“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
~ Wendell Berry
Chump Trump Change
I’m sickened and aghast that Trump won† .
I won’t claim that the election was rigged. Trump is the president elect. (Not that he’d have said the same if he’d lost.)
But that doesn’t mean that I have to support him.
I appreciate and advocate that Obama is continuing the legacy of a peaceful transfer of power, but I can”t get behind his statements that, ‘we are all rooting for his (Trump’s) success in uniting and leading the country.’
No, President Obama. No, I’m not rooting for him. I do not want his ideas, his racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, credulous, isolationist, criminal, warmongering, fascist, mendacious ideas to be remotely successful or that he should unite us, as a country, in the pursuit of the worst of human nature.
I’d thought that Trump was going to lose. I’d thought that the neo-cons / alt-right misinformation campaigns through mass market, corporate controlled media was a snake that was about to eat its own tail. But I underestimated the effects of a generational long intellectual poisoning.
And indeed, it is this generational effect that has me feeling grave beyond the damage that Trump and Pence will do in four years. With the Republican senate instituting a constitutional crisis by failing to even hold hearings on Obama’s respected, centrist nominee to the Supreme Court, we’re now in line for one and likely more Trump / Pence ultra-conservative judges. These judges will almost certainly be in place well after Trump’s other cronies are swept into the dustbin of infamy.
There isn’t much hope for the foreseeable future. Even if Trump dies or scandalously crashes and burns (and that is doubtful since he seems to be made of poisonous asbestos), we’ll still be stuck with far right wacko Mike Pence.
Hillary Clinton famously said that, ‘you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.‘ (A phrase that she later recanted.)
What is far less reported is that she want on to say:
‘But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different.’
For my part, I think that broadly calling a group of people by a label is errant. But Ideas, and individuals, and philosophies, they can be deplorable. Discrimination, racism and those who willfully hold to these concepts are worthy of reproach. But beyond that, who would argue that the KKK or ISIS aren’t deplorable as a group who hold a shared philosophy? And they are a ‘group’ because they share an ideology – a hateful ideology that civilization must rebuke. But to be clear: I think that the vast majority of Trump’s followers do not hold to these ideas.
But Trump himself? He is a promoter of dark, malignant lies and fear mongering hatred and is to be berated every time he pukes out his venom.
And I hold little hope that he’s capable of meaningful, positive change. I won’t be fooled by his attempts to whitewash and comb-over his false statements.
Ever read George Orwell’s Animal Farm? Recall how at night, when the other animals weren’t looking, that the pigs repainted the seven commandments of Animalism? “All animals are equal” became, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
Muslim ban statement ‘removed’ from Donald Trump’s website.
The Trump team appears to have removed the statement, in which Mr Trump said on December 7, 2015:
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.
According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine,” the statement continued.
Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
My memory isn’t so short. I won’t soon forget what Trump has said and done and I’ll resist his, and his advocates’ efforts to further poison the country: to make America Hate Again.
† (Footnote: And lest we forget, for the record: Trump won the electoral college but like G.W. Bush’s first election, Trump lost the popular vote.)
“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”
~ Ursula K. Le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
We’re on the cusp of the election and it looks like Donald Trump is going down in flames.
Beyond all of his lies, beyond the misogyny, xenophobia and calls for violence , Trump’s latest trick is to attempt undermining the foundation of our democracy: the expectation of a fair and honest election.
There is no doubt, that we need to keep a weary eye on the fair and legal proceedings of our elections, but making unsubstantiated claims that are elections are rigged is antithetical to a democracy.
George to John and Beyond
I’d once heard it said, that the most important election in a fledgling democracy isn’t the first one – it’s the second. The fact that George Washington peacefully ceded power to John Adams was more critical to our democracy than the election of Washington himself.
But the Donald is prepared to burn the country down with false allegations in order to protect his ego since, he knows, in his dark heart, that he’s going to lose hard. And what’s worse: to a woman!
“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
Friends from work were aware that I had the privilege of seeing Bruce Springsteen from ‘the pit’ (now a great term BTW) a couple of weeks ago. During our lunch conversation, one of my friends said he wasn’t interested. He doesn’t like how Springsteen gets involved in politics; that he thinks artists and the ilk should keep their mouths shut about such things. And to be clear, my friend’s argument wasn’t with Springsteen’s views (although I don’t think it is a coincidence that he doesn’t agree with them), his argument was: actors, musicians and the like should keep their mouths shut.
Springsteen opened with a beautiful rendition of ‘New York Serenade‘ for his September 11th show in Pittsburgh. With no commentary he then proceeded to play a number of songs from his album, ‘The Rising’. – Songs influenced by the events from 9/11.
For those ignorant of the matter, they should understand that Springsteen is famous for telling stories and anecdotes during his show: many humors, some touching, others telling but few explicitly political. Still, during the nights performance he did have two choice words for Donald Trump.
But beyond that, he let the work speak for itself and I’m left to marvel how anyone should think that an artist shouldn’t be involved in politics. I wonder how limited that would make all forms of art. By direct way of example, a significant portion of Springsteen’s best work is political in nature.
That isn’t to say that an artist is right because they are an artist, or famous, or both, nor does all art (or artist) need to be political but throughout history artists and philosophers are often the people who have helped highlight and elevate political discourse the most.
“Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact. ”
~ William S. Burroughs
I wish more of our society worked to be both informed and passionate about governance and if that means that Ted Nugent has a voice in the discussion: good. – I’ll take my chances that, over time, the best ideas win out.
“The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.”
I really know next to nothing about the man Gene Wilder who died today at the age of 83.
We are the music makers… and we are the dreamers of dreams.
~ Willy Wonka
But I do know that he left an indelible glowing and warm memory in my childhood: that of Willy Wonka from the 1971 classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
“I can’t go on forever, and I don’t really want to try. So who can I trust to run the factory when I leave and take care of the Oompa Loompas for me? Not a grown up. A grown up would want to do everything his own way, not mine. So that’s why I decided a long time ago that I had to find a child. A very honest, loving child, to whom I could tell all my most precious candy making secrets.”
~ Willy Wonka
And so, for his artistry and in morning of another childhood light that is crossed by shadow, I was sorry to hear of his death. But I hope that the images and sounds of his whimsical, (if sometimes deliciously dark) portrayal of the candy man lights a candle of pure imagination for generations to come.
“Where is fancy bred, in the heart or in the head?”
~ Willy Wonka
“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”
~ Willy Wonka
“My attitude to peace is rather based on the Burmese definition of peace – it really means removing all the negative factors that destroy peace in this world. So peace does not mean just putting an end to violence or to war, but to all other factors that threaten peace, such as discrimination, such as inequality, poverty.”
~Aung San Suu Kyi
Buy a Brazen Bull for your next Lawn and Torture Party
I have a fondness for lawn ornaments – as long as they are in other people’s yards and preferably not next door neighbors.
On my drive home from work, I encountered a roadside collection of custom made metal yard decorations and I had to stop to check them out.
I quite enjoyed the 6 foot tall velociraptor but I was really intrigued by the six foot long golden bovine grill: both aesthetically ‘striking’ and functional!
Seeing this grill reminded me of the dark tale of the Brazen Bull: a torture and execution device designed in ancient Greece.
The story goes that an ancient greek ruler – Phalaris commissioned a bronze boiler shaped like a bull to torture and execute criminals. The concept behind the device was that some luckless wretch would be tossed into the metal sculpture while a fire was lit beneath – cooking the condemned alive.
As if that wasn’t fun enough, the chap who invented it – a fellow named Perillos, designed it with a series of pipes that converted the screams of the condemned into the sounds of a bull angrily bellowing. (In fairness: remember that this was before TV and Donald Trump rallies.)
Unfortunately for Perillos, Phalaris ordered that the inventor be tossed into the chamber for its trial run. (The National Endowment for the Arts had a much rougher funding and vetting process back then.)
The story also goes on to tell that later, Phalaris himself was killed in the brazen bull when he was overthrown.
I think there is a lesson here about the risks of getting involved in roasting one’s fellow humans in metal farm animals.
Anyway, who wants a hotdog?
“While we are under the tyranny of Priests, it will ever be their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith.”
Personal Tragedy or National News Fodder
On June 14th, 2016, tragedy struck a Nebraska family when their two year old son was attacked and killed by an alligator at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Five days later and this event is still making national headline news.
As unadulteratedly heartbreaking as this is for the child’s family; as much as they will be scarred for the rest of their live; even allowing Disney’s place in popular culture and footie-pajama memories; this story does not warrant the national handwringing that has been blaring from our media for nearly a week.
News Flash: Alligator’s Live in Florida
Just another hunter like a wolf in the sun
Just another junkie on a scoring run
Just another victim of the things he has done
Just another day in the life of a loaded gun
The odds get even, you name the game
The odds get even, the stakes are the same
You bet your life
According to the 2005 Scholastic Book of World Records, the majority of the world’s alligators inhabit Florida and Louisiana, with over a million alligators in each state. (Southern Florida is the only place where both alligators and crocodiles live side by side.) There are 1.3 million alligators across the state of Florida ‒ that’s one for every 15 people.
Disney World is built on wetlands – the natural habitat of gators and other Florida native reptiles. In fact, they built the park on a big mound of dirt from the earth that was scooped out to make the Seven Seas Lagoon. The entire property is interconnected via canals and is quintessential alligator habitat.
Disney World covers 43 square miles and hosts 50 million visitors a year. (And there are another 60,000 employees who work at the park.)
Nearly 90 percent of all alligator attacks in the U.S. happen in Florida. Florida averages about seven serious unprovoked bites a year, and officials put the odds of someone being seriously injured by an unprovoked alligator in Florida at roughly one in 2.4 million.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there have been 56 alligator attacks in the Sunshine State between 2010 and 2015, with only one fatality. The main reason is, small alligators make up the majority of the alligator population and don’t pose a threat to human beings.
And yet, for all of the alligators sharing the same space as mouse ear attired tourists, there have only been two significant attacks on humans since the parks inception. – And that is in spite of visitors propensity for feeding them and approaching them for photo opportunities.
Odds on Death
|Cause of death||Number of U.S. deaths||Rate of deaths|
|1. Cardiovascular disease||614,348||193 per 100,000|
|2. Cancer||591,699||186 per 100,000|
|3. Chronic lower respiratory disease||147,101||46 per 100,000|
|4. Accidents||136,053||43 per 100,000|
|5. Strokes||133,103||42 per 100,000|
|6. Alzheimer’s disease||93,541||29 per 100,000|
|7. Diabetes||76,488||24 per 100,000|
|8. Influenza and pneumonia||55,227||17 per 100,000|
|Drug overdoses||47,055||15 per 100,000|
|Kidney disease||48,146||15 per 100,000|
|Intentional self-harm||42,773||13 per 100,000|
|Septicemia||38,940||12 per 100,000|
|Liver disease||38,170||12 per 100,000|
|Transportation accidents||37,195||12 per 100,000|
|Parkinson’s disease||26,150||8 per 100,000|
|Firearm assault||10,945||3 per 100,000|
|HIV||6,721||2 per 100,000|
|Pedestrian deaths||6,258||2 per 100,000|
But even if we sift the data to eliminate many of these causes of death (which are often the result of broader lifestyle and hereditary causes) and we go the the extreme – death’s caused by animals, this is what we see:
- Alligators, sharks and bears each kill an average of one person per year.
- Venomous snakes and lizards kill six per year
- Spiders kill seven
- Cows take out twenty people per year on average
- Dogs – man’s best friend – takes out twenty-eight people
- Bees, wasps and hornets kill fifty-eight
Caution: Signs Up Ahead
In spite of these facts and the incredibly low odds of getting hurt, let alone killed by an alligator, this event has led to some criticize Disney for not having proper signage.
Although Disney did in fact, have signs meant to discourage swimming, I think it is fair to say that given the beach like property, wading into the water was not an unreasonable thing to do and so the family can’t be blamed for being reckless.
But because the family and unfortunate child weren’t careless, that doesn’t mean that Disney is culpable for the actions of all indigenous animals on its property.
But still we’re told: signs would have made a difference, even though it would take quite a sign to list the causes of death at Disney World. If not signs: perhaps fences around all water. If not fences, walls…
A number of years ago, I did a bike tour of the Everglades National Park. Mammoth alligators would often sun themselves on the bike trail. One either rode around them (our option), or turned back. Seeing these great animals was a fantastic experience.
My friends and I talked to a park ranger about the gators and tourist reactions. We were told stories about tourists who would lay down next to 10 foot long alligators so that they could get their photo taken by their family. One tourist had even climbed on the back of an alligator for a photo opp, all in spite of the numerous signs to be found warning people not to approach alligators.
If signs weren’t good enough to keep people from approaching the actual alligators themselves, how effective is a sign going to be to keep people from simply wading into water?
We react to untimely, visceral death more emotionally than the everyday variety, even if we’re far more likely to give up the ghost from a car accident than an attack from a reptile. We may die in our lazy boy recliner at the age of 90 or we may be a bear’s breakfast when we’re 16 years old. But in the end, given enough time, life is 100% fatal and there aren’t enough signs in the world to keep nature at bay.
For my part: if I ever get taken out by a wild animal, either by my own stupidity or by the chances of life: please don’t post any signs or erect any guardrails in my name.
On the other hand, I would take a nice trail name. Perhaps something like, “Glen Green Grisly Grizzly Memorial Scenic Sunset Trail“.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
~Five Man Electrical Band
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Bigger is Better if You can Stand it
When I was a kid, the “cool” place to sit in a movie theater was in the very back row. As I got older, I realized that defeated much of the purpose of going to the movies: a larger than life BIG screen experience. By sitting at the back of the theater, one essentially makes the 35 foot screen equivalent to watching a 50 inch screen from ten feet away. You can hold up your hand and block out the screen if you want.
I’m now of the philosophy that to fully appreciate the movie going experience, the screen should be just shy of comfortably filling my peripheral vision.
So, it should be of no surprise that, as something of a home theater aficionado, I buy the highest quality big screen I can afford. Currently that means a 75″ 1080p Samsung Series 8 8000 that I bought a year or two ago. If I had my way, I’d have at least a 120″ TV.
I’ve also been working to upgrade my home theater speakers, which included transitioning to Definitive Technology speakers. Having tastes that exceed my budget, I haven’t bought a full compliment yet but I did buy a Definitive Technology center speaker.
And here is where my 1st world problems start: my legacy Ikea TV stand (from the days when I ‘only’ owned a 65″ Sony Vega), is barely large enough for my Samsung, but more to the problem: it does not accommodate my center speaker, so I’m forced to sit my speaker in front of my TV. This is only barley tolerable when I’m watching a letter-boxed movie and the image isn’t blocked by the speaker.
I’m not prepared to wall mount my TV or speaker for the time being, for various reasons, so this problem sent me on a hunt for a TV stand or entertainment center that would accommodate both my center speaker, components and TV without my image being blocked.
This issue is further exacerbated because my speaker not only fires sound forward, but up towards the ceiling as well, so I don’t want to trap it inside a cabinet or under a shelf. So, I’ve spent a good bit of time trying to find an attractive solution and have been surprised to find that there are few good choices to accommodate TVs larger than 65″.
Where Have All the Really Big Screen 1080p TVs Gone?
My search took me both online and to brick and mortar stores like my local Best Buy, and it was here that I was surprised to find 65″ Ultra High Def TVs are now as cheap, or cheaper than my 75″ 1080p TV was a couple of years ago. Perhaps with the release of UHD Blu-Rays and some streaming content starting to be released, it will finally be worth buying an UHD TV. This was a new temptation and I started to fantasize about moving my 75″ TV to another room, thinking I might be able to forego the Ultra High Def and instead get a larger 1080 big screen.
So, I perused the TVs in Best Buy and then later, at home, online and to my dismay, I started to learn that big screen TVs – bigger than 65 inches, have started to disappear. My search finally lead me to this article “Where Have All the Really Big 1080p TVs Gone?” that explained the disappearance: Ultra HD happened. In terms of TV pricing, the race to the bottom has run its course; right now, manufacturers are now looking for reasons to charge more for their televisions, not less.
So, I’ll probably be forced to commission a custom TV stand that fits my needs and I’ll likely be making for UHD TVs to become both big and affordable.
Oh, how shall I ever survive?
“As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.”
Donald Trump could almost qualify as a cartoon character, except for the dark rancor that spews from his round, orange mouth. What at first might have seemed like an extension of one of his reality TV shows has long crossed the border into scary fascism.
Here is why I think the man is a danger based on his own words:
Donald Trump is xenophobic
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population.”
“I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”
Donald is antithetical to the values of liberty and justice
“I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
“We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet. We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people who really understand what’s happening and maybe, in some ways, closing that Internet up in some ways.”
“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely… There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems… They have to be. They have to be… It’s all about management.” (In reference to supporting a database and ID cards to track Muslims in the U.S.)
Trump’s willful ignorance which includes science, history and world affairs
“I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump–I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me. … [in which] a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back and a week later had a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.” (fusing to condemn former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and noted white supremacist David Duke, who endorsed Trump for president)
“You’re disgusting” – said to a female lawyer during a court case after she asked for a break to pump breast milk for her 3-month-old daughter.
“26,000 unreported sexual assults [sic] in the military — only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
Donald Trump’s pandering
“I love the poorly educated.”
Trump’s arrogance (and insecurity)
“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”
“My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
“Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”
“I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.”
“I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.” (On Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul)
“You know, it really doesn`t matter what [the media] write as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
“A person who is very flat chested is very hard to be a 10.”
Trump maligns, bullies and incites violence
“He’s (John McCain) not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”
“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.” (Encouraging violence at his rallies)
“That was so great. Who was the person who did that? Put up your hand, put up your hand. Bring that person up here. I love that.” (Praising two audience members who tackled a protester at his rally in South Carolina, Feb. 16, 2016)
Donald Trump is avaricious
“The point is, you can never be too greedy.”
“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”
“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
Donald Trump is a conspiracist
“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”
“It’s really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!”
Sadly, ‘The Donald’ might be right about at least one thing…
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
“Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Have you ever watched a horror film that depicted a possessed or evil doll and thought that it stretches credulity to think that anybody would ever buy such a creepy looking toy in real life?
Well, wonder no more. I spotted these two evil stuffed toys leering out from the bin of an arcade claw game in a local Steak ‘n Shake, just waiting to dine on the flesh and soul of some foolish suburban family.
“Here you go kids. – Enjoy your new stuffed toys and sweet dreams!”
“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.”
Trying to increase my fitness, I’ve been working out six to seven days a week, for 30-90 minutes a day. – A pretty respectable workout routine. And yet, in spite of the fact that I’m going out of my way to pick up weights and run, I get very irritated anytime I forget my water bottle or music and I have to walk a single flight of steps to retrieve them so that I can start my exercises.