Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dumber than Frogs

Woman arrested for
growing marijuana plant,
because it was “cute.”

You have no doubt all heard the story about frogs and hot water, in one variant or another. That is, if you try to put a frog in boiling water it will immediately jump out, but if you put the frog in cold water and slowly heat it towards boiling the frog will be too dumb to know the difference and will allow itself to be boiled to death. This is, of course, not true. Frogs are not entirely stupid and when the temperature of the water gets uncomfortable they will certainly attempt to escape. Alas, I have concluded this is not true of humans. Here we are at this very moment subject to global warming that will almost surely have terrible consequences for some, if not all, humans. There is no doubt this rise in temperature is happening, the glaciers and the ice caps are melting, annual temperatures reflect these changes, virtually all scientists from all over the world agree, and we are just sitting here in the pot arguing about whether we are going to be cooked or not. Pat Buchanan, a well-known Republican spokesman, when informed of the possible changes that might occur, simply replied in the usual unintelligent Republican manner, “I don’t believe it.” And of course there is the inimitable and brain-dead Senator sent to us by the good voters of Oklahoma, James Inhofe, who, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, insists global warming is a myth and in fact we are in for a period of cooling. Former Vice President Al Gore, who has been warning us about this for a long time, is now ridiculed and spurned by those with a vested interest in no change (killing the messenger). With frog-brains like these at work, and our Congress unwilling to take any serious meaningful action, I can only conclude that we are dumber than frogs. Who would have thunk it?

Global warming is not the only area in which we are apparently dumber than frogs. There is always Afghanistan, a “war” that everyone now knows cannot be “won,” in a place known as “the graveyard of empires,” that costs us billions of dollars everyone knows we can’t afford, that increasingly takes the lives of our military personnel, a place we are not wanted and claim not to want to be, but continue on endlessly anyway. Indeed, Congress just passed another 33 billion dollar contribution to this completely whacky, futile, stupid, unnecessary, losing enterprise. Why are we doing this? Because we are losing and cannot admit we are losing. We continue, apparently hoping that somehow it will all go away someday. I wonder if frogs, too, indulge in magical thinking?

The above two examples are not the end of our dumber-than-frog behavior. Consider the fact that we are almost surely on the road to national bankruptcy as we continue to borrow and spend at an accelerated pace. Sensible people worry about this and would like to reduce our deficit. Do they think we should do this by (1)calling all the (military) “outs in free” from wherever they are all unnecessarily and needlessly parked around the world to protect our imaginary empire and keep our allies from having to spend any money on their own defense, (2) reducing our unbelievably bloated Pentagon military budget that exceeds all the rest of the world combined, (3) return to taxing the obscenely wealthy and unconscionable corporate profits and doing away with massive and undeserved tax breaks they have been receiving for years, or (4) reducing a lot of unnecessary pork-barrel spending, cutting back on buying foreign oil, doing away with profligate Congressional expenses and other cost-cutting measures.

The answers are no, no, no, and no. They are proposing to reduce the deficit by doing away with social security, Medicare and Medicaid, cutting back on spending for our schools and education, cutting food stamps for the poor, taking away unemployment benefits from the truly needy, letting our infrastructure continue to deteriorate, and repealing health care. I submit that even frogs are not that dumb.

Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.

Ida Lupino was known as “the poor man’s Bette Davis.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

What are They Thinking?

I was not going to blog again until the first but I just couldn't help it.

I really do not want to be a killjoy, but…and I don’t like being a wet blanket, but…and I hate being a party-pooper, but…and I don’t want to rain on someone’s parade, but…and while I don’t want to ruin someone’s party or be just a cranky old man, crass, unkind, malicious or unfair, or even an envious nobody or a disgruntled bystander, or even just plain bitchy, just what in the world are Bill and Hillary thinking?

We are reminded every single day of the growing and ever more obscene discrepancy between the rich and the poor, we are told there are more people living in poverty and on food stamps than ever before, that millions of our citizens are out of work, some for so long they have exhausted their benefits and are being thrown to the wolves, hundreds of thousands of our citizens are said to be going hungry, there is little or no reason this is going to change in the near future, or even at all, we are being told to bite the bullet, and the future looks grim.

So what are Bill and Hillary doing? Why, putting on a multi-million dollar wedding for Chelsea, what else? Depending on where you look, the estimates for this super extravaganza range from two to five million smackers. There are to be 500 guests, all people Chelsea knows personally it is said, the catering is estimated to be $1500 per person (a mere $750,000), rental for the facility could be between $125,000 and $200,000, $250,000 for the flowers, $40.000 for music, $35,000 for photographs, and apparently somewhere in the vicinity of $35,000 for security. I don’t know if these estimates are correct but I doubt they are very far from reality. The guest list reads like a who’s-who of important people, but neither the Obama’s nor the Gore’s are being invited (I gather). I guess Bill and Hillary don’t want to risk being upstaged by the current President and First Lady, and Al Gore has obviously fallen from grace (even though he has been exonerated from the charge of being a dirty old man). In any case this is obviously a Fairy-tale wedding, even grander, more expensive and ostentatious than many royal weddings (and I thought there were no royals in the United States, silly me).

Don’t misunderstand, I actually like the Clintons, all of them, and I certainly hope that Chelsea will be happy with her new husband, but, really, don’t you think this is a bit much (to say nothing of rather insulting to those in such obvious need)? Whatever happened to that nice young couple from Arkansas, hardworking and ambitious, champions of the underdog, who both apparently aspired to become President? While they were not poor they certainly were not wealthy either. Hillary, it is said, bought her modest wedding dress “off the rack” the day before her wedding. When they finally moved into the White House many thought of them as merely “hicks” who could not possibly make it in sophisticated Washington. But they thrived and made it big, in spite of all the unscrupulous attacks and open animosity. Now they have become both wealthy and famous. They seem to have joined those who made fun of them and attempted to ruin the Clinton Presidency. Bill now pals around with the Bush’s and they obviously move in the highest social circles. I do not begrudge them their successes. Bill, “the big dog” Clinton is active in charities and still has tremendous influence, Hillary is now Secretary of State and doing well (although she is much too hawkish for my taste). It is said they are interested in buying a ten million dollar estate. They seem to have reached that “Promised Land” the Reverend Martin Luther King spoke about so eloquently, although not exactly in the way he conceived of it.

So what is it that bothers me so much about this wedding, apart from what I regard as a terrible waste of money for what should be, in my mind at least, a relatively modest, mostly family, ritual? The fact that it seems to me to personify, “nouveau riche, nouveau riche, nouveau riche,” in huge, blinking neon signs that I find unpleasant. I always thought Bill and Hillary had that elusive quality we call “class.” I am disappointed.

Lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
And when he once obtains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds,
scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. - William Shakespeare

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pomodoro! - book

Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy, David Gentilcore (Columbia University Press, 2010)

This is an interesting book by a Professor of Early Modern History who tends to specialize in Italy. Interesting, that is, if you want to know things about food, Italy, and tomatoes in general. Given the dominant place of the tomato, tomato paste, and tomato sauce in Italian cooking you might well think the tomato has always been in Italy. It is, however, of New World origin, where wild tomatoes still grow in parts of South America. It did not arrive in Italy until the 16th century, having been brought there by the Spanish explorers. It was first regarded as a novelty, then as an ornamental, and was widely regarded at first as poisonous. In fact, it took three hundred years for the tomato to reach the tremendous importance it currently enjoys. Interestingly enough, there are still a few areas in Italy where tomatoes are of little importance.

As Gentilcore makes clear, you cannot separate the tomato from the history of Italian culture in general, especially medical beliefs, poverty (it often substituted for meat), changes in diet, attitudes to food and diet over time, and botanical developments, nor can the rise of the humble tomato be understood apart from the history of pasta as a foodstuff, and the rise of food preservation in general that was/is, in turn, intimately related to the changing varieties of tomatoes that have been developed. I, for one, was not completely aware of the nuances involved in tomatoes grown for paste as opposed to juice, or sauce as opposed to being canned whole, and tomatoes to be eaten fresh, and so on. Not only that, but there are incredible nuances of flavor involved in tomatoes, differences that clods like me are not even aware exist. The creation of pizza also features prominently in this history, especially by way of spreading the use of tomatoes to a wider public.

As tomatoes have a definite growing season, early forms of preservation were both time-consuming and labor intensive. Women strained tomatoes to eliminate the skins and seeds, the result was then spread out on boards to dry and eventually rolled up to be used as paste throughout the rest of the year. This, and making sauce, was a ritual engaged in by virtually all Italian families every year at the end of the growing season, a custom that survived in America for quite a long time as Italian Americans tended to be suspicious of canned tomatoes when they first began to appear. Green tomatoes were hung so as to continue to ripen into fall and winter as long as possible. Naturally, the invention of canning was an incredible boon to those who depended upon tomatoes and brought about important changes in the way tomatoes were grown and processed. Large tomato farms were not possible until canning became commonplace, and tomatoes were not commercialized substantially until then as well.

The author has done his research well, tracing the first appearances of the tomato in paintings and prose, and especially in the earliest cookbooks, and also considering the influences of Spain and France on the preparation and cooking of tomatoes. The concluding chapter is appropriately titled “The Tomato Conquest,” as the result of this history has established the tomato as the premier vegetable not only of Italy but of most of the rest of the world as well (not bad for what is actually a fruit). This conquest has not come about without a dark side. The move to huge tomato farms has at times been plagued by a criminal element and has also encouraged the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are not good for nature or the soil over time. The Italian government has at times intervened in the growing of tomatoes, not always for the better, as during the Fascist regime of Mussollini. But the tomato can truly say, “we’ve come a long way, baby.” Is there anyone these days who has not heard of and most probably eaten pasta al pomodoro?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Six Years!

Good grief, can another entire year have passed so quickly? Morialekafa has now completed its sixth year. Last year on this date I published a list of what I think were the most interesting essays, short stories and reviews of that five year period. Not much has been added since them, three short stories, a few book reviews, and my usual ravings, mostly about Republicans and their unrelenting idiocy. While Republican idiocy is a never ending source of both amusement and wonder I am tiring of writing about it, especially as it just continues unabated. It’s much the same with the “war” in Afghanistan, about the most useless enterprise ever undertaken by the U.S., a “war” that never should have been, should not be continuing, but does year after year, now the longest war in U.S. history. Having repeatedly tried to point out just how absurd it is, I am tired of writing about it. Similarly, I am tired of carping about the war crimes of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld et al, as it seems certain that no one in a position of authority cares about war crimes or accountability. And speaking of war crimes always leads me to the crimes of Israel against the helpless Palestinians, a subject on which I have expressed myself often. I am also opposed to unregulated capitalism, privatization, offshore oil drilling, ultra-large corporations, banks “too big to fail,” our “empire,” environmental degradation, biomass produced energy, and, above all, nuclear energy, to say nothing of many other aspects of human stupidity that are leading us, in my opinion, to eventual oblivion. I have become much more inclined towards socialism than I would ever have imagined.

I continue getting the same “hits” from all over the world, mostly from people interested in “Being an Only Child,” sardines, pig’s feet, and “Women and Ice Cream. ” Curiously, at least to me, the few essays I think might be my best get no attention at all. Similarly, short stories are ignored. I don’t know if this is because they just don’t like my short stories or because short stories in general seem to be passé. I remain absolutely mystified by the internet and think getting connected with people in even the remotest parts of the globe is quite unbelievable. I love it!

I am not stupid or egotistic enough to believe that things I want to happen are necessarily going to happen soon or perhaps ever, and I am aware of having grown increasingly cynical over the years, especially recent years. As I am not interested in violence or sex, I virtually never watch motion pictures anymore, what passes for popular music these days sounds to me like noise, and I have stopped watching television entirely except for the Rachel Maddow show or an occasional cooking show (even these have badly deteriorated). I think the 24/7 news business is essentially useless as it is far too repetitive, there is little in the way of what I would consider genuine “news,” and the so-called news we hear here in the U.S. is so biased and distorted as to be hopeless. When the corporations figured out that “infotainment” was easier and cheaper than news, journalism died and has been replaced with stenographers who simply regurgitate what they are told to say (with rare exceptions there are no serious foreign correspondents anymore, they are too expensive). In short, I think I have reached the point where I am no longer of much relevance to contemporary society and culture. I really do believe that things were better and people in general were happier when I was younger (perhaps that is simply because I was younger and not yet so cynical and disappointed in my species).

In any case, I have been finding it increasingly difficult to write a blog most every evening as I feel I am just flogging the same dead horses over and over, and as I am not as creative as I once was, I am running out of things I want to say. I am thinking of giving up Morialekafa, but not quite yet as I at least want to witness the outcome of the coming elections. I might even get energized enough to finish my “Journey to the West,” however unpleasant that may be. For the moment, however, I am going to take a week off and think things over. After tomorrow night (a book review), unless something really unusual happens, my next blog will not appear before August 1st. , In the meanwhile, try to be of good cheer and do not forget entirely those concepts we used to at least pretend were important: democracy, hope, goodwill, community, fair play, brother and sisterhood, empathy, sharing, and of course, peace (if anyone actually remembers that bizarre idea).

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Utah man ordered not to
contact estranged wife
writes letters to her cat.

My blog of last night caused me to start thinking about slums. I am by no means an authority on slums, but I have seen slums in Mexico and the Philippines and a few other places and I know they are most unpleasant. Like everything else these days there is an extensive literature on the subject with which I am not very conversant. I think we could all agree that slums are unpleasant places where huge numbers of primarily unemployed people are crammed into inadequate housing, lack clean water and sanitation, have little or no health care, often go hungry, and are in general not well off either in resources or health. It is believed at the moment that at least one billion people now inhabit slums and it is predicted this number will grow to two billion within another ten years or so. Slums are, of course, an urban phenomenon and are directly linked to the growth of cities. There is a new book out now called Pandora’s Seed, by Spencer Wells, that deals with some of the problems that have resulted from the change from hunting-gathering to agriculture to industrialization and urbanization, the general outlines of culture change since the beginning. As I have not yet read this book (I certainly intend to) I do not know if Wells deals specifically with the question of slums, but the growth of slums surely is related to the vast changes that have occurred in human cultures over the past few thousands and hundreds of years, and specifically to industrialization and urbanization.

My interest in this subject is not with the details and problems of slums and slum life in general, but, rather, with what slums tell us about the human species. That is, it seems to me the problem of slums is a species-specific one. As far as I know no other species has anything resembling slums. There are, I’m pretty sure, no honey bee slums, no ant hill slums, no giraffe or elephant slums, no termite or bird slums, and no slums for any of the completely social species that exist other than ours. I suppose one could argue that when there are surplus populations in insect or animal societies they somehow are killed off and just disappear, you know “nature raw in fang and claw,” as it is sometimes said. Thus there is no need for slums because there are no creatures to populate them. There are of course situations where there are groups of bachelors that live on the outskirts of certain animal communities until they might be strong enough to overthrow an existing harem-master, but these surely could not be considered slums.

There are also no slums found in small-scale so-called “primitive” societies either. In such groups everyone shares pretty much with everyone else, there are no exceptionally wealthy individuals, when one person eats they all eat, and so on. I believe this is largely true even of small-scale farming communities where people in general take care of each other, orphans found homes, the elderly were care for by the community, and so forth. Slums are clearly a characteristic of very large-scale, industrialized and urbanized communities. I strongly suspect they are also more strongly characteristic of capitalistic societies than socialized or communized communities. Are the same kinds of slums found in socialistic countries like Russia, China, or others? I confess I don’t know for certain if there are, I will try to find out. In any case there would not be such slums at least theoretically in such societies. If they in fact exist it probably has to do with the overall poverty rate keeping people in such conditions rather than with demands for cheap labor and surplus populations found in capitalistic societies, or so I would think. In any case, I cannot see why slums need to be an inevitable consequence of human cultural evolution, and it must be true that some slums are much worse than others, and some countries go to greater lengths to avoid them than others. If this is not one of the inevitable consequences of industrialization and urbanization, along with capitalism, why does it occur (I am aware of the fact there may well be slums in some societies claiming to be socialistic or communistic but are, in fact, controlled by an elite that is the functional equivalent of capitalistic rulers). In principle, however, socialistic societies should not generate slums.

Could this problem be the result of some kind of sick cosmic experiment? Could that all powerful deity (if such a thing exists) that created everything, have planned this just to see the outcome? Did he/she/it/they simply look down one day and observe a small planet where everything ran pretty much in a perfectly natural order as it was designed to do, without the presence of the human species, and then, out of curiosity, think to itself, what if I/we introduced a different kind of creature, one with a bit of variety that would be capable of complicated languages, the basic ability to reason, one with “free-will,” who would be superior to all others and have the power to control the earth almost completely as they choose, and watch and see what happens? If there is more than just one supernatural did they place bets on the outcome? Was it all just a cosmic joke? Is it perhaps still going on? Who will win out in the long run?

Yeah, I know, this is all pretty silly. If I were a Republican I wouldn’t even think about it. I’d just keep enough of a surplus around to keep wages down and let the rest disappear. After all, they’re not people, just labor.


I tell you, sir, the only safeguard of order and discipline in the modern world is a standardized worker with interchangeable parts. That would solve the entire problem of management.

-Jean Giraudoux

Howler monkeys are considered the loudest land mammals.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Autopsy tools used
to embalm Elvis Presley
for sale at auction.

Scrapped, I guess that has what has happened to those unfortunates who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. That’s what it means, they have no further benefits, they don’t have jobs, and they have nowhere else to turn (I think maybe they will be eligible for$ 221 a month in some kind of general benefits, whee!). So what is it these people are supposed to do? What can they do? Remember, these are not obsolete spare parts for a 1943 Studebaker or a 1948 Edsel, they are living, breathing, human beings. Is it really our intention to just throw them on the scrap heap? This is, I suppose, the logical conclusion for a capitalistic economy. If they are no longer usefully employed what good are they? They might, in desperation, turn to crime, but heck, we have police to deal with that eventuality. We could go to some kind of massive welfare system where everyone is guaranteed at least a minimum amount of food and water, but that would be socialism of the worst kind. So what the hell, let ‘em starve. That is pretty much what has been happening to such people over the years, for what are the enormous, festering, filthy slums surrounding all of the world’s cities but human garbage dumps, places for those deemed not only surplus but not worth saving. But people are not garbage and therein lies a great moral and practical problem (I will have to return to this at a later date).

Some of the Republicans, perhaps most of them, as they seem to travel in schools, are back on the “eliminate-the-estate-tax-bandwagon.” Somehow they regard this as terribly important. Their plan, as I have heard it described so far, probably doesn’t affect more than 1% of the population, that 1% that already has so much money they cannot possibly spend it in several lifetimes and therefore need to leave it to their heirs who also would not be able to spend it in several lifetimes. It is said that if this “death tax” is not eliminated it will negatively affect the economy. I’m sure it will, after all who will be able to pay a million dollars for a pair of Marilyn Monroe’s panties, or big bucks for Elvis’s autopsy instruments, or 100 million for a Picasso, or a million or so for a Babe Ruth home run ball, and who will buy those 200 foot luxury yachts that are inundating the market. Yes, I feel really sorry for those in the no-tax, keep your money in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands brackets. Of all the abuses I can think of in the tax business the estate tax is the worst. This is a tax that does nothing except guarantee that more and more money will accumulate in the hands of a very small number of obscenely wealthy people while the rest of the population goes hungry. It is potentially even worse than the former medieval system when almost all of the money was in the hands of the nobles, at least then the peasants were assured of a reliable position in the social system, no matter how humble.

I am not at all sorry to say it, I think Republicans are greedy and disgusting, to say nothing of heartless and despicable. Now that the unemployment benefits extension has finally been passed they are forcing the treasury to wait until the absolutely last moment to send the checks. The only point in this that I can see is simple childish vindictiveness. Remember they blocked the payments for two months to begin with and now they have lost they will make the unemployed wait as long as possible to receive any aid, is that not both pointless and vindictive? I hope the voting public has been following this, I fear they may be so caught up with listening to Rush and the rest of the hate-mongers they may not be paying sufficient attention. Republicans obviously do not have the ordinary (I should think “normal”) human capacity for empathy. Does that mean people without empathy are somehow drawn to the Republican Party, or is empathy taken from them as a condition of belonging? It is a mystery to me how Republicans can believe any ordinary middle or lower-class American would vote for them, and even more of a mystery that some apparently do. Of course as I have previously observed, Americans are notoriously perverse. That is, they will enter where it says exit, and exit where it says enter, they will walk on the grass, feed the animals, tap on the glass, talk in the library, exceed the speed limit, pick up the puppies, and do everything contrary to the rules, no matter what. I don’t know why this is, but it is. I guess it’s the American way. It’s why they will vote for the very people who are their arch enemies, who will lie to them incessantly and rob them blind at every opportunity. Yes, we should do away with the estate tax, let’s do it by doing away with estates, at least those that contribute importantly to the cycle of poverty we are now beginning to experience.

It was the boast of Augustus that he found Rome of brick and left it of marble. But how much nobler will be the sovereign's boast when he shall have it to say that he found law... a sealed book and left it a living letter; found it the patrimony of the rich and left it the inheritance of the poor; found it the two-edged sword of craft and oppression and left it the staff of honesty and the shield of innocence.
Henry Brougham

Infants under one year of age can contract botulism from honey.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There Oughta be a Law

There oughta be a law but apparently there isn’t. At least I believe this must be true because what just happened has happened before and I have seen no attempt at holding anyone accountable. I am speaking of Fox media propaganda (I cannot bring myself to say Fox News). If you watched the Rachel Maddow show tonight as I did (it is now the only hour of news I watch) you will know the latest Fox underhanded attempt to smear someone and get them fired. If you didn’t watch, you should, as Rachel makes it very clear what they did. Shirley Sherrod, a Black woman who was part of the Obama administration was shown on Fox as having claimed to discriminate against a white farmer when she worked in an Agricultural job in Georgia. Of course Fox couldn’t give up ranting and raving about this Black woman discriminating against a white farmers (“just because he was white”). Without giving her the benefit of the doubt, without any investigations whatsoever, without innocent until proven guilty, without even a semblance of fair play, she was immediately fired from her position in the administration and was even condemned by the NAACP.

As further review was carried out it became clear that Fox had made a deliberate, intentional, dishonest, and scurrilous attack on a completely innocent woman. They did this through the selective editing of a video, reportedly made recently, in which she is seen to imply or confess to having discriminated in such a racist manner. However, the videotape in question was made in 1986 before she was a member of the Obama administration and was working for a private organization. What is worse, Fox lifted her statement completely out of context to indicate she said and did something that was precisely the opposite of what she said and did. She said that when she was confronted for the very first time with a request to help a white farmer she paused for a moment to consider such an unusual request but then went ahead and helped him. In other words she overcame any racist attitude she might have had and did the right thing. There is now videotaped confirmation from the farmer himself that she went out of her way to help him and that at no time, in no way, did she ever act toward him in a racist manner. She acted properly in every way exactly the opposite of the false picture given by Fox. There is no doubt this was a deliberate attempt on the part of Fox to discredit her and attempt to stir up racial animosity. Should there not be a law against a major media outlet that purposely lies about someone and causes them to lose their job and also deliberately promotes racial hatred? I do not know if Sherrod will be reinstated, perhaps not. Fox did the same thing with Acorn, presenting through dishonest editing a totally false account of what transpired. As you doubtless know, Acorn was closed down quickly and as far as I know has not been reinstated. Fox also did the same thing with another Black member of the administration (whose name I cannot recall at the moment) that either resulted in his firing or perhaps in not getting the job he was nominated for.

Clearly what Fox is doing cannot be considered “news” or journalism, but is, in fact, simply right-wing propaganda. This is not a question of Fox simply making a mistake or accidentally getting something wrong. In all three of these cases the administration just took Fox’s word for something and immediately responded by doing what Fox intended. Although there is now pretty much common knowledge about Fox’s role as a propaganda organ for the far right, nothing seems to be done about it. I don’t know if anything even can be done about it. But at the very least the administration should stop automatically jumping through the Fox hoops. If there is some law that might be applied in this case it is not being applied, not that this administration is particularly concerned about the law or enforcing it, Dick the Slimy and his simple-minded puppet, who together engineered some of the greatest war crimes of all time are still free and boasting about their crimes. I sincerely wish Rachel would spend some of her talent and resources on an investigation of this issue. I have no doubt it would be devastating, but even so I doubt anything could be devastating enough to move Obama and Holder to act. They seem to be oblivious of the laws against war crimes.

There seems to be no doubt that Elena Kagan will be confirmed for the Supreme Court in spite of Republican opposition. There is little cogent reason for opposition other than she is someone Obama appointed and wants. Whatever Obama wants, Republicans oppose, it’s just that simple these days. In a last ditch attempt to prevent her confirmation one of the right-wing loonies has suggested she is really a Muslim man who is part of a plot to establish Shari’a law in the U.S., a peculiarly strange behavior for an East Coast Jew and ex Dean of the Harvard Law School. But you have to give the loonies credit for imagination.

The extension of unemployment benefits finally passed after two months of Republican opposition. There were 40 votes against it, and the bare 60 required for passage. So a vast majority of Republicans continue their seemingly suicidal attack on the working class, gotta have that cheap labor, you know, and also them groovy tax breaks for the filthy rich and the corporations. Someone asked me today how much longer things can go on like this. I said, “not long.” Cheers.

Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley's restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless --
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet
HeavenUneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye --
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave: -- from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep: -- from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.

Edgar Allen Poe

Monday, July 19, 2010

They Can's Be Serious...

Drunken Amish teen crashes
horse and buggy while
trying to escape police.

They can’t be serious…can they? There is all this talk about the Republicans plan to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, do away with the estate tax, repeal health care, stop cap and trade, and other things that can only have very deleterious effects on the economy. At the same time they are insisting the tax cuts be continued they are opposed to extending unemployment benefits to workers. I should think this is a rather suicidal plan if they really want to gain much in the coming elections. Indeed, I should think this would be obvious even to Republicans. So can they really be serious, and if so, what does that mean? If they are not serious I cannot see why they would be doing this, and if they are serious I have to doubt their strategy. It is already known what the Reagan tax cuts did to markedly increase our deficit. There is no evidence whatsoever that tax cuts for the wealthy importantly stimulate the economy, and it is certainly not the case that they “pay for themselves.” The claim that tax cuts have no effect on the economy or the deficit is simply ridiculous and already proven to be false. Why, then, do they continue to promote such a nonsensical argument. I have to conclude that either they are appallingly ignorant, or mind-bogglingly stupid. How can they continue to believe in what even George Bush, Sr. said was “voodoo economics,” after the massive data we now have to prove that’s exactly what “trickle-down” Reaganism economic policy amounts to? I don’t like to think (actually I do kind of like to think it) that all these high level Republicans are really that ignorant or stupid, or both, but it is hard to conclude otherwise. But as Bush somehow managed to get these obscene tax cuts for the wealthy passed in the first place perhaps they know something about American voters that I don’t.

It is not hard to understand why they oppose extending unemployment benefits, they want to ruin the economy to bring down Obama, and with that selfish and evil goal in mind they don’t care what happens to the country or the ordinary citizens that make it up (I personally believe this to be nearly treasonous). It is not easy, however, to understand their obsession with tax cuts for the wealthy. I know, of course, that tax cuts have always been an obsession with Republicans, and I know they have always favored business over labor, but as we now know tax cuts for the wealthy don’t work why do they continue to promote this false doctrine? Even if they actually believe it (which implies they are incredibly ignorant or stupid) you would think they would have enough sense to realize it is not a selling point with the electorate in general. I cannot see how this could possibly help them win back control of the House or the Senate, or later on even the Presidency. It seems to me they might actually have some kind of death wish, but what do I know?

It seems to be the case that at least in some important circles the goal in Afghanistan is now simply to get out. Gone are any delusions about winning anything, trying to rebuild the country, capturing hearts and minds, or any of that previous gobbeldy-gook, now it is clear we are desperate to get out. Our getting out seems to hinge on Pakistan and what they will agree to do, as they need Afghanistan to help counterbalance their perennial problems with India. I do not profess to understand this very well but I gather it is true. We apparently are merely waiting for the fat woman to sing.

It appears that the Rubio candidate in Florida believes he can sell his imbecilic proposals on tax cuts to the voters there simply by arguing they must be right because Rachel Maddow says they are wrong. Now there’s a cogent argument that I’m certain will win him lots of votes, especially among those voters who have probably never even heard of Rachel Maddow. How is it possible that Republicans just keep getting sillier by the day?

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
Dorothy Parker

Hummingbird Hawk Moths can hover over flowers and feed on nectar and are often confused with hummingbirds.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rolling in Dough

Atheists line up,
submit to hair dryer
to be de-baptized.

All that money available out there will just go to waste if Democrats don’t wake up and do something sensible, like allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. They can also end the ridiculous subsidies for oil companies who are making more money than most nations. They certainly do not need subsidies for their all-out attack on our planet. I don’t know exactly how much money would be involved by revoking the tax cuts and the subsidies but I’m pretty certain it would go a very long way to pay off our enormous debts. Of course if you also added in the many billions wasted on the Pentagon we’d be rolling in dough. We might even be able to help our citizens with one thing and another, like eating, housing, health care, stuff like that. Maybe we could save a little more if we stopped the Israelis from stealing from Daddy’s purse. Then if you added in all the money that could be saved from getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq we’d be rich once again, rich beyond our wildest dreams. If the “empire” was shut down we’d probably drown in our own money in a fortnight. We could pave the streets with gold. Here we have this enormous potential to get out of debt, rebuild our country, restore the middle class, and avoid third or even fourth world status, but of course it will never happen. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support of the capitalistic corporate state, the pursuit of profits, and maintaining the pretense of democracy in our increasingly fascist society.

I don’t ordinarily like engaging in postmortems or “what ifs,” but occasionally I can’t help it. Somewhere today I saw something about what things would be like had Al Gore been allowed to win as opposed to Bush. Obviously it is hard to say, but I think you can sure we would not have illegally and criminally attacked Iraq and thus would have avoided many of the problems we now face (you have to use your imagination). I also think it safe to say we would be much further along in saving our increasingly endangered planet as well as our own country. Whatever you might think of Gore he surely would not have been as incompetent as Bush (as if anyone could have been that incompetent). However much you might not have liked either Nixon or Reagan they were at least somewhat “Presidential” compared to Bush, who ruled more like the village idiot, repeating things he obviously did not completely understand in a language that only somewhat resembled English. Oh well, what if?

While on the what ifs, what if Obama and Holder had launched a detailed investigation of the Bush/Cheney war crimes as they should have? I think they are even required by law to do so. As it is Bush/Cheney have admitted to some of their crimes (torture) and others are self-evident as, for example, lying us into a pre-emptive war against a country that was no threat to us (the most fundamental war crime of all). Now this band of criminals is trying to disappear into the woodwork like the disgusting criminal insects they are, and will probably never be held accountable for the millions of deaths and the untold misery they caused. Whatever I might otherwise think of Obama I will never be able to completely forgive him for this act of political cowardice.

I think the case of Al Franken is an interesting one of role reversal. You may remember that when he was running for the Senate he was disparaged as just being a comedian and many people, especially Republicans, did not want to take him seriously. It turns out, ironically enough, that Franken is a serious and gifted Senator while his Republican critics remain the same silly clowns they have always been.

There is an interesting (perhaps not really interesting) argument going on about whether the Teaparty is racist or not. If the racist signs some of them carry are not enough to answer the question, consider that they are really part of the Republican Party, granted the most extreme part, and as such are of course racist. The whole Republican strategy in the period AR (after Reagan) depends upon the south and southern votes and that is clearly predicated on racism however much they may try to deny it. To ask if the Teaparty is racist is like asking if “bears do it in the wood.”

If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.
George Aiken

TILT: The musky odor of Musk Oxen is used to attract females during the breeding season.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Freezer Feasts - essay

I’m so excited! I think I may have invented the next social craze: Freezer Feasts. Those of you who have freezers, especially larger ones, will grasp this concept immediately. As you no doubt know, one of the problems with freezers is that over time they fill up with stuff to the point where some of the older stuff inevitably gravitates to the bottom and has an excellent chance of being forgotten before it is used. While it is true that food will stay frozen for a long time, it is also true that most food shouldn’t stay in the freezer too long as it risks freezer burn or just becomes too old to be conscientiously served. You may try to use up everything in your freezer but it is not usually possible in a reasonable amount of time and there is always a residue of miscellaneous items that really should be used up before it’s too late.

As a solution to this problem I am recommending Freezer Feasts. On a designated date, long enough to be certain everything remaining will be suitably thawed and can be cooked, you invite all your friends to a feast. First you estimate how many people can be served with what is left over in your freezer after your failed attempt to use it all, and then you invite that many people to come and share in this event. And what a feast it can be! Although we do not keep a careful inventory of what goes in and comes out of our freezer, I am certain that if we were to offer such a feast at the moment it would include: one frozen duck, two frozen rabbits, a small bit of venison, 3 pounds of frozen octopus, half a bag of shrimp, at least one salmon filet, one whole whitefish, one gift of a lake trout, one pork roast, one beef rump roast, a small package of pork chops, two calamari tubes, several jars of chicken stock, at least one jar of veal stock, frozen leeks and peas, a quart of very old ice cream, a one-pound package of frozen huckleberries, two jars of homemade tomato sauce, a couple jars of leftover chili, an old loaf of bread, and some frozen duck fat. Now you may think this is a result of greed and hoarding but I assure you it is not. We buy things when they are available (not often here) and plan on using them, but then summer comes and it is possible to get lots of fresh produce and fish and we just don’t get around to them soon enough. Granted this may be an unusual mélange to be cooked at one time, but just imagine what a gourmet meal you could prepare with it, and how many friends you could feed.

The basic idea is to invite friends who also have freezers because they will understand, be in the same situation, and can eventually reciprocate. There are enormous and important advantages in doing this. For example, it avoids freezer burn and spoilage and thus prevents waste. It also allows you to empty your freezer periodically so you can defrost it more easily. It forces (or allows) you to begin buying again thus helping the struggling economy, and it insures you will have a better supply of food in your freezer. As the items are not held together by a common theme (other than all being food) they challenge your imagination as a culinary artist. There is also an element of nostalgia as you will probably find things you can no longer afford and enjoy them, perhaps, for one last time. If you do it well you will please your friends and gain their admiration, and perhaps even widen their tastes. It also allows you to break the seemingly endless cycle of potlucks, as your friends need bring nothing other than their own bottles and chairs (this last request seems to be becoming more and more common, especially as we tend to meet in larger groups outside during the summer). It also introduces an element of surprise and eliminates monotony as these feasts will not occur at regularly scheduled times. And at the very least it will bring diverse families together and thus promote social solidarity and camaraderie, as people who eat together are always friends.

Eventually, when it’s your friends’ turn to clean out their freezers and put on their feasts think of how you will look forward in eager excitement and anticipation to what magnificent leftovers may emerge and be offered. Obviously not all feasts will be as great as yours, but some will be, and some may well be even better, you may experience new treats and learn to eat foods you have never tried before. You might even learn to like eggplant and okra (ugh).

Once you have such a system in place and functioning, with just a modest amount of tweaking here and there it could come to share all the fine features of the Kula ring of the Trobrianders, the potlatches of the Northwest Coast, The Yam and Pig exchanges of the Melanesians, and the classic reciprocity of all gift giving a la Marcel Mauss. It will also importantly help to break the anomie so characteristic of living in such impersonal and large-scale societies. So don’t just keep piling more and more items into your freezers, pause now and then, prepare a feast for your friends, slow down and enjoy yourself. You can also incorporate this into the Morialekafa diet regimen: eat and drink all you want, no limits, but only do it every ten days.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Man asks friend to shoot him,
blame ex-wife’s boy friend,
get custody of his son. He dies.

As near as I can tell it’s all hogwash, pig pucky, horse manure, or BS. Does anyone really have a handle on what is going on or likely to happen? Mitch McConnell said the Republicans “got their groove back.” Does anyone know what the hell he is talking about? He might as well have said “23 skidoo,” or “Oh you kid,” or even “Wanna buy a duck,” as far as I can tell. These Republican clowns seem to believe they will take back the House during this year’s elections. Perhaps they will, or at least gain some seats, but why this should be so I have no idea. Row vs Wade doesn’t seem to be a big issue this time, nor does the threat of Gay marriage, there is no sex scandal in the White House to exploit, the birthers have lost credibility, both sides are questioning the “war,” so what does that leave? Well, it seems to leave unemployment, immigration, health care, the economy and the debt. Surely they do not intend to run on their well-known and repeated blocking of extending unemployment benefits. They have already infuriated Hispanics, most of whom will probably never vote Republican again, health care has passed and most probably has no chance of being repealed. So…the economy and the debt would seem to be the main issues. As they were largely responsible for the debt I can’t see much traction there for them, and their answer to the economy, believe it or not, is to maintain and even improve tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy and the corporations. Oh, and also doing away with Social Security, 86% of the American public oppose. How can this be a winning strategy? It can’t, unless there are unusually large numbers of voters who have lost their minds. Thus it is the election will come down to that – how many voters are out of their minds? There are always some, otherwise we would never have had a Nixon, Reagan, or George W. Bush, but will there be enough to put the country back in charge of the criminals that brought all this about? As my neighbor says, “Who knows what goes on in the minds of baboons?”

When it comes to hogwash little can surpass the sad and absurd story of Afghanistan. After years of no clear story of just what we were doing there, one has emerged. We are now being told we are there to build a nation, train its army and police force so they can defeat the Taliban and live happily ever after. This makes a nice story, if you like fairy tales or hogwash, because such an outcome is not going to happen. The very people we are training to maintain their well-known completely corrupt government don’t want us there any more than they want the Taliban, perhaps even less. They don’t train well, desert in large numbers, turn on our troops, and in general do not cooperate. We seem to believe they cannot do well without us, they believe we should leave and mind our own business. We forget the Afghans overcame the Taliban on their own once before, they can do it again if they so choose. When the corrupt and basically useless Karzai government goes there is no telling who will eventually emerge as the central power in Afghanistan, it could be the Taliban for a while, it could be some other group, some other strong man, but whoever it is, it almost certainly will not be intimately linked with the U.S., that predatory nation having already made the situation worse and lost “the hearts and minds” through its routine murder of innocent civilians. The terrible act of 9/11 should have been treated as a routine international crime, but under the guidance of the criminals, Bush/Cheney, became a “war,” costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, a mistake of monumental proportions that could have been brought under control by Obama who elected instead to make it even more nonsensical. That al Qaida or the Taliban are a threat to the U.S. is hogwash, plain and simple. Our “war” in Afghanistan may have something to do with our wanting to control things in the Middle East but it has nothing much to do with a threat to us. Most Afghans would be delighted to see us leave. Most Americans would be delighted to have us leave. We are fighting for a goal that is unobtainable. But hogwash is hogwash and seems to know no particular political party.

All God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.
Fran Lebowitz

There are about 4500 species of cockroaches.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Forty Acres and a Mule

He loses a drinking bet,
friends get to set his
prosthetic leg on fire.

Forty acres and a mule, a policy put in place in 1865 to award land to freed slaves and allow them to get a start in a new life. Apparently this policy didn’t last very long. It does serve as a kind of example for other more important and longer lasting Agrarian Reform movements. Such movements have been fairly common in the last two or three decades in Africa and South America. Usually they consist of taking lands from wealthy landowners who have far too much, breaking it up into smaller parcels, and awarding them to those who were previously peasants or sharecroppers. Obviously the landowners believe this to be completely unfair, whereas the peasants think the ownership of almost all of the land by a few people is completely unfair.

In the land of unreality where I now spend much of my time, having given up even trying to deal with the unpleasantness of our current irreality, I can imagine this happening right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Indeed, I fancy it ought to happen. It is no secret that corporate farms have pretty much taken over agriculture in the U.S., and also no secret this is not good for the land for numerous reasons, not the least of which have to do with the massive use of fertilizers, pesticides, genetic modification, and what-have-you. There is now a movement on the part of some to turn to organic farming and also to turn more toward using crops grown closer to home (the 100 mile diet, transportation costs, fresher, better food, etc.). I suppose the “Slow Food” movement is indirectly related here somehow as well.

Now, as we are also experiencing massive unemployment, along with the reallocation of wealth more and more to the already obscenely wealthy and these huge predatory corporations, why should we not engage in an agrarian reform movement here at home. We could call it “X acres and a tractor,” and calculate the number of acres that can be adequately farmed by one family with a tractor, and have done with it. This would provide many jobs, security for many families, fresher and more organic foods, and a much healthier food supply and life style in general. Perhaps we could even run the tractors on solar or wind power. I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But what a great idea! Maybe it would even help to get us off junk foods and reduce obesity. We could get rid of the gigantic holding lots, pig and chicken farms that are so terribly polluting and unpleasant, and stop injecting our meat with undesirable chemicals. But wait a minute, we already did this, in the early 20th century, or at least something like this. Why did we give it up? Greed and capitalism I suppose. Some argue that corporate farming is the only way to provide food for large cities, and perhaps it is. But Paris and London, Rome and Berlin, Leningrad and Budapest all made it to a pretty fair size without corporate farming. Cities, like farms, should be regulated in size as well. Most of our huge metropolitan areas now consist mostly of slums providing little or nothing for the masses of unemployed people who used to be working on the farms. They are no more than holding areas where the poor, miserable, sickly, and unemployed go to die. Besides, the need for large urban areas, what with modern technology and communication, is pretty much gone.

Put in simpler, blunter terms, human beings do not have to live as they have chosen to live. A far more sane, healthier, more natural and happier life would be entirely possible. We have chosen to turn our backs on it in favor of fouling our own nest as fast as possible. We have lost our respect for nature, have failed to manage our affairs, have offended all other species, and continue blindly onward to our own eventual extinction. There is a fatal flaw in our species, best summed up as GREED.

I don’t know what to make of Republicans. Either they are incredibly stupid or incredibly dishonest, perhaps both. On the one hand they want to preserve and even improve tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and on the other hand they want to reduce the deficit. You might think these are incompatible goals, but not for Republican believers in magic. They resolve this obvious contradiction by simply proclaiming that tax cuts don’t affect the economy. They appear to suffer from a collective Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder which makes them repeat tax cuts at every opportunity. If they can win elections at this point in time by insisting on more tax cuts we will know that Goebbels was right all along.


“There is no use trying; one can't believe impossible things." (Alice)

"I dare say you haven't had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” -Queen
All male mules and most female mules are infertile.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Extra Virgin?

Argument over ownership of frying pan
leaves man with third degree burns,
stepbrother with 11 stitches.

I’m having a bit of trouble with language these days. I think this is because I was confronted today with the phrase, “extra virgin.”Now I know that extra virgin when applied to olive oil means the first pressing of the olives, but how did such a description emerge? What could possibly be “extra” virgin? Obviously you can relate the “first pressing” to the first intercourse, but what could make either experience extra? Somehow to me this sounds much like saying someone “is a little bit pregnant.” It simply makes no sense, yet it is a commonly used phrase. Perhaps it means one extra virgin at a party for virgins and their prospective suitors, if not, what? Anyway, this seems a special case, because usually our language problems have to do with archaic usages, phrases from the past that have somehow retained their meaning even though their origins may be obscure to most users, usages that I suppose could be labeled “survivals.”

For example, a few years back, when my son was still small, I was taking him fishing. We were driving up an unpaved and very rough mountain road when I observed, “it’s really washboardee (ignore for the moment there is no such word) and my son asked, “what’s a washboard?” Obviously there was no way he could have known what a washboard is/was as they disappeared in our culture long before he was born. In this case he genuinely did not know what I meant although I suppose he might have figured it out as having something to do with the rough road.
But we routinely use phrases completely out of date that still carry well understood meanings, or at least I think they do. “Hold your horses,” for example, pretty clearly relates to controlling your impatience. “Waiting until the cows come home” would appear to have much the same connotation. Perhaps it is the words “hold” and “waiting” that convey the basic meaning. Such sayings I find of great interest because they somehow seem to convey meanings for most people even though they have never been near either horses or cows. There are some cases, however, where it is difficult to see how something could have a meaning without actually knowing the history or circumstances surrounding it. A little boy asking his father, for example, “what is clockwise?” Being born in a digital age, the concept of clockwise would have no meaning or connotation at all unless it was explained.

Then there are phrases like “burning the midnight oil.” As using oil for lighting was mostly discontinued quite a long ago, long before most people had any experience of it at all, it is hard to see how meaning emerges from this, but somehow it does (at least I think it does, maybe in this case because it does still occur if only rarely). If you say to someone, “I see you’ve been burning the midnight oil,” don’t they seem to grasp the concept? Similarly, if you say “I think I bought a pig in a poke,” don’t they somehow seem to understand the meaning, even though in this case the meaning comes from a relatively obscure fairground practice of deception that disappeared a long time ago. And how about, “he was hoisted on his own petard?” How many people have any idea what a petard was? And yet, somehow, it seems to me, people grasp the basic meaning of this phrase (I think). Then there is something like, “taking her down a peg or two.” I suspect most everyone understands the basic meaning here, but do they associate it with the tuning of musical instruments where the phrase originated in the 16th century?

Some of our commonly used phrases do have intrinsic meanings that have nothing to do with history. “He’s a hard nut to crack,” for example, or “nod off,” or “nip something in the bud.” Even something like “grist for the mill,” can have a contemporary association even though it obviously arose in the past. I guess even something like “put him out to grass,” contains meaning for most people, even though it refers to what is done with horses and raising horses is not something everyone has experienced. “The die is cast” would also probably be meaningful to most people even with no personal experience of that kind of work. “Fresh as a daisy” has an obvious meaning, as, I think, does “putting the cart before the horse,” even if you know nothing of either carts or horses.

There are, of course, many sayings and phrases that have meaning only to those individuals completely conversant with the particular culture they reside in. “He hit a home run,” for example, does not have meaning to those who know nothing of American baseball. Some phrases would not be heard any longer because of obvious culture changes in language. The phrase, “the fag-end,” is not likely to be heard in our culture any longer because the meaning of the word “fag” has changed. The fag-end would not necessarily have been meaningful previously either if one was not acquainted with the weaving industry. Some phrases elude me completely although they must have had some historical anchor, “don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs,” is an example.

Slang has to be the subject of a a much more detailed study and I hesitate to mention it here. But let me offer just one example of how difficult and culturally astute you have to be to always “get it.” When I was a young boy, hanging out in the pool hall where I was not supposed to be, I often heard someone say things to the effect that “it was like shit through a tin horn.” This never made any sense to me whatsoever and I wondered about it for a long time (as I am not very bright). Suddenly one day it came to me, the phrase actually was “shit through a Tinhorn,” a Tinhorn being slang for an Easterner (sometimes a gambler) in the West who was unfamiliar with the food, customs, and etc. Slang changes so fast nowadays that one generation can barely communicate with the next one and the meanings are so culturally embedded as to be virtually incomprehensible to outsiders. But that is another story.

If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.
Doug Larson

The cave with the longest surveyed passages is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, 367 miles.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Republican Idiocy

Teenager refuses to give his
seat to 66 year-old Japanese woman,
she breaks his nose with umbrella.

Perhaps I am just unusually out-of-sorts today but I swear that everything than emanates from the mouths of Republicans these days is absolutely idiotic. My computer was acting up today, and it was far too windy to work outside, so out of frustration I turned on the TV. There was a youngish-looking Republican on the Chris Matthews show who said in all seriousness that unemployment insurance was bad because it kept people living where they were instead of going where there might be jobs. That is, I guess, if you are married and out of work, have a home you are desperately trying to keep, have little or no money, you just move your family to Nebraska or someplace where you might find a job. This is idiotic. And when you consider that Republicans continue to hold up extending unemployment benefits for millions, when they are themselves multi-millionaires, you have to believe that is pretty idiotic as well. Of course in this case it might not be completely idiotic when you realize they are merely throwing millions of unemployed Americans “under the bus” in order to make Obama fail and thus have a chance to regain power. This might not be idiotic, but it is certainly heartless and evil.

Of course everything that comes out of the mouth of Michelle Bachmann is idiotic. Now she claims that Donald Berwick, Obama’s appointee as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, believes in the U.K. “death system.” She also claims Obama has turned us into a “nation of slaves,” which apparently also in her mind (if she has one) has something to do with health care. Even better, she is starring in a documentary that links Darwin to the Holocaust. What do you expect, it’s vintage Bachmann idiocy?

Then there are the Republicans for reducing taxes on the wealthy at a time when such an idea is totally idiotic. Linda McMahon, running somewhere-or-other as a Republican, is on this perennial bandwagon, admitting she got the idea from Reagan, and Jon Kyl is for extending tax cuts for the wealthy even if it increases the deficit (but not for unemployment benefits because they will increase the deficit), hypocrisy and idiocy elevated to a level far above the average.

Republican Representative Steve King has proclaimed that Gay Marriage is a purely Socialist concept, while Rand Paul has stated that the Tea Party has broad bipartisan support (I suppose this is why they can’t even get enough people to attend their rallies). And don’t forget his famous claim that critizing BP is un-American. Idiocy reigns supreme in Republican circles.

The MSM have been having a field day with Harry Reid’s “throwing Obama under the bus,” because he suggested Obama was not always aggressive enough in backing his agenda. This after Obama has been doing fund raisers for Reid and the two of them are obviously close. The Republican media has apparently never heard of friendly or constructive criticism, certainly not when they have a chance to cause trouble as they must have done on the playgrounds, “so-and-so doesn’t like you as well as me,” childish, as well as idiotic and stupid.

Eric Cantor has announced that Republicans could take back the House. This is sort of like saying the sun could rise in the west. Of course they COULD take back the House, but the chances are not great, just more Republican idiocy. And even if this were to happen it would only prove, once again, the idiocy of the American voting public.

My vote for the biggest Republican idiot of the moment is the grandest old pontificating, hypocritical windbag of all time, Newt Gingrich, who has announced to whoever will listen, if anyone, that he has never been more serious about running for President. I sympathize, I have never been more serious about wanting to move to the French Riviera and live on a luxury yacht, feeding on truffles and unborn lamb, and surrounded with worshipful , gorgeous, and nubile young ladies from all over the world. I wish both of us the best of luck.

Do not forget Representative Barton’s apology to BP, or “What’s-her-Face” Angles claim that the unemployed are spoiled, or McCain’s claim he never said he was a maverick, or “Diapers” Ritter’s claim that his aide, accused of attacking a woman with a knife, was not working on women’s issues, only abortion, or the recent claim by some other Republican that Obama deliberately wanted the oil spill in order to pass a carbon tax, or Inhof’s claim that global warming is a fraud, or, or, or, or… It would be easy enough to continue this tirade with example after example after example, but the idiocy I have come to expect from Republicans has reached such a predictable and epidemic level I no longer even listen or watch, nor do I understand why the media keep reporting this utter nonsense. I have no idea what idiocy is actually coming from Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, and the other destructive hate-mongers as I have never listened to any of them in the first place and do not ever listen to them now. But whatever it is, you can be sure it is idiocy personified, the ultimate idiocy, the grandfather of idiocy, idiocy so profound you might believe it is a result of weird extra-terrestrially communications coming through the diseased minds of reincarnated extinct hyenas drunk on fermented bananas.

The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
H. L. Mencken

In some cultures having a singing cricket in the house is said to bring good fortune.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Man Who Loved China - book

The Man Who Loved China, by Simon Winchester (Harper Collins Publishers, 2008)

I have always thought that on a per capita basis Britain produces more genuine eccentrics than any other country. I still think so. In any case, the subject of this book, Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, certainly qualifies. A distinguished Cambridge Professor of Biology at an unusually young age, Joseph Needham was also (like several British scholars of his time) a socialist/communist free-thinker, who was also engaged in a “modern marriage” to a somewhat older woman who was also a distinguished scientist, while at the same time openly maintaining a lovely Chinese mistress, also a scientist, in a comfortable ménage a trois, and at the same time remained an unabashed promiscuous lover of women wherever found (in spite of his apparent heightened heterosexuality he was an early defender of Gays). He was also a gymnosophist (I didn’t know what it was either, look it up). But Joseph Needham was also a brilliant scientist who by age 31 published his three-volume book, Chemical Embryology, that established his reputation as an unusually serious and gifted scholar. He also was fluent in seven languages, including Polish, and was working on Mandarin Chinese, being tutored at first by his Lover who was also responsible for creating his abiding interest in China.

This is an absolutely fascinating book, partly because of the eccentric Needham and some of the other characters he encountered in China, but also because of what he was to discover there. Needham was flown into China (with some difficulty) in 1943 as an official representative of the British government. This was, of course, at the height of the Chinese/Japanese war. His instructions were to aid Chinese scientists in any way he could, learn as much as he could about the situation and the Chinese, and also try to promote British/Chinese relations. He obviously had been picked for this task because he was capable in the Chinese language as well as being a distinguished scientist. During his four years in China he traveled widely, even into the most remote areas of the country, and collected massive amounts of data on Chinese history and science, including many ancient texts on a virtually infinite number of subjects. Many if not most of the important Chinese scientists were forced to take refuge in the hinterlands and suffered from a lack of scientific equipment and other supplies. Needham had the authority to order their much-needed supplies and have them flown in which was, of course, a boon for their scattered war industries.

Needham did fall in love with China, but it was what he learned about Chinese history and science that was to astound both him and the West. It had long been assumed, by the ethnocentric and paternalistic West that China was a more-or-less backward nation that had little in the way of science or technology and was far inferior to Europe on that score. It was true that at that time China did appear to be far behind the West, but Needham discovered that China had pioneered in science and technology far ahead of the West, having invented not only gunpowder, but hundreds of other important inventions sometimes a thousand years before they were known to Europe. These were not minor innovations and included the first printed book (AD 868, before Gutenberg), paddle-wheel ships and boats (AD 418), calipers (AD 9), cast iron (5th century BC), chess (4th century BC), coinage (9th century BC), magnetic needle compass (AD 1088), paper (300 BC), the stirrup (AD 300, a much more important innovation than you might think), and literally hundreds of other important things. The author presents a list of these various inventions and discoveries that runs to 11 pages.

When Needham returned to England he began work on his magnum opus, Science and Civilization in China, which eventually ran to more than 24 detailed volumes. This achievement has been compared to the creation of The Oxford English Dictionary and resulted in fame and awards galore. Needham fell into disgrace for a time because of his sympathy with the Chinese Communists. He was lured there and duped into agreeing that the U.S. had used biological warfare when they had not. Eventually it was revealed that he had been tricked by the Russians into believing something that was not so and thus regained his reputation. Needham was one of those unusual individuals with an interest in virtually everything. It was this scientific curiosity above and beyond his expertise in biology that allowed him to achieve this comprehensive history of all forms of science in China. There were a few critics who argued that he was not a trained historian nor was he truly an expert in all fields. His achievement was so massive these perhaps jealous claims eventually just fell by the wayside. There are some who will argue that he became such an enthusiastic sinologist that he may have exaggerated Chinese achievements. The data to prove his claims now occupies at least two rooms at Cambridge and as a resource has still not been exhausted.

There arose an obvious question: Why did China, who pioneered so much science and technology so early, seem to stop at about the 16th century, just about the same time it began to flourish in Europe? This became known as “Needham’s question,” and to this day there has been no completely satisfactory answer. It does appear, however, that after this long hiatus China is back once again in the forefront of scientific and technological discovery. It is well to consider carefully a giant sign at the entrance to the city of Jiuquan: “Without Haste. Without Fear. We Conquer the World.”

Simon Winchester has a genuine talent for writing fascinating books, such as The Professor and the Madman, Krakatoa, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and many others. This one is, I think, one of the best. I heartily recommend it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Mouth that Roars

Boyfriends pays more attention
to his Shiba Inu than her, she tapes it
upside down on refrigerator.

I don’t know why I should bother even mentioning this but as it has upset me somewhat I cannot resist. If you look on the internet you can actually find people who believe that Sarah Palin could become the Republican nominee for President in 2012. You can also find others who regard this as an impossibility, but still others who insist that no one knows and it could possibly happen. This possibility I find both frightening and depressing, but given that George W. Bush made it to the Presidency I fear anything might happen. Personally, I believe this would be proof of a Republican death wish, but there are obviously others who think it might be fine.

How can this be? Here is a woman plucked out of relative obscurity by John McCain, who hungered for the Presidency so greatly he was willing to sell his country under the bus with this strange selection of a running mate. It’s true she was Governor of a small (in population) state, with a citizenry probably more interested in their next moose kill than who was governor, but this was not a serious prerequisite for the potential Presidency of the U.S. Having thus obtained some notoriety she quickly gave up being Governor for the far more important and lucrative book and lecture circuit. Now she has become the mouth that roars, and it roars almost non-stop these days. Remember, this was a woman who thought Africa was a country, who suggested that because she could see Russia from Alaska that constituted foreign policy experience, could not answer even the most basic questions put to her by interviewers, and quickly proved to be completely unqualified for the position of Vice President, let alone President. I do not believe she is unusually stupid, but there is no doubt she is seriously ignorant of basic things one would need to know to become President. She seems to know virtually nothing of Foreign Policy, not much more about how our government actually works, and is basically a kind of religious wacko (the MSM tend not to dwell on this). Some say she is just in it for the money, which she is certainly raking in at a steady pace and no doubt laughing all the way to the bank. Others say she is serious about the Presidency, and of course the truth is no one seems to know for certain what she’s about (I’m not certain even she knows what she’s about at the moment, except that it really pays very well). She has apparently surrounded herself with advisors who tell her what to say and now has the temerity to actually challenge the President at every opportunity, not only on foreign policy but on economics, health care, immigration, and other topics as well. She has, it seems, become an instant authority on things she really knows little or nothing about. This is, to me at least, utterly ridiculous, and anyone who believes she is Presidential material is even more ridiculous. But such people actually do exist. There are, it seems, a few Republicans who think she is completely unqualified also, but the lunatic fringe has been culling them and their voices have virtually disappeared. In other words, the lunatics, egged on incessantly by the big talk-show lunatics, are attempting to take over the asylum. I guess these people are not content with the almost irreparable damage done to the country by Bush/Cheney, they want to repeat it in spades. Do not forget the words of our great sage, H. L. Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

President Obama has apparently given in to Israel again. He seems to not realize that Bibi speaks always with a forked tongue and has no serious desire for peace or a Palestinian state. So Obama says we will never do anything to harm Israel and at the same time promises the Palestinians a state. Can the Palestinians be given a state without in some way harming Israel (at least by reclaiming some of their stolen land and water)? Obama, too, has a forked tongue, and as long as the U.S. uncritically supports Israel there can never be peace in the Middle East. Israel wants the question of Jerusalem to be left until the very last during negotiations. Of course this means that no matter what is agreed upon previously it can all be undone at the last minute by Israel. The difficult decisions should be made first, they will not get any easier at the end. Their position is disingenuous at best and potentially outright sabotage.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
Bertrand Russell

The Chinese invented the stirrup in 300 A.D.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

"Defense Budget"

Man holds mother hostage
at gunpoint for refusing
to iron his clothes.

There are rumblings at last about our bloated “Defense Budget.” Barney Frank and Ron Paul have together put together a bill that would presumably cut this shameful waste substantially. Don’t bet too much that anything much will happen. The defense budget is not really all about defense. First of all we don’t have really very much to defend against, mainly a few terrorists out of the billions of people that inhabit the earth. There is nothing on the horizon that I can see that could possibly defend or justify our spending more than all the rest of the world combined on the military. As near as I can see our military/industrial/political complex is basically a scheme for converting taxpayer money into profits for our largest corporations. It is a circular kind of potentially never-ending process guaranteed to insure that money will be systematically and regularly transferred from one very large group of people to a smaller but more powerful group. Every year we pour more money into the defense budget through our annual Congressional budget process. The companies and corporations that receive this money make enormous profits, part of which they return to the Congresspersons who made these profits possible, thus guaranteeing that the same thing will happen over again. It’s really potentially better than a Ponzi scheme because Ponzi schemes eventually have to end when new suckers can no longer be found. The military/industrial/political complex has managed to create a never-ending supply of suckers called taxpayers, most of whom apparently believe we are in constant danger from someone or other and although they grumble about paying taxes have been taught to believe the problem has to do with social security or medicare or other entitlements, rather than the obscene and unnecessary military waste, clever, no? However, it may be the case that, like Ponzi, this clever scheme is also about to run its course for the simple reason that we cannot realistically sustain it much longer short of bankruptcy or worse. You don’t have to think too carefully to understand there is little or no rationale for our 15,000 troops in Okinawa, our bases in Germany and other European nations, and so forth. It’s all part of the same scam. You also don’t have to think very hard to understand that all that wasted money would go a long way towards fixing our decaying infrastructure, educational system, medical care, and so forth, including rebuilding our economy and producing more jobs. The Frank/Paul bill probably won’t get very far but it will at least focus some attention where it belongs. Getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan would certainly go a long way towards solving our budgetary crisis, perhaps that, too, will come to pass.

From the ridiculously absurd to the absurdly ridiculous, I cannot believe there is anything to this rumor that Sarah Palin is going to replace Richard Steele as RNC Chairman, clowns are not often replaced with mindless bimbos. But if it has to be, bring it on, nothing would please me more. Republicans seem to believe they are going to make huge gains in the elections later this year. I find this mysterious to say the least. Just what is it that Republicans have done that would justify their return to power. Remember, they are the ones that go us into this terrible mess in the first place, they have no program for our country other than their usual lower taxes and smaller government credo. Their current leaders are a collection of pretty extreme “crazies” like Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Backmann, Hannity, O’Reilly, and so on. Even their senior Senators are little better: McConnell, McCain, Hatch, and the mental midgets from some of the Southern states who seem to believe it is still 1860. Even their Governors are a strange lot, like Bobby Jindal who just signed a bill allowing people to carry their guns into church. Now there’s an idea whose time has come! It’s a party that wants to keep on drilling no matter what, that wants to keep the unemployed, unemployed, to privatize social security, reverse the health care bill, and keep us permanently at war. If American voters go for this stuff you will know that our country is hopeless. All will surely be lost. And if by some strange aberration they should win in 2012 you won’t have to be nostalgic for a moron in the White House because there will surely be another one.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.
Ernest Benn

Przewalski’s Horse is the only true wild horse still alive today.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wall Street Donations

Negotiations for sex
break down when she
flashes smile of rotten teeth.

It appears that Wall Street has now begun giving by far the most money to the Republican Party. I find this most interesting in several ways. First, it just confirms what we have always known, Wall Street has no interest whatsoever in the American public or what might be good for the country. They support Republicans only because they believe (know) that Republicans will do anything they can for the fat cats on the market. There can’t possibly be any other reason for supporting Republicans. They apparently gave quite a lot of money to Obama and some Democrats because Democrats won control of the White House, Senate, and House. The fact that they have now shifted back to supporting Republicans I find a positive sign in that it indicates to me that Obama must be doing something right. It does, however, serve to point out a disturbing paradox in our society. That is, when Wall Street (and the corporations) do well it must mean that the working class is not doing so well. This is so because in order to make money and do well businesses have to have cheap labor. So when they do well it follows that the working class does not do well. For many Americans this poses a rather strange dilemma because their retirement money is invested in Wall Street and when Wall Street thrives labor does not. Thus if you have money in the market you would like to see it do well, but if you believe in fair and just wages for workers, you are caught in this peculiar bind, or so it seems to me.

Mitch McConnell has now announced he will not support the Elena Kagan nomination for the Supreme Court. Orin Hatch has done the same and so has John McCain. What a crock of BS! They know she is almost certainly going to be confirmed so why not get a little publicity and reinforce your Republican credentials by opposing something you know is going to happen anyway. Hatch has said something to the effect that “she doesn’t come up to my standards.” I should think this would be more properly rendered as “she doesn’t come down to my standards.” In any case it seems obvious to me they will vote no because Obama nominated her, and they have to live up to their standard of voting no for anything Obama wants.

And speaking of playing politics, how about the Republicans on unemployment benefits and jobs? They are obviously willing to sacrifice American families and their well-being in their single-minded quest to regain power. There simply is no other explanation for all of their “no” votes. It’s really quite simple, the worse unemployment is, leading up to the elections, the more likely Democrats can be blamed and the greater chance people will vote Republican. Cynical, yes, purely political, yes, disgusting, yes, unethical and immoral, I think so, but those concepts don’t seem to apply to Republicans anymore. Who cares if a few more families go hungry and lose their homes, it’s all so Republicans and Wall Street can continue to do God’s work.

I truly admire Rachel Maddow and I think she has the best show on TV. I am not convinced, however, that her trip to Afghanistan was really necessary. I guess maybe something will be gained by it, but I have yet to hear anything that she probably could not have said without visiting there. Most everyone knows the official story by now, we have to train the Afghan army and police so they can take over when we leave because otherwise the Taliban will take over. And yes, we are wasting billions, much of which is being shipped out of the country by various warlords and politicians. And yes, the whole enterprise is stupid even beyond belief, but we have to do it (because, implicitly at least, the Afghans are unable to manage their own affairs). The real reason I believe we are pursuing this is that we are determined to have a government that is obedient to us and no one else. This seems to be our goal all over the Middle East, we have to maintain our control and influence at all costs. I’m pretty certain this is what Iran is all about, it has nothing much to do with whether the Iranians develop a (mostly useless) bomb or not, but, rather, with keeping them from becoming too much of a power in the Middle East (hence the constant talk of regime change). It is very similar to the situation in Britain after WWII when Churchill said he would not preside over the demise of the British Empire. We cannot have a President who will preside over the loss of our “empire,” even though it will almost surely bankrupt us if we continue, which seems to me to be pretty much inevitable unless we come to our senses very soon.

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.
Sir Winston Churchill

There are nearly 100 species of lemurs.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Ninety-one year old widow
lives with the corpses of her
husband and twin sister.

I like to think there is a point where BS doesn’t work anymore. And I also like to think we may be rapidly approaching that point. General Petraeus has returned to Afghanistan vowing that we are going to “win.” This has to be BS of the very highest order. It has been widely conceded by many in the “know” that we are not going to win in Afghanistan. At least we are not going to win militarily. Of course it depends upon what one means by win, and so far no one, including Petraeus, has ever specified what winning would mean in Afghanistan. As near as I can tell winning in Afghanistan means something like not losing. That is, if we get some kind of stalemate we can declare we won and maybe actually withdraw from that unfortunate country that is not really a country anyway. The world’s greatest and only superpower cannot ever admit it lost a “war” to a bunch of ragtag Afghans armed with small arms even if it did. There has never been the slightest doubt we would “lose” in Afghanistan, the “graveyard of empires” for hundreds of years. It is understandable, I think, why Bush/Cheney started this “war” as they wished to engage in permanent hostilities everywhere for as long as possible (have to feed t he military/industrial/political machine after all), but I will never understand why Obama insisted on accelerating it rather than giving it up (can’t admit defeat, I guess). Anyway, you can rest assured that anything you hear about Afghanistan is BS, pure and simple.

The BS we hear about Afghanistan is relatively benign compared to what came out of the White House today. President Obama met with Benjamin Netanayu and at the end of their meeting said there was no rift between Washington and Israel, that Netanyahu was interested in peace, and that progress was being made. I don’t know what actually transpired at this meeting but I certainly recognize BS when I see it. Netanyahu has made it quite clear for years that he is not interested in peace, does not want to see a Palestinian state, and prefers the status quo where the Palestinians are broken up into small groups with no chance of ever having a viable state. He has also made it clear that from his point of view the question of Jerusalem is non-negotiable, it belongs in its entirety to Israel, which makes the possibility of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians is impossible to begin with. And even as talks continue the Israelis continue to build more and more illegal houses and settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. You might as well try negotiating with a Gaboon Viper as with Netanyahu. This story is BS at such an exalted level as to leave one gasping for breath.

Of course everything we hear about the Oil disaster in the Gulf is BS, and has been from the very beginning. It is quite clear that BP has lied repeatedly and continues to lie, and there is little doubt that the Obama administration has done the same. First it was a mere 1000 barrels a day, then 5000, then 15,000, and then, and then, and then, we don’t even know now how much is leaking or if it will ever stop. Don’t even bet that the drilling of new lines is going to work, it may leak until there is no more oil left to leak and the Gulf will be so contaminated it will never recover. But not to worry, as soon as we figure out what went wrong we’ll start drilling again. This is BS as an art form.

Once again there is a claim that Obama was not born in the U.S. This is said to be true because of
who said it (I know not who) and because he/she has absolute proof there is no real birth certificate for Obama. I don’t have any idea what this is all about, who is behind it, or what it is they are hoping to gain by it, but I can tell you for certain it is going to turn out to be, once again, BS of the highest order. These morons pursue Obama like he is a runaway slave, too stupid to admit they are simply baying at the moon. This too will pass.

I love the Rachel Maddow show. I think she is the best thing on television and the only one with the nerve to confront lies head on. But I’m not terribly pleased with her showboating in Afghanistan. I see little reason for her to be there, squired around here and there for little reason other than to show she is there. There is, after all, only one thing to say about the “war” in Afghanistan, it is absolutely stupid, pointless, unnecessary, and ridiculous, and we should get out as soon as possible, or even sooner. Anything else you hear about it is BS. If there is any reason for continuing this farce it is being kept a closely guarded secret. It’s probably very simple, President Obama does not want to be, indeed, cannot be, the only President to admit to losing a “war” (the U.S. simply does not lose). What are a few more lives when it comes to Presidential and national pride. But “Pride goes before a fall,” as we have been told since childhood. Too bad we were all hiding in caves when wisdom was passed out.

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.
Robertson Davies

Badger dens are called setts, badger colonies are called clans.

Monday, July 05, 2010


Woman arrested for assault
after attacking her drunk
boyfriend with a weed-whacker.

A bit of nostalgia struck this evening as I was watching some cooking show (actually my wife was watching it, I was innocent) that featured someplace, I think in Virginia, where there still exists one of those old-fashioned drive in restaurants where you are served on a tray in your car. It made me wonder why those places virtually disappeared. You would think that with even more cars than ever before, and fast food joints everywhere, there would continue to be a demand for such places. I guess they have just been replaced by the drive-through phenomenon. Too bad, I used to love those girls on the roller skates rolling up to your car and taking your order and all that. No doubt drive-through is cheaper and cuts down on the number of employees and stuff. But we could still use the jobs. Ah, efficiency, profit, and all that. I guess it makes sense, but it’s just not the same.

Similarly, I miss those old drive-in movies. Remember, you could load up your kids in their pajamas and take them to the drive-in. If they fell asleep in the car it was no big deal. And you could get popcorn and candy and drinks (could even bring your own bottle if it suited you) and sit quietly in the privacy of your automobile enjoying what was happening on the really big screen. Or, if you weren’t married and didn’t have kids, you could take your girlfriend and just cuddle all you wanted in the privacy of your own comfortable box. You didn’t have to be in the least intimidated by the rest of the audience. Obviously such an institution could not survive against television and things like Netflix that allows you to do the same thing in the privacy of your own home, be it apartment or house. But it’s just not the same.

What I truly miss, however, is billiards. I mean real billiards, played on a table with no pockets and only three balls made of ivory. It was a gentleman’s game. In our town the city fathers came every day during their noon hour to play billiards. We all sat around and watched. It was a game of angles, of geometry, of real talent. They all had fancy cue sticks decorated with real ivory and mother-of-pearl and there was a huge wooden case where these valuable sticks were placed while not in use. If you could find one of these cases nowadays it would probably cost as much as a house, no plywood, plastic, and staples in those days when craftsmanship still prevailed. The houses of the wealthy often had billiard rooms where the men would join to play, smoke their cigars, and make conversation. I believe that Thomas Jefferson had a secret billiard room in his famous home (billiards was regarded as not entirely respectable by some). Billiards, real billiards, has all but disappeared, even though people still play pool (often called billiards) but it is such a washed out version of what used to be it is barely recognizable. Most bars have some kind of pool table that you have to stick a quarter or two into in order to play, there are no pockets from which to retrieve balls so what you can play, and how, is very limited. It is such a poor imitation of what was once a really great game it reminds you of the death of civilization. Unlike drive-ins and drive-in restaurants, the demise of which is understandable, I do not understand why or how billiards came to disappear. Even now you may find a pool table in a private home but it is highly unlikely you will find a billiard table, and you certainly won’t find ivory billiard balls, now poorly replaced by plastic. It’s just not the same.

One area that I think has improved is automobile travel, but only in the sense that automobiles nowadays are so much superior to the older models. But in the “old days” when you went on an auto trip you usually had to bring your own food in a picnic basket or something as there were few restaurants along the way, the trips were longer because the roads were not as good, and it was much more of an adventure than it is today. And you could and did stop by streams and rivers where you could drink the water without fear of contamination. Indeed, I have to this day a special silver cup in a leather case that was used for the purpose of enjoying fresh mountain water. There were few if any roadside stands and travelers were pretty much on their own. It’s just not the same. But I must say it’s a relief not to be changing tires so often.

Most of all, I guess, I am nostalgic for the time when we were not engaged in permanent wars. We fought the so-called “Good War,” but even then we had to be pretty much forced into it. There was a clear cut reason for it and for our involvement and when it was over it was over, there was a winner and a loser, and there was no doubt which was which. We at least pretended to tend to our own business and not meddle so much in the affairs of others. Now, of course, we meddle constantly, everywhere, and depend upon permanent (even illegal and unconstitutional) wars to fuel our militaristic economy and sustain our corporations in the manner to which they have become accustomed. There were even two distinct political parties, both interested in promoting the welfare of the citizens and our country in general. Alas, it’s just not the same.

I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it.
Samuel Goldwyn

Opossums have more teeth than any other land mammal.