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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.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Utter Chagrin

A funny thing happened on the political front this week.

A man who is reputed to be the governor of one of the U.S.'s more regressive states, South Carolina to be exact, found -- as has been the case with many another political figure not only lately but throughout history -- that he could no longer resist his extramarital urges, and he took time out from his busy schedule of misapprehensions -- five days it was said -- to catch a plane to a city in the next continent to the south, and in fact way down near South America's southern tip -- Buenos Aires, to be accurate -- and there, as he confessed later, he satisfied his bodily desires with a lady of that country, Argentina.

He said that this was the third time he had done that, but meanwhile, unknown to him while he was deep in tango country expressing his love for the said lady -- an activity that, all other considerations aside, any red-blooded male would envy -- this time things were happening back up north at home that were different.

Somebody must have put a little birdie in someone else's ear,because this time, after he was gone for about two days, all of a sudden the media and its listeners and readers all over the country had become entranced by cries and even howls of, "Where has the governor of South Carolina disappeared to?"

Ordinarily the whereabouts of this man should be a matter of towering unimportance. He is, after all, only the governor of South Carolina, and a Republican at that. But the question was asked with such frequency and urgency that it became easy to suspect all sorts of things,up to and including foul play. Oddly, however, I don't remember it including anything romantic. Maybe there was no perception of him being capable of anything that vital and interesting.

As this kind of hanky-panky performed by one after another American political figure has become so routine, the most interesting aspect of this particular case is trying to imagine how the governor must have felt when, way down in tangy Buenos Aires, after he had cleaned up and zipped up and had bade the toothsome lady goodbye for another two or three months or whenever, and had stepped down into the hotel lobby or wherever, he thought he'd peruse a paper to see what had been happening in the world during those deliciously prolonged moments when he had been absolutely lost in his supreme satisfactions and ecstasies, and bang! There it was.

Where are you, sucker!

I can think of no better expression that must've come to his mind than one that is often heard in one of the cultures that I came from. It is uttered at moments when the worst sort of thing has happened, after a person has been feeling that he was definitely getting away with something. It is best done with the eyes clamped tight shut for a moment, the head bobbing, and one hand clenched in a fist that the person can barely resist using to punch a large hole in his own forehead. And the words that come out, strung out for long seconds by the anticipation of the terrible consequences that will follow without any question, "Ohhh Sh-t!" And then repeated with despair and so much resigned recognition of his terrible fate that he leaves out the exclamation mark and uses caps instead,"Awww SH-T."

It is chagrin with a capital "C." And in this man's case that desperate feeling must've been magnified many times over because he was so well-known throughout the country, and his party was looking at him as a good possibility to run in the national electoral race of four years from now.

That must've been a VERY long flight from Buenos Aires home to SC, because I can't believe the Fates would have been so unkind to have the news popped to him after he stepped off the plane in the Palmetto State.

Now in things you read about this, people are having a good time speculating on what this means for the future -- his and his party's. Can he get over this. And the old piece of advice is dragged out once again, as if the writers feel that they are the first ever to have formulated it, namely that maintaining a coverup is worse than committing the misdeed. Little to nothing is said, though, about the virtues of not going astray in the first place. Maybe that is assumed, though I think that's giving people too much credit.

But where is the coverup here? The only covers I can see are the ones that the governor and his lover threw aside before cleaving to each other.

Oh, I guess they mean the stories that his underlings gave to account for his absence, the aides who professed to know anything at all, of which the main line seems to have been that he donned a backpack and was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

But the good governor didn't say that that was what he was doing, and he had no idea that a coverup might be needed till (speculatively on my part like most else that he did on that junket) he opened that English language paper down in distant Argentina, and he knew that the jig -- all of it -- was up,and we know what he said then.

I merely want to add that the lady and the Argentines are not entirely free of blame in this matter, and that should be duly noted. I don't know what the proportion is to the rest of the population, but according to two movies I have seen, Argentina produces some truly devastating female humans. If you don't believe this, see the ones that populate a genuine masterpiece called "Tango," and another film, "Tango Assassin," a Robert Duvall effort in which a hitman job is lamely depicted merely to keep company with observations about tango, as performed by two sisters who had no physical resemblance to each other whatsoever, but were both in and of themselves spectacular in appearance almost beyond belief. Or maybe it's just what their national dance does for the women down there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Legal System Defiles Itself Again

The expressions dating from at least W. Shakespeare's time, about exacting a "pound of flesh," have just taken on new meaning in the American courts. And what better place for it, since those courts have long since also thrown to the pigs the original symbology of Justice being blind, though the Supreme Court still holds on to that image.

I never really understood the felicity of that image anyway, of the blindfolded woman operating the scales of Justice, and I always assumed that meant that, until all the evidence was in, the courts were impartial and so we are given, over and over again, the motto of the defendants being seen as innocent unless they are proven guilty. But from what I've seen, all too often the courts are not impartial at all, and the scales are not only heavily but even totally weighted against the accused, so that today to be accused of something automatically means one has been convicted, and, outside of the worst kinds of criminal cases, the trial is just a pre-determined formality, so as to keep lawyers, judges, bailiffs, stenographers, and all the rest of the performers extravagantly employed in the dramas and the rituals that a society looking the other way expects of them.

Cases associated with "wars" against anything are especially replete with instances of this. The legal system is never concerned with getting at the causes of problems but only with applying punishments related to the effects.

Right now, at the behest of the music recording industry, the legal system has a case going in which it is vividly showing just how blind its operations can get, in the ordinary sense of that word. A badly misled jury in Minnesota has deemed a woman named Jammie Thomas to be guilty of a crime that apparently is so ghastly and so against all standards of ordinary human conduct that in recompense she has been ordered to cough up one point nine million or else. One point nine million dollars!

The numerous government bailouts of recent times for infinitely greater crimes notwithstanding, that is still a lot of money to be expecting to extort from an ordinary citizen, which this woman appears to be. And the accusation against her? Downloading and sharing a couple of dozen songs on the Internet.

What I want to know about all this is, if they are serious, did anybody in that courtroom, while making this judgment against Ms Thomas, take into account her ability to pay 1.92 million dollars? The various record companies must have a desperate need for this money, so as to be able to make payments on their yachts and humvees and things, because otherwise, how could those outfits have been damaged to the tune of a cool $80,000 bucks per song that this jury believed this one woman had done to them?

I have always wondered whether a person's ability to pay is ever considered when I hear about cases in which people are being sued for out of this world sums, or have had huge fines levied against them.

The answer, most likely, is, "Not as much as somebody from Outer Space like you would like, dummy!"

I buy that, and I guess I am too in favor, instead, of a world in which such considerations are always charitably made, so that a blindly charged person who finds himself thrust into a courtroom doesn't in the end lose always having at least a roof over his head, peace and quiet, and enough to eat and some books to read.

It doesn't take much to have a world as decent as that, but far too many people disagree and so you have courts where the visibility is about what you would get in a raging Minnesota blizzard, and that is seen as being just the ticket.

Something different, however, could be operating just beneath the surface of this particular case, and, for instance, that jury could have taken refuge behind having bought the RIAA's protestations of pain and suffering while feeling that their quarry, Ms Thomas, could escape arbitrary and dire deprivation by declaring bankruptcy. But that deviousness speaks even less well of this trial.

Numerous people are outraged over this, among them I would guess all 35,000 of the other parties that the Recording Industry Association of America has identified as being "illegal downloaders" as well. But none of them has been dragged into the courts so that the RIAA can have the legal system do the dirty work on those transgressors, too. So the intent is clear. This woman is serving as an example. And this article in PC World claims that the Supreme Court does not hold with making such examples of people.

I am surprised.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Whole Lot of Nothing About a Lot

It's remarkable how quickly both chambers of the U.S. Federal Legislature can act and in such unison when what they vote on is of no consequence at all, and it always makes me wonder why they bothered. Over 400 members of the House, with only one contrary vote, just passed a resolution that condemns the Iran regime for accepting the almost certainly fraudulent official results of that country's recent national elections.

Any fool knows that, going on what they've done for a good long while now, this resolution will cause the leaders of Iran to lose all of five seconds of sleep. No matter what anyone in the U.S. Congress or anywhere else in the U.S. or the E.U. or Israel says, the Iranian clerics and what-not will just keep marching straight on ahead with whatever they want to do, whether or not they're supported by China and Russia, which at present they are. They don't care, and that was evident from the day they grabbed all those U.S. hostages, which was many years ago now and didn't result in anything collapsing there.

I know. I saw it on the faces of all those tough young demonstrators on TV, who now are tough middle-age guys with the same faces.

It's been a long time since U.S. Congressional huffing and puffing blew any houses down. In fact I don't know that it ever did, and the Iranians have to work this out on their own, and they either will or they won't.

Iran is like China. It's too big a country for anyone to want to mess with, though Saddam Hussein certainly tried. But he was never the swiftest bird on the block. He was the toughest but not the smartest, and he just added more temper to the Iranian steel.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another Great Lady Gone: Andante

Through Rooks Rant I just found out that Andante of Collective Sigh lost her struggle with cancer, a few days ago, on the 16th.

I had been worried that something had happened, because she hadn't posted anything for a month and a half. There had been other long gaps between her always interesting messages during her illness of a year or more, but that absence seemed way too long.

I didn't communicate with Andante often, yet she caused me to feel close enough, and one reason was that in a certain sense she lived right down the road from here, except in the next state south, North Carolina. Her weblog was one of the six or seven that I checked nearly every day.

This is pain. She was such a resourceful and determined lady, and there was no doubt in my mind that she would overcome the cancer and keep on bopping along for many more years. But such was not to be.

This is also the second time that something like this has happened in my online life. Ten or fifteen years ago another great lady up in New York state that I was much closer to and who also was attacked by cancer likewise left here for good, and though I never laid eyes on her or saw a picture of her or talked to her on the phone, I haven't gotten over it yet

Such people, even if you didn't really know them well, stick with us to some extent long after they're gone.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New York Tizzy

For what it's worth, the New York State Senate, apparently having nothing better to do, is in a big tizzy over which party controls it. It had been under Democratic control till a week or two ago, when two Democrats threw their lot in with the Republicans, giving the Republicans a one-vote edge. But that has been nullified because one of those two changed his mind again and returned to the Democratic side, claiming that he did that because the Democrats have chosen a new leader who is more to his taste.

The other defected Democrat and the Republicans are enraged, and have taken their case to the courts.

But what case? What was so different about two weeks ago and today? And how can the judges be any smarter than anybody else on this, and what would they have to go on to make their decision?

Despite all the circus feelings being reported by the press, it all seems pretty cut and dry from here. The NY Senate is controlled by whoever has the most votes, and right now neither party has that. and so they have to share the committees 50-50, and wait till New York pulls itself together and installs a Lieutenant-Governor to break tie votes. That post for some reason has been left unoccupied for a long time, ever since the former governor, a man with the inelegant handle of Spitzer, who was distinguished by having a wife with a truly wonderful name that I have now forgotten, let his passion cramps directed elsewhere get the best of him and was found out, and the then Lt.-Gov, a man named Paterson, had to step up to take his place.

But the state is New York, and New Yorkers are known for always wanting it all. So for a while longer, where their legislature is concerned, the New Yorkers will have to deal with getting little to nothing.

The main problem will be for the New York City image-makers. They will have to stop to work on the state's image, when they see themselves as being in charge of that for the whole country.

Great Day

Every day is a good day, but yesterday was an unusually great day.

That was because, starting from at least 4:40 in the morning, which was when I awoke, all the way around the clock and then some, till around 10 at night, it rained at a steady clip without once easing up. Not a torrential downpour but still respectable. I can't remember when it last rained for such a sustained time. I thought floods would soon be at hand, but the ground must've been badly deprived, and it just soaked the wonderful water all up, and the creek and the river stayed well within their banks.

I look at rain, any rain, and any precipitation at all for that matter, much as other people might regard flakes of gold falling from the skies. Too much rain is better than too little. Too much rain can cause problems, but at least there you have something to work with. Too little rain and all you have is the threat of some form of a desert coming on, and deserts are not conducive to trees, good living, or even the possession of ordinary common sense.

One has only to look at Africa, the mother continent where everybody used to live.. A great deal of its chronic troubles, maybe most of them, can be traced to the fact that, compared to the rest of the continents, far too large a part of it is occupied by intractable nightmares like the Sahara and the other one in Namibia. Beautiful places maybe but unthinkable for maples, oaks, and hickories.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


A poem by Stephen Vincent Benet (1898-1943)
(The last two of its four stanzas)

....And the guns rolled, and the tanks, but there was no sound,
Never the gasp and rustle of living men
Where the skeletons strung their wire on disputed ground........
I knew them, then.

"It is eighteen years," I cried. "You must come no more.
We know your names. We know that you are the dead.
Must you march forever from France and the last, blind war?"
"Fool! From the next!" they said.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dos Passos' The Unknown Soldier

Whereasthe Congressoftheunitedstates byaconcurrentresolutionadoptedon the4thdayofmarch lastauthorizedthe Secretaryofwartocausetobebrought totheunitedstatesthe body of anAmericanwhowas
amemberoftheamericanexpeditionaryforceineuropewholosthislifeduringtheworldwar andwhoseidentityhasnotbeen establishedfor burial inthe

In the tarpaper morgue at Chalons-sur-Marne in the reek of chloride of lime and the dead, they picked out the pine box that held all that was left of

enie menie minie moe plenty other pine boxes stacked up there containing what they'd scraped up of Richard Roe
and other person or persons unknown. Only one can go.
How did they pick John Doe?
Make sure he ain't a dinge, boys,
make sure he ain't a guinea or a kike,
How can you tell a guy's a hunredpercent when all you've got's a gunnysack full of bones, bronze buttons stamped with the screaming eagle and a pair of roll puttees?

The day withal was too meaningful and tragic for applause. Silence, tears, songs and prayer, muffled drums and soft music were the instrumentalities today of national approbation.


Where his chest ought to have been they pinned
the Congressional Medal, the D.S.C., the Medaille Militaire, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, the Italian gold medal, the Vitutea Militaire sent by Queen Marie of Rumania, the Czechoslovak Cross, the Virtuti Militari of the Poles, a wreath sent by Hamilton Fish, Jr., of New York, and a little wampum presented by a deputation of Arizona redskins in warpaint and feathers. All the Washingtonians brought flowers.

Woodrow Wilson brought a bouquet of poppies.

Quoted above are the beginning and the end of "The Body of an American," which concludes the middle volume, "1919," in the trilogy "U.S.A.," written by John Dos Passos (1896-1970).

Today "U.S.A" is probably read only by students of American Literature, and possibly not much even then. Even I found it to be some tough, dry slogging, and I don't think I finished any of the volumes. But scattered through all three books are several dozen nuggets of pure literary gold. These are mini-biographies of a few pages each, covering various historical figures of his lifetime, such as J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Joe Hill, Nikola Tesla, Isadora Duncan, the Unknown Soldier, and of course Woodrow Wilson, written in a highly condensed, telescoped style, of which the above is a sample. I'm certain that Dos Passos invented this unique literary form, and for that alone he is well worth being remembered, and "U.S.A." is worth being on everyone's bookshelf, if only to be able to re-read, once every decade, those sections.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tickets to Mayhem

Wars cannot get less popular, cannot end....


Somebody somewhere, some country, finally finds it in themselves to scatter among the sites dedicated to keeping alive the memories of their own dead at least a few additional memorials honoring those whom they killed while waging wars.

(But in the U.S. especially, as a result of the campaigns that have been waged just in the most recent decades, that would get out of hand in a hurry, wouldn't it, and might even require a whole new necrotized city, brother or sister to already heavily necrotized Washington, D.C. )

It could be argued that, when he had the memorial to the Confederate dead set up at Arlington, Woodrow Wilson was headed in this direction of showing respect for the fallen of the enemy with whom one has become reconciled, with thoughts of "Never again!" But because he was a native-born Virginian, most likely at the time he was in the grip of somewhat different sentiments. Still, that was in 1914, and the unmitigated horrors of the First World War lay just days ahead. Four years later, after what he and the world had seen of all that death and destruction, he could've had a change of heart, as shown by his attempts to get the U.S. to join the League of Nations and so help keep the peace -- an effort that was thwarted by the forerunners of present day Republicans, even though the League was seen as being largely his creation.

Wars cannot get less popular until somebody somewhere faces up to the fact that, no matter how meritorious the end purposes might be, wars boil down mainly to being only affairs in which criminal acts of even the most heinous kind can be committed wholesale and "legally." The ordinary strictures that make life civilized and livable are set aside, temporarily it is hoped, and in their place deeds that otherwise would send people to prisons and even gas chambers are now considered to be necessary, glorious, and even heroic.

Many people suffer grievous wounds and die in wars. However, a much larger number survive wars and are not disastrously crippled ever afterward, and so they think, "That wasn't so bad." And they go out and lay wreaths once a year, and that gives them leave to gear their thoughts to more joyous things throughout the rest of the year that the fallen cannot enjoy .

The dead, if they could speak, would have a different opinion of how bad things were.

But since they can't, the wars, and the threats of wars, thus excused and glorified, go on, using the wreaths as some of their tickets to mayhem.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Empty Exercises in Remembering

Arlington National Cemetery, located just beyond the Lincoln Memorial and right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., is a curious place, with its share of anomalies. It was originally dedicated to the Union dead, yet it is on the site of an estate where, through marriage, Robert E. Lee lived and only left with the outbreak of the Civil War. And that section of Virginia once was a part of the District of Columbia, which was formed from swampy areas of Maryland and Virginia, because it was close to George Washington's digs at Mt. Vernon, till, well before the Civil War, Virginia took back its part, which was no great loss to D.C. except that on maps it looks as if its once perfect diamond shape has had a large part of its southwest corner ungraciously chewed away by rats.

Although my father left behind several interesting photos taken at that cemetery in the 1920's or '30's, by the time I became old enough to check out Washington's numerous sights on my own, I automatcially excluded cemeteries from my do-it-yourself enrichment program. This applied especially to Arlington, with its acres and acres of crosses that all look just alike and are precisely placed the same distances apart in row after row, and thus even in death the servicemen are denied their individuality, just as they were, as much as possible, during their miliary careers. If people feel that there's something about them that makes them special -- and what person doesn't -- being consigned to that eternal uniformity makes the prestige of being interred in Arlington hard to understand.

The Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater, about 80 years ago. ^^^

On the Memorial Day just past, in his capacity as the President of all the United States, B. Obama did go across the river, during which, among other observances, he also sent a wreath to be laid on a memorial that is not often mentioned as being at Arlington, because in a Union burial place that memorial is dedicated to the Confederate dead of the Civil War. This particular wreath-laying had been done by all the Presidents going back to Woodrow Wilson, and Wilson was the one who had that memorial placed there, in 1914, just short of 50 years after Lee's surrender in Appomattox, a county directly adjoining the one in which I've lived ever since I left D.C.

On the same day B. Obama did something else, something that he is the firstr President to do. He also had a wreath placed at a memorial dedicated to the 200,000 Rainbow ("black") men who served in the Union Army. (Oddly, in the last moments of the Civil War, Lee, desperate for troops because his own forces had been decimated as much by desertions as by anything else, earnestly urged that Rainbows also be conscripted into the Confederate army, but he was roundly voted down.)

That memorial must have been erected after I left D.C. circa 1980, because I don't recall ever hearing anything about it. But then quite a few memorials to various groups have been put up and laid down in Washington since then, and finding room for them must be a problem. The most desirable sites are on the National Mall, which is not a hugeness of stores haunted by wandering teenagers and dazed, elderly bench sitters but instead is an elongated open space stretching from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, and it features a big wading area a few inches deep called the Reflecting Pool. Or at least it used to. But can the Mall still be called an open area, and is the Reflecting Pool even there anymore, what with all the new structures dedicated to the departed?

Washington, D.C., my hometown, is, in its capacity as the country's Memorial City, and in its capacity as the seat of the U.S. Government, and as a place of longtime refuge for the slaves and their descendants, is a city full of questions but noticeably short on satisfying answers. (Note: After the Civil War a "Freedmen's Village was established on part of the estate in Arlington, to serve as a home for ex-slaves, but in 1882 the U.S. government, finally deciding to get serious about using the land for another purpose, "removed" the village's living inhabitants, but let the dead ones stay.)

One of those questions is, should B. Obama, as a Rainbow or a so-called "black man," have been required to honor the Confederate war dead, when those men fought so hard to preserve the right of Euro people to hold Rainbow people in abject slavery, and thus to murder, rape, beat, torture, sell, work without pay, hunt them down like dogs for trying to escape, and mistreat and endlessly humiliate them in all the other ways, bar none, that humans had found up to that point to make life unbearable for other humans?

From here the answer is a resounding "No!" Especially when it is noted that those Confederates took a special interest in butchering surrendered Rainbow soldiers with added zest whenever they were able, especially at Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi, and at the Crater, in Fredericksburg.

It is akin to the situation that would exist in Germany if it had a large minority of Jews, and one had gotten to be the Chancellor, had not the German government contrived during World War 2 to wipe Germany and large parts of Europe, too, as devoid of Jews as they possibly could. Would this unlikely Jewish Cnancellor have laid a wreath in honor of the SS? Would he have been expected to? Well, I guess this analogy is clouded, when we note that a Lousianian of Jewish ancestry, Judah P. Benjamin, was the Confederacy's Secretary of the Treasury.

Yet the Fox Neo-Nazi News (FNN) was happy to see B. Obama doing his "duty," while saying, with satisfaction, that "the Left" was not happy about it. This shows how, lacking any sense of proportion and decency, ideologs like FNN never take into consideration the essential decency or indecency of anything. Instead they automatically divide everything into "Left" and "Right," like teams in a schoolyard, with those views, people, policies, etc. less favored by them being dumped on the "Left".

So does this mean, once the long line of Euro Presidents is restored, that they will, following the example of President Obama, also send wreaths to honor the Rainbow Union soldiers every Memorial Day? We can expect that to be quietly forgotten, with the argument that where would we be if every President was expected to make a special point of honoring people of his own ethnic origins? Fallen servicemen of many minorities, especially the smaller ones, would have to wait a very long time.

The special ancestry of B. Obama, however, probably made that wreath-sending easier for him to do than it would've been if, as with the majority of Rainbow people in this country, slavery had been a factor in his family history. But slavery and its seemingly indelible legacies did not come embedded in his blood and bones, because he had a Euro mother and a Kenyan father, and, despite his physical appearance, he can only have feelings of that highly painful experience that he got second-hand from his acquaintances and his mentors. And that was lucky for him, because, in spite of all the totally transparent and ridiculous attempts to deny it, the resentments of slavery and all its aftermaths are still so strong that he could not otherwise have been elected President, at least in the present era.

Meanwhile the memorial anomalies go on and on.

At the Confederacy's capital, Richmond, Virginia, just 100 miles east of here, there is the secessionist equivalent of Arlington, a big cemetery to which, however, the difference in eras lent the weird incongruity of being named "Hollywood," and in which a great many Confederates were interred, primarily from the numerous blood-soaked Virgnia campaigns, in which the horrors of trench warfare and sniper fire were perfected in anticipation of worse wars to come.

Is there a memorial to the Union dead at the Hollywood Cemetery or in any other cemetery of Confederate soldiers anywhere else in the South? From all the attitudes that I've heard about the answer is, "Not very likely."

At the time that Wilson had that memorial put up at Arlington, he and many others hailed it as a sign of the conciliation that had been made between the warring forces of the U.S. Civil War. Yet at the same moment he and his wife were instrumental in having regulations installed that institutionalzed racial discrimination in the U.S. Civil Service. And I am sure that, as in the cases of many others, this blighted to a certain extent the lives of my mother and father, after they had finished their schooling and had wasted no time in fleeing to D.C. with such great hopes for a better life than anything they could have expected in the New Orleans of 1916.

Conciliation for some, but the same remnants of past injustice meted out to the same targets remained, and still do -- and so have the wars and tooling up for wars, despite all memorials everywhere.

A view of the National Mall, taken from the top of the Washington Monument, about 80 or more years ago. This looks out over the Lincoln Memorial and then the Potomac, with the Arlington Cemetery not far beyond. The rows of structures to the right or north of the Mall were probably temporary buildings left over from World War 1 and have long since been replaced by numerous museums, memorials, tourists, street vendors, and Homeland Securers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Magnificent Rant

If you're in the mood to hear a real rant, Guy Andrew has the link to a first class one on his site, Rooks Rant, today, given by a pro wrestling guy named Jim Cornette, excoriating the right wing. Guy Andrew is a connoisseur of rants, as per the name of his site.

What's impressive about Cornette's rant, aside from its controlled force and the fact that all his points are well taken, is that, though seemingly delivered impromptu, it is well organized and spoken without stumbles of any kind, from beginning to end.

This shows that all those pre-bout loud-talking sessions when the wrestlers go to great lengths to put down each other can end up giving them tremendous verbal felicity.

Finding that this rant came from the pro wrestling world also interested my wife and me because not long ago we had to grapple with seeing a highly gritty movie called "The Wrestler," starring an actor who epitomizes gritty, Mickey Rourke. He plays an aged wrestler who is having trouble facing the end of his glory days. But there were no good rants in that. It was pretty much all visual, especially one bout that featured him and his opponent attacking each other with barbed wire, staples fired from building supplies staple guns, and other metal objects that they had just bought in a hardware store, before the film audience finds out how these items will be used. Not surprisingly, Rourke's character has a bad heart attack as he is leaving the changing room later, after they pulled all the staples out of him.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009



The guy that I voted for, Creigh Deeds, actually won.

My electoral batting average isn't high, because, given any kind of a chance, I will always vote for the underdog.   I really don't know much about Deeds, except that he is a Democrat, which is good enough, and that he is from this part of Virginia, the west central, which is lightly populated and so generally not as influential, compared to Northern Virginia, the parts just south and west of D.C. and the area that I associate with his rivals, Terry McAuliffe and Bryan Moran.

The local Democrats took no position with regard to the three candidates, but we did get more phone calls from Deeds than we did from the other two,  and he came from behind.

The Washington Post says that at a victory party in nearby Charlottesville, Deeds thanked his supporters for turning out despite the rain, hail, and thunderstorms that broke out all over the state yesterday.

That's odd.  Here it was clear, sunny, and  calm nearly all day, and not till about five, two hours before the polls closed, did a violent thunderstorm break out that lasted well into the night.

And for today the weather forecast for the next five days  is exactly the same as it was for yesterday -- chances between 20 and 40 percent for thunderstorms.

That's great news, because usually June around here is much too hot and dry, and right now the greenery is having a field day.

Deeds still has to face a Republican before he can become governor, and the Virginia Republican Party is in a big battle with itself, as is happening in several other states as well, as they regroup not to do good for the people but just to win, and they just recently dumped their chairman, who had become known for thinking and  speaking out from the lower instead of the upper end of his spinal column.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Voted Today

Today the Virginia Democrats are holding their primary to choose candidates for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.

It is a pleasant day, bright and warm though not scorching. Still what a contrast with last November! Then there was a long line stretching around a corner in the front of the building, and I had to wait for half an hour, while on the approaches to the polling place there was scarcely an inch along the edges of the road and the parking lot that wasn't taken up by a stream of campaign signs.

Today there was not one sign to be seen anywhere, and there was only one car in the parking lot, waiting to pull out. And the whole time I was there, actually just a few minutes, no one else showed up.

It was the most deserted primary I have seen so far, and I guess the general thinking is that all three candidates, or all six counting the Lt-Govs, are so evenly matched that it matters only to them which one wins.

It seems as if there's been something to have to vote for each and every year lately, and I was tempted to pass up this one myself, for the first time. But I never have any choice, no matter who is running and no matter how high the stakes are.

This is because earlier in my life, no matter how upstanding a citizen I may have been, because of my skin color in Virginia and because I was a D.C. citizen in D.C, I would not have been allowed to vote. And I always remind myself that, unlike for the great majority of people in the U.S., who take voting purely for granted and even as an unnecessary nuisance and waste of their time, I always have to remember that a lot of people had to march and be beaten and sometimes even killed, aside from suffering all sorts of other kinds of indignities, so that I would have the chance to vote. So not to do so, even one time, strikes me as being, in the case of myself and others like me, a betrayal not only of the duties of citizenship but also of all those civil rights workers of half a century ago and even today.

And speaking of even today, the people of D,C. are still so much under the thumb of all the baboon-butts from all the other states of the Union that they are still not properly represented in Congress. The causes of this highly unjust situation are historical and hard to understand, but it has boiled down to being mostly a racial and political thing. with the Republicans wielding the hammer. They know that such is their record that their chances of winning anything in D.C. are nil, far into the forseeable future. Therefore they fight vigorously any attempt to give D.C. two senators or even, as far as I know, a voting U.S. Representative, though its population exceeds Wyoming's, and maybe Alaska's, too..

Monday, June 08, 2009

Good Wrong Number

Just now I got sensationally lucky.

In D.C. years ago it was usually not a good experience to get a wrong number, and sometimes the caller even seemed to want to cuss me out because they had .
made a finger error.

Things are not as desperate here in the country, and I noticed quite early on that the wrong numbers are not nearly as uptight about their unavoidable mistakes, just as here you never hear a car horn honked at you in instant irritation, a constant occurrence in the city.

Still vividly remembering that, I'm saying I was highly lucky to get that wrong number just a few minutes ago because usually my wife is here. and she has exclusive rights to answering the phone.  I'm glad of that, because talking on the phone is among my least favorite forms of communication. But right now she is miles away, standing in as a teacher at a yoga class.

A woman with a low, calm voice loaded with elegance of all kinds spoke.

"Hello," she said. "Is Popie there?"

My failure to do anything except to savor her super cool tones gave her time to follow up with, "You're going to tell me that I have the wrong number, aren't you?"

Still a little tongue-tied, all I managed to say was a feeble, "Yes."

"I'm sorry," she said.

Then I gave sounds to my smile, and I said, "That's okay."

"Bye-bye," she said.


 And this remarkable woman, whoever she was, and that I will never hear from again, much less ever see her anywhere or find out who she was, hung up, as I also did moments later, regretfully.

I defy anyone to disprove my contention that that is exactly the way the world should be.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Walking with the King

Always with appreciation for striking ways to express things, the other night I had the great good fortune to run across the term that you see me using here as the title of this post.   I found it in "The Great Shark Hunt," a collection of some articles by the recently deceased King of "Gonzo Journalism," that fabled Kentucky Colonel of sorts, Hunter S. Thompson.   He was writing about his attorney who was so prominent in that  remarkable film, " Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which starred Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro and was based on Thompson's book of the same name.   

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" must've been an especially harrowing film to make, due to the subject matter but even more because of the tremendous contortions of their bodies and their minds that Depp and del Toro were called upon to make and of which they did such a great job while impersonating being strung out past belief on a huge assortment of drugs that no sane person would inflict on any of their all-important mental or physical systems, much less actually buy and carry around.  And also there was all the work that the property people had to do to set up luxury hotel suites flooded with noxious-looking water and every kind of debris.  But I guess all that was fun, too.

Because of his attorney and drug partner, Thompson narrowly missed  seeing the printing of "Fear and Loathing" getting cancelled at the very last moment.   Though something was worked out to avert that catastrophe, the publisher's lawyers recommended axing the book, not so much because of what you would instantly expect if you've seen the movie or read the book, as it was because of numerous libelous even if true statements that Thompson made about that attorney, who in real life was named Oscar Acosta and was known for going to the same sort of extremes to secure the legal rights of the Have-Nots in this world as he did in his mind extension habits.

That was high irony, because nobody was readier to be libeled by his friend than Acosta himself.  But when Thompson sought to save the day by flying down to Mexico to have him  sign a waiver, while Acosta was agreeable to signing on all other accounts, which included multiple admissions of felonies of many kinds that he had committed during their rampage of several severely acid-addled days in Las Vegas, he balked at going down in history in the book as being a "300-pound Samoan," when he was actually a 250-pound Mexican.

By the time that Thompson wrote his articles about O. Z. Acosta, having reached just about the age of Jesus Christ as widely shown spiked to a cross, and true to his word about the kind of thing he would do when he had reached that stage,  that barrister had met some forever unknown fate that caused him never to be seen again, probably in Mexico and much like the great novelist of the 19th century, Ambrose Bierce, and now more than twice Acosta's recorded lifetime has passed, and his most celebrated client also is no longer around, after having reached the age of 67.

That was  an incredibly long time for Hunter S. Thompson to have existed, for if even half his escapades that he describes are true. especially the ones that took place overseas in  Cozumel and Las Vegas, with his huge and incessant intakes of drugs, booze, and nicotine,  it's a miracle that he lasted that long.

I think I have the explanation.   It was sex, notably the near absence of it.

I saw some drug scenes up close at around the same period as Thompson's heyday, in the glorious 1960's, and to my observation, if men were present, so were women, always, and after one got high, the next thought -- and one that was considered to be absolutely essential to the experience -- was usually sex.   But in Thompson's work women are rarely mentioned, and sexual acts even less.  Consequently, if this was not some unlikely self-censorship to keep editors and publishers off his back as much as possible because of all the other misgivings they might have had about his views of things, he avoided at least the enormous wear and tear on the body and the soul that, like hard drugs, can accompany hard sex, what with jealousy, over-exertions, diseases,  and all the rest of the rigors involved.

"Walking with the King" was Acosta's term for being strung out on various dangerous drugs, most frequently LSD, for solitary periods of a week or more, during which he undoubtedly skirted the edges of total self-destruction and death.

I wonder if he came up with that expression himself, or whether it had already long been a part of the indigenous or the Spanish or the Mexican idiom.    Did it even go as far back as the ancient Greeks, while they were drinking their strong wine and imagining themselves coping with some decidedly fickle and unstable gods and goddesses?  However I think that "Walking with the King" is largely wasted on modern-day, death-calling drug trips.   It is imperative that that great expression be preserved and put to more meritorious and less ruinous use, such as serving as a title for a short story, a novel, a play, an article, or a weblog post.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Air France Disappearance

So soon after my meditation in a 28 May post on an airliner crash in icy conditions, I feel sad and somewhat haunted by the report of an Air France airliner that has disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic between Brazil and West Africa, with 226 people aboard.   They came from no less than 32 countries, so that this time pretty much the whole world has the usual jingoistic reasons for being vitally interested in how this could have happened and in finding anything at all in the way of what might have escaped being sent to a place where nothing might ever be found to supply all the answers,  till the next time the ocean is drained.

How weird it is to think that if, some drastic rearrangements in place and time could be made, this would've happened over dry land stretching in all directions farther than any eye -- short of being up in one of the XYZ areas of space -- could see, because Africa and South America used to be all one piece, till, just about at the spot where this plane vanished, a seam developed and opened up, and the two continents gradually drifted apart, at a rate of only two or three centimeters a year if that, yet so huge are the stretches of time that now that gap has opened to many hundreds and even thousands of miles, with enough water having been found meanwhile to fill that space,  to depths that most people would get in a car to negotiate,  if it could be done horizontally.

The frantic searches continue, but so far, after a day or more, unlike most other air crashes == likely all others involving airliners -- not even the smallest speck of paint  has been found, and the many authorities involved are reduced to telling us only that the outlook isn't hopeful, and that it might be weeks and even months before something tangible and definite turns up.

But, as is my thing, I'm taking refuge in an unlikely scenario in which things come out considerably better.  I'm wondering if, instead, the plane couldn't have suddenly come under the control of terrorists who quickly and completely overpowered everyone and piloted the plane not to crash into any oversized buildings but instead to land on one of the many tiny islands that stand in the Atlantic here and there, and which the emperor Napoleon ended up knowing quite a bit about, less than 200 years ago.

Taking into account how such an outcome would, for all its distaste, be infinitely preferable to thoughts of the plane carrying itself and all those people straight down to a watery, horrible death, this shows how even the great bugaboo of terrorism can supply its comforts, though in this case only to merely me.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Kitten Window

This was in the early days of Fuzzy, Baddie, or Lilith, all of whom are no longer around, regretfully.