A long, long time ago in a borough far away, Harry Essex enrolled in one my classes at Parson's School of Design Liberal Studies, a subset in those days of the New School for Social Research. Harry was above average tall, blonde, kind of buff, exactly the sort of person the British chose in the olden days to whack the Scots and the Irish with cudgels or swords to preserve the Realm. He was noble of bearing, and one of the first true WASPs I ever got to know well.
Our first class together was Politics of the Environment, a class that was so popular that when I left the New School, a guy came to my office at NYU and introduced himself to me as a “Scott McPartland impersonator.” He said that he was hired to teach Politics, but Parsons Liberal Studies, since discontinued by the administration, kept poor notes, he couldn't figure out what I did or how I did it. I asked only that he not portray me in the years when I became old and fat and pointed out that I have never been able to grow sideburns. I wished him good luck.
But this is about Harry, and the time frame is still the late 1980s. Every student in Politics had to do a final project rather than a final exam and since they were designers, musicians, artists I got awesome stuff lots of which appeared in their senior shows and made me feel as if my life had a purpose. I saved as much of it as I could for as long as I had space.
Harry was not a Parson's student but a Eugene Lang College student, one of the brainiacs for whom the New School undergrad program was designed, but not an artist per se; thus his project was ad hoc, but I still gave him an A for the class because he was the most articulate student and he rocked the essays. He seemed born to the purple both physically and intellectually.
Harry had the gift of plugging tremendous intuition into a wide data base (what in the early days of computing we still called catholic reading). He often intuited where something was going well before it got there and sometimes contributed additional information that could kick a discussion up to another level.
Our next class was Creation Myths and Cosmology, the one he most connected to. I was very lucky in those days that Parsons under three successive deans allowed me to just dream shit up and teach it. I doubt this will ever happen again as long of the Reign of HR strides the earth.
I do not have a Ph.D. in paleoastronomy. I don't think there is such a thing. What I brought to the party began with a deep curiosity based on my synthesis of Giorgio deSantillana's Hamlet's Mill, E.C. Krupp's Echoes of Ancient Skies and John Michell's The New View Over Atlantis which agreed that so-called primitive, unscientific people possessed a detailed, systematic and global theory about the nature of life, the universe and everything. I added into the mix Plato, Newton, Bohm, Hawking, Eliade, duChardin and other stuff making a filling and nutritive stew of ideas that will never get you tenure, but so far have not been disproven and increasingly are turning out to be prescient. At the time I believed that college should be the place of dreaming spires. Why should bean counters and investment bankers dictate what we are allowed even to speculate about?
Harry was wonderful in Creation myths, taking all the grand ideas to heart, but he still searched for a master key. Harry went on to take every one of my classes until he graduated, the last one of which was England in Myth and Stone, a UK class which Mark Vecchio and I dreamed up and Mark made happen as a combined effort between Simon's Rock College at Bard and Parsons. Mark was cool like that.
The class would range from London to Land's End in the far west, basically following John Michell's ley lines across southern England. My first attempt at this was on foot and the British public bus system. The second was Mark and me in his Vauxhall. The third time it counted.
So I enticed a few of my best students, Harry and most criticially Daisy deVillenueve whom I gather is something of a celebrity in the UK these days, and two others to achieve lift-off velocity. Mark and I “acquired” a mini bus in the dead of night on the Isle of Dogs outside London, but the very mini bus barely accomodated the 11 students. Daisy's mom, an awesome human being, a super model in the 60s, basically made the trip work by contributing her car and coming with full of luggage and students who needed a time out..We got John Michell to give us a tour of Glastonbury. Mark was cool like that. John also introduced us to local nobs which proved invaluable in years to come.
Thanks to Jan de Villeneuve, the trip was a huge success on every level. Everyone got to experience something numenous, especially Harry who at one point started wearing an aluminium foil hat.
Harry had found real magic in southern England, but sustaining real magic is hard as I know more than most others.
There is a thing in esoteric circles called “the Guardian of the Threshold.” It's basically the worst, most repellant aspects of yourself shot back in your face, and it blocks the road to enlightenment. Harry hit the block hard when he came back from England. The road soured and curdled.
Soon after, his mom got pancreatic cancer. He called me and I said that realistically pancreatic cancer is four weeks and out, but I gave him some leads.
The combination of his mom's will to survive, improved medical care and maybe New Age tweeks kept Harry's mom alive for an astonishingly long time beyond four weeks, but in the end it was unavailing. Magic is like that.
Harry seemed more off kilter after her death but still Harry. We stayed in touch off and on. He'd call me up and float some weird theory. We'd discuss, but ultimately I tried to shoot them down, mostly because magic is much harder than a rubic's cube which has only three simple rules and requires simply the heroic nerdness to practice them until they are ingrained and then Ta-da! you can be considered a savant. There are no such short cuts to being Merlin a fact Harry ignored to his doom.
Here was someone who could have been a coporate exec, a lawyer, a sales rep, anything. He was articulate, personable and intuitive. He could have cruised through life on his looks, but Harry turned his back on a conventional life. Instead he kept looking for magic. He was unlucky in that he never found a patron and unwise in that he made his money moving drugs which increased his consumption of drugs.
The last time I saw him in person he asked me to help him out on a thing. He took me to a large, decent-looking but unpreposessing building on the Lower East Side, on a block that was well along the process of gentrifying from the Allen Ginsberg, Puerto Rican and Hell's Angels' LES to au pairs speaking Norwegian to Eurotrash spawn in their strollers, David Schwimmer tearing down a landmark building to construct an edifice to his mediocre talents and most especially NYU's “It's zany!” architecture.
I didn't realize it beforehand, but Harry was taking me to one of the last drug fortresses on the LES. As a former burglar many years ago (much more Jean Valjean that the Pink Panther) I noted four sequential access points protected by steel doors, cameras and electronic access leading to an elevator. Maybe the Leverage team could have gotten in, but five SWAT teams could not have before all the evidence was on fire.
The denouement of this encounter was uneventful. A schlubby, early middle-aged guy lost in an immense sea of green muttering depredations, the exchange of cash for product, the retreat. I dedeuced, possibly incorrectly, that this was the hub of the pot delivered by phone call empire and Harry with his bike was probably a key messenger.
I expect it was a cushy life that Harry lived then, and he didn't foresee the Guiliani years of militarized cops who “owned the night”and brutally destroyed the Tompkins Square Park ethos of the “World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum” turning it into a place that is mostly safe for Norwegian au pairs and David Schwimmer.
Then 9/11 happened and the New York world went “click!” Bloomberg forced Giuliani out of a third term because hey, the people have spoken, and Rudi, by not running up Broadway screaming like a seven-year old achieved mythic status. Rudi could get paid on the lecture circuit, so it was all good in Bloombergs' Lex Luthor mind.
This version of the 21st century was the worst possible future for Harry. He would have been fine in a zombie apocalypse because he was strong and clever. He could have convinced alien invaders he was right man for the job, but in a world where “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” there was no room for him to move. Everything Harry did, all his esoterica, all his sketchy dealings left him at the mercy of the new guardians of the Homeland who treat all of us as suspects or terrorists.
Harry's early adulthood glow had faded. He had no job history as such. There was no starting again, and because the War of Terror coincided with the war against the middle-class, no one had the resouces to take him up as a project.
Harry had no place else to fall except off the grid. I have sort of fallen off the grid as well, so we had not been in contact for a long while, but in March of last year he wrote me and asked what my new plans were. I wrote back saying that I had none, being in midst of other woe.
Harry died five weeks ago today of heart failure and being beaten up too many times by other homeless people. I have this information third hand.
The Bloomberg years have been an unrelenting war of terror against all not-rich people, brown people, especially fat-assed black people most especially their fat-assed children milling around in front of schools that he has to look at through his limo windows as he is driven to work.. He is on record saying New York City has no homeless people and more recently that the poor in New York aren't that poor. Nothing else to add except a generation of useful, intelligent and awesome people have being flushed down the toilet. Harry is not alone and at least he will be mourned.
I wish I had something wise and comforting to wrap this up with, but I don't. Jimi Hendrix once opined that “Death is the ultimate trip!” and I guess he should know since he died at 27 in 1970. I'd like to believe that there is an afterlife like the Hindus imagine where you have an extended TED weekend full of seminars at which you discuss problem areas in your former incarnation and receive capital one bonus rewards for all the awesome things you did in this life. That is probably close to what Hendrix had in mind.
If so, I pray that Harry has an awesome time in the period between death and rebirth, comes back refurbished and ready to go to work.
Two deaths touched my life recently. I believe each demonstates a facet of the enduring effects that traumatic events like climate change and terrorism have had on all Americans but particularly New Yorkers.
How do we quantify traumatic stress? The parents and surviving students of Sandy Hook, for example, will lug around a burden of regret, sadness, guilt, anger and gnawing doubt until the day they die. No one except elected representative beholden to the NRA would dispute that. The 40,000 Limbaughettes who signed a petition to prevent the Secret Service from carrying weapons because crossing guards can't carry weapons engaged in a cynical, odious effort against common sense. No trauma there.
Inbetween it's just ambiguity, a line an individual can only draw for themselves. The great American tradition is “Rub a little dirt on it princess and walk it off.” Leaving aside the clearly mysogynistic implications of princess, the idea that the ruling class still can tell others what is or is not traumaticically painful should be deeply troubling in the dying twilight of, as the Founding Fathers called it, “The Last, Best Hope of Humanity.”
My cousin Marie died this week at 51 of undetermined causes but probably liver failure. Marie was about ten years younger than I was. I remember her as a toddler nick-named “Goober” because as an infant she pronounced “food” as “goob.” But she was a tiny child and I was 11, practically a grown up. Her two older sisters and two older brothers who were virtually my brothers were much more compelling, so I held her in little interest.
So I grew up, and was in midst of other woes to quote Keats. I only gave her passing thought. I heard she moved to England in her late teens by herself just because. She was evidently surviving as an undocumented barmaid. I thought that was remarkably intrepid and fearless especially because the most radical thing a Lon Guylander can do is leave Long Island. She was a woman alone in a foreign country.
To compress a decade, she stayed in England, found a fella named Mike and married him. She popped out a baby, a son. Shortly after she popped out another one, also a son. Her husband was a City of London guy if you get my drift. Her life was good and she was happy.
In 1999, on an England in Myth and Stone trip I had a free night and I thought to visit my long-sundered cousin who lived in Maidenhead, the home of Kate Winslet, a very upmarket suburb of London.
The trip up on British rail was literally pandemonium as every fucking person was talking as quickly and as loudly as humanly possible on mobiles. British phones have never been adequate since Bell and Edison kludged a system long ago, but Brits are patient and inured to suffering. Before mobiles, there was absolutely no point in trying to make a call on a public phone. It wouldn't work. The cell revolution was that moment in Wizard of Oz when things go from black & white to color. Even undemonstrative Brits were positively giddy.
I arrived in Maidenhead with no idea where I was or where the spot I stood on was in relation to anything else. I left my compass in my bed and breakfast. I hate to take cars if I can walk, so I abjured calling Marie, but it soon became apparent that I was well and truly lost. Passersby were no help. They never are. I wandered around on the hope that the univere made sense eventually.
A passerby asked me for directions. I said, “Are you fucking kidding me!? I'm from Brooklyn!” He scurried off. My route took me on a road down a hill with a concrete train support on one side and nothing on the other. I called Marie and Mike. It turned out that I was not so far away, but I was headed in the wrong direction.
Mike came and got me. I had never met him before. It turned out he was witty, intelligent, altruistic and as Brits use this word brilliant. When we got to their charming, converted carriage house I met her sons Kyle and Jack and was shocked to discover that I had first cousins once removed with posh accents who seemed impressively precocious and bright. Goober was now a grown-up, but still bonded to me as family in a way that needed no explanation.
We ate a fine dinner. Marie and Mike's row of houses stood at the edge of a cricket pitch at the opposite end of which was a pub. After the kids were put to bed we ambled across for a pint. Mike and I got into a deep discussion which I forget and no longer matters. When I think, I walk fast (which is no longer a problem now that I live in Jersey City), so we arrived at the local well in advance of Marie. Mike and I ordered a round. The pub had outdoor service and picnic tables presumably so patrons could endure the endless tedium of cricket which makes American baseball seem like air hockey. In Britain the summer sun stays out for an absurdly long time so objectively it was late-ish but still light. We watched Marie's progress which was leisurely, serene.
I was immediately struck that she reminded me of my mother and my aunt Kate, the fair-haired children of my beloved grandma, and I thought about the progression of time, the indelible ink of family across generations.
Marie ordered a Stella Artois which in those days was not a beer any Lon Guylander had ever heard of. It's a girly beer. We caught up on the time that had passed. She stressed her urgent need for real aluminum foil (the Brits might as well dump “aluminium foil” as a concept and simply call it crap). I promised I'd pass the word along to the next Schlendorf to cross the pond. We enjoyed the beautiful summer sunset talked about nothing of significance.
As Mike drove me to the train I came away with the sense that life for my cousin, her husband and their children was good. I was pleased for them and pleased to renew a bond. On the return to London the not-nobs heading in for the overnight shift had no cells, so it was blissfully quiet.
More years passed. Those of us who were becoming old and in the way didn't embrace email as our social watering-hole, so we lost touch. I heard through the grapevine that Mike and Marie had left England for Long Island. They bought a house in a decent, ocean-view community on the South Shore. Jack and Kyle adjusted by losing their accents. Why Marie and Mike did this, I have no idea.
As I expected, the future was worse than the past. In short order the economy tanked, Mike and Marie divorced acrimoniously and Marie lost her job. This much I know because she found me on Facebook. This is not an endorsement of Facebook.
But we exchanged posts and messages about stuff, family history, personal memories. Then Hurricane Sandy happened. Fans of my blog (yes, both of you) may remember that I talk about her in my hurricane account. The flooding surge devastated her life, her finances, her sense of equilibrium. Her world was broken, and there was no one to help. This is equally true of tens of thousands most notably Coney Island, Rockaway, the Jersey shore and Staten Island.
One of her neighbors decided to address storm damage by renting a back hoe and uprooting all Marie's trees. What had been her idyll, her sanctuary, was gone. Both their yards now look like the aftermath of a World War One battle.
Marie's house required repairs to the basic structure, heat, hot water, electricity. The FEMA people blew her off with paper work, so she was faced with enormous challenges and no assets except her house.
Her two boys are coming of age, one already in college the other about to embrace becoming a solder in the American army. Soon she would be nearly alone in a dilapidated house.
This was not the life Marie signed on for. Her family started calling the Log Lady after the character in Twin Peaks. She struggled against the universe, but it was an unfair fight.
Marie started drinking too much, so much that her doctor wanted her to take meds to shore up her failing liver. But of course the meds required her to stop drinking and a healthy liver does nothing to numb the pain of a broken life. Still, her death caught up with her unexpectedly while she was in midst of future plans.
Her funeral is today. I may go although funerals are so the living can process a mystery. I know Marie never wanted a funeral. She was amused by my saying that I wanted a Templar ceremony with my corpse thrown off the fortress wall to be eaten by feral dogs. She preferred a cremation with her ashes scattered into the warm Gulf Stream currents off Long Island. Perhaps some of her molecules will find safe haven on the shores of England.
Recently, a woman was arrested for typing the words “pressure cooker” and “backpack” in the same email. This is true. As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.
This event may seem mental to normal folks until we parse the way computers think about things. I have some expertise in this area because in the 1970s I worked as a paralegal for AT&T in their big antitrust suit which resulted in them being broken up into scores of companies.
In those days, there were no PCs. A really good phone was one with a cord long enough to reach your bathroom. Xeroxes and digital watches seemed pretty sci-fi.
So was I hired as one of thousands of worker bees tasked with reading every fucking document from the end of World War II to 1977 either sent by or sent to AT&T which in those days bestrode the planet like a colossus. AT&T had recently murdered Salvadore Allende, the socialist president of Chile who had the timerity to nationalize the copper industry. Telephone wires used to be made of copper. His relacement in the form of a military coup was Auguste Pinochet who hung around until just a few years ago. He was an opportunistic facist, sort of like Dick Cheney. In his time he arrested 80,000 people, tortured 30,000 people and murdered an untold number. Raise your hand when you start to see a through line in this.
The Allende lesson was, you do not fuck with AT&T. Nixon signed off on this. However, bottom-dwelling, scum sucking (no, not carp, silly) lawyers decided that Ma Bell was old and in the way. An emerging technology would make copper wires irrelevant.
I was not happy taking this job, but I was less happy having no money and living in my mom's basement. I thought maybe I'd learn something and maybe what I learned would be useful.
We were the software. We were trained how to keyword documents, how to print (in pencil) in a way that computer operators could understand and input on the massive AT&T mainframes (today as powerful as a Galaxy One cell).
Each day, three shifts (11 PM to 7 AM for me) hundreds of us at a time sat down at our desks and read through an endless parade of box upon box dumped on our desks. Each morning we'd deposit our results with the supervisors in Quality Control. We did this even on the day a co-worker was swallowed by a malfunction of the escalator and we had to walk up the stairs around her bloody remains.
Others disappeared without explanation, although I'm sure the sinister escalator wasn't the cause. You'd get comfortable with someone and then they were gone. We were drones as bereft as the workers in Metropolis. We got a complimentary 15 minute break and half an hour for lunch that we weren't paid for. The Quality Control supervisors (who made slightly more than minimum wage) endlessly flogged us to work harder, work faster, except they couldn't keep up with our pace – there weren't enough of them, so they kind of got pissed if we delivered a completed box by the end of shift.
Corporations are sociopaths. No reason to send the drones home for a small thing like a woman being eaten by an escalator. However, as weeks became months, it became apparent to the drones that AT&T's effort would fail because we had gathered overwhelming evidence. Ma Bell was going down no matter how hard we worked, no matter what smoking guns we discovered. All of their mainframes were useless.
I didn't stay as long in “pretrial discovery” as some of the people I got to know, only a few months. My part of the story ends, “And then LaGuardia College hired me to teach remedial English and I lived happily ever after. The end.”
I mention this prehistoric trivia because Manning and Snowden are giving our secrecy-obsessed president the whim-whams. The nature of what they did daily was not unlike what I did, except their technology flowed in two directions and mine only flowed in one. I couldn't send data or store it on a thumb drive.
Computers are stupid. There, I've said it. I don't mean stupid like pointless, I mean whatever elan vital humans and animals have to creatively respond to situations, computers can't duplicate, and any AI geek who says otherwise is trying to sell you something. Computers who play grand master chess or get spanked by Rush Holt on Jeopardy aren't just drinking a redbull in the green room and kicking some ass.
They get tweaked by programmers and experts as they are performing, and Holt, who is a Princeton professor, was smart enough to out-think Big Blue (I'm not talking about the football Giants but the IBM super computer). Maybe Rush could study up and beat Tom Coughlin, but his severe charisma deficit isn't a problem he can solve. Next Tuesday, Cory Booker who has charisma up the wazoo (probably the best way to quantify that) is going to steal Holt's bus pass, give him a butt-cracking wedgie and send him home to Princeton.
So the generals who are telling Obama that the Snowden problem can be solved by developing a computer to analyse data to go along with the computer that aggregates data are being less than honest. They are trying to sell Obama something No computer as currently devised can parse meaning. Nothing means anything to a computer. All they can do is “IF A THEN B.”
You can iterate as many steps in the process as AI geeks want, but until a human looks at the results, one cannot tell if you are arresting a woman who happened to type the words “back-pack” and “pressure cooker” in the same email, which could have been two needs on a laundry list of back-to-school items or a plot by an Islamist fanatic bent on a repeat of the Boston Massacre. No computer can nuance the difference unless the time spent writing the instructions was roughly equal to the time necessary to just do it yourself.
A case in point is that recently New Jersey installed CC cameras at traffic lights and video recorders in parks and public areas. The official hope, I suppose, was that New Jerseyans would be too lazy or too intimidated to challenge the results and meekly pay the fines for what cameras said we did. But we are Jersey Strong, and if money is on the table you best believe we'll be damned before we give up our day in court.
The CC camera challenge has been so successful that the company has had to issue rebates; unfortunately barely a fraction of the fines will be paid back, but then government is an imperfect system. CCTV works after someone has been murdered, but then the person has already been murdered. Otherwise no one looks at the video footage in real time. There aren't enough people to interpret the results, so why bother?
I've seen suspicious events in Lincoln Park where I take Petunia most days. So has the CCTV which no one looks at.
I get along well with the Hudson County Deputy Sheriffs who have jurisdiction over Lincoln Park. I find them to be effective, polite and well-trained at what they do unlike other local officers who come off as over-stressed yahoos on steroids after too many cups of Duncan Donuts. My point is that if I saw a deputy, I'd certainly walk over and let them know, but Hudson is very attenuated, and they can't be omnipresent.
It's also not just a jersey rip. A few years ago in Brooklyn while waiting for the B63, a very polite yet fearful woman some years older than me pointed out a suspicion gym bag several yards away from the bus stop near a wall. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, as we say in New York. I said, “I'll handle it, Ma'am” in my best Captain America voice. I dialed 911 on my cell.
While I was waiting for cops, the B63 came and went. The sweet lady was safe. The cops took longer than the B63 which is saying a lot. When they arrived, they asked when I saw this package. I said I hadn't. A very polite elderly woman pointed it out. They asked if I had opened it. I said no. I thought that was your job. The cops looked at me, looked at each other, turned on the siren and roared off like there was suddenly a drag race along Atlantic Avenue. I guess they got another call. I was alone.
But I had promised the nice old lady I'd handle it. I went over and gently kicked the bag. I can't explain why I believed kicking it gently was more prudent. I then put my ear to the bag to listen for electric hums. Nothing. The McPartland family motto on our crest is “Aw, Fuck It.” I opened the bag. It was just some ragged clothes. I could have left it for another schmo to find and rinse and repeat, but I didn't. I dumped the clothes in the nearest trash can and the bag in the next one as I walked a mile and a half home.
Franklin Roosevelt once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That was not the motto of the Cheney/W administration. For going on a generation we have lived in a climate of fear and paranoia, but the source of the persistent, endless fear-mongering is the government.
I say, if terroists are out to get me, bring it punks. You can't scare us, you can't intimidate us or silence us. You can only intimidate our law enforcement agencies, and they serve us, not the other way around. Obama used to know that. For all his campaign promises he broke, was there anything he believed in?
Manning and Snowden realized what they were doing. From the generals' perspective that was very bad.
I am an old man now, and I have a routine for reading stuff on the internet, beginning usually around 4:30 A.M. when I have finished walking Wendy's dog who believes that everything is better, especially her breakfast, if it happens an hour earlier.
First I scan the obituaries in the Jersey Journal. If I don't see my name, I conclude that my never-ending road to Calgary goes on.
Next I read Wikipedia for significant dates and then for stuff I'm curious about. Today it was Chemosh,the god that King Solomon forsook God for.
Then it's on to Huffpo and the Daily Beast where today I found this:
My immediate reaction was “Dude, no one will tax you to pay for two bachelor parties for the same wedding. It's equal protection under the law. Rub a little dirt on it and walk it off.” But as I read the article, I realized that this is of a piece with the Danish racist, sexist “scientific” study claiming that highly intelligent white women (or “superior” Latinas like my friend Judit) have a moral obligation to be baby machines or else they are offending God and destroying Western Civilization.
Maybe Venner should have been roped out of the herd in the 1960s, but as it turned out he contributed usefully to the study of history. However, he remained a racist, a monarchist,a pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic and a Vichy regime fascist
We all have our foibles. Venner was a voice leading to the creation of the European Union, but his intent was to keep Europe white (whatever that means), expel all Muslims and Africans. However, he was sophisticated enough to know that in many counties, especially France, the wives, mistresses, concubines and comfort girls are simply not doing their reproductive duty. Frenchmen will be extinct in 200 years, assuming anyone is alive in 2213.
So to save France, Venner believed, there is no better way to use up a smart girl than loading her up with four or five babies. “See you in 18 years, babe. I'm off to fuck my mistress.” In my opinion, the hallmark of being intelligent is questioning the utility and logic of sacrificing a life of the mind for mere biology.
So, my immediate question to Venner if I had met him would have been, “Who will clear your table, drive you home from the airport, pick up your garbage, mow your lawn? Mexicans? Peasants?” I suspect he would have said, “Yes! Peasants! Ignorant, smelly, genetically inferior haploids who exist merely to facilitate my day, and let's frank the baby machine up to 11!”
In his suicide note he made an interesting point. “Sometimes death is another part of life.” by which I believe he meant that in blowing his brains out he'd become more influential. This is important, because Mel Gibson and his crazy, Nazi dad have been exiled to Hollywood's penalty box forever. Who will now carry the banner except young, new crazies who know nothing more than what W's “No Child Left Behind” tests taught them?
And then there's this:
Sweden, the country as boring as watching paint dry, the country that makes Canada seem edgy, the country which remains a twitch away from going all Viking and sterilizing your privates for the good of mankind, is now experiencing the same shit that ripped France a new one ten years ago.
We are One Planet, One People, One Destiny. Live it or live with it.
If only there were some wooden stake one could drive through the heart of perniciously false ideas to make this world a better place.
I would much prefer the powers of darkness being less intellectually lazy, more analytical instead of vomiting up the same bullshit. According to presumably bible- reading Christians, a gay basketball player “caused” the Lord to smite us with the mega twister in Oklahoma. Really? And catastrophic climate change had nothing to do with it. Really? And you know this because your version of God told you this. Really? And you are sure it wasn't the four Doritos tacos you ate on your drive home from work to eat supper. Fascinating.
But this is penny-ante bullshit compared to the classic, aged in an oaken cask bullshit of this article. A little background: in the Victorian era, racists, homophobes, and misogonists began to tumble to the fact that the future would not consist of smelly, cigar-stained middle-aged Anglo Saxons doing whatever they wanted and murdering or at least jailing anyone who disagreed.
The Victorian Empire struck back, and they are still stiking back against women (it's always about women), queers, brown people and outsiders. Let's give the dark lords some props: they have done an outstanding job of fighting against history,the future,good science and common sense for a very long time.
By the way, hemp-smoking, sexually liberated and far-seeing Vicky herself,(who once said to a Native American tribal leader, “Your people have suffered so greatly. If I were your Queen I would have treated you better.”) was apparently content to keep stuffy, benighted men out of her bidness instead of being the Henry V in the war against general stupidity.
The stupids tried killing some sense into the rest of the world with genocide, lynching and wotnot (the actual, correct way to spell it. Saint Paul taught me this. Send me a message), and they still are, but they have many arrows, each as bluntly stupid as the last. Plan B was science, the white male best thing once you edit out women and colored people. So, while seeming to be “science,” the forces of stupidity girded up their under-sized loins for battle. Step one, stop the future by killing women.
In the early 19th century, the leading cause of premature death among women was pregnancy. The average married woman endured eight pregnancies (if she were lucky five survived, not like that would be traumatic or anything) and typically died of septis or complications along the line. No problem. Throw another ovulating log on the fire. Babysitting and poontang, two great things that go great together. If you can no longer get it up, find yourself a comfort woman, an Abishag, and waste her reproductive potential just for the warmth.
These forces are still at work, mostly in America, but everywhere Roman Catholic Church abides. The entire abortion hoo-ha is a dark lord scheme to repress women by seizing their means of reproduction. Did you know that abortion was legal in America until 1848? Look it up. Is it a coincidence that abortion laws are coextensive with the rise of feminism in Britain and the US? I guess.
Thank the Lord for Margaret Sanger, but her skirts are not clean on this issue, because Step Two is Eugenics. Sanger was a light to the mostly immigrant women who endured too many pregnancies, self aborted their babies, killed themselves accidentally, but her real issue was Eugenics.
19th century America had their undies in a bunch about the hoards of skinky, illiterate, criminal foreigners who were taking over the country they had stolen fair and square through Native American genocide. Don't believe me. Read Jacob Riis, “How the Other Half Lives” (it was still just half in the olden days) or the later chapters of Henry Adams' autobiography among many, many sources. They said that the Irish and the Germans would be the death of America (let's not even talk about Jews and Italians) because not white people (in 1900 there were over 90 “scientific” classes of not white people) had no concept of America, they would never fit in and their racial impurity would make us all stupid.
The real father of Eugenics was Malthus who argued cogently that feeding the poor, or for that matter allowing people who needed eye glasses to live, was awful because they would just produce more poor,inferior,eye-glass-needing babies. Best to save resources for cigar-stained Anglo Saxons and their handmaidens. That is pretty much all you need to know about modern Republicans, even though Reagan was an Irishman. So for that matter is Obama.
But the effective father of Eugenics was Francis Galton, Darwin's cousin, who took the concept of Natural Selection in the direction of the dark lords. His arguement that allowing “inferior' people to reproduce would be the end of civilization was very bad science which wrapped prejudice with the mantle of objective White Guy Baconianism. Phrenology, a related Galton hobby horse “proved” that women and black people were mentally inferior because their brains were smaller, even though subsequent efforts to replicate the data indicate the totally bogus methodology. Stephen Gould wrote a book about this.
The fact that the bullshit article in question starts off with Galton is not insignificant. Galton's influence led to Sweden performing hysterectomies on women who wore eye glasses (because it's always about women). The countries that embraced Eugenics most strenuously, apart from Scandanavia were America and Nazi Germany. A century of compulsory sterilization, forced abortions and (wait for it) genocide ensued.
Nazi Germany is thankfully long gone, even though official Germany remains a state of bean-counting dicks (sorry, Carla). America has doubled down on repeating lies and unscientic assertions that do violence to the Bible and undermine the core concepts of telling the truth. Don't belive a word of this article, not even “the” or “and.”
Perhaps I am overly imbued with the optimisn flowing from MSNBC about an American president making a flagrantly Liberal inaugural speech, the first in 52 years, but I am persuaded to write an evironmental blog. Also, let us finally let the "Liberal" cat out of the bag, shall we? We never fooled anyone over at Fox News, but then, they confuse labels like Liberal and Progressive with terms like Tyrant, Socialist, Facist and terrorist.
Obama is not now nor has he ever been or ever shall be progressive. He's a slightly left of center Chicago Pol who relies on the discipline of pure Vulcan logic to overcome every crisis. Every once in a while he gets emotional, empathetic, but then he's only half Vulcan. I'll leave it to you to assign the Vulcan part to Tuvok or Spock.
Anyway, I'd like to address a common misperception about the difference between the term "Global Warming" and the term "Catastrophic Climate Change." When James Lovelock coined the phrase "Global Warming," it was intended to warn us about the growing trend of human action, especially technology using fossil fuels, to wratchet up planetary temperatures beyond the limits that would easily support complex life, most especially human life.
The flaw, only too eagerly exploited by Oligarchs, their lawyers, marketing people and the shills in Washington who love them, is that warming sends the wrong message to focus groups. "I like warming, especially on a cold day like today!" "Warm reminds me of early spring when you can leave your winter coat at home." "I think of warm feelings, warm regards and little, warm puppies you snuggle when you first bring them home."
So, in the early days of environmental activism, let's call it the 1960s, there was much head-slapping, eye-rolling, and groaning among the faithful who failed to sell the dangers of a greenhouse effect on the world climate, but we were sure that rational arguments and anecdotal evidence in advance of abundant empirical data would win the day. It didn't.
By the first years of this century, 99% of all scientists alive accepted the reality of climate change on abundantly empirical grounds. That should have been sufficient, but it wasn't. Rush Limbaugh (and the legions of radio death star, crabby Rush Clones), Fox News, and the Republican caucus have staged a generational filibuster on climate change for the bogus reason that it is bad for business.
I'm not an economist, but I'm pretty sure that death is even worse for business. However, causing the premature deaths of your consumers hasn't stopped big banking from buttressing drug cartels, big tobacco for continuing to aggressively market cigarettes, albeit in Asia where Americans don't notice, and big oil to continue to promote the use of fossil fuel for everything. Idiots like me and everyone else who lives in New Jersey rely on cars to work, buy groceries, see a movie, go to church or get to the commuter rail in order to save money on gas. Even if you own a hybrid, if your local power company uses oil or coal to generate electricity, then you are wasting more net fossil fuel than if you had a 70s muscle car to take the same trip, although you'd lose the opportunity to be smug and holier than thou. You don't get a frugal bang for your buck using an energy source to create another energy source. That's just thermodynamics.
I understand that corporations can't afford to care about global warming. For every minion from the CEO on down, their bonuses depend on profit. If the world happens to end in fifty years, it didn't happen on their watch. Which brings me to John Mackey.
Mackey is CEO of Whole Foods, a place the growing foodie movement considers a shrine, the sina qua non of healthy, nutritional eating. It's a valid concept, especially considering that big agriculture, Monsanto, Bayer, Nestles and others in the big evil increasingly cut corners maximize profit and wipe out honest farmers, fishermen and cowhands who can't compete.
However, as I persistently point out to my foodie friends, organic chemistry refers to anything that has a carbon atom in it. There is no such thing as inorganic food, although Twinkies, Mountain Dew and New York City sidewalk hot dogs come damn close. High fructose corn syrup is deadly, but it is organic.
The FDA approves labels like "natural" and "organic" that essentially mean nothing, and the big evil rigs the game so that no one may speak of genetically modified milk, soy or fish, because hey, it's a fucking fish, isn't that organic enough for you? There is very little government regulation of food. There never has been nor will be as long as there's money on the table.
So in that sense, god bless John Mackey in his efforts to provide food that doesn't make you throw up in your mouth a little when you think about it afterward. Whole Food stays away from the r-Bst milk products because they are not natural. Mackey is a savvy businessman, but he is an ignoramous when it comes to current events, history or especially science. He is a byproduct of the Reagan to the present era where Darwin-deniers, biblical literalists and other grifters have colluded to confuse, befuddle, obfuscate and beguile, and that an intelligent man such as Mackey is roped in by the big lie is very sad.
Let's leave to one side Mackey's uninformed comments on Obamacare and simply suggest that he study the business model of Walmarts, because for every plutocrat who thinks he is Daddy Warbucks, there are 50 plutocrats who think they are Sauruman. He's not as dumb as the Papa John's Pizza guy or Victoria Jackson, and he is not a hopeless piece of crap like Trump. That's the nicest thing I can think of to say.
I will however throw down about about his dumb-ass statements on catastrophic climate change. This is what he said.
So here's the deal: although there has been a tremendous variation in weather patterns as our lonely planet makes it's 200,000,000 peregrination around the rim of our galaxy, there has never been a period of 150 years quite like this one.
Most of human history relied on human and animal power. The Chinese innovated wind and water power. By 900 A.D. Europeans became hip to the Chinese jive, but then around 1500 or so the West discovered coal. This was so noxious that Queen Elizabeth I threatened to become quite extrovert should malefactors continue to make her eyes water and her breathing difficult. This continued down to the winter of 1950 when 50,000 Londoners died due to toxic coal smoke pollution. See also T.S. Eliot.
By 1900, America the mighty was a bigger consumer of coal than Great Britain. Thomas Edison insisted that coal was the only fuel for his electrical revolution. When coal ran out, he said we had enough wood in the Amazon rain forest for another 500 years. He also wanted to built an uber pile of coal that would spontaneously combust, attaching wires to the bottom. That didn't work so well. Then he tried to drill a hole from New Jersey to the center of the earth and utilize our planet's thermal energy. Eventually his associates convinced him that this was a jackass idea.
Edison's protege Henry Ford innovated a genius idea to create cheap gasoline-burning automobiles based on the German model to replace the earlier horseless carriages, many of which ran on steam, generated by, you guessed it, coal. Through decades of machinations, car companies and big oil scuttled trolley companies, electric omnibuses, killed most interstate rail shipping and nearly all interstate passenger traffic but created a mare's nest of highways. It's not just your car, it's your freedom.
Boom! Modern America. Boom! Me needing 90 minutes to drive 13 miles to Edgewater and 13 miles back because Wendy needs fresh savory and it can't come from the nice Caribbean-Indian vender down the block If it is not from Wholefoods, it's crap.
Obviously, Whole Foods bears no responsibility for the unpresidented acceleration of life-destroying forces since 1850. My point, Mr. Mackey, is that there is now abundant, scientific, empirical evidence that climate change is real, and it is something that your great, great grandchildren will struggle with.
People who only listen to Fox News think, "A three degree rise in global temperature? Great!" And yes, abstractly in the middle of this century when New York City will have the same average annual temperature that Daytona Florida has now, you might think, "Surf's up, dudes! Let's go to Rockaway."
Except there won't be a Rockaway. There won't even be a Long Island. There will be seven tiny islands where the high ground is today and all else will sleep in thedeep for a long time. Five million people who called Long Island home will become refugees, and the residents of Rockaway and the Jersey Shore will simply be forgotten canaries in the coal mine. The value of property destroyed will be incalculable.
A lot of igoramuses, Sarah Palin leaps to mind, also assert that catastrophic climate change is as Mackey"perfectly natural and not necessarily bad." Climate change developed since the mid 19th century because of carbon and other emissions we introduced into the atmosphere, the greatest uncontrolled experiment in the history of this planet. Scroll back through seven years of writings about the environment in this blog.
The forces of winter and summer will tussle for many centuries. Weather will become randomly colder and hotter, dryer and wetter, windy to the point of being all tornado-y, wild firey, mudslidey out of all measure. As I mentioned in a blog long ago, we passed the tipping point in 2005. We no longer have the option to step off the train tracks. Our only decision is what to do as we get hit.
Mackey is wrong to say "We will be able to successfuly adapt to climate change." Evidently he is not following the desertification of the Amazon, the heartland of America, and sub-Saharan Africa. The unprecidented Greenland ice melt and the desolation of Antartic ice shelves will deposit billion of gallons of fresh water into our oceans. Coastal cities, which is the home of all cultural life will drown. Worse still, the vast amounts of carbon from in ice and tundra that ocean used to absorb in its measure, is now killing coral reefs, wiping out many species of fish including both kinds of salmon (hence Monsanto developing GM salmon that grow twice as big in half the time) and with ice melt the saline and mineral levels may make it necessary that you must eat GM fish if you want to eat fish at all.
So when Mackey says "We will be able to successfully adapt to climate change." I assume he means that genetically modified foods will become the new organic. They will still contain carbon atoms.
Thus, if he cares about his brand, Mackey will rethink his conclusion that climate change is "not a big deal." That, or he will get out in front on marketing Soylent Green which will be a big deal when his grandchildren take over the company.
January 1st, 2013, still waiting for my flying car after the ultimate crap-out of 70s New Agers like me who put too much faith in stuff people told them. A friend of mine in high school proposed writing a book with all kinds of inaccurate bullshit in it and then citing it whenever he got into an argument because most people believe that if something is in a book it must be true.
We don't have many books these days, but we have something faster and better called the internet. It seems that everyone in the civilized world is part of social networking, plus most people in America tweet or text and marginally ambitious people such as myself write blogs and very ambitious people create web sites. It takes no time at all to post a rumor that becomes viral.
So end of the world part one demonstrably did not come true, which leaves me with end of the world part two the Infopocalypse. I'd argue that we did indeed cross the threshold between information versus noise in 2012.
As often referenced, Information Theory states that anything which provides you with usable knowledge (like your own phone number) is information and everything that isn't useful is noise. Anything that goes viral is noise, I guess because a virus is something you really don't want to get but you do anyway.
I've never seen Gangnam Style, but it has gotten one billion hits on YouTube. Obama does it to embarrass his children, senators do it to seem like they are "in touch with young people" and an awful lot of people have wasted an amazing amount of time looking at it. Psy,the one hit wonder behind it all, announced at NYE in Times Square that he planned to write a new song in 2013 because frankly he was sick and tired of being a one trick pony. Bet me that five years from now Psy will be performing Gangnam Style for the Sultan of Bruni's nephew along side Coolio and MC Hammer. Oh wait, Hammer was up there with Psy already.
This month my leisure time activity has been reading the Federalist Papers. Admittedly not as exciting as Fifty Shades of Gray (although Paper #10 is pretty hot),but a very edifying experience so far. If I could I'd make everyone elected to a national office read it and require them to pass a quiz before they could take the oath of office.
Although idiots like Scalia cherry pick the Federalist Papers to justify any jackass opinion the same way Christian extremists cherry pick the bible to "prove" that god hates faggots or that Jesus would have carried an AK-47 if they had been invented, don't hold stupid people's opinion against the Papers because they are lucid, extremely well written in a way that no normal human today could imbibe like high fructose corn syrup, and thought-provoking about the problems America faced at the beginning and in many cases still face today. You can download a free copy from University of Pennsylvania on line.
The Federalist Papers remain information more than 200 years after they were issued. Anything you know about Kim Kardassian or LiLo is noise. That's a good way of defining the difference. The more junk our brains collect about people like Paris Hilton (has anyone heard about her lately?) the more your brain is clogged with useless information which five years from now was time wasted when you could have been learning Italian or Spanish.
It's Plato's Allegory of the Cave where those of us chained to the wall watch puppet theater and comment on them relentlessly, except Plato lived in an age before printed books,newspapers or any electronic media.
Most of us spend our days distracted by 24/7 media because gosh, what if I don't know the current state of the "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations, or what if I am unaware of how the reboot of Dallas will carry on without Larry Hagman (although in the original when actors died they recast the parts or created substitutes as all soap operas do), or what if I don't know who made the Queen's List this year (Stella McCartney, among others)? Yikes, then I won't be the first to post about this on Facebook.
This leaves us no time to get involved in important stuff like the rapidly melting Antartic ice shelf, fraking, synthetic salmon replacing the mighty, formerly indomitable
real salmon that will actually affect you in your actual life, unlike Kim and Kanye who could be abducted by aliens tonight and tomorrow your life would be the same.
I'm sorry this was not posted on Sunday. I had to take a knee and absorb the reality that the Mayan Calendar was "Wrong, Sir! Wrong." Jesus was right: "The Son of man will come as a thief in the night." Time to move on.
As a senior, my attitude toward future anticipated breakthroughs in science is no longer "Excellent!" (Bill and Ted guitar riff) but rather like Miracle Max, "Good luck storming the castle, boys." We'll see.
So magnetic quantum state liquids in 25 words or less. (All electronics to date, telegraphs, television, computers, iPhones, your brain, are all binary. Circuit open, circuit closed. QSL throws all that out the window.) 25 words, no studying.
People have been working on this since before I could grow a decent beard, but no one made any headway until an interdisciplinary team of chemists and physicists mostly at MIT painstakingly grew a chunk of herbertsmithite big enough to study (herbertsmithite, I'm sorry, is the lamest name for a mineral, appropriate to the Big Bang Theory and totally worthy of the Lifetime Noogie/Wedgie Award at Bullycon.) It was discovered in the 1970s.
Back when I was a sprout in southern Illinois, herbertsmithite was called Anarakite because the first place it was found was Anarak in Iran. Then apparently herbertsmith (whose godfather I expect was e.e. cummings) discovered bunches of it in South America.
Anarakite is a soft, brittle mineral, unremarkable on Moh's scale and not much better on Larry or Curley's. Nothing to see here, people, move along. But it has a lattice structure anticipated by medieval Japanese basket makers which gives it the flexibility to allow a quantum flow of electrons which is freaking awesome.
So anyway, MIT organized this interdisciplinary team to look at Zncva(OH)eCh2. The small "e" is significant.
As this article makes clear, for most of human history, we only understood one form of magnetism. Then fairly recently we understood another but both forms are static and binary:north pole,south pole, high temperature,low temperature. The third form introduces fractions and as all of us who graduated fourth grade know, this is when shit gets real
The third form of magnetism introduces a new concept, Spinions, fractional and flowing magnetic states. Nothing needs to be either on or off any more. It can be both or neither.If you Trekkers want to know how Kirk gets subspace radio, this is it. If you want to know how we tease out the implications of quantum entanglement and stand Relativity on its head, this is it. If you want a possible answer to "high temperature super conductors" (and by high temperature scientists mean like 45 degrees Fahrenheit, this is it. If you want to extent Moore's law that every two years computers will be twice as powerful, half as big and cheaper, forever, this is it.
I'm a big fan of the National Weather Service. I'm sure it is one of those things President Etch-A-Sketch will eliminate because rich people can't afford to give out information for free, and one of his plutocrat job creator friends will eventually give us a toll number to call in Mumbai to tell us what the weather is like today in India and we can extrapolate from there. But I digress.
Anyway, I check the NWS every day, more recently as Sandy wended its way in our direction. I was telling my neighbors early last week that a big storm was coming. This being Jersey City they gave me the stink eye. “How do you know that?” Unlike Sheldon on the Big Bang I didn't explain how I knew that but let them shuffle on.
So Sunday, I'm tracking Sandy like crazy. The precipitation probability and volume are consistently down-graded, so are wind speeds. Sandy bumps down from a force one hurricane to a tropical storm. Also, I live on a hill, so rain washes down to West Side Avenue, all the dead tree limbs we had broke during hurricane Irene. I have a week's worth of food, spare batteries, a few new candles and a bunch of old ones. What's the worst that can happen?
Monday. Ahem. I misunderestimated the storm surge in Sandy's wake. If my cousin Marie ever reads this, I'm so sorry. I fucked up. I hope you had enough pots of water. I'm not the only one who fucked up as we'll see. Turns out the Gulf Stream water temperature was more like September than November (who knew?), so my initial calculations that Sandy had only the same kinetic force as hurricane Katrina but spread over a thousand miles rather than being concentrated in a small portion of the Mississippi delta, thereby rendering it relatively benign, were overly optimistic or wrong, Fonz, just wrong.
All well and good, Doctor McP. Ride out the storm. So Monday, Wendy and I finish dinner. She's watching MSNBC because she's addicted, especially to Rachel and Chris. At 9:15 the power goes out. Click! We eat all my ice cream and hope for a better tomorrow.
The Sandy surge came up the Hackensack and Passaic rivers. My neighbor Mike and I stand on our stoops in the dark and watch transformers burst like bottle rockets, Pop! Pop! Pop! The main electrical substation in this part of Jersey is in Harrison, a suburb of Newark, where the Giants play, close to the rivers. This was as Edison ordained.
So Wendy starts freaking out. It's mostly MSNBC withdrawal. Rachel! Chris! She has a rental SUV because she is the Production Designer on a film that starts shooting on Tuesday. The producer, the money guy, blusters, “I don't give a shit! Either we start this film on Tuesday or I'm pulling my money out!” I'm sure President Etch-a Sketch would fully understand.
For the next two days Wendy is in the SUV, charging her iPhone, trying to connect. When she comes in she eats, lays on the couch next to the now-dead TV and throws a pillow over her head because she is stressed out. Nothing else to do but go to sleep.
Meanwhile, Wendy's dog Petunia keeps strictly to her schedual, darkness be damned. Petunia likes to go out at 4:30 in the morning, so I'm walking her using a flashlight. No traffic, which is understandable, but no sirens either. Jersey City is a very narrow piece of real estate with basically one north/south through street called JFK Blvd. In the four years I've lived here there has never been 30 seconds without a siren, cops, ambulances, fire trucks until now.
Tuesday. Dawn breaks but it's still cloudy so not much light. Nothing is working. No traffic lights, no stores, no heat, no hot water, no electricity. The oven and the microwave are down, but the stove still works, yay. Our local fire house abandons its post and a working generator. Our local police precinct lost power and it has no generator, so they sit quietly and wait. What could go wrong?
There are two go-to guys on my block. One is Mike, the mayor of Fairview Avenue. He's a JC lifer who knows “people.” Last year at this time when we had the blizard, Mike had to make a few phone calls to get our street plowed. He's cool like that. The other is Winston. He says he owns a cattle ranch in the Dominican Republic, but he lives in a tiny space in his ex-wife's house and mostly hangs out on the porch holding court. When our building caught fire a few years ago, Winston took the elderly and infirm to his porch and served tea. The time Wendy left for Vermont after I helped her pack leaving me with my keys inside, he lent me a ladder tall enough for me to break in the back window. He's a righteous dude.
So I assume that Mike and Winston will know what is going on. Winston says a guy told him power will be back Wednesday night. Mike says a friend of his nephew who works at PSE&G (public service electricity and gas for those of you outside Jersey) says the main plant in Harrison is under eight feet of water and more than 300 transformers popped so this could take a while, maybe Thursday.
That's it for JC news. There is no official presence. My down stairs neighbor Karen and her adorable son Emanuel are out and about. Karen's gas tank is on E but she has no place to go. She'd like to charge her cell. Wendy offers her use of her cell charger that works off the rental SUV, but Karen demurs. She says she is going to try the local churches.
Wednesday. Our upstairs neighbor Kelly is a triage nurse, so we do not see her for the duration. The yuppies who live here throw all their food in the garbage and flee. One of Mike's cop friends drives down the block to tell us there's looting down in Greenville and some scary dudes are heading our way. Oh, and there's a curfew from 7 PM to 6 AM. Have a nice day.
Mike tells us that the Shop Right in Pavonia where the white folks live has power. Wendy immediately dispatches me to go there because her previous estimate that Petunia had “tons” of food was overly optimistic.
It's weird to drive in Hudson County and more so with no traffic lights. I tried to Sheldon my way to Pavonia without having to cross four lanes of traffic on JFK, but of course you can't. Here in Jersey the one law of safety is “Hey! I'm driving here!” so I adopt the only alternative which is close my eyes and hope for the best.
Apparently downtown had extensive flooding. Trees are down. People who got flooded out pile their ruined furniture and mattresses on the street. City Hall seems abandoned, but there's no power so who knows. There are cops at several locations directing traffic in a completely illogical way, but at least I can get through intersections with my eyes open.
I get to Shop Right which is next to BJ's. I figure between the two I can get some dog food, cigarettes, batteries. Wendy's milk has gone bad. A guy deliberately hucks a shopping cart at my car as I try to park. I make a mental note to never go through another crisis without a gun.
Shop Right is anarchy. There is a line to get in. Once inside there are scores of fidgets sitting on the floor powering up their cells and texting. The manager comes by and yells, “You have to stop blocking the door or we will throw you out.” The fidgets give him a “What-eva!” look and keep texting. What can he do?
So it's Soviet style shopping. Do you have milk? Yes, we have gallons only. Batteries? No. Ice? Laughter as a response. I do get dog food and cigarettes. At BJ's next door it's worse. People are running around buying random things. Do you really think you'll need a 16 pack of toilet paper before this disaster ends? BJs has one shopping cart full of batteries next to Security. They are all double A's.
Pavonia is close to Hoboken where my friend Spencer lives. If someone spits on the sidewalk outside his house his basement floods. Hoboken was cunningly built on landfill atop a swamp seven feet below sea level. Officialdom is thinking about this.
I get to Newark Avenue, the gateway to Hoboken. There is three feet of water. Yet people are wading through it like zombies going no place. This is the new normal. I pray that Spence is okay and press on. But I'm in the car. There is a radio. No one knows anything. I hear Jersey City's mayor Healey say, “Did you hear? The President of the United States called me up on the telephone! Isn't that great? Isn't this a great day for Jersey City? The President! Seriously.”
Governor Crisco also says that Obama is great and by the way FEMA is coming in on Friday to sort things out because frankly we got nothin'. The future president Etch-A-Sketch is apparently miffed at this, but because no one except war veterans who can now vote on line can cast a ballot, if they can get on line, it doesn't make a shit bit of diference what the rest of us think. We can't vote. That's voter suppression you can believe in. Well played, Crisco.
Thursday. Wendy snaps and announces she's leaving, but I have to stay because otherwise Petunia, who doesn't like the food I got her will be sad. The show must go on. Benny upstairs comes back which is good because otherwise it was just Karen and her son, Petunia and me to fend off the Chuds. There were two push-in robbery incidents on West Side Avenue at the bottom of the hill that I know of. Benny is also the only one who knows how to restart the electric hot water and boiler, so that's good.
With a charged cell, I call my life-long friend Charley in downtown Brooklyn. His major problem was that his building was reduced to just one elevator for twelve hours, but otherwise everything is fine. Brooklyn Heights has power, lights and internet. It's Brooklyn Heights, my home town. He says I can come stay with him, but without the dog. My son has fled from Coney Island to Park Slope, but he's fine, too. My sister out on Long Island is mostly fine, but there's no gasoline. She says I can come and stay with her but without the dog who once tried to bite her.
Tonight was fairly clear and during Petunia's too-early walk, I saw stars for the first time ever above Jersey City. I had almost forgotten how much I miss stars. Winston's nephew says power is back on the next block, but it isn't. Some people obtained generators. Karen is bummed because the churches and even the Armory blew her off. She wondered why in Guyana where she is from people help each other out in a crisis but here they don't. Wendy lent her her charger and use of the rental SUV to do so before she left for the warmth and safety of Brooklyn.
Friday. Seriously New Jersey? The sun is welcome but the day is cold, dark and really boring here. Petunia misses her mommy and barks pretty much constantly. Outside I explain to Mike and Winston that if Crisco has ceded authority to FEMA nothing is going to happen until they say it does, and that this is a dress rehearsal for the fire next time because W's FEMA dropped the ball on Katrina. Although I'm sure that DJ Rush Limbaugh disagrees, I think that people are kind of getting the idea that there is catastrophic climate change, yay.
Mike and I go for a walk. Winston who used to be morbidly obese and now has fucked up knees takes a pass. Our local bank is dead. The Walgreens down on Communipaw reopened with a generator, but the line to get in is blocks long. A few other stores are open. All the Chinese restaurants are, but yikes, I'd rather fight the dog to eat vomit off the sidewalk.
I've been wearing the same clothes for five days. I want to shave but Wendy took the only mirror that's not stuck in a dark room. I'm missing Fringe. I really like Fringe. My ground turkey sludge was still a bit frozen when I took it out of the freezer, so maybe Wendy won't lose all the precious lard and chicken stock that fills the freezer and prevented me from making more ice.
Mike lives with his very elderly mom, who seems like a sweet woman. It was finally time to move her out to safer climes. She's lived in this neighborhood for over 80 years and she says she's never seen anything like this. He has to borrow a neighbor's car because he doesn't have enough gas. I feed Petunia all the left-overs that don't smell sketchy. She's a happy girl.
All of the cars in our alley are gone except Wendy's. We have half a tank left. I recharge the cell, no news on the radio. I sleep on the couch next to the dog so she's not so freaked out.
Saturday. Petunia lets me sleep until 5:30, I guess. I have to check my cell to see what time it is. After I feed the dog I scrape wax off the stove from the last time Wendy cooked something. Then about 9 AM the power comes back on.
At least it does on my block. Lots of the JC is still in the dark. As one of my neighbors observed, “Fuck them. We have power.” Sad sentiment, yes, but still, I can charge my phone, plug in my computer. The great big world of the HuffPo reopens to me. I can take a shower and shave. No more washing at the kitchen sink.
What can we learn from this? You can not hoard your way out of a crisis. The only way humanity will survive the days to come is as a community. Some of you may last a few days longer than the rest of us, but we are all going down unless we work together. How long can you scrounge fuel for your generator? How many rounds of bullets do you have, and did you know that bullets, like twinkies, have an experation date? We are either one planet, one people, one destiny or we are all dead.
Unless someone replies to a post, I never go back and revisit an entry. I decided going in that this blog enterprise was like sand painting, Navaho or Tibetan your choice, (and did you know both cultures were surprised to discover they had a lot of concepts in common?) in the sense that words stored on electricity, like souls stored in bodies, blogs are evanescent will-o-wisps, summer meteors, things of a moment only. I think a few are pretty good, but I'm fairly sure that until the aliens come to take a final reckoning of our hard drives in the distant future, these words are destined to be forgotten.
Were I to revisit my Barak Obama blogs of 2008, I have no doubt that they reflect legitimate skepticism at first, because although I believed that the W legacy doomed any Repubican hopes of keeping the White House, Hilary was a stronger choice. Obama was destined to be the Jimmy Carter of my children's generation. That still may be correct, stay tuned.
Once Barak dispatched my girl Hilary from the field, I became cautiously optimistic. His stump speeches were amazing. He was a throwback to the days of Kings and Kennedys when rhetoric could be a sword of redemption, and words like “Hope” and “Change” resonated with the few of us from the 60s who had not abanoned all values. “For Frodo and For Middle Earth!” I donated to Obama and once he was nominated, I campaigned for Barak McCain was anointed as the poor bastard stuck trying to win an election without voter suppression or the Supreme Court putting their greasy thumbs on the butcher's scale.
I really thought an Obama victory had the potential to rehabilitate progressivism (or if you insist on using the historically accurate word, Liberalism. There, I said it.) At the same time, my friends and I agreed that Obama was in his heart a product of the Chicago Way, a pol like Dailey or Dailey or Dailey or Emmanuel who goes along to get along, who rocks the boat enough to satisfy the base but who has no ambitions to be the English Henry V (or the French Henri IV), the righteous king who metes out justice and punishes the wicked like Arthur, like the Hebrew Messiah.
As summer became fall, I continued to stump through neighborhoods on the faith that my status as a middle-aged white guy made everyone assume I was there in an official capacity. I changed some minds, imbued the timid with enthusiasm. I helped a little bit. And to make a long story short, he won. You probably knew that.
Today I would not go into these same neighborhoods, because naked people jump on cars and bite off their own fingers to freak out the JCPD, and muggers shoot you in the back of your head or in the buttocks if they are unfamiliar with the fact that pistols are surprisingly heavy which makes them miss low.
Four years ago voters celebrated in the streets. Oprah cried. Obama had a majority in both the House and the Senate. He could have pressed for the repeal of the recent, arcane filibuster rules which effectively give Republicans the power to block any legislation that can't command 60% of the vote. He could have signed Executive Orders til the cows came home.
Instead he dithered. Barak never grasped that, as Jon Stewart memorably observed, “They're going to fucking hate you no matter what you do.” He squandered his opportunity for the sake of consensus on ObamaCare which is still not implemented until 2014 and if the Republicans win is never likely to be. Unlike W he was not willing to mark up legislation and only sign the parts he liked.
The Party of No had more tricks up its sleeve. Murdoch or the Koch brothers or somebody decided that if Obama couldn't get anything done, then voters would assume he was Jimmy Carter and reject him. Carter acted like he was the smartest guy in the room, which in my estimation merely pissed people off, and so he got very little accomplished. Carter ran on the slogan “A government as good as its people,” but he didn't deliver so he was one and done. The real President Bush won the nomination by saying “Read my lips, no new taxes” then raised taxes and syonara.
In spite of the odds, Obama got some things done, but he must have forgotten to pack many of his campaign promises when he left Chicago. A new generation of enthused young people learned never to trust a politician. I didn't campaign for Obama this time. Oprah didn't either. I haven't seen much of the Obama Girl this time out. Instead the Democratic strategy was the time honored “We're the lesser of two evils.” “Forward” as a slogan is vague and meaningless unlike “Change you can believe in.”
My friend the poet Scott Rex Hightower said it best, as poets often do. He announced that on Election Day he is going to hold his nose and vote for Obama.
It would be easy to give in to cynicism and declare that Obama's greatest achievement was innovating the economic theory that some banks are too big to fail. In Albert Brooks' great film Lost in America, the main character's wife loses “the nest egg” gambling in Las Vegas. Incapable of accepting that all his dreams have died he tries to use his advertising skills on the casino owner played by Gary Marshall. With layers of unctuous charm, he tries to sell the casino owner the genius of an ad campaign titled “They Gave Back the Money.” The initially resistant but increasingly vehement Marshall keeps saying, “This is a gambling casino! We don't give back the money!”
But Barak gave back the money. This isn't as bad an innovation as W declaring war against a country for the first time in history that wasn't based on an attack but simply “faulty intelligence,” but it is up there. And if Barak goes down, it will be because he rejected his base in favor of folks who still fucking hate him no matter what he did. I'm still voting for Obama.
What does Romney believe? In my view he's spent the last six years running for president predicated on the strategy. "I'll say anything to be president. Seriously, just tell me what you want to hear and I'll say it right now, and if next week you if you or another group want me to say the exact opposite, I'll say that, too."
The problem is that when he's elected he can no longer be candidate Etch-A-Sketch. So who is driving this bus? I don't know, and you don't either. The Vulcan way is never to choose a doubt against a certainty.