Archives for the month of: July, 2013

Haiku 728

Waiting for the bus
one dew drop falls, bringing me
back to last night’s rains


6535_1111900079515_4137387_n_201307280608420601863179553The people I deal with at work – the customers, I mean – can be frustrating sometimes. Once in a while, though, a simple call for roadside assistance evolves into something like a short story or film. I got a call yesterday from Conroe Texas from a woman who needed a jump start for a truck. Simple enough request, but as I talked to her the details began to come out. As it turned out, the jump start was for her father’s truck. 2010 or ’11 Silverado, black, sitting in the driveway. She mentioned that her father had dementia. We discussed whether to set up a jump or to have it towed to a dealership to see whether something else might be wrong. She said that her father didn’t want that, and I got the impression that she and her father’s wife were toeing that fine line between acceding to his wishes and convincing him, through the fog wrapped around his brain, to do what is best. They both, she and her father’s wife (pretty sure it was not her mother), loved him enough to let him have some control over the decisions in his life and they know him well enough to know what is important to him. He is an older man, living in Texas, so one of the important things to him, something that gives him a sense of his identity, is his pickup. The reason the battery in the truck went dead is that one day he, groping for something familiar that reminded him of who he once was, went out to the truck in the driveway, sat there for a while, a few hours I guess, listening to the radio until the battery died. There is something extremely poignant in that image for me. I can see him there, sitting in the driveway since they won’t let him drive the dang thing anymore, listening to the radio, memories of past trips flitting through his tattered mind as he sits there. That truck is a space that was and is important to him, somewhere that he can have valuable alone time, sealed off from the world there, released for a bit from the demands and entreaties of others. Where he can be free, enclosed as he is, possibly imagining a different life for himself, one in which he could be shet of all these daggum nagging women. He gets to where he’s going though, and has a realization that for all their pestering, the women in his life want what is best for him and their love, which seems smothering at times, is something he can always come back to.

The woman and her stepmother (I ended up talking to the stepmother, after the daughter gave the phone to her so she could make the decision about whether to jump or tow) decided, after consulting with the father, that a jump start would be the best course of action. That’s the end of this little seven minute drama. The story sticks with me, I think, because I have a Dad, who has his own truck, and he’s getting older. He has let me drive it once or twice, and I considered it a privilege. Now I know why, at least to a degree, that little Toyota is important to him. I have told him I would like to have it, or buy it, when things get to the point where he can’t use it anymore. And if that happens, I’ll treasure that little green truck, because it was his.

See, here’s the thing that is being lost in all the hubbub over the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, and the incident itself. They are SYMBOLS, symbols of one thing to one side, and of another to the other side. Symbols are POWERFUL, emotionally resonant and in a lot of cases more powerful than the things they symbolize. THAT is the reason for the unrest in LA and elsewhere, and for the intense emotions on both sides. I would like to believe we could look at this as a teaching and learning opportunity, an opportunity to look objectively about what really is going on in this country, even after five years of having a black president. He, Obama, is just a symbol too. If we continue to focus on the symbols and fail to ignore or trivialize the underlying realities, we will never find common ground and will continue lurching along on our course to oblivion and irrelevance.

End Guantanamo

End Guantanamo (Photo credit: jezobeljones)

We call it forced feeding – it’s torture

Horrifying. This is being done, in our names, twice a day, to other human beings. Some of whom should not even be still held at Guantanamo Bay. As Bey says in the video, Peace. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but now I’m glad I did.

We did not invent democracy. We have not, all propagandistic, patriotic blandishments to the contrary, even perfected it. Who are we, really, to tell the citizens of Egypt, or Turkey, or Syria, or Iraq, how to achieve it? It is a messy, long process, especially in countries where there is no history of democratic rule. The historical perspective we need to even BEGIN to understand what is happening in Egypt and elsewhere will not even be available until after I am gone. That is just the way it is. However, that won’t stop the pundits from bloviating and pontificating (how those words sound like excretory functions, which they are). David Brooks isn’t the only culprit. The US is the empire now, and is seen as such from more parts of the world than it is not. There is a new Orientalism afoot, and it ain’t pretty. Edward Said, where are you when we need you? I would love to be able to hear your insights on the events of the past few years in the Arab world.

Over the fence on the side of my yard. Florida is often described as a paradise, and it does have its paradisiacal aspects. There is something entrancing about living in a place where all you have to do is walk outside and reach down to the ground to sustain yourself.

Once again, an Irishman shows us they have a facility with, and a love for, language which allows them to define and present the world in a unique, enlightening way.

The term psychogeography is a flawed one. It presumably sounds better in France, where it originated, like its poetic sister-terms dérive and détournement. Here, it suggests canal-botherers and licentious lecturers. Maybe it’s just semantics. In French, reading a phonebook sounds like poetry; in English, the opposite is the case. Whatever noise we attach to it, it’s a phenomena we all experience if we have an awareness of our surroundings beyond the functional. It existed in Irish literature centuries before the Situationists. It was called Dindsenchas from the Gaelic for “mountain folklore” and is evident in the literary masterpieces of pre-Christian Ireland – The Táin, Acallam na Senórach and the Fenian cycle. It is weaved into the very names of the towns and villages of this island; as in the case of my hometown Derry, which originates from the Irish for “oak grove.” A good friend of mine is from a…

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Existentialism in Calvin and Hobbes

Existentialism in Calvin and Hobbes (Photo credit: Lst1984)

An Existential Life

Though I have to admit I like the title as revealed in the URL more. I don’t have much tolerance for the sometimes nihilistic strain in existentialism, but I do think it’s an understandable response to life, especially life as it was experienced in the twentieth century. There’s a lot of wisdom embodied in the quotes collected on this page, but, as always, caveat emptor. Just use it as fuel to encourage yourself to think for yourself at ALL times, and to leave the herd behind with a critical, yet always loving, eye.

Recommended reading: Irrational Man by William Barrett. I will forever be indebted to Professor Bob Hall for introducing me to this book, and Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky, and so many other books and ideas which changed my life utterly. RIP, Bob.







God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vonnegut is my guru

So wise, kind and yet cynical all at the same time. I love his theory in this interview about how writers are specialized cells, or organisms. My personal theory of the universe, the way of thinking by which I am guided, is holistic. Partly, or mostly, derived from what I know of Taoism and how it approaches the world in which we live.

I have been on a Vonnegut kick lately, going through God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Bluebeard, Deadeye Dick and now on Mother Night, with Sirens of Titan and Fates Worse Than Death on deck. Amazon, it seems, has been tempting me by offering on a weekly basis one Vonnegut book for $1.99. Can’t beat it with a stick, that much wisdom for that little money. What he offers in his body of work, amid all the wackiness, is an alternate or secret history of the twentieth and the early twenty first centuries. He may not have made it into that essentially worthless entity called “the canon” due to his absurdity, but why not? I have some ideas on this, most of which involves academics with sticks up their asses. We don’t need people who can show us the seriousness in life through the prism of literature, for isn’t life serious enough as it is? Isn’t that why we spend so much time through so many ways, evolving every day, to escape it? I submit that we are much better served by folks, like my beloved Kurt, who can make us laugh and see the absurdity of the existence in which we live, and just maybe help us to learn something about ourselves in the process.

index(6)837997257Snowden’s Run

This story proved the accuracy of the cliche “truth is stranger than fiction” a couple of weeks ago. And it just keeps getting stranger. One of the most interesting aspects to me is how the supremacy and power of the US government is being challenged. And, in this latest chapter, how sovereign governments kowtow to the wishes of the US government and do their bidding. In a way, I think, the incident is prescient about how things are going to be in the future. By this I mean the struggle between the global south, or third world, or whatever, and the nations who have traditionally controlled the world for centuries. We are seeing the beginnings of huge change here, change which I regret I likely won’t be around to witness.

The image that comes to mind is Gulliver, prostrate on the ground and being harassed by the Lilliputians who are swarming around him and restricting his movement by staking him to the ground. Bravo to Morales, and Kirchner, and to an extent even Putin, who are exercising their sovereignty and by their actions acknowledging the reality that the US has lost its moral and political authority in the world. A new world is here, and as is usually the way with superpowers, the US is the last to realize it.