#PureSchmaltz

Asymptoting

Asymptoting
Jean Boulogne [Giambologna]: Allegory of Architecture (ca. 1580; Cast: 18th century)
"Our future must remain in the future tense to make any sense at all."

I claim to be HeadingHomeward while I might more descriptively insist that I'm Asymptoting there, but Asymptoting sounds like another one of my made up words, one of those requiring further explanation. I won't mind explaining if you can bear to listen to my blathering. You see, Heading connotes a more definite direction and a more certain destination than my present adventure wants. I hold a general direction in my head, but it's really little more than an intention yet. Likewise, my destination seems tenaciously uncertain. Oh, I have a specific address in mind, but mere location hardly a destination makes. Aspiration might better describe the direction I'm heading, more feeling than anything, so I consider myself Asymptoting, after that geometric concept of a trajectory unlikely to ever find its target. An asymptote, as you doubtless already know and which I'll explain just to remind myself, is a not necessarily straight line destined to move ever closer to its destination as it lengthens, but often an arc or curve certain to never actually arrive there. Over time, it might well manage to move close enough for most intents and purposes, but it will most certainly never actually arrive.

Why be so picky about making this distinction? I'll explain by referencing Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman philosopher, who insisted that only fundamentally unachievable objectives ever manage to become transformational.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Betterings

Betterings
JR, the Parisian artist, made the iconic Louvre pyramid disappear 2016, but only for a weekend installation.
"I learned again, but I doubt that I'll remember."

I'm not tumbling into cynicism when I suggest that every attempted step forward tends to first feel like a step backward. Improvements, however aggressively pursued, seem to require some time to manifest, however urgently desired. It might even be true that greater urgency tends to slow down a desired manifestation, often first producing frustration instead. Once envisioned, a novel objective appears much closer than it ever turns out to be. Foresight transports the mind but not the body, unfortunately. I too easily over-inflate my expectations. I reach for some alluring star before gravity steps right up to remind me who and where I are. Dammit!

I might imagine that I would eventually outgrow these childish expectations about Betterings, but this old dog continues to tumble into his oldest trick, which suggests I will probably not be maturing very much beyond where I started on this issue.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lielessness

Lielessness
Jean-Baptiste Oudry: Ragotin lie par les parents du fou (1727)
"I feel as though I’ve just come home after an overly-extended absence."

I suspect that everyone knows the experience of living a lie. For me, a deep longing accompanies these times as I watch others apparently living their truths seem so damned free. Unencumbered by any haunting sense that someone's going to catch on to them, they seem untroubled even when engaging with difficulties, while I carry considerably more overhead. The lie's like a colicky baby, always fussy and rarely at rest, demanding that I attend to it. I nurture it because I simply must. It eats half my lunch and the world seems cruel and unjust. I render myself a second- or third-class citizen, relegated to entering and exiting like a sneak thief always attempting to get away with something that rightfully belongs to someone else. I, myself, feel like I'm someone else beside myself.

Liberation might come but only ever at the price of doing an utterly unthinkable, something more likely, it seems, to do me in rather than resolve anything.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LooseTalk

LooseTalk
Allart van Everdingen: The Bear Distracted with Talk of Honey, (c. 1645-1656)
"Some adults never grow up."

In my youth, I was prone to embellish my stories. I won't deny that vestiges of this tendency remain, but I prefer to think that I've learned something in the interim. I monitor my talk more closely now, and though The Muse will certainly attest to the fact that I'm not above the occasional whopper, I tend to launch them in jest rather than in pre-emptive self-defense. My experiences, I'm slowly becoming convinced, might just be good enough as they sit. I'm more apt these days to play down my role than headline it.

As a direct consequence of my earlier embellishments, I've suffered considerable embarrassment, which I prefer to believe has justifiably humbled me a bit.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Migration

Migration1
JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT - La Balsa de la Medusa (1818-19)
"Migrations seem mostly uphill …"

I expected to post no new HeadingHomeward Story today because I'm migrating between machines. After 15 hours in migration so far, I finally received feedback about expected remaining duration: 3.5 more hours. I cannot predict how or whether this attempt (4 or 5, I've lost count) will work. I'm assuming that it will stall like the prior attempts have stalled without providing any information about progress achieved. Based upon experience so far with Apple's automated Migration Assistant and a painful perusal of the destructions for affecting a "clean install", I'm not hopeful about ever successfully completing this migration. (The "clean install" instructions are incoherent and uninterpretable.) I dare not update my blog before completing the full migration, since that would put myself out of synch with one of my alternate selves, which would produce further complications including another identity crisis. Further complications or identity crises I do not need.

Rest assured that Apple continues to live in blissful ignorance of how their computers are actually used while continuing to make them ever more similar to their dreaded old adversary the meager PC.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Cornspiracy

Cornspiracy
Honoré Daumier: Mélodrame (circa 1856-1860)
"We reap whatever we plant."

The media almost exclusively refers to them as theories, though there's almost nothing theoretical about most of them. Few seem structured following any framework even distantly borrowed from proper theory form, which, I guess suggests that whomever came up with them was not studied in the sciences or liberal arts, probably not very studied at all other than, perhaps, in persuasive rhetoric. No harm or foul for that infraction, though they tend as a result to make little sense, except to those for whom they apparently don't need to make sense to gain their acceptance, those who parse for attraction rather than cogency. These—I'll call them Cornspiracies—might be only what their followers want to believe, their crafters caring little about any underlying coherence or factual basis. Millions have apparently scrambled in line behind them, armies of True Believers following fallacious facts, utterly convinced of their righteousness. Many seem to have taken up arms to overthrow oppressors who never were and never could have been. What do we do with them?

They say that they find it particularly annoying when non-believers talk down to them as if they were stupid.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Walled

Walled
Jean Fouquet: The Conquest of Jericho. Illumination, dated c. 1470-1475
"Until there's juice, it's just no use. One good excuse's enough."

I titled the third chapter of my best-selling The Blind Men and the Elephant (Berrett-Koehler 2003) The Wall, but apparently half a lifetime studying and teaching about The Wall didn't predispose me to recognize its presence when I encountered it again. In my book, I explained that every undertaking encounters The Wall at some point, and The Wall seems to swipe motivation for engaging. A physical barrier isn't usually the source of this difficulty, so it can prove tricky to diagnose and resolve the blockage. I suggested in the text that purpose might be flagging and in need of some renewal to produce a juicier sense of anticipation. For me, a new opportunity most often manifests as an almost (or even actually) overwhelming string of impending obligations, and that, if I chase after the result, I'm suddenly conscripted to fulfill every damned one of them. I see a stream of exhausting efforts rather than my heart's desire manifesting before me. Most adventures look more like chores than opportunities once the initial Utopian conceiving's dissipated, and sometimes, reimagining purpose can cause that emotional barrier to crumble.

As with most information, knowing about The Wall doesn't inoculate anyone against encountering it and also contributes little to helping anyone recognize when they're in the presence of it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Cynic-ism

Cynic-ism
Salvator Rosa: Diogenes searching for an honest man (mid-17th century)
"The cynic unerringly sees what's missing and misses what's right there awaiting recognition."

I have long held as a personal ethical responsibility the obligation to know enough to justify cynicism while steadfastly choosing not to become cynical. Maintaining this balance seems increasingly difficult, as the older I become, the more familiar I've become with entropy in action. In my relative youth, entropy seemed more theoretical than practical. The 1950s seemed far more futuristic and fresh than its shopworn post-millennium counterpart seems today. Twenty years into this once new century, the future seems considerably less promising and our mistakes much more encumbering. I suppose innocence started abandoning me in earnest after I crossed fifty. The experience haphazardly replacing innocence seems less sturdy and hopeful. I admit to knowing ever more of what might reasonably render me cynical, yet I persist in my insistence that I avoid becoming a cynic. I'm no cynic yet.

Yet I admit to peering out into this world with an increasingly skeptical eye.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BetterAngels

BetterAngels
Ignacio de Ries: Saint Michael the Archangel (1640s)
"I intended better than I will likely receive."

Everyone carries one act on their shoulders forever, one irrevocable fart they innocently let which pretty much misdefines their legacy forever. For our widely-esteemed sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln, I suspect that his act invoking "better angels" into his first inaugural speech might justifiably forever generate his remorse for having brought that phrase prominence, though he apparently swiped it from Shakespeare's Othello. I imagine him blushing whenever it's invoked, wherever he is. Note that he made this comment innocently. He could not have been aware in that moment that he'd just birthed his legacy, forever after remembered. He'd, you'll no doubt recall, surreptitiously sneaked into Washington to deliver that speech, dogged by threats of assassination from angry southern white supremacists, the Proud Boys of his time. His losing opponent was one of those self-promotive personalities prone to do little in office who had aligned himself with a party too distracted by self destruction to garner a majority in the election. Since, venomous politicians have invoked Lincoln to encourage their political foes to find reason and come over to their dark side, often appending mumbles referencing "malice toward none" and likewise. The phrase "better angels" has become a not very subtle tell of some worser angels working overtime behind the scene, an invocation meaning pretty much the opposite of what it seems, more taunt than invitation.

I'm uncertain if I subscribe to the whole medieval notion of better and worser angels.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wending

Wending
Ercole de’ Roberti: The Miracles of St Vincent Ferrer (1473)
"… We might just be setting ourselves up …"

The pathway between any two places never runs in anything even vaguely resembling a straight line, yet in my mind, when I envision a journey, I seem only capable of imagining straight-ish lines. My experiences, then, diverge from my plans, continually surprising me. This result probably has most to do with a personal limitation, not precisely a lack of imagination, but a limited one, and the inherent difficulty of plotting curves using only straightedges. I thought I'd long ago immunized myself against shock or surprise when encountering these divergences, but I apparently had not. They get me pretty much every time.

My "discovery" that nobody ever appreciates an accurate plan marked a huge leap in my maturing as a project manager.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LongDivision

LongDivision
Raphael: The School of Athens fresco, Cropped Image of Pythagoras (1509)
"… our well-being might more depend upon how well we divide."

The Muse and I tried listening to the radio as we drove back home following the 9/11 attacks. We'd been setting up for another workshop at The Los Alamos National Laboratory when the news started filtering in. The participants at first opted to continue with the session, since we could do nothing about those distant events, but shortly thereafter, armored Humvees with mounted fifty caliber machine guns began circulating through the streets and orders came down for everyone to evacuate the mesa. We cowered overnight with friends before the rental car agency extended an offer for us to just drop off the car at the airport we'd flown out from a few days previous, waving the usual drop charges. The radio, sometimes a useful distraction on long drives, proved discouraging then. In lieu of the news we'd hoped to receive, only propaganda spewed, the most vile and vindictive speech, saber-rattling on steroids. We quite understandably wondered what country we were passing through.

That evening, we overnighted in Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado, the town where The Muse and I first met.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TrueBeliefers

TrueBeliefers
Michelangelo: Libyan Sibyl (circa 1511)-from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
"I know almost for certain that greater belief won't resolve this one."

I've been reading (finally) Eric Hoffer's The True Believers, a remarkable read that has sat on my dustier library shelf for thirty or more years. I'd occasionally take it down to search for some quip which I intended to use to bolster some argument, but had never sat myself down to plow through the actual content from cover to age-stiffened cover. The front cover detached itself when I opened it, so I've been using it as my bookmark, for I've been pausing frequently, since the prose seems the rough equivalent of heavy cream. One might be well-advised not to chug anything with the consistency of heavy cream, but to swallow it following demure sips, savoring it, and letting it slowly sink in. The author was a San Francisco longshoreman and was in his time a much-revered everyman philosopher, though he hardly qualified as an everyman. Between age five and fifteen, he was blind, an affliction that came and eventually went without explanation or diagnosed cause. He therefore missed his primary education. Shortly after regaining his sight, he lost both parents and set out on his own, wisely choosing to leave New York for California, where he figured at least the weather might suit him. He worked as a migrant farm laborer, being uneducated and all, though he carried a pocketful of library cards he'd collected as he moved between crops. Longshoring amounted to upward mobility, for he could settle down and engage in his heart's passions, studying and writing, when he wasn't laboring.

The True Believer reads as if it was penned by a self-educated man, with wide references to ancient texts few colleges delved into even then.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Rumurmuring

Rumurmuring
Artemisia Gentileschi: Susanna and the Elders (1622)
"It's eye for an eye and spy vs spy …"

Rumors constitute the primary product of every home town. Whatever it might have grown famous for producing—onions in the case of my hometown—the principal occupation of every living soul seems to be the production and distribution of unsubstantiated murmurings, RuMurmurings. So-and-so always seems to be up to her old shenanigans. You-know-who just did it again, twice! The "real" story, preserved for the select few, always seethes just beneath whatever formal business might be conducted. Everyone carries a reputation and a well-acknowledged-but-never-mentioned-in-public label, be it 'slut', 'drunk', 'bastard', or 'saint.' Nobody long escapes somebody's sharp-tongued critique, and little of the Rumurmuring seems generous at heart. It sometimes seems as if everyone's actively working to bring everyone else down a peg, to set straight some crooked story, to highlight everyone else's clay feet. There are no secrets, many, almost factual..

I sometimes think we must be crazy to aspire to move back there where everyone lives in wavy glass houses whose windows feature bubbles, waves, inclusions, and varying thicknesses, producing a funhouse transparency.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SmallTalk

SmallTalk
Johannes Vermeer: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (About 1654 - 1656)
"Hey! Nice shoes! Howya doin?" …"

I'd visited the discount pet supply store because I'd failed in an earlier attempt at the anonymous Kroger's to buy the only kind of cat food Max and Molly agree to eat. I'd learned in a SmallTalk exchange a few weeks before that this particular brand had been suffering distribution issues, with my favored jumbo family-sized packages no more than sporadically available. I'd picked up the wrong kind a couple of times only to find that they'd try to bury it before they consent to swallow it, those batches donated to the magpies or the cat shelter. They're picky eaters. As I was checking out, separated from the checker by a plexiglas partition and our masks, the checker attempted to maintain some semblance of normality by initiating a little SmallTalk, the very foundation of every commercial interaction. I honestly thought that she'd, for some reason, asked to see some picture ID. I figured there was a new directive from Homeland Security, so I struggled to remove my driver's license from my wallet, "No," she said, "I asked if you had anything exciting planned for the rest of the day." Embarrassed, I replied with a curt, "Probably not," collected my cat food, and left thinking that This Damned Pandemic might have killed SmallTalk.

SmallTalk has always been the glue of human interaction.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheSoaps

TheSoaps
1930s Lux Soap advertisement


"As long as self-worth is tied up in someone else or something else, the stage is set for rage." Virginia Satir

" … sanity might only exist in strict isolation."

My paternal grandmother was addicted to TheSoaps. Whatever else she might have been engaged in, when the time came for 'her shows,' us kids would get kicked outside for the duration. I'm certain that she loved us, in her fashion, but I'm even more certain that she loved 'her shows' much, much more. How could she not? 'Her shows' offered access to the glamour and sleaze her actual life sorely lacked. She'd already out-lived three husbands and had neither aspirations nor prospects, so she apparently opted to live vicariously. Who could blame her? She'd sit rapt and speak to the TV set, offering sage advice to the racy divorcee on the screen, probably from her own vast experience entangled within various love triangles. I only ever saw her exhibit fits of genuine rage when Lance or whatever his name was stepped out on his wife again. In those days, three or four full middle-of-each-weekday hours were reserved for goings on along The Edge Of Night, and she'd never miss an episode. She even subscribed to Soap Opera Digest so she could pour over prior plots and engage in speculations over where those stories—her extended family, really—might next turn. Even then, I thought TheSoaps a sad surrogate for what we'd later label A Life.

I, too, spend many hours each day with headset in place, tuned into some more pleasingly distracting alternate universe.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

patRIOT

patRIOT
John Singleton Copley: Paul Revere (1768)
"One can inevitably only ever pretend to be an actual patriot."

I do not consider myself a patriot, so I might have no standing to suggest that something seems incongruous about anyone declaring him or her self a patriot. Patriot seems like one of those designations properly bestowed posthumously upon a humble contributor by a grateful community, not something anyone might print on their own business card. That seems a presumptive designation. I also struggle to understand the -RIOT segment of the modern usage of the term, which was not previously rendered in CAPS, but in more demure equality with the first syllable in lowercase type. We witnessed this week, though, both great presumption and a resulting RIOT, which might have permanently perverted the once honorable designation. We see patRIOTs now, citizens not taking up arms against some degrading foreign power but, as near as I can tell, against themselves and nobody else. They've themed themselves to become their own nightmarish worst enemies. Other than my stiff opposition to wearing ridiculous slogans on my clothing, I see little physical distinction between the typical patRIOT and myself. Their actions, though, seem to set the patRIOTs apart. They wear their grievances proudly, a fashion faux pas bordering on humiliating. Humiliating one's self serves as no adequate surrogate for genuine humility. One's patriotism seems properly rendered only in the eye of a beholder, never in the mind of any pretender. One can inevitably only ever pretend to be an actual patriot.

We increasingly engage in political cosplay.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WakeUps

WakeUps
Jan Matejko: Stańczyk during a ball at the court of Queen Bona in the face of the loss of Smolensk (1862)
"The Amish were right, we're too late Schmart."

The morning headlines label it an unprecedented coup-attempt, an insurrection, sedition, and it might well qualify for all three of these labels. It also represented the most common of human outcomes. Oh, I understand that thwarted self-proclaimed patriots vowed to return in the morning with muskets, but that threat hardly matters and can't quite qualify as a concern. I thought the Capitol Police brilliant in their defense of the institution, though it might have appeared to more naive observers that they'd been too easily out-flanked by the mob. They denied that mob the martyrs they might have aspired to produce, instead, ceding that long-offensive car to the yapping dog's jaws. We watched as the pride seemed to drain right out of those boys once they'd achieved their long aspired-for goal. What did they do with their freshly-gained authority? Well, I guess they planted a couple of amateurish pipe bombs. Other than that, they seemed quickly bored with their achievement, posting a little graffiti and lounging in chairs of the long-reviled powerful, looking a little surprised that those seats transferred no enlivening power into them. They dispersed with nothing gained, their purpose drained as a direct result of having achieved it, an overall disappointingly amateurish theater production. Utterly ordinary.

Revolutions usually work this way because their leaders tend to be tenaciously short-sighted, largely because their loyal followers insist upon short-sightedness as a condition of their fealty.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Natterer

Natterer
Cassius Marcellus Coolidge: Dogs Playing Poker (1894)
"Action's highly over-rated."

I acknowledge myself to be a dedicated Natterer. I consider most interventions worth deep consideration before engaging in. I'm that old dog that just seems to have to circle the spot where he always lays down before actually plopping down there. I look around before leaping, and might choose not to leap at all after considering. I seem to need to construct a mental model before I begin. I construct a mental model TO begin, for I almost always start my actions that way. Yes, these things take time. Everything seems to take time, so more time doesn't seem to matter to me just as long as I'm productively engaged in some nattering. A small chore, fully considered, might take me until the middle of next week to appear to even start, though I've very likely started nattering about it long before anyone notices any actual action out of me. I might explain that I'm thinking, though I know deep inside me that I'm actually actively nattering instead.

Once I became a world-class Natterer, I found that I'd developed an entire vocabulary to explain myself to any witness to my proceedings, or, more usually, my lack of proceeding.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Smarter

Smarter
Chen Hongshou: painting of Tao_Yuanming (Ming Dynasty)
"Everyone's Smarter than everyone else."

I used to help facilitate experiential leadership workshops where I'd invite participants to engage in a variety of what I referred to as Silly Little Games. Those games were anything but silly, though they certainly often appeared absurd, at least at first. I'd often ask after an exercise ended, when reflecting upon what had just happened, "How did you exhibit leadership during that exercise?" It became quickly apparent to me by the shocked looks on people's faces when I asked that question that many had not thought they'd exhibited much in the way of leadership during the exercise, and some would readily admit that they'd missed an opportunity to exhibit it, since I had not declared that the purpose of it was to provide a medium for each person to demonstrate leadership. Though we were in the middle of what had been advertised as a leadership workshop, I'd felt no pressing need to re-remind every participant of the workshop's advertised purpose. Besides, I figured individuals could use the experiences for whatever purpose they wanted and I didn't want to hold them hostage to satisfying my needs for them. With a little subsequent prodding, though, almost everyone came to recognize that they'd somehow exhibited leadership however they'd engaged, even the wallflowers, even those who'd taken a bio-break rather than actually engage. We came to rediscover that leadership, whatever that might entail, comes in at least ten thousand different guises and can often only be recognized by the one engaging in it, and then, only if that one's rather generously observing themselves. Influence extends far beyond anyone's senses.

I was thinking about that exercise as I entered a BIG box hardware store yesterday, on a mission to find a tool which I could not describe to myself, much less to any clerk, in the unlikely event that I might encounter a clerk there.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Worser

Worser
Edvard Munch: Ashes (1895)
"Our fundamental decency some days seems wasted on the wrong people."

The December 28, 2020 issue of The New Yorker features a thirty-five page essay by Lawrence Wright titled The Plague Year. This reporting should be required reading, for it represents a first draft of a history that seems destined to define our times, like John Hersey's 1946 New Yorker piece, which took up the whole issue, exploring how six survivors experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Hersey co-opted then current reporting norms by focusing not upon the usual abstractions, but upon the human experiences of six so-called survivors who would never recover. Wright takes a similar tack with Our Damned Pandemic, focusing upon the experiences of a few within the dizzying swirl of unfolding current events. A general sense of impotence emerges as actual experts find their perspectives discounted and discarded in favor of fairy tale public pronouncements and innocents falling prey. Following the nuclear bombing of Japan, a whitewashing occurred, largely by tacit agreement. Correspondents long accustomed to minimizing the horrors they'd witnessed under the firm belief that their readers would not appreciate absolute authenticity, easily accepted often unspoken sanctions against submitting genuinely ugly stories describing truly awful events. Those responsible for informing those not witnessing wore rose-colored glasses when reporting. They'd get the numbers right, more or less, but they figured, I suspect, that depicting the depths of the actual depravity involved wouldn't win them many appreciations. In any society, one at least attempts to uphold a baseline of civility, even when—and probably especially when—unthinkable degradation occurs. Wright avoids this convention.

The Muse's sister, an emeritus professor who taught biology and statistics, has been posting daily updates on This Damned Pandemic since last March, today's update number 315 in an uninterrupted stream attempting to explain whatever was happening and extract meaning from those events.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Coruge

Coruge
Pieter Lastman: Odysseus and Nausicaa (1619)
"A country that cannot distinguish between Courage and Coruge can only corrupt its purpose."

The Plague Year now passed if not nearly over provided many opportunities for mere mortals to demonstrate extraordinary courage, by which I mean, of course, the perfectly ordinary kind. One doctor, when recounting her first encounters with the COVID-19 virus, explained the dilemma she faced. If she didn't touch the suffocating patient, he would surely die, and he might die anyway. If she did touch him, she might die. She touched him. She and her staff completed their wills and set to work. That's courage. I describe her act so that I might clearly distinguish it from another side-effect of this plague still ravaging us: Coruge. While courage seems fundamentally generous, Coruge seems merely self-important. It takes no courage to refuse to wear the most effective defense against this plague, a mask, it only requires a stubborn self-importance, as if that, in any larger scheme of anything, qualified as in any way important at all. I would call Coruge foolhardiness, but it hardly seems quite hardy enough to qualify. It's merely foolish, a form of arrogance acting out, the insistence of exception to a well-established rule. It's an extension of the more primitive notions of freedom running around these days, the ones that its adherents insist amount to God-given rights to assert whatever they believe to be a right as received wisdom, superior to every other.

I hold no great insight into the nature of Coruge, other than to say that from the distance I maintain, it seems rather pointless and stupid.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Distributing

Distributing
Albert Bierstadt: The Oregon Trail (1869)
"Whatever else we're intending when Distributing anything, we're Distributing our own naive experience first."

My forebears crossed the much-vaunted Oregon Trail, and try as I might, I cannot quite imagine it as being anything other than a primitive sort of Interstate Freeway. Eye-witness accounts reported a ragged line of discarded furniture, broken wagons, and garbage, alongside an open sewer ditch, with grave markers a frequent sight. Nothing about the trip proved to be nearly as romantic as the paintings of it suggested. Migrants were said to have felt deep disappointment when they saw that their trail would not route them through the Eden the brochures had promised. Even today, we tend to glaze over logistical complications. That pre-pandemic trip to France included an ordeal of airplane connections and discomfiting boredom no entertainment system built into the seat back in front of you could possibly blunt. One arrives half dead in Paris, and spends the first day or two recovering. It's no different for anything we blithely ship. The couple of dozen Christmas packages we mailed took surprising trips, with one pair, addressed to locations less that two miles from each other, arriving four days different. I've had, like you've had, packages routed across the country multiple times and take two weeks to accomplish a standard two-day delivery, with me amusedly tracking 'progress' all the way. Them's the breaks, even with a mature, well-broken-in distribution system. Inefficiency's built right into every one of them.

Wartime's much worse.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Losting

Losting
Titian: Diana and Actaeon (1556–1559)
"I'm coming to understand that the purpose of Losting, of learning, is not to get found but to get better at coping with feeling lost."

Feeling lost seems the most reliable indicator that I'm learning. I learned or presumed early that I should avoid feeling lost. I felt embarrassed when introduced to some new concept in school, and attempted, often unsuccessfully, to appear that I immediately understood it. Then, I'd feel ashamed as well as lost. Much later, I came to understand that I'd utterly misunderstood the purpose of school. I'd naively believed that it was about knowing, about demonstrating knowledge, when it was properly understood as being about learning, which might often induce deep feelings of being lost, Losting. Up until about the seventh grade, learning only occasionally induced a sense of Losting in me, for I was a bright lad with strong intuition. Beyond elementary education, though, intuition fails to anticipate much of what's presented, as increasingly complex concepts insist upon deriving answers by employing specific processes. Few intuit algebra. Even fewer accurately anticipate history. These require rather more memory than instinct, and forms of discipline demanding considerable Losting before assimilation occurs. If one favors avoiding experiencing Losting, one loses opportunities for learning many things. Once learned, the Losting diminishes, and I suppose that folks can just lean back on their laurels and cruise. Repeatedly avoid Losting leaves one in a nasty lurch.

A New Year appears and I suspect that I really should be making resolutions as if I was not Losting into it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Appreciatings

Appreciatings
Charles Deas: Long Jakes, "The Rocky Mountain Man" (1844)
"Thank you for helping to make my old year happier!"

I had to be taught to appreciate. I was not born with the skill. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I learned the first thing about how to congruently accomplish appreciating, and I still feel at a disadvantage when challenged, as I am this morning, to extend some genuine Appreciatings. This being the last day of this year, I've decided to attempt the opposite of what Auld Lang Sine asks. Should old acquaintance be forgot? I suggest that old acquaintances should properly be warmly recognized with Appreciations on the last day of the year. Every pundit known to man and beast has already submitted their regrets for the year now passing, for it was a remarkably disappointing year in many respects—most, maybe, but hardly entirely. For me it was a year of tremendous personal growth influenced by my encouraging audience, the majority of whom distinguished themselves as repeat offenders, showing up and even coming back again and again and again. What gives?

I started PureSchmaltz as a form of giving.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HealthScare

HealthScary
Ernest Board: Albucasis blistering a patient in the hospital at Cordova. (Circa 1900).
"It's just there, best avoided, forever poised ready to serve somebody else."

I called in sick yesterday, a rare occurrence. Like anyone, I tend to work right through sensations of illness, never knowing if I'm sick or just tired, or both. My basic strategy for treating any apparent anomaly amounts to giving it a day or two to see if it gets any worse and if it gets any worse, to give it another day or two to see if my condition further degrades, the upshot being that I almost never reach a point where I seriously consider consulting with anyone other than The Muse, who maintains her own superstitions and folk remedies. A doctor's visit requires the rough equivalent of an act of a divided Congress to schedule and these generally amount to me failing to describe and the doctor blindly prescribing, with me reporting side effects resulting from the last round of prescriptions. I tend to spend much of my doctor face time trying to convince the nurse practitioner why I'm not a good candidate for her current pet treatment. Even if I have sleep apnea, a condition I've yet to muster a belief in, I would never consent to wearing an electric muzzle to bed. A man must somehow maintain his dignity. I contend that I'm not sick, a condition modern medicine struggles to cope with.

Still, I do have my days when whatever ails me actually ails me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThePetulances

ThePetulence
Paul Delaroche: Napoléon abdicating in Fontainebleau, 1845
"Nobody ever rides anywhere worth going to on the back of grudges fueled by ThePetulences."

We're each and all heading in the same direction. Lowly and highborn, professional and gig, smart and stupid, born equal and perhaps steadily heading downhill thereafter. If circumstances don't get us, time certainly will. The devout contend that we're heading for a better life following this one, sure and certain of ample reward for whatever humiliation life heaps upon them. All will be humbled, though the humiliation part seems entirely optional. Some become powerful, after a fashion, though none ever powerful enough to make good on any delusion about what that power might purchase. Most learn that power carries a counterbalancing powerlessness, with only ThePetulences ever bringing the two into balance. One might pretend so convincingly as to convince them self, less frequently someone else, rarely a majority. The positioning matters, since the nonbelievers can natter even noble intentions to shreds. It generally behooves anyone wielding power to handle it with greater care than their charter implies they might, for asserted might naturally translates into neither right nor acceptable. Power either humbles or humiliates. An absent humility guarantees eventual humiliation.

Not everyone gifted with authority seems to understand the humility it demands of them, or prove capable of providing it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Disposaling

Disposaling
Eugene Berman, Italienne Symphony II (1940)
"The cats receive an hour's free entertainment …"

I received perhaps the greatest gift ever when my email inboxes disappeared from my iPhone on Christmas Eve. Long a point of continuing frustration, their sudden absence felt freeing. I know, I'm supposed to grieve the loss of 3500 messages I had never been able to keep up with, but I could never keep up with them, and though I retain a sense that something important must have been hidden in there somewhere, besides an irregular seli-annual purge of the contents, I never found in there anything like A Publisher's Clearinghouse announcement that I'd become an instant millionaire. Mostly, detritus resulting from some fleeting past association that had produced sometimes daily updates from which I'd never figured out how to unsubscribe and trivial updates from the homeowner's association announcing that some member or another had received approval to install new windows, I only felt oppressed by their presence. My occasional review of the inboxes, never a regular part of my regimen, left me more skilled at deleting without reading them, hundreds each day, it seemed, hardly a skill much prized in anyone's marketplace. I found some retained on my laptop, but felt free that my iPhone would no longer present this overwhelming doodlebug hole of a challenge. Praise be, indeed!

Little of the garbage I generate so easily and permanently disappears.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AlternateUniverses

AlternateUniverses
Elihu Vedder: Mural, Lobby to Main Reading Room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.
Main figure is seated atop a pedestal saying "CORRUPT LEGISLATION".
"I might have always been more potential than being."

None of my life makes any sense without accepting the likelihood that AlternateUniverses exist. I might instead attempt to follow a thread I presume to connect the disparate portions of my existence so far, but that story, one attempting to relate each piece to every other, strains credulity more than the AlternateUniverses alternative; it would not make believable fiction. I'm not arguing in favor of wildly divergent spaces, but subtly different ones, at least for the most part. I've thrived in places I formerly considered uninhabitable and found almost uninhabitable places touted as the best Earth has to offer. I feel fortunate to have experienced such tremendous difference. I've struggled with pretty much every transition, for within each I first searched for stuff that could not be found there because it didn't exist there, but I eventually adapted after some fashion and found myself settling in, usually in spite of initial instinctively unhelpful adaptation attempts. I found that I had to let go of some expectations to appreciate each place. What appeared, for instance, on my first visit to New Mexico, as a culture full of crappy gardeners later came to seem one which had adapted well to the local terrain. There are no English Country Gardens thriving in parched high desert country.

I feel proud to report that I spent considerable time over several years writing and reading in the Main Reading Room of The Jefferson Building of DC's Library of Congress, by far the most complete library ever assembled.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Done-d

done-d
Caravaggio: Saint Jerome in Meditation (1606)
"Doneness, a negotiated settlement."

Back when I consulted with projects, I noticed the curious relationship every project seemed to have with doneness. Similar to each project's initial charter, none managed to muster a very complete description of their destination. "What will 'done' look like," I'd ask, as if that constituted a reasonable question. And most accepted the question with a tinge of guilt, just as if they'd known that they really should have answered that question as a precedent before beginning. None had very clearly described their requisite initial conditions, either, which might just be a polite way to say that their project had gone off half-cocked. They'd garnered permission to start, even received funding, with hardly a half-assed notion of what they would be doing. I came to understand this state as a necessary one, and in no way evidence of the least bit of aberrance. Everyone did it this way for the simple reason that no alternative existed or could be accessed in real or any other time. Sure, each effort could improve by better defining its identity and its objective, but no project ever successfully satisfied their aspiration to have actually done either. Done, I came to understand, was not a state, though one might negotiate into an acceptance that they had achieved some good-enough state of description, but only after having achieved that state, never in anticipation or at the moment of arrival. Done is a reflection, a tardy recognition, not a discernible or definable place. Stuff gets Done-d, never done.

Done-d usually feels like an abandonment to me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GraveMisgivings

GraveMisgivings
Daniel Maclise: Othello, Desdemona and Emilia (1867)
" I will continually eliminate intrusions and remulch familiar dirt …"

As near as I can tell, and I'm the only one who could possibly know, I felt fairly well suited to this world through the spring of 1963. Since then, things have maintained a steady downward trajectory. By the fall of that year, I registered my first failing grade, an outcome I felt certain was coming before completing the transfer into Junior High, a clear impending disaster against which I possessed no defenses. Junior High attempted to demonstrate that one could successfully educate kids by removing the center of their existence and replacing it with something euphemistically labeled Home Room. There never was anything even the least bit homey about Home Room. It seemed an utterly alien environment, a place where people who would never very well know each other gathered at the beginning of each school day for the purpose of taking role and listening to threatening screeds the Principal broadcast over the school-wide PA system. It set a distinctly prison camp tone, one which unavoidably soured the rest of each day's experience. I started majoring in hiding out, a field of study in which I came to excel. I would have preferred that they offered a letter in that endeavor, but, alas, they did not.

I matriculated into High School, which was Junior High on steroids.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Routine

Routine
M. C. Escher: Relativity (1953)
"I might find myself more present then but also much less here …"

I refer to my Routine as sacred. I work hard to keep it as sacred as it feels, though it's almost entirely composed of distinctly secular activities. I'm no monk, but I do spend the majority of my time alone. Early mornings, I've grown accustomed to padding around this place in darkness, for I have no need to turn on lights. I've traversed these rooms enough that my muscle memory mostly sees my pathways for me, no real need to supplement that sixth sense. The cats see fine in near total darkness, so they seem unimpressed with my prowess. I guess I impress myself, though. I exhibit evidence that I'm a townie here, I have enough history to seem prescient to myself. I know which drawer holds whatever kitchen utensil I might need. I might even inhabit what some would deride as a rut, but it's MY rut and I find living in it pleasing.

The impending HeadingHomeward will exchange this reliable old milk cow of a Routine for the equivalent of unproven magic beans.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Sh!t

Sh!t
Utagawa Kuniyoshi: Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre (circa 1844)
"Assets to assets, dust to dust."

Most possessions more possess their owner than are possessed by any owner. Possession might remain nine-tenths of the law, but it buys little, though it does occupy space. The more possessions one has, the more space one needs to contain them, and the vast majority of that stuff just sits, never referenced, never touched. My folks' place, the house within which I grew up, eventually became a museum dedicated simply to containing an amazing inventory of long-unused stuff. In their final few years, neither my mom nor my dad could get to either the basement or the second floor, so those parts of the place, fully two-thirds of it, simply collected dust. After my dad died and my mom finally begrudgingly accepted the necessity of moving into an assisted living facility, the family quickly cleared out the place we'd long-imaged a repository of long-forgotten treasures. We found a few treasures, but we mostly uncovered tombs to long-ago summers. A set of long-illegal lethal lawn darts. Canned plums from the summer of 1965, still apparently good after more than forty years spent on a shelf in a far back corner of the basement. Most of the imagined treasures had turned to Sh!t by the time we started exorcizing them along with their demons.

That's the thing about possessions, they need to maintain at least a modest velocity or they inevitably degrade.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Heading

Heading
Elihu Vedder: The Questioner of the Sphinx (1863)
"One must drag a past into their dreams or they never have a chance of coming true."

If someone was manning the helm on this heap and I was its captain, I might feel moved to command that a course for home be set. "Give me the heading for home," I'd bark, and we we'd be on our way. Nobody's at the helm of this heap, though. The Muse and I do what we can, but neither of us have ever shown any particular penchant for navigation. Vectoring chased me off. Too much complicated math. The Muse almost exclusively employs persistence. She tends to get wherever she's going, but rarely by any expedient course. Her path meanders and leverages happenstance, and she'd very likely have it no other way. We're not really into efficiency here, but into collecting the stories our adventures are likely to tell us. The less predictable, the better.

We've gone and done it now, as my mother once might have derisively said.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BegendingAgain

BegendingAgain
Gustave Doré: Don Quixote amid his fantasies of chivalric romance, the frontispiece to the 1863 Paris Hachette edition of Don Quixote.


"
The Pilgrim travels to find himself. He was lost when he left and hoped to be found by fleeing into something greater than he ever was or ever hopes to become. A reckoning occurs along the way, a reconciling, shell with self, restoring something somehow formerly lost along the way. It never matters why." From Pilgrimage, the first WhatNext Posting, 9/21/2020

"Is it ending as I intended?"


I never seem to know how to begin or end anything. I prefer continuums, endless loops, Ouroboroses forever nibbling their own tails. I don't spring cleanly out of any starting blocks. I likewise tend to miss the moment when I cross the finish line, continuing races longer than strictly necessary for them to end. I behave like Wylie Coyote, forever hatching half-again too clever plans and overrunning my mesa top again and again and again. I label this tendency Begending, a blending of both beginning and ending, neither, really, and also both. I deeply respect the inherent ambiguity experience brings, lessons not so much learned as still learning, without convincing conclusions. Impressions remain, mixed in with much inert material. I might wonder forever without ever concluding what any of anything "really" means. As my dear departed friend Jamie used to insist, it was just what it was and, forever, is just what it is, whatever that was and is. The purpose of any Pilgrimage might not be finding the purpose of any pilgrimage.

The purpose of WhatNext might have been its creation, not its conclusion.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Blecknology

Blechnology
Elihu Vedder: Soul in Bondage (1891-92)
" … I wondered what might become of me next."

As I was driving by a tiny one bedroom cinder block ranchette, I saw through the front window a flat screen television so enormous that anyone watching it would have to stand in the yard across the street to gain adequate focal distance to see the action on it. Technology possess this sort of strange attraction. It seems as if the specs outweigh utility. We presume that bigger (or tinier) must be better and higher definition, superior, though in practice, beyond a rather modest level of clarity, television becomes increasingly unbelievable, like those old 'shot on video' movies where everything seemed in shockingly sharper focus but lacked a proper patina. When color began replacing black and white in film, the purpose of the medium flipped. It's no real trick to recognize anything represented in black and white, and many details irrelevant to the purpose of the production become much more prominent with color representation. The story usually suffers, becoming more spectacle than substance. The purpose was never perfect representation, but performance and meaning. There's little entertainment value in being able to pick out nose hairs on the bad guy's horses as they race by on the screen, or so it might seem. Meaningless prevailed.

Once that focal point shifts from the purpose of the performance toward higher-definition superficialities, more than an essential subtlety gets lost.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EmptyNexting

EmptyNexting
Symbolist painter Elihu Vedder: The Pleiades (1885)
" … not yet at the end of my hopefulness, either."

Change, Family Therapist Virginia Satir insisted, rests upon the clear, albeit temporary acceptance of the way things are. I might anticipate, even project futures, but I will be wise to consider that whatever differences might emerge next will have extended from whatever came before them. Though life sometimes seems terribly disjointed, connections remain no matter how disruptively any future seems to manifest. One probably never successfully escapes one's roots, nor need to. Still, I live a considerable portion of my life in anticipation, warm or chilling, and rarely solely within any moment. With three short days—the shortest days of this year so far—remaining in my WhatNext Series of writing (this waning quarter's focus of my writing), I'm still anticipating what might come next. I deliberately avoided originally posing my WhatNext as a question, but as a purposefully ambiguous statement which might, in certain light, certainly seem like a question, but in others a benign label or even an exasperation. Notice how it's lacking punctuation. WhatNext has certainly proven to represent each of those sentiments and more.

This time has seemed a period which rendered prediction not necessarily impossible, but at least unbelievable, or perhaps simply difficult to believe.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProHibitions

Prohibitions
Lord Nicolas the German (Donnus Nicholas Germanus), cartographer
Johann the Blockcutter of Armsheim (Johannes Schnitzer or Johannes de Armssheim), engraver:
The world map from Leinhart Holle's 1482 edition of Nicolaus Germanus's emendations to Jacobus Angelus's 1406 Latin translation of Maximus Planudes's late-13th century rediscovered Greek manuscripts of Ptolemy's 2nd-century Geography.
"I preemptively infringe upon my own freedoms so nobody else has to."

By the time someone gets to my advancing age, they've probably produced a long list of personal ProHibitions. Some came from well-intended professionals' advice, but most evolved into being, based upon emerging convictions and experiences. I learned at seventeen that there's nothing much worth discovering at the bottom of any bottle of Southern Comfort, the most misleadingly named beverage in the history of human civilization. I learned how to smoke before I learned how not to. Learning not to proved way harder, as it seems for many things. Bad habits are first good habits, or, if not necessarily good habits, they universally seem like good ideas at the time. They show their insidious side later, after they've weakened your resolve. They might do it that way for the sheer entertainment of it.

I've been collecting cautionary experiences since I started experiencing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ease

Ease
Pieter Brueghel the Elder: Dulle Griet [Mad Meg] (1563)
"If it's really important, I ask The Muse to run the gauntlet …"

Much has been made of the Ease of online shopping. I cannot validate this claim because online shopping still seems to me the very antithesis of Ease. This Damned Pandemic Lockdown reinvigorated my online shopping curiosity, though, so I've recently been reengaging to learn if anyone has engineered any Ease into their interfaces. I'm the guy who, when checking out at Whole Foods® explains that he has not (yet) figured out the Amazon One-Click® app yet. They either take my word that I'm a member, the person in line behind me loans me their identity, or I just take along The Muse, who just seems to know how those sorts of things operate. Amazon has long held my admiration for the absolute hostility of their user interface, which seems more hazard to commerce than intelligent assistant. Their design became the burgeoning online shopping industry's standard for online commerce, effectively disqualifying me from participating. I'm usually beyond caring.

The vacuum died last weekend, so I went online shopping for a replacement.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HesitantLede

Hesitantlede
Moses: Woodcut from a single-sheet print by the Memmingen printing company Kunne (15th century)
"I'm cheering for some serious foot dragging next."

Most accounts characterize Moses as a distinctly hesitant leader. He was forever fleeing into his meeting tent to confer with The Almighty, continuously uncertain about his next move, his people endlessly complaining about his leadership. He seemed to fake it a lot. Some translations report that he remained unaware that his face exhibited a certain radiance obvious to anyone who met him, but apparently not reflected in any mirrored surface. He doubtless led his people and even survived a face-to-face audience with God, but he comes across as an inveterate foot dragger. How else could it have possibly taken forty and more years to cross the freaking Sinai, which is just over two hundred klicks wide? Baby steps? Yea, baby steps.

When the word leader comes up in polite conversation, though, it seems most likely that one might attach a different connotation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheEnemyWithin

Enemy1
Peter Paul Rubens: Massacre of the Innocents (1611–12)
" … getting even only leads to slaughtering innocents …"

They goad. They spout gibberish. They firmly believe in flimsy fictions and claim to be prepared to lay down their lives to defend them. I imagine that they performed poorly in school and so felt demeaned there. The elites who harshly judged them in class became evidence of an upper class to which they would be forever denied access. They took menial jobs, ones which only almost paid the bills. They did the heavy lifting whenever an elite got a bug up his ass. They actually fought the wars without purpose. They witnessed their comrades' deaths. Perhaps they acquired a first class case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which just added another layer onto an ever-growing grudge. They believed that owning guns was both an honor and a right, a little something to equalize what had always been an unfair fight. They vowed to fight. They exclusively slaughter innocents, innocence.

They goad to take the upper hand.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheNarrator

TheNarrator
Anonymous: Diogenes brings a plucked chicken to Plato. (19th century)

According to Diogenes Laërtius’ third-century Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, Plato was applauded for his definition of man as a featherless biped, so Diogenes the Cynic “plucked the feathers from a cock, brought it to Plato’s school, and said, ‘Here is Plato’s man.’ ” When asked about the origin of his epithet, cynic deriving from the Greek word for dog, Diogenes replied that it was given to him because he “fawns upon those who give him anything and barks at those who give him nothing.” From Lapham's Quarterly

"I might need some serious slowing down after this."

It's long been considered wise counsel to understand who's whispering into one's counsellor's ear, for those people narrate that counsellor's experience, often without the counsellor acknowledging the influence. The much-touted still, silent voice, which originates inside, actively interprets, while TheNarrator represent a world pre-interpreted for easy absorption. This Damned Pandemic has rendered my library inconvenient to visit so I've been supplementing my Wreading with audio books. I've been noticing that I listen less critically than I read, as if intaking through my ears bypasses some gatekeeper in my brain. I find fiction even more believable when listening. I find non-fiction much more convincing, though I understand that as a "consumer" of literature, I hold a responsibility to be sorting whatever I'm attempting to absorb. Listening seems to bypass my sorting mechanism.

I find distasteful any medium that does not provide me the means for easily skipping ahead or flipping back.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FatteningGeese

GooseFattening
Baldassare de Caro: A hunting still life with a goose, ducks, pigeons, songbirds and a dog in a landscape (Early 18th Century)
"On even the darkest evenings, I light a fresh candle."

The olde carol reports that Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. Hardly headline news, that. Feed a goose a freaking dandelion and it will turn that weed into the finest, silkiest Schmaltz. The carol might have more usefully proclaimed that Christmas is coming and you're getting fat, for a human's metabolism seems to shift into goose mode as the winter's holidays approach. Truth told, few of us even try to subsist upon a diet of dandelion buds in any season. As snow falls, we, instead, commence to buying heavy whipping cream by the quart and butters and sugars we haven't bought since this time last year. We refer to our excesses as cheer, which beats drowning them in remorseful tears. We can save our remorse for Lent, wherein we can regret what might seem, there on the cusp of spring, a serious personal shortcoming visiting around Solstice past. In this moment, hearts sing without the slightest sensation of any impending smothering. We have no interest in balancing anything. Let church bells ring, we're celebrating!

Our genome remembers those times before the advent of central heating, when survival required defensive fat layering.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AgingInPlace

AgingInPlace
Seated figure from Mali, Djenné peoples, 13th century
"Can anyone hope to outrun their fate when AgingInPlace?"

Americans seem a mobile people. Born to migrate, we've always been quick to ditch. We once referred to this tendency as our manifest destiny, which roughly translated into a firm belief that we can only manifest our true selves if we're somewhere else. We identify our sense of place as 'there', definitely not here or even the Old Home Place, and, no, we're still not there yet. We grow up and move away, relocate for professional advancement, even pull up roots at retirement to make another in a seemingly infinite series of attempts to finally locate our ultimate Promised Land. Arriving, though, we find dissatisfaction co-locating again, so we spend about a quarter of each year traveling to see somewhere else, anywhere else, really. We maintain bucket lists of our bucket lists, the purpose of which seems to be to fuel our pleasing dissatisfactions. Here has always seemed more distraction than destination. We ache to be on the road again.

So when This Damned Pandemic came calling and our well-intended public servants started recommending just staying home, a collective, mournful moan arose from at least half of our populous.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MakingHistory

MakingHistory
Victor Arnautoff: "City Life" mural, Coit Tower, San Francisco (1934)
"The pointy end trails a very long tail which will never become any different."

Maybe it's an effect of This Damned Pandemic, but I've been catching myself daydreaming lately, frequently. I'll find myself floating in the hallway of my elementary school, surrounded by everything that seemed so unexceptional then. It all seems golden now. The absence of a normal routine might have been forcing me into reliving past ones which all seem like history from here. I do not know how they made that transition into golden past because at ground level, the whole show seemed continuous, flawless. Everyone and everything fulfilled their role perfectly, each precisely as they eventually would become, each act somehow frozen in time yet still convincingly fluid. I remember considering attempting to capture on film the place and time where I came of age, but I never found the time to take those pictures when I was still imbedded within that familiar frame. What seemed normal, even banal then has since become the stuff of barely believable legend. Almost nothing survived intact—I know that I certainly didn't—yet my daydreams seem so crisp and clear that when I finally snap out of one, I can't quite believe that I'm here and not there. I might be both.

I conclude that we're each MakingHistory every blessed second.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SliverBullets

sliverbullet
Joseph Wright: An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768)
"If we can maintain faith in infinitesimals, we stand some chance."

Invite a halfway decent project manager to a project meeting or an otherwise innocent pandemic and things tend to quickly seem more complicated. While a team or a society easily focus their energy upon some essentially mythical closure, the project manager's having none of that. She'll start asking "and if you achieved that, where would you be?" in long meandering series intended to get people thinking less superficially. You see, most of us firmly believe in silver bullets, even though experts in every field agree that there's really no such thing. Nothing ends like things end on TV, prominently featuring unambiguously good guys, white horses, or native sidekicks. Silver bullets prove impractical for reasons beyond their obvious expense. Lead's almost twice as heavy as silver, its mass much better suited for bullets. Silver bullets would struggle to accurately hit any target, regardless of the skill of the shooter involved. We each suffer somewhat from a form of Fairy Tale Poisoning, and this toxin serves us very poorly.

We've, for the duration of This Damned Pandemic, maintained a reassuring belief in the eventual emergence of a blunting vaccine which would quickly neutralize the threat.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Shimbolism

Shimbolism
Joseph Wright: The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher's Stone (1771)
" … not even a cigar is any longer ever simply a smoke."

I admit to no longer being anyone's exemplar of fashion. Few of my garments feature a manufacturer's label, and I did not purchase those to publicly promote my good taste, for I consider any visible manufacturer's label in extremely poor taste, the most primitive form of self promotion by back-handed association, as if Ralph Lauren were somehow personally vouching for me because I'm impractical enough to pay an inflated price for a shirt with a prominent logo in lieu of a front pocket. I'm unable to successfully translate the seemingly subtle cues which, I'm certain, were supposed to clue me in as to with whom I'm having the pleasure of meeting, a form of qualification. My eye can discern a well-cut worsted from a polyester wannabe, and I admit to projecting significant meaning upon each, but most of the rest of the code seems as alien as any avian mating ritual, mere flash and feather. I do understand that it's become somewhat of an imperative now for one to suit up for public display. The message on a hat might make a real difference to some, but I never swallowed the notion that wearing a hat might make anything great the first time, let alone over again.

My usual wardrobe amounts to the same damned thing worn over and over and over again, with no underlying meaning ever intended, other than that it's clean and somewhat well-fitted.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Workarounds

Workaround1
Coloured etching by J. Collier after himself:
A sadistic tooth-drawer frightening his patient with a hot coal causing him to pull away violently and extract a tooth. (1810)
"Not all Workarounds are created equal."

Anything retained long enough becomes the sum of its sustaining Workarounds. Older cars have lost several of their factory-installed features, replaced by alternative parts, some of which might have even been designed to serve the purpose for which they're employed. Exact replacements cannot always be located, so an inventive or desperate mechanic or DIY owner jury-rigs something and calls it good enough. These fixes proliferate as something ages. Houses accumulate a variety of sins to their original design, often under the aegis of "home improvement." Some actually improve something, though many more likely simply prolong a desired utility without much regard for aesthetics. Remodeling, in addition to adding a few new ones, inevitably becomes a revisiting of many prior sins, many of them, I've always suspected, concocted late some Sunday evening when something critical failed. Few come back Monday morning to improve any quick fix. A remodeler repeatedly wonders, "What were they thinking?"

The chances seem good that they were not thinking at all, but reacting.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SecretLife

SecretLife
Maria Louise Kirk: Cover Illustration for the 1911 American edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden.
" … mostly redactions in any transcript."

I live three simultaneous lives: a public, a private, and a secret one. I might refer to my public life as my nine-to-five life. It entails my out-there encounters. My private life's the one I primarily live at home; me and my family're privy to this one, along with my very closest friends. My SecretLife includes all my activities I mention to nobody, ever. It includes more than nose-picking, and entails much of what I find embarrassing to tell. We each maintain all three of these lives, in varying proportions and degrees. A mid-career professional might allocate much more than half their time to maintaining their public presence. Newlyweds slip into full time private time when they depart on their honeymoon, then, over time, allocate a much smaller proportion to engaging in their relationship. Through it all, we each maintain at least a small part of every day to our secret activities, if only for the sake of maintenance. Nobody ever gets to watch me shave. I understand that some families (shudder) maintain an open door bathroom policy which both my privacy life and my secrecy life abhor. I'm a dedicated bathroom door closer, myself.

During normal times, a rhythm emerges and seems to maintain itself, with public, private, and secret times seeming to balance themselves.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NewNormalScene

NewNormalScene
A shower of cards in Alice in Wonderland from the color illustrated Nursery Alice published in 1890 with illustrations by John Tenniel
" Coping must mean that I'm still noticing differences without taking them as necessarily definitive."

If there's an art to adapting, it's for certain a dark one not taught in any higher learning institution. It seems a low sort of learning, imposed rather than chosen, and however much I might crow about my own resilience, I can assure you that it's all bullshit. There never were any masters of resilience and not only because there never could have been. You see, mastery demands an object exhibiting certain replicabilities, patterns emerging at least somewhat regularly, where practice might prove possible. Nobody ever improves their innate ability to predict what random number might emerge next. Likewise, each emerging NewNormalScene will likely never seem completely normal. Nostalgia taints assimilation. One cannot help comparing and finding the new thing wanting. These days never seem very much like the good old ones.

Saturday morning comes and I still feel a reassuring compulsion to head over to Davey's Diner for a platter of loaded hash browns.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Complaintant

Complaintant
Anders Zorn: Our Daily Bread (1886)
" … I'm just blowing off stink."

I try not to whine, which under the Negative Objective Rule, means that I catch myself complaining more than I care to openly admit. Just between us, then, I admit to having a hyperactive internal complaint department operating 24/7. It never closes. I occasionally more publicly disclose its workings, but I usually just keep my complaints to myself, if only to demonstrate that I might have been raised right. I learned in my birth family, which featured five kids, just how necessary accommodation tends to be. One complainer can spoil every shared experience for everybody, perhaps most prominently for the complainer. Keep it up, and the belt might come off, encouraged by my mom and administered by my reluctant father, who always preferred to spare the rod, however warranted a punishment might seem. So I graduated into what passed for my adulthood with an advanced degree in stifling, a skill with a spotty record of producing real benefit.

The Damned Pandemic Lockdown has been teaching me complaining's hidden benefit, though.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Widsom

Widsom
Johannes Moreelse, Vanity (17th Century)
"I might have always been somebody else instead."

If you don't feel crazy sometimes, you're probably insane. The truly insane often feel perfectly sane while the sane only occasionally do. Truth often seems much stranger than fiction and fiction the more readily believable truth. There is no vast world-wide conspiracy trying to convince you that a vast world-wide conspiracy's trying to convince you that a vast world-wide conspiracy's trying to convince you. Nobody's capable of coordinating even a half-vast world-wide conspiracy in a world where most cannot consistently make it to the supper table on time. They're not actually out to get you, though they're very likely to get you, anyway. It's still paranoia, even when nobody's out to get you. Most cannot step into the same river once. Nobody can do it twice. Uncommon wisdom is everywhere, common sense, uncommon. Wisdom is never common. It only comes in the uncommon variety. If you're not confused, you might not be paying close enough attention.

Whoever said that the world should make sense never closely observed this world, for it overflows with absolute nonsense.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Leftovering

Leftovers1
Johannes Moreelse: Heraclitus (1630)
"By Epiphany, we will have somehow survived a second surge of Leftovering here."

Was it really just a week ago when I went to bed with my head filled with visions of an impending Thanksgiving dinner? The Muse and I had trundled out to fetch our fresh bird and returned to The Villa feeling supremely well prepared. The Muse had roasted off that little sugar pumpkin, anticipating some pie-making. We tussled a little over whether we should dry or wet brine the bird, a decision I ceded to The Muse, since she would be cooking. We were both salivating in warm anticipation, but that was then. Heraclitus, the so-called weeping philosopher, reveled in pointing out human foibles. He observed much human behavior that clearly couldn't qualify as rational. He noted that the same thing seems completely different from different perspectives while remaining otherwise precisely the same. He might have been foretelling the story of our Thanksgiving, which did, indeed, come the following morning but left a long, long tail behind. Turkey on day six seems a completely different commodity than it did on day one.

Most mornings, when filling the cats' food dish, I wonder if they might prefer a tad more variety in their diet.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Boss

Boss
Johannes Moreelse: Democritus (c. 1630)
"If nobody's Boss, it works better."

Anyone who's ever had a Boss has experienced what it's like to work for a complete idiot. This principle counts double for anyone who's ever worked for them self. The hierarchy wobbles top-heavy. If an organization has a cadre of best and brightest, why position them on the head of the pin rather than on the business end, the foundation? A Boss attempts to fulfill a Utopian mission, one rooted in directing others' actions, one doomed to endless short-coming. Nobody told this twenty-five year old budding business executive upon accepting his first supervisory assignment that he would most probably never get the hang of it, that he'd instantly become the most clueless one in the whole damned organization and that he dare not admit it, even to himself. He'd hang in there, pantomiming his own performance while writing performance reviews for people who's contribution he could not have possibly replicated or very deeply appreciated. The more successful subordinates were insubordinate and managed him.

And so it's been through all of my professional life.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Eternals

Eternals
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (circa 1490-1510)
"I feel a deep responsibility to maintain a sense of my own eternity."

As near as I can tell from here, we're each immortal until we're not. We each live infinite lives, lives within lives seemingly ad infinitum, right up to the moment when we don't anymore. To understand Eternals, it seems as though one must consider a slightly different from usual interpretation of infinity. Mathematics presumes infinity to be a collection of uncountable things, most often imagined as an overwhelmingly enormous set. They admit that some infinities extend further than others, giving rise to both smaller and larger enormities, but each extends further than anyone can imagine. Eternals last forever but emerge from moments. They hold realized potential and cannot ever be undone. That falling leaf embodies an eternal event which might have happened in many different ways, but didn't. It occurred just as it did and could thereafter never be undone. No do-overs, no mulligans. Each event happens precisely once, eternally.

You and I exist on the leading edge of an ever-changing eternity, for we each hold potentials destined to become Eternals.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fallowtimes

FallowTimes
Altichiero da Verona: Portrait of Francesco Petrarch, from a 1379 copy of the latter's De viris illustribus
"I've been cultivating dreams while inhabiting Fallowtimes since."

After giving and receiving the traditional Thanksgiving gratitudes, Fallowtimes settle in for an unimaginable duration. I might speak then in vague abstractions about last summer or a coming spring, but neither concept really settles in as likely or even distantly possible. A chrysalis too-securely covers my senses. My gardens, past and future, dominate my dreams and even some of my waking times then, for of all my friends, my gardens have seemed both the most dependent as well as the most dependable. Some I feel certain will never return. A few might resurrect, though likely in different forms, but I remember the placements, where the Bleeding Hearts sprouted each spring and where the buttonweeds grew the fiercest. I came to deeply understand each habit and habitat, each frustrating tendency and each payout. I freely submitted myself to their well-being, even when doing so would take too much out of me, for they represented a greater good, an association within which I could feel genuinely proud without ever experiencing a threatening pridefulness. I merely dug dirt.

The dilemma Fallowtimes present centers around to what I might satisfyingly relent, for an existence must, in my estimation, submit to something.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Transpacities

Transpacities
Johannes Moreelse: Clio: Muse of History, c. 1634
" … we recognize who fooled who, and recoil."

I feel fortunate to be able to report that I've only been taken mean advantage of a few times in my life so far. I might have avoided each instance, I later reflected, had I paid closer attention not to the villain but to myself, for I came to realize that I'd known I'd been offered a rubber worm before I'd decided to sink my teeth into it. I was probably just needer than I had suspected and so too easily ignored the clear and present felt sense that the villain was not to be trusted. I had successfully fooled myself, for my mountebanks had each very clearly exhibited Transpacities, those cues that a phony transparency's before me, in everything they'd said and done. They couldn't help it. They'd each offered some form of instant intimacy, an authentic impossibility, but in my then present state of neediness, I'd ignored the cue. We're each capable of doing this to ourselves.

Some believe that people are always trying to cloak who they really are and what they're really up to.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Beyond

Beyond
Edvard Munch: "Selvportrett" (1886)
"We'll likely look back with both nostalgia and regret."

I suspect that my many years interacting with computers have entrained me into certain preconscious habits. My computer, however outwardly benevolent, operates strictly within a very narrow range of permissible patterns. I must, for instance, open, edit, save, and recover according to certain procedures, some of which initially baffled me but which later became second nature. I've found several applications unusable because they seemed to expect me to think and react in ways I could not intuit or consistently remember. Some applications, I need to relearn each time I use them. I have many which I tried to use once and then never went back, finding nothing compelling in them after my initial investigation. A friend posted one of her grandmother's recipes and I felt shaken for just how un-Boolean it was. It violated what I've come to understand constitutes normal. One had to read it clear through at least once to understand that, for instance, it was not written in the preparation sequence, a gross violation of more thoroughly-ingrained modern practice. I began considering what forms of structure might lie Beyond the ones we have grown to use today.

It wasn't until the 1930s that anybody had developed a logical structure simple, spare, yet complete enough to support anything like a consistent machine language, one capable of mechanically replicating complex calculations.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThanksReceiving

ThanksReceiving
David Vinckboons: Distribution of Loaves to the Poor (first half of 17th century)
"I suspect that most of us could use some practice."

It might be a law of the universe that for every thanks given, one must be received, and while on Thanksgiving Day, one might sincerely offer many thanks, few ever mention the target receivers of these thanks. In this culture, most of us receive instruction in the practice of ThanksGiving, which seems a central tenet of human decency here, few receive much training in the congruent reception of those thanks. Was it Jesus who insisted that it's better to give than receive? We might have taken that directive a little too close to heart, for it's certainly not, then, damning to receive rather than to give, though many of us seem to respond to an act of giving as if it was somehow shameful to receive. We might blush and find ourselves suddenly tongue-tied, and simply nod as if to dismiss this backend of the ritual. A giver, appreciated for providing, might even catch himself mumbling, "It was nothing," thereby boogering up an otherwise uplifting exchange. But where to go to receive this essential training in ThanksReceiving?

This practice might belong to that class of practices one can only ever teach them self.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

badream

badream
Antonio de Pereda: The Knight's Dream (ca. 1650-1670)
On the banner: Aeterne pungit, cito volat et occidit.
"Eternally it stings, swiftly it flies and it kills."

" … not ever what they're not actually saying."

I dream in allegory, not coherent narrative. When The Muse asks what I dreamed, I'm speechless because I cannot translate them into words. They mostly seem absurd, haphazardly combining metaphors. I think of them as badreams (pronounced BAdreams) because they unsettle me and chase me away from sleep. Several times each week, I find myself awake, hesitant to close my eyes again, feeling not quite finished with sleep but effectively barred from reentering it. Each badream brings some message but these might just as well have been sealed within a bottle within a box and sunk deeply beneath the sea for all the coherence they seem to carry. They communicate anyway, beyond words, beyond any coherent in this world. Meanings seem to seep in and they often refuse to go away. Perhaps they carry significant information or maybe they're just distractions, synapses firing randomly to produce profound sensations signifying nothing. How could I know?

They often seem to carry warnings.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SecularHolidays

SecularHolidays
J.C Leyendecker: "Thanksgiving" [American Weekly cover art] (1940)
"SecularHolidays seem to be all about the food and remembering to say grace."

The founding American principle separating church and state might have quite naturally necessitated the creation and observance of not higher holy days, but secular ones. Visit Italy and you're likely to feel surprised when you find a bank closed on a Monday to observe some obscure, previously unknown to you, holy day of obligation. No worry about that happening here, except by rather accidental coincidence. Christmas, probably the pre-eminent SecularHoliday in the Ewww Ess of A, happens to share a day with several prominent sporting events and a rather mammon-rich exchange of what are referred to as gifts but often amount to payoffs, vigorish in a vigorous competition. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics can be spotted walking around wearing ashy crosses smeared on their foreheads, and that might turn a head or two, but on Halloween, otherwise respectable supermarket checkers show up for work decked out in the most outrageously ghoulish get-ups, and nobody turns a head. It's understood that it's a SecularHoliday, and everybody gets a pass.

Thanksgiving seems the most curious one, a SecularHoliday dedicated to gorging and recreating family trances.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PersonalResponsibility

PersonalResponsibility
Vincent van Gogh: Pair of Shoes (1895)
"We'll be a very long time absorbing this lesson and recovering."

PersonalResponsibility will ultimately prove to have been the greatest failure during This Damned Pandemic. Governors, mayors, and other well-intended authority figures deflected pleas to take firm stands by directing The Public to wear masks, avoid clustering, and simply stay at home. Some insisted that it was these public figures' duty to mandate certain behaviors in order to stem the flood of infections. The more conservative responded by rejecting these assertions that their duty lay in implementing what they insisted were fundamentally unenforceable rules, insisting that individuals rightly held the PersonalResponsibility to, as they repeatedly said, "do the right thing," whatever that might become. As a result, several interpretations of right thing emerged, each presumed true by whomever held it. Some refused to mask themselves, for a variety of curious reasons, potential suffocation a common if utterly spurious explanation. Some even became militant at the suggestion that their PersonalResponsibility might extend any further than their own, apparently holy, me, me, and me. The result, of course, became a rather shameful and utterly ineffective act of Collective Irresponsibility, as each adhered to their own conscience rather than what might prove collectively effective. We produced together a large-scale Tragedy of the Commons, where what's individually perceived as best for me, inevitably becomes the very worst for everybody.

History might perceive this troubling paradox, and even a majority see it in real time, but unless everybody buys into mitigation, the outcome's inexorable, for stemming this infection was not merely a matter of PersonalResponsibility, but a collective one.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThreateningToFester

ThreateningToFester
Pieter Aertsen: A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms (1551)
" … something different will most certainly be ThreateningToFester in my curious larder."

I overstate my case, but only by a little, when I say that I use the same recipe for everything I make in the kitchen. I use a variety of ingredients, not the same ones again and again, but the ingredients for my best stuff share a common state in that they're all ThreateningToFester. I'm not above scraping off a bloom of non-intrusive mold, but most components haven't degraded quite that far yet, though they could easily pass over within the next couple of days. I maintain what I think of as a deep larder. It features plenty of variety and I refresh it more or less continuously. I preserve compulsively, always pressure canning something for later use. We tend to over-buy fresh veg and fruit. Mangoes tend to get away from us and need some surgery before using. Lettuces might turn a little brown, or even inky black around the edges before their turn comes up in rotation. I trim the worst, saving those trimmings in the freezer for a later stock pot, and all's right with our world again. Cilantro almost always manages to completely go to the dark side before I find it as an inky mess in the bottom of the Black Hole veg drawer, but that's an inconsequential loss.

My best suppers combine in some unexpected way leftovers from three or four previous suppers.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GroanUpAgain

GroanUp2
Paul Gauguin: Self-Portrait (1885)
"They left me behind to carry on something."

As near as I can tell from here, I'm still growing up. I doubt that I'll ever finish or even make all that much headway. It might have been youthful fancy that once convinced me that I might one day mature, and that it might prove to be a cure for what plagued me in my youth. I imagined that my native indecisiveness might one day grow into clear convictions, but that hasn't happened yet. I'd thought that experience might buy me a certain tranquility in the face of fierce uncertainty, but I'm still struggling with that koan. The very notion that evolution might apply to my own little micro-climate now seems absurd, for while I'm not precisely who I started out as, I'm remarkably unchanged after passing through this veil, perhaps myself now, only more so. Somehow, everyone else seems matured. My classmates became beyond middle age to more closely resemble their parents, I still feel exempted, except when my mirror lies to me, which it conspires to do daily. I know more but feel no smarter. I've many times been there and back again, but retain a similar curiosity as I held at the beginning, as if those excursions hadn't quite taken. Each morning seems new all over again, undiscovered like a familiar toy I'd lost then found, certain to lose again.

I accept just how ineptly I've overcome my challenges and yet I still managed to overcome them.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WillingSuspension

WillingSuspension
John Steuart Curry: John Brown (1939)
" … maybe we won't miss much of what we edit out for the purpose of improving the quality of our experience here."

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge is said to have coined the term WillingSuspension of Disbelief when trying (and probably failing) to explain how a reader should approach his work. Poetry's like a joke. If you have to explain it, it didn't work. I believe that he probably meant that The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner should be read as a figurative rather than literal work; he didn't intend it to mean what it said but what it invoked. Most literature seems improved by reading with a fuzzy eye, not parsing it for too many facts, but perhaps for insights instead. Facts piled upon each other quickly become almost as interesting to read as a standard dictionary, plot line uninspiring. Theater, film, even television fail if perceived through any overly-critical eyes, for they rely upon a kind of conspiring with their audience, a tacit understanding that they won't mention the odd shadow the stage set casts or the obvious fact that no Martian would ever actually say THAT. We're pretending for some larger purpose, often, our own amusement. Of course the kids' improvisational after-dinner performance is lame. Parse for cuteness instead.

Following up on my yesterday's story, Disbelief, I spent my post-writing day considering Disbelief's accomplice, WillingSuspension.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DisBelieving

DisBelief
Dorothea Tanning: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943)


I was never a believer in The War on Terror. Its premise seemed fatally flawed from the beginning. While it's true that in every war so far, neither side had the slightest idea what it was doing, The War On Terror lacked even a tangible identity for any enemy combatant. It was as it was conceived to be, a Whack A Mole® undertaking destined to string us along for an eternity or longer. The only possible way to win such a war entailed refusing to engage in it. Once deployed, no exit could possibly present itself, except to just withdraw from it, though such a retreat would necessarily bring into sharp relief the underlying fallacies behind it. We stay engaged to save face, I guess, further sullying our reputation for the purpose of preserving our self-esteem.

When I was a kid, I often wondered what it would have been like to live through a war.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AbSense

AbSense
Caspar David Friedrich: Two Men Contemplating the Moon (Circa 1825-30)
"I'd graduated from and into my self …"

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, I must have the fondest heart. Much of my life (so far) has prominently featured absences, usually, my own. Making sense of these distances presents a challenge, since sense-making seems sort of a team sport. Solo sense-making lacks a requisite variety and tends to reverberate more than reveal. Most of my professional life, emphasis has been placed upon teaming, with little notice of its necessary individual component, where work's actually accomplished, in AbSense of everyone else. Few things seem sorrier than team members struggling to find their identity together, when each might have brought their own personally-crafted identity from home to hook up with each other's. That homework easily gets shirked in favor of some diversion, something (ANYTHING!) to pull the disquieting attention away from self. I remain uncertain what sort of training might prove useful for developing a deepening sense of that self, the one unavoidably separated from everyone else. Maybe training couldn't help. Perhaps it's just the kind of swimming that requires innocents falling in over their heads and then figuring it out by themselves.

Separated from the mothership at birth, the separations continued afterward.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReNial

ReNial
Diego Rivera: El Hombre in Cruce de Caminos (1934)
"What are we supposed to do with this?"

If denial remains the first stage of acceptance, ReNial attempts to infinitely extend irresolution. It's a cognitive state probably intended to keep the true believer safe, though it eventually backfires in practice to insist upon ever-increasing personal peril. When one falls into ReNial, no evidence qualifies as sufficient to counter any initial misconception. First impressions metastasize into permanent, ever more strongly defended, convictions. Those in ReNial seem to perceive admission of even a small mistake as an irreversible negation of self, a forfeiture of some essential part of their own identity. They persist in believing even obviously self-destructive falsehoods long after what most consider reasonable. They come to not simply resist acknowledging some obvious something, but eventually identify themselves as resistance itself. They thereby back into assuming a negative identity defined by what it denies. Negative identities tend to reliably produce the opposite of whatever they want.

Society long ago adopted forms of logic intended to help us prevent falling into ReNial.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wreading

GreatWreading
Berthe Morisot - Reading [La Lecture] (1888)
"Nobody needs to care where my writing comes from except for me."

Writers Wread much more than they write. We do not merely read, but Wread, which is the specialized kind of reading in which writers engage. We Wread compulsively, like we might breathe if on the edge of suffocation, a necessity much more than a choice. UnWread books sit like spare oxygen tanks on my side table. My piles of New Yorkers, emergency secret stashes should my books fail me. I won't read just anything, at least not to conclusion. I'm likely to try anything. I hold high but unexplainable standards for what constitutes Wreadable, and quickly discard anything striking me as incoherent. I'm particular because, like many writers, my writing seems to echo whatever I'm Wreading, echoes not being true reproductions, but similar resonances. I do not aspire to write like anyone else. Should I start Wreading something that does not sing to me, I dare not absorb its discordance, lest it leak back out in my writing and into my reader's ear.

I Wread for joy, to immerse myself in a writer's voice, to revel in clear and clever usage.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PandemicPete

PandemicPete2
This illustration appeared in 1909 in The New York American
"Go ahead, just shoot the messenger and try hard to avoid hitting your own left foot in the process …"

Nobody felt more wrongly accused than Mary Mallon, Immigrant Irish Cook for a wealthy New York banker's family vacationing in Oyster Bay. She felt fine and refused to cooperate with the investigator trying to track down the source of an unusual typhoid outbreak among the elite. Typhoid most often appeared in slums. Typhoid Mary was eventually quarantined for the rest of her life and felt wrongly persecuted for every minute of that time. Now infamous, we might imagine that Mary deserved her infamy, that she was particularly cavalier or callously cynical, but she was neither, just unaware, in the modern vernacular: merely clueless. SARS-CoV-2, The virus that causes COVID-19 infections, cannot be properly characterized as cavalier or cynical, either, neither can those who spread it unaware, a designation which might reasonably include anyone and everyone, since SARS-CoV-2 seems to primarily spread using Typhoid Mary's insidious method, via the asymptomatically infected. The Pandemic Petes exclusively responsible for spreading This Damned Pandemic might have each done what Mary did, unsuccessfully sue the health department for quarantining them, but might reasonably feel wrongly accused of what they do, what they each did in turn. They didn't know. I write this piece so that we might come to know together.

We have a long and overly proud tradition of shooting messengers, blaming informants for delivering unsettling content.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WhyIAmNotACapitalist

WhyIAmNotACapitalist
Pieter Aertsen: Market Scene (1550)
"It might be that only those unable to play gain anything."

I considered myself a non-combatant in the great twentieth century dichotomy between capitalism and communism. I chose Neither Of The Above, because I thought the distinction phony. This choice probably complicated my life. I was born into a self-proclaimed capitalist nation and I didn't profess fealty to the national religion. I wasn't so much opposed to others practicing it, within reasonable limits—nobody likes a glutton—, I just couldn't find traction for myself within it. Becoming a capitalist required that I accumulate some capital, or borrow some, in order to participate, and I never figured out how to satisfy this fundamental qualification. Some seemed to find employment that paid them more than they needed to live, but I never did, so capitalism held zero attraction. Capitalism always seemed like something other people did. Oh, I've purchased stock a couple of times in my life, but I always quickly disposed of it, feeling exposed as long as I held it. I'm more of a sock-drawer sort of investor.

I prefer to hold cash and advance myself by not spending it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfEvidence

Self_Evidence
Gilbert Stuart: George Washington [The Athenaeum Portrait] (April 12, 1796)
"Maybe SelfEvidence inevitably insists upon regulation."

The Father of Our Country, George Washington, never fathered a child. I suppose that he was too busy fathering the country to get around to attending to his wife's procreation needs, or he might have been one of those futuristic types who could not quite justify contributing to eventual population explosion. The country he fathered was the only one predicated upon SelfEvidence. Also, his most recognizable portrait was never finished. These two facts might be related. The Declaration of Independence, a rather petulant document, insisted upon Self Evident Rights, ones requiring no independent evidence to prove their existence, a then unprecedented proposition. It left the infant country in a curious position, independent in unproven ways and decidedly headstrong, for it had created a conjured foundation, one lacking confirmation within the then-existing common law governing any nation. How might one go about translating this notion into practical governance, if mere propositions underpin the nation? This would prove to become the underlying question for the maturing country. It fueled truly terrible teen years which rent it in two, and a difficult early adulthood which went to its head. It encouraged diversity while endlessly punishing its presence. I think I can say without much fear of contradiction, that the nation, so constituted, became a skitzy mess.

I ascribe the resulting chaos to that founding principle of SelfEvidence, which encourages a certain Know It When I See It sense, which often manages to make little sense at all to someone else.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TroubleBubbles

TroubleBubble
Jean-Michel Basquiat: Flexible (1984)
"Oh, the stories they'll tell later!"

My friend Franklin's son Bodie is a freshman in high school this plague year. Bodie's a smart kid, so I'm convinced he'll experience only the normal academic encumbrances, but I wonder how he'll manage to become an adult without the freedom to experience adolescence's usual and necessary dalliances. Playing hooky's probably out of the question. How will he be able to develop even a half-decent addiction to anything he'll later have to recover from if he's not out and about unrestricted by lockdowns? Will he even have access to the usual reprobates every kid tries to relate to for a time? How will he disappoint his mother if he's just home in bed every blessed night after supper? Will Franklin have to serve as his sole bad influence? I believe that nobody gets to become an adult without making more than a scant few serious mistakes, some potentially life-threatening. Teens live intensely and learn rather begrudgingly before building their lives on top of the catastrophe they construct for themselves. How can they accomplish this critical work if they're home with their family each night?

Dates seem impossible while every possible venue's in lockdown.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Airgknowrance

Airgknowrance
Mr. Toad, Illustration by E.H. Shepard from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)
" … every action seems somehow destined to produce some greater wisdom if we can only pay attention."

Have you noticed how arrogance always seems to accompany ignorance? The most insistent seem to turn out to be the most consistently wrong. The soft-spoken, ain't jokin', while bluster seems to be trying to muster more acceptance as if it could not possibly stand on its own. It almost never can, and the bluster rarely helps longer term. A tangible humility accompanies most truth, for it seems to have nothing further to prove. It walks both softly and without carrying around any over-sized stick. In spite of this fact, some always seem to attempt to successfully argue at annoying volume, perhaps compensating for an absence of veracity with distracting noise, as if few would notice the naked emperor before them. Besides rendering themselves annoying, they quickly become boring and eminently ignorable, just so much irrelevant static. They can, however, attract teeming legions of the ignorant, people perfectly willing to, for instance, take up arms to defend utterly fictional rights and privileges. These people seem genuinely dangerous.

Napoleon noticed that if he gave any decent man a red banner and a uniform, he would quickly become a soldier, and willingly die for abstract concepts like God or country, liberty or fraternity, without ever asking for supporting definitions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SnowDaying

SnowDaying
Adriaen Brouwer: Youth Making a Face (c1632/1635)
" … holding me closer than I care to be held."

The cats remain small children, approaching eight or nine human years old, only a year and a half in cat years. They remain the centers of their worlds with whole universes existing solely to service their whims. They haven't yet heard about manners. Max wants outside when he wants to go outside, and denying his demand leaves him mournfully yowling. It's cold outside this morning, though, and he has not yet learned to respect the cold. I suspect that he imagines his late summer predawn awaiting him. He looks as if I've betrayed him when the door opens to snowing. He steps out as if into water, slinking off into shadows. He quickly returns, complaining as he enters, seemingly pleading for me to restore regular order. Molly seems more mature in that she might no more than step out into it before appreciatively returning inside, resigned. Neither seem to want to be inside through the morning. They take to their corners to dream, I suspect, of the mice they expected to be hunting. This day will continue forever.

Nothing like weather to spark the unrequitable urge to go somewhere, anywhere.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FiguringOut

FiguringOut
Edvard Munch: Dance Of Life (1899 - 1900)
"May I never finally figure it out."

I write because I'm still FiguringOut how to write. I cannot remember the elementary school lesson that disclosed this apparently fundamental aspect of living, that one might learn without ever finally resolving learning, the tenaciously asymptotic aspect of life. I can't remember that lesson because I never received it. Each learning iteration might well advance the cause without resolving the struggle. Another deficit always emerges to render the learning incomplete. It might be that mastery emerges only after this understanding overtakes more naive notions, when the trajectory finally becomes clear. Nobody ever actually arrives there, though the pursuit remains worth engaging, just as one remains worthy of engaging by continuing. The purpose of FiguringOut must not be to finally figure out, for FiguringOut only exists in irresolution. Should anyone finally figure out anything, they should properly cease further learning. Then what? Become some font of knowing, a cold stone artifact of known? The world seems to continue changing, indifferent to such presumed achievements.

Maybe simple entropy explains this feature, where each advancement furthers without resolving.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InFLUencing

Influencing
David Teniers the Younger: Guardroom with the Deliverance of Saint Peter (ca. 1645–47)
"Why would I chose to live any other way?"

The Lord reportedly works in mysterious ways, but no more mysteriously than any of the rest of us. I, for instance, rarely sense that I might be inFLUencing anyone, though I suspect that my inFLUence extends much further than I comprehend. It might be that every action, every thought, spreads virally, or virus-like, which is to say insidiously and invisibly. My casual aside might arrive like a missing puzzle piece for some anonymous anyone barely within ear shot, utterly unbeknownst to me. I feel nothing when another receives something I've sent unawares. They feel nothing when they've inFluenced me. We play a Blind Man's Bluff without deliberately bluffing, for this seems to be the stuff of human interaction. We're each incapable of inaction, for we seem to be continually InFLUencing whatever we do, even we firmly believe that we're doing nothing at all.

Know that whenever you show up and however you appear, you're actually InFLUencing there.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Grudgy

Grudgy
Jan van Noordt: Juno confiding Io to Argus (circa 1660-1670
"The Grudgy seem dedicated to continually unflushing toilets, a service nobody really wants or needs."

Grudgy lies near the top of the heap of the more unseemly human responses. Sore losers seem most like losers to their core, boring drinking buddies, and terrible neighbors. They cannot seem to do anything but remember that sleight, that indignity, that otherwise minor loss more properly relegated to humbling forgetfulness. It becomes their oeuvre instead, their sole identifying trait. They're the ones who never forgate and forevermore shoved their sorriest episode before them to announce their presence. Most wisely slip aside to hide until they pass by. The few friends they end up with feed like carrion birds on this sorry story they've heard so many times, in all its many variations, that they could recite it backwards. They seem to need an opponent, someone eternally out to get them, to feel complete. They shamelessly bleat.

I'm not above the occasional dabble in pouting.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Can'ticipation

canticipation
Francisco Goya: (Átropos/Las Parcas), Atropos (The Fates), 1819–1823
"A Can'ticipated catastrophe seems somewhat averted."

Election night brought a waking nightmare, a scare effectively warding off sleep and leaving a rare but familiar sense of foreboding, as if The Fates had found me and were in the process of stealing any remaining self-determination still available to me. I might have set myself up, knowing that I'd optimistically entered the election, what any pessimist would agree might certainly poison any expectation. I watched myself cycle through the three stages of despair: Want To, Need To, But Can't, a condition I might label Can'ticipation. The resulting sense of desperation seems absolutely inescapable, and tends to arrive at what certainly feels like the most inconvenient possible time. I felt utterly unprepared for a fresh round of coping and felt that I even deserved some sort of reward, or at least some recognition, for my the hopefulness and dedication I'd exhibited through an overlong campaign season during The Damned Pandemic. I felt very near the end of anybody's rope and could not afford to imagine that I might have to muster even greater coping skills than I could remember ever mustering before. I spent that long night terrified of the apparently inevitable.

I swore off all news coverage, not wanting to know what I already so deeply felt.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Domesticity

Domesticity
Isabelle Pinson: The Fly Catcher (1808)
"We're learning that Molly's actually in charge …"

Molly The Kitten arrived here a year ago, just over six months old, after we'd successfully shanghaied her from the cat shelter. I had taken responsibility for interviewing her to determine suitability. We knew she was Max's sister, and we would have taken her when we'd nabbed Max a few weeks before, except she was still recovering from several diseases common to ferals, so we'd decided to wait until she'd recovered. They'd given her the humiliating name Parfait, I suppose because her coat features swirls of contrasting color. She was not then anybody's cuddly sort of kitty. She cowered in the corner of her cage and flew into a shredding rage when I tried to scratch her head. I finally managed to pick her up and sort of sit her on my lap by wrapping her in a towel, fresh gouges weeping blood from my offending hand. She glowered in the absolute antithesis of appreciation. She seemed like she might eventually tame just fine, though that sense might have been my arrogance talking. She came home with us and began what would become a year-long keep away game. She's still only somewhat tame.

In the last week, she's finally consenting to allowing me to touch her without me first bribing her with treats.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Liedentity

Liedentity
Norman Rockwell: Girl at Mirror (1954)
"If you really want to know my identity, just get in line behind me."

Excuse me, please, for even bringing up this topic, but I seem to be experiencing an identity crisis. I, perhaps naively, believed that my identity was mine, a deeply personal characteristic I shared with nobody else. It might seem similar to others' without mapping one to one, a one-of-a-kind. I'm coming to recognize that discovering my underlying identity might serve as a pillar of personal enlightenment. Describing it might prove impossible but attempting to describe it might prove a useful medium for actual self expression, and a necessary one. I might achieve nothing more than rough approximations of descriptions and still satisfy myself, even others, that I was coming to really know myself: who I was, who I am. But recently, identity seems to have turned into something else, a perspective almost exclusively turned away from self and toward somebody else. Identify might have become the replacement meaning of identity, where I exclusively seek myself in somebody else.

Identity Politics seems founded upon the principle that self belongs to collective associations, that the source of identity just might reside within relations with others.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TimeBubbles

TimeBubbles
Jacob Lawrence, Street to Mbari (1964)
" …by then it will have become irreparably past."

Einstein concluded that time moved inexorably forward, never backward, though its substance eluded him. Unlike other elements of his physics, time stood off to one side, never discretely discernible, but also essential. His calculations couldn't work without its shadowy presence. Clocks from sundials to mechanicals seem to materially misrepresent time's nature, for while it doubtless does only move forward, it does so less regularly than popularly represented. It seems to move in fits and starts, seemingly sticking some places for periods ranging from hours to decades. The basic unit of measure for the human experience of time's passing might be labeled The Period, in homage to both its tenacious indeterminacy and also for its inevitable termanancy. Periods last for 'a while,' and tend to end with often shocking banality. Once they're over, they're over forever.

I think of time as existing in TimeBubbles.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MillionDollarDream

MillionDollarDream
François Boucher: Sleeping Shepherd (Circa 1750)
"Whether that dream ever attracts a million bucks could never have been the point …"

Though a million bucks certainly ain't what it used to be, it remains a considerable chunk of change, and while I've never possessed that magnitude of personal wealth, I have been the beneficiary of several MillionDollarDreams. The absolute magic of a MillionDollarDream seems to be that it need not produce a million actual dollars to manifest its true purpose. Some who pursue their MillionDollarDreams do, indeed, attract significant financial gain, but even those whose pursuits never realize financial profit, still benefit enormously from their engagement, for a MillionDollarDream seems to impart a kind of gold plating to whomever maintains them. Each MillionDollarDream starts as a rather wild idea, one with perhaps no obvious chance of ever coming to any sort of actual fruition, like the notion that you and a few friends might, in a scant week's time, transform a dusty old barn into a successful summer stock theater and produce a hit show capable of launching everyone involved into stardom. The resulting flurry of activity might be best characterized as absolute parody, but for those involved, it likely becomes a peak life experience worth at least a million bucks. That's a MillionDollarDream!

My MillionDollarDreams were each capable of goading me into investing a million dollars into them, though I at no time ever held that kind of line of credit.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Voicing

Voice
Leopoldo Metlicovitz, poster for Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (1919)
"It might be that every authentic Voice sounds phony to itself …"

The first time I heard a recording of my voice, I felt embarrassed. I feared that the abomination I'd just heard had been a faithful reproduction of the tone and timbre everyone had always heard emanating from my pie hole. I felt appalled that I might have, completely unbeknownst to me, always sounded like … like … like THAT! And so I received my first great injection of self-consciousness, a virus, I suspect, and one from which I might never recover. From there emerged an inhibiting shyness on stages I formerly simply possessed. I could not hear that queerness when speaking or singing to myself, for some acoustical quirk spoiled fidelity, though my Voice sounded much better to me than that recording had sounded. I took to practicing in tightly enclosed spaces, bathrooms and closets, in hopes of better hearing how I actually sounded. I never lost that unwelcome awareness that I had never known how others heard my Voice.

I don't sing so much anymore.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PeopleWatching

PeopleWatching
Crispijn de Passe the Elder: Noah leaving the ark with his family and animals: at left Noah's family carries supplies, at right animals descend on a ramp from the ark, above birds fly from the ark, from a series of engravings for the 'Liber Genesis' (1612)
" … even if your quarter horse provides none of the entertainment."

I've always been a sucker for a parade. Few anticipations excite me more than the one that comes when I'm on my way to watch a parade, even when I know for certain that most of the 'units' will be lame. I love waving at people floating by in spotless mid-century convertibles and I'm stirred by every marching band. When we lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, which sponsors a Cracker Jack 4th of July parade, theirs included a yoga drill team which would march for half a block, then stop to perform poses. The 911 Truthers always fielded a provocative float, and one year, neighborhood dads organized a Grill Team, which performed synchronized marching while pushing gas grills in front of them. The best of the best have always been the happened-upon ones, like that year we came up from a Manhattan Flatiron neighborhood subway station to find ourselves experiencing the annual gay pride parade cruising by, with Cyndi Lauper on the back of some fire station's flatbed float belting out Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, surrounded by dancing shirtless hunky firefighters wearing spangly hot pants and bright red fireman helmets. That experience could change anyone's life!

Covid Shutdowns limit the opportunities for attending parades, but the real attraction of them was always the PeopleWatching opportunities they afforded.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Psycholitics

psycholitics
An artistic depiction of a group of rhinos in the Chauvet Cave (30,000 to 32,000 years ago)
"We are much older and more experienced than Our Founding Fathers ever became."

The United States is not the only sovereign nation where serious psychological problems have been codified into the law of the land. However brilliant and breath-taking Our Revered Founding Fathers' work might have been, it also served as psychological self-portraiture, partly aspiration and partly indictable by modern standards. It codified prejudices intolerable in our more enlightened times, just as our entitlements will over time inexorably seem insufferable conceits to those we leave behind us. For instance, our treasured Second Amendment, as presently interpreted, encourages self-destructive reactions to paranoid delusions, so people buy guns to protect themselves from people who buy guns, which further encourages people to more buy guns to protect themselves from people who more buy guns. It's become a recursively runaway psychological social disorder guaranteed by our Constitution: Psycholitics. Each successive generation is more experienced than its predecessor. All carping aside about society's evolutionary entropy, there's ample observable evidence that we're, as a people, actually maturing over time; better coping. Behaviors accepted as representing righteousness have over time become intolerable evidence of racism, classism, misogyny, grand larceny, and murder in the first degree. Conservatives seem determined to preserve some sorry legacies in the interest of decency, a calculation that understandably drives progressives crazy. Of course, contravening historical precedent drives the originalists insane. The result seems to be a Body Psycholitic, a society undergoing particularly difficult ongoing therapy with the goal of ultimately getting over itself. It's also a fairly accurate portrait of Hell, an under-appreciated price of self-governance.

Psychologist and counsellor Eugene Kennedy suggested, "The things about me that drive you crazy are the things that keep me sane."

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Scholarshit

Scholarshit
Gustave Courbet: The Painter's Studio: A real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life (L'Atelier du peintre) (1855)
" … just a form of confirmation I was then too naive to accept."

No amount of even the most diligent study would have ever turned me into an astronaut, a result which blesses more than curses us all. From my now lofty perspective, poised as I now am upon the tail end of my existence here, it's becoming ever clearer to me that there might have been some curious pre-destiny involved in determining who and what I would become, that it was never, even for a moment, an open book or a matter of studious diligence. The writing might have seemed much clearer had I understood how very near I had always been to whatever I might become. I was apparently never destined to become President, even though that possibility was early on promised me as a birthright American baby, where anyone might become whatever they muster the will to imagine themselves becoming. I knew early on that I would never become one of those gas station mechanics with an embroidered Dave on my shirtfront, or a cop, or an electrical engineer. It was never nearly as clear who I might become as it was who I never would end up being.

My studies, such as they were, disclosed whispers. I knew what could hold my attention and what induced a coma, though my teachers ascribed a lack of dedication to my more obvious shortcomings, as if an additional ounce or two of diligence might make a real difference.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SecondOrderFatigue

SecondOrderFatigue
The Tired Dancer: John Reinhard Weguelin (1879)
"I live right up close to that edge."

I've been dog tired before, and bone weary, and sick and tired plenty of times, but I confess to feeling even more exhausted this time. I've put my time in on the factory line, twelve endless hours performing the most mindlessly repetitive motions, but that was nothing in comparison to this subtle sickening feeling. This endless evening in isolation might do the infamous Chinese Water Torture proud for how it cows and humiliates me. Born into a land firmly believing itself to be both proud and free, we're forcibly humbled before an utterly invisible enemy which steadfastly refuses to show itself. Many have already come to believe that this was always an imaginary foe, and every countermeasure an humiliating over-reaction, like fleeing from shadows vaguely flickering on our cave's moist wall. Before each fall came a clear call insisting all was well after all, that we had little to fear beyond an evidently irrational foreboding, and we set to no longer flee from that. Once contracted, there would be no fleeing backwards, back into the SecondOrderFatigue which so convincingly misleads each to presume an invulnerability never evident beforehand. Once infected, we'd experience fatigue for a wholly different reason.

I try each day to reinforce what I fancy to be my protective reasoning, for, like Robinson Crusoe's Man Friday, I feel as though I've been stranded three years, alone on some desert island and subsisting on goats.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Re-Ality

Re-Ality
Willem van Haecht: Collection of Cornelis de Geest with Paracelsus (1630s)
" … the real one this time."

I find myself exhausted by the seemingly endless arrays of alternate realities offered to me each day. My choices overwhelm me. Which reality should I engage with today? The one just outside my window might have once been sufficient, but the many within just our modest Villa seem to dwarf and upstage it. Skimming my many books, each presenting a different perspective, could consume several lifetimes. TV, radio, podcasts, and things Internet each present slightly different representations of Re-Ality, each a little different, each somehow also the same. They each seem to try to characterize a separate reality in various degrees of believability. I consider my reality palate somewhat refined. I won't agree to swallow just anything. Sci-Fi, for instance, never qualified as either believable or entertaining to me. Reality TV seems far removed from any form of reality I've ever even imagined. I was blissfully unaware that such a character as a bachelorette even existed, for instance, until I was subjected to such a presence on a so-called reality TV show. But what do I know?

I once believed myself to be my own arbiter of reality, as if I got to choose which version I subscribed to, but I fear that I've somehow lost that ability, surrounded as I seem to be with so many perspectives seemingly far superior to my own.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Schmaltzing

Schmaltzing
George Frederic Watts: Hope (1885)
"My first and most prominent occupation has always been Schmaltzing."

When I look down from near the top of my family tree, I see the antecedents of what would one day result in me. Though they hardly lived in the manner to which I've grown accustomed, I imagine that their existences somehow informed mine, though I knew only the barest few of them and even those barely spoke of such things. My father's side of the operation seemed the most convoluted and diverse. The Muse managed to trace my father's mother's family clear back to Roman times in Gaul, where the patriarch was a Prefect, and his progeny became the crowned heads of Europe. My later line ultimately sprang from some later-born princess. My paternal grandfather's heritage seems much less diverse, simple Alsatian farmers, perhaps Jews coerced into Catholicism displaced by centuries of unrest, a sort of diaspora unto itself. From them, I inherited my Schmaltziness, a certain endearing cloying sentimentality I consider my primary defining characteristic. Though I know I'm genetically half my mother's Scotch/Irish heritage, I consider my Schmaltzing my emotional center, my underlying superpower.

It might be socially incorrect to consider genetics germane to anything, a form of phrenology about as defining as bumps on a head, a superstitious sort of social racism born of misbegotten understandings, and it might have been an accident that I was born with a surname that so accurately represents what I've always felt.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ForkAssed

ForkAssTing
Pietro della Vecchia: A fortune-teller reading the palm of a soldier (circa 1626-1678)
"I fear that I'm way too dependent upon what my forebears just adapted to in moments of sometimes overwhelming extremis."

According to the weather ForkAssed five nights ago, we would be experiencing much colder weather and snow this morning, so I spent the following five days anticipating its arrival, certain of my near future. This certainty encouraged me to thoroughly prepare, to tear down the summer garden, drain the hoses, stack the pots, and rake up the fallen pine needles. The Muse and I put away stores that might have serviced Admiral Perry's Antarctic Expedition. I switched out the screen door for the solid glass one. I spent yesterday's late afternoon swishing a broom over the front porch before just sitting there because I knew for certain I'd be sitting inside for the foreseeable future. Even the cats seemed to sense an impending end to just slipping up the hill to stalk field mice. Neither of them seemed to really want to come in, not even to extraordinary enticements. I empathized with their sentiments.

Once in, with the fireplace throwing heat, it's impossible to beat the cozy snowed-in feeling.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Badministration

Badministration
The Cube Farm
"An ounce of appreciation seemed to power the whole operation."

My first job out of business school found me supervising the Automatic Bank Check Unit of the Individual Insurance Administration Department of what I came to call The Best Of All Possible Mutual Life Insurance Companies In The Greater Portland Metropolitan Area, Bar None. It was the only mutual life insurance company in that area, but it still provided a truly terrific medium for learning about administration, the actual lifeblood of every organization. We learn to think of Business and Industry, even Government, as producing products and services, and they certainly do that, but each expends more effort administering that production, accounting for every damned thing, billing and collecting, and litigating disagreements. Whatever product a corporation claims to create, it's expending the bulk of its energies administering, administrating. The first rule of administration says, "Thou shalt remain steadfastly invisible," for prominence essentially renders administration useless. If every back office ministration means another runaround, it won't matter that you're selling the secret to eternal life, quickly, nobody will feel terribly moved to buy any. The key to effective administration has always been invisibility.

We speak today of 'seamless' transactions, the latest manifestation of a trend evident since people bartered with stones.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Cyclings

cyclings
Laufrad des Freiherrn von Drais: "Draisine" or Dandy Horse, 1817 design
" … not the disrupters they first appear to be, but the unlikely connecters between what is and what might be …"

Each week seems to follow a similar pattern, enough the same as to encourage a sense of familiarity without necessarily reducing to completely numbing sameness; each different while also quite the same. For me, each week delivers some unanticipated failure which I so far seem to have always managed to overcome, as if each week had been served up to remind me that even I'm capable of recovery. This week, my blog server stopped serving me and the Customer Support Team suddenly stopped invisibly supporting me to become the obvious source of an apparently intractable difficulty. At first, as usual, I had no obvious alternative to continue delivering my accustomed daily production, and the seduction to simply crumble washed up and over me. Eventually, by which I mean by no means immediately, I came to understand that alternatives might surround me, and I set about choosing a viable one. By no means did this transfer occur smoothly, for I seemed to need to work my way back through the usual universal stages of acceptance. I experienced in succession: fear, anger, discouragement, reckoning, and then an only partially acceptable sort of acceptance. I experienced an amputation then came to acknowledge that the initially begrudged peg-leg replacement might suffice for now. I retain a sense of loss along with a lessening urgency to return to the way it was. I suspect that the longer this work-around extends, the more it will become what I'd always unknowingly intended what it replaced to become.

I make no shocking pronouncement when I insist that things do not work as advertised.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Undoing

Undoing
Thomas Degeorge: Death of Archimedes (1815)
" … even eternity seems an endlessly moving target."

The sure and certain sign of Fall's victory over the Summer season comes when I finally accept that it's time to disassemble the deck garden. Lovingly created over a long June weekend, it can only last so long before every pot and planter will need emptying or risk shattering in the impending cold. Shelves return to the master bedroom to hold part of The Muse's extensive African Violet collection, their usual over-winter occupation. Lingering petunias pulled and packaged as garbage. Dahlia bulbs recovered for storage in a paper bag with peat until next Spring. Everything's got to go. Snow's predicted a few days from now and so it seems a great Undoing's required, though undoing implies more of a cycle than the effort actually entails. There will be no resurrection of either these plants or this garden, for next year, next Spring, we'll be cultivating different soil in a different place, so I do not need to carefully preserve the potting soil for reuse next year. We will not pack and ship the soil along with us, so I refresh the beleaguered flower beds with it. The yard looks fresh and ready for more than the six month snow bank soon to overtake it.

Hope always springs for me each autumn that there might actually be an Undoing, though there's only even a moving on involved.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RespectableAgain

RespectfulAgain
Franz Marc: Träumendes Pferd [Dreaming Horse] (1913)
" … as decency becomes RespectableAgain, finally!"

I decided early this morning to afford myself a little hopeful anticipation. With two weeks remaining before this election, it seems increasingly likely that decency will shortly become RespectableAgain. Through the current occupation, the man elected to perform the role of leader of the free world seemed incapable of showing respect toward anyone, including himself, and like any member in good standing of what my folks used to refer to as "the bad crowd," he encouraged a general debasement of the traditional rules of comportment. He seemed to work awfully hard to turn everything upside down and backwards, and only because he believed he could, and many—way too many—seemed to follow his lead just as if he was seducing freshmen into a previously inaccessible underworld. He tried to teach them to drink and smoke and avoid curfew violations, just as if not getting caught amounted to genuine freedom. A few seemed to flip entirely to the dark side. Others dabbled, but could not shake their inherited decency, their own unshakable paranoia sending them back into their families. Most of us looked on feeling horrified.

So this sense that some big changes are coming feels enormously reassuring.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EncroachingParadoxes

EncroachingParadox
Ludwig Passini: Roman Fish Market at Sant'Angelo in Pescheria (1863)
"EncroachingParadoxes: experiences that make absolutely no sense at first …"

Beyond the senses, we each possess layers of additional sense-like resources such as reasoning, emoting, intuiting, and others. We employ these additional "senses" to make sense of experience, though this label might misrepresent our sense-making efforts. We probably over-rely upon reasoning as the ultimate gold standard method for sense-making, though reason, innocently applied, can't always produce understanding. Even scientists claim to rely upon sixth-sensing to noodle their way into and back out of complicated analysis. Pure reason, if it exists, might not reliably produce the most believable results. Rejecting reasoning probably makes analysis worse, so we seem stuck with paradoxes whichever methods we might choose. Intuiting lacks replicable rigor and emoting seems too mercurial, though both can add insight to an inquiry.

It might be that each technique cannot avoid the critique that it lacks some essential something.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HumanNature

HumanNature
Franz Marc: Tierschicksale [Fate of the Animals] (1913)
"When it's already too late to learn better, we might finally start personally relating our own innate HumanNature …"

When The Plague hit Florence in the 1340s, people reacted similarly to how we've reacted to This Damned Pandemic today. I've long questioned just what it might mean to know something, for knowledge does not tightly correlate with behavior. Knowing something doesn't necessarily change anything I do. I suspect that this reaction stems from what I might characterize as an abiding Personal Sense Of Exemption, that even what I know for certain seems more likely to apply to others, but not directly to me. Speed limits seem to reinforce this proposition, since even when it seems clearly in everyone's benefit to obey them, a herd-like mentality seems to override caution, and almost everyone exceeds the limit, perhaps sensing that everyone else is getting away with something and that they don't want to feel cheated, especially that they might be cheating themselves. Personal imperiling to avoid feeling cheated might be HumanNature incarnate. We might just as well have dinner in that restaurant. Everyone else seems to be going and we wouldn't want to feel left out.

Describing HumanNature seems eerily similar to relying upon a fish to explain water, a fish so intrinsically immersed within the stuff that it might prove utterly invisible to any fishy observer.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StumpTheChecker

StumpTheChecker
Franz Marc: Fuchse [Foxes], (1913)
"The odd, the British insist, are nearer to God."

Our Saturday larder-stocking excursions have continued in greater earnest since the Damned Pandemic lockdown orders kicked in. These represent the sole opportunity for The Muse to get out into the world, and though we cannot properly call these shopping trips, they provide some sense of possibility beyond talking to a basement wall, her usual occupation through the week. I usually make a couple of trips out to pick up odds and ends, but always alone and inevitably mission-focused, hardly recreational. The Saturday outings serve as our sole socialization, so we've continued them, albeit under extreme caution: Masks, a handy bottle of hand sanitizer, little lingering or investigating involved. We're pretty much in and back out again, following our Stations Of The Cross sequence from butcher to green grocer to supermarket to liquor store to fish monger, then home. Even this small variety in the numbing sameness can approach boring, so we've adopted a few diverting amusements which we incorporate into these days. We might listen to the latest Radio Deluxe podcast between stops because The American Songbook's always a welcome companion. We continue our infinite Slugbug competition, which seems friendly to a point nearing absurdity. We humbly genuflect when in the presence of Parking Karma, when The Gods provide a parking place nearest a store's front door. We most enjoy our ongoing game of Stump The Checker, though.

For those not already engaging in this competition, it's another one of those so-called friendly competitions where gaining actual points is never the point.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SchlockWare

SchlockWare
Franz Marc: The Tower of Blue Horses (1913, missing since 1945)
"Our virtual existence seems remarkably similar to our actual one."

Our Damned Pandemic has driven those of us not formerly living virtual lives into ever deeper virtuality, a rough mock-up analogue of what previously passed for reality. I meet weekly with a group of friends, few of which I've met face-to-face, employing Zoom, currently the most popular interface. I convene the gathering, but understand only the barest trace of how to operate it. I hunt and peck and generally succeed, learning a little more about it each week. I will never flawlessly invoke the screen share feature, probably because it was not designed for seamless invocation. I apologize in advance, then clumsily manage to share my screen after a couple of stumbles in between. We're all forgiving, for none of us have mastered the application, just like every piece of SchlockWare we've grown to rely upon. Not even superuser status would protect us from collectively stumbling when employing it, for I doubt that even its designers have fully mastered it, in the unlikely event that designers were even involved creating it.

Each 'app' seems to have outgrown its founding charter, intended for one purpose then serially upgraded to cover functions never imagined in its initial instantiation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Bettering

Bettering
Franz Marc: Blue Horse I, 1911
"Onward, not necessarily always upward!"

I understand that I'm supposed to be Bettering myself, but I struggle with sustaining even the barest semblance of my current status quo. It's not that I'm not Absolutely Dedicated To Achieving Excellence, it's more that I sense that I might just have already managed to mostly achieve good enough—if not for government work, then perhaps for mine. I've been told of the necessity for continuous improvement but doubt the proposition that every damned instance begs for Bettering. Could good enough never be … good enough? I understand that I could be better than I are, swinging on some star and all that, but the consequent paranoia seems a poor reward. If I'm not endlessly Bettering, will I never get no satisfaction? And if I am endlessly Bettering, does that not strongly suggest that I'm not yet worthy of achieving any satisfying anything? Where's the satisfaction in that endless Bettering? Continuous Bettering seems roughly equivalent to simply giving up, acquiescing to endless short-comings, never really done. How fun does that sound?

We say that we're a striving society, but we seem more of an exhausted one, or, maybe, simply fed up.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Openness

Openness
Illustration taken from the illuminated manuscript Der Naturen Bloeme: The Flower of Nature produced in Utrecht or Flanders (ca. 1350)
"I wish that Computer Scientists understood what computers were for."

There's probably nothing wrong with computing that fewer computer scientists couldn't help. An insurgency favoring Openness has grumbled within that field since its inception, with few signs of its imminent success. Propriety has ruled instead, with OpenSource taking its place as just another proprietary platform as far as most users are concerned. Earlier, the Macs battled the PCs without a conclusive decision. I sided with the Macs, though by making that decision, I'd chosen to have to translate everything I created into Klingon if I expected anyone without access to my more open (to me) propriety, and that I would have to translate from Klingon anything they sent to me. Yesterday, a friend sent me a file formatted as a .odt file, pure Klingon to me, unreadable in a whole new way. It came complete with imbedded HTML in the unlikely event that I felt like reading between the lines of code to unwrap the cryptic message within. So much for Openness.

I figure that Openness always qualified as a Utopian aspiration, anyway, for nothing in the natural world seems all that wide open to me or to anybody.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MediaDerangementSyndrome

MediaDerangementSyndrome
Ludwig Passini: Artist in Caffè Greco in Rome (1856)
"Sometimes I amaze myself, usually when I'm in the middle of debasing myself again."

I imagine that Cafe Society served as the social media of its time. Gentlemen would congregate around a table to share gossip and show off for each other. Women preferred tea. There were certain rules of comportment, depending upon the participants' social class. The more lowly barroom observed different customs than might a cafe, though each served similar purposes. We're social animals and we seem to need to bump shoulders if not heads to maintain our sanity. Church, too, served up socialization as much as religion, the congregating serving as perhaps its primary purpose, an antidote to stultifying isolation. Even then, a few reliably disrupted the regular order. When I was a kid, a piano left unattended in the corner of the church's multipurpose room would eventually attract some show-off aching to play Chopsticks, or that small portion of it requiring only two fingers to perform. The resulting disruption demonstrated neither mastery nor erudition, and should have properly embarrassed the aspiring performer, though it never seemed to wound his self-esteem, for he was suffering from a simple form of MediaDerangementSyndrome (MDS), a social disease which compels some to abuse whatever media they encounter. Give 'em a newspaper and it becomes a flyswatter, even when no flies seem present. Leave a microphone unattended and they'll feel compelled to yell into it, saying, "testing, testing," while hysterically giggling, but this condition's no joke.

In our more modern times, we've outsourced many of the old-time social venues to social media.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Queryering

Querying
Unknown miniaturist: Jean Miélot at his desk (2nd half 15th century)
"Nothing noteworthy ever comes into being without first erecting some scaffolding."

The smoke alarm on the twelve foot master bedroom ceiling started squealing at two thirty this morning, producing a piercing chirp every thirty seconds or so, a particularly cruel wake-up call. I failed to successfully ignore the alarm, though I felt shy about waking The Muse to ask if she'd mind terribly if I crawled up there to replace the battery, for she seemed to have been successfully sleeping through the intrusion. I fled downstairs, it being close enough to my usual wake up time, but even from there, the chirpy chiming proved distracting. I knew that quieting it would force an ordeal. I'd have to fetch the long collapsable ladder from the garage, wrestle it inside and upstairs, then perform the reverse origami unfolding in a tightly constricted space, the kind of operation best performed without critical eyes observing. I finally but reluctantly accepted the challenge, roused The Muse to ask her permission, then set about wrestling the ungainly ladder into place.

As expected, I delivered a performance without evident grace, even managing to scratch the wall in a place which might be next to impossible to repaint, in the unlikely event that we have some of that color of paint leftover in the basement.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FreedomOfScreech

freedom-of-speech-1943.jpg!Large
Norman Rockwell: Freedom of Speech (1943)
© by Norman Rockwell under Fair Use
"I ain't buying anything promoted with screeches."

Maybe The Founders intended elections to deeply upset the public, lest we grow lax in our responsibilities as citizens. During election season, our much-vaunted freedom of speech seems to expand into what I might more reasonably insist seems more like FreedomOfScreech. The most fantastic fictions masquerade as facts while facts cower in corners until after ballots get counted. We claim that voting amounts to our sacred right, though we treat it with little reverence. The SOB who never once seemed interested in representing you or me suddenly seems redeemed, clothed in whatever raiment seems most appropriate to appeal to a divided electorate, while deliberately further dividing that electorate. My mute button gets overworked as the same misrepresentations appear as gospel. I wonder why that local television station agrees to carry that advertisement and they respond with vague references to civic duty, which seems more of an indenture to me. At least election season serves to dramatically reduce my television viewing.

I apparently inhabit a backwater of political discourse since I've seen blessed few of the ads.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TinyTyranny

TinyTyranny
Mir Sayyid Ali: Persian Miniature Complex Palace Scene (1539–1543)
"I might have been more right than I knew."

Most of us sense the significance of anything larger than us. Big might not necessarily be better, but it's sure a whole lot more noticeable. We learn early not to sweat small stuff, for small doesn't usually represent any obvious threat. Dedicated to making some significant difference, we focus upon the bigger chunks, ones where, if we can influence them, we'll probably get noticed. Appearances aside, this bias for the big might imperil us most, for small changes, those which go unnoticed, seem to more readily replicate than the huge gallumping kind which quickly raise our defenses. An almost indiscernible one percent change, if persisted over time, can leave us wondering why in a radically different place. A spark becomes a blaze. A drip grows into a flood. We see ample evidence that tiny can become tyrannical, yet a TinyTyranny usually slips right through our defenses.

Innumeracy explains some of this condition.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homering

Homering
Giorgio de Chirico: The Nostalgia of the Infinite (1911)
"I might, finally, at last, accept that my future's fully back in my hands now."

As I noted yesterday, I caught myself feeling lost in the perhaps necessarily disorienting transition between then and WhatNext. I must have expected my world to crisply snap back into some poorly-remembered before state after The GrandOtter departed for her next adventure, but except for the suddenly empty guest bedroom and bath, the place remained disappointingly the same, essentially unchanged save for a notable absence of a persistent background hum. Every displaced routine remained disrupted and seemed reluctant to snap back into what I imagined to be its former place. Worse, I felt a deep reluctance to simply pick up the former pace, to fill the suddenly empty spaces with fresh ambition and activity. I sheltered more or less in place, staring at a too familiar face. Home would refuse to meet me halfway. I'd have to engage in some dedicated Homering.

Homering refers to a complicated process by which an imagined outcome becomes an actual one leached of nostalgia and Utopian expectations.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Hollowing

Hollowing
Giorgio de Chirico: The Disquieting Muses (1947)
" … a replacement obsessive purpose might shine through."

All my life so far, I've heard stories about the sweetness of success. These were fairy stories, apparently, for every one of my greatest victories have so-far most prominently produced a disorienting Hollowing instead. I might have gone absolutely all in to achieve something, only to feel upon completion the way Wylie Coyote must feel after overrunning his latest mesa top. A hollow hum replaces the rush and feathers expended in pursuit. I'm suddenly out of work, without clear purpose, suspended near the cusp of dread. I never seem to know WhatNext then, when my recent past has just slipped out of my grasp. My reward seems to be that I get to start reinventing myself all over again, this time, again, without much of an inkling of what I might want to become enough to eventually become obsessed with it. I grew up then blew up just to have to grow up all over again. Completion doesn't carry a taste, bitter or sweet. It comes to carry away accustomed engagement and leave that disquieting Hollowing behind.

Why do I always feel surprised when I fall into this limbo again? I probably shouldn't.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lame

Lame
Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Beggars (1568)
"We're all each others' metaphors here."

Max, our erstwhile kitten now budding house cat, turned up lame evening before last. He and his sister Molly had (as usual) accidentally escaped after I left the slider open and stood on the deck imploring them to come outside, and I noticed Max walking with three legs, just like the three-legged dog on my childhood paper route. That dog chased me like every other dog on that route, seemingly unperturbed over his missing leg. Max held his left front paw immobile and hesitated before heading down the long, steep deck stairs to his favorite flower bed out back. I coaxed him over with a few kitty treats and investigated for obvious damage, but I couldn't see anything troubling in the fading light. I carried him back inside while he complained.

The next morning, he was still avoiding any use of that leg, so I scheduled a visit to the Vet.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Nexting

Nexting
Mary Cassatt: Children Playing on the Beach (1884)
" … I eventually stick my head up and into the clouds."

The GrandOtter rented a POS truck to shuttle herself and her stuff into the next iteration of her life. Balding tires, weary interior, frightening play in the steering wheel, that truck represented everything it should have represented to properly convey her into her next chapter. My right thumb powered my first escape across a hundred miles of scabland and up and over the great Cascades, my possessions contained in a small knapsack and a flimsy guitar case. The conveyance should rightly seem inadequate, for it's not about any present, but whatever comes next. In that moment of separation, the present has already receded seemingly to break trail for its protagonist to follow. These transitions drip with potential and require nothing but the barest shell of conventional support. Another great adventure, a Nexting, commences.

When I arrived on the other side, I discovered that I had been wholly unprepared to properly inhabit the place.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lasts

Lasts
Leonardo da Vinci: The Last Supper (1498)
"Long gone. Never lost."

As a departure nears, before my thoughts shift to whatever might come next, they scan around for Lasts. The last supper. The last breakfast. That last nuzzle from one of those cats who imprinted on me during my stay. I might be here today, but I will most certainly be gone by this time tomorrow, so I try to absorb just as much of the atmosphere here before forfeiting it in favor of fresh adventure. I feel loss most intensely just before the countdown finally concludes. I feel deep tinges. In one of those moments, I swear that I'd abandon every thought of actually departing if that act might freeze everything precisely where it seems to be in that moment. Adventure seems a false promise right then, a down trade. I'd easily barter back my newly-acquired handful of magic beans to recover my reliable old cow.

Time tangles then, for Lasts more properly reside in faulty memory.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EmptyNestoring

emptynestoring
Francis Flora Bond Palmer: Across the Continent:
"Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way", 1868
[James Merritt Ives (printer), Currier and Ives (publisher)]

"We revere New Beginnings, for only they can turn our fears into our dreams come true."

The grandparent birds seem almost amused at just how confused the exit seems, for they've, between them, done this at least a hundred times. They possess a rhythm between them that would surely guide their wings, but there's no known way to ever transfer that sort of experience. So the fledglings flap and flop their way, first close, then progressively further. None simply fly away. What might have taken a day with experienced wings will likely take a few while learning, remembering what a short time ago flying amounted to simply mounting the edge without ever actually departing before settling back in for another brought-in supper. Chicks grow exclusively exponentially, though, and nesting space eventually disappears. Somebody's finally got to leave, and the nest always was the grandparent birds' place, never theirs. Birth places, even re-birth places, only ever come in the form of future departure points, and one of those points eventually arrives.

"At least they're heading West," you say, since East somehow seems so retrograde.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GhosTown

GhosTown
Jan van Eyck: Saint Barbara (1437)
"I am the ghost haunting this GhosTown."

For many, myself included, errand-running had become our only socialization. We'd either be alone at home or out to the shops. We acknowledged that this form of interaction lacked intimacy, as we only rarely knew those we encountered, but they nonetheless performed a valuable service for us. Their presence proved reassuring that we might not actually be quite as lonely as we usually felt. We could exchange pleasantries with somebody more sociable than a cat while temporarily feeling part of a bustle. Since The Damned Pandemic descended, though, those Main Streets and town centers have ceased attracting. We're more likely to slink around the edges of them rather than attempting anything like our former full immersions. Our social lives have retreated into suspension. We might still warmly anticipate a post office visit if only to revel in the long-familiar context of it, clerks always chatty from standing so very near the center of the universe. One does not very often visit the post office.

I shop as if I were deep sea diving now, checking my gear before entering, and lingering no longer than absolutely necessary.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dyeignosis

Dyeignosis
Vincent van Gogh: Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate) (1890)
"I am my Dyeignosis, which I acknowledge has been the death of my former self."

I have lived most of my life Dyeignosis-free. This state left me with what many might consider a thin identity, for I found myself unable to sort myself into any of the more popular categories. Allergic to nothing that I knew of, I roamed free of imposed restrictions, enthusiastically joining the Gluten Appreciation Society. I freely consumed peanuts at will. True, through the eighties, during the height of the now-infamous cholesterol terror, I subsisted on skinless chicken breasts and oat groats, but before and after I put most omnivores to shame. I avoided soda pop and fast food, not due to any externally-mandated restrictions, but thanks to what I imagined to have been a refined palate and uncommon sense. While diagnosed with high cholesterol, my identity changed. I became a pre-avenging angel, steadfastly refusing pork and beef, charged with protecting my sacred health. My cholesterol numbers never wavered, regardless of my prescription or exercise routine, and when that life-preserving prescription was recalled as a danger to my health, my doctor and I decided to rescind the earlier dire diagnosis. I slowly re-entered the general population without further restrictions. Once that Dyeignosis devolved back into a recognition of a personal eccentricity, that miserly portion of me withered and disappeared, opening twenty-five years of near perfect health and serenity.

Later, The Muse encouraged me, as only The Muse can encourage anyone, to submit to fresh dyeignoses.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BreakingPoint

BreakingPoint
Henry Fuseli: The Nightmare (1781)
"It's a long, hard road."

Every day carries a hint of irrecoverability, each one new and subtly different from every day before it. A very few days arrive carrying the clear threat of a radical BreakingPoint with the past, a clear sense that forever after, no day will likely seem terribly similar again. A death or a divorce brings a dismemberment along with the dread certainty that no subsequent surgery will ever reattach whatever was torn asunder. One wonders What Next? without mustering anything like a reassuring impression of what that might entail. These discontinuities might seem curiously reassuring, marking an end to what had become for almost everyone, an increasingly intolerable situation, but also inject a shit ton of uncertainty into the proceedings. A deeply disturbing unknowing settles in to wait for a fresh opening in the storyline. Above all, everything seems anything but fine in that moment. One proceeds, anyway.

I have been scampering along the eroding cliff edge of just such a BreakingPoint for the last few weeks, terrified over where this story might next take me and those I care about most in this world.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ExitStrategy

ExitStrategy
Carlos Schwabe: La mort du fossoyeur (Death of the gravedigger) (1895)
"Just imagine the depth of character I'm creating."

Fifty years ago, I was one autumn twilight driving my mother's '63 VW Beetle, which we lovingly referred to as The Helicopter because it sounded like a helicopter, up onto Washington State's Snoqualmie Pass and into a snow storm. An old friend who was riding along dispensed some advice which has since become one of my guiding homilies of life. He said, "Tuck in behind a truck and keep one foot in the ditch." His logic seemed flawless. A commercial truck driver very likely had much more experience than I driving through snow in the dark, and his vehicle was likely much more susceptible to sliding than mine, so a leading truck could serve as my early warning system when the road turned slippery. I should maintain an ExitStrategy anyway, by keeping one foot in the ditch, by remaining prepared to drive myself off to the side should the situation turn truly perilous. I continue this general strategy today, even when it's not snowy. I try to follow someone more experienced than I and I also try to maintain a fallback plan should my pathfinder fail me. I think of this strategy as a form of double indemnity, a compounded form of safety. While everyone else seems most interested in passing every slow-moving truck, I'm more likely to tuck myself in behind so that I can leverage the driver's superior experience.

I try to apply this guideline wherever I'm feeling imperiled, but this Damned Pandemic has foiled my attempts.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HidingOut

HidingOut
Johannes Vermeer - Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window (circa 1657–59)



Hiding

I'm hiding, I'm hiding
And no one knows where;
For all they can see is my
Toes and my hair

And I just heard my father
Say to my mother -
"But, darling, he must be
Somewhere or other;

Have you looked in the inkwell?"
And Mother said, "Where?"
"In the INKWELL?"said Father. But
I was not there.

Then "Wait!" cried my mother —
"I think that I see
Him under the carpet." But
It was not me.

"Inside the mirror's
A pretty good place."
Said Father and looked, but saw
Only his face.

"We've hunted," sighed Mother,
"As hard as we could
And I am so afraid that we've
Lost him for good."

Then I laughed out aloud
And I wiggled my toes
And Father said —"Look, dear,
I wonder if those

Toes could be Benny's?
There are ten of them, see?"
And they WERE so surprised to find
Out it was me!

Dorothy Keeley Aldis


"They mostly don't seem to notice, anyhow."


By the time I graduated from Junior High, I had become a near master at HidingOut. The normal social pressures there had easily convinced me that I was eminently vulnerable, and I quickly learned the costs of too prominently standing out. My identity had been emerging through my tenure there, and I'd tried on innumerable different personas, quickly discovering which I could get away with and which I could not. Mistakes would receive quick and shockingly viscous peckings back into place, as if angry ducks ruled that roost. I learned to go slightly unconscious, to simply not notice much of the brutality surrounding me, for I could not imagine surviving otherwise. Each morning I performed another act of rather sublime courage, arriving on time and taking my seat just as if I was not entering a grand inquisition. I worked hard to remain unsuspicious, since suspicion alone usually served as adequate evidence that some punishment should resume. Teachers were no less unforgiving than the least of the students, for they were charged with creating future citizens from such continually unpromising material. The principal daily announced another threat over the Stalag-quality PA system, insisting that his was "a promise, not a threat." Everyone knew a threat when they heard one.

I went on to do post-graduate work in high school and beyond, and by the time I'd finished high school (or it had finished with me), I had attained a depth of transparency such that I could see right through myself, the ego had been pretty much beaten out of me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Shirker

Shirker
Grant Wood: Fall Plowing (1931)
"I get away with nothing."

I know myself to be, above all else, a Shirker. In my time, I've left many more jobs undone than I ever completed. I'm apt to spend a day when I should be engaging in my equivalent of Fall Plowing, plowing my way through a novel in lieu of attempting to outrun the first snow outside. I tend to leave a lot on the table. I think of myself as being more able than I ever actually deliver. I shrink in the face of even modest challenges, and I feel myself defeated at the merest rumor of conflict. I contend that I am not lazy, however, for the lazy never seem to notice the work they shirk, but fail to catch the cues that inform then that they really should be doing something. Mine's a more sophisticated sort of slothfulness, one ridden with essential guilt and built upon a solid foundation of dedicated precedent. I can usually tell when I first sense a deadline whether or not I'll ever manage to get around to actually attempting to accomplish it, but I retain the expectation on my books, never writing off the obligation. Ever! I might have become most masterful at managing the resulting residue of guilt, my constant companion and, curiously, my primary inspiration.

I sense time on my tail and I know for sure that I will ultimately lose this race.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Factsation

Factsation
RAPHAEL: The Sacrifice at Lystra c.1515-6
"How low can your bottom line go?"

The Muse recalls her mom insisting that fare is what one pays to ride the bus. This glib insight almost explains how the much-maligned US Tax Code works in practice, except that fair, tax-wise, means that those least able to pay, always pay the most as a percentage of their income. A day laborer, lacking the 'tax advantages' of owning a private jet, might pay the full fare. No billionaire ever does, nor need to, because he can take advantage of receiving certain advantages not extended to the laborer. Billionaires complain about the price, but never, ever, under any circumstance, ever pay the full fare. It's as if the rich receive special dispensation for the otherwise insufferable burden of wealth. They write off with abandon, carrying forward losses to offset any unfortunate future profits. Lose a billion early in a career, and you're golden for the next couple of decades worth of tax years. Walk away from a failing enterprise, even one you ruined through gross incompetence, and your government will richly reward you. Should the laborer walk away from a job, he'll be denied subsistence support under the presumption that he must be lazy. Real welfare queens live in luxury on the Upper East Side.

Our President, he whose name I've sworn to avoid saying, reportedly deducted $70,000 in a single year for hair styling expenses, since his gravity-defying cantilevered combover is apparently a part of his brand rather than simply a translucent inability to accept encroaching baldness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

QuantiCategorization

QuantiCategorization
Rosa Bonheur: The Horse Fair (1855)
"I am not now nor have I ever actually been my demographic."

To produce sketches for her mid-nineteenth century painting The Horse Fair, artist Rosa Bonheur sought and received permission to dress as a man while observing dealers selling horses at the horse market held on the Boulevard de l'Hôpital in Paris. She explained that when earlier sketching at a slaughterhouse, her appearance as a woman had complicated her ability to observe regular goings on, and so she wanted to dress in the iconic smock and britches favored by male painters of the period, for she considered herself first an artist. Whatever else she might have been ranked a distant second to her presence as an artist in that context. How others perceive us can deeply affect our ability to engage in whatever we do, so most of us take care to project a persona congruent with our intentions, lest we unduly complicate our own efforts.

We live in perhaps the most prejudicial time in the history of human existence.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MountainTime

MountainTime
Giovanni Segantini: The Punishment of Lust (AKA The Punishment of Luxury) (1891)
" … my soul will most certainly feel more at home there."

Though I might use the same clockworks to measure time wherever in the world I might find myself, time behaves differently in different places. It moves much more slowly some places than in others, the effect influencing clocks such that they fail to register any difference. I do. Perhaps you do, too. A minute is clearly not a minute everywhere. In cities, time naturally moves more quickly, though much of it seems wasted in transit between two inevitably distant points (across town) via crowded passageways. One waits much of their time away in cities. On the prairie, time moves most regularly, with little difference from day to day to day. I figure that the featureless topography influences it, as if there's nothing for it to bounce off of as it passes through. MountainTime seems most mysterious and therefore most special. Long, deep shadows render sundials essentially useless, and twilight, both morning and evening, stretches far beyond expectations, smearing each sunrise and sunset into curiously extended events.

I consider the Pacific Time Zone to be God's Own Time Zone, probably because I gestated and was born there, and inhabited that geographical space through my formative years.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThinAir

ThinAir
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres: The Dream of Ossian (Ossians' Traum) (1813)

"Maybe this place exists solely as refuge …"


The atmosphere has seemed memorably thick over the last few weeks. Wildfires raging across The West pushed smoke around the world, blocking some people's sun through the end of summer and into an uneasy autumn. Our horizons have flamed through successive sunrises and sunsets while every exposed surface accumulated an ashy grit. Politics, too, have densified our social atmosphere, with fear sweat creating a persistent ground fog of dread as a mortally weakened President throws distracting tantrums, spewing idle threats. The Damned Pandemic continued playing off our tenacious innumeracy, a flickering flame quietly spreading through virgin timbre, our ears deafened by disbelief. This time will be recorded as neither the best nor the worst of times, but it might well be remembered as a crime wave, with thieves weakening every institution and corruption seemingly corroding everything it touches, and touching pretty nearly everything. The future from here appears cloudy with the certainty of torrential rains, a threatening Old Testament scenario.

The Muse and I feel fortunate to have found Pilgrimage calling us up and out of our metastasizing daily routines into ThinAir, where we can't figure out how to make the television work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MisDisInformation

MisDisInformation
Joseph Wright: The Corinthian Maid (1782-1784)

[Josiah Wedgwood, the pioneer of pottery manufacturing, commissioned this mythological scene that illustrates the invention of the art of modeling bas-relief sculpture. Wedgwood’s own fired-clay vessels, decorated with low reliefs, would have been seen by an eighteenth-century audience as the aesthetic descendants of this ancient Greek maiden’s attempt to preserve her beloved’s profile.

The girl was the daughter of a potter in Corinth. Her boyfriend was about to embark on a perilous journey to foreign lands, taking only his spear and dog. As a memento, she traced her sleeping lover’s silhouette onto the wall. Her father then used the drawing to model a clay relief, which he baked in his kiln to create a ceramic keepsake.] NGA.gov

"The silhouette was never the lover …"

When the fabled Corinthian Maid traced her lover's silhouette, she had no intention of accurately representing him, but of hopefully capturing some significant, representative part of his presence. She understood that the small subset of his many dimensions she traced on that wall would fall far short of replacing him in his absence, but hoped the resulting bas relief might serve as enough reminder to spark some deeper sense of him than mere memory might provide. She produced information about him, but without the expectation that this information might adequately replace him. Her work produced a placeholder for his presence, information without definition.

We've been wrestling to make this distinction ever since, and probably well before that Corinthian Maid scribbled her lover's outline on that wall.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes - A Pilgrimage to San Isidro (between 1820 and 1823)
[The theme of the loss of identity in crowds in this painting can be seen as a precursor to expressionist painting (en.wikipedia.org)]
"Having left as someone else, he returns with his freshly blessed self again."

It might be a curiosity unique to the criminal mind to believe in the concept of a clean getaway, for there are none. One might wish there were such a thing, and even deeply believe that they have pulled one off, but once fleeing, the possibility of getting caught remains until you're arrested, and until then, you're haunted by the prospect of being found out, more refugee than free. I suppose the more dedicated sociopaths can convince themselves that they got away Scott-free, but even they are actually fleeing, even if they don't acknowledge this fact. If only they could leave themselves behind like they left the scene of the crime, they might actually escape. The fundamental problem with getaways lies in trying to flee one's self, but that one cannot be left behind. The old life might be readily abandoned, but the old self insists upon tagging along, and the old self, however unwanted by the prospective escapee, shows up on wanted posters and the gunman cannot help but drop into old haunts. Somebody will sooner or later spot them there.

Contrary to every airline advertisement ever written, there are no getaways, not really.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Viewing

Waxing&Waning
Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten: View of a Corridor (1662)
"Let the record show that on this last day of summer, I started leaning in again."

The Muse and I live near the top of a minor mountain in a region filled with more significant ones. Ours hardly merits mentioning, but still our elevation often leaves us feeling as if we're floating above much of the rest of creation, like Greek gods or something. We nevertheless choose to live humbly here, something I believe we'd do whatever our circumstance, and we've actually lived even more humbly before, accepting waning as another part of an apparently never-ending cycle of increase and decrease, like respiration. 'As I live and breathe' translates into 'sometimes we give and sometimes we receive', with net increase or decrease more a matter of accounting periods than of any superiority or shortcoming. We do our work, grateful for having it, and too often temporarily forget the sublime beneficence of both possessing it as well as often feeling utterly possessed by it, for it fails to consume us, but seems instead insistently intent upon continually enriching us, even when it makes us no money. Living without purpose could only be worse for everybody.

That said, we're both feeling bled dry here on this final partial day of summer.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BegendingsAgain

BegendingsAgain
Samuel van Hoogstraten: View of an Interior, or The Slippers (Between 1654 and 1662)
"I clutch my innate cowardliness along with my pearls and move into."

I consider myself to be a change chicken, especially whenever encountering some inevitable. I could offer a master class in the fine art of denial. My feet naturally drag, providing a superpower resistance few very deeply appreciate. I can defend any late status quo state until long after any foreign element's completely overtaken it. I sometimes seem to be living in the past, still taking my cues from some long ago code of comportment. I live conservatively—not politically conservatively, for that philosophy always seemed far too radical for me—but intellectually conservatively, and also culturally. I rightfully consider most improvements to be degradations and most new beginnings to be primarily shrouded in endings. My glass is neither half empty nor half full, but still overflowing with potential. I'm the one most likely to order another one just like the one before.

I have been inhabiting the NowHere for an entire quarter now, or almost.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DateNight

DateNight
Jan Miense Molenaer: The Denial of Saint Peter (1636)
[Molenaer depicted biblical stories in his own time and surroundings,
such as representing this scene from Peter's Gospel set in a Dutch Tavern.]

" … settling in with The Maximum Cat to dream about different days …"

Denver's not so much a food desert as a food prairie. Restaurants tend toward the predictable and steady, and seem few and far between. Little mystery lurks within any of them. Reservations, not usually necessary, unless, of course, you really want to get in at a specific time without waiting. Noise, like an incessant prairie wind, seems built in, and any visit tends toward the buffeting. Our damned pandemic has slowed the usual progression of people in and out, with most preferring an outside table, but even then, overcrowding seems a prominent feature of those few more choice options still open, especially those not featuring a drive-in window. The Muse and I have simply foregone any kind of eating out other than the very occasional take-out pizza, a prominent feature of the region's flat restaurant topography, anyway. But last Friday night, we really needed to get the heck out of our same old place after months of in-house suppers, crafted by our very own hands and inspired by flattening imaginations in precisely the same space. We behaved like the cats, screaming to be let out but with no destination imagined other than Not Here.

With no specific place in mind, not exactly the recipe for certain satisfaction, though back in the day, we could usually happen upon some semblance of a satisfactory place.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Impendings

Impendings
Sir Peter Paul Rubens The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau About 1625 - 1628
"I left only NowHeres behind."

Summer has been eroding since early July, wasting away in place. The Dog Days came and went, replaced by a succession of cat days, warm enough that the cats preferred to stay out unsupervised all night and started turning feral again. Max, The Maximum Cat, disappeared for two successive nights before suddenly appearing without an explanation, hungry. I, of apparently little faith, had already started imagining how I might cope with such a loss, here in this ass end of a sweet season, with so many competing Impendings already scheduled. The end of summer enters with stealth exceeding even that of the littlest cat's feet. It leaves no footprints at all and manages to surprise no matter how closely I watch my clocks and calendars. Perhaps especially this year, where so much has managed to maintain so much sameness backdropped by so danged much simply staying home. The Muse and I have been aching for a road trip, but circumstances or entropy have so far successfully stymied every attempt. Big change is coming, though. I know this because I feel unusually blind to the Impendings.

The first day of fall has been scheduled to appear on a Tuesday this year, slipped into midweek as if to discourage any leading or trailing long weekend celebration.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

-finity

-finity
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)
" … hope apparently actually does spring eternal…"

I have never considered myself an atheist, but then, I wouldn't call myself anti-theist, either. I believe in plenty and can recognize the utility embodied in the whole mythology, liturgy and all. I was raised attending a mid-century conservative Christian denomination, demons and all, and learned early of which I was better off not speaking about at all. I could not quite muster up even a half-decent belief in an old testament God, the one that looks like Moses' scowling uncle wearing a swaddling suit of so-called clothes reminiscent of nothing more than a onesie diaper ensemble with sandals; thank God, no socks. Always the sandals. The relationships between God as father and Jesus as the son of God and me as the apparent son of a mild-mannered postal worker and his I Love Lucy wife were about as clear as my father's family tree, swelling with halves and steps and even more baffling progeny. The idea of lord, let alone as savior, escaped me, and not just because I didn't believe, but because I simply could not, since I had not been raised in feudal times, understand the meaning of the terms. Still, I never really felt as if I was entirely on my own, for I always possessed an inner hopefulness, even in my most discouraging times.

I believe that hopefulness might represent what some more devout and comprehending mean when they speak of big 'G' God.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Stewing

stewing
A group of peasants sharing a simple meal of bread and drink;
Livre du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, 14th century.

"My country used to be …"

They are a proud people, overly so. They expend their energies defending themselves, for they seem to attract enemies, foreign as well as domestic, and they insist that these enemies primarily target their 'Way of Life,' which they seem to hold as sacred without ever very finely defining what it entails other than to declare it containing inalienable rights, not necessarily privileges, responsibilities, or obligations, and 'traditional values.' They seem to firmly believe that owning a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun will protect them from tyranny, if not necessarily from each other. They insist that registering or licensing those weapons amounts to the tyranny from which those weapons were supposed to protect them. They distrust governments, which they firmly believe to be the primary author of the tyranny they oppose. They proudly proclaim that they refuse to expose themselves to mainstream media, which they believe engages in an ongoing conspiracy to misrepresent what's actually going on. They believe themselves to be authentic representatives of The People, The REAL People, not those hangers-on and Johnny-come-lately folks diluting the gene pool. They receive their information almost exclusively via gossip and rumor, and once they get an idea in their heads, they blithely deflect any conflicting information. Point them at a fact checker and they will proclaim, without evidence, that fact checkers have been proven unreliable. They live within an echo chamber.

They seem a stupid people but believe themselves cleverer, more insightful, wiser.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PinchOfSalt

Salt
Antonio del Pollaiolo: Battle of the Naked/Nudes, 1470
" … just when we really needed to be tipped over again."

I was blessed with little taste for salt. My lead palate cannot discern whether a dish needs salt before serving, so The Muse performs that service in the event that we have company for supper and this detail even matters. The Muse keeps the salt cellar handy at table to make up whatever deficit I deliver for dinner. I try, as the cookbooks show, to let salt start to breakdown proteins before cooking, but I work by direction rather than by taste or instinct, because I possess no salt sense. I'm aware that a man of my advancing age should limit my salt intake, but I find no reason to monitor it since I'm most likely to just forget about it altogether. I take it, though, that some find an extra pinch of salt necessary, though I have resigned myself to never understanding why. The Muse also possesses a superior taste for wine and can sense the presence of corking I cannot perceive. I sometimes doubt whether we're the same species, as divergent as our sensibilities seem.

Last week, The Muse leaned over and salted the GrandOtter's already plated supper after suddenly realizing that she'd forgotten to salt it in preparation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Patruns

Patruns
US Army Corps of Engineers geologist and cartographer Harold Fisk: Meander Map of the Mississippi River (1944)
"Give the Patrun a silly name and see where that leads."

Us consultants types often speak about organizational patterns of behavior, just as if an organization could behave. Often (as in always), a consultant type like me will stroll around a workplace simply observing. We might linger to chat with folks as we meander around, but any observer observing this observer might readily conclude that we're aimlessly wandering. We're actually aimlessly collecting clues to what the people working within this place do when they aren't aware of doing much of anything at all. The consultant was invited in, usually under false initial pretenses, because someone's experiencing a difficulty. Successive improvements have typically failed to completely reverse disappointing results, so the consultant's engaged in a late-stage attempt to finally get a handle on it (or resolution's described in one of an infinite array of hackneyed non-descriptive phrases, each of which essentially screams, "We have no clue what to do.) Neither do the consultants, at least not at first. A walk-about might provide a few clues, though, as certain patterns might come into sharper focus. Later, sitting with the client, the consultant will engage in another "Did you notice?" conversation, where some scales might start falling from over the client's eyes.

Though organizations, not being people, are incapable of behaving, certain patterns of engagement or outcome strongly suggest the presence of some underlying behaviors.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MisFunction

Misfunction
Engraving of a "portable" camera obscura in Athanasius Kircher's Ars Magna Lucis Et Umbrae (1645)


"Camera obscura (plural camerae obscurae or camera obscuras, from Latin camera obscūra, “dark chamber”), also referred to as pinhole image, is the natural optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen (or, for instance, a wall) is projected through a small hole in that screen as a reversed and inverted image (left to right and upside down) on a surface opposite to the opening." Wikipedia

"Who's to say?"

Historians have recently concluded that seventeenth century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer sort of cheated when he painted. Rather than merely observing his subjects, they speculate that he most probably employed a Camera Obscura which projected a full color image upside down on his canvas, thereby presenting a paint-by-number sort of template for him to simply fill in with color. This revelation suggests that he might have been more draftsman than artist, though his shortcut did nothing to infringe upon the sheer beauty of his work, which capture light in truly remarkable ways. But every art has its supposed-to-bes, it's hallowed, gentrified traditions, and mere photographic replication was never acknowledged as the point of either art or artistry. A master artist was supposed to possess a certain transcendent magical sense allowing production without resorting to what purists might consider cheap mechanical tricks. Yet what is the eye but a camera obscura, with the brain righting and coloring in inverted images? We see as we do due to a considerably more complex mechanism than any simple hole in a wall, and it's a genuine wonder any of us could make any sense of anything we ever saw, let alone, agree upon proportion, color, or placement.

MisFunction seems common in all sensory processing: vision, hearing, you name it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheRhodeIsland

TheRhodeIsland
Alonzo Chappel: The Landing of Roger Williams in 1636 (1857)
"As tiny as that measure might seem, it's far too large to calculate any human affect …"

The standard calibration for natural disasters in the United States has long been TheRhodeIsland. Whether measuring hurricane or hail damage, government agencies as well as our print and broadcast media exclusively employ TheRhodeIsland as the universal unit of measure of size. True devastation rarely affects less than a single Rhode Island-sized area, and seems to often spread into dozens, occasionally scores. To clarify, TheRhodeIsland represents an area equivalent to the square mileage encompassed by our former colony and tiniest state, which roughly equals the size of a typical ex-urban McMansion estate, or, one Ponderosa, that fictional ranch featured in the sixties western television series, though both The McMansion and The Ponderosa feature far less distinct boundaries than TheRhodeIsland. In spite of this state enjoying the representation of two US Senators, it features fewer bathrooms than the typical McMansion. Fun Fact: It was also the birthplace of the most radical concept in governance ever to visit this continent, or, indeed, the world: Tolerance, a practice now long fallen into regrettable disuse.

Oregon ignites, and the resulting wildfire consumes several Rhode Islands overnight.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Revelations

Revelations
William Blake: Angel of the Revelation, ca. 1803–5
"I'm continuously moved to reflect just how unlike expectations Revelations always seem."

I seem to be living through a time where another shoe's always just waiting to drop, plots infinitely thickening, where every blessed thing I think I understand today might just be turned on its head tomorrow. I cannot honesty testify that my experience was ever different from this before, for I remember, like you remember, strings of surprising Revelations accompanying me from my earliest days, but it seems, reflecting, that the velocity just might have been steadily, subtly increasing over time, combining to produce a now dizzying result. Every damned thing seems swathed in speculation, with little probability that I'll readily recognize the upcoming outcome, which seems very likely to spawn just another interim and not any final resolution. We say that things are "up in the air," but this air seems thin and smoky, not necessarily fresh or health-giving, but sometimes more bordering upon the absolutely smothering. It probably doesn't help that we're living with a presidency produced like one of those shoddy "reality" television series, where each commercial break (and there suddenly seems to be endlessly infinite breaks for commercials) follows a fresh take on Keep-Away, almost revealing, but then, once again reporting that we'll just have to wait. They promise a brief break, but each invariably takes longer than any average attention span. I've lost focus by the time the program resumes, and the promised revelation usually turns out to be another come-on, prolonging what becomes deeply dissatisfying enough to leave me wondering after the higher purpose of my existence; hardly satisfying entertainment. I've been losing my desire to even turn on the damned television or read the Times to discover the latest "Revelations.".

The relationship between Revelations and resolutions seems disrupted right now, and this situation seems to insist upon me adopting some different expectations.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Burning

Burning
Camille Corot: The Burning of Sodom (formerly "The Destruction of Sodom"),1843 and 1857
" … one pair of boots I'm sure grateful I remembered to grab before I left."

Around the time I first moved to Portland in the mid-seventies, the Feds changed their policy regarding their Northwest forest land. They'd previously subsidized a vast rural economy. Cut-rate logging leases encouraged an extractive industry that funded schools, roads, and other government services along with high-paying rural jobs. The locals complained that the damned EPA regulations suddenly protecting small owls and tinier fish caused it, the downfall of entire regions. People were understandably pissed when forced to move into cities or settle into lives as the suddenly working poor. They remembered their grandparents' stories about being poor back before The Dust Bowl had brought them here to the promised land. It had been every bit as good as promised to them up until then. Proud traditions were summarily disrupted and the victims usually blamed for their shifting fortunes. They'd age into a bitter conservatism still remembering when and their children would join a local underground militia, fomenting for similar to their own disruption at the top. The same sorry game played out on the other side of the country in the rust belt, as over the following third of a century, jobs evaporated with little recourse. We'd entered a deliberately disruptive time. Now, of course, Oregon's known as The Silicon Forest, though few ex-loggers work in high tech. Many remain up to their necks in debt from barely surviving and still live in once-thriving but ever-shrinking small towns that hardly seem like towns anymore; slightly wider spots along the road over to Bend or K-Falls.

The surrounding woodland was always good to these people, a genuine wonderland of scenery, recreational opportunity, and game.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Issues

Issues
Portrait of Martin Luther by Hans Balding Grien, 1521 Woodcut
"We dare not squabble over Issues …"

I take issue with Issues, which seem to have become the primary medium for political discourse, such as it's become. Reporters ask where a candidate stands, offering hardly a thin, brittle branch for any candidate to stand upon. They speak in a curious shorthand where keywords stand in for actual questions. "Where do you stand on abortion?" one might ask, a guaranteed double-binding, damning sort of non-question almost certain to elicit a meaningless response. Abortion has become a poisonous word. Even a sentence fragment containing it seems certain to taint anyone associated with it, for it's become the primary marker of ginned up moral outrage. Nobody ever asks where a candidate stands on preserving the life of a mother, for the unborn seem to have become citizens with rights exceeding any of those enjoyed by the previously born, even though they have universally failed to qualify as citizens at all. Their primary occupation seems to have become sparking outrage, which seems quite the clever accomplishment for anyone having not yet come into this world, let alone of age.

Issues represent the gotcha game of our time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SolstusInterruptus

SolsticeInterruptus
Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Hunters in the Snow, 1565
" … I suspect it's only napping."

As if mistaking an afternoon for the wee hours, our summer pulled a reversal overnight. Eighty-five and terribly smoky just yesterday, I woke to snow covered ground. Roads remain bare, since we were frying eggs on the asphalt yesterday and it holds heat like a fire brick, but the trees, none even starting to turn autumn colors yet, suddenly inhabit a snow globe. A very small hummingbird visits the remnants of the hummingbird feeder's contents, still liquid, thank heavens. I'd thought to take it down yesterday afternoon as I prepped for this storm. I almost regret that I live in a time when I can know what the morrow will likely beget, for I spent the few days leading into today dreading summer's interruption. I dutifully carried almost every planter and pot to a tarp-covered basement floor, and even blew out the drip irrigation system as if it was suddenly November in early September. A whole season of sitting on the deck surrounded by sweet scented blossoms, undone but not forgotten in a single afternoon. The cats must have thought me crazy, uprooting our outside home on such a hot and smoky afternoon. My back complained, too, after the lifting was through and I was sipping a cold one and surveying the damage I'd done on the rumor of winter.

I remembered wrong when I recalled previous early snows, for twenty years have passed since the last September snowfall here.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Synchroenicheatea

synchroe
William Blake: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, c. 1805
"I thank heaven that the most important things tend to happen at the least convenient times."

I yesterday introduced my primary manner of living, LivingAllegorically. In in, I asserted that making meaning comprises the bulk of my life's work, that everything I perceive when looking out any window might prove to be some unlikely mirror image of me, and that it's always my responsibility to interpret whatever I experience in ways that work for me by enhancing the quality of my experience. I omitted at least half of a complete explanation, though, not wanting to muddy up the creek more than necessary to delve into such a deeply personal topic. That other half involves meaningful coincidents' apparent role when LivingAllegorically. Obviously, nobody ever manages to plan moments when a fresh insight appears. These simply seem to simply occur without volition or advanced planning, like the revelation on the road to Damascus that Saul wrote about, which was clearly not on that morning's agenda. It occurred at an apparently inconvenient time and brought what might easily be interpreted as great good fortune to a clearly undeserving character, an authentic plot twist. I believe that LivingAllegorically begs a necessity to consequently maintain a firm belief in Synchronicity, a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences" if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related. Those meaningful relations seem to describe the mechanism animating LivingAllegorically, which might not be so much a philosophy as a manner of actually living, an endlessly active leaning in sort of engagement with life.

Synchroenicheatea seems to be a more emblematic way for me to spell the word because it seems so much more phonetic and mysterious. However one spells it, it remains a mysterious force, the presence of which won't move any needle on any Galvanometer.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LivingAllegorically

Allegorically
Allegory of Arithmetic, Laurent de La Hyre, 1650
"I might never get to breakfast or Damascus this morning …"

In the unlikely event that any of my grandkids ever ask me what I've learned about life, I would most probably respond by telling them that life seems to me to be an extended allegory, that reality isn't one percent of what it's cracked up to be, and that I believe that making meaning might be my primary responsibility here. Nothing seems as it seems and everything, every sensory experience, every dream, might carry a vast array of alternative meanings, depending. Depending upon me. I deeply doubt that a cigar is just a cigar, even sometimes, but each radiates possibility, depending. Depending upon me. I could choose to render that Freudian smoke to be simply a cigar, but what could possibly be the point of interpreting it so unimaginatively? Better sometimes, I believe, to perceive it with a touch of wonder, to check the context and discover some more meaningful understanding. It could be the clue I'd been hoping to appear that might just lead me to resolve the great mystery, or, alternatively, I could just perceive a mundane old cigar. Vitality, in my panoply, demands this more personal engagement, where I feel obligated to at least try to unwrap some deeper meaning from every blessed event and sensory experience. A rose might well be a rose and also a rose, but I also suppose that it might also be a harbinger of anything, a semi-secret messenger intent upon finally cluing me in. It utterly depends upon me to see through its initial instance to interpret something potentially more significant. All my experiences depend upon me being present.

Saul, when on that fabled road to Damascus, experienced a perfectly Standard Type 1 Revelation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Humbility

Humbility
Christ in the Wilderness, Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvicino), ca. 1520
" … lurching contest to contest, certain only of losing what we already too willingly forfeited."

And it came to pass that the people became prideful, proud of their many accomplishments and haughty within their identity; insufferable in the eyes of their neighbors, even formerly close friends. Where gratitude once swelled in their chests, an insolence replaced it and a definite arrogance overtook them. They suddenly seemed to know better the choices others should make, and even took it upon themselves to lean over others' plates to cut their meat for them without even being asked. How unappreciative 'they' seemed! Polity degraded into a me-ity, a me-for-me-and-nobody-for-all self-centeredness. Invisible hands and "wise" markets subsumed human agency and they segregated financially. They claimed The Best In The World without considering. "For whom?", and were subsumed by the promise of ever-expanding profitability. They funded their military more lavishly than they supported their progeny. They devoted themselves to promoting identity, touted as both brave and free to one another, but seemed to forfeit their former Humbility for a venial form of vanity. Then all was lost.

The ability to humble one's self might be the most human capability.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Readering

Readering
Portrait of Georges-Daniel de Monfried by Victor Segalen, 1909
"I'm feeling as if I might be a writer now."

Michael Maccoby, American psychoanalyst and leadership consultant, defined a leader as anyone with followers. Others shave pigs, insisting that some observable skills really must be present to qualify as a real leader, but I take Maccoby's side in this small controversy. It seems to me, if to nobody else, that we define many occupations in just this back-handed way. We judge singers by the size of the audiences they attract and Presidents, initially by the number of votes they get, neither by any even rough assessment of their skill. Some of the most popular recording artists torture my ears, but they're successful based upon their audience, measured by their number of listeners. This principle seems to hold true even beyond the performing arts. What's a doctor without patients? Even a librarian seems to require patrons to qualify as a true professional. Professionalism's not simply what one knows or does, but related to recognitions. Does anyone follow you? Does anyone ever listen when you sing?

Writing's no different.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FlatEarths

FlatEarth
Wilbur Glenn Voliva's flat earth map. Modern Mechanics and Invention, October, 1931
"It can well afford to wait until we Flat Earthers catch on to its subtle significance."

In his essay The Relativity of Wrong, [The Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1989, Vol. 14, No. 1, Pp. 35-44], Isaac Asimov presented a canny reframe of the common right/wrong dichotomy. He provocatively declared Flat Earthers' notions as not so much wrong as incomplete. For the Sumarians, who he supposed had originally concluded that the earth was flat, for most intents and purposes, their world was, in practice, flat. Earth's very slight curvature, about 0.000126 per mile, a quantity very close to 0 per mile, turns out to have been almost right and not, as moderns popularly believe, utterly and totally wrong. The truly tiny difference between zero and 0.000126 (eight inches) per mile compounds, though, as horizons expand beyond the local neighborhood. What remained obscure to the ancients became inescapably obvious to their later progeny. We might even say that most of today's more complete understandings stand atop yesterday's less complete ones. The often infinitesimal nature of significance continues to fool us as it did our forebears. Today, we have tough guys crowding together in Sturgis, apparently because, to the vestigial Sumarian part of their perception, a sub-microscopic virus shouldn't qualify as anything to get all that worried about. Right wing-nut commentators wonder what all the fuss could possibly be if we're 'only' projected to lose six percent of our population to the pandemic, and many of those folks, in their calloused imaginations, were ready to shuffle off anyway.

If this plague year should have taught us anything, it should have convinced most of us that the infinitesimals matter more than we thought.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Measuremont

Measuremont
La persistance de la mémoire (The Persistence of Memory), Olive Salvador Dali, 1931
"When engaging in timeless anything, expect expectations to prove misleading."

I can never quite remember at first. The Muse and I bought two more cases of fresh tomatoes thinking we'd roast the contents of one and juice the contents of the other, twenty or thirty pounds each case. We'd 'processed' tomatoes many times before, but those experiences produced little more than vague recollections, not immediately accessible in any functional form. The roasting takes time and includes a cumbersome step where I'm supposed to pull the peel off each hot roasting half, just as if that were humanly possible, while scorching my fingertips. How terribly renewing! Juicing involves little more than coring, quartering, and heating, then crushing in the Foley® food mill, an inherently picky and frustrating business. I finally plug into my vestigial muscle memory and set myself to work, slicing, salting, seasoning, and roasting. The recipe says check after twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, the roasting halves seem unaffected. I set the timer for twenty more minutes and settle into finish that novel while I wait. I repeat this cycle twice more before the tomatoes seem in any way peel-able, then painstakingly set about successfully performing the impossible ritual. I'm more than two hours into what started out as a twenty minute expectation by the time I decide that I'm done roasting and it's time to start canning.

I'd gathered the little jars while the tomatoes roasted, and also set the lids to simmering on the stove top.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WillfulWisdom

WillfulIgnorance
Fresco depicting ancient Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius (551 B.C.-479 B.C.), found in a 2,000 year old tomb in an old residential yard in Dongping County, east China's Shandong Province.
" … we generally do not seem to conform to gross generalizations."

I sincerely wish that there were a wise counterpart to the wave of willful ignorance presently washing over us. Willful Ignorance, for the unfamiliar, is a polite way to describe stupid. It's polite because it presumes adequate intelligence, which only seems fair since measuring anyone's intelligence proves inconvenient and often impossible in the course of a casual interaction, so it concludes that in spite of adequate brain power, someone's apparently worked very hard to come to a delusional conclusion. These delusional conclusions are often quite provably fallacious by employing nothing more dangerous than elementary logic and … ahem … facts, but they tend to spark a childish round of 'call and denial', an equivalent to the old I Know You Are But What Am I? game of our youth. There's no talking with anyone entranced within their own twisted justifications. They've invested heavily in a storyline unsupportable by any rational or experiential means, a genuine flight of fantasy, but apparently will not divest, probably because they cannot without forfeiting a long-trusted element of their identity. I think of Willful Ignorance as a particularly virulent form of denial, a bury-the-head-in-the-sand strategy certain to ultimately betray even the truest of true believers. My usual strategy when encountering the apparently willfully ignorant involves sort of just putting them out to pasture. They do not appreciate my questioning and I don't really need their sideways justifications' lead weight in my life. Neither of us will be in the market for evangelical transformation.

What would a wise counterpart to willful ignorance look like?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GodGiven

GodGiven
The Creation of Adam; by Michelangelo; 1508–1512
"We're never less powerful than when we're armed and asserting our folly as some GodGiven right …"

I was up early again this morning pondering how I might distinguish between the various rights asserted by those around me. The right wing gun nuts insist that they merely enjoy a GodGiven right to bear arms, though I recall no actual scripture reporting the granting of this authority. Others proudly sing that God somehow "shed his grace on thee," which I interpret as meaning "God shed his grace on me", or somebody, though I have no clue what shedding grace might entail or what might logically result from this act. Mention of it does seem to reliably encourage pride, the sort of pride which supposedly does not immediately precede a fall of any kind. Grace seems the iffiest of gifts, whomever might bestow it, for it always seems more resident in the eye of the bestowed than anywhere else. In spite of the widespread belief in the existence of godless heathens, each and every war ever fought seems to have been engaged in by self-certified God's own representatives on this earth versus self-certified God's own representatives on this earth, and expressly for the greater glory of God; not their God, but the one and only true God, who just happened to be on "our" side.

God gets used as an excuse for almost everything, and I suspect that she's not all that pleased with these attributions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Hop(e)

Hop(e)
Hop flower in a hop yard in the Hallertau, Germany (Wikipedia)
"Something significant seems to have stuck with me …"

My father, who was born near the Willamette Valley German immigrant town of Mt Angel, told of working hop harvest. Long days standing on the tall bed of a high-sided flatbed truck, reaching up to cut the cords holding the twenty foot tall vines into the truck bed would leave his forearms raw. Even then, the work beat picking beans, which was stoop labor and hard on the back and also left forearms chafed. I'd seen the hop yards, since I'd grown up near the preeminent hop growing region in this country, and dreamed of growing my own someday. I'd tried several times, always with disappointing results, short, rather sickly specimens yielding few of the treasured cones. I'd crafted small pillows filled with dried cones, which are said to induce sweet dreams, but had never more than dabbled in their cultivation until this year, this seemingly hopeless growing season. I'd late last summer finally found a plant at a local nursery, for which I'd paid a small king's ransom, and planted it in front of the fine, tall cathedral window out front, thinking that perhaps it might at least yield some interesting shade. That plant grew a begrudging six feet or so before an early snow halted further progress. I pruned it to the ground and forgot about it until Spring, hoping that it might prove eternal enough to sprout up a second year.

This Spring needed hope like no other I'd known.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ShiftIn

ShiftIn
Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun, Nicolas Poussin, 1658
"I'll relish what little's left …"

In these mid-latitudes, weather comes out of the West, moving opposed to the sun's progress. Little of consequence comes out of the East, which is where we send our weather when we're finished with it or it's finally finished with us. Occasionally, some counter-clockwise rotation kicks in to produce what we call upslope winds. These can spawn magnificent thunderstorms in the Summer and genuine dumpers of snow in the Fall, Winter, and Spring, but these bring nothing in the way of lasting change. They appear and leave almost as quickly, handing the reins back to the West winds again. The only question is always which direction, Southwest or Northwest, will the weather come. Through summer, Southwest winds prevail. One day, a ShiftIn happens and the prevailing winds starts sliding down from Idaho or Montana pulling in Northwestern weather. This ShiftIn comes quickly and never quite fully reverses again that season, a certain sign that autumn's coming, though it might have been a hundred degrees in the shade just the day before.

Real rain, not that second or third-hand stuff stuff passing up and over Arizona from the Gulf of Mexico, but genuine North Pacific rain drenches everything.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FalseEquivalence

FalseEquivalence
Gino Severini, aged 30, at the opening of his solo exhibition, Marlborough Gallery, London, 1913
"Wallowing in FalseEquivalence demonstrates an ignorance unbecoming anyone."


One of these things is not like the other. This one statement might properly summarize human existence, for we seem to (or, at least I seem to) constantly make distinctions. When my kids were small, we parsed the entire universe into two broad categories, Yum and Yuck. With these broad two generalizations, infinite variations might exist, but no Yums ever became Yucks, and vice versa. Once initially classified, little risk of mistaking one for the other existed. One was definitely not like the other. This universe, though, cannot be parsed so conveniently. We encounter many borderline cases, greyscale experiences which might seem indistinguishably similar, though actually different. Multiple classifications are also common, such that similarly-colored objects might also be more finely graded by size or shape. As the Ancient Chinese used to insist, ten thousand differences might exist between any apparently similar objects or events, but we've evolved into ever less discerning generalists, it seems, satisfied to call both apples and oranges 'fruit,' and leaving further distinctions pat, and we're fine with that other than the occasional disagreement over classifying tomatoes. Fruit or vegetable? A fruit that tastes like a vegetable or a vegetable crudely misclassified as a fruit? Wars have started for less.

All this distinction-making might serve to help us make sense of the world, but a tremendous amount of skill seems necessary to make proper distinctions, to avoid misclassifying one thing as another when it really isn't.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SmolderingPants

SmoulderingPants
Psalter (the 'Shaftesbury Psalter') with calendar and prayers
Origin England Date 2nd quarter of the 12th century

"We might have been born to advance higher purposes of civilization …"

We apparently love to be lied to. I find no other way to explain civilization. Societies and cultures might exist solely to maintain and reinforce myths, reassuring lies sustained for solace. We seem to not-so-secretly believe most everyone else a rube, easily fooled, many emphatically insisting not that we hold certain truths to be self-evident, but that we're good for keeping the dirty little secrets quiet. I suspect that most of us know too well how deep down lame we are inside, how utterly dependent we are upon lying to ourselves and to pretty much everyone else to maintain some cobwebby semblance of self-esteem. Even if the much-vaunted truth actually made good on its promise to set us free, we'd most likely choose to remain in slavery to the studied reassurances that, no, these pants do not make our butt look big. We've elevated the completely spurious Energy Drink Industry to comprise a significant portion of our retail economy. Need I say more? Sugar water spiked with caffeine, and some even spiked with measures of, excuse me, bull pee. I mean, how gullible must we be to drink that crap? It seems to me that this reality simply could not be without a deep and underlying identity insisting that you absolutely must lie to me and that I solemnly promise to keep the little secrets between us. We apparently sincerely believe that we cannot handle the truth.

We wear SmolderingPants which, if the old adage — where there's smoke, there's also fire — holds true, our pants are actually on fire.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Heraclitus'Insight

Heraclitus'
On the Island of Earraid, N.C. Wyeth, 1913


"No man ever steps in the same river twice", Heraclitus, Fifth Century B.C.

"No squirrel ever entered the same deer meadow twice."

Heraclitus might just as well have said that no man ever steps into the same morning twice, or sits in the same chair, or reads the same book. Further, he might have just as credibly insisted that no two people ever read the same book, not even once. Any author might, as I have, ask, "What book did you read?" when receiving feedback about their work. We seem to live within an almost constancy, surrounded by seemingly familiar objects and people, but these relations seem surprisingly fragile as we continuously rediscover that each might not be quite what we'd earlier concluded about them. Shocking moments of inconstancy punctuate our experience here, amplified, no doubt, by our abiding sense that things properly stay more or less the same, when they don't and never have. My continuing disorientation might well be self-inflicted, but I cannot seem to uncover any balance or Golden Mean between these two apparently opposing forces: stability and flux. Heraclitus also insisted that "panta rhei", everything flows, that nothing ever stays the same. I wonder why, then, we evolved to believe so vehemently in constancy, that everything's more or less frozen in place?

Glib self-helpless pundits blithely insist that the more things change, the more they stay the same, by which they might mean that most change seems insubstantial, a rearrangement of the proverbial Titanic's deck chairs.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

'Vesting

'Vesting
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Summer, 1572
" … 'Vesting providence with our experience again."

Most of the growing year involves much waiting, culminating in a few shortening days 'Vesting: harvesting, preserving, labeling, and storing away for later use. There's no shortage of delightful fresh produce groaning shelves this season, the produce stand suddenly the most popular stop on everyone's rounds. Would that I could find this freshness year 'round, but I savor what I find when I find it. We neglected canning tomatoes last 'Vesting season, and lived to deeply regret that decision once sequestration stripped our larder shelves. For the first time in years and years, we reduced ourselves to buying factory canned, and regretted every second of the experience. We'd thought ourselves well-enough provisioned before our world sucked in on us. By then, it was way too late to rethink, and we sucked it up and tolerated the consequences. We'd foregone perhaps the single most solidly imprinting experience of the year last 'Vesting period. We'd been traveling when the tomatoes came in and recovering through the balance of the season. We missed that chance.

Now, we insist that this must never happen again.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HownDogAfternoon

HownDogAfternoon
Going to Market, Early Morning by Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1773
"We're partners here …"

If I'm going anywhere today, I'd be wise to go early, before the sun and the smoke and the aridity become even more determined to have their way with me. I thought I caught a patch of blue in the sky this morning. The wind shifted overnight so I woke without my eyes stinging themselves shut again. My throat feels rough and the consistency of tapioca pudding, sinuses screaming again. By the last week of August, the elements combine to produce a neigh-on to unlivable environment. The lawn feels crispy underfoot regardless of gold-plated sprinklings, thin underlying soils seemingly thinner after rainless weeks. The monsoon never showed up this year. As each day progresses, the slight almost cool of early morning gives way to another baking, the sun, even through the smoky batten burns without thinking once. The sunrise lasts much of the morning as the smoky haze extends the reds and oranges until nearly noon. Afternoon seems fit for little more than napping, perhaps in a puddle of fine dust, the way an exhausted HownDog might approach it. Time fit only for practicing hibernation. There's no place to escape to but dreams.

The view from every lookout seems cruelly foreshortened and spare. I drive in a tunnel of heavily amended air

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MuseDay

MuseDay

Mérode Altarpiece (or Annunciation Triptych) is an oil on oak panel triptych, now in The Cloisters, in New York City. It is unsigned and undated, but attributed to Early Netherlandish painter Robert Campin and an assistant. The three panels represent, from left to right, the donors kneeling in prayer in a garden, the moment of the Annunciation to Mary, which is set in a contemporary, domestic setting, and Saint Joseph, a carpenter with the tools of his trade. The many elements of religious symbolism include the lily and fountain (symbolizing the purity of Mary), and the Holy Spirit represented by the rays of light coming through from the left hand window.The central panel was completed after 1422, likely between 1425 and 1428. [en.wikipedia.org]

"She insists that she's an A-Me instead."

She despises the moniker, or certainly says that she does. I persist using it, and not merely out of perverse habit. (In her birth family, once anyone learned what you hated, that knowledge guaranteed that you'd thereafter be inundated with it.) She was by any measure born the runt of her family, a premie as we call them today, and so had to stay in the hospital for several days after her birth. She claims that this rude arrival affected her. She still remembers feeling abandoned and alone when isolated from her newly-gained home. Being third in birth order, ultimately the middle, she was born behind, destined to always playing catch up, a childhood-long competition she was destined to lose. She won the race to produce the first grandchild, though, and so was carrying him at her high school graduation, whereupon she went into exile to live with hostile in-laws and a sullen showband drummer of a husband. She coped. She lived as a band wife for almost a decade, holding menial jobs to pay bills, including a stint cutting meat in a huge packing plant and later, as a Tupperware Lady®.

She finally decided at twenty-five to put herself through school, which she managed to do in fairly short order, ultimately choosing her own curriculum to satisfy her own notions of how that work really should be done.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Q

Q
Guy Fawkes before King James, Sir John Gilbert, Circa 1750
"They ache for judgement day."

They meet in out-of-the-way places, a shed on one member's family farmstead, warmed by a barrel fire fed with scrap lumber. Their meetings combine the camaraderie of a frat brother kegger with the solemnity of religious retreat. One member, typically the host, leads but never in a domineering way, for these men never responded well to dominion. Lifelong misfits, they hold exclusively non-professional jobs, laboring, mostly. They to a man struggle to make ends meet and always have. Those who managed to make it through high school, graduated with a certificate in serial humiliation, for they struggled with their studies, never quite grokking college preparatory courses in math, literature, or the sciences. They hold grudges, not degrees. Many showed early on real promise in the mechanical arts, auto repair, electronics, and the Future Farmers of America programs. They're all hunters. Each owns several guns and each considers these the pinnacle possessions of any freeman. They insist that they're freer than they've ever once felt and meet to garner their resources for the oncoming assaults on what they authentically revere as their way of life.

They think themselves worthy inheritors of Colonial-era beliefs, thinly evolved first or second-generation interpretations of The Rights Of Man and The Wealth Of Nations, though none have read the original documents, much less considered their many contradictions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

deCENTcy

deCENTcy
Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours, The Selection of Children in Sparta, 1785
At the age of 7, Spartan boys were removed from their parents' homes and began the “agoge,” a state-sponsored training regimen designed to mold them into skilled warriors and moral citizens.
"I genuinely want you to win, too, though never at any cost, …"

In this world where everything seems to have a price tag and few of us understand the cost of anything, deCENTcy often seems lost in the accounting. Schemes surround and smother us. Deals get made. Compromises demanded, the Bait And Switch almost obligatory. Fair deals, the rarest of all deals. Cheap-but-Good seems more weighted in favor of cheapness than goodness. Loyalties seem far too easily persuaded to switch support to shave a few pennies off some bill. Some commodities solely serve ostentation, valued by the excess expended to acquire them, for bragging rights or simply to rub some less fortunate's face in the deal, offered only at auctions where we're perennially out-bidded. Our democracy sometimes seems like that. We wonder why we should even bother entering the game. Our politics have been up for sale to the highest bidder for generations now, and only DeCENTcy seems absent from the equation because DeCENTcy costs almost nothing, a red cent lost in rounding among bilious billions and terrifying trillions. Where's the marketplace in deCENTcy these days?

Oh, here it is, right close to home.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LOM

LOM
Francisco de Goya, Saturno devorando a su hijo [Saturn devours his son], (1819-1823)
"The more I've experienced, the less I understand."

Birthdays increasingly become subdued celebrations as I age. A passing embrace, a few quick questions asking what they might do for me, an overwhelming number of Facebook greetings, each unexpected, of course, and each relished as a slightly embarrassing excess. I register my appreciation in a sort of passing because I do not feel as though aging or even counting ages accomplishes anything. I spent the day feeling rather full of myself, greatly gifted by the virtual presences surrounding me and I fear a little too off-putting to those closer to home. I find attempts at celebrating at root unnecessary. They elicit little more than sincere 'aw shuckses' from me, which might mean that I'm finally entering that inevitable stage of being, that I'm turning into a LOM, a Little Old Man.

I've noticing myself getting ever more stuck in my ways, as if the sum of all my days had reached maximum absorption of experience, as if my existential larder might be almost full.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RegularOrder

RegularOrder
Going West--1933, Boardman Robinson, 1933
"I'm not fleeing anywhere …"

I've started this story three times already, discarding each iteration in growing frustration. I wanted to say how it feels for me to be alive this morning, but a certain seething crept into each attempt. I do not feel like an angry old man, just one aching for RegularOrder. I've had it up to somewhere with stupid millionaires dominating conversations. There seems to be no better indicator of absolute inanity than wealth, as if mammon actually lowers IQ. The disruptive elements, the great inventors and marketers and promoters, seem to lack any sense of RegularOrder, the baseline regulating force each of the rest of us rely upon to maintain our sanity and serenity. I feel lucky this morning to be turning three score and nine. It's my birthday, for cripes sake, and I feel satisfied enough just to take what I've been given. The decktop petunia garden's at her peak, perfume creeping up and into the master bedroom windows. My hop(e) vine's cones have grown heavy with pollen and ready for harvest. The front garden's in furious bloom attracting hummingbirds and bees and grasshoppers in profusion. The cats, still kittens a few short weeks ago, have almost learned to come back home on their own after they escape.

The wind seems to have shifted.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GrudgeWork

GrudgeWork
The Remorse of Orestes by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862

"La vengeance est un met que l'on doit manger froid" Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754–1838)

"Revenge is a dish best left off the menu"

Setting out to settle any score seems to reliably produce some variant of the opposite of the imagined outcome. Revenge is not, as Talleyrand-Périgord insisted, a dish best served cold, but a dish best left off the menu. One might easily imagine settling some score, as the saying goes, 'once and for all', but such action produces reverberations guaranteeing that those scales will very likely be thrown even more permanently out of balance. Should the reaction be anything close to equal and opposite, a tragic cascade will likely ensue. Dogs chasing their own tails easily then becomes the new normal, for grudge lust never finds satisfaction from any GrudgeWork, however dedicated. Getting even amounts to a distraction, always under the influence of our worse angels. The reparations exacted upon the Weimar Republic following WWI produced Hitler and WWII, even though the French and British firmly believed that their demands were just. Germany had, after all, aggressively thrust itself upon France for no reason other than its deeply held grudge over having missed building its own empire. Why not simply swipe another's empire and thereby better balance the score? We now too well know why, but we never seem to learn.

GrudgeWork properly describes our current administration's approach to governing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NothingAndBeingness

NothingAndBeingness
Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy, François Lemoyne, 1737
" … they'd come to understand and trust that the horse knows the way."

I believe, perhaps fallaciously, that I possessed when I was born every skill I later manifested. Contrary to the historical record, not even the KnowNothings ever actually knew nothing, not even those swearing to reelect our sorry excuse for a President can truthfully claim this state, for nothing's always been fundamentally unknowable and to claim otherwise only proves my point. I have not so much assimilated others' skills, but found ways to relate theirs to my own, nascent and previously knowable until after some small or huge revelation. I perceive this world as a network of invitations in constant struggle against the forces of formal education, which seem determined to claim ownership of knowledge and skill so that they might sell it for notoriety and profit. Knowledge, interestingly, also fails to qualify as knowable, though some certainly seem to exhibit clear possession. It might be that knowledge and even understanding possess us and not the other way around, once one's found fertile ground them to usefully relate to it.

If I would have had to know how to write before writing, I might have become an eternal student, Hell-bent on learning something unassimilatable by that means.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RueTeen

RueTeen
Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878
"Some blessed shirker inside me has been complaining …"

How many times can I repeat an activity before repetition renders it banal and boring? What begins as necessary and refreshing might well become a crushing obligation over time. A perfectly timed taste of wine too easily slumps into an unmemorable second glass or a forgettable third. I've heard of activities so enjoyable that they never eventually bore anyone into a coma, but never actually experienced one. Experience seems to sum into something quite distinct from mastery, something more akin to a tragedy of over-familiarity, rendering almost alien through studied repetition, leaving the practitioner aching only for a beginner's mind again, a refreshing starting all over again from the bottom. Our Damned Pandemic has highlighted the utter banality of many of my RueTeens, activities I now rue performing and perform with all the mindful tranquility of a slighted teen. I might agree to do anything besides what I've become altogether too accustomed to doing after the umpteenth time anticipating doing it again.

Dinner, once creative opportunity, has become an utterly boring chore.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Chokin'

Chokin'
Fainting by Pietro Longhi, 1744
" … this, too, was intended to be a part of the deal …"

This terrarium's oxygen seems just about used up. We closed up the place as the smoke concentrated, using fans to keep the suddenly suffocating inside air moving, but it moved increasingly listlessly anyway, suddenly neither fresh nor refreshing. We continued breathing, but substituting low octane for high test air, each breath an increasingly sorry pretender to what we'd grown accustomed to experiencing. Usually, the breeze here brings continual relief down from The High Country, some of the freshest air in the world. During fire season, it billows. Nearer the fire lines, ash falls like heavy snow. Here, it's only smoke bringing persistently itchy eyes and a choking sensation deep in the throat. And there's no respite. No cool glade to escape into. No secret room in the basement unaffected by this intrusion. I choose to sit on the deck as the day grows long, nose running and eyes tearing up. I get scowled at for leaving the slider open.

We're in no real danger here.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Smokin'

smokin'
The Smoker, a presumed self portrait of Joos van Craesbeek, 1635-36


"I closed the side window so the breeze can't push fresh puffs inside on me."

I was a dedicated smoker in my youth, sneaking smokes out on the football field during lunchtime at high school. Slinking around, I mostly learned how to sneak there. My parents were raging liberals when it came to smoking, figuring that they'd rather we not sneak around at home. My dad, brother, and I thereby inflicted second-hand smoke on everyone else in the house, not so much indifferent as ignorant of the damage we inflicted. I quit in a fit of righteous self discipline on the new year when I would turn thirty-five, figuring that smoking was a young man's game and I was headed in the wrong direction to avoid one of the dead certain afflictions should I continue the habit. The Insurance Company had just before instituted a strict no smoking policy and I didn't relish becoming one of those poor souls forevermore hovering around a drizzly courtyard. We speak now of castes and classes. When I stopped smoking, I was immediately upgraded a class. I bruised my left nipple for months after from constantly tapping my shirt pocket, checking for the accustomed pack which was no longer there to cushion my panicky inquiries.

I later picked up cigars, fine little Dominican ones which I fallaciously claimed had been hand-rolled on the thighs of virgins.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DogWhistlingInTheDark

dogwhistling
The Poacher, Jean Pierre Alexandre Antigna
"We're the ones inheriting that wind."

By mid-August, mornings smell of campfire, though campfires have been banned since May. The primary East/West freeway across the state was yesterday closed until further notice due to a zero contained wildfire burning through Glenwood Canyon. Even the transcontinental train service was suspended until further notice. The round and about alternative route, a twisty two lane up through Aspen, was closed after a semi-truck jackknifed on a tight switchback turn. Sunrises and sunsets come in brilliant oranges and reds and our usual pristine view up the Front Range is filtered through a smutty haze. We're suddenly all smokers again, shirt collars reeking and sinuses clogging. The sign at the county park reminded hikers that rattlesnake activity has been reported in the area, so keep those pets leashed and keep yourself safe. Everyone leaves reminding everyone else to stay safe. The world seems especially dangerous right now.

The Presidential race is off and running now that Biden has named his running mate, a formidable African American/Asian woman the opposition can't yet properly denigrate.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Disorienteering

TheArtOfGettingLost
Pierre-Auguste Cot: The Storm, 1880
" … I lagged my way back home."

Sequestering provides few opportunities to get lost in anything more diverting than another fresh novel, fleeing ever inward as an antidote to such outward sameness. Suppers eventually come to seem like reruns. Didn't we just have this last night, or was that just the night before? Exploring the unchartable territory west of boring, each little chore hardly seems worth doing, fresh adventure insecurely out of reach. I've grown to know my neighborhood perhaps a little too well. Discovery only ever happens once, after that, it's simply not discovery anymore. An ennui settles over the proceedings and forward comes to feel like warmed over receding, a form of retreat. Mid-August brings vacation season for one excellent reason. It's damnably difficult to get lost at home. I know where every left turn will take me. I understand what's just over every hill. The thrill of discovery eventually slips beyond anyone's grasp and we're compelled to just disappear in favor of some Disorienteering.

We vacate to get ourselves lost.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gumshoe

Gumshoe
Harry Barton Vintage Pulp Art Illustration
" … when Amazon options it for the limited series."

As an enthusiastic consumer of Detective Fiction, I fear for the future of this genre. I've not yet encountered a character in any Gumshoe novel who wears a face mask other than to bump off a liquor store, and those masks don't seem right for blunting any plague. None of the heroes seem the sort to slip unnoticed into a cocktail bar while wearing a mask, and cocktail bars have been closed for months, anyway. Where do nefarious schemes get hatched in pandemic times? I'm trying to imagine C. J. Box's Joe Pickett or James Lee Burke's Clete Purcell operating in a post-pandemic world or Longmire issuing citations for violating mask mandates. Masks might inhibit identification of the Gumshoe's prey, though I notice that John Sandford's latest thriller came out under the timely title of Masked Prey, though there were no masks prominently displayed in any part of that story.

Few advertisements, even now, six months into this pandemic, feature mask-wearing characters.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TakingAPass

TakingAPass
Thomas Moran: Mosquito Trail, 1874
" … a full immersion experience one can almost bring back home with them."

This Damned Pandemic encourages a discernment and detachment in me. I no longer feel free to enter just any establishment. As if I possessed a picky palate, I simply will not enter any restaurant, not yet. I might consent to a drive through or an accelerated step in to grab something to go, but I will not slow down long enough to even leave a footprint on my way through. I wake some mornings aching for a decent order of hash browns smothered in green chile gravy like only an authentic greasy spoon diner can produce, but I will not reduce myself to enter any such establishment. Not yet. Not now. I sense that I'm becoming somewhat of an expert at TakingAPass, just driving past though my desire might compel me to stop. I sense myself a budding aesthetic, like a solitary mountaintop meditating wise man, though I know for certain that I remain a simple wise guy deep down inside. I'm TakingAPass because I've grown to distrust all reassurances that we're bringing This Damned Pandemic under any sort of control. We're still learning how this devil works, and until we deeply understand it, I will continue to choose to just drive by most roadside attractions, even when I'm starving for that plate of smothered hash.

Living in Colorado offers some compensations.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LittleDeaths

goneglasses
Winter by Jean Antoine Houdon, 1787
"Background moves into foreground sometimes …"

Life presents many LittleDeaths, sudden absences disrupting flow. These experiences might seem mere inconveniences to any casual observer, but the principal deeply feels their sting. Yesterday, returning from our usual larder stocking excursion, I felt my shirt pocket for my eyeglasses and found them AWOL, missing from their pocket perch. I initiated a quick search, well experienced with discovering that I'd set them down somewhere. I could not immediately recall where I might have left them, but I reassured myself that they could not be far. As near as I could tell, they were precisely nowhere: lost, gone, disappeared. I quickly engaged in denial, sensing that they simply must be near, even going so far as to just wear my prescription sunglasses to read a chapter or three in the latest library book. It would too soon turn dusk, though, so I headed out to the drug store to score some cheaters, cheap magnifying lenses to help me make do.

I still firmly believe those glasses will show up, though I'm plotting a visit to my optometrist tomorrow morning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Worker

Worker
Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners, 1857
"I might have been a gleaner."

I am most emphatically NOT a Worker. I haven't punched a time clock since I was in my teens, and even then, I found that experience to be anything but uplifting, demeaning. I can't seem to count my efforts by the widely-recognized Hours Metric. I do not quote anybody an hourly rate. Back at The Insurance Company, as a young professional, the accountants drooled over the prospect of collecting activity-based data and received instead, carefully crafted fiction, for few could perform tasks without forfeiting awareness of time passing, not without abandoning the possibility of experiencing the elusive flow. I'd go down to the employee cafeteria each Friday morning, carrying my agenda which I'd once again failed to maintain in scrupulous detail, and create my fictional record of my work week just passing, careful to avoid any appearance of idleness or overage. My job demanded that I always attend to about fifteen different things at once, never once single-tasking, so any notion of activity-based accounting seemed absurd, but only because it genuinely was.

Austrian Political Economist Joseph Schumpeter explained how economists gather their data. He said that watchmen report it and that they report whatever they damned well please.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Discretion

Discretion
Jan van Eyck: The Virgin of chancellor Rolin. (circa 1435)
"Buck up, Brother, we're in this together however we play it."

Discretion, proverbially referred to as the better part of valor, was originally intended to caution that it's generally better to avoid a dangerous situation than to confront it. Modern interpretations of this term seem to vary considerably from the traditional intention, though, as one governor after another publicly insists upon relying upon personal Discretion when taking certain necessary precautions against The Damned Pandemic, like wearing masks when in public. School principals, too, have adopted this approach, instructing students to make their own choice about whether or not to wear a mask when shoving through class changing crushes. Name one other choice a typical principal leaves up to students? Just one! Given a choice of wearing pants or not, about a quarter of high school students would gleefully observe pants-less Fridays! Should completing homework, or, indeed, all schoolwork be left up to the "Discretion" of each individual student? How about attendance?

The idea that Discretion means free to choose whatever seems upside down and backwards, but then not everyone aspires to valor.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SlicingBread

SlicingBread
Pieter Claesz, Still life with Musical Instruments (1623)
"Bless This Damned Pandemic for reminding us how."

I speak this morning in praise of blessed inconvenience, as embodied by the once-familiar act of simply slicing bread. With the exception of that period when my mom went all Earth Mother on the family and took to baking her own bread, my early years experienced exclusively the pre-sliced variety bought day old in a small bakery for ten cents a loaf and stored in the trusty basement freezer. I saw in books photographs of the kind of bread people bought in Europe, dark, rotund, and unsliced, and I dreamed of pulling off handfuls to accompany some whiffy cheese, but we were no longer Europeans, and hadn't been for generations. As Americans, we never really thought about most of the conveniences we shared. We thought them a birthright accompanying what was more than simply The Good Life, but the very best life imaginable. Beret-wearing Communists might walk straight-faced while carrying a baguette or boule, but we never would, and not just because we couldn't.

Then I came to test taste a plain baguette and found it good. No, I found it far superior to any sponge cake imposter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RushingRoulette

RushingRoulette

Edvard Munch, At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo,1892
"Rushing into any roulette seems a fool's mission."

Every morning, some oleaginous politician encourages me to resume my "normal" activities, citing genuine statistics to justify their advice. I deeply doubt if they understand a word of their own justifications, for oleaginous politicians have never been elected on the basis of their deep understanding of Bayes theorem, or any other concept underlying statistical projection. Judging from the wild divergence between predicted and actual, their understanding might well be nonexistent, but true to all of us genuinely innumerate, mere failure to accurate predict hardly dissuades another morning spent hawking spurious convictions. Statistics has always been hard, mostly because our intuitions sucker us. Unbiased analysis demands an almost inhuman indifference and strict adherence to tenaciously counter-intuitive processes. Even analyzing results easily sucker-punches us, since we sometimes desperately want the numbers to agree with our a priori expectations, and when they do not, we're likely to fudge, touting the portion of the results that agree with us and burying those that don't.

We wallow in numbers now.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StayingPut

StayingPut
Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes, ca. 1614–20
"Not stir crazy yet, not by a long shot."

In this culture, we believe that strange things will happen to us if we simply StayPut. In Buddhist cultures, stillness might be aspired for, even revered, but we're a kinetic crew over here. We're up and gone as a matter of ingrained routine. We feel as though we haven't accomplished anything unless we've gone out somewhere then returned in-between. We make many round trip runs, almost always ending up just about where we started from, but with the added benefit, I guess, of having sandwiched a gone in there between the anchoring StayingPuts. If I were to deeply immerse myself into StayingPut, I might start stalking the hallways with an axe, chopping holes in otherwise perfectly innocent doors, slathering. I maybe might even turn into a creepy isolated old cat lady, newspapers piled to the ceiling. Or a shut-in, font of endless neighborhood rumors of what I might once have been, a definite haunted house has-been. StayingPut might be the most dangerous possible state for anyone seeking greatness or notoriety, and aren't we all in the Notoriety Business now? Excuse me, please, but I just gotta leave for awhile. I'll be right back. Not going anywhere, really, just … out.

We're StayingPut for our Staycation this summer, and not just because of our Governor's Stay At Home Order.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Circlings

Circlings
'The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius', Leonardo da Vinci, about 1490.
" … a Muddle Ages, arguing over theology."

Our Damned Pandemic seems to have sparked a spike in circular reasoning, that form of thinking Bertram Russel once compared to larceny. We've been swiping answers we want, probably because we so want them to be true, for the nightmare to conclude, that we suddenly find ourselves capable of justifying anything and calling that conclusion perfectly reasonable. Circular solutions seem to prove their premise. Because of This, That AND because of That, This, deduction be damned. An induced solution seems to resolve the troubling problem. Hydroxychloroquine certainly seems to cure this 'flu,' except it isn't a flu and supporting evidence seems rather thin. An act of faith or firm believe gets involved and seems to securely seal the underlying logic. Hopefulness gets the better of us, inviting in a following fresh bout of despair. The meta-cycles of hopefulness and despair seem likewise circular, and we spend some days feeling as if we were circling around a huge drain.

We set our expectations innocently, stating our objective clearly. No harm and no foul.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Sorrying

Sorrying
Jacques Louis David, The Death of Socrates, 1787
" … no identity changing required."

The GrandOtter said, "Sorry."

"Sorry about what?" The Muse replied. "Sorry about saying you were sorry?"

I imagined an infinite spiral starting with an innocent sorry then circling ever further downward, one sorry inexorably spawning another, ad infinitum. Of course, The GrandOtter meant that she was sorry, though she sometimes prefers a more present tense and says that she 'is' sorry, after which I imagine I'm witnessing sorry incarnate. I thought I was sorry, though I more probably never was anything of the kind. Perhaps I
felt sorry, which might prove to be as far from being sorry as anything could possibly be. No feeling defines anyone, for feelings come as information, not definition. One most certainly feels sorry without actually embodying that sorry state. I think we mostly forget this fact and whack ourselves with an ill-advised identity, when we were simply feeling sorry.

Sorry seems a sorry excuse and a worse apology.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LongHaul

LongRun
First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison, 1889
"Heads you win, tails we lose."

Both Union and Confederate soldiers expected the first skirmish of the Civil War to decide the conflict's final outcome. Fine ladies in carriages accompanied troops to the battlefield, expecting a diverting exposition, an amusing afternoon's competition. The Army of the Potomac outnumbered the rebel forces, which were hardly an organized army by then, but were filled with fervor. Neither side imagined the possibility that they might lose. The Union crawled chastised back to Washington that evening, and thus began a long ordeal during which the futility of the rebellion never seemed to settle in. Each side won some and lost some, but each side's dedication rarely wavered. The Confederacy quickly became a brutal autocracy, starving itself in ever-deepening delusion that their dedication might ultimately count for something. They touted Lee as the superior strategist, though he managed to lose every significant conflict. He'd won at Bull Run then went on to narrowly retreat from Antietam and Gettysburg. The terms of engagement seemed to have been set on that midsummer day in Northern Virginia. The manner of engagement largely remained intact throughout.

Both British and German troops cheered their way to the Marne in 1914, thinking themselves on an organized holiday.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InvisibleHandiwork

InvisibleHanding
Adam Smith, Our Invisible Friend
"May we each come to more deeply appreciate our own agency."

The clever critic starts every review with some variant of, "Far be it from me to criticize, but …". That's a really BIG but, ingenuous as Hell, so I will allow myself to start this criticism more authentically. Your Invisible Friend continues betraying you. Your continuing faith in his underlying beneficence crosses the line between devotion and idolatry. Believe whatever you choose to believe, I say, but consider what each belief bestows upon thee. (I'm very likely to get preachy from here on, so proceed with care.) Any belief that continuously punishes your faith in it, ain't that great of a belief. Any faith that feeds cynicism should simply be abandoned. Any devotion that breeds a deepening sense of victimization, does damage rather than good. I know I'm not supposed to propose any hard shoulds, but please consider what your experience could become if you ditched your insidious Invisible Friend.

He has, they say, an invisible hand, one which, without human intervention, rules economic progress.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PursuingHappiness

PursuingHappiness
Reading of Voltaire's tragedy of the Orphan of China in the salon of Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin, by Lemonnier. Circa 1812
"Could anyone find full satisfaction with that?"

The Age of Enlightenment eventually brought many improvements. Previous unspeakables became openly discussed. Rights of individuals came to be held as more sacred than the formerly presumed divine rights of either monarch or church, but at best I might fairly characterize that age as a lurch forward, for none of the resulting improvements came about easily. A couple centuries of brutal warfare has left us still divided, for both liberalism and its dedicated opposition emerged from those discussions, and the arguments continue perhaps in even greater earnest. Like all great movements, The Enlightenment was never advanced by particularly enlightened individuals. Assertions were made with little supporting evidence. Convictions encouraged every variety of pseudo certainty: prejudice, bigotry, misogyny, and racism thrived within The Enlightenment and, indeed, seem to continue thriving today, for The Movement could never produce the sorts of confident certainty divine rights might have bestowed. It represented a second order paradigm shift, trading extreme faith for continuing speculation and experimentation capable of approaching improvement but only by iterating, recognizing and adapting to error. All this performed by mere humans. It was and is quite the continuing speculation that it might succeed, and yet it did and has, though also didn't and has not. The path to anywhere from there seemed paved with the scientist's patient wariness, but few followers qualified as scientists.

We seem an impatient lot. We want what we want when we want it, not later, and enlightenment demands patience above all.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Publickity

Publickity
Entry of John II of France and Joan I of Auvergne into Paris after their coronation at Reims in 1350,
later manuscript illumination by Jean Fouquet

"Notice how I'm not promising a glowing experience or to potentially change your life …"

Today's the day! I find myself suddenly NowHere after a couple of years' preparation, ready to more publicly display my creation in an act of Publickity, by which I mean not an act of publicity intended to gin up notoriety, but a slightly broader sharing. Few have seen my most recent works, though I have more than a dozen in various stages of final completion. A book goes through many completions, an initial one followed by several subsequent ones, each accompanied by its own sense of doneness, all but the final one ultimately false but nonetheless rewarding. There's always one more pass needed: editing, sequencing, re-editing, fine-tuning, the list extends well into a small infinity. Even the final, final, final, final version carries considerable uncertainty, it still being unproven in broader contexts.

I've combined the pieces I individually posted two summers ago under the hashtag #CluelessSummer into a book-length form sporting a new title, Cluelessness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfExamination

SelfExamination
The Ouroboros and the Tree of Life, Ancient woodcut
" … consider cluelessness to be the absolutely necessary precursor to learning …"

I don't think of myself as a snake and I most certainly do not possess a tail, but SelfExamination tends to leave me feeling like a snake who's eating his own tail, Ouroboros. I finished re-re-reviewing a manuscript this morning—those repeat offender readers might remember it as my CluelessSummer project from two summers ago—and I finished reading the danged thing feeling like Ouroboros again. The manuscript seemed to end just where it had begun, having resolved nothing, not really, the initiating mystery preserved through ninety or so reflections upon it. The ancients believed life worked like this, featuring unresolving cycles destined to endlessly repeat, inquiry not definitively resolving, but perhaps only animating the universal fate. Progress, or the certain notion of it, separates us from the Ancients, for we believe in the eternal possibility of progress. We want to have arrived somewhere by the end of it, for resolution to have become the reward for paying the price of admission and the cost of subsuming attention toward the performance. We genuinely believe that we're owed release by the end, that we'll come to know that the butler did it (again).

But I don't write like that. I couldn't come to a conclusion if kidnapped, tied up, and ditched at the intersection of Over and Donewith.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Detention

Detention
Departure of the Joads, Thomas Hart Benton,1939
"Detention offers opportunities to more deeply appreciate …"

The cats Max and Molly "accidentally" escaped again last evening as I was finishing up the grilling. Fact was that I felt in need of escaping, too, accidentally or otherwise, for my heart felt like it was no longer home here. Oh, I hold the old place dear enough, but I'd had more than enough and needed something different in my diet. The lamb and veg kabobs were nicely finishing, and those two baby eggplant featured perfect grill marks, but I'd seemingly lost my appetite for home and hearth, which had by then accumulated a half-summer's worth of shirked maintenance. I'd accumulated a seemingly insurmountable backlog of everyday ordinary activities, somehow supplanted by even more mundane things. I felt out of place at home and caught myself aching to escape, so I staged a Great Escape for the cats, who seemed doldrum-ish and anxious to roam, too. I had grilling to do and The Muse was almost through making an emergency batch of homemade Tzatziki. The cats hadn't immediately disappeared, seeming to complain about the wet deck surface an earlier rain had left behind. Not even liberation produced the exuberance I expected from them. We all felt as though we were still in Detention.

Max was waiting when I opened the slider just after three this morning, and Molly appeared an hour or so later.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Visitations

Visitations
Théodore Chassériau, The Ghost of Banquo, 1855
" … what these Visitations seem to do to me. "

It seems to me that my departed friends never leave me for long. Once gone, they revisit, often at inconvenient times, apparently intent upon setting me onto a somewhat straighter path, for I meander on my way to pretty much everywhere. The shortest route between any two points seems utterly irrelevant to me, as I seem to insist upon usually taking some more scenic route. I set a goal then head off in another direction, my dereliction ranging behind me, weighing me down. These diversions even seem necessary, for if synchronicity is to have any chance of influencing me, it seems I must stray from any straight or narrow. My detours sometimes seem down right harrowing, for I often get lost in those woods. I seem to sometimes even abandon myself when straying, as if my underlying purpose in pursuing might have always been betraying myself. I end up lost, good and lost though it often feels bad and betrayed, as though I've cost myself my dream.

My departed friends tend to visit me then, when I'm feeling pretty near to absolutely dead-ended.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Experteasing

Experteasing
Left panel of the Dreux Budé triptych: the betrayal and arrest of Christ,
with the donors Dreux Budé and his son Jean presented by Saint Christopher by Master of Dreux Budé (circa 1450)
" … a place where few will ever suspect you of the sin of full expertise."

When I call for a refrigerator repair, I hope an expert (but not too much of an expert) will show up. I prefer working with an upwardly mobile journeyman rather than a full master. The full master's likely to be dismissive and perhaps denigrate me for abusing the appliance while the journeyman will still be inquisitive and learning, and more likely personable. Masters tend to be grumpy and filled with apparently irrelevant details, which they're anxious to share. I won't really want to learn the complete history of refrigeration, just enough information to get my machine working again. I'm even satisfied if the journeyman has to call back to the office for additional information. The expert who can complete the repair with his eyes closed scares me.

The problem with the experts in any field might be that they tend to scare the people with whom they interact.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReOpeningUp

ReOpeningUp
According to Sotheby's: Cats being instructed In the art of mouse-catching by an owl
Looks more like: A cat orchestra/choir directed by an owl, with sheet music made of little drawings of mice
Oil on canvas, circa 1700

"Yea, we can hear you now."

Each conflict seems to encounter its Midway Moment, an event that, while not fully resolving anything then, clearly presages an eventual outcome. I believe that this late July week just might have provided this cue. Though we're far from through with This Damned Pandemic, we seem to finally be taking it as seriously as it had been taking us for months and months. I see clear signs that we're no longer hawking bleach or hydroxychloroquine, and even Floridians and Texans seem humbled as their ICU beds fill to overflowing. Pandemics famously continue until. Until what is never obvious, but Damned Pandemics can be damned insistent, heartlessly continuing until we somehow catch on. Then we're playing catch-up for a long while. Few seem willing early on to trust mere knowledge or experience, and most want to rely upon their instincts, which have not yet evolved to fully understand the previously unexperienced challenge. We initially reject historical analogies as preposterous. We learn, painfully slowly, then we begin engineering a reckoning, a ReOpeningUp. Something seems to need to change within us before the changes we strive to engineer around us can come to anything but naught. This was the week that prefaced something different coming.

Extremism in pursuit of anything inevitably produces the opposite of its intention.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Backlisting

Backlisting
"Salvation visits, and the heavens open in blissful chorus …"

Back in the earlier days of this Damned Pandemic, shoppers became familiar with terms like Fragile Supply Chain, a concept every bit as interesting as Capital Asset Pricing Model or Unsecured Credit Default Swap, stuff the average Jane or Joe never found reason to care about until the National Toilet Paper Stockpile turned up empty seemingly overnight. We had come to think of toilet paper as an almost God-given right, by which I mean it had become the ultimate free good, given gratis in public restrooms everywhere without ever a thought to where it might come from. It turned out that there was a whole industry behind its production and distribution, that fairies hadn't just left the stuff within eternally easy reach. Shortages were possible, and we had no idea how we might ration the stuff. Many had never fully appreciated that the lowly toilet roll might have been a tacit centerpoint of their professional compensation package, for the employee "lounge" had never once attempted to charge for or ration the stuff, though rumor had it that the executive floor stocked a fluffier quality than did the John off the loading dock. Anyway, us consumers were shocked when we found empty shelves dominating the old TP aisle. Shortages quickly spread to the paper towel shelves, too, and we formerly privileged many were rudely introduced to the sort of austerity that hit us square in the shorts. Ouch!

Some shifted to online shopping, prompting an armada of brand new Amazon vans with their weird smiley face logo to begin rushing family-sized containers of this freshly precious stuff to every corner of the country.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LongDistance

LongDistance
" … a history where LongDistance briefly grew ever shorter before smartly snapping back closer to its traditional borders."

Geezers have always loved to tell stories about The Old Days, by which I mean the days when this world still seemed young to them. The later days, these days where geezers experience their ever advancing age, seem downright ancient in comparison, for they feature patterns grown far too familiar to frequently surprise or even delight, while back then, every new morning brought promise and discovery. Every generation believes that this world was produced for their delight and personal enlightenment. I remember doubting the existence of history then. How could history have been if I had not been included in it? I considered everything chronicled as having occurred before I was born to be a rumor, fiction created to cover up an obvious truth, that there could not possibly be a world without me being in it. Of course life eventually beat that notion out of me, once I'd started accumulating my own history for which many had not been present to witness. Aging eventually cures self-centeredness.

Horizons seemed to have broadened since then.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ChickenShit

chickenshit
Katharina Fritsch, Hahn/Cock, 2013
"I cannot quite imagine a payoff or penalty worth the risk just yet."

Much of what tries to pass as information emanating from the current administration (which cannot seem to properly administer anything) bounces right off me. I can't care about crowd sizes or Our President's glowing self-assessments. I know they're all lies, and I'm not surprised or deeply troubled by them. He's a troubled man publicly wrestling with himself and largely losing. It's not really a fair fight. I mostly pity the poor guy, who by many accounts, never believed that he'd ever be elected into office and never really took to The White House. I understand that he'd really rather be golfing, a man his age, accustomed to big swindles and dedicated to never working very hard. He's arm candy gone stale and bitter, no longer really fit for public observation yet addicted to the stage. He seems to live in a dismissive rage now that he's the most powerful man in the world, or was before he started shedding power in favor of force which, of course, reliably backfired on him. Then he took to lying about our Damned Pandemic, obviously not even trying for a shred of truth, and I noticed that I noticed this and watched myself turn all ChickenShit.

ChickenShit's a Junior High word describing anyone unwilling to accept an unreasonable challenge.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AnEcologyOfUnknowability

Unknowability
Cecil Collins, The Quest, 1938
"Our limitations denote the depth of our wisdom, not the breadth of our stupidity."

The unknowable seems to bedevil me. I do okay with the Known Knows, the Known Unknowns, and even with the Unknown Unknowns, for each of these categories still contain a presumption of potential knowability. My demons inhabit an orthogonal space which I cannot quite place on any known continuum, those defined by their tenacious unknowability. My ability to know serves no purpose there, for I could not possibly compare Unknowability's content to anything known or even anything distantly suspected, otherwise it might slip into some ultimately knowable classification. Some questions are nothing more than questions, posed, perhaps, not for answering resolution but to simply endlessly resonate. Who or what created the universe and when? What will next Tuesday bring? How many angels could actually dance on the head of this-here pin? We cannot even begin to know.

I can certainly pare down some mysteries, carve along margins to come to know a few details without ever actually addressing any fundamentally unknowable.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gathering

Gathering
The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (interior view), painted 1432 by van Eyck
"They're well worth the occasional, exceptional, judicious risk …"

I reflected as we drove the narrow twisty road down into Boulder that I had not attended a Gathering of any sort in five full months. Focused upon sheltering in place, justifying going anyplace had become a negotiation, with just staying home usually winning the debate. Out, we became Covid invisible, proximity monitors on full alert, averted gazes taking the place of all human contact. We could move through as much of a crowd as an entry-controlled grocery store could offer without making a ripple, hardly noticing our own presence there before heading back to our altogether too familiar car which would as equally invisibly carry us back home and into isolation. But The Muse's first cousin's daughter Grace was holding a graduation recital up at their Boulder place, strict masking in place and to be held outdoors. The Muse's aunt would be there and the promise of a little family time drew us. I did not feel nearly as concerned as I expected to feel.

This was a genuine shindig attracting a crowd of perhaps sixty seated in lawn chairs across the broad front yard.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ConSpiriting

ConSpirit
Youth of Moses, Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, circa 1481
" … some days, I even suspect myself."

Those in the know come to understand that everything's a conspiracy, and this might well be true. I gratefully live out of the know, largely unconnected, absent that conspiracy-minded spirit. I see ample evidence of a vast right wing conspiracy rooted way back in the Confederacy and dedicated to utterly undermining any threat of representative democracy encroaching on their autocracy. Most of us were certified under some form of neoliberal indoctrination, with "friendly" corporations funding special programs, even whole departments, at our so-called public universities. We come to hate commies, love Jesus, despise taxes, own guns, and distrust our own government. We weren't born wanting any of that. A conspiracy was probably behind it, but so what? So what?

ConSpiriting, that hounding sense that some deep dark conspiracy's actually behind most everything, cannot be disproven.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WarFooting

WarFooting
Romare Bearden: Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, 1967
"Lead us, please, into temptation and deliver us into the open arms of genuine evil, for we've come to revel in our supreme sense of invulnerability, for we are free! Free …"

Our enemies show us who we are, who we become when under extreme duress. Our friends reinforce for us who we intend to be, but our enemies goad us into showing who we're capable of being when we stop trying to please. We never placate or reassure our actual enemies, but seem to seek opportunities to highlight just how evil they must certainly be underneath. We give no quarter, we take no prisoners unless forced to, and then, only begrudgingly. We have demonstrated our willingness to bankrupt ourselves when we're on a WarFooting. Nothing's too expensive then, we'll mortgage the farm and the truck and the cow without hardly considering how we might one day repay the debt. When it's war, we conscript our sons, willingly wager our futures, and forget what we learned in the past. Nothing seems too dear and we inure ourselves to committing unspeakable acts for righteousness' sake. We conscript God and all religions to sanctify our necessary insanity. We are gratefully rarely publicly warring, for we've grown to understand that we can hide what's going on in those distant war zones by keeping the press out and lying to the public about what those invisible tussles might really be about. We have no stomach for war or for the truths it discloses to us about ourselves.

I can tell that we are not on a WarFooting where our Damned Pandemic's concerned.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Healing

Healing
Mediaeval tapestry illustrating bloodletting.
" … I'm satisfied with Healing from my latest attempt to heal myself."

I woke up this morning with a clear head for the first time in six months. The outset of the malady had somehow escaped my notice, for I was at that time filled with fresh promise. My Nurse-Practitioner had prescribed a fresh medication intended to counteract my high triglycerides level, a condition I inherited from my father and share with all my siblings. I had tried—honest, I'd tried—back during the cholesterol scare of the eighties, to find some way to combat this anomaly, but had surrendered when the prescribed medication was recalled as more dangerous than the impending disease. I'd taken to observing by far my favorite treatment, radical acceptance of the way things just seem to insist upon being. I figured, and probably not wrongly, that the state of the Healing arts had not then progressed to successfully treat what my father had only managed to unsuccessfully try to treat for the last half of his nearly eighty-five years. I'd concluded that my triglycerides were a feature and unlikely to encumber my life.

But my brother had told me about a prescription he'd started taking and my sisters chimed in that they'd begun this treatment, too, with promising results, so, though I was hardly convinced it would address my instance, I agreed to at least try it and see. I tried it and saw.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

JustPracticing

Practicing
Theodoor Rombouts: Allegory of the Five Senses, first half of the 17th Century.
"You're not actually going anywhere, anyway, JustPracticing."

When physicians ply their trade we say they're Practicing medicine. When surgeons work, we claim that they're performing. Since all surgeons are simultaneously physicians, are they Practicing when they perform? Our terms for engagement might misrepresent the nature of engagement. Are truck drivers performing a service or practicing a skill in which they've yet to achieve full proficiency? I might expect flawless service from a performing practitioner but accept a few flaws from a Practicing one. The very term practitioner suggests someone practicing, the skilled practitioner supposedly the more experienced at Practicing rather than performing. Practicing, as anyone stuck with a clarinet in 4th grade understands, does not necessarily translate into immediate or even eventual perfection. One might become much more skilled at Practicing than they ever become at performing, as every garage band member can attest. And it might well be that every performance serves as a simple extension of Practicing, albeit in some different context. Singing in the shower might prepare someone to perform on a stage, but the situations hardly compare.

Practicing seems necessary but not predictive.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Memento Mori

Mori
Pablo Picasso, Goat’s Skull, Bottle and Candle, 1952

Memento mori: an artwork designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the shortness and fragility of human life.

"Plagues only seem interminable. Life remains short."

Not to wax too finely over the obvious, but The Damned Pandemic strikes me as an enormous Memento Mori. It hovers as an annoyingly continuous reminder of the proximity of morbidity, mortality, and tragedy. Threat hovering over an Eat, Drink, and Be Merry Culture so recently dedicated to ignoring these inescapable elements of existence. Excuse us, please, if we all of a sudden seem unusually pissy. I've noticed myself complaining more but curiously enjoying it much less. I never became an actual habitual complainer, thinking the practice generally unseemly, but I readily admit to finding some welcome solace in the practice, if only occasionally. My complaints seem to work like a capacitor, slowly building a charge before releasing it in a quick discharge, seemingly coming from absolutely nowhere. I'm a smoldering, slow-burn sort of guy, rarely belying my steady countenance until already over some edge. Curiously, I usually feel much better after an outburst, as if most of the cure for my complaint came from simply airing it. An ounce of finding somebody to whine to might be worth a pound of any other cure.

Now, we only have each other to whine to and we each suffer from precisely the same complaint.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

'Stitions

Stitions
Théophile Steinlen's 1896 poster advertising a tour to other cities ("coming soon") of Le Chat Noir's troupe of cabaret entertainers
"Evil might even appreciate my diligence whenever I remember to keep it at bay."

I consider myself minor-stitious rather than superstitious. This designation means that I maintain more awareness than belief. I certainly do notice when a black cat crosses my path, remain scrupulous about not walking beneath open ladders, and appreciate parking karma when it visits me, but I do not go into hiding at the drop of a black cat, open ladder, or when forced to park a quarter mile away from my destination. I believe it healthy for a modern such as myself to retain a taste for lore from the past, not to the point of foraging for newt eyes or keeping a caldron simmering, but to show respect for my ancient elders. I feel confident believing that a few of my direct ancestors believed in witches, for they were Puritans, and Puritans believed such things. I feel confident that a few of my more firmly held beliefs will have been shown up as mere superstitions four hundred years hence, for that's just something futures seem destined to do to our practices, particularly the more sacred ones. I acknowledge my primitive sides, even though they might presently mostly hide from my sight.

Many of my 'stitions stem from my relationship with synchronicity, that sometimes sense that destiny's discovered me by means of the apparently happy accident.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Slipstems

Slipstems
Picture by Drawing Machine 1, c. 1960
"I type with one hesitant finger regardless of the keypad."

We now possess what we firmly believe to be a well-developed understanding of systems. It's systems this and systems that, everything spoken of in systemic terms. I, myself, sometimes seem little more than a minor node within some vast collection of interrelated nodes, probably contributing some essential element to achieving some unknowable. We have ample systems where the leg bone's quite obviously connected to the hip bone, and innumerable essentially unconceivable systems where mysterious viruses invade in mysterious ways. We do not seem to have a well-developed theory of unconceivable systems, though, other than to complain about so-and-so seeming to not be much of a systems thinker, and I think we suffer under this absence. I refer to these mysterious systems as Slipstems, for their subtleties seem to slip right by us. We perceive them as materially different from what they might actually be, and behave accordingly, coping poorly with the resulting feedback.

I think of systems as unforgiving monsters tamed only by understanding.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Feckonomics

Feconomics
Richard Anuszkiewicz, Knowledge and Disappearance, 1961
"Human agency becomes evidence of absent fealty and simple want, a grave moral shortcoming."

Economics seems the most feckless profession, one largely populated with avowed blind men endlessly arguing over the nature of an imaginary elephant before them. Each wears the spectacles acquired through their religious conversion into one school or another, the sorts of schools more focused upon indoctrination than studied observation. One might claim to be of the Austrian School, an aristocratic pedigree, indeed. Another might have sworn fealty to Keynes, a mighty systems thinker who never actually settled into any particular insistence. The Behaviorists have become increasingly popular, though they fancy themselves as insurgents not aspiring to prominence within the profession. Supply-siders, rarer than exotic hen's teeth following their 2008 financial system debacle, executed a come back on the backs of whacky, self-espousing conservative Christian law breakers, only to systematically organize another feckless pilfering of the public purse for parochial allocation. It seems that only the depth and color of conviction separates these schools, each in turn becoming the favored idiot step-child of some ignorant administration.

However wise and well-informed any individual economist might have proven him/herself to be, their philosophy only ever finds utility when associated with some administration's policies, and those policies are largely framed by folks with much less understanding and perhaps even greater religious conviction than any individual practitioner.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Bitchuals

Bitchual
Priests of Anubis, perform the opening of the mouth ritual; illustration from the Book of the Dead of Hunefer
"I have no idea who I'd be without them hectoring me."

I tell myself that I maintain my many rituals to retain my sanity, but truth told, they occasionally drive me crazy. I maintain many rituals, for I seem to be one of those beings more attuned to rhythms than melodies or rhymes. I hold an extreme sensitivity to timing, and sense in what sequences I should engage. I meditate before breakfast, never after, and insist upon fasting until after I've finished my morning writing. My doctor prescribed a pill I'm supposed to swallow a half-hour before breakfast, which disrupts my usual sequence of rituals, delaying breakfast until seemingly much later, so I can throw in my morning shaving and showering ritual before I eat. I fairly religiously maintain these little engagements, inevitably in precisely the same sequence, until long after I hear myself starting to complain about them. They sometimes seem more habitual than actual ritual, only occasionally inducing any increased mindfulness. I confess to complaining about them to myself, as if I'd been cursed with them rather than them having once been freely chosen. I might best explain them as Bitchuals now, rituals where the underlying incantation has become subvocalized complaint. I bitch to myself about 'having' to perform them.

I wouldn't trade my Bitchuals for the world and most of its charms, for it seems I'll come to harm should I disrupt my sacredly profane routine.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Behinder

Behinder
Hare, Fruit and Parrot, Jan Fyt (Fijt), Flanders, 1647


"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." -Lewis Carroll


Our society behaves like a still life painting aspiring to become a Walt Disney movie. Directed to stand down, we commence to running around as if simply sitting still might kill us. We had formerly proven ourselves to be an impatient lot with hungry eyes, sprinting into our future, prone to act first and think later, if ever, so I should not feel in the least bit surprised at our latest antics. Certainly some seem fully capable of simply sitting with themselves, alone with their existence, but generations cultured as Mall Rats seem more than hesitant to abandon their once reliable ship. Days off were often seen as excuses to get out and do something, and any urge to stay at home, evidence of some underlying social malady. We became public beings without apparent private life, sharing what would have once been seen as personal secrets with loosely organized audiences composed of more or less equally imperfect strangers, bound by our compulsions.

How, the pundits wonder, did the You Ess of A become the centerpiece in this latest piece of performance art?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheSphericalCow

cascading
"The scientist trains to understand how to propose and then let go of naive initial assumptions."

Theoretical Physicists seem to forever resort to a mythical Spherical Cow when attempting to analyze some natural phenomenon. Let's say, for instance, that said physicist wanted to consider the aerodynamics of a cow. (This sort of problem rarely comes up for consideration in the careers of chartered accountants. This might be the best reason to avoid a career in chartered accountancy.) Rather than first include all the variations a cow's body shape might add to the initial calculation, the canny physicists will employ a bit of fiction and first assume a Perfectly Spherical Cow, an utter absurdity. Given this regular shape, general principles might be easily identified to produce a rough first draft of a solution. Later, our physicist can add complications like legs, horns, hooves, and head, to iteratively produce more real world assessments. First pass assessments frequently rely upon a mythical Spherical Cow.

Much science advances in a similar fashion, building upon some deliberate fiction when first attempting to understand some phenomena.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HeatWave

HeatWave
Die Kornernte (The Harvesters), Pieter Bruegel der Ältere (Peter Bruegel The Elder), 1565
"I cannot capture these dehydrated days for reconstitution later this year."

The petunias have finally come into their own, thirsty every other day. Those plants not yet convinced that it's actually summer probably won't amount to much this year. The deck fountain loses an inch to evaporation overnight and will need refilling by tomorrow. The yard crunches underfoot, though the grass still looks green. Everything dries from the bottom up, the soil losing moisture faster than does the foliage. I'm on watch, wary of another huge water bill, I become stingy and careful. The air feels so dry that I wake up unable to swallow, my throat desiccated overnight to the texture of dry rubber. The air feels lighter than air. A cloud tries to drop rain, but its moisture can't quite make it to the ground and leaves nothing but a smear along the far horizon. Deer graze through the neighbor's garden, pruning plants they usually avoid. I prefer a shady spot these mornings while the world awakens to face a HeatWave.

By what magic has that winter become summer? I missed the transition.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ParodyProductions

ParodyProduction
Book illustration of Pulcinella in 1700 (1860) by Maurice Sand
" … we're each seemingly blessed with this bottomless ability …"

My first enlightenment came with a frightening realization. I really felt as though I had been successfully passing for what I deeply felt I simply had to be. I caught myself behaving as the self I'd convinced myself I simply had to be, and I, in that moment, saw right through my flimsy facade. I felt in that humbling moment, deeply ashamed at how I'd managed to game myself into that condition. I felt deep contrition, but had yet to understand who else I might pass myself off as being. I had known almost forever that nobody would ever accept the me I once knew to be most representative of myself, that I could publicly be anyone else, but never myself, one Hell of a deeply false premise. And so had begun my first and probably greatest ParodyProduction of my life. I've been living down that performance ever since.

A parody begins with a slightly twisted premise and over time tends to turn into a really bad episode of The I Love Lucy Show.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfDeflection

Self-Deflection
"Maybe we can't afford to know any different …"

In this neighborhood, almost everyone comes and goes through their garage door. As a car approaches home, the door opens via remote control, the car enters, and the inhabitant exits their car inside as the garage door slides back closed. This pattern limits opportunities for interacting with neighbors. Indeed, it limits one's ability to ever even meet a neighbor. We live adjacent but largely anonymously. I see the joggers and dog walkers without usually knowing which garage door they live behind. Once buttoned up at home, most people live looking out the back of their houses, where the hillsides provides views. The front yards, dominated by the driveway, might receive little but modest attention and even less traffic. Further, covenants limit the range of potential individuation allowed by each homeowner. Colors must conform to a narrow palate and even plantings, to consistent guidelines. I just this week, while out looking at the twilit sky, met a neighbor who lives just five doors up the street. She'd been living there since long before The Muse and I moved in five years ago. We'd never seen or met each other before.

This lifestyle seems like a form of SelfDeflection to me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InterdependenceDay

InterdependenceDay
William Henry Fox Talbot, The Open Door, before May 1844
"Living free means living interdependently …"

Our kittens Max and Molly behave as if they'd rather I maintained an open door policy, for they feign fierce independence. They're apt to slip by me when I'm carting supper out onto the deck, though I'm more likely to accidently-on-purpose let them slip by me. They gleefully head for the stairway down to the backyard, where they munch long grass fronds —to later barf back up with their supper, which I will dutifully clean up without complaint—, cultivate garden beds, and roll around in the dirt before stealthily stalking birds they could not possibly catch. An hour or less later, and their independent spirit lags. Molly lies near the top of the stairs staring off into the distance while Max maintains his resistance, perhaps by climbing a tree. A shake of the kitty treats package brings them both fleeing back into accustomed dependency, though they shortly start sniffing and mewling around the door again, hoping to regain their independence.

Sometimes, Molly will escape and stay away for a day or longer, but eventually she'll return, contrite, looking as if she might appreciate a square meal.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfReferencer

SelfReferencer
Pablo Picasso, Self-portrait with Palette, 1906


"I admit that I can usually see little further than my own nose …"


All literature seems inescapably self-referential, each work essentially self portraiture. That seems the sort of opening sentence certain to ward off all but the very most dedicated and/or delusional readers, for few want to experience another snake eating his own tail. Us readers want stories, and we're much less picky than we probably should be about where those stories come from or really what they're about. Stories can sooth readers into a supreme sense of self-control, elevating each into the role of almost omniscient observer and judge. After all, we're privy to what the protagonist thinks, his internal monologues, in ways we might not ever personally experience when observing ourselves. My internal dialogues only occasionally and perhaps accidentally distill into anything definite, and, as my dedicated Repeat Offender readers can attest, they often never reach any definitive conclusion. I roll around in my world like a wet dog on a recently clean carpet.

I have been over the past couple of weeks, working with my Genius Nephew to attempt to distill what I'm doing with my writing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HardWork

HardWork
Harry Brodsky, Tomato Pickers, 1938
"It's always a fundamentally unfair fight …"

All insistences that we're a HardWorking people aside, I'd rather not have to work that hard. I'd feel a member of a minority if I didn't look around me. As my brother used to ask, "You working hard or hardly working?" My honest response would be that I was hardly working. I feel fortunate to have found so-called work that seems more calling than indenture, so even engaging long hours in it hardly feels much like working. I believe that even clever Yankees found ways to leave their Pilgrim forebears' HardWork behind, creating passive income streams to replace brow sweat and aching backs. Few seem to aspire to careers solely consisting of HardWork, but most might consent to a period of it in the firm belief that they'll eventually graduate to become one of those shiny-seated suits hardly working in the front office.

Still, some HardWork remains.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Educations

Educations
The Thinker (Le Penseur) by Auguste Rodin, model 1880, cast 1901
"It's pass/fail."

I learned more on my before and after school jobs than I ever learned in any classroom. I began as an intimidated student. Who wouldn't be, with the institution surrounding me? I later learned to become more enthusiastic, but I watched that enthusiasm leach out of me as I learned how the game was played. Even the well-meaning teachers expected me to memorize and test well, to diligently study (without once demonstrating what that entailed in a home with endless distractions), and to learn. I seemed more dedicated to preserving what I understood, defending that against threatening onslaughts ranging from math to science to foreign languages. I had no clear image of who I might become should I successfully assimilate all that orthogonal information, so I chose to hold onto what I had rather than abandon myself in favor of learning how to become anybody else. At work, I pretty quickly learned what I needed to do to thrive. School mostly taught me how to hide out until the serial assaults on my identity ceased.

The process of education deeply offended me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGoldenBlurb

TheGoldenBlurb
Narcissus by Caravaggio, 1597–1599
"Eviscerate freely, dear readers …"

My maternal grandfather seemed taciturn. He'd speak hesitantly except to poke fun, which usually seemed more mean than humorous. I knew that he'd seen a lot in his time, but he rarely mentioned his experiences beyond a few hunting stories, which I found generally uninteresting. I wondered after his manner of living, for his whole lifestyle seemed cloaked and therefore mysterious. I wonder now how he introduced himself to strangers and I realize that he never properly introduced himself to me. I remember him but admit that I did not now him well. He seemed of a different age. I'd seen the photograph of him as a barefoot school kid, with his Huck Finn-looking compatriots, back when he attended a one room school, where he'd stayed only long enough to graduate third grade. His census record lists him as a laborer, though he owned his own home on a small plot of land featuring a barn where he bedded enough livestock to service the household, chickens, a cow, and a lamb or two.

I began writing in earnest once I realized that I seemed destined for a similar fate, bequeathing little of my manner of living to my grandchildren, for I was certain the generational mystery would very likely ultimately nullify me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MendingNets

DeadStill
Winslow Homer, Mending the Nets, 1882
"When becalmed, mend nets."

I woke to the sound of my neighbor running a generator beneath his fifth wheel, a whale of a vehicle he surrounds with an annoying puce LED string when he parks on the street overnight. It provides just enough light to prevent anyone from plowing into it and just a tad to much for us up on the hill above to enjoy total darkness. Morning brings his predictable puttering, for he looks as though he and the missus will go camping this week, taking their whale up to some sprawling campground to, as they say, get away from it all. This morning brought a strange stillness, for the usual dawn winds failed to show up for work today. They usually get the conifer tops to tipping and whip around the aspen and cottonwoods, preventing any watering without wasting at least half of the precious water. This morning's dead calm, though, and it seems as though I'm missing a dimension. My usually animated world turned into a line drawing.

When becalmed, the fishing fleet would mend nets, for to idle away any day seemed tantamount to sin.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGooseberryMeditation

gooseberry

" … transcendent scratch scars which will hopefully never heal."

Gooseberries might be fairly characterized as a bear or a bitch of a berry, depending upon one's vocabulary. I consider them near the top of my long list of culinary delights, for I find them evocative beyond their own spare attributes. A hard, tart, unpromising fruit, they grow on thorny bushes which make them a bear or a you-know-what to pick, and once picked, they demand much from any devotee. Each tiny sphere comes with a stem and a blossom end, both of which must be trimmed to do anything at all with them. My mom used her fingernails, much as The Muse does to accomplish this end. I, possessing blunt fingers, employ kitchen shears to snip off each offending appendage. This effort makes painstaking seem downright cavalier, as each quart seems to take a year or longer to properly barber.

Convenience foods offer both much more and much less than simple convenience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Shivility

Shivility
Philip Guston, City Limits, 1969
" … the one damned thing our Constitutional liberties do not provide."

Our melting pot seems to have become a caldron of complaints, our more perfect union defined more by its imperfections than by its inspiring aspirations, with innumerable factions, each presuming to speak for The People. Anything seems capable of sparking a fresh confrontation between passionate partisans and those they firmly believe represent some retrograde Dark Lord. Masks, strongly recommended by decent people dedicated to protecting public health, have somehow become tangled in notions of Constitutional liberty, as if protecting each other amounts to an unforgivable affront. The fabled Bill of Rights now seems the premise of an endless Bill of Wrongs enumerating endless infringements rather than encouraging civil consensus. Social Justice seems the new tyranny, as those harboring long-nurtured grudges forcefully demand a long-elusive equality, each advancement experienced as somebody's else's setback, producing a long, slow descent. Consent of the governed first requires some consent to govern by those to be governed, and no consensus seems likely to emerge. We've become an unruly herd, each seemingly dedicated to separate and inherently unequal interpretations of our common creed.

Civility cannot be insisted upon.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Accschleptance

Accschleptance
The Third of May by Francisco Goya, 1814
"the first great picture which can be called revolutionary in every sense of the word, in style, in subject, and in intention". Kenneth Clark


"The world changed. I haven't completely kept up."

Acceptance of the NowHere seems a first step, not a final one, for any fresh acceptance will likely appear clumsy, more of an Accschleptance than a flawless integration. This seems a cruel joke, for once surviving the denial, anger, and bargaining before achieving a point where acceptance might prove possible, the cycle seems to simply start all over again with acceptance. An exhausted acquiescence might best characterize the first taste of this sort of success, more surrender than embrace. However such changes occur, they're unlikely to show anyone performing at their best. You'll be several songs into the new set before the sound check's really completed, and until then, any early audience should properly feel initially disappointed. Later some mastery might emerge. Maybe.

This first week of Summer included the tail end of Spring, a transition for both seasons and my blogging themes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EasingInto

Predawn1


"I dream of my own dominion while denying myself, as well."


I start my summer days slowly, waking early to waste the first few hours in a dark house gazing out into darkness. I wear a jacket, not wanting to waste an ounce of furnace fuel warming up space I'll later be desperate to cool. I step out onto the driveway to spy whatever satellite might be passing by and quietly curse the neighbor's paranoid night lights. They fear prowlers though their neighbors would just as soon somebody hauled their immobile vehicles somewhere far away where we wouldn't have to watch them rust all day and night. I suppose that I'm an annoyance to my neighbors, too, for I semi-scrupulously maintain my yard, which I do not consider to be hard work, just necessary, but in mountain communities, yards tend toward the natural, left as is, weedy and imprecise. We each display our vices, often proud of our attributes and unaware of the quiet rebukes our presence provokes. The Predawn slips like velvet across my face.

I feel master of this place in the wee, small hours.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gruel

Gruel
The disreputable cook from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Ellesmere manuscripts, c. 1410.

" … fills me up without much fuss."

My earliest culinary successes came long before any literary success arrived, indeed, back when I was still essentially pre-literate. I'd read very few books by then and found reading tedious. I relied more upon my instincts then, rarely referring to any authority before undertaking a new activity. Cooking had long interested me, but my mother was no chef. My early influences included the Cub Scout Handbook, which illustrated how to boil water over a campfire. Once out on my own and poor, I learned through sad repetition how to make supper. A friend had gifted us with an enormous cylinder of a spongy protein powder athletes use when training, and I took to incorporating that stuff into darned near everything. Most of my meals amounted to naive inventions, eatable after a fashion, but rarely choice. The mysterious powder became the primary ingredient in what I called Giant Cookie Muffins, which resembled neither cookies nor muffins, but which carried more protein on board than the typical cattle boat. They were chewy to the point of spongy, and very, very curiously textured. You've probably never eaten anything even remotely like them. I also baked bread in empty coffee cans, having no proper bread pans, and I can confidently report that it always smelled like freshly baked bread, if not always tasting precisely like it.

I made many crude casseroles in those days, dishes which could serve as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and often did.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Procrastidestination

procrastidestination
Scene In Club Lounge by Thomas Rowlandson, 1798

"A time will come, or not, …"

It seems to me that some days were not created to be seized. Procrastination has its rewards, not necessarily as a chronic form of engagement, but as an especially savory sort. I find wearying our long collective obsession with efficiency, for it seems to me that not every frog demands to be eaten at the beginning of every day. Some seem to beg for some contemplation, or even some strategic distraction, perhaps a clever tactical delay. Those observing might well diagnose procrastination as if that were a serious disease, and prescribe decisive action for relief, but I often find great relief in delaying an engagement, improving ultimate satisfaction that way. I seem to need to cogitate my way into some actions, for I sometimes waste my effort by simply jumping in before, for instance, determining the depth of a pond. Furthermore, few satisfactions seem to rise to the level I experience upon completion of a task I've long, or even overly-long, shirked. Plus, in those situations, I feel as though I've achieved on my terms, not the damned clock's.

Some of my forebears were strict Predestinationists.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Irrevocableution

Irrevocableution
Instruments Of Power by Thomas Hart Benton, 1930-31, from his America Today Murals

" … while this fresh-faced image in this brand new mirror wonderingly gazed back at me."

Some say that biological evolution works only over large scales of time, but I do not believe this assertion, for my own biome seems to have been in continual transition since the day I was born. I might have been evolving daily, scaling this or that feature, never once static. I look for my reflection in my morning shaving mirror and often stare startled into that image peering back, for I cannot remember before seeing anyone precisely like that imposter staring back at me. The hair's at a different angle. The eyes slightly sunken. The nose somehow wrong. Sure, I always find at least a passing resemblance, but I'm increasingly moved to wonder why I even try to find myself there, or more precisely, why I try to find any self I might immediately recognize. I might better serve my self-esteem should I inquire rather than peer into mirrors, trying to see who I might be NowHere, rather than attempting to catch glimpses of whom I should already understand was already a past self. No man shaves the same face twice.

My old reliables either betrayed my faith in them or were never all that reliable in the first place.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NowHere

NowHere
Changing West, one of ten America Today murals by Thomas Hart Benton, 1930-31
"Even if this Damned Pandemic never recedes …"

I went to bed last night in the there and then. Pandemics have a way of simultaneously propelling one both backward and forward. Backward into longing for how it once was and forward into hopefully pining after how it might become. Meanwhile, one remains steadfastly in the NowHere, a most curious terrain where, depending upon capitalization, it might seem indistinguishable from nowhere or a stunningly present NowHere. The longing and pining too easily become heart-bruising pushes and shoves since both objectives remain steadfastly out of reach regardless of effort expended. For short periods, longing and pining might produce some reassuring respite from any sudden, shocking trauma, but neither serves well as a lifestyle, and both in concert seem certain to result in a sort of skitzy-paranoia serving nobody well, a form of self-destructive denial. However far anyone might long or pine, they remain precisely NowHere.

When will this pandemic end? Likely not in our lifetimes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RaggedEndings

RaggedEnding
Achelous and Hercules, Thomas Hart Benton, 1947


"Resolution was never anything but a dream."


We all learn early how stories are supposed to end, with loose ends all tied up, signaling resolution. The novel, once unknown and new, becomes experienced and thereby old. A few, we'll refer back to again and again, not to rediscover any ending already known, but perhaps to re-experience the style and craft of the storytelling, the satisfying phrasing and deft plotting. These stories might never properly resolve, for though we do learn that the butler did, in fact, do it, that knowledge quenches nothing, but sometimes encourages a longer, perhaps life-long engagement with this author and his prose. But that describes the book world. Out here in what passes for the real world, RaggedEndings tend to be by far the most common form of resolution, where though not completely done, one must eventually simply move on. Time and tide and all that.

The last day of Spring, just over a half of a day this year, finds me surrounded by unresolved WhatNow? Stories.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Commtroversy

Commection


"I came from The Never Can Say Goodbye Family …"


When my ninth great grandparents left England in 1637 for what would one day be called Connecticut, they broke communication with everyone not traveling with them. They spent weeks in total isolation from even land, then years before receiving any word from anyone they knew in their former home country, and then, that communication relied upon writing and paper or long-delayed word-of-mouth. Direct connection with home folks became indirect Commection, and would remain so for the rest of their long lives. No letters survive, and, indeed, letters might have never been sent, for no reliable postal service would emerge for more than a century. Messages might take months to move between what would eventually become colonies and their former home country, and not all ships safely made the crossing. Some messages were doubtlessly lost in transmission. Aside from their charter governing the terms of their obligations to their backers—for they were perhaps more capitalists than Pilgrims—they were truly on their own.

In those times, face-to-face communication fueled the vast proportion of human connections. They talked.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NDA

NDA
A votive plaque known as the Ninnion Tablet depicting elements of the Eleusinian Mysteries,
discovered in the sanctuary at Eleusis (mid-4th century BC)


"I pray that ours won't hang around for anything like a hundredth as long."


The modern organization is fundamentally indistinguishable from a cult. It perceives its secrets as its primacy, and self-importantly considers everything it does a proprietary secret. It expects employees as well as visitors to sign the cheesiest of legal documents, the holy NDA [Non Disclosure Agreement], a contract of truly questionable authority threatening severe penalties should the signer even inadvertently spill any beans. Some of these 'agreements' also insist that anything an employee or visitor utters inside automatically becomes the sole property of the proprietor without even a distant mention of compensation for that creation. These are privileged reprobates concerned first with dominion. These questionable contracts are agreements in name only, standing more accurately as coercements, my-way-or-the-highway insistences rarely open for negotiation. If a vendor, contractor, or employee doesn't like the terms, they're perfectly free to lump it. Period.

Later, when asked a straightforward question, a disgruntled ex might legally refuse to answer by claiming their speech stifled by a prior agreement.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fatigue

Fatigue
Hercules Fighting Death to Save Alcestis by Frederic Lord Leighton (1869-71)


" … when Fatigue wins, everyone loses."


The front line personnel complain of Fatigue, the constant mind-numbing companion of prolonged engagement. The Fatigue enters unnoticed, while the host focuses upon tasks at hand. Standing back, though, a wave of exhaustion washes over, astounding. How could I not have noticed? Fatigue brings no excuses, though, for even more of the same awaits and relievers seem just as scarce as does time. Diving back into the fray, distinctions like night and day lose meaning. Like an engine, one seems to run much longer on empty than when nearer full. A definite pull discourages disengagement. Beyond tired, fresh space appears where energy and fear forfeit their former influence. One becomes a machine repeating practiced motion and preconscious skill. Someone's likely to have to pull you off your work. Only then might real weariness settle in.

Doctors, nurses, and EMTs know Fatigue better than do you and I.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FourHoles

FourHoles
Earth, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, possibly 1566


"It might not say anything about me or my overblown prowess …"


The oldest political advice counsels that if your opponent's busy digging a hole, stand aside, but what to do when you catch yourself digging one, or, as in my case, find myself engaged in digging four holes? I imagined each a modest effort, though I knew the substrate beneath that flowerbed. I was building a defense against the bastard deer, who, around here, put self-respecting omnivores to certain shame, for they eat anything, everything, even prickly gooseberry shrubs and rhubarb leaves, which by international decree have been recognized as deadly poisonous to all species since at least the early Middle Ages. I'd moved my circular wire fence from my rhubarb bed to enclose the gooseberry garden after The Muse had spotted the expletive deer gnawing my beleaguered bushes, thinking that now that the rhubarb's well established and lush, the deer wouldn't be in any rush to assault it this year. Once I'd moved the barrier fence, the deer mounted armed assaults against the rhubarb, stripping every leaf from every stalk, gratefully avoiding the edible stalks, which The Muse made into a custard pie, but the damage was done. I'd need a better barrier for the gooseberries once I moved the rhubarb's original protective fence back where it apparently belongs.

Hence, the holes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ShelfControl

ShelfControl
Still life on a 2nd-century mosaic, with fish, poultry, dates and vegetables from the Vatican museum


"A decent pot of beans will last through a week of breakfasts and lunches if you're not too picky."


Three months ago, when the stay-at-home directives hit, you could be excused if you thought that few people had ever put much thought into the idea of maintaining a pantry. City dwellers have always struggled with shortages of shelf space counterbalanced with a choice of corner bodegas and convenient restaurants. Country dwellers have always maintained some cellar space for what they euphemistically referred to as canned goods, and many maintained more than one refrigerator and even a supplemental freezer or two or three to sustain a sense of self-sufficiency. When it's ten or more miles to the nearest store, an inconvenience market primarily selling gasoline, one quite naturally stockpiles and makes do. The professional class tended to eat out more frequently, daily lunches and a couple of suppers out each week, while the working class might have more frequently brought their own bag lunch and made their own suppers at home, often after a quick stop for that evening's ingredients on the way back.

But the stay-at-home directives disrupted these rhythms, forcing folks to suddenly attend to more than than just the meal before them.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ministration

Ministration

Philosophia et septem artes liberales, the seven liberal arts.
From the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)


"When a leader pisses off their bureaucracy's Old Marys, they're posing for their own statuary; they're finished."


History seems inscribed with leaders' footprints, it's all Napoleon this and Hannibal that without properly acknowledging those who greased the gears of great revolution and, more significantly, the Pax Romanas separating upheavals. Those gear greasers came from the ranks of competent ministers, folks well out of history's limelight who designed, constructed, and maintained the vast bureaucracies which competently administered societies. We find no statuary commemorating the savvy minister, no steeples erected in fond memory of the geeks who broke only paper trails, no continents named after the genius who invented double-entry bookkeeping, but without them the touted leaders could not possibly have succeeded at anything. In our present time, with pandemic sweeping the globe, the scrupulous statisticians and hospital administrators have contributed more to containing the contagion than all the leaders proclaiming impotent dominion over it. Send me one Old Mary and I'll comfortably replace a Pentagon filled with Five Stars and a carrier fleet of sailors.

Back when The Muse worked in the property/casualty insurance industry, she interacted with many brokers and home office executives, but largely via their support staff, who typically reported to a matronly secretary who actually ran the operation, a role one broker referred to as "his Old Mary."

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InappropriateMetaphor

InappropriateMetaphor
The Solidity of the Road to Metaphor and Memory, Misha Reznikoff, 1934

"Suffering might always be the lingering effect of innocently ineffective metaphoring."

InappropriateMetaphor is the root of all evil. It enables us to perceive difference where no meaningful difference exists. It ties us to self-destructive habits, encourages international conflicts, and might convince someone to build ineffective border walls. It fuels global warming, redlining, and urban blight. It encourages disposables which last for centuries. It fuels fear and institutionalizes ignorance. It justifies dominance when cooperation would better serve. It promotes tenacious inequality and bigotry, poverty and great wealth, debilitating sickness and declining health. It makes us crazy while passing for perfectly sane. It represents manners of living as if they were necessary imperatives. It poorly informs us.

Shifting metaphors might mend anything.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AsymptomaticSuperspreader

Asymptomatic


"Our walking shoes might finally be ready next Tuesday …"


I have come to presume that all people not wearing a mask in public are undiagnosed AsymptomaticSuperspreaders. I wear my mask to encumber my natural tendency toward AsymptomaticSuperspreading. Since I cannot definitively determine whether I'm carrying, I figure that we're all safer if I presume myself to be a dangerous presence. I know that I feel a whole lot safer when others presume the same about themselves. Sure, there's a chance that I won't immediately infect you if I don't wear my mask, but there's essentially zero chance if I do, so I take it upon myself to protect you. You're welcome. I do wonder why you don't feel compelled to protect me in return. Maybe you believe yourself not to be an AsymptomaticSuperspreader. This belief best preserves your innate ability to become one. Congratulations!

The Muse ordered the breakfast burritos the night before for pick-up at nine the following morning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Breakout

Breakout
Film still of James O'Neill as Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo, a 1913 film.


"I've decided to escape."


I've managed to master about ten percent of a writer's craft in that I seem to be able to write. Raw writing, though, might amount to no more than ten percent of the craft, the other ninety percent being related to all that happens after the writing's done. Editing's in that ninety percent, but so are all the activities related to distribution: promotion, publication, and, I suppose, personality, wherein the writer projects a more pubic persona. Simply writing's a fine occupation, though it pays no bills and without some broader distribution, realizes little reach and influences few; not that writing's only justified if it influences, for it's possible to restrict a writer's work to only influence the writer or just a few close acquaintances, but a broader presence seems essential to fulfilling a writer's potential. Writing's a share the wealth sort of enterprise.

Approaching, let alone mastering writing's tail end ninety percent has always been my dread, one of those activities I wouldn't mind having done, but seem to have no passion for actually doing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Timemorelessness

Timemorelessness
Joachim Patinir: Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx, 1515-1524


" … we'll claim to have been there then without actually having understood anything."


We usually define time as finite, a steadily regulating entity, drawing the baseline cadence of our lives, at least in ordinary times. But we live in extraordinary times, beneficiaries of that ancient Chinese curse, so our time proceeds much more erratically. Some days constrain every effort while others seem to expand before us like a vast ocean stretching far beyond the visible or even any imaginable horizon, essentially black holes absorbing every expectation. I cannot fill these immense days, which expand time into unexpendable excess to produce the opposite of feelings of being pressed for time. Time moves languidly then, without harassing drop dead deadlines, hardly seeming like time at all. A Timemorelessness settles in, not needing management or optimization, for it seems an infinite good aching to be what more constraining times might insist upon labeling wasted, but one cannot waste Timemorelessness, like one cannot ever squander any infinite, for expending any portion of it seems to reduce the remaining only insignificantly.

I become a time Midas those days, where everything I touch turns into even more potential, rendering closure meaningless.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Esteem-ating

Esteem-ating
Study for Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus, John William Waterhouse, 1900


" … and not peer darkly into any glass."


We tend to peer into the glass brightly, always perceiving better ahead. Our self-esteem seems to rely upon this curious facility, as if darker visions might utterly destroy us. Those who project more pessimistically attract few followers, for they seem simply grumbly, suffering from some form of depressive disorder. Speaking truth to power first requires speaking truth to one's self, and few selves seem very interested in anything like the truth. We want the princess to marry the prince, which recently transformed from a toad, and live happily ever after because we'd prefer to live happily ever after, too. We first seek reassurance. The depths of deflecting denial seem just as infinite as the heights of our hopefulness. A No-Man's Land stands between these defensive barricades.

In mid-April, the US suffered the equivalent of a D-Day invasion's number of dead every two days, an unimaginable volume, even in retrospect.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Poelease

Poelease
Basquiat being “stopped-and-frisked” outside the Barbican Centre, Banksy, 2017


"I still fully expect to be harassed if not arrested with every encounter …"


Every child of the sixties learned to distrust the cops. We were at constant risk of arrest, whether from simple possession or even simpler teenage passion, the cops seen as at best spoil sports and at worst voyeurs and vindictives. We maintained vigilance, a practice which left some life-long paranoids. We'd each seen plenty of swaggering cops playing the tough guy but only very rarely encountered a compassionate one. We each expected to be run in for some inadvertent infraction before we'd graduated high school, as we practiced a clandestine, fatalistic form of civil disobedience as a simple matter of existence. We weren't bad kids, but we were at continual risk of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. These experiences formed a conviction that the Poelease were not, as Jack Web's Dragnet insisted, present "to protect and serve," but to harass and punish, an occupying force representing the forces of hypocritical Republicans. It mattered who you knew.

A friend and I were once arrested for the presumed crime of wading in a park fountain we'd both been wading in since we were small children, the arresting officer impatiently explaining that only little kids were supposed to wade in it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Longhair

longhair
Samson and Delilah, by Gustave Doré, c. 1860


"I'll recognize ordinary time when I see it looking back at me from my mirror again."


Since the age of twenty-five, my head has served as my chronometer, its finest granularity being the month, roughly the distance between haircuts. My face accurately measures time in days. My mustache, in fortnights, the time between necessary trims. Before the shutdown, I remained groomed as regularly as any clock works. Since, even my shaving's slipped to every other morning, often every third or even a previously thinkable fourth. My hair's gone feral, over my ears and curling along the back. I feel on track to return to my early twenties' self, frizzy pony tail dangling halfway down my back, tied behind my head with a thin rawhide strap. I for years contended that I carried the Sampson gene. Any deceitful Deliah carrying scissors could thwart my power, such as it was. I long lusted after long hair and maintained it with a reverence exceeding religious conviction. I didn't just have long hair or wear my hair long, I WAS a longhair.

Being a longhair qualified as an identity then, a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of a certified Age Of Aquarian within.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RecoveringGuru

RecoveringGuru
Adi Shankara with Disciples, by Raja Ravi Varma (1904)


"I make my own noise without hoping to change anyone's world but mine."


Looking at me now, you might never imagine that I was once considered to be a guru of sorts, for I was a designated thought leader and workshop teacher, and the guru designation just seems to come with that territory. As a veteran of the sixties coffeehouse music culture, I was certainly no stranger to the stage. I would balance on the three-legged high stool on the platform overlooking the place and perform my latest song to the largely distracted assembly, hoping to catch an eye, praying to be recognized, just as has every other budding singer/songwriter in the history of the world so far. That stage was never subsequently swarmed by entranced females, but I'd usually gain a heart-felt appreciation or two. Once I started consulting and teaching for real, the relationships became increasingly curious. Because I had been present, holding forth, personal insights participants experienced might end up somehow attributed to me, as if I had induced them, and maybe I had. Heartfelt appreciations sometimes became indistinguishable from veiled seductions. I was largely unaware, though home life could get complicated by a curious voicemail left for me but picked up by my spouse. Then some explaining would commence.

The cult of celebrity, even of local notoriety, did not reassure me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ImaginaryEnemies

ImaginaryEnemies
Crítica, engraving by Julio Ruelas, ca. 1907


" … hope springs intermittently, never seamlessly or continuously."


As society seems to crumble, live on the six o'clock news, I feel mostly moved to tap the snooze alarm. The broadcasts seem to need to cast their full color video in shadowy blacks and whites, a palette hardly suitable for representing any underlying complexity. It seems to be us versus them again in never-ending conflict. The simplicity imbedded within the storyline unfamiliar to anyone experienced in any sort of real world relationship. These seem soap opera representations, where human relations distill down to the color of a character's hat and the soundtrack's sinister tone. We each maintain our caricature characterizations of those we imagine to be our mortal enemies, mostly without ever having had the pleasure of their physical company. We remain willfully ignorant of others' intentions, if only because our fictions might prove unbelievable should they stray too far into self-contradiction. We hate more easily than we love, often holding ourselves hostage awaiting another's extension of an appreciation we ourselves withhold. There might well be far fewer bad actors than really bad plays, lines proposed to maintain a seemingly necessary simplicity, lest we grow too confused.

I watched a poorly masked so-called protestor paint graffiti on an innocently by-standing tree in the park adjacent to the statehouse this week.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Cascade

Cascade
Destruction of the Tower of Babel by Crispijn de Passe the Elder Netherlandish, 1612:
at right men and women flee from the burning tower, at left men and women raise their hands toward two flying angels,
from a series of engravings made for the first edition of the 'Liber Genesis'


"Once prosperous farmers, they moved into a crooked little house in town to live out their days after the Cascade."


The great Cascade has already started, though the full flood has yet to reach many. Starbucks has requested twelve months of rent 'consideration' after not paying rents for the prior two months. Nearly half of the commercial enterprises in this country missed rent payments in April and May, and we're still in very early stages of this particular pandemic. This sort of situation marks only the beginning of a cascade of shortfalls, where landlords, mortgage holders, and property managers start to lose their usual inflows of cash. Insurances and other services follow soon after, with nothing left to even pay the cleaning staff and the garbage men. A building can go derelict after a few remarkably short months. The blood extraction units take over half the turnip patches as the lawyers get involved.

Prosperity has yet to be shown to trickle down, but austerity certainly does, though its trickle easily becomes a Cascade. It also trickles up.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Thinnest

Thinnest
"
The Veiled Virgin,” Giovanni Strazza, ca. 1850s

"We inhabit a poor country, one whitewashed over blistered base coat."


Read any history of These United States and you'll learn that we've never been quite as united as we publicly purported ourselves to be. We project our stories out onto a frequently disbelieving world, for the world often sees right through our veil to perceive the underlying dishonesty and naiveté. We believe, after a fashion, though that fashion seems the very Thinnest imaginable fabric. We've mostly preferred to look good over doing genuine good, with self-interest a frequent companion. The recovery from the 2008 market crash produced a predictably thin result, with the bulk of the recovery focused upon repairing the veil, producing another remarkably thin result; perhaps the Thinnest ever. Employment rose to record levels, but so did the number of absolute bullshit jobs and scutty gig work, usually without benefits, providing only a distant appearance of prosperity. A puff of adverse breeze quickly brought down to their knees those inhabiting that house of cards.

Our pandemic defenses, too, were cardboard constructions, long starved of resources in favor of flashier uses.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThePandemicParadox

PandemicParadox
Rage, Flower Thrower, by Banksy, painted on a wall of a gas station in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Palestine


"Even the most powerful people on this planet cannot influence the velocity of fate."


This Pandemic seems to have promoted paradox into fresh prominence. Paradoxes shred conventional problem-solving by presenting conditions not immediately conducive to understanding or resolution. They remain mysterious and above all tricky. This one does not crisply respond to even the more well-intended interventions. Our scientists seem uncommonly wise for initially prescribing strategic retreat. Politicians predictably embraced full frontal assaults, if only to preserve the useful fiction that they were in charge, a strategy doomed to fail. The more powerful you pretend to be against a pandemic, the weaker you eventually seem. Scream all you want, offensive speech and derisive action will not succeed. Conquering paradoxes demands a certain subtlety.

Responding to any emergency with patient inquiry seems so counter-intuitive as to feel like most certainly the wrong approach.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Bookish

Bookish
Gutenberg: Colored engraving created in about the 19th century. Artist unknown. Source: Bettman-Corbis reproductions

"I never feel wealthier than when I'm carrying a fresh pile of found books out the front portal of my local library."

I identify as Bookish in the same way that some identify as Jewish. This seems largely a genetic inheritance combined with a cultural tradition. Bookishness carries deep obligation along with certain evolving rituals, tradition compounded through diligent practice. My shelves overflow with treasured artifacts, reminders of theres and thens, wheres and whens from my past. My social and spiritual evolution seems catalogued in my library, each volume a memory of a specific place in time, most holding some residue of satisfaction or insight, though I retain a few there out of possible spite, for I have through books maintained an inner dialogue, a dialectic inquiry into the vast variety and novelty of this life, little of which I feel properly positioned to personally experience. I've despised some of this. My library and my much broader catalogue came to more than merely inform me, but to define who I've come to become. My education ongoing, settling little to nothing, yet the dialogue/monologue continues.

I read much more than I write, and might most properly identify myself more as a reader than as a writer, though few accept reader as an identity or a profession, for it pays nothing but dividends, no cash incomes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Relentless

Relentless
Hope by George Frederic Watts, 1886
This image shows a lone blindfolded female figure sitting on a globe, playing a lyre that has only a single string remaining.


"This relentless siphon started defying simple gravity long ago …"


My hop vine, grown seven feet in a few short weeks, sparked my insight. I've come to think of it as my Hope Vine. I'd been reveling in spring, the great respite from winter's ravages, and wondering what I was witnessing, for this fresh season's beneficence seemed … what? … oh yea, Relentless. There has been no stopping it. A crashing hail storm pock-marked a few of the more delicate leaves and blossoms, but the expansion continued in earnest the following morning. The seeds I sowed without really knowing what they might become quickly sprouted and not even the neighbor cat using their planter for his bathroom discouraged their attempted dominion. Even the chokecherry, blighted as it seems, threw out fresh branches and suckers. Not even the endless-seeming setbacks through winter seem like barriers now, for I know how their progression turned out, or at least how it's turned out so far. A clear expansion relentlessly continues, with seemingly ever greater passion, no obvious end in sight.

We inhabit a tenaciously positive feedback loop where nothing seems capable of slowing or turning forward momentum.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Opacity

Opacity1
The Blue Kimono by Chase William Merritt, 1888

" … we must believe in something much more than nothing to amount to anything worth anything in this world."

Nobody usefully argues for full transparency because nobody really wants to see my kimono flapping open from neck to knee. A useful level of Opacity seems necessary to maintain civility, though nobody walks around wearing an impenetrable brick wall or black box. We quite properly keep our kimonos firmly belted to maintain a certain dignity, though we well understand that as a result not everything's on display. Fantasy fills in what fabric conceals, and those fantasies reveal perhaps more than any flapping open kimono ever could. Hopes and wishes, fears and dreads complete the presentation, imagination always insisting upon ever more disclosure. A delicate balance maintains decency between cleavage and knees, and not every observer seems all that pleased whatever that balance might reveal.

Any relationship predicated upon a presumption of full disclosure seems doomed from its start because only a part of anyone's impressions ever become fit for any other human's consumption

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Anticiplaytion

wildanticipation
The Sixteen Luohans by Shitao (Zhu Ruoji), 1667

" … a post-graduate course in more warmly anticipating …"

It seems as though my days used to follow a certain cadence, each inducing its own rhythm. Mondays, I'd tidy up the place. Alternate Tuesdays would find me sorting recyclables. Wednesdays, I'd stop by the library. Thursdays, I'd shop to avoid the Friday crush. Fridays, I'd poke around in the yard. Saturdays and Sundays would bring a Farmers' Market excursion or two, extreme larder-stocking, and unrushed suppers with hot jazz beating in the background. Then the radio station cancelled the hot jazz program in favor of talking heads. We filled in with RadioDeluxe, a fine production but clearly lacking in Bix Beiderbecke tracks. Winter intervened to leave us snowbound. We were gone for a couple of weeks, returning with spring to be sequestered in place, snowbound without snow, no place to go. The Farmers' Markets didn't open this spring. Alternate Tuesdays still find me sorting recyclables, but the rest of my anticipations have gone arrhythmic. I can't coherently anticipate right now.

I imagine this condition a real world test of a long-considered situation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Imprecision

Imprecision
Gerhard Richter: Frau Marlow, 1964

" … revealing perhaps more than any of us care to recognize about reality and truth."

Back before the pandemic, when I could sometimes go out for morning coffee, the waitperson would often respond to my order by saying, "Perfect," as if we'd managed to achieve perfection together. I'd order my usual large (not Grande, thank you, or Venti … we are not in Italy and even in Italy, I chronically forget the proper word) decaf in a china cup and receive a "Perfect" in return. I'd noticed that this response had become common, so I was never surprised or shocked, but I remained curious about how such precision had entered into the most common of all transactions. It was "Perfect" here, "Perfect" there, and "Prefect" pretty nearly everywhere, while in what passes for real life, in ordinary times, perfection remained as it always had, slightly rarer than hen's teeth.

I figured that we might have forgotten how rare perfection always was and continues to be, as production values have exponentially increased.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

I'mWithStoopid

Stoopid
"Keying Up" – The Court Jester by William Merritt Chase, 1875

"I might never know what to say to any unmasked anyone."

I asked The Muse what I might say to someone not wearing a mask in public. She responded by reporting that she'd been considering just carrying around a few of her homemades, so she could generously offer them one, on the presumption that they might not own one. I thought that a fine strategy, though I notice that she hasn't yet started offering anyone this sort of assistance. Judging from the apparent belligerence of those choosing not to wear masks, her offer seems unlikely to attract many takers, though just one might reform my pessimism. I failed to convince my grand niece that two hundred thousand empirical observations might reasonably suggest that a medication might not prevent or cure Covid-19, but she insisted that the findings might have influenced her had they come from double blind testing, the very sort impossible to perform during an actual pandemic. She was married to her perspective. The more I argued counter to her preconceptions, the stupider I seemed to become in her eyes. Stupid in anyone's eyes renders impossible any seeing eye to eye.

Even a casual observer can't help but notice that our world seems filled with utter stupidity.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Eigenvaluing

NikPicking

"Together, we might not get anywhere but where we always go and where we seem to belong, anyway."

Each relationship seems to resolve to a certain eigenvalue, a self-similar resolution. When a relationship becomes dominated by a single personality, a Me Me Me Me Me Relationship, it resolves to an eigenvalue of one, reputed to be the loneliest number. Other relationships seem to reliably reproduce certain shapes, the triangle being one of the more common. In these, every issue seems to have three sides, like when a mother-in-law seems to get involved in every decision, the two principals might struggle to find unaided resolutions. Families quite pre-consciously replicate reliably similar shapes, some deeply influenced by a forceful father or a tenaciously unruly child. Whenever they engage, they seem to play to the same stymie. Some relationships reliably replicate dissatisfaction while others produce great delight. It's a great mystery why relationships behave in this way, but they certainly seem to eventually project certain predictable outcomes upon themselves. Some seem especially blessed and others, unusually cursed, reliably fractal, each in their own unique way.

Those trying to shape this charge, this strangely-attracting force, often simply make matters worse, adopting one after another seemingly inevitably failing improvement strategy.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Anniverstory

Anniverstory
The End of the Song of Jerusalem, William Blake, 1827

" … what actually came to pass one day but never, ever went away."

The crabapple trees were in full and glorious bloom. The iris bed across the front had just begun showing color. The house, still white with garish blue window trim in those days before I'd stripped it to bare wood to repaint it caperberry green. The rose garden and the spreading, ancient apricot were still in their more primitive forms, time's ravages yet before them. Family and friends gathered to witness The Muse and I marrying. We'd planned a fitting celebration with fairy lights strung in trees and all along the arbor over the back deck. James flew over from Seattle to serve as our chef. We bought Copper River Sockeye filets and huge bags of fresh-cut asparagus and enough strawberries to more than feed the multitude. The Muse's Aunt Lillian tottered around the yard, leaning over her walker to pull errant weeds. Everyone who attended accepted an assignment to do something, for this would be a Do It All By Ourselves affair.

The preacher drove over from Beaverton with his partner, both heavily tattooed and pierced. The Muse's siblings and cousins came vast distances to join the celebration.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Unmasking

Unmasking

"Clothes make up the man more than make him."

Writing this morning, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd commented on Our President's mask peccadillo, how his refusal to wear the mask his administration prescribes unmasks him and how his insistence upon constantly projecting a public personna has left him without evident personal identity. Nobody has a clue who he might really be beneath his masking exterior, which leaves him a definite minority in a society increasingly identifying itself as dedicated mask wearers. Our new masks don't so much cloak as identify who's careful and who's careless, who's courteous and who's contemptuous, who's comfortable demonstrating their vulnerability and who's in reckless denial. Curiously, as Dowd notes, our great masking seems to have unmasked who we more authentically are, with those too awfully invested in playing dress up suddenly relegated a lower social standing.

The America I grew up in performed like a continuous carnival with each in the costume commensurate to their role.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

QueuingUp

QueuingUp

"I foresee a day when meat might become, for a time, flavoring more than centerpiece entree …"


I really should have paid closer attention through Junior High, for I contend that every life lesson worth learning was woven into that experience, few of them during actual classes. Those years now seem as though they were a perfectly crafted passion play, a junior soap opera with every archetypal character present. Lunchtime seemed especially rich. Each clique would congregate around their table, territorial and exclusive. The sack lunchers segregated from those rich enough to cough up the thirty-five cents for a hot meal. Whatever the class, everyone ended up QueuingUp, waiting 'on' or 'in' line for something. Americans have never been naturally skilled at QueuingUp. Where I come from, line standing was for foreign cultures and big city people. Us small city people might line up for a football game or Forth Of July fireworks, but our daily lives rarely required us to wait for anything. Our heritage seemed to be instant gratification, except for the excruciatingly slow queue in the junior high school lunch room.

The pandemic has popularized QueuingUp like I've never seen.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WeightingHeavily

Weighting1
Paul Cézanne, Young Italian Woman at a Table, about 1895–1900

"Pandemics progress by such insignificant increments …"


I imagine myself trapped in a waiting room with time weighing heavily upon my soul, no real place to go, Weighting. C. S. Lewis might have imagined this place, every seat as hard as an old bench and none comfortable. I stand beside my possessions, which I've stuffed into an oddly-shaped knapsack, which seems a tad too heavy and awkward to handle. I'm weary of standing and cannot quite bring myself to sit. I want to wander over toward the newsstand, but I'd have to drag my knapsack along and I cannot quite face that chore. Besides, I know what I'll find at the newsstand: stale candy I wouldn't choose to buy if it was fresh, yesterday's headlines posing as news, a haze of cheap cigar smoke ringing the place. My train (or will it be a bus?) would be running way late if it was running on anything like a schedule. My destination unknowable, departure time up in the air, I could be waiting anywhere, but I seem to be Weighting nowhere at all.

I spent much of this writing week deferring, missing even my own meager deadlines.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NoPlaceToChide

731px-John_Tenniel_-_Illustration_from_The_Nursery_Alice_(1890)_-_c06543_08
Illustration from The Nursery "Alice", from John Tenniel's illustrations to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," 1890

"I am neither my neighbor's critic nor her champion."

Have you noticed that The Chattering Class has lost its class? No longer does mere difference of perspective divide us and discourse hold promise. Public derision widens our divisions, encouraging them, rendering unthinkable even civilly agreeing to disagree. Daring to speak my mind might find me publicly derided as a fully fledged Enemy of the State, arriving far too late for any hope of receiving redemption. "Off with her head," some social media Red Queen says, and headhunters appear to jeer and shout down. Can anyone dishonorably defend their honor? I find myself wondering, "Who stole your trike?", for the spite seems inborn, a carefully nurtured identity, a grand and glorious begrudgement of the first degree. Taking offense seems no longer offensive, but an anticipated if overly-defensive response. A simple question seems likely to bring brimstone down upon the questioner and a curious social standing upon the devil delivering it. Dogs eat dogs and pups routinely eat puppies now, every issue a dogfight to the death.

The death of civil discourse arrived on little cat's feet, greeting us as warmly as might any savior.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

IllAtEase

IllAtEase
The Raising of Lazarus after Rembrandt by Vincent van Gogh (1890).

" … having apparently traded in my innate senses for a double handful of IllAtEase."

This pandemic provides uneasy respite. The Muse suggests that we're better off if we just assume that we're infected and throwing off virus like one of those hose-tracking garden sprinklers. I imagine that everyone I encounter's doing likewise and that I'm not successfully dodging their bullets, so I slather sanitizer before and after every excursion. An ancient adage insisted that a dream come true amounts to the most insidious punishment, and the now interminable pandemic seems the perfect foil for any former aspiration to spend more leisure time with family. Time moves most slowly when held under this kind of lock and key, where nothing physically inhibits me, but where a certain moral sense suspends me in place. I do the right thing without the expected consequent feeling very good about my choice. Nobody notices my generous absences and nobody rejoices over my tacit contributions. The Muse wonders where I've gone and I respond by asking where in this constraining space I might feel safe to manifest. I feel distinctly IllAtEase.

Sleep produces no rest, but seems to encourage an ever-deepening restlessness; a Lazarus death.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NumberPunching

NumberPunching
The Elephant Celebes, Max Ernst, 1921

" … at least one piñata short of a party."

Covid-19 case counts suggest whatever the watchman damned well wants them to suggest. Raw numbers seem to be inconsistently reported due to a near absence of testing. Some officials seriously support sponsoring fewer tests, since increased testing just seems to inflate the case numbers. Some firms and localities refuse to even discuss test results, insisting that they're thereby providing an important public service by preventing panic among people who might not properly interpret findings. One governor of an early-opening state has repeatedly privately apologized for releasing, with considerable fanfare, data which only showed a reduction of new cases because of what he later quietly referred to as "sorting errors." Who sorts data so that April follows May? Multiple times? NumberPunchers do.

A NumberPuncher professionally muddies waters.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Crow-Ding

Crow-Ding
Plague in an Ancient City, Michiel Sweerts, c. 1652–1654
"I'm no more ready to return to what passed for normal than I was prepared to inhabit that normal when it was here before."

If we refer to a crowd of crows as a 'murder,' a crowd of HomeDespot shoppers might reasonably be referred to as a 'suicide' of shoppers, for the context seems to insist upon a shopper's acceptance of suicidal risk as the price of entry. The door monitor, outfitted in fetching blaze orange vest and weary-looking face mask, turns back no-one, but seems posted as a public genuflection to a government recommendation and not as any serious enforcement. The aisles might be marked with fresh masking tape arrows which no more than vaguely hint at a form of traffic control, but I don't know the layout well enough to understand how to get where I'm going should I follow their subtle advice. I don't even notice their presence until I'm halfway there and the side aisle seems to have been blocked off for some lift truck work. I'm stuck however I go. By the grace of one of the genuinely lesser gods, I find what I came looking for, but I abandon whatever hope I carried in with me when I see fresh chaos at the checkout stands, with unruly aisles-full of overfilled carts and impatient customers. I return my prospective purchases back to the shelf display from whence they came, wheedling my way past clutches of husband and wife tag teams leisurely blocking my way, and exit the store to slather my hands in sanitizer and slink back home. I should have known better than to have ever entered there, me and my surviving hope to find better.

My history with crowds and consequent Crow-Ding (that warning klaxon sounding in my head whenever entering a crowd) informs my relationship with them now.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RustySpring

RustySpring
Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Angel Troubling the Pool, c.1845

'Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered; waiting for the movement of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water; whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.' John 5.2-4

" … in need of an angel or two to trouble overlong-still waters."


Spring finally arrived after six full months of winter. Through the short days and the early lengthening ones, I survived on my usual time-worn fantasy, that if I was not snowed in, I would be out in my garden, on my knees, praising all creation, troubling dirt. I fondly fantasized about really taking control of my landscaping, culling rocks and loosening soil until the yard looked like a Sunset® Magazine cover. Once spring came, though, I watched myself milling around the periphery of the pool awaiting the arrival of an angel, I suppose, as if I needed permission to begin. I thought the season a false one at first, distrusting the prankster weather, disbelieving that the snows had actually passed, even after the snowbank melted into nothing more threatening than ground moisture. I'd all winter imagined myself simply springing back after hibernation, but I found myself rusty and distinctly less resilient than I'd remembered myself being before.

Resilience seems to be one of those overblown concepts, the kind that imagine much differently than they ever manifest.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HasteningQuickly

HasteningQuickly
Tortoise above Venetian lagoon, Melchior Lorch, 1555

"Expect the skunkworks to fizzle after stinking up the joint."

Project Management's first principle, often ignored, insists that one must Hasten Slowly, for even The Ancients understood that each human activity held a natural cadence, worthy of respect, and that attempts to violate that rhythm reliably produced calamity. The human brain seems most skilled at imagining utter impossibilities. We experience an inconvenience and easily imagine better, faster, and cheaper ways to achieve that end, means which seem likely to produce less inconvenience. In practice, most of the time (not by any means all of the time) we produce greater calamity when attempting to speed up things. We shave subtle essentials like testing, for instance, which seems to produce no immediate value, even further slowing development when productive resource gets sidetracked fixing pesky bugs. We remain steadfastly capable of reducing any effort down to apparent essentials, eliminating what we, under duress, easily classify as trivial distractions, deferring any deeper appreciation of O-ring chemistry, for instance, until an even more inconvenient time. We take great pride at 'making our date.'


HasteningQuickly becomes ever more seductive when experiencing a critical necessity, like during a pandemic.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AskChewing

AskChewing
The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David, 1787

"My foibles seem more prominently displayed than my mastery"

I once engaged in frenzied ten hour marathons of yard work whenever Spring finally came, as if I'd stockpiled overwinter energy and it was approaching its pull date. I'd rake and prune and mow and dig, leaving a cluttered pile of debris behind me, then drag that jumble out into an uneasy pile beside the driveway. I'd call Kevin with his trailer and pay him a hundred bucks to haul that mess to the dump or cut the shrubbery into small enough pieces that I could fill the yard debris container for weeks into the future. I'd end those days utterly exhausted and also utterly exhilarated, holding a feeling of mastery and dominion that winter had so recently successfully held at bay. These were genuine red letter days, memorable for the ten thousand ways I'd managed to overcome all the usual complications, my own initiating motivation not the least of these. I would have spent the better part of at least a week thinking through an effort that only engagement could ever resolve, telling myself that I was not so much procrastinating, but carefully planning. I was actually procrastinating, for such a momentous engagement awed me from before its outset. I both relished and feared the work.

Now, I tend to parcel out the springtime yard work into two hour pieces, distributing it over the opening weeks of the season.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Morpidity

Morpidity
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp: Rembrandt, 1632

"Our own innocence seems most vulnerable."

Up against The Ides of May, and best guess estimates of the number of pandemic casualties in the You Ess of A exceeds the number lost in all the wars we've engaged in since 1950. That's four and a half months to exceed the number of war dead over the prior seventy years, and we've been continuously engaged in war over that time. Some still doubt whether this epidemic hasn't been overblown for political dominion, with armed self-proclaimed militia "safeguarding" the "rights" of certain shopkeepers to encourage conditions shown to stimulate the virus' spread. Most of the dead seem innocent enough, having contracted the bug from inadvertent contact. I saw last night on television an interview with a top virologist who was recovering from a bout he figures he'd caught while on a flight to New Orleans last month. He wore a mask and gloves and carried his handy hand sanitizer, and had decades of experience working with killer viruses, but he still caught the damned thing. This bug respects nobody's God-granted or constitutionally-guaranteed rights to life or liberty, let alone the pursuit of simple happiness.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned their governor's extension of his stay-at-home order, the justices insisting that he'd over-reached his legal powers in attempting to limit the possibility that some might otherwise needlessly die from viral infection.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pauseperity

Pauseperity
Adriaen van Ostade: The Schoolmaster, 1662

"What doesn't humble you makes you smug."

Our Pandemic has paused our planned prosperity. The Pestilence Horseman of the Dreaded Apocalypse rides roughshod through our society, heartlessly mowing down more than our fellows, for avoiding him drove us to flee from our jobs, our schools, and our precious, precocious society. One day, our economy seemed to be humming right along. The next day, it forgot that song: words, tune, the whole shebang. Even those who had subscribed to the widely popular Prosperity Gospel suspended their pursuit when manifestation moved from being a simple matter of personal motivation to one of humbled recognition and acceptance. Overnight, consumption turned cruelly inconspicuous when not even a stockpile of Benjamins could buy you toilet paper. We became jobless paper paupers instead of employed paper prosperous, suddenly unable to maintain appearances. Flow stalled.

The I Ching spoke of disruptive calamity overturning accustomed order, but those stories seemed more like history than current affairs.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GroaningUp

groanUp1
"We each hold our world on our shoulder and we are each still GroaningUp …"

The Greek God Atlas held the world on his shoulders, a curious career choice. I suppose world holding's necessary work, but necessary of the sort that someone else should do. It's a utility position, one with little self-promotional possibilities, offering no leave and little potential for advancement. It's maintenance work. Though Atlas is usually depicted wrapped in swaddling clothes, I imagine him dressed in J. C. Penney khaki work clothes and Red Wing work boots, like the janitor at my grade school wore, for he, too, inhabited the nether region of my world, down where the coal furnace belched heat and the teachers fled to smoke. The place everyone knew was there but nobody spoke about.

I later came to understand that Atlas' story served as an allegory for the all too human condition, for each of us holds a world upon our shoulders.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PandemicAmish

PandemicAmish
"I seem to have little to lose by dropping a century or two from my lifestyle."


As our pandemic disrupted lengthy supply chains, a certain simplicity seemed to emerge. The NYTimes Food Section features more recipes for dishes not traditionally found there, like beans and casseroles. Supermarket Ingredient sections seem hardest hit, with flour, pasta, and beans frequently unavailable for any price. Restrictions limiting a shopper to one or two of certain items have become commonplace. Our larder has consequently become more strategic and The Muse and I have increasingly become stockpilers, grabbing whatever's available when we spot it. The smaller shops seem better stocked. Thank heavens that our food security seems so far unthreatened, but our meals, always fairly simple affairs, have become even simpler, with fewer exotic fruits and vegetables and more reliable old familiars.

I've been reading a series of novels set around Ohio's Amish communities, and I sense a certain simplicity settling into our pandemic lifestyle.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

History-onics

History-onics
Le Désespéré (The Desperate Man), Gustave Courbet, circa 1843
"Suspended between two great mysteries, I face into another day."

I become a truly desperate man when asked about my past. I feel reasonably certain that I've had one—or several—but I don't recall specifics. I can't remember faces and must painstakingly reconstruct places and times. I didn't keep records other than journals and the few dated pieces of writing I've retained, many of them stored in formats now unreadable. Pass me a common "intake form" and I draw a blank, for I truly do not know. With considerable prompting, I might create a believable fiction, plugging dates and events to produce what might appear to be a credible history, but this will not resolve the fundamental mystery for me and will prove largely fictional in practice, should any of the details become critical for diagnosis or treatment. My past seems every bit as fictional and speculative as my future.

The pandemic has spawned a booming business in obituaries, half-page histories of those who've died.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ExtremeDomestification

ExtremeDomestification
Relativity, lithographic print by M. C. Escher, 1953
"ExtremeDomestification seems to be positively effecting even the most feral among us …"

When under duress, I search for a reframe. My mother taught me at a very early age that toast never actually burns, but sometimes browns rather extremely. I grew to extend that response pattern into a lifestyle where my first (and often best) reaction to any adversity involved reframing the story. A bout of seasonal flu became a forced vacation. Car trouble wouldn't leave me stranded but engaging in an unplanned adventure where I might have to invent a new way to get back home. Doors didn't close behind but opened ahead. I found that I could safely reframe in response to what I otherwise might have classified as calamity, and thus retain some sense of control. I get to write my own story.

My reframing self might describe the Governor's Stay At Home Directive as ExtremeDomestification, for its effect has been to encourage transformation of what might have started as an authentic homebody into something more resembling a home soul, someone more than married to home life, but conscripted into it, sentenced to serve an indeterminate term with no reduction in sentence for good behavior.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pretensal

Pretensal
Self-portrait, Jacques-Louis David (1794).
He was a dictator of the arts under the French Republic.


'
Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.' Samuel Johnson, from The Idler, 1758

"I intend to cast about for reassurances without pretense."

I compensate for my persistent lack of access to The Truth by embracing candor. I can certainly describe how things seem to be to me, understanding that this perspective might not have ever had the pleasure of actually meeting The Truth, but I at least own it. I can and often do leave myself feeling uncomfortable with my candor, understanding that popularity prefers me to project greater pretense, lest someone think the less of me. It's apparently a great sin for anyone to think the less of me. While I might certainly prefer everyone to appreciate my scribblings, I've been trying to get over the need to please, for that need alone can leave me a prisoner to pretense, poised atop a teetering tower of questionable premises.

Our current administration does daily battle with candor, a fresh poster child in a long line of similar poster children posing behind pretense.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NegativeSpace

Withouts
"Looking at a Waterfall", Geiami, 1480

"They seem to be discovering a world I desperately need …"

In the Japanese painter Geiami's Looking at a Waterfall, the focal point of the work, the waterfall, seems like negative space composed of the space leftover after he painted everything surrounding the waterfall. The painting plays positive off of negative to produce a seemingly complete image. Life, too, seems to present in this way. From my writing chair, the visible ridgeline seems projected against a negative background of sky, where nothing but 'not ridgeline' resides. The off-white wall between this room and the kitchen appears as a interruption, a negative space visually cutting off counter, chair, and floor when viewed from my writing chair. These words depend upon NegativeSpaces framing them. Even the now long-lived Stay At Home Order serves as a Negative Outcome Objective, its purpose being to avoid a result rather than to acquire one. Pandemics produce NegativeSpaces, haves and have-nots, where the have-nots seem to dominate.

I've been noticing how seductive the newly prominent NegativeSpaces seem.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Maudling

Maudling
A satirical cartoon attacking the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, for the passage in April 1829 of the Roman Catholic Relief Act
"We're still nattering over tactics, Maudling our way into an increasingly perilous future of our own creation."

My first project management assignment came over a lunch, from someone I didn't at the time report to who managed a department in another division of the company. A succession of actual project managers had failed to tame an effort, so my name had come up, probably over another lunch, where his VP and my VP had reached an agreement that perhaps informally assigning Schmaltz as a sort of stealth project manager might finally tether the aspiring initiative. I was told, as a first step, to, "go get the plan." Naive me, never before having managed a project, I set out on what would become just another chapter in a never-ending saga to find a reliable plan for the initiative. I'd initially thought my predecessors delinquent for having failed to at least produce a plan, though I later learned that a) no plan had ever existed because b) the effort was inherently unplannable. Those VPs who had so blithely recommended assigning me to fix the so-called project had abrogated their responsibility, for this project had no strategic intent, and no two people I spoke with while searching in vain for the plan, agreed upon the purpose of the project. I never did manage to produce a credible plan before the executives wisely chose to cancel funding for that woe begotten excursion after the fifth or sixth time that I'd reminded them that they'd need to decide upon some strategic intent before the effort could ever hope to satisfy them.

I mention this story at this time because it seems to inform our current dilemma in our ongoing battle against the insidious Covid-19 virus.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Doldrums

Doldrums
Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon coming on, J. M. W. Turner, 1840


"Adventure still awaits our arrival, entirely dependent upon our short-term survival."

We left port with reports of steady trade winds ahead, though those left us after two months at sea to find us beating across the Horse Latitudes of this pandemic. We lost the steady sensation of forward progress to enter a vast sea, seemingly endless, and so our originating purpose naturally diminished until we felt as though we held no aspirations save for the most primitive personal preservation. The crew grew increasingly restless as our collective helplessness came into ever sharper focus. With stores waning and patience at a premium, a certain feral nature overcame us. We lost our usual courtesies and decorums. We completed chores listlessly and suppers became sullen affairs with little evident cheer or hopefulness. We'd entered the Doldrums.

A second breadwinner in our extended family received his layoff notice this week.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Banqueting

Banqueting
"A Mad Tea Party" by Arthur Rackham, from a 1907 edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

" … like family turned recursive, …"


Every month or two, B. C., The Muse and I would host some sort of supper party. Often, when a group of visiting scholars or such would be in town for a conference, meeting, or workshop, The Muse would invite the whole gang, instructing me to prepare for fifteen to thirty, with no real way to verify how many might actually attend. I'd plead for information about food preferences and prejudices and eventually just end up making two or three or four suppers in one, so as to not too deeply offend the vegan, gluten-free, paleo, or pescatarian, for at least one of each was always certain to attend. I'd spend a day cleaning house and prepping food. We'd pull out the good china tablecloths and pretend that we always lived that way. The food never ended up being the centerpiece, though. The conversations filled out the proceedings as our guests made connections they could not have possibly made within the constraints of their regularly scheduled meetings.

These were inevitably enlivening evenings where, even though I'd end up staying up way past my usual bedtime, everyone seemed to leave feeling richer than when they arrived.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Eyedentity

Eyedentity
Banksy: French Maid, 2008 (Shoreditch, London street art)
"I could claim to be adapting, but I'm more emphatically faking it for now …"

I peer into my shaving mirror and see an aging Emeritus Professor of Ancient Languages in dire need of a haircut peering back out at me. I search, it seems, in vain for my usual cues while standing at something resembling parade rest, wondering where my initiative went. The season seems to be moving as seasons do, inexorably into, while I wait like a hesitant jump-roper to leap into each new day. I can't seem to find the old rhythm most days, and even when I catch a glimpse of it, the old timing seems somehow off and I'm caught tripping over my three left feet. In pre-pandemic days, my god-given two left feet seemed to serve me well enough. That third one, apparently sprouted since the disruption, often renders me flummoxed and confused. I usually find no clear clue what I should do next, … or before, either.

Some so-called primitive cultures forbade mirrors, claiming that they encourage unseemly vanity and worse, that they might steal souls.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThUs

ThUs
The Mystical Nativity, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1500–1501

Forget The Melting Pot, we're more rightly a stew.

In Botticelli's Renaissance masterwork The Mystical Nativity, symbolism seems thicker than the paint. He tried to depict the end of an apocalyptic time, when, after three and a half years rampaging around in the world, The Devil and his associates were relegated back into the underworld from which they came. Creepy looking angels dance above while others embrace "men of goodwill" along the bottom of the work. Both Mary and the Baby Jesus appear larger than life, a throwback perspective from times when photographic projection was often modified, with most important objects inflated larger than supporting ones. Overall, it appears as a busy image, but depicts a joyful time, for it shows a great evil exiting the world.

Some within each generation before and since sincerely believed that they were the chosen few, the ones intended to actually experience the apocalypse, apparently a longed-for honor among True Believers.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NewAbnormal

NewAbnormal
Composition with Fruit, Guitar and Glass, Pablo Picasso, 1912
"My job, our job, seems to be to out appreciate our Old Masters."

Abstraction did not take the art world by storm, but by slow accretion, for the art world reacted to this change not as an opportunity, but as a threat to tradition. Societies care about tradition because their identity lies there, reinforced by the familiar and seemingly threatened by difference. Past masters serve as exemplars, and gatekeepers insist upon fresh works properly respecting pre-existing works without actually plagiarizing them. Revolutions knock on doors for decades before anyone opens in response. Progress leaves snails feeling smuggy about their swiftness. Once the door opens a crack, it might seem to fly wide open in an instant, but those artists who idled in enforced obscurity for decades understand than the orthodoxy never really wanted anything to change and will continue trying to subsume them into conservative normalcy in lieu of actually accepting the changes they bring.

I hear much mumbling about new normals, generally idle speculations about what will likely irreversibly change once our pandemic recedes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MaskedMen

MaskedMen
" [None of us should be] above extending an ounce of accommodation for a villain not wearing an identifying mask and not one of us can see."

B. C. (Before Covid-19), masks were for Mardi Gras, Halloween, burglars and Old West Train Robbers, and the occasional Lone Ranger. We intended them to obscure identity, though cowboys assigned to the hind end of trail drives might deign to slip a neckerchief up over their faces to fight trail dust. Okay, dentists wore them, and doctors when they were tucking into a case, but most of us never seriously thought about owning or wearing a mask. Now, that part of our world's turned inside out, and the responsible among us have grown to gladly don that mask when venturing out into public.

Those first few times, I felt self-conscious.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Evangelistic

evangenicalist
" … mostly learning how much more I evidently have to learn."

I never liked being told what to do. I found the experience humiliating when I was five and still find it annoying sixty-some years later. I live by a double standard, though, as I catch myself telling others what I think they should do with stunning regularity. My friend Wayne stopped me near the middle of one of my tellings to ask me if I'd ever considered asking him if he wanted me to clue him in before I commenced to cluing. His question shut me up and served to render me a tiny bit more sensitive about how my tellings might affect my many targets.

While I can get carried away, I reason that I might find myself in reinforcing company, as society seems to have slipped into an Evangelistic phase.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Logistics

Logistics
Pre-war Scammell Pioneer
" … necessity being the unforgiving step-mother mother of reinvention."

If my decades working in project management taught me anything, it taught me that an ounce of properly focused logistics tends to be worth a ton of almost anything else. Though nobody ever received a Congressional Medal of Honor for clever logistical support, none of the "great" battlefield victories throughout history could have been possible without a bunch of back office shenanigans worthy of deep respect. Our struggles over responding to Covid-19 clearly demonstrate the necessity for competent administration. Sending more first responders to the front might encourage upswells of sincere appreciation from a grateful population, but we witness otherwise unnecessary sacrifice as these genuine heroes fabricate their own personal protective gear and work around all the services suddenly rendered unavailable, like testing, apparently due to some genuine Bozos handling logistics. The World Health Organization has distributed hundreds of thousands of test kits everywhere but to the used-to-be good old U. S. of A. because some back office politicking decided that we should go our own way. All by ourselves. Alone.

Battles tend to be lost for want of a horseshoe nail as shortages cascade to render moot even the grandest intentions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NotQuiteYetSpring

notquiteSpring
Henri Matisse: Olive Trees at Collioure, 1906


Not Quite Yet Spring

Following Winter Solstice,
Springs goes on the move,
heading northward at the stately rate
of almost eighteen miles per day,
an enthusiastic snail’s pace
but still well within a snail’s range.
A walking horse might make
slightly better time.

Those in Florida,
who overwinter in Spring,
hardly notice anything like change,

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Alchemy

Alchemy1
Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities, from Museum Wormianum, 1655
" … a cure for the curious urge to go seeking cures."

Being human apparently roughly equates to being passingly or chronically ill, with about half of humanity dedicated to somehow healing the other half during normal times. Pandemic times lower an already fairly low bar, with virtually all of humanity suddenly in increasingly desperate need for a cure which nobody possesses yet. This condition flushes out the alchemists and their claims. A self-proclaimed church in Florida insists that they've discovered The Cure, the mother load of all cures, the one that they claim can cure pretty nearly anything, though the FDA counters that it seems an effective cure for life, in that it just might kill you. An industry thrives along society's bottomland, hawking poison and placebo with equal zeal. The deal always seems to be the same: send money and we'll disappear into the ether. Word of desperate mouths spreads the story. Innocents and charlatans seem equally vulnerable. The Cure, sometimes producing worse than whatever the disease threatened to leave.

Up until two years ago, I'd lived prescription-free for two decades.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Retreating

Retreating
The Escape Ladder by Joan Miró, 1940
"Our sanity now seems to lie in mere reason …"

When the thoroughly modern organization wants to move forward, to spawn a fresh initiative, they call a retreat. Over the last few years, Major League Baseball has seen an unprecedented spike in home run hits after a counter-intuitive practice gained broader acceptance: hitters learned to cock their bats backwards and up instead of immediately thrusting them outward and down in that split second after the pitcher released the ball. On weekends, city dwellers fled their cities while hinterland dwellers flooded into them, intent upon a respite couple of days just getting away. Farmers left for their escape cabins in the woods. New Yorkers hopped cheap flights to Paris. Walla Wallaians headed over to Portland while Portlanders zooted over to Walla Walla. Over my lifetime, we have sought retreat as renewal.

Now, living under lock without key, we cannot so blithely retreat.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Aloneliness

Aloneliness
Thérèse by Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski), 1938
"I deeply appreciate those of you who have proven yourselves to be dedicated repeat offenders …"

I felt Alonely this week, this isolation's permanence coming into ever sharper focus. Aloneliness feels quite different from plain old loneliness, less disquieting but also more seemingly absolute. I just pretend that I understand these boundaries now. Protests against the Stay At Home Order reinforce my resolve to respect these rules. I think those shunning face masks fools, people who revel in demonstrating that they haven't a clue what they're doing, and deep-down disrespectful. Do we not have a duty—civil, moral, or simply out of courtesy—to continue to color within these inhibiting lines? The neighbor kids don't care and their parents seem just as powerless as I to influence their clumping together. They roam my yard like they roam their own, and every other, littering rocks and overturning flower pots in exuberant play. I deeply envy their easy association, for I remember when those days were mine, surrounded by a noisy throng of siblings, neighbor kids, and sundry hangers on.

I grew up in a family with five kids. I remember spending a significant portion of my formative years fleeing from that throng, seeking some place where somebody wasn't up in my face all the time. I sought space to hear myself think

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NeutronNews

NeutronNews
"What else might decency do?"

Effectively responding to a Pandemic requires access to good information about its nature, which begins as almost entirely unknown. Speculation replaces authentic fact at first, and probably necessarily so. Later, as initial inquiries yield additional information, our understanding deepens and broadens, and our responses' effectiveness improves. Not all sources of information seem equally dedicated to publishing 'the truth and nothing but the truth,' but the truth might well be initially impossible to come by at any price. Later, as apparent facts accumulate, rough truths might appear. I say "might appear" because not all sources seem equally dedicated to reporting facts. Our well-imbedded Fake News system, for instance, rarely finds a fact worth proliferating, for every event, for them, seems more an opportunity to amplify some pre-existing perspective than to discover or learn anything new or informative. Fake News rattles the same old sword regardless of anything actually happening in the world, and I suppose this underlying (lying) consistency satisfies a certain portion of the population. Even pure bullshit carries a dedicated constituency.

Fake News outlets revel in accusing their more reliable counterparts of proliferating Fake News, echoing an ageless "I know you are, but what am I?" feature of the human condition.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Scenario-ing

Scenario-ing
Jacob's Ladder by William Blake, 1805


And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said: "Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not." And he was afraid, and said: "How full of awe is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." — Genesis 28:10–17 Jewish Publication Society (1917)

"Which scenario wins what?"

The pragmatist insists that we're just where we are. The philosopher wonders how we know. The scientist sets out to understand well enough to definitively say, with studied degrees of certainty. The cynic, quite honestly, doesn't care. The optimist remains ever hopeful. The skeptic insists upon the benefits of doubt. The pessimist prefers to pout. The writer shares the stories which the artist illustrates. The minstrel crafts the tune. The politician shares a Spandex® truth. Each holding their own perspective; each perspective, a part of some whole. Each provides a slant none of the others could know. None holds The Truth that everyone does.

The Muse found a social media posting which insisted that The Rockefeller Foundation with the support of Bill Gates had planned our present Pandemic, then implemented that plan with the clear intent of achieving world dominion.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DreamState

DreamState
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing, William Blake, c.1786
"I seem to have stepped into another life which fills in the holes in the one I used to know so well."

Never much for sleep, I find that I've been vividly dreaming during this Pandemic. I had grown infamous for never needing much more than four or five hours of sleep and never remembering my dreams, but this last week or two, I've been sleeping through my three am alarm and sometimes even struggling to rise. I find myself so imbedded within alternate universes that the sunrise sometimes beats me up, an almost unprecedented occurrence. I revel in these scenarios flickering behind my eyelids, feeling warmly welcomed and more at home there than within my actual home, which has grown lonely and boring through the shutdown. I experience no empty hours in my dreams, but thrive. Last night, I bought into owning a restaurant on New York City's Upper West Side, a soon to be jazz club featuring fine but not fussy dining and first-class combos. The dream left me feeling exhilarated in ways the Stay at Home Order never has.

Humans seem capable of nearly infinite compensation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Stew-pid

Stew-pid
Rembrandt: The Parable of the Rich Fool, 1627

One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" He said to them, "Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man's life doesn't consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses." — Luke 12:13–15, World English Bible

"Some days I wonder where we think we're trying to take ourselves."

I have never been judged as one of the brighter bulbs on the Christmas Tree. This makes me a more or less prototypical American, for we were originally rejected stock: refugees and convicts, renegades and conniving scoundrels. Even the Pilgrims were more budding capitalists than pious pioneers, for they arrived with backers promising wealth in exchange for their sacrifices, servicing enabling debt more motive for their perseverance in this world, if not necessarily the next. Our founding myths largely ignore these truths, insisting instead upon a certain unconfirmable self-evidence that we were somehow, unlike every other culture in the history of this world, created more or less equal. Above all, we seem to revel in characterizing our fellows as Stew-pid, so stupid that they cannot even properly spell the word describing themselves.

We have a long history of calling reason oppression and strongly resisting that trumped up oppression on Constitutional grounds.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SiegeMeals

"I understand that my current siege mentality serves as evidence of an underlying emotional immaturity …"

Suppertime arrives even when living under a Stay-at-Home Order. We won't order out, though I've considered it twice and even resorted to take-out pizza when the ennui inertia overwhelmed me. Most days, I find that I can still face up to my responsibility to feed the household, though the larder's slipped somewhat sideways between the simple inconvenience now associated with restocking it and the curious unavailabilities attempting to restock it reveal. I wonder what it means when the veg store offers not a single potato for sale, but it seems to bode well for nobody. I find curious combinations of plenty, which cast strange shadows across the kitchen come suppertime. Accustomed combinations disappear, replaced with strange plate-fellows. Each suppertime has become a fresh WhatNow? engagement.

Before this siege began, I spent a couple of weeks crafting an array of stocks: turkey, veal, goose, chicken, and veg, so we, by fortunate accident, hold a surplus of this one irreplaceable component.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fiberation

Fiberation

John Everett Millais: Ophelia, circa 1851
"What else could any obedient citizen do?"

We're enjoined to avoid all but essential outings, so the term essential takes on surprising ambiguity. I cannot honestly say that maintaining my former consumption levels in any way qualifies as an essential objective. In my young adulthood, I sometimes foraged for my supper. Since, I've grown accustomed to a certain relative opulence, but just how essential could any of that be? I remember the time before there was ever wine with dinner, and those long years during the cholesterol scare of the eighties and nineties when I lived on boneless and skinless chicken breast. I became more omnivorous since, but I can't really claim the resulting variety essential. Does boredom constitute an intolerable condition? Do I really need that bag of potato chips or are they just a nice-to-have?

The Muse and I escaped for a scant two hours yesterday afternoon to restock what passes for our wine cellar.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PanDamning

PanDamnic
Francis Danby: The Deluge, circa 1840
"The worst hard times, the best hard times, or simply our hard times?"

The rising sun tints the eastern horizon pink and robin egg blue, transforming the conifers along the ridge into silhouettes of themselves. Yesterday's spring snowfall lies heavy upon the backyard pine's limbs, gloopy frosting expertly draped. By the end of this day, the twisting road up from the interstate will have burned to bare and dry. Tomorrow, the buried sprouting springtime will have reemerged back into warm sunshine again. I might have yesterday shoveled the last snow for this season, and I'd find reason to celebrate this small liberation if I had not grown to revel in the work. We weren't going anywhere and I insisted upon shoving snow anyway, a regulating obligation in my day, admittedly made up so that I had something different than numbing sameness to do. It seems so damned peaceful here.

I understand that these are the worst of times, the leading edge of what might prove to become another Great Depression, but the general impression I've received witnessing this latest apocalypse has not seemed at all like what I imagined end times would be.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

OutOfYourASSumptions

OutOfYouASSumptions
El Greco: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, between 1586 and 1588
"'Twas always thus."

I think of the initial stage of every initiative as The Assumption, and Our President's strongly rumored and much reported task force's grand plan to reopen the country amid the current pandemic proves no exception. It seems to be emerging as an absolute exemplar of this general rule. The first iteration always seems to have been pulled directly out of somebody's BIG ASSumption. To many, it already seems unworthy of ever seeing the clarifying light of any day, more a self-portrait of narcissistic delusion than serious proposal, an embarrassment to its authors' intentions. It presumes altogether too much and also discloses waaaay too much. Couldn't there be a better way?

For the first iteration, I've grown to understand that there could have been no better way, for something needs nudging off its dime if any result is ever to come to pass.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PandemicShopping

PandemicShopping
The Peasant and the Nest Robber, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568
"I'll know for sure that it's safe to reopen the economy when toilet paper once again becomes a pedestrian purchase."

I feel increasingly like an old dog struggling to learn new tricks. Never that adaptable, I change when forced to and struggle to shift my studied routines. I've long considered myself an expert shopper. I hang around a supermarket's periphery, avoiding the central aisles. I hover longer in the produce section than in any other. I'm not embarrassed to exit without purchasing anything if the stuff I came to buy isn't available. Unavailability has over the past month become the new defining characteristic of shopping here. Whole aisles of empty shelves greet the aspiring shopper. Combined with the face masks and the continual Corona Veers, where erstwhile shoppers inevitably fail to maintain six feet of distance from their suspicious-looking fellows, perusing a minefield might prove more satisfying.

I'm growing to realize that selecting and purchasing amounts to something less than half of grocery shopping's allure.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Respect
Procession of the Youngest King (Lorenzo de' Medici), Benozzo Gozzoli, between 1459 and 1460
"An ounce of respect counterbalances a ton of manure."

My father told stories about his older brother Dan, who was headstrong like his dad. The two boys lived with their Old World grandfather, who subjected them to severe punishment should they misbehave. Dan couldn't seem to help himself and almost daily ended up receiving a whipping and a lengthy time-out in a dark cellar room. Their father had been disowned and disinherited after acting out as an adult, though he might have known better since all but one of his siblings had been likewise disowned and disinherited before him for similar infractions. My great grandfather was doubtless a tyrant, but tyrants above all else respond poorly to perceived disrespect. My dad would plead with Dan, reminding him that things just went easier if he would at least pretend to comply instead of continuously defying. My dad grew to become a humble and deeply respectful guy, and I suppose I sort of naturally lie rather more low than I otherwise might. Dan never learned.

I will admit to a few memorable attempts to stick my thumb into an eye of authority.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HighHollowDays

HighHollowDays
Archibald J. Motley Jr., Tongues (HolyRollers), 1929
" … segueing back into the infinitely more joyful ordinary times. Amen."

The high holy days of the Christian calendar induce a sort of seasonal affective disorder in me. I understand that these, above all other days of the year, focus upon producing cheer over depressive rumination, but the expectation that I should find joy there works like a paradox to induce the opposite. Not precisely sadness, but more of a hollowness overtakes me. These seem like hollow days of obligation, because in obligating, they undermine celebration. Requiring joy obviates every possibility for experiencing it. I'll go through the motions, but with a sinking heart.

I might lose the vibe in preparation, for my heart does tend to soar in warm anticipation that the blessed day might just this once appear as advertised, but it comes as it always came, rushing off to some semi-annual church service or sequestered at home with nothing but boring family surrounding me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Affronting

The_Snow_Queen_by_Elena_Ringo
The 2020 Easter Bunny
"T
he Snow Queen" illustration by Elena Ringo
from New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Second Collection. 1845
by Hans Christian Andersen
"Watch and maybe learn something new about yourself."

Easter morning brings an arctic cold front along Colorado's Affront Range. Snow starts falling well before the regularly scheduled and much-vaunted Red Rocks Easter Sunrise Service, which had been cancelled, anyway, as a part of The Governor's Coronavirus Pandemic Stay-At-Home Order. The sunrise itself seems to have been cancelled, replaced with a slowly increasing grayness seeping through sifting snowfall. The Muse rises long before any resurrection to start a batch of yeasty-sweet Hot Cross Buns. We display colored eggs in a transparent plastic tray on the kitchen table, no bunny willing to brave the swirling winds to hide them outside, where they'd just freeze and discolor the snow, anyway. Molly The Mardi Gras Mask-faced kitten and Max The Smutty-nosed Kitten sniff at the vase filled with small red tulips displayed atop the dining room table. This weather seems an affront to Easter, indeed, an affront to Spring, so we seem to be celebrating Affronting this Easter day. How to properly celebrate?

Some important something probably lurks here within this upside down, backwards and sideways holiday.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MistOpportunities

MistOpportunities
David I of Scotland knighting a squire, 14th century
" … I exclusively pave the way I came, not the way I'm heading."

How did any of us end up here? What lucky breaks and unfortunate accidents summed to here and now? I suspect that this question might most probably deflect any How response. Though the story might make diverting legend, beyond entertainment, it probably couldn't qualify as instruction, any sort of functional How To. I think it most likely that nobody knew how until well after accomplishing any achievement, if even then, though many of us obsess over how before engaging, as if our next experience couldn't possibly fill in gaps in our prior experience. Many of us carry discovery fantasies that we might stumble into some well-placed connector who will discover what we have to offer the world, and benevolently or greedily pave our way. In my experience, which, like yours, never rises above anecdotal example, ways forward do not tend to be paved. Few have been discovered while sitting at a lunch counter at Hollywood and Vine. Heck, few of any of us ever manage to get discovered by anyone but ourselves.

I firmly believe that human progress has always been driven by synchronicity.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ToGo

ToGo
The Night Café by Vincent van Gogh, Arles, September 1888
Reputed to be the ugliest van Gogh painting
"I'm feeling closer to some essentials now that I'm taking everything ToGo."

I'd really rather eat in a diner than any other kind of restaurant. I never feel completely at home in any of them, but neither do I feel terribly alienated there, either. I find no wine list to wonder over or small plates to challenge my patience and my pocketbook. The menu features only simple food and the atmosphere feels more like grandma's dining room than grande salon. Someone always greets my arrival as if they had been hoping I'd drop in. The decaf's inevitably crap but the food's honest, cheap, and good, if not necessarily that good for me. I order off menu, almost always the same thing, breakfast of sorts regardless of the time of day: hold the eggs, smother the hash browns, and throw a sausage on the side; maybe a biscuit to finish. I open my trusty Times with a half dozen conversations burbling around me and a running joke passing between The Regulars and the waitresses. I'd claim that I I eat in anonymity except my waitress keeps calling me, "Hon." The vibe of the place renews me more than does the meal.

I can't get that experience ToGo.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Distancing

Distancing
J. M. W. Turner: Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, before 1844
"Distancing seems to open up spaces rarely glimpsed since the transcontinental railroad appeared."

One of my great grandmothers crossed on the Oregon Trail on horseback. The trip took months. Twenty years later, she made the same crossing in a few days by train. If anything most typifies this modern society, ever increasing mobility must be that thing. I remember our neighbors flying to attend a convention when I was small, when jet travel was still a rare and novel occurrence, at least in my neighborhood. Their mom, a slim and elegant woman, wore gloves for the trip and brought back these little packages of three cigarettes they'd handed out for free on the flight. I could see the future from there! Up until last month, planes crammed full of people wearing their pajamas as if they were lounging around on a couch at home, were departing every other minute with fares well under the price of a modest dinner out somewhere. People flew on less than a whim.

We've temporarily traded in our mobility, Distancing in solidarity and/or fear.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Marked

Saint_Francis_of_Assisi_Receiving_the_Stigmata
Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, attributed to Jan van Eyck, c. 1430-32
"My turn will eventually come …"

At five, I was slated for a tonsillectomy. My older brother and sister were to undergo the same procedure at the same time, but when we arrived at the hospital, I was somehow deemed too anemic or something and sent home all by myself in a cab. I still remember that deep sense of relief I felt as the cab pulled away from the hospital with me thinking that I'd actually gotten away with something Scot-free. The next day, my brother and sister were granted unlimited ice cream rations in which I could not share. In a week or so, I had to go the hospital alone to get my tonsils pulled. I remember nothing about the entire adventure except for that great relief I felt when I dodged that bullet, and even though that bullet came around and got me on its second pass, getting away with something made the whole experience well worth the trip.

I suppose that everyone appreciates feeling special, perhaps because deep down inside most of us don't feel all that special.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PrecisionAbstraction

SquareFootage
A Foot of David by Michelangelo (Detail), 1501-1504
"Imagine how smuggy I felt …"

PrecisionAbstraction has proven to be a prominent bane of my existence. I can thrive on abstraction until precision steps in. Then, I feel myself smothering. Still, I try to maintain a positive attitude. Last Spring, when I ordered mulch for The Villa's odd-shaped front garden bed, Tom The Nurseryman deflected my request by insisting that I produce a PrecisionAbstraction, the landscaping equivalent of throwing down a gauntlet. I would have to produce, as a qualifying action, a statement of how many square feet of mulch I'd need. I retired to my lair to consider this challenge.

I walked the perimeter of the bed, a space without a single regular angle.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pacing

pacing
The Tyger, William Blake (1794)
"What fearful symmetry, indeed."

After Max The Smutty-nosed Kitten broke curfew and disappeared overnight, I put the pets on lockdown. I might have chosen to do this out of a curious form of spite, for I've been on lockdown for almost three weeks now. I kind of cower within my perimeter, pacing with my head held down as if embarrassed by my limitations. Like our kittens, I know myself to be capable of ferocity when in pursuit, and my still new boundaries more than merely limit my range. They limit my imagination, too. I feel like a clipped-wing bird unable to soar. My mind races endlessly, to no particular end, my perimeter seeming to define more than my range, but also my possibilities.

I always thought that I understood why the tigers paced in their cage at the zoo, but I'm gaining a fresh appreciation for just what cages do, whether they be physical, limiting range, or emotional, inhibiting whim.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lent

Lent2
Pieter Breughel the Younger (1564–1638), Battle of Carnival and Lent

"Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities." - Wikipedia

"Does anyone ever give up procrastination for Lent?"


Not having been raised in one of the classical Christian churches, my birth family never celebrated Lent, though I gather from The Muse's recollections that Lent in her Catholic family tended to be a Freaky Friday kind of celebration, by which I mean pretty much the opposite of celebration. She remembers giving up candy for Lent, a childhood practice that she swears made Easter candy that much more enjoyable. My family had more of a barely scraping by attitude to life, and I guess we figured that every day was already more or less Lent for us. Skin and bones possess little to further sacrifice. I notice when Ash Wednesday arrives, though. I revere the tradition without actually participating in it, the same way I revere Mardi Gras, as somebody else's fracas. I usually consider giving up something for Lent, without actually carrying through. I'm plenty penitent, but never overtly.

This year, though, the Year Of Our Lord 2020, everyone gave up something for Lent, unless you happened to live in one of the nine or ten states that chose to continue regular programming through the blooming pandemic.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

-Triarchs

-Triarchs
De koning van Thule, Pierre Jean Van der Ouderaa (1841-1915),1896
"This damned plague's taking our -Triarchs and leaving only us factory seconds behind."

This pandemic has been taking the -Triarchs, the matriarchs and the patriarchs, my elders and wise ones. I feel as though the fine frescoed ceiling that has always sheltered me is blowing away, leaving me without a roof over my head. I feel myself filling with a dread certainty. As the -Triarchs leave, I watch myself shuffle nearer the top of the heap to emerge as an elder. I try to rebut this commission, for I feel far too young and inexperienced to ever take the place of anyone I so long looked up to in wonder. For they genuinely seemed to levitate above the day-to-day to live nearer infinity, timeless in their age and experience. True, they had each once seemed more like me and you, bold youth, braless or with overlong sideburns, protesting how it had always been before. They opened the doors I later strolled through. They went through first, even to their last.

The past is forever past once the -Triarchs pass, a different scale rules forever after.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnCountables(2)

UnCountables(2)
Print Study/Drawing from The British Museum Collection
"I wanted to be certain to get my spurious statistics straight."

I rarely publish two PureSchmaltz Blog posts in a single day. This morning, though, I spaced out my usual intention to review the receding week's posts before moving on. I couldn't imagine any elegant way to simply append the following into what I'd already published, a screed on UnCountabiles. I'll call this review UnCountables(2) to strongly suggest just how meaningless social media use statistics seem. Not that I denigrate a single one of the six hundred-some unique page view that you, my generous readers, left to me this past week. I praise every one as the miracle it certainly seems. Still, I can't quite distill any great wisdom from the numbers alone. I suspect that these counts hardly hint at the value these postings hold, especially to me. I'm grateful for every even disinterested peek their presence attracts.

On the eventual grand list of weeks, the week leaving this morning will very likely stand near the top of the upper quadrant of Helluva Weeks

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnCountables

Uncountable
"An Old-Time Counting Room," Fell's Point, Baltimore, MD, c. 1770; drawing dated 1879.
"We shared so much together back when we still lived so fiercely independent of each other."

We might pride ourselves on our fierce independence, though none of us do very much alone. Birth, marriage, graduation, financial success and failure, not even death can be accomplished alone. Each experience occurs through intimate association. That home, so proudly all-by-yourself owned, was purchased from someone, probably painted by others, and serviced by a small legion of supporting personnel. Each birth required a father and a mother, a midwife and aide. Each marriage, even one officiated by a lowly Las Vegas Elvis impersonator, brought two people together. Death demands some other to cart off and dispose of the corpse. We accomplish nothing alone.

The daily numbers numb me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Emergence-y

Emergence-y
Woman Holding a Balance, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1664
"The kids still want to see the cats, up close and now …"

The neighbor kids flocked toward the front door, demanding to see our kittens. The cats, on their first foray outside, strictly supervised and extremely wary, quickly disappeared back inside. I explained the dilemma to the kids: wanting to see them up close pretty much guarantees that they might see them from afar, fleeing. Searching for them ensures that they'll never be found. If they want to see them, they'd have to be satisfied with watching them from the distance of the street, but not even that alternative guarantees that they'll see 'em. The kids, baffled by my babbling, quickly dispersed, leaving me wondering what I'd just described. It occurred to me that the cats had become a decent allegory for Emergence-y, and seeing them at all, a good example of an emergent property. Sometimes, certainly not every time, when conditions seem right to them, the cats emerge, never together, almost always one after another. Sometimes Molly emerges first and sometimes, Max. I can't ask them about the criteria they employ to determine if it's safe enough to emerge. The conditions seem to vary. I'm left with inventing various speculations about what constitute necessary and sufficient conditions, most of which seem to serve to satisfy my curiosity without actually explaining anything.

When I leave the front door ajar, they sometimes emerge.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EventHorizoning

Attitude_Indicator
Attitude Indicator
"It's not that I have a bad attitude …"

Airplane instrument panels feature an Attitude Indicator or Artificial Horizon, which cleverly shows an aircraft's orientation to the earth's horizon. You can imagine that in three dimensional space, level might easily become an ambiguous concept, leaving a pilot disoriented when, for instance, flying through cloud or over unlevel ground. The Attitude Indicator employs a gyroscope, which works off the Earth's gravity to resist changes in pitch or roll, and comes calibrated to report deviations in degrees. Flying by visual cues alone might encourage a pilot to steer the plane along an apparently level path when actually gaining or losing altitude, or along a visually correct course when actually veering right or left from a desired heading. The Attitude Indicator aids in better orienting the pilot in space.

Similarly, people seem to maintain an Attitude Indicator of our own, in the form of our innate anticipatory sense.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pace

Pace
Chicago Rush Hour - 1909
"Nostalgia's not half what it's cracked up to be."

Within every pandemic, some optimist appears to cheer on the positive side of the thing. We do seem a whole lot better connected in isolation than we ever did when roaming around unconstrained. The vehicle traffic has abated to levels the streets seem to have been designed to hold. The road past The Villa sees much more foot traffic, with a steady parade of dog walkers, joggers, and couples strolling while holding hands. Kids pedal past in a nearly endless stream, and I'm sitting out front reading in the afternoon sunshine. The Pace of life has slowed to a rate I've rarely known. Home feels homier, too.

I keep losing my place in the novel I'm holding as I glance up to greet yet another neighbor walking by.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BlindWatchmen

BlindWatchman
De Nachtwach (The Night Watch), Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642
"I admit that I just cannot tell …"

I fulfilled the role of night watchman through my father's final days, taking the six pm to six am shift, which included the witching hours. I'd sit up in one of the living room recliners and enter that coma state, aware but inert, watching; though, not being a healthcare professional, I'd diligently watch for what I knew not. I'd sometimes wander into his bedroom to watch him struggle to breathe in pitch darkness, listening for unsettling rhythms, but I mostly held my post two rooms away, watching with increasing intensity for the dawning and the end of my boring shift. A few times, alarming events occurred to which I'd respond with another frantic, completely anticipated call to the night hospice nurse. She'd arrive with aching slowness, though only a few minutes would pass, and neutralize the emergency while I waited at my post. My dad was performing a cum laude seminar in radical acceptance, having embraced his terminal diagnosis without ever insisting upon any but palliative care. I was simply there to witness what no watchman could see, often bored to my knees with the utter banality of the experience. On that morning when I watched him take his final breath, I believed that he exited out of sheer boredom with the proceedings. I felt that I could understand and even justify his response.

I figure that watchmen of old wore grand uniforms to elevate the otherwise insignificance of their role around the old castle.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HeardImmunity

HeardImmunity
Saint Sebastian Interceding for the Plague Stricken, Josse Lieferinxe (–1508), between 1497 and 1499
Hunker down,
avoid others like The Plague,
the only cure we know so far
involves just staying away.
Talk's cheap.
Life's dear.
Nobody's immune to this damned virus,
no matter what you hear.

Pandemics bring out the crazies, the gullible babies desperately seeking protection. We hear of people too similar to us falling to the infection and understandably get to feeling itchy about its presence. Someone we trust appears to reassure us. We might come to firmly believe that those who fall ill are receiving some sort of payback, retribution for some critical shortcoming. Our news feeds reinforce our previously underlying prejudices, whatever they are, for we seem to run in herds now. If someone insists that only others contract the disease, we breathe a little easier, and might even continue to physically mingle regardless of the governor's latest directive. A pastor, a self-serving politician, a studied pitchman, an old family friend, credentials stemming more from familiarity than from any specific qualification, voices we trust seem to especially empower us. We want to believe, and so we too easily do believe. We hear salvation rumbling through our grapevine and feel protected when we're not.

Whenever chance rules, humans seem to create explanatory stories.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheProject'sManaging

project'smanaging
Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, J.M.W. Turner, 1812.
"The project, like the fates, is always, always, always ultimately in charge …"

Our Administration Incapable of Administering seems to be simultaneously making every single classic project management error, just as if it wasn't standing on the shoulders of millennia of prior experience. This might not be completely their fault, though I wouldn't mind blaming it on them, for nobody's ever written anything like a definitive history of project management to at least outline how it came to be and what it actually entails. Instead, little self-serving fictions written by victors filled in, extolling one or another technique or one or another so-called brilliant man. The result might as well be sold as fiction and certainly provides no clear template for reliably succeeding when managing the achievement of any novel objective. Most certainly, the "profession's" deepest roots lie in military history, for the most ancient novel objectives always involved military campaigns. Several otherwise unremarkable generals have been credited with quipping that no plan ever survives contact with any enemy. They don't generally survive contact with friendlies, either.

Each generation has strived to improve upon each prior generation's so-called practices, always somehow managing to replicate what they first complained about, producing another method that succeeds a little less often than a fair coin toss, raised to religious necessity, filled with Thou Shalts enjoining someone else to be sure and do something those someone elses never have and never would actually do.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SimpleEconomics

Economics101
Adoration of the Shepherds or the Nativity by Gerard David, 1490
"We covet health now, and a living more ennobling than any capitalist can count."

They were by all accounts humble shepherds, though that designation seems redundant, and not only because nobody's ever filed any report even hinting at the existence of haughty shepherds. Shepherds might find arrogance and self-importance less than useless in the productive execution of their role in society, for their wards are invariably humble and rather stupid, more interested in following each other around and not really in to adoring any charismatic leader. Shepherds were almost always contractors, not sheep owners or full time employees with benefits. They worked through the season in sublime isolation with only the adoration of their sheepdog as company. Yet they were counted as full equals at the nativity, right up there with those angels who had so recently rendered them "sore afraid" and the three wise men. Their contribution appreciated without compensation, for the Nativity, like much of every society, was not an economic activity.

We speak of ourselves as capitalists, though only a relative few of us actually hold much capital.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ToDieFor

320px-The_Immaculate_Conception,_by_Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo,_from_Prado_in_Google_Earth
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo: Die Unbefleckte Empfängnis (The Immaculate Conception) 1767-1768
" … faunching to go out shopping again, like a genuine Parisian …"

The phrase sounds so seventies to my ear, as if I hadn't heard it in decades, but back in those days, some would actually say that such-and-such (often a cheesecake or a particularly well-marbled steak) was, "ToDieFor." I was sure then that I couldn't quite unwrap the meaning. "Do you really intend to say that tasting this slice of cheesecake would have been worth risking your life for, and that had you not successfully waded through the surrounding mine field, or if a sniper had pegged you on the way in tonight, you would have gladly gone to your maker because you would have died pursuing this perfection? Really?" I never actually engaged in this sort of cross examination, though my mind always raised one skeptical eyebrow whenever subjected to this phrase. ToDieFor? Really?

These days, the phrase's taken on another connotation for me. Under orders to stay at home, my relationship to larder stocking's changing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Revisiting

modigliani_collar
"Jeanne Hébuterne au col blanc"
Amedeo Modigliani - huile sur toile - 1919

"Bless every blessed one of us here."

Psychologists used to insist that Revisiting the source of trauma helped resolve the effects of that trauma. More modern practitioners doubt that this was ever the case, and that Revisiting might resurrect strong memories of the experience, but might well amplify rather than mollify its effects. Freud was great for Revisiting, and the old joke about Freudian therapy reported that the typical patient was well on their way to recovery after only thirty years of intense clinical work. Still, a look backwards from a more secure location might provide opportunities to reframe the humiliating experience, but other techniques might allow for the traumatized to reframe the meaning of the experience without dredging up anything like the full past impact of it. I'm all for leaving the past buried, but for my money, I firmly believe that reframing might be the only effective way to change the past, which might be the challenge every traumatized anyone really faces.

The headlines once again scream Recession. Some even threaten Depression. These words hardly overplay the economic situation we all face, some of us much less prepared than others. Many have never experienced such calamity before, and while this current situation might well appear potentially much worse than any past downturn, each person experiences even the most global and far-reaching one, very personally; excruciatingly personally.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Barriers

Barrier
" … one needs to invent a pencil to fill out the requisition for ordering pencils."

The Muse, The Otter, and I are presently cordoned off after a fashion. A minister in Louisiana hosted a gathering of 150 of his faithful, he insisting that if anyone contracted the dreaded virus, he'd heal them with the Spirit of the Lord. Good Lord! People reacted similarly to the Great Plagues in Europe. People became devout, hoping to at least be buried in consecrated ground, I guess. I'm trying to be more careful than that Senator who might have infected the Republican Caucus. (Notice how I'm not mentioning divine retribution.) The governor of Idaho thinks sheltering in place should be a local decision, encouraging that self-reliant pioneer spirit that killed off a considerable percentage of would-be pioneers. We're still not testing broadly enough to even get a half-decent statistical handle on the pandemic's spread. We count bodies instead.

I might not be quite as careful as I intended to be.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CartoonScientists

CartoonScience
The Four Humours, from Deutche Kalendar, 1498

The Four Humours are the essential bodily fluids: Yellow Bile (Choleric), Black Bile (Melancholic), Phlegm (Phlegmatic), and Blood (Sanguine). It was thought that imbalances in these humours led to illness, but that they could be redressed by changing the diet, taking medicine and by undergoing surgery or bloodletting.

" … cider and kosher salt couldn't quite qualify as essential supplies …"

I consider myself to be a CartoonScientist. Not a scientist, I have accumulated a body of understanding based upon some science reading, certainly, but also through exposure to sources as disparate as credential-less self help authors and classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Yes, Wylie Coyote taught me almost everything I know about physics. I think I might have accumulated slightly more reliable understandings than has the mythical average person, but I confirm my scientific beliefs through firm conviction rather than by anything like objective observation. I hold at least one of my thumbs upon every scale, skewing my measurements in what I imagine to be my favor. I maintain my worse habits by essentially giving myself exemptions from any ill effects which might stem directly or indirectly from those habits. I believe myself to be much healthier than average, better fed, and more psychologically mature, just like all the other CartoonScientists surrounding me.

In my lifetime, "science" has confirmed as real many times more phenomena than in all previously recorded history, producing an astoundingly overwhelming body of understanding, the bulk of it utterly lost on me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GhostTown

Ghost Town
"Who would I have to become to thrive there?"

I drive because there's no place to go. I know nothing's open except inconvenience stores, and they're not really anything like destination resorts. The gas tank's full, milk supply fine. In the old days, I might head for a diner, grab a seat at the counter, and order a double batch of green chile-smothered hash browns while listening to the buzz and bustle surrounding me, having a little human proximity for breakfast. Us geezers are supposed to be up and out early, chasing lost youth or purpose reading our Times, appreciating our waitresses. The diners have closed except for to-gos, and what am I supposed to do, eat in my car? Drive home with styrofoam sweating on the seat beside me? Nobody runs news stands anymore. The drive-thru window at Starbucks sucks. I drive in broad circles as predawn twilight silently slips into day.

I drive to get away from myself, that quiet, sullen voice in my head stops muttering when I'm behind the wheel.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeAlone

HomeAlone
Hermit Saints Triptych by Hieronymus Bosch, c.1505
"The background bustle could recharge my spirit …"

As a card-carrying introvert, I know alone. I know Alone In A Crowd. It's my natural state! I know the reassurance of bounded solitude, where I can hear the surrounding bustle without experiencing any danger of being run over by it. I understand Watching From Afar, where the whole rest of the world seems to be performing expressly for my entertainment and enlightenment. The Muse will tell you that she's often felt the need to forcefully expel me out into the world because otherwise nothing seems to happen. I can and sometimes even have passed for gregarious. I can work a room, though it burns through my energy like a diesel dually burns through fuel. I've known and come to prefer the pleasures of the solo presence, invisible at my choosing, alone on stage performing for a room of empty strangers. Not, though, sequestered away within an entire society of the sequestered away, I'm coming to know HomeAlone.

I hardly live alone. The Muse is here twenty-four seven since The Lab ordered her stay away and work from home. TheGrandOtter's here, too, though she keeps New Zealand hours, turning off her light about the time I get up in the morning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AssEptness

AssEptness
"I could be that vector I've been watchful for …"

I secretly hoped that enlightenment, should it ever deign to visit me, might arrive wearing a diaphanous robe and an ethereal countenance. Certainly some of my insights have arrived like cuddly little angels, but I'm coming to a nigh-on-to certain conclusion that my enlightenment will most likely arrive with all the pomp and splendor of a horse's ass. Not to denigrate the velvety curves of the equine behind, but that particular bit of anatomy has long been more closely associated with utter foolishness than with great wisdom. I understand that Jesus, when not hoofing it himself, often rode into a new town astride an ass, a common conveyance in those times. In these more modern times, I seem to most often enter new territories as the ass itself, not astride one. A donkey's cleverness extends to almost invisibly traversing narrow trails and sometimes exhibiting serious stubbornness, but I'd never imagined that my greatest contribution to this world might be similarly cast. I prefer the narrow, rarely traveled routes and I'm coming to accept that I can be just as stubborn as any disgruntled pack animal. I exhibit what I'll label AssEptness.

For me, acceptance almost always follows a lengthy period of stubborn refusal, during the later parts of which, my heels too-well dug in, I demonstrate well enough for even me to catch just what an ass I've been.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

First PureSchmaltz Friday

SoupCanTelephone


When:
Friday, March 20 at 11am MDT (1700 UTC)
Where: https://zoom.us/j/3019315733
(Please note that this link will connect you with David Schmaltz's Personal Zoom Account. The muse added me as a valid co-user this morning.) (03202020)

The web browser client will download automatically when you start or join your first Zoom meeting, and is also available for manual download here.
Download Version 4.6.7 (18176.0301)


This meeting will be the first convened video chat with people who have accepted my invitation to join my PureSchmaltz Facebook Group. What will we do? We'll chat, which means that nobody will attempt to sell anyone anything or stress out trying to convince anyone of anything. I will begin by making some provocative proclamation. Following that, we'll see where the resulting dialogue leads us.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AnotherBeginning

AnotherBeginning
Moses Placed in the River (detail), from World Chronicle (text in German),
Germany (Regensburg), about 1400–1410, artist unknown;
author, Rudolf von Ems.
The J. Paul Getty Museum

"Moses has been placed into the river."

I think of stories as having a beginning followed by a middle followed by an end, though most don't seem to flow that way. Stories most often feature a beginning followed by a middle which is then followed by AnotherBeginning, more Möbius Strip-like than linear, multi-dimensional and circular. Each homecoming hints at another impending adventure. Even happily ever after suggests ongoing activity, not represented by detailed description but by more general inference. Even the most finite-seeming story leaves unanswered questions which suggest more than described. I'd conclude that every ending is AnotherBeginning, but there's no clear ending in sight. Perhaps consequently, I seem perfectly capable of identifying endings. 911 seemed to delineate the end of an era which I might have chosen to grieve over as if I'd lost my innocence. It also seemed to delineate AnotherBeginning, too, though, within which I might choose to divorce myself from my past. It was, of course, both and neither, my choice, my characterization which made it one or the other or both. Both beginnings and endings seem inescapably arbitrary.

This series of stories also begins arbitrarily, on the morning of the first day of Spring 2020, a day rather near the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, an event which only recently swept into prominence.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NowWhat?

NowWhat?
Studies of the Foetus in the Womb, 1510-13 by Leonardo da Vinci
"The long-procrastinated change finally comes as if in a lightening flash."

The National Weather Service predicts eight to sixteen inches of snow for this last day of winter and tomorrow's first day of spring. I worked all day outside in my shirtsleeves yesterday, rearranging everything in the garage to make room for that long-dreaded second car. The little voice in my head had insisted that it could not be done, two cars could not possibly fit into our two car garage, though most of our neighbors manage to fit two into their's. Our situation seemed somehow different. "None of our neighbors need to store a king's ransom in clay flowerpots in their garages," said that little voice in my head. "Store them somewhere else," my exasperated gut whispered in response. I dutifully schlepped that king's ransom of flowerpots down the steep sidehill and neatly stacked them on top of a carefully laid tarp, sorted by size, and bordered by innumerable cat litter tubs filled with last year's potting soil. The result looked like a bivouac supply base for a garden troll army, charming and primitive. By the end of the day, two cars sat parked in that garage.

I'd walked through that garage every day since the last time I rearranged it, averting my eyes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FinishingUp

FinishingUp
Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876
"Isolation's how we come to acknowledge our fragility, a superpower of immense significance."

I noticed yesterday that only a couple of days remained in this winter season. My SmallThings Stories would go on their way, replaced by another frame which I have not started imagining yet. I felt humbled creating these small stories, which started with no more than a tickle of intuition, hardly an inspiration, born of that frustration accompanying a necessity more than with any apparent foresight. Yet SmallThings now seems the precisely proper framework within which to reflect upon the three months now passing. Started on the first day of winter, with holiday grandeur impending, big things seemed imminent. After Epiphany, the days seemed to grow successively smaller, as winter days always do. Whispers started coming through from China about another viral contagion, the sort that China seems to regularly spawn; another bird flu, yet another distant swine flu. The news seemed as tiny as any that makes the back pages before it exploded, another SmallThing suddenly writ larger.

As if I needed to amplify my founding premise, Covid-19 came along to scream its underlying message.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

The Rhinoceros

Adaptability
The Rhinoceros, by Albrecht Dürer, 1515
"I'd much rather take care of anybody else."

I think of myself as eminently Adaptable, though I know I'm not. I'm certainly nobody's chameleon. I try to keep a low profile so as to not stand out. My primary defense never has been a good offense, but my diligence in remaining inoffensive and also unoffendable. I try to fit in by remaining invisible. When in Rome, I stick out like an infected thumb. The same in Paris, Prague, Vienna, and London, for I cannot even see what Adaptability might look like there. My fallback position seems to be to become even more me than I might have been anywhere else, an obvious difference in any ubiquitous crowd. I order my croissant with decaf and swallow that bitter reconstituted powder as if I enjoyed it even though I quite obviously—even to myself, even to The Muse—don't enjoy it at all. I'm a sheepish grin and bear it kind of fellow. I fake my Adaptability.

Facing a pandemic, I imagine myself somehow immune to the worst case outcome.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AGoodTalkingWith

GoodTalkingWith
A Mortally Wounded Brigand Quenches his Thirst, 1825, Eugene Delacroix
"Wherever I might find myself, finding myself there might console me."

My cell phone wouldn't work in Farmington, New Mexico, not until I connected it via my hotel's crappy WiFi. The Muse insists that I should download the area's map from GoogleMaps, but I can't find a menu option to accomplish that. I relied upon the sixteen year old GPS in our "new" car, the display for which looks like a poor art student's crude attempt at abstraction. Most of this country continues to exist outside The Web, No Service being the most common message displayed on any hinterland traveler's cell phone. Those of us accustomed to ubiquitous 5G find this state of affairs annoying in the extremis, for we've sub-contracted half our senses to our little electronic babysitter. Navigation, entertainment, news, weather, and just staying in touch hangs by the very lamest of threads. Hopping from public wi-fi to public wi-fi, I almost forget that such connections never were in any way natural, they've just become a newer normal, at least until I leave town.

I judge airports by whether they offer free high-speed wi-fi, with good old PDX still the egalitarian standard.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reservations

Reservations
"I hear the phone ring but cannot make it work"

The desert surrounding Tucson seems tropical in the late winter rain. Washes and riverbeds actually feature water, though most closely resemble thick, ocher-colored pudding. Tucson's suburbs seem to stretch forty or more miles into the northernmost reaches of the vast Sonoran desert, Saguaro stately standing along steep rocky mountainsides. The road, two-lane blacktop. The excursion seems backward through time. From the gated sprawl into many centuries ago, the road passes out of these United States into sovereign native lands administered by tribal counsels: reservations. Apache, Comanche, Navaho, and Ute own much of what we refer to as the state of Arizona, a vast and apparently barren country, dusty and strange. Reservations.

The road bucks like an unbroken mustang. I simply cannot maintain the speed limit, a condition for which I feel enormously grateful.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGreatLeveling

Leveling
The Barque of Dante by Eugène Delacroix, 1822

"Just like last year, but ever so much more so."

I will remember the crossing, not the departure or the arrival, for I found traumatic the transition between the familiar into this different. In my life, I've left so often that leaving barely registers. I slip into my departure coma and simply disappear. Arriving still seems a distant relief. The transition upset me. It might not be over yet, arrival inexplicably delayed without setting expectations for its eventual appearance. A furious easterly insistently nudged the aircraft away from its assigned course. The plane packed with refugees, or so it seemed to me, each uncertain if they should even be traveling under these circumstances and each headed for an unknown destination, regardless of what the flight manifest insisted. I could not imagine the other side and felt as if I might have nibbled off more than I could reasonably swallow this time. This would be no trip from Hell, though, it was an excursion into a greater unknown.

I think it hogwash that we accumulate greater understanding by living. For me, the mystery only deepens.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BassingAckwards

BassingAckwards
" … the very best things in life … tend to emerge from sincere, dedicated, and inadvertent BassingAckwards."

The best things in life aren't actually things. Looking for best in the things realm might be the very best way to engage in an extended search without ever finding the object of my desire, or so my experience strongly suggests. I have stumbled upon the best things in my life, but only after pursuing actual things first. I know of no way to effectively engineer a successful search for anything truly meaningful, for the very act of engineering seems to attempt to inject altogether too much prescience and certainty into a search. One simply must start off in the wrong direction to ever come to solidly understand the deeper significance of any right direction. I insist that successful searches first engage in BassingAckwards. One begins by chasing the wrong tail, discovering distinctions by first failing to discover them. The deeper the initial disappointment, the greater the resulting realization and, perhaps, the greater the appreciation for the eventual discovery.

I declare this after once again discovering that an object of my desire more likely lies well south of my recent course, and without yet understanding just what a more proper course might entail, just that my former course appears to have represented another BassingAckwards experience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BeggingQuestions

BeggingAnswers
14th Century map of England
"The crisp response seems the enemy of our existence."

Ilya Prigogine whacked part of the scientific world when he declared that answering the question "How long is the British Isle shoreline?" was fundamentally undecidable. People had been dealing in this measurement for centuries before this Twentieth Century mathematician declared the question unanswerable. Prigogine pointed out that measuring the length of the shoreline depended upon answering some unscientific questions like, To what scale?" He showed that the length of the shoreline increased and decreased dramatically, depending upon the chosen granularity of the measure, and essentially melted into the infinite at a small enough scale. The length of the British Isle shoreline, he concluded, was a political question unrelated to science's objective observation. As a purely subjective inquiry, science could only stand mute in response. Certainly, surveyors could employ precision instruments to measure that length, but the measures themselves, utterly dependent upon subjective decisions surveyors made when encountering high and low tides, for instance, and a thousand other little curiosities, could only represent a compromised objectivity, and could therefore never be definitive. The question carried no clear indisputable answer and was therefore null. Encyclopedias still confidently state the length of the British Isle shoreline, without muddying explanation or just saying, "It depends," but it definitely depends.

I catch myself asking BeggingQuestions. Last night, landing in Tucson after a bumpy flight down from Denver, I caught myself asking after Tucson's altitude, though I could see that the city hardly sat upon a flat plain.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Plague

plague
Johann August Corvinus (after Salomon Kleiner): The Plague Column in Vienna, copperplate engraving, 1724
"Not one of us seem especially blessed or cursed now …"

A stroller down Die Graben, the highest-end shopping street in Vienna, finds a magnificent Plague Column dominating the scene. Sponsored by Emperor Leopold I and finished in the late 1690s, twenty years after that last plague lifted, it sort of celebrates survival. Some cities built their plague columns in real time, while their plagues raged, to placate whatever vengeance God seemed to have been inflicting at the time, to demonstrate piety and survival worthiness. This artifact graphically illustrates suffering as well as salvation with gruesome depictions of agony supporting a gilded top featuring uplifting cherubic angels. Today, the symbolism hardly seems to spark piety in the passersby, overloaded with freshly acquired mammon. The visitor might linger to briefly ponder their own uncertain fate, but not long enough to make themselves late for the Opera.

One of the times The Muse and I visited Vienna, we were met at the airport by two separate drivers. The conference organizers had concluded that since we didn't share the same last name, we were not a married couple, so we rode into the city center in separate cars.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PhreeDumber

PhreeDumber
La Liberté guidant le peuple by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) 1830
"Insisting upon absolute freedom seems like just another insidious form of slavery."

Contrary to popular misconception, freedom is not now and never has been just another word for "nothing left to lose." What could this assertion possibly mean? Freedom might more reasonably be considered another word for "everything left to choose," if only because freedom seems to strongly imply an ability to choose for one's self. But freedom to choose does not impart the judgement or foresight to choose wisely. Your choice might infringe upon my choice or even upon your own well-being, and I might end up having to clean up some mess your choice produces. Unlimited freedom falls into the old Insidious Assumption Of Unlimited Resource Trap, an initially comforting latitude destined to do in somebody. Freedom only seems workable within some probably undefinable constraints. People sometimes go to war to determine these limits.

My neighborhood has rules governing what colors I might paint my house, a clear infringement upon my freedom to make different choices, though I explicitly agreed to this limit.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BackUp

BackUp
The Pomps of the Subsoil 1947, Leonora Carrington (1917–2011)
" … further evidence that technology tends to turn evolution backwards …"

In the early morning of January 15, a message popped up on my screen while I struggled to complete my daily SmallThing, a piece about negotiating myself into engagement which I'd labeled NoGoNegation. I did not even distantly expect that this message prefaced seven weeks of irresolution, an enormous disruption to my sacred daily routine. My TimeMachine was reporting that it was unable to initiate my one of my usual hourly backups. My TimeMachine was connected to a TimeCapsule, a nifty bit of usually invisible hardware which auto-magically grabbed fresh stuff off my hard drive as that stuff appeared, making it theoretically possible to BackUp my hard drive to any point within the prior few months. In principle, I could BackUp my stuff to any hourly point over the prior few months as long as the BackUps continued uninterrupted. In that early morning, I experienced my first interruption ever.

Diagnosis ain't my strong suit if it even qualifies as a suit at all. I tend to just go buck naked when I encounter one of these mysterious messages.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DifferentFrom

DifferentFrom
Cerberus 1824-27 by William Blake (1757–1827): Inferno VI, 13-33.
The monster Cerberus presides over the third circle of Hell, that of the Epicures and Gluttons.

"The disruption's the thing."

If one state dominates here, that state seems to be difference, yet I seem much more attuned to similarity. Difference upsets me even when routine has dulled me beyond recognition. I realized late yesterday evening that it was Friday. Twelve hours too late to create the SmallThings Story I'd previously committed to writing, I'd missed my self-imposed deadline, thereby fouling a public commitment that perhaps only I noticed myself making. DifferentFrom settled into my lap like a toddler with a soggy diaper. I did not feel welcoming in that moment, but embarrassed. DifferentFrom elicits a WhatNow?, from which one must figure out what to do next. The chain's broken. The commitment violated. WhatNow?

I've committed this same crime before.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Chaings

Chaings
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640): Prometheus Bound (Gefesselter Prometheus), between 1611 and 1612
"Fine metal working skills preferred because we're fixing to make Chaings again."

Prometheus (meaning "Forethought") gained a reputation as a clever trickster. He gave mankind fire and metal working, actions for which Zeus punished him by tethering him where an eagle would painfully eat his freshly regenerated liver each day, a particularly painful fate. I think of him as the prototypical change agent, for change agents tout their abilities to foresee, a boast common among flimflamming tricksters. They employ a curiously inflaming, seemingly iron-clad rhetoric (fire) which seems irreproachable, even inevitable. This speech inspires and incites a sort of satisfying insanity in others. They tend to develop self-regenerating livers, or at least seem to, as they quite often feel the need to lubricate their efforts with liberal amounts of liver-destroying beverages. The eagle, which might represent truth or fact or at least encroaching reality, cannot quell his hunger regardless of how many Promethean livers he consumes. This dance seems infinite.

Each election cycle some fresh Prometheuses appear.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Politicnicking

Politicnicking
Édouard Manet: Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe), 1863
"I trust them about as much as I trust that platter of questionable deviled eggs."

I think of politics as a sort of smoke-filled picnic, a gathering of curious choices within an equally curious context. Hobson's Choices abound. No formal menu informs any individual selection, for these meals depend most prominently upon what a participant might happen upon. Each dish bears the prominent fingerprints of its creator. Old family recipes predominate, with each mother rather proud of her "unique" contribution. Tucked between curious salads and a platter of questionable deviled eggs, the fried chicken looks a whole lot better than it ever actually tastes, the few flies buzzing around little deterrent from partaking. The burgers seem grilled by someone with great enthusiasm and even greater ignorance. The beer's inevitably lukewarm. Billowing clouds of obscuring charcoal smoke hang over the proceedings and the kids rush around like soda pop-fueled maniacs, embarrassing their parents and frustrating the vicar. We generally refer to these gatherings as celebrations of a way of life, though their real reward comes at the end of the day when everyone has successfully tucked away their leftovers and taken their sunburns to bed.

Elections fill me with existential dread, just the way any picnic might.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ImmaculateSupper

ImmaculateSupper
Frans Snijders, Still life with small game and fruits; 1600 - 1657, Rijksmuseum, Netherlands
Cheers (or something)!

I'm more skilled at creating leftovers than I am at producing suppers. I possess no sense of proportion. I can't seem to think in realistic portion sizes anymore than I can imagine in cubic furlongs. The Tupperware® remains in near constant use, holding some once-treasure in the often fantastic notion that someone might finish it off later. We periodically purge the fridges of science projects, leaving a congealed centerpiece on the deck for the magpies. Some of that shit, not even the magpies will tackle, and so it smells up the garbage can until the following Tuesday. I understand how wasteful this cycle seems and if I could do better, I certainly would do better, but I seem stuck with this disappointing status quo. Sure, the supper looks like a feast when set upon the table. It later becomes little better than an enduring inconvenience.

Last night, though, I managed to produce what I refer to as an ImmaculateSupper, one which fully satisfies the diners while leaving no leftovers, nary a scrap.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PanicMode

PanicAttack
Edward Williams Clay: The Times
(1837 U.S. caricature on the financial panic of that year)

"Being human hardly seems human some days."

Given the choice between fighting or fleeing, few humans seem very interested in winding their watch while choosing None Of The Above. We're suddenly consumed with an apparently urgent need to survive, especially when the situation carries little threat. We seem to be herd animals, sensitive to subtle, even non-existent cues. Someone passes you and you might well feel absolutely compelled to catch up and overtake them, goaded into a curious competition. What might happen if that other arrived at the next exit thirteen seconds before you? Whenever a situation seems to compel me into a life or death contest, I might prove wisest should I turn sanguine and dispassionately evaluate rather than start berating some other who maybe could have been my benevolent brother but which I instead insist upon turning into just another one of those. You know who I mean. A Them.

A poster on the neighborhood listserv invites nobody to panic. "Don't panic," she insisted, "but if you're wanting to stock up on face masks and tissue, you should seriously consider getting to the store before all the panic buying begins.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SundayOff

SundayOff
Dawn: Luther at Erfurt, 1861, Joseph Noel Paton (1821–1901)
Depicts Martin Luther discovering the doctrine of Justification by Faith.


"Remember The Sabbath and keep it holy." (Hebrew: זָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ) -  Exodus 20:8-11
(One of The Ten Commandments)

Not being a member of any religion, sect, or faith, I sometimes wonder if I qualify as moral. I long-ago rejected the idea that I could publicly practice a religion and remain moral, religion being a personal and private conviction in my personal and private moral code. I do not as a rule take days off, for I believe that if one's work is an honest expression of self, taking a day off amounts to sacrilege. I remember The Sabbath but remain unclear what it means to keep it holy, since I find churches and synagogues to be hostile worshiping environments. I do not worship, though I remain steadfastly grateful for all I do not comprehend, which, believe me, remains considerable. The Great Mystery doesn't seem to be aching for me to resolve it, but to distantly respect it. If Martin Luther properly interpreted scripture, which seems wildly unlikely as Scripture seems impenetrably ambiguous on pretty near every subject, even my distance from religion might be covered under his Justification by Faith notion, a masterwork of an escape clause. I more deeply appreciate the Hebrew tradition of engaging in dialogue not intended to resolve ambiguity, but to lever it to gain fresh insight. The whole God thing seems downright medieval to me.

For better or worse, we live in secular times.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

The Curious Case Of Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate
"Scarcity often results from a passionate and sincere lack of imagination."

I recently found a terrific granola recipe. I'd grown weary of the available commercial choices to the point where I'd just stopped buying the stuff, switching to plain steel cut oatmeal. The store-bought stuff tended to be way too sweet and often came packed with stuff no self-respecting consumer should attempt to swallow, like coconut, about as saturated a fat as exists, on the far side of even leaf lard, or so I imagine. I wanted no dried fruit, which inevitably turns into a sort of molar-cracking nut when included into the mix. I can add dried currents or blueberries to the bowl, and don't need some thoughtful individual to bake them into unchewable additions at the factory.

The Muse encouraged me to just make my own, but acknowledging myself as nobody's baker, I quietly demurred.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Led-Gend

Led-Gend
Illustration from Legends of Charlemagne by Thomas Bullfinch, Illustration by N. C. Wyeth, 1950
"What fantastic mural might W. C. Wyeth have produced to depict MY story?"

Mary Colter, famed designer for the Fred Harvey hotel chain, always began her work by creating a rich fantasy about the building she intended to design. These fantasies had nothing to do with historical accuracy, but with design coherence. When faced, as designers inevitably are, with trade-offs, she'd refer to her fantasy to determine which alternative most closely cohered with her underlying story. Her La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, though partially dismantled into railroad offices in the sixties, still exudes a fantastic attention to small detail. A guest feels a sense of every element being precisely in its place, right for its purpose. From the wide hacienda porch around back to the great room tucked between the first and second floors, even down to the inconveniencing absence of an elevator, the place seems to be precisely what it purports to be, the legacy of a childless Spanish land-grant holder who bequeathed his inherited one hundred fifty year old home. It was none of that, of course, except Colter's Fantasy Led-Gend seems to have made it so.

I had concluded that a guiding vision needed some grounding in reality, but I might have wrongly concluded.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ComingIn

ComingIn
"Living suddenly amounts to observing the passionate play and finding myself in it."

An average of a hundred and twenty-five unique page views passed through the PureSchmaltz Facebook Group each day last week. I find myself struggling to maintain my reputation as a loner and outsider with such crowds observing me. I've long identified with the old Five of Pentangles Tarot Card, where two street urchins pass by a warmly lit church window in the snow. The Muse always asks why I don't just go inside where it's warm. I usually respond that I do not know why. Perhaps I felt myself in the middle of my metaphorical forty days wandering through wilderness or had not dressed myself properly for entering a church, but I'd insist that I felt as though I could not belong, regardless of how warm of a welcome I might receive there. I'd continue trudging. Trudging can become habit-forming, a genuine addiction, and I might have grown to serve as its poster boy, for I have nurtured my trudge and grown accustomed to my place in society, but trudgers require a certain anonymity if they are to maintain their lowly social status. Surrounded by appreciative throngs, even a champion trudger seems a tragic parody.

I CameIn over the last week, an act almost entirely but not completely the opposite of Coming Out.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReEntries

ReEntering1
"We arrive home just to feel gone all over again."

ReEntering exacts the full price of absence. The longer-anticipated any repatriation, the greater that price. Twelve days gone returns to find a backlog. The place smells odd. The cat-sitter didn't take out the garbage. The dishwasher we thought we'd left running had not been turned on and had become a smelly science project in our absence. The place seemed knee-deep in cat fur. I lit a stick of that piñon incense The Muse had found in Arizona, though The Muse cautioned me to burn only one because it kicked up her allergies. Better to offload the suitcases in the laundry room rather than schlepp them upstairs full of stuff that would just need carting downstairs again. The Muse sets to sorting laundry, an activity I've learned to avoid lest I offend her delicate and mysterious sensibilities. She's still never successfully explained her sorting algorithm to me. I unload the car, perfectly packed after so many days on the road, a precise place for everything and not a single item out of place. A great undoing commences.

The kittens, predictably, do not rush to greet us.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ColoradoWelcome

ColoradoWelcome
Building the New Road (mural study, Golden, Colorado Post Office), Kenneth Evett, 1941: Smithsonian American Art Museum
"The asylum doors once again successfully breached."

A ColoradoWelcome seems similar to a Bronx Cheer in that both terms describe the opposite of lived experience. A Bronx Cheer turns out to be nothing more than a slobbery demeaning jeer, more mocking than welcoming. A ColoradoWelcome works more like a prolonged dedication test seemingly intended to determine whether an arrival can be broken before allowing entry. Both localities prove to be tough places to live, let alone to visit, so the local Welcome Wagon® tries its darndest to chase off that newcomer or returning resident to either keep the riffraff out or, perhaps, to preserve the place exclusively for the riffraff already there. Try entering Colorado by air and you'll experience turbulence like you never imagined possible, deplaning to swear to never set foot onto another airplane again. Attempt entry by road and you'll come to experience more than you ever wanted to know about harrowing. No road leads directly to Colorado but must pass through some deeply discouraging buffer zone first. Once inside, something will encumber your passage. Escaping's every bit as daunting as gaining entry.

A hundred years ago, Colorado experienced one of those periodic squirts of All American optimism so common to the nation's history.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Redemption

NewMexico_Spot_Alligators_1_134a5614-9ac1-4012-b9b6-0e297463a15c
"May our former blockages find peace rusting beneath a wind-whipped Southwestern sun."

Home seems unfamiliar now. Twelve days toodling around The Great American Southwest has left us accustomed to continual difference. We stage for our attempted homecoming in the most alienating place in The Great American Southwest: Los Alamos, New Mexico. This state, the quirkiest in the lower forty-eight, is neither new nor Mexico, but New Mexico, more a state of consciousness than geographic territory. Here, desert turns back into verdant mountains again. The Sangre de Cristo burn crimson each sunset. A frigid wind reminds us that we left the South behind some time ago and that we're nearer the Midwest now. We're apparently headed home.

I've dreaded this last day since the day we left, expecting a mad scramble through the Cimarron, over a treacherous Raton Pass, and along the sleezy western extent of the Eastern Plains to reach home, but our dear friends Mark and Rita reminded us of US 285, a more civilized two-lane alternative which sneaks up through the middle of Colorado, an hours-shorter and seemingly less-harrowing alternative to the most primitive of the unimproved Interstates.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reconnection

reconnecting
"The School of Athens" by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
"Bad fences eventually fall, leaving the finest neighbors of all."

If I could receive my druthers, there would be no divorce, dislocation, dismemberment, or death. I do not always get my way. Some separation naturally occurs. Someone moves away. A phone number goes missing. Another commits Facebook Suicide and falls off that corner of my Earth. I slip into one of my signature periodic depressions and consume my presence with paranoia. Any of at least ten thousand individual causes might conspire to separate one from another, and once unbound, that once thriving relationship stays unfound, sometimes permanently, or seemingly so. We live in big ruts, unable to even imagine up and over the sides. We stay inside rather than venturing out. I hermit, and claim to prefer the lifestyle. The Muse might know better. She forces me up and out to wander about, to see what I might otherwise never even imagine seeing.

I'm at root a big chicken.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WhyFidelity

WhyFidelity
The (Great) Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder - c. 1563
"One day, we'll plug ourselves into a recharge cord as soon as we sit in the driver's seat …"

My iPhone features so many settings that it's a genuine wonder why it works at all. I don't often use it to make or receive calls, for even with the speaker turned up just as loud as it goes, it whispers at me. Further, when traveling, I find myself more often out of range than anywhere within it. Whole cities like Tucson seem mostly comprised of dead zones. Heaven help anyone seeking a wi-fi connection, for these seem few and very far between. Starbucks® remains the travelers old reliable, though, offering clean rest rooms and decent wi-fi almost everywhere. They serve the traveler like Kinko's® used to before FedEx® took them over. The Muse downloads maps of the region to her iPhone because otherwise GoogleMaps® would mostly remain inaccessible. I tend to ignore my iPhone when traveling, so complicated does connecting become. The Muse and The Otter mysteriously remain somewhat online regardless, probably because they've mastered their settings in ways that I most certainly never will. We hop from HotSpot to HotSpot seeking to stay connected.

I can't remember how I stayed connected before cell phones, even though my connection today seems spotty and intermittent.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Cordiality

cordiality
The Inn Keeper by Edward Charles Barnes, before 1882
"Cordiality makes our world go 'round square, with hardly a wobble."

The Iron John Brew Pub in old downtown Tucson sells beer in minimalist surroundings. The bartender greets me cordially, just what I need as I lead The Otter and The Muse into the place. I feel initially dissatisfied with the offerings, a collection of burnts and sours, but quickly enough winnow options down to a choice. The Muse chooses a Licorice Stout which she doesn't care for, though I'm intrigued by its odd herbal loading. The Otter chooses a juicy guest tap IPA. I select a Black IPA and we settle in to recover from a fragmented day, one without the benefit of lunch. Recovering from multiple traumas, The Otter experiences good and bad days, just like the rest of us, though hers seem to carry stronger amplitudes; higher ups and lower downs. She sometimes feels as though she's drowning, and this had been one of those days. The Muse and I provide what support we can, and though drowning never qualified as a spectator sport, we're certain that we cannot swim for her. We had more or less managed to drag ourselves through the day, though at times, barely. We needed cordiality.

Throughout this trip around The Great American Southwest, we've quietly relied upon Cordiality to pull us along.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ConspicuousPresumption

conspicupuspresumption
"The most conspicuous consumption leaves one utterly depleted at the end."

The Leisure Classes escaped to The Great American Southwest, where the great American presumption of infinite resource finally came into its own. There, everything necessary to sustain life would have to be imported at considerable inconvenience, for not even water could be counted on locally. The beleaguered Colorado River, hardly a decent creek coming down out of the Rockies, quenches thirsts and greens golf courses across the region. Rich in mineral resources, Arizona naturally features vast spaces, but virtually none of the supporting resources for maintaining even a modicum of modern life. Its comparative advantage seems to be winter sunshine, of which it provides plenty, but everything else arrives by rail, semi-truck trailer, or air. Phoenix freeways reliably clog at least twice each day as commuters cross this former wasteland to travel from home to work and back. Homes here tend to be modest one-bedroom structures, with little high-rise construction. Suburbs, though, stretch beyond scorched surrounding mountains into verdant desert where cactus thrives among low-rise hacienda-style homes of every size, from cinderblock shack to extravagant cliff-dwelling. Everyone drives everywhere.

Close in, barrios dominate. Further out, huge homes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

As-Iffing

As-If
The School Exam, 1859, Friedrich Peter Hiddemann
"Reality seems a belief-based initiative, or so our scientists insist."

Sedona sits nestled beside the seemingly insignificant Oak Creek, a watercourse which has over countless millennia carved an admirable red rock canyon, leaving soaring sandstone spires surrounding it. It seems both the most unlikely and dramatic setting for a small city. Its airport sits atop a mesa. It's reputed to hold several 'vortexes,' places where mysterious energies converge to impart special powers upon those who can tap them. Tourists—as near as I could tell in passing, the same tourists we encountered at The Grand Canyon—flock to these special spots, climbing red rock trails to bask in something not immediately obvious. The Muse, The Otter, and I slid up a slippery rock trail to find what, precisely, at the top? As Mad Magazine used to proclaim about its writing staff, The Usual Gang Of Idiots, ourselves prominently among them. A small plane practiced touch-and-goes out of the adjacent airport, buzzing the crowd of seekers. It felt like a cut-rate Lourdes without the water source. We, and supposedly everyone around us, stumbled back to our cars underwhelmed by our brush with touted greatness. We climbed up there As-If we might experience something life-changing but left feeling as though we'd suckered ourselves. As-Iffing sometimes works like this.

We returned to the car, then headed ourselves in the general direction of Phoenix, just As-If we might actually be able to drive there.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Cantilevered

cantilievered
"Rocks can't care."

The GrandOtter and I shrank back from that first cliff edge. The Muse strolled right up to it, leaning out, peering down. Two thousand feet below, scree validated that gravity had been working there since before time began. I stood well back, finding some solid ground to sit down upon. The Otter warily edged closer. One dizzying glimpse over that precipice had satisfied all the curiosity I might ever muster. The Otter edged even closer. The Muse wanted to hop over the retaining wall so she could see even deeper down. The Otter finally edged right up to the wall. I walked back to wait in the car, unwilling to watch these darlings dangle so danged close to eternity.

The next morning, visiting another precipice, The Otter stood on a cantilevered boxcar-sized boulder snapping a 360 degree photo of the display.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PassersBy

Passersby
Quirky building at Meteor City, AZ
" … while passing by another hundred or three distractions we won't actually stop and see."

We drive past a hundred places for every one we stop to see. We say that we're toodling, but we do a lot more passing by than stopping to see. The Great American Southwest features no shortage of roadside attractions. From rickety little Navajo kiosks to a giant meteor crater, each attraction features some sort of sign intended to attract eye and interest, and each looks genuinely interesting in its way. We've chosen the destination or two for the day, and these diversions hector us every inch of the way. Were we to stop at each, we'd never make headway, so we become PassersBy rather than visitors. By the end of the day, we'll alight somewhere and linger long enough to feel as though we've developed a feel for the place, but our experiences will remain on the superficial side of staying, hardly even visiting at all.

When I was a kid, my family would collect bumper advertising proclaiming that we'd visited Sea Lion Caves or Trees of Mystery.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ADifferentMan

ADifferentMan
Portrait of a Merchant - Jan Gossaert - [c.1530]
"Neither are any of us."

"What's changed for you in the almost three days we've been traveling into The Great American Southwest," I asked The GrandOtter as she deftly demonstrated how to drive across a Navajo Reservation.

"
I've started learning to just F*C#IN' DO IT," She exclaimed! (The Otter's language can at times emerge sprinkled rather liberally with a backstreet French dialect.)

Once I'd ceded driving duties to this sometimes presumed overly-brittle young woman, relegating myself to the significantly lowlier role of backseat passenger, her former brittleness utterly disappeared. Certainly, mine seemed to increase, as if to maintain constant the net mass of brittleness in the universe, but hers simply disappeared. She confided that she could feel me stiffening in the seat behind her, vibrating as I held myself back from butting in too awfully much, but she'd decided to continue as if my sensibilities didn't matter. She, after all, HAD the freaking wheel. What could I do about it? Nothing, she presumed, and so she drove as if she were fully competent and eminently capable of fulfilling that critical role, critics be damned, and so she proved to be.

Over the following three hours, I gnawed a fresh hold in my tongue, but we both held fast, and it's seductive to presume that The Otter had become ADifferentPerson by the time we'd arrived, though I suspect that she had not. Not really.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ButtClenching

ButtClenchers
Deadhorse Lookout, Utah
"Surrounded by alien territory, greater authenticity could emerge."

The Muse travels well, she of the ungainly pile of tour guides and carefully curated maps maintains our places in spaces and times. I simply drive. Having successfully fled winter dread into ParadoxCountry, we find our collective ButtClenching as we investigate sentiment and erosion on the grandest possible scale. Much accretes over the course of a typical planet's entire history, and some leavings can't help but wash away over time. This washing away displaces original deposits, leaving behind the most curious structures and shapes, just like our lives seem to do. We live on time scales insignificant when compared to the total history of this planet. Modern geologists conclude with ranges multiple times the merely unthinkable, or within a few odd million years or so. We think ourselves senior in our sixties, not a paltry sixty million, but a sixty-some single years. We stand clueless but still curious, interested in observing, though looking over and into even finite eternity can produce some serious ButtClenching.

I suspect that ancient man sought out ButtClenching as a handy antidote to ennui.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ParadoxCountry

ParadoxCountry
Job and His Friends, 1869, Ilya Repin (1844–1930)
"I suspect that it will always be too early to tell what the outcome might become."

Winter eventually becomes too predictable, with each day bringing a wearying self-sameness. The yard remains either a steadfast beige or a persistent white, and the kitchen produces endless braises and bean pots. There are only so many variations, and those differences eventually melt into no variation at all. Foot-dragging ensues. Whatever's doing, it seems a struggle to start and an utter impossibility to complete. Frozen in place, little change or growth or improvement seems likely to emerge. Animation seems to suspend for the duration, and the duration approaches the infinite, for the more familiar spring, summer, and autumn reference points sit beneath a snowbank likely to remain in place until after Memorial Day. Getting away seems necessary, though unlikely. The Muse insists. Who would anyone have to become to effectively resist her?

From the moment The Muse, The Otter, and I pull away from our freshly snow-spackled driveway, we feel more at home.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheRuleOfLawyers

RuleOfLawyers
"Decency demands no less of us or of them."

We insist that we, unlike many countries, live by The Rule of Law, though it seems as though we increasingly live under The RuleOfLawyers. The law stands for what has been legislated by duly elected representatives. Lawyers stand for anything, for they trained as advocates capable of arguing any side of any issue. They seem to seek something other than truth or justice, the oft-touted American Way, but their way instead. They shamelessly shave pigs, split hairs, and boldly dare to support any position they're being paid to support. A beleaguered corp of public defenders, underfunded and over-scheduled, seem to stand alone against well-entrenched forces dedicated to denying anything they choose to deny. Absurdity reigns. Inequality under the law prevails. Respect for the law seems neigh-on to impossible.

A democracy seems at root a faith-based form of government.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RoadTricks

RoadTricks
Grant Wood, New Road, 1939
"I imagine Kokopelli, the Road Trickster, will be guiding our way."

The Muse has been hankering after a road trip to The Great Southwest ever since we relocated to Colorado. She figures that once we finally move back to The Great Northwest, we'll live far enough away from those vast and fascinating wastelands that we'll never feel moved to visit, so she's created a deadline of sorts. If not now, then when? She holds a short list of spots she'd like to visit. As usual, I feel relatively disinterested in the undertaking. I approach long road trips with the same enthusiasm I employ for root canal surgeries. I dread them beforehand, though I usually manage to click into some semblance of a spirit somewhere along the way. I'll go, but I'll drag both feet before we leave.

I understand that I'm nobody's great gift to driving. I don't exactly hate driving, but I'd rather take a train.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HardLabor

HardLabor
Walker Evans, The Breadline, 1933
"You're just the care-giver."

The hardest work I've ever done didn't look like HardLabor. No muscle straining resulted. It was not accomplished beneath an unforgiving sun. Nor was it undertaken under the threat of a gun bull's steely eye, and not to take anything away from all those who have suffered so, I didn't really know I was laboring hard until I was somewhere into the middle of the effort, already having bitten off more than I might reasonably chew, and destined to one day swallow. Divorce was harder than bucking bales. Quitting cigarettes nearly killed me, but quietly, in the most nerve-wracking way imaginable before then. Losing dear friends hurt worse than my muscle groups ever have. Recovering from trauma punishes more than the original trama ever thought to punish. Helping another recover from trauma seems even harder than recovering from trauma since the work's necessarily arm's length and guided by unreliable supervisors. Progress seems unlikely for the longest time.

HardLabor seems fueled by faith, a firm yet quivering belief that the effort might one day seem worth it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfWorth

selfworth
Luis Jiménez y Aranda (1845-1928) - The Bibliophiles (1879)
"Maybe value's all in other peoples' heads, but not in mine."

It's tax season so I've been reassessing my SelfWorth. I'm unsure what currency to use to calculate this value, or even if I should employ currency at all, for I'm not now and never have been a money guy. I've never had a portfolio and The Muse has kept me well away from all household accounting since she watched me attempt to balance a checkbook decades ago. Two days of frantic effort left the result inconclusive, her appalled, and me exhausted. She claimed that she could have arrived at an indisputable outcome in a few minutes. I realized that I'd always reinvented my methodology every time I attempted to balance the books, imagining complicated schemas for creating whatever might constitute balance. However otherwise exemplary my university education might have once been, Accounting had been a definite low point, since none of it made any sense to me. I queried my professors, hoping that they might be able to explain the logic behind the much-revered Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and they told me something like, "Abandon all logic, ye who enter here," for the principles had been founded by general agreement, not logic. They quite literally made no sense and could only be conquered by rote memorization and practice, practice, practice. The university bookstore refused to repurchase my accounting texts at the end of the semester because their covers had accidentally come off due to my repeatedly throwing them against brick walls in lieu of pounding my head against them. Accounting remains a deep and uninteresting mystery to me.

But if I were to attempt to calculate my SelfWorth, what besides the unholy GAAP might I use?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Blocked

blocked
"They've got your number, remember your name, and ultimately tame themselves."

My grandson Roman, who turned eight last week, has grown into an aspiring writer. My son Wilder reports that he's been struggling with intermittent writer's block and asked if I might give him a gift of insight into this most distressing element of every writer's existence, so here goes:

Of course writers only come in the aspiring form, because aspiration forms the soul of even very experienced writers, who seem eternally no better than their
next production. Writing brings no residuals, no resting on past laurels, not in the writer's mind, which endlessly roams ahead. A finished piece does not continue as a work in process, but extinguishes the fire that forged it shortly after it's finished. Finished pieces hold little interest for the creator, and the writer might not very well remember the details about even a piece widely recognized as a signature one. Writing serves as an extractive effort, intended to discard/ Not a building up activity creating a body of work, but a disposal activity intending to make space for something else. Writers leave the critics and fans to accumulate. The writer eliminates.

The urge to create seems most similar to the urge to take a poop.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Out

Out
"Would I become a better man once I can tranquilly stand to spend extended isolated time with myself?"

After the fifth sequential snow day, even an experienced meditating monk aches to get Out. He'd trade nirvana for a stroll around even a usually reviled well-heated shopping mall. He might even consent to a Cinnabon® just for the sheer variety it might bring, because he's been further away from Springtime than he remembers ever being and the serene snow seems simply tedious now. Somehow, some way, he's simply got to get away, just Go. What first seemed comforting and close became almost smothering, way too close for even the comfort a warming fire might bring. He'd consent to supper at that little place in the village where the food has always been consistently lousy and the service much worse, where a simple supper won't be served until two full hours after he takes his seat, where only two employees managed to make it to work that shift and the bartender's doing the cooking. Lord knows who's tending bar. That's how far down this latest storm's taken our humble monk.

Others, ordinary folk without the monk's extraordinary ability to discipline themselves, seem mad with bottled up frenzy.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Impressioning

RegularShapes
Claude Monet, Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise), 1872
"I do not remember this familiar ever before being precisely like this."

We remember Claude Monet as the original impressionist. He was widely reviled in his time, for his work seemed to violate the rules for what had constituted valid. His first impressionist image, shown above, seemed out of focus, as if the subject was moving rather than static, more smear than clear imprint. Nobody could precisely state what it represented without reading the title, and even then, critics disagreed over whether Monet had faithfully executed his label-implied intention. Today, we conveniently say that Impressionism more faithfully represents lived experience, for nothing in this life exists in so-called regular shapes or sits still while a photograph gets taken, and resulting photographs seem small and flat compared to lived experience. The photographic-quality image seems most impressionistic to our more modern eye which has grown to accept every captured image materially misrepresenting the originating visual experience.

Some seem set upon insisting that photographs are more real than any impressionist's painting, though their insistence seems overly dependant upon how one defines 'real.'

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MisConnected

DisConnected
Snap The Whip, Winslow Homer, 1872
"We can create vast networks dedicated to delivering on a fundamentally foolish notion and produce its opposite instead."

Our Internet was supposed to connect us all but seems to have achieved the opposite effect. The Greeks labeled this phenomena Enantiodromia, and considered it a natural result, that things tend to run counter to original intent. Obsession explains some of this. Over-focus easily blinds one to creeping counter influences, leaving an over-passionate pursuer vulnerable to normal stumbling blocks. Ideation, initial envisioning, tends toward idealization, so we quite naturally imagine utter impossibilities and produce opposites instead. Given free reign, we seem fully capable of running anything into the ground. Judicious constraining might seem to blunt possibility, but it also buffers against catastrophic reversals. Modesty seems more likely to produce positive results than audacity might.

The trades insist that everyone's ordering online now because it's more convenient. I live well behind this curve

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheChat

TheChat
The Glass of Wine, Johannes Vermeer, c.1658 - c.1660
" … one of those pleasingly notorious SmallThings we maintain between us."

Deliver me, please, from the ponderous conversation. Protect me from the onerous plea. Free me from all stentorious presentations. A chat seems what I need. A rambling one without apparent purpose. I trivial one where nothing gets disclosed. I cheering one where no-one gets derided. A hopeful one where we're clearly glad to see each other up close. One devoid of discomfiting revelations, a modest meeting of the most immodest minds. A face-to-face without verbal competition, a simple sit-down around a pot of tea ,or beer, or one of those clear cocktails you sometimes seem to prefer. A "what's new' unlikely to grown older. A "not much" serious sort of chat. A plain-old ennobling fresh engagement where no demons seem welcome to unfold. A meeting without an underlying purpose. A connection intended to lead nowhere. A brief breath of sorely needed fresh air, just the two or three or four of us there.

Let Presidents and politics lie their fool heads off while we engender sweet respite.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

-Bound

-Bound
N. C. Wyeth, Snowbound
"I'm sitting by the fire looking out while also peering within."

My dearly departed friend III insisted that Boundary Was Everything, an apparently paradoxical statement in a world more recently interested in everything out-of-the-box, where boundaries exist only to be ignored. Get yourself snowed in, though, and my friend's assertion comes into sharper focus. Snowbound serves as a sort of instant self-discipline. If you can't go anywhere, you suddenly have no place to go. Whims simply stifle themselves. Whatever else my heart might desire, we're eating in again tonight. Like always, there's nothing actually on the television tonight. The fireplace shows better movies no matter how many times we've seen this one before. The cats curl up close as if trying to catch their fur on fire when the temperature difference between inside and out hangs in the upper sixties Fahrenheit. Snow continues falling after the first great shoveling. Candles glow half buried beneath that snow.

It's darker outside than almost any other night of the year. I cannot hear anything. Even the plow mumbles as it passes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DItY

DItY
"Done in by a tiny recalcitrant sheet metal screw."

Paleo-man did everything himself because the specialist phase of social development had yet to arrive. For eons, generations of our predecessors never thought to ask for help from any factory-trained specialist. This was a presumably proud species, self-reliant and skilled enough, though none ever once encountered even the smallest of our modern conundrums, like the justifiably terrifying tiny hex-headed sheet metal screw. Their world featured rock, wood, and leather, wild beasts and flint-prompted fire. They had no crawl space fans needing replacing. They owned no socket set with three dozen differently-sized attachments. They never watched themselves schlump back up the basement stairs to fetch that tool they'd earlier felt certain that this job wouldn't need. They had no neighbor egging them on, boasting about how easy replacing that fan would be. They never experienced DItY, the harsh reality of our modern Do It Yourself craze, for it is certainly a craze, a crazy-making preoccupation wherein an otherwise self-respecting fellow's self-esteem takes it in the shorts again and again and again. DIT, properly translated, means not Doing It Yourself, but DYtI, Doing It to Yourself.

Two little letters, one almost insignificant word, 'to,' the difference between a job well done and doing another job on one's self.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MyBetters

MyBetters
The Beggar Maid, German school, 19th c.
"We remain more equal than we can possibly know, let alone understand."

Declaring superiority carries its own disqualification. How smart could it possibly be to declare yourself smarter than another? Likewise with beauty and every other comparator known to humankind. Humans don't seem all that kind up close. We break ranks to stack ourselves like cordwood, judging our position relative to others', taking either solace or frustration depending upon how we, as the saying goes, "stack up." The self-proclaimed morally superior stack their cards in favor of their own positioning, looking down their long noses at all those so-called "beneath" them. The Founders of our once-great republic were exclusively of a single so-called superior class. They preached an equality their lives seemed not to afford them, hoping, perhaps, to level a mountain they stood atop, for there were others on higher peaks than they could ever aspire to, divinely righted to dominate over those less than themselves. By the divinely-righted's accounting, everyone was a lesser.

White Supremacists seem like so many misguided clowns failing to catch themselves parsing the world upside down.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AbsoluteMagic

absolutemagic
Henry Gillard Glindoni (1042-1913): John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I.
"I don't quite know as little as she did … yet."

Knowing seems the most over-rated ability. Not to denigrate folks who know a lot, they're welcome to their achievements, but I speak here of what we believe we need to know. This belief seems like AbsoluteMagic. The stories I tell myself, explaining why I can't do, seem to anchor what I don't yet know, as if my lack of knowing reasonably prevented me from certain doing. In practice, this insistence rarely proves true. Most of what I've actually done seemed more fueled by desire than by knowledge, the knowing emerging after or along the way toward actually having done. Certainly, I usually struggled before achieving any desired end, but most of these complications seemed beyond knowing until the moment I encountered them then figured 'em out. No amount of preparation could have helped me avoid complications, or so I conclude.

My ability to assert what I could not possibly know serves as AbsoluteMagic.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Actnying

Actnying
Mosaic depicting theatrical masks of Tragedy and Comedy (Thermae Decianae)


"One key to successfully assimilating into any new year lies in finding yourself already in it."

The PureSchmaltz Facebook Group attracted five hundred and forty unique page views over the six days following my last summary of the prior week, which produced seven hundred and forty-two unique page views, an absolute measure of an incomprehensible metric; but hey, if it's the only number I have, it's the one I'll use. Had I expected this group to amplify my brand or promote my business, I might feel panicky over the one quarter reduction in what's euphemistically referred to as 'traffic' in the internet world, but I don't consider the members of this group to be traffic or click bait or potential commercial targets. This group and my PureSchmaltz Blog, to me, represents the way our internet was supposed to work. Please do not mistake me for a commercial entity, for I have much more riding on this endeavor than mere financial success. I've dedicated my little stories to cataloguing life as I live it here, in hopes that some day, one day, my progeny might use them to experience a few tastes of what life felt like for me while living forward from here, absent history's blurring lenses and mythology's inevitable Comedic/Tragic glorification, and also for the enjoyment of a select cadre of self-selected 'fans,' the only group for which I've volunteered to be a member.

My prior week represented a return to familiar territory, an experience I'm referring to as Actnying, action infused with denial.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Nesting

Nesting
Las Hilanderas [The Spinners] (c. 1655–60), Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez. Museo del Prado, Madrid
"Our nest feels fuller now. So do our lives."

The Muse and I have been empty nesters for most of our lives together. Our kids were almost grown up and out by the time we connected, and aside from a few fraught months here and there, and our accompanying cats, we've been on our own everywhere we've lived. Until last fall, we'd inhabited empty nest isolation for the ten months since Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat met her maker. Then around Halloween, everything began to change when The Muse invited her sisters, a niece, and The GrandOtter to visit. Our kitten Max arrived around then, too, and the place hummed for a few days before slumping almost back into an echo-y mausoleum again. The following week, Max's sister Molly arrived to herald in a new age, our formerly empty next infested with kitten play twenty-four hours of every day. Then The GrandOtter returned for a visit which has now turned into an impending full-blown relocation, and our nest seems far from empty now.

Curiously, the place seems larger full than it ever did when empty.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CastOffs

CastOffs

"Once loved, once reviled, then once again loved again, …"

The Villa's furnishings have never matched, each piece hailing from its own era, half of it in long-standing desperate need of reupholstering, each CastOffs in their time. The Muse and I believe that our furnishing style imparts a homier feel than more modern matching furniture might. We refer to the overriding style as Early Undergraduate in remembrance of those apartments we once inhabited where one rented a room and shared furnished living spaces, perhaps with the bottom end of a closed-off grand staircase dominating the living room and providing overflow seating space. We've acquired these pieces in second hand shops and estate sales over the duration of our relationship, always looking for quality, of course, but also for an acceptable quirkiness. Our furniture mirrors our shared experiences. One chair in our master bedroom looks like it had rickets as a child, one foreleg curiously angled. I might get around to performing surgery on it one day, but it works just fine for the purpose we intend for it for now. Some of the stuff belonged to our forebears. A rocker my great grandmother rocked me to sleep in, recovered by the ever-inventive Muse, still retaining its original satisfying squeak. A cherrywood china cabinet from a consignment shop dominates our dining room. My writing chair, a remnant of my first wife's grandfather's estate.

Each piece, like all CastOffs, holds a story, many pre-dating our stewardship, our home an Americana museum.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

IrrelevanceRevisited

RevisitingIrrelevance
Remember Uncle August, the Unhappy Inventor, by George Grosz (1919)


I want to be remembered as one who resisted the breakup of The Bell System, a regulatory change which eventually drove everyone using a leased phone to purchase one for themselves. The choices were predictably dissatisfying, cheaply built and expensive relative to the few dollars the sturdy leased one had set me back. I had been more than satisfied with the green Princess wall model hanging next to the basement stairs, its extra long cord allowing me to stretch the handset clear into the entryway and perch on the lower stairs when talking with someone. The phone I bought to replace it never hung properly and stopped working in under a year, starting an odyssey which left me doing much more for myself while paying more for that privilege. My concerns seem as irrelevant now as those of any master carburetor mechanic or revered buggy whip manufacturer for cars no longer employ carburetors and what passes for buggies these days no longer require their operator to ever employ a whip.

The first part of life seems centered around solidifying identity. Once one nails down who they are, what they are to become assumes a more prominent role, seeking relevance.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheStranger

Stranger2
" … choice a person makes before they can take ramifications into full consideration."

I heard myself say it, perhaps more confession than admission, "I've lived as a resident alien since I was eighteen." I'd never heard myself say that before, and my statement stuck in my craw. The suppertime conversation continued, though I noticed that it resumed without me. I eventually caught up, though I continued to carry my inadvertent little blurt along with me. Did I really mean that or was I just mugging for some non-existent camera, making another signature outrageous remark? My disclosure held fascination for me. Was it really true? Had I never, for fifty contiguous years, felt as though I was of a place I'd lived? It was true enough, I decided upon further consideration. Except for that one decade where The Muse and I moved back home, I later confided, I've felt very much TheStranger everywhere I called home. Helpfully, The Muse reflected that even there, I mostly felt like TheStranger, too.

I feel very attracted to the concept of community, of clan, of tribe, perhaps because I've experienced so very little of these in my life.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PreConstruction

Pre-Construction
"PreConstruction always proves to be ironic milling around …"

By this time in my life, I should have accumulated more than adequate experience in the fine though under-appreciated art of PreConstruction, an essential stage in every development project commonly referred to as The Essential Milling Around Period. Each New Year throws me both forward and backward, ahead into a fresh calendar and also back to my internal drawing board to somehow determine who and what I might become this year. A new year's early weeks highlight that I simply do not yet know who I'll become. My now extensive experience within this throwback space insists that my greatest potential danger lies exclusively in deciding too early on inadequate evidence and understanding, so I'm out collecting stones, as Jerry Weinberg once characterized this activity, unprepared to declare my intentions for employing them. The resulting pile of rocks might not appear to be much yet, but only because it isn't. A few seem of exquisite proportion, potential cornerstones or centerpieces, though without a clearer Gestalt, I simply cannot yet definitively declare.

This time unsettles me. Seven hundred and forty two individual page views observed me gathering stones over the last long week.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SmallDistinctions

SmallDistinctions
Allegory on the Blessings of Peace by Peter Paul Rubens, 1629 - 1630

"Not knowing has always been the first stage of genuine wisdom."

We do not inhabit a world crafted by large decisions but SmallDistinctions. I can't deny that sometimes HUGE effects follow some decisions, but these effects only rarely result from someone deliberately making some momentous-appearing choice, if only because nobody can accurately foretell future momentousness, and only a future can perceive large effects. Us humans seem to prefer to see ourselves as big-time decision-makers, though, and this preference carries a considerable cost. We seek to optimize when some barely good-enough option could do. We wholesale accept or reject when some smaller support or deflection might better preserve. We elect humans to high office expecting them to produce great things, when great things do not seem to be a human property or agency. Our world, like it or lump it, seems most deeply influenced by our eternally nascent ability to make SmallDistinctions encouraging well-informed choices. Standing upon such choices, wise but almost never Large decisions might be made and thereby nudge forward genuine improvement.

We insist that we have huge problems, which naturally seem to consequently require huge solutions, encouraging us to chase after largely irrelevant choices.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Panicking

Panicking
"The tough guy who never cries seems like the bird that never flies."

When The Muse and I first got together, my life was in tatters. My second marriage had just ended, landing me back to Go without first collecting any two hundred dollars. I was living in a crummy little apartment. I felt separated from my life, a truly terrifying situation. Sunday nights, I would find myself crawling into the back corner of a closet and weeping uncontrollably, a full-blown panic attack temporarily taking over. These sessions usually lasted for two or three hours, though nobody was timing them. They'd end when I'd exhausted myself into sleep. I'd wake in the wee hours of the following morning to shamefacedly crawl into bed until dawn. The Muse seemed unflappable, observing my Panicking without taking it as a personal statement about her, a remarkably respectful and supportive response.

My Panicking pattern continued for months and months until it finally dissipated.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LateStatusQuo

LateStatusQuo
Blind Justice by Michael Barton Miller, Ukiah County Courthouse, Mendocino, California

"We might usefully navigate using a guiding star without ever expecting to achieve it."

In LateStatusQuo, things have already fallen apart, though a society tends to engage as if they haven't. Yet. Revered traditions have become parodies of their former selves though almost everyone continues to play along. Once lofty aspirations have already evolved into mighty myths capable of sustaining themselves in spite of the clear absence of fresh confirming evidence. Disconfirming evidence itself becomes the enemy. People are judged by whether they're for or against us, and even mild support receives punishment as inadequately vigorous. The rule of law might still reign supreme, but subsequent rulings have successfully undermined the intention of equal justice upon which the law was originally drafted. The still revered 'equal justice for all' clause of the Pledge of Allegiance is amended to append 'worthy of equal justice,' for whole subclasses of once-equal aspiring citizens have become legally disenfranchised to make adequate room for those who deserve justice. Everyone else gets legally damned.

A man in Alabama might receive a decades-long prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread while a shyster investment banker who bankrupted thousands receives a 1% slap-on-the-wrist fine as part of a deal with prosecutors which included no public admission of guilt. Some lives clearly don't matter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Appreciating

Appreciations1
"Appreciations are grace. Try not to chase them away."

Appreciations seem almost impossible to properly deliver. My mentors taught me that a proper appreciation must be delivered face-to-face and one-on-one. Group appreciations violate this first principle of principled appreciating. I know, before schooled, I'd felt nary a qualm when tossing off a quick group appreciation vaguely targeted at "you guys." However sincere my feelings, from the perspective of the receiver, I can understand how a certain depth of feeling might have seemed lacking. I find that it's not always logistically convenient to deliver a right and proper appreciation, like when I am in a group and I can't seem to leverage a moment of alone time to target my recipient person to person. Such logistical complications usually leave me failing to mention my appreciation at all, hoping that a flash of eye contact might serve as an adequate replacement. It never is.

I believe that most of the world's ills would be easily fixable if only we could openly talk about them without rancor.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RoeDayOh

RowDayOh
" … us Townies will never understand."

I grew up in a town with a RoeDayOh, but I'd never attended one until last night because I was a 'townie.' Townies live in the small city adjacent to ranches, but live utterly separate lives from those lived by cowboys and ranch hands. Townies do not wear Wranglers, but Levi's, and eschew almost everything to do with the covertly effeminate cowboy boots, snap-front shirts, and mangled broad-brimmed cardboard cowboy hats. Townies name their offspring Bill, Bob, or Joe, not Yancy or Wade, and not one of us ever even think of wearing fancy belt buckles or getting any closer to a live bull than a very rare steak, let alone attempting to ride on one's bucking back. Townies pray that they do not win the door prize of a $75,000 diesel Dodge Ram pick-up. We think of cowboys as overly-committed throwback cosplay characters, mimicking a history that never was. Townies maintain their own delusions every bit as alienating as any cowboy's or cowgirl's, my point being that we're cut from different cloth, fabric with little middle ground upon which to meet.

Back in the 1930s, when Hollywood discovered The West, the standard plot line would feature city slickers visiting a dude ranch where they'd be introduced to authentic Americana replete with ballet-dancing cowboys and small symphony orchestras performing impromptu Gershwin productions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Shakedown

shakedown
"Few of us ever read the small print."

In Manhattan, the Shakedown exists as an art form. Nobody expects to find a bargain there. The very hotel which touts its dedication to serving clients won't blush when demanding thirty or forty bucks for a substandard Continental-Style breakfast. The client will hold his cool, understanding that the place has him over a barrel. They will levy spurious service charges simply because they can. Nobody seems to pass up an opportunity to take their piece of the action. The price of admission won't actually bankrupt you over the duration of your short stay, but it might get you thinking about staying away the next time you're enticed to visit.

My Subaru dealer makes more subtle threats.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Waiting

Waiting ...
Waiting for Legal Advice, 1857, James Campbell (1828 - 1893) (British)
" … the machine will continue to grind …"

I think of waiting as an adult time out. Most delays amount to SmallThings, a few realigning moments between actual destinations, and I'm learning to simply accept them for what they are, which is never defining, a small interruption to the regularly scheduled programming. A brief respite between some here and there no matter how interminable each might seem. A challenge to cobble together a short alternate to the expected experience. I keep an audio book enqueued on my iPhone or some other worthy distraction which I access to fill in the space. Now that we all have smart phones, every waiting moment quickly transforms into a Facebook or email scan, we're rarely truly idle. Most of our interactions with our government seem to become exercises in patience, at the post office, the DMV, the title registrar, or some other outpost of our humblingly huge bureaucracy. We anticipate these waits, bringing along a newspaper or a book with which to entertain ourselves as we idle. I prefer to watch the machine working in the same way that I gawk at the automated tortilla machine or the juice squeezing juke box when waiting for a restaurant table.

The machine seems to never idle, whether present as a single inadequately-staffed post office window or a dozen numbered windows around a waiting area with actual seating.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DreadOfWinter

DreadOfWinter
Dead Man Alley-Winter, Millard Donald Everingham, 1940
" …Nothing to dread but dread itself."

Ennui follows Epiphany like a baby elephant follows its mother, tiny trunk grasping reassuring tail, for this world seems especially forbidding then with redeeming Spring just as far away as it will ever be this year. Self confidence falls to its lowest recorded readings since this time last year as nights infinitesimally shorten and days drag themselves through unremitting self-similarity. The New Year, so promising just a fortnight ago, seems prematurely spoiled, already past its pull date while hardly even begun. Hollows hold snow frozen into alabaster insults, lawns a uniformly unpromising beige again. I dutifully light my luminarias each dusk and retrieve the candles each dawn, attempting to demonstrate the single watt of faith remaining from Christmastime. I maintain my schedule, some days kicking and screaming myself back into the yolk, where considerable pushing and shoving ensues. Each essay breach birthed with the inept assistance of an incompetent and uncaring midwife. Such is mid-January life.

If it would only snow to seal the conviction that there's really no place to go and no reasonable way to get there if there were, but the sky remains indifferent with unpromising clouds and fierce winds pushing backwards toward the East.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DoctorVisit

DoctorVisit
" Modern medicine seems almost identical to medieval medicine, except the leeches are larger and more impersonal. "

The Muse and I belong to a Health Network, a common modern American euphemism which means 'limited monopoly.' Once 'enrolled' and accepted, a Health Network combines with insurance coverage to become a client's one-stop service center for all things medical, from check-ups to diagnostic procedures to prescribing. Ours features a patient Portal which was obviously designed to try our patience. It looks just like an early Windoze app and performs like one, too. All communication gets funneled through this needle's eye which might send a text message reporting that new information's been posted before denying access. What was that Pastword again?

The Network suffers from all the shortcomings common to transactional associations gussied up to appear relational. I, for instance, don't actually have a doctor but a nurse practitioner, which seems fine with me. Any deeper diagnostics, she refers to actual doctors which I never actually meet since other nurse practitioners perform actual procedures. Later, the doctor will post conclusions to the Portal which might deny me access again. Every encounter with The Network finds me repeating my birthdate, address, and the last four digits of my social security number, just to confirm that I am who I purport to be. I have been known to leave a waiting room if the questioning becomes too onerous. They always ask me to report The Muse's birthdate, too, which I tell them that I do not know precisely. They've allowed me entrance anyway, so far.

My Portal record, once I access it, always insists that I have not fully completed my personal patient history paperwork, though I have completed it to the very best of my ability.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NoGoNegation

NegNoTiation
"A day without engagement might turn into a week, then a month, then a season, and finally a year or two or three. Who would I become then?"

Some Mornings, not even deeply ingrained habit can move me off the starting line. Most days, I'm up and running without a first thought inhibiting me, but those Some Mornings resist my lead. I would much rather veg out binge-watching a police procedural, lose my soul to an audio book, so just flip through the news, not an ounce of ambition egging me forward. I almost never completely submit to these slothful enticements, though. Rather than slip under that self-negating spell, I enter into a very specialized form of negotiation, NoGoNegation. My goal seems to be the most primitive form of mastery, the motive energy to move off a single stuck dime. I need not talk myself into any but SmallThings, since even imagining accomplishing any GreatThings seems to only further demotivate me then. One tiny excuse, one modest objective and the inertia of stuckness quite literally slips into its kinetic counterpart.

I'd think that after decades of practice and consequent experience, I would have become something of an expert in this field of NoGoNegation, but I seem to start as a novice every time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GroanUp

GroanUp
"I'm in a much bigger body now, but more of a kid than ever."

Maturation might involve little more than repeatedly catching one's self engaging in ridiculous actions; SmallThings which, when later tallied, amount to huge differences. Youth imparts a sense of invulnerability which experience shatters, and rightfully should. Even the wins might manage to impart a few of humility's finer points. Accumulated losses might convince anyone that they're a fool a heart. I'm now a grandfather of considerable experience, The GrandOtter now present as a twenty-one year old, though I suspect that I'll forever relate to her as though she was still about eight. The ensuing years have humbled us both without making either of us particularly wiser. We share mutual respect though my advancing age tips presumptions in my favor. I am, after all, the presumptive grownup in the relationship, though I experience my self as most frequently a GroanUp.

A GroanUp has made a fool of himself frequently enough to sincerely question his own authority and omniscience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wariness

wariness
"The hopeful believe in Archimedean physics yet still persistently tug on their own bootstraps …"

I feel a certain Wariness after reading the newspaper, a SmallThing. I can no longer bear to tune into the network nightly news broadcast, and even NPR has recently shifted to the edge of the bearly bearable. I never did watch Faux or listen to Limbaugh or subscribe to any of the innumerable conspiracy theories which over-populate social media, all of which seem to thrive on vague generalities, if not intended to induce paranoid feelings, fairly successfully manage to routinely do so. I firmly believe that the second amendment remains widely misinterpreted for the most cynical of reasons. I favor a wide-spread freedom from religion more than I support the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of religion, and that mixing politics and religion inescapably poisons both.

I was born into These Paranoid States of America, where victory in WWII and a humiliating draw on the Korean Peninsula left this country too wary by half.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReasoningAgain

Thinking1
"What we do when we encounter these outcomes probably determines whether we drive ourselves crazy or sane."

I think, therefore I feel confused. Descartes apparently presumed much when proposing his now nearly infamous "I think, therefore I am" notion, for 'am-ing' seems to include much more than what might be properly represented in the Predicate Calculus. More people now deeply understand and employ logic than at any time in the history of the world so far, and what has that wash of Reasoning bought us? It does not seem to have brought us anything like the much-touted heaven on Earth early logicians might have presumed it might, for we seem to have neglected to purchase the Absurd Syllogism Insurance Rider which might have better protected us from ridiculous constructions leading to absurd conclusions. They say that we're all about data now and we increasingly seek computationally verifiable paths which seem to just about as reliably as prior methods, lead us into genuine Old Testament-quality temptation, even evil. Much of what I witness seems determined to defy any and all Reasoning, including but not exclusively those philosophies most firmly rooted in Reasoning. Our computers might be on the fritz.

While we might properly deduce much about our situations, much more remains beyond Reasoning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Rhyming

rhyming
"She quickly learned to sing along."

The most memorable poems leave behind the most curious images. A dish credibly runs away with a spoon. A huge egg tumbles off a high wall. An eensy-weensy spider, not a small or tiny one, climbs up the water spout. Tigers burn bright. Roses are roses are roses, and this otherwise redundant, tautological description stands, and taller than most every other attempt to memorialize the rose. Poetry often rhymes, but even when it fails to rhyme, it almost always exudes a rhythm scheme, a cadence which compellingly pulls the reader along. Nothing need be terribly exact unless engaging in some specialized sonnet, restrictive haiku, or bawdy limerick. The so-called nursery rhyme, many of which persist as familiar and reassuring ear worms throughout even long lifetimes, exemplify poetry for me, or po'ms, as I've grown to call these silly little spoutings to better suggest that something's missing but not forgotten from them. They might lack a scholarly decorum but compensate with a warming silliness.

Writing po'ms demands an unteachable skill.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Timing

Timing
"This shift fools me every time."

A New Year induces an arrhythmia into the proceedings, for my life, every life, amounts to proceeding. Whether this forward momentum smoothly flows or jerks me around depends upon a seemingly subtle coherence. I mostly feel no need to fine tune my presence. It is, and is just as it is, background silence, a deeply muffled cadence. I might continue without considering my propulsion until some milestone steps into the middle of my road. Year End and New Year reliably disrupt my sublime unconsciousness, seeming to force more deliberate reflection. My reliables seize up on me and I'm unwillingly forced to rethink what I hadn't sensed myself thinking about in ages. My motions lose their continuity and my thoughts pace without concluding anything. I become a steam engine who's lost my tracks.

The past week amply illustrates this rethinking phase. My PureSchmaltz Facebook Group attracted 784 unique page views, some of which I can doubtless attribute to you and your presence here, a single point of continuity for me and I hope for you, too.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lying

lying
"I don't lie to myself about lying to myself."

In the beginning was a small misrepresentation, a truly SmallThing. Nothing vicious or deliberate, just a little attempt to improve the quality of my story. It exacted a small toll, a tiny tariff, and I moved on. I moved on mindful that I'd need to remember that deviation or risk my story seeming to slip into question in the future. I could over time become inured to even making distinctions between absolute truth and comparative fiction and increasingly trade in legend, like any name-brand product's advertising. Truth seems alluring only in theory. In practice, our stories need heroes and villains, damsels and dragons, disturbing beginnings and reassuring endings, not the unending ambiguity simple truth provides. I too easily justify my immersion, insisting to myself that any version providing a more easily accepted meaning might make even the occasional egregious lie totally acceptable, an improvement over an uninspiring truth.

Every great civilization was founded upon a fundamental lie, a probably deliberate inflation of potential or heritage, similar to the motivational stories each of us told to reassure ourselves that we might actually achieve what we naively aspired for.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Squeezed

squeezed
"Take us aside and we'll register no real complaint, except for the nagging squeeze which seems as though it simply must be at root unnecessary when it might qualify as the very essence of life."

The Muse returns from work and recounts a meeting where everyone reported great satisfaction with their work, except everyone said that they felt Squeezed. Too much worthwhile work, but too little time to complete it properly, the eternal complain of the gainfully employed. The squeeze had been on since forever ago, for there never was a time where available time very closely matched expectations. This seems to be an Old Testament Problem, one that probably pre-dates recorded history. Writing that history was most likely delayed due to a lack of schedule time with competing expectations, trade-offs were made and written history deferred until more pressing business could be concluded. We're all squeezed. Even if no discrete expectations scrunched up the horizon before us, we'd still feel time pressure and wish for a tad fewer demands on our time.

I can foist a piece of this difficulty off onto human anticipation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Coping

Coping2
Vincent Van Gogh: Old Man in Sorrow. On the Threshold of Eternity, 1890
"We do just what we do, which might be the very wisest response any clueless anyone could ever muster."

I consider coping to be more emotional than any learned skill, and resilience, more a matter of personal pattern. Lose someone and one does what they do, and might not even notice what they're doing then. Coping amounts to one of those responses that don't necessarily register as a response. Given a significant-enough loss and a sort of auto-pilot seems to kick in without cluing in the pilot. I remember when my sister Susan died in a car accident, my youngest sister flew in for the services and I spent a long day tour-guiding her around the town I lived in. Only later did the excursion seem in any way questionable to me and she just numbly followed along. I was numbly leading, coping as I now recognize that I cope.

In the Midwest where The Muse grew up, a death prompts all the women to start cooking, usually scalloped potatoes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Seizing

Seizing
"As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in tomorrow." Horace
(Historically bad advice better suited to epic works of fiction.)

"Seizings are a class of stopping knots used to semi-permanently bind together two ropes, two parts of the same rope, or rope and another object. Akin to lashings, they use string or small-stuff to produce friction and leverage to immobilize larger ropes. Seizings are not recommended for heavy loads for critical use as strain reduces the diameter of the main rope and can permit slippage even with proper construction." Wikipedia

Seizing the day does not seem to insist upon what I though it did. For me, I've long considered Seizing akin to grabbing and holding on, damn the consequences, but Seizing seems more nuanced in practice. It involves connecting, sure, but connecting with purpose and with acknowledgment of likely future stresses and strains. It is definitely not a cavalier grab, but a strategic connecting often employing small-stuff.

"Small-stuff is a nautical and knot-tying term for thin string or twine, as opposed to the thick, heavy ropes that are more often used in sailing. It is commonly used in a whipping to bind the ends of ropes to prevent fraying.

"Historically, the term referred to cordage less than one inch in circumference. Much of the small-stuff onboard ships, especially that used for decorative or fancy ropework, was made by the sailors themselves reusing materials unlaid from old and leftover pieces of larger rope and cable." Wikipedia

I sometimes watch a day slip away and chide myself for not authoritatively Seizing the damned thing before it slipped away from me, a strategy which sometimes seems more inherently self-destructive than in any way helpful.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Scribbler

scribbling
"I might be writing a script … "

My ancient oak desktop holds two old notebooks. Its drawers hold several more. A pile of papers two feet tall sits atop the old steamer trunk across the room. My dresser top holds a couple more old notebooks, and a bookshelf holds more than a dozen completed journals. I carry a small Moleskin® in my back pocket wherever I go, and a pen in my right front pocket, for I am a Scribbler. I'm more inclined to jot down a short descriptive phrase than to snap a quick cellphone photo, for I more meaningfully retain my experiences with words than with pictures. I'm just wired that way.

My son's a Scribbler, too, though as a trained fine artist, he scribbles sketches, genuine visual images.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Hubris

hubris
"The one who cried wolf might be tainted forever for demonstrating the audacity to confront the Hubris."

A certain Hubris seems to come with owning a system. It's yours, after all, and reason insists that it should attend to you by providing that which its designers intended it to provide for you, except systems don't actually work like that and never have. To own a system seems to be the equivalent of being owned by that system, in all the nuanced ways being owned entails. It's always got your number and always did. You quite understandably expected toast from your toaster but instead received a three smoke alarm wake-up call. Blame the toaster and see what that gets you. Resolution will demand inconvenience. You or some service representative (or, more probably, your spouse) will roll up their sleeves and get to the bottom of the difficulty, presumably forestalling any repeat performances. You'd be wise to anticipate repeat performances, though, because your toaster isn't so much first a toaster, but a system, and all systems come with unintended consequences built right in, albeit often unwittingly. A system, you see, remains capable of outwitting even its designers, for once that system roams free in the world, it will no longer find itself constrained by the breadth of its designers' imaginations. It seems to develop a conniving mind of its own.

Systems seem to insist upon a certain level of humility on the part of their owners, a wariness, a caution.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ForeignTerritory

ForeignTerritory
"… my mind's still unlearning its preconscious tendency to date stamp everything as if it were still a year ago."

I didn't take a thousand mile train ride precariously balanced atop a freight car while fighting off muggers, nor did I swim across an unwatched patch of an icy stream or hike for days across trackless desert to arrive here, but I nonetheless feel every bit like an undocumented alien. My passage seemed precarious enough without all the pitfalls any decent Central American would have to overcome, and I feel as though I haven't quite mastered the languages and customs here, though I'm clearly on the other side of a contentious border and insecurely in ForeignTerritory now. Every New Year arrives like this, and perhaps it's the new year feeling queer around me and not dear old me to blame. Something significant's changed. I reflect that this fresh year has no experience here, either, and that I might be experiencing a contact buzz without having swallowed any of the new Kool Aid® myself. Whatever the cause, I feel at least as different as the surrounding territory seems. For now, I seem to have been passing. Now that I've disclosed my internal state, Immigration might jump my butt.

The first week of any new year used to feature mis-headed homework papers dated the year before or checks pre-dated by precisely twelve months, but nobody manually date stamps homework or even writes checks anymore, our smart appliances automatically fill in today's date on the appropriate line on every form.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ArtificialEverything

artificial
Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet, 1854. A Realist painting by Gustave Courbet
" … a small town that grew up to still be small, but somehow less of a town for it."

South Table Mountain juts up as backdrop to the small town of Golden, Colorado. Its basalt rimrock crowns unpromising grades, draws, and washes still frequented by bear, bobcat, and small deer who browse surrounded by more rattlesnakes than I like to think about. Years ago, circa WWI, the Army built a base up against one side of it, but the rattlesnakes chased them off. A minimum security prison camp now inhabits what of that camp not ceded to the snakes, and The National Renewable Energy Lab sits just next door. High tension power line towers run across the top of South Table Mountain to service the largest beer manufacturing plant in the world along Clear Creek below. Failed attempts to build roads to the top remain as overgrown scars along all sides of the prominence. People ride horses up there, and mountain bikes, and even hike, though there's more to trip over than actually see up there. It seems a genuine bit of nowhere, offering views of Downtown Denver, not anybody's idea of a sight to treasure beholding, though the locals think of it as nature just out their backdoors.

I sat in a Starbucks, sucking down a china cup of decaf and staring up toward the top of that small mountain, realizing that almost nothing I could see bore much resemblance to nature.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Predicting

Predicting
"The future seems perfectly capable of taking care of itself."

I woke up this morning with the genuine sense that I was suddenly inhabiting the future. The New Year arrived overnight and as usual, I couldn't quite keep my eyes open long enough to witness the fateful transition, so I faced this future in the early morning, all by myself, while the rest of the household slept. I remembered pondering this very future back when I attended elementary school, employing my newly gained arithmetic skills to calculate how old I'd be when, and the year twenty twenty always crept into my pondering. I figured that the future would very likely be much different from what my then present had been. I would be a fully-grown man by then, old, even, by my rough approximation, maybe even dead. I considered those I knew who were as old as I would be then and strained to imagine myself as how I might turn out. I never once suspected that I might still be striving and still not quite settled on who I would be when I finally grew up in the year twenty twenty, but here I am.

Almost every prediction I remember making then turned out quite differently than I'd projected.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheDailyRumpus

TheDailyRumpus
Le Derby de 1821 à Epsom,1821, Théodore Géricault
" … I once found it perfectly acceptable to start the day with a placid perusal of the paper."

Days begin with a thump now, the muffled sort of crash a kitten makes after misjudging a pounce, followed by a few moments of almost frantic pounding. The Daily Rumpus usually starts without me as witness. I enter the arena well after the start of the festivities to find another ornament down and the dining room table's cloth hanging at an odd angle. They've also displaced the carpet runners, making the room look like it belongs in one of those Vortex House tourist traps us kids used to plead to stop at when my dad was trying to make time on our summer vacation drive to Southern California. The food bowls will have been picked clean and the water bowl nearing empty. A plant might have been mysteriously tipped over, throw rugs knotted where they lay. Doilies lay like crumpled butterflies in the seat bottoms beneath their usual display positions along the tops of chairs. The wicker rocker will have lost its throw blanket and all will seem right with the world.

The celebration will continue for the next few hours, re-enouraged by the presence of an appreciative audience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lags

Lags
" … it contains an adequate number of warts and surface imperfections …"

I hand-tooled my Production Process. I started it before I'd mastered my tools and well before I'd settled on what I would be producing. My process as well as my product have been evolving over time. Some of my process was obsoleted when Adobe® acquired FrameMaker® and decided to suspend support for the Mac version of their once-fine product. Several other pieces of the machinery became inoperable over time. There being no adequate replacements, I discovered little sneaker-net workarounds, creating a process that both defies logic and also fairly reliably produces output, as it's called. I've avoided any MicroSoft® product, finding them uniformly unusable, user hostile, and I never got over the anti-trust action that vividly described how they'd come to dominate the corporate computing market. I understood that I could definitely get better elsewhere, but that I'd never pay more, and since I was only sometimes a corporation in name only, I could not and didn't really aspire to compete in that realm. I cobbled together thises and thats and managed to produce close to what I intended.

Somedays, my hand-crafted system seems composed of Lags connected by no more than stepping stones.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

A Double Handful Of Coal

TheIdea
"Maybe I'll write two today, just to maintain my usual pace, if an additional Idea emerges."

In the beginning, there was nothing but void, and since void amounts to nothing, in the beginning there was nothing; no originating idea. Voids offer little in the way of leverage. Eventually, an Idea tottered into what had been the void's nothingness, temporarily voiding the void and leaving a sense of something in its place. Something, but nothing much more than the roughest raw material: a double handful of coal: Greater potential, yea, but little more. Few substances carry more potential and less promise than a double handful of coal, for coal, like any Idea, needs a lot of conditioning to amount to anything, and even when it amounts to something powerful, it only manages to achieve anything with great supplemental support and it leaves behind clinkers and nasty smoke; powerful perhaps for a time, but always producing nasty externalities.

Ideas seem to come in flurries when they come, if they come.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Partum

Partum
"The creative act always retrospectively seems like a SmallThing …"

Fridays come but seem to mostly go, ever receding. A week starts, filled with promise, then ends, sometimes with the promise fulfilled, though even when fulfilled, it seems a strange sort of promise, for an aspiration never quite qualifies as a promise, it being more crap-shooty than any promise really should be. I work from Friday to Friday, with no weekends or holidays off, and at the beginning of a fresh Friday—my Monday as well as my Friday, both the beginning of a fresh week and the ending of an expended one (a Begending)—I feel more reflective than anticipatory, last Friday being my work year's sole exception. Last Friday ended my last creative cycle, GlancingKnow, marked the beginning boundary of my next cycle, SmallThings, and also heralded the start of my annual Christmas Po'm-writing cycle, wherein I write just as many fresh seasonal poems as I can in the time between Solstice and Christmas morning, this period marking my most intentionally creative week of the year.

As I noted in last Friday's reflection,
SmallerThings, rather than expanding my reach, my GlancingKnow three month enquiry left me feeling smaller, more tightly focused.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Shaving

Shaving
"Some days, it seems to be the only thing that really matters."

The days where I've shaved before heading out the door seem to unfold differently than those days when I do not. For me, Shaving's like suiting up before entering the game. The uniform should properly not in any way affect the quality of my play, but it sure seems to. Shaved, I feel as though I'm putting forward my best face. Grisly, I know that I'm most certainly not looking my best. However mediocre my best might seem to anyone else, my less than best can't hope to compete. I feel complete after shaving, though I know I've just scraped off a fine skin layer and might reasonably feel a little less for the exercise.

I think the ritual, small though it might seem, makes the real difference.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Kittens

Kittens
Mother Love - Paul Peel (1860 – 1892, Canadian)
" … they carry within them some innate skill to reset the rhythm of the place …"

I hold the strong opinion that every place holds a rhythm. Think of this beat as the baseline supporting the foreground melody. We more than inhabit our digs, they also invade us with the rhythm they induce. For the ten months we went without pets, much of the rhythm of our lives relied upon us to pound the drum. Aside from the magpies arriving each dawn and the weekly familiar sounds of the garbage collection trucks, The Villa's rhythms relied upon the recycling heating system to reset the tone. Sure, supper prep always reset the cadence of a day, as does cleaning up in its own curious way, but without the rhythms of a pet, it's very difficult to engage in even the more familiar melodies.

A life needs disruption, what Douglas Adams referred to as an Improbability Generator, some force to force-feed a different rhythm into the same-old status quo.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fulfillment

fulfillment
Laundress. This fragment is an artwork by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin
"As long as I could maintain this slight fiction, I remained golden."

However long any effort takes to accomplish its aspiration, the accomplishment seems to manifest in a moment. Before that point, it's not quite done and after, it's clearly over and I'm on toward the next enqueued accomplishment. The weeks of preparation leading up to Christmas will condense into a single moment on the blessed morn. We work so hard to achieve something as if it might bring salvation, but the best it ever, ever brings seems to be a quick moment of satisfaction. Immediately after, the internal critic probably resumes, and later, the hamster wheel starts squeaking again. Living seems largely soundtracked by the squeaking wheel that no lubricant could ever adequately grease. Peace comes in a moment, though it departs just as quickly.

Some of us, myself included, find our fulfillments in starting fresh stuff.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Mattering

Mattering
Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
"I'm not supposed to know beforehand, but propel my work with faith, …"

I seem to seek significance here, where meaning is king and obscurity dear. My reputation sticks to my heels like shadows and my futures sometimes seem so uncertain and shallow. I seek some opening, an opportunity to shine, while I seem most afraid that someone else might get 'mine.' I sometimes shimmer green-eyed jealous, zero-sum at some level, as I seek my salvation with the help of some devils. It's a tough row to hoe here, of that I've no doubt, but I still hold enough promise to believe in myself. Have I built myself a set of wings set in wax or just plowed rocky fields while surveying the hind end of an ass? I'm engaged in my business, whatever that might be besides waxing and promoting a brand you'd call me. I'm not just in this for myself, though, for I engage in the kind of work that doesn't make much dough.

Oh, some mornings I'd certainly gladly pretend to be striving and driving as I once did back when.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ChristmasPo'ms

townsled
"These are infinitesimally SmallThings, but nonetheless infinitely significant ones for me."

It's been a couple of decades now since I took up this practice. I've never reveled, as some certainly seem to, in bestowing gifts, though I mostly object to the shopping. The mind reading or the sheer presumption that someone should heed a list someone gave them, and then become the wish fulfiller. That's a spirit killer, in my humbled estimation. Humbled because there's something about shopping that utterly erases any intention I might have carried into the shop with me. I remain capable of inspiration, but usually of the distinctly lower order variety. I cannot seem to imagine what my loved ones might appreciate from me. In the old days, I'd eventually acquiesce the buy something inappropriate and not fish that vigorously for any complements afterward. I'd hold onto the receipt, too, because it might need returning to the store. In short, Christmas bored me, all sentiments aside, so after fifty Christmases or so, I decided to do the unthinkable instead.

Well, I'm still not beyond purchasing a small gift or two, but I now focus upon creating a dozen or so little tuneless Christmas songs instead, in the form of Christmas Po'ms.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SmallThings

SmallThing
"The greatest sin might be the belief that our reach exceeds our grasp …"

Yesterday, I completed my Autumn's work, GlancingKnow, with a post entitled SmallerThings. I'd realized that my perspective had been shrinking and that this focus had provided useful insights. Like you, I often feel overwhelmed by the apparent magnitude of difficulties surrounding me. Everything seems to have gone global in scale, yet I am little larger than I've ever been. I've expanded my coping skills, but my power and authority over the huge issues confronting me has changed little since I started out as an ignorant and disoriented little boy. Now, it often seems, I've grown to become an ignorant and disoriented bigger boy, but hardly wiser and rarely well-oriented. I seem to bounce from concern to concern, concluding that most of them exceed far beyond my reach. I some days wonder why I haven't surrendered and stopped caring so danged much about all I seem so powerless to influence.

I might represent a unique case, but I doubt it. I carry a growing suspicion that a root difficulty might be tied to my growing aspirations and awarenesses.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SmallerThings

smallerthings
Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664, oil on canvas
"Small then even SmallerThings eventually amounting to something, which isn't really a thing at all."

Rather than strive to achieve BIG things, I seem to strive to more fully acknowledge smaller ones. Tiny yet influential seems more achievable than huge and consequential. Worlds move by comparative microns, yet manage to traverse vast spaces. Ideas spark in less than an instant yet utterly transform the person holding them. How finely am I capable of perceiving? Insignificance seems first a product of my own inattention. My salvation might stand right here in the palm of my hand, and releasing its beneficence might require a hero's journey no less daunting than any undertaken out into greater-seeming unknowns. Both journeys begin with denial and offer trials to test the hero's dedication. Both feature dragons and such, and each brings out characteristics the hero always held, implicit becoming more explicit in dispatching each challenge. Heroes aren't so much made as discovered, they emerge through unanticipated recognition. Look, there s/he is, right there. No more than a GlancingKnow ever confirms it.

Understanding serves as a condensation of more vaporous information and experience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WindingDown

windingdown
" …nobody waves to anyone passing from the back porch of this caboose."

It seems as if a giant clockwork finally began WindingDown this week. Reliable to a split-second throughout the year, as the Solstice draws nearer, its purpose loses clarity, perhaps a gear's gone rusty. The whole mechanism will most certainly receive a reprieve come Saturday, when a new astronomical year will begin an instant after the tired, now ancient one disappears. These last few days became abstractions of themselves. The more deeply I delved into their nature, the less I seemed to understand. The more I came to understand, the less I seemed to know, even Glancingly.

The snow grows tired and gritty after two weeks and more on the ground.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BeansForBreakfast

BeansForBreakfast
"Makes me a musical SOB …"

Most Americans interpret the phrase BeansForBreakfast as a reference to coffee. Brits might envision a can of those ubiquitous Heinz beans served over toast as a part of the Full English. I take the term literally, for beans constitute my favorite breakfast food. With The Muse traveling this week, I can partake of my favorite every meal, repeatedly reheating the pot until nothing but a few hock bones remain in the bottom of it. I proudly possess a peasant's palate, one more pleased by simplicity than by complication. Subtlety's usually lost on me. Even when I create one of my artful-looking supper dishes, each remains shit simple inside. I leave a slow oven or flaming cast iron to do most of my heavy lifting in the kitchen. My beans seem simplicity personified.

John Steinbeck insisted in his Travels With Charlie that it was possible to find a decent breakfast in every American town. Fifty some years later, this assertion no longer holds true.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AnImpossibleRecipe

ImpossibleRecipe2
"My meal was in the making of the meal …"

I think that people think I'm simply playing coy when I cannot crisply recount for them a recipe. I honestly never really quite remember, for I rarely follow a recipe and I never take notes. I follow my instincts instead, always starting with something threatening to spoil. I'm a little girl when it comes to throwing out food, so the edgy and almost questionable serves as the basis of all my food. This time, like almost every time before, our guests at last weekend's supper simply insisted upon knowing. The Muse further reinforced their requests when she reported that her boss had reported that the soup was simply the best ever, so The Muse suggested that I might at least try to recount how I'd made what I made.

I made a soup. I wanted something hearty but also something which would not offend all those with dietary restrictions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fealty

fealty
The Accolade, Edmund Leighton, 1901
"Might just as well accede to this inevitability."

We speak of fidelity in marriages, but rarely if ever mention Fealty, a term sharing the same Latin root but which seems so steeped in medieval lore as to be useless to describe any modern phenomenon. The covenant underlying every marriage contract insists upon a form of Fealty, though, a set of tacit understandings delimiting subtly significant aspects of any such union. No formal agreement ever describes these responsibilities, yet failing to fulfill them provides grounds for eternally complicating conditions. Pouting might result. A poorly suppressed rage might even build over time, leaving the infractor feeling puzzled and isolated within the union. The aggrieved party might never find words to express the depth of their disappointment, though it will quite obviously be present. Typically, neither party will discover that this class of shortcoming lies beyond words. No apology ever quite repays the debt incurred when Fealty fails to manifest. Though both parties understand that a sin has been committed, neither will find any way to adequately atone. It should have never happened and can never be undone. These little crimes undermine domestic tranquility more effectively than mid-life drum lessons ever could.

When the spouse asks whether you're driving them to the airport in the predawn hours tomorrow, the canny spouse immediately recognizes an opportunity to demonstrate Fealty to, if not the spouse, then at least to the relationship.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EndOfTheEvening

endoftheevening
"No, it's not Christmas yet, but this EndOfTheEvening I'll not soon forget."

By TheEndOfTheEvening, The Villa's ours again. Our guests, warmly welcomed, have wandered homeward. I salted the sidewalk when I realized they'd been walking the entryway gauntlet on fresh ice glaze. Snow fell as they arrived, and with the two luminaria lighting the end of our driveway and the glittering tree in the window, the place looked perfectly seasonally festive. The house smelled warm and spicy with my kick-butt soup simmering and my Veloute Mac and Cheese slowly baking. The cheese platter covered a quarter of the kitchen table, with sparkly wine glasses lined up like patriotic soldiers beside their respective bottles while crackers covered their flank. Everyone quickly gathered in the kitchen space while The Muse and I endlessly excused ourselves, stirring soup, warming bread, checking the Mac, and somehow tearing the chickories for salad. The Brit warmly accepts a fifty degree Oatmeal Stout while his wife holds up that smokey old red, her eyes pleading for my corkscrew. I open that bottle, pour her a glassful, then settle back into distracted preparation.

More people showed up than we have places to sit in the house, not an unusual situation and nothing for anyone to complain about.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GamingASystem

GamingASystem
The Phrenologist (1874). Lucius Rossi (Italian, 1846-1913). Oil on panel.
" … but I also sidestep the apparent necessity of learning the dodgy skill of GamingASystem, which, for me, seems its own alluring reward."

Every system, the clever ones insist, consists of a game. The purpose of play might not always be to win or to lose, they say, but it is always, always, always to learn how to "game" that system. One need never break any formal rules when GamingASystem. The most skilled play with the rules, interpreting figuratively those regulations intended to be interpreted literally, and vice versa. One might most accurately explain that they play around the rules, practices, and traditions. One counts cards or reads other players' expressions, looking for tells, hardly attending to the formalities. Hoyle might find these gamers uncouth, though truth be told, they seem to win more than their fair share of the hands without ever getting called out for violating any rules. Some insist that those GamingASystem play a much broader game, a more or less moral imperative if the goal remains eventual dominion, for without these tactics, the odds of winning rely upon actual skill in the game, or worse, random selection, as the game designer might have intended.

The Muse insists that she was gifted with an intuition which enables her to test well.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Realizing

Realizing
Diego Rivera, Man Controller of the Universe (or Man in the Time Machine), 1934
"Vive La DIFFERENCE. Vive the same-old, too."

Once any significant change occurs, I'm usually shocked by how little actually changes as a result. Last week, I learned my literary genre, as significant a realization as I've experienced all year, and yet the following week plodded along remarkably unchanged. Sure, I felt, and deeply, a closer connection to whatever I'm actually up to, but the old time machine marched on. This past week, PureSchmaltz attracted 678 individual views, a slight reduction from the previous week's volume. (Hey, it's a metric. It's supposed to be fundamentally meaningless.) I appreciate your continued interest.

The week began with my announcing my
If-ification, that realization that I might have a normalizing, even civilizing classification after all.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fog

fog
"I might be embodying one of those wise men before he found his trail …"

I can tell that Christmas is coming because I'm five days into trying to locate the wreath hanger without having found it yet. Each year, the wreath hanger proves to be the last of the decorations in use. The rest of the trimmings have already been tucked away into that location in the deepest corner of the basement, so rather than re-open that closet, I find some clever little tucked away spot to store the wreath hanger, a spot so intuitive and obvious that I most certainly will not repeat the lengthy search for it next season, only to always find myself searching again the following year. This is one reliable, certain sign of impending Christmas, though, so I suppose I should be grateful for the reminder.

I was fortunate to grow up in a part of the country where this season brought dense freezing fogs.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FalsePremises

falsepremises
"We know what work faces us now."

It doesn't take much to fool an eye. At first glance, false perspective seems true. Following the lines quickly leaves one tangled, though, and unbelieving. That initial impression sticks through a few disconfirming iterations. The image starts to seem both wrong and right, with right holding his thumb on the scale. Poisoned by the imbedded FalsePremises, judgment struggles. My eyes seem to be lying to me. How very clever of the artist to turn me against myself, to compromise my formerly reliable perspective. I've been fooled and I feel every inch the fool. How easily a single falsehood compromises anyone receiving it! A series of falsehoods produce even worse results.

I'm a sworn enemy of cynicism, yet I seem to collect more evidence to support it than I do to encourage my optimism.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Almost-ish

Almost
"I sense that this one's Almost-ish done, though I cannot definitely say."

It's almost Christmas this morning, two weeks away from 'Eve and I haven't really started thinking about it yet. I could say that I'm almost ready to start thinking about it because Almost-ish describes the highest state of readiness I ever achieve. I can't remember ever feeling ready for anything. None of my greatest life changes were in any way preceded by adequate preparation. I led each with my left foot, departing at least a day later than planned, yet still arrived within at least one standard deviation of On Time. I subscribe to the defining tenet that there's never any adequate replacement for a sincere lack of preparation. Almost-ish represents as close as I ever get to being ready for anything.

My status quos feature elongated tails. I despise letting go.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TrustingThisWorld

TrustingThisWorld
" … Me and this world somewhere in-between."

I watch our new kitten Molly and I wonder how she might come to trust this world, for her world seems eminently trustworthy now, yet she still lives by tooth and claw. She defends every inch of territory against even her greatest benefactors, her true champions. She has not yet come to know the reassurance a petting hand might impart or the comfort of a languid lap stretch. True, this world stands as a convicted serial son of a bitch, with a long history of betraying anyone who would ever trust in it. It seems more indifferent than deliberate, though, a blundering behemoth perfectly capable of continuing inadvertences, but probably rarely on purpose, for this world has no real need of purpose. It need never justify itself. However cruel it might seem, it merely mirrors its inhabitants.

We discover the rules we must live by, never writing them for ourselves.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SundayDread

NewYorkTimesTruthOOH
"I dread the responsibility this practice places on me …"

I pride myself on being well read. Most mornings, I warmly anticipate fetching my New York Times from the driveway. It's part of my ritual to peel off the protective plastic bag and spread the four or five sections across the kitchen table, ready for breakfast perusing. I've already read one or two of that day's op/eds online, but I tear into the paper paper anyway. I scan the front page then delve more deeply into the back pages, looking for stories that might help me make sense of what without some inside analysis, probably wouldn't make any sense to me. I'm a paper guy from my earliest age. When I delivered these pages, I poured through each edition. They were my primary source of education, so I revere them and the journalists who produce them, except on Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, a behemoth paper awaits me in the driveway.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheBug

TheBug
"I remain no more prepared to battle The Bug than I ever was …"

The Muse had plans for us to meet-up after work and attend the annual Candlelight Walk, to stroll down Golden's Washington Street, sing a few carols, and maybe grab a bite after, but I'd woken with a sore throat and a fuzzy head. I promised to lie low close to the bed and assess how fit I felt nearer the end of the day. I slept a bit and wandered around the place feeling distinctly displaced before texting her around four to report that I still felt shaky. Nothing especially alarming, just a touch of The Bug, though no Bug was likely involved. Maybe the sore throat resulted from breathing incredibly arid cat fur-infused air. I blamed The Bug but quickly recovered from what first felt like a scare. I wasn't scared for long. I'm blessed with good health. I rarely feel in any way ill and perhaps because of that, I can't seem to very easily tell if I'm ailing. My normal ranges over a wide variety of states from manic to despondent, but I do not usually describe any of them as sick. When I finally, rarely, ascribe my state to the influence of The Bug (not, notice, A Bug, but The Bug), I'm usually about half a day away from full recovery. So far.

Thanks to my nurse practitioner's prescription pad, my bathroom counter's suddenly full of plastic pill bottles, each with its own regimen printed on its label.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

If-ification

Classification
"… maybe next week will turn into being all about doing for a change."

Friday arrives again, time to look back over the past week to see what might be derived from the last seven days of PureSchmaltz' GlancingKnows. It was a tumultuous week for me, for this week my writing finally found an identity, an If-ification. I'd persisted in producing—going on ten manuscripts over the prior two and a half years—without possessing a crisp response to the apparently fundamental question: "What sort of books do you write?" I'd tried a string of cute, generally self-effacing responses, but to little benefit and perhaps inflicting some harm, but a precise classification had eluded me. Those who know would innocently ask what my works were similar to, an impossible question for any author to answer. I only manage to read three books per week, so my bibliography seems pretty thin. I do not have access to the population of potential comparable works.

Part of my difficulty seemed rooted in the great variety of classes from which to choose, which the existence of most I remain unaware.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SchlockyEditing

schlockyediting
"Maybe I should be grateful that it seems to slow down this progression."

If I can write a book in three months, how long should it take me to edit the resulting manuscript? The correct answer turns out to be 'a lot longer than three months.' I don't know precisely how much longer, but it's definitely longer. Once completed, the editing shows that the first draft was pretty close to finish-quality from the outset, hardly more than moving the occasional dangling modifier or correcting the usual 'that' in lieu of an intended 'than.' The effort falls far short of any contemporary understanding of what constitutes work, yet it takes a very long time for me to complete it. Between compiling the pieces, properly formatting them, printing them out, reading and marking up, updating the original soft copy, then distilling into a fresh copyedited work, months might pass, much of the time spent procrastinating from the task at hand. Procrastination constitutes at least ninety percent of the effort, and it's by far the most exhausting and depleting part.

The chief difficulty lies in the inescapable fact that I'm one Schlocky editor.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dawning

Dawning
"Neither of us will wear western-cut slacks or string ties."

The sun seems a son of Kansas. It crawls across the sky, casting shadows for a living, before retiring to California. I know altogether too much to believably spin fresh creation myths, though I swear that I could use a few. Maybe we all could. Once I know better, I don't seem to imagine better. I adopt my reality and pretty much stick with it, no matter how poorly it serves my vitality. I feel attracted to the idea that the sun hails from Kansas, just another exported offspring of that windy weed patch of a place. I like the idea that it retires to California to wear western-cut slacks and sport a string tie, and drive a 1953 Ford station wagon with clothes pins on the fuel line.

The magpies serve as the most viable community in my neighborhood.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Literally...

literally
Andre Derain - Three Trees, 1906
"I'm mostly focused upon the quality of your story …"

I suppose I should affix a little warning "Do not interpret any of the following Literally" on everything I write. I'm no journalist and never really aspired to become one. I do not trade in objective facts but subjective description. I appreciate that this convention relies upon my readers to perform some cursory interpretation, especially if they're expecting just the facts, but so be it. Fix those expectations first. I do not have access to the facts, and even if I did, I'm experienced enough to understand that I can't usually combine facts to produce a decent punchline. I'm not dealing in fake news. I'm not dealing in news at all. My purpose lies closer to attempting to induce insight more than knowledge, enjoyment more than education, and perspective more than acuity. Some truths lie more deeply than any fact. Some facts materially misrepresent experience.

Writing seems most often about inducing a felt sense.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Snidely

snidely
"I'm always free to interpret a tad more generously …"

I remain surprised by how quickly even animals jump to conclusions about others. People seem infamous for our ability to conclude with almost no supporting evidence. The merest glance informs many of our actions, often resulting in anything but equal opposing reactions. Even I frequently jump first and only rarely ask questions after because my reaction seemed to need nothing more than the barest supporting evidence, if even that. I have no idea how often I'm wrong because I only very rarely find reason to second guess my instantaneously drawn conclusions. They imprint immediately and persist in spite of refuting evidence or experience. The GlancingKnow behaves as if it actually does know all.

I suppose that this facility results in certain efficiencies, but evolution never was an efficiency-seeking undertaking.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DoubleStock

doublestock
" … nectar only fully appreciable by gods."

The Muse and I must own almost a dozen stock pots. These range from huge to mid-sized, and we regularly, as in weekly, use about half of them. We employ them for more than making stock, but we make a lot of stock. Every blessed bit of veg trim goes into an ever-burgeoning baggy in the freezer. Same with meat trim, leftover bones, and even over-ripe fruit. About a quarter of the kitchen freezer always seems filled with bits awaiting transformation in a stock pot. It doesn't ever take much material: a chicken carcass or two, a couple of quarts of veg bits, a few herbs and spices, water, heat, and time, and I'm making stock again. I might make up a small batch just for a single dish, but I most often roast up larger batches for pressure canning and longer-term use. Replacing stock when a recipe calls for water dramatically improves the resulting dish. We're stock people.

I could not seem to learn how to make delicate stock like consumme, and not only because delicate dishes do not please my palate.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Weighting

Weighting
Norman Rockwell Visits a Ration Board, Norman Rockwell, 1944, The Saturday Evening Post

"I'll probably never learn."

The queue seems endless, progressing painfully slowly. I'm suddenly uncertain what brought me here. If I expected service, I know for sure that I have not found it yet or it has not yet found me. The system might have been designed to extract blood as a prerequisite for being allowed to donate blood. I feel like a shriveling turnip, but I will not leave. Once in line, and once hemmed in on either side, I hold territory which seems to need defending. I will not surrender, no matter how inconvenienced I feel. I hold a waning faith, but still some small potential for grace, a hope with most of its shine dulled to buff. I've already had enough but I will not be shouting "Uncle!" just yet, if ever. Probably never!

Some waits weigh more heavily than others.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

PreparationPrep
"The dinner, like my GlancingKnow Story week beside it, came off like a dream …"

The Muse and I tend to spend the week before any holiday in preparation. The key to holiday satisfaction seems to be paved with Preparation, Preparation, Preparation. We need to secure little nit-picky items like Pomegranate Molasses as well as the over-sized fowl. The Muse takes the lead preparing for Thanksgiving, for she follows recipes and respects her food heritage enough to try to recreate it for holidays. I try to support her efforts by washing pots and pans AND my presence seems to throw off her rhythm, just as her presence in my prep kitchen throws off mine. She maintains a backward sink discipline to mine, for instance, as she insists on putting her dirty dishes into the clean dish sink and vice versa. She blocks off access to the disposal and completely complicates any attempt I might make to assist, as I simply must clean up her organization before I can help clean up her pots and pans, and my reorganizing her organization throws hers into arrhythmia. I'm forever walking on some tacit plot line she's following and so I eventually retreat to the further corners of the Villa and let her have her way. I justify this by saying to myself that I carry the bulk of the prep work on ferial days, so she can carry that weight on festal ones.

Last week, I started a fresh tradition, one with no cobwebs on it yet, the practice of briefly summarizing the prior week's postings.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LearningToPlay

LearningToPlay
Baby at Play by Thomas Eakins,1876, National Gallery of Art
" … we're still managing the odd, awkward, occasional pet and heart-melting purring."

Molly spent her first few days with us cowering in the furthest back corner of the most remote room in the house, the cold and drafty room at the very end of the ductwork. I'd crawl back in there to point my finger at her nose while she eyed me sullenly at first, then suspiciously, occasionally permitting me to touch her head, sometimes even submitting to a seemingly welcome neck scratching which usually ended with her startling out of her budding delight before administering a scratching swipe and trying to take a bite out of the hand that had just been stroking her. She seemed sullen in the shelter before we'd brought her here and after hearing her life story from her caretaker there, I concluded that she'd earned her sour mood in the oldest of old fashioned ways. She could still technically pass for a kitten, though I doubted if she'd ever spent a day or even an odd morning at play. Her feral parents taught her what they could, a strong sense of self combined with powerful defensive survival skills, but between being trapped, neutered, ill and recovering