Friday, December 8, 2017

New Old Europe Beckons

It feels strange to know that I’ll be laying-over in Brussels in a few days. Belgium, who knew, is now the restive center of the New Old World. That city of my mother-in-law’s birth will be the first-leg of a Diamond Jubilee, my 75th birthday celebratory visit to a couple of former empires, Italy and Austria-Hungary.

My wife asked me today if I was excited. I answered, “Delighted.” Which is odd, because I have no recollection of using that subtly self-illuminating word before as a response during my first three-quarters of a century here on Earth.

Once upon a time an ugly American heading abroad would not have his arm-hairs bristle, or be made to see formations of Pig-Penish clouds gathering around him. As always, these are new times, and yet . . .

Travelling in the northern hemisphere in December and January is not for the faint-of-heart under the best of circumstances, but these days it is not something as easily predictable as the weather that causes a thinking person to ponder the possibilities of a chance forever lost of finally answering the riddle of the self, or lo, the meaning of life.

History, if one has read any at all, teaches that managing to be in the right place at the right time is an impossibly difficult endeavor, even for the most diffident of homebodies. For starters, Troy was sacked.

So, despite all the trepidations of venturing forth as a representative of the New America: the overriding sense of embarrassment, the full expectation of a reciprocal intolerance, the crying shame of having to bear witness to profound civil failures and echoes of the zippy codas of age-old marching songs, on my honor, I will do my best . . .

. . . when I return (fingers-crossed) to restore the Spirit of ’76.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Flight of the Petrarch

No immortal hand—mind’s eye created--
This wild unaeried creature on the fly.
Mind-forg’d it rose--self-emancipated--
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi to the sky.

It might be likened to an eruption--
Or tocsin's raucous bellowing ringing sound--
Then the apoplectic cry, "Corruption!"
As its tortured quatrains are turned around.

Beginnings haven't certain ends in sight--
One smooth passage can't promise another--
Yet behold the Petrarch on its first flight--
Rising freely from its earthbound mother.

Reimagine the Phoenix, the Pegasus--
Imagine then a newborn world for us.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

MOMA Loogie

Kaufman hung the golden sardine


onto a canvas

it slid full
to a stop
in a poem.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Unbelabored Points

Having suffered now, and not alone I am certain, through the better part of a year under a government administration headed by a self-trumpeting ignoramus, I have been searching to enlist some simple remedy to cure me of an acute case of befuddlement at the inability of the body politic to fully understand the immense danger in which it finds itself. Perhaps we can begin to take those actions necessary to rectify a very grave situation if we cast-off the blue-smoke and mirrors and see clearly what our feckless leaders in the Executive and Legislative branches of our government have been doing thus far.

Begin by reading The Handbook of Political Fallacies, by the Enlightenment philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, it is a lucid treatise on the Art of Our Governing; a guide that I am sure Donald Trump has had read to him, chapter and verse, as a child.

Following is a brief excerpt from the Handbook which describes the methodologies of our current ruling class and names those fallacies that are being employed to help unravel our national fabric, and put our nation at serious risk at the behest of pernicious leaders and their enablers. I cannot recommend strongly enough that this book be found, dusted-off, and read closely and widely.

"First, the fallacies of authority, including laudatory personalities, the subject-matter of which is authority in various shapes, and the object to repress, on the grounds of the weight of such authority, all exercise of the reasoning faculty.

"Secondly, the fallacies of danger, including vituperative personalities, the subject-matter of which is the suggestion of danger in various shapes, and the object to repress altogether, on the ground of such danger, the discussion of a proposed measure.

"Thirdly, the fallacies of delay, the subject-matter of which is the assigning of reasons for delay in various shapes, and the object, to postpone such discussion, with a view to eluding it altogether.

"Fourthly, the fallacies of confusion, the subject-matter of which consists chiefly of vague and indefinite generalities, while the object is to produce, when discussion can no longer be avoided, such confusion in the minds of the hearers as to incapacitate them for forming a correct judgment on the question at issue."

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Mixed Messenger

Donald Trump, who tweets: “Theatre!” in a crowded fire while home burns, is correct when he says that the nationwide cultural conflagration didn’t start with him, but he appears to have most of America, and the world, wondering and worrying if it will all end with him.

It is a difficult period for any apolitical American (who now ought to fully understand why his precursor was often called out as the “Ugly American”); there is a lack of something vital, call it a moral compass, call it a moral center, call it morality itself; perhaps it's the lack of a unifying national purpose. Whatever label you choose to stick on this chronic disease, there is also a lack of a sincere, intelligent, ethical leadership at many levels of society and its institutions. It is undeniably despoiling and threatening our present and future welfare.

Across the political spectrum from the far left to the far right, staunch supporters and opponents to Trump's so-called "agenda" have begun to express their doubts about his ability as a person, let alone as a sitting President, to govern and guide us out of the dangerous economic and social cultural malaise in which we find ourselves after centuries of painfully slow progress towards realizing an amorphous “American Dream.”

How does a nation whose citizens were bred to be “Individualists”, whether rugged or otherwise, become “Out of Many, One”? Certainly not by condoning bigotry, privilege, or equivocating good and evil, might and right.

We are all of us to blame, of course; and it certainly will take all of us working together to get the ship of state on a correct course before smashing upon the rocks of forever lost potential.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chapter X[XXV]II. The Subject Continued.

From Thackeray's, "Vanity Fair", further describing how to make US grate again.

“I wonder how many families are driven to roguery and to ruin by great practitioners in Crawley’s way?

“How many great noblemen rob their petty tradesmen, condescend to swindle their poor retainers out of wretched little sums, and cheat for a few shillings?

“Who pities a poor barber who can’t get his money for powdering the footmen’s heads; or a poor carpenter who has ruined himself by fixing up ornaments and pavilions for my lady’s déjeuner; or the poor devil of a tailor whom the steward patronizes, and who has pledged all he is worth, and more, to get the liveries ready which my lord has done him the honour to bespeak?

“When the great house tumbles down, these miserable wretches fall under it unnoticed; as they say in the old legends, before a man goes to the devil himself, he sends plenty of other souls thither.”

Friday, June 30, 2017

What a Pyrrhic!

Without a doubt, the ongoing dysfunction of the American political system is alarming to people and national leaders both at home and around the globe regardless of their customary allegiances. The lack of bipartisanship among the people’s representatives and the polarization throughout the nation’s population threatens the country’s and the world’s stability.

This dangerous state of affairs was not brought about by the current chief executive, Donald Trump, although his lack of political experience, and his personal behaviorial manners and quirks have apparently resulted in an inability for him to foster any cooperation between individuals and groups in areas where joint action is critically needed, thus exacerbating the already declining strength of the nation in the eyes of its own citizens, as well as in the view of the leaders and the citizens of our allies and enemies alike.

There is a strong sense of major disasters looming, and a dearth of solutions being formulated to solve huge problems, because of a dearth of quality leadership from our warring political parties. We won't fend off the inevitable conflagrations brewing with any amount of Tweeted falsehoods, incitements, diversions, or hyperbolic Congressional pronouncements. We desperately need leadership, not gamesmanship.

An ill-informed, prejudiced, and short-sighted American electorate, by choosing its representatives in government selfishly and unwisely, has cleared the way for China, Europe, or Russia, either alone, or in tandem, to become the political, social, and economic leaders of the 21st-century.

If limited government and the desire to remain uninvolved and distanced from the universal struggle for the survival and progress of humanity is the goal of those who unflinchingly support our current administration, we are to be congratulated on our Pyrrhic victory, but should be sympathized with for our utter failure to recognize the consequences of having hastened the demise of the greatest hope for mankind in the history of the planet.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Deaf Con 45

The following is an excerpt from John Updike’s gem-studded collection of completely imagined, highly imaginative interviews with characters we’ve all met, but never knew as well as we should have. This interview was with "The Bankrupt Man"

. . . 
Q: When did you first know that you were bankrupt?
A: I think from birth I intuited I was headed that way. I didn’t cry, like other infants.

Q: Do you see any possibility for yourself of ever being non-bankrupt?
A: The instant bankruptcy is declared, laws on the federal, state, and local levels work in harmony to erode the condition. Some assets are exempted, others are sheltered. In order to maintain bankruptcy, fresh investments must be undertaken, and opportunities seized as they arise. A sharp eye on economic indicators must be kept lest the whole package slips back into the black. Being bankrupt is not a lazy man’s game.

Q: Have you any word of advice for those of us who are not bankrupt?
A [with that twinkle]: Eat your hearts out.

 . . . 

This galls us. We wish to destroy him, this clown of legerity, who bounces higher and higher off the net of laws that would enmesh us, who weightlessly spiders up the rigging to the dizzying spotlit tip of the tent-space and stands there in a glittering trapeze suit, all white, like the chalk-daubed clown who among the Australian aborigines moves in and out of the sacred ceremonial, mocking it. We spread ugly rumors, we mutter that he is not bankrupt at all, that he is as sound as the pound, as the dollar, that his bankruptcy is a sham. He hears of the rumor and in a note, on one-hundred-percent-rag stationery, with embossed letterhead, he challenges us to meet him on West Main Street, by the corner of the Corn Exchange, under the iron statue of Cyrus Shenanigan, the great Civil War profiteer. We accept the challenge. We experience butterflies in the stomach. We go look at our face in the mirror. It is craven and shriveled, embittered by ungenerous thoughts.

Comes the dawn. Without parked cars, West Main Street seems immensely wide. The bankrupt man’s shoulders eclipse the sun. He takes his paces, turns, swiftly reaches down and pulls out the lining of both pants pockets. Verily, they are empty.

 . . . 

He ascends because he transcends. He deals from the bottom of the deck. He builds castles in the air. He makes America grow. His interests ramify. He is in close touch with Arabian oil. With Jamaican bauxite. With Antarctic refrigeration. He creates employment for squads of lawyers. He gets on his motorcycle. He tugs a thousand creditors in his wake, taking them over horizons they had never dreamt of  hitherto.

He proves there is an afterlife.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

from a Bloom'n' Feathery Aire

Reklektikos, 2017:
It is naught if not Walpurgisnacht, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea.

The following culled from an extraordinarily readable critique:

James Joyce: The First Forty Years
Herbert S. Gorman, 1924
"Stephen Dedalus retains his entity throughout but Bloom, more incoherent in his cerebral adjustions and weaker in intellectual intensity and concentration, time after time changes into visualizations of the thoughts which rush across his befuddled mind. All that he has desired or dreaded or dreamt or been fascinated or revolted by takes him and colors him chameleon-like. He becomes a squire of dames, a prisoner in court, Lord Mayor of Dublin, an Emperor, an Irish emigrant, a woman, anything that pops into his mind, anything that is suggested by the most chance remark or situation. The whole day rushes back across his helpless mind, all the people he has met, all the gossip he has heard, all the thoughts which had passed his consciousness. In astonishing garb and blasphemous attitudes all these half-digested morsels of observation and subconscious reception out of his brain, spurting about like bits of colored glass from a smashed kaleidoscope. Part of this is occasioned by the same pathological principle which causes a victim of delirium tremens to see snakes."

"Yet they stand in the silence of kinship a moment at the door before they part while the bells of St. George ring out."--Herbert S. Gorman, 1924

"What echoes of that sound were by both and each heard?

By Stephen:
Liliata rutilantium. Turma circumdet.
Jubilantium te virginum. Chorus excipiat.

By Bloom:
Heigho, heigho,
Heigho, heigho."

--James Joyce, Ulysses

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sedimental Journey

From across that Acheron,
heard not with whimpering,
but accursed stomping,--
gwine that hollow man,
sowing seeds of wrath.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Hard Class Act to Follow

As I have begun to re-read the works of Dickens the complete set of dried-blood-colored volumes I first encountered as a toddler when crawling I looked up and beheld a towering mountain much like the one the startled apes once saw reflected in the living Kubrick's imagination I have just so happily gleaned from G. K. Chesterton’s 1911 “Introduction” to those works the following that has startled this young ape at least once more.

“Dickens was a very great man, and there are many ways of testing and stating this fact. But one permissible way is to say this, that he was an ignorant man, ill-read in the past, and often confused about the present. Yet he remains great and true, and even essentially reliable, if we suppose him to have known not only all that went before his lifetime, but also all that was to come after.

“From this vanishing of the Victorian compromise (I might say the Victorian illusion) there begins to emerge a menacing and even monstrous thing—we may begin again to behold in the English people. If that strange dawn ever comes, it will be the final vindication of Dickens. It will be proved that he is hardly even a caricaturist; that he is something very like a realist. Those comic monstrosities which the critics found incredible will be found to be the immense majority of the citizens of this country. We shall find that Sweedlepipe cuts our hair and Pumblechook sells our cereals; that Sam Weller blacks our boots and Tony Weller drives our omnibus…

“even Americans are all something, though it is not easy to say what it is; it goes with hawk-like eyes and an irrational eagerness. Perhaps it is savages.”