Monday, April 29, 2013

The Height of Civilization

Sometimes I think human history is the outcome of a great war between civilization and barbarism.

When terrorists set bombs in a public place to kill and maim innocent people, that is barbarism. When neighbors and citizens arise to comfort and compensate the victims of such atrocity, that is one of the many functions of what we call civilization.

History has always been us civilized folks against the barbarians who assault the the gates of law and decency.

In the last decade of our nation's collective experience, many of us have borne the burden of tragedies in which innocents suffered terrible pain, suffering, and death. In the wake of these terrible events, there never fails to be a multitude of Americans who answer the immediate and subsequent challenges presented in sorting out and cleaning up bloody messes, and then ministering care and comfort to victims and their families. The most obvious heroes are the first responders, the firemen, EMTs, physicians, nurses, policemen, neighbors, compassionate passersby, good samaritans. But there are many others all along the way in the aftermath.

For instance, long after the fact, after the dust settles, someone has to sort out the financial damages and compensations; there has to be a person or persons whose job is to make the hard decisions in allocating limited money for compensation to victims and others who have suffered undeserved losses and injuries.

Fortunately for us here in the USA, there is a man whose God-given gift is to administrate those decisions, and their accompanying financial compensations, in a very public and transparent way. He is a man who is known for fairness, impartiality, and sound judgement.

Ken Feinberg is his name. He has been appointed, in days recently past, to help others sort out and distribute the sticky, inadequate financial damages that collect in the wake of such events as: 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Colorado movie shootings, BP oilspill, and many others.

And now the Boston Marathon bombing damage compensation fund.

In an interview today with Robin Young of Boston's WBUR Here and Now, Mr. Fineberg explained that there is "never enough money" in a situation such as this to justly compensate all those people who have suffered death, maiming, loss of limbs, paralysis, pain, suffering and loss of just about every asset that humans are heir to, including suffering to which no monetary value can be assigned.

But somebody has to do it. Somebody has to make the difficult calls, and then have the results of the distribution acknowledged generally as fair and sufficient. In the USA today, that somebody is Ken Feinberg and his crew.

I admire him. It is a very difficult job, and he has handled it well, with honesty and integrity that is widely, consistently acknowledged, case after case, disaster after disaster.

What a hell of a job.

I recommend you listen to his answers in response to Robin Young's questions:

At the end of the interview, Ken intimated that the job is stressful. He said he has to take little breaks after meeting with victims and their families, in order to deal with the pain and suffering that he sees in their faces and hears in their complaints.

Then Robin mentioned Mozart; she had heard that he enjoys listening to music at the end of such a stressful day. Mr. Feinberg confirmed it. After all the stress that his day's enquiries uncover, at the end of the day he finds release from the fierce collateral damages of barbarism, by fleeing to what he calls the "height of civilization": listening to Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Beethoven.

I can relate, especially as he mentioned Beethoven.

It is true: a Beethoven symphony, performed by a professional orchestra, expresses the height of civilization.
In terms of music, that is.

But the deeper and loftier height of civilization is this:

what good people do to comfort, heal and care for their fellowmen/women, in the tragic aftermath whenever evil has been inflicted by barbarians at the gate.

Glass half-Full

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chechen up on my Caucasian identity Crisis

Ever since we implemented civil rights legislation many and many a year ago, I have had to check a little race box on any kind of application or information form that I'm submitting to some .gov, .org, or even .com entity that wants to know about who I am, and why I am applying for their this/that/orthe/other. The little box typically asks me to identify my race. A person of my pale pigmentation is expected to check the box called Caucasian.

And I'm like, whaddup widdat?

What have I to do with thee, oh mountains of Caucasus?

If I chech the Causasian ethnicity, does that identify me as some wild-eyed cave-dweller from the far side of those mountains that the tectonic earth had long ago so carelessly slung up between Black Sea and Prince Caspian?

Surely not! I beg to differ.

On the other hand, if I am being so contentious about such a small box-chechin' matter, maybe I am a little bit of a Chech.

That is to say: a rebel.

Them doggone Chechens!--can't do a thing with 'em, as they say in Moscow.

I suppose that in Russia, when the good citizens of that country fill out forms, they are likewise expected to chech little ethnicity boxes, so the bureaucrats in the Kremlin or wherever can know what little categories to place the people in, very much like here in the land of the free and home of the brave, aka Washington SMSA.

Now when I say Chech, I'm not talking about Czechs. Them Czechs are great, especially like, Vaclev Havel. But I must also point out that they too, have a history of not taking any sh-t from the Russians, just like those upstart startups in Boston wouldn't tolerate any taxation without representation from wiggy ole King George III, back in the day, the revolutionary day, when the Patriots decided to have a Tea Party.

But that was then, and this is now. We're all Russians now! Dosvidanya. Reminds me of some old Beatles nonsense, where Georgia's always on my mind.

Glass Chimera

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Garrisoning the best of Americana

Garrison Keillor's unique retrospective is really about what America was; but somehow, it doesn't end there. His profound entertainment does not get hung up in the past. It always seems to cultivate, in the back of our minds, an appreciation of Americana that is timeless, enduring.

You see, there is something deeply therapeutic about elaborating on a precious national heritage that we share together. And I declare that there is nothing morose or counterproductive about looking back, even though Mr. Keillor's Brand-New Retrospective road show is tinged with a note of vintage melancholy.

Last Tuesday night here in Boone, North Carolina, he demonstrated to us that it is healthy, and helpful, to find inspiration for the future in recollecting the best of what has gone before-- remembering the way things used to be when we were young and foolish. Back in the day.

Nothing wrong with identifying what it was that characterized our baby-boom g-generation, then celebrating it with an evening of poetry, prose and singalong, orchestrated by the bard of the Prairie Home. At one point, Garrison started singing:

"Oh, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean."

And the way she looked was way beyond compare. . ."

We boomers in the arena instinctively joined along. He knew we would, because, together, we remember. . . I clearly remember the first time I heard those lines sung, laying in bed one night listening to my transistor radio, probably about 1963 or so. The Beatles sailed into our young collective consciousness, via the airwaves, during that rarified time of our youth.

My g-generation remembers that moment of the Fab Four's arrival from England, shaking their hairy heads on Ed Sullivan and all that, My generation-- who grew up under the strong leadership of Ike and the dubious example of Elvis--my g-generation, mourning JFK and Dallas, and believing in Walter Cronkite and Annette Funicello. All these personality vectors framed our shared experience as the first-ever TV generation.

Oh what a time it was! Never be another like it.

But the first singalong we did with Mr. Keillor on Tuesday night was not that Beatles' tune; it was an anthem much more sacred than anything the irreverent Liverpudlians would ever compose. All of us gray heads remembered, from school, the refrain:

"America, America, God shed his grace on thee.

And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea."

Then the bard of the Prairie Home crooned us into Home on the Range. The words just come back, you know, like riding a bicycle. Most every boomer remembers the tune, accompanied by memories of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Howdy Doody, Dan'l Boone, Woody in Toy Story. Say what? Woody?

Anyway, after those two national hymns, somewhere in there was when Garrison evoked the Beatles contribution to our collective Boomer memory:

"Well, my heart went boom, when I crossed that room,

and I held her hand in mine. . ."

This is what it's all about! But hey, it seems this kind of thing doesn't happen any more.

A decade or so before the Beatles, when Garrison Keillor was about the age that I was when I first heard Lennon-McCartney, there was Buddy Holly. He was a little before my time. But Buddy was not before Garrison Keillor's time; Buddy was right square in the middle of Garrison Keillor's sensitive prairie-home experience, which had been birthed about nine years before mine had popped out down in Louisiana, but on the same River, the Mississippi.

At his retrospective concert last Tuesday night, Garrison mentioned Buddy as he spun his web of preciously memorable treasures. I had a feeling he might mention Buddy Holly, because I knew the importance of the deceased singer's legacy in Mr. Keillor's mind.

I knew, because many years ago, it was Garrison Keillor's tenderly shared recollection of Buddy's small-plane-crash death that first drew my attention to the rare, provocative experience of listening, on Saturday nights, to a Prairie Home Companion radio show. 'T'was then I heard the Minnesota bard's poignant, homespun yarns about Lake Wobegone, which is a quintessential small-town somewhere out there in the mythical, archetypical, Prairie Home that we all seem to remember, even if we didn't grow up in Minnesota.

There is so much I could say about our tender evening with Garrison Keillor, but I will not dwell on it, because you are, after all, reading this online, with the attendant post-Boomer short attention span and so forth. You would. . .ah. . .you'd have to be there. But I will say this: just to hear Rich Dworsky's piano playin' was better than nirvana.

And know this: America's resilient character lives on and on, despite what soulless fanatics may do to maim and kill innocent bystanders in Boston, or in Texas or in Oklahoma or New York, or in any other place in these United States.

Garrison Keillor's shared music and monologue continues to reinforce preservation of our precious Americana cultural legacy in every venue he addresses. He is a man garrisoning the best of what America has been, is, and will be.

Boomer's Choice

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Tale from Ole Uncle rOMBus

Ole Uncle rOMBus, he usa be de stockman down at d'gov.mnt sto, back in Uncle Ronnie days, so he gots a lot t'say from a qualified viewpoint. From time to time he tell us chilluns bout tales o' what be hap'nin down on d'plantation. Yest'dy, Uncle rOMBus he be done tole us bout d'time little ChiknHank and big BenBird a'most let the flo fall out from undneath our banking system. Oh, shut my mouth, an what a close call it was! Gatha roun' now chilluns, and you shall hear, how 'merican capitalism got turn'd on its ear.

Dis is how it hap'n:

One fine, zippity do-dah day back in September '08, when wan'at nobody lookin' and ev'body be kinda layback, not thinking' bout much o' nuthin, suddenly der be one big ruckus shenanigans whenz little ChiknHank come a runnin down d'road t'ween NewYawk an Wash'n, jez a whooping an a hollerin':

"D'flo be fallin'! D'flo be fallin' out from und'neaf us! We gotz to do sumpn now!"

Down inside d'beltway, Ole UnclePrez he turn 'roun quick, and pay close 'tention, cuz little ChiknHank he be d'wine some serious secretaryin' down at d'Treasur patch. "Whaddup now, bro?" Ole UnclePrez say.

Little ChiknHank, looking' all nervous on tv an sweat'n and discombobulated like, he say:

"We gotz to do sumpn now, or all dem MBSs and CDOs an CDSs, an AIG, dey be crashin' down in subprime und'neaf d'flo! and dat whole load o' low-grade unqualified drive-up receivables in cyberspace conduit, all sliced and diced for speculat'n obscurity conflummocks, wi' cooked-up SnP rat'ns an moody AAAs--dey be crash'n down befo yo can say overcollateralized leverage lickety-split, crash'n down on AIG an d'wallstreet flo! An d'mainstreet momnpops down und'neaf-- dey weel be crushed to smithereens! We gotz to do sumpn now, Uncle Prez! Quick, call big BenBird!"

Well, ole Uncle BenBird he come along and take one look at d'sitiation, an he say:

"I believe der be only one way out dis conflummucks. We gotz to t'row ChiknHank an' his barnyard wall street pals in de bailout patch, cuz dey bin in high cotton so long dey don' know dey's toxic assets from a hole in d'groun'."

But little ChiknHank, he be hoot'n n holler'n:

"Oh no, Uncle Ben! Please don' trow me in dat bailout patch! You can string me from d'highest leverage; you can tar me wi' regulat'n pitch 'til d'Feds come home; you can e'en trow me in d'bellerin wi d'bears, or wi' d'bulls in d'china shop, but please, please! Uncle Prez, don' let big Uncle Benbird trow me in dat bailout patch! I been a Uncle Miltie freedman free-market capper since I wuz Nehi to a moon pie, an ah jez can't take it if yu'z t'let Uncle Ben trow me in dat bailout patch."

But Uncle Prez n big BenBird, dey be confalootin sump'n serious, 'til finally Uncle Ben he be done trow ChiknHank right sho'nuf inz de middle o dat bailout patch.

Den, der be a long quietude, 'sept fo little rustlin' and rump'n and grunt'n somewheys down in dat bailout patch, and d'wind blow'n up a whistlin' dixie and tryin' d'be chawin bubblegum at d'same time, til at last,

By n' by, little ChiknHank, he drag hisself up on a hickory stump rot beside dat bailout patch, an he commenz to combin' briers outa his feathery backside wi a bluechip bonus blip. Den he strut up his bad self an go agin to hoot'n n holler'n, but dis time wi' a dif'rent margin call:

"Ah'uz bow'n an bred for dat bailout patch, Uncle Ben! bow'n and bred!"

An little ChiknHank commenz t'slipp'n n slidin' 'long d'muddy trail awhistlin zippity do dah, an direcly he an Bro Timmy dey be gett'n de wallstreet barnyard boyz back in high cotton agin, and momnpops down on mainstreet nev'a knew what hit 'em wi' d'bailout patch an all dat toobigtofail smokescreen conflummucks.

Now by n by, Ole Uncle rOMBus come along an tell us chilluns de tale, an he say d'momnpops down on mainstreet nevuh knew what hit 'em, cuz, i guess, day gotz d'bigscreen tv an 32-ounce bigchillum drink to keeps 'em feelin like dey's in high cotton fo sho.

But all dat whoopfiz woobieshoobie aside, now der be no joy in unemployed, underemployed Mudville today, cuz Ole Uncle rOMBus done struck out, but hey! we all gotz to go some time an at leaz he tried t'tell us what be goin on down on d'plantation. Thank you, Uncle rOMBus.

Y'all come back now, y'heah? Mo tall tales to come fo sho!

Glass Chimera

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

the Narnia wardrobe

Nineteen thirty-four,

Nazis in

Nuremberg attempted to

nullify the glory of God;

nihilistic they were;

nixing the opinions of mankind, by

nineteen thirty-

nine, had made war a sacrament, until there remained

no decency left in their

nefarious reign over Deutschland. In

nineteen forty, they moved against the world, with

noxious occupations in Austria, Czechoslav, Poland.

Nobody could reverse their ruthless belligerance. Everywhere the

National Socialists went,

no good thing was tolerated.

Never had the world seen such hateful conquest.

Next country over to the west on the

North Sea was the

Netherlands; when the

Nazis came, some good people there hid Jews so they would

not be found,

nor arrested,

nor sent to death camps.

Near the upper regions of some refuge homes, probably

next to a wall, there might be found a wooden wardrobe, which is

not a collection of clothes, but a rather unusual piece of furniture.

Nailed or hinged to the back of it, there could be a false panel, very

narrow, on the other side of which secret accommodations might

neatly conceal

neighbors or other persons who have fled the

Nazi police, which are the beastly

nemeses of Jews and other innocent

non-aryans. We could say that beyond such a hiding place

nestled behind a wardrobe was a

neverworld of fear and imminent danger that

never should have existed. But the world is a terrible place.

Once upon that same awful time, a professorial fellow--

name of Lewis,

native of some quaint and curious shire,

near an Oxford

nook of England-- he reported the existence of a


neverland. It was, he imagined, a reichish otherworldly scene,

niftily cloaked clandestinely

near the rear of some such nonesuch transportive wardrobe;

now it took innocents away, into a

netherland of frigid fright and badness to a land badly ruled, in

necromancy, and oppressed by an evil queen, a

netherworld region beyond a 1940s' wardrobe that Lewis



Now truly, there is

no such place as Narnia, but if ever there was, I would hope the

noxious fuehrer tyrant should be

negated, and

nullified by children of the rightful King.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The next g-generation

We were sitting at a gate in the San Francisco airport, waiting for our flight back to North Carolina.

In the seat next to me was a sixytish guy, about my age. I wasn't thinking anything in particular, when I noticed the man's late-teens daughter approach him to ask a question. The girl had an open laptop in her hand, and turned the screen toward her dad.

"Do you have, like, the link to that thing?" she asked

"What are you talking about?" her father replied.

Overhearing this, I was, like, almost lol in the next seat.

I didn't hear her reply, as dad arose and they stepped over to the mother's seat and got into a conversation about something or other. The fact that I find such profound humor in this indicative inter-generational communication is probably why Pat calls me "Mister English person" when she detects my occasional grammatical, syntactic, or definitive hair-splitting.

I suppose we are witnessing, during these times of cataclysmic change (such as David Stockman has documented) the inevitable Deformation of precise English, even as our parents before us had noticed it, and their parents before them, and so forth and so on all the way back to Chaucer or Cicero or Keynes or Krugman or someone like that.

In other news, pronouns are bad for you. I have figured out that they are the diabolical, insidious, imprecise source of, like, multiple myriads of miscommunications. More about that later, dude.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Path

After I had passed through the dark time

I came around a bend

and there ahead of me

was a bright path.

Then I knew my Creator

had brought me through,

and there would be goodness ahead.

I could see the light

scattered among those shadowy branches.

I turned and looked behind me,

down at the trail already trod

and knew the brightness

had been there all along,

though the morning fog

had obscured my view.

The light is there as I see it,

and yet it was there when I could not.

Thank God I knew

and now I could go on.

Glass half-Full