clenched, so very clenched

You guys! Do you have enough guns yet? Let me answer that for you. No, you do not have enough guns yet. Go buy more guns because without guns they are going to attack us with “movie stars, and singers, and comedy shows, and award shows”!

No, seriously, they really are! Also? They are going to use their schools to “teach children that the president is another Hitler”! Another Hitler, you guys. Also too? They are going to use their media (they have their very own media!) to assassinate real news! Real news, totally dead on the deck, you guys. Unless you buy all the guns you really need (which, hint, is ALL the guns).

Wait, that’s not all! They are going to use their ex-president (you know, that Negro one? The one from Kenya, with the funny ears?) to “endorse the resistance”! That guy, he doesn’t even have a birth certificate thing, and they are going to use him for endorsing! Probably on an award show! Where he’ll be given an award for assassinating the real news to death! And an actor — or maybe even a singer — will give him the award!

Is that what you want? Do you want your children to grow up in a country where singers give awards to ex-presidents for assassinating real news? Then you’d better go out RIGHT NOW and buy as many guns as Jesus wants you to buy. If you think I’m kidding (I’m totally NOT kidding…would I kid about this?), just listen to what this extremely angry woman has to say.


See? I don’t know who this woman is, but she’s really intense and totally fucking furious about what they are doing. Or going to do. Or are thinking about maybe doing. Go buy some guns, you guys, or this already livid woman will become completely incensed. Seriously, she’s this close to having a damned seizure, she’s so pissed off at them. Buy some guns and send them to her. Maybe that’ll calm her down. I’m really worried about her right now.

Also plus? It’s not just about the welfare of this seething, choleric woman. You guys, it’s also about saving our country! Plus our freedom!. And according to this frightfully rancorous woman, the ONLY WAY to do that (and by ‘that’ I mean saving the country and our freedom), is to “fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth”!

That’s right! The violence of lies, you guys. It has to be fought with a clenched fist. Well, a clenched fist and more guns. We’re talking the National Rifle Association after all, not the National Clenched Fist Association. If you don’t have more guns, then you might could possibly become — NO, you WOULD become — a victim of their violence. You know, the violence of their lies. Only a clenched fist and more guns will protect you from them.

Oh, and if you’re wondering who they are, then you’re them. That’s how you can tell.

damage over time

You want to know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy. I mean, just about everything about Comrade Trump’s presidency is crazy, but THIS is really crazy. Yes, his health care bill is cruel and stupid. Yes, his approach to foreign policy is inconsistent and stupid. Yes, his take on immigration policy and border security is mean-hearted and stupid. Yes, his inability or refusal to understand the issue of climate change is short-sighted and stupid. And yes, his habit of rage-tweeting in the morning is self-defeating and incredibly stupid.

But what’s really crazy is that we get so caught up in Comrade Trump’s incompetence and stupidity that we forget the most important thing — we forget he’s an illegitimate president. We ignore the preponderance of evidence that indicates he was elected primarily because a foreign enemy state interfered with the U.S. election process.

Here are some things we know to be true (and yes, we know these things — this isn’t supposition; this is fact — apologies I didn’t write this list in the Dark Tongue of Mordor).

  1. We know a number of people who were involved in the Trump campaign had close business and political ties with Russia.
  2. We know those people were in frequent, often secret communication with Russians who occupied high political/diplomatic/intelligence positions in the Russian government.
  3. We know Russia intelligence agencies hacked the databases of both Democratic and Republican parties (though deeper and more thoroughly into the Democrats).
  4. We know the Russians sifted through that hacked data to find information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton and provided it to WikiLeaks.
  5. We know WikiLeaks released that information at timed intervals in order to cause maximum damage to Clinton’s campaign.
  6. We know Russian operatives (and parties paid by Russia) amplified and exaggerated the leaks through the use of social media. We know they created false narratives directed at harming Clinton and her campaign — like the insane Pizzagate fiasco. We also know they deliberately fomented antagonism between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters, thereby weakening her overall support by Democrats.
  7. We know the same social media disruptors also planted and supported the false narrative that the election was being rigged against Trump.
  8. We know Russian hackers infiltrated voter databases in at least 21 and possibly as many as 39 individual state voting systems. We do NOT know the result of that breach.
  9. We know that since his election, Comrade Trump has been uncommonly cozy with the Russians.

Now that is some crazy shit. And what’s even crazier is that for the most part, we’re just ignoring it. The man who occupies the White House as President only got there through a systematic ratfucking of the election. If that sort of shit happened in a high school election for King and Queen of the Prom, the entire election would have been invalidated. They’d do it over.

And remember this: Russia didn’t go to all that effort because they LIKE Comrade Trump. They did it to destabilize the United States. Hell, they probably never believed we’d actually elect the guy. They just wanted the election process to be fucked up so that regardless of who won the U.S. would be wounded and weakened by the process.

Wounded and weakened. There’s a concept in video gaming called Damage Over Time. In most games involving some form of combat there’s a system that allows the player to defeat a far more powerful opponent. Since you can’t take the opponent down with a single blow, you find a way to gradually erode his health. You shoot him with a magic flaming arrow. The arrow itself does some damage, but it also continues to burn, so that each moment the opponent becomes weaker. You shoot him with a radioactive bullet, you stab him with a poisoned knife, you summon rats that bite and claw and gnaw at his body. The idea is to continuously inflict a relatively small amount of damage to the opponent, so that the damage accumulates independently of any other factors.

That’s what the Russians have done to us. Damage over time. They shot us with a flaming arrow and as we go about our daily lives, we’re still burning. They summoned rats, and those wee bastards haven’t stopped nipping at us. They created a poisoned knife and stabbed us with it; day the wound bleeds a bit more. The poison gradually spreads, and each day we’re just a little bit weaker.

Damage over time. Here’s the thing: the rats won’t kill us. Nor will the burns from the flaming arrow, nor will the poison from the knife, nor will the radioactivity from the bullet. But the combined effect is incapacitating. It cripples us as a society.

Damage over time. This is what we forget. Comrade Trump? He’s not really the monster; he’s the monster’s poisoned knife.

brain corrosion? what brain corrosion?

Over the weekend I read a few of the right-wing political nut job conspiracy theory blogs. Now some of you are probably saying, “Dude, what the hell is wrong with you? Reading that stuff will corrode your brain.” That’s a legitimate question and a legitimate concern. My answer is that it’s important to read this stuff occasionally. And since I only read it occasionally, I think I’m pretty well protected from brain corrosion.

But why is it important to ever read right-wing political nut job conspiracy theory blogs? This is why: some of the crazy shit that you find in the RWPNJCT blogs makes it way, in some form, to real news outlets. I’m not just talking about FoxNews; I’m talking actual news outlets. Like The New York Times or National Public Radio. That sounds like a conspiracy theory right there, doesn’t it. But it’s not. It actually happens.

Remember that Pizzagate insanity? The conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was involved in a Satanic pedophile sex ring based in a DC pizza parlor that was connected to other nearby businesses through a series of tunnels in which kidnapped children were kept for ritual sexual abuse? That began on RWPNJCT blogs, and eventually made its way to legitimate news. Granted, the more legit sources reported on it as a conspiracy theory, but even that sort of reporting brought the lunatic idea to a wider audience. Some folks, not paying close attention, only knew that NPR was discussing something about Hillary and a child sex ring.

The stink of that shit lingers. A post-election poll by Public Policy Polling showed that 9% of registered voters believed Hillary was involved in a child sex ring; 19% said they ‘weren’t sure’. One of every five registered voters said they weren’t sure whether or not Hillary Clinton was lurking in tunnels diddling little kids. That’s fucking nuts. And guess what — 46% of Trump voters thought it was true.

The Russians helped promote that theory, of course, but it’s still scary as hell that so many people were willing to even consider it. So if you want to know what sort of crazy shit might be coming down the conservative lunatic turnpike, you have to occasionally take a peek into the RWPNJCT blogotoilet.

Then–FBI Director Robert Mueller and then–Deputy Attorney General James Comey in a practice conspiracy. indicting the CEO of Enron — Feb. 2004

And hey, bingo, it didn’t take long to find one. This is Early Stage conspiracy theory, so it hasn’t entirely coalesced yet — but the framework is coming together. Here it is: James Comey and Robert Mueller are in a conspiracy to bring down Comrade Trump.

What? Evidence? You want evidence? I got your evidence right here, pookie.

  • A noted right-wing conspiracy theorist named Jack Posobiec (who also promoted the Pizzagate nonsense) said, “I’m told Comey did not keep his memos on FBI systems as he testified.” Posobiec also tweeted “Comey now claims he deleted his original memos.”
  • Therefore the Comey memos don’t really exist.
  • Or if they exist, they were written after he was fired.
  • Which means Comey lied under oath when he testified that he wrote the memos contemporaneously after meetings with Comrade Trump.
  • Also Comey claimed to have given the memos to Mueller.
  • Comey cleared his prepared statement with Mueller before he released it.
  • Also Comey and Mueller are both career law enforcement/FBI types, and are considered to be friends.
  • Therefore Comey and Mueller are both members of the Deep State and part of the conspiracy dedicated to destroying Comrade Trump.

But wait, you say, if Comey wants to destroy Trump, why did he re-open the Hillary email fuss, thereby making it more likely Trump would be elected? I’m so glad you asked.

  • The October letter announcing the re-opening of the case was released because it would hurt Hillary less than the leaks he knew were coming.

What leaks, you ask? Shut up. Here’s more evidence of the Mueller-Comey conspiracy.

  • Comey and Mueller have known each other for years and worked together on several “investigations” all of which were directed at rich white men. Conspiracy!
  • Comey met with Mueller behind closed doors before he testified. There’s no public record of what they discussed. Conspiracy!
  • Comey testified he gave one of the memos to a friend to be released to a news agency in order to get a Special Counsel appointed. His friend Mueller was then appointed Special Counsel. Conspiracy!
  • Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein had the authority to make the appointment because Attorney General Sessions recused himself. Therefore Rosenstein and possible Sessions are either members of the Deep State conspiracy against Trump, or are unwitting accomplices, or just useful tools (to be determined). Conspiracy!
  • Mueller has refused to recuse himself from the investigation even though Comey is a friend of his, which is a clear conflict of interest, further demonstrating Mueller is part of the Deep State anti-Trump cabal. Conspiracy!

What? That’s not enough? You want more evidence? Damn, you people are hard to satisfy. Okay, how about this?

  • Comey actively colluded with Loretta Lynch to obstruct the Hillary Clinton Campaign and was a major player in the FISA unmaskings. He parted company with Lynch when she was stupid enough to get caught meeting with Bill Clinton in a biz jet on the tarmac in Phoenix because he figured the jig was up and Lynch was going to bring him down with her. That’s why he went public on Hillary. Comey’s testimony to the Senate was one part trying to intimidate them with a ”if I go down, I’m taking as many of you with me as I can” and one part advertisement to turn states evidence against Lynch and others.

That ought to be enough to convince even the most skeptical observer. But if you still need more evidence, there’s this:

Conspirators plotting against Trump with Kenyan imposter in June, 2013.

Hah! Explain that photograph. If that doesn’t convince you there’s a conspiracy, then nothing will. Which makes me wonder if maybe you’re part of the Deep State anti-Trump Clinton-Obama Pedophile Death Squad your ownself. I’ve never heard you deny it. And if you deny it now, why should I believe you?

What are you talking about, brain corrosion? That you’d even suggest my brain is corroded is more evidence that you’re in cahoots with Mueller and Comey and Hillary. I need to tweet about this.


an odd day

Yesterday was a very odd day, wasn’t it. A very odd day all around the globe, really, considering what happened in the U.K. (U.K. elections are as incomprehensible to me as the rules of cricket), and what happened in Japan (what’s the point of being the emperor if the nation has to pass a law in order to allow you to abdicate?), and what happened in Australia (seriously, Saudi Arabia? Your fútbol team can’t offer up sixty seconds of silence to honor the victims of terrorism?).

And here in These United States the entire nation came to a halt — well, okay, not an actual halt; more like a slow coast — while the recently fired Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation unloaded on Comrade Trump, the cartoonish dimwitted bully who is, to the constant astonishment of many, the sitting President of the United States. That spectacle was odd on so many levels that you’d need an abacus to count them all.

It was odd in part because throughout the day I heard a chorus of complaints and despair about how utterly fucked the U.S. is. I heard folks say they wished they could emigrate to…well, almost any place other than the U.S. Canada, France, Sweden, Spain, pick a place. I heard folks claim civilization was crumbling and democracy was dead. I heard folks wondering if the U.S. was salvageable as a nation. I heard them complain that the investigations into the Russian interference with the U.S. presidential elections were pointless because nothing would ever change. I heard them bemoan the fact that nobody really seemed to care that the President of These United States was elected in part because of that Russian interference, that Republicans in particular would continue to support Comrade Trump even if it was demonstrated that he was vulnerable to blackmail by Russia, that nobody really cared about anything but lining their own pockets.

I heard all that from people while they were watching Comey testify. I can’t (and don’t) blame folks for being disheartened and discouraged. I feel that way my ownself. But I’m also feeling stupidly hopeful, because I see a LOT of folks coming together to resist the barrage of bullshit that’s taking place.

You can’t claim nobody cares when there were millions of people are paying close attention to the Comey hearing. CBS News estimated that approximately 26 million employed people watched the hearing, which resulted in “$3.3 billion in lost or delayed productivity.” And that’s just the regularly employed people; it doesn’t count students, or folks who work from home, or folks who are unemployed, or people (like James Comey himself) who are “between opportunities.” It doesn’t count the people who listened to the hearing on the radio, or the people who followed the hearing on Facebook or Twitter, or who watched it live on YouTube. It doesn’t count all those folks who gathered in coffee shops and bars to watch the hearing, or the folks who watched it while at the gym. A LOT of people were paying attention to that hearing.

(REUTERS/Joe Penney)

You can’t claim democracy is dead while the U.S. Senate is listening to the former Director of the FBI testify under oath in an open forum that he was fired by the president for investigating possible collusion between the president’s staff and Russia. Sure, the Republicans on the committee tried to present Comey’s testimony in the best possible light for Comrade Trump, but none of them suggested Comey’s claims were false (with the possible exception of John McCain, who was apparently distracted because he was in fierce hand-to-hand combat with reality). That’s democracy taking place, right there in front of us.

Things are most definitely fucked up in the U.S. right now. It’s bad, but we’ve been through worse — and not that long ago. Things were much more fucked up in 1974, when President Nixon was under investigation and facing probable impeachment. Back then the president’s Chief of Staff talked about possibly needing to mobilize the 82nd Airborne division of the U.S. Army to protect the president. We’re only at the stage where protecting the president means keeping his own cellphone out of his hands.

Things are fucked up, and it will almost certainly take some time to unfuck them. It’s much easier to fuck things up than to unfuck them.

Speaking of time and cellphones — and this is entirely unrelated — yesterday evening I was sitting outside sipping a beer and ignoring my book, just idly looking at the clouds. As twilight slid on toward dusk, one star in the north sky became bright enough to see. Actually, I wasn’t sure if it was a star or a planet. I was interested in the constellations as a kid, but it’s been a long time since I paid any attention to them. So I engaged in a bit of what used to be science fiction.

We live in an age where a person can pick up their cellphone, ask it to suggest a star map application, download that app in seconds, and use it to identify a single star in the sky. How cool is that? It turned out to be Polaris, the pole star. My cellphone also informed me it was about 433 light years away. That means the light I was seeing yesterday evening had left that star during the height of the European Renaissance. That’s sort of staggering, isn’t it. Humbling, in fact.

I’m not going to claim it puts yesterday’s testimony in perspective, because you’d have to be a tunahead to consider contemporary politics from an intergalactic time frame (wait, is Polaris in our galaxy? Where’s my cellphone?). It was just one more oddity to add to an already odd day. I only mentioned it because it’s my blog and I can mention stuff if I want to.

where the light is

I noodled around the Des Moines Art Center with some friends a couple of days ago. It had been a while since I’d visited the art center, and I’d forgotten just how visually engaging its architecture is. I’d brought a camera (a real, actual, no-nonsense camera), thinking I might shoot some photos of the artwork. And I did. I shot three frames with the camera — all of the same Calder mobile. I spent far more time shooting quick black-and-white snaps on my cellphone. And very little of that was of the artwork; almost all of the photos I shot were about the building.

Stairs in the Meier wing

The history of the architecture of the Des Moines Art Center is sort of interesting. Well, it’s interesting to me. The original design was the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. He’d won a competition in 1939 to design the Smithsonian Gallery of Art. But Congress being Congress, they decided to deny funding for the construction. Happily, the folks in charge of creating a new art museum in Des Moines saw Saarinen’s plans for the Smithsonian and said, “Dude, slide on over here and build us a museum.” And he did. He cobbled together a structure that was an esoteric combination of Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles. They finished construction in 1948.

What made it unique, though, was the decision NOT to construct a standard museum gallery. Saarinen’s design also included spaces for practice and instruction, making it both an art gallery and a teaching center. And hey, bingo — we had us an art center. Pretty cool idea.

Sunlight through a curtain (with incidental Giacometti bronze)

In the late 1960s, the art center folks decided to expand the building to include a space large enough to hold an auditorium and display really big sculptures. They got I.M. Pei to design it. It’s hard to do better than Pei. But his design revolved around a sort of massive block building that would tower over the existing structure. It was necessary, of course, but the design would have clashed with the low, ground-hugging Saarinen design. So Pei said, “Dudes, not to worry. I’ll sink the block into the landscape, easy peasy, lemon breezy.”  And hey, bingo — we had us a fine addition to the art center.

I.M. Pei window (with incidental Debora Butterfield painted steel horse)

By the 1980s, the art center needed another new extension — a space to house more contemporary works. This time they landed Richard Meier as the architect. Meier is one of those Pritzker Prize geniuses whose work is fairly idiosyncratic. The guy is totally smitten by structures designed around very white geometric patterns. Nothing at all like the designs of Pei or Saarinen. The advantage of being a Pritzker genius is nobody’s going to force you to adapt your aesthetic to fit in with your predecessors.

Meier’s addition to the art center is basically what he’s known for — white geometric patterns. It sort of looks like it was designed by a member of the Borg Collective who’d gone to an architecture school in Minecraft. That sounds more harsh than I mean it to. It’s really a very smart, clever, and very very clean design. Just different from the rest of the art center. But hey, bingo — we have us a space for contemporary artwork.

It speaks to the design, I think, that the only time I felt the need to shoot a photograph in color was in the Meier wing.

Mobile — Calder, Meier wing.

The fact is, I really didn’t make any thoughtful, considered photographs. I just walked around and took quick, square format, b&w snapshots using an app I’ve configured for black-and-white photography. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photos (there were only 18 of them) that I realized most of the photos were of the building itself rather than the art it houses. Art figured into some of the photos, but they were accents incidental to the photo rather than the subject of it. If that makes sense.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the art; I did. I enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I’d often put on my glasses and get really close and try to figure out exactly how some of the work was done. I mean, how did George Wesley Bellows manage to paint a human face (it is, I’ve decided, humanly impossible — maybe Bellows was an alien)? I looked at the sculptures and admired the sketches and appreciated the paintings and watched a couple of works of video art. By the way,  some of the video art? Incomprehensible and (is there a polite way to say ‘stupid’? — no, I don’t think there is) stupid. But then there was this piece by Michael Najjar. Sublime.

Spacewalk — Michael Najjar

I looked at just about everything and I enjoyed most of it, but in the end the primary reason I’d shoot a photograph had most to do with the way the building interacted with the light. The way the light and the structure worked together seemed to infuse some sort of extra meaning to both. For example, I was very much taken by a chair (based on an Eames design) partly because I mistakenly thought I was in the Saarinen wing (the Eames brothers were students of Saarinen). I was actually in the Pei wing — irony gone awry.

Unironic Eames chair

Some of these photographs, I know, probably won’t appeal to anybody but me. Like the chair above. It’s just a chair the guards sit in. Or this view out a window to the street. What’s that about? There was something about the geometry that appealed to me, though I couldn’t say what.

Looking out on Grand

I actually spent more time on this stupid photograph than all the others combined. I wanted to get that tree in the right spot, and the reflection of the window’s crossbar just the right angle. Then I probably stood there, trying to be still and hold that view, for a couple of minutes, waiting for the passing cars to line up properly. Silly, I know, but it seemed worth it at the moment. Still does.

It’s a wee bit embarrassing to visit the art center and return home with nothing but a handful of black-and-white photographs. All that amazing art, and here’s me with some photos of curtains and stairways and chairs and random views out of windows.

Some random curtain

But what can you do? That’s where the light was.