Some days begin with a theme song. As soon as I saw the headlines I knew who’d be singing this morning’s song. The great and the late, Rufus Thomas. The headline that brought this icon of funky soul music to mind was, “State Department Inspector General fired for looking into Pompeo’s use of staffer for “Walking the Dog”. Pompeo is Trumps dog and some poor mutt is Pompeo’s dog. The headline prompted my memory to play Thomas’s 1963 hit, “Walking the Dog”. Each of these flea bitten hounds need “walking”, a euphemism for pooping on the lawn in front of the State Department. A bit of forensic scatology might reveal how deep in dog doo deep state is. Unfortunately the State Department’s watch dog will not be sniffing around Pompeo. Trump has Pompeo’s back and his scat too, it would seem. Like Conen Dowel’s “The mystery of the dog in the night”, this dog made headlines by not barking. It’s been silenced. Muzzled. That’s fine. A democracy needs watch dogs but a kleptocracy laden with Cronyism and nepotism, does not. The idea that government employees are personal servants of lackeys of the “Don” should have soaked in by now. That the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish…is up in the air. November will decide it, maybe. I got a robo call yesterday with talking points from Trump’s re-election committee. Main message, Trump is not responsible!, I’ll buy that I thought, but the better word is irresponsible. The CDC has been added to the list of WHO IS responsible, along with the W.H.O. and China. Obama and Hillary have again been pressed into service for blame, once more rising toward the top of the list. A president from the mid 1940’s had a plaque on his desk which said, “The Buck Stops Here”. The phrase, “passing the buck” means never taking responsibility for anything. Whats on the desk now? A solid gold “pooper scooper”
There are signs that this bla feeling is passing. Not because the situation is less bla (for want of another “word”) More for it’s having been resident a couple of months. We get used to anything eventually. That’s not the same as getting to like it. Really, it gets old….familiar. Being locked down. Seeing death lurk around every corner. Checking plates on cars coming up from the hot spots to the south. A Hummer with NY plates seems to be shedding virus particles as it fly’s past. “Keep going til you reach Canada” I think. Not nice? A cloud of miasma, a fog of death trailing bling on wheels. The sign that the induced depression has faded is art. Drawing and painting are a bit looser now. Abstraction has become possible again. I didn’t pick up a brush for a couple of months. Everything was waiting in the studio but I wasn’t ready. Things were too serious for abstract expression. The literal too ugly to render. Now there is a sixteen square foot panel with something growing and morphing in red and blue. Now there are pencil drawings for the scanner and GIMP to chew on. Every day a new Rorschach test. Might be progress, we shall see.
I pace a lot now. Walking back and forth. Up and down. Covering the pathways worn in old carpets. I have a thousand square feet, potentially, to pace. Much of that covered with furniture. Chairs and tables. The pathways run between them. No other traffic, only me. No pets. No people. “You must be lonely” someone says. No, its boredom. Boredom isn’t confused with loneliness, is it? Companionship is two people who when bored toss little verbal grenades at each other. “Do you have to do that?” is a common one. “Do what?. Long pause, “Breathe” or, “do you have to chew like that?”. “Like what?”, with your mouth open, or closed, or anything. Must be hell, needing to live with another, but having the urge to throttle them several times a day. Maybe that urge and its suppression are part of the killing of time. There are (brings up calculator app) 86,400 seconds in a day. There used to be. Now there’s more. Must be more. It seems there must be. Each of those seconds needs to be gotten thru. Uncivilized people just let time do its thing and don’t intervene. We in our coveted highly advanced societies need to control time. We hammer out hours and minutes, seconds and even milliseconds from the raw material of time. A finite resource for both the universe and the individual. A petty pace says the bard. The thing physics and philosophy can’t crack open. Those rags, here Shakespeare says it succinctly thru Macbeth…
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
That is me, blog reader, an idiot putting the sound and fury of word and graphic onto the web. My brief hour on this stage signifying nothing. But, it’s something to do. Programmed by nature and habit to put one foot in front of another. Moving down paths between work tables piled high with distraction. Whats the point? What was ever the point? Does the new normal make any more sense than the old normal? Nature doesn’t love us so we invented God. God’s tough love gives the believer some distraction. It eats up part of Sunday or Friday – whatever holy day the faith designates. On the pulpit another idiot spews sound and fury. I don’t hear it. I don’t go on Sunday to the building with the pointy spire. I’m not blessed and damned or saved from sin. I walk these paths to dusty death. The one fate promised, the only one guaranteed. The end of any need for distraction, group or solitary.
The White House reacted to Doctor Fauci’s testimony to congress by saying his answer was “not acceptable”. That’s a little glimpse into the mind of our head of state. Not acceptable. I agree. Reality is not acceptable anymore either. It follows then that accurate scientific observation regarding reality is also, not acceptable. Dr Fauci’s statement suggested that opening up the economy and society too quickly and without enforced health protocols would cost lives. If there is any doubt of that we need only wait a few months. Even if the White House succeeds in suppressing the numbers from CDC, they will still be bad. An under count, as always. China is accused of suppressing the bad news too. A tradition with authoritarian regimes. This way of thinking in the White House, in Trump’s base, astonishes me. Its incredible that so many people can see what they are told to see. What they want to see. I’ve thought that they’d adjust to the real when people around them start dropping. I’m not sure even that will shock them into reset.
This magical thinking might be their default mode. Doctor Fauci respects the physician’s credo, “to abstain from doing harm”. Those who hold public office should follow a similar rule. Doing nothing (re: CV19) would be a vast improvement in Washington. The good doctor is literally speaking truth to power…and power does not appreciate it. There must be a lively pool betting on how long Fauci will last at the White House. He is mostly window dressing anyway, An expert on the stage, seeming to give weight to the idiot in chief’s inane statements. Fauci does not make the decision ultimately. He gives informed opinion regarding the epidemiology, the spread of CV19. If elected leaders say the society must reopen, in spite of the resultant deaths, that’s a judgement. Obviously things must start moving again. It is not either or, not the binary Trumpistas love.
It has nuance, shades of grey, detail. That’s not acceptable either! Choice must be reduced to one, as it is in China, as it is in Putin’s Russia. The mark of a totalitarian state, limiting information, limiting choice. The White House with one hand says open up safely and with the other it encourages disregard for health guidance. A doctor fired for speaking truth to power has testified that we could be in for a horrendous fall and winter. That the spread of the virus, accelerated by an undisciplined restart, will ramp up. Of course it will. Will 2+2=4 in the fall, as it does now? I’m sure it will. The virus will spread with the same certainty. A math function not subject to our desire, fear or hope. The variable we do control is R zero, The basic reproductive ratio of a virus. We totally control that, but…getting it to zero would mean zero social contact…not possible.
We need a balance, not the absolute of magical thinking. This virus shines a spotlight on that aspect of human behavior. Half of the population, sometimes more, sometimes less, exhibits this “magical thinking”. The “leadership” we have today, and its decisions, are the result of this behavior’s effect in the last presidential election. Let me throw out a scrap of meat to the people who voted for Trump…the only other choice wasn’t too good either. Just those two? WTF? Out of three hundred million citizens we choose between those two? The CV19 crisis would still be with us now had Hillary been elected. The gun totting zelots would still be guarding tatu parlors in Texas. The death count would not be much lower. No administration of any political stripe would be able to do what would be needed to push the numbers to zero. In China they couldn’t manage that. I wonder if it’s at all useful to mull these details, these crumbs of information and observation. Makes more sense to wait for the end game in 18 to 24 months. Better to wait for what happens and be informed by reality. Oh, the virus will win, there has never been the possibility it would’t. It will not go away. Sadly, many of us will be gone when the dust settles.
Yesterday, I think it was yesterday, I beat up on social media. I broke the icon, the silver lining in this time of CV, the heart (some would say) of the internet. But, I don’t think I’d agree that social media was the heart of the web, not for me. But without a doubt Zuck bet on a winner with Facebook. Is the WP platform social media? I don’t think it is, not in the same way. It values writing more. The old values finding a home in the ether. Punctuation preserved. Pacing and structure. Unique voices. This is because culture produced the written word long after the spoken. The line that produced Dostoevsky and Steven King started with an ancient storyteller’s voice. Early on, my tribe, the illustrators, put up matching story boards on cave walls. In flickering light the early audience listened to the story. The speaker’s words gave animation to the paintings. Red ocher animals ran and jumped with the speaker’s vivid description.
The suspension of disbelief that audience give their storyteller’s tales then isn’t exceeded now. The hunt, the day the sun died, the noble genealogy of the leader. The family tree with all the names remembered and honored. The audience hung on the words. The fire crackled. The speaker built up suspense and pulled each listener into the story. It was their story. Their fears and hopes were what they heard. Now tokens for sound, letters, words, paragraphs, chapters and books, tell our stories. The means of delivery and the content really haven’t changed. Did you ever get admonished for moving your lips when reading? Like that was a throw back. Uncouth?, Speaking the printed words somehow less civilized. I suppose it is less civilized. But that’s not a bad thing. Civilization comes with a price.
Anyway, keeping a stiff upper lip doesn’t stop the reading becoming speech. In the mind written goes back to spoken. It must, what else could it be to be understood? It was spoken first, in the author’s mind. It is spoken again in the mind of the reader. A huge difference is that in the cave the stories were preserved by apprentice storytellers. Stories passed generation to generation. A book can survive many generations. Electronic media might last even longer.
I still work from a script. But I wonder if a microphone wouldn’t be better for me than a keyboard or pen. It would help with the spelling, by eliminating spelling. Revision? or just let the error remain. The pause while the lips caught up with the brain. The stutter. The delay when text is scrolled. Must be an add on for notepad to give smooth auto scrolling. No I don’t use MS word, notepad does the job. MS Word’s bells and whistles are not at the heart of storytelling. The guy standing at the fire long ago didn’t have any of that. Don’t assume that guy was stupid. He wasn’t. Don’t assume we are smarter, we are not. The conversations we miss in the time of CV are exchanges of stories. The continuity comic strip describing our lives, frame by frame.
Iconoclast: A person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions.
There is something incidious about all of this. The images that spring to my mind are of the Sourcerer’s Apprentice or a squirrel on an exercise wheel. Micky in that Disney classic uses his master’s magic to help with a chore. The magic gets out of hand because he doesn’t fully understand it. The squirrel is at a keyboard as it runs. The wheel spins faster and faster, the squirrel types more and more. He is reassured by rows of other squirrels running on their exercise wheels, banging away at their keyboards. They’re gaining followers and comments. If he can just run a bit faster he can have that too…and money! Right now he glows in the warmth of attention and approval. He has followers and likes but needs to promote and link. It’s never enough somehow. Is all this healthy? is it sustainable? Why does the bug fly a tight orbit around the porch light? Some instinct it doesn’t question makes it want to do this. The natural urge to seek the light and its warmth has been subverted. It wastes time and effort but attains nothing. The pheromone traps use a natural lure, sex, to collect bugs. On the internet plenty of that bait set for humans. Social bait works well too. To be accepted by the group. To have the approval of others. To belong. Instincts in a social animal are very strong. When denied society and its approval the individual sickens. I remember one night, watching a firefly attracted to a light switch. Not the light itself but the little glow in the switch. It was flickering. Neon lamps do that when air seeps thru the seal between glass and wire. When the right amount of air mixes with the neon gas this flicker roughly immitates that of a fire fly. I suppose the interface me and the squirrel are connected to could fake it – could tell us that thousands were hanging on our every word. Wouldn’t be true but we’d feel great! And, as long as we didn’t try to extract any $$ from this popularity, who’d know? Wouldn’t mean anything. Wouldn’t be real social approval but we’d react as though it was. When nobody liked us or visited or viewed our site we’d be sad. I am not much brighter than the squirrel, or Micky. We invoke this magic but don’t understand it. No, I don’t mean we are ignorant of the technical stuff. I suggest we are totally clueless about the psychological part, the hook, the bait. The practical use of the web, ordering toys from China, is fine and an improvement on going into town. Uses less gas, pollutes less. Reasons from normal times. Now social distance goes to the top of the list. The market where people in the past bought and sold everything they didn’t make themselves, was also where they met. The web can substitute for one use of the market but not for the other.
Outside its trying to snow. Trying because the air is too warm, Snow flakes are not landing. Suits me. I’m inside and snug, inside a submarine in the western Pacific. We’re on war patrol – its 1943. Binge watching a 1950’s TV series called, “The Silent Service”. Having YouTube play one episode after another without intervention soothes me somehow. Being stuck inside, underwater, under a sea change, I can identify with these submariners. They were plucked from a normal life by the war. They never knew if they’d make it back to Pearl Harbor or Midway or Australia. Returning to the USA, resuming their lives, that seemed too distant to contemplate. Often they couldn’t see what was attacking. Aircraft dropping bombs. Depth charges that threaten to send them to the bottom. An anology? Unseen enemy with a deadly weapon. Hiding, diving for deep water to avoid the invisible? Tired of the confinment but always reminded that isolation was the best defensive weapon. They had radar and sonar. I navigate blind. I have the daily numbers, 1.3 million and 75 thousand right now. Those guys tallied thousands of tonns of enemy shipping. They could fight. I can only hide. Some of our “leadership” says the fight against CV is a war. I feel more like something in a Petri dish. So I go to war in a virtual way, a couple of years before I was born. Like those young submariners we will win. Like them that victory is years away. Clear the bridge, dive!, dive!
My doctor wants me to go to the hospital. Tests on my heart. I haven’t been anywhere for nearly two months. The hospital!, That’s the last place I want to go. But the local hospital hasn’t been hit bad with CV patients. So I guess I’ll go. I’ve been assured they’ve made it safe. My doctor is trying to keep me alive. That’s a tough job with so many bad actors wanting to do me in. The CV and its mutations and the ticks with their cargo of Lyme, my heart with too many miles on its odometer. No doubt there are other potentially fatal conditions lurking below the radar. Its a wonder I’ve survived as long as I have! Still, I’d like to put off my swan song a bit more. No need to put it on my bucket list…its always been the last item and the only one guaranteed. The top item is an airplane. Learning to fly one and then buying one. Might have to settle for a good flight sim. That and the motorcycle. A couple of ways of running out the clock. Advancing in that inexorable slog, following time’s arrow, toward entropy’s last whimper. Croaking, to put it simply.
What a nice aircraft it is. And at $50,000 for the kit and fixin’s not too expensive. No I don’t have $50,000. What I have is a dream, a fantasy I guess. For a long time I didn’t even consider the possibility of getting a pilot’s license. I don’t have 20/20 vision, far from it. My eyes are good enough for driving, for that license, but not for the medical exam a private pilot needs. But, for about 15 years there has been a class of license that accepts one’s state driver’s license as sufficient. I only learned about this class last year. Makes sense, if you are to be trusted on the road, you should be able to fly…with restrictions. The class of permit is for what’s called “light sport aircraft”. The Zenith CH-750 is an example of this class. It is light, under 1600 pounds, but quite capable. With optional extra fuel tanks it can fly 900 miles at 120 miles per hour. Under the restrictions for the class only daylight VFR (visual flight rules) operation is allowed. Altitude is 10,000 feet maximium, the cabin is not pressurized. In truth much more is involved in flying than in driving. The up and down part. That extra dimension, the virtical, multiplies the danger of collision and miss judgement. Ultimatly the FAA must figure that the operator of an LSA is mostly a danger to themselves. At my age and under our new reality I think the flight simulator is my best bet. Maybe in the next life I can fly for real. Maybe in the after life I can take wing with the angels….if I’m not stoking a furnace down below.
Under the menue entry, “sketch” you will find page after page of semi random drawings, studies of photos, mostly. The photos in newspapers or magazines. The text is from my head, only sometimes influenced by the context or caption associated with the photo I draw from. The thoughts are those things I was concerned with at that moment. One side of my brain was drawing the other side was thinking about returning to South America in the fall. Or thinking about something I was writing. In Ecuador, when I lived in Cuenca, I was part of a writers group. I called it the “Wanabee writers group” but several members were published. It was great socially, met a lot of people. Got invited to lots of parties. Got my ego stroked when I read from whatever I was writing at the time. We took turns being constructivly critiqued. Still have those manuscripts, unfinished, but well along. Now that CV has me pinned down I should dig thru the files and finish one. If you are curious click on “Sketch” and check ’em out.
I’m not now feeling as flippant as I did yesterday. Not too depressed, but depressed all the same. Before when I felt like this I would take a ride.
The car works too, but not as well. With every day getting warmer it’ll be a struggle to wait til the 15th. That’s the anniversary of my isolation. Choosing that date is only a whim, nothing special about two months in isolation. in normal times I get bored with the hobbies and chores. Tired of watching the same old movies on YouTube. Taking the bike for a ride doesn’t need any thinking. Its only physical and sensory but its total. Ya, it’ll be tough when I wonder why I should wait. Not going out early becomes an activity in itself, the deferment of something. Like not opening the presents under the tree until morning, or Lent. It pumps up the value of the thing deferred.
Does waiting for something scale up? Is normal life being deffered til some date? For a lot of people in the USA May first was the date. Did the states dropping the distancing requirements do so knowing they couldn’t hold the line long? Its the same pressure I’m feeling. I’d be more antsy if I was twenty vs seventy something? Cabin fever in the summer? That plus the ticks/Lyme?
My generation, boomers, had (mostly) smooth sailing for so long. This point in history will be an epoc marker. The end of one era, the beginning of another. Better times comming? I doubt it – as a bet I wouldn’t put money on it. The equilibrium has been shocked and will resettle, dynamically. But trends are not standing around waiting. Climate change accelerates. Population continues its unsustainable growth. The nuclear club grows. No, I wouldn’t take that bet.
The virus makes me more aware of my oun mortality. Shines a spot light on it and makes me look. I look at human civilization and see the same mortality. Earth? the biosphere, most of God’s creatures, will do OK. People may not. They have bad juju. They are accident prone. They say that God loves them all the more for being so messed up. I think the great spirit will let humans inflict punishment upon themselves. Punishment all the more appropriate because it is self inflicted.
Is this excessive “doom and gloom” vs “tomorrow is another day, rejoice”? I think both are true. Its rare that things are one of a binary of possibilities, black or white. No, that would be too easy. The gamut of grays is just short of infinite. A twilight of possibilities.
Rather than thinking about this too much, get on the motorcycle and ride. Feel the wind. Feel the streams of air flowing warm and cold from valleys & estuaries. Ride thru the woods at sun up. Look out for that falling acorn ahead….its got your number on it!