Monday, September 30, 2013

Walter White Won!

Well, twice, actually.  The first time was when he masterminded the death of his narco-boss, Gus Fring, one of the most wonderful villains in TV history. "We won," said Walter White. And one of the most extraordinary TV series in history could have ended right there and been just fine.

But Walter's journey to hell, told in the one of the most remarkable series ever seen on TV, wasn't finished at that triumphant moment. In true Breaking Bad style, more plot twists and turns and transformations were yet to come. God (and the showrunner) wasn't finished with him.  His pride, his ego, his greed and delusions were still keeping the most unredeemable of men from redemption.  Until one of the most perfect endings possible.

In a beautifully played scene between Walt and his wife, Skylar, the lies end --no more deluding himself that his single-minded journey to hell was a heroic effort to save his family.  No, none of that.  And in facing his deepest truth, he managed to redeem and finally put right, in some small measure, what he had caused to break so badly in the first place.  After which, satisfyingly, he died a happy man, in a place where he found his one true calling -- being a chemist at the top of his game, making a product nobody else could produce, an artist, the master alchemist. 


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This from the newest work, "Black Box," by Erin Belieu.  It's out in very affordable paperback, published by Copper Canyon Press and you can pick up a copy at your nearest independent or dependent bookstore.  Support a poet today; buy their books!

After Reading That the Milky Way 
Is Devouring the Galaxy of Sagittarius 

              at the Dorthy B. Oven Park  

I'm certain Mrs. Oven
meant to be nice
when she bequeathed that everything
in her garden should be nice
forever.  This explains

one version of paradise:
the tiny gazebo with fluted
piecrust for a roof, the footbridge
spanning a tinkly stream
small enough to step over.
Even this snail drags

an irridescent skid mark
around the fountain's marble
lip.  His shell is an enormous
earring like the ones my mother
wore to prom in 1957,
that large, that optimistic.
And because we're never alone
in paradise, my son is here.
He's stolen a silver balloon from
the wedding party posing for
photos before a copse of live oaks,
the trees shawled in moss like
hand-tatted mantillas.  Secretly,

I applaud his thievery.  And
the bride as well, looking five months
gone, I guess, wearing Mouseketeer
ears with her stupendous gown.
Good for her.  Best to keep

two hands on your sense of humor.
Best to ignore those other worlds
exploding, how violently, how
quietly, they come and go.

                         for Andrew Epstein

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is That A Bonus In Your Pocket

. . . or are you just glad to see me?

O.K. admit it.  This story's just plain goofy, one of those Chinese Water Torture stories that dribble out bit by bit.  First, Jamie Irons, the new Morro Bay City Council has a meeting then doesn't have a meeting, then wants to fire their top two CEOs, then it doesn't fire anybody and gives no reason why they're being fired or not fired.  Then hundreds of outraged citizens show up with firebrands, making ugly crowd noises and demanding to know what's going on, so the City Council says, Sorry, it's a personnel matter, we can't tell you even though we're not saying anybody's done anything to be fired for, maybe, maybe not, who knows?  Then the Mayor says, "Oh, nevermind.  Instead of firing, we'll go hire an outside lawyer to find out what we just did or didn't do and what we should do now, not that we're saying we're going to do anything in the first place, or something, maybe.

So, the Tribune readers mull over that enlightening report and a few days later, up pops a follow up story claiming that "several legal experts" (i.e. Tom Newton, executive director of the California Newspaper Publishers Association) have opined that the previous Morro Bay Mayor Yates and his City Council violated the Brown Act when they failed to give proper public notice of their intention to increase their two CEO's severance pay six weeks before before leaving office.  And then forgot to report out that compensation. 

Then, on the same front page, another follow up story:  The Morro Bay City Council voted to cough up $12,500 for an outside attorney to sort through this mess to find out a couple of things:  Since the "secret" severance packages were (apparently) done in violation of the Brown act, are they invalid?  And, if they are, can the new Mayor Irons go ahead and fire the two CEO's using their old at-will contracts?  Thereby saving the city some $300,000-plus in excess compensation?

Well, stay tuned.  In the meantime, some citizens have started a recall petition.  Morro Bay Politics.  A Recall.  Oh, dear. 

Oh, and you just knew THAT was gonna happen . . .

The Tribune reports that the County code enforcement folks were heading out to drought-parched Paso Robles to investigate dozens of illegal water use violation complaints. When the BOS voted on Aug 27 to forbid any new vines, that meant unless the vintner/farmer/rancher actually had his vines/trees in the ground, they were out of luck. Then they weasled  on  "vested rights," which allowed some wiggle room for growers who had paid-for vines in transit, for example. 

And when there's wiggle room there's sure to be growers willing to wiggle right over the line, then head to court.  And so it begins:  Owens Valley, redux.  Will we hear shotguns in the night?  Cut water lines? Sabotage?  Hey, they don't call it a Water War for nothing.  And when livelihoods and homes are at stake . . .  Let's hope the formation of a water district and some sort of water rationing kicks in soon.  Meantime, pray for rain.

Water, Water Everywhere!  Let's Dump It Into the Bay

Over at Cal Coast News (  ), Josh Friedman picks up the story of the Los Osos sewer contractors being awash in polluted ground-water bubbling up whilst they're laying pipe for the new sewer.  Oh, what to do with the stuff?  Well, their contract calls for them to dispose of it on land, if possible, and they're certainly doing that daily, with water trucks trolling the streets spraying everywhere.  But there's just too much of the stuff and the county plans apparently didn't include running a pipe, for example, up to the Broderson disposal site so the water could percolate back into the ground and do that before digging began in earnest.

Oh, what to do?  Well, there's Morro Bay right there, and Morro Bay's made up of water, and polluted groundwater is, well, it's water, so what's the problem?  Let's just dump it in the Bay!  Who's to object?

The Regional Water Quality Control Board, you might reply?  Oh, no.  That Board wasted no time and expended enormous amounts of money and time prosecuting 45 happless homeowners (The Los Osos 45) for polluting the groundwater with their septic tanks,but when it comes to dumping gazillions of gallons of polluted groundwater into the Bay?  Meh.  Not a problem.

The contractor was supposed to exhaust all alternative ground-dispersal options before bay discharge, but there's no evidence that that has been done.  And no evidence that the Water Board plans to enforce that requirement.  Besides sending the contract a mild little letter of suggestions.  No Mad Hatter trials for them!  After all, it's only an issue of water quality, nothing the Regional Water Quality Control Board need concern itself with. Ditto for the BOS.  More "Meh."

Well, with all things RWQCB,  BOS and Sewer, it's all a matter of geese and ganders, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Autumnal Equinox

Calhoun's Cannons for Sept 24, 20013

 Bang! A few days ago it was summer, the dogs stirring in the living room by 4:30 a.m., sleep over, sensing the sunrise, the lightening sky.  Then, comes the Autumnal Equinox and suddenly it's  6 a.m., it's still dark, and the dogs are restless and muddled;  Too dark for a walk, too late to sleep, so they loll and doze.  

How did that happen?  The den where I type faces east, the blinds open to the back yard.  The slightest lift in light is clearly noticeable as the great Mother Mallow plant's dusty leaves emerge from the gloom and the Great Grape Vine's topmost leaves high up on the back fence catch the first light of day.  But then, suddenly, no Mother Mallow appears when it should be appearing and I look at the clock.  Did it stop?  Why is it 6:02 and still dark outside?  When did that happen?

The suddenness shocks.  I guess that's why they call it "fall."  One day it's late summer, with its endlessly long days, then, Blam!,  overnight, the air smells different, crisp, breezy, cool.  And with surprising speed the fore and afts of the day begin and end with a rapidly closing darkness pressing in on both sides.  Is that Halloween around the corner?

And where did my summer go, anyway? This year the winter seemed to linger, our usual June gloom lasting well into July so that all the heavy-lift winter garden clean-up chores got pushed into all of the spring planting chores.  And when the sunny days finally came and the yellow Adirondack chair beckoned, I was hip-deep in pruned branches and pulled roots, rushing to get the garden into summer shape, no time to linger with a good book and the bees.

Finally, when the spring chores were done and summertime lollygagging beckoned, Boom! it was time to prune and prep for winter.  No summer. No chair.  No good books.  And the bees, hard pressed to find the few flowers left, began to head back to the hive for a long sleep.

I did manage to get a few cherry tomato plants into the ground where they ran amok, spreading out of their cages like some alien vegetable that ate New Jersey.  And before I could catch up to them, the great tumbling masses toppled over in a heap impossible to set right without breaking the vines.  So there the great green mound stayed for the rest of the season, seventy million little red globes tangled in the middle of the green muddle making harvesting a challenge. But harvest I did, colanders filled with tiny but tasty globes.

And like any deluded backyard farmer with the sudden crisp chill descending, I'm already plotting out where I might plant some zucchini next year, since it's easy to grow and also because I've now got a great recipe for curried zucchini soup. And, of course, more kale . .  and red Swiss chard. Maybe some pea pods? Pumpkins?  

And so the books wait.  The warm afternoons in a corner of the garden get pushed into
 . . . later.  Then, too late. Of course, this being California, there's one last parting gift to endure as the temperature suddenly spikes and sends the dogs under the nearest bush with their tongues lolling out, and the fierce hot Santa Ana winds blow out of the Mojave and the drought-stressed chaparral crisps and crackles and waits for a lightning strike.  Or some careless fool with a match.

California's own Pele must have her annual sacrificial pound of char before the soft rains of winter can come, before the Autumnal Equinox turns its face to the dark moon of the Solstice, before the night expands, and quietude of a different sort descends.  Too soon.  Too soon.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Serendipity and a Sunday Poem

I recently stumbled on an epigram, a quote, an artist's statement, a passage that stopped me in my tracks.  It was among some papers I was in the process of recycling, and was by an unknown (to me) author.  What astonished me was the brevity and clarity with which it captured the "what" of what happens when you actively and willingly engage with a work of art -- the unexplainable and instant living communication that flashes between painting and viewer, poem and reader, music and listener. It's an electrifying process, a dialogue, really. In the vernacular, you "get it."  But the experiential process of "getting it" cannot be 'splained.  Indeed, the more you try to 'splain the "it" or the "what," or the "how," the quicker it disappears. The process is magical.  And magic, as everyone knows, needs a spirit of quiet, open waiting in order to work.

Here's the lovely quote, which, in its own way, is also a wonderful poem for your Sunday.

Art's capacity to elude cognizance is electrifying.  To require interpretation is to neutralize its charge; to be receptive is to experience its livewire. 
                                                                      Helianthe W. Stevig   

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blind Love

Calhoun's Cannons for Sept 19, 2013

 The US seems a country hell-bent on its own failure
                                      Clive Crook

Did you know that in Iowa, the very heartland of America, a legally blind man can go into a gun store and buy any kind of weapon he wants?  It's true.  And it's delicious to think about.  The white cane.  The guide dog.  The AR-15.  It's the perfect symbol for what America has become.

It's perfect because it's absurd, its potential for pointless, bloody death is extremely high, and nobody with a lick of sense seems to think that this was not a good idea.  That's because, in America, guns trump public safety, trump common sense, trump everything.  And the public's appetite for pointless, bloody death is still not slaked. Far from it.  Our blood lust seems limitless.

Twenty-two little slaughtered kids didn't do the trick.  Now, 12 more killings at the Washington Navy Yard hardly caused a ripple, except for the usual media hand-wringing: A few days of, Oh, Dear, sigh, well, nothing to be done, our hearts go out to the families, time for closure, let's move on. And we got a few days of the usual questions -- How did a deranged man get his hands on weapons without even a background check? The answers  remain buried in the back pages, but I'll give you a hint: With the NRA's help, all sensible gun laws have carefully crafted loopholes built in to them to make the laws basically moot -- mere window dressing to shut up the noisy grieving parents and heart-broken, outraged communities.

That's because, in a country that finds nothing absurd in selling guns to blind people, gun ownership trumps everything. After all, it's a "right," and "rights" can always be demagogued even into absurdity -- one town's mandatory own/carry law that forces even blind fools into being gun-toting vigilantes. What can possibly go wrong with that?

And so we plod on, the body count growing, day by day.  And that's clearly O.K. with us.  That's how much we love our guns.  More than our children, more than our fellow citizens.  So we pretend to write gun laws that are more sieve than shield, then shift the blame for the mayhem to video games and mental health and poverty and poor schools, all of which can be ignored utterly since doing something about those interlocked and complicated things will require higher taxes and a heavy-lift commitment to create (and pay for) a decent society.  So, that's off the table. Who wants a decent society when we can have a society that sells guns to blind people?

So America turns itself into one big "Jackass" movie.  Absurd, idiotic, with a high potential for pointless, bloody, sophomoric mayhem.  Which is why I now find myself turning the page and changing channels when news of another slaughter appears.  It's not "compassion fatigue," really.  More like "rerun fatigue."  It's all become annoying background noise, like a loud lawnmower motor on a quiet Sunday morning;  You know you can't do anything about it since your neighbor has a "right" to mow his lawn anytime he wants to, and his "right" to mow his lawn trumps your "right" to peace and quiet.  So you block the sound from your mind since nothing will be done to change the situation.  

It's a hell of a way to live, especially since We the People have the tools and the capacity to create a different country, but choose not to.  And so we end up with a country that sees no problem in selling guns even to blind people. And then keeps wondering why things keep going so terribly wrong.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And So Has The SLO Little Theatre

While you're theatre hopping, don't miss the new production of "Incorruptible, A Dark Comedy About the Dark Ages" at the SLO Little Theatre. (  ) It's playing weekends through Sept 29th (Friday night, two performances on Sat, one on Sunday afternoon.)

It's a deliciously snarky tale of a 13th century monastery that's in the relics biz but with one minor problem: their saint's bones seem to have lost their luster, miracle-wise, so paying pilgrims are taking their nice money and going to the next town over since that church's saintly bones are still curing sick cows and sick (paying) peasants alike.  Oh, what to do?

Well, an old bone's an old bone and our scheming band of monks soon discover two things: Churches all over Europe will pay good money for old bits of a saint that will attract paying pilgrims in need of miracles, and these sly monks have a graveyard full of old bones. Who's to know?

Before you know it, the monks are in business, their tattered homespun robes exchanged for silk, their sins multiplying like the coins in their coffers.

The cast  is splendid and up to the comedic game.  Keep and eye out for Rosh Wright as the" old peasant woman."  She's a talented, wickedly funny scene stealer if ever I've seen one.

The theatre's got their new season schedule posted.  It includes "Miracle on 34th St," in time for the Holidays (Nov/Dec), "Proof," "A Chorus Line," among others.  This theatre is one of SLOTown's gems.  They've come such a long way (a 60 year history) and are now drawing on a wonderfully wide pool of talent (PCPA, Cal Poly, Melodrama Theatre, retired theatre folks from L.A. who are lending their expertise and talent, our own homegrown talent), with a increasingly ambitious program.

Do yourself a favor.  Buy a ticket and head for the theatre.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

PCPA's Done It Again

I've never seen a bad performance at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA). Located on the campus of the John Hancock College in Santa Maria, The Conservatory offers an exraordinary combination of student training and professional theatre.

The current production of "Clybourne Park" is absolutely first rate.  Written by Bruce Norris, the  2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is timeless and cunning in reminding us that, in America, the past is never the past. 

The play is a continuation of Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 "A Raisin in the Sun," the "what happens next?"  And the "next" is a fierce, and wickedly funny examination of race, real estate values and Whose narrative is it now?  It's a tour de force of writing, a high-wire act that teeters always on the knife edge of laughter and cringe, all carried off by a fabulous ensemble of actors in a tight, disciplined, dead-on-the-mark performance. 

The plot of the two-part play is simple:  A nice, decent middle-class couple, after the loss of their son (whose suicide haunts and informs the play) are selling their nice middle class home in a nice white neighborhood, and the buyer, as it turns out, is a black family.  In 1959.  And the nice, decent middle class neighbors are searching six ways to Sunday to discuss the implications of this sale (racism, white-flight, real estate values, "them" vs "us") without actually discussing the realities (racism, white-flight, real estate values, "them" vs. "us.")

Act two, fast forward to the present day.  Same neighborhood,  same issues, different color.  Now, the awkward, knife-edged discussion is racism, white Yuppification, real estate values, "community" and loss of "community, "them" vs. "us." And adding to the wicked comedic effect, the playwright has cunningly lifted a great deal of identical dialogue from part one, straight into part two; a mirroring effect that brings the shock of recognition. Same old.  Same old. 

In the program notes, author Norris observes, "One of the traps we fall into is the 'progress' trap.  We like to think there's some sort of linear progression toward a utopian ideal, and that each incremental or even superficial change we make is somehow part of a long march to this ideal universe."  Instead, we seem to tread over old ground, struggling to learn a new dance.

The play runs through Sept 29, at the Severson Theatre (the smaller, more intimate venue).  You can get tickets at (805) 922-8313 or go on line to

Don't miss this one. And, while you're on the website, check out their upcoming schedule, starting with Mary Poppins in November.  Perfect Holiday fare for the whole family.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

Here's a sly, wickedly savage, wonderful poem to share from a new (to me) poet, Erin Belieu.  Oh, bad king Louis XV,  you're sooo right.

Apres Moi 

is pest, is plague, is
global atrophy, desire
insipid, the single
Saltine in its crumpled
sleeve.  Future of
courtesy balance and
hysterical number,
markets depressed,
a bottomed-out
       Oh yes,
it all goes up,
Kablooey!  Good luck
enjoying those bonfires
with no s'mores!
           Big, BIG
mistake, to make this
life without me.  So
when the horsemen
descend on your
address, ride jiggety-
clop to your
empty door,
can exlain this mess.
I won't live here
anymore.  To you,
I bequeath
a world where cupboards
stick, with nothing left
to creak for.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Movie Time

Some Hollywood, some Art House, some Guilty Pleasures,  here's a few I've seen.

First up, "2 Guns" was over at the Bay and, having finished it's run in SLOTOWN, was  heading for HBO or SHOWTIME.  Starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as  DEA and Naval Intelligence agent (both undercover thinking the other is a bad guy), "2 Guns" is one of those bromance, battling Bickersons, buddy movies, filled with Wahlbergian wise-guy pattter and Denzel's my-patience-has-just-run-out smoldering stares.  All Roadrunner bloody/funny cartoony violence and impossible battles where everybody gets killed but nobody actually gets hurt.  Or at least feels any real pain. 

It's all fast paced fun with Perils of Pauline twists and turns and features a suitably evil Drug Lord (James Edward Olmos) with more life in him than his sleep-walking "Miami Vice" turn. And in a surprise casting, Bill Paxton plays an astonishingly scary Texas-drawling corrupt CIA agent who's the real kingpin. Paxton is usually cast as wussy Everymen and it's good to see him stretching into something quietly dangerous and in so doing he commands the screen whenever he sidles in the door.

If you're looking for "Art," and have 17 hours, 27 minutes to spare, try "Ain't Them Saints Got Bones," (at the Palm.)  O.K. that's not fair.  It just seems like 17 hours.  But, I enjoyed this film.  You have to settle down and be wiling to let the story unfold like a lazy hot southern day and understand you're watching an homage to Terrance Malick's "Badlands" and his even more visually ravashing, "Days of Heaven."  Also, it may help to think of the film as an interesting visual representation of one of those timeless, mournful Irish ballads (the famous poem, "The Highwayman," set to music comes to mind); a simple tune unfurling a tale of  love and loss, actions and consequences, always, always consequences, and the unyielding sorrow of unredeemable time.  And fate, unstoppable, driving the song on to its end.

Rooney Mara (nearly unrecognizable from Dragon Tatoo fame) stars as the strangely listless pregnant girlfriend of Casey Affleck.  They are heedless criminals, their heads stuffed with romantic nonsense (referencing Malick's "Badlands," which was loosely based on the murder spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate.) Even though Mara shoots (but does not kill) the sheriff, Affleck does the gentlemanly thing and cops the plea and goes to jail.  You can fill in the rest; a child is born, the years go by, the recovered sheriff falls in shy, hopeless love with the girlfriend, life goes on.  Until Affleck escapes and, defying all warnings and dangers, returns to claim his family, thereby setting in motion everyone's tragic fate.

The movie got 4 tickets in "Ticket" and I'd agree.  It's a really good effort, but requires close attention and a willingness to slip into the "song" and let it run out its variations to the end.

And for Guilty Pleasures, who could resist "Riddick?" I mean, really.  Vin Deisel's got this shtick down to gleeful perfection and absolutely owns the franchise of all his double and triple X's and "Fast and Furious" enterprises. And this Riddick's down to the quintessential elements:  Minimalist snappy dialogue, huge arms, fierce, preternatural  competence, he's one major badass fighting all kinds of wonderfully nasty CGI alien creatures and a host of stereopypical badass Bounty Hunters, most of whom you just know are gonna go down like nine pins.  Indeed, in this film, I soon began to feel real sympathy for the Bounty Hunters.  They had no idea what they had gotten themselves in for, poor schnooks. And, in a fun twist, one of the hunters is a formidable woman (Katee Sackhoff from TV's "Longmire") who ends up fulfilling Riddick's predictions of what was to come when his chains came off, but not exactly in the way the audience thinks it will be fulfilled.     

And best of all, Riddick adopts and raises a canine-like companion, a lithe, fierce striped creature that looks like a cross between a hyena and my greyhound, Finn, with the most wonderful pop-out ears in the world.  I want one of those things! (Spoiler alert:  The baddies kill his pooch.  Boooo!  Booooo!  Which you just know is gonna seal their awful fate on the fangs of what's soon to hatch out of the ground when the rains come.  Take THAT you dog killers, you!.) It's also clear that the CGI guys had a wonderful time designing this hideous planet, a place that looks like a waterless Paso Robles unless it can get it's water issues under control. So, Mel Gibson, eat your heart out.  The faster and more furious road warrior is back and he's not gonna take any of it any more.

A hoot.

So, any of you see any good, bad, guilty pleasure movies? Do tell.  The comment section will stay open a few days.  (Still working on getting this (*&*%^%$ blogspot fixed.)    

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This charmer was sent to me by a friend.  She noted, "I was going through some papers, found this poem which was read at my Mom's funeral.  She loved her cats."  It's by A.S. J. Tessimond, who I will have to Google, and is really wonderful.  Set out the saucer of milk and enjoy.


Cats, no less liquid than their shadows,
Offer no angles to the wind.
They slip, diminished, neat, through loopholes
Less than themselves; will not be pinned
To rules or routed for journeys; counter
Attack with non-resistance; twist
Enticing through the curving fingers
And leave an angered empty fist.
They wait, obsequious as darkness,
Quick to retire, quick to return;
Admit no aim or ethics; flatter
With reservations; will not learn
To answer their names;
Are seldom truly owned.
Cats, no less liquid than their shadows,
Offer no angles to the wind.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Cynic's Delight

Calhoun's Cannons for Sept 3, 2013

 . . . the best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.  . . .
                                        W.B. Yeats
                                        The Second Coming.

It's sure a great time to be a cynic.  Halcyon days, really.

Syria's Assad slaughters an estimated 1,400 civilians, including hundreds of children, with chemical weapons, in clear violation of international laws in place since the Great War.  President Obama goes on TV to declare that the world has "watched in horror." 

No, it didn't.  A good deal of disgust, perhaps, but not horror.  Horror requires outrage.  Horror requires action, intervention, the stopping of the horror, the holding to account the perpetrators.  But the world is having none of that, thank you.  With the collapse of the "Arab Spring," I suspect that the world has come to the conclusion that the middle east is now in the throws of a Muslim version of the Thirty Years War: a savage mixture of God-driven blood soaked religious struggle combined with hard-eyed, heavily armed state politics. In that world, brazen killers fare very well indeed.

And it's a world made for a cynic's delight.  Consider Assad.  Yes, he's a weird, sub-set sort of Muslim, but a Muslim nonetheless.  And killing innocents, especially women and children, is considered an appalling violation of one of the deepest held tenants of Islam.  Anathema.  A terrifying breach of  God's holy word.  Yet when a Christian president (Obama) called upon the civilized nations to intervene, to form a coalition of the willing to bring the world's wrath down upon Assad's murderous head, The (Muslim) Arab League suddenly discovered a forgotten urgent appointment and sidled out the door.  And the mullah's, who lost no time issuing a fatwa on an author who wrote fiction, had other things to do when it came to real murdered children. Sorry, we must away, As-salam Alaikum.

Russia, too.  Of course, they're "godless," so I'm sure religious wars are just another useful dialectic to them.  Plus they've had a long, long history of  "horror." Plenty of experience in accepting "moral obscenities." Not to mention their skill in dealing with brutal realpolitik.  Which translates into Russia never allowing mass murder to interfere with the art of the deal.. 

The U.N., too, has perfected the art of  appearing to be fully present while not actually being there.  It's the cynic's highest art form performed on the world's stage.  Viewing with alarm, pointing with dismay, hand-wringing sorrow expressed, then suddenly, the remembered appointment, the hurried rush out the door.

And for sheer pleasure, a cynic cannot ask for anything better that the rhetoric that is now flowing.  "Moral outrage" is always tricky coming from a country with a faulty memory and a sad history of using chemical warfare itself.  I mean, what is Agent Orange, if not a chemical weapon that was used by the U.S. against innocents, including women and children.  Not to mention our own veterans who, 30 years later, are now reaping the cancers and other maladies Agent Orange bequeathed to them by their own government.

Well, what can you do?  Moral outrage has to be a shared feeling if it's to have any effect.  No good leading a battle charge of one. That turns into mere hectoring.  So we now have the cynic's snarky delight of watching the president suddenly switching gears and forcing a dysfunctional Congress to step up and let the world see just what "moral outrage" is worth in today's market.  Nothing?  A few lobbed missiles?  A gridlocked non-coalition of the unwilling?  World-bestriding Pax Americana suddenly hiding next to timid, isolationist little Britain while France (France!) declares for intervention? Awwww, Gawwwwd.

Well, who can blame Congress for their annoyed fury.  Obama has now trapped himself and them all in their own glib rhetoric and too-facile political and moral posturing.  Lines in the sand and now -- Sweet Jesus! --  they'll all have to go on record and vote.  A vote that will surely show up on their record during the next election.  And no good pretending they just remembered they had to leave for their kid's soccer game before the vote can be taken. There will be no quarter given in this mess.  

So here we are, trapped in the sticky web of a part of the world that's in the throws of No Good Options, and few choices except to cynically wash one's hands and declare that Syria, indeed, the whole middle east, has now passed the tipping point and has become a place of senseless fury, a new blood-soaked Thirty Years religious war that should be left alone to play out its blood-letting destiny.  

And if that's the case, then surely we have come to the heart of darkness, a place where the only furious reaction left may be a cynical, savage Kurtzian snarl, "Exterminate all the brutes." Followed by a shrug. And a remembered appointment.  And a  quick slip out the door.

 The horror!  The horror!  


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

The world has lost another voice.  Nobel Prize winner, Irish poet Seamus Heany died a few days ago at age 74.  It's a tremendous loss but there remains his lovely work.  In remembrance, from his collection, "Open Ground, Selected Poems 1966-1996."


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly.  You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.