Dispatches from Boulder the Damned
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
As you get older, Autumn still refutes its reality and fails to call attention to death, decay, eventual rebirth. It's just too damned pretty to keep you depressed for too long, even in Colorado, where "the leaves" aren't as spectacular as they are back East with a deeper selection of deciduous trees. I first came to Colorado in November of 1971, forty three years ago. Can't quite say it seems like yesterday, but it doesn't quite feel like half a century either, but it's closing in.
And, autumn is a joy people around the world in the same latitudes can share, and we here have this in common with Russia and Japan and Europe more than, say, Florida, although they too blush and drop. Obviously, I'm getting too contented and easily soothed after Boulder's year of lots of rain, snow, deep green summer and now a particularly bright and good Fall, the result of all that water. So, when National Geo sends out their more frequent and still stunning collections of photos, the wealth has been spread.
Photo above is in Japan, looking like upstate New York or England with the tightly packed trees and the smooth, wrinkleless pond with no wind. It is such a contrast to imagine tourists snapping away their photos of that scene with one in south central Honshu, the big island, where equally innocent folks were hiking about Mt. Ontake when, without any of the expected warnings, the damn thing erupted. So far, only 47 dead, but absent the quick response - and fearless- of the Army (yes, I know, 'Self Defense Force'......but really: Army) and forest ranger equivalent, many more toasted and gone. There is a photo of a long line of these hardy souls climbing the damned thing to rescue the hordes still up there, and you can't deny it's less impressive than the NYFD and police during 9-11. Climbing up into even odds of volcanic oblivion. And with either smiles or that look of grim determination Japan has mastered over the centuries, on ancient vases and prints and the mugs of the young folks staring at the birth of a new caldara all around them.
Across the lake (if the Atlantic is 'the Pond') on the west coast of the United States, some rather more fortunate Japanese tourists on Mt. Hood were able to take this remarkable photo of the mountain at night complete with, I guess, a meteor and stars without end. Hood, of course, is a volcano as well, and the entire western coast seems rather fragile to me as it has to others. Japan gets clobbered with some regularity, yet the US theater of operations for the Pacific Ring of Fire is so dormant it's rather creepy, since it suggests that when something goes over here it will be a lulu.
Of course, that always leads to discussion of Yellowstone, because that is the largest functioning volcanic activity center in the Hemisphere, and we're with a century or two of being due for its explosion and the loss of the nation's breadbasket. Millennia later, we'll have incredibly rich land again, but we have to survive to get there. I'll be gone, so no need for anyone to be upset. Only other people will vaporize and I save on cremation.
To be hoped, when it's all over and done, California will still produce spring meadows like the one above. Blue flowers must be rare, since it's always sort of shocking to see such beauty in unexpected hues. Gack. Tone it down, knucklehead. I'm sounding too twee. This'll crop that......
Above is a photo few will recognize, but it's the Custer battlefield at the Little Bighorn, looking from what is called Last Stand Hill south towards Weir Pt. It gives a pretty good idea of what ghastly ground it was for cavalry and why I don't think Custer was on the offensive or in any control when he ended up at the monument. It's the newish theory that he was always on the offensive till the end, which serves literary Miniver Cheevys' inner needs more than fact.
Oddly, the battlefield is absolutely lovely, a great example of the Big Sky in Montana state. From where Custer breathed his last, you can see the Rockies to the west, the Bighorns to the South, about 45 million acres of rolling field, and the Little Bighorn itself, reptilian river flowing north past where Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and Gall and Lame White Man camped, and where now is a gambling casino, a cemetery, and eerie silence just about always.
Since vampires and now officially as scary as Casper and Ichabod Crane, the Halloween holiday needs to draw upon new horrors of the subconscious for costumes and tale. The insect world humbly steps forward with these two entries for our consideration, both praying mantis and both beautiful and more scary the longer you behold them. Upping their size to yours and their gaze upon you, I believe the desired effect is achieved.
Of course, there are somewhat less terrifying entries, including this of a butterfly so lovely it looks painted, with the faces of eagles on its wing tips. It's these creatures, along with birds of paradise and baby mammals not excluding our own that probably first suggested that the powerful gods first imagined had bowler hats and neck ties somewhere in the closet, because they certainly had good taste when given the time to create.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
As the world grimaces and honors the dead and exploits of the Great War, now a century old, old arguments about its cause and ending and any actual point to the four years of horror are renewed, but with clearer heads and near all documentation now open to the public, a general consensus has emerged and is taught much the same in all nations. This is progress, but slow.
Here in Boulder, a much smaller ceremony concerning accuracy in history transpired this week. It seems that in the first Gulf War in 1991, Kurdish rebels in Iraq fighting Saddam Hussein obtained a cache of documents from Iraqi secret police. This documents purportedly are clear evidence, says the Boulder Daily Camera, of Saddam's sadistic war against the Kurds, "describing torture, disappearances and the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi secret police force against the Kurdish people." Five million documents on a computer disk. Somehow, the documents were housed at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
"There will be only a future for societies and countries if the societies come to terms with their own history, and reconcile their past," said a member of the Kurdish delegation. Coincidentally, the delegation mentioned that the Islamic State, the terror group de jour, is destroying Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. Yet Kurds, we are told, control their semiautonomous area defended by a Kurdish military force known as the peshmerga. These militiamen were among those who panicked and fled before the Islamic State forces, dooming Iraq and Syria to another era of rule by religious fanatics absent action by the West, which may only delay the inevitable. Yet, since the bombing started, the IS is retreating as Iraq military and Kurdish forces gird their loins and press them. The situation in Syria is too convoluted, as government forces, whom we oppose, are faced with numerous rebel units, near all of whom hate each other, of which IS is just one. Or two. In any case, they all suck in Syria. Nobody seems to have a grasp on it, and it may be impossible.
Kurdistan, a notional geographic entity with not much support, also includes part of Turkey and part of Syria, this depending upon whose map your gaze falls upon. Kurds desperately want their own nation, but Turkey doesn't want to grant them any of their land, nor does Iraq, nor does Syria, unsurprisingly enough, even though the portions claimed are jam packed primarily with Kurds. So, on the surface, it would seem the Kurds are deserving of regard and hope and maybe pressure for their own homeland, ruled by Kurds.
With that in mind, let us revisit that Kumbaya phrase utilized by the Kurdish delegation: "There will be only a future for societies and countries if the societies come to terms with their own history, and reconcile their past." That seems to drip with Mandela's brush, calling for confessions and forgiveness and moving on. Mature and responsible.
But, one of the results of the Great War, entirely unintended, was the first of the modern near genocides, and this of the Armenians, another ethnic group jammed into the area between the Near and Middle East. Primarily Orthodox Christian, something beloved by all orthodox Muslims and the Thugs Who Love Them, the Armenians were also rather fond of getting a homeland for much the same reason the Kurds were, inspiring a focused response by the Turks bordering on genocide in the actual sense and comfortably residing within its metaphorical and hyperbolic concepts. I prefer mass murder and Grand Theft Land, but whatever. As they arose from the Ottoman yoke and perfume show, the Turks utilized Kurds in the various slaughters against the Armenians, and the Kurds are not recalled having huge objections. Just one of the many delightful aspects of that section of the world.
So, I wonder how hard the Kurds are working to admit they participated in what many people, and certainly the Armenians, consider genocide. The sad and awful thing is that near everyone over there has a history of mutual slaughter for the vengeful joy of it, and they'll all have to shut up, admit it, glower at each other, and eventually move forward. Not everyone will get a homeland politically separate from any other, but they certainly could have peaceful enclaves if there was commitment to it. But until the Kurds, among all the others, want to own up to their own transgressions and just amass evidence of the transgressions against themselves, I'm going to refrain from tearful applause. As St. Patrick is the first to note slavery is bad whomever the slave, whomever the slaver, we all with the Kurds need to admit that History demands everyone come clean, and no crime justifies another.
Friday, September 12, 2014
So, Obama is increasing the bombing and putting the legendary "advisors" back into Iraq. He's taken a lot of heat from every side over his calculated and calm moves, which I greatly admire. First, because he shows no sign of being bullied into some idiocy or other by the right wing, a relic from the FDR, Truman years. Nobody dared suggest Ike was soft, but they really hammered JFK and Johnson, as the office tapes proved. MacArthur was kept solely because of his being GOP for a united front. Oswald had tried to kill General Walker not long before he shot Kennedy, although the connection isn't clear to us as it likely wasn't clear to Oswald. Democrats have had this image of being stupid enough to get us into war and not brave/strong/competent enough to win them. It's horse hockey, but to the half educated who know what side the white supremacists are on, it works.
Obama continually seems to operate in his own sphere unaffected (well, mostly) by the kinetic energies of the hysterics around him in both parties. There is no right answer or comprehensive settlement possible in the Middle East and that for rarely stated realities. The Muslim World is nothing without western dependence upon oil. It's their only source of major income. The world is dead progressively absent those who move to the west and enjoy upward mobility based on individual competence and smarts.
That world is also at each other's throats with the rabid hatred unseen in major Christian wars for centuries. They need Israel as a common hatred to unite them. They have nothing else.
Understand, the supposed Caliphate that the hatchet thugs IS now announce is a segment of Islam that operates out of Baghdad, as it did back in the days of Aladdin. The Ottaman tradition is in Turkey, and that was the last large Islamic Empire that dissolved in effeminate hysteria in the Great War. There is no love between them. Then, there is Egypt, the most powerful Arab nation and an Ottoman veteran but so old and revered it never entirely becomes subjugated to the sequential conquests that flow over her.
Then, Sunni and Shia, a major bloodbath in waiting. Then, the women's movement, decades late in arriving but there now and dangerous to any power. Neda. As Latin American homes, poor and rich, had photos of JFK in places of honor with inflated mythologies in the last half century, the Irania teenager, a secular, bright, fun, and brave young woman shot by militia, resides in the heart of anyone who saw her bleed out in that horrific video. I think of her often, and in those her age I know they recall, remember, and honor her. Her revenge is coming, as Islam's numerous selfish, delusional patriarchies are going to fall, some violently, and she will be remembered ever, and that as a placeholder for the thousands of Islamic women who have suffered from the cowardice, the cruelty, the stupidity of the men in charge.
Forbes Magazine, something less than a Red flag waving entity, pops another Reagan bathtub bubble with the revelation that Obama's recovery from his recession is going much better than Reagan's did. And Reagan had a Democratic Congress who did, actually, want to work to make things better, rather than the current GOP's decision to just try and nullify the people's choice in 98 and make Obama a disaster.
The headline? "Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing." Gotta hurt the plantlife.
That he hasn't been anything like that, and that Obamacare - despite everything the GOP could do to misinform and kill it - is taking off, cutting expenses, and doing better than anyone thought possible, is great credit to the man and the nation. He doesn't posture as a tough guy like Bush, quoting 1950's WB western theme songs. He doesn't threaten. He explains what will happen if things occur and when they do, he jumps on it. Throughout his first run for President, he said if he had good intel OBL was in Pakistan, an ally, he'd act immediately. He did.
There will come a day in the next decade when the GOP will publicly flog itself for not working with Obama, the Democrat who could bring his party and the nation behind him to pass and create needed and constructive legislation conservatives could sometimes love and always live with and would allow both Congress and the Executive to share credit. Morons.
They have mapped the universe, by which I mean the Milky Way and everything else now known. Some day, it might look as ridiculous as the early maps of the Portuguese, Spanish, and Chinese explorers, but today it looks positively intimidating.
And, it emphasizes what we have NOT done, in that only 5% of the ocean floor has been mapped, says the NGS. Well, I expect more given the US Navy and others have been puttering around down there for a long time. I still think Ballard, who worked for the Navy, had been given its location long before he announced he'd found the Titanic. Too many cables, sonar runs, presence for that not have been found. Still, impressive. And near 30 years in the past.......wow.
This photo, which could in honesty be called a little too twee, as it's only missing unicorns, is from the Boston Herald Traveler and is an actual, unphotoshopped graphic. Not many times such would be visible together.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
So, the 13th Anniversary of 9-11. The memorials are nearly all complete and up and running, and perspective is appropriate. Few address it. There are a number of things we still forget, conveniently.
1. The pirates were not masterminds. Had then extant procedures been followed, nothing would have gone wrong.
2. After decades of taking abuse from pushy, selfish, and obnoxious passengers, the underpaid and disrespected security at airports was half assed.
3. Basic common sense on board was deficient, with open doors to the cockpit.
Given the increasing revisitation to how put upon passengers are with security, it starts again. First time? Shame on them and to hell they go. Second? Shame on us.
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
So, it's September and enough time has passed so we can talk. No, not about Robin Williams, nor the Ukraine, nor the miserable summer of movie crapola you shelled out money for. It's time that everyone, twittering fans and non twittering fans alike, are held at gunpoint until they admit that True Blood, the vampire series on HBO, started out arguably okay and ended up not just badly, but pathetic and unconnected to what had gone before. It stunk. It was like the author had lost all interest and went to Fiji to drink, and apparently the novelist did much like that and the television series had long departed from the tweener novels, but HBO has standards and True Blood's pathetic wrap up sank below all of them.
In the series second season, there was an episode near the seasonal end where a 2000 year old vampire got tired, got something close to insight, and decided he needed to die. Given all other vampires within that world were selfish, cruel, and unreflective about their life and choices and existence, this was a dramatic surprise, and a Danish actor and the female lead had an exchange that was, actually, moving and sincere and elevated the whole concept and series. I'm an atheist and I'm not gay but I am sentimental and this scene touched me, and I remember it well. From that point on, though, the series became a sequence of couplings and unfunny side shows that continued to reduce any residual fear of vampires - which, after all, is the basis of their supposed attraction - as dead as a doornail. When even young kids think of vampires, they laugh today.
It bothered me because television series should have a fitting end. I don't mean the shows that barely survived in the ratings that only an intense few cared about, but the long running successes demand an artistic send off. MASH had the best, of course, Mad About You did a good job, Cheers, and Frazier, Mary Tyler Moor, and this year a show I'd never seen, How I Met Your Mother, was chatted up quite a bit for its final sequence. A novelist has to do it, and show runners have that responsibility as well.
But the worst show ending was for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, an Aaron Sorkin presentation on NBC that fell in a short sole season to near knock-knock joke level for the finale with none of the stars in it to save money. It failed for some of the same reasons that beset Sorkins' continuing and more successful The Newsroom on HBO, but its second season ended with an episode including the leads' engagement and such a sweet and positive election night that it was clearly meant to serve as the series ending if that was its fate.
But it wasn't, as Jeff Daniels won a deserved Emmy for best actor, and he and Jane Fonda were up to Emmys again, and the show was both interesting, irritating, incredibly well acted, and swung between great script writing and schtick that nobody can beat out of Sorkin, and which he revisits with the regularity that Woody Allen flicks ended in the Catskills too often. The bad parts of his show are easy to point to and nobody seems to be doing it for him and allows him to continue. It's the conflict of tone between everything else and some twaddle involving flirting or couples. Alison Pill and Olivia Munn owe him for giving them great scenes and he owes them for not paying for his hit by thugs over the too cute routines they sometimes had to do. He doesn't have trouble writing for women, he has trouble exorcising scenes he keeps trying to make work in series after series. When they fail, it's better than when they almost, but not quite, don't. It's a blind spot or he's lazy.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
For a Democrat, like myself, a day with a mug shot of Texas Governor Rick Perry in the paper should not be a bad one. It's always good to see yet another loud, baselessly confident Texan get hammered, especially a governor who may run for President again. Perry faltered in 2012 because he could only recall two items on his list of three during a debate. But the truly stupid, juvenile, and dubiously thought out indictment of Republican Perry by rival Democrats is one of the worst examples of misusing the criminal code for political gain in recent memory.
I know full well the GOP has done the same, and it's Texas, after all, the state that rounded off Pi to 3, but this isn't tolerable. Every literate Democrat from Alan Derschowitz on down has damned this, and it will hurt at the ballot box if the Democrats remain at this level of stupid. When former Obama advisor David Axelrod says the indictment is "sketchy", and Democratic analyst Doug Schoen calls it "outrageous," and Alan Dershowitz says its right out of Soviet Russia and totalitarian at base, it's a real problem.
So, that ruined the day. But of course the beheading of another journalist by savage elements of Islamic retrogression coupled with attempted extortion of the US makes it so much worse. There is nothing about this that isn't damning to the perpetrators and doesn't tempt massive, pointless, counterproductive retribution from the US. The dream of watching the murderers with covered faces on television confronted with such a death falling apart in screams and panic presents itself. But as could be predicted, we aren't given to that, and we were not when Daniel Pearl faced the same about a decade back. That's good, in all ways. James Foley was a brave and composed man at his cruel, pointless, death, and justice need arrive for my money.
There is a second journalist that this terrorist group now called simply the Islamic State announced it will kill on YouTube if the US bombings do not stop. This would indicate that the bombings are working and the IS is fading like all pretend prostheses of the Almighty. The Kurds have regrouped, and are on the offensive along with the supposed military of Iraq. This is good in most ways, but if the US drops a ton of military goods on the Kurds and they use it against Turkey for a free and independent Kurdistan made up of soil currently Turkish, Syrian, and Iraqi it doesn't take much to see the problem. People calling for huge infusions of arms to the various Arab wars at present are dangerously stupid.
Here in Freedom's Land, we celebrate the town that is Ferguson! Ferguson, Missouri! A suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson has been the scene of some retro racist violence in the last week. Apparently a large black youth named Michael Brown, walking down a street, was accosted by and then murdered by a police officer. Brown had no weapon, but was shot about six times at relatively close range. Needless to say, people were annoyed, and many years of poor treatment by the police boiled over into riots and pillaging.
Not satisfied with initial public response to the dismissive attitude of the police chief, the powers that be offered up a video taken right before the shooting of Brown in a store and supposedly robbing it, and when confronted by the diminutive owner, showing him against the counter and stomping out. Today, more video of the incident seems to show Brown paying for the items. Of course, as John Oliver pointed out Sunday, whatever happened in the store neither excuses nor explains the murder moments later, especially since the officer in question could not have known about the incident in the store, whichever interpretation you choose.
Missouri state police arrived and Governor Nixon - as if we needed any more retro memory - ordered in the National Guard, who have dubious legal basis to be involved at all. Atop which, it seems that out of all the police in a town 66% black, only a few were African America, and there were no blacks in the higher reaches of city government. That may be a clue, but Ferguson's demographics have changed dramatically in the last decade, and so it's not impossible that there haven't been enough elections to balance out the government, but this assumes the blacks are voting. If not, you know they will this November.
As they will in Texas for Perry's successor.
Monday, August 11, 2014
So, Robin Williams died by suicide this morning or last night. Williams was immensely talented and a very good actor when under some control and gave every indication of being a near parody of the unhappy and somewhat crazed comic, the ones who never allow themselves to be 'off' and always annoyingly way too high energy for those about them and often unaware of it. Comedians are, truthfully, often but not always disturbed souls and both victims of bad behavior and/or creators of it. You don't have to think long to come up with others who died by suicide or by bungled drug or theatrical sexual activity so implausible to provide relief you have to think it suicide. In that sense Williams was just another.
Vonnegut thought smoking was the accepted American method of suicide. Suicide sometimes seems its becoming the most common form of death, especially given the tamped down statistics that often insult our intelligence.
Williams had a spot in Boulder's collective memory. Mork and Mindy took place here, and their supposed house is still here, although somewhat altered. They shot some early footage here. It was a show I couldn't take, primarily because of Williams, always loud, always sucking attention away from else. Also, it was silly beyond the norm. That said, his one man stage show was often terrific. He idolized Jonathan Winters (anyone who did not is either lying or has zero sense of humor, and Winters became part of Mork and Mindy), and it showed. He really was able to improvise. He and Billy Crystal could be hysterical together just riffing off each other.
There was a real need to be loved and adored and applauded that never failed to irritate me and, I suspect, a lot of others even as we laughed. Hysteria. Near pathological demand to laugh, applaud, pay attention. Every bit as bad as Jerry Lewis.
Williams did some diabetic inducing roles among his Oscar nominated ones, and he never gave the impression - or I never saw it - that he could be normal and relaxed and chill. Interviewers seemed to bait him to go into his schtick, which was often very funny and somehow inappropriate in ways I cannot exactly define. He was used, a lot, as a sure fire success rather than as someone who, given some objective direction, could have been much, much bigger a star. That's how good he was and why it truly is sad he killed himself. Hard to see or imagine what else he could have given of himself to the notoriously ungrateful audience.
All material on this site copyright Richard L. MacLeod (Dark Cloud) 1968-2014 unless otherwise stated.