Being myself a high school dropout I don’t have total empathy with these young people and their rained on party. These poor youths will have to plunge into the cold water of the job market without memories of that night of debauchery and drunkenness. Well, most will forgo those memories. Their graduation ceremony done “drive in theater” format. College?, is there much possibility of finding sex in an online college? Then why bother? After college another virtual graduation ceremony, an online interview and then hired to work from home via the internet. Talk about class divide, people who must be there to work, and those who can work their way to retirement in a bathrobe. Makes me think of HG Wells novel, The Time Machine. The brutish lower class worked factories below the ground while the pretty people frolicked on the surface in beautiful gardens. There was a rub so I’ll halt the analogy right there. No, I don’t think things will go that far. But the book was set in a year a thousand from now. A lot can happen in ten generations. The truth is (message to you graduates) times of great change are also times of great opportunity. That’s a fact. Never easy to look in the cup and read the tea leaves, but your future is there. What sort of career should I pursue?, I hear the eager cap and gown inquire, Well, You could do worse than Epidemiology. Virology is also an exciting area. You could go to Mars with Musk, or with a scent more ethereal but Earthy. Yes, you could do both. That’s because where ever we go, they go. I mean the little virus packages. They will not leave us until some smart person (I’m addressing you graduate) shows them the door! The best of luck to you, freshly minted adult!, and please adjust your ppe mask, its on sideways.
A really good way to understand leadership is to approach a crisis with the antithesis of that quality in it’s stead. I doubt there is a word for the conjugate of “leader”. When that word is invented at the top of its wiki will be a photo of you know who. Stalin was a nasty dude. The man Hitler hated most….but he was a leader. He must be credited by friends and foes alike with defeating the Austrian named Schicklgruber. Students of history would know that. Not many of those anymore. My daughter’s generation doesn’t do history. They’ve never heard that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That’s a shame because they also can’t enjoy alternate historical fiction. The “what if” narrative. What if someone other than DLT (or Clinton) had been installed in office in January 2017. What if Trumpf had been elected in 1939 instead of Roosevelt? The “Phony War”, as the Brits called it started two months before the US election. A state of war existed but there wasn’t much shooting. DLT, if elected at that time could have called it a phony war for years. All that hypothetical chief executive would have been thinking about would be slogans for the 1944 election…”He kept us out of the war” Chamberlain was an appeaser, Trumpf is a divider as well as a narcissistic idiot. The antithesis of what WE need in the current battles. Battles in wars against institutional racism and Corona Virus. But you don’t go to war with the president you need….
I’m having a deja vu! Its 1967 again. There are riots in dozens of large cities and men are leaving Florida for space. I don’t remember a virus lock down back then. History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. Yesterday two men managed to escape this crazy scene. I watched the replay. I saw them on my big screen floating with an inflated dinosaur. They floated with the dinosaur, not me, I floated with Mary Jane. The interior of the crew dragon ship looked the part. It could have been designed by a movie set maker. I’ll bet it was, knowing that rascal Musk’s Modus Operandi. Reality and science fiction inform each other anymore. The two escapees from Earth joined three others three hundred miles up. Five down, eight billion to go. Well…. I can’t speak for the others but a few of us would like to escape into space ourselves. In clinical terms space begins 60 miles up. Climb three hundred thousand feet and you’re there. Do it with today’s pathetic technology and you’ll fall back, landing with a thud. Whats needed is the alien white tic tac vehicle. That craft, as seen on Navy video, doesn’t need the high radial velocity to counter gravity. All the huffing and puffing SpaceX’s rocket performed to insert a dragon into orbit. No, the aliens can climb and dive and turn on a dime without breaking a sweat. Its easy for them. How do they do it? nobody knows, yet. They’re not talking to us. That shows wisdom I guess, but It hurts, that these aliens don’t want to know us. Do we have B.O.? do we act crazy? are humans loathsome?, dangerous? Stupid? Rhetorical questions sorry to say. We are all of that and more. My friend Joe has one vector on the subject of space exploration. He says we shouldn’t do it. He says we should stay and fix the Earth. He joins others in the idea that its “either or”. Either we clean up our mess and make Earth the paradise it could be…or we go into space. Why not both?! I ask. His reply is something like, you can’t have dessert unless you eat all those green veggies. Maybe the aliens hang here waiting for us to cross a line. Maybe if a few of us go beyond the moon, to Mars or the Asteroids, they’ll show themselves and read us the “Riot Act”. The rules made by the adults in this part of the galaxy. God is a little too indulgent with us. God the father is spoiling his kids maybe. Its Home Alone on a planetary scale. Tough love from a bunch of aliens capable of slapping us around might be just the Rx we need. Maybe the aliens don’t have herd immunity and are social distancing. I’d prefer to think that, I decide, sniffing my armpits.
Yes, you have to. Even if I don’t feel like it? Yes, even then. That’s my dialog with the interface here. It must know I don’t have anything to say. It watches my keystrokes and measures the milliseconds between. It has complex algorithms to fathom my mood and productivity. The basis of the Matrix dystopian world was that people were being used as batteries (of the electrical kind). I’m old, as batteries go, I need a recharge. The daily output expected is what? 600 words? too much! I’ve started the website for something to do. In ancient times, before I had a ravenously hungry web site to feed, I used to draw. Not on spec but just as exercise. The way a guitarist would riff, a useful therapy. I would sketch. Drawing from imagination or photos in the newspaper. I still do that but now more to feed the site. These computers and the web networking them suck energy out of hundreds of millions. That’s the analogy with the Matrix movie. Electric power is useful but my blog isn’t producing any. What exactly is the value of all the riffing on themes great and small?
Outside nature is roaring green. The past two weeks have seen an explosion of verdant color out my windows. The bugs have arrived too. An ant Realtor was seen recently touting the positives of his clients moving into my house. The effrontery! really! Don’t they know the bees and mice and others have prior claim. Got to find some of that powder you sprinkle around the floor to discourage them. Ants speak a chemical language. A bit of twenty mule team Borox says, get the Vahk out and STAY out. I will ask my shopping person to get some. Its nice to have the leaves again but as with everything there is a down side. Not a big one but one I’ll need to deal with. The ends of the long wire antenna come close to the trees. Its 135 feet end to end. Where wet leaves and branches touch the wire I’ll have to trim. Otherwise the signal I cast toward Mongolia will be attenuated. No not a huge tragedy in a world of pandemics and institutional racism. But its something to attend to on my little patch of Earth.
Most people have heard of P.K. Dick thru the movies made from his stories. Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and one of my favorites, The Man in the High Castle. Dick was a brilliant writer. His credit arrived about the time he’d managed to completely fry his brain with drugs. His later writings needed a Pharmacopoeia along side the novel, as a student of the Bible might reference a concordance. Psychiatric pharma was in his blood. The Man in the high castle, written in 1962, preceded his copious drug use by a decade or more. What brought this to mind was my meandering strip atop this post. In an alternate universe Steven King might have, may, should, or will, write about the Corona Circus and its scary Clown. The juxtaposition of the elements, the virus, the orange creature, the elephants, confused donkeys, and the sad clown, are the sort of raw material Steven King (in some universe) might make use of. The great Russian writers had revolutions and war and social calamity as background. They made good use of it. But current events, like manure, need to age a bit. When history is hot and still steaming it doesn’t make good fertilizer. That’s going to take years I’m afraid. It’s not going to be over by wishful thinking, the current approach in DC. What makes me think of Dick’s book is its setting in an alternate universe where the Axis, Germany and Japan beat the Allies. The Nazis occupied the USA east of Colorado and Japan took the western US. Dick’s alternate setting had one link to this universe, the reality we were familiar with (until this virus arrived). That link was a book called, “The Grasshopper lies Heavy” and it’s author the man in the high castle, the endpoint of the plot. I have not seen the TV production. I have read the book. The two diverge somewhat. Anyway, the analogy is that somewhere in this pandemic is a book and an author. Maybe King, maybe not, who has (or will) written an alternate story of this time. A story in which rational planning and competent leadership plus a sane majority allows a different path. This timeline is dysfunctional. But in the end I have to paraphrase from another sci fi flick, Terminator….there is no fate but the one we make, collectively. I guess we’re stuck with it.
So this is a war eh? I think I’d feel better without that analogy. Life in the trenches in WW1 or slogging thru jungle in WW2 was much tougher than this. But then I am not at the front. Those folks, the medical workers, the delivery and infrastructure people, they are fighting the war, confronting the invisible enemy. I’m in a little trench, a spider hole, of my own design. Makes me think of “Ground Pounder Day” in Iceland. I’d been in the Navy (the USN) about a year. I was finished with tech schools & at my first assignment, Iceland. The US forces up there were by treaty part of the Icelandic self defense force. One day a year we needed to be out in the lava fields playing war. The rest of the time me and my crew sat at consoles listening for Russians. That involved headphones and teletype, not rifles and grenades. Never mind. If the “balloon” went up (if the shit hit the fan) we’d be ready to defend the island. An old timer at the base told me how to handle ground pounding day. “As soon as you get there”, he advised,”start stacking rocks and collecting moss”. The chunks of hard lava built up a wall to windward. The moss got stuffed into the cracks. He told me to also take a couple of sleeping bags. Lava isn’t the softest stuff to sit on. I had a rifle but no ammunition. I had a little radio. By mid morning I was snug as a bug & awaiting the main event. At our end of the valley, higher up, sat an army cannon. A mile or two away, at the other end of the valley, a couple of abandoned trucks. I can’t remember doing anything military that day. I listened to 60’s rock and roll from Armed Forces Radio and waited. I might have had a book, can’t recall…that was 1964, a long time ago. When it got late enough in the afternoon a megaphone announced the moment we’d waited for. The day’s highlight. Above and behind me the cannon roared. Might have been 90mm. Not my area of military expertise. Anyway it was loud. What I most remember was how long the projectile took to reach the other end of the valley and the cool sound it made as it flew above us. Time stretches when you wait for a shell to land. They must have had it sighted in because a few seconds after the cannon roared the target leaped into the air. An echo reverberated up and down the valley. Wow, I thought! My first and only taste of combat. Pretend combat. I didn’t enjoy it enough to switch from the Navy to the Army. The war in Viet Nam was heating up at that time but the Pentagon never called. Used to be civilians just cheered while the soldiers and sailors did the fighting. In the nuclear era the “war fighters” will mourn civilians. That’s new. Novel virus from China moving west, that’s a recurring theme in human history.
Five years ago I decided to run up a bit of debt in a good cause. The cause was experience. The debt ended up about five thousand U$D. The experience, a couple of months in Eastern Europe. The former East block, the USSR’s buffer, had been off limits to me for most of my life. When something is forbidden it becomes attractive. By the time I arrived, the Warsaw Pact and its tanks were gone. All the military and geopolitical posturing something for historians to ponder. Poland was at last free of the Nazi’s and Soviet Communists. I stayed two months in Krakow. Tired of tiny and too expensive hotel rooms I rented an IKEA equipped apartment. It was near the train station, itself a major attraction. It was on a street car line. I’ve never done the 14 day, 15 country type of tourism. Putting stickers on a suitcase like a gun slinger notching his Colt revolver. At my age I’d end up on boot hill with that much travel. No, I like to soak in the new place. Krakow was great for that. Like Madrid, Paris and a few other cities, Krakow was never bombed. When a city is a thousand years old it packs a lot of history into a small area. Krakow had that. It had tourists too, lots, including me I guess. I didn’t do the twenty year old thing and stay out all night. In the early evening I returned to the apartment with dinner’s ingredients. The train station mall included a supermarket. In that market, Ham and cheese and fresh bread, to die for, as they say. To die happy with clogged arteries. Fish too, fresh from Gdansk. After the evening meal I’d watch Polish TV or old movies on my little tablet. Someone I knew back in Ecuador was publishing online and I’d promised to keep them supplied. Fantasy stuff. Not traditional continuity comics, if there is a traditional form any more. A $50 hand scanner did a decent job of converting the watercolor sketches into files. I should make another stab at a strip but I’m not enthused much. What story needs telling? I can’t escape Hamlet’s take on this, “a tale told by an idiot,… signifying nothing” So visit toons, its just a click away.
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.