“Progress just means bad things happen faster.”
Abercrombie, Joe. A Little Hatred: 1 (The Age of Madness) (p. 152). Orbit.
I hope you all remain properly socially distant while enjoying, Palm Sunday, Passover, April Fool’s Day, Good Friday and Easter and those who don’t (except for medical personnel, pharmacists, farmers, grocers and the like) may you be forced to spend the next six months locked on the oval office with He Who Is Non Our President.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING:
We have hunkered down at home in the Enchanted Forest to wait out the coronavirus emergency. This is not as difficult for us as for some since our lives have become quite sedentary as of late. Given the number of times we have received the same information about the epidemic on the media, we are almost saturated enough to return to watching TCM and old movies.
The mismanagement of the crisis by the federal government, unfortunately, probably will result in more deaths than would have occurred with even a little bit of competence. I suspect these deaths will pale in comparison to those that will happen as a result of the economic impacts from the mishandling of this crisis.
In the evening, at about dusk, we took the dog for a walk. We figured it was OK to leave the house since the only thing we would be touching would be dog poo and even then our hands would be protected by some plastic.
Recently, I have taken to replacing the forlorn turkey feathers that I find around the paths in the Enchanted Forest and place in the bands of my hats with fallen seasonal flowers that I locate the same way — currently camellias. At eighty years of age who cares how silly you look. It’s the pleasure that counts.
Speaking of fallen Camellias, Naida has taken to plucking up those in the yard that fall from the bushes and creating a centerpiece for our table.
A Bowl of Camellias.
A Smiling Lady of the Camellias.
As long as we are on the subject of Camellias or at least of flowers fallen or not, here is a photograph of Naida taken at a restaurant a few days ago before we decided on seclusion from the depredations of the coronavirus. She is in the midst of telling me one of her fascinating stories or pointing at some interesting birds or something else.
Not a Camellia.
We briefly went out to shop for provisions to sustain us during our self-quarantine. When we arrived at the Safeway nearby, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. While most things appeared well-stocked, toilet paper and hand wipes were all gone. While I understand the run on hand wipes, I fail to comprehend the toilet paper mania. After all, how many times does one shit during a 14 day period? Two or three rolls per person seem more than adequate to me. If someone needs much more than that, I think they should have seen a doctor long before now.
Of course, my hypochondria is in high gear. Every fifteen minutes or so, I become convinced I have caught the disease and am sure I am about to die. I must be driving Naida mad.
While sitting around in my recliner watching CNN ramble on endlessly about coronavirus, I played on the computer and looked up Pookie. I discovered there was someone in San Angelo Texas named Pookie who forced a woman into prostitution for drugs. I bet he doesn’t wear hats festooned with flowers. On second thought maybe he does.
Another day of self-quarantine. It is raining and dreary outside. Same same.
One day I spoke to Nikki by phone. He is quarantined on the top floor of an apartment building in Busto a small town near Malpensa airport a few miles from Milan. He is alone and spends most of his day doing what we all are doing, watching television finding busy work, talking on phones, and taking long naps. Sometimes, he goes out onto his balcony and sings along with others imprisoned in high-rises nearby. At other times he goes out on to the balcony and dances.
Nikki is a senior pilot for Al Italia. He is on call to fly his plane to pick up some of the 10,000 Italians stranded in foreign countries. He is scheduled to fly to South Africa to pick up some of them this week.
While I am bored and a little concerned during my isolation, I do have Naida with me and of course, the dog who barks a bit less now that fewer people and vehicles pass by the house. I also try to ruminate on the good things this junior plague may bring. We are forced to briefly halt whatever things we believed we had to do and now have time to consider its value to us. Everyone has the opportunity to do this at the same time. Almost the entirety of the people of the world is being forced to stop and take stock of what is really important in our lives. That could be a good thing.
For a brief moment in, we are also forced to halt our collective assault on our environment, giving that environment a brief respite from our onslaught upon it.
The saddest thing for me is my awareness that many of those who were led to believe it was all a hoax, just another common cold, still believe it.
Yesterday was my onomastica, my name day. I did not celebrate it. I would celebrate it if I could find somewhere that makes fresh Zeppole. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day. We probably will not celebrate that either.
It is now 4:30 PM. I awoke at 11AM this morning and spent most of the day writing the above 10 or so lines. So it goes in these our days of confinement. I think it is about that time for Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog, and I to break away from our computers and sing and dance for a while.
Saint Patrick’s Day, we went for a walk along the river. On the way, we passed the dog park. It was empty. People seemed to be walking their dogs along the levee and keeping their distance. I have begun coughing. I do not know whether I am simply clearing my throat or if it is an artifact of my hypochondria or something else. The Hospital called and put off my immunotherapy appointment for three weeks.
Have you noticed, that recently the world seems full of omens? The good thing is you get to choose those you like.
You know we shouldn’t be so hard on the Donald for his constant lying. It may just be that he thinks the truth is so precious that it shouldn’t be waved around too much.
It is now a week or more into the local version of social distancing huddled in our houses while the coronavirus prowls outside. In addition, to boredom, it also gives one time to think and reflect — two very dangerous activities especially when one is 80 years old.
Try as we like, during our lives we still will have words we think we should have spoken left over in the end.
Everyone is good at something. Sometimes, alas, you don’t find out until too late. And, unfortunately, even if you do find out in time, it may very well be of no use or value to anyone even yourself. For example, you may be good at picking your nose and that may very well please you immensely, but it is hard to imagine that talent has any benefit to anyone. I do not know what I am good at, but there are times when picking my nose pleases me a lot. And while I take pains to hide my ability from view, I still take a bit of pride in it.
Speaking of ability, it has been said, or I have read it somewhere that most sane, rational human beings learn quite early on that you feel just as certain even when you’re wrong. For this reason, the strength of your belief is usually not a valid measure of its relation to reality. I believe a lot of things. For example, I often believe that whenever I get a sniffle or a slight headache, it means I will surely die before morning. Well, it hasn’t happened yet. But I haven’t given up hope. I also believe I am as knowledgeable and smart as the next guy or gal. I never really found that to be the case, but I still believe that to be true despite the amount of evidence to the contrary.
It is now Friday at about 1 PM. We are sitting here watching Belmondo in Breathless on TCM. Boo-boo the Barking Dog lies half asleep on the chair. I read an email from Peter. He writes, “Vaccine is 18 months off; meanwhile should be interesting. Universal voting by mail? The Hyatt Regency Hospital? Or is it the Homeless Repository? Will Batman close the Bat Cave and move to the Hyatt Regency Homeless Repository?”
To which I responded, “Speaking of Superman, do you have any idea where he changes into his tights now that there are no more phone booths.”
Peter replied, “Now, about Superman, that’s a great question! more great possibilities: A knock on the door, you open it in the Enchanted Forest, and there stands this mild-mannered, bespectacled, besuited fellow, who asks politely: “Excuse me, but may I enter so I can change clothes? There are a bank robbery and kidnapping happening down the street I need to attend to.” Alternatively, he could use the old red phone booth our sister-in-law (Barrie’s brother’s wife) Migiwa used in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in front of the Tasty Freeze that was one of her artistic creations. Of course, he’d have to transport this to Gotham City or wherever. I haven’t been present where he actually does his changes, so I have no idea.”
So that’s what Peter and I do during this era of social distancing. What do you do?
This evening Naida played the piano and I danced. She played a hot rendition of Malagueña. I strutted around the room clicking my heels on the new wood floors.
For the past two days, I have spent most of my time in bed overcome with fatigue. I do not know what caused it, the only other symptom was a thickening of mucus. Of course, I thought I was sure to die in a day or two. I didn’t. Today, however, I am up and about. Up and about for me means sitting in front of the television and watching the news about the pandemic.
It has been two weeks now of our confinement. Like others throughout the world, we are getting a bit of a taste of what imprisonment is all about. At least many of those actually in prison know when it is they will get out. Everyone, I guess, has their own way of coping. For me right now it is staring out into the back yard at one of our trees that has just begun to bloom.
OMG! —— I never thought I would see myself use that acronym but I cannot conceive of a worse disaster during this time of plague. Our television has broken down. True we have another set but we cannot get it to work. We have tried and failed to find a repairman. Anyway, who would want to allow a potential carrier of the plague into the house? What to do? What to do? We need help quickly before we fall into entertaining ourselves, or God forgive, reading. When, if the future, they write the history of this time of the plague I am sure they will have a chapter on the horror experienced by those poor souls forced to rely on their own imagination. The horror.
I finally hooked up the other TV, but for some reason we only get TCM. It could be worse. We could have been stuck with Fox News or the Weather Channel.
It is a day or two later and we fixed the TV. That is not much of an improvement since all that is on is stories about Coronavirus and He Who Is Not My President talking about it or old black and white movies and Technicolor musicals. It could be worse. Someday in the future, if there is a future, children will ask their parents what they did during the great plague.
Of course, everything we talk about or write about is not really real. It is just energy screwing around doing its thing here in this infinitesimally small and remote portion of the Universe. What we write or tell each other about it is a narrative imperative — a story or Naritivium as Terry Pratchett calls it. We make it up and tell each other about it and feel good or bad about it as the Naritivium dictates. Naritivium essentially replaces magic in a universe without it.
“The curious thing about the human belief in narrativium is that once humans evolved on the planet, their beliefs started to be true. We have, in a way, created our own narrativium. It exists in our minds, and there it is a process, not a thing. On the level of the material universe, it’s just one more pattern of buzzing electrons. But on the level of what it feels like to be a mind, it operates just like narrativium. Not only that: it operates on the material world, not just the mental one: its effects are just like those of narrativium.”
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
In other words, in my case, and I suspect also with most of you out there, we just make shit up.
B. NAIDA, POOKIE, AND BOO-BOO THE BARKING DOG BREAK OUT OF CONFINEMENT.
One day while I was complaining about creeping cabin fever Naida, for no reason that I can identify, suddenly said, “We need to get a new key for the Mitsubishi.” We had either lost or misplaced the keys several weeks before. I had decided not to get them replaced until the current emergency ends. Despite this, and again for no reason, I immediately called the key-smith thinking he would tell me they were closed until the crisis ends. To my surprise, he said instead, “Someone will be right over. He’ll meet you at the car.” So we gathered up the dog and walked to where the car was parked and waited. The key-smith arrived. We had no way of knowing how many coronavirus carriers he had come into contact with. We passed over our information standing closer to each other than six feet. He then crawled all over the car setting about doing whatever key-smiths do leaving behind, I am sure, whatever bugs he was carrying around.
While watching him work another car pulled up. It was the dog walker and her daughter. They exited the car, came over to us, and stood well within the six-foot barrier. She was carrying two packages of Thomas’ English Muffins which she thrust into our hands saying, “I knew you were running out. I found a store that still has a few packages and bought them for you.” Out of a misplaced sense of politeness or gratitude, we could not refuse the offer even if it might be another potential plague vector. So, I held the tip of the plastic bag they come in between my fingers and thanked them for their consideration. They then returned to their car and left.
The key-smith handed me the new keys. I passed over my credit card and took it back. He drove off and we deciding, “In for a dime in for a dollar” got in the now, I was sure, thoroughly contaminated vehicle and drove around Sacramento for about an hour.
We returned home, put the keys in a drawer, placed the muffins on a shelf, and washed our hands. I then sat in my recliner and pondered mortality. After two weeks of stringent social distancing, I am now convinced that death is crawling through the Enchanted Forest headed to our door.
C. RETURN TO CONFINEMENT.
So following that adventure into stupidity, we returned to enjoy the pleasures of social distancing. Naida discovered a container of three-year-old Lysol wipes that were dried up. In the hope of rejuvenating them, she pored Clorox into the container and set about wiping down whatever she could find. I went back to watching CNN drone on about coronavirus. They broke off their symphony of woe to tune into He Who Is Not My President’s daily publicity sessions at which he bloviated on about how he was going to make our impending deaths especially meaningless.
At about six PM today Naida discovered the missing key. The one we felt so important that we broke containment to replace and risked death by the Trump virus. I assume either “It’s always something,” or “Tomorrow is another day” is appropriate here.
And with that, I think I have gone on enough in this post. So I think I will end it here.
Take care of yourselves. Don’t lose your car keys. Stay socially distant. Don’t take anything too seriously. And above all:
Humanity/life = >7.65 MeV and/or 30 fundamental constants (+ or – )? I do not know what this means but some scientists believe it represents the basis of the existence of the biosphere and, in the case of the fundamental constants, existence itself, here there or perhaps anywhere. Other scientists, not so much. What do you think?
“An atheist is not someone who believes that God doesn’t exist. It is someone who doesn’t believe that God does exist. If you think those are the same, ponder this statement by the comedian Penn Jillette: ‘Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.’
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 324). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
“The writer and comedian Ricky Gervais made a similar point more pithily in 2010:
‘The dictionary definition of God is ‘a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe’. Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3,700 supernatural beings, of which 2,870 can be considered deities. So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say ‘Oh, which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra…?’ If they say, ‘Just God. I only believe in the one God,’ I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.’”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 322). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Comedians and clowns, I believe, are the physicists of the soul
“We have been around for a few million years at most, perhaps only 200,000 if you restrict attention to ‘modern’ humans; the universe is about 13.5 billion years old. We occupy one world orbiting one of 200 billion stars in one galaxy, which itself is one of 200 billion galaxies. Isn’t it just a tiny bit arrogant to insist that the entire universe is merely a by-product of a process whose true purpose was to bring us into existence?
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 302). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
I do not know if I completely buy this last point. I mean, if you are so irrelevant in the scheme of things why would you even bother to get up in the morning?
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
The Nobel Prize in Economics was established in 1966 by bankers who fund it and is not one of the prizes that Alfred Nobel established in his will in 1895. It is not technically a Nobel Prize.
B. Today’s Poem:
A Double Standard
BY FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER
Do you blame me that I loved him?
If when standing all alone
I cried for bread a careless world
Pressed to my lips a stone.
Do you blame me that I loved him,
That my heart beat glad and free,
When he told me in the sweetest tones
He loved but only me?
Can you blame me that I did not see
Beneath his burning kiss
The serpent’s wiles, nor even hear
The deadly adder hiss?
Can you blame me that my heart grew cold
That the tempted, tempter turned;
When he was feted and caressed
And I was coldly spurned?
Would you blame him, when you draw from me
Your dainty robes aside,
If he with gilded baits should claim
Your fairest as his bride?
Would you blame the world if it should press
On him a civic crown;
And see me struggling in the depth
Then harshly press me down?
Crime has no sex and yet to-day
I wear the brand of shame;
Whilst he amid the gay and proud
Still bears an honored name.
Can you blame me if I’ve learned to think
Your hate of vice a sham,
When you so coldly crushed me down
And then excused the man?
Would you blame me if to-morrow
The coroner should say,
A wretched girl, outcast, forlorn,
Has thrown her life away?
Yes, blame me for my downward course,
But oh! remember well,
Within your homes, you press the hand
That led me down to hell.
I’m glad God’s ways are not our ways,
He does not see as man,
Within His love I know there’s room
For those whom others ban.
I think before His great white throne,
His throne of spotless light,
That whited sepulchers shall wear
The hue of endless night.
That I who fell, and he who sinned,
Shall reap as we have sown;
That each the burden of his loss
Must bear and bear alone.
No golden weights can turn the scale
Of justice in His sight;
And what is wrong in woman’s life
In man’s cannot be right.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer, one of the first African American women to be published in the United States.
Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, she had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20. At 67, she published her novel Iola Leroy (1892), which was widely praised.
As a young woman in 1850, she taught sewing at Union Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, a school affiliated with the AME Church. In 1851, alongside William Still, chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, she helped refugee slaves make their way along the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. In 1853 she began her career as a public speaker and political activist after joining the American Anti-Slavery Society.
Her collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) became her biggest commercial success. Her short story “Two Offers” was published in the Anglo-African in 1859, making literary history as the first short story published by a black woman.
Harper founded, supported, and held high office in several national progressive organizations. In 1883 she became superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In 1894 she helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president. Harper died aged 85 on February 22, 1911, nine years before women gained the right to vote. (Wikipedia)
“You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. But the smell! You know — that gasoline smell… the whole hill! Smelled like… victory. (Pause) Some day this war is going to end…”
Apocalypse Now. Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Kilgore.
OLD PHOTOGRAPH OF THE DAY:
That is me asleep on the couch many years ago. Bobby, Ruth’s dog, is my partner in lethargy.
TODAY’S ART ODYSSEY: