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Atomized junior

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Due to colds and wintertime exhaustion the post that was to have occupied this space has been cancelled. But so that you do not feel cheated I will leave you with a short dialog  based partly on an actual converstation between me and one of my nephews.
"Uncle Paul what does that symbol mean? "
"What symbol is that?"
"You know the one: the 'A' with the circle around it."
"Oh yes that one stands for anarchy."
"Ah. I see. So in that picture why was that singer you like lying on that metal box with that symbol on it?"
"Ted Leo you mean?  I suppose he was just trying to demonstrate that he was down with the effusive enthusiasms of those graffiti artists who would paint such symbols on metal traffic light control boxes. Does that explain it if for you?"
"Kinda. Just one more thing though. What does anarchy mean?"
"Anarchy Well, I'll describe this way. Anarchy is like going to a dinner theater and finding it's comedy night and seeing there are five stages. Suddenly at the same moment, Louis C-K, Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard, Andy Kauffman, and Lenny Bruce all come out and step up to their respective mikes. Then looking around and seeing the rest of the audience is made up of nothing but Louis C-K, Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard, Andy Kauffman and Lenny Bruces."

I know what some of you are thinking at this point: That's 'cacophony' you are thinking of there not anarchy. No, with talk show hosts and politicians you would get cacophony. With comedians you get anarchy.

11:32:01 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Through the Jumbotron Darkly

 The day of the inauguration I was at work. The university and library were inexplicably open, I suppose somebody was expected to work. That meant that Sundays activities on 18 Jan 2009,  the concert at the Lincoln memorial, were the focus of my attentionA picture named Bono_jmbtrn.jpg. I set out with my sister Susan and nephew Grant for that event around noon from her house in Bethesda. It was a long cold afternoon. Principally I remember the line that ended, and the crowd that didn't. The line's ending wasn't physical it ended temporally when the event staff came up to the line and said 'I know you all have been waiting here for a couple of hours, but we're not letting any more people through the check-point so...goodbye.'  The crowd didn't end at all. It was everywhere you went, milling and waiting. The scale of it surprised me and I admit timing and sight-line wise we were behind the power curve the whole day.

 My sister had gone down the day before with a neighbor to watch the rehearsals (the neighbor knew someone in one of the choirs). From this my sister had lost her favorite pen, but gained Bono's autograph, a fair exchange almost any day. Sunday may have seemed a little anticlimactic to her.

 The acts as I remember them included Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Stevie Wonder, and Garth Brooks - hopping about the steps of the memorial singing American Pie. More puzzling but no less welcome: Jack Black and Shakira. Then U2 and finally a full speech by President elect Obama. None of this I saw directly, the crowd's density arrested that. The view I had was of one of the many Jumbotron screens. Even there, through the legs of the police department's improbable Baba Yaga howdah. My nephewA picture named GrantObamaHat.jpg, being ten and still short of stature (I should talk) saw nothing of any of this, merely the back sides of many adults, and when I dared look I was sure to catch his baleful glance.

 I felt a little  tricked to be working the day of the inauguration, but it was my own fault. I'm just not quick enough on the uptake. My boss a few weeks prior asked me if I was working on the 20th. I said yes because it takes me a moment to match abstract data like numbers to real world experiencials. I had an odd sensation or vision right after I said yes, that my boss spun around and announced to the others: "the fools gonna do it" I shook my head to clear my thoughts and it went away but for a moment I  had the strangest sensation that I was Cleveland Little. I was only one  from my unit working that day.

 They had a big screen projection TV set up in the Library so at the time of the Inaugural Moment I went upstairs to watch it there. Trân also was in on Tuesday, but not in as well. At the time of the swearing in she left and went off to church briefly, it being one of the little hours.

 A picture named PEotUS_Jmbtrn.jpgMy niece and nephew Nicole and Lucas had their adventure planned out. They would preposition themselves camping out in their father's office (which I recall is somewhere in the vicinity of MacPherson's square so as to be downtown in the morning. In the end their parents my (other) sister Ann and brother-in-law Al joined them because they scored themselves standing section tickets to the actual event. I expect they should be found somewhere in the now legendary gigapan photo, or failing that one of these from the Boston Globe. I could add; though, that the McKeldin Special Events room where I watched the oath, is the same room that a scene from National Treasure ii was filmed in. The one where the President's people are trying to book a venue for his birthday as our protagonists are locking them out. So in a way it was just like being there.

9:01:35 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Friday, January 16, 2009
PrEx Offender

 Now that '43 is past tense, however exhausted by winter I am. My post election moratorium on politic matters must come to an end. I may not appreciate cold bitter grey weather as much as other New England originates. I always felt that Key West had a fine approach to winter. On the eve of Sen. Obama's inauguration we are hearing much, all of a sudden, from the out-going administration. I don't desire to contend their arguments or lists of debatable accomplishments, there are people who get paid to do this. Rather I want to sketch a big picture rebuttal to whatever they might be saying. 

 Both Bush and Cheyenne have recently given a series of exit interviews. Their story as they tell it. Neither departed from their primary mode of being Mario Almonte: In his Final Week in Office, George Bush Spoke His Mind, But Did Anyone Care to Hear?. Cheney as cynical, controlling and paranoid as ever, albeit chattier, made appearances on the Newshour Cheney Reflects on Legacy, Defends Interrogation Policy | Online NewsHour | January 14, 2009 | PBS,  Face the Nation The Cheney Exit Interview, On "Face The Nation," Vice President Talks About Iraq, Executive Powers, And Why Obama Needs To Keep Gitmo - CBS News,  and to the Weeky Standard Cheney--the Exit Interview. Bush full of frivolous image obsessed optimism. still showing signs of the bubble was by turn partially engaged, unengaged, detached. Still in both his last press conference George Bush bids emotional farewell in 'ultimate exit interview' | World news |, and last address to the nation  The Associated Press: Bush defends tumultuous terms in farewell speech  essentially equating dull obstinateness as leadership  Bush's swan song: Pride in country, few regrets |

  The steel of this administration lay in the vice presidents office. From Mr. Cheney (Bush hardly had opinions of his own) those whose names filtered out from this political node Libby Addington Yoo et al were all intense intellects, but possessed of unsound opinions not the opinions of the people of the virtuous city. Both Bush and Cheney and those around them demonstrated weak democratic instincts. They ruled as autocracrats and were content to represent the nations oligarchic forces. They ruled as segment of power elites as though it was understood this was their sole trust. The fierce deregulation of the market corrupted from any semblance of a free market towards what is often called crony capitalism, a mercantilism, a corporatism was pursued as a mission. I don't buy the notion that this is their failing of conservatism. This is movement conservatism, what it seeks to do when unempeded. These are failings built into the Republican party. As their term started eight years ago they seemed preternaturally focused on oil and gas deals. My enduring assessment of Cheney in the period following the 11 September attacks is of a man bee stung by forces in the middle east, as though they had been inclined to view such governments as the Taliban as people who could be talked into doing good rational business.

  They seem to have had the idea to leverage the United States' existing measure of military superiority to maintain the status quo of unilateralism, at best half an idea. To  allow only awareness of those things thought amenable to a kinetic approach. Towards this end through the first term they sought a military to replace the foreign service. A militarized relation to outside world. There was an aspect of the collapse of Soviet power, the end of the post world war two bipolar environment that encourage this. We needed our allies less, and didn't need to worry over whose toes we stepped on. But Rumsfeld and his group never seemed to grasp the other side of this, our allies and the rest, needed us less as well. The ones who continued to need us most were ones who were most afraid of their own people. Everybody wanted oil, it seemed a thing to be captured.

   Nature of the Bush Cheney relationship will continues to be argued for years. This likely will be the critical issue in assessments of this presidency. Cheney was the primary channel if not for information the President saw, then at least for opinions about information. He framed what that the president knew and presented him with constricted choices, but took care to leave him feeling he was making up his own mind. The President was occasionally visibly, and publicly at a loss without Cheney's input. Those times he didn't do what Cheney wanted, Cheney would both privately plot and publicly pout. A state of affairs we saw increasingly in the second term.

 In stating the case for their legacy good or bad, strong or weak both men pointed towards the future. Placing themselves at the mercy of the unknown or not-yet-known against the known. Their primary talking point currently is a null, the second attack that did not happen. Even here they have to skirt around two immensely expensive wars mired as they are in a nihilistic legal and adjudicative limbo. They don't talk up the economy.

 I would allow that the present, conceived of as history-to-be, is complex enough that all actions are best judged in their effect. Left to a moment when what they engendered has been played out and explicated (or do I mean expurgated). What knowledge that could lead to a positive reassessing of this crew is ill defined. If that much is still unknown: facts hidden, events obscured, motivations still encrypted, diplomacy secret, then an even more damming argument could be made that they were not in any sense leading a democratic open society. Surely that was their highest duty, beyond building the plutocratic unitary executive they assigned themselves  From Van Buren to Bush, a better way to rank US presidents | (good if rather libetarian analysis).  At end they seem like to me like men running from the verdict of history.

11:40:57 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Thursday, January 8, 2009

 Last week it rained. An entire week of cold winter rain. It gets cold enough around here, but rarely cold enough long enough to pass over from rain to snow. This is an endearing trait of the mid-latitude mid-Atlantic region. With the university where I work in intercession all the usual amenities, the shuttle bus network, are offline for another two weeks.  It's the flipside season for bike commuting, days on end through freezing soaking rain. Today: leadened low unbroken clouds. I'm feeling somewhat overcast, and under-the-weather.

  I have a distant memory that comes to me on such days. I may have spoken of it before I can't recall. It is a memory of looking out the back kitchen window of the house I lived in then. A cape cod style farmhouse built around 1820. The house in the bottom center of the picture below. The house was built on a hill so from the back this was a second story vantage point. I climbed up on a foot stool to look out over the kitchen sink. Beyond the yard, beyond the verge of bamboo and brush that abutted the small and tidy stream that flowed there. This was called the Eel River locally, true to name it was full of eels, lamprey eels, horrible science fiction monsters, mouths a concentric spiraling ring of dagger teeth. Beyond these things I saw a vision of an endless world-encompassing swamp, extending as far as I could see.

 A picture named MarshWorld_GE.jpgThis was an image formed before I knew about bayous or bogs.  Though, I might have known of cranberry bogs, but this bare sheet of water - over liquified mud, ossified mulch, with only bare black twig trees and speckled birches sticking through was not that. At the time it caused me some considerable surprise and alarm. The solidity of the world, the demarcation of things I never questioned was askew. There are the realms of air oceans and land, within that last water has its limited and assigned places.  For years there remained this vaguely disturbing vision; that beyond the ordinary firmament of experience lay a flooded wasteland.

 There was continuing mystery to this swampland. I had no accounting for a moment that did not match known reality. I knew the surrounding terrain reasonably well for a first grader, and kept an eye on it thereafter. The entire short length of the Eel river only drained a few square miles of low laying farmland. We moved to another town the next year. I never solved this puzzle. The answer came only now, when I decided to test my six-year-old sense of geography against Google Earth. Now I see, as Google Earth reveals more than any map might, that the Eel river, scarcely inches above sea level, turns just beyond my old house, another streamlet joining it, and runs in a straight line from that window's sight-line out to the Atlantic ocean. Only a little extra rain and the streams spread out nearly as wide as they are long. 

  It seem odd though, hovering over a 40 year past to gain such an answer.  At times Google itself seems to withdraw into the mysteries. Taking the internet, the dry land of sure facts laid out just beyond our fingertips with it.  Beyond all this good there is still this indistinguishable void. Our information world is only ordered to a degree and distance. Our sense's debrief of the material world, constructs an ever lesser part of our reality. The paths we march out along in ideological surety shift from firm base to trackless marsh, between what is known and not known without our always perceiving it.

10:36:50 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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Last update: 2/12/09; 10:26:44 AM.