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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bluespeak in the Military

I overlooked the fact that the new PBS documentary on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, "A Company of Soldiers," part of the Frontline series, was shown last night. I thought it would appear a little later, so I don't know which of its two versions appeared on my dish. I assume the "raw" one. Apparently that original version contains some strong language, and PBS sent to its 180 TV affiliates a second laundered or "clean" version. If the stations wanted to show the "raw" version, they would have to ask for it. (For an article on this click the title of this post.)

Though, as I've said recently, I don't make a habit of using profanity, I am strongly in favor of airing the "raw." Meanwhile I have just a few questions.

Have the people who object to the obscenities never seen any of the HBO miniseries, such as "The Sopranos," "The Wire," "Deadwood," or Carnivale?" These stories, which go on for weeks and are repeated through the years, are laced with profanities of every kind. But they prevail and they endure because they have such strong and interesting story lines -- and because of recognition that that's just the way so many people talk, in and out of the military.

In its defence of the "raw" version, Frontline says they "decided to leave in the coarse language because it presented a true picture of how these men and women react to the fear and stress of war."

That's being slightly over-accommodating. "Fear and stress of war" is not strictly necessary.

Have they, along with those who demand laundered language, never been in the military? This could be a reflection of how removed many people are from military life, now that it is an activity confined to a relatively few volunteers, compared to the hordes who served in the draft days of WW2 and Korea. I would say that "raw" is how military people of all nations talk much of the time, freed at last from the strictures of home, whether they are in Iraq or lounging on the beach of some tropical Pacific outpost. But I guess some people carry in their heads an idealized picture of our pure-as-the-driven-snow girls and boys in uniform. Can it really be a big surprise that being in the military is for many, like the college experience, a descent into grungedom?

But shooting helps.

Of the many fine drawings produced by Bill Mauldin, the late, great cartoonist/chronicler of the GI's in WW2, one especially stuck in my mind. (Forgive me if I'm not recalling it with the greatest precision, but I believe I have the concept correct.) It showed his two main characters, Joe and Willie, standing in the wreckage and the misery of a battlefield, with cigarettes dangling from their lips, their helmets askew, their eyes blurry, their bodies limp with fatigue, their uniforms filthy, and they may even be holding bottles of liberated spirits of some kind. They look so haggard that they can hardly stand and are managing to do so only by having arms draped over each other's shoulders, while they drawl, "We're just two clean-cut American boys."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Flawed Dictate

Nations strike me as being much like individual human organisms, which means they are usually saturated with a sense of pride. Sometimes they see the need to keep it suppressed, nevertheless it can never be extinguished or even lessened, and prudence demands remembering that and not going all the way to Brussels and elsewhere to prick it. Human beings differ somewhat from those most patient and understanding of souls, housecats.

GWBush is currently tooling around Europe, secure in the perception of himself as the leader of the "sole superpower" (as if the European Union, Russia, and especially China no longer exist). He is busy throwing his weight around and telling one sovereign nation after another what they should be doing while glossing over his own numerous missteps, such as invading Iraq, failing to take part in the Kyoto environmental agreement, and not being even-handed or even active in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

One of his hosts, the Belgian premier, is going along with the game by cheerfully saying in apparent reference to the invasion of Iraq, "It makes no sense to argue now about who was right and who was wrong."

All well and good -- except what about the next time? And what about all those thousands now grievously injured and deceased far ahead of their time?

Bush is famous for never admitting that anything connected with him was a mistake. So, as long as he lacks all ability to retract previous flawed statements, his present efforts to put himself forward as skilled in foreign policy can't in the long run be convincing.

One of his worse misstatements came soon after the beginning of his so-called "war on terror." He loudly spat out on all the other countries of the world a dictum that ran something like: "If you're not with us, you're against us."

As soon as he announced that, I wondered where would Europe have been if, at the outset of World War II, the German leaders had expressed a similar state of mind by means of their usual blood and steel. Surely the Europeans would have cooked in a deeper, filthier cauldron than the one they actually suffered. Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland in particular would then have faced the choice either of taking part in the Nazi nastiness or of being on the hurting end of it themselves, and people fleeing the Nazis wouldn't have had as many nearby borders beyond which they could hope to find refuge and survival.

Even in a "war on terror," neutrality or the appearance of it can have a moral aspect. A person can totally oppose acts of terror while at the same time disapprove some of the actions taken as countermeasures. One can reject car bombings while also rejecting schemes such as the Patriot Act. One can decry suicide attacks from the air while also seeing little or no need for imprisoning people indefinitely without the due process of law in concentration camps like those set up by the Bush Administration in Cuba and in Iraq. And nations can decide on their own approaches to dealing with terrorists without being bulldozed into the methods of pre-Fascists (aka neocons). These nations recognize the grievousness of the wounds suffered by the U.S. , and in some cases they have already been badly injured themselves, but they have decided on the approaches that, in their view, are best suited for dealing with the situations, and often that involves more quietness and less posturing.

A person shouldn't try to limit the options of his friends. To do so clearly indicates that he himself is not such a friend after all.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Salutary Avoidance

If they are at all interested in having equanimity and peace of mind, all decent Americans owe it to themselves to arrange and to conduct their lives in ways that allow them to be as little affected as is humanly possible by national and state governments, including the courts, and -- obviously -- the fire department. The reason is that, with the exception of the fire department, all those institutions can and do become thoroughly infested with churls, knaves, rascals, scoundrels, thugs, and outright dummies.

In that light, with so many of that sort sharing the same air and water, the District of Columbia must nowadays be an extremely unhealthy place for living.

That wasn't one of the controlling factors that I had in mind when, over 25 years ago, I left that city where I had been born, raised, and educated, though I now rejoice in that side benefit, since those running the Federal Government now are of an even lesser caliber than earlier. In its zeal to dominate, the Republican Party has seen to that. But I had always lamented the way that the rest of the nation's citizenry felt free to send all those ill-chosen Chief Executives, Senators, Representatives, and judges to essentially join their dogs, i.e. their helpers and parasites, in figuratively crapping in my front yard when I hadn't done the same in theirs.

Even worse, all these undesirables, once they had settled in, would feel that they had the right and the inalienable duty not only to run D.C. in place of its native citizenry, but also to criticize and condemn unrelentingly all aspects of the city, especially its climate and the apparent art of driving in the snow.

Other capitals of other empires, current and ancient -- London, Paris, Moscow, Rome, Athens -- didn't have that problem, because the decent and the indecent sorts tended to pile up together in the one city. So the U.S. may be more fortunate, by being able to consign all those rectal types with all their overweening pretensions to the marble blocks of one of the country's smaller large cities, squeezed between Virginia and Maryland, where they are out of the way and can be comfortably ignored most of the time.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Quiet Day

There are lots of things that you're not supposed to do on the Sabbath day, but in this busy busy world most of those restrictions have slowly fallen by the wayside.

I'm not going to run any of my chain saws today -- not that I did yesterday either, or the day before that, or the day before that, and I don't intend to tomorrow for that matter, or the day after that. But today is "the Lord's Day," and at this moment in the calendar I never run chain saws (more likely in these parts to be called "power saws.") I adopted this mode of inaction after I got the idea that no one around here jerks a pull rope on Sundays. I haven't been told that this is a recognized custom, and I don't know if anyone else has even noticed, but I picked up on the heavenly ambient silence every seventh day a long time ago. Sounds carry a long way over and through this tiny valley. So, though not religious in the usual sense of the word, I've gladly made the avoidance of all that noise my strict custom.

It's likely that I've been influenced in this by one of my favorite pieces of classical music, Cesar Franck's "Le Chausseur Maudit," or "The Mad Huntsman." This highly dramatic symphonic poem tells the story of a nobleman who couldn't get enough of hunting on horseback on Sundays. Finally a powerful curse fell on him, and he was doomed to ride hither and yon forever afterward without climbing off his horse or even getting something to drink or a wink of sleep.

I've noticed that also you're seldom likely to hear gunshots around here on Sundays.

I don't know if anybody or anything is really Up There monitoring things, but it just feels better to play it safe. Or, as the pioneering comedian of the 1960's, Lenny Bruce, ended one of his bits on religion, in this case one satirizing popes, "Watch out for the lightning!"

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Riverbend, Like the Earth, Abides

Not having looked in on Riverbend lately, or on anyone else during my latest sabbatical from the World of the Best-Informed -- my definition of the weblog scene -- yesterday I went to her site, "Baghdad Burning."

Riverbend is my very favorite Iraqi person and I pay a lot of attention to everything she says. By her careful and steady, in-depth narratives and expositions on day-to-day life in Iraq's capital city, I see her as being a much more relevant reporter on the Iraqi scene than any American media person or most Iraqis can be. Yet it is a measure of her supreme objectivity -- not thought to be common among her gender -- that it's been difficult to learn much about her personally.

She obviously doesn't wear the veils of Islam, yet, unless she has stepped farther out into the light lately, she has definitely and skillfully kept herself concealed behind a curtain of secrecy as far as her vital statistics are concerned, and I don't mean those of a pin-up girl. I have never seen her picture. I don't know any part of her real name. She is clearly familiar with the U.S. and the American idiom, which must mean she has attended school here, but if so, she has never said so in the posts I have read. I don't even know her age, though one of her antagonists said she is 24 or 25, and that seems about right.

While she has plenty of strong supporters like me, she also has lots of detractors, to the point that there have been and may still be several web sites set up specifically to deny and discolor everything she says, and that, as much as anything, is a tribute to the extraordinary power of her writing and her views.

These enemies accuse her of being a Baathist and a Saddam supporter. I don't know if that is true, but there's no denying that she sees things as being much worse now than they were in Iraq before the Bush invasion.

Every time I read about large numbers of people being killed in an explosion in Baghdad or some such, I worry that somehow River has gotten caught up in it, though I know that, mostly because she is a woman, she stays close to home. So you should be glad to hear that she is still okay, and still doing pretty much the same -- enduring the chronic water and electric shortages, hoping that Bush will pull out his troops within hours, and fearing, in their wake, the advent of a non-secular government that will curtail the rights and privileges of women.

In her latest post she reports that she did take an excursion into the streets the other day, accompanied by a male relative. They went to an Iraqi ministry to ask some questions. Predictably, despite the high intelligence that any fool must be able to see burning in her eyes, the people there pointedly tried to ignore her, much preferring to speak to the male relative. Finally, when she persisted in speaking up, they "broke bad" with her (as the idiom went in my early days) about the way she was dressed, including her lack of a veil, and she coldly broke right back bad with them.

I suppose that River had the option of shaking the Iraqi dust from her heels long ago and forever, and presumably still does. Yet she seems determined to stay right there in the midst of all the mess and see it out wherever it may lead. And I am confident that she will be among the first to see where it will all lead and to so inform us.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Boomers Are Bull, Bellow Butterflies

We are often piously enjoined to steer clear of making moral judgments, if we can at all help it. This is one main characteristic of Sundays. Maybe that is why there is so much immorality currently sweeping the planet, especially on the part of the last two "victorious" U.S. Presidential campaigns.

So I will make just such a statement here and now.

Boomers -- highly secretive and sneaky underwater naval vessels built to launch nuclear-bomb-tipped intercontinental missiles and ostensibly meant to protect someone -- are utter bullshit.

And that is just one of many chief reasons why, for another eon or two at least, humans should never be allowed, by the laws of physics and what-not -- to escape the confines of this gorgeous planet. In this latest of the geologic periods, the Earth has been cursed by forces that in ways are more obscene than thunder lizards, asteroid hits, or ice sheets. This time it is being overrun by a species that would build and thus intend to use against each other weapons that, when detonated, would make large areas of the Earth's surface inhospitable to most forms of life for thousands of years to come. And they would do this for the most frivolous of reasons, such as the maintenance of purely temporary and quite possibly unnecessary institutions like nations and ideologies -- matters that are of absolutely no interest or importance to any other organisms.

Butterflies and even rats and roaches have never deserved such poisoning and obliteration of themselves and their later generations. A just world would reserve that fate purely for those who make and tolerate the existence of such weapons. But little is ever said about excluding all the innocents of the animate and inanimate world from the same calamity, and that is boomerism's most profane aspect of all.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Post-Finish Syndrome

Now that I have completed the 20th and last step in making the Bradley peony base I feel glad but also empty and even letdown.

This feeling, which on the face of it would appear to border on the perverse, is entirely familiar, not only to me but I think to many other people, too. I believe the phenomenon has a name, but, as that is not coming readily to mind, let's just call it the Post-Finish Syndrome for now. I go through this disconcerting period of deflation whenever I finish making something major.

One cause is regret over the ceasing of an experience that, though often painful and difficult, was nevertheless continually interesting and exciting. Another is the feeling that the finished product doesn't quite measure up to what was originally expected; it has several grievous flaws. This second cause is worse than the first, because, aside from possessing whatever it was that I made, almost always I went into the project mostly to see if I could pull it off, and so the venture has ended with a vague sense of failure.

But then, as several years go by, things change, while hardly being noticed. Eventually the flaws, having been lived with for a while, either disappear or become interesting features. You, a much more practical person, might ask, "Why weren't they just corrected?" The answers would be that for some reason I couldn't or that I just didn't get around to it or that I never can return to a project and touch it again, once it reaches its ostensibly finished state and I go on to the next thing.

But the shifts in perception of the object are not quite finished. A little later still something says, "Hmmm. This isn't bad at all." And then another year or two after that the same inner critic announces, "Hey, look! You know what? You may actually have committed a veritable masterpiece here!"

And so it goes, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bradley Lamps

Just a few months after finally tackling stained glass, wouldn't you know it! I jumped into what, as far as I can tell, is one of the most difficult of that art's projects. (Without disdaining the concept, I think stained glass is, if it's legitimate and polite to say so, more than a craft, for it is essentially a form of painting but using light and glass instead of the other materials.) After seeing pictures online and becoming awestruck, I just had to try making a Bradley lamp. (To check out Bradley lamps, click the title of this post.)

Bradley stained glass lamps are characterized by having bases and shades of matching designs, and besides having a regular bulb atop the base under the shade, inside the base is a second bulb, smaller, the candelabra type. Thus you get the unusual feature of having both parts of the lamp illuminated. Other stained glass lamps can say the same but their bases have at least two flat and easy to make sides. Bradley bases are much more difficult and better-looking, being conical and tapering from narrow at the bottom to wide two-thirds of the way up and then curving sharply inward again to the top. So you have curves to deal with all the way.

Bradley offers several designs, most of them floral. And again wouldn't you know it! Without being fully aware of what I was doing but just drawn by the design, I had to pick the most complicated of them, the peony. Their other designs have large blank areas, but the peony is composed entirely of many small pieces of many colors, and that involves weeks of exact cutting. The base alone has 324 pieces, and the pattern that they sell for the matching shade calls for another 300-plus.

When I started this project I had the sensation of embarking on a long, hazardous, exciting adventure, and that is just what it has been. I rewrote Bradley's instructions to suit myself and came up with 20 stages for making the base. Now after about three months I am down to the last three -- cleaning, applying the patina, and wiring, all easy compared to the preceding. The base is all assembled and soldered and looking okay.

I haven't started making the shade yet, but compared to the base, I expect that to be a cakewalk. I'm going to design the shade myself, but that will just involve incorporating the same flowers that are on the base, though in different colors, textures, and what-not.

You might not agree, but your lamps are an integral part of completing your house. They are every bit as important as having cool windows. That dawned on me from seeing how much time and effort Frank Lloyd Wright put into designing the stained glass lamp shades for his houses while he was designing the windows, and he cooked up a bunch of both.

At www.prairiedesigns.com check out his butterfly chandelier, for which the guy at this site reverse-engineered the pattern and is offering copies for sale. At $150 it's way too pricey for me, but in time I may be overcome by curiosity as to what it involves and whether I can make one. Naturally I have no doubt that I can. (Smile!)

One of the most intriguing parts of all this is that $31,500 is the asking price for a replica of this shade. Yep. That's not a typo. Thirty-one big ones!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bad Words

I don't use cusswords, except in the secrecy of my mind. I think this avoidance was set into place by being raised by a widowed mother who never cursed -- except during moments of extreme rage. These moments were so rare and unexpected that hearing her carry on like that appalled me, so much that even during moments of my own extreme rage, I still don't curse. But since I can't remember ever having had a moment of extreme rage, how would I know what I would say? And my mother certainly had good reasons for her lapses.

From watching films and TV, especially the HBO world, I get the impression that frequent cursing is widespread and regarded as being entirely natural, though here in Virginia I seldom run into anybody who does much of it. Can that be because they quickly perceive that I don't? And if so, are they relieved that for those few moments they don't have to be fashionably profane, or do they feel unpleasantly constrained in their misuse of language?

Instead of blaming it on my mother, the rationale I give to myself for not "using bad words," as the habit was put during my childhood, is that I think people use the limited number of those terms as crutches because they don't have other words. But I know other words, lots of them. Also I think cursing should be reserved for expressing only extreme anger, and, as I've already said, I haven't been afflicted by such moments.

A character in a movie said that he didn't trust a man who didn't curse. Conversely I have a question or two about those who do.

That said, one of my favorite words, always voiced only to myself, is "bullshit." This is because it's such a handy catchbasin into which I can drop various aspects of the world for good, and as time goes by, one after the other of those aspects gets consigned there in my mind, so that by now that basin should be filled to overflowing, though I am sure that it is not. Yet formerly I thought so many of these things were great. Like the Olympics. And like..... But wait. I won't make a list here.

But I just wonder if in the end, I will wind up giving everything that designation, and whether that is life's ultimate instruction.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Red Red

If you were to see a number of my paintings and if you were in the habit of tallying such things, you might conclude that red is my least favorite color, and you would be right.

I'm not talking here about the whole range of reds. I'm only referring to red red, crimson, cadmium red, that part of the spectrum of reds represented by blood and by most ripe tomatoes and by cardinal flowers and stoplights. That red.

A person might argue, "Well, you ought to love that kind of red, because blood is the most important fluid in your body." My answer would be that I'm indeed glad that blood is that color, because when you see it you know immediately that something is not right. But I am also glad that usually you only see suggestions of blood just under the skin, and that's where it should stay, out of sight and, most of the time, out of mind.
I prefer warm colors over cold ones, and red is considered to be one of the warm colors, but to my psyche red is something else entirely. Instead of having the comforting and soothing properties of warmth, red is the color of danger, anger, injury, recklessness, and just a general lack of class.

I think Mother Nature agrees, because red rarely comes to her hand for decorating the Earth, compared to greens, blues, yellows, oranges, and all the other big colors.

A painter has to be careful in his use of red reds, partly because they tend to be among the most expensive of pigments but much more because of their ability to draw the eye first and more thoroughly than any of the other hues. That makes it a greedy color.

It can be no accident that drivers of red cars are always suspect. All studies of their habits have probably been suppressed by those cusses, but to my observation they are the fastest and the most reckless on the road. Yet we can't assume that it was out of appreciation of this that Henry Ford told buyers of his Model T's that they could have any color they wanted, as long as it was black.

I don't know how red came to represent modern Republicans on the maps. Apparently they don't object to it, and I'm glad, yet I'm also amazed, because politically don't they remember at all how, not so long ago, red was always powerfully associated with the late and unlamented U.S.S.R. and Communists?
Nowadays, judging from an email embedment that I got recently, those who favor the fighting and the killing in Iraq have adopted red as their color, and they urged the display of red ribbons and such on certain days to show their support.

So what happened to yellow ribbons? But I hope that this is a sign that yellow will henceforth be eased out of military considerations.

Yellow is one of my favorite colors. I don't associate it with war, cowardice, or disease. I associate it instead with that Great Life-Giving Almighty above and around us each and every day for billions of years, the Sun.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Blue in a Sea of Red

After the national elections this past November, I was afraid to look at the returns in the local newspaper, because I was certain that the results in the previous election had begun a trend that was likely to continue, since Virginia had become such a solidly Republican state. Till just recently the county where I reside had remained Democratic, and I especially remember, two elections ago, feeling so great when I saw Nelson depicted on a political map as a lone "blue" spot floating in a very large sea of Republican "red." But in the next election the bloody disease had spread over even this enlightened jurisdiction.

I was surprised and happy then to be told, just the other day by a friend, that in the just concluded election Nelson had gone Democratic again, though only by 4 votes. He couldn't exactly recall, but he believed that this gave Nelson the great distinction of being the southernmost county (excluding places in the West) to go for Kerry.

I think the reason for Nelson being able to resist the lemming call is the fact that it still has a lot of oldtimers who vividly remember the Depression, and they fondly recall Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his efforts in fighting that calamity. And they are combined with an unusually large number of progressives like myself, with refugees from New Jersey liberally represented.

General speaking, this is a weird and out of the ordinary place anyway, as Virginia counties go. It is strangely unpopulated, to be so pretty and so close to the teeming swarms that surround Washington, D.C., only 170 miles to the north. As far as I know there isn't a traffic light in the whole county...or a jail. The county seat has only 400 people. The biggest industry is the school system. A lot of the other jobs are in the adjoining counties. But there are plenty of churches, lacking only a synagogue. The county's chief virtue is its geography.

It does have a number of places, however, that people from outside are surprised to find here. It has a genuine Thai restaurant. It has a genuine race track even if not much in the way of grandstands. It has a coffeehouse with all the trappings and then some of the 1960's and even of the Parisian 1890's. And tucked up in one corner of a county in which modesty of means is very much the rule, there is a big ski resort.

The people here plainly have their craniums split between pro-growth and anti-growth, and there are plenty of advocates for both, among the natives as well as the newcomers. So far the anti-growth has prevailed.

I think the general feeling is that that's not all bad, though it does strike me as having a definite Oregonian "pull up the ladder" air.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

I'm Still Here (I Think)

Two weeks ago I got a surprising phone call. It was from one of the county librarians, inviting me to drop in on the meetings of a chess club that she had just recently started. She said that so far there had been "14-16" attendees, even in bad weather, ranging in age from kids to 65. Somebody had told her that I am an experienced player, and she wanted me to come and give "pointers."

I had often wondered if any sort of a chess club could be possible in a small rural county such as this one -- small in population, at about 13,000, though large enough in area, at about 540 square miles.

So, though I had been eschewing chess in the last year or two, I couldn't help but attend. though my vision and my general feebleness have damaged my tolerance for driving at night.

I found a group of about 8, with no one even close to 65, and in general they were all beginners, mostly kids, and those children of the fast and ever-changing computer age had absolutely no interest in listening to pointers. But it was a pleasant group, and because I have a rating with the U.S. Chess Federation -- the organization that officially oversees most serious chess activities in the country -- I was immediately seen as some sort of guru. Till then I had no inkling that having a rating in the USCF could carry such prestige!

--At least I think I still have a rating (of 1926 -- high expert). But about five years ago the USCF lost track of me, and I do believe that they think I'm no longer breathing.

Way back in the 1970's I paid enough extra for five or ten years for my membership that I got a lifetime membership. Then, three years ago, I noticed that I was no longer receiving their monthly magazine, "Chess Life."

I wasn't particularly shocked or dismayed, because, as I had gotten well on into the third decade since getting that lifetime membership, I had started feeling guilty about continuing to receive their mag. That had to be costing them money, and the chess world has never been awash with cash. But this did mean that I was no longer able to stay up on the latest happenings in that scene. Sadly, I don't even know who is the current world champion.

This isn't the first or even the second time that I have been erroneously consigned to oblivion. I am certain that there are some of my former high school classimates, among those who may be still alive -- which I wouldn't know, having moved away from D.C. a quarter century ago -- who, like the USCF, would be surprised to learn that I'm still here and have been for a very long time, because somehow during the Korean War the rumor got around that I had been killed in the fighting. In fact I WAS in the military during that affray, but never got closer to the shooting than serving on Okinawa in the Air Force in 1954.

Somehow I have also managed to drop out of the field of vision of Howard University in D.C., of which I am a 1958 graduate, though my wife, who made no more effort than I did to keep them appraised, still receives their alumni magazine.

I suppose those classmates and Howard will never know the truth, but shortly word may get back to the USCF, because the librarian is talking about us playing in local tournaments and matches, which are usually USCF-rated. I do not know what will happen when I tell the director of the tournament or match that I used to be a lifetime member.

But that won't be the first time either that my presence, however innocuous I may think it is, has posed weird, difficult, and annoying questions for someone!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

North Korea Has the Bomb -- Ho Hum

Yesterday North Korea officially said that it has nuclear weapons.

I wonder how this can rate as front page news. Can anyone be surprised? I felt all along that North Korea has such tools of war, and the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq clinched it.

At that time North Korea was more menacing to others than Iraq was, as it is today and has been for a long time. Yet Iraq was invaded while North Korea was left unmolested.

North Korea is right next to the very important industrial entity, South Korea, to say nothing of a huge, bustling, prospering, modern city, Seoul. Iraq, on the other hand, suffered from having little or nothing comparable next door.

Those far different neighborhoods may have had most to do with the anomaly, but I think that the fact that the Ill Sungs had nuclear weapons and had left no doubt in anyone's mind that they were capable and crazed enough to use the things also contributed to their immunity from attack when confronted by the Bush people.

How can anyone really believe that the Bush pugs would have rolled into Iraq if they had had the slightest reason to believe that Saddam actually had nukes, or any other of those fabled weapons of mass destruction? Predictably, though those WMD's were strongly touted to be there, after two years now not a trace of them has ever been found.

For the same reason Bush proxies and doxies can float reports -- denied, officially, on the higher levels -- about the intent to attack Iran next, but I think that Iran, like North Korea, is quite safe from such a calamity, precisely because it most likely has the Bomb and thus, presumably like every other country that has it, retains the option -- and can always come up with enough unprincipled so-called leaders -- to use it.

There is nothing anywhere in the world that can't be excused by glibly insisting that it is God's Will, even when -- officially -- God isn't.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Only in the Eye of This Beholder

The most appealing Hollywood movie actress of all time was that Swedish one, Ingrid Bergman. Check her out in "Gaslight." Unbelievable! It was only proper that she was reputedly easy to work with, for a big star, and that she was the only actress who won an Oscar in three different decades, despite her inexplicable troubles with the American morality police.

Julia Roberts' mouth is too wide, and it is too obvious that she is the sister of that endlessly scruffy actor, Eric Roberts. Elizabeth Taylor's eyes are too green. Marilyn Monroe wasn't real. She was sent here for testing from a 24th century android factory. Dorothy Dandridge, a forerunner of Halle Berry, also looked as if she came off an assembly line, and so did Grace Kelly, who had the added drawback of being unable to escape that dreamy yet brittle, elevated tone of actresses in the 50's that constantly reminds me that they're actresses in a movie. Gene Tierney didn't appear often enough, though she was devastating in a film that I know as "Benjamin Blake," later garishly and unnecessarily retitled "Son of Fury." Sophia Loren, like Tierney, gave Bergman a serious run for her money, but I've sometimes shared Peter Sellers' dismay about her steadfast refusal to drop that doctor hubby. Lena Horne looked a lot like one of my cousins, and I thought that that was just too bizarre.

Yet -- and this is what I've been leading up to saying -- I have seen numerous women on the street who to my expert eye were as striking as any of the above -- at least in that one glorious moment before they stepped back into that oblivion from which they had, a few seconds earlier, emerged. Honest!

What does this mean? Does it mean that, contrary to popular belief, the movie camera actually subtracts from a person's appearance, especially the closer up it gets?

That must be why, like the Roberts bird, there are so many male actors who look like refugees from the Black Plague.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Martha Stewart Reprised

In about a month, Martha Stewart will finish serving her five months of "hard time," and will be released from prison in West Virginia, just in time for the "spring planting."

I'm speaking of her again because so many things involving her remain interesting mysteries to me.

Before she was hauled into court, tried, and found guilty, I hadn't paid her the slightest attention, and I am still largely in the dark as to what she did to attain such fame and riches.

Also, though our good friend Steve Bates in Texas tried to make it clear to me, I am still unconvinced as to whether she deserved so much rage on the part of those in the legal game. That may be because I see it as not such a heinous crime to sandbag people who are prying into your financial affairs, especially in matters as trifling and impenetrable as stocks, bonds, debentures, and the like, if all she was apparently doing was resisting the notion, as some have long claimed, that much of our wealth is not real but just numbers on a screen, subject at any time to vanish in a puff of computer smoke. Therefore her probable real crime in all this, her reported arrogance in the deal, can be forgiven.

I know an admirable young woman who, in her teens, was an aspiring ballet dancer.

I always wanted to advise her -- but never did -- that, if in the midst of a command performance, one of her shoes should chance to become unlaced and come off, instead of cursing her luck she should simply ask herself, "How can I take advantage of this bullshit?"

It seems that M. Stewart has done just that. Recently Barbara Walters went to West By God to see how her friend is faring, and reported that Stewart is going to come out of jail 20 pounds lighter, which supposedly is a great boon. Also instead of being harassed and worse by the other inmates, as some predicted, she has apparently made good friends there, and she is trying hard to correct their eating habits by turning them from candy bars to yogurt.

But the main thing is that her chief activity in prison has been in cleaning things. And her favorite things to clean are bathroom floors.

That's something worth pondering for a little, I would say.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Homage to Daylight

Although my wife likes to continue sleeping long past the moment when our part of the Earth begins once more to be showered with the rays from the Sun, long before dawn I am up and running. She shunts as many of her activities as she possibly can toward the night, while I try to do as much as I'm able during the day. In a shorter number of words, she is basically a night person, while I'm strictly a day person.

I don't know why she is that unfortunate way. I think my condition has to do with several things, especially my vision and my curiosity. At age 73 I can get along most of the time without glasses, but my eyesight sharpens noticeably as more light is thrown on the subject. Also I can see much better what is going on, rather than having to rely on deductions furnished by what I can hear. And in that respect I am glad that I didn't come of age a few years ago or even two or three decades ago, because I flatter myself that I can still hear better than many of you unlucky younger ones, who, in your early days, have had to endure so much fashionable eardrum-bursting music. Hi-fi wasn't so advanced, available, and injurious in the 1930's and '40's!

Most people, especially children, look forward to 25 December with high excitement. I couldn't be less interested. But I do eagerly anticipate another date a few days earlier, the 21st. That is the day of the winter solstice, marking the nadir of the Earth's relationship with the Sun, when the nights complete getting longer and longer at the expense of the days. From then on that process begins to be reversed, up till the very sad date of 21 June. (You can tell that I've been in the military Service. I still like their way of expressing dates better.)

Astronomically speaking, though not weather-wise as far as I can see, 21 December is called the first day of Winter, while 21 June is the first day of Summer. But to me the powers that be have that totally backwards. For me 21 December, when the minutes of sunlight begin six months of steadily getting more numerous and holding off the darkness, marks the beginning of the Summer, not the Winter.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

It's Stained Glass, That's What

The reason why I have let two enormous gaps of time go by when I haven't written anything in this weblog, and consequently have not read and responded to other people's weblogs, and thereby haven't paid enough attention to matters much beyond my driveway, is that I've been doing something else.

I have the rare privilege of living in a "green oak" house that I designed and built entirely myself. The only exception was installing the septic tank.

Since my designing of the house continued while I was sawing and hammering, I could indulge in a lot of whimsy, and that included installing a large number of small, fixed windows of many different dimensions and several shapes, including a diamond, a circle, and a trapezoid.

It was always my intention to finish off most of these windows by installing inner, second panes of stained glass. That would be a key part of finally finishing the house. But then I had let nearly 30 years go by without learning how to do stained glass. The sole reason for that delay was that I was badly daunted by the difficulty I anticipated in cutting the glass. I had never mastered cutting even plain window glass. Stained glass is harder, slightly thicker, and often textured, and the kind of designs I had in mind had few straight, easy cuts.

At the end of this past July, exactly marked by the beginning of the first of my weblog AWOL's, something suddenly drove me into finally launching the enterprise. As always I learned from books and by doing, and I also sprang for an expensive glass-cutting bandsaw. and I've been entirely absorbed in doing stained glass ever since, to the exclusion of all other things that take up a lot of time -- except cutting firewood, which is an absolute necessity.

In addition to several other items, so far I've made several windows, with more in prospect, and I think they didn't come out half bad. And you should see what I'm working on now -- a project that I had no business tackling, being still a neophyte. But isn't that the way!

As soon as I get my digital picture-making thing back together, I'll post some pictures here.