Saturday, April 18, 2020

The way we live today

I must say that I’m not really enjoying the 2020 remix of Abbey Road.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Go with the Floe!

In recent days we have seen the notion gaining traction among our betters that the Olds should get out there and die, already, so that we can kickstart the travel and hospitality sectors back into profitability. The rentier class, seeing their portfolios becoming flaccid, wonder why the proles shouldn’t flock back into the shops, theatres, restaurants, aircraft, cruise ships—don’t you people understand that this “social distancing” might tank the economy? How can you be so selfish? Passing strange how some of the same people who were howling ten years ago about Obamacare “death panels” now want Auntie and Gramps to step up to the plague so that we can all, or rather the survivors, get back to whatever it was we were doing at the turning of the year instead of paying attention to the news out of Wuhan Province. This is, incidentally, additional evidence for The First Law of Republican Politics: It’s Always Projection with These Guys. Several examples have been in the news lately—the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, for example, or television and radio dysfunctional personality Glenn Beck, both of who have declared their willingness to lay down their own lives (pardon me; I’m giggling)—but I want to preserve for posterity the text of a “tweet” put up there on shortly after midnight on 23 March by one Scott McMillan, an attorney in La Mesa down in SoCal, who describes his operation as “a results-oriented law firm.” Here’s the perfect distillation of this school of thought. He prudently excised the tweet once he came to in the morning, but unfortunately for many of us who have been briefly indiscreet online, screen captures are a thing, and I transcribe this from one of these:
The fundamental problem is whether we are going to tank the entire economy to save 2.5% of the population which is (1) generally expensive to maintain, and (2) not productive.
I’m guessing that from his clients’ perspectives, brother McMillan is also expensive to maintain, and we may wonder just what he produces, and how much of it, in the broader scheme of things. As a man in my latter sixties with one of those underlying medical issues (never you mind) I am unsympathetic to this take, and to the broader trend of thinking it represents (lunatic from the epidemiological and economic standpoints, but you can go elsewhere for more cogent arguments than I am disposed to marshal here), but I’m a fair-minded fellow. I’m going to attempt to run with what looks to be the emerging RWNJ consensus. Stay with me here.

Remember the notion that the Inuit used to dispatch their elderly out to sea on ice floes when they became too high-maintenance? Hold that thought. Then consider a trio of our present existential emergencies. You’ve got your economic crisis, your epidemiological crisis and, of course, your long-standing environmental crisis. Bummer, right? But that’s only because we’re thinking of them in isolation! Put them all together, and they spell…synergy.

Today we have (apparently) too many elders and (definitely) nothing like a sufficient number of hospital beds. But what do we have an abundance of? Ice floes! That’s right, thanks to anthropogenic climate change, the polar icecaps north and south are shedding zillions of these every week. There are more than enough (well, for domestic use, at least, and until next month’s butcher’s bill) to accommodate the surplus population of Wrinkled Americans. Load ’em up with seniors and tow them out to sea. Beds: abundant. Economy: booming. Polar bears: well-fed. This is synergy! Sometimes I amaze myself.

Go with the Floe, those of my fellow Boomers who subscribe to this model. I’ll be there onshore to push you off with an extra-long pole, the better to observe social distancing. I’ll see you on the other side, provided distressed marine predators haven’t made a meal of you first.

Friday, March 13, 2020

“The God Abandons Antony”

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

—C.P. Cavafy

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Journal of the Plague Year: Waiting for Corona

(Above: the goddamn thing appears to be made out of yarn!)

We’ve known this would happen eventually, although most of the scenarios were based on a “gene shift” of the influenza family of viruses (“Nobody expects the Spanish Influenza!”). Instead, COVID-19 has flown from the Celestial Kingdom on the leathery wings of bats, and is busy replicating itself all around our global village, abetted by a certain amount of global village idiocy.

Well, let’s leave politics aside. The genie is out of the bottle, and coming to a theatre, and a supermarket, and a subway, and a workplace and—OK, one little bit of politics—a nominating convention or two near you. I think kissing babies and shaking hands may go out of style this election cycle.

As Leonard Cohen sang, “Everybody knows the plague is coming/Everybody knows it’s moving fast,” although he was referring to an STD which, while lethal, was far more readily containable. This one…well, if it proceeds even according to the median-case scenarios, 2020 is shaping up to be a rough ride. The disease, to which it appears no one enjoys even legacy immunity, is going to go through humanity like a pitbull in a playground. A year from now many people we know (I am pretending for a moment that this blog has readers other than its author, who has been diffident about promoting it over the years) may well have died of this, even if they do not die well. I have had pneumonia a couple of times. It has been called “the old man’s friend,” and I gotta say that any “friend” like that would go right off the Christmas card list. Indeed, I might die myself, being close to the upward end of the mortality curve, and bringing to the party some cardiac complications. Oh, well.

Well, as to that, not much I can do. It’s fairly certain that, absent isolating myself in The Crumbling Manse™, I can’t avoid infection, and after all, my demographic tranche puts the chances of my death from COVID-19 at a little under ten percent. Look on the bright side: if someone handed you a Powerball ticket with the assurance that you had a 90% chance of bringing home the big jackpot, would you not already be scanning the tonier real estate ads—or, if you’re a better human being than I am, weighing the merits of sundry charities?

This feels from here as though we’re waiting for a tsunami. We’re trapped more or less near the beach. Will we be drowned? Impossible to know as the wave builds offshore. If I’m not here at year’s end, well, this remote atoll will endure for a while, an echo in dead coral of my former presence, as the poison tide recedes.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

“The Hamadryad of Ragweed”

(The doggerel and the illustration are both by Ed Fisher, and appeared in Horizon Magazine Volume VIII, No. 4, Autumn 1966. I believe today may be the first time these lines have been rendered in machine-readable form.)

In ancient Greece, beside the Wine-
Dark sea, ’twixt earth and ether,
A race of beings, not divine
But not quite human, either,
Inhabited the smiling land
In paralyzing numbers—
In every stream, or every stand
Of oaks, or of cucumbers.

From lowest reed bed by the sea
To loftiest Hymettus
They dwelt in every bush and tree
And every head of lettuce.
No scribe could tally up their ranks,
Nor bold amanuensis
(It would have flooded memory banks
And overwhelmed the census).

Delightful female forms had they
And lovely names like “Aegle”
And “Lotis,” “Lara,” “Dryope,”
And sometimes they were vaguely
Perceived by furtive mortal eye
—A dazzling sight to pitch on
Of perfect bosom, gleaming thigh,
Unhampered by a stitch on.

No wonder, then, the groves of Greece
Were full of would-be voyeurs
And Kings were robbed of mental peace
While Queens consulted lawyers;
The Gods themselves were not averse
To dallying with these Naiads
Though Goddesses would weep and curse
And mutter jeremiads.

Nor were the Nymph and Naiads loath
Nor overly retiring;
Their job of fostering the growth
Of plants was uninspiring;
They found it hard to be demure,
To stick to girlish chatter
Or to delight in what was pure-
Ly vegetable matter.

So, now and then, from every stem,
Or pool, or branch arboreal
A lovely figure would emerge,
Aquiver and corporeal,
A blush or two, a soft “yoo-hoo”
—A male would catch a sight of her;
A “view halloo!” a hot pursue,
And then he’d make a night of her.

The forests rang with constant cry
Of men and Gods and Satyrs;
While from their beds amid the rye,
The tulips and the taters,
The Dryads rose, took shape, displayed
Their succulent totality—
No Self-denying Ordinance stayed
Their consummate carnality.

The Nymphs of Oak and Elm enjoyed
A string of peccadilloes,
The Ferns were constantly employed,
And so were all the Willows;
The Cowslips were a frequent catch
In countless lustful gambols;
Despite a tendency to scratch
So was the Nymph of Brambles.

Alone amidst this lightsome set
One lovely creature languished
With downcast cheek and eyelids wet,
Emitting murmurs anguished;
Untouched, unbroached, for her the joys
Of love remained untasted,
Though oft approached by men and boys
Their efforts were quite wasted.

For from her lips and nostrils proud
And from her hair’s gold glory
There swirled an irritating cloud
Of tiny 𝘮𝘪𝘤𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘦
That cast the most appalling spell
On all would-be attackers
That made them cough and itch and swell
And sneeze like firecrackers.

Thus wracked, no lover could begin
(Though she submitted docilely);
They’d try, with flaming eye and skin,
“Kerchoo-ing” most colossally,
To make a pass, embrace, or pet,
To rise above distraction
—But neither lass nor lad could get
A moment’s satisfaction.

No hardy hero of the Greeks
(Accomplished womanizers,
To whom a maiden’s kicks and shrieks
Were merely appetizers)
Could face resistance such as 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴
So shameful and so baffling,
Could boldly grasp or blithely kiss
While sniffling and snaffling!

And though from far and near they came
Determined on a try at
Her scatheless virtue, none could claim
The Ragweed Hamadryad.
Brave Spartans, hardy men of Thrace,
And wily Trapezuntites
All fled her pollen-flushed embrace
With volleys of “𝘎𝘦𝘴𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘵𝘴!”

Even the thirsting Gods above
Could only heave a sigh at
The unpossessed attractions of
The Ragweed Hamadryad.
Priapus raged and Bacchus wept
And Comus was no calmer;
Despite these fits they primly kept
A healthy distance from her.

At last, one day, great Zeus looked down
And found her figure pleasing;
With knowing smile and tucked-up gown,
His bolt and sceptre seizing.
He stepped to earth; they met, they clasped,
In raptures paroxysmic
They tossed like ocean vessels grasped
By forces cataclysmic.

The heavens blazed as, wildly, crazed,
They spent their passions hoarded
While passing strangers stopped, amazed,
And recklessly applauded;
And when at last she cried “enough”
He rose up, enigmatic,
And promptly vanished in a puff
Of multicolored static.

This Mightiest of Scamps had done
What legions had attempted;
From ragweed pollen he, alone,
Seemed totally exempted.
With greatest ease he’d won the prize
This courier anointed,
Nor cough, nor sneeze, nor red-of-eyes
Had stayed his rounds appointed.

And all the Greeks with paeans praised
His feat apocalyptic
But when the 𝘩𝘰𝘸 of it was raised
Great Zeus’s smile was cryptic;
He kept his questioners at bay
And kept his reputation.
In truth, his only secret lay
In Careful Preparation.

—This Romeo, before the show
And well behind the scenes
Had smeared himself from head to toe
With antihistamines
And thus protected had attained
His triumph transcendental
But to the public he explained:
“All allergies are mental.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


I’ve had the New York Times bookmarked for a couple of decades, and followed it behind the paywall long ago, but I’ve detested its political reporting since its cheerleading for the Cheney Shogunate’s warmongering, and particularly for its Clintophobia. I take particular exception to the paper’s pious pose of “objectivity,” which requires it, apparently, to report upon the criminal cabal now holding office as though this was just one more administration.

The graphic posted here consists of a screengrab from this morning, and my own imagined webpage depicting how the NYT might have reported D Day, by its current editorial standards, in 1944.