Oct 16

The Inexorable Approach of Halloween

It’ll soon be Halloween. There’s not much Halloween left in the world, in a certain sense–the traditional, All Hallows Eve feeling of it, the true Sleepy Hollow atmosphere, the harvest moon, the conciliation of coming winter, mellow fruition and gathering mists, awareness of lengthening nights and cowed, bowed-down days …usually lacking in what people do now, because we so rarely gather for Halloween parties, and it’s down to buying a surprisingly elaborate mechanically wriggly special effect of a Halloween decoration, that stalks up and down the lawn declaring in the recorded voice of some underpaid non-SAG actor that it’s going to “drag you into the grave”…and you bought it at Target…But some people clearly love the whole idea of modern Halloween and the chance to put up elaborate displays on their lawn and roof; and there’s charm in that, seeing some guy who never misses church, who totally disapproves of goths when he sees them in July, chuckling with saturnine gleefulness as he sets up big plastic inflatable ghosts toting signs that say “See you at Midnight!” and “Boo!”

If you google ‘why do people like horror’, you’ll see a long list of people puzzling over the question, finally offering the same old explanations: enjoying adrenaline rushes, exorcising one’s inner psychological ghosts and demons–fears, fury, fantasies–an unconscious shield against death, a ritual expiation to quiet troubled spirits but carried out unconsciously in horror stories and Halloween…And it’s pointed out that there are horrific scenes in Homer and Shakespeare, that Goya and Munch were great artists who found dark feelings, fear and madness, creatively significant…

And then there’s the true shudder, like the news from Syria. Horror is a safe way to explore the dark places of life, and to acknowledge death from a careful distance. Zombies, the living dead, the Walking Dead…all about walking dead people which really means, Death Itself Walking. Death stalking inexorably toward you; for though you’re young you’ve been told you’re mortal. And the Walking Dead embody your fear of mortality coming slowly, unstoppably, to…drag you into the grave.

Happy Halloween.

Oct 16

Apparently You’re Supposed to Vote for Trump Because He was Given a Lunch

Our Voter’s Pamphlet here includes a section for the Presidential candidates. Clinton’s statement is almost entirely a list of the issues and plans for the country. DONALD J TRUMP’s “statement” tells us he is a success story, that he’s the author of “15 bestsellers” and “Mr. Trump has over 20 million followers on social media…” He claims to have raised millions of dollars for veterans but the only example he gives is “working as Grand Marshal of the 1996 annual New York City Veteran’s Day parade…in front of an audience of 1.4 million viewers…”and he was “honored by the Pentagon” for this by being “given a lunch with the Secretary of Defense”.

Meanwhile, “in New York City, the Trump signature is synonymous with the most prestigious of addresses, among them the world renowned Fifth Avenue skyscraper, Trump Tower, and his ever-expanding collection of award-winning golf course (18 thus far).” The statement includes six lines of generality about his policies, eg ” promote a free market” and “rebuild our military” (which apparently shrank when I wasn’t looking, is no longer Pac Man munching wildly on the US budget)…

Almost all of the statement’s 5 paragraphs concerns things Trump owns, or his popularity. So vote for Trump’s golf courses, and his real estate, and his social media presence. And his having sat in a car and waved at people as Grand Marshal in a veteran’s parade even though he actually wriggled out of military service.

All of Clinton’s statement is on the issues–except she includes a line or two of political platitudes about national unity.

Oct 16

It’s not just the PRESIDENTIAL race. . .

Headlines: Republicans plan to block any Supreme Court nominee Hillary Clinton would put in play.

Hate that?

Just remember, it’s not only about the Presidential campaign.

If you don’t like Republicans blocking a Democrat’s Supreme Court nominees–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like our enslavement to Big Oil–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the nightmarish availability of guns–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the crushing of the middle class and the poor–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the suppression of science and climate change truth

– then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the erosion of women’s rights–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

Sep 16

Could Russia Take Over the USA Through Cyberhacking?

Is it possible that Russia could take over the USA without firing a shot? I feel a bit sheeplish, as if I might come off like some guy in the John Birch Society, writing that. But we’re not talking about Communists (though we’re talking about a Russian regime that seems to admire Stalin’s methods) or “commie infiltration”. Top American bigshots, Harry Reid, Clinton, Obama, and even the CIA have expressed concern about the evident Russian hacking of the DNC–and indications that Russian cyber agents hacked into the primaries in Arizona. There seems to be some sort of backroom agreement between Trump and Putin; there are enough indications that one can infer it, at least.
And if Russia were to tinker with our voting, even take it over, without anyone being able to quite prove it…would the US Gov actually declare the voting process to be without validity? If the Russians gave elections to right-wingers with whom they may’ve made deals, and the US govt discovered this, wouldn’t the govt risk an uprising if they said, “Election invalidated”?
If the Russians can insert candidates favorable to them–could they actually make backroom deals with those candidates, more candidates than Trump, that give them control over the USA? “You will be ‘elected’, but you must do as we ask…” Perhaps in a few years “congress” would “vote” to merge the USA and Russia.
Paranoia? Maybe. But it’s time to take international hacking of voting far, far more seriously.

Sep 16


There are sites that have quizzes like “Can you name the capitals of these 25 countries?” Seeing it on a friend’s page and feeling guilty lately about my geography, I took one such at a site called Matador dot com or something of the sort, and it said I got all of them right. So I should share with my social networks. Here’s a link to… etc. How likely I would get them all right? I knew I didn’t. So I checked with wikipedia and yep I got at least four wrong. (Four of the Five I thought I probably got wrong.) So it lies and says everyone is right so they’ll share, to harvest clicks, to get clicks to their bloodsucking site which I idiotically went to when I was avoiding getting some real stuff done I need to do…

This matador site and others like them need to be busted over and over if needed. Just such contempt for people–and for knowledge.

Speaking of wasting time to avoid getting stuff done, I better get offline and face the music. (I have to write lyrics for something and starting any writing, even that, is hard.)

Sep 16

Review of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016 remake)

We saw the 2016 version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN today, not quite a remake. We enjoyed the film, well, *sufficiently*; it was well paced, competently directed, had good to excellent acting in it, and more or less held together. It was however not the cinematic classic the original western was, with Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach–that was a *real movie*, with nothing wasted in it. The original didn’t have anything forced in, it didn’t feel choppily edited. As some have noted, the new one is rather pushily politically correct, in the progressive sense– I’m a liberal Democrat, but that aspect seemed forced, and uneven…In the opening scene there’s a clumsy speech by the villain connecting religion with capitalism, vilifying capitalism per se… Also that first, fairly vicious scene was in several other respects over the top.

Another thing this film is missing –painfully missing–is the original’s romance element, the two young peasants in love, the young man that chooses to stay and be what he thought he didn’t respect–a farmer. The idea that it’s harder to be a farmer than a gunfighter. That was the main sub-text, the main point of the original movie…Also, come to think of it–we never get a sense of the people of the town, as we did in the original. And the heroic young woman in this sort-of remake doesn’t really *go* anywhere as a character.

But it has its good qualities. Denzel Washington was very strong in this, but it bothered me that they didn’t show some of the racial bias toward his character that at least *some* of the townspeople would have had. (I mean, if you want to be politically progressive, show what it was like then, at least a bit.) Hell, you could have had a few of them object to him on that basis and the others say, “Shut up, he’s saving our asses and he’s a good man, I don’t care what color he is.” You know: they’d be realizing that color doesn’t matter–it’s character that matters. But they didn’t mention the issue. There’s one slight hint of racial attitude in Denzel’s first appearance. You see, it wasn’t needed in a movie like, say, THE EQUALIZER because despite some present day racism it’s not anywhere near as pervasive as it was in the old west…I really liked THE EQUALIZER–and racial issues don’t apply in that story. But in a movie set in the old west the issue should have at least come up.

Now I know, in a sense a western like this is a kind of fantasy: In real life, in this situation, the heroes would have killed a few of the bad guys, but that outnumbered, great shots or not, the Magnificent Seven would have been shot to pieces, in their first gunfight in that town…Still, no one wants that in a western like this. If you want to see a naturalistic western, you’re better off with Open Range or Unforgiven or Lonesome Dove…

As a guy who can buy into the fantasy of a high-action western, I went along for the ride. Yes there are so many bullets fired–far more than in the original western, seems to me–the action scenes become a blur. But there are some fun scenes in it–like the one where Chris Pratt’s character is dealing with the two deadbeat guys who jumped him–and some great characters, like Vincent D’onofrio’s character, and especially Ethan Hawke’s PTSD stricken ex-Rebel.

The heroes, also, are somewhat vulgar–and that’s a good thing, as it grounds us, makes us believe maybe they can be authentic western gunfighters who were, in fact, likely to be vulgar a fair amount, especially when getting drunk in a saloon.

Maybe the most entertaining part of the film is the humor that crops up. Pretty effective.

I could tell when something had been cut from the film–you could feel it, a bit too much. Gets choppy in parts. The Mexican character seems a bit under explored in the final cut.

Oh and there’s TOO MUCH GUN TWIRLING in this movie.

One may occasionally think of certain things in Blazing Saddles, watching this…but I won’t go there.

(Yes, I know, it was inspired by The Seven Samurai, but we’re talking about the American Western.)

Sep 16

Something You Probably Don’t Want to Know About Writing

Sometimes I think writers of fiction, of scripts and stories of all sorts, are simply bartenders making pleasing cocktails. But they’re cocktails made of hormones; “love hormones”,  fight-and-flight hormones;  they’re made of adrenaline, oxytocin, and their variations; of hormones we haven’t even identified yet. There is no doubt that a popular or at least effective story spurs small and large jets of adrenaline; of endorphins, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. The reader looks for that effect. If it’s not there they say it “doesn’t do anything for me”. I really do think writers are purveyors of precise cerebral and glandular stimulation. Some writers may specialize in a particular mix of hormones–a romantic suspense writer mixes some form of oxytocin with adrenocorticotropic hormone. I know: this kind of reductionism–a horrifying thought.

But then I remember that the best stories also mean something; that they’re parables of morality, or self-knowledge, or empathy or righteous anger or existential dilemma. They’re poetic. And the hormonal waves are the propellants for those parables.

Some stories don’t have much poetry–the sparest horror movies perhaps–but the better ones are so well crafted, even artfully crafted, we appreciate them on that level. So I take a deep breath, and mix another cocktail, and hope for a tip.

Sep 16


We were lost, today, in the Greed-Maze of Corporate Retail–an Ikea store. The size and proportions of a Babylonian temple…Display after brightly colored display, dispirited, zombie-eyed underpaid employees occasionally glimpsed. A powerful chemistry-set smell about the place. Phthalates, polyurethane, and their toxic compadres, as we’re shunted through room after room, no escape except if the place is on fire and the emergency exit is hard to find too. A lady who sounds like she is thinking, “I”m in Hell” speaks over the loudspeaker about a special Ikea bargain, what a great Family Opportunity it is. I see a young couple with two small children smilingly looking over furniture for their home, their children clambering on it, rolling in neurotoxic carcinogenic fire retardants…

The shunting of people, the funneling of people, through the gigantic corporate maze, making sure the consumer rat gets every last possible prodding for the desired response–relentlessly funneled as per the authentic map, below, of one floor of Ikea: A discount store we’re drawn to because they clothe the slightly-lower prices as a bargain even as they pass along some of the labor of construction to us–we construct the furniture ourselves at home, and save them a great deal of money…

Sep 16

HOW? How is Trump “Closing the Gap” with Clinton? Deduction provides the Most Probable Explanation…

“Clinton’s Lead Narrows Among Independents, Voters Nationally” says NBC news today. Despite a barrage of unsavory revelations about Trump, despite his endless blunders, how is it that Trump is closing the gap? It’s not his deplorable base–there aren’t enough of them to account for it. Is it Independents? Some of them, yes, but also it’s people who *used to vote Democrat* and now are thinking of voting for Trump–*not* because of concerns about the economy, *not* because they’re suddenly threatened by immigrants. No. I think it may be “a band of mothers”. And fathers. I think it may be family people who are instinctively and mistakenly turning toward Trump because of one issue alone–terrorism.

These aren’t most American voters. But they may be just enough American voters. I don’t think most of these new, shifting Trump supporters closing this gap would have chosen to ignore his ugly side if not for the attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando; if not for the rise of ISIS, the decapitation of Americans in terrorist hands, the attacks in France and Belgium. I think it’s fear–an understandable but, for the most part, unfounded fear. They’re unconsciously afraid for their families; they’re afraid for themselves. And he pounds at that issue, never fails to hit it. And he’s hitting home–because they’re nervously *choosing* to believe his dishonest claims, his utter bullshit, about his “strength”, his supposed capability to hit terrorists harder and more effectively.

They might not admit this if you asked them. Few of this shifting, critical margin would admit they would support a guy “going after the families of terrorists”, as Trump has said…

Most people *will not admit they’re as frightened as they are*.

If thugs attack houses on the average, quite-decent person’s block and a big mean much-disliked local cop comes and offers to protect that decent person’s house, that decent, average person will offer the big ugly cop coffee and cookies, even a steak dinner. They’ll put aside their dislike because they imagine they can hide behind him.

The irony is–Trump is far less likely to be of use in dealing with terrorists than Hillary Clinton would be. He would probably make matters worse–as Bush did in invading Iraq. He would blow it bigtime and along the way move this country closer to becoming a real police state. But that’s a rational analysis. Fear isn’t rational.

Sep 16

Confederate Flags Flying Proudly in the State of Washington

They had an enormous Confederate Flag in front of their house…Walking the dogs, here in Vancouver Washington, I went for a closer look…It is a specialized variant, I see–it’s got the Don’t Tread on Me symbol and words against the Confederate rebel flag backdrop. It’s quite large, hanging from a flagpole that’s stuck onto the back of an old truck, along with an equally humongous U.S. flag. The big Ford pickup is crammed in along with several other similar 4WD battered heavy-wheel trucks in front of this tiny bungalow. There’s an army-style Jeep parked out there too–I’ve never seen so many army-jeep enthusiasts before coming here.

The house has four bright red KEEP OUT, NO TRESPASSING signs. The tiny muddy yard is crowded with odds and ends of junk, and toys, small plastic kid’s slides, much evidence of children, but no sight of anyone. Then–movement! It’s a chicken. As if to make the picture complete. It’s a large speckled hen, looking at me hopefully as if I might have her feed.

Filling the truck beds are big black plastic sacks bulging with cans and bottles. There are more old vehicles lining the little muddy driveway on the side. The house has been recently painted skyblue–but with spray paint of some kind. Not the graffiti kind, but with some much bigger paint sprayer, the job almost completed. (“You give me a quarter ounce of meth, I’ll spray paint your house”?)

Across the street and down a little, a blond lady in horn rim glasses comes out of her neat little house, to her Prius. She sees me looking at the house and the flags and I see her wince and shake her head sadly. The polarization here has been clear to me from the first.