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Extravagance

Guest Post 
by

Ivo Lucchitta

My friend Ivo Lucchitta is a geologist by trade (retired) and poet by heart. He is one of the best users of the English Language I know, even though it isn’t his native tongue and even though he has four or five other languages fluently running around in his head. How he keeps his thoughts organized is beyond me, but I think you’ll agree that the following piece is organized into a delightful style!

Find Ivo’s book, Hiking Arizona’s Geology, here.

I do not consider myself an extravagant person. Quite the contrary. I cut a plain, maybe even a rather staid figure. But sometimes I amaze myself.

One such occasion was last Sunday. “So, what happened then?” What happened then is that I gathered a large quantity of glass jars that I had sitting around, the purpose being disposal and recycling. “Yeah, and what is so special about that?” What is special is that most of the jars are baby-food jars. “You are really trying my patience now”. No, no, hold it. They are daughter Maya’s baby food jars, and she is about to turn 50, so those jars have kept me company for half a century.

To tell the truth, the jars have been very well behaved: they have not grumbled or argued, they have caused no trouble, they have not minded being in a dark place, they have not decayed, and many have been useful by holding screws, washers, and other bits and pieces. Even the empty ones held the promise of coming in handy some day. What more could one ask for? The jars have in no way deserved this sorry fate.

I had actually started to think of them as artifacts of archeological caliber. Who knows, a few centuries from now academic archeologists might find much job security in studying them and writing innumerable learned papers on the strange habits of people in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Objects used as ornaments, no doubt. Bright, shiny, conspicuous. A tad heavy, perhaps, but then women will put up with much discomfort to make themselves more attractive.

Could the jars perhaps have been filled with colorful stones or even jewels? Embalmed humming birds? Dried flowers? Irresistible perfumes? Powdered aphrodisiacs such as rhinoceros horn? Oddly, the jars bear no holes that could be used for attaching to something, but they do have a strange spiral rib at the open end, perhaps a glyph in an unknown language. Maybe an invocation to an unknown god. Clearly ceremonial.

Perhaps the jars were actually intended to hold something, most likely sacred, in keeping with their splendid appearance. Holy ointments? Offerings of incense, myrrh, the blood of sacred oxen? We will never know.

More to the immediate point, I cannot fathom why I came to dispose of these objects. Such beauty discarded, such potential wasted! What got into me? It must be something to do with age. One gets impatient, one becomes irrational. One even indulges in extravagances that would have been unthinkable in earlier years.

I just hope I won’t live to regret this rash action, but I am fairly sure that tomorrow, or in a few days, urgent uses for baby-food jars will come streaming in through windows and doors to assault me and make me wish for less extravagance, and better sense. It is only to be expected.

March 14, 2016

Is The Donald a Neo-Fascist?

From the pages of The Daily Drivel

Is The Donald a neo-Fascist as Carl Bernstein claimed on CNN today, or is he merely an opportunist? It didn’t help that The Donald didn’t immediately disavow David Duke, former leader of the KKK, in an interview this morning claiming that he didn’t know who Duke was (although he’s spoken of him in the past). His refusal sounds like Political Correctness to me. It didn’t help that he quoted Mussolini. And it certainly didn’t help that he recently stated his intention to go after the media in general and news people in particular when he becomes president. So yes, I think The Donald is a Fascist (never mind the neo- part), and an opportunist as well.

I’ll speculate here on the outcome of a perhaps unlikely but frighteningly possible event; what happens if The Donald becomes The President, either by winning outright, or by default because two opposing candidates (e.g., Clinton and Bloomberg) dilute the vote. This probably goes against an unwritten rule of blogging, and I may come to regret it, but I feel I have to get this out; it’s one of those itches writers occasionally and desperately need to scratch—otherwise it festers and leads to fevers, chills, and bad dreams.

If The Donald wins the presidency, here is the way it will play out: He’s made a lot of promises—simplistic, unrealistic promises such as building a wall and making Mexico pay for it—that he won’t be able to keep. Because he would never be able to admit failure, being the narcissist that he is, he will blame those failures on scapegoats. The scapegoats will be whomever is convenient. One of them is the mainstream media (which he’s already bashing). Another may be aliens, gays, Muslims, and possibly even blacks, Hispanics, and Jews—or perhaps all of these—anyone who his followers now perceive, or can be made to perceive, as the roots of their problems.

He will continue to demonize the mainstream media and mold it into his own self-serving propaganda media much as Vladimir Putin—a man that The Donald apparently admires—has done, a little at a time. He’ll begin to systematically exclude those reporters who irritate him from press conferences, and he’ll deny interviews to outlets that question him too much. Eventually, he’ll develop a body of sycophant reporters and outlets that will only reflect his views. Essentially he’ll develop a state-controlled media very much like Putin has done, gradually, until finally there will be no public voice to dispute him.

Perhaps simultaneously with this, or perhaps only after he’s crafted his state-controlled media, he will begin demonizing populations. It’s harder to see who this will be, or how it will play out, but it will look at least something like what strong-men of the past—Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin—did, and what Putin is doing now. It will lead to even more polarization and intimidation.

That’s about as far as my prognostication takes me at the moment. The Donald’s success at becoming a dictator will depend on how many dedicated followers he can eventually control. Note that he doesn’t need a majority, he only needs to get enough of a radicalized, pumped-up, gun-toting portion of our population to strike fear into the rest of us. Intimidation is part of his character. Whether he can do that or not is the main uncertainty as to whether our country abandons its rule of law, as Russia has done, and becomes a cult-following dictatorship, or remains, at diminished level, a democracy.

Or, perhaps the path leads to civil war. Not the relatively “civil” civil war that we all know and love, but the really nasty kind like Spain had, not partitioned so much by geography, North versus South, as by ideology, right versus left, neighbor versus neighbor, tribe versus ideological tribe. That would be the really bad kind, much to be avoided, but our currently increasing polarization and incivility seem to point in that direction.

I feel like a messenger. I feel like a navigator, plumbing the question “Where are we and where are we going?” So far I’m not liking the answer. We need a mid-course correction.

Merry Christmas!

This from a godless American comfortable with his godlessness, yet who thoroughly enjoys the season, Christmas traditions, good cheer and gentle sentiments, snow in the pines, Santa in his sleigh, and yes, even Christ in his manger and the wise men who bless him.

Wise men understand. Wise men wish Merry Christmas to all, regardless of faith or faithlessness. Wise men understand and believe the teachings of Christ even though they may not accept his divinity. Wise men follow an evening star twinkling brightly to its source, and arriving, give gifts of love and understanding to all—men and women everywhere, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Christians, and Nonbelievers alike. They wish peace and blessings on all, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, theists and atheists, even unto Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the vast hordes of presidential candidates too numerous to call out, god bless them one and all.

For this one Eve, at least, for this one night of goodwill … Merry Christmas to all of you, Merry Christmas to all …

And to all a good night.