Category Archives: blather

When everything is possible, nothing is amazing

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When Everything is PossibleWe recently put up a new poster in the back bathroom, a gorgeous bit of work from Hatch Show Print made for the 2016 edition of Blobfest, our town’s wonderful, crazy celebration of the early Steve McQueen movie that was filmed right here in Phoenixville. To add to the sprucing up, my wife bought a new rug for the room, put it down, and declared that it really tied the room together. And so it did.

And then I thought, you know what would really tie the room together? If the poster were the rug. If that great image  (and, sorry, I don’t have a good capture of it) of a sleek alieness (now a word) were reproduced into a mat — that would be pretty cool.

And then I was dismayed by how very, very simple that would actually be. Time was, if you wanted some kind of a custom image woven into a rug, you had to find someone who knew how to do custom work, have them plan it out and figure where to put what colors of thread, and pull the whole thing together. There would probably be graph paper, and some attempt to render a piece of art with some cool continuous tones and smooth ink lines into a medium that, in its own way, resembles pixels, because in a rug you can only have one tuft of one color of yarn occupy a space, and you’re stuck with a rectilinear grid. It would be crazy expensive, and a lot of work. If such a thing existed, it would be amazing. Similarly, to get an image custom woven into a normal fabric pattern (not a tufted rug) would be even more complicated, and it would be less likely you could find someone with the capability. So if such a thing really existed, it would be fantastic, just for its rarity.

Of course, today, you just go to a custom rugmaker on the web, and send them a digital art file. They run it through some software that tells the machinery what to do, and for a couple of hundred dollars, you have a rug. The only real effort was the effort of the original designer – everything else was figured out by computers.

So, ten years ago, if I had walked into the back bathroom and found a custom rug version of the Blobfest poster, I’d have been blown away. That would have been really amazing. But now, now that it’s eminently possible, it’s just not that amazing.

I feel the same way about digital imaging, especially CGI in movies. Now that anything you can think of can be rendered with some level of believability, sometimes seeing those imagined worlds or impossible feats just doesn’t seem like anything. Look back at a movie like “The Blues Brothers,” and think that every single police car crash (and they were legion) actually happened. That’s impressive. Today, they’d all be CGI’d, and not really mean anything. The effort isn’t in the act, and while the artists creating these worlds are extremely talented, and they’re able to bring things to screen that might not even be possible with practical effects, somehow it’s just not . . . amazing.

The Impersistence of Memory

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Tarantula by Bob DylanHave you ever been annoyed by a detail in your memory, a detail that by its very presence tells you that something in your memory is wrong or incomplete?

Not to even get into what science tells us about the tremendous fallibility of memory and our lack of understanding of its very construct, but sometimes I’ve got a very complete memory in my head, associated with something very specific, and yet I know that it has to be wrong in some way.

This one was spurred by my attempts, as a very late-starting piano student, to learn the Rolling Stones song “Angie.” (Pretty simple, simply pretty, and highly recommended.) But that brought back memories of the album it came from, “Goats Head Soup,” which was the big release for the Stones when I was going into eighth grade. My memory only tangentially involves the album, however.

I’m in the eighth grade lunchroom, which was just sort of a multi-purpose room with tables and chairs. I’m talking with a kid named Mark. I kinda liked Mark but I had the sense that he basically tolerated me, so friends would not be the word. He has a copy of “Goats Head Soup.” Why? I’m not sure . . . perhaps for a record report? That was a thing we had to do in our junior high music classes. A couple of times a year we had to bring in a record and pick a particular song to analyze, mostly focusing on the mechanics of the song: time, verse structure, beats per minute. Maybe we talked about the lyrics. That would be a reason to have an album in school; I can’t think of another. But I don’t think the album was our main topic of conversation.

Proving how faulty memory can be: this lunchroom scene could be at either end of a thread. I think it’s the first end. I think that in order to have something musical to relate, I’m expounding the virtues of a book I’ve been reading. That book is “Tarantula,” a book of prose poetry (to be kind) written by Bob Dylan. While the material was several years old, it had only been officially published in 1971, and in one of those weird surprises that libraries sometimes offer disaffected teens, the Scotia Public Library, the squarest little library in the world, had a copy of Tarantula on the shelves. I borrowed it, probably many times. I read it, definitely many times. I thought it was brilliant. I was 13.

“Tarantula” is stream of consciousness writing — not such a stretch for Dylan, given his lyrical tendencies. But what works in song, where music, rhythm and spaces can give meaning to the most nonsensical words, doesn’t necessarily work in print. You could say this work owes something to the Beats; an apology, possibly.

“aretha with no goals, eternally single & one step soft of heaven/ let it be understood that she owns this melody along with her emotional diplomats & her earth & her musical secrets the censor in a twelve wheel drive semi stopping in for donuts & pinching the waitress/ he likes his women raw & with syrup/ he has his mind set on becoming a famous soldier  manuscript nitemare of cut throat high & low & behold the prophesying blind allegiance to law fox, monthly cupid & the intoxicating ghosts of dogma …”

In my defense I can only offer that I was 13 and profoundly miserable. It sounded brilliant to my unformed brain.

So in the first version of this memory, I relate the brilliance of this epic to Mark. It’s even possible I have the library copy with me, that I’m reading it at lunch. And he is at least interested, if not intrigued, and later undertakes to read it himself and provide me with his review in a locker-side conversation days, weeks, months later.

In the second version, I have already related the brilliance of this slim volume of nonsense (and please understand that at this age I own exactly zero songs by Bob Dylan), and Mark has dutifully investigated the passions of another music fan, and he is now pronouncing his verdict. Whether at the lunch table or at his locker, the verdict is the same — delivered with the disdain that only a 13-year-old can really fully muster, he informs me that “Tarantula” is horseshit, delivering with it the implication that my opinion on pretty much anything else in the universe is to be disregarded in the future.

That’s not unreasonable, by the way. Today, I view it this way: Mark was certainly smarter and more discerning about the fact the book was horseshit. On the other hand, when you’re 13, you’re supposed to love things that will turn out to be totally ridiculous later, to have things that speak to you in ways you can’t articulate then and are mystified by in later years. So it’s my hope that he had that experience, too, even if it wasn’t with this book. I don’t want to think that someone couldn’t be passionate about something stupid in junior high school.

But here’s the problem with this entire memory, the nagging point that makes me question everything: I didn’t eat lunch in the eighth grade lunchroom. I was a walker, walked home every day for lunch. I wasn’t eligible to eat in the lunchroom, and even had I wanted to, I don’t believe they actually served lunch there; I think you had to bring your own. So . . . was there some other reason I would have been there? Other than the monthly teen dances (as far as I know, still called “Teen Town” to this day, despite how desperately square that sounded even in the ‘70s), I can’t think of a reason I would have been there. We didn’t have classes there. Study hall didn’t exist. We didn’t normally sit around with record albums and library books there. So I can’t come up with a construct that makes any sense for why I would have been there.

What part of this memory didn’t happen? An optimistic mind would have it be the part where I read “Tarantula.” Several times.

My favorite Christmas ornament

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We have had a lot of Christmas ornaments over the years – bought, given, inherited, made by children. Every year, there’s the process of deciding if we really want to keep all the ornaments that have accumulated in the boxes, which would easily overwhelm any tree and which certain would drag our new pencil tree, designed for our narrow urban space, down to the ground. So each year we part with a few that no longer have any particular value and hope not to acquire too many more. It’s a little process that lets us think about and appreciate each one and remember what it means. But being who I am, the one that means the most to me, or at least that I will never part with, isn’t a Christmas ornament at all, really. We’ve had it as long as I can remember even putting up any kind of Christmas decoration, and it’s been on the tree every year. It’s our weather brick.

I don’t even remember where I got it, other than that it was when I was typesetting for a living. It’s possible we were tasked with typesetting new cards (though I know from looking at it that that’s not my work.) In any event, the weather brick was a “public service” of the Empire State Masonry Institute in Syracuse. It’s a very small brick, about an inch and a half long. You can see from the instructions how it works. It’s the dumbest thing ever, and the dumbest joke ever. I just love it. While the instructions indicate you can use any brick or block to observe the weather, we find that having one that was intended for just this purpose works best. And thus is occupies an honored place on our Christmas tree.

Not Static At All

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When you were a kid, didn’t you think life was just static after a certain point, that grown-ups just became grown-ups and that was that? Crazy that that child’s perception of time can carry with you for ever.

If there was anything about my perception of the world as a child or teenager that was just flat out wrong, it was that sense that adult lives are sure, stable, boring. I don’t think I was alone in thinking that once people got to a certain age, married, had kids, and were all settled in at their jobs-for-life, it was just a slow trudge to the grave (a trudge that, like any right-thinking teen rebel, I wanted no part in). And certainly there were examples close at hand of people who just existed in the same way, day to day, year to year, not changing, not growing, just getting by. I wondered how they could tell the years apart. My great grandmother, widowed at 69, lived on another 34 years; other than the last 10 when dementia took hold, her days hardly differed, doing the Jumble and watching TV, making pies in season, not doing much else. Others in the family lived much the same lives. My parents, the adults whose lives I should have had the most insight into, just seemed to be taking each day just like the last. They had worked for the same employers forever (it seemed), and always would. While they poured massive effort into renovating our house, there wasn’t anything going on in the outside world that they were involved with. It all just seemed like it had always been and always would be the same.

Time grants us the gift of perspective. What appeared then to be a life of (boring) stability from a child’s perspective was really just a brief period for those adults. Rearing children is constant change in itself. There was drama aplenty —anxiety about jobs, worries about money. There was drinking and infidelity. Friends and family died on them. It simply couldn’t have been as stable day-to-day as I perceived it. I was a kid; what did I know?

But it also can’t have been the constant progression I’ve experienced as an adult. I had a long stable period, too, where I was at a single job for nearly 10 years. But even in that stability, mixed in with all the challenging tasks of rearing children, there were new things to take on, new sports and arts to figure out. And after that long stable period was the most hugely unstable period of my life, at least financially. I had to point myself in a new direction and row like crazy to make shore.  Life changing events continued apace – deaths of friends and family, cancer, changing jobs and finally changing cities. Even in the last couple of years, there have been some serious new challenges. It honestly feels like my life has been nonstop change rather than nonstop doldrums. It’s a little exhausting.

As I get older I wonder more and more what of my parents’ lives I really saw, and how much I understood. Do we ever solve that mystery? Can I possibly be as much of a mystery to my children as my parents are to me? (I’m gonna have to say no.) I’m less engaged in most of the old hurts (and yet . . .) and more able to really just wonder what their lives were all about, and what it was like to have led them.


Home Taping Was Not Killing Music

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Old tape deckA group of music friends got into a discussion: Does anybody still make mix tapes/mix CDs, or are there any from back in the day that they still play? That led to a flood of thoughts.

I really discovered music right around age 11, just around the start of middle school, with an AM clock radio set almost exclusively to the local Top 40 radio station, WTRY. AM only. Radio then was wildly diverse – just look at the top 100 for 1972: that was all playing in the Tri-Cities. When I fell into music, I fell into it hard – trips to Apex Music Korner, where sample 45s of the top hits of the week hung from wooden pegs, and you could take the listener over to a school-grade turntable and listen to it on a monophone pressed to your ear, just in case you hadn’t convinced yourself you needed it yet. Fork over 79 cents, and it was yours.

Apex Music Korner 1972The radio ruled our lives – what was playing was everything. And of course, we couldn’t afford to buy everything we wanted to hear, and you couldn’t necessarily count on hearing what you wanted to, so we did the only thing you could do in those days – tape off the radio. I had, everybody had, a small portable cassette recorder with a built-in microphone that dutifully picked up the sounds of its own motor turning the compact cassette. Place it next to the radio, and wait to pounce on those buttons when a song you wanted to capture might be coming on. You had to listen closely – maybe the DJ would front announce so you’d know “Rock the Boat” was coming up. But probably not. As the commercial came to an end, you’d do the three-finger move: press “play” and “record” simultaneously, then immediately step on the “pause” button. But the pause buttons on those machines would only hold for a few seconds, so if an unexpected weather report came up, you had to back off, hit “stop,” then be ready to start again. Get all set up, hear the DJ start his patter, try to pick out the first notes and decide if this was a song you wanted or not. We could all name that tune in no more than 3 notes, but the irony is those were the notes that usually got clipped off with this technique. Finally, catch a song you wanted to keep, listen through to the outro, and pop the stop button. At least at the back end, you could decide to back up a little and tape over the DJ’s talk. Do this to capture 30 minutes to a side of the cheapest department store tape your mom could find, and you sort of had something to listen to.

When we had records we wanted to tape, it was only marginally less primitive. Maybe somebody had an external microphone that we’d put near the speaker. We’d talk up the records like the DJs did, trying to time talking all over the intro just right (what I now know they called “hitting the post”). We’d be able to put songs in an order that seemed to make some sense to us. Sometimes, we’d do it up Dickie Goodman style, fake interviews that would be answered with song snippets. We thought we were hilarious – I only wish any of them survived. It might be a real insight into the mind of a 14 year old suburban ‘70s white boy. Or just scary, take your pick.

It wasn’t until college that I got a real tape deck. Bounced a check for it (by accident, honest – I paid up) the summer after my freshman year, figured out how to connect it to my hand-me-down stereo console with no auxiliary output (I recall the arrangement as questionable, but not a fire hazard), and started laying down mix tapes. This was around 1979, what may have been the dawn of the mix tape era. Good quality tape existed, and I could almost afford it. Taping off the radio was over (and for me, so was radio, pretty much). I was getting a decent record collection and learning more about music from hanging out at Desert Shore Records than I could ever learn from what passed for radio in Syracuse at the time. Those early tapes were mostly a mix of whatever I had bought most recently with a smattering of old favorites. I got a new amp/receiver/tape deck combination and suddenly, I could copy tapes. And give them to people. In terms of my concentrating on anything else, it was all over.

Best Flaming Rock 'n Roll Tape Ever Made!Making mix tapes became my obsession, and my stress relief. If I had a major project to get done, you could be sure I was working on a tape. Instead. Every one went through multiple versions, changes in songs and song order, decisions about whether there would be filler and bumpers, and selection of just the right Ventures song to fill the last spot (because you can always fade out on an instrumental). One of my tapes features an already sped-up version of The Ramones “Needles and Pins,” with a crazy little spin-up at the end, partly for effect and partly because it almost fit on the tape, and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. To this day, I expect to hear that at the end of the song.

The spine design became a whole other thing. I had access to presstype and, later, to actual typesetting equipment, so my covers could look slick as hell for the time. With the ubiquity of desktop design programs today, you’d give it no thought, but if I handed someone a tape with what looked like a seriously designed cover in 1988, it was something unusual.

Bulletproof HeartThere were many of these tapes. Most of them survived until just a few years ago, when I digitized them as best I could, copied the covers, and let them go because I was just not listening to cassettes anymore. But I carefully (and where did I get the time for this?) recreated every tape in a playlist on iTunes. In a lot of cases, those are the only versions of those songs in my library. I burned some of them to CD for listening to in the car (though the tapes were 90 minutes, and CDs were 72, which ruined some of the flow as some things had to go). And when the mood hits, I do still listen to them. Some are as ill-thought-through as I thought they were at the time; others feel like absolute perfection to me, and any time I hear a particular song, I expect the next song on the tape to follow. That’s how it should be.

The tradition didn’t stop entirely with cassettes. For a quick five minutes, I was doing the same on MiniDisc, the little portable format that was hot at a time when burning CDs was still out of reach for most of us. But it didn’t stay out of reach long, and all the work I put into digitizing albums and making new playlists on MiniDisc was for naught. The cassettes stayed around longer. Once CDs became easy, I made a bunch of those, too, but by then I was deep into parenthood and work and all the things that keep me from giving what is now called a playlist the serious thought that it requires. So, sorry to say, these days when I want to mix it up, I tend to hit “Genius” on iTunes, see what it comes up with, make some edits to the playlist (or not), and leave it at that. For some things, like roots music, folk, and blues, it does a beautiful job, staying largely within style. For others, say, anything that was a ‘60s hit, it just returns a bunch of other ‘60s hits that have nothing to do with each other, so that’s hopeless.

I want to do it again, to really have time to think about how one song flows into another, and to have the time to listen and appreciate the effort. Whatever it is, there’s never enough time.
Party Tips

Occasional entry

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I’ve been working on a couple of pieces that I’d love to share here for quite some time, but then I’ve been working on pieces for Hoxsie that take up time, I’ve been watching the Giro d’Italia, I’ve been getting out on my bike, I’ve been not getting out on my bike. It’s that time of year where we have a couple of great days in a row and get a million things done, and then it rains for a solid week and I get laid out with a serious cold. So here is what’s up:

  1. I spent maybe 20 hours getting my old table saw dialed in so I can reliably cut accurate miters for picture frames with it. Had to take the whole thing apart, replace a broken shim, clean out the case for the first time, then slowly slowly get it back into perfect alignment — which of course has to be checked every single time I set up a cut. I’ve resorted to a fancy device that tells me the blade’s angle to the table, because eyeballing it with framing squares was not working at all. Finally got a good miter gauge, too, and a miter slot (this saw had a sliding table, which I’d categorize as “seemed like a good idea at the time”). All this means I can finally, with some reliability, produce some passable mitered corners that match up and glue up nicely.
  2. Well, there’s the Giro, which normally inspires me to get out and pedal except I’ve had my second major cold since Christmas and my sinuses are impacted with something as dense as silicone caulk, but also runny. And it has hardly mattered because it did nothing but rain for two weeks.
  3. I have gone insane with the vinyl LPs lately. Lots of new, lots of old. Of an evening, I may move from the reissue of Elton John’s “17-11-70” to some ancient Moody Blues to a pair of Tower of Power records that I never owned before. Apparently I own two Sade albums, and I like them! And my new copy of my favorite Ventures album, “The Ventures Knock Me Out,” is in really sweet shape. Stylistically, consistency is not my strong point.
  4. Speaking of music, April was insane for concerts. Dave Alvin, Aimee Mann, John K. Samson, and discovered some great new artists who opened, The Worriers and Sarah Borges. Plus, our local favorites were out and about. There was so much music.
  5. Finally broke into Nathan Filbrick’s “Valiant Ambition,” a great look at what went on between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. I’m not a big military guy at all, but I am always down for a great account of the Battle of Valcour Island. It’s always incredible to imagine how naval battles played out in a time when you couldn’t necessarily put your ship where you wanted it to be, and had to rely on the wind. It mattered that the gigantic new warship the British built specifically to take over Lake Champlain was square-rigged – it meant it couldn’t sail into the wind. Turns out: disadvantage!
  6. Daughter shared with me her proposed playlist for songs she has to perform for her humanities practicum, and I’ve gotta say, I was a little choked up. My plot to deeply imprint my musical tastes on another human being has been a complete success! Also, it involves The Ventures. So just imagine. Somebody may be getting a Mos-rite bass for graduation.
  7. Yes, the heat came on yesterday morning. Yes, it is going to be 87 degrees today.
  8. I had the month of April in the impeachment pool. Sad that I lost.
  9. No, I cannot get my theme to keep an ordered list in the same typeface that I prescribed for the rest of my posts. Thanks for asking.

Proving that that rash of entries earlier in the year was an anomaly.

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Well, we knew that was going to be the case, didn’t we? A private person with a public blog and an open identity is something of an oddity anyway. When I started this way back when, it was something of a replacement for journaling, something of a way to reach out and have a persona on the web. The reality is that it has never been deeply personal, and these days, a lot of the things on my mind fall into the “deeply personal” category. So instead of sharing those, I write about printers who made tomato wine.

Cycling is off to a decent spring start, although I failed in my efforts to keep up training over the winter. I was trying to deal with some pain – when rest didn’t help, I saw a doctor who, when I told him I couldn’t sit cross-legged anymore, asked “Why would you want to do that?” Of course it was more than that, and for a while I couldn’t really get on the bicycle without pain. I’ve done some PT and am probably as good as I’m going to be. The good news is that cycling doesn’t aggravate it; the bad news is it doesn’t make it better, either. Been out doing some hillwork because it’s way too easy around here to just take the flat trails and then, when the 50-mile rides through the hills come up later in the year, I beg off them because I know I won’t survive. 1700 feet of climb yesterday, 1200 on the two outings last week, so starting to get it up there. I definitely felt it yesterday, even though none of it was extreme. Last week I tried to get up a 16% grade and just couldn’t (and that, my friends, is what my triple was for). Yesterday, nothing steeper than a momentary 10%, but those still hurt. Today, work and rain so I’m off the hook.

Other things? On my 10th or 20th reorganization of the basement since we moved here. Long and narrow makes for an interesting attempt at a woodshop, but this is what it is. Kayaking will be underway next month – need to wait for water levels to lower and temperatures to rise. Pretty much everyone in my family except me is preparing for a move, major or minor, so we’re trying to help everybody with those but, being in the remote wilds of Philadelphia, we’re not much help.

Small city living continues to amaze and please.

Music is awesome. We were lucky enough to finally see John K. Samson (formerly The Weakerthans) the other night, and before and since I’ve been thinking a lot about the closing lyrics from “Postdoc Blues“:

So take that laminate out of your wallet and read it,

and recommit yourself to the healing of the world,

and to the welfare of all creatures upon it.

Pursue a practice that will strengthen your heart.

Those seem like words to live by. Is that so hard?

(One could not be blamed for wondering how those lyrics could possibly work in song. Do click the link and watch the video.)

I Remember When I Could Remember Things

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Truly. I once had a great memory. What happened to that? Is it just age, or stress, or just too damn many years and things to remember (which, of course, would be age)? Not clear. But it is true, I once remembered things that had happened not only to me but to those around me. I had a great knack for knowing the events of certain years. Increasingly, I’m finding myself unclear when things happened or if they happened at all.

A case in point came in in a recent somewhat minor family argument over an event from some years ago. Honestly, I’d have struggled to put a year to the event, but I thought I remembered a chunk of the particulars pretty well. Someone else remembered it quite, quite differently, and of course that’s how memory is – faulty, subjective, unreliable. I was pretty clear on my perspective of events, but just the doubt was enough to make me doubt myself. And I carried that doubt around for a week until just now when, through the miracle of my having once been a blogger, I found an account of the event, right here on my very own internet, that told it pretty much the way I remember it. In that case, it turns out, my memory was good (though, again, I could never have said what year it happened).

But while looking for that, I found another entry, one that relayed how I went to, and enjoyed, a movie that, had you asked me twenty minutes ago, I would have sworn I had never seen. With memory now jogged, I can even remember where we went to see it, but without that jog, I’d have denied I ever saw it.

I really think a lot of it has to do with the years, and what was going on during them. There are some pretty big stress-created craters in my timeline, when all I think I was doing was holding it together. The months following 9/11 were a big crater – I remember a huge amount of my work-related activities in those months, but what went on in family life I’m afraid I’ve barely a clue. The years I spent trying to consult independently are also a bit of a blur, in terms of remembering what happened when. I remember the summer of 1989 at a level of detail that I’d probably be able to reconstruct in a calendar – but to remember the years my daughters graduated, I sometimes need to do a little bit of math. Vexing.

Right now, the stress is locked in high, which probably means that in a few years, when I want to remember how it was that these holidays came to be so strange logistically, I’m going to wish I had written it down here. Family obligations have caused some lengthy separation, multiple and concurrent AirBnBs in different cities, car rentals and other goings on that I know I’m going to be confused about in a couple of years. Heck, I’m confused about them now. How did we get to this place? It’s never a straight line.

The Sleep of Reason

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Listen, if you want to have blood drawn by someone who’s never drawn blood before, by all means, have at it. That’s your problem. If you want surgery done by someone who has never done surgery before, that’s also your problem. Go ahead. But if you suggest trucks, buses and planes should be commanded by absolute amateurs, someone else is going to get hurt. And if you want to put the workings of a complex, powerful government in the hands of amateurs, ideologues and worse, a lot of people are going to get hurt.

As someone who tried to faithfully serve the public to the best of my ability for a number of years, who tried to bring reason and logic to my small corner of governing, it has always been painful to watch those who enter government with more personal motives, whether they are ideological or driven toward personal gain. And it has been hard to watch as qualified, dedicated individuals decide to leave public service, or never to enter it, because it has come to be universally disparaged. This will only get worse.

But now, we have decided to put the federal executive branch and the armed services in the charge of an individual who, by any measure, appears to be unstable at best, and who has nothing but contempt for the institutions he is supposed to be in charge of.  We haven’t just put a pilot with zero experience behind the yoke – we’ve put in a pilot who hates planes. And everyone associated with planes.

And he’s staffing up with an array of horribles that, prior to his election, no one would have accused him of considering. None would have accused him of thinking of someone who actually leaked secrets to be Secretary of State, when his whole campaign was that Clinton could have exposed secrets. None would have accused him of considering an education secretary with not only no educational experience of any kind, but an absolute hatred for the very system she’s supposed to be put in charge of. None would have accused him of putting an avowed anti-feminist, racist, white supremacist who believes that only property owners should be able to vote in place as his “chief strategist,” because even he could not possibly be that bold. And yet . . .

I’m hearing a lot of “wait and see.” There was an amount of that in 1930s Germany, too, and a lot of accommodation because of the thought that Hitler couldn’t possibly be as bad as his words would indicate. History showed that he meant everything he said, and then some.  The thing is, we don’t need to wait to see. It’s happening right now. Racist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT acts are being committed day after day by an emboldened minority unleashing hate. These are not just far-off events or abstractions; these are things that have happened to people I know. We don’t need to stand by while we Make America Germany Again. Let’s not.

Why Am I Not Posting?

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Take your pick:

  1. Tigers ate my homework.
  2. I’ve become fabulously well-to-do.
  3. The molasses flood.
  4. I’m really dedicated to plowing through the entire works of Shakespeare.
  5. Finally learning piano.
  6. Life, man. Life.

Yeah, it’s that last one. No worries (well, a few here and there). Mostly took the summer off from doing things to my house (which is usually how I spend my summers) to have a dedicated summer of fun, and for the most part, that’s what happened. We went places we’d been meaning to go since moving to this idyllic little corner of the Keystone state. We bought more kayaks than are strictly called for. We ran the living hell out of our air conditioning. We built a garden in the back that is freaking adorable, and kept most of the flowers alive through a dry summer. We visited people, people visited us. We ran screaming from a theater for Blobfest. Art was made, and the frames to put it in. I found some great new cycling routes and got better at riding in heat than I’ve ever been, but still had to beg off most of August for other things and now most of September for work.

And so this, which goes back a long way in terms of sort of chronicling my musings and family life, has taken a serious back burner position, and even my daily dalliance with history has suffered from less frequent attention. It’s just how it is. If I’ve got something pithy to say, I generally say it on the Twitter. That’s all about the pith.