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Among Those Shadows

Wednesday, 07 Dec 2016, 23:52 UTC

“When are you leaving?” Trudy texted.

“In 30 minutes,” I texted back.

By the time I left, which was almost certainly longer than the promised 30 minutes, it was mostly dark. I walked across the parking lot and made my way to where the car was parked.

The sky was glowing that urban gray that low skies glow when the city lights reflect off the low-lying clouds. But it was dark in the shadows under the Oaks and Elms. You could only barely make out the green of their leaves, because it was that time of day when colors flee and shades of night set in.

“Hoo. Hoo-hooo.”

I stopped and looked up.

“Hoo. Hoo-hooo.”

I stood a bit longer, trying to find where the owl was perched that I might see golden-glowing Great-Horned eyes. It was somewhere up in the canopies, and although it was hardly being shy, it was not about to reveal itself.

So I humored myself into thinking that I knew where it sat — somewhere just up there on that branch over in that tree among those shadows.

Then I got in the car and drove home.

The Feeling’s Back

Sunday, 04 Dec 2016, 18:17 UTC

When the doctor cut my throat to take out those lymph nodes, there were a lot of nerves that got severed. The feeling was gone on the right side of my neck and jaw, and I’ve been numb for some almost a year. Small price to pay for stopping the spread, though, eh?

Today I am happy to announce that the feeling’s back. Or on its way, at least. So to celebrate, I’ve commissioned some art!

Oh wait. It was my right side. Oh well, I’m a lefty, so let’s call it artistic license.

Cause for Hysteria?

Sunday, 04 Dec 2016, 11:00 UTC

Juan Cole has an analysis of the soon-to-be cabinet and their views on political islam, a term he has a little trouble with, since it’s often used (my interpretation) in a context that ignores obvious (?) parallels with political movements in other religions.

He points out that whereas the term is used to whip up right-wing hysteria, it fits alongside what we might call political judaism and political christianity.

Political Islam is the attempt to make Islam the basis for a political ideology that would dictate government policy. It is analogous to Zionism, which makes Jews the basis for a political ideology. It is also analogous to the Christian Right in the US, which makes Christianity a political ideology and pursues the Christianization of American law (e.g. striving to ban abortion, to outlaw sex outside Christian marriage, etc.)

So to connect the dots, we should be equally hysterical about christianists who yearn for a christian caliphate.

Christian caliphate!? What on earth are you talking about, man!?

Well, have you ever seen this bumper sticker?

Stop and think about this for a second.

The key phrase is in that order, subtly rendered in a small font at the bottom but proudly rendered in red. The driver declares that their christian religious values trump their conservative political ones and that those trump their American ones (pun intended).

This is a proclamation that constitutional values are subservient to christian ones — equivalent to a call for a christian caliphate.

So why isn’t that cause for hysteria?

Giving Some Thanks

Sunday, 27 Nov 2016, 23:21 UTC

For you who listen. For you who tolerate. For you who smile when I say silly things. For you who is always by my side. For you who makes coffee in the morning. For you with the sparkling eyes.

For warm breezes under sometimes sunny skies. For rain kept mostly at bay and a tent kept dry. For a warm dog at the foot of the sleeping bags. For scrambled eggs and bacon in the morning. For sandwiches and Chex mix at halfway point of the hike overlooking the Oak and Juniper clad hills. For cornish hens hot from the fire pit. For graham crackers dunked in whole milk. For getting royally trounced at Scrabble. For three days of camping on Thanksgiving Day weekend. 

For you and for that I give thanks. 

Ten Percent Off

Monday, 21 Nov 2016, 21:15 UTC

She helped me find a pair of running shoes. The ones I’ve been running in need replacing, or will soon. And the store was having a 10% off sale, so I found myself in the market for a new pair. But I didn’t have the faintest idea what to get, nor did I particularly care, because the days of me feeling strongly about my shoes have passed.

Still, I needed something to replace my wearing out pair, so when she walked past where I was sitting, I asked for some help.

It didn’t take long. She knew what she was talking about. And she was able to bring out several boxes for me to try on that were probably sufficient replacements. 

I tried one pair, and they didn’t feel right. I tried another pair, and they felt great. And the final pair slipped loosely on my heels as I walked, so I never even got up to a jog in them.

“I’ll take the Mizunos,” I told her. “How much are they?”

“$120.00,” she said.

“And with 10% off,” Trudy added…

“Oh, I can’t do that math,” she said.

She can’t do that math. Ten percent of 120? I know I’m being harsh, but what a shame. She knew the shoes in the store. She was a runner. She was friendly and cheerful. But she didn’t know how to calculate ten percent of 120.

No wonder, I thought to myself. No wonder we got to where we are.


Monday, 14 Nov 2016, 20:30 UTC

Some Philosophical Links

Sunday, 13 Nov 2016, 10:12 UTC

0. What I won’t discuss

Yesterday the sky was blue and the sun shined down from the sky as Trudy and I ran our six-mile long run.

Yesterday our Rain Lilies exploded into a white-and-yellow supernova, attracting butterflies away from the other delights here and there in the back and front yard.

Yesterday, I saw a Monarch imbibing on the blossom of a Blue Mist Flower, drunk perhaps with the nectar of it, focused perhaps on making it to Costa Rica for the winter.

But I will not discuss these things.

Rather I have three links to share. In the past weeks, they helped me be (in some sense) more joyful than I might otherwise have been.

They helped me put my head together.

1. Black Jeopardy

SNL has been hitting it out of the park, lately. The skits have been funny, which we might expect of them. But they have been (in my opinion) deep. Perhaps the most significant in my limited sampling of SNL (which I do not watch per se, because we do watch TV and frankly don’t care to devote that much time to something that had of late descended into irrelevance) is the Black Jeopardy skit with Tom Hanks as a good-ol-boy Trump supporter.

It was funny. But more importantly, it was… important. It showed the turning of our left-right political spectrum back on itself. It showed the red and blue ends meeting in some kind of intersection (without over-romanticizing it). This was something I tried to talk about here. It’s something that the establishment (pundits, politicians, bureaucrats, the press) managed to completely ignore.

It’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it already. There’s a very important message for the left to be derived from it.

2. Live From New York

You’ve probably seen the Clinton skits on SNL. They’ve been going on for a while, and if nothing else they have given Kate McKinnon a chance to show how good she is. In particular, the SNL cold open debate skits in which she and Alec Baldwin parodied Trump and Clinton have been blockbusters.

Last night, McKinnon played Clinton at the piano singing Leonard Cohen’s Halleluja

This isn’t comedy. This isn’t what I think of as SNL. It’s literature. It’s philosophy. It’s consolation. And it is something quite different from what I have come to expect from television.

3. Culture Matters

This Golem XIV article is a long read. It’s worth it. I can’t do it justice here.

There’s Brexit. There are immigrants on the beach. There’s a painful clash of cultures. There’s globalism and free trade and the emptiness of being nothing more than an economic entity in a world otherwise devoid of meaning.

The writing is spectacular. The discussion is provocative and profound. It outlines an intellectual framework for making sense of a lot of things that have been bouncing around our society.

We Let Our Future Walk Away

Thursday, 10 Nov 2016, 21:03 UTC

1. A long ribbon

Imagine a long ribbon. On the left it is blue, red on the right.

But you don’t have to imagine this. This is the way we have been told to think about our politics for a long time, now. The pundits and the press have long framed things in this way. It became our only mental model, the only way to analyze our world.

And it became the only way our leaders formulated their political strategies, at least it became the only way blue-side leaders defined their strategies. Everything became a matter of triangulation, required incremental accommodation to pull more and more read-leaning folks under the blue tent.

No need to spend time talking to the already-blue folks. They were safe votes. Instead, tinker a bit with your proposals and decrease your ambitions just enough to make a slightly more red-sounding sale, and… well you’ve got more folks under the blue tent. 

2. The angry ones

This is what the Clinton revolution was all about. And it worked, for a while — barely, but it worked.

Still, there was a flaw in this theory that Bill built, a flaw that lay unrecognized by the elites and cogniscenti, because the blue-red mental model didn’t permit us to conceive of it.

Way over there on the left side of the ribbon, there was growing dissatisfaction: blue but angry. Angry as hell. And way over there on the right side of the ribbon, there was growing dissatisfaction: red and angry. Angry as hell.

As the leaders from the Clinton generation triangulated their incremental strategies, these nominally stalwart allies (the angry ones around them) got madder and madder. These were the millennials — whom we came to label the Bernie Bros. The leadership looked down on them. Mocked them. Ignored them. Marginalized them. And shoved them in a box to shut them up.

3. What happened Tuesday

A while ago, I was on the phone ranting to someone about something that made me angry. (I am prone to do this if you push the right buttons.) 

“You sound like Trump,” they said.

And bang I was shut up and in a box. And I never brought up my fury on that subject with them again. The fury wasn’t gone, mind you, it’s just that they never heard it from me again.

This my friends, is what happened on Tuesday night.

The Democratic establishment had boxed up the very millennials whom they thought formed the vanguard of their blue future. The pundits had ridiculed them. The pollsters didn’t really see the box they were in. And so those nominally solid allies whose anger was marginalized either gave up and stayed home or they let their anger get the better of them and said, “Screw it, I’ll just join this other angry crew over there.”

And in that moment, the red-blue space we lived in warped back on itself. The two ends of the ribbon came together, and that vanguard of the blue future cast their votes red.

Don’t blame the haters. Sure the hatred runs deep. But they didn’t make the difference Tuesday night.

We did it to ourselves. We let our future walk away, and we didn’t even see them leave. Heck, we can’t even see it, now.


Tune for a Sad Day

Wednesday, 09 Nov 2016, 21:39 UTC

So you think that you’ve got trouble.
Well, trouble’s a bubble.
So tell ol’ Mr. Trouble to get lost.
Why not hold your head up high an’
Stop crying’, start tryin’.
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed.

When you find the joy of livin’
Is lovin’ and givin’,
You’ll be there when the winning dice are tossed.
A smile is just a frown that’s turned upside down,
So smile and that frown’ll defrost.
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed.

You might know the tune. Here’s Dick singing it himself. Good tune for a sad day. Sorry, that’s all I got.

Game Seven

Wednesday, 02 Nov 2016, 23:06 UTC