. I’m not a big proponent of the death penalty, but as far as I’m concerned such traitors to humanity—I’m specifically referring to Bill Zedler and his pro-Ebola allies—ought to be lined up and shot sans ceremony. Toleration is no virtue for these criminals.

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