31 August 2020

Politics in the Trumpist Era

And my world continues to deteriorate. In connection with the “unrest” here in Portland it now appears that the altercation between two men that resulted in one man’s death was not connected with Trump’s Caravan of Fools. Aaron Danielson is—no, was—a fellow Portlander, though apparently a “supporter” (whatever that means) of the pro-fascist* Patriot Prayer outfit. (I don’t mean to defame the dead here, but that is being reported as a fact by supposedly reliable forces. And the pro-fascists are mourning him as one of their own.) Last night’s protest was allegedly declared an “unlawful assembly” by the police (I wasn’t there), and Governor Brown is calling in law enforcement agents from adjacent areas to aid the Portland police (that should go well). And at Wikipedia there is an ongoing debate about renaming the page about the protests the “2020 Portland riots” or something like that. Madness.

I haven’t seen this myself, but “people are saying” that Trump is describing the ongoing nationwide protests as a “coup.” That’s omnibus, as my roommate would say. When Trump misuses words like that it’s generally a sign of what he’s thinking of doing himself—and the way things look right now, a coup d’état is what it will take to keep him in office. A number of supposedly sober commentators have in fact been describing such an eventuality for some time now—Trump will declare martial law, Trump will cancel the elections, Trump will refuse to surrender the office—but without actually using the word. I—perhaps wrongly—don’t take that seriously, simply because Trump doesn’t have either the self-discipline or the nerve to carry out anything of the kind. I doubt very much that he has the support of a significant section of the military (or any other armed agency) which would be required to carry out any such extralegal operation.

What I think is going to happen, assuming that Biden actually manages to win this election, is that Trump will go mysteriously silent during the transition period, and that soon after Biden takes office he will issue a blanket pardon to Trump for any and all federal crimes he might or might not have committed with an admonishment that we should be looking toward the future, let bygones be bygones, and not rake over the coals of the past. Once “exonerated” Trump will launch his 2024 campaign for president to the rapturous applause of the magaheads and the bickering of the Democrats who are hamstrung in their efforts to deal with the full-blown depression and the ongoing pandemic by the opposition of the Republicans, leading to massive Republican victories in 2022 and 2024.

Alternatively this could be one of those realignment moments in American politics, if the neverTrumpers stay with the conservative Democrats, allowing the Democrats to dump the progressives altogether and leaving the Republicans an eviscerated husk. That would be great for the point one percent and suck for the vast majority of Americans, but sans revolution that would seem the most likely outcome with this development

But major realignments in American politics are once-in-a-lifetime sort of events, and I’ve already seen one of them. A crushing Trump defeat might lead to a collapse of the present Cottonhead party and a return of the neverTrumpers to reform the Republicans as a Conservative party. Conceivably that might push the Democrats leftward more towards mainline America and stave off a likely progressive split. But as I say, I don’t consider any of this at all likely. The odds are against it. But sometimes events do defy the odds—look at the 2016 election.

Anyway, I would guess that Trump is mulling over the possibility of staging a coup, which he won’t have the nerve to undertake. In the meantime he will accuse his opponents, real and imaginary, of planning a coup, because that’s how his mind—such as it is—works. But in the backchannels of American politics he’ll be holding the threat of insurrection up as a threat while angling for a pardon—or other favors.

Mind you, all this is assuming that Biden wins. I still have trouble wrapping my mind around that possibility.

*On this site the term “pro-fascist” is used to designate opponents of various anti-fascist groups, to avoid the cumbersome expression “anti-anti-fascist”

30 August 2020

Corrections and Updates

For what it is worth, the name of the man killed in Portland last night is now being given as Aaron Danielson rather than Jay Bishop; I have not seen any explanation of the change. It is also now being reported that the altercation began with Danielson attacking another man with pepper spray; only then did the other man retaliate by shooting him. A man seen in recordings of the event, identified as Michael Forest Reinoehl, is now “under investigation”—whether as a witness or as a suspect is not stated.

And again, whether there is any connection between this event and Trump’s caravan of hate is unclear. Apparently the dead man—whether his name is Jay Bishop or Aaron Danielson—is still being claimed as a “supporter” of the pro-fascist* Patriot Prayer outfit in Vancouver, so that hasn’t changed at least. If he was part of Trump’s goon caravan that came to Portland to make trouble, then he got what he came for. If, on the other hand, he was just an innocent bystander on the wrong side of history who got caught in the crossfire, then I guess it should just be chalked up to collateral damage. So far, however, the information available doesn’t allow for a judgment.

As election stunts go, Der Trummpkopf’s Goon Caravan was as lame as they come. And if this death was one of its fruits, then it was a pathetic misfire.

*On this site the term “pro-fascist” is used to designate opponents of various anti-fascist groups, to avoid the cumbersome expression “anti-anti-fascist”

An Alleged Pro-facist* Group Supporter Killed in Portland

Okay, I wasn’t there, and I don’t know any more than the rest of you about the event, but somebody—apparently one of the goons President Trump sent to Portland to make trouble—found it last night. The “victim” has been identified as one Jay Bishop, allegedly a supporter of the pro-fascist* Patriot Prayer group in Vancouver, Washington—a suburb of Portland, just across the Columbia River, for those ignorant of the local geography, a category that I imagine encompasses most of the population of the world. Somebody shot Bishop dead downtown near Third and Alder around nine p.m. Although murky videos relating to the event have surfaced, none of them show what led up to the shooting, which I assume was done in “self-defense” since that seems to be all the rage these days. Various unreliable narrators are confidently identifying the killer (on the basis of a “neck tattoo” and general body shape) as an anti-fascist demonstrator, but I’m going to wait for something resembling evidence before going along with them. Or at least an official statement, if no actual evidence is available.

Our conservative pro-police mayor is now getting the shaft from both sides; the left has never liked him, and the right is blaming him for the constitutionally-protected protests that have been going on nightly now for months. If Wheeler had the power (and the support of the people of Portland) he would put an end to them immediately, but lacking either power or support his hands are tied. I haven’t looked at any polls, but based on “the word on the street” I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s replaced by somebody less conservative than he is in the next election.

But anyway, here in Southwest Portland all of this might as well be happening on the moon. When Trump removed his personal goon-squads from the city all real violence died down, and if it weren’t for this goddamn election-year stunt things would have been quiet last night in downtown Portland. But when squads of rioters show up pepper-spraying people and screaming racial epithets at them, stuff is bound to happen. I don’t know if this event had anything to do with that Trump-sent violence, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The Dopey Don has been bad news from the beginning.

*On this site the term “pro-fascist” is used to designate opponents of various anti-fascist groups, to avoid the cumbersome expression “anti-anti-fascist”

Waiting for Smelt (1974)

[Passage from my journal, 30 August 1974]

About 3:00 pm PDT—Somewhere near the ocean and Yachats Oregon. I’m waiting here on a juvenile-sandy shelf with R and F, TJ, J, [the dogs] Thaddeus and Tekla for smelt to come in. Little happens. Tekla digs a hole. Gray sky and gray ocean. A seal in the water, people on the shore. Birds flocking on rocks off the shore. Waval Islands—what would you call rocks that were islands when the waves come up and not when they went back? Yahweh placed the sand as a barrier for the sea—though the waves toss, they can not go past it, though they roar they cannot prevail. Seals.

Afternoon still—No seals. Melted rocks. (I am at (in front of—well, not exactly, I’m in front of Curl Harbor) the store). Illogic speaks louder than words. Christine (TJ’s friend) hath departed for regions unknown (a.k.a. San Francisco). She is not where we left her—hence, she presumably got a ride.

Clem is to die by starvation—starve is the original English word for to die—clem is also a carny term for fight with the townspeople. Clem is melc backwords. Backwards, Towards, Eastwards, Upwards, Clockwards, Clockwise, Likewise, Wordwise.

Later—Iguana talk. J and the bible. At some point I showered. I crashed around seven in the morning.

29 August 2020

Only a Lad

Hey there, Johnny, you really don’t fool me

You get away with murder and you think it’s funny

You don’t give a damn if we live or if we die

Hey there, Johnny boy, I hope you fry!—Oingo Boingo (“Only a Lad”)

Today’s “Only a Lad” award goes to Kyle Rittenhouse, the poor misunderstood politically naïve waif from Illinois who went to Wisconsin armed and ready for action, and ended up murdering two people in self defense. The Daily Howler and its fake news bedfellows are all over this story. The poor guy just couldn’t help himself, apparently. What was he supposed to do in the midst of all these scary people demanding redress for injustice. It was just too much for him, and he had to open fire on somebody—apparently.

Drooling dumbass Tucker Carlson has this story covered. It seems that Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while he was leaning into a vehicle is self-defense as well. The video evidence that we can all see for ourselves, it seems, is simply wrong and should not be trusted. Instead we should believe the assertions supposedly made by officers at the scene that Blake got one of them in a headlock and was unaffected by a taser shot by two of them. Waving a knife wildly he headed straight for them and at the last possible moment, he stopped on a dime. Unfortunately, the dime was in Mr. Rococo’s pocket. No, that was Catherwood’s story to Sgt (that’s Lt.) Bradshaw. But this farrago doesn’t come off any better.

Self-defense has a lot to answer for. In Christopher Marlowe’s day a defendant had to demonstrate that he was both in imminent danger of losing his life and that he had no opportunity to escape the attack to claim self-defense. Today the only thing that matters is that a killer had a feeling he might be in some kind of danger. When an armed man stalks and kills an unarmed teenage boy in self-defense, or a police officer shoots a man in the back seven times in self defense, or an armed vigilante kills somebody and then attacks and kills a man trying to disarm him in self-defense, that concept has been stretched well past its breaking point. Was Lezmond Mitchell acting in self-defense when he killed a nine-year-old girl and her grandmother? I mean, how far are we going to take this thing?

As far as I can see Rusten Sheskey belongs in prison. I mean, I don’t believe in prison, but until we come up with a sane alternative, he belongs off the street where he can’t do any further harm, and in our present society, that’s prison. As for that vile Trump-loving racist vigilante piece of shit Kyle Rittenhouse—lethal injection’s too good for the likes of him. I hope he fries.

28 August 2020

More Excuses

Well, today got eaten up with trivia as I attempted to find out what was up with an unexpected withdrawal from my account. The item claimed to be a purchase made on my account through Paypal, but Paypal denied all responsibility. The upshot is that I now have to close my account, transfer all payments to a new account, and hope that that solves the difficulty. I am not pleased with the situation, but it could easily be worse. (And it may well get worse before it gets better.)

27 August 2020

Random Rant 22

If somebody wanted to stage an event to advocate defunding the police (or indeed abolishing the institution altogether) the unfolding debacle in Kenosha could hardly be bettered. I mean, it begins with a police officer (allegedly Rusten Sheskey) firing seven shots (four successfully) into a man’s back—something there is no conceivable justification for. But he had a knife! claim certain weak-minded members of the public, as though that were justification for anything. Even if he did have a knife—and so far we only have the word of the Wisconsin Department of Justice for that assertion—that provides no excuse for the action. I mean, maybe, if he were a crazed man with a knife about to sacrifice his son because he thought that’s what his god wanted him to do (Genesis 22:10), and there was no other way to stop him—maybe. But in light of the actual events, no.

And that, please note, is only the beginning. In response to public protests against the attempted killing by an officer, the police offer support to armed vigilantes out to make trouble—and one of them kills two people. Trump fan and Blue Lives Matter booster Kyle Rittenhouse then attempts to surrender to the police—who race past him and let him flee the state. It’s like a black comedy version of the Keystone Kops. Ah, but Trump and the police can’t be held responsible for the things they’ve encouraged their supporters to do, urge certain brain-dead individuals, as though actions were entirely divorced from consequences. I’m not sure how the slogan “Whatever we did, we’re not responsible” became the motto of the GOP—but it’s a lousy choice. Back to the word-processors, gang, and come up with something better.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the police are not interested in mending their ways, when they’ve had over a century to fix things, and “isolated incidents” keep on happening with monotonous regularity. I’ve watched things continue to deteriorate since the Watts uprising—I’ve seen increased training and improved oversight fail again and again and fucking again—and today it’s worse than ever. We see police unions openly declare themselves political organizations and endorse candidates—how can anybody trust them after that? There’s no alternative—fixes haven’t work—abolition is the answer.

26 August 2020

Quotation of the Day

The free school is the promoter of that intelligence which is to preserve us as a free nation. If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the line will not be Mason and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.—Ulysses S. Grant (Speech at Des Moines, Iowa, September 29 1875)

25 August 2020

Six Decades Fly When You're Having Fun

[Line from an otherwise lost play, staged 25 August 1960]

Carlotta the Bat: I think I’ll go sit in the ticket box a while, and wait for the lungfish. [Exit]

24 August 2020

The Highest and Most Inspired Authority Available (1982)

[Passage from a letter, 24 August 1982]

Some Jehovah’s Witnesses dropped by the house several times and I did my best to bring them to the Light but I am afraid that my seed fell on deaf ears or I sowed my words on rock—at least, they didn’t see the error of their ways and repent or anything. These people were suffering under the delusion that fulfilled prophecy somehow proved that the books of the bible were all written by Jehovah (as they call Yahweh), as if fulfilled prophecy [means] anything at all (look at the Sibylline Oracles, the Delphic Oracle, and the books attributed to Nostradamus). My question is, how can we be sure that Martin Luther and the Scottish Presbyterian Bible society were inspired when the selected which books were going to be part of the “Bible”? Of course they elected to go with the Old Testament as defined by the Pharisees at the council of Jamnia in AD 90 or so—the hypocrites and whited sepulchers Jesus was so fond of, according to the synoptic gospels. Yes … And Christians of the time (such as Justin Martyr) accused these very people of mutilating the scriptures in order to deny the truths of Christianity. Obviously the highest and most inspired authority available. And what of the New Testament? It was assembled by the Church of Rome which these very people describe as the whore of Babylon—well, anyway, there it goes.

23 August 2020

Ninety

Today was my mother’s ninetieth birthday. We had plans to visit her at the coast, but that was before the pandemic changed things, and no visitors are allowed until conditions change. We spoke with her briefly via video conferencing, and had a sort of virtual reunion that way, which was a lot better than nothing, but far less than gatherings in the past.

22 August 2020

Quotation of the Day

You might not remember this, but when Homeland Security and especially FEMA—staffed by amateur political appointees at the time—failed so miserably to respond to Hurricane Katrina, some of the Fox News bobbleheads were actually calling for entirely voluntary responses to natural disasters. I imagined being trapped under the unstable rubble of some collapsed building, surrounded by loose electrical wire, toxic chemicals, and rising water. Who do I want to rescue me? Professionals with special training and equipment? Or the Methodist Ladies Bible Study Circle?—Maha (“Ask What Your Country Can Do For You. Please”)

Hope Springs

Today neither I nor my roommate is feeling well, though we have no symptoms in common, so I doubt that it is the result of some common ailment. Writing has generally proved beyond my abilities; even composing this brief non-explanation has exhausted my powers of invention. I hope to be back soon—but hope springs eternal as they say. My mind is foggy enough that I’m not sure what that means right now, so later—maybe.

21 August 2020

Between Embarrassment and Travesty

My party—the Republican Party—has an all-star lineup of goons and losers lined up to speak at the nominating convention, and it’s somewhere between an embarrassment and a travesty. There’s that white privilege poster child who thinks his hurt little feelings are worth a cool half billion in cold cash (dream on, kid!), the gold-digger currently married to the coward-in-chief, a racist couple famed for frivolous lawsuits and random gun-brandishing, a quack with a nostrum for our current ailment, a grieving father who thinks the cure for what ails our schools is still more weapons in them. What a goddamn freakshow. None of these people have any business being in America, let alone telling anybody else what to do or how to live their lives. The whole bunch of them ought to be loaded onto a boat and sent off to whatever benighted country will take them—or better yet, be loaded onto a spaceship for Venus like those unlucky citizens in the Kornbluth story. (You know the one.) Well, party on friends. The ship’s sinking, but the band plays on. Is that “Songe d’Automne” I hear? Or “Nearer, My God, To Thee”?

20 August 2020

My Beloved Lizard Gone [1989]

[A passage from my journal for 20 August 1989]

I  got up about six in the evening (PDT) only to learn that my lizard had died during the course of the day while I was asleep. No warning—zap—gone. My pet was zipping around last night, or rather this morning, when I went to bed. I thought about feeding her banana or something but I decided it could wait until I got back up. And of course when I got back up she’d died. Twenty years and now she’s gone. Twenty years. I can’t fucking believe it. She went out in character at any rate—I found her hanging head downward, her back feet clinging to the top of the cabinet she’s been spending her time on for the past few months. Always bizarre, even to the end, my beloved lizard. Anyway, it took a bit for the shock to hit me, as it always does, and I felt at first as if it didn’t hurt. I could even laugh—and it was funny, too, the way she chose to depart from life. I called my father, and talked to brother and sister-in-law when they dropped by. And somewhere in there the shock hit me and it began to hurt, and hasn’t stopped hurting three days later. I cleaned out the bathroom of iguana-stuff—her towel rack that she climbed to get on to her perch, her thermometer, her heater, her perch. It hurt.

19 August 2020

Transcendence, Limited

There are moments out of time and place, where a person stands transfixed by something unexpected, something transcendent, something unbelievable. There was a picture I saw once at the Maryhill Museum, depicting a still life scene of inexplicable objects—all of them exquisitely detailed, all of them familiar in a dreamlike sort of fashion, but none of them recognizable—being surveyed by a small girl in a mask seated on a throne. It was breathtaking in its ineffability—and while I noted down the artist’s name, I lost it before getting back home, and have no idea now exactly what it was I saw, or who was responsible for it. On another occasion, at a performance of Richard III at the Old North Church, the actor who played Buckingham stole the show with a depiction of such shameless bravura that it took my breath away. But as far as I know I never saw the guy again, and the performance only lives in my memory.

Similarly, early in the seventies (probably the summer of 1972) I saw something so inexplicable, so amazing, outside of the familiar continuum of events as we know them, that it burned itself into my brain. I was watching a show on tv featuring—if I recall correctly—bands playing then-current music. Probably some particular band I wanted to catch was performing, but such mundane details have become misty with the passage of time. During a pause a stand-up comic came out to entertain us. Space filler. Something to pass the time between performances, maybe.

The guy was absolutely horrible. He could not tell a joke to save his life. He would reach a punchline, look around hopefully, waiting for a laugh—and when none came his face would fall, but he would metaphorically pick himself up again and soldier on, apparently convinced that the next time he’d be sure to nail it. It was absolutely excruciating to watch. At one point he reached the end of the joke—realized that he had left something out, and filled in the missing detail—and waited hopefully for the laugh that didn’t come.

One of my brothers came by while this was going on, looked at the screen, and asked what the fuck was going on. I said that I didn’t know. I visualized a scene backstage when the real comic failed to show up, and somebody suggested they put on that crew-member whose jokes were so funny during the breaks—and now he was freezing in front of a real audience. My brother said something about how it was good to have a place where aspiring comics could try out their material and headed off to bed.

On the screen the train-wreck continued. Something happened—I don’t remember what—that distracted the guy, and he stood there for a moment, obviously floundering. He’d lost his place, he said accusingly, and would have to start over from the beginning. And start over he did, giving a perfunctory version of the painful routine we’d just witnessed—and it abruptly dawned on me that I was watching art of a high order, meta-art maybe, that the hideously inept comedian was a mere puppet of a fucking genius, no ordinary stand-up comic but a master of the art of humor who transcended the rules with mind-blowing aplomb. What had been painful to watch now became sublime comedy and I was transfixed.

So was the audience. As the laughs came the guy never broke character; the hapless would-be comic observed plaintively that he felt the audience was not so much laughing with him as laughing at him, which from the character’s perspective was no doubt correct, but from the artist’s perspective was entirely the right response. As I recall he finished off with a bit where he stood by a record-player occasionally lip-syncing to the words on a record, but by that point he had the audience—including me—in the palm of his hand, and could do anything he goddamn felt like.

I’d missed the guy’s name, and he wasn’t listed in the description in the guide, but I figured a comic of his ability would have to be well-known. I knew a number of people who were much more current on comedy than I was, and I felt confident I would have no trouble running him down.

I was wrong.

I described his act as best I could, and nobody had ever seen or heard of anything like it. One of my step-brothers asked me if I were sure about what I’d seen—maybe I’d just watched a very bad stand-up comic while stoned, and the art had existed only in my own mind. But I knew what I’d seen, and this was no fluke of my imagination. This guy really existed—but for the moment I had to file his performance alongside that extraordinary picture at the Maryhill Museum. A moment out of time and space, “a bird out of season, dropping bright-feathered on my shoulder,” as Guildenstern—or was it Rosencrantz?—put it, “a tongueless dwarf standing by the road to point the way”. Something bizarre and inexplicable, that had to be accepted on its own terms or not at all.

Several years went by, and after a sojourn on the Oregon coast where tv was not to be had I returned to civilization—or to Vancouver Washington, anyway, however close to civilization that might be. I was interested in seeing a new show that NBC had put into the death slot of Saturday night before it disappeared forever like the ABC Comedy News or That Was the Week That Was. I was all the more interested in that Michael O’Donoghue, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner from The National Lampoon Radio Hour were to be featured on it.

It was reruns by the time I got to see it, but nobody seemed to object to seeing the shows again, and various friends were watching it with me when it happened. A name I didn’t recognize was announced—and then there he was. I recognized him immediately. The guy I had seen years before. “That’s him,” I said excitedly (or words to that effect). “The guy with the bad comedian routine I’ve told you about.” “That’s Andy Kaufman,” somebody said. “He’s on the show a lot.” He was doing a different routine, but it was definitely the guy I remembered. I described the bits I’d seen, and people agreed that he had done those very routines on Saturday Night—but he couldn’t have been the guy I’d seen, because Andy Kaufman’s first television exposure was on Saturday Night itself. I had to be mistaken.

And some reference sources seemed to agree. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that they were correct, what had I seen? I mean, I’d seen the routine, I’d described it to other people—that was beyond dispute. It wasn’t some figment of my imagination. Could Andy Kaufman have stolen his routine from some other comedian? It didn’t seem likely; what made the bit funny were mannerisms belonging specifically to Kaufman. Hard-to-reproduce things, not like stealing a joke or borrowing an ordinary bit. Besides, I recognized Kaufman himself when I saw him again. The only alternative I could see was that some rent in time had affected my tv and allowed me to see a broadcast from the future.

Or else that the sources making the claim were wrong. And that’s what I think. With the advent of the internet I have learned that Andy Kaufman did make some appearances on television in the early seventies, and one that seems to fit what I remember was on The Midnight Special of 19 August 1972, forty-eight years ago today. I haven’t seen the footage, or found a description of what he did on that show, but the externals fit my memory well enough. For the moment, at least, I’m assuming that that’s what I saw, and it wasn’t some inexplicable time-warp or even more inexplicable theft of material.

For the moment.

Whatever it was, however, it was an unforgettable segment sliced out of space and time. Maybe not a bird out of season or a tongueless dwarf, but transcendent, nonetheless, in its own way.

18 August 2020

A Nothing Rant

I’m tired and I have nothing lined up for the day. In the news I see that the Republicans have scraped the bottom of the barrel for lowlifes and scumbags to speak at their convention, ranging from the white privilege poster child to a wealthy racist antisemitic couple who like to threaten random strangers with firearms. Supposedly these people are some kind of object-lessons representing the evils that a Biden administration won’t tolerate, but I don’t see it. I’d vote for Biden if I thought it would bring us anywhere closer to giving that brat the spanking he deserves, or putting that vile couple in prison where they belong, but it aint gonna happen. Garbage is garbage, democrap or rethuglican. A pox on both your houses, and good night.

17 August 2020

Return of a Blind Veteran (1973)

On this day in 1973—some forty-seven years ago—I caught a brief glimpse of what television could be, if only the powers in charge didn’t have their heads stuck firmly up one another’s rectums. The occasion was the showing of something called Sticks and Bones, a tv adaptation of a play written by a Vietnam vet about, well, the treatment of Vietnam vets on their return home. The play depicts the return of a blinded veteran, David, to the home of his parents, Ozzie and Harriet, where his younger brother Ricky—who plays a guitar—still lives. (The evocation of a certain typical fifties American family is deliberate.) Angry and haunted by visions of the war he left behind (epitomized by an Asian girl he was apparently close to) he fails to fit in with his family, who want him to conveniently forget what he’s been through. In the end the family does manage to unite—in order to help the returned veteran slash his own wrists.

The play was first performed in 1969, and the first professional production (by Joseph Papp) was staged in 1971. CBS reached a deal with Papp for a tv production in 1972—and that’s when things started to go very wrong. CBS censor Tom Swafford (whose notions of ideal programming consisted of shows like My Fair Lady and Dawn Patrol) insisted on cutting all “scatological profanity” changing the name of the main characters, and not showing too much blood during the wrist-cutting scene. Even so, an early screening of this eviscerated version inspired many CBS affiliates to refuse to run it, claiming that “the mood of the country” (whatever that was supposed to mean) would not support it. America, apparently, was not in the mood to hear what this Vietnam vet had to say either.

Portland station KOIN had been among the affiliates refusing to run Sticks and Bones but by August had changed its position, much to the disgust of Oregonian reviewer Francis Murphy. Taking time off from railing about the moral degeneracy of including so many gay and bisexual characters in television offerings, Murphy thundered “this amateurish juvenile attempt to shock viewers has received 10 times the publicity it deserves. … Without the advance publicity, most viewers would soon sicken of the depressing, surrealistically horrid characters with their blatant racism and selfishness. But the controversy which has raged since the network originally canceled showing of the play in March undoubtedly will bring it high ratings and may encourage the screening of similar depraved dramas.”

And so it was that at nine o’clock on 17 August 1973 I tuned in to KOIN to see the supposedly controversial drama. In an ideal world I would be able to share my initial reaction to the piece from my journal, or from contemporary notes, but this particular episode falls in a gap in my records. For whatever reason—frequent moves, bouts of indifference or carelessness, occasional purging in the throes of depression—large chunks of material from (say) 1971 to 1973 have disappeared, or possibly were never recorded in the first place. So what I have to say is going to be dependent pretty much on unaided memory.

The scenes that stood out for me were the opening and final bits, which were cold as fuck. (Conveniently Francis Murphy singled them out for abuse, thus confirming my memory.) At the beginning an army officer arrives at the door to announce that he is there to deliver a blind veteran to them, like a delivery person indifferently leaving a parcel that had to be signed for. He has lots of other blind, maimed, and injured veterans to deliver, and can’t stop to chat about this one. The family marvels about how different the returned veteran seems as the officer leaves. And at the end of the drama the family gathers around the blind man, his younger brother telling him that it would be better for everyone if he just slit his own wrists. He offers to help, while their mother thoughtfully arranges pans to catch the blood. The credits run over a shot of the veteran’s body in a trash bag out front, waiting to be hauled off. I found the piece gripping, powerful, and funny—in a grim ironic sort of way. As an indictment of America’s treatment of its disposable veterans—something I’d witnessed for myself—it burned like a brand of shame for the nation.

Or maybe not. In an ideal world I would examine the film nearly half a century later and see how it held up—what I thought of it now. But that also appears to be impossible. Although there do appear to be copies of it held by private collectors, as far as I can tell it has never been released for general circulation—or even shown again after the one time I saw it. Perhaps I would find it obvious, trite, overacted, or juvenile, if I could see it now. I don’t know. What I do know is that at the time it gave me some hope for tv, in that it had been at least made and shown. Its suppression, by the same token, showed that there was still a long way to go before television could achieve what it was capable of. So—a mixed bag at best.

Sources:

Francis Murphy, “Broad Limits Seen for TV Profanity,” Oregonian, 13 March 1973, p. 19.

Francis Murphy, “Stations Downplay ‘Sticks and Bones’” Oregonian, 17 August 1973, p. 44.

Sticks and Bones at Letterboxd.

16 August 2020

Hollow-Eyed and High [1991]

[A retrospective passage from my journal, written 23 September 1991.]

Mid-August 1991. At Powell’s Books, downtown Portland. It’s the end of an exhausting day, and I’m looking for Steckmesser’s Western Hero in History and Folklore, as the library copy has been stolen. Powell’s is unusually crowded, for some reason, and the crowd seems to be going where I’m going. Somehow or another I get turned around and have to retrace my steps—it’s easy to get lost in Powell’s even without a crowd—but I finally make it to the Rose Room, where the Western Americana hang out. Here the crowd gets downright nasty, and I am told to stand in line and wait my turn, but I’m not having any. I bull my way through, and then hug the walls, where for some reason there are no people. I turn down my aisle and there, directly in front of me, is Allen Ginsberg, signing autographs. Now all is clear, but—unfortunately—Powell’s has no copy of Steckmesser’s Western Hero, and I really have no reason to stay and stand in line, having left my copy of “Howl” at home, so I fight my way to the street again and catch a bus.

15 August 2020

On This Day in 1789 [repost]

[Repost from Rational Rant, 15 August 2009, slightly updated. I am dedicating this repost to the memory of Ed Brayton, without whose influence this post might never have been written.]

It’s Saturday, 15 August, 1789. Congress is in session in New York—the first congress under the new constitution. Up for discussion: a proposed constitutional amendment, to be inserted between the sentence guaranteeing habeas corpus and the one prohibiting ex post facto laws. It was one part of a political compromise, a series of amendments to the new constitution meant to keep doubters in the fold and to entice the undecided off the fence. We know the result today as the Bill of Rights. This proposed amendment read:

No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.

Peter Silvester (P, NY), an Albany lawyer who had held (and would continue to hold) a variety of governmental positions in the new republic, immediately spotted a problem with the wording. The opening words could be taken two ways. The intention was to keep the new government from passing a law that would establish religion, but could it not also be taken as a command to the congress to establish “no religion” as the law of the land? He “had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. He feared it might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.”

Where on earth did this fear come from? Well, you have to remember that the issue of disestablishment (we would call it “separation of church and state”) was hot at the time, and that Virginia had recently emerged from a bruising battle on the subject when Patrick Henry had proposed a bill levying a tax to support all teachers of religion, a bill famously opposed and defeated by the efforts of James Madison—the author of the present amendment. You have to remember that in European states of the time the established church was generally tax-supported, and that there was no guarantee that religion could survive without that support. (And as we will see from a later point made by Benjamin Huntington, there was some sentiment afloat that people ought to be required to support some religious institution, at any rate.) So, at any rate, the first order of business was to rewrite Madison’s proposal to rule out the possibility of the Federal government being called upon to establish “no religion” by law.

John Vining (P, DE) proposed fixing the problem by “transposing the two members of the sentence.” I suppose he had in mind a wording like “No law shall be [enacted] to establish religion,” or something in that vein. Elbridge Gerry (A, MA) suggested the reading “no religious doctrine shall be established by law”—a version considerably narrower than anything else proposed so far, in that it would have allowed Congress to set standards for religious practice, presumably, or at least left that door wide open, even if it kept the government from establishing doctrine.

Roger Sherman (P, CT), Framer and Declaration signer, now derailed the discussion altogether. Even though politics had already decreed this was a dead issue, he reiterated that he “thought the amendment altogether unnecessary, inasmuch as Congress had not authority whatever delegated to them by the constitution to make religious establishments; he would, therefore, move to have it struck out.” Daniel Carroll (P, MD) quickly reminded him of these political realities, “As the rights of conscience are, in their nature, of peculiar delicacy, and will little bear the gentlest touch of governmental hand; and as many sects have concurred in opinion that they are not well secured under the present constitution, he said he was much in favor of adopting the words. He thought it would tend more towards conciliating the minds of the people to the Government than almost any other amendment he had heard proposed. He would not contend with gentlemen about the phraseology, his object was to secure the substance in such a manner as to satisfy the wishes of the honest part of the community.”

James Madison, Jr. (A, VA) patiently explained again the intended meaning of the amendment: “that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.” He once again went over the political necessity of the amendment: “Whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say, but they had been required by some of the State Conventions, who seemed to entertain an opinion that under the clause of the constitution, which gave power to Congress to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the constitution, and the laws made under it, enabled them to make laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience, and establish a national religion; to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended, and he thought it as well expressed as the nature of the language would admit.”

Benjamin Huntington (P, CT) now took the bull by the horns. He said “that he feared, with the gentleman first up on this subject, that the words might be taken in such a latitude as to be extremely hurtful to the cause of religion.” The underlying fear, no doubt, was the possibility that if state support for religion was removed, religion itself might wither away altogether. Huntington made a rather lame argument that “The ministers of their congregations to the eastward were maintained by the contributions of those who belonged to their society; the expense of building meeting-houses was contributed in the same manner. These things were regulated by bylaws. If an action was brought before a Federal Court on any of these cases, the person who had neglected to perform his engagements could not be compelled to do it; for a support of ministers, or building of places of worship, might be construed into a religious establishment.” He felt that the 1663 Rhode Island Charter (then over a century old) was radical enough; it guaranteed that dissenters from the Church of England would be tolerated (as long as they kept quiet about it) but didn’t actually encourage them. “He hoped, therefore, the amendment would be made in such a way as to secure the rights of conscience, and a free exercise of the rights of religion, but not to patronize those who professed no religion at all.” And with this display of bigotry and intolerance Benjamin Huntington vanished from the debate.

If James Madison (or anybody else for that matter) thought Huntington’s remarks were worth responding to it doesn’t appear in the record. He went back to the main point of the wording, and suggested adding the word national before religion, which would have created the following result:

No national religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.

He thought (wrongly) that this “would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word national was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.”

Samuel Livermore (P, NH) was impatient with this nit-picking; “he did not wish them to dwell long on the subject.” He proposed a substitute amendment:

Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.

This is an electrifying moment; suddenly we see the beginning of the actual language that will become the First Amendment. It's not there yet, of course; we still have “infringing the rights of conscience” rather than “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, but it’s on its way. For the moment, however, the proposal just lies there; under consideration is Madison’s proposal to add the word national to his version of the amendment.

Elbridge Gerry (A, MA), Declaration signer and opponent of the new constitution, who had earlier in the debate suggested the language “no religious doctrine” to replace “no religion”, now objected strongly to the term national, in that a Federal, and not a National, government was under consideration. Madison defended his suggestion by observing “that the words ‘no national religion shall be established by law,’ did not imply that the Government was a national one,” but he withdrew his motion regardless in favor of Livermore’s version. The vote was then taken on that, and the amendment passed 31-20. Thus, had this been the end of the story, the First Amendment would have read:

Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.

Of course as we know these were not the words that were going to become enshrined as part of the first article of the Bill of Rights; the Senate would have to pass its version, and a compromise would be hammered out between them, but for the moment their work was done, and it was on to consider such matters as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to peaceably assemble (one representative compared the last to the freedom to wear a hat). But the big effort of the day was over an amendment that would have given the right to the people to instruct their representatives. The argument over that one was heated, and ended with the defeat of the proposal. That debate in fact appears to have taken much longer than the debates about the various freedoms altogether.

And that's the way it was on this date in history two hundred thirty-one years ago.

14 August 2020

Retreat from Washington

Gutless Mitch fled Washington without providing any assistance to the American people under siege from the ravages of a pandemic the Republicans have chosen not to deal with. Why not? The economy is doing great—for the rich anyway—and ordinary workers, especially those who are laid off and facing eviction, don’t count. Apparently.

From all appearances the Republicans have given up on the election and are now focused on fucking the economy up so badly that the opposition will have to spend its time running around desperately patching things up while the Republicans obstruct them, as they did throughout the Obama administration. And their inevitable answer will be tax cuts for the rich and more military spending. If the American people are dumb enough to fall for this again, I hope they attach strings to the tax cuts—make them contingent on jobs actually being created, for example. Otherwise we’re just opening the way for President Cotton to rob us all blind.

13 August 2020

Futility Is The Watchword

Nothing is going well right now. The only reason I’m putting in an entry today is the hopes of maintaining the discipline of blogging. Futility is the watchword.

The headline today is that Ed Brayton has died.The former stand-up comic, newsman, and long-time blogger is no longer with us. The story continues, but he has dropped out of it, as it were. “Dispatches from the Culture Wars” will continue to be archived at the Patheos site, and some at least of his voluminous work will be preserved at The Internet Archive, but there will be no further insights from the iconoclastic writer. Sic Transit.

The Santa Clarita police seem to have screwed up big time, when they responded to a call about an altercation reporting something-or-other. (The call (or calls) has not been released.) According to witnesses a man attacked several teenagers with a knife, and they drove him off using their skateboards to defend themselves. Somebody from a local business called 911. When the police showed up, however, they held the victims at gunpoint while they looked for somebody they described as the “victim”—even though the witnesses informed them they had got things the wrong way around. The official account says that the officers responded to a call about a man being assaulted with a deadly weapon—a skateboard—and that the witnesses were uncooperative. The incident is being investigated to determine whether the officers involved used the correct amount of force while holding the victims at gunpoint.

In India Muslims are again rioting over some goddamn silly thing—a meme depicting the alleged religious leader Mohammed as a child molester. (This is taken straight from Islamic tradition, by the way.) Unmentioned by the media reports is that this was posted in reply to a derogatory meme about the legendary religious leader Krishna posted by Muslims. Given the attacks by the current Hindu government on the rights of Muslims, this may be more of a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back sort of thing than an example of Muslims simply flying off the handle. Given their history, though, I wouldn’t bet on it.

12 August 2020

Another Day Down the Drain

Today has slipped away from me again, eaten by trivia and flushed down the toilet of time. My main accomplishment, I suppose, was copying a bunch of books and articles from my memory drive to my computer so that I can push forward on various projects currently in stasis, and four articles—all coincidentally dealing with Mark 1:1—had apparently become corrupted; at least my machine refused to copy them regardless of my pleas and threats. All of them came originally from JSTOR, so back to JSTOR I went and downloaded them again, but it was kind of annoying. I’m glad that none of them had come from anywhere esoteric, anyway; I mean I’m sure I could have got them back again somehow, sooner or later, but I’d rather not have the hassle right now, what with the libraries being closed and all.

11 August 2020

Count the Votes

Once again Republicans are calling for the vote to not be counted, with the Dopey Don leading the charge. Demanding that the results be in by election night, he’s insisting that any votes that haven’t been counted by then should never be counted at all—which is both absurd and idiotic. Instant results are a modern obsession, and the nation got along without them for most of its existence. Yes, the goddamn votes should be counted, all of them, not just the ones that one party likes. This is not a topic for debate. If a vote was legitimately cast, then it should be counted—EOD. If it takes a while to accomplish, then by all means let it take however much time is required. And fuck the toddler-in-chief’s short attention-span.

10 August 2020

Get Off Your Ass, Mitch, and DO Something.

Do-Nothing Mitch—a.k.a. “The Grim Reaper”—is living up to his nicknames by freezing in the face of an existential crisis while thousands of Americans are dying. Like Mighty Casey he’s letting the balls of opportunity go by because they’re not his style, and rather than take action he’s perfectly happy waiting until the Democrats lob something his way that he likes better. That’s not how you get things done when the nation’s safety is what’s at stake—you get in there and get to work yourself, do the job you were elected to do, and don’t wait quietly for the opposition to come up with something to bail you out. The way things are going, Do-Nothing Mitch is about to strike out without even taking a swing at the ball. And if he can’t get things done, it’s way past time to replace him.

09 August 2020

Transitions: Ed Brayton

Well, this morning already sucks. P. Z. Myers informs us that Ed Brayton (“Dispatches from the Culture Wars”) has said on Facebook concerning his health situation: “I’m giving up and calling in hospice. I just can’t do this anymore. To those who know me in real life I love you and I’m sorry. I did my best.”

P. Z. Myers adds “He always has done his best, and he will be missed.” I won’t miss him in the sense his friends and family will, because I never knew him in the real world; I probably won’t miss him as much as I think in the abstract, simply because I’ve internalized so much of what he had to say that I can predict his take on the events of the day. But I do miss his daily presence on the internet, and the community he built around his “Dispatches” at Scienceblogs, Freethoughtblogs, and Patheos.

Damn.

08 August 2020

Enough Rope

And in the news I see that the Republicans remain devoted to their political game-playing even while going eye-to-eye with the disaster now bearing down on them. Determined to deny necessary aid to cities and states that have elected Democrats to office rather than do-nothing (and flatly insane) Republicans, they have elected to scuttle a bill that might help save their own hides from overwhelming defeat and salvage the party from immediate ruin.

This is policy, needless to say. The present Republican party has made no secret of its hatred for American values, and has made it clear that it will burn the country down rather than permit Americans such luxuries as a living wage, medical care, or hope for the future of their children. This is not a conservative agenda, by the way—it is simply the embodiment of the greed of the ultra-wealthy class—a class that doesn’t give a shit how the people that serve them live, so long as they can pile up more and more possessions and power for themselves. It is high time that these blood-sucking parasites be smashed, along with their dependents, hangers-on, enablers, and dupes.

I have no doubt that that will happen someday or other, but nothing will fundamentally change. The consumers of Fraud and Fakery—the swillers of future Fox News and the like—will elevate new parasites to sit on the vacated thrones of the old, and life will go on. It’s the civilized way, after all.

07 August 2020

Cosmic Park (from Cellophane Visions, 7 August 1982)

[Passage from Cellophane Visions, as it stood 7 August 1982.]

In the beginning there was the egg

And the egg was with God

And the egg was God

And the egg cracked

Hey man, you know, I mean, like—Cosmic Park’s like a state of mind, you dig? It’s like a consciousness, a level of higher consciousness, you know? I mean, it’s a place to hang out, but it’s more. It’s like Mohammed and the mountain. You don’t have to be in Cosmic Park to be in Cosmic Park. Right? You see that? Dig it—the mountain can come to Mohammed

complaints from nearby residents about drug dealing and alleged incidents of public nudity in the park, but police have proved powerless. “Frankly, we’re scared shitless to go in there,” said one officer, “The only way would be with a TAC squad in full force.” Many neighborhood residents have said that if this is what it would take to clear the park, they would fully support it. “This public immorality has got to be stopped,” Mrs. Wormwood, leader of the neighborhood coalition said. “All day long we have under our eyes the most disgusting acts of flagrant public behavior imaginable.” Mrs. Wormwood lives a scant two miles from the park. “We aint hurting no-one,” replied a long-haired denizen of the park. “so what if we like to come here and kick back? Where’re we supposed to go, anyway? Asked why he picked Cosmic Park he cited such factors as pleasant surroundings, a like-minded crowd, and he claimed that the park was in easy walking distance from his residence. “It’s like our back yard, you know?” So the controversy

Aint no pigs in Cosmic Park—dig that.

We are struck by the supreme irony of this week’s news. At a time when our boys are fighting one of the bloodiest battles of the war, at a time when “Hamburger Hill” has just been taken at a frightful cost in lives and property, the Supreme Court of the very nation these men have shed their blood for has struck from the hands off the law one of the most potent weapons available against those who promote the values of idleness and hedonism. The ruling which came down Monday in favor of the Apostle of LSD—Timothy Leary—is a major set-back ion the war for the minds and bodies of our young people. It is difficult to feel much sympathy for those who are put between a rock and a hard place by the provisions of the Marijuana Tax Act. That to comply with it requires self-incrimination by the criminal is obvious—and is the point of the law. No conflict with the Fifth Amendment is involved—the convoluted and twisted reasoning of the Court notwithstanding—and if any conflict is involved, then the Constitution should yield. Certainly the Founding Fathers never intended that this amendment shield criminals from

Hey man, you wanta know what’s wrong with the park? You really want to know, man? Like, it’s all these fucking hippies or whatever they are, they Haight crowd, you know?, moving in. They’re bringing down the whole scene, you know? Let ’em do their own thing, okay?

Mrs. Kent, a nearby park resident, reports that the park has changed since the summer of 1967. “That’s when it began to get bad,” she said. “That’s when all the loud music and group sex started.” But others disagree. Mrs. Emily Gordly told us that the situation was no better before the so-called “hippies” began to

Lot of shit, you know? Lot of fucking shit, that’s all I got to say. The park belongs to the people, and what the people want to do is

talked with Brant Colburn, a leader of the self-styled Park Peoples’ Committee, and we asked what he thought of the Wormwood Coalition.

“Hey, we don’t know anything about it. Who is this Wormwood lady, anyway? She doesn’t hang out here, that’s for sure.”

“Many people would say that that’s exactly the problem here—”

“Yeah, well, many people would say that that’s exactly a load of * * * *”

“But people are afraid—”

“Hey man, nobody’s afraid in Cosmic Park. Nobody. You dig it? We’re like all together here, we’ve got it together in a solid thing, okay? Your capitalist trip is, like, dead, you know?, and, it’s like falling apart around you—”

But the problems persist. Pastor Bonkers of the First Telephone Church has observed

“These hippies and other flockers to the banner of what they call the new morality—which is nothing but the old immorality—think that they can enjoy the fruits of the labors of others without first laboring themselves. This is the whole root of the Cosmic Park Mentality. But there is no reason whatsoever why these vandals should be sheltered at public expense.”

And so the controversy refuses

clash today in Cosmic Park, when members of the Wormwood Coalition, armed with a Park Commission Permit, attempted to remove a number of structures which recently have sheltered Park residents hey were opposed by members of the self-proclaimed Park Peoples’ Committee, who resisted

fact of the matter is, Cosmic Park has been underfunded for more than a decade. We’ve had to depend mainly on volunteer labor to keep the park in any kind of shape. Several of the old buildings, including the Otway and Farnham cabins, have been preserved only through the efforts of

disagree over the effects of the Park People on the historic cabins in the Park. “The Park People’s Thing has helped preserve the buildings,” observes Professor Arthur Klein of Foxe University, but Robert Kilpatrick of the Cascadia Historical Society counters, “The deterioration over the past twenty years has been frightful, simply frightful. Whether the Park People indeed can be credited

disgraceful. These people are absolutely destroying the park, without regard for the comforts of others when

these Wormwood people are, but they’ve got nothing going for them, nothing—you dig? All they’re into is destruction, and that aint where it’s at at all. If

interview with Peter Farnham, a Park resident. We asked him about the efforts of the Wormwood Coalition to clean up the park.

“What efforts? The so-called Wormwood Coalition—which is really a bunch of neighborhood busybodies with too much time on their hands—they aren’t doing anything for the Park.”

But Park Commissioner Tsoraga disagrees:

“The marked deterioration of the old cabins and sheds, together with the abuse they have received from these young people who are coming here, has necessitated their removal, and this

06 August 2020

Following the Blind Fischer

John: I may be broke, but I don’t want his crooked money! I always wondered how he could travel around Europe on a bank janitor’s salary.

Blanche: He isn’t a bank janitor at all. He’s one of the shrewdest manipulators in Canada. How do you think he got his title?

John: What title?

Blanche: You know as well as I do my uncle was knighted for his operations in the stock market.

John: It was the black market! And he wasn’t knighted, he was indicted!

Blanche: Well, whatever it was. He’s got money, and that’s all that counts.—The Bickersons

Clueless as ever, the Archbigot Brian Fischer is once again sounding off on topics way over his head and infinitely beyond his pay grade. Somehow he’s got it fixed in his little head that there’s a quick fix for the current pandemic, but sinister phantoms are keeping it from us. According to the Archbigot the Virology Journal—which he falsely claims is “the official publication of Dr. Fauci’s National Institutes of Health”—published in 2005 an article showing that hydroxychloroquine “functions as both a cure and a vaccine” for the present coronavirus. True, it wasn’t hydroxychloroquine but chloroquine, and it wasn’t COVID-19 but SARS, but those are just details. “While not exactly the same virus as SARS-CoV-1,” the Archbigot airily assures us, “it is genetically related to it, and shares 79% of its genome, as the name SARS-CoV-2 implies.” About as close as human beings are to cows, therefore. And likewise hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are related, but hardly identical.

Worse than that, the article did not demonstrate (or assert for that matter) that chloroquine was effective against SARS; it merely pointed to that possibility. And none of this had anything to do with Dr. Anthony Fauci, regardless of the Archbigot’s little song and dance around the topic. In fact none of the eight authors had any connection with the NIH, though Fischer keeps calling them NIH researchers.

So in essence Archbigot Brian Fischer is screaming “FIRE” at the top of his lungs in an overcrowded theater. In a sane society his handlers would discreetly take him away to a padded cell somewhere where he could do no further damage, either to himself or others.

05 August 2020

Waking Up Is Hard To Do (1997)

[Passage from my journal, 5 August 1997.]

Slept badly as things turned out. Woke up about the time my brother came through and I went downstairs and talked with him a bit. Tried to go back to sleep but didn’t make it; I think I started working in here on my May 1974 journal transcript, and watched Newhart, and drifted off to sleep.

Awoke abruptly hearing the dogs barking wildly, and things crashing and falling about. I got up, saw the house was in considerable disorder, and headed downstairs. I wasn’t going fast enough so I leaped up and flew the rest of the way. Somewhere in here it occurred to me that I had to be dreaming, so I made an effort and woke up.

Things looked better this time; things in the computer room were undisturbed though the monitor seemed to be tuned to nothing in particular, as the screen was nothing but static and white noise was coming from the speakers, but I went downstairs anyway; I could still hear the dogs barking. It occurred to me that the dogs shouldn’t be here and that this too must be a dream, so I made another effort and woke up again.

This time the house was silent and empty; no dogs and no sign of any disturbance. I went downstairs and sat down to stare at some tv; maybe I looked at a Brett Butler comedy routine or something. Things get a little vague in here but the next thing I knew people with cameras and lights and wires had invaded the house; they were getting ready for Dana Carvey to host Saturday Night Live from here which was fine with me; I was looking forward to seeing it, but every way I turned there were signs up indicating that each door was an entrance to some set or another, and as I was in my bathrobe I wasn’t too keen on possibly emerging onto national live tv unexpectedly. At this point I woke up to find myself lying on the green chair in the music room, watching a Dana Carvey special on the Comedy channel. I think it was about three in the morning. Went upstairs and got a couple more hours of sleep; I don’t remember any of my dreams. Thank God I think.

04 August 2020

The Second Coming [guest post by W. B. Yeats]

Turning and turning in the widening gyre the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert a shape with lion body and the head of a man, a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, is moving its slow thighs, while all about it reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know that twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

03 August 2020

That Damned Barn Door Again

I  am getting nowhere in trying to get a handle on things. Summer is dying away, much like the American dream, and my getting things done depends on events that will probably not happen in my lifetime—like seeing the libraries reopen.

Don’t get me wrong. I recognize the present necessity. I’m not happy about it, but I do recognize it, however reluctantly. But I can remember when the United States could rise to a challenge, instead of throwing up its hands and conceding defeat even before the race has begun. Was this hideous travesty really the best our country could manage?

I mean, I was just reading a piece about how even a bunch of pig-ignorant rich dilettantes managed to come up with a plan that if followed might have saved a hundred thousand American lives. The Dopey Don of course preferred wishful thinking to taking action—looking the other way and pretending nothing is happening seems to be his forte—but if even these wealthy know-nothings could achieve something, imagine what trained professionals might have done. Suppose we’d had a team set up to deal with just such an eventuality—a pandemic response team, if you will—ready to take action? It’s a reasonable sort of precaution to take, given the inevitability of pandemics.

Well, hindsight is golden, as they say. Possibly the United States should learn a lesson from the present debacle, and prepare for next time. Just a thought, anyway.

02 August 2020

Down the Tubes with sbh

Nothing. That’s what I’ve got this second day of August in the year 12020 of the Holocene Era. And not even choice quality nothing. Just plain gray nothing standard from the box. Earlier I had hoped to write something meaningful—it’s not that I don’t have topics—but as the day progressed I began to hope merely that I would write something. And now even that faint hope has slid from my grasp.

01 August 2020

The Moment (1 August 2020)

Here in Portland things are generally dull and quiet, fake news to the contrary. Yes, anonymous Federal agents have stormed in like gangbusters, throwing canisters of outdated tear-gas, beating random protesters, and generally behaving like hooligans and thugs, but if you avoid the two or three affected blocks downtown you’d never know anything is going on. Among the protesters there is a fairly obvious split between those who are objecting to the Federal presence, and those focused on the original point of preventing future incidents like those involving George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Kendra James…. But the nightly ritual of speeches and chants followed by tear-gas and flash grenades seems likely to continue indefinitely.

For reports from the front Crip Dyke at Pervert Justice has things covered.

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