Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Musings On The Winter Solstice: 'The Fire Star . . . The Sun, Comes Back To Us'

And so at last the days grow longer.  The additional hours of darkness this autumn passed have been physically telling for me, which would be unusual for this four-season guy until you consider what's been going on: The cyber Pearl Harbor of an election and the collective Nothing To See Here, Move On yawn of our so-called leaders in response.  And Sylvester Stallone won't even get to be Minister of Arts for Cheeto Jesus.  N'y at-il pas de justice?
It was an unusual autumn in another respect: the virtual absence of the usual reports of deer hunters' rifles echoing through our valley. 
This is because there aren't any hardly any deer.  
While I respect the right of people to shoot game for food -- and there are too many people hereabouts who live deep in the woods, barely scrape by and must supplement their meager diets with wild game -- the vast majority of hunters with their expensive sighted rifles, lavish Cabela's kit and immense over-accessorised pickup trucks are in it for the thrill of the kill, and that I don't respect.   
Deer hunting is a linchpin of the tourist industry and so popular that schools and government offices still close on the opening day of the fall rifle season (there also are bow and flintlock seasons), but this year all hunters could do was stand around in their spanking clean international orange garb and brag about whose pickup truck had more chrome before retiring early to the nearest bar for rounds of beers and shots.  There simply are no more bucks to be slaughtered to speak of, while the doe season was severely limited so that population could be replenished and in a few seasons the bang-bang carnage can begin anew.  
"Our" doe hasn't reappeared yet, but we have to assume that she is okay. 
This beautiful lady, who is unusually blond for a white tail (Odocoileus virginianushas been coming out of the deep undergrowth on the mountainside behind our retreat for the past few years in the late spring to show off her foals (two this year) to us and graze at the foot of the yard on our wildflowers before slipping away to hide during hunting season.  She returns after the New Year when bow season is over and we put out cracked corn and a salt lick for her when there is substantial snow cover.
In times of great stress -- like now, for example, we turn to music to sooth the soul.   
And so we have tix or are lining up tix for these artists/groups in the next few weeks: Rusted Root, Ben Folds, Ladysmith Black Mambazzo, Wayne Shorter with Weather Report & Beyond Reimagined, Joey Alexander, Stanley Clark and Ron Carter, and the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater.  Oh, and that unpatriotic Hamilton on Broadway.
My dear friend Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés lives in the Colorado Rockies.  She has written:
"This is a great night and day: Winter solstice; the time when the light comes back more and more for longer and longer glancing across Planet Earth to us, the Fire Star, that is, the sun, comes back to us. 
"In our family the old people would put on their galoshes over their butchkors and bring in fresh and oh so cold water from the well pump outdoors and we would feast on something yellow, orange and/or red, the colors of the sun! most often the banana peppers, the lantern peppers and the cayenne hot hot hot peppers we’d canned in late summer and put up in shining glass Mason jars on the rough sawn boards in the dark cellar. Consume warmth to bring warmth was their backwoods homeopathy. 
"You too, drink clean and eat fresh today, warmth to bring warmth . . . as here, winter is still deeply upon us. Yet . . . the sun, our sun, comes . . . "
The coming year will be a special one for Dr. E: She is editing the 25th anniversary edition of her seminal Women Who Run With The Wolves. 
Woman or man, if you want to get back in touch with the real world -- please give this fine book a read.  There may be no worthier and more important goal in 2017 than reconnecting with what really matters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

'Truth' Itself Writes The Book To Reveal The 'Inner Truth' About Who Won The War

I have long been a sucker for novel-within-the-novel books because of a fascination with alternate realities.  In this respect, Philip K. Dick's sci-fi classic The Man in the High Castle is superlative. And Amazon Prime's eponymous miniseries is even better. 
Set in 1962, some 15 years after an alternative ending to world War II, the novel and miniseries on which it is based center on intrigues between the victorious Axis powers, who have divvied up the U.S., with Japan ruling the West and Nazi Germany the East, with a neutral zone in between, as well as the grinding routine of daily life under the resulting totalitarian regimes. 
The novel within the novel is an alternate history within an alternate history in which the Allies defeat the Axis, although in a manner different from the narrative drummed into us.  The novel in the book is just that, while it is a series of newsreels in the Amazon series. 
I would heartily recommend both the book, which while flawed still is a terrific read, and Amazon miniseries, which is superbly cast and photographed.  A second season of the miniseries has just debuted, and events of recent weeks have added a certain unwelcome pungency to it.  Wonder why that is?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Election 2016: An Homage To George Orwell, Vladimir Putin & Donald Trump

It is fitting in a grotesque sort of way that the big story in the wake of the Through the Looking Glass Election of 2016 is not the outcome changing hacking of Democratic Party assets by Russian intelligence services backed by a legion of fake news providers with Donald Trump's "victory" being a mere footnote, but the other way around: Trump "won" an election he actually lost by nearly 3 million votes and the mere footnote is that he "won" because of the Kremlin pogrom to deny Hillary Clinton the presidency, which he unashamedly supported, while the White House and U.S. spy agencies dawdled, the FBI meddled and the news media and fake news enablers like Facebook and Twitter snoozed. 
You would have scoffed had you been told before the November 8 cataclysm that Trump would be the next president because of a sinister Commie cyber plot that read like a bad sci-fi movie, but that is exactly what has happened.   
There will not be a national redo, and even the recounts in three states that Clinton lost by less than a percentage point will not alter the outcome, while the stain on the American system of electing its leaders, not to mention American democracy itself, will be indelible.   
And that's just for starters. 
As unprecedented as this madness would seem to be, there is an historic antecedent -- the 9/11 attacks -- only this time the homeland attacked itself despite again having ample warning as it did on that September morn 15 years ago.   
Despite government malfeasance before, during and after the terror attacks that lapsed into outright criminality, we were told to buck up and move on although report after report whitewashed the Bush administration's culpability, there was a crackdown on civil liberties in the name of fighting Al Qaeda, and war was declared against Iraq that would take many tens of thousands of lives, provoke an immense refugee crisis and further destabilize the region although Saddam Hussein was a mortal enemy of Al Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.   
We also were told to buck up and move on when:
* The Reagan administration secretly sent weapons to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism, in 1985 as part of the Iran-Contra scheme.  Reagan couldn't be impeached, we were told, because America was still getting over Nixon and Watergate although only a few years later Bill Clinton would be impeached for a blowjob. 
* The Supreme Court in 2000 jumped the extra-constitutional shark and meddled in a presidential election, ruling that the winner was George Bush, who "won" because the Republican-controlled election apparatus in Florida was as fixed as the high court majority turned out to be.
* The very moral foundations of our democracy were subverted by a secret post-9/11 program of dark-site prisons and the use of Nazi torture techniques no matter if the victims weren't terrorists, which they often were not. This yielded no valid intelligence but did tank America's standing abroad.
Is it merely a coincidence that all of these outrages were perpetrated by Republicans?   
Nope, and that leads me to note one of more noteworthy if sadder aspects of the time in which we live: Barack Obama has been much too nice a guy in the face of eight years of unrelenting Republican mendacity and has been much too slow to move on investigating stolen election claims.  No matter, because his look-at-the-brighter-side style of governance will soon be that of an ancien régime. 
And yet again, we are being told to buck up and move on as a kleptocrat for whom character assassination by tweet is as reflexive as eating French fries, is on the verge of becoming the first chief executive to juggle the responsibilities of being leader of the free world with being executive director of a reality television show and leveraging the presidency to expand his family business.   
All the while, Trump is revving up to sell out his base in restocking the swamp he promised to drain with a HUD pick who doesn't believe in discrimination, an HHS pick who wants to kill Obamacare and gut Medicare, a Commerce pick who is a fraudster billionaire, a Labor pick who believes in depressing wages and opposes paid sick leave, an EPA pick who denies climate change, an Energy pick who once wanted to abolish the department, an Education pick who despises public schools, a Secretary of State pick who is a fellow apologist for Vladimir Putin, an Attorney General pick who is a racist, deeply hostile to immigrants and wants to turn back the clock on marijuana decriminalization, and a White House security chief who traffics in right-wing conspiracy theories.   
How do we know that the CIA is right about the Kremlin's pogrom to deny Clinton the presidency? 
Because Trump, who has more Russian connections than St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square has towers, is denying it so vehemently as the first crisis of the many his rump presidency will encounter looms large -- a clash between he and leaders of his own party over his fondness for a monster who exerts an increasingly autocratic grip on the former Soviet Union and with his election replaces the American president as the most powerful man in the world, and his solicitousness toward Russian foreign policy interests, including an oft-repeated promise that as president he would not necessarily abide by the U.S.'s long-standing commitment to go to the aid of a NATO nation in the Baltics if it were attacked by Russia. 
So many outrages, so little time. 
Under other circumstances, it would be heartening that Republican leaders are joining Democrats in calling for a bipartisan probe into the election being thrown to Cheeto Jesus by Russia, which put Democratic organizations and operatives under a more sustained and determined assault, according to the CIA, and while Republican organizations were targeted, it sat on those emails.   
But any investigation that might skate too close to the truth, which necessarily includes the backstory to the thousands of innocuous Clinton emails so vigilantly outted by FBI Director James Comey a mere 10 days before the election, will be neutered and probably would have been even if the president-elect was not a lump of clay that Putin looks forward to molding to his own specifications.   
And so America, it's time to buck up yet again and move on.

Cartoon du Jour


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tales From The Creche: Or Why Santa Claus Always Has To Be A White Guy

Does anyone know if people in other countries fight over Christmas like Americans do?  No, I didn't think so.   
For one thing, these countries tend to be more . . . uh, mature than the U.S. and don't get as uppity over religious correctness, let alone whether one group or another is trying to kill the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, which is a favorite right-wing meme despite the fact that Christmas is a pagan holiday.  Or clogging the courts with frivolous lawsuits such as those by creche-contrary atheist groups over displaying Nativity scenes in public spaces.     
Then there are Seinfeld fans who want space reserved for a Festivus pole, Flying Spaghetti Monster devotees who spoof creationists, and the truly hard-core who want to erect "Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell" signs.    
We can blame that false news trailblazer, Bill O'Reilly, for contemporary War on Christmas convulsions.  It was 10 years ago that the Fox News commentator opened an early December show with a segment called "Christmas Under Siege" during which he claimed that all kinds of stuff was being banned that wasn't and asserted that the "secular progressive agenda" included legalizing drugs, euthanasia and gay marriage.  Oh, and by the way, Santa Claus always had to be a white guy.    
What I do think is needed is a war on bad Christmas songs, and I would start with an abomination called "Christmas Shoes."   You know the song: A poor kid saves his allowance to buy his terminally ill mother a pair of shoes so she'll look nice for Jesus if she packs in on Christmas.  I'll take Handel's "Messiah" any day.     
While we're declaring war on Christmas stuff, how about poorly made toys?   
You haven't lived until you are confronted with a Some Assembly Required task in the wee hours of Christmas morning, my own particular hell being filing metal burrs from every nut on my young daughter's first two-wheel bike in an unheated workshop in the first hours of a below-zero wind chill blizzard. 
So much for good will toward men. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Answer This Question & You Will Be Able To Understand Why Cheeto Jesus Won

It has been nearly a month since election cataclysm.  In that time, there have been tsunamis of recriminations and mea culpas, fleeting apologies from the mainstream media, deep embarrassment on the part of more honest pundits (myself included), ample evidence that the Democratic Party has its collective head up its ass, fledgling ballot recount efforts and pushbacks all playing out like so much background music, or perhaps the screeching of a discordant string section, coming from Trump Tower, which figuratively and literally is the new seat of American power.    
Yet all of this tacking and yawing, hemming and hawing and kicking and screaming fails to reveal the answer to the question of the moment; hell, the question of the millennium: How could Donald Trump have won? 
The answer to this question will reveal all: 
How could 46 million people vote for a man who has never done an honest thing in his life?  Who is an unashamed racist, nativist, misogynist and narcissist who built his fortune on the back of poor working stiffs and a cult of celebrity, has no patience or understanding of the nuances of domestic and foreign policy, and all that aside is a vile and pathetically borish boy-man incapable of growth, comprehension or compassion? 
Your answer is? 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

'Well, Mr. Potter, He Died A Much Richer Man Than You'll Ever Be.'

Seventy years ago on Christmas eve, George Bailey was at the end of his rope and was about to jump off a bridge in Bedford Falls, New York.  So began the beginning of the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, a movie that I never tire of seeing this time of year.
Even when I was at my most cynical, It’s A Wonderful Life was never simplistic, a label that feckless critics pasted on the Frank Capra-directed film upon its 1946 debut. On one very lonely Christmas Eve, it helped me through a long night, while with every passing year its message continues to humble and inspire me.
That message reverberates even more strongly today given the horrors that seem to visit our lives with such numbing regularity: Each of us, no matter how insignificant we may seem, has the power to make a difference.  And that the true measure of our humanity has nothing to do with fame or money, but with how we live our life.
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life, check your TV listings or webstream it from Netflix. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so.
Oh, and have yourself a happy holiday.