Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Effect Of Depression On Time

Depression is really full of surprises. Sure, we all know that it haunts your dreams; that it shortens your life; that it lowers your lifetime earnings; that it creates fertile ground for lifestyle errors*; that it lowers your IQ and/ or your ability to apply it; that it ruins your relationships; we know all of that, and more. But now, as I approach the fifth anniversary of the death of my father, I have identified an aspect of depression that I had not previously understood. It accelerates the passage of time itself.

It is a well observed fact that as we proceed through life, the years seem to pass more quickly with every turn. One year for a five-year-old seems to last forever; one summer for a twelve-year-old goes slowly enough to make going back to school (and watching the World Series) seem like fun. Somewhere around the transition from the flood to the ebb tide of life, let's say somewhere around the age of forty, life begins to lose its languorous pace. All of the markers for the passage of time seem to be arriving more rapidly than they used to. The various holidays and birthdays are repeating themselves with a strange new regularity. Most people realize in their forties or fifties that this process is accelerating on an annual basis. In our sixties, it becomes a finger snap: birthday, Christmas, birthday, Christmas. By the time that we turn seventy, the whole thing has become quite disturbing.

Being quite aware of all of this, it is no surprise to me that the five years since my father's death have passed quickly. At my age, that's natural. There were, however, deeper shocks built in to my father crossing the river. It has been disturbing to endure the typhoon of never before encountered symptoms, and the feeling that my life is racing towards an oblivion that could begin at any moment. Neither is it any fun to live with the daily, nagging bewilderment about my parents feelings towards me. Was I really so terrible? They both seem to have thought so. My mother, later in life, would praise my ex-wife as a saint for putting up with me, and they would both commiserate over the daunting challenges of living with me. “Living with Freddy is what made my hair go gray!” All of that was providing the entertainment for the entire family. My ex-wife kicked me out within a matter of weeks after my mother died. My father lived another nine years, and other than feigning deafness to avoid talking to anyone he managed to put up an impressive display of support and acceptance. (The ability to love, I'm afraid, had always been denied him.) He waited for the reading of the will to insert the stiletto.

Fred, focus, back to the rush of time.

I began having nightmares after the will business sunk in. Who leaves their first-born's share of an estate to that son's ex-wife? I always knew that they liked my wife much better than they liked me, but really, who would do that? Break it up, sure, give the ex-wife a share, but who zeros out the son without so much as a “fare thee well?”

Before the will fiasco, if the subject of heart related chest pains came up, I couldn't even imagine what that would feel like. I was having them myself before long. The nightmares were of a very particular type that I had not previously encountered. Naturalistic settings, in color and in detail, peopled by family members living and dead, all saying things that you could easily imagine them saying. I was having these dreams, and none of what they were saying was flattering to me. Or I would be arguing my own case in the dream. “But I was a good boy!” “Didn't I call mom every couple of weeks and have a friendly chat for an hour or so back when that shit cost a fortune?” Or shear exasperation, “I traveled ten time zones for nine years in a row to visit that motherfucker! Just to hang out for a few days and tell him that I loved him!”

In my adult life, after I got over hating them for their pathetic failure as parents when my sister and I were at home, I accepted them for what they were, just a man and a woman, imperfect like the rest of us. I forgave them, and I loved them, and I was good to them. And for what? To be treated like a dog.

Here is a contributing factor to the rapid passing of time. I had had a prescription for Xanax for many years, but I had only used it for international plane flights. Believe me, fourteen hours on the plane, it really helps if you can get four or five solid hours of sleep. Other than that I never touched it. But those nightmares had to go, and I needed to relax in general. I was so wound up that I was getting strange stress manifestations and histamine reactions to things that weren't there. I have stayed with a low dose, just enough to deepen my sleep and take the edge off in the evenings. My heart Rx also slows the metabolism a bit. Alcohol, of course, is in the rear-view mirror now that I have a deep, personal relationship with a cardiologist.

So my days go by faster, then the weeks, and months, and years. Faster, I think, than is normal for someone my age. I'm sleeping more, and enjoying every minute of it, I might add. I still teach my classes, but my schedule is not onerous. I read “too much,” which is a characteristic of many depressed people. I have been known to take a nap, of an afternoon. In the evenings, I watch Netflix, like many people (no binge-watching). The day zooms along and is gone. This is probably a mixed blessing.

I still say to myself most days, “I was a good boy!” I never got caught stealing, or riding in stolen cars, I never got arrested with drugs, or for anything else at all! I never broke a bone. I was never a bully. I was personable! I think that most of the other parents liked me. I have a studio portrait photo of myself dressed up for First Communion, age six I believe. I look angelic. I walk past and I think, who could hate a son like this? Then I run quickly to my Kindle and bury myself in my second reading of Eri Hotta's “Japan 1941.” Prime Minister Konoe; Foreign Minister Matsuoka; General Tojo; it's fun getting to know them a bit. Fun watching them twist themselves into knots trying to avoid a war with America, and all the while taking frequent actions that would insure it. We all know how it turned out, but watching them stumble into it is fascinating. That kind of reading also speeds the passage of time.

If you are not depressed, thank God immediately. I am happy for your good fortune. If you had loving parents, if there was love in your home, good for you! It is a comfort to me to know that there are such families. If you had parents who encouraged you, who supported your interests and efforts, you, my friend, were doubly blessed. Good for you! Without an ounce of sarcasm I say, your happiness is a blessing to me. Without it, I would never know that such things existed.

*”Lifestyle Errors,” such as smoking tobacco; drinking alcohol to excess; drug use, or abuse; self-sabotage; high-risk behavior; aggressive social behavior; over-ambition; workaholism; or obnoxiousness.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

John Lee Hooker & ZZ Top - Boom boom boom

My first reaction was, "didn't John Lee sue their asses over La Grange, for copyright infringement?" Well, he almost did. His "writing partner," who had eventually obtained sole rights to the 1948 recording, actually did the suing. After that it really gets good. 

In fact, it's worth reading about! 


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Eurythmics - Julia (Official Music Video)

I've just been watching the versions of old BBC productions of 1984. The Edmund O'Brien is good, but the Peter Cushing is the best. That screeching little fascist brat who turns in her own father is right up there with the scariest creatures ever to have appeared in a film. 

Oh, and the movie that goes along with this song is also very good. John Hurt, Richard Burton, very effective. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Being Comfortable With Shyness And The Public Gaze

Nirvana - Come As You Are (Live On MTV Unplugged, 1993 / Unedited)

Nice video on the YouTube, Howard Stern interviewing mostly Dave Grohl, but talking with all of the Foo Fighters. Nice long video. Howard is being more generous with his shared material.

I have always thought that Howard was a great interviewer. That part of the show has always interested me a lot more than the gross shenanigans. I've been way out of the loop in the satellite age, but it's good to see that Howch still has it after all of these years.

This Foo Fighters interview was very recent. Howard poked and pried, and lowered his voice conspiratorially, as though wishing to preserve the privacy of himself and the interviewees. In that small studio, with almost no crew, famous people do let their guards down. It's so quiet! Howard makes them forget that a vast audience of people are listening to every word.

Howard asked questions about Kurt, shamelessly and repeatedly. He approaches delicate topics like this so innocently that it seems normal. Finally, he asked Dave, “you know, Kurt was so shy in private, but he was always so out-there on stage, what's up with that?” Dave looked surprised.

My daughter asked me that same question just the other night!” he said. “I didn't know what to tell her. I really don't know. But you're right. He really was shy, but you wouldn't know it to watch him on stage.” Dave's daughter is eleven years old. They had never talked too much about it, and Dave said that he never plays Nirvana records. “Too sad,” he said, and I believe him. He and his daughter, at her request, were taking a ride in Dave's van around Hollywood, just to get out of COVID quarantine. “Come As You Are” came on the radio, and Dave's daughter sang the whole song, along with the radio. She knew every word. That's what got them talking about Kurt.

I related this dynamic to Howard, and also to myself. Howard is a very shy man who seems very comfortable exposing himself to who knows how many listeners on a very popular radio show. I've been very shy all of my life, but for the last thirty years public speaking has been a big part of my, let's say, my employment. As a lawyer in America, I spent a lot of time in courtrooms, mostly at law-and-motion hearings, but also trials, all kinds of legal free-for-alls. There might be a dozen people in the room, or there might be one hundred, but there you are, in public, speaking, and there's money riding on it. There are winners. It's more like debating than simply giving a speech.

I know lawyers who are so shy that they get cramps in the car while driving to these appearances. Starting out, I wondered if I'd be one of them, but it never bothered me. If there was one that I was worried about, I would just remind myself that it would all be over soon, and I'd be back in the car listening to a Beck CD on my way back to the office. How bad can that be? “If you got paid, it was a good day,” as my friend Maynard told me. What shall I have for lunch today?

I've been teaching classes at a Thai university for thirteen years now. Generally my classes are small, but I routinely teach graduate classes that number over one hundred, with lessons lasting four hours. Any of these classes may be videotaped, and I may or may not be told that taping is occurring. None of this bothers me. Before my current job, I taught English in grammar school and high school, and ran seminars for Thai English teachers. None of that bothered me either, although I am still very shy, privately. Shyness is my natural state.

How shy was he, Johnny? All my life, I have been afraid to walk out the front door. I still am. Who will I run into? Will they want to talk? Will there be trouble?

So Kurt, Howard, and I all learned somehow to put our shyness on hold when something needed doing. Unless, but it's too terrible to consider. Unless there was a cumulative effect to all of that exposure that finally got to Kurt. After all, he was probably more shy than Howard and I put together, and also more exposed than either of us.

Oh, my. Like the filmmaker Robert Bresson said, “wherever you are, dig three times. There are many levels to things.”

Friday, February 12, 2021

Another Nail-Biter Of An Impeachment


Today's inspirational genius, Prof. Heather Cox Richardson.

The nation is holding its collective breath! News organizations are whipping the tension into peaks of froth! Will Republican senators suddenly develop spines and surprise everybody by voting to impeach Donald Trump?

The news outlets cannot, of course, survive in a world where the obvious must simply be reported and forgotten. Such a fate is fine when the subject is the death of a somewhat famous jazz/ fusion piano player, like Chick Corea, whom people had probably heard of, but whose death doesn't really ruin anyone's day. RIP, Chick; say goodnight, Gracie! But surely there must be at least a week of high drama in the SECOND impeachment trial of the worst president in history. Mustn't there be? Please, no. (Ayn) Rand Paul is doodling on a legal pad. This thing is in the bag.

While it's true that the Republicans are in the middle of a hissing, hair-raising, howling fit right now, I don't believe that any of that internecine power struggle will interfere with their pro-forma vote NOT to impeach the now Mr. Trump. I will be amazed if more than two or three Republicans vote to impeach. As I have said before, they do this only to “prove” to the American voters that Republican public officials think independently and vote their own minds.

I was surprised to notice today that serious academics, people whom I admire very much, believe that there could be some new dynamic at work here. Something that would lead to the impeachment proposition being carried. A “yes,” in other words. An impeachment. A banning of Trump from any future involvement in politics.

No less a light than Heather Cox Richardson, Ph.D., has gamed this thing out and has proposed a way in which the Republicans could allow the impeachment to be carried, while not actually voting for it. They could all just stay at home. I think that the point is that the vote to impeach must be made by two-thirds OF THE SENATORS WHO ARE PRESENT. That way, they could all tell their idiotic voters back in Kick-Stump that they did not vote to impeach Trump, and maintain that the whole thing was a political hit job, but what the fuck, it's done and let's just move forward with our devilish plans to destroy democracy.

I'll believe it when I see it. My hunch is that the Republicans will dance with the one that brung 'em. In other words, with a lazy fart into their luxurious leather chairs they will vote “no” on this second impeachment. Same as they did on the first one. Trump brings in the votes. He is like P.T. Barnum. He puts butts in the seats. He's a first class bullshit-artist who could sell ice to Eskimos. He's an earner. As Tough Tony would say to his captains, “anybody else, I'd zotz the prick myself, but this guy is a great earner.” 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Nirvana - Negative Creep (Wishkah) [Lyrics]

In the 1980s, for better or worse, I went way off of the path with the music that I was listening to. My teenage son and his friends called me, "the eclectic dad," because they were constantly surprised at what they heard on the cassettes I played when I was driving them places. Phil Spector Christmas songs in July. Lynerd Skynerd in between Little Willie John and John Coltrane, followed by Chico Buarque de Hollanda and Alcione. Cajun Music. Afro-Beat. I completely lost contact with all of the hair-metal bands that the 80s are famous for. That's my excuse for my complete ignorance of Nirvana until years after Kirk died. 

I remember an interview with Keith Richards, in print, no internet at the time. The DJ asked him what he thought of Nirvana, who were riding high behind "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at the time. Keith said, "Nirvana? I've 'erd of 'em. Young guys? Long hair? Guitars? Yeah, I've 'erd of 'em." I missed the obvious moving forward from hair-metal that had occurred. I guess that Keith did as well. He usually throws compliments where they are at all deserved. 

Around 1997 or 1998, I read a review of "From the Muddy Banks of the Wishka." I was moved to buy a copy of the CD, and I was completely floored when I listened to it. This was not your average, or even a very good guitar based rock band. This was greatness. I think I started mumbling, "this is art," or maybe, "this is real music." After all, it is both things. 

This sonic blast of song of a song might sound to some like a rush of sound that is stumbling over itself, but really it is very tightly constructed. It carefully uses both the blasts and the silences of the musicians to build tension here, to release it there, and to propel it forward at high speed when that is called for. I think that it's a master class in music that goes beyond genre. For me, all of the arts can be reduced to "the creation and resolution of tension." Films, paintings, music, sculpture, poetry, all of it. 

This is art. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Senator Elizabeth Warren's Proposed Wealth Tax

There is an awful lot of money in America, and only a very few of our beloved representatives in congress seem troubled by the fact that almost all of it is falling into the hands of a very limited number of Americans. It's gotten so bad that one must resort to hyperbole to describe that top class of wealth holders. We've zoom-climbed past the “obscenely wealthy,” and I think we are well into the zone of the “intolerably wealthy.” You know what I'm talking about.

Most regular people don't even seem to notice anymore, beyond a vague desire to join those intolerably wealthy people in the winners' circle. Regular people are limited to two possible avenues for achieving even bottom rung “rich” status: the Power Ball lottery, or a lucrative law suit. They will certainly not make it on wages of any kind, and truly brilliant, murderous, cutthroat entrepreneurs are few and far between.

Did I say “bottom rung?” I ballpark the low end of “rich” these days at about fifty-million dollars. Fifty mil doesn't buy what it used to. It's not enough now to put you in the super-yacht and private jet category. You'd be lucky to keep up a mansion somewhere, a few nice cars, and a condo with a view in New York. In fact, I'm not sure that fifty-million would even support that lifestyle. Fifty-million could best be described as “merely rich” in today's financial environment. “Comfortable,” let's say.

Not to worry, though! Lots of people are doing just fine, in spite of today's high prices.

What Wealth Tax?

Elizabeth Warren, bless her little heart, is one of the precious few in Washington who believe that nothing good can come of allowing all of the money to be Hoovered up by the intolerably wealthy class. If every dollar is parked in the custody and control of some individual, family, or trust, that does not need it, and couldn't possibly even imagine something to spend it on, what are the rest of us supposed to use to pay our rents? She is proposing a wealth tax that would be levied against anyone with a net worth of over fifty-million dollars. She suggests two percent. I read it phrased as, “two cents on every dollar over fifty-million.”

I would quibble about starting as low as fifty-million dollars, or starting with a tax of two percent, but this is just her trial balloon. It is too early to get upset about the details. Having said that, I am firmly behind Senator Warren's effort to get something like this rolling. It's about God-damned time somebody addressed this glaring problem with the distribution of income in America. (Insert mention of unfair taxation.)

This is not a new idea. Many countries already have a wealth tax of the type suggested by Senator Warren. Other countries have similar taxes under different names, or taxes that apply only to the “yield” of wealth. It shouldn't be such a big deal. Everybody understands that real property is wealth, and real property is subject to property taxes without anyone getting their panties in a twist.

I'm overseas, but I can already hear the Scrooge MacDucks in America screaming about this. “This money was taxed already!” And, “I earned this money fair and square!” And, “this is socialism!” And, “over time, this will bankrupt us!” You know how they love to go on. I have not heard, nor have I read anything about, the Republican umbrage that is no doubt being expressed already. “This will kill investment!” And, “this will make America noncompetitive.” And, “this will serve as a strong disincentive for the job-creators!” You know, those entrepreneurs that believe themselves to be the very engine that runs the world. The entrepreneurs who have provided many Republicans with enough money to be affected by this wealth tax. And oh, yes, since I'm being more evenhanded these days, many Democrats as well, and I'm sure that they will scream just as loudly as the weapon gores their ox.

The Background

Where do you think that the intolerably rich are getting all of this money? Partly, they make it out of thin air, and partly they steal it from you. Here are a couple of interesting facts. (If you do not already read the Harper's Magazine, you should seriously consider it. It's worth the cost of a subscription for the “Harper's Index” alone.) Consider:

Hypothetical median income of full-time US workers if income were distributed as evenly as it was in 1975: $92,000.”*

Coupled with:

Actual median income of full-time US workers: $50,000.”

In other words, dear readers, in spite of the huge increase in your productivity over the last forty-five years, your share of the national income has been cut in half. The other half has gone to the new Robber Barons.

Here's another interesting Harper's tid-bit from this month's issue:

Percentage of unpaid taxes that are owed by the richest one percent of Americans: 70%”

You can bear that in mind when they start complaining about taxation. They obviously have no general belief in the concept.

Real World Effects

Who will be affected by Ms. Warren's proposed wealth tax? How much will they lose? Will it negatively affect their lives? Should we be worried that they will come for us next? (Like taxing all bank accounts.)

One percent of $1,000,000 is $10,000. So two percent is $20,000. On this basis, every million dollars in wealth, over the base amount of fifty-million, would be taxed $20,000.

Example: The family or individual has a “wealth” that the law calculates at $70 million. $50 million is exempt. Twenty (the number of millions) times twenty-thousand comes to $400,000. Losing that much to a wealth tax will not change the people's lives one iota. And before you say anything, understand that it will come out of the growth of that $70 million, not out of principal. Only twenty-million will be taxed, but the entire seventy-million is still growing. Don't start suggesting, like some of the particularly stupid Republican members of the House of Representatives will, that “at that rate, after about thirty-five years the entire $20 million would be gone!” No such thing.

No such thing, because of one of the mysterious characteristics of money these days. If you only have $100,000 in wealth laying around, and you don't feel like taking giant risks with it, you're stuck with almost no interest at all. A two percent tax would probably be more than the interest you're getting. But when you are up around two or three hundred million dollars, your wealth multiplies like bunnies. You need a separate accountant to count the new money. If your wealth is in the billions, it is multiplying like cockroaches. For the upper reaches of wealth holders, two percent of any fabulous fortune will come out of growth, and the principal will continue to grow like a wildfire year by year.

Who Are the Real Targets of this Wealth Tax? Let's not worry too much about the millionaires. There are currently over eleven million millionaires in the United States, but my guess is that a substantial number of them fall under the fifty-million dollar threshold. Besides, even for the angriest socialist out there, people like run-of-the-mill sports stars, pop-stars, car dealership owners, and even the typical CEO of a middling corporation, do not elicit true outrage. Maybe just annoyance. The real action is with the billionaires.

There are now 630 billionaires in the United States alone. That's the most recent figure from my Google efforts. That includes people who only have a couple of billion, all the way up to Jeff Bezos, whose wealth seems to be jumping by a couple of billion dollars every day at this point. When I first checked, it was given as $185.7 billion. (I include the “point seven,” because it is, after all, $700 million dollars.) Business Insider magazine gives it as $196 billion.

Example: the family or individual has a wealth that the law calculates at $10 billion dollars. That's 10,000 millions of dollars. Did I get that right? It's hard to even conceive of amounts of money like this. I'm a lawyer, not an accountant.

Taking off the exempt $50 million, that leaves $9.95 billion subject to the wealth tax. At two percent, the tax bill comes to $199,000,000. That, I admit, is an eye-watering tax bill. But before you start feeling bad for this family or individual, bear in mind these two things:

  1. Their remaining wealth is $9.9 billion dollars, plus whatever that money earned this year; and

  2. During the year 2020 alone, billionaires in the United States alone have added $1 trillion dollars to their wealth.

I won't bother you with details about the increasing wealth tax bills that would result as the billions climb past twenty, or thirty, or fifty, or one hundred. It is safe to say that however much money it comes to, the money is coming out of growth. At that level of wealth, these tax bills are not going to force any lifestyle changes. It's all so much money that no one could dream up things to spend it on. At the entry level to this billionaires' club, they start buying super-yachts and sports teams; at the top level, all they can think of is personal space programs. Save your compassion for those unfortunates living under the bridge. As certain as it is that these tax bills will sting, the pain is strictly emotional. They won't miss one cent of the money. More likely, they never knew that they had that money in the first place.

The Legacy Trap

George W. Bush, or Bush II, “43,” was a mediocre student for his entire life. In spite of all of that, he was accepted to Yale University, where he continued his unbroken string of mediocrity. This travesty was allowed to happen because W. was a legacy. His father, President George H.W. Bush, “41,” had attended Yale, and was recognized as one of its most famous and successful graduates. W.'s paternal grandfather, Prescott Bush, had attended Yale, as had HIS paternal grandfather and a maternal uncle. Holding their collective noses, the Yale acceptance committee allowed W. to matriculate. They graduated him too, and it probably wasn't an easy decision. All of these people were members of Skull and Bones, which is some kind of secret society. This is the power of being a legacy.

The more money there is behind the legacies, the greater the advantages that life will bestow upon them.

A dangerous result becomes inevitable once this multi-billionaire express gets rolling. Increasing numbers of legacies are born into a wonderful world with trust funds in the hundreds of millions of dollars. They leverage their way into prestige Ivy League schools by means of either ancestors or cash. Then they own things, and run things.

You will have noticed that along with this proliferation of billionaires has come a renewed effort to lower or eliminate estate taxes. (The so-called “Death Taxes.”) Only a very small portion of the population will ever be subjected to estate taxes, so really it's only a very small number of Americans who pressure politicians (and pay them large sums of money) to kill the taxes. Silly question, but does anyone else remember when Senator Bob Dole suddenly became hysterical about the horror of the “Death Tax” after the Gallo wine family channeled a few million dollars into his campaign coffers? He got a law passed to reduce estate taxes in a certain way that mostly benefited, any guesses? The Gallo family. And Bob Dole, of course. (Google Bob Dole the Gallo Wine Amendment)

One way or another, lawyers and accountants will find ways to get around any inconvenient laws to ensure that all of the billionaire's “hard earned money” stays in the family. The money continues to grow; it stays in the family; we all end up working for descendants of the Walmart fortune. And, of course, a select group of other legacies who hit the genetic lottery and are born into hundreds of billions of dollars.

A carefully measured wealth tax, coupled with a robust estate tax, would save us from this miserable fate.

*Harper's provides all of the sources for the information used in the index, by the way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Holger Czukay - Hit Hit Flop Flop

RIP, Holger. It's been a few years now. 

Holger was as full of imaginative, playful, intellectually stimulating music as the Pacific Ocean is full of salt water. This cut is from the LP (CD? Record?) "Rome Remains Rome," from 1987. 

"People are still doing interesting things in music these days." I get that far trying to say something kind, but then I immediately run out of steam. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

When a band only gives you 30 seconds to audition

I've been seeing this in my feed for about a month now. I finally noticed that it was only thirty-four seconds long, so I thought, "let's see what happens." 

Final thoughts on the matter? This guy would be hard to beat by the rules of the game. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Shape America Is In

How are things in The Shining City on the Hill? Not very good, I'm afraid.

We did manage to pry that nest of vipers out of the White House. Now we wait to see what will be done about getting him out of our hair for good. I'd love to see Trump impeached, and stripped of his benefits, and screwed into the ground by one prosecutor after another, but I doubt if anything like that will happen. America prefers to sweep mistakes like Trump under the rug. This is done in the name of preserving confidence in our democracy. Or, God forbid, “unity.”

Watch carefully...I'm going to say this with a straight face, “Joe Biden is our president now.” Whew! That wasn't easy. If you had suggested to me in, let's say, 1998, that when the year 2021 came around I'd be happy that Joe Biden had just been sworn in as president, I would have laughed myself silly. The very notion would have seemed like a cruel joke. But, as luck would have it, the world loves cruel jokes. I am, indeed, happy to see Joe and Dr. Jill in the the White House. It means that the vipers are gone, and that was cheap at any price.

I'm planning on giving Joe an unlimited “Get Out of Jail Free” card for as long as he's in office. That's right, it's Endless Honeymoon time in Fred World for our new president. It's the least that I can do under the circumstances. The viper is gone, but the wolves are still hungry. Honeymoon, you say? The wolves gave good old Joe less of a honeymoon than they gave President Obama. At least Obama got a few hours, maybe even a day. Joe got zero minutes. The wolves, Fox “News,” Rush Limbo, One America whatever it is, and the truly Satanic Newsmax, swung into high gear immediately with the same old “Democrats want to kill Republicans,” and “they want to start a war against white people,” and “Venezuela,” and innuendo about that poor asshole Hunter Biden. But what they say about wolves is true: when they get their teeth deep into the haunch of a prey animal, they never let go. They'll be back on “Bengazi!” within a week.

Trump is down in Florida, staring down the barrels of numerous dangerous situations. Just as he had decided on an attorney to represent him in his pending impeachment (!), his tax lawyers quit the pending case in the Southern District of New York. Technically, he's only allowed to “live” at Mar A Lago for seven days at a time, for a maximum of twenty-one days a year. He got some slack on that deal as president, but his neighbors do not seem to be very warmly disposed to him as a failed, disgraced EX-president, and a suspect in many potential prosecutions, not to mention a defendant in multiple civil suits.

Trump's bully act worked for decades on stiffs in the real-estate business, accountants, small-time lawyers, contractors in the building industry, and various poverty-stricken public officials in various cities and countries around the world. I wonder it the sheen has worn off, however, now that he has failed so spectacularly as president. He tried to bully his way to winning reelection. Failing by a wide margin, he then tried very hard, and failed abjectly, to bully his way to remaining in office despite having lost that second election.

Even those poor fools who had fallen under the spell of “Q” are beginning to wonder if Trump will become the God-Emperor of the earth after all.


There has never been a single definitive version of this country that we simply refer to as “America.” Change is the rule in these United States, it is not the exception. The changes have often been revolutionary, causing divisions in society along the lines of who is benefiting from the changes, and whose ox is being gored. The great tension in American society has been the one between ordinary working people and the super-rich investment class. For purposes of convenience and obfuscation, it is usually presented in terms of differing values, or in racial terms. Anything that keeps the working stiffs in their places and lets the investment class keep all of the money is okay.

The yawning chasm between the stiffs and the billionaires is growing by the day. I'm seeing ads on YouTube for private jets. Not just renting them, ads from a company that makes and sells them. A whole catalog of them. If that ad can be so casually placed on YouTube, you know that there are way too many people in the world who have way too much money.

The original set up was that only white men over twenty-one who owned property could vote, and the entire Senate was appointed by those rich white men in the various states. To make that original situation worse, the mere presence of the totally disenfranchised slaves in the south was added to their population numbers for political purposes, enabling the south to wield power far beyond their voting numbers, populations, and economic importance. That nonsense went on until the Civil War.

The intersection between the expansion of the country towards the west and the expansion of the voting franchise to include just any damn white man over twenty-one caused the first real revolution. That was the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. He achieved his majority from the solid support of the low-rung working people in the western territories. What a party that was! Literally. Old Andy invited everyone back to the White House for a party, and they all showed up, too. Drunk as skunks, they wrecked the place and stole whatever wasn't nailed down. That class of person still votes! Those were the same Yahoos who “took back” their Capitol building last week.

Then there was our Civil War. That brought about some revolutionary changes. A bloody revolution, it was.

It went on like that, along those lines anyway, and there were more and more people, and there was more and more money, and the rich investment class grew in numbers along with the working class, and as has happened so often in the history of the world, the worst aspects of human behavior began to control the actions of the rich people. Give those people an inch, and they take a mile. Give them the moon, and they long for the stars.

By the turn of the Twentieth Century, America was a place of poverty, filth, disease, child labor, and early death for working people, along side the mansions made of marble and gold for the rich. Medical care, such as it was, could be had on an ability to pay basis. Poor women died in childbirth; poor babies were still-born; workingmen injured on the job received the cost of the first emergency ward visit if they were lucky, and then got the kiss-off from the job. For many readers, this will have been the history of their own families. It is the history of mine.

The Roaring Twenties! That was a wild example of “irrational exuberance” in the financial markets, and it ended like they often do, with wiped out investors landing hard on Wall Street. I mean landing on the street itself, or the sidewalk, or a passing taxi. 1929, wasn't it October? Republicans caused that, lest we forget, and they were responsible for the financial disaster that spread around the world over the next couple of years. And then, in 1932, a ray of sunshine appeared in American politics. He was elected to a total of four, four-year terms as president, and he personally saved us from two horrendous tragedies: the Great Depression, and World War II. Franklin Delano Roosevelt! He was a one-man revolution, and a friend to the poor.

The modern Republican Party is a revolution unto itself. Those Goddamned Republicans fought Roosevelt tooth and nail at every step. They opposed every stimulus program. Austerity was their mantra. They opposed every step necessary to prepare the country for the coming war. America first, they said. Those lousy bastards would have put the children back in the factories and coal mines, and made deals with the fascists and militarists to keep us out of the war. Where would we be then? A second rate power in a world of three huge totalitarian regimes? We all owe a debt of gratitude to old FDR, but what does he get? Those anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-worker, Republican bastards are still trying to unwind everything that the New Deal did to help working class Americans. They still live and breath to take back everything that was “stolen” from them and their rich benefactors for the good of the country.

Those 1930s Republicans had their own wolves to help them, by the way. About five families owned all of the most influential newspapers in the country. There were multiple “special” editions every day in every major city, all with their teeth firmly planted in FDR's withered thighs for his entire thirteen years in office.

And now we are forced to watch this constant struggle between good and evil play out in real time, on a daily basis. Do I complain too much about Republicans? Oh, excuse me. The Democrats for the last forty years have been going wishy-washy about helping anyone but their own individual greedy selves. They beg for their share of the scraps that fall from the tables of the billionaires. They've been busy trading away New Deal advances in the name of unity. Let's overhaul welfare! Let's save Social Security! They have become “Republican Light,” joining the Republicans in their quest to steal every last advantage from working people in the name of globalism, competitiveness, or neoliberalism. As we speak, they are only slightly better than the Republicans. As we speak, they are once again talking about “unity,” so best keep one hand on your wallet.

What's a poor working man to do?

Your vote: Are you happy with the power of your vote? The single happy result of the presidency of Trump was that Americans learned about the true power of their votes. The lack of power, I should say. You only get to choose between the two survivors of primary season. Experience tells us that neither of them will be a particularly worthy candidate. The vote of one person in Wyoming is worth about five times as much as the vote of one Californian. The Senators representing about thirty million people can control all of the important decisions to be made by the Federal government. Winning the popular vote counts for nothing in our system. No, we are blessed with an Electoral College. Etc.

Your medical care: Are you happy with the quality of the medical care that you and your family are receiving? The entire American medical establishment now exists for one reason: to maximize short-term profits for various corporations. Wealth generation has completely overpowered health results on the to-do list. Here too, the single happy result of COVID-19 has been to shine a bright light on the total inadequacy of our health care system. America spends twice as much money on health care compared to the other fully developed countries, and American medicine is achieving third-world results.

I'm horrified by the stories that I read about people's experiences. Not just people with very little ability to pay and junk insurance, no, I'm talking about Yale professors with Platinum Plans and no limits. Big-time New York lawyers with doctors for brothers-in-law. Ours is a system where doctors are misdiagnosing; doctors are making mistakes; doctors are ignoring symptoms; doctors are failing to order tests, or ordering the wrong tests. Don't even get me started about disparities in billing, or surprises in billing. If you are happy with that situation, you, my friend, are easy to please.

Your children's education: Educational opportunities for working class children have been drying up for a long time now. People's memories are so short that it's ridiculous. “And how about that new zombie show on Netflix!”

Here's a shocking statistic for you. I graduated from law school in 1991 (yes, I was a late bloomer). My tuition was $14,500 per year (minus 25% as a merit-based scholarship). By 2011, that tuition had risen to $42,780. Same school. By 2020, tuition at my alma mater was $57,560. Okay, it was thirty years, but recall that for all of that time, our leaders have been telling us that we live in a “low inflation” financial environment. That was their excuse for the stagnant wages.

Just for laughs, I looked up the current tuition for resident students at my undergraduate university. That was Queens College of the City University of New York. I received my BA in 1985. Tuition for my last year there was $75 per semester, and most of that was a Student Union fee. That was $150 for the entire year. Now tuition, for residents of NYC, is $6,930.

Beyond questions of money and access, the quality of a typical American public school education has gone steadily downhill. All that our children are learning now is how to pass standardized tests, and forget music classes, or a chess club.

In the meantime, our growing class of rather rich people, as opposed to the super-rich, send their children to private schools, where the education is excellent. Those children perform superbly on entrance examinations, and many of those families can afford the new sky-high university tuition.

Your “retirement” security: Anybody out there trying to make it on Social Security? I didn't think so.

Your air and water quality: Trump has been driven into the snow since I started this piece, and good old Joe Biden has already reinstated the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Is it just me, or is support for fossil fuel subsidies fading? This subject is closely tied to the climate crisis.

I'm afraid that our failure to deal with the rapidly degrading climate will be similar to a couple of the people who came to my law office seeking help with something. They needed help alright, and they had big cases that were clearly winnable. They had, however, waited too long. I would always make a couple of calls to ensure that I was figuring the dates right, but in the end I had to tell them, “if only you had come to see me six months ago.” There are some dates that you do not want to blow.

Your taxes: Will Joe also be rolling back last years titanic give away to the rich masquerading as a tax cut? Will he return the corporate taxes to the old levels and preserve the cuts for the wealthy classes? Or visa versa? Time will tell.

Your wages: Many European countries feature fair wages and fair taxes. The media wolves in America love to harp on Scandinavian taxes. The choice should be an easy one though. Would you prefer: A) pay 30% of your wages in taxes and get nothing in return; or B) pay 50% of your wages in taxes and receive free medical care, a life free of worrying about paying for retirement, five weeks of vacation every year, no worries about job lay-offs or periods of unemployment, etc. Oh, and bear in mind that you'll be receiving wages thirty or forty percent higher than you're getting paid now. Yeah, I'll take the higher wages and taxes, please.

Before tackling a final edit of this post, I watched a nice video on YouTube. Several minutes of overconfident assholes dumping their mostly bullet-bikes up on Mulholland Drive in Malibu. High side, low side. One guy went off the road and up the steep hillside. He made it thirty or forty feet in a rather entertaining wobble before he hit a lump that might have been a boulder. One guy was saved from a flying lesson by a guard rail. I was a regular up there myself for quite a while, and I learned a few things that these guys should have spent more time studying.

I chose my roads, and my days of the week, very carefully. I liked roads north of Malibu. Fewer motorcycles and cars, and usually no Highway Patrol. On a weekend day, I might head over to the Crest Highway. Almost no traffic; almost never any police. I would always go over a piece of road slowly and carefully first, checking for gravel, oil patches, bad road, or speed-traps. I picked my spots. Then, having satisfied myself that it was safe enough, I'd go over it a couple of times way too fast. Those were good times.

Why would I talk about that now? My system applies to other things just as well. I want to remind you that nothing is stopping you from leaving America if you're getting sick of being talked down to and treated like a dog. There are plenty of nice places in the world to live. Where, and doing what, will depend on your particular profile, but the approach to the research is the same. Look around; take your time; keep notes; find good ex-pat chat rooms for different countries. Don't rush off somewhere because one YouTuber says it's great.

You'll still be American; there's nothing unpatriotic about moving out. More and more people are doing it every year. Mexico is getting popular, and a new “retirement community” industry is growing there to make it easy. They're close to the border, so you can drive across to Texas to use your Medicare. It sure beats working seasonal jobs in Amazon warehouses and on farms. If you've been lucky to build up some wherewithal, you might find that you prefer luxury to mere prosperity.

It's worth a thought. It's going to take our dimwitted politicians a long time to straighten out the mess that they've made. You might as well be comfortable.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Clair de lune (Debussy): Alexandre Tharaud, Yoann Bourgeois - piano & dance

Jackson Browne - These Days

This song has a world-weariness to it that greatly appeals to me at this world-weary time of my life. I'll admit that Nico's version from some movie that I've never seen was the first to reach my ears. I love Nico's version, and Nico in general, and I thought that it was curious when I discovered that Jackson Browne had written it. 

This is his version from the LP, For Everyman. (1973) That fact I have only discovered today. I was sure that this song would be part of his more mature catalog. I mean, this is almost "near death" sentimentality here. 

It turns out that Mr. Browne is a couple of months younger than me. I downplayed him when we were in our twenties. I thought that the stuff was good, but I preferred music that was much louder and faster, or more electronic, or funky, or foreign, nothing personal, I required more stimulation in those days. He and I turned twenty-five-years-old in 1973. Isn't it miraculous that he could convey this sentiment so accurately at that age? 

Then it gets even weirder. At the age of eighteen, he recorded the first version of this song to reach wax as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They were so far off of my radar that the echo was too feint to read. Then, in a comment to the above video, someone points out how remarkable it was that Jackson Browne wrote this song WHEN HE WAS SIXTEEN! 

Brother, I think I need a witness for that one. 

One Depressed Man's View Of America

William Butler Yeats, “being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

Don't mind me if I get a bit cranky sometimes. It's just a mood that comes over me. There's a tightness to it that doesn't seem to originate in the muscles. It arises from deeper than that. It doesn't come very often now, and I'm very happy about that. I remember when it came several times every week, or every day for a spell, or for years, like all of my teenage years, and most of the days that came before that. It harms a body, this clenching, and the cumulative effects will kill me when that day comes.

I try not to complain, though. I've been luckier than many. I grew up, didn't I? Not everyone gets that far in life. I got married and raised children, and I enjoyed those things. I've never taken my own life, have I? Even though it's mine to take, and there have been times when the idea seemed reasonable. I have survived by learning how to act like a happier man than I actually am. It's like putting on a mask and adopting that relaxed posture that puts people at ease. I don't like it when the mask cracks, as it inevitably does. One incident is enough to drive most people away, and even family and close friends can only take so much.

The times that we live in make things hard for a man like me. Through my reactions, the difficulty is passed on to the people that I live and work with, people in shops, strangers, whole communities of people that I love, and who once loved me. It's tragic.

I read the news. Even twelve time zones away, it's very accessible. Alas, America! What the hell are people thinking? So many people actively wrecking everything in sight, and so many more acting like nothing is going wrong. Rights and prosperity down the drain. I've said it before, and maybe it's worth hearing again: the only good thing about it is that it takes the sting out of impending death. At least death is peaceful. If I'm right, death is four-corners peaceful, wall to wall, all the time, for the rest of time.

That will be a blessing.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Les McCann & Eddie Harris Compared To What

Les McCann was a versatile pianist and Eddie Harris was a unique and exciting sax player who attracted people to jazz who had never thought about it too much before. (Like me, for instance.) Both men have always seemed like real get-along, naturally friendly types. They also made sure to get their two-cents in about the struggle. I value all of those things, and I love the two of them very much. 

This cut was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in June, 1969. I don't know much about direct sound recording, but it does sound to me like a very good job with the relatively primitive soundboards that they were using then. 

What would America be without our black brothers and sisters? Not just the musicians and the athletes, I mean all of them. It would be dead-boring for one thing. We should be nicer to them, maybe take our knees off of their necks for a start. They didn't ask to come here, but they have been an important part of the fabric of America since the beginning. We should all try harder to make sure that they get the respect that they deserve. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Allman Brothers Band - Blue Sky (Eat A Peach, February 12,1972)

I've never been quite sure of the order of the solos. Dickie first? It's his song. Dwayne first? I had been leaning towards Dickie first most of the time, mostly because of that little across the strings blip that the second player puts in very soon after the turnover. That sounded very Dwayne to me. 

I was just reading around the Google, and the consensus seems to be Dwayne first. 

The point, I believe, is that they were both fine players, and they played so well together that it's still makes me smile to listen to them. This whole band was first class, all the way. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Blogging Is Like Shouting Into A Bucket

Start a blog! It might be fun! That much is true, with proper weight given to the “might be.” There are many factors involved. Blog about something that interests you! Blog about something that will go viral and get you a million hits a day! Blog about something that is socially relevant! It gets complicated as soon as you set any goal for the blog other than spending some quality time by yourself with your computer.

Something that interests me? That's a tough one for me to focus, because I'm interested in too many things. The only common thread in this blog is the music, but I do try to keep a personal aspect to those choices. The shared song must be: a) one that I love; b) a song or an artist that I believe to be underappreciated; and c) a song that I may be able to further illuminate by adding a personal touch. After those songs, the subject matter goes scattershot, big time.

I was not interested in politics at first. The start date for the blog was in mid-2008, the tail end of George W. Bush's presidency and the run-up to the election of Barack Obama. It was all so dull and, let's face it, stupid. Clinton was an embarrassment to himself, his family, and the country, and politically he did more to help the Republicans and the clampdown than he ever did for average Americans. What's a Democrat in name only? A DINO? I suppose that he did balance the budget, but the credit for that probably goes to the Soviets, for going tits-up and all. The great economy in the 1990s was due to the tech bubble. That leaves Clinton as a footnote to history. “You gonna finish those fries?”

W. Bush was a stooge and a front man, much like Reagan, but without the acting chops. Several expensive new wars, giant tax cuts for the usual suspects, nightmarish banking and real estate scams, the destruction of the world economy, blah, blah, blah. Who could stand it? Not me.

I liked Obama, and I was very happy about his election, but I wondered if he had what it was going to take to straighten this mess out. What was needed was an LBJ, a total son-of-a-bitch who could smile and aw-shucks above the table while he performed unnecessary surgery on your liver with a stiletto under the table. I didn't think that Obama was that guy, and I was right. He went with that “hands across the aisle” thing for way too long. He ended up with his honor and his reputation intact, and not much else to show for his time.

Hillary knew the game, and she does have a vicious streak in her, but we'll never know what she might have accomplished. So many things got in her way. Her essential unpopularity, for one thing, and her unlikeability, and her mediocre public speaking skills, and her lazy campaigning, and her big “basket of deplorables” mouth. In the end, some asshole legacy from a once successful real estate family who was making a living as a TV host at the time beat her in a highly dubious election.

I did, however, become fascinated with one aspect of Obama's presidency: his blackness. We knew what kind of opposition we could expect from watching Clinton getting knocked around by the Republicans, and that started up right out of the gate with Obama. But the fire burned a lot hotter for Obama, people went nuts before he was even sworn in, because, if you haven't noticed, Mr. Obama is BLACK. That window onto the fragile state of race relations in my country became one of my favorite subjects over the next eight years.

Then came the asshole, and the racism just got worse as he poured gasoline on the fire daily. He poured gasoline on all of the fires. The post-Reagan media went to town manufacturing lies and conspiracies that were all presented as “fair and balanced” news. The Internet became a very special kind of double-edged sword, where the edge that was useful was rarely used, and the edge that was cutting our throats was wielded mercilessly, creating great wealth for some. The asshole, a newly-minted Republican, and the rest of the Republicans, broke all records for self-interest and corruption and spent four years in a sincere attempt to destroy every democratic institution in America.

At some point in that process, I fell again into my boredom with the whole sordid mess. There's only so much a man can stand. Stacy Abrams is the only real bright spot in politics right now.

You may be taking heart from the results of this year's election. The House; the Senate (by a hairsbreadth); the Presidency. The results in Georgia were particularly encouraging, I will admit. After the events of the last week, I wouldn't get too excited.

Let's not get carried away by a couple of small successes in the face of total insanity. Consider a real world example: guns are very powerful devices in the right hands, but unless they are properly maintained, loaded, aimed, and fired, they are harmless. Let's say that guns are the recent successes. But a gun lying on a table is a mere objet d'art. A gun in the right hands is deadly. Extending this metaphor to today's political situation: which one do the Democrats possess? The deadly weapon or the objet d'art?

Do you trust the Democrats to pull the trigger?

I didn't think so. They're going to leave it laying on the table until some new asshole comes along to use it on them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Rare - Frank Sinatra sings "Angel Eyes" on Tonight Show 1965

When I was younger, I wondered if I would ever get old enough to like Opera music. That hasn't happened yet, but I have lived long enough to learn to appreciate Frank Sinatra. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Who Will Follow Trump In The Republican Circus Parade?

Lists are appearing that are intended to suggest Republican candidates for president in 2024. You can practically guarantee that the lists that are compiled today will appear naive two years from now. Here is the list of the top five as it appeared in this morning's Raw Story feed.

Nikki Haley==Really? Nikki Haley? It has become hard to tell when people are being serious, and when they are pulling your leg. It does seem like the primary requirement for being included on this list was abject, dog-like loyalty to Trump, so there's that. Otherwise, does Nikki, I'm going to go ahead and call her Nikki, because she's such a lightweight, does she have anything to recommend her as president otherwise? I can't think of anything, although I'm sure that she's a fine accountant.

One more thing. Can we make a rule that anyone running for president is required to run under their real name? No more Mitt, no more JEB! No more Beto. Her name is Nimrata, and it's a perfectly good name.

Mike Pence==At this point in the list I'm already beginning to lose confidence in the person that wrote the article. Although who knows? An eighty-two year old Joe Biden might make an attractive candidate, if he has really accomplished things, and if he has managed to avoid touching women inappropriately and smelling young women's hair. More likely he'll be well beyond his “sell by” date. He may have seriously embarrassed himself somehow, or become seriously ill, and the Democrats will have to find another candidate, an exercise at which they have never excelled.

People might then think, sure, Mike Pence, what the hell?

Tom Cotton==I am already actively terrified of Tom Cotton. We've all had our fun mocking Trump for his ignorance, and his lack of curiosity, education, or a work-ethic. Trump doesn't know any more now about the workings of government than he did when he came down that escalator. Trump showed us that someone truly dangerous could be elected, someone who's dearest wish was to get rid of any restraints on presidential power and run the country by fiat as a true authoritarian dictator. Our good fortune was that Trump was too foolish and inept to make it work. Tom Cotton is neither foolish nor inept.

Senator Cotton is the one that scares me.

Ted Cruz== Ted Cruz was born in the city of Calgary, in the province of Alberta, in the country of Canada. Forgive me if I haven't been paying close enough attention, but is having been born in the United States no longer a requirement for the presidency?

Ted also violates the alias rule. His name is Rafael Edward Cruz. Another perfectly good name.

He is also Ted Cruz. Doesn't everyone hate Ted Cruz? You rarely hear a good word spoken about him. People are not known to sing his praises at the drop of a hat. He seems like a real jerk, doesn't he? Yes, he does, and he always has. Like the rest of them, he fell into the roll of Trump lap-dog without much prompting.

Josh Hawley==His name actually is Joshua Hawley, so he has that going for him. He is one of the senators from Missouri, and he has been for about two years. He doesn't seem to be a fool, nor particularly lazy, but like the rest of this list he lacks charisma and likability. He is a graduate of Stanford University, and received his legal education at the Yale Law School, where he was the editor of the law review and a member of the Federalist Society. This week he is making himself the leading member of the “Trump Forever” club. On Wednesday, January 6th, Congress will meet to certify the election of Joe Biden. This is really a formality, a rubber-stamp situation, a way of standing up and cheering for the good old U S of A, that bastion of democracy, that Shining City on the Hill, proof that once again there has been a peaceful, proper, and lawful transfer of power in our great country. Except that this time Joshua Hawley will be leading a charge seeking to overturn the results of that election, ruining the whole rah, rah, rah effect.

This event is neither a ratification of the people's choice for president, nor a separate election process. It is a pro forma certification. There was a popular vote taken last November, and all of the votes have been counted. Those votes have received the closest examination for propriety that has ever been carried out in all of American history, and they have consistently been judged to be valid and legal in every way. The Republicans, and a team of Trump's Keystone Kop lawyers, have filed and argued something like sixty court challenges in various state and federal courts across the country, and in every case the votes have been found to be valid and the law suits have failed to persuade any court. The Supreme Court simply refused to hear the matter when the Texas Attorney General filed a suit of original jurisdiction there, along with seventeen other States Attorneys General and over one hundred Republican members of congress. That's a real slap-down.

The electors from the Electoral Colleges of all of the states have been certified by their respective states, have met, and have voted, and that is the vote that is to be acknowledged on Wednesday. Publicly, you know, as a show of our truly democratic form of government. Winner, no doubt about it, Joe Biden, Democrat, the people have spoken. But not this time. Oh, no.

(You may have to cut-and-paste this, but you know what to do: https://www.rawstory.com/republican-group-nails-josh-hawley/#yappa-comments-frame. This article contains a link to a short video of Mr. Hawley explaining firmly why he is exactly wrong in the actions that he plans to take on Wednesday.)

This time, Mr. Hawley, until recently thought to be a reasonable man, will be leading a last ditch attempt to overturn the lawful results of this last election, an election which from all of the considerable evidence seems to have been run fairly and by the rules. Mr. Hawley has decided to join the other four-legged, furry stooges crowding onto Trump's ample lap. Why would anyone do such a thing?

    It's almost too foolish to consider, but it really does appear that all five of these listed mediocrities are after the votes of the 71,000,000 Americans who voted in November for Trump. They may see it as wanting Trump's support in the 2024 election. As though in three or four years Trump can wave his Harry Potter wand and put 71,000,000 votes in their column. As though there will still be 71,000,000 votes there to award, like money listed in a bank-book. As though nothing will happen in the meantime to unbalance our current state of affairs. As though time will stand still, as it were. That would be a terrible delusion to labor under.

Trump will be seventy-five-years-old in June, 2021. That will make him seventy-seven in June, 2023, when the race for the nomination starts to heat up. Hell, that's younger than Joe Biden is now. Trump may want those votes for himself! After all, he wouldn't be the first person to labor under the delusion that nothing has changed.

Or he may be dead. Even healthy septuagenarians who exercise regularly and eat a good, balanced diet are liable to drop dead at any moment. I speak as a member of the club. We are fragile creatures.

It's worth noting that Mike Pompeo thinks that he should be president, and he thinks that he will be president some day, probably very soon. He is probably livid at having been left off the short list. Mike is a morbidly obese and girly voiced religious fanatic, a shambling hulk of a man whose suits are so big that they could house refugee families, and a failed West Point graduate who did the minimum five years, only made Army captain, and quit just as his unit was shipping out for the Gulf War. That's not why men go to West Point, Mike. Men go to West Point to become generals. If I had to guess, I'd say that he got tired of trying to make the weight. Yes, the service has maximum weight requirements, and officers who get carried away with the fork and the spoon get culled. He is a comical figure and should be regarded as one. If he keeps eating incessantly, his “Rapture” might come sooner than he thinks.

Funky Broadway Part 1

The original, by Dyke and the Blazers. A Phoenix band that played clubs on, you guessed it, Broadway! 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Latin Is Fun!

Only kidding. There is a series of books called “English is Fun” that is used by most Thai grammar schools. I would joke with the students about it when I did English camps. (All in Thai.) “English is fun, right! Who thinks that English is fun? (seeing no hands raised.) Right! English is hard. Studying English is not fun. But being able to speak and read English already is a lot of fun! And you can make more money.”

I was forced to study Latin for two years in high school. I hated it with a passion. They taught us the old fashioned way, the Etonian way, ordering us to magically memorize all of the conjugations and declensions, plus the vocabulary. Tests consisted of translations in both directions and fill-in-the-blank questions seeking proper word endings. Latin was definitely not fun. It was enough to make anyone hate language study in general.

Much later on, I was considering a change in career and thinking about teaching. I figured, let's test the water. I found a place that supplied substitute teachers for private schools in Los Angeles, and they were happy to send out a lawyer. I was overqualified as a substitute in private schools. I did in once, maybe twice a week for a year or so. I discovered that the best private high schools were teaching Latin. At first I was appalled, but after they sent me to Crossroads to sub in Latin classes a couple of times I saw what they were up to.

It wasn't exactly “Latin for Dummies,” but they did completely leave out the Latin grammar. The focus was on learning Latin vocabulary, upon which, you must admit, much of English vocabulary is based. The tests consisted entirely of translating Latin sentences and short paragraphs into English. Don't worry about the endings, all of those tenses and the six cases of nouns. Just learn the words. They were using this abbreviated “study of Latin” as a way to build English vocabulary for the standardized tests that were soon to follow, the SAT etc. The students did not seem to mind it at all.

I have come to enjoy Latin to some extent. We learned a lot of Latin phrases in law school, and by then I knew enough about English to see how many words Latin had provided to English. Res ipsa loquitur! “The thing speaks for itself.” How loquacious of it!

Latin can be fun. This morning, a UK friend of mine published a running gag of his on Facebook. He enjoys inventing high sounding mottoes for his family, and I thought that this was a good one:

Sed sem facere potui concitari solitum.”

(I could make salad but I won't.)

Studying Latin, grammar and all, might be a good idea for 2021. It would at least distract us from these vicious, confusing times that we live in.