The Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D
Whose Will decreed This slash of sea
Would frame This sun in gleams of green?
What Plan determines stone's decline,
Or shapes in stars, or shadow's sheen,
Or that we track, as clever beasts,
The passing haze of comet's fall,
And are the glaze of Thought on flesh
That sees the need of Plan at all?
I know, I know... no Plan at all
Is thought by some to be the plan,
And yet what is this sheen of thought
That seeks to measure more than man?
Look out beyond the far Deep Field,
Beyond the limits of our sight.
It cannot be that All that is,
Is only night on deeper night.
But if that should be All that is,
And All as purposeless as stone,
The Heart still sings the body's chants,
And moves the Light within the bone.
Perhaps this pattern that we know
As time at slant between two lights,
Is but some dance to entertain
What lies beyond our Shaded sight.
Yet what dark mind could find a gleam
Of pleasure from such turns,
Instead of reading evil
In a countenance of burns?
The Countenance of comets,
That the sky at night assumes,
Mutes all equations memorized
On the Continent of Tombs.
To stand but Once within this Field,
And feel the hands of wind,
Is ample compensation
For the Gift the years rescind.
At length our modern marvels
Seem but Blots of haze on slate,
That we note with brief attention
As we step between the Gates,
And dance, to some faint music,
Along the path of day's retreat,
Our ancient, ageless minuet
That rounds this sleep with sleep.
True colors of solar corona Taken by Miloslav Druckmüller
How, when my emerald voices pray
In the crystal heart, and the bright chimes
Sound along the shoals of day,
Shall I not hunt among the stones
To touch Your shadowed silent lips,
And listen in my vaults of bone
To those wave-shattered psalms of sea
That promise soon, O my bright shade!,
The flame that bends my soul to Thee?
For is not prayer that trace of flame,
That sign seen once in silhouette
Between the edge of stars and earth,
That place where winds on water step?
And if I read in heaven pale
These ancient signs, these lines on slate,
That in translation tell Your tale
As if Your tale was burned in bone,
And kept in halls of bronze and stone,
Would I then touch Your fading face
No man can read or waking see?
Would you emerge from stone to say
Our history begins today?
I speak, I know, I know, at slant,
And seldom cleave the circle straight,
But Your geometries enchant,
While I stand frozen at Your gate.
Yet still I sense such centers touch,
As deep as senses hope to know,
In this rose room that hovers high
Above all memory of snow.
And so above the ocean I,
Released from life, from earth entire,
Relive within this room of steel
The ashen memory of Your fire.
That in such mansions once I slept,
Most fortunate of all blessed men,
And breathed Your breath,
Embraced Your heart,
That my stilled heart might beat again.
FALSTAFF, sitting upon the ground telling sad stories of the deaths of kings
.... some poison'd by their wives.
FOOL: Good Sir John, how fare thee.
FALSTAFF: I fare well but soon must fare thee well.
FOOL: Nay. Take thy shadow off thyself.
Do but drink this bottle down and we shall merry be.
FALSTAFF: Merry? Me? Falstaff shall no more merry be.
FOOL: But thou art known from Land's End to John O'Groats
as the merriest of Harry’s merry band.
And I stand witness from our revels past
that all such tales are true.
FALSTAFF: Oh, fine Fool, if you seek one
who would be merry with you
you seek not old Sir John.
FOOL: Posh and bother, good Sir John,
with these sweet cakes
and this good ale
how can you not merry be?
FALSTAFF: I may not now make merry
because I have made myself marry.
"In the past if someone was famous or notorious, it was for something—as a writer or an actor or a criminal; for some talent or distinction or abomination. Today one is famous for being famous." -- Malcolm Muggeridge
I’m a man who doesn’t like cats. I don’t understand why women and certain men don’t get the simple axiom: “Dogs? Cool. Cats? Not.” It is one of the universal truths that no sane man can deny. And yet the chicks and chestless men persist in promoting this most useless of animals which steadfastly resists domestication, becoming an agreeable amusement, and is next to useless if not downright nauseating when sauteed or roasted, grilled or boiled, or even deep-fried.
There was one cat, however, that I did come to admire; Fatso.
Fatso arrived in my life like most cats arrive in the lives of men -- attached to a woman. Indeed, Fatso was one of three cats attached to this woman, and he was the least promising at the outset. The other two cats were: 1) “Spotty” -- an utterly coal black cat whose only “spot” was directly under his tail, and 2) “Oswald LeWinter” -- a cat who was so utterly gay that he could have been the reincarnation of Liberace. And then there was.... “Fatso” -- a cat so utterly beaten down and scabrous that on him a sucking chest wound would have looked good. When this particular woman arrived in my life the cats were all firmly established in hers so it was a done deal if I wanted her to stick around which, at the time, I did.
Fatso was not only a fat cat since he would, evidently, eat anything no matter how vile and rotten, he was a loser cat. He was continually wandering off into the neighborhood and getting into screeching, yowling, spitting, clawing, gnawing fights with every other cat whose food bowl he tried to attach his mouth too. And he always, but always, lost and came dragging home with this flap hanging off him, and that long slash in his side, and that other scape and claw mark slanting across his face. His fur would be matted with urine, spit, drool, feces and blood. He was one ugly beaten down cat.
The woman who owned him was, obviously, committed to him in the way that women get committed to hurt things, battered things, stupid things, and things that don’t really run on all cylinders. It’s their training for putting up with men, I guess. She’d hold him down and squirt this fine yellow sulphur powered into his wounds to promote healing or at least hold off gangrene. After a day or so of recuperating around the house, Fatso would haul himself out the window and start catting about the neighborhood looking for food and finding a fight. Then, after a day or so, he’d come limping back with yet more of his body turning into scar tissue.
I put up with Spotty since he was a black cat and I didn’t want to alienate any black cat lest he put some bad juju and mean mojo on me. As for Oswald LeWinter, the gay cat, I said, early on, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” -- even though I suspected, with cats at least, there might be. As for Fatso, well, he disgusted me. I had no use for him. I was even starting to measure him for a river diving bag.
And so it went until..... until.... until the hippy girl arrived.
In those years hippy girls were always arriving. It was what they did. They came and then... they went. And they all had.... they all had to have.... a handicraft. Some did tie-dyes. Others did very heavy and clumsy pottery. Some chipped arrowheads out of flint. Some made teepees in the back yard. Still others wove macramé diaphragms.
This particular hippy girl did beaded belts and chokers. She had several egg cartons holding a mass of teeny-tiny beads and a kind of wire frame loom. She’d wire up the loom, smoke a lot of dope, and then crack open the egg cartons and bead up a bunch of stuff she hoped to sell somewhere along the edges of Telegraph Avenue. I once figured she was making about a dime an hour and when I told her this she said, “That much? Groovy.”
She lived in the apartment behind ours and one day, while setting up her loom, Fatso wandered by her and wiped the latest blood from his wounds on her tie-dye skirt. She glanced down and said, “Oh, Fatso. Uncool.” Then she went to work her hippy girl fingers flying lightly over her bead loom as only the young and the stoned can manage.
Within two hours she had finished a large cat-sized collar in beads. She called Fatso over and strapped it on him. He tossed his head a little bit since the collar was over an inch in width and must have pinched a bit on his neck, but then he seemed to accept it. He sauntered over and has he passed me I glanced down. The hippy girl had woven and arranged a collection of bright red beads against a black background to read, in capitol letters, “FATSO!” (Exclamation mark included.) You could read it from six feet away. The cat, supremely indifferent to this gift, wandered through my legs, into the back garden and hobbled out of sight. “Good riddance,” I thought and hoped he’d try to kill a large delivery truck with his teeth at thirty miles an hour.
It was not to be. Instead we heard, for over a week, a whole chorus of yelps, screechs, yowls and other indications of a virtual tom cat war breaking out across the back yards of the neighborhoods with nary a sign of Fatso limping home for repair. A few days into the week some neighbors would, walking by, remark, “Hey, I saw your cat Fatso kicking some ass the other day. Slipped him some tuna. Cool cat, man.” Other praise kept coming our way. It would seem that Fatso was becoming a force in the neighborhood.
Finally, more than a week passed, and one afternoon a changed Fatso sauntered casually back into our house. It was, of course, just at feeding time and he immediately walked up to Spotty and knocked him away from his bowl. Then he turned to Oswald LeWinter and knocked him away from his bowl. Both cats began to make aggressive gestures and take on puffed up postures, but a single glance from Fatso and both shrank away and went to a far corner of the kitchen where they made faint mewling noises. He ate from each of their bowls and then his own. Then he sauntered back to the door and down the stoop and walked slowly away up the center of the sidewalk.
The woman and I, stunned, followed him at a discrete distance. All along the way as he was being passed by people, they’d glance down and, taking note of his collar, say “Hey, Fatso! What’s happening?” Some would even stop to pet him until he purred. Fatso would seem to give a feline shrug then and saunter on. At his coming, other cats would disappear until he passed. Fatso had, by virtue of his collar, become known by name to the entire neighborhood. He had become famous by being famous. He was a celebra-cat, the first I’ve ever known.
All it took was a collar and a name and Fatso was never beaten up again and certainly never went hungry ever again. In time his saunter became a strut. You couldn’t help but like Fatso since liking him was what Fatso was all about.
In a year or so the woman and I decided to move up into the hills above the town. We packed up Spotty and Oswald LeWinter, but when it came time for Fatso he was nowhere to be found. He’d decided to stick to the old neighborhood. With nearly twenty women putting out food for him and with all the other cats living in fear of him there was no motivation to move with us. We were now “little people.” He was.... well, he was “FATSO!”
For all I know he's still there to this day, kicking fur-butt and flaunting his name; master of his doman, king of kats. All he needed was what we all need.... just a little name recognition.
C'est écrit - Francis CabrelContinued...
Steel and fire. Hammer and anvil. Fold and file. Tang and spine. Edge and tip. Quench and temper. Shave and shape. Grind and hone. Heel and handle. Sheath and strop.
Sippican Cottage says, "Make Something If You Can. Own Something Someone Made In Turn I've lived a fair bit now. Long enough to see simple commodities that everyone thought were consigned to the ministrations of machines alone on a factory floor being made by hand again."
See it made....Continued...
And the Light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. -- John 1:5
Throughout the night, the cold drew close,
And wrapped our home in shrouds of frost.
Within, four candles lent us light,
Returning to us what was lost.
Around us, all our village slept.
Our children safe, their breathing slow.
Four candles gleamed beside the tree,
Their flames burned long, burned low.
Then all fell silent round my house.
The snow shown blue, the shadows, slate.
You could almost hear the planet turn.
I stood bereft beside my gate.
Behind me, those I loved slept warm,
Protected by God's endless grace.
Below me lay the village streets,
Clad in shadow's chill embrace.
The darkness waned, the morning loomed,
Within my house the fire grew bright.
But still I walked on fragile snow,
And prayed for greater light.
As a child I'd lived in dreams of stars,
Of peace on Earth --life's golden seal--
And this night seemed, of all our nights,
The one when all such dreams were real.
Tonight I know this is not so.
The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
In this, the mystery and the gift.
The candles whisper of His gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.
for Justine -- Mill Hill Drive, Southport, Connecticut, 1990
One of the abiding delusions of the male mind is the belief it is actually possible to put off critical Christmas shopping until late on the 23rd of December. I am the apostle of this delusion. I take comfort in this false belief every year. No amount of actual experience ever shakes my conviction that it is not only possible to shop like this but economically prudent too. And every year this faith is tested and found wanting. Whatever I may save in last minute markdowns I pay for in this evening's glowing and gut-wrenching angst.
So there I was waiting at the "Information" counter in the local Barnes & Noble in search of, well, "information." I simply wanted to know if this gigantic repository of games, gags, cards, calendars, coffee, and, oh yes, books had a certain title and where it might be located. I was one of a small cloud of befuddled customers hovering about the source of "Information" and the service in the store at this hour of the evening on this last day was not exactly "crisp."
Bluntly stated, the "information" staff of 2.5 employees had had it. Burnt out, tired, tried to the breaking point, they were still going through the corporate mandated methods of "helping" customers locate what they were looking for. At Barnes and Noble these days that means, as it means at some many other stores, a quick look-up and then a guided tour to the book the customer has requested, a hang-out until the clerk is sure they've found it, and then an inquiry of that person whether or not they need anything else. People have gotten married on flimsier relationships.
This mandated hand holding means that those needing a simple data-base query run and simply to be told "That's under the author's name in Philosophy over there," tend to build up at the desk in hordes. And in these hordes on this night nobody's happy. Add to this stituation people actually calling on the phone with "information" requests and you can see the slow steam beginning to rise off the assembled.
Your real need to know means nothing to the "information" clerks of Barnes and Noble. They must, MUST, comply with corporate protocol lest some corporate quality control spy find they are doing things efficiently according to the situation and fire them. They know they could make things run smoother, but they also know they can't. I understand this and, most of the time, I try to hobble my impatience and irritability out of empathy for their plight. Working retail on this day is not a stroll through a heaven of angels wings and hot chocolate.
However, this was the witching hour of Christmas shopping for me and I was getting ticked off as my, MY!, evening ticked away. The store was crowded and shabby by this point. The lines of my fellow sufferers (90% fellow male procrastinators) were long and growing longer. You could feel their nerve tissues fray and almost see the sparks glinting where the nerves were touching each other and sizzling.
Just when I thought it would be my turn at last to get my measly little question answered and get my own personal guided tour to the book I needed the phone rang at the "Information" desk and the woman, who should have been MY GUIDE THIS INSTANT!, took the call. She listened and said, "I'll see." Then she turned and disappeared into the bowels of the store.
Finally peeved I couldn't help saying in a scathing tone as she departed, "Jesus CHRIST!"
Without missing a beat the man waiting next to me turned and said, "Well, that's Who we're here for, isn't it?"
In the serious practice of Zen meditation, the jikijitsu walks behind the meditators in the hall with a keisaku, a flat stick. If you are having a problem with the depth of your meditation, your focus, you bow slightly in your Zazen posture as the jikijitsu walks by and he gives you a quick and solid rap on the shoulders with the stick. This snaps you into it.
In this case, this man's observation snapped me out of it like a sharp whack on the shoulders from a keisaku. Snapped me out of my bitter mood and back into the reality of the Christmas season instead of the illusion of the bookstore.
"Thanks. Thank you," I said. "You're absolutely right. He is the reason we're here. I needed that."
We both laughed. I shook his hand and left the store and my remaining little needs behind. I'd just gotten what I needed.
Outside in the parking lot you could see the getting and spending still going on in the dark. Beyond the parking lot were the roads and the woods and the streams and the mountains all under a white shawl of snow. Driving back through the whiteness I realized I didn't need to buy any more gifts for anybody. We all already have more gifts than we need or know how to use.
What we all need for Christmas is often the last thing we want -- a sharp whack from a keisaku wielding jikijitsu focusing us to simply accept, at the last minute, His gift.
The question was asked and answered 113 years ago on September 21, 1897. On December 24, 1968, the fourth flight day of Apollo 8, the first human mission to orbit the Moon, the 1897 answer was verified and confirmed by direct observation as Apollo 8 passed behind the moon.
The Apollo 8 Flight Journal - Day 4: Final Orbit and Trans-Earth Injection
089:31:58 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]
089:32:50 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]
089:33:38 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston.
089:34:16 Lovell: Houston, Apollo 8, over.
089:34:19 Mattingly: Hello, Apollo 8. Loud and clear.
089:34:25 Lovell: Roger. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.
It was a long, strange trip from an 8-year-old Victorian girl's question to a radio message from just past the dark side of the moon, but "Yes, Virginia There Is a Santa Claus" is that sort of essay. Simple and straightforward, it contains a strange magic that never dissipates but only grows.
Virginia O'Hanlon was beginning to doubt the existence of Santa Claus in September of 1897. Her father suggested she ask an editor at the New York Sun remarking, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Virginia wrote and Francis Pharcellus Church received the letter and answered it, probably under the pressure of a deadline and to get one more item into the editorial column for the next day's morning edition.
Writers of great popularity and renown struggle their entire careers to write something, anything, that will break out of their work, out of their era, and into history. Few succeed.
Time winnows out the best-sellers as well as the preening memoirs and the pompous pronunciations on "the news of the day," and leaves only those few things that somehow touch the human spirit deeply enough that we decide, without even deciding, that we will keep certain pieces of writing alive forever.
It was that way with the author of this essay, Francis Pharcellus Church. In 1897 he was the lead editorial writer for The New York Sun. He wrote innumerable reports and stories and editorials before this one and he would write countless more after. Nothing else of his survives outside of microfilm, antique volumes of bound newspapers, and a smattering of footnotes. It doesn't have to. Church's work has already outlived five generations of writers and it will outlive five more.
The editorial wasn't even the lead editorial on the day it was printed. It was number seven down the page. That's the spot canny newspaper editors use for small, tossed off, pieces of "human interest." And that's who "Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus" interested -- humans.
People immediately saw that there was a spirit inside the words that reminded them then, as it reminds us now, that there are more important things in heaven and earth and in our lives than just "The news of the day."
Let's pause awhile with this short but immortal exchange between a young girl and a reporter who had seen the civil war and the meanest streets of New York in the 19th century. More than a century later, this short correspondence still holds the real "news of the day."
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? "VIRGINIA O'HANLON. "115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."
"VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see.
"They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
"Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
"Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
"You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
"No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."
The best gift I’ve received in the last few years was a small wooden box, fashioned by hand, and containing a number of carefully selected small objects each with a personal meaning. It has no commercial value. It is a gift of the hand that is filled with the heart. I keep it nearby in my home and, from time to time, I open it and take out each object and hold them briefly before putting them back in their box and the box back on the shelf.
In another time and in another place I once saw the most Christmas gifts I’ve ever seen in a single home. It was in a place where the hands had gone astray and the heart been misplaced. It was the struggle of quantity to overcome quality made manifest.
It was at a home of some people I once knew in a town I once lived in. They had the required large house of many rooms. As a family of four they had about five rooms for every person. It was a house they could all hide in and they did. They hid from each other and they hid all year. On Christmas, however, they came out and pretended they were still a family.
The tree was set up in what these days we call “the family room” even though the room was really just a pass-through for the other rooms. The tree was, as these things had to be in that land at that time, very large and professionally decorated in whatever theme was deemed to be “in” that year. The star at the tip touched and was bent down by the ceiling. The ornaments were so thick that they obscured the green boughs that supported them. The lights were so numerous that the whole tree could have been hauled out and found a place among the approach lights to an airport.
It was good it was a big tree since it needed to be strong to support the wild pile of gifts that started where the two stairs down into the sunken family room bottomed out. The gifts then rose, in a tumult of wrapping paper, in a riot of colored ribbons, to a level of at least two and a half feet by the time they reached the outer boughs. For the family of four there were literally hundreds of presents all wrapped and tossed into the room like some third-world garbage heap until they filled the family room corner to corner.
To pass through this room you had to step carefully along the edges and most people who’d come to the party just went down the adjoining hallway.
In the larger rooms on that day before Christmas the family of four was holding their party for their friends and acquaintances. At that time and in that land the people attending still had lots of young children and their laughter and chatter gave a nice Christmasesque soundtrack to the drinking and eating that went on and on and on.
Our hosts were, to say the least, not getting along that year. Alcohol was taking its toll on the couple, as were the standard infidelities and betrayals common to that set in that land at that time. The hosts tried to put their war into a state of truce on this day so they could pretend, for a little longer, that everything was picture perfect in their world. But as the drinks kicked in their bickering became more and more bitter and I finally sought refuge from the ill spirits and moved off into the house.
I stood at one entrance to the tree/gift room and looked out the window over the mound of presents at the softly falling snow that filled their yard and pool. The winking lights of the tree and the Manheim Steamroller Christmas music coming out of the hidden speakers gave me a moment of Christmas feeling. Angry voices rose for a moment from the far room and then faded.
One of their boys, driven from the room by his parents’ rancor, showed up at the other entrance of the room and looked out over the massive pile of presents. He was a good kid. About four years old and less than three feet high. Red headed and freckled. A Norman Rockwell of a boy. I smiled at him and he smiled at me and then took a step down the first of the two stairs into the gift room.
Before I could move that kid pitched forward into the gift pile and, with a swoosh and a crunch, was gone.
There were so many gifts piled up that they literally swallowed up the child so that the child could not be seen. He’d vanished beneath the waves of wrapping paper and bows.
After a moment his head popped up like a drowning child in a sea of turbulent affluence and he literally began to make crawling and swimming motions to get himself back to the safety of the stairs. There he climbed out, stood up and glanced at me ashamed by something he didn't understand.
“Looks like you’re going to have a very big Christmas,” I said.
He looked out at the presents that contained at least a hundred with his name on them.
“I guess" he said.
"I dunno,” he said.
Then he went back to the party and back to his parents, The Bickersons.
I had a similar but much smaller Christmas that year in that land. But it was, for that year, a good Christmas.
As for The Bickersons, their marriage and family was finished by late spring of that year. It had gone off to the same landfill that today contains all those hundreds of gifts. It couldn’t, I guess, take the weight. I dunno.
I treasure few things in this world but I do treasure my small burled wooden box containing the things of the hand and the things of the heart. I know where that gift is and what that gift is. And it abides.
"To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right."
For EJ, who gave.
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
--Eliot, Journey of the Magi
Small moments in long journeys, like small lights in a large darkness, often linger in the memory. They come unbidden, occur when you are not ready for them, and are gone before you understand them. You "had the experience, but missed the meaning." All you can do is hold them and hope that understanding will, in time, come to you.
To drive from Laguna Beach, California to Sacramento. California the only feasible route takes you through Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. If you go after dark in this season of the year, you speed through an unbroken crescendo of lights accentuated by even more holiday lights. In the American spirit of "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing," the decking of the landscape with lights has finally gotten utterly out of hand.
Airports, malls, oil refineries, the towers along Wilshire and the vast suburbs of the valley put up extra displays to celebrate what has come to be known as "The Season." All the lights flung up by the hive of more than 10 million souls shine on brightly and bravely, but the exact nature of "The Season" seems more difficult for us to define with every passing year.
For hours the lights of the Los Angeles metroplex surround you as if they have no end. But they do end. In time, the valley narrows and you come to the stark edge of the lights. Then you drive into a dark section of highway known as the Grapevine.
The Grapevine snakes up over the mountains that ring the Los Angeles Basin to swirl down the far side into the endless flatland of the Great Central Valley. From entrance to exit is about 50 miles.Continued...
"The survey ship Magellan, bearing with it the last legacy of a long-dead people. A legacy to be kept and cherished and, in time, bequeathed to a world still unborn. From the current inhabitants...of the Twilight Zone."
Deep inside the world's oldest known building, every year, for only as much as 17 minutes, the sun -- at the exact moment of the winter solstice -- shines directly down a long corridor of stone and illuminates the inner chamber at Newgrange.
Newgrange was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge and also predates the pyramids by more than 500 years.
Lost and forgotten along with the civilization that built it, the site was been rediscovered in 1699. Excavation began in the late 1800s and continued in fits and starts, until it was undertaken in earnest in 1962. It was completed in 1975.Continued...
"6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." -- Ephesians 5Continued...
Washington, D.C., circa 1911. "National Photo Co. post card shipment." A very young-looking Herbert French on the left with his associate "Artie" Leonard at their H Street studio. 8x10 glass negative.
Daily life, as recorded on 8x10 glass negatives fromShorpy Historical Photo Archive :: The Young Entrepreneurs: 1911, is often seen in more detail than our faux-vintage Instagram age.
One of the persistant pleasures in very old photographs is that they hold a lot of detail if you but care to look; details that tell you the things behind these images lived. I went into this -- in some detail -- myself in The Summer of Our Content. I notice it again here in one telling detail from the photo cited above from Shorpy. Only this time it is a detail in the hands of the men pictured. With the man on the left, his left hand casually grasps a claw hammer as he strikes the casual pose of a man taking a brief portrait break.
This is not at all that remarkable. Hands holding tools are common in all photography of the men from a time when men actively built the nation. But if we look closely at the man on the right we can see the small confirmation of this lost moment in time in Washington DC over a century past. We see this:
It's by way of this kind of detail that these sections of times lost beyond recall hold their fascination. That momnt when time had a stop and we can see down into the marrow of things; into the weight and the heft of the fabric of trousers stretched over the knuckles of a now long dead hand. For all the trillions of images that we capture now, we won't leave that much of mark.
With woven steel hands
Cupped around clear cadenced tones,
Our sentinels of the infinite
Herald the skein of the sky,
Repeating one announcement,
Sans ornament and instantaneous,
To be etched on eternity's orbit
In a tattoo of silences.
Like torches tossed down
Into unexplored caverns
Our call dwindles and fades
Till the darkness dissolves it:
"We have arrived at the limits of Earth.
We are here. We are here.
We stand on the edge of Forever.
We are here. We are here.
Are we alone here? Are we here alone.
All alone here on the shore?"
In numbers and bits
The signal soars up,
Clambering the jade ladder
Out of the pit of gravity
To float like some ancient insect
Trapped within the amber spine of light:
"We have arrived at the limits of Earth.
We are here. We are here.
We stand on the edge of Forever.
We are here. We are here.
Are we alone here? Are we here alone.
All alone here on the shore?"
The disconcerting occurrence
Encountered at the terminus
Of all the mind's parabolas
Is the thought that Nothing
Is all that occurs, that endures;
.... THE CHRISTIANS
.... THE DARWINS
GETTING OFF ON THE CLUB FOOT: SPIEGEL Interview with Evolution Philosopher Daniel Dennett
SPIEGEL: Professor Dennett, more than 120 million Americans believe that God created Adam our of mud some 10,000 years ago and made Eve from his rib. Do you personally know any of these 120 million?
Really? Let's see, there are currently 311,591,917 Americans. The Spiegel's blunt assertion to which Dennet utterly agrees would mean that one in three American men, women, and children hold to the literal story of Creation -- mud, 10,000 years, case closed. One would assume that everyone would know someone at that ratio. But the number itself seems more opportunistic than true.
I suppose that if you looked mostly at children who were still of the age when the Tooth Fairy is their own personal cash machine, and added them to hard-core evangelicals you might be able to bump the real number up, but I still don't think you get even a sizable portion of 120 million. At any rate, I'd hope the discussion would only cite the beliefs of adults, but maybe the Darwins are so threatened they have to pour in some kids to get to Scary Numberland.
The bald assertion certainly gets the interview off to a big bang, but I for one find it hard to credit it as the cold, hard statistical fact these two want to pound on in their paranoia.
Indeed, if there is any basis for this number at all it would seem to be derived by lumping together young Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, day-age creationism, theistic evolution, neo-creationism, Jewish creationism, and a few others. Creationism, it would seem, is a house of many mansions, and I suppose the could all add up in the mind of a Darwin to a big, bad threat.
While I accept that a few Christian denominations require their members to swear to the Biblical Creation story on, well, a stack of Bibles, the last time I checked there were any number of churches that had no such requirement, Catholic and Protestant. It is my impression that for most Christian faiths you need to believe in one God and Jesus Christ as His only son to belong. The Unitarians are a bit sketchy on those two things, but hey what's a heaven without some Unitarians in the mix to spend eternity telling everyone else they're still not quite sure?
Of late, I've been attending a wide variety of Christian Services around the greater Seattle area, and there doesn't (so far) seem to be a great deal of rancor within the various denominations. Neither have I stumbled across one that insists on believing in Biblical creation stories or getting out, but I suppose that could come up on any Sunday. I'm sure there are a goodly number of Christians that do believe in the literal truth of the Bible and who handle doubters and snakes with equal aplomb. But 120 million?
I think that says much more about the rigid belief set of Dennett and the Spiegel than American Christians. Of course, I could be wrong. But then again so could Dennett. For while Christians firmly believe they have been touched by the Spirit of God in Christ, Dennett just as clearly believes he has been "touched by some noodly appendage."
UPDATE: AN email alerts me to this Dennett sighting --Darwin. Destroyer of God , which reminded me he'd made a previous appearance on this site in 2003 with The "Brights:" Smug, Self-satisfied and Stupid.
Meanwhile, at an elementary school in Israel…Continued...
U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the American flag on the surface of the Moon after he and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first men to land on the Moon during the Apollo 11 space mission on July 20, 1969. -- - PhotoBlog
The moon marked out the edge of heaven.
On this, our scriptures all agreed.
The moon was fixed, it could not fall.
The moon would fill our final needs.
The songs we'd learned were of the moon,
A fitting subject, known to all,
But the songs we sang were of the Earth,
And those that lived before the Fall.
These songs of forests flowing round
The Earth's four corners warmed the frost
That killed our gardens, coming early,
To remind us all of what we'd lost.
Were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.
-- T. S. Eliot, "The Journey of the Magi"
Theirs was the Age of Myth; a world where night was not dimmed by the web of lights that now obscures the stars. Their nights were lit by flaring torches, dim oil lamps, guttering candles; by the phases of the moon and the broad shimmering river of the Milky Way. As the sun declined and night ascended, life withdrew into shuttered and barred homes. Only the very rich or the very poor were abroad in the dark.
The night sky, now so thin and distant, so seldom really seen, was to them as thick and close as a handful of coal studded with diamonds. They could turn it in their mind's eye even as it turned above them. They reclined on their hill sides, their roofs, or in rooms built for viewing and marking the moon and the stars. They watched it all revolve above them and sang the centuries down. They remembered. They kept records and told tales. They saw beings in the heavens -- gods and animals, giants and insects, all sparking the origins of myth -- and they knew that in some way all was connected to all; as above, so below, "on Earth as it is in Heaven". They studied the patterns of it all and from those repeating patterns fashioned our first science, astrology.
And, like all our other celebrated sciences since, they looked to astrology to give them hints about the future, about what they should do, what they should expect, what they should become. They looked to their science then, as many look to their science now, to remove their doubt.
In time stronger, more intricately argued sciences would rise upon the structures of the proto-sciences of astrology and alchemy; sciences that chained demons with data. These new data-based sciences would push the first sciences into the realm of myth, speculation, superstition and popular fantasy. And, as it is with our advertising, promise, big promise is the soul of our brave new sciences.
The new sciences, you see, are much, much more about "Reality" than the old sciences. They will never be tossed aside as so many playthings of mankind's youth. The authority of our astronomy, our biology, our physics, our chemistry and others is, we fervently believe, as certain as the pole star. Unlike astrology and alchemy, they will never be questioned; they will be built upon.
It is a central tenet of our faith in science that the new will encompass the old in one endless and eternal conservation of sense and sensibility. In this cathedral we worship a database. We can see outward to the edge of what is, and downward into time was to (almost) the moment of Creation. We can see inward into (almost) the mute heart of matter. We have the proven method. We have the hard evidence. We know that nothing is, in time, beyond our knowing. All doubt has been removed. We are the Alpha and Omega. Our science is now as eternal and as deeply grounded in truth as... well, as astrology was in 5 B.C.Continued...
The hard-core unemployable
Opining in the Washinton Post Robert Samuelson asks, "Is the economy creating a lost generation?" He expands on this by stating at the outset,
This is not a good time to be starting out in life. Jobs are scarce, and those that exist often pay unexpectedly low wages. Beginning a family — always stressful and uncertain — is increasingly a stretch. The weak economy begets weak family formation.
"The bad luck and bad timing of today’s 20-somethings may pass. Birth rates could bounce back.... The economic recovery may strengthen; the retirement of baby boomers will create new job openings; and surveys indicate the young remain optimistic despite setbacks."
Well, as Maverick's grandpappy used to say, "Hope in one hand and crap in the other and see which one fills up first."
A much cannier company dialed this "lost" generation's number directly in this widely aired commercial for Microsoft's new "We're Not Apple" smartphone.Continued...
An extended comment on Side-Lines: "If politicians had any sense decency they wouldn’t be politicians. " from John A. Fleming that deserves fuller attention: It’s a good thing none of us are naturally paranoid individuals, right? Right.]
They've already had the GooHooBingBook hipsters set them up with a data mining operation. Once it's up and running, it doesn't take much to re-purpose. They have lots of money left over. Now they are trying to get their supporters to call up other targeted people and put pressure on the Republican Congresscritters. And so it begins.
Which means they have a list of their reliable people, their potential supporters, and a list of Others. Data mining merges their own data with anything found on the Web. Now that they aren't running a campaign but they still have a war chest, they can grab or buy surreptitiously anything out there, and "there's no controlling legal authority". And Google will be glad to help, Eric Schmidt will personally see to it, he'll sell them the rope.
And when these unemployed hipsters with massive college debt call you up, and you start cussing at the mention of the Usurper and being "uncooperative", well, then you go on the "Other" list. And they data mine you and find out everything about you, and how you can be hurt.
They'll keep track of how often you help them. The compliant ones, who respond to their pleas, will soon start getting bennies. And who the heck is paying for all this? Shoot, no one had the courage to sue them when they were laundering millions in illegal foreign money during both elections. The Courts and the constitutional lawyers mewled that "nobody has standing to sue". Now that they are beyond the reach of election law, the money just magically appears. None dare call it treason.
Like a pusher or a pimp, they'll next try to get you to graduate to the "hard stuff": direct action. Please, they'll say, we really need your help, show up at this time and place to help the Usurper. They'll loan you a t-shirt to wear (and ask you to buy it). The leaders will have special shirts, and campaign-style buttons, and perhaps cute little hats. And you'll go where you're told, and do what you're asked to. They'll bus you there and give you a stipend. You're One of Them now.
And if you keep answering their call, you go higher on the "One of Us" list, and qualify for more bennies. Free phones, debt forgiveness, extra ration cards. Chevy Volts at an unheard of discount.
Watch for it.
The turning point is when the purple T-shirts disappear, and it becomes button-down shirts with epaulets. Uniforms. Insignia. The hats aren't so cute anymore. You'll be part of the team now, the core of the Usurper's civilian national security force. And you'll go where you're told, and you'll do what you're told, because the bennies keep coming, and you're in for a penny, in for a pound.
And the people you're contesting against? Well, they're the Other, they're just wrong, they're the 1% that's keeping you down and pissing on you all the time. And now it's your turn, your time to rise. Time for revenge, to punch back twice as hard. And when some of your folks start feeling queasy about the hurt you're putting on all those Others, somebody with hard dead eyes will say "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."
You won't have to worry about the police. They'll be on your side. Their loyalty is to their union and police brothers, not our Constitution. They'll look the other way, and slow-walk complaints. Unless you're on the "Other" list, in which case they'll come on like a ton of bricks. They'll be told who's on which list, and they'll do what they're told. LAPD has shown us the truth of it.
When a sitting President encourages people to vote for revenge, that is a declaration of civil war! Statements like that should not be made, because they take on a life of their own. We the People granted limited powers to our governments to secure some of our Rights, and the Blessings of Liberty for everyone. The Usurper intends to use those powers for revenge of one faction upon another. No rational, moral, civilized, peaceful person would say such a thing. Ever.
The Usurper and his minions have told you all this. He decides how much money you're allowed to make. You don't own what you create. If need be they'll send you to re-education camps. We need a personally-loyal civilian army. Why don't you believe him? Do you believe that he can't possibly want civil war? Of course he doesn't, he wants to so demoralize you, and make you think you are alone, that you won't stand your ground, but give up and give in to the inevitable. But he will not shy from a civil war. He intends to push you to the limit, that you will start it, and he will then crush you before you have time to organize an effective opposition.
Right now the Usurper doesn't give a crap about fiscal cliffs. He doesn't care what any of that will do to the country. His three objectives are to demoralize and destroy the conservative opposition, co-opt and corrupt the Republicans (so easy!), and then break free of the Constitution.
It seems like a dream, a mirage of unbreakable normality.
Like the spring of 1914 or 1939, like the crisp fall morning eleven years ago. Like our exceptional, beautiful country, the rarest gem in all of history, is so big and strong, nothing can happen to it, everything will go on peacefully as before, we are still the shining city on the hill, and our best days are before us. Every day we make plans for next year and the years after, and can't possibly imagine or consider that any set of events will break our idyll of peace and turn all our plans to dust. I fly across the country, and see the vast strength of it and Our People, and think my fears are childish and foolish vapors. And then I remember that all civilizations crumble.
We must make new plans. We must be prepared. We must resist the Usurper and his minions. Now and every day. They have lost their faith in God, and seek to secure their lives by taking ours.
We must remain true to the faiths of our fathers and mothers. The United States of America, the new nation that put its Trust in God, that brought the Blessings of Liberty to the world, must not perish. Today is not that day.
Tolkein is my guide.
Frodo: "I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."
Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Lincoln is my guide:
“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right”
Posted by: John A. Fleming at December 10, 2012 11:05 PM
Had I left this life when I fell out of it, I'd never have heard this variation on Beethoven -- on Moonlight -- played over there on this electric cello and then over here on that piano, played in this way, vamped with that vision and vogued in this variation far out on those vast Salt Flats of Utah.... even though I have walked those very flats in the searing light of midday-- salt and sun sans cello and notes of moonlight spun into a sonnet.
If I'd left this life when I fell out of it, if I had not been buoyed up out of oblivion's waters by electric shocks and hands compressing my chest 2 inches at a time to the beat of the BeeGees "Staying Alive", I would not have been here for the last two new moons waxing full and passing through the vast shadow of the earth above the bridges that span the golden gates.
If I'd left this life when I fell out of it, kept on going towards unseen horizons, I would have missed my small Thanksgiving with dear friends and not been around to complain, yet again, about the over-commericalization of Christmas on the one hand and the war upon it on the other -- not been around to care and not to care about the preening peacocks of our pathetic politics.
If I'd left this life when I fell out of it, I'd never have had the chance to learn the tempo of the slow road, the pace of the slow down; to learn the inner meaning of the poet's counsel of patience formed from Milton's lines:
"God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."
.... "Who only stand and wait."....
I stand and wait a lot more these days than I did before I fell out of this life. Things do not roll by as fast and, because I must be mindful of how I move, how much, and at what pace, I do not roll by things as fast as I once did. I've had to learn to go slow, much slower, to take things at the pace of prayer; to stand and to wait. And slowly, since things come slow, I come to understand what the wait is about. It is a wait that is without a goal. It is not "waiting for" anything. It is waiting in place, waiting in peace. It is waiting in the afterimage of grace -- mindful of mortality; mindful that, even in this Seattle of highly advanced 911 response teams, out of every hundred people whose hearts, like mine, suddenly stop only sixteen are returned to life.
You can assume, as sometimes people I speak with about this strange state assume, that if you are returned to life you are waiting to find out what God has ordained for you to do with His gift regifted. Surely they assume, as -- for a while -- I assumed, that God would not have pulled me back into life after I fell out of it without a plan for me; that God had some need, some master plan that only I can fulfill. Like some many other things in these slow days -- that thin assumption fades fast into falsity.
Repeat after Milton:
.... "God doth not need" ....
I need. You need. They need. We need.
.... "God doth not need" ....
Hard to understand that "not need" --- but how could it be otherwise? Harder even to comprehend than the notion of an interventionist God; a God that has no needs but yet intervenes in the micro level of His Creation. A God who can from His creation and without need form ....say.... a Beethoven. Form such a soul that Beethoven can -- from somewhere inside himself --- create, in a shadowplay of creatio ex nihilo, a Moonlight Sonata. And then later, if 'later' carries any meaning at all to God, God forms another man -- centuries distant | perhaps intended ages before --previous, previous -- who can see and comprehend black marks on a lined sheet of bleached wood pulp and cause the music, varigated, to bloom on a salt flat half way around the angel-girdled globe; where above such sad and lowly plains they bend on hovering wing.
And if it was not, to my dim understanding, an angel-girdled globe at the beginning of this season, it is so now in the waiting wonder world of second life. The scientists of the continent Cynic would have this globe seen as a "demon-haunted world," but that seems to me to be something they've seen in the fun-house mirrors of their own over-taxed and undernourished intellects. Why would the world need to be haunted by demons when it is populated by men? At the very least it would seem for the sake of symmetry that any haunting must be done by angels. If only to smack down the smuggery. If only to thicken the plot.
If I had left this life when I fell out of it, I wouldn't have heard, at the beginning of my 66th journey around our star, how
"It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold..."
Nor would I have felt the touch of such harps on my shoulder when I fell out of this life; felt the tap of gold on my chest, the tap of gold on my shoulder, the tapping that turned me around and guided me back into this
"World dimensional for those untwisted by a love of things irreconcilable..."
They tell me there are no angels in their world of one dimension, in their flatland, in their palaces of no positions, and I suppose if I could hear them clearly I might nod and tell them with Calderon, "Right you are if you think you are."
Out here though, waiting in the world dimensional, I can see the shimmer of angels sliding in and out of human souls like wind riffling within waterfalls. When I fell out of life my angels came at the run with a roar and restored me with two inches of compression at a hundred beats a minute to the tune of "Staying Alive." My angels do 24 hour shifts over at Engine 8 on the top of Queen Anne Hill. On Wednesday I shook their hands.
Commenter John Flemming takes issue with Solzhenitsyn's vision of Soviet repression in "How we burned in the camps later". Fleming says, persuasively, that the Soviet way will not be 'the American Way:'
"It's not gonna be like that. It'll be more subtle, like the LAPD arresting the harmless Moroccan filmmaker for daring to make a crappy movie that disses He Who Must Not Be Dissed [HWMNBD].
"You're a maker. You'll do something... like not pay your ObamaTax on time. Maybe deliberately.
"Or maybe you're paying for things in cash too often.
"Or nobody has a right to make fun of HWMNBD, and you told a joke.
"They'll come and evict you. A moocher family will quickly move in. They'll have lists: takers and moochers. Don't you know, it's payback time? He promised them Revenge, remember? It's somebody else's turn to enjoy that home you have created.
"Will your neighbors defend you and chase the deputy sheriffs away when the come for you at 10PM? Not likely, they'll look out, see the police cars, and close their blinds and wait for their turn with a growing sense of dread.
"Once a week, the cops show up late at night, no flashing lights, and the neighborhood slowly changes.Continued...
"We no longer have time for the good, the beautiful, or whether or not something is true. We have only time for conversation." -- John Cage
It is a commonplace that the overwhelming mass of our contemporary art that is "exhibited" has devolved into mere "exhibitionism." Vapid, disposable and preening the works are doomed to be buried in the gaping garbage pits of marketing-driven museums, and crapulous galleries that hold most contemporary American and European art. Still, great souls persist among us and great art, though it is often obscured by poseurs and perverts and pallid imitators of all stripes, can still emerge when talent and skill are wedded to inspiration and belief.Continued...
We'd finished filming John and Yoko for the video a day or so before he was shot to death. It was their last video, but of course we didn't know it at the time. There was film of them holding hands and walking in Central Park in the place that would later become "Strawberry Fields." We'd filmed them rolling naked in bed together in a Soho Art Gallery where she looked healthy and ample and he looked small and slight, with skin that was almost transluscent. I remember being slightly surprised by the fact that Lennon's need for Ono was so constant and palpable. He was seldom more than two feet away from her side and had the disconcerting habit of calling her "Mommy" whenever they spoke.
My role was as "executive producer" which really meant that I was to stand around with a roll of hundred dollar bills and pay-off the teamsters and solve other problems with copious applications of money. It was an odd job in more ways than one, but I was grateful to have it at the time.
We'd sent the last of the film to the lab, and the director, Ethan Russell, had gone back to Los Angeles to begin editing. The crew had dispersed and I'd taken to my bed racked with pain. The job, this time, had been so tough and high stress that my neck had gone out. I could barely turn my head without feeling as if a sledge was hammering a hot-needle into the cervical vertebrae. I was lying carefully propped on the bed eating Bufferin as if they were Tic-Tacs and trying not to move. My neck was held in one of those tight foam collars. Not moving was the best thing to do at the time and I was doing it with all my might.Continued...
He said, "Call the doctor. I think I'm gonna crash."
"The doctor say he's comin', but you gotta pay him cash."
-- Eagles- Life In The Fast Lane
And the beat goes on: 188,382 Criminal Illegal Aliens Deported in 2011
"Even under Obama and with the proliferation of sanctuary cities, we still deported 22,605 illegal aliens responsible for everything from rape to murder. And another 45,000 for drug trafficking. And that’s the icing on the cake."
Last June I was visiting an old friend in San Rafael, California. He lives the classic Marin county life high on a brindle California hillside. His house is reached by driving the blind curves of one of those thin hill roads. He's got open land and long views next to his house. And a beautiful and extensive garden. A Sunset Magazine garden.
And like most homeowners in Marin, he's got his own personal Mexican to keep it together. Yard work, it's what most of the Mexicans of Marin do. That and construction, and cooking, and cleaning, and any other kind of scut work that brings them cash.
From what I could see, this yard worker gets about $85 a day. Maybe more, maybe less. Maybe for that day only. Maybe for two days a week. Hard to imagine it could be for three. But I have no way of knowing. In Marin it would be the height of political insensitivity to ask, "By the way, how much do you pay your own personal Mexican?"
His personal Mexican doesn't speak much English. Just enough to get by. The home owners treat him with respect and a strange deference, lapsing in a kind of Spanglish in order to talk to him. They ferry their personal Mexican from their house high on the hill to his home -- somewhere in the rambling and beaten down apartment complexes east of the freeway in San Rafael.
It's probably that way for most of the working illegal Mexicans in San Rafael. They are, after all, here to "do the jobs that Americans won't do." or can't do because they are so busy working to pay for all the extras of the current American dream. Including servants.
This personal servant was working on a Friday and did a good job. And then he was taken east of the freeway and dropped off. He'd be back next week. For 85, 170, or maybe, if he was lucky, 250 tax-free bucks. When I ran the web site for the Cosmodemonic Magazine Company back in 2002, I'd clear that drinking a cup of coffee in the morning.
On Saturday I drove from my hotel near the Frank Lloyd Wright Marin Civic Center back up to my friend's home high on the hill. I took the freeway but missed the main exit to San Rafael and had to take the next one. That off-ramp emptied down near the strip of big box stores, right at the edge of Home Depot.
Home Depots are, among other big-box construction hardware stores, the default shape-up spot of pick-up Mexican labor in the US. We all know that. When you need something done you just drive out to the nearest Home Depot, get your materials, and then pick up your emergency Mexicans as you exit. Everybody knows this. Everybody sees this. Everybody does this.
In the now long established day-labor Home Depot areas we even have a permanent place for the ubiquitous taco wagon to set up shop. If local authorities or border control officials really wanted to cut back on illegals, they'd just sweep these areas. But local political institutions and local police -- and all of us too -- seem to have agreed to lay off these zones. We let them be lest America's ready supply of "We do anything for almost any pay" labor be disrupted. It's the shadow realm. It's the black, no-taxes, "If we've got the cash, they've got the backs they'll break for it" economy.
It's how we live now.
When I came off the freeway exit it was about noon on a Saturday. By noon on a Saturday, anybody in Marin who has a project that requires emergency Mexicans has already been to the Home Depot shape-up, chosen the number they need, negotiated what the pay would be, and driven away with them. Those still left have little hope for a job. But they remain because a small hope for half a day's meager pay is better than no hope at all.
The traffic halted at the intersection and I looked ahead and around and in the rear view mirror. Standing there, many of them looking at me and waving their hands to signal their availability, was a small battalion of around 300 out-of-work Mexican males, mostly young. I thought, "Well, they may be here to 'do the jobs Americans won't do,' but there is clearly not enough work."
Then I thought, "What happens to these men if we arrive at a point, in a recession, where there is a lot less work for them in their many millions? What happens when the American dream starts contracting from the edges and the extra cash that allows us to employ them starts to dry up? They won't be counted as 'unemployed' since they were never legally 'employable' in the first place. Where will they go? Back to a Mexico where a recession in the US will breed a depression in that 3rd World country? Unlikely. Their best shot would still be to stay here. But if they did, what would they do? And how many would there really be? And how hungry and desperate would they get?"
This was just one intersection at one exit from the freeway in San Rafael, California 500 miles north of the Mexican border. And there were about 300 temporarily unemployed illegal residents of San Rafael simply standing about. That would be okay for a day, a week, maybe a month. As long as it was only 300 Mexican males. But if a slump in black-market cash employment became longer, spread and deepened throughout the country, and the numbers of our shadow armies of the blight grew, then.... Well, what then?
The cold fact is that we don't know what "what then" would look like. The issue has not surfaced in the present campaign because it cannot surface. The reality of off-setting our indolence with kindness and cash is too frightening to think about when the extra cash runs dry; when Americans will again do any job just to have a job and woe betide any non-American who seeks to take that job away.
Perhaps we'll discover that we'll have to pay a very large bill for our indolence. And that the bill will not be paid with cash. It will be paid, not for the first time, with the last thing we want to see - the Army in our cities. I don't think we are prepared for that. I don't think we want to find out. I pray we never have to.
But it's how we live now.
[First published October 2008. Look how far we've come.]
Meanwhile... Mitt Romney continued to take his sweet revenge!
Meanwhile.... Better Than Beer: Two weeks after designer Allan Alcorn installed the 1972 video game Pong in Andy Capp's bar in Sunnyvale, Calif., it stopped functioning. Nothing had gone awry with the completely analog electronics inside the table-tennis game. Too many quarters in the machine's coin acceptor were to blame. The easily fixed problem was a sign of the game's popularity and Atari's financial success to come.
Meanwhile... in Afghanistan A M249 machine gunner runs directly towards a hail of Taliban PKM machine gun fire and RPGs, laying down suppressing fire once he makes it to cover.
Meanwhile... Pizza Hut gives back with pizza-scented perfume
Meanwhile.... here are some Thoughts about Consciousness while Cutting in the Brain
Meanwhile... Science robot ends Guinness record-breaking ocean journey After 9,000 miles, the autonomous robot Papa Mau completed its trip across the ocean.
Meanwhile.... The Zapruder Film dissected: The Other Shooter: The Saddest and Most Expensive 26 Seconds of Amateur Film Ever Made
Meanwhile.... When Jackie Kennedy learned the unwelcome truth, she lamented, “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. It had to be some silly little communist. It robs his death of any meaning.”
Murder in America @ WSJ.com Explore an interactive database of killings committed in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010. You can sort by the race and sex of killer and victim, the circumstances of the killing, and many more variables.
A few caveats:
"The FBI collects this data from the states, except for Florida. Florida doesn't use the FBI's guidelines when reporting additional information about homicides. The FBI data don't capture all homicides. The states' reporting is voluntary, and the country's thousands of police agencies aren't consistent in how they report. Some states, including New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all for some years. In recording the circumstances of a murder, the information recorded in the FBI data may capture only the relationship of the killer to one of the victims -- but not other victims -- in a given situation. Because of the unlimited number of scenarios in which a homicide can occur, the coding used in the FBI database may not explain the full set of circumstances involved."HT Links ｫ Gucci Little Piggy
Translation: "Sexiest chef who prepares plum pie."
"Look at my kaake. I vish you cold smell it."
To master this video will probably take most men ten to twenty viewings .... as well as remember what it is you are supposed to be cooking in the first place. Especially the part where she uses "dis round wood to rall oot der doe."
Presented below the fold in deference to those who may not need to learn -- in large measure -- what this chef has to teach.Continued...
'Black Marble' glitters with Earth's night lights This picture of the night lights of North and South America is just one frame in the Black Marble series, which is based on data from the Suomi NPP satellite and was unveiled today during the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco. The image has been built up from readings made by the weather/climate satellite's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS.
See it turn after the jump:Continued...
1966 in Germany
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) - piano
Paul Desmond - alto sax
Eugene Wright - bass
Joe Morello - drums
"After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the army and served overseas in George Patton's Third Army.
He was spared from service in the Battle of the Bulge when he volunteered to play piano at a Red Cross show; he was such a hit he was ordered to form a band. Thus he created one of the US armed forces' first racially integrated bands, "The Wolfpack".... Brubeck believed what he saw during World War II contradicted the Ten Commandments, and the war evoked a spiritual awakening. He became a Catholic in 1980, shortly after completing the Mass To Hope ."A fragment of To Hope after the jump.... Continued...
"I just stole a car and robbed a bank. Now I'm rich, I can pay off my college financial aid and tomorrow i'm going for a shopping spree. Bite me. I love GREENDAY!" -- Hannah Sabata from Stromsburg, Nebraska.
York County Sheriff Dale Radcliff said a copy of the video will be turned in as evidence against Hannah Sabata of Stromsburg. The 19-year-old was arrested on Wednesday in connection with a robbery the day before at the Cornerstone Bank branch in Waco. She faces robbery and theft charges.
The video was posted the same day Sabata was arrested. It shows a woman holding handwritten signs that say she robbed a bank and stole a car. The woman then holds a large bundle of cash, what she says is $6,256, in front of the camera. She also holds up what appears to be a bag of marijuana
"They vary one from the other not by the value of the life that was cut short but by column inches of copy they generate. The principal metric of the tragedy of a modern death is its news value. If the death serves a narrative it is tragic. If not, who gives a damn? Here is how it works.
Black Africans killing black Africans with machetes has no news value. White Europeans killing black Africans with machetes has a big news value. Anyone killing anyone with bladed weapons generally has little news value. Anyone killing anyone with a handgun has front page news value, especially where the Second Amendment is concerned. Arabs killing Arabs is page 10 news. A Jew killing anyone is the headline story. Babies dying in their millions from abortion does not even qualify as a story. The IDF killing a stone killer from Hamas is a horror of unimaginable international proportions. Arabs rocketing Israelis is not even reported. Israelis shooting back -- well how dare they." -- Belmont Club » The Assassin's Creed
IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari, Head of Hamas Military Wing.
The Minimum Web Wage workers at Buzzfeed gathered together what they termed,"The 45 Most Powerful Images Of 2012." Among them was #33 captioned: A Palestinian girl tries to punch an Israeli soldier during a protest against the expansion of the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish.
What is really going on:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
[Performance after the jump...]Continued...
Meanwhile.... barbarians keep showing up everywhere with their hands out for more Danegeld: Brazilian farmers demand that the government cancels their debt and gives them additional assistance to help offset the effects of a devastating drought that hit the region this year.
Meanwhile... Jennifer Granholm had a worse economic strategy than Lindsay Lohan, and Lindsay Lohan had to beg for money from Charlie Sheen. But did you know that Michael Moore received $1 million bucks in welfare for anti-welfare film?
Meanwhile... is there a Conservative purge in the House Republican caucus? Does a bear.... and is John Boehner a dickless asshole?
Meanwhile.... Muslims a 'culture of peace'? Cut The Crap, Culture Of Peace
Meanwhile... Obama's in the basement mixing up the medicine....Recipe for Violence in the Middle East... but I'm on the pavement thinking 'bout,"More rubble less trouble."
Meanwhile... who was surprised when Susan Rice just disclosed that she is worth considerably over $30 million? Not Victor Davis Hanson.
Meanwhile... Mary Granville Delany was an an artist that bloomed at 72. so all is not lost.
Meanwhile... speaking of Lost, the story of how 'Lost' got found: "The island has to be a character in the show, and something's wrong with the island."
Meanwhile... the Church that baptized Ben Franklin considers selling 1640 psalm book for $20 million to $25 million. “It’s the most famous unknown book in the world.”
Meanwhile... The Russian Rush Limbaugh observes: I heard that soon the word "Woman" will be banned for sexual discrimination, and replaced by "Vaginamerican".
After a decade of high flying prosperitythe American economy fell to earth and began tunneling to an awful volcanic core of despair, food riots, cloying folk songs, and lava ....
The text of Hodgeman’s documentary comes, of course, from his book The Areas Of My Expertise, as do so many things. The full text is behind the jump.Continued...
Original at January 1951 : Poetry Magazine
"In the not so distant future an over-populated planet requires that every birth be balanced by a death. When Edward K. Whelig, Jr.’s wife births triplets he needs to find three people willing to enter a local suicide booth and give him the receipt…"
Everything was perfectly swell.
There were no prisons, no slums, no insane asylums, no cripples, no poverty, no wars.
All diseases were conquered. So was old age.
Death, barring accidents, was an adventure for volunteers.
The population of the United States was stabilized at forty-million souls.
One bright morning in the Chicago Lying-in Hospital, a man named Edward K. Wehling, Jr., waited for his wife to give birth. He was the only man waiting. Not many people were born a day any more.
Wehling was fifty-six, a mere stripling in a population whose average age was one hundred and twenty-nine.
X-rays had revealed that his wife was going to have triplets. The children would be his first.
Young Wehling was hunched in his chair, his head in his hand. He was so rumpled, so still and colorless as to be virtually invisible. His camouflage was perfect, since the waiting room had a disorderly and demoralized air, too. Chairs and ashtrays had been moved away from the walls. The floor was paved with spattered dropcloths.
The room was being redecorated. It was being redecorated as a memorial to a man who had volunteered to die.
A sardonic old man, about two hundred years old, sat on a stepladder, painting a mural he did not like. Back in the days when people aged visibly, his age would have been guessed at thirty-five or so. Aging had touched him that much before the cure for aging was found.
The mural he was working on depicted a very neat garden. Men and women in white, doctors and nurses, turned the soil, planted seedlings, sprayed bugs, spread fertilizer.
Men and women in purple uniforms pulled up weeds, cut down plants that were old and sickly, raked leaves, carried refuse to trash-burners.
Never, never, never—not even in medieval Holland nor old Japan—had a garden been more formal, been better tended. Every plant had all the loam, light, water, air and nourishment it could use.
A hospital orderly came down the corridor, singing under his breath a popular song:
If you don't like my kisses, honey,
Here's what I will do:
I'll go see a girl in purple,
Kiss this sad world toodle-oo.
If you don't want my lovin',
Why should I take up all this space?
I'll get off this old planet,
Let some sweet baby have my place.
Or listen to audio reading to the story:
The people keep a comin', but the train done gone.
The caption at NASA's "Astronomy Picture of the Day" page reads: "Atlantis to Orbit."
The filename of the picture reads: nightlaunch.
And I am moved by the poetry of this most modern of images, not by the triumph of Reason which it seems to enshrine, but by that which is beyond Reason yet within it all the same.
In thinking about this brief essay I could not help but think of a longer one by Doctor Bob at The Doctor Is In about a "civilized" European nation that cannot stop itself from taking the next step down into the pit; its people driven, as "reasonable" people always are, by the inexorable demands of "what is reasonable."
In the work of Goya we see how that great soul, having walked the carnage cloaked landscapes of his era, came to understand the deepest cry of the Enlightenment: El sueño de la razon produce monstruos. ["The sleep of reason breeds monsters."]
Ah well, the bones of the Enlightenment lie buried in a shallow grave somewhere along the Western Front. It had some nice ideals, but left us living rapt in the spell of Reason.
And now we are a "reasonable" society. Now we are a "scientific people" swaddled in a million theories of management -- convinced that all of creation can be, somehow, managed through the limitless employment of Reason. Many of us, as we have seen in the past month, worship "intelligence uber alles," that strange and deadly viral god of the mad mind that kills the soul long before it kills the nations that embrace it. We see the apotheosis of this worship leap up from the dazed lands of Europe. We see it arc across our own skies. We feel the sting of its acid rain on our upturned, stunned faces.
Reason. Its gifts are many. It enables us to raise "Atlantis to Orbit." The poetry of that is only exceeded by the reality of it; by all that lies behind the sheer raw ability of the smart monkey to organize itself to achieve it -- the mathematics and the metallurgy, the pulses in the silicon chips that hold and control the fire that slices up and beyond the sky. And the systems and wires and waves that bring these thoughts from my fingertips to your eyes now.
All these, and whole Alps of others, are the gifts of Reason.
But there are darker gifts of Reason; gifts revealed by the languor with which a whole people fall "half in love with easeful death." Why? Why abort this child? Because it is reasonable. Why kill this old and feeble person? Because it is reasonable. Why take from them according to ability and give to others according to need? Always because it is "reasonable." Reason commands it and Reason has, in this modern era, become a vengeful and a jealous god.
If it is true that the sleep of reason breeds monsters, can it not also be true that the constant wakefulness of Reason breeds its own peculiar hallucinations; its walking horrors?Continued...
All landings at San Diego International Airport on Black Friday Nov 23, 2012 between 1030am and 300pm condensed into 26 seconds:Continued...
By the time we cut to the lighting of the filterless cigarettes,
the first glimpse of our hero's face, as it happens, and also a slice of the red carnation in his suit pocket, his dark red tie, the sky is a blue-slate grey with clouds, the surf continues to churn in the background and the weather is turning decidedly foul. Fire is introduced. The wick is lit. -- The Decline of Western Title Sequences @ finem respice where you will want to read the entire thing.