Friday, December 6, 2019

A Republic If We Can Keep It

Since the 2016 election, Republicans have gradually made their peace with a President who plays fast and loose with public resources. He’s a fast-talking wheeler dealer. Principled politicians from the old schools took a long while in making their unsteady peace with his real-world, Wild West shoot-from-the-hip way of doing things.
Now we find that, as we might have expected, our infamous Executive has been playing fast and loose with public resources, for personal advantage, behind the scenes. And not only Stateside, but also overseas.
His international behind-the-scenes shenanigans have now been dragged  out into full view by the Democrats.

This was to be expected. Their post-election shock was eventually summoned up and directed by the zealots into a midterm rage. Now a nearly-full-cycle organized election strategy has emerged. They will  drive him out of office any way they can.
For them, it is a matter of principle! Not so much just . . . you know, politics. Okay,  I'll give them that; there are important principles of statehood involved here.
But politics is still politics. Gotta get it while you can. By hook or by crook, they'll take a shot at running him out of there.
Now we shall see just how well our two-party system still works. Although these days, it works with considerably more animosity than in former times. This is due largely to the internet revolution, through which public opinion has been commandeered and widely destabilized by the unorganized masses.  An unprecedented GooFBooTwit takeover of public opinion channels has demolished what was formerly domination by the old, TV/Press media networks. The net effect nowadays is intense polarization at both ends of the idealogical spectrum, and a bizarre display of ridiculous political behavior—in the halls of power as well as out on the street.

Now our ever-faithful opposition party dutifully drags out its nitpicking legalistic revelations about the Trumpster’s self-serving  misdeeds in foreign capitals.  The Prez and his legal hit-man have been exposed in opportunizing--for personal advantage-- Ukrainian vulnerability--an instability that emerged from their messy, destabilizing Soviexit.
Here on our home front, the old school Republicans, most especially those in the US Senate,  will soon have to make some hard decisions.
Will they avert their eyes from the exposed Emperor of Impropriety? If they do, their Senate tolerance will be at the expense of our Foundational principles.

That’s one way of evaluating the situation.
Here’s another: if Senate Republicans concede to the hyper-legalistic fact-finding of their opponents across the aisle, then Trump will be impeached all the way to the point of being driven out of office.
There's a lot that could speculated about that scenario. But I'll just cut to the post-chase.
When the dust settles, the reality would be that our next President is Mike Pence, at least for a few months if not four+ years.
Quite possibly, Mike will be a more honorable President than Trump. And he may actually give the Dems a better run for their money than the Donald would have.
On the other hand,  the oldschool Senate Republicans may loosen their classic statesmanlike standards for the sake of  standing behind our embattled President. Their compromising support would be ostensibly for the sake of continuity in public governance, if not  the very stability of our Republic.

Either way, it seems to me that the likelihood of all hell breaking out in this country is high. We will have a bunch of very mad citizens from one or the other side, or both sides, roaming the streets of our cities. And trolling the currents of our Web.  This scenario would unleash widespread destabilizing, maybe anarchic, forces. Our Constitutional framework and cultural heritage will certainly be put to the test.
When January of 2021 rolls around, we will still have a President, one way or the other. Even more important than that however, is this: We will still have a Democratic Republic, the United States of America, if—as Ben Franklin had wisely said—“you can keep it.
And that means you!


Look at the face in the poster. Notice it is not Donald's face, nor Mike's, nor is it the face of Joe, Elizabeth, Bernie, nor Pete.
Ok, I'll admit that's an old white guy, just like me. Imagine, if you prefer, that it is not Uncle Sam's visage but an image of Susan B. Anthony, or Dr. Martin Luther King. You get the idea. We gotta hang together.

Either way, It's ours: a Republic if we can keep it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Winter Daydream

Having grown up in Louisiana, I moved to the Blue Ridge mountains while in my mid-20’s.
Ever since that time—the late 1970’s—I have lived, married, parented and grown steadily older in an Appalachian culture.
Truthfully though, the two cities I have lived in reflect a post-Appalachian culture.
Ole long-bearded Zeb with overalls—you don’t notice him so much anymore; he’s probably running a landscape business to service the manicured lawns of well-heeled snowbirds.  And barefoot Ellymae in threadbare calico on the front porch—she’s more likely now to be monitoring the  gas-pumps from behind a convenience store checkout.
To some extent, mountain culture has become homogenized with the dominant American obsession with superficial style and commercialism.

But not totally.
One thing that is nevertheless still quite different  from living down the mountain is the temperature. We typically see a 7-12 degree lower thermo up here.
We actually have four seasons here!
In the Deep South . . . not so much.
When this southern boy first arrived in the high country, I cultivated some romantic notions about the cold weather. I suppose this is because—in spite of the painful nipping in fingers and toes —it was such a refreshing experience after growing up in twenty-four blistering deep south summers.
The immanent—and in some ways, dreaded— arrival of our 2019-20 winter comes as no surprise.


This morning I woke up remembering an old song that I had written and recorded, many years ago, shortly after becoming a mountain man myself. The song is, on one level, about the coming of winter.
On another level, it is about a very noticeable shift in our American culture that has happened in my 68-year lifetime—single parenthood.
I am not one of them. But being a man married, thankfully, for forty years, and a grandfather. . . now provokes rumination about the many challenges  young parents must face in this age of temporary partnerships.
We have many more single parents in 2019 than we did back in the 1950’s-60’s when I was growing up. My old song that crept into my imagination this morning presents a romanticized image of a single mother as she contemplates past and future. In her foreground is the upcoming winter outside her window on a cold, crisp early-winter day.

Since memory of  the song seems to have popped out of nowhere this morning in my awakening dream-state, I thought sharing it with you might be something to do.
      Portrait of a Lady     

Monday, November 25, 2019


Perhaps my 68 years of dealing with this life’s challenges has enabled me to render a helpful opinion on an important question: what is wisdom?

Wisdom is knowing what to keep and what to throw away.
Wisdom is throwing away whatever is not useful, but disposing it in such a way that you do not make a mess for someone else to clean up.
. . . unless they are being rewarded for cleaning it up.
Wisdom is knowing what to accept, what to reject.
. . . and knowing when to wait until you've decided which of those two categories is appropriate in any given situation.
. . . and knowing that sometimes we don’t have time to decide . . .
good luck with that!

Wisdom is using what you have acquired to improve your own life and the life of those with whom you are in community.
Wisdom is listening;
it is also discerning, when the appropriate time comes, to suspend listening and speak.
Wisdom comes in noticing that the world is not a perfect place—there is something wrong with it.
So wisdom then requires discerning the good from evil.
. . . while understanding that there is a purpose for the presence of both in this life.
Wisdom calls us to identify what it wrong, and resist it.
And even to defeat evil when that is necessary.

Wisdom may be conceding that different persons, different people groups, have different definitions for what is good or evil.
And so therefore, in some cases, the grace to forgive wrongness may be more appropriate than judging evil with punishment,
Sometimes even defining what is really good  should be re-evaluated.
Wisdom is realizing that the complexity of this world is largely—though not totally—unexplainable, and there may be—there just may be— a God who operates at a level that is beyond our power to comprehend or measure.
. . . a God Who, at the very least, set it all in motion, as the ancient purveyors of wisdom have insisted.

There will always be someone who knows more than you do. Get used to it.
Wisdom is finding people to love.
Wisdom requires responsibility for those we love. 
'. . . and sometimes accepting responsibility for those we are unable to properly love.


Without love we are lost forever.
Love requires sacrifice.
Wisdom means being thankful when someone has made sacrifice for you, because you have not done all this on your own.
You were getting help even when you didn’t know it.
PS. It’s not all about you.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

From the Brave New World

I’m glad I got to hear that before I die.

That’s what I told Pat, my wife, immediately as we stood up to join a standing ovation for the Charlotte Symphony last night.
Pat makes all the arrangements, you see, for our concerts and outings and travels and every other adventure we’ve had in the last forty years.

So I thanked her for making it possible for me to hear Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, in live performance, before I pass into eternity.
And I must say that the Charlotte Symphony’s treatment of it, under the guest conducting hand of Ilyich Rivas,  was masterful—very tender and very strong.

The oboe adagio in the slow second movement fully met my expectations, after having listened intently to the piece probably thirty or forty times as offered by the New York Philharmonic on youtube.
And those trombones in the final cadence did not fail to summon a tear from my eyes, as their vibrantly forthright sounding forth renewed my confidence in human excellence.
During the intermission I read in the program notes about Dvořák’s composition of that symphony—his No. 9—and its premiere performance in New York, in 1893.


The Czech composer had been recruited to our (American) National Conservatory of Music in 1892. His mission was to import a little of that Old World excellence to our New World.
And goshdarn! did he do it!
His New World Symphony ranks right up there as some of the greatest symphonic music ever to be composed on this side of the Atlantic. It’s right up there with Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
If you ever have an opportunity to stand in Prague’s Old Town Square and behold Ladislav Šaloun’s statue of Jan Hus, you may catch a  glimpse of the passion that must have driven Dvořák’s resolve to compose such an orchestral masterpiece.

I’m glad I lived to see it.
Since the music was composed in New York City, I will provide here this link to the New York Philharmonic performance of it:

In other news of my yesterday. . .

Earlier in the day I had finished reading Andrew Marantz’s excellent book analysis of contemporary alt-right online misadventures:

And I will offer as a closing thought, a quote from Andrew’s account of what he uncovered in the world of ultra right-wing fanaticism. Toward the end of his research project, Marantz arrived at an eye-opening discovery about the so-called media “gatekeepers” in our mad world of media, formerly on the airwaves ~~~ now online.
Because we do indeed live in a “New World”. . . a world that is continuously renewing itself, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.
In the quote below, Andrew Marantz is referring to the “gatekeepers” of our former (20th-century) times. They are primarily the major broadcast networks and news publications that came to dominate our public culture in the postwar 20th-century; but they have in this 21st-century been overtaken by the new superpowers of online media.
You know what I’m talkin’ about.  Their initials are FaceGooAmazTwittetc. One particular CEO of that cartel, the honorable Mr. Z, was recently put on the Congressional hotplate for public inspection.
As Andrew Marantz, the New Yorker writer, neared the end of his alt-right research opus, Antisocial,

He exposes a raw nerve in this,  our brave new cyberworld, a world in which the outmoded moguls of 20th-century media have been eclipsed by the new titans of 21st-century webdom.
Like it or not, these denizens of the updated corporate Deep must rise to the public surface to accept some responsibility for oversight in the polarizing electronic net that we’ve cornered ourselves into.
Here’s part of what Mr. Marantz has to say about it:
And yet this is the world we live in. For too long, the gatekeepers who ran the most powerful information-spreading systems in human history were able to pretend that they weren’t gatekeepers at all. Information wants to be free; besides, people who take offense should blame the author, not the messenger; anyway, the ultimate responsibility lies with each consumer. Now, instead of imagining that we occupy a postgatekeeper utopia, it might make more sense—in the short term, at least—to demand better, more thoughtful gatekeepers.
It’s a brave new world out there, boobie. Somebody’s gotta be brave, if not them, then who?
Us? But, but, as Pogo once said, long ago in the old media world: we have seen the enemy . . . and he is us!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Four Horses

This morning I heard Meghna Chakrabarti interviewing Sylvia Poggioli about the flood in Venice, Italy.
Hearing the WBUR On Point hostess ask NPR’s Italian correspondent about that watery excess, my imagination flowed back to my visit to Venice in 2003.
On that day, sixteen years ago, I stood in a long tourist line to visit the Basilica of San Marco.
On that day, flood waters from the Adriatic Sea were lapping up the stepped entryway into the nave of the cathedral.
My daughter Kim, studying in Italy at that time, snapped some photographs. I assembled three of them here:


It is plain to see that, yes, there is an ongoing, and worsening problem of flooding in the ancient city of Venice.
Moreover, the evidence is mounting that, yes Virginia, there is in fact a worldwide problem of more frequent coastal flooding, and it is reasonably related to climate change.
My position about climate change is that we should collectively educate ourselves about the impact of human activity on our planetary ecosystem. But human rights—rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness— should not be violated for the sake of imposing restrictive laws to reduce and control carbon emissions.
However all of our overflowing angst about climate change gets spread around, I would like to hone in on a certain detail in the frontal edifice of San Marco church building.
Look closely at this picture of the front of San Marco. You will notice, above the middle arch, four horse statues. 
When I noticed them up there in 2003, I was fascinated with those horses.


Five years later, as I was writing a novel later entitled Glass Chimera, I included those horses—actually, miniature glass reproductions of them— in part of the story I was cloning together at that time
In chapter 13 of Glass Chimera, we find this scene:

Sunday afternoon, Mick Basker slept until 1:30, then got out of bed, made some coffee, and sat down at his computer to take a look at the chip that he had retrieved from the glass horse’s gonads four nights ago.  He   reached down to open the bottom drawer of his desk.  Then  he noticed a scrap of printed paper, about the size of a small  index card, on the floor nearby. Recognizing it as a slip that  he had found within the figurines’ crate, Mick picked it up to get a closer look. This is what was printed on the little paper:

Congratulazioni! Lei ha comprato uno degli articoli di vetro più belli nel mondo. Quest'edizione a bassa tiratura della "Quadriga Marciana"  ha soffiato degli artigiani specializzati della Società del Vetro Leoni di Venezia, Italia. Gli articoli di vetro sono i riproduzioni squisite delle sculture di bronzo che fa la guardia di sopra del vestibolo occidentale della Basilica di San Marco in Venezia. I cavalli originali sono giungi a Venezia con il ricco bottino di guerra dai Veneziani dopo la conquista di Constantinopoli al termine della IV Crociata nel 1204 A.D. Dopo cinque secoli, nel 1797, Napoleone li fa trasferire a Parigi, ma i cavalli erano ritornati alla Basilica di San Marco nel 1815.
But Mick knew no Italiano, so he set the little paper aside, and   reached down again to the bottom drawer, from which he produced a yellow pharmaceutical container, a pill box.  Inside it was a was a patch of plastic foam  which  concealed a little green circuit board  about the size of thumb.   Carefully, he inserted his chip, looking like a little black crab with metallic legs, into the device, then pushed the assemblage into a USB port on the computer. He typed and moused his way to the chip’s data, and when he found it this is what he saw: 
OAT,  GHN-1:17q22-q24,  DTNBP-1:6p22.3,  IGF-2:3q28.
But he didn’t know what it was.
If you ramble around this world, you will notice that life on our planet is full of mysteries. You just never know when another strange happening might come flooding into your mind, your mailbox, or your city square, or even your own sacred space.

But no matter what inexplicable event comes flooding into your life, try to make the best of it.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Carbon and Silicon

Someone said that carbon gives life,
while silicon gives sand.
But now there’s buzz about carbon causing strife,
while silicon wields a magic hand.

The someone was referring to element six on the periodic table,


because carbon provides for life a grab-bar that’s organic,


while silicon fourteen, just below it, is merely able
to direct our circuits like a transistorized mechanic.


Now we should notice, or so I’m told . . .
carbon seems to be forsaking its own self-styled mission;


it has grown quite uppity and bold—
whereas silicon swirls predictably in wave-like submission.


Maybe we should put our silicon bots to work
to affix restraints on the unsheathed carbon beast,
so the little busybody, carbon number six—that jerk!
can’t grab control and crash our worldwide feast.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Search for Blue

When we first came to Boone, the town in North Carolina where Pat and I raised our three young'uns, I had a job that lasted  a few years,  tieing steel rebar in the Linn Cove Viaduct.
It was a bridge that happened to be the final section--the Missing Link--of a 469-mile National Park road, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Why this missing link, which was located pretty much in the middle of the whole road project, took so long to get built is a long story.
That story will form part of the narrative of a new novel, which I have recently begun researching and writing. The working title is Search for Blue.

Back in the 1950's, '60's and 70's, a gaggle of disagreements had confounded any beginning of constructing that Missing Link. When they finally got the issues settled between owners of Grandfather Mountain and the National Park Service, construction of the final Blue Ridge Parkway section was begun in 1979.
And I helped. While the missing link was being built, it looked something like this:

Recently, I, being now in what used to be called old age (but only 68!), I began to wonder what the cessation of work might have been like for a workman who had labored on that Parkway project "back in the day."
This book will tell the tale that I uncover. Here's an excerpt from chapter 1 of "Search for Blue."
But in October of '29 the whole damn thing just stalled out, real sudden like,   stone-cold dead in its tracks.
            By that time, marauding manufacturing and rabid farming had stirred up a dust bowl in the wide prairies and a cloud of manifest debilitation over our formerly manifested destiny. Monetary manipulation absconded the bold thrust of old-fashioned capital-driven progress; frantic philandering pushed quaint front-porch watch-the-world-go-by domestic tranquility into a ragged soup line.
            1920's roaring jibber-jabber got lost in 1930's Depression regression.  The country had shifted from financed euphoria to unemployed stuporia, and so in the election of '32 we rolled Mr. Roosevelt into the White house on a Democrat wheelbase of socializing progressivism;  The new President, former governor of New York, wasted no time in arm-twisting the nation right on over into his New Deal.           
            As the dust of dystopia settled, some forlorn Americans pined for the good ole days. Ah, they said, those were the days. Wish we'd seen it coming!
            It didn't take them New Dealers too long to figure out that what was needed was to get  people working again, and fast.
            Congress, shell-shocked by the deadening thunder of an American business-industrial dynamo self-destructing,  got themselves hellbent on a string of programs to shorten--if not eliminate--the    lengthening unemployment lines. Their legislating fervor reached way, way far--even as far as somewhere over the rainbow--and so they laid hold of the pot of gold!
            But when the vessel was recovered, it turned out to be--not a pot of gold, but--a soup pot, and a damn-near empty one at that.  So they set themselves to re-filling it, although not with gold. There wasn't, by that time, much of the precious yellow stuff around. They had to  begin filling the empty rainbow pot with . . . soup!
            Out on the street, maybe while waitin' in line for the soup, Joe Blow--or maybe it was Jane Doe--came up with a name for the collection of work and improvement programs that Congress was dishing out: "alphabet soup." Take a gander at this list: FERA, FCA, NIRA, PWA,  FFMC, CWER, AAA, EBA, FDIC, FHA, NRA, NLRB, RA, REA, SEC, SSA, TVA, to name just a few, and we'll certainly not fail to mention the two work outfits destined to be the most productive in our present scouting-out-the-land, search for Blue expedition: CCC  and WPA, which is the easy way of sayin' Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration.
            Since Mr. Roosevelt had proclaimed we had nothing to fear but fear itself, one of Congress' first assaults against the dreaded enemy actually took aim at that "fear itself."
            In an inspired idea to nullify the power of the enemy attitude, our  lawmakers scrambled the word "fear." They appropriated the letters. . . f, e, a, and r, reassigned them to a nobler cause, and came up with  the Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933, which came to be known as: FERA!
            And that was one of the early servings of the alphabet soup; it got  ladled into the bowls and hands of millions of unemployed Americans.
Most of the work was cranked up in the urban districts; city folks were much more dependent on the system than country folk. Out on the farms, people might be broke, and they might be deprived of some of the so-called necessities of modern life, but at least they had some ground out back to scratch a few seeds into the good earth and thereby harvest unto themselves some corn, beans, or potatoes to serve at dinner time. They might even still have a hog or two or a cow or at least a few chickens peckin' around to have for some future supper time embellishment.
            All that said, the farm folks did have their share of the alphabetizing bonanza that Congress was serving: AAA, FCA, FFMC etcetera etcetera. One way or another, everybody got a little help.
            Back in that day and time, most men could still wield a shovel or a hoe. Even if they hadn't done much with such tools as that, they or their kin were probably close enough to the land to at least know something of how to handle an implement.
            As it turned out, a lot of them programs that the New Dealers came up with did involve shovels and hoes and rakes and such. By 'n by, some Republicans who were not so convinced about the efficacy of Mr. Roosevelt's wheelin' dealin' job programs--they hit upon the shovel as a symbol of the gaggle of "do nothing" alphabetized boondoggle make-work crews who spent more time leaning on their shovels than actually wielding them for the betterment of the country.
            But that's just politics. They'll never get all that mess straightened out.
Probably about three years from now, I'll have the rest of it done so you can read about how it all came together over fifty years of time.
Meanwhile, find a good book to read, today! You can find one here:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Rain, Flame, Eternal Name

The springs of eternity
cast their  perfect pearls of rain
upon our windowpane.
blackness of the night
casts dim soundings of our worldly plight
splashing faint toccatas
of lonesome drip-drop, drip-drop sonatas
Oh, this just seems like the end of the world,
as I hear rain against our window hurled.
Or . . .
the beginning of something grand
with baptismal sprinklings from some angel’s hands.

Whichever one it is
is up to us to decide.
There is, you know,
deep within our breast
of pilgrim restlessness
a hope—
a desperate pattering of some purpose, 
dropping in this midnight rain
dripping with our blood-borne pain;
It persists in thumpish pattering,
oh, such a dreary smattering,
that falls gently in plip-plopping drops
to bring the harvest of our hoped-for crops—
our dreams, my schemes,
here In this autumn’s irrigated ending.
So far we’ve come from summer’s fair beginning.


Now in this darkness of October night
by solitary glow of  low lamp light
wired in by human ingenuity
enabled by divine gratuity,
behold  this lamp-fire that burneth not;
it merely glows in element, slightly hot.

Oh! but here’s the wonder of my soul!
If I may be so bold—
as to compare this glow, so tame
with eternal Yahweh flame.
I see it burns for me the same
as for our long-gone brother
who beheld  some earlier other—
in a bush it brightly flamed
to reveal the ancient I Am name.

Yes, I see it  shining  brightly
On the table here next to me.
What a wonder to behold!
A phenomenon so very old.
Whether by electricity or flame;
all is powered by Eternal name,
YWHW I AM and I AM again,
always will be,
I can clearly see.

Now you may say that glow came with Edison,
True, but it did originate  with  Eternal One
who set us spinning ‘round the sun,
after His Big Bang  fun.

The springs of eternity
cast their  perfect pearls of rain
upon our windowpane,
and I’m aware of Yahweh name;
it glints into our human game
again and again and again.
From time to time
we see it shine.
Ah ha!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Getting old

Are you booting up a brave new world
or slogging in a new slave world?
You who would be brave or slave—
snickery snob or clueless knave?
Catching the new wave
or just trying to behave?
You filling your Capitalist bag,
or flying the Socialist flag?
Working for wages, or plotting for profits?
You dumbing down, or heeding the prophets?
Will you work as selective
or labor in a collective?
With more .gov or less?
destined for worst or best.
You protesting in public space,
or praying in private grace?

All things being equal,
are you satisfied or freakful?
Living as privileged  elite
or just dancing to the rabble beat?
Striving for the common or the proprietary?
will you eat fattening or dietary?
Or maybe you be in shadowland like me
wishing for what was instead of what will be.
Winds of change blow hot and cold;
Will you stay young, or like me, grow old?

Winds of change blow foul and fair;
Are you ready to turn to dust or air?
Winds of change are hard to read;
Can you face them without a creed?
Day of death casts us in the hole;
Will you fall to dust, or rise in soul?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Genesis of a new novel: Search for Blue

The Traveler had been carrying his burden for a long time: a restless soul. Traveler’s roots were deep, but not necessarily set into a specific place on this earth. After traversing many a mile of land and sea, the sojourner had been driven westward, in search of some destination that could not yet be clearly identified. So it might be said his deep roots stretched deep into life itself, rather than a place
        At least for now.
        From an Old World starting point,

he had sailed o’er sea channel, into stillness and storm, outside of the norm, through the  outskirts of somewhere, and beyond the other side of nowhere,  arriving for a season upon some ancient isle. But finding very little solace there, traveler had redirected weary legs to ascend yet another ship’s gangplank, so that he might be transported to that great land he had heard tales of, beyond the blue.

        The seaport where he disembarked was, as it happened, a frontier for foreigners not unlike himself. They had uncovered motivations to—for whatever reason—not remain where they had begun. And so, having hung their hopes upon such vague restlessness, they undertook yet another phase of the great journey to somewhere yet to be determined.
         Ever moving and moving from this place to that, Traveler eventually found himself ascending a long piedmont hill, and so it seemed when he had reached the top of it, the extended journey was now delivering him to a wide westward-looking vista.

         Pausing to catch breath, Traveler trained his eyes on a string of  faraway ridges. Obviously high, yet . . . it seemed . . . gently-sloping. . . forested they were, and having no cragginess that he could see from here. That string of mountains  stretched like great slumbering beached whales across the entirety  of his new horizon. From  north  to south . . . blue, and blue to blue on blue, and more . . . blue.
He had never seen such a thing.

Search for Blue

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Riddle of Red and Black

Guy Noir, the Prairie Home detective, spent many years trying to puzzle out answers to “life’s persistent questions."
Some of those life questions are very important, such as how will I make a living?; what career should I  choose; is there life after death? 
Others are not so important as that, but nevertheless persistent, which is to say. . . they keep coming back again.
This morning I find myself researching, in order to answer a question that has perplexed me for a long time, ever since Pat and I started visiting the Hawaiian Islands about a dozen years ago.
The question is: What’s up with these red rocks and black rocks that seem to constitute the entirety of this Hawaiian island archipelago?
Spoiler alert: I haven’t completely figured it out yet. I will be describing herein my path of wonder, not necessarily giving you an informed report on the subject of red rocks/black rocks in Hawaii.

While I have not yet fully discovered why some Hawaiian rocks are red and others are black, I have managed to gather some learning along the way.
In many ways, I am person who is driven by an appreciation for lifelong learning.
The ancient dynamics and pyrotechnics through which these islands were formed is described in noteworthy detail here:
You can learn far more about this subject by following the above link. 
But getting back to my little take on it . . . In our ten visits to Hawaii, the photo that I snapped which best shows what lava looks like is:

This dark gray/black solidified lava flow is called pāhoehoe. You see it throughout all the islands, but mostly on the big island, Hawaii, because it is the newest island, and the one that still displays an observable continuance of recent and still-active volcano activity. It’s fascinating stuff, especially for a curious person like me who took a geology course a long time ago.
We enjoy traveling these islands, year after year. In noticing the vast array of different volcanic rock formations, this question about the red rocks keeps popping up, as “one of life’s persistent questions.’ This never fails to fascinate me. 
Here’s a pic, taken a few years ago on Maui, that shows two layers of black rock with a layer of red rock between them.

So we can see that there is some kind of “story” told in these rocks, some sort of history.
Geologic history, Earth history. Hawaiian Islands are perhaps the best location on the planet to identify features by which Earth reveals itself, by telling, in the rock, its own story.
SO, what about that strip of red rock in the middle? you may ask? I’m glad you asked.
I don’t know, but I did ask a Hawaiian about it.
As she began driving our tour bus up into Waimea canyon, I asked Jana about the red rocks, and she said the difference was:
“Rust.” The red rocks have rusted. And, she said, they are older.
I greatly appreciated her immediate answer. It has helped me a lot. It does seem, however, a little too simple for my over-active mind to accept completely. Nevertheless, her concise explanation was confirmed a few days later when I found online a Galapagos report from Cornell U:
Herein I found an authoritative source confirming that the difference in color, in some cases, is “a reflection of age. The older ʻaʻā . . . has weathered and the iron in it has oxided somewhat, giving it a reddish appearance.”
And that’s good enough for me to understand a little bit about what is going on in these vast, ancient islands, which represents processes that have built up our vast, ancient earth.
Meanwhile, back at the beach, I found, two evenings ago, a different working out of the red/black interface.

In this scenario, I surmise that, somewhere along the ancient timeline, red rocks were weathered down to red sand and grit, then deposited at low places. During that time, the volcano or the weather must have torn black boulders loose. The black rocks tumbled down into red sands as what you see here. It appears to be black lava rocks trapped in red sandstone, nowadays being gradually dissembled by the thrashing Pacific Ocean.
Or something like that. That’s my answer for the riddle of red and black, one of life’s persistent questions.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Got Education?

You’ll have to smarten up to find a productive place in today’s economy.

The old 20th-century way of doing things that my baby boomer generation grew up in has gone the way of the buffalo.
You already know this, right?

I came across an instigating article on Seeking Alpha a few days ago. As I read John N. Mason’s piece about the “New” corporation, it struck me that he had put together some pretty important observations and statistics about this 21st-century economy and where we are headed with it.
My take on his presentation is that he is, obviously, writing about a 21st-century work environment in which using your brain will be more important than ever before, more important than acquiring the old hands-on skills that enabled folks to get ahead in times past.

Oh, the developing digital work of our present work scenario is still “hands-on.” But it seems the hands will be mostly on keyboards that electronically deliver commands and programs that will run, automatically, the nuts and bolts, the widgets and equipment that will perform most of the tasks that we humans used to do, back in the day.

This whole progression got seriously cranked up about 170 years ago with the Industrial Revolution. There was a time, for instance, when a man could get on a horse, start riding westward, and eventually make it from Boston to San Francisco.
Then along came the railroads and changed all that.
Then along came the automobiles and changed all that even more.
And then there was a time when a person would mail a letter from Boston to San Francisco. The Pony Express or Wells Fargo or somesuch would deliver the letter cross-country, and yes it would get to the west coast, but it took a while.
A long while.
Then along came the trains, to make that delivery happen in just a week or so.
Then came the planes to make the airmail delivery in a day or two.

Now the message, or an order, is delivered with the push of a few buttons on your computer, or a scan on barcode, along the way.
You know that’s a “hands-on” technology that is fundamentally, quicker, easier and better than the old way of many different sets of hands that set themselves to crank up machinery and maintain it and oil it and fuel it and guide it all the way to some faraway delivery point.
As those technology changes revolutionized transportation, so shall the coming tech changes revolutionize manufacturing and wholesaling and retailing and every other industry or business you can think of, including knowledge itself.

So if you want to prosper in this 21st-century, if you want to find a place in the scheme of things, if you want to “get ahead”. . .
Get with the program.
Literally, the programming.

And this is what, in my opinion, John Mason is hitting on when he elucidates the workings of intellectual capital, which is a high-falootin' way of saying:
Education is, and will be, worth more than ever before. Get one. Learn how to think outside the old box.


If not, hey, we’ll always need somebody to clean up the place, flip the burgers, run the cash registers  while everybody else is booting up the world.
Back in the day we used to say money makes the world go around.
Not so any more. Now electrons make our developed world go around. Learn how to direct them, how to make them do whatever has to be done for profit, or for improving the world we inhabit.

Don’t just vegetate as a consumer. . . eating, drinking, watching shows, fake news and social media.

Be a producer. Make things happen for you and for those you love. Get out there and do it, make things happen. Life will be better.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


where long
ago hot lava
spewed up skyward
into prehistoric atmosphere
and falling back down to earth
deposited Wai’ale’ale the mother of
all Hawaiian volcanoes dormant volcanoes
as cloud

and then
to Pacific

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Update: A day in the Life

I read a tweet today oh boy
  about a cocky man with a rant parade.
And though the news was really bad
  well I just had to laugh one more time.
I saw the comment thread online.

He blew our minds out with a rant:
  he hadn’t noticed that the Climate Changed.
A crowd of people seethed and stared
  they’d seen the bee ess before
Nobody was really sure if it was from the 1% core.

I saw a video oh boy
  the 1%ers have just scored some more;
A crowd of trollers  were abhorred;
  but I just stole some looks,
  having once read books.
We’d love to lead you o. . . . n.
I woke up, gotta outa bed,
  found a mem, inside my head,
  made my way downstairs and tweeted it,
  and twittering, knew I was a twit.
I made this up, but grabbed my phone;
I posted face,  still felt alone,
Found my way upstairs and caught a streaming;
  somebody spoke and I went into a dreaming, ohhhhhh……

   etcetera etcetera, etcetera, you've read the news

I read the web today oh boy:
  four million holes inside our atmosphere.
And though the holes were rather small,
  they had to stop them all.
  Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the global ball.
We’d love to lead you o. . . . on.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Head in the Clouds

Have you ever had  the feeling that our view of things not clear, but is somehow clouded ?


It seems that we humans not seeing things rightly; we are missing something; we fail to read the signs of our times correctly.
I think we are similar, in some ways, to that guy the Beatles mentioned . . .
Well on the way,
Head in a cloud,
The man of a thousand voices
Talking perfectly loud.
But nobody ever hears him 
Or the sound he appears to make 
And he never seems to notice . . ."
We are typically preoccupied with our own pronouncements, and unable to hear what others are saying, caught up in our own thoughts . . . head in a cloud. In that mode, we can find plenty enough of words to spout out at the world, but then overlook the value of hearing what others have to say.
We don't learn as much when we're not listening.

One thing I have managed to learn: Life is easier to manage when a way is found to see the bright side of any given situation.
There are, you see, the storms of life that hover in our expectant  paths, and they can dim the brightness of our attitude and darken our prospects.

So let’s be aware of the storms, but not allow their darkness to totally occlude our hope for brighter horizons to come.
To get a balanced perspective, we do need to recognize the good and the bad in this life. And we do well to strive at  accurately evaluating how those two realities are opposing each other in any given scenario. But other times, the good and bad may be intertwined as some kind of difficult-to-discern mixed blessing or cluster-fuhgedaboudit.

Songwriter Joni’s observation, rings true:
“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s clouds’ illusions I recall . . . I really don’t know clouds at all.”
So let us understand that, realistically, we do not fully know clouds—that is to say, metaphorically, life’s ups and downs—at all, even though we may believe that we’ve got it all under control.

We don’t wanna be stuck, for instance, on Cloud 9 when Cloud 10 might be the better way to go!
And although several hallowed traditions may tell us of an Uncloudy Day, let’s not be sideswiped by some unexpected sidewinder that could, in this present scheme of things, drench us with unmanageable discouragement.

Sometimes we catch sight of some new development on the horizon, a rising cloud that is only the size of a man’s hand.  Keep eyes trained on whatever arises, long enough to anticipate whether it will bring the needed  rain, or just fizzle to nothing.
And let us, in this complicated life, continuously  evaluate what pursuits  truly fulfill our objectives. We don’t need to be stuck, for instance, in PC mode when it could have been more advantageous to contribute whatever good we can find in this world and post it in “the cloud.”

What are your expectations about this fascinating life?
As for me, I’m hoping to, one fine day, be caught up in the clouds with the one who brought me here.


I surmise that such a faith expectation is probably the ultimate “looking on the bright side.”

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Let us do it

Let us make love.
Let us make children.
Let us feed our children.
Let us do work to support them.
Let us teach them.
Let us make places where children can romp on grass.
Let them run and jump and romp and stomp.
Let them build treehouses.
Let them grow.
Let them learn.
Let us learn.
Let us try.
Let us fail. Let us repair and recover.
Let us do. 
Let us do what is right.
Let us make stuff.
Let us make goods.
Let us craft.
Let us think.
Let us prosper.
Let us profit.
Let us do business.
Let us excel. Let us hope.
Let us cope.
Let us worship God.
Let us take care for one another.
Let us give.
Let us breathe.
Let us laugh.
Let us sing.
Let us speak.
Let us preach, teach, and reach as far as we can.
Let us keep a world where men and women can choose to do what is right.
Let us ride. Let us glide. Let us confide.
Let us hide every now and then.
Let us go; let us stay.
Let us pray.

Glass half-Full

Monday, September 2, 2019

From Wealth of Nations to Wealth of Data

Our Declaration of Independence is not the only hallmark document of the year 1776.
There was another one: Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which Wikipedia refers to as a magnum opus.
Magnum opus means pretty doggone important idea, as the multilectic development of our dialectical ideas shape  history.
Smith’s groundbreaking insights propelled our modernizing world into the age of Economics, a new time when the effects of money and industrial productivity began to channel human culture in ways that outweighed traditional institutions.
The Church, the Royals, such ancient paths of power were, in the long run of history, outmoded by the power of the buck.
Freedom to gather wealth was being distributed widely among new, rising enterprisers in society, instead of being controlled by the purse of the Popes or the money of the Monarchs.
Now the tide is turning again, in a major way.
But it’s turning back the other way.
Oh, not back to the Church or the King, but back to another select group—the data mining Social Media.

Now Wealth of Nations morphs to Wealth of Data.
And it seems it happened in the blinking of an eye, so to speak.
All our data that we generate through ubiquitous universal social media gets scooped up and recycled as fodder to generate future wealth, for somebody.
For Whom? Who is gathering the new Wealth of Nations through our electronic and wifi conduits of the Wealth of Data?
Robber barons, monopolists, capitalists, opportunists, daytraders, speculators, hedgefunders, algorithmists, hackers, gamblers, midnight ramblers?
Future wealth, for somebody. . . for whomever is using the data as a field for harvest —to skim new wealth, through  their privileged knowledge of out trendy, predictable human habits. . . our fashions, fetishes, foibles and infamous freedoms.
Freedom to spend, mostly. Especially with all the cardswiping that you see in every spending venue these days.

It’s so easy to spend money nowadays.
Even if you don’t have any!
Using the data streams to  anticipate where the “markets” are headed, where the money’s going . . .those watchful, AI-wielding movers and shakers behind the scenes can know exactly when and where to lower their clickbait nets, and scoop up a big mess of digital debits or financial fish.
“Markets” being the main concentrations of consumer and business wealth that are being spent every day as we live and breathe and spend.
A lot of people are starting to figure this out, about now.
Some have been noticing the profit potentialities for awhile. Others have known from the beginning. They are the ones who have been establishing data-mining as the latest phase of capitalism.
I learned something about this, this morning, when I read Karin Petersson’s report about it on the Social Europe site.
Karin’s opening statement got my attention in a big way.
“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”
That is so true, Karin.
I went on to read her concise treatise, which consisted of an insightful cautionary statement about the three main problems of this data-mining development. I will list those three here, while recommending that you read her article in order to get her thoughts from her article—not mine.
Karin’s list of the three problems:
~~Rage machine
~~Winner takes all
~~Survival of Democracy?
She is calling into question the survivability of democracy in these new social media conditions that have overtaken our way of life.
Now I do have something to say about her opening statement:
“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”
So true.

But I confess that my free-thinking mind dropped the KM bomb on me. That is. . . Karl Marx.
. . . not that Karin is a Marxist or anything like that.
My point is that even if you DO understand the forces shaping the world . . . odds are you still can’t change it!
Oh yes, maybe you can make some beneficial contributions, maybe some helpful new ideas, but convincing yourself that you can change the world based on what you know or understand about it . . . that is a dream that will never come true.
Take the Karl himself, and his idea: The factories and businesses of industrial production are owned by a few rich people.  If the regular working people—the proletariat— could take over that means of production and do a fairer job of running it— then society could distribute the wealth in an equitable way. Everybody would have a piece of the pie and we could all live then in an egalitarian commune.
Happily ever after, as they say.
Certainly I am oversimplifying this scenario, but I do it for the sake of simply making this point: You can’t change the world, even if youdo  understand the forces that are shaping it.
My layman’s reading, for instance, of Marx/Engels Communist Manifesto led me to the conclusion that their analysis of capitalism as it was developing in the mid-19th century was, for the most part, accurate!
They predicted, for instance, the alienation that would indeed later take hold of many workers as a result of having to perform repetitive production tasks.

So Marx, Engels and others later went on to prescribe a fix for the problem: dictatorship of the proletariat.
When Lenin, Trotsky and others got a hold of this concept they acted on it.
But look what happened. Things got bloody. By the time Stalin got hold of the new development, the formerly fresh thrust of worldwide communism turned into prison gulag.
And it did not recover until the time of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, etc.
That’s one small idea for a man . . . and one giant, very hard lesson learned for mankind.
You can’t change the world, even if you do understand the forces that are changing it.
In the present context of data mining, this principle would perhaps translate to: find a way to regulate the data-miners, but don’t try to take the whole damned machine away from them. This is merely capitalism in its emerging 21st-century form.


Neither the technocrats in Brussels, nor the bureaucrats in Washington can stem the tides of history. You just have to regulate those who control the Wealth of Data, insofar as it is Constitutionally  possible, and leave the rest to each individual citizen’s free will and judgement.
The same principle applies, btw, for Climate Change.

Education, for whosoever is willing to learn, is the remedy. Not control. We all need to be convinced to do the right thing.
Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness must be assured for all, in spite of all the data-miners  who lurk behind our keypads, sucking the hot air out of our collective social media balloon.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

From Andalusia to Zagreb

Breeze blew ‘cross Byzantium
   ages ago,
passing passion along from ancient souls
   o’er peninsulas and shoals.
From Alexandria to Andalusia
   it blew the Medi stirring of our arcane East
   by westward winds past the European feast.
So it drifted between Aranjuez and Zagreb
   in periodic flow and ebb
   with rhyrhmic ebb and flow
   through passionnata on stringéd bow . . .

   . . . at providential and the muse’ behest,
   and set in sculpted stone: eternal rest;
   portraying Piéta Jesu through Michelangelo,

   as still the women come and go
   ‘cross Eliot’s wasteland scenario.
From Ave Maria in Madrid
   this opus we/they did;
   even SaintSaens’ secular Swan
   summons that age-old bond:
   reflecting melancholic tension
   in existential apprehension
   again and again and again;
   the passion passes
   through striving laborious hands
   in colored or melodic strands.
On moonlit nights;
   sonata strains reflect the light
   from hand to frantic hand
   and back again.
Did history require
   two world wars
   and a string of smaller frays
   to say
   our living legacy dies daily?
Yet does our living tragedy thrive daily,
   in this human soul of frailty.
Why even a saintless ’60’s Superstar
   drove our anguished digression,
   our zeitgeist obsession,
   as passion passed through
   rejected hands again
   as passion passed through
   conflicted lives again
   as passion passes through
   immigrant pathos again
   and again and again
   to reveal those nail-scarred hands again
   Must be something to it;
   we should not eschew it:
Those despiséd and rejected ones of men--
   again and again and again:
   the passing man of sorrow,
   yesterday, today, tomorrow—
   the woman acquainted with grief,
   through death that steals in like a thief
   the stranger and the strange,
Again and again and again.
Must be something to it;
   we should not eschew it.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

the Tower of Signals

Thousands of years ago, we built a legendary tower, the shadow of which has seemed to darken our human history even unto today.

According to a certain well-known historical source, the Bible . . . the tower of Babel was erected in some location east of the Euphrates River. The region therein has been known since that ancient time by various names:  Chaldea, Shinar, Babylon, and a few other identities, such as the current one, Iraq.
So an ancient tale about the tower of Babel, especially its fall, has been passed down to us through the ages.   The biblical account says that The Tower of Babel’s undoing happened because the people were unable to communicate. So they were not able to get the thing built.

In our modern reflection upon that archaic project, I think what Will Rogers or Mark Twain or Yogi Berra, or some such sage  said, applies:
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
It’s an old story, but true.
Nevertheless, I’m here to tell ya that in spite of ourselves we people of the earth have managed to erect some pretty impressive towers here and there throughout the ages.
For instance, notice this  classic religious tower in San Francisco, which happens to be a double.


This structure represents that spirit of religion that dominated our Western culture for a couple of thousand years.

Here’s a Spanish project representing a more contemporary creative impulse toward the divine.


Very impressive. But the era of God-inspired basilica-building has been overtaken by more humanistic projects. Since the so-called Enlightenment in the 18th-century, people have aspired to ideals even loftier than mere religion. This modern emphasis has wrought even higher and higher feats of skyscraping.


The long epoch of God-inspired tower-building has been overtaken by a New Age of Man.


And yet, our rising human spirit has morphed itself beyond mere commercial, citified projections. Check out an Olympic objet d’art that the Barcelonans fashioned for the 1992 Olympics:


This fluidic rising structure embodies a humanic zeitgeist; it aspires to inspire ascension to world peace—a peace wrought through zealous sports competition instead of bloody wars fought with destructive weapons on muddy battlefields.
Pretty damned impresseve, huh?!

Higher and higher we strive; higher and higher we arrive.
Now in 21st-century AI, We find ourselves in the upper regions of human accomplishment.
Physical upbuilding has now taken a back seat to the loftiness of our ideals.
So we’ve built a stupendous net of ideas, an electronic network that ceaselessly transmits gigabytes of presciently important data around the world. It is a web as ethereal as the sun itself . . . as surreal as a Dali . . .  as real as a Warhol.

And towards this end, we’ve built towers of a different—a new and different—kind:

The Tower

Towers such as this one--structures of ascending human perfectibility-- are slavishly repeating signals all day and all night for the benefit of all mankind!
For the benefit of Mr. Kite, ever and ever onward to greater heights!
We hold these spires to be self-evident—that our updated tower-driven secretions will project a worldwide web of human achievement to rise higher than  the Tower of Babel ever did!

Good luck with that.