29 September 2020

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

209,417. That’s the number of deaths from covid 19 in the United States so far. And we can all give heartfelt thanks to Donald Trump, Our Glorious Leader, that the number was not much lower. If OGL hadn’t sprung into prompt inaction, tens of thousands of people might still be alive, consuming resources desperately needed by the Gilded Scum at the top of the Pond of State to keep them in the comfort they feel entitled to.

Expendable people—the elderly, the diseased, the poor—ought to be glad to make way for the Gilded Scum. If they can’t be used to make the lives of the One Tenth of One Percent better, then they should at least have the grace to terminate their existences in some socially approved manner. It’s the American Way™ after all.

[Paid for by the Fake American Greatness Foundation, a subsidiary of Koke Bros UnLtd.]

28 September 2020

If You Think That's Boring [2017]

[Journal entry, 28 September 2017]

11:50  pm PDT—[My roommate] woke me up when he came home, which was probably a good thing because I needed to be up in time for my nine o’clock appointment with somebody at the Social Security Administration over my Medicare situation. I caught the 94 and got there just before nine, joining a line of people waiting to get in. The woman ahead of me slightly puzzled me in that she was wearing shorts and her legs seemed to have some sort of strange skin condition, but I concluded that she was wearing stockings in addition to her socks. When the door opened the line moved slowly, and the guy directly ahead of the woman ahead of me turned out to have rather a lot of things that needed to be opened and looked at, so things moved slowly. Abruptly I heard my name being called to go to window F, and I told them that was me, and they dropped everything and ran me through. The interview took very little time and the questions all seemed relatively simple and straightforward, so I was out of there in very little time.

I caught the 94 back and went as far as Fred Meyer, where I bought a few groceries with what’s left of the money, and at the end remembered I needed to refill some prescriptions. That went reasonably quickly, though it would have been better if I’d remembered it in the first place, and I came home on the 12.

I spent the rest of the day doing laundry and screwing around listing files on the computer, eventually seeing [my roommate] off to work as usual. And in the near future I expect to sack out. If there’s more, I can’t think of it.

26 September 2020

Stolen Bicycle

Honestly, this could have happened any time in the early sixties, but based on what I can recall I believe it must have been right in here in 1961—nearly sixty years ago—that it happened. It was beginning to get dark early (as I remember it), possibly not long after Daylight Saving Time had ended. My brother had been out riding, and he’d left his bicycle at the edge of our property, alongside a little access road by the gravel pit that served some residences behind us. My father told him to bring it back to the house before the sun set.

My brother headed out, a little annoyed—and then came back without the bicycle, looking worried. It wasn’t where he’d left it. My brother was forgetful at the best of times, so we took a quick look around the yard to see if it was anywhere to be found, and my father went out with a flashlight (the sun had set by then) to look along the bank by the access road and where the property fronted Fourth Plain. The bicycle was gone. Apparently.

We had nearly an acre of yard planted with a variety of shrubs and trees that might obscure a bicycle, especially in the dusk, so I, at least, was not convinced. But it didn’t turn up in the daylight either, so my mother called the police to report it stolen. We had followed the instructions given in a police handout on protecting bicycles, which included placing our name and address on the bicycle in a hidden place, and we informed the police of this, as instructed. The officer said that there was not much chance of our ever seeing the bicycle again, but we could check in from time to time to see if a matching bicycle had turned up in their collection of the lost and stolen. No, they had no matching bicycle at this time.

It was a considerable blow to my brother, who used the bicycle constantly to get around, and it shook me up too. I mean, despite our parents’ constant reminders of theft and accident, nothing of the sort had ever happened to us here. I suppose our parents had in mind the extensive vandalizing of the house before we had moved in, but I always took that as a consequence of its being vacant at the time, not as an augur of the future. The thought that somebody had simply come onto our property and walked off with (or maybe ridden away on) my brother’s bike was disquieting. Maybe even shocking. Powerlessness, outrage, violation—all that was stirred together in my emotional cauldron. But there didn’t seem to be anything to be done about it. My parents dutifully called in to the police over a period of weeks, but each time were informed that nothing matching the description had turned up. They did send us another copy of their brochure on protecting bicycles from theft, but that wasn’t much help. And my brother had a birthday coming up, and he had almost outgrown the bicycle anyway, so through some combination of present and labor he ended up with a new and improved replacement. And life went on.

I might not remember the event at all, traumatic as it was, were it not for the sequel. My parents though eccentric were always active in school events, and a year or two later my father was the parent designated to assist on a school field trip involving my youngest brother—not the one with the missing bicycle. His class was touring our emergency facilities in Vancouver. The fire department put on a demonstration for them, and my brother recalled watching them with considerable interest as they set a house on fire, but was disappointed that they had to leave before the firemen could put it out. As the class toured the police station they passed a rack of recovered bicycles, and one of them looked oddly familiar to my father. He didn’t do anything at that moment, being involved in keeping an eye on a couple dozen small children, but after the field trip was over he went back to the station.

The bicycle he had seen was in fact my brother’s. It still had his name clearly printed on it, as well as the address located in a concealed place. The police were quite happy to return it to us, and we were fairly happy to get it back, though by this time it was superfluous. How had the police recovered it? we wanted to know. It had been found, abandoned, presumably after somebody had stolen it. Since nobody had reported its loss or claimed it, they’d kept it for use in a program that loaned out bicycles to kids who might otherwise be tempted to steal one. Where had it been found? Just off Fourth Plain, on an access road by a gravel pit.

Yes, that’s right. The police had stolen my brother’s bicycle. They had taken it from our yard, they had repeatedly denied having it in their possession, and they put us through all the trauma of violation and loss.

My father, predictably, found the whole thing amusing. It fit with his notions of how people in authority were wont to behave. I drew a somewhat different conclusion from the affair.

Police steal for no reason, and then lie about it.

I don’t now remember what we did with the bicycle; we didn’t really have a use for it any longer. Possibly we passed it on to somebody else who could use it. Maybe we should have let the police keep it for use in their anti-theft program. At least it was probably doing somebody some good there.

23 September 2020

Everything Except Work (1999)

[Passage from my journal, 23 September 1999]

7:27  m PDT—Well, today worked out fairly well for everything except getting any actual work done. I bathed, bought stuff at the store, ran a load of dishes, cleaned out the refrigerator some, cleaned up the kitchen a bit, and so on. The closest I got to work however was writing a few notes on the San Francisco Post material I worked on earlier this week.

I finished The Indian Frontier, which is a hell of a good book; I don’t know why I haven’t run into it before. And I took the tube checker apart to see whether I couldn’t loosen up that tube list a bit, so that it’s easier to turn and read. Food has been dismal recently, but I hit on the idea of doing au jus sandwiches, which I haven’t had since before [my father] died, and that got me looking forward to a meal again. I checked out my copy of Introducing the Beatles from my Beatles record guide, and found out that it is (I guess) a counterfeit of one of the rarest versions of the damn record, rather than a late re-issue as I’d thought; I bought it at Fred Meyer or some such place maybe in the early eighties. And that’s about it, I guess. Well, it rained some time today before I woke up, which kind of serves notice that summer is really over. Not that summer has been that hot or dry this year. Days recently have been fairly hot, which is why my air conditioner is running even as I write this, but I imagine that will pass soon.

11 September 2020

The Winds Have Died Down

Everything is strange here; a neon-yellow light pervades our immediate environment, and the sun is a dull copper disk in an otherwise nondescript gray sky. At least the winds have died down; there are, however, still items strewn about the landscape, ranging from tree limbs to old clothes.

As far as I can tell there is no immediate danger, but familiar places—Oregon City and Canby—are being evacuated, and more distant locales I have visited—Phoenix, for example—have been reduced to ash.

It is difficult to write on this defective machine (which is the reason I replaced it) but it’s either that or give up, and I’m not ready yet. I’ve been forced to fall back on reading actual books—the fragments of my library—and so have reread Samuel Schoenbaum’s Shakespeare’s Lives and Frederick Lewis Allen’s Since Yesterday.

08 September 2020

In the Meantime...

Nothing is working right at the moment. My shiny new computer exploded and I am reduced to trying to write on my old workhorse where certain keys don’t work well and others don’t work at all. It’s really annoying. I was able to recover my work (I think), but getting anything further done may have to wait on coming up with some new arrangement. It looks as though I will at least get my money back and be able to buy some sort of replacement, but the way things are going I’m not betting on it. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

We’re having some kind of strange storm here in Portland, with smoke and haze swirling strangely and ominously about. I hope things clear up soon, in terms of my personal landscape as well as this murky weather. It’s hard to write, hard to move about, and hard to cope. Problems and difficulties loom in every direction I look. Possibly things will clear up soon, but I am losing confidence.

07 September 2020

Visitations (1975)

[Passage from my journal, Sunday 7 September 1975]

8:22pm PDT (livingroom)—(cloudy, 2) For some unknown reason I’m nervous, apprehensive, jumpy. I feel imminent expectation of flying saucers, unknown Things, Huge Face or Eye in the Sky, strange creatures from the forest.

The wind is up slightly outside. It was cloudy today; it’s been hot the last couple of days.

Lights seem to shift in brightness—I’m also suffering from abrupt sensations of falling. Otherwise (unless you count flashes of depression) normal, whatever that may be.

Events are getting too fucking improbable. All right: on thursday the telephone man comes and the man to repossess the car. On friday Tekla has puppies, and we get a strange communication from the employment people. Saturday R’s check doesn’t come. Sunday the stair light which has been here since we moved in (I believe) burns out. Monday I’m visited by Saucer People who tell my fortune, tuesday Thaddeus has puppies, wednesday the house sale is declared fraudulent by angry owner, thursday Ruby [the cat] has puppies, and so it goes.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Diamonds and Rust (Joan Baez).

I’m rererereading The Scholar Adventurers. I sometimes picture some industrious scholar of (say) 2043 running down this journal in search of valuable information. His comments read: sbh’s Diary (or “journal” as he called it) consists of twenty-seven looseleaf binders, most bearing names of well known electrical companies of the time, containing notes covering the period from March 1966 to April 1984, with large gaps. Most of this is unintelligible, due to the author’s habits of obscure abbreviations, and omissions of everything of interest. Even in a family noted for self-centeredness sbh stands out in that he succeeds in telling us nothing of importance about his famous brothers. Nowhere is this failing clearer than in the ...

KZEL is off the air. Why?

06 September 2020

I Didn't See Anybody (2003)

[Passage from my journal, 6 September 2003]

1:19m PDT—I didn’t really see anybody today, though I think Darryl dropped by at some point. My main accomplishment was scurrying off to the store—the Plaid Pantry—to buy bread, which I was out of. I need to make a real store trip, but the money situation is awful, and I have many bills coming up. I worked some on separating the J, E, and P sources of Exodus, mainly because I’m trying to figure out how the Moses story grew over time. He’s not at the center of the cult for J, as he is for E and P, or at any rate that’s now it looks to me. So how did the story grow over time? I think I watched some TV today—mainly coverage of the ongoing Middle East disaster. The Korean situation, which as far as I can see is entirely the result of the current president’s bungling, looks really ominous, but for some reason nobody seems to be covering it. And Ashcroft, that goddamn witch, is going around the country explaining that we really didn’t need those pesky civil liberties we used to enjoy anyway, and look how useful they are in prosecuting people who just a few years ago wouldn’t have been guilty of anything. Are these people for real? God help us all.

05 September 2020

No Appointment Needed

Last night—well, this morning literally—I dreamed I was hanging out in a large room somewhere—it might have been some kind of restaurant, or a lobby, or a waiting area at an airport. The place was packed with people, all of them animated and engaged in lively activities. There were children digging in the sandy floor, there was a woman breast-feeding her baby, there were groups engaged in discussions and games as far as the eye could see. At one distant point there was a door by a kind of desk with a register, and periodically somebody would come through it and call out a name. Somebody—I assume the person who was being called, would go over to the desk, sign something, and disappear through the door.

I didn’t think it had anything to do with me, since I wasn’t waiting for an appointment or anything I knew of. Everything seemed bright and peaceful and kind of mellow. And then a young woman came through and called my name. I thought it had to be a mistake, but she was looking my way, so I went over cautiously, with an increasing sense of dread.

“Sign here,” she said, pointing to a space in the open book. My name was printed there, right by a blank line for me to sign. I hesitated for a long moment. “Oh, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” she assured me. “It’s nothing new to you. And it happens to everybody sooner or later.”

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s on the other side?”

“Nonexistence,” she said.

I bent down to sign—and woke up.

04 September 2020

Suspect in Portland Killing Dead

In the news I see that the only suspect in the shooting death of Aaron Danielson was killed in the course of the investigation. Michael Reinoehl, who lived with a beautiful husky dog but otherwise had no obvious redeeming qualities, died while being arrested in Lacey Washington. The circumstances are otherwise murky.

The press is making a big deal out of Reinoehl’s opposition to systemic racism and to fascism, but here in the Pacific Northwest that’s like the flag, babies, motherhood, and apple pie. Not exactly a defining characteristic. I mean we may be racist as fuck up here—so my Black friend tells me anyway—but we’re all against it, just so long as we don’t have to make any personal sacrifices to end it. And nobody really likes fascism, not even the anti-anti-fascists.

There are still no details—just contradictory stories—about the events leading up to Danielson’s death, and with Reinoehl dead nothing much may ever come out. The guy had been involved in several scuffles in the area recently, once getting shot when he tried to wrest a gun away from another armed guy, and seemed to have a propensity for violence. He doesn’t sound like much of a loss, though I hope the husky is okay.

03 September 2020

An Extraordinary Incident in Tallahassee

What should have been an ordinary incident in Tallahassee (Florida) went off the rails on 27 August thanks to the fuzzy thinking of Wallace and Beverly Fountain, an elderly couple with more guns than brains, seemingly. Beverly Fountain, apparently the owner of the Fountain Plaza strip mall, had allegedly received complaints from one of the businesses located there—a U-Haul drop-off facility—about people siphoning gas from the trucks parked there. For some reason not explained she decided that the thing to do was to hide out in the lot with her husband and fire off guns to scare people off. Apparently she hadn’t taken into account the possibility that people might show up there to return rented vehicles, because when somebody came to drop off a rented truck, she and her husband opened fire.

A police officer parked nearby happened to observe the fiasco. He noticed a U-Haul van pull into the lot followed by a GMC truck. “The driver then parked the GMC by the U-Haul and based on their interactions, I assumed both parties knew each other and the gentleman driving the GMC was picking up the driver of the U-Haul.” This is what any normal person would assume, but not the Fountains. They assumed that the two drivers were up to no good and started shooting. Hearing the shots the police officer drove back to the lot to see the GMC speeding off and the Fountains waving pistols about.

When the crazed couple declined to immediately lay down their arms the officer did not shoot them for some unstated reason, but called for backup. The Fountains eventually did drop their guns and lie down as ordered, and under questioning admitted that they had no reason to assume that the customers returning the rented vehicle were stealing gas, and that they had not observed any suspicious activities. The police found no evidence of gas siphoning, and they arrested the couple for aggravated assault. Beverly and Wallace Fountain both insisted that they did not fire at the U-Haul customers, but up in the air, but this is contradicted by the victims, who say they were fired at.

Well, the thing is, some people cannot be trusted with guns, second amendment rights or no. Based on this incident, the Fountains are clearly among them.

02 September 2020

Dumbasininity of the Day

We’d like to have the consent, as an example, in Portland. We could solve that problem in approximately one hour, but the mayor refuses, perhaps for political reasons. I don’t know why it’s good for him to have a city that’s falling apart and that’s under siege now for 94 days. But, really, it’s been under siege for years, if you know Portland.

So, to the mayor, I say: Whenever you’re ready, let us know. We’ll solve your problem of violence. We’ll solve your problem of crime. We’ll arrest those criminals very rapidly, and you’ll be able to have some nice evenings in Portland.—Donald Trump, press briefing, 31 August 2020

[You obviously don’t know Portland, Don, if you think we’re somehow under siege. And we’re having some very nice evenings right now, no thanks to you and your goon squads. Knock it off, please.—sbh]

01 September 2020

Biden? My Gut Says No!

One problem I have right now in clearing my mind of idiotic distractions is that I have an internal conflict going on. My gut is at war with my head. My gut tells me that there is no possible way that Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump in the upcoming contest. I mean the guy is bringing machine guns and grenade launchers to a falling-piano fight with a cartoon character, and he’s bound to be crushed. But on the other hand the polls tell me that Biden is well ahead of Trump in the key swing states and that there’s no path to victory for the president. I see no post-convention bounce so far; the bars are refusing to budge.

But what about that enthusiasm gap that Michael Moore has been going on about? I do find it unusual that Democrats (or at least anti-conservatives) are worrying about it; usually it’s the people on the downside of the curve who talk up that up: “Albeit they possess the might, Nonetheless we have the will” (as Tom Lehrer put it in his Harvard fight song). The thing is, as far as I can tell the Trumpites’ enthusiasm for Trump is matched if not surpassed by ordinary Americans’ loathing for him, so that would appear to be a wash.

Maybe it’s my personal prejudices that are informing my gut here. I’ve despised Biden for decades, a lot longer than I’d even heard of Trump, let alone formed any opinion about him. On the other hand my gut doesn’t seem to be alone in this boat; the betting odds on the Biden-Trump race have narrowed recently, with Trump catching up to Biden. Somebody should drag Johnny the Snitch out of retirement and ask him what the word on the street is. He usually seems to know what’s up.

Six Percent

Apparently some brain-dead right-wingers have come up with a new piece of asininity rivalling the claim that Barack Obama was not born in the US territory of Hawaii—it seems that 94% of the people recorded as dying from the novel coronavirus actually didn’t. Don’t get me wrong—they’re still dead as a result of getting the virus—it’s just that they died from (say) respiratory difficulties caused by the virus rather than from the virus alone. Hence, by this logic, they shouldn’t be counted as COVID-19 deaths, because the virus was merely a contributory cause.

I wonder how that would work out in court. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I submit to you that my client is not responsible for the death of the victim. My client merely pushed him over the edge of the cliff—it was the victim’s violent collision with the rocky terrain at the bottom of the canyon that was the proximate cause of his demise.” Or “my client only pulled the trigger; it was the bullet that penetrated his skull that caused his death.” Although nothing in the legal system would surprise me all that much, I kind of doubt that these sorts of argument would fly. Or even crawl. Why they should be tolerated in the case of a public emergency is beyond me.

Have these people ever looked at a death certificate? (My roommate said they probably never even looked at a newspaper clipping—which may well be true these days.) People who die of AIDS or breast cancer or diabetes often are directly killed by something brought on by their condition, and that may well be reflected in the death certificate—though I’ve seen some strange ones in the course of research. There was somebody who died from “acute melancholy” for example, or the simple word “unknown” listed for a man whose mangled body was found at the foot of a cliff. (These are from memory; they just happened to catch my imagination when leafing through the records on some other quest.)

Even if the immediate cause of death was an underlying condition aggravated by the disease, as apparently some of the walking braindead are using as an excuse to downgrade the death-count, that doesn’t mean the disease wasn’t responsible for the death. Again, the defense “I didn’t kill the man—it was the heart attack he had after I pushed him over the edge of the cliff that did him in” would probably not be taken seriously in court. (I could be wrong on that one.)

If the argument is that a disease that merely shortens a person’s life doesn’t count as a cause of that person’s death, then there’s no point in even assigning a cause of death. We’re all going to die sooner or later—all I did when I pushed the guy over the cliff was shorten his life a bit. It’s hardly worth worrying about.

Do right-wingers ever think about what they’re saying? Indeed, do right-wingers think at all? Or is it all guts and feelings with them. I suppose it doesn’t matter in the long run. Heart-attack, respiratory disease, COVID-19—the rocky terrain at the bottom of the canyon is waiting for us all.

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