Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Cailleach's Time

The Cailleach arrived last night. The Hag of Winter made her presence know around 8:30pm. We were lounging by the firepit, comfortable in shirtsleeves and sweats, sorting out the problems of the world with a nice fire. A benign warm-ish breeze blowing. Around 8:20 the breeze fell off like someone had thrown a switch. A minute later, a new breeze, this one from the opposite direction, and bitter cold. It picked up to the point where our flags were fluttering flat-out and we found ourselves huddling close to the fire just to keep from freezing.

The Hag holds sway now, and will do so until Feb 2, when a small female figure will emerge from inside the hollow hills to engage The Cailleach in a desperate battle.

Friday, December 16, 2011

RIP Hitchens

I found the man smarmy and infuriating when he was wrong (e.g., Iraq), and could be almost as smarmy and  infuriating when he was right (which was often). But damn it all, the man could write

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Long Slump

…Under the best of conditions, we will endure a Long Slump. If we respond incorrectly, as we have been, the Long Slump will last even longer, and the parallel with the Depression will take on a tragic new dimension…
– Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The day you realize you're a writer

"Where did it start, this bizarrely complex meshing of my sense of self-worth with my ability to express myself in writing? I don’t remember any classic “aha” moment, but I do know that as far back as my earliest school years, I hit on a pleasure unlike any I’d known when I wrote papers or “creative” pieces for my teachers. Hunched over my school binder, I had my first sensations of words coalescing into sentences I liked." -- Sven Birkerts

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Goodbye, Jobs

I remember when Steve Jobs took all his Apple $$ and poured it into a little thing called Pixar. "Rich man's folly," I grumbled. Years later, he generated a boatload of buzz over something with the ridiculous name of iPod. "Stupid glorified MP3 player," I harrumped. Then the iPhone: "Christ, people, it's a goddamn CELL PHONE!" Finally, the iPad - "Dude, everyone's tried to launch a tablet. All have failed. You're different how?" A life well-lived, and cut short too soon. RIP, Jobs. (typed on my MacBook Pro ...)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday morning haiku

Grey, dawn a ways off
Hens bounce up, down for breakfast
"BOK!" they insist. "BOK!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Happy Labor Day

When I was a kid, my grandma put my hand on her head, under her hair, and I felt the lumps and scars. "The fookin' goons cracked my skull lotsa times," she said. And that's how I learned how my grandma stood with her sisters and helped organize the ILGWU. When that old "look for the union label" commercial came on, she would stand and sing along, hand over heart like she was singing the National Anthem.

Happy Labor Day, grandma. And a shout-out of solidarity to all those who labor.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Just finished reading "South: the story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 Expedition" on Kindle.

An amazing read, and a humbling one. A matter-of-fact description of the kind of heroism, loyalty and determination that we moderns, with our addiction to pointless luxury and gawking inactivity, can not even imagine, let alone hope to emulate. When did hardship become a horror to escape rather than a challenge to accept and overcome?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Genetic differences account for half of intelligence differences

Genetic differences between people account for up to half of the variation in intelligence, according to a study of more than 3,000 individuals.

Intelligence Tests Highlight Importance of Genetic Differences

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"There is no longer a West ..."

"The word "West" used to have a meaning. It described common goals and values, the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism. Now it seems to be a thing of the past. There is no longer a West ..."

Once upon a time in the West

Race riot in Milwaukee

Back in a simpler time we called them "race riots." Not sure what we call them now; "unruly youths," I suppose. Our language has become riddled with cowardice.

"Witnesses' accounts claim everything from dozens to hundreds of young black people beating white people as they left State Fair Thursday night."

Witnesses describe mobs, some people claim racially-charged attacks

Friday, August 5, 2011

What the slave wants

“The true desire of the slave is not freedom, but rather that he and his slave master exchange places.” - Franz Fanon

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where have these guys BEEN all my life???

By all the gods, this shook me to my roots. This should be it, the last song ever, the one you play as you sit in your favorite chair with a smoldering Cuban in one hand and a whiskey in the other hand ... waiting for the medicine to take its final hold.

Blood Axis, Vortex

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Language, culture, and thought

Language not only shapes culture, it shapes thought. The Irish thought differently before they were forced to learn English. Native Americans thought differently before they had the "Injun" beat out of them by reservation-school teachers. There is a unity between a people and their culture, their language, and their thoughts. Things only break apart and come undone when people are forced to live as isolated, alienated atoms inside this rootless, pointless, cosmopolitan monstrosity we call "modernity."

Thursday, June 23, 2011


The European Abstraction is breaking down. Centrifugal forces that have existed for millenia will pull it apart into many small, natural political/ethnic groupings. Think Yugoslavia, but on a continental scale. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

This is what the collapse looks like -- June 1 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Are We a Society?

Hart raises the fundamental question for America: are we "a society, a community, or whether we are a collection of individuals inhabiting the same geographical space"? Sadly, I'm thinking the latter. Is there really any such thing as a shared "idea of America" anymore in this fractured and belligerent country? And if we are, as I suspect, no longer anything but "a collection of individuals inhabiting the same geographical space," what does that imply for the future of the United States, a country that exists, after all, only on the basis of a citizenry that universally accepts those famous "propositions" we all got drilled into our heads in Civics class when we were kids. (do they even bother to teach "Civics" or anything similar anymore?)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cultures and Cassoulets

People here in the US don’t speak much about “culture” anymore, not in any real sense. To speak these days about things like “a culture” or “a people,” and to demand that such things be taken seriously, is to invite smirks at best, anxious frowns at worst. I believe that the new century will contain certain centrifugal forces that will enable us – force us – to take these things seriously again.

The US has always comforted itself with the myth of the “melting pot.” What we actually have – what we have always had, if the truth is to be told – is more like the southern French dish called “Cassoulet.” A large, bubbling pot full of chunks of disparate, bizarrely matched ingredients. When people speak of “an” American culture, they are willfully insisting on the myth of the smoothly mixed “melting pot” rather than the uncomfortable reality of the American cassoulet. American culture as such does not exist. In place of the culture is the shared assertion that “We are all Americans!” From the perspective of authentic cultures, this is a non-statement. It simply says, “We believe in the same ideas.” So saying, “I am an American” means nothing more than “I accept the same propositions that you do.” In a nation where even the illusion of such unity of beliefs and values lies shattered on the ground, this entire model collapses – and the US has nothing authentic with which to replace it.

Once the chimera of “shared ideas and values” is seen for what it is, we are confronted with a Bizarro World free-jazz interpretation of an authentic culture. By the time Americans’ ancestral cultures have been fed into the maw of the great American degradation machine and shat out the other end, they are nothing more than a collection of Disney Land “small world” artifacts bearing no more resemblance to authentic cultures than “Saint Patty’s Day” bears a resemblance to my ancestral Gaelic culture that it purports to celebrate. The idea that a nation can simply manufacture a culture at will is not only the height of hubris, it also misses the point.

With the idea of “an” American culture exposed for the myth that it has always been, perhaps it is time to rediscover and renew our faith in the authentic cultures of the ancestors we left behind. Not so that we can “celebrate our heritage” in some typically shallow, mercantile, set-piece little ritual of consumption. But rather so that we can have a true understanding of who we are and where we are from. As the “American idea” vanishes into smoke and faerie dust, this may be the only thing we have to hang on to, the only firm ground on which we can stand.

When I drive along the shore of the Mediterranean from Barolo to Monaco to Nice to Provence to the scrublands of Languedoc to the small rocky beach at Banyuls-sur-Mer, regions where the locals are once again demanding that their homelands be called by their true names – Catalonia, Occitania, Savoy – I rejoice in the multitude of alive, vital, authentic cultures. When I drive from mad King Ludwig’s castle across the Rhine and into the heart of wine country in regions that the locals are once again proud to call Bayern and Alsace and Bourgogne, I rejoice. Any place where an authentic culture grounded in an authentic people anchored to the land survives and even occasionally thrives in this flat, dull, monotonous, pasteurized, globalized, Disneyfied world, I rejoice.

And I salute them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Utopia? No, but ...

The country and the world are going to hell. But in the backyard, the sun is coming down warm and benevolent, the asparagus are rearing up and shouldering their way into the light, and the chickens tirelessly patrol the perimeter, same as it ever was. Utopia? No. But it'll do ...

Goldfrapp, "Utopia"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why I Stand With The Unions

I can remember my short, bird-like grandmother putting my hand on her head, under her hair, and making me feel the lumps and scars that were hidden there.

“The feckin’ goouns did that, Stephen!” 75 years in America and my grandmother went to her grave with a brogue I could barely understand. I finally figured out she was saying “the fuckin’ goons.”

And that’s when she told me her story.

About how she had to find work when her husband died at age 28 (from blood poisoning due to a goddamn abscessed tooth, if you can believe it), and went to work doing piecework in a sweatshop in the NYC garment district. Her story helped me to understand why she would stand up any time the “Look For The Union Label” commercial came on the TV and put her hand over her heart like it was the National Anthem. For her, it was. She helped organize, and she got her fair share of harassments and beatings from the “feckin’ goouns.” And she told me something I’ve never forgotten: “You don’t give an inch. You fight.”

My grandmother was just one of millions, immigrants most of them or the children of immigrants, pushed out of their ancestral lands by starvation and brutality and pogroms and forced to cross the ocean to a new land, the land of exile, no giddy triumphalist “Land Of Opportunity™” but simply a place where they were somewhat less likely to be killed, or to starve to death. And here is where they drew their line and said “Enough! Here is where we stand; we can do no other.”

And so they did.

Stand with the unions? How could I do otherwise? To do otherwise would mean I was without honor. And to be without honor is to dishonor all those who came before, endless generations whose existence made mine possible. Endless generations, back all the way to those who spoke forgotten languages and worshipped forgotten gods, and who walked up out of Ice Age Europe and across the shallow marsh that is now the Irish Sea. We have to answer to them, every single one of them, in this world or the next. Because they watch us, always, and they judge us, asking themselves: “Does this one live with honor?”

I stand with the unions because I want them to be able to judge me, nod their heads, and say one word:


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

8 Minutes 31 Seconds

Wagnerian opera or an uncompromising tragedy by Sophocles - disguised as a Western. The revelation of why this unrelenting Fury with a gun has been hunting Henry Fonda makes that other great film revelation -- "Rosebud!" -- seem pretty trite by comparison. We never escape our deeds, and if our deeds were bad enough, well then some day someone like Charles Bronson just might come a-calling. Karma.

Once Upon A Time In The West - The Duel

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oh, Charlie

The Zen-mystical stylings of Charlie Sheen. My favorite: the orange kitteh going all Mitch Miller on our ass as he proudly proclaims "I got magic and I got poetry at my fingertips."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sundown at the old Gallagher place

Lounging out back around the firepit. Burning some amazing incense. The two hens, "Camilla" and "Nigella", are winding down and getting ready to tuck themselves into their coop for the night. Our neighbor's white peacock "Sebastian" is perched on the peak of our roof like a weathervane. The sunset ia lighting him up, seeming from inside; he doesn't look real, he's all golden. At this particular moment, life is good.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is what a collapse looks like - Feb 21

Detroit Schools Closing: Michigan Officials Order Robert Bobb To Shut Half The City's Schools

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sarko joins the chorus: multiculturalism has failed

More interesting doings in Europe. Sarko joins the growing chorus (Merkel, Cameron) of leaders admitting that Europe's multiculturalism experiment has failed. A sea change, or just typical political maneuvering for advantage with an increasingly xenophobic polis?

Monday, February 7, 2011

UK's Cameron declares multiculturalism a failure

First Merkel, now Cameron, declaring that the European experiment with multiculturalism has failed. Interesting times in old Europe. Very interesting times.