Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Das Wagglecatsen

English-speakers love to jam words together. We might as well be Germans. Sometimes we dice and splice them, as in "Brexit," and sometimes we just run them into each other, like "medicalmarijuana." We picked up a hitchhiker once who talked a lot about medicalmarijuana, even though it was pretty clear the condition he was treating was intermittent sobriety. Now in Oregon we have recreationalmarijuana. That's a big word for what we used to call a "stash."

There are lots of words like that out there. Like "Corporatedemocrat," which, near as I can tell, mostly means "Democrat." It's used, and liberally, by people I generally agree with. It can refer to anyone from an old-school Appalachian coal company whore to a thoughtful congressman who voted for an imperfect compromise bill in order to make some headway, or who voted against a cherished goal in order to avoid an objectionable rider. And the beauty of calling someone a Corporatedemocrat is that you don't really have to go to all the bother of investigating his or her motivations at all. It's handy for bypassing undue thought. Kind of like racism that way.

So I'm adding a new one. The one our veterinarian taught us. He was referring to our cat Tater. She's got that waggly thing going on in her nether-Tater regions. If she were a more dignified sort of cat, you could almost imagine her attended by a double line of uniformed mice, holding her belly-fabric out like a train. Instead she regularly thunders through the house and that thing rocks back and forth like a censer in the hands of a meth-head priest. It's impressive. And that, according to our new favorite veterinarian, is where she stores her "healthy fat."

Healthyfat it is! I've been storing it for years and I just didn't know what to call it. If I were any healthier, I'd bust out a butt seam. And for those of us sitting atop a catastrophic earthquake zone, we're all about the storage. In fact if anything I might have underestimated the amount of Healthyfat I should be storing. I have the usual cache right in front where I can keep an eye on it, but I see no reason not to add to my auxiliary stores--in a pinch, so to speak, I can raid the upper arms. I keep spare rolls on my back. And if nobody's come by to dig us out after a month, I've still got that emergency supply in my neck.

You face-lift people are going to be totally screwed.

December special! Hop on over to the Trousering Your Weasel page--in the left sidebar up there--and if you order books from me, I'll waive the shipping charge. Plus, I'll sign 'em. Boy howdy.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

As The World Churns

Meet my little buddy Mr. Sneffels. Mr. Sneffels is from China but he doesn't have a Chinese name because I adopted him and named him myself, after Mt. Sneffels, which I was hiking on the same day I picked him up. Mr. Sneffels is a Keichousaurus hui, and the very youngest he could be is about 201 million years old. Whoever was remaining of the Keichousaurus clan cleared out then, during the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event. May not have been a good idea, but all the kids were doing it.

What a pity, though. He was a marine lizard. He paddled around marshes with his big paddly arms. Had to be cute as the dickens. They even think these guys were born live rather than being shot out in egg form. They've found fossilized adult lizards with tiny versions nestled in the pelvic regions, which either means the animal died pregnant, or the tiny version died by being sat on and the larger one perished of grief. Nobody is real sure what caused half of the world's species to die out 201 million years ago, but the best guess is it was another climate change deal. That stuff is serious. There's only so much carbon in the world and it moves around over time: in any given era, it might be mostly underground bound up in rocks, or it might be in the air. The first way is good for us and the other way is good for giant termites, and the planet doesn't care either way, so it's something to consider if you're in the process of pumping it out of the ground and into the air. The Carbon Perp at the T-J event was likely to be volcanoes.

This particular kind of fossil is really common. Many of them display the pretzeled neck that you see on poor Mr. Sneffels. It was explained to me that it is a natural event that happens upon death, some sort of rigor mortis thing, although it seems equally likely to me that the unfortunate lizard might have just been looking back to see what got him.

I brought Mr. Sneffels back from the fossil orphanage in Ouray, Colorado. I might have paid too much for him; it's hard to tell. It's not the kind of thing Bill Cullen asked about on The Price Is Right. But I'd been in the place many years earlier and was sorely tempted to buy one then, and didn't, and as soon as I got home I regretted it. So this time I snapped him up. And I haven't regretted it. I like him bunches. I even had him professionally framed, which I rarely pop for, because I didn't know how to frame a rock. And I still haven't hung him on the wall.

He's heavy, but that's not the problem. Framing hardware is plenty adequate for his weight. But every time I think about taking him off the top of the desk he's lying flat on and hanging him on the wall, I think about how he's going to come crashing down when we get our 9.0 earthquake. I can't bear it.

Which  is silly. It's like dreading a flood because it will make you look all pruney. Besides, when we do get our 9.0 earthquake, he's going to go sailing off the desk he's on. Or our house will come crashing down on him, or the neighbor's house will. And it's even remotely possible that when I'm being jerked back and forth and the house is pancaking all around me, I won't even give Mr. Sneffles a thought. It's possible that there are things I care even more about than Mr. Sneffles in the event of an earthquake, including, oh, off the top of my head, my piano and my self.

Hiking Mt. Sneffels
But I am strangely moved by having custody of a 200+ million-year-old marine lizard. It seems just wrong to have him have gotten this far and then go to smithereens. I feel like I owe him a shot at eternity. But ain't none of us got that. And maybe the very glory of geology is served by this. Maybe a piece of petrified marsh soil pocked with neat lizards and thrust once again into the daylight after 200 million years deserves to be ground to dust by a major tectonic upheaval. Maybe it's the best ride we can hope for on our still-living, still-churning planet.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Half-Assedy Of Hope

I saw the results, and I said No. I wanted to stand, march, be in the company of those who were living this horror with me. This waking-up-in-the-night and this nausea and dread. To say No. No. No. No. No. It was important to be on record as saying No.

I've had second thoughts. Actually, just one tiny second thought. I saw a video once: an ex-convict was ministering to the incarcerated. He approached a man in the front row and brandished his fist. The man grabbed it. The minister pushed. The man pushed back. Hard. They were equals. Then the minister gave in, utterly. He let his fist subside. The man immediately quit pushing, and was astonished that he had. "This is your choice," the minister said. "You can push back, and that is what you want to do. But it's not your only option."

I'm not advocating surrender.  What I see is that people are persuadable. But they are never persuadable when presented with a fist. When we assure half the country that they're idiots and we alone hold the keys to the truth, half the country will push against our fist. We do the same thing. We're all dancing lewdly to the disco-beat of our own righteousness. It feels good, but we will never get where we want to be if we continue on this path. And where we want to be is too important to be sacrificed to our vanity.

I first thought about this when Obama spent so much time with the president-elect in the White House. It could have been a short visit. Lord knows, an awkward one, with the president in the same room with the man who pushed the birther lie about him for years and years. But President Obama is a wise and cool man. He has things he'd like to see accomplished. And scolding or snubbing the incoming president was not going to see them done. I like to imagine he was sympathetic. There's no reason to suspect otherwise: this is a man who puts himself in other people's shoes. Trump is in way over his head, and--at least right now--he knows it. He needs help, and I like to think Obama gave it to him. He laid out the complexities of the job, he sympathized, and he offered advice. First thing Trump said after that encounter was that he was looking forward to consulting with Obama in the future.

We know this guy.  If Obama had been at all condescending, he wouldn't have said that.

I like to think Obama gently let him in on some difficulties with abolishing the Affordable Care Act, with tearing up world treaties, with governing by dictat. I like to think he might even have suggested that there was more to this global-warming thing than a hoax by the Chinese, and that he might have a place in history if he led us in the right direction, and that he was in a unique position to do it. Trump might like a place in history.

Next thing I read is that Bernie Sanders offered his full support if Trump actually wanted to take on Wall Street. My friends on the left were outraged. Bernie had sorely disappointed them. Why? Because you must show your fist to the enemy! Then your enemy can push back. Now we're all pushing, and we get nowhere.

Except all Bernie said was he would support Trump if he wanted to take on Wall Street. What? Are we those people? Are we the ones who would obstruct Trump even if he manages to do something right, just to make sure he fails? I would like to imagine that Trump would be interested in collaborating with Bernie. He campaigned on similar issues. It would show him to be nobody's puppet. He might be in a rare position to get something accomplished, particularly if he gets credit for it. I suspect he'd like that.

Listen. Trump might have some blank spots on his slate right now. He hasn't thought that deeply about anything. He seems persuadable, at least a little. He's already demonstrated that by backing away from some of his campaign promises. Instead of supporting this, some on the left are hooting about it and reminding his supporters that they're chumps. He needs help, and right now he knows it. But he's also prickly. Tell him he's a moron, and he's not going to respond well.

If you subscribe to the Clicker Method of animal training, you always reward the behavior you want--even feints in its direction. And you fail to reward the behavior you don't want. That doesn't mean you punish the animal. Sometimes it means you just don't give it the attention it craves. It works for people, too. Your elderly mom calls every night to complain about everything? You don't tell her it can't be that bad. You don't tell her to perk up. You give her nothing, just let your voice trail off. Then when she says something more upbeat, you get all enthusiastic. Within a matter of days you've retrained your mom.

We are at an unusual intersection here. I don't have much hope. I deplore everything Trump claimed to stand for--but I'm not sure he was that invested in any of it. He was doing a reality show with himself as the star. He was giving the people what they craved. Yes, we must stand up for tolerance. Yes, we must stand up for civil rights, and our fellow citizens, and we must stand up for our beleaguered planet, every time we can. Yes, we must fight the evil ones among us who are encouraged by this man's mindless bluster.  Things don't look good, and we will have many opportunities to resist, to make our stand. But if, on any issue--say, he wants to replace Obamacare with single-payer--this guy gets a notion he wants to be a hero, I intend to let him.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Rach Of Ages

Sergei Rachmaninoff was a big old romantic Russian composer and virtuoso with a flawless memory who could comfortably reach a twelfth on the piano, or palm a medicine-ball, which is deeply unfair. I mean, anyone could play as well as he could if they had freaky fingers, monumental talent, and practiced all day long for fifty years. I've been playing a piece of his recently. It's called Elegie, so it's about death. It's maudlin as hell, but it works. Rachmaninoff carefully attached his opening notes to our heartstrings and then yanked on them all the way through. A lot of people never even hear the ending because their heads are in the oven. It's sad, is what I'm saying. No one mourns more extravagantly than a Russian.

Russians are very interested in death. In fact, there's a big argument now about where Sergei Rachmaninoff himself should be decomposing. He is currently interred in Valhalla, which is just outside New York City, but there are those who believe he should be rotting in the homeland instead. They're willing to hoist him up and make it happen, too.

The Russian Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky, stated with confidence that Rachmaninoff had dreamed of being buried in Russia, although there's no way of knowing if that was one of his good dreams. And it is true that the composer missed his home country terribly, but if he'd wanted to be buried in Russia he could have just hung around in 1917 and let the Bolsheviks do him in. Then it would just have been a matter of digging him up and relocating him when and if he became fashionable again.

That's what happened to the Romanovs. They weren't even all that reliably dead for a while, and mostly unaccounted for, but eventually a lot of their bits were rounded up and given a proper burial. Basically, any dead Russian of prominence can expect to be periodically exhumed and relocated according to the whim of whoever is currently in charge of writing history. If you're a valuable Russian commodity of the 20th century, at a minimum, you can expect to trot the globe for a while, and then try to grab a spot six feet under and hold on, but there will be no guarantees.

I'm not 100% sure it ever makes sense to be proud of where you came from. It's not as though it's an accomplishment. Still, Russians can justify their allegiance as much as anybody. Theirs is a rich and storied culture. They don't write little novels. They don't compose little pieces. They might have been exiled in life, but that doesn't mean they'll stay that way.

As formerly living valuable Russians, they must be ready to continue to serve the state, but the state wants to curate their corpses: they don't want just anybody. The Siberian tundra is spackled with deceased citizens of strong character who didn't start out there, and those are likely to stay put. But there is a strong conviction that any retrievable portions of approved illustrious dead Russians should be gathered up and bronzed, stuck in a glass box, refabricated as nipple jewelry for the President, shoved underground again for the greater glory of the motherland, or pulverized and shot out over Ukraine to inspire the troops. Resting in peace is for sissies. Westerners.

As an American, I have the leisure to expect my own carcass to stay put, but I don't care. I do not give one hoot about where my remains end up. I certainly do not believe I should be carried back to Old Virginny, the place where I was born. If anyone asks, my preference  would be to be recycled as vulture poop, and the vulture can drop her load anywhere she wants.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Macedonians Are Coming! The Macedonians Are Coming!


Maybe you saw it. The week before the election, a news story went viral. "FBI AGENT SUSPECTED IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE," it read. The story was from the Denver Guardian, which does not exist; the newsroom address is that of a tree in a parking lot; the accompanying photo was of a 2010 house fire; and, in short, the entire thing was grade-A star-spangled horseshit from start to finish, which did not prevent it from being stretched from one side of the internet to the other and back again.

I figured somebody had to be behind this plague. I imagined boiler-room operations under the direction of the Republican National Committee or MoveOn, busily churning out lies that people eat right up because they really piss them off, and it feels good. Yaaas. It makes them feel outraged, and righteous, and aroused. Ooh baby, baby!

Yup, it's porn. There's something for everybody: Hillary caught peeing on the grave of a Benghazi victim during midnight Satanic ritual. Hillary entertaining at private Wall Street gathering in blackface and a bunny costume. Trump inciting violence at rallies. Oh wait, that one's true.

When you see all this stuff being shared so promiscuously, you have to wonder: where is this coming from? And now we know: Macedonia.

Verily!

Macedonia? Well bless my soul. Better yet, rock it in the bosom of Abraham. Enterprising kids in Macedonia with mad graphics skills are pasting these things up out of stock footage and thin air and the open-source bullshit commons, and flinging them onto the internet, where the ad money piles up with each view. Yes, most of them were targeted to Trump voters. The kids don't care one way or another, except that those are the ones that really sell, because the liberal elites are more likely to check their sources before they share, I guess.

So, Macedonians! The Abysinnians are all Dude, and here I am slaving away in these call centers, and the Phoenicians can't even with this. Where the hell is Macedonia?

In fact, when is Macedonia?

Honestly, I had no idea. Last I heard of Macedonians, the apostle Paul was telling them that Jesus was the Messiah, and to spread the word. Maybe they told the Galatians, first, and second, some more Galatians. So spreading the word, any word, seems to be a national Macedonian pastime of long standing.

Anyway, my bad. I was never all that good at geography. You put me in the room with a bunch of piss-pants kids who know all the rivers in the world, and I'll, well--I'll challenge them to a spelling bee.  So I don't know where Macedonia is. Or, I do, because I just looked it up, but in another couple days I won't again.

I'll just go back to imagining that a bunch of goatherds with too much time on their hands put brush to papyrus and wrote stuff so compelling and prescient that it baffled a gullible society and brought down an empire two thousand years later. It makes as much sense as anything else.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Moon: A Primer

There was a Supermoon last Monday--so they say. There are all sorts of moons out there. Every time we get a full moon, which I've noticed is happening with regularity these days, it comes with its own name, pedigree, and warning label. Be sure to look at the rare and mysterious Malware Moon tonight! It will be rising in the east at 6:25pm, in apoplexy with Mars and Jupiter in its bilious phase, and we won't see that again for 1,425 years! So you trot outside to give it appropriate tribute, but it still looks about the same.

I grew up hearing about the Harvest Moon and the Blue Moon and the Paper Moon, but there are a lot more choices available now, thanks to the need for Content on the social media. And many of your standard moons are also known by more than one name. Here in western Oregon, for example, the Harvest Moon is also known as the Last Moon Before Next July.

A lot of the names were just sensible. They weren't named for any powers residing in the moon itself, but things that were liable to be going on when they showed up, in a natural order. So, in Indian lore, there's a Wolf Moon and a Snow Moon and a Worm Moon (it's a big deal when the worms show up), and also a Buck and a Beaver moon, which should be separated by a few months if we know what's good for us.

The Blue Moon we keep hearing about things happening once in? That ain't much. We have more full moons than we have months because of the obstinate refusal of the moon's revolution around us to coincide neatly with our revolution around the sun, and so every so often we have what appears to be an extra in the calendar, even though it's more of a calendar issue than a lunar issue. They're not that rare. Every two or three years we're going to get a blue moon, and then all those things that don't happen very often can go off all at once.

The supermoon from here
Supermoons are another kind of moon. That's when the full moon looks bigger because it's at or near its perigree, the point at which it is closest to us. This will affect tides and other things. For instance, it is contended that fishing is particularly bad when the moon is at its perigee. It is unknown whether the moon's looming proximity makes fish less peckish or more suspicious.

Astrologists are very opinionated about the moon. They base their interpretations on a single overriding principle: everything is always about us. For instance, they say the phase of the moon when we are born has a tremendous effect on us throughout life. (I hope it was waning when I was born, or even a little thundewy.)

There's also a Black Moon, which, according to Wiccan lore, is the second of two new moons that appear in one calendar month. There's good magic to be had then, due to the fact that you can't even see a new moon most of the time, which makes it already sneaky, and when you get two in one month, you're really not expecting the second one, so you can get away with all kinds of stuff. This is not the same thing the astrologers refer to as the Black Moon. They're talking about the full moon at its furthest point from Earth ("perimenopause"). Their other name for it is "Lilith." The rest of the time it just goes by "Petunia."

The moon is full everywhere on Earth on the same day, but fortunately half of us are asleep at the time. If all the women of the world got their periods and were awake at the same time, things would be run a lot different around here, Bucko.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bedfellows

I don't know, guys, I don't know.

The good and beautiful people of my good and beautiful city are walking around like survivors in a blast zone. Strangers embrace. The detonation has happened and now the concussion and devastation will ripple on for a long time. I find I'm not interested in food. That's never good.

We can all see each other now. The really, really bad people are lit up like flares. They're celebrating in their white robes and waving their Confederate flags and terrorizing their fellow citizens in the street. Their unwitting partners--almost half the country--are not really bad people, probably. They're just full of shit.

I don't mean that in the normal disparaging way. I mean that a systematic propaganda apparatus has been cranking away for decades now, and its architects have concocted a poisonous stew of lies and distractions, and seasoned it with honey, and people have tipped their heads back and allowed the funnel to be placed in their mouths, and all that shit got pumped in. A party devoted only to increasing the wealth of the wealthy was rebranded as the champion of the middle class. A good, smart, hard-working woman was recast as a devil. Sound science became fantasy. Demonstrable falsehoods were propagated with glee. But folks on the left as well as the right sucked on that funnel and accepted the particular load of shit that was curated just for them. Truth is the first victim, but there are so many more. When you've been pumped full of shit, you actually begin to believe certain of your compatriots threaten you, when clearly those people have much more to fear from you.

Muslim citizens do not like to be mischaracterized as terrorists, nor Hispanics as criminals, and so too, Trump voters are outraged to be called racists and xenophobes. That's not who they are! That stuff is peripheral. They had other concerns. And you know what? They're probably telling the truth.

But the ability to filter out and discard as irrelevant the flagrant racism metastasizing all around them, and the demagogue at its epicenter, the Igniter-In-Chief, does not speak well of their capacity for empathy. To them I say: these are the people you have cast your lot with. To discount them is to reveal yourselves to be comfortably cocooned and unwilling to take a step outside your own experience and imagine someone else's: your neighbor now afraid to wear her head-scarf to the grocery store. The gay man now second-guessing his usual route home in the dark. The Latina betrayed by her own facial features and subject to derision and terror. The black man assumed to be a gangster, and subject to execution. This is what's happening in America today. We marginalize and dehumanize people who frighten us. Every single time we generalize about people, we're wrong. We're wrong, and we're lazy, and we're also less safe, if that is the point of the exercise. We are all far, far less safe now.



So what do we do? Deliberately, we do not have all the options embraced by some of our political foes: most of us are not armed. That's not the way we roll. One thing we do is band together for peace. We keep our eyes and ears open, and when any of us is under attack, we stand with that person. Literally. Physically. We stand together and we give each other strength. And we reject violence.

And we mobilize. There is so much to defend: our civil rights, our health care, our environment, our standing in the world. Everything we've ever cared about is under attack. Everything that actually does make America great is to be dismantled. It has not escaped us that international terrorists will take this opportunity to goad our new president, an insecure, easily-bruised, childish bully, into the all-out holy war they have yearned for. They've got their man, now. As bad as that is, we don't need an external enemy if we're rotting from within.

And with all that, there are even worse things.  We are many years too late to undo the damage we've already done to our planet. But we must keep things from getting worse. We have to at least try. We are out of time to waste. And we can't do it by pulling out the rest of the fossil fuel and burning it up. We have an international climate change agreement signed now--baby steps, far from adequate--but even at that, our new president wants to rip it up and drill, baby, drill. He wants to shovel ever more coal into the boiler of a runaway train. He is a simple, uninformed man: he thinks he's creating jobs. He wants to give us full employment--as grave diggers. When we're done we can all jump in.

We can't let him. We need to stand, march, and holler. We need to fill the streets with our good and beautiful selves and hold each other up. Someone talked about building a wall. We need to be that wall.