Year-end Rumination: Pale Blue Dot

Years end and what a year this was!


This will be my most political year-end statement because it kicked off my 2017.

In the late ’80’s, a brilliant classmate from China mentioned that the Chinese cultural revolution had been horrible, bad — her parents were educators. Her mother was still living in China. Her father had died during the revolution. I stayed away from asking much. I was afraid I would learn too much about the horror she had lived through.

As the U.S. leans toward further divisions — economic, education,  generations — a cultural and/or political revolution seems imminent, so I started the year reading Mao’s Last Revolution. It is a hefty, heady tome and you will not be surprised that at years end, I haven’t finished yet. But let’s not focus on that, no. The authors — Roderick Macfarquhar and Michael Schoenhals — deserve bigly kudos for documentation of a closed communist culture in which conformance to party ideals and pledged loyalty to individuals in the political structure is a shifty business. Deception, intrigue, danger. It’s all there.

Struggle early in the revolution, early in what I’ve read.

And so at year’s end, we continue to struggle a more perfect union and I will continue to struggle Mao’s Last to the finish.


Sub-zero temperatures from my bleacher seat here in the Midwest of the U.S., so the following was a nice confluence of different points of view this year:

After the Alabama election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate to sit Sessions seat, Dulce Sloan on the The Daily Show with Trevor Noah said, “Or at the very least cancel winter. You know only white people like snow.”

But! but! This video of black Louisianan Da’Quan Bellard dancing in the snow made me smile, made me scream ‘put on a jacket! put on a coat!’, and made me shake my head.

And most remarkable to me, he sings along to Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles‘ like Frood did back in the day. Whoa!

And Frood’s in Hawaii for the New Years holiday, and I’m sitting here frozen. SMDH.


My New Year’s Resolution? I’m going to reclaim my time too.

And I hope at the end of 2018 I can report back on what reclaiming my time means in my world.

Focus isn’t a word that figures prominently in my vocabulary. That might be a start.


Maria Popova: In Praise of the Telescopic Perspective: A Reflection on Living Through Turbulent Times, reminds us that we have puny little sorrows when viewed from the universe across space and time. I recommend. It’s a good read.

And she nods at Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

Approximately 4550 days after leaving the earth, the Voyager space probe turned it’s cameras to photograph the earth from a distance of about 3.7 billion miles from the Voyager. God bless Carl Sagan! He convinced NASA to take the picture because it puts the earth in a context with its place in the universe.  Scientific value? Null. Nada. Zip.

“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps a no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

(my bold)

Progress on this pale blue dot is small, baby steps. A struggle.

But the progress of this small pale blue dot in our puny little solar system, now we’re talkin’ and I love this reflection from a Vonnegut work of sci-fi:

“Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.”

― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.The Sirens of Titan


Here’s a picture of matcha tea making rings around a cup during an afternoon of conversation. It reflects the contemplative nature of afternoon tea and like crop circles so does conversation. Circle. Contemplation. Circle. Conversation. Circle, the noun, and circle, the verb.

Hardly comparable to the Grand Canyon. Yet somehow a puny little afternoon becomes, Grand. Capital ‘G’.

And very 2017 in it’s Pantone Greenery 15-0343.

Matcha

 

Note to self, fast now: Drink 2017 Pantone Greenery 15-0343 matcha; wear 2018 Pantone Ultra Violet 18-3838.


On the death of two souls I hold dear during December, with deep love and gratitude, I say:

Thank you, Richard.

Thank you, Joan.

And as needed, comfort dropped in yesterday in the form of an exclusive from Longreads:  This is How You Say Goodbye, Lillian Slugocki.


And thank you, dear readers!

Stay safe. Stay warm. And Happy New Year!

Taxes vs. the Common Good

With the projection that the tax reform bill which passed this week will throw another $1.5 trillion dollars on the national debt over the next decade, I was reminded of a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

“How did you go bankrupt?”
Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

― Ernest HemingwayThe Sun Also Rises

and combined with The Tipping Point — an idea and a book by Malcolm Gladwell:

“The tipping point is the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development.” (Google)

I wonder if this political experiment called the United States, this democracy, has hit a tipping point?

  • Did we hit the tipping point when we decided Social Security was a good idea? (1935)
  • With Medicare and Medicaid? (1966)
  • Various and sundry wars through the years? Ugh. Now that’s a long list …

Can we continue to afford capitalism? Pure unadulterated obeisance to business to solve any and all economic problems?

Well, the GOP Tax Reform Bill passed this week. And with some of the last minute additions to the bill — I’m looking at you Bob Corker — “taxation without representation” has morphed into “no taxation with representation.” Which, when you think about it, explains the Kochs — the Charles & David. But I’ll save that for another time. This is a time of good cheer.

Due to cold weather, the celebratory beer lap around the White House Rose Garden in golf carts has been postponed. Also, Trump had to get to Mar-a-lago. 

A Merry Christmas to you all!


As I rifled through my list of draft posts, I tripped across the Vox editorial by a former Wisconsinite who noted that his quality of life is better. In Sweden. Where there are

… more TAXES!!!

And it reminds me that at one time improvement and maintenance of the “common good” in the US was a priority, a goal. Taxes were not a necessary evil. Taxes paid for education, for infrastructure, for common defense, for all the things in the Preamble to the Constitution. The strength of our struggled union can be measured by our individual freedoms and the quality of life afforded to all. Not just a few. All of ‘We the People,’ the whole collective, the Common Good.


In closing, consider the metaphorical economic teeter totter – businesses at one end have taken our money and continue to take our money — I’m looking at you now, Apple — and they have run off to work in other playgrounds leaving our Common Good butt hurt on the other end of the totter, on the ground, awaiting trickle down.  Maybe we’ll have lunch money.

And the playground monitors don’t address playground shenanigans, changes to the landscape, the changing rules. After all, they’re part, parcel, and party to all of it. (And I’m still looking at you Bob Corker.)

Recess is almost over. The trading day ends. The bell will ring.¹


¹ Love me my mixed metaphors.

On blogging.

This time of year usually inspires reflection.  A check of the calendar shows that I’ve been standing on my orange crate bullhorning into the void for about 10 months. I set a minimum expectation of one blog post by Thursday each week and yes, I am behind this week.

And blogging writing. I love this quote by Joan Didion, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” And I think, well, me too. Run with me!

What I’m thinking.

Ah! There’s the rub. The quality of writing is directly correlated to the quality of thought. The practice of writing makes good writing possible; great writing at it’s foundation has not pen and paper or screen and mouse and keyboard, but thought. And this for me is always, always the challenge — to improve the thought, improve the communication. Words can be found. The exactness, the preciseness of the word, the nuance — that is what requires thought.

And I sit with that and I’m pretty sure greatness is overrated. Heh, heh.

What I’m looking at.

Originally, in early 2017 I was looking at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and I wanted a place to drop my notes, research, and thoughts and prayers summary of the protest and concerns for possible outcomes.

That hasn’t happened yet.

My notes and research on DAPL are somewhere, since I started blogging there has been another spill, and it was announced that the pipeline will be finished soon.  I’m pretty sure I’ll get on it.

I’m often surprised to find that what I’m actually looking at and choose to publish isn’t what has been under my microscope. When I look through draft posts with ideas that were current at the time, I push ‘publish’ on something from the periphery. As an example, I had just finished Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City when the Hurricane triplets Harvey, Irma, and Maria visited eviction on great swaths of population independent of their poverty or wealth.  Instead of a commentary on eviction as living in a steady state of hurricane uncertainty, I dropped some climate change ideas. Go figure.

What I see and what it means.

The immediacy of the internet has made reporters of us all. And the professionals — the trained journalists and reporters and publications that try to beat the immediacy of ‘now’ — try to get the facts straight and think and form opinions on the fly. By reference to current news sources and writing about current events, I appreciate how hard it is to locate the truth. Any truth. Statements have to be researched, sources need to be verified and I appreciate that professionals deliver news in a race for your attention and in competition with click-bait.

And what it means is that I have the luxury of time to consider an event, to turn it over and look under the hood, to discuss with others what things mean. And to weigh in with my bullhorn after-the-fact and not in-the-midst-of and during.

What I want and what I fear.

What I want is to read and to be read!

And what I fear? Technology and that big blue ‘publish’ button up and to the right means there is no editor, there is no traditional publisher, there is no one between you and me. There is no one to save me from myself.  My thinking could be off. And very public.

What was I thinking? I stand on this little orange crate with my bullhorn. I might spout strong yet wrong ideas and slide off into the margins like the itinerant repent-the-end-of-the-world-is-coming preacher or other interesting and startling orange crate peers.

Or maybe my orange crate and bullhorn, reporting from my little space off in this section of the bleacher seats is just homage to my love of mixed metaphor and play on words.

I know that very time I click the ‘publish’ button and release a post, any post, this post into the internet wild, I win.

I think. I look. I find meaning. I write. I want. I overcame fear.

And dear readers, you have my love and gratitude for reading me thus far.

Thank you!

I win.

 

A sundry assortment of musings.

Today I will try my best to not pontificate with my bullhorn on my orange crate in my little corner of the internet as I’m wont to do.

Here we go anyway:

Fearless Girl & Time

And not tick-tock time! On December 1, 2017, I identified women who have joined the company of ‘Fearless Girl’ and Time Magazine’s annual Person of the Year 2017 is The Silence Breakers — more company for what ‘Fearless Girl’ represents. The Time stories are painful — “if you do [speak out], your complaint becomes your identity“¹ — but this is literally facing down a figuratively charging bull.

An avalanche started.

GOP Tax reform.

No taxation with representation! And that would be representation in the form of dollars — Kochs, Mercers, Adelsons, et al.

Representation of voters?

Eh, not so much. In word only. Overall,  suppression is going well. Just show up as an adult, present, able and accounted for and it will not be enough.

We require ID.

Eh?

Hard to obtain an ID?

Well, no worries. Our national experiment in a pluralist democracy may be over soon.

And we’ll return to historically scheduled ‘taxation without representation’ programming shortly.

Trump & GOP Tax reform.

He benefits. But his estate benefits bigglier when he is dead.²

Polling all millenials …

Well this is good news! From The Independent, “a majority of young people in America want a third party involved in US politics.”³ And so do I and I feel young again!

I hope Millenials can organize, identify leadership, establish a party platform and a snappy name. Bring it.

I’m here for you kids.

Project Runway Season 16: A new development. Cliff hangers.

In the run up to the finale, Project Runway featured episodes that ended in cliff hangers and we had to tune in next week to see the runway results.

I don’t know whose idea this was, but stop it. Stop it future seasons of Project Runway.

There is too much drama going on in the regular news cycle and it is hard to keep up.  We do not need more drama in our reality TV show competitions.  We need less.


¹ Zacharek, Stephanie; Dockterman, Elianan; Edwards, Haley Sweetland. “The Silence Breakers.” Time Magazine, Person of the Year 2017. December 2017. Web. 08 December 2017.

² And so do the rest of us. Harwell, Drew and O’Connell, Jonathan. “The many ways President Trump would benefit from the GOP’s tax plan.” The Washington Post. 10 November 2017. Web. 08 December 2017.

³ Sampathkumar, Mythili. “Majority of millenials want a third party in US politics, new poll says.” The Independent. 29 November 2017 19:45 GMT. Web. 08 December 2017 11:40 AM CST.

Aside: In a different political environment, I would also include bullhorn screams at Democrats. After all, we should all be better in our struggle for a more perfect union.  As such, due to the current GOP majority rule, I hold my rage at the Dems back.

RRiP GOP

RRiP GOP.

With the uptick in opinion pieces that lament the reasons and results of the last Presidential election, I would like to show you the root of a weed I pulled:

In other words: Schultz lost her job but kept her party; Reince Priebus kept his job but let a hostile takeover happen on his watch.“¹

– July 2016, Ross Douthat, a conservative opinion writer in the NYTimes

And so in review, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned as DNC chairperson to clear the Democrat Party nomination for … wait for it … Hillary Clinton … who then proceeded to …

Lose.

Meanwhile over in the GOP, RRiP (Reince Richard Priebus) in a great show of leadership yanked proceeded to allow any and all nominees to run unchecked by any GOP standard of conduct or behavior.

I guess that assumes that the GOP had a standard of conduct. But  what am I thinking?This circle of hell includes Their standard of conduct allows for the celebration of passing soulless² legislation with beer and  golf cart rides around the White House Rose Garden. Ah! There it is. The standard of behavior. The Prescedense frequently rides around in golf carts too. Oh well.

And RRiP worked as the Teflon Cheetos’ Chief of Staff for all of 7 months! There was a job for RRiP beyond and out of the Republican National Committee. Hmmm.  Oh well. The deed was done. The moral death of the GOP started pre-Priebus³, but he delivered a fatal blow in the form of Prescedense Trump.

As such, I offer my “thoughts and prayers” for the survival of the democracy. Possibly the world.

RRiP GOP.


¹Douthat, Ross. “The Normal Party”. The New York Times. 16 July 2016. Web. 1 December 2017.

² If you can think of a stronger descriptor than ‘soulless’ that doesn’t use expletives, please let me know.

Asking for a friend.

³ The moral death and decay of the Democratic Party also started pre-Priebus. IMO, some of the rules for governing in our democracy have not kept pace with technological advances in many fields.  That topic is for another time. Another post.

Mind.Blown.

Mr. Viva and I were talking about what to watch Friday night and “The Kiss of the Spider Woman” with Raul Julia and, you know, “that woman” came up. And we described “that woman” — Brazilian, beautiful, long hair, great actress — but her name remained unspeakable at the tip of our tongues.

Fast forward less than 5 minutes.

Mr. Viva pulls up FaceBook and Sonia Braga, i.e. “that woman” is in his news feed.

Mind.Blown.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

Fearless Girl has company.

Yass!¹ So earlier this year I celebrated with great lament the future of ‘Fearless Girl’ installed opposite ‘Charging Bull’ on Wall Street. She’s small, she’s tiny, she needs help! And lo and behold, help showed up and here are my nods to a few of the women in the army² standing with and behind her:

  • Serena Williams

I’ll start here with Ms. Williams because even though this is a Gatorade commercial, it is sweet. As a strong, smart, athletic mother, Serena encourages her baby daughter to “please keep playing no matter what.” As should we all Serena. Message delivered. Message received.

PhD in anthropology, expert on authoritarian regimes, speaks Uzbek. It’s a long list. Sarah Kendzior is a boss. If ‘Fearless Girl’ came to life, she would be Sarah Kendzior.  You can follow Dr. Kendzior on Twitter (which provides links to many of her articles) or de Correspondent.

  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California)

Don’t waste Rep. Waters’ time. And a thread of truth to power.

  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California)

Calls out white lies and the lyin’ white liars who tell them.

  • Rep. Karen Bass (D-California)

Well, this is a trend. Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat calls out our little white lyin’ Attorney General on upholding systemic racism studies and statements.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts)

She persisted. And Sen. Warren continues to persist.

Embedded with white supremacists and neo-Nazis to report on the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. I look forward following her career. And I hope she doesn’t get too tired before she gets old.

After years of silence, the thunder of truth to power.

  • I close the list for today with Uma Thurman, a wrecking ball who is angry balling balls to the wall for balls.³

Yass! ‘Fearless Girl’ has company!

And truth to power, it is a growing army of support.


¹ IRL: In Real Life;  Yass: according to the Urban Dictionary a Scottish way of saying ‘Yes’ in celebration. Also, Viva waves her arms and jumps up and down just saying ‘Yass’!

² And to be clear, I am referring to the non-military definition of army: “a large number of people or things, typically formed or organized for a particular purpose.”

³ Oh so many references to balls! I’ll unpack.

Wrecking ball: A heavy metal ball swung from a crane into a building to demolish it.

Balling – Urban Dictionary: used to describe an individual, situation, or object with well-rounded competence, force of personality, significant affluence, and physical prowess. And Uma Thurman is all that.

Balls to the wall. An engineering term. A picture or in this case a video is worth a thousand words and toward the end of this article is Jay Leno with a physical demonstration of equipment going ‘balls to the wall’.

Balls.  Again with the Urban Dictionary but nuance matters.  I’m looking at balls as “the centre of a man’s life,” (definition #1 provided by DamianRules123, May 23, 2007).

I do believe Ms. Thurman is big, big, bigly, like so big coming for Harvey Weinstein or HollyWood. Balling balls to the wall for balls.