Ooo! That’s cold. A brief sundry assortment.

Nancy Pelosi leads from behind.

While I wait for Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and others to take a seat and lead from behind, Nancy Pelosi invited Stacey Abrams to deliver the Democratic response rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union Address Shout Out To Us All scheduled for February 5, 2019.

Stacey Abrams is the anti-Trump.

Nancy Pelosi is cold. She elevates a DNC up-and-comer while standing heel on Donald T. Her house. Her invite.

Bravo! May other national politicians with lots of experience take note and lead from behind by elevating and mentoring others too.

Hell is frozen.

As temperatures in the Midwest this week compete with the Arctic, we are reminded that hell is hot. Although we need to do a bit more research, our working theory is that hell is hot because the Bible scribes were familiar with hot weather and fire. They were familiar with being burned.

But! If those scribes of olde had been exposed to the extreme Arctic blast of the past few days, refrigeration and cold, we’re certain that hell would be described as a frozen place.

Our theory? Write what you know and Bible authors knew hot and full of burning.

A Very Cold Short Story: To Build a Fire

Jack London wrote sentences that were as clean as a bone and the title is misleading. This story is not about building a fire, but it is COLD.

To Build a Fire by Jack London.

americanenglish.state.gov

Enjoy! Or not.

Stay safe. Stay warm. Peace.

Circus Maximii

Rome, Italy – Long ago, there was a huge stadium called Circus Maximus which was used for chariot-racing. According to the Wiki, it held 250,000 spectators. Today it holds a park.

And is the plural of multiple maximus’, maximii? Pronounced: MAX-im-eye? Well, why not? I like it.


Milwaukee, WI – Mr. Viva informed me this morning that the naming rights for the baseball stadium the Milwaukee Brewers call home were purchased by American Family Insurance. And I wonder insurance? But what will we drink?


As I reflect on the genesis of this blog — “I am a people watcher reporting from the bleacher seats” — this renaming news is a healthy reminder that the physical bleacher seats I fondly remember and occupied at Milwaukee County Stadium are gone. They were dozed and replaced by a newer, bigger, better stadium with a retractable roof to accommodate Wisconsin weather.

Bleacher seats move on. Stadiums are replaced. Stadiums are renamed. Change happens.



Rome, Italy – Romans were such big fans of spectacle, they staged full-scale naval battles. For reals.

While standing on Palatine Hill in Rome in 2007, Andrew, our tour guide pointed out the Campus Martius area. Imagine attending the spectator sport of a full-size reenactment of a naval battle on a man-made lake. What to wear? What to wear?

Well, Italians are good at water diversion because they’ve been at it a.long.time. First piece of evidence: ancient staged naval battles.


Milwaukee, WI – I had the great good fortune to be at the new Fiserv Forum on Monday to watch the Milwaukee Bucks play basketball against the Dallas Cowboys  Mavericks. Just across the street from this new beautiful stadium was the location for the BMO Harris Bradley Center, aka Bradley Center.

It was only 30 or so years ago when I sat in seats where the air was thin at the Bradley Center. In addition to a couple of basketball games, there was a circus. For the record, aerial acrobats do not seem so daring when you’re looking down on them from the bleacher nosebleed seats.

But those seats are gone too.

Maybe the former Bradley Center site will be a city park. That would be nice.

BMO Harris Bradley Center in decline.
BMO Bradley Center falling apart. Photo taken from the second floor of the Fiserv Forum.

I have terrific video footage from the game, but WordPress hasn’t recognized my Premium upgrade yet. Heh, heh. WordPress can charge my credit card like a Tesla supercharger but still no video upload, which trust me, it’s terrific, it’s the best, it’s the most beautiful video.

So, in the meantime, enjoy a couple of photos of the Fiserv venue:

The Fiserv Forum capacity is only 17,500 people proving that we’re mere amateurs. Ancient Rome’s Circus Maximus could hold 14 Fiserv Forums although to be fair, the Romans likely weren’t restrained by any consumer protection regulations.


Insert diatribe about the government shutdown going 33 days or into its second month and the Trump non-Administration circus pulling our government apart, risking our security, corrupting international relationships, putting a nuclear football in the hands of a usurper. Super fail for, or of, democracy.

“Bread and circuses” – Roman poet Juvenal. Circus’ maximii, the all of it.

Are we doomed like the Romans? Too much lead in our water?


I just can’t today.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was Monday. I celebrate that for 39 years, Wisconsin has held an annual ceremony in observance of Dr. King.

I celebrate that if the best revenge is a life well lived, the Fiserv Forum was filled with lives full of it on Monday.

May we give our best when we live our best.

Be kind. Carry on.


Ann! Thank you for the great experience, food, and Bucks-Mavericks game Monday! (Along with not being able to upload videos, WordPress has also hidden superscript from me. Normally this would be a footnote. Oh well.)

A Sunday Sundry Assortment of Tidbits

And I’ll attempt to keep it short but politics & religion – it is Sunday, after all, billionaire breakdown, and literature & poetry. Let’s go!


Politics & Religion

Israel envy. The Evangelicals are so behind the Trumpster building his wall because in spite of Jesus, they like the Old Testament Bible, they like Old Testament law, and they are Chosen People and the United States of America is their Promised Land by gumminey.

Meanwhile, the rest of us Philistines just want a solid wall between church and state.


Quick: Who’d Have Trouble Living on $450,000 a Month? June 26, 1990 by Kurt Eichenwald. This article details the economic hardships imposed on the current resident of the White House by his bankers in 1990!

Twenty-nine years later, the estimated daily cost of the government shutdown is about $857,000,000/day and suddenly, $450,000/month seems like a real bargain.

Please, get us out of this art of the deal.


Farming & Rural Rehabilitation. The 2020 Democratic field running to be President will be big and interesting and exciting! Julian Castro, former Secretary of HUD threw his hat in the ring this past week in San Antonio. And we are all of “Bravo!” and he will add nuance and complexity to the conversation.

But what really piqued our interest was the mention of HUD — Housing & Urban Development. With the plunge in the number of small farm operations and the horrific rise in the number of farmers who take their own lives, maybe isn’t it time to devote a department to Farming & Rural Rehabilitation?

Asking for some states.


Billionaire Breakdown

Billionaire I relate to on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Whilst researching the Bezos on the list of Forbes’ billionaires, I was surprised to see names that I instantly recognize because of the product they produce! Giovanni Ferrero of Nutella and chocolate fame, that’s a lot of happiness spread around — was #36 on the list.

Although I can’t relate to the wealth of anyone on any of Forbes lists and poor Mr. Ferrero is only 1/6 of a Jeff Bezos pre-divorce, I can relate to Nutella and chocolate.

Nutella spreads itself across Maslow’s entire hierarchy of needs, and chocolate? It improves my mood.


Mini-billionaire breakdown. I’m recording this for posterity and because I like statistics and numbers and information baby! Some people study astronomy and the movement of planets, stars, galaxies, otherworldly objects. Well, the this-worldly humans on Forbes‘ list also work with astronomical numbers.

Subject to visual inspection and any errors are all my own, out of the top 100 billionaires in the world on Sunday, January 20, 2019:

  • Jeff Bezos’ worth is down $37B (from $149B) to $112B.
  • If MacKenzie Bezos gets half in the divorce, and I hope she does, she will be the wealthiest woman in the world. Half of today’s Jeff Bezos worth: $56B.
  • Being worth a half-Bezos or $56B will put Jeff and MacKenzie between #10 – Larry Ellison ($58.5B) and #11 – Michael Bloomberg ($50B). Still respectable.
  • 10% of the top 100 are currently women. No photos but first names of Dieter and Michael were counted as men. I counted the no-photo Iris as a woman.
  • Combined worth of the current 10 wealthiest women: $242.9B or ($242.9B/$112B/Jeff Bezos) = 2.16 Bezos. Or 4.33 half-Bezos.
  • 4% of the top 100 are Walton’s of Walmart money — Jim, S. Robson, Alice, and Lukas.
  • Combined worth of the Waltons: $154B or ($152B/$112B/Bezos) = 1.37 Bezos. Or 2.75 half-Bezos.
  • 31% have US citizenship, 7% are Russian.

That is all on this line of numbering. Make of it what you will. As mentioned previously, I’m an information junkie and I like to mash it up all ways from Sunday for no good reason other than, why not?


Literature & Poetry

What was Margaret Atwood thinking? Politics trigger warning. I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published 1986 by Anchor Books. This week I read these horrific sentences which are as clean as a bone:

“It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.

Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control.”


Wait, there’s more:

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.

So much for fiction being a respite from reality. I was relieved when Nancy Pelosi cancelled the SOTU (Shout Out To the Union) this week due to the government shutdown.


RIP: Mary Oliver, September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019.

Mary Oliver was an American poet who died this past week. I end with a short piece of her poetry which captures the chiaroscuro, the light and the dark of life. From a Twitter share (@kaysarahsera):


Peace. Bless. Be kind.

Carry on.

(At wealth’s end …)/II

Math:

(At wealth’s end … ) / II = 2 Rich Bezos


Well, although I blogged about Jeff Bezos wealth in May, (At wealth’s end ...) and posited ideas for ways to put his wealth to use, I did not see Occam’s razor edge coming for half of it with a divorce, but there you have it. Occam’s razor. The simplest explanation is probably the most correct.

On January 9, 2019, Jeff & MacKenzie Bezos issued a joint statement on Twitter that they will divorce.

And silly me. Occam’s razor again. I assumed the simple reason for the split would be money. Not how much, but how the money is used.

  • The company Jeff Bezos founded, Amazon, has grown to be a trillion dollar company. While we watched in 2018 as cities manufactured elaborate tax structures and infrastructure plans with the hope of being crowned the next location for Amazon headquarters, it was reported that Amazon employees augment their low pay with Food Stamps, taxpayer-funded programs.
  • Amazon builds and tests literal rockets.
  • And there is the 500′ clock keeping time in a geologic basement in Texas.

The optics are bad. Communities prostrate themselves for the blessing of a wealthy man who spends lavish amounts of money wasting 500′ on time while his employees live in scarcity.

Yeah MacKenzie, I’d divorce myself from all that too.


As a couple out at wealth’s end, I was heartened to read that pre-divorce announcement the Bezos’ seem truly devoted to each other. MacKenzie was a partner in the formative days and the eventual success of Amazon. She is a published author (HarperCollins) and Jeff was her first reader. Aw, shucks! And there’s more … if you’re interested, “Strange things about Jeff Bezos’ marriage”, by Stassi Reid at Nikki Swift is well-documented reading. Other sources: Business Insider & The New York Times.

And in this day of conscious uncoupling and as stated in their announcement, I hope they remain friends after the divorce.


But this time I was wrong about Occam’s razor and it’s not about the money! It’s Occam’s dick.

Jeff has a new companion, Lauren Sanchez. And throughout history, men have thrown in for other loves, fortune be damned. Or halved. This is not new and Ms. Sanchez appears to be all that — gorgeous, glamorous, TV personality, helicopter pilot. Set aside all the salacious details – not interested – and the participants in this break-up are all grown-ups — Bezos & Bezos, Sanchez & Whitesell (her husband).

Often when lots of zeroes are involved, stereotypical men in mid-life crisis couple up with women half their age. But not this time. Ms. Sanchez is a year older than Ms. Bezos.


If the Bezos’ do not have a prenuptial agreement, MacKenzie gets half or $69B (USD) more or less to which we say, “Go get it girl!”

This will double the number of Bezos on the list of billionaires. Two separate economic whales that can move markets.

And so I’m looking forward to following what MacKenzie Bezos does free and away from the economic wake left by Jeff. Calendar time and wristwatch time will tell.

Jump. Make a difference. Make a splash. We’re watching.


Coda

Projects one could fund with a big lottery win:

  • scoop up one of the big 5 publishers
  • start a new publishing imprint
  • start a Life-type hardcopy magazine focused on photographs that contain a thousand words and writing that captures this era beyond the 24-hour news cycle, (see also Laurene Jobs)
  • fix up Puerto Rico and flip it as the 51st state!

2019 Meditation: Clean as a bone.

Happy New Year! I’m kicking off with a meditation on writing.

Let’s go!


Whilst reading about writing recently, I tripped across a summary of some James Baldwin reflections on writing and the writing life in a post by Maria Popova (brainpickings.org).

” You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal.”

– James Baldwin, (Hat Tip: Maria Popova, James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing)

Simple, clean sentences. Owing to what I call ‘style,’ some of my sentences stampede across the mighty plains of white paper, run over the river and through the woods in search of  rainbow’s end and the small pot of gold known as a punctuation mark called a ‘period.’ Finé. Done. Viva, stop beating that poor horse and give it a rest. But already fat and heavy with verbiage, I am riding into the next stampede in search of another boney sentence.

Or paragraph. Sentences clean as a bone. Paragraphs loaded with clean bones. And I choke a little. The bone caught in my throat is fish.


Another year has passed. Another year of witness to now. I am my own little Piglet — “… he tries to be brave and on occasion conquers his fears “, a small voice on this noisy stage and I am afraid but I stand on my orange crate, pick up my bullhorn and whisper into the digital void. My voice is here. You might not hear it, but it is not about you. It is about me.

The sentence never ends. Chained to an ink pen, chained to a keyboard and screen, it is all about me. Stories hold us together. In this storyline, we are on my path of a writer doing writerly things, scribbling with writerly pens and we are lost in a sea of ideas. JRR Tolkien wrote that not all who wander are lost, and I don’t know if I’m swimming or if I am sunk but perhaps not all who flounder are drowning. The hard tools of writing are my lifeline for thoughts seeking expression and voice and I grab hold of that ring. It feels like a brave act of salvation.


Ideas captured and chained down in pen and ink. The messy first copy is not as clean as a bone. Given life on the page, it is up to me to carve til it hurts. Carve until we hit bone. And we are grateful that to participate in this activity means we are operating on a high level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Self-actualization sustains and if writing isn’t all that, it sure feels good.


It occurs to me whilst floundering and wandering in the ether of mixed metaphor that maybe the bones James Baldwin talks of are not those of the butcher but those of the archaeologist. I am not chasing thoughts like wild animals only to harvest their bones. No. I’m a writerly archaeologist sporting a virtual pith helmet as I dig in the dirt, examine rocks, blast layers, toss scat, breathe dust and celebrate mightily when I uncover that oddball sentence as clean as a bone.

That is the theory anyway.

Bone recognition skills required.


Being read is a gift. Thank you dear reader!

And here is to another year excavating for sentences as clean as a bone! May it happen with more frequency.

Or not.

Viva, January 01, 2019