Archive for March, 2013

Happy Fertility Day!


Or whatever “pagan” ceremony (pagan only according to Christians) was usurped by Easter.   I’m too lazy to do the research, but the ubiquitous presence of eggs, chickens and bunnies makes me suspicious . . .

Anyhow, I’m posting to comemorate Desert’s belated birthday party, celebrated last night at her and Mr. Desert’s house.  The cake was a masterwork, and it was  made of ice cream, also, too.


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Busy, Busy

Too-busy22Here’s what I prize most about being retired:  I have entire days, and sets of days, to get things done.  Tasks that require more time than a weekend can finally be completed–a sewing project, finally finishing Skyrim, writing an essay, reading a difficult book, cleaning out that cluttered closet and recycling the stuff you found in it, seriously practicing piano–anything that requires more time than a weekend can undertaken and completed once you’ve retired.

So this month has been less than optimal for me.  Between refinancing my mortgage, redistributing my retirement funds so the IRS can begin taxing them, doing my taxes, getting my drivers’ license renewed, seeing a phalanx of doctors for all the stuff to which one must attend as one grows older, taking the car in for maintenance, ditto the cats–March was one busy month.  As I neared the end of my to-do list, I began to look forward to a few days of uninterrupted peace.

And of course the goddess was watching, and she saw that I was about to become lazy again.  So she  sent me a substantial gift from the blue–a royalty check, which finally rewards my co-author and me for all the hard work we did over two years ago now.   I vowed that when this ship finally came in I would use some of it to make much-needed repairs to my house.  So this week, instead of getting started on Eric Foner’s book about Lincoln and slavery, I’ve been on the phone and driving around town talking to carpet dealers, roof sealers, landscapers, and screen replacers.  For the next few weeks all these nice people, along with the air-conditioning maintainers, will be walking overhead and all around the house, while those working inside will move furniture and generally cause confusion.  I, of course, have to empty all the bookshelves and store the computer equipment somewhere and pick up shoes and laundry baskets off the closet floors yada yada.

To add to the confusion, Inky and Sassy will freak out during most of this.  They are so used to our ordinarily quiet lives that a visit from the UPS driver can send them cowering under the bed for hours.  So they will spend most of their time, at least while the movers and carpet layers are here, in their carriers out in the garage.  That won’t help them feel less threatened, but it should keep them safe.  Unlike most cats I’ve known, they feel secure in their carriers, so that’s the best solution for now.  I’m sure an occasional bowl of Iams will help as well.

I’m not complaining–all this is great and really, really needs to be done.  I have just one question though:  what is the human equivalent of a bowl of Iams?

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Update on Handwringing

Billmon has resurfaced! with a drippingly sarcastic review of the warmongering for Iraq in 2001-03:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/22/1196307/-Mea-Culpa.

Balloon Juice has a satisfyingly nasty post up about Chris Matthews’ two-faced claims about his support for the war:  http://www.balloon-juice.com/2013/03/23/tweetys-ugly-story/.  And Media Matters posted about Matthews’ selective memory as early as 2006–you can find its essay on Matthews in MM’s archives.

Billmon’s review of the pre-war coverage is rife with links.  A warning, though:  reading his screed, let alone some of the links, raises sufficiently painful memories to give one a case of heartburn.

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Binge and Purge


On this, the tenth anniversary of the selling of the Iraq War, the teevee and intertubes are rife with remorse over the general failure of the American people and the media to criticize the runup to same.  People who opposed the war in those days are now being asked to talk about how it felt to be ostracized, and in the cases of a few journalists, fired (fer instance Phil Donahue and Keith Olbermann) for refusing to believe the patent lies being peddled by Bush and Cheney, Inc.

I can summon only one response to the general handwringing:  buzz off.  Just buzz the hell off.

Trep, Desert, and I talked incessantly about the runup to war in the years preceding 2003.  If I recall correctly, all of us opposed Bush’s “election” (“accession”  or “appointment” are more accurate terms), and all of us detested the patriotic fervor that followed on 9/11.  We saw right through the bullshit being spewed about WMD and yellowcake from Nigeria and Attah meeting in Prague with an envoy from Saddam Hussein.

Not that this required any special insight on our parts.  Many books were written prior to 2003 warning us about Bush and Rove and warmongering neo-cons.  Good reporting from the Guardian and McClatchy was available to anyone who wanted it.  Voices on Air America–predominantly Rachel Maddow’s–were raised against it.  Lefty blogs such as Mother Jones and Kos poked holes in the administration’s story.  But of course reading/hearing any of these sources required Americans to bestir themselves beyond the nightly news when it came on after “Jeopardy” ended.

And more:  there was a bloodthirstiness in the air.   Americans wanted revenge for 9/11.  It didn’t really matter that Saddam had nothing to do with that.  He was an Arab, and the Iraqi people were brown-skinned Muslims, and that was reason enough, for many Americans, to invade his country, hunt him down, and decimate the population.

I felt that bloodthirstiness once before in my lifetime:  during the Vietnam war.   It’s a scary thing.  You can’t talk about your beliefs with anyone except trusted friends.  At the hairdressers, the grocery store, the dentist’s office, you hold your tongue.  To participate in a protest is to risk being hit by a rock or bottle.  Nonetheless, many Americans protested both wars.  I expect that the hundreds of thousands of older Americans who protested the Iraq intervention were remembering that earlier hysteria (although most people missed the size of these protests because the media failed to cover them).  We  also remembered that there is no way to end a war that has no real objective.  When you have killed everyone who can resist and wrecked the ecology of a country, what  have you gained?

Enmity, that’s what.  The enmity of an entire people, and an entire region of the world.  And that’s about all America got out of either war.

So don’t go about wondering how dissenters knew.  Instead, ask yourselves why supporters of the war were so blind to the obvious truth.

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creature-from-the-black-lagoon-blu-ray.  . . sorting and shredding, and I wondered if there was anything on the teevee to amuse me while I worked.  So I turned it on and suddenly the screen filled with the credits to . . . The Creature From The Black Lagoon!   I hadn’t seen this movie since it came out in 1955, so I settled in to watch.

What a hoot!  Geologist finds what he takes to be a fossil clawed hand sticking out of a cliff face somewhere in Brazil.  Us viewers get some foreshadowing right up front:  a large clawed and scaly arm rises out of the water and nearly snatches a native worker as they all marvel over the find (natives did not fare well in fifties jungle movies).  Anyhow geologist goes back to US, shows fossil to other scientists including an ichthyologist (played by the hunky-in-fifties-terms Richard Carlson) and his girlfriend scientist played by Julie Adams.  Richard Denning, another staple of fifties B-movies, is the rich guy who funds the expedition mostly so he can contemplate Adams in her specially designed white bathing suit.  (I’m sure Adams’ lengthy swimming scene sent many  an adolescent male home to -er- contemplate as well).  So they all fly off to the Amazonian jungle and follow a tributary up to a lovely lagoon, which is called “the black lagoon” by the locals.  We viewers learn early on that a live creature lurks underwater;  the characters become aware of it only after it tries to swim off with Adams.

Since the creature is no longer very scary, this time around I was able to appreciate the beauty of the underwater photography.  There’s a great pas-de-deux between Adams and the creature as she swims along the surface of the lagoon while unbeknownst to her the creature swims below her, mimicking her moves.  This is performed to music composed by Henry Mancini.  The creature is played by a champion swimmer named Ricou Browning, and he moves gracefully and powerfully through the underwater growths, even though he is wearing a rubber suit.   If you’ve seen the film you may remember the creature’s theme:  a screeching brass “da Da DA!” which probably scared the crap out of its original audiences.

There’s lots of old mores to scoff at, or to deplore, as well.  The men wear funny bathing suits and clunky scuba gear, and they have to stop to depressurize after swimming around in what looks to be about twenty feet of water.   They use a drug to immobilize all the fish in the lagoon–the name of the drug sounded like “rohypnol,” which today carries all sorts of overtones about unthinking exploitation of other beings.

All in all, though, this movie is a great way to while away a Saturday afternoon while the shredder cools.

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Take Out the Trash Day

paper_pileSpent today  fulfilling part of my New Year’s resolution (hey, it’s only half-past March!) to clean out every closet, shelf, and drawer in my house.  I plan to throw/give away everything I don’t want, need, or use.

Today’s task was to go through my files.  I thought that job might take half a day.  Hanh!  After sorting through piles of tax records, receipts, bills of sale, operating instructions, and warranties, I looked up at the clock as it was turning four pm.  The sorting generated a huge pile of paper to recycle, and another pile to shred and recycle.  (You know you hang on to stuff much longer than necessary when you can barely lift it into the trunk of the car).

I feel good about finally getting started.  And there are now lots of empty spaces in the file drawers–for awhile, anyhow.  Of course I vowed to do this once a year, just as I did last year and the year before that.  We’ll see.

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Saving Face

landing-cargo-of-african-slaves-jamestown-virginia-1619This morning I surfed over to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ place at the Atlantic.  Haven’t been there in awhile, and every time I visit I wish I did so more often.  If you go there, make sure you have an available hour or so because there’s always lots to chew on.

Here, for example, is Coates’ recent meditation on racism:

“A few years ago I wrote a modern history of people practicing racism all the while claiming they were not. You can include this example of a Louisiana judge who refused to marry an interracial couple and then told a newspaper:  ‘I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way.’

The ‘I’m not racist even though I’m doing something actually racist right now’ rationale is linked to the notion of racism as something worthy of societal condemnation. That is a good thing. . . . Along with that (perhaps in the 60s) comes the idea that racism is something that ‘low-class” white people do’. It’s not a system of laws and policies, so much as the ideology of Cletus the slack-jawed yokel.

None of this is new. It’s akin to proto-Confederates loudly and lustily defending slavery, daring the North to war before 1865, and then afterward claiming that the war really wasn’t about slavery. The point is to save face.”

While I agree with TNC, I think there is something else at work among racism deniers as well.   Conservatives resent the ideological change that took place in the ’50s and ’60s wherein many white people realized that white supremacy exerted actual physical effects on people.  Television coverage of bloody freedom riders or police dogs chewing on marchers’ arms will do that to a viewer.

Conservatives now feel betrayed by their fellow whites, which category includes the media and culture, because their beliefs no longer go without remark.  For example, most contemporary whites are offended by the image posted above, wherein black people are subjected to an evaluative white (male) gaze.  Africans who returned that gaze were punished with whippings and death.  Back in the 1950s, this image might have appeared in a schoolbook or a historical display at Jamestown without comment.  Not so today.  Conservatives are angry that the white gaze can now be remarked by white people, just as they are angry about so many other changes in American culture since the 1950s, whether these  changes are real or imagined.

Of course the white supremacist worldview is not an accurate description of the world.  It is a construction.  TNC cites historian Barbara Field’s assertion that racism is a creation.  He writes:  “if racism is a creation, then we must then accept that it can be destroyed. And if we accept that it can be destroyed, we must then accept that it can be destroyed by us and that it likely must be destroyed by methods kin to creation. Racism was created by policy. It will likely only be ultimately destroyed by policy.”

This is a great rationale for policies like affirmative action, which really do work.  So far, though, conservatives’ denial that their entire belief system depends upon white supremacy has blunted the force and extent of such policies.  In other words, policy can’t always trump belief, as TNC’s examples demonstrate.  Clearly, the struggle against racism has to be waged on both fronts.

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