Not so simple question

Since the Congress is determined to throw healthcare in the country into a death spiral, I thought it would be worth asking:

What is your plan to protect the gains we have made in providing health coverage to our citizens?

I of course do not expect a response.  These people do not actually care what their constituents think.

Backstreet Writers

One of my Lichtenbergian proposed efforts for this year is to develop a writing/writers program at Backstreet Arts.

As with any major project, I have a Waste Book:

I began it back in 2015, on a camping trip on a sweltering couple of days in July.  Kim Ramey and I had been talking about her dream of establishing a free art studio for homeless/underserved populations, and several streams of thought had begun to merge in my life that led me to this goal.

The first was the realization that my life was no longer governed by cycles, e.g., the school year, the GHP cycle, the theatre season.  I no longer knew where I would be and what I would be doing a year in advance.  My life was now linear and it was up to me to plan it.

The second was an exhibit we saw in Asheville that featured the publications of Temporary Services, an organization in Chicago that publishes a broad range of work, from serious authors to folk/street/outsider writers.  I began to think that I needed to be doing something similar here, although I am under no illusions that I am going to end up with a major operation like that.

So yesterday those of us who are going to offer classes/workshops at Backstreet had a meeting to begin shaping what our services were going to look like.  I pulled this waste book out and looked over what I had written eighteen months ago.  It was instructive.

Here are my Abortive Attempts:

It is my VISION to create a space where anyone in the community is comfortable enough to come and tell their story to the rest of the community in printed form.

It will be the MISSION of the Writing Project to produce printed material—books, booklets, pamphlets [et al.]—that reflect the history of members of the community, particularly those who have been marginalized by our society.

  • The art of writing is a political act.
  • Storytelling is innately human.
  • [blank]

I CONFESS THAT

  • In my privilege, I have no idea who the writers may be, nor what their stories are, and therefore
  • I have as much to learn as anyone who comes to me.
  • I have no idea what the needs of our writers may be.
  • The quality of our publications may or may not be “worth” reading, but
  • Every work we publish creates a new center of influence, the ripples of which may affect a reader or potential writer in ways we cannot foretell, and
  • The more circles of influence we can establish, the more likely it is that we will produce works of real value.

Now that I actually have to Do The Thing, I find that these scribbled notes are still valid.  I have no idea of who is going to be coming to work with me.  They may be nearly illiterate; they may already be polished writers.  They may write drivel; they may have a compelling story to tell.  They may be eager learners; they may be obnoxious know-it-alls.

In other words, it will be just like teaching writing in my classroom.

At the moment, pending further reality, I am thinking we may shoot for some kind of quarterly journal kind of thing, perhaps a 16-page booklet, that we can put out at the coffee shops, waiting rooms, etc., to create those ripples.  Having a deadline and a venue for publication [AUDIENCE] is also a great motivator for anyone.

Whatever my plans are, of course, they all have to wait until I actually have writers.  I’ll keep you posted.

Writing, art, and galas galore

You should do these things.

NTC Season Gala

This Sat, Jan 21, at 8:00, the Newnan Theatre Company will announce its 2017–18 season.  I will be directing the big spring show, [redacted].  No, the name of the show is not [redacted].  The name of the show is literally redacted, since it hasn’t been announced yet.  But I am directing it next year and will be directing a scene from it for the Gala.  (I will also be appearing in it, since apparently there are not eleven males who could give up four nights in their total life to do this scene.  I’m not bitter or anything.  Yet.)

Backstreet Arts Gala

Backstreet Community Arts (full name) is ready to open its doors, and to celebrate they too are having a gala.  And how convenient is this?  It’s across the street and about the same time as NTC’s!  (Both were trying to avoid competing with Newnan’s Burns Supper on the next weekend, and so they ran headlong into each other.)  That’s Sat, Jan 21, at 7:00—so you could start at Backstreet and end up at NTC.  I understand there will be a signature cocktail, which I did not create.

a clean, well-lighted space

Backstreet Arts Open House

Then on Sun, Jan 22, 2:00–4:00, Backstreet will have an open house so you can come and meet the artists who will be offering classes/workshops for the target population.  At both events you can give money to help support this group’s mission, which is to provide space, supplies, and instruction for those in our community who would not otherwise have the opportunity to express themselves through art.

I will be there because I will be starting the Backstreet Writers.  Inspired by some of the work of Temporary Services in Chicago, I want to see if I can provide a venue for people to tell their story.  That’s all I have at the moment; since I don’t know who will be interested enough to attend any seminars, nor their skill level, nor anything; all I can do is say that I’m doing this thing, welcome anyone who shows up, and then meet their needs however I can.

You will recall that this project is actually one of my Lichtenbergian Proposed Efforts. I will write in more detail about my thinking about this tomorrow.  In the meantime, here’s a photo of me that Kim Ramey took up against her angel wall:

You see why you want to be there.

Irrefutable!

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Here, have a video:

(The actual, irrefutable [!] proof is at 2:38 in the video.)

Those who have been around here for a while may remember my take on the flat earth theory, both the book Flat Earth and my own musings about the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter two years ago.  I mean, bless they hearts.

To recap for those of you too lazy to watch this nice man’s video:

Here we see the set up: the god-fearing flat earth Person, standing on the Actual Earth, with his Globe* and his Airplane.

If you fly a plane from the north pole to the south pole, he says, look what happens.  First…

… you have to start tilting your Airplane down in order to keep your plane level with the Earth.  LEVEL WITH THE EARTH, KENNETH!  This continues without let until…

you are forced to fly your Airplane upside down before you can even land.  This is clearly unpossible, and therefore it is irrefutable proof that the earth cannot be a sphere.

Okay.  Let’s rewind the tape and insert a play by play here.

First we start at the north pole.

Pay attention to the little arrows.  The little blue one shows the tiny Airplane in relation to the Globe*.  The longer green one shows the Airplane in relation to the Actual Earth, which is where our irrefutable Person is, in fact, actually standing.  The blue and green lines are in agreement about which way is up and which way is down.

Roll tape.

… something seems to be happening here…

Hm.  The blue and green lines are no longer in agreement about which way is up and which way is down.  In fact, they are diametrically opposed.  So why is our Person so convinced that the Airplane must be upside down if it flies to the south pole?  Let’s remove the Globe* from the picture.

Why, look, he’s right!  The Airplane is upside down!  In relation to the Actual Earth, it is in fact, irrefutably, upside down.

But that’s not what is happening in real life, is it?  Let’s zoom in on his model and change it into the Actual Earth:

Oh.  The Airplane, in circumnavigating the Actual Earth, would find itself rightside up the entire trip, even when it passes over our now-Australian Person.  Hm.

Let me be very clear: my little demonstration here did not in any way prove that the Actual Earth is a sphere.  But it sure as shootin’ refuted Mr. Hall’s simplest, irrefutable proof that it isn’t.

In other words, this is not the proof you’re looking for, Kenneth.

Thank you.

Amygdalas. Why is it always amygdalas?

A friend rather foolishly clicked on a link in a spam email yesterday.

Fortunately,[1] it just leads to a webpage that first asks you to make sure you have your sound on, and then proceeds to auto-play a slideshow that is nothing but text, which the narrator then reads out loud to us.  Oy.  It also says that it’s only six minutes long, but as I type this it’s been way over fifteen and it’s still going.

I will now pause to let you guess what the presentation is actually about.

The presentation is about _____
A) a quasi-military organization plotting a coup, thereby enabling Clinton’s accession to the presidency
B) a super-secret cabal which will engineer the president-elect’s impeachment before the inauguration, thereby enabling Clinton’s accession to the presidency
C) an ad for a “free” book on secret cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, etc.

If you guessed C, congratulations.

Yes, it’s true, boys and girls.[2] Hillary Clinton conspired twenty-three years ago to kill off 31,000 patriots a year with the pharmaceutical cartel.  Their plot was to put her in the White House, where she would allow them “access to the power and money” of the U.S. government something something drugs.

How exactly this is different from our current healthcare situation is unclear, but IT’S SCARY, KENNETH!  Hillary Clinton!  Cartel!  There is so much ooga-booga in the first five minutes of this thing that I cannot remember it all—and I’m not going back to listen to it again.  It hits all the notes: Clinton, conspiracy, patriotism, threat of death, etc.  There is no documentation or proof, just blunt assertions about “knowing” stuff that NO ONE ELSE KNOWS, KENNETH!

[The presentation is still running in another browser window.  Six minutes my ass.]

The speaker finally reveals his affiliation: HSI, Health Science Institute.  A more wretched hive of scum and villainy, etc., etc.

Why do I say that?  The target audience for this pitch is those of us over 55, who combine the traits the HSI values: intractable health issues, not-very-solid reasoning capacities, distrust of institutional healthcare, and increasing fear of death.  (And a whole bunch of us have an irrational fear/hatred of Hillary Clinton, so that’s a bonus.)  The pitch is deliberately crafted to engage the amygdala and its irrational fears—and create a sense of panic and urgency so that the poor senior citizen clicks on that link to receive the “free” booklet.

I’m guessing that in order to receive your free book, you have to give the HSI not only your mailing address, but also your email address and probably your phone number.  You will then receive pitch after pitch for their products WHICH WILL CURE YOUR CANCER THE NATURAL WAY WITHOUT SIDE EFFECTS, KENNETH!  These people are evil.

The only way to make sure is to click on that link.  Which I’m not going to do.[3]

—————

[1] For differing values of “fortunate.”

[2] It’s not true.

[3] I have written this entire blog post and the presentation is still running and still has not given me the information to receive my free book.  We’re now into the second free gift.

Meditation

Every fair from fair sometime declines.

This is my favorite sentence of all time. It is from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, and for me it encapsulates the bitter truth of life: entropy rules over all. Nothing gold can stay.[1]

Every fair from fair sometime declines.

The phrase kept coming to me as I worked to prepare the labyrinth for the Tour of Homes. Because of the nature of the Tour—everything is supposed to be pretty—I was reseeding the labyrinth with a “contractor’s blend” of grass, i.e., a mixture of regular fescue seed and winter rye, which grows quickly and provides you with a vividly green carpet at any time of the year.

Rye is extremely temporary. It grows and, after a month or two, dies. That’s fine. I only needed the labyrinth to look “pretty” for Dec 3. After that, nature could resume its cycle.

Because normally I do not try to maintain a green labyrinth through the winter months. It is pretty, but part of having this meditative space is learning to see the beauty in all phases of its life. Bare branches, brown ferns, dead grass—all are part of the way life goes. It is best if you can love that.

 

Yes, the tired old metaphors of our human lives winding down apply. Shakespeare as usual says it best, this time in Sonnet 73:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold…

Part of our sadness about the entropy of our lives is our consciousness that while nature’s course will cycle back around—the leaves will grow again, the ferns will push up through the humus, the grass will sprout as green as before—with us the decline is permanent. We don’t get to be young again. We won’t, as the sun shifts back to the north, find ourselves regaining our muscle tone or youthful skin or mental acuity.

This of course is our ego’s perception. It is not reality. The leaf falls from the tree, but the tree is still alive. So it is with us. “We” may die, but the universe is still alive. Thinking that somehow our ego will continue to exist after our death is essentially planting rye grass: shoring up a false hope that will not, can not last.

Every fair from fair sometime declines: words to live by.

—————

[1] This is why, in my setting of Sonnet 18 for men’s chorus and two cellos, that line is the musical climax.

Not so easy question, The Wall edition

I for one am not even astonished that the Congress is looking to fund the president-elect’s “wall.”  So what if the man said that “Mexico will pay for it”?  Apparently nothing he said on the campaign trail matters.[1]

It also doesn’t seem to matter that the party of “fiscal responsibility” and “small government” now wants to jumpstart the biggest boondoggle since the Iraq war.

But I do have some questions for my elected representatives.

  • Does the congressman have data (in the form of research studies or reports) on the effectiveness of a “wall” in keeping migrant workers from entering the country from Mexico?  Can you provide me with a link to any of those?
  • Does the congressman have data (in the form of research studies or reports) on the impact on employment/wages in this country if low-wage migrant workers are excluded from the economy?  What are his plans to prevent wage inflation if the country loses access to these workers?
  • Has the congressman weighed the opportunity costs between building the “wall” and investing in the country’s infrastructure?  In other words, given our limited resources, is it going to be a better strategy to insure our economic future to build the wall rather than to repair our bridges, roads, and airports?

Or, bluntly, is the congressman’s vote based purely on the symbolic vindictiveness that seems to characterize his party?

—————

[1] It doesn’t matter because the only thing that matters to the Republicker party is that they now have a patsy in the White House.

Another new day

You may recall that one of my goals this year was to establish a daily work schedule so that I have more structure to force myself into working.

There was no point in trying to do this until this week because reasons, but now I’m on day three of said schedule and I believe it’s working.

Step one: clear the desk — again — so that a) I have a clear view of my desktop calendar; and b) I have an actual work surface for one of my major projects.

What desktop calendar is that, you ask?  This desktop calendar:

Here it is in situ:

You may be astonished that I am using a paper and pencil scheduling device, but I can explain.  This is the desktop calendar I used to use at Newnan Crossing and at the Department of Education to do my planning, and it was very efficient.  Yes, I still put things on my phone or my computer, but this was a handy way to jot down meetings, phone calls, etc.  Mostly it kept me on track.

I used to buy these in pads from Levenger, but they stopped making them, and so I designed my own, if by “design” you mean “recreate exactly.”  I still have a couple in storage, and truly I don’t know why I had this one on my desk here in the study, since I don’t really have a lot to schedule these days.

Until now.  Like all good ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS, it’s a start.  I have created out of nothing a list of things that I want/need to get done, and I’ve faked a schedule: blog here and at Lichtenbergianism.com; work on Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy; eat lunch and do the crossword puzzle; walk the labyrinth; plan for [redacted] and William Blake’s Inn.[1]

That schedule will change, of course, but so far it’s driven me to work without too much procrastination.  I’m writing this blog post, in fact, because the schedule says I must.  Running a little late, but I can whack this out and then get back to work on the chapter on SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.

With assistance[2,] of course.

—————

[1] No, there’s not a production in the offing.  I’m just working on it.

[2] For differing values of “assistance.”

Evil

I have been reading Mirrors, by Eduardo Galeano.  I have come to believe that there is a thread of evil running through human history that will not die but must be fought against without stint or let.

In the middle of a series of disquisitions about slavery and its never-ending end in the 18th and 19th centuries, I came across this:

When Iqbal Maiz was four, his parents sold him for fifteen dollars.

He was bought by a rug maker.  He worked chained to the loom fourteen hours a day. At the age of ten, Iqbal was a hunchback with the lungs of an old man.

Then he escaped and became the spokesman for Pakistan’s child slaves.

In 1995, when he was twelve years old, a fatal bullet knocked him from his bicycle.
[pp. 190-191]

In 1995.

Evil.

Evil is not having sex with someone to whom you are not married or is the same gender as you.  Evil is not realizing your brain is not the same gender as your body.  Evil is not praying to some other deity than you and your neighbors.

Evil is cruelty to anyone with less power than you.

Period.

Not in my name, not in my country.  Speak up.