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Dispatches from Boulder the Damned
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Previous Week

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

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.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014

So, here's some good news.  I think.

The NBA has hired its first female coach, Becky Hammon, of whom San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich thought highly.  Hammon was a six-time WNBA All-Star.  In her 15th pro ball season, her knee gave out, and Popovich invited her to team practices, as he'd thought she'd be a great coach.  Of a men's team as well as a woman's team.  Let's just hum a few bars of something gracious to match the free thinking Popovich, a pro in one of the most testosterone garnished endeavors on the planet.

How the players feel isn't known, probably the players themselves don't know, but this have to be viewed in our reality.  Hammon is a good looking blonde yelling at 7 foot young and mostly black men to get their ass in gear, and you can bet Limbaugh and the reactionaries are already stropping the knives.  If this works, and she's an accepted coach and she gains the respect of players (as male coaches must as well), this is bigger than the NFL allowing an openly gay man into the their league, although there is no condemnation in the Bible for learning from a woman.  Have no clue what Hammon's leanings are, however, but I'm sure it will be brought forth.

Wishing the head coach, Hammon, and the Spurs good luck and best wishes. I hope its not even a story come the season again, and that people just accept it as we all should.  In many ways, a black president, a gay defensive end, and a woman coach in the NBA sort of came quick, didn't it?  Momentum and the ground game are as important in social change, politics, and sports as in every other aspect of life.  Change and graceful acceptance are justified by success only.

Here in Boulder, we just hosted the first Ironman competition in the city Sunday last, and not only was it the biggest ever anywhere, it was a huge success.  The bike portion ran by my apartment and the people directing traffic and keeping things together were on top of everything with nary an incident.  Apparently our mile high altitude and somewhat deceptive maps deceived folks into not taking the bike course as seriously as they should, and not a few were on the ground gasping when they started on the marathon ending portion.

Both the women's and men's were won by Boulderites, which is pretty damned impressive, and the whole field was composed of the pros and the top amateurs, so it was not tilted towards the home town absent the fact that Boulder is composed almost entirely of world class athletes.  

One lady held a sign saying "It you're still married you didn't train hard enough...." which I hope was as funny to entrants as it was to me and many others.  

As an illustrative metaphor alert, I waddled across the track, with permission, to the 7-Eleven, and there could not have been a more explicit distinction of one end of the 'in shape' scale to the other than I and the entrants whizzing by.

Friday, July 04, 2014

So, the colorization process is getting better.  This is George Custer and his crew in the Civil War when he is in his early 20's, and on his way to three stars brevet rank.  I remain interested - barely - in the Last Stand solely because it is an easy entry into American history back and forwards, and it is handy for entry into the Great War in 1914, which centennial is about to begin in August.  I cannot but recommend The Proud Tower and the Guns of August, both by Barbara Tuchman and neither improved upon by other works in their half century of existence.  She was as excellent a writer as her discipline has ever produced, but of course she was in many ways self taught in it and not actually of it, which gets her resentment given her two Pulitzers, one for Guns and another for her study of Stilwell in China.  I like her because she lists her prejudices (she is not fond of Germany, go figure) so the reader isn't fooled, but I've noted nothing that felt warped because of it. Or hidden.  

She is funny, insightful, brilliant.  And amid all the screams about plagiarism and error about near all her contemporaries, starting with Ambrose, she is untouched.  She falls in love with men in the past, primarily Balfour in the Proud Tower, but Tom Reed as well.  Her family was deeply involved in the era, her grandfather and cousins have been high ranked in national and state governments, and the emotional tugs can be felt but are not deforming.  

At any rate, I've been trying to cough out a piece on the first modern and most ridiculously pointless arms race, the one that led directly to WWI, and Custer and a British admiral are near twins in personalities if not social status and their fates meld well but to different outcomes.  I might have missed it, as so many have, but for Tuchman.  Conveniently, it reflects on the current arms races here and about.

In the last few weeks we here in Boulder have had a few humdinger thunderstorms, and near every day has brought the welcome dark clouds over the mountains and into our lives.  I say welcome because even the floods don't scare as much as fire, and the rapid manner in which all moisture evaporates of late, not matter how much snow melt (150% of normal) and rain (a lot) fire danger is always there, just under the gossamer of the seemingly pleasant forecast.  The tree pictured is only about four blocks from me and I heard it hit as it raised me about four feet off my bed and somehow did not break every window in the city, although it got not a few.  Keeps us honest, I guess.

Below is the northern end of the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides of Scotland, off the west coast. In summer, the sun sets about 11PM and rises at 0230 it seems, and in the winter the 45 minutes of sunlight a day probably are terrifying given the huge arctic storms that hammer down up there not far from the arctic circle.

The Isle of Skye is the home to the MacLeods, or so it is said, but 'we' have a castle there and assorted parcels including a mountain range of sorts and fishing rights and all that.  It's very confusing, and given the rightful Chief is an Australian bartender who has no interest in running things (given a zero budget) we have only vague connections as a family unlike when Dame Flora, all 4 feet and perhaps an inch of her, was the Chief in the 50's and 60's.  Still, it's nice to see such German like care of the land and husbandry in the far north where the lighthouse is undoubtedly covered with foam and sea much of the freezing months.

If the ocean rises as much as feared, this will be a memory soon enough.

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