Sunday, October 30, 2022

Old Age Is Full Of Surprises

Our own increasing age, and also the ages of our children, are always accompanied by a yearly crop of surprises. Your first child is born, and you've never taken care of a baby before. As soon as you get used to the baby's needs, the baby turns one year old, and you've never had a one year old before. Then two, and three, etc. Some of the leaps are more consequential than the others. The leap from six to seven brings a whole new perspective for the child, and a whole new set of challenges for the parents. The leap from twelve to thirteen is another big one. Every year you are faced with a new child, and a new set of problems that must be solved.

This experience is mirrored in our own lives. We turn thirty-seven, and we've never been thirty-seven before. Things are changing, slowly at first. Geezers can all look back and see where the major changes in perspective took place. The professionals recognize more than one “adolescence.” Being a teenager can be difficult, but the worst ones hit us at age twenty-seven and again around age forty.

We don't get old all at once. It comes one year at a time. Then, around age seventy, everyone's body announces to its owner that this entire Merry-Go-Round has become tiresome, and it's about time to shut the whole enterprise down. Again, not all at once, but everything begins to degrade at an accelerated pace.

I enjoy reading novels that are variously described as “noir” of some kind, “hard-boiled,” or simply “detective” or “crime” fiction. My own literary-criticism suspicion is that they are not really novels at all, because there is a major element missing: the psychological development of a protagonist. 

Long ago I read some newspaper writer describe her attempt to break into the world of fiction. She wrote a novel, which is as different from newspaper writing (or blog writing) as Mars is different from Neptune. She asked a professor type friend of hers to read it and tell her what he thought. “It reads fine,” he told her, “but nothing happens.” She was confused, so the professor broke it down. “Yes,” he said, “there are characters, and there is a story and a plot, and there is action, but nothing happens TO the characters. None of the characters change. They don't develop.” She saw the light and gave up fiction writing.

Anyway, I'm reading my way through all fourteen of Philip Kerr's “Bernie Gunther” novels, for the second time. They are terrific, if you like stuff like Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, George V. Higgins, and Charles Willeford. On the subject of encroaching old age, Bernie, approaching sixty, describes getting up in the morning like this: “it always feels like someone must have stolen my real body in the night and replaced it with my father's.”

I have been using a similar formula for years. I tell people that I wake up feeling fine, pain free, arising easily, gliding smoothly to the bathroom, but then encountering the shock. When I first look into the mirror, I look a bit confused and wonder what my father is doing here. Him being dead and all.

Hopefully you all paid careful attention to the above comments about turning seventy. You WILL be getting stiff and frail; you WILL be spending more time with medical and dental professionals; all of your individual systems WILL be failing; you WILL be investing more money in the enterprise of remaining alive. Perhaps a lot more money. Everyone is different. Experience varies.

After seventy, the going gets rough. We reach what I sometimes think of as, “the place of bad roads.” The way becomes more difficult, and progress slows. The road, of course, has an end.

Our end may be easy, or terrible, and comfort is not awarded on the basis of merit. We are, each of us, on our own.

Hey! I don't make the rules. I just wake up in the morning and find the game and the rules by which we all live. As long as you can hear the man say, “play ball!” you're in the game. Just put the glove on your left hand and take your position. You made it, again. Make the most of it!

Bantam Rooster - Run Rabbit Run

In English grammar, the preferred sentence format is, "subject, verb, object." It turns out, however, that the object is not required. "Subject, verb" makes a perfectly good sentence. 

"Jesus wept." 

In conventional rock and roll, the power trio is often considered to be the ultimate reduction in manpower, guitar, bass, and drums. Here too, a further reduction in payroll is available. "Guitar, drums." 

Sounds good to me. 

(I know, Jack White was aware of this. He did very well with "guitar, drums." He also knew these guys.) 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Future? What Future?

It has been brought to my attention that recent polls of millennials indicate that most of them find the entire idea of having children ridiculous. For one thing, the finances of most millennials are already on life-support, and more importantly, who in their right mind would be part of launching a tiny human into any likely version of the future? I think of my granddaughters and I share the horror that millennials feel.

Someone born in 2025 would, according to reality as it is currently practiced, graduate from high school in 2043. Where are my optimists? Raise your hands! Come on. Who want to paint me a rosy future for those graduates? Jobs? Universities? Housing? Nutritious food? Air quality? Clean water? Health care? Weather? Coming up with any prediction that does not amount to almost instant death is a challenge.

Last year one of those fishing posts showed up on my FB page. I can't imagine how they make money or gather valuable information from those things, but they just ask an innocuous question. Thousands of strangers respond. The obvious ones ask for info about your name, the street you grew up on, “how old were you when they landed on the moon?” Some are very obscure. The instant spam post asked the question, “In three words, what advice would you give your nineteen year old self?”

I never answer such posts, but one answer to this question jumped immediately into my head. I rejected it as too negative, even for me. I kept trying, mostly to come up with something funny, or at least not so dark. I wasn't going to enter an answer, but my knee-jerk scared me. That first response was the clear winner: kill yourself now.

The idea still returns to me on a regular basis. It would have been the perfect time to do it. I had already wasted two years at what we quaintly called “college,” drinking and smoking my way to a 1.7 index, which is almost impossible when you consider it.

I had already been in and out of the Navy. All by the age of nineteen! Going in was my idea. I didn't mind the idea of military service. I just knew that I was no gunslinger, and sleeping outdoors was out of the question. Join the Navy! I had always been positively disposed to the U.S. Navy. Stephen Decatur had been an early hero of mine. My early exit from the Navy was their idea. They liked me as a person, but they recognized my total lack of military bearing. Honorable discharge, “character of service: honorable.” It was a thanks-but-no-thanks discharge.

I was nineteen.

I had an on-and-off-again girlfriend who didn't seem to totally approve of me. I had no desire to have another go at college. Working did not appeal to me. I got my old bedroom back and collected unemployment as long as possible.

What advice...” That was the perfect year for me to commit suicide. It would hardly have made a ripple in the pond. I would not have been leaving anyone in the lurch. In fact, I would hardly have been missed. I know now that my little sister would have taken it hard, but at the time I had long thought that my family would be much happier without me. My parents had never been particularly fond of me. My girlfriend would have cried for five minutes and gotten a better boyfriend almost immediately. At my funeral, probably. She was a looker. I had a group of friends that I liked a lot, but they were as depressed as I was. They would have understood. I couldn't stand being around happy people in those days. Nice, clean exit.

I let that golden opportunity pass, but it's still fun to dream about it. I lost my interest in the future early in life. It appears that I was simply ahead of a curve that millennials are embracing. I'll let you look up their suicide rates. Can you blame them? They have less to look forward to every day.

Outkast - Hey Ya! (Official HD Video)

Great act; great song; great video. This thing is a major league home run. 

Outkast! Some great output, and then...something happened. 

I bet Questlove could tell us all about it. 

Friday, October 21, 2022


Things To Come

If it's an expert that you're looking for, keep it moving. Nothing to see here. My own field was the law. After fifteen years in the trenches, I found my way into a teaching position. I held steady at instructor for fifteen years. I enjoyed the work/ life balance. I lack ambition, yeah, that's it, I lack ambition. The reasons are beyond the scope of this outburst.

It's true, however, that I have maintained a vigorous amateur's interest in politics and current events for many decades, with a healthy dose of history on the side. I do have a decent education, including a doctorate in law, but my main credentials for the instant opinion piece come from about twenty years of subscribing to the New York Review of Books, and regular reading of the New Yorker magazine, the Atlantic, Harper's, and good newspapers, including the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Wall Street Journal. Oh, and I read books, too.

Right now I'm getting a very unhealthy volume of tingling in my spider senses. I sense danger. This current bout of the yips is due to the upcoming midterm elections.

Bear in mind that I am a famously negative thinker. It is possible that the Democrats will maintain control of the House, and it is even conceivable that they will also gain control of the Senate. We could all let our breaths out a bit if that happened. To push the metaphor, that would give us a bit more breathing room to try to improve our situation.

More likely, there could be an outcome that would leave us just about where we are now. Some kind of stalemate. This would be far less than ideal, but would at least delay the final Gnandenschuss, the coup de grace, the mercy shot for a near-dead soldier on the battlefield. We're leaning in the wrong direction, though. Leaning into it, putting our shoulder into it with all of our might. The end of the American Experiment.

And the worst could easily happen. The Republicans could get the wins, take the house, and win a clear hold on the senate as well. Why not? Not only America, but also the entire world, seems more than willing to vote for any Jimbonie with a nice snarl. Look at today's Republican party. The old-school liberal Republicans are all gone, and the more reasonable centrist Republicans are retiring from politics in droves. We're left with a bunch of really unsavory characters. Hundreds of them will not even admit that Trump lost the 2020 election. That alone is a pathological level of disengagement with reality. The current crop of Republican candidates is a laughable bunch. Some actual idiots; some over-educated voluntary idiots; and many who are just so crooked that they'll say and do anything to get voted in. For only one reason: that's where the money is.

There is one prominent GED recipient from the Rocky Mountains who has only been in the House for two years and has already increased her net worth from “bankrupt” to forty-million dollars.

To be fair, there's not much that I wouldn't do for twenty-million dollars a year.

If the worst happens, what can we expect? Why would they not impeach Joe Biden? The House could trump up some charges, and the Senate would find him guilty. Isn't that a no-brainer? Why would they not then impeach Kamala Harris? Then wouldn't the Speaker of the House become the President? Why not President Marjory Taylor Green?

Does anyone else recall the speculation along these lines that circulated last year about appointing our former president Speaker of the House, and then using this procedure to anoint him President? Why not? In our current anarcho-fascist world, anything seems possible. No one, outside of a very few, smallish countries, is behaving reasonably.

No matter whose name is on the Republican ticket in any particular jurisdiction, there are a lot of folks who will vote for them. In a couple of weeks, many of these people will vote for Herschel Walker. The reason they will give for this absurd vote will be, “well, I just trust the Republicans more with improving our economy.”

What a sick joke that is! The Republicans have had many chances to guide the economy over the last hundred years, and on every occasion they have run it straight into the ditch! (Possible exception: Eisenhower.)

2023 will be the 100th anniversary of the unexpected death of Warren Harding. He's the Republican fellow who won the presidential election of 1920. Remember the Teapot Dome Scandal? Look up “the Ohio Gang.” Harding led the most corrupt administration in modern history, and that's a tough race to win. Remember the Great Depression? Remember what happened to the value of your house and your 401K in 2008?

But if you are easily led, and watch Fox news all day, go ahead and vote for Republicans.

What you'll end up with is a borderline moron handing your money to the rich in tax cuts and the corporations in the form of deregulation, oh, and tax cuts. The middle-class will get increasing desperation, and the poor will get the gutter.

Look, I don't love the current crop of Democrats either. There, I said it. But there is a difference, a big difference. Working people right up to doctors and lawyers, even coders, are better off with Democrats in office. That's just the truth. If you have hundreds of millions of dollars, go ahead and vote for Herschel Walker. I wouldn't blame you. But honestly, would that additional tax savings be worth it? Have you no pride?

We have a secret ballot in America, and if you're one of the lucky few who have not had your vote already eliminated by gerrymandering or voter disenfranchisement, you should really get up off of the couch in a few weeks and go out and vote. Me, I'll be dead soon, so you've almost certainly got more on the line than I do. Use your head, and very carefully make up your own damn mind. Don't let anyone tell you who to vote for.

Not some random nut-job like me, and certainly not some totally bent old asshole like Mar-a-Lardo. Use your own head. That's what it's for. May the Gods guide your hand.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Way I Walk

RIP, Robert Gordon. That's what I heard anyway. I always like his work. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Kinks-Some Mothers son Lyrics

This is from the LP "Arthur," which was released in 1969. I had had a brief, intense affair with the Kinks from 1964 to 1967, but between the release of "Something Else," in 1967, which I loved, and the obviously altered landscape in 1969, that all changed. 

The Kinks, like so many talented and popular bands in the mid-sixties, had gotten sick of working furiously without a break while making no money, were feeling around for a way to get into the VIP room where a very few bands were making big money. 

I, like so many people, had been completely broken by the year 1968. Not as in, "by that time," but rather by living through the year itself. My mood had gone very dark, and my attention had become very hard to grab and even harder to hold. 

I had disengaged from the Kinks by the time Arthur came out, and I never heard this song. If I had heard it, my reaction would have been to leave the room, smoke a cigarette outdoors or in the bathroom, and try desperately to forget this song. Those of you who did not live through 1968 have no idea what it was like. The Trump years were like a sunny day at Disneyland smoking great weed compared to 1968.

Casually reading something unrelated earlier today, this song received some mention. So I looked for it, and found it. Isn't it great? My sincere apologies to the Kinks for ignoring what I'm sure was a great deal of excellent material.  

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Stardust - Nat King Cole

I don't approve of the whole idea of something being, "the best," or someone being, "the most beautiful," or someone being "the best (fill in name of instrument) player." All of those fields are too crowded with talent to narrow any of them down to "one." 

Let's not even complicate matters by recognizing that this kind of value judgment is necessarily very personal and subjective. You cannot reduce any form of art or music, and certainly not beauty, to any form of numerical scoring system. Those are very individual matters. 

We all can, however, recognize the top-drawer of any particular category of thing. We know when something is clearly outstanding in its field. Like this song, for instance. 

Or Nat King Cole, for that matter. 

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Happy End Of The World!

We've got an interesting year going so far. Please believe me, I'm completely sincere: I want to prove to you that I'm serious in the worst way.

What could be more interesting than the end of the world? Some of us will not be around for the final gasp, but the process has well and truly begun, that much is for sure. We might as well enjoy it.

Bill Mahar is impressed by the fact that insurance companies will no longer write fire insurance policies for California properties. There was a time when I owned a home in California, and, unless my memory is playing tricks on me, my mortgage required me to keep in place a policy of fire insurance. It really seems like the interconnected web of requirements inflicted on us by our various bureaucracies is breaking down, as some of them change their rules, some transform into other forms of business, and some just say, “hell no,” and carefully transfer all risk to their loyal customers. This is done, of course, in ways that are totally legal. Even if new legislation is required. “Just tell us what you want” echos through the halls of state and federal legislatures all over the country.

There's so much to choose from! Where to begin! The fires are scary. I've seen those things up close. When the hot cores of the fires turn that intense red/orange color, that tells you that the fire is up around 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. That kind of fire makes it's own winds to carry it to more flammable materials. The fire has taken on a life of its own.

Floods can really ruin your day. Take Florida, please.

Public officials are quick to point out that whatever just swept your town away like a dust mot was a rare event. I actually heard some clown down in Florida say that Hurricane Ian was a “500 year storm.” He immediately shifted to the idea of building back the lost houses. These public officials can always be trusted to work for the corporate interests. Anything but admit that the climate of the world is changing in many ways, none for the better. I hate to break it to those people listening to these corporate shills, but even though the last storm of this magnitude came through many years ago, the next one will be coming to Florida within a year or two. This is the new normal.

Flood insurance? Problematic, I think, at this point.

I hear a lot about this idea of rebuilding. That burnt to a crisp town north of Los Angeles where every building was destroyed, hey! Let's build it back! Then they build the same kind of houses, with wooden frames, flammable furniture, and wood-shake roofs. Same kind of fire will burn it all off next time too. It's the same song and dance in hurricane territory where the wind and water will be back faster than a bad penny. Let's build it back! Same crap houses that'll have the same stupid roofs blown off, houses built on the ground, so they can fill up with water again, and get washed away again.

Does anyone else think that this is a stupid plan? I happen to think that it is a complete failure of the imagination.

The worlds of engineering and architecture are choked with great ideas for work-arounds where bad weather is such a menace. Out in tornado ally I've seen lots of houses that were built into the ground. They looked like that Teletubbie house on TV. From a distance, it appears as a grassy knoll. No roof to blow off, and it's all tornado proof. It's easy enough to do the same in fire areas. Engineer some solutions! Floods and high winds will be tough, but putting some talented people to work on new designs might be a good idea. Certainly no one has lifted a finger to prevent the weather situation from getting worse year by year. We had better learn how to live with it, and all of the old designs have been rendered unsuitable for this new world of ours.

It wouldn't be my blog if I didn't mention politics on the way out. Remember about twenty-five years ago when pundits were talking up the bright future of the BRIC countries? That would be Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Sure enough, they did all show signs of progress over the years, showed interest in becoming important parts of the global economy. Now they are all presenting at the clinic with problems that are beyond the ability of our political philosophies to deal with. Brazil is going fascist and destroying the Amazon rain forest; Russia has taken off the mask and shown us the fascist/ gangster reality, threatening to use nuclear weapons; India wants to prove that it is a Hindu country even at the expense of expelling 140 million Muslim citizens whose families have been Indian for hundreds of years; and China has put about a million Uyghurs into labor camps where they are learning to be more Chinese if they know what's good for them. So no, I don't think those four countries are excited about building a prosperous future for our world.

In the meantime, the entire playhouse is collapsing. What fun! Happy End of the World!