Friday, April 23, 2021

Cops and Robbers

We watch a lot of British mystery shows. In them, almost without exception, cops turn out to be the good guys. Yes, there are references now and again to a “bad cop”, but that is the exception.  Plus my personal experiences throughout my relatively long life tells me that most cops are good guys, even the ones who ticketed me for, in my view, questionable reasons—even there, not many.

But, I live my life as: “Waiting for God, while White”.

Now, to be fair, I have lived my long life largely in pursuit of honest causes. I have tried always not to break the law, although the 60’s and 70’s may have tested that notion in small ways. I ask you, does this dude look like someone who breaks laws?

Now, also, I have lived my life largely without reference to guns of any sort. For a brief time, when we lived in India during the 1960s, I actually bought a shotgun, so that I could join in the hunting game. Periodically, we would go off on a shikar to hunt something. Often our hunt was confined to birds, ducks or geese, although once or twice we engaged in larger game.  But as soon as we returned to the US to resume life here, I gave away the shotgun, having zero interest in continuing hunting anything that moves.

So, for many years, I have been observing the zeal with which so many Americans pursue the gun thing. I understand the desire to hunt, having done it myself. But that really does not define the American obsession with guns. No. Largely, one does not take an automatic machine gun on a deer hunt, or any hunt for that matter.  And, to be fair, most hunters do not hunt with handguns, automatic or otherwise. No, they largely rely on rifles or shotguns.

So, where does this obsession with weaponry  that exceeds all reasonable definitions of hunting originate?  It seems to me that it begins with folks, mostly but not exclusively Male, who are afraid, or who feel in some way inferior, folks who fear losing out, or who actually feel threatened by people who are in some way different than they are.  In America, that translates into anyone who is non-Anglo-Saxon—folks who physically  look different, and, often who speak a different language.  So, guns help such fearful folks to again feel robust and equal to all those people who live around them, but who are in some way, different.

Now, in the US, this preoccupation with guns also translates into the arming of police.  Throughout the US, police forces are armed routinely, regardless of the mission. So patrolling for traffic violations, or patrolling for gang activity are the same. Police are armed in both cases. And the result? Well, in one study, 957 deaths were caused by police in 2016 alone. In Britain, by contrast, 23 people were killed by police between 2006 and 2016.  So, one effect of arming our police is that more civilians are killed by police.  Now it is equally the case that more police are killed in the US than in Britain, partly a result of the citizenry being more heavily armed here.

So, basically, more guns equals more deaths by firearms.  The more guns, the more deaths. But the deaths by police shootings are unequal by race.  In one study:

In an analysis of 4,653 fatal shootings for which information about both race and age were available, the researchers found a small but statistically significant decline in white deaths (about 1%) but no significant change in deaths for people of color. There were 5,367 fatal police shootings during the five-year period (2015-2020), according to the Washington Post’s database. In the case of armed victims, Native Americans were killed by police at a rate three times that of white people (77 total killed). Black people were killed at 2.6 times the rate of white people (1,265 total killed); and Hispanics were killed at nearly 1.3 times the rate of white people (889 total killed). Among unarmed victims, Black people were killed at three times the rate (218 total killed), and Hispanics at 1.45 times the rate of white people (146 total killed).

So, then we come to the George Floyd killing, where guns were not an issue. Here, instead, we have a policeman, Derek Chauvin who murdered Floyd by handcuffing him, throwing him to the ground and then kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes.  But he was filmed in the act of committing murder, and then he was tried in a court of law and convicted.  And most folks breathed a sigh of relief, because of the prior belief that, somehow he was going to be acquitted. A small cheer went out throughout the land. Yes, a conviction.  Why the cheer? Simple. White police officers are almost never tried and convicted for killing Black folks. But stop and think about that.  We are excited that someone caught on video killing a black man was actually tried and convicted.  Is that not pathetic? I wonder whether we would be so thrilled had a white man been caught on tape killing his wife out in the middle of Fifth Avenue? Or better yet, how about if an ex-president been caught on tape walking out on Fifth Avenue and then just shooting someone at random?

This all leads me to two parallel tracks of study—maybe studies by a National Panel of some kind.

Track One: There have been many groups out and about shouting that we “defund the police”. And by “defunding”, I assume folks intend that we get rid of all our official police agencies around the country.  Were we to forge ahead and rid ourselves of all those pesky police forces, I’m sure certain folks would be delighted—the Mafia, all organized crime gangs, the Mexican Drug Cartels, and every small-time crook in our Land. It would be like a giant shot in the arm for every crook in our country.

But maybe, instead of acting terminally stupid, we could consider alternatives. Maybe “Disarm” the police units not involved in pursuing violent crime events--British police offer a case study here. . Maybe our traffic cops on duty downtown and on our highways don’t actually need to be armed. Or how about the cops stationed in our public schools?   At any rate, what I suggest is that a National panel study police-public interactions by type of units and try to reach some logical conclusions about which units need to be armed and which do not.

Track Two: A National Commission on gun control. Yeah, maybe our citizenry is now, by almost any standard, overarmed. The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms. It was ratified on December 15, 1791, along with nine other articles of the Bill of Rights. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court affirmed for the first time that the right belongs to individuals, for self-defense in the home, while also including, as dicta, that the right is not unlimited and does not preclude the existence of certain long-standing prohibitions such as those forbidding "the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill" or restrictions on "the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons". In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) the Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing upon this right.

And this “right” has been argued to death over many decades.  I understand that the NRA, acting as the surrogate for our Nation’s gun manufacturers, would oppose ANY form of gun control, and will continue to do so.  Apparently gun manufacturers have no limits to their Chutzpah. Neither do they seem to possess even the slightest degree of ethical or moral principles. Money tops everything. It is almost as though auto manufacturers were to oppose driving tests and licensing. Oh, they don’t? Huh!

Clearly under a Trump Administration, chances of such studies approach the chances of snowballs in Hell.  But Trump was voted out of office on November 3, 2020. Remember that big vote??? Yeah, that one.  So, now we have a Biden-Harris Administration.  Maybe there is a marginally greater chance of moving forward on such study tracks.  To be fair, we now have Mitch, and Teddy, and the Proud Boys, and the KKK, and Trump’s KKKNeoNazicultische clan that will certainly oppose any study involving guns.  But maybe the Nation’s electorate needs to understand what motivates the republican party—that would be MONEY and Opposition to anything Democrats propose—ANYTHING.

So, go for it, Joe and Kamala. The soul of our Nation is at stake here.

Oh, and then, after we finish those studies, maybe a third National Panel needs to examine Racism in America.  It’s real, folks. It really is, and it lies at the heart of Republican politics (remember that Donald Dude? He was/is a RACIST. Yeah, I said it).



Thursday, April 15, 2021

Once More With Feeling

I think maybe my age really is beginning to show. This morning, I received a text message. It said something like, “Hi Richard, this is your FEDEX driver. I’ve been trying to deliver your package, but you have not been at home. Please go to this address (and they place a URL in the text) and let me know when would be a good time to deliver. Thanks.” So, I’m supposed to be stupid enough to click on the URL, thereby being transferred to someplace that will destroy my phone and compromise all my data, in hopes of milking some money from me.  And that was the fourth time they sent this identical text to me.

And heavens, that represents but one example of dozens where con men are trying to destroy me and others like me.  Remember how everyone said that Ronnie Reagan made it ok again to be a racist, with his chattering on about welfare queens driving around in Cadillacs?  Well, apparently Trump has topped that one. Apparently, when one of our glorious leaders does something, then that sends a signal to his troops that the specific thing he did is now ok for the rest of the people.  So, Trump demonstrated over and over that it was ok to:

·         Lie

·         Act racist

·         Act like a Nazi

·         Con people

·         Say/do stupid things

And what has happened as a result?

QAnon is formed precisely in order to sell lies to the American people, and not just lies, but monumentally stupid lies.

The KKK experiences a new lease on life and is now once again proud to demonstrate, accompanied of course by the Proud Boy Nazi’s and others of that ilk. What, after all was the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, but a Trump inspired Hate Rally by those same Proud Boys and others of their ilk?

And then, of course, we have the Evangels joining hands with the racists and the Nazis’ to create and then pass laws to keep people from doing things—Vote, live like humans, experience equality. Evangels seem especially nasty regarding gender equality and gender identification. They really hate women, gays, transfolks, and seem not to mind that their BFFs (Proud Boys) act racist.

And then all the Nation’s Con Men have come out of their respective closets. The Con is the game of the day. Now to be fair, Trump seemed to specialize in big cons, e.g., Trump University. But he also practiced little cons –“come and do some work for me at one of my buildings”. And then he refuses to pay them.  So, the Con Game is up and running in America.

I am now concluding two big things about this end stage of my life.

1.      The End of America is near at hand. If Trump did all that shit, and a few thousand people showed up to vote for him, I’d say, “well, America has some idiots, but we’re still basically a good place to live.” But, no, millions showed up to vote for him. Millions. Think of that.  74 million people actually turned out to vote for this Con Man, Trump. And you can say, correctly, “Well, 81 million turned out to vote for Biden”. And that would be correct. Still, think about that. 74 million people actually voted for Donald Trump.  So, now all those people and the people who are their BFFs, feel it’s ok to riot and throw Hate at the Capitol.  That it’s really ok to be a racist, or throw Trans folks under the bus, or in fact con the public in any way possible.  That it’s ok to lie, even to tell preposterous porkies (think Jewish Space Lasers starting the forest fires in California). And that all that WW II thing, where thousands of our troops died to save the world from Nazi’s, well that was just misplaced trust. Obviously Hitler was a guy wronged by the World. Right???

2.     The End of the God Thing. I now understand that there really is no God.  The best explanation for the Trump racists, Nazi’s, Con Men, Evangel Monsters, is random evolutionary expansion. As our population grows, so do the number of weird, awful, pigs who inhabit our planet.  No self-respecting God would ever create such awful creatures. Surely, like viruses keep on varying themselves, so do humans, and much of the human variation produces awful outcomes, seemingly getting worse almost daily.  If there is an actual God, then I imagine her sitting somewhere laughing heartily every day at the stupid, awful things being done by humans, on all parts of the planet. Yeah, and Joe Biden stands no chance at correcting even just the awful things being done by that 74 million on a daily basis.  So, laugh God, laugh. If you created this mess, then have a good laugh on us.

      And then I observe our great zeal to extricate ourselves from places like Afghanistan, after 20 years.  Good, huh? Yeah, but I imagine it will take about 30 minutes after that last plane leaves Kabul, before the Taliban will have retaken the country. And then the games begin again.  So, go ahead Joe, get us out of that damnable place. Nothing we do will ever change the facts of Afghanistan specifically, or that Middle East bunch generally. They love killing too much.  Hey God, was that really your intent? Or were you momentarily distracted while creating all your awful Evangels who love to impose their stupid will on innocents? Yeah, pay attention God. Oh, but there is no God, is there?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Fools

 On behalf of April Fools’ Day, we welcome all Fools to the table.

I have been wondering lately, given that I have been vaccinated, why each day I still experience this sense of darkness, almost impending doom. First, I began blaming it on the weather.  When it darkens and then rains seemingly every other day, I get depressed. Partly, it’s because our basement has a habit of flooding when we get too much of the wet stuff. Partly, it’s just gloomy to look outside.

And then I thought, well No, you are feeling the effects of this never ending Pandemic. See, I have been vaccinated, so I should be feeling better, right? Yeah, except there are all those people not vaccinated, some by choice and some simply because they cannot maneuver their way through the thicket that is the official Vaccination Lottery.  Yeah, even people who desperately want to get vaccinated are often unable to get through the systems set up to confuse folks about how to get an appointment.  First, the Feds under Trump, punted that ball to the States, so that if there were screw-ups, Trump could point to the states. And then the States seem to have punted to the counties and maybe even localities. And now it’s just not very clear. There are all kinds of web URLs that purport to lead people to vaccination appointments, but many folks have been unable to get into those sites.

Now maybe it will eventually begin working and everyone who wants one will get a vaccination.  But until then, we live under this cloud, with people dying unnecessarily, over 550,000 by one count.  And often they are folks who were entering that last stage of their lives anyway, but still hopeful of living a few more years in peace and happiness. But no, Mister COVID had other plans.

So, the Pandemic maintains its presence as the Dark Cloud over all our lives. Ever threatening. Now if that isn’t depressing enough, then how about them Republicans??

Yeah, it would seem that Donald Trump didn’t just lose an election. No, he worked hard, perhaps harder than ever in his dim life, to totally destroy the American system of Government.  Never in my now fairly long life have I ever observed a more destructive political period.  It is as though Donald Trump is still playing a real life game of Apprentice with America as the ultimate contestant, and he keeps firing her.

See I have lived under and even worked for some of the many presidents this nation has seen fit to elect. I begin with FDR who took office after a disastrous stock market crash and an even worse republican administration under Mr. Hoover. The country was fairly reeling on the edge of collapse when FDR took over. He immediately began working hard to put America back to work. And then of course that World War II thingie occurred and we really had no other choice but to begin working our asses off to defeat that Fascist regime over across the big pond. So FDR helped us to climb out of our Great Depression and begin acting like that Great Nation once again. And the parade continued. Harry took over from FDR and he wasn’t bad. He at least avoided another war.  And then that war hero Eisenhower took over. He defeated the intellectual Adlai Stevenson. And yeah Ike was a republican, but he was a war hero folks. And guess what, he began investing our national treasure into Infrastructure. He built us a national highway system. Imagine that, a republican investing taxpayer dollars into infrastructure instead of tax breaks for the wealthy.

And the parade continued. First that lovely JFK. Remember him? “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”. Oh and then some asshat shot and killed him.  Apparently America was not ready for a truly good man. And so LBJ had to take over the job.  And while LBJ is sort of officially recognized as the big boogie man who began that nasty Vietnam War, that really began during Truman and Eisenhower’s administrations, by overseeing the division of Vietnam and then supplying arms and equipment to the South. By the time LBJ took over, war seemed a near certainty.

And the Vietnam conflict was perhaps the first time I had noticed a serious division amongst the American people. Part of it was that many folks simply did not wish to get drafted to fight in a war with which they fundamentally disagreed. See, there had been no disagreement during WW II. I suppose all of our latent Nazi’s and KKKers decided to just shut up, unlike today.  And even Korea sparked little dissent. But then came Vietnam. I guess the real disagreement was over that Cold War thing, you know, the rhetoric about the potentially cascading effects of allowing one country to turn Commie, followed by the next and the next and so on.

There were protests and more protests. Nixon finally won his presidency on the idea of ending that war. Instead of course, he vastly expanded it before acknowledging that we had in fact lost, allowing him to withdraw our troops. And again, the parade continued . . . Nixon, Ford, Carter, and then Reagan. And something seemed to change within the country under Reagan.  He seemed to me to be the first president who had run as a sort of racist. Remember all that talk about “Welfare Queens driving to the store in their Cadillacs”? Ronnie seemed to exude racism, and, as a result, he let our racists out of their respective closets.  Ronnie also seemed to embody a kind of “dodginess”.  Remember that business of selling arms to a terrorist regime (Iran) and then using that money to finance terrorists in Central America?  Again, that seemed a change from the past, and perhaps created greater schisms within the American populace.

And then we bounced around a lot, until George W. Bush took over the reins. He began setting new standards of behavior, and perhaps that was when serious Truthiness began appearing within our government. Lies upon lies is sort of the definition of Bush’s Iraq war policy. While we survived that mess, it may well be that the country was not quite the same thereafter.

Now the election of Barack Obama began a far more serious internal conflict. Obama, our first Black president. He was bright, informed, and humane. But he was also Black. Remember all those lies about his birthplace?  They were generated by the right wing republicans in hopes of stopping his presidency. Those efforts failed and he won two terms. But, among other things, he left behind some seriously deranged racist elements within our country.

Just in time for our first overtly racist president, Donald J. Trump.

And I think that is when the Darkness descended on America, and that Darkness has never left us. Remember all those racists let out of their closets by Reagan? Well, now, under Trump, they began yelling even louder and, they became his Administration.  And then, because so many American racists began yelling their approval of Trump’s racist demagoguery, it apparently became clear to the other republicans in our government—you know the Mitch McConnell's of that world, that racism was the new norm for America. But Donald didn’t just bring racism to the table.  No, he brought misogyny, he brought ignorance of almost everything. And then his corruption kicked in. He had been arguably one of the most corrupt humans on our planet.  And now he brought corruption to our National Table.

He lied almost every time he spoke. It became clear to all . . . “How does one know Donald Trump is lying? Well, whenever he opens his mouth and words come tumbling out, he is lying”. By some official counts, Trump told 30,573 lies during his four years, or over 20 lies per day. Quite astonishing really. I imagine none of our other presidents was even in the same league.

And so, now we have a new president who doesn’t speak in that same Truthiness tongue. He actually uses facts and stuff, and his press spokespeople actually seem to be truthful.  What an amazing thing after that parade of fools Trump brought before us.

And so the Dark curtain is beginning to lift?? Well, no, it isn’t. And why you might ask? Well, because while Trump was in office, he actually destroyed the entire republican party. And that party represents about half of our government (well half of our elected government). And ignoring days of Olde, when Truman and Ike, and JBJ, and Nixon and Reagan led our government, we apparently no longer just agree to disagree and then get on with the business of government. No, instead our current republican leadership has decided that they will oppose everything and anything proposed by President Biden, or in fact by any Democrat. Yeah, now it’s a world of ZERO cooperation from Republicans.  But more, they will try to destroy any and all Democratic legislature. So, slowly, over time, our government is being destroyed day by day by the likes of Mitch McConnell & Co.

And that I have never really seen before. So, Joe Biden seems to be living in a world of Trump-Zombies intent on killing him figuratively if not literally.  And that describes my current view of the Pandemicataclysm in which our country now resides. And that, frankly depresses me. And if it doesn’t depress you, then clearly you are not paying attention. Maybe 2022 voting will move the curtain one way or another—either we complete the destruction of our nation by electing more republicans, or we begin to lift the cloud by removing any and all power from the republicans and they begin to see the errors of their ways.  And maybe then all our racists will go back into their closets.

We’ll see. And hopefully, I will still be alive to see which way we decide to move.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Music?

 I'm beginning to feel really old about this thing we call "Music". I tend to think my taste in "Music" covers a very wide range and history, beginning say, with the Gregorian Chant--what's that you ask? Well, Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song in Latin of the Roman Catholic Church. Gregorian chant developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries. 

See, so my taste in music covers a wide swath of history. But mainly, my love of classical music goes back to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, et al--you know, opera, symphonic pieces, concertos. And then we leap all the way up into the 1930s and 1940s, with jazz and pop music. Miles Davis, Louie Armstrong, John Coltrane, and then Frank Sinatra & Co--you know, all those smooth singers of the 40s and 50s.

And then, sometime during the late 50's and early 1960s, these new things called Folk and Rock and Roll came on the scene. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Grateful Dead, Chicago, Dire Straits . . . you know . . . that crowd.

So that pretty much defined my taste in music. And then, somewhere around the 1970s, or early 1980s, there was this new genre that I had trouble defining as within this thing I called "Music". It was called Rap, or maybe Hip Hop. I tried listening, but couldn't get into it--I'm really old, remember? It didn't seem to fit within my definition of Music. It was more Poetry set to a Beat. The words were important, as in poetry. But, I just couldn't get into it. I knew I was missing something, but, I was stuck.

So, then I recognized what I saw as two kinds of things--some set of things I vaguely call "Music", and this new genre called Rap. Ok, so we can move on. But then lately, I find myself hearing a third genre. I am not sure what to call it, but it isn't Music and it isn't Rap. So . . .?

We listen to the Stephen Colbert Show, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Trevor Noah.  Routinely on Stephen’s show, and some on Samantha’s, they feature a “musical” group. Except, said “musical” groups don’t perform to what I call ”Music”. What do they do? Well, first, they are always a group of seeming musicians, i.e., they have instruments recognizable, like a piano, a guitar, drums, etc. And then they include a featured “singer”. But mostly, they include a set design of special floating lighting, and other special effects. See, they have “albums” but I cannot imagine why you would listen to them. They lack the special effects.

And these groups seem to put forth a rhythm, a beat and some sound effects, but never an actual “melody”. And the singers seem to be singing, but we can never understand any of their words.  Watching them is more akin to watching a son et lumiere than a musical group. Generally, after about a minute or so, one of us will say, “OK, are we done?” And we signal, Yes, to turn them off. I would say this happens in at least 9 out of 10 of the groups performing on these shows.  So, I think we now need to designate a third genre, maybe son et lumiere.

It is fascinating to think about on Stephen’s show, since he also has on one of the great musical geniuses of our day, Jon Batiste and his musical group Stay Human. Batiste and his group play jazz, blues, and the like with wonderful skills. We have loved listening to Jon and his group play on the show, and miss them during this pandemic thing, when he plays around the edges.

So, given the high level of “Musical” skill and talents of Jon and Stay Human, we find it odd that virtually all of the groups invited by Stephen fall into this odd new genre. Again, a musical rhythm, or beat, a sound and light show, and some unrecognizable sounds coming out of the mouths of the performers.

So, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that we are now really old. But we really just don’t get it. It always brings me back to Don McLean. Remember:

"A long, long time ago

I can still remember how that music
Used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died."

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Anachronism

 An anachronism (from the Greek ἀνά ana, 'against' and χρόνος khronos, 'time') is a chronological inconsistency in some arrangement, especially a juxtaposition of persons, events, objects, language terms and customs from different time periods. The most common type of anachronism is an object misplaced in time, but it may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material, a plant or animal, a custom, or anything else associated with a particular period that is placed outside its proper temporal domain.

An anachronism may be either intentional or unintentional. Intentional anachronisms may be introduced into a literary or artistic work to help a contemporary audience engage more readily with a historical period. Anachronism can also be used (intentionally) for purposes of rhetoric, propaganda, comedy, or shock. Unintentional anachronisms may occur when a writer, artist, or performer is unaware of differences in technology, terminology and language, customs and attitudes, or even fashions between different historical periods and eras.”

Thinking about Meghan and Harry.  But first, perhaps a little history, to place them in context.

 “The Kingdom of England begins with Alfred the Great, who initially ruled Wessex, one of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the Anglo-Saxons from about 886, and while he was not the first king to claim to rule all of the English, his rule represents the start of the first unbroken line of kings to rule the whole of England, the House of Wessex.

Arguments are made for a few different kings thought to control enough Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to be deemed the first king of England. For example, Offa of Mercia and Egbert of Wessex are sometimes described as kings of England by popular writers, but it is no longer the majority view of historians that their wide dominions are part of a process leading to a unified England. Historian Simon Keynes states, for example, that "Offa was driven by a lust for power, not a vision of English unity; and what he left was a reputation, not a legacy." This refers to a period in the late 8th century when Offa achieved a dominance over many of the kingdoms of southern England, but this did not survive his death in 796.

In 829 Egbert of Wessex conquered Mercia, but he soon lost control of it. It was not until the late 9th century that one kingdom, Wessex, had become the dominant Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Its king, Alfred the Great, was overlord of western Mercia and used the title King of the Angles and Saxons, but he never ruled eastern and northern England, which was then known as the Danelaw, having earlier been conquered by the Danes from Scandinavia. His son Edward the Elder conquered the eastern Danelaw, but Edward's son Æthelstan became the first king to rule the whole of England when he conquered Northumbria in 927, and he is regarded by some modern historians as the first true king of England. The title "King of the English" or Rex Anglorum in Latin, was first used to describe Æthelstan in one of his charters in 928.

The Principality of Wales was incorporated into the Kingdom of England under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284, and in 1301 King Edward I invested his eldest son, the future King Edward II, as Prince of Wales. Since that time, except for King Edward III, the eldest sons of all English monarchs have borne this title.

After the death of Queen Elizabeth I without issue, in 1603, King James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, joining the crowns of England and Scotland in personal union. By royal proclamation, James styled himself "King of Great Britain", but no such kingdom was actually created until 1707, when England and Scotland united to form the new Kingdom of Great Britain, with a single British   parliament sitting at Westminster, during the reign of Queen Anne, marking the end of the Kingdom of England as a sovereign state.

The title of Duke of Sussex (e.g.,Harry) was first conferred on 24 November 1801 upon Prince Augustus Frederick the sixth son of King George III. He was made Baron Arklow and Earl of Inverness at the same time, also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The title became extinct upon Prince Augustus Frederick's death in 1843.

Although Prince Augustus Frederick was survived by a son and daughter by Lady Augusta Murray, their marriage (purportedly solemnized at St George's Hanover Square ChurchWestminster, in 1793) had been annulled for lack of royal permission under the Royal Marriages Act 1772, rendering the children illegitimate under English law and unable to inherit titles from their father. Both children by the annulled marriage died childless, rendering the issue of their inheritance moot.

On 2 May 1831, Prince Augustus Frederick married secondly (and again in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act 1772), Lady Cecilia Gore at Great Cumberland Place, London. Not being the Prince's legitimate wife, Lady Cecilia could not be received at court. On 30 March 1840, she was given the title of Duchess of Inverness in her own right by Queen Victoria.

Second creation, 2018

In 2018, the dukedom of Sussex was recreated and granted to Prince Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, to mark the occasion of his wedding to Meghan Markle, who thereby became the first woman in history known as Duchess of Sussex. 

On 19 May 2018, it was announced that Prince Harry would become Duke of Sussex in England, with the subsidiary titles of Earl of Dumbarton in Scotland and Baron Kilkeel in Northern Ireland. In 2019, an heir to the dukedom, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, was born.”

OK, so Harry and Meghan’s role within that system of royal “rulers” has a long history, as does, of course, Elizabeth’s.  BUT, we no longer live within that same system of laws and Royal powers. No, we live in that pseudohuman state of being, labeled 2021. In Great Britain, Parliament rules the roost and the royal families are quaint, rich people (at least some of them) with no serious claim on “Rule”. 

So, why do they (Brits) persist in this quaint custom of royalty when it now serves no purpose other than to entertain us via the news media and other entertainment outlets?  I suppose we could conclude that anything that entertains us and essentially does no harm might be preserved, since we have so few sources of entertainment (aside from the Boris Johnson’s and Donald Trump’s of the world).  And I suppose that may well be true.  But it always seems to me that it is akin to living in a land surrounded by a fairy tale land invented by  Walt Disney. Now, to be fair, we Americans live in a land surrounded by a fairy tale land invented by Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump.  And they are probably not nearly as entertaining as the British Royalty.  I mean MaraLago is not nearly as grand as Buckingham Palace.  In fact, every time I watch British mysteries on TV, I am treated to a tour of some grand estate that was at one time a part of the British Royal system of inherited wealth.  I guess, were one to tour the grand homes in America, one might get a similar sense of awe. But these are simply tourist attractions, much like Niagara Falls, as distinct from a system of early absolute rulers.

But, still, I begin to wonder when the British people will tire and say “Enough”. Maybe it will take the passing of Elizabeth for the game to be declared OVER.  Aside from the continuing system of inherited wealth, where estates and money transfer according to legal “Last Wills and Testaments”, which is I assume necessary to prevent feuds and fratricides becoming the preferred method of transferring family wealth, I imagine the royal designations could be declared quaint but unnecessary. 

I must confess that I did not watch the Harry & Meghan interview. Why? Well, I guess I was not sufficiently interested in learning just why Meghan was driven to the point of near suicide, as I assume was Diana, who managed to remove herself from that scene, albeit with a tragic outcome. But I no longer find the British royalty entertaining, even if they remain amusing at times, and provide a source of historic context while watching movies, or TV series.   Meghan and Harry decided some time ago to break themselves free of the stifling family system of royal do’s and don’ts.  Good for them.  But I had no compelling reason to learn the details of their separation. It would, I think be akin to listening to a TV interview with a couple who had separated and were now going to go off on their own, mainly because of intrafamily cruelties and personal idiocies.

But good for Oprah. She captivated a large TV audience otherwise bored to death by the pandemic and Donald Trump. Now, what I would love to watch would be a TV series, sort of like the Masterpiece Mysteries, in which Oprah interviews the heads of state of British Commonwealth countries about their continued presence as members of that Commonwealth.   Just listening to the rationale for continuation would be, at the least, entertaining.  Perhaps the Commonwealth will begin coming apart now, and how fascinating would that be, especially for the future of Great Britain, as we watch it throughout the series revert to its former status as that tight little island.  It might even be entertaining to listen to interviews with places like India and Pakistan that opted out of Commonwealth status early, becoming republics instead.

That would be fun, huh??

And then, on to the next Grand Series on the disappearance of that anachronistic thing we call Organized Religion, as it collapses into yet another fairy tale land, with grand churches being sold to the Jeff Bezos of this world. Wonder how much Jeff would offer for the Sistine Chapel?? Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Lies and Truthiness

 "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" I know, I know, that old saw provokes all kinds of controversy, about what exactly is “sound”, and does it exist in the absence of humans with ears.  Those thoughts prompted me to write a blurb about humans, including me. In one posting, I wrote:

I perceive, therefore . . .

I stood outside on our porch one morning, just the other day. I often come out early, as the sun is rising, just to look. As I stood there, I began thinking; someday this will all be gone. I will no longer stand here looking out at the sky and the trees, and the houses with their residents just beginning to awaken. It will all be gone.
Then I corrected myself.
No, one day, it will remain, and only the image in my brain will be gone. But if there is no image in my brain, does it actually exist, this thing I now see? It’s the old, “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does the tree actually fall? Perhaps, if I am no longer here, then nothing exists.”

 Even some of our scientists can be found discussing whether our reality, even our entire universe depends on humans observing it.  If there are no humans, does our universe actually exist? Some wag even suggested that maybe we are simply characters in some video game being played currently by super extraterrestrials. 

 Now, to be fair, when I find myself listening to the likes of QAnon supporters, or even just any republican, I begin to think the video game thing may not be so farfetched after all. I mean, how else can you explain rationally the actions and beliefs of people who worship Donald Trump, and who believe in the “stolen election” conspiracy? Really people? You actually believe Donald Trump when he explains that he actually won the election, but that hordes of Democrats who are actually dead, voted in that last election. And that more people “voted” than there are voters. Amazing. But the CPAC convention clearly demonstrated that people who identify as “republican”, or actually Trumpies (cuz the republican party is now officially dead) no longer mind being lied to. They believe whatever they are told by whoever takes the platform.

 We always used to say that Reagan made it ok again to be a racist.  And that was bad, letting all those racists out of their respective closets. But apparently Donald Trump has made it ok again to lie about anything and everything. Well, I say “again”, but really it was never ok to simply lie outright, the way Trump does.  But now, apparently there is no such thing as Truth, or even “Facts” any longer amongst Trumpies. Yeah, CPAC was a lie machine collective.  When we listened to Trump and Cruz and Greene, and Hawley spout their lies, I was really aghast at the blatant nature of their lies. Nobody even pretends any longer.

But then I stumbled across this new dude from North Carolina, Madison Cawthorn. David Madison Cawthorn (born August 1, 1995) is an American politician. A member of the Republican Party, Cawthorn is the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 11th congressional district after winning the 2020 election. Cawthorn is like some new kind of Lie Machine. He seems to lie about everything.  He was in an accident, sitting as a passenger in a friend’s car.  The “friend” apparently fell asleep while driving.  Cawthorn claims that his friend left him to die in the flaming wreck of the car.  In fact the friend rescued him and then got help to take his “friend” to the hospital.  He claims he was accepted by the Naval Academy, but he was in fact rejected for admission, prior to his accident. He dropped out of college, receiving D grades. He either does or does not accept the lies about Trump actually winning the election, but he seems definitely to be a Trumpie. Generally, he has no experience at anything, except lying. And maybe that’s what got him elected into Congress. A less likely member of Congress it would be hard to find.

But, as I say, he was actually elected to Congress. But why . . . how could that be true?  I assume that now, our electorate insists that someone develop a finely honed instinct at lying.  If you really know how to sling those lies, and don’t care whether folks discover your lying, then you are a perfect candidate for the republican party. And, more importantly, voters on that side of the planet, will elect you.  

Apparently, truth-telling is a total No-No.  Now the game is, you say whatever you think will gain you points with the audience of the moment. It doesn’t matter whether the lies you tell are clever, or downright stupid. Nope, all that matters is that whatever you tell people will gain you some brownie points at that moment.  Cuz your audience will forget that you told them lies that last time, so long as the lies you are telling them this time please them, or make you seem good, or clever. That’s all that matters.

So, what do you think? Could we not all just be characters in some clever ET dude’s video game? So, life here on Earth will continue, or not, depending on how long it takes the ET dudes to tire of playing with us.  And you’re thinking, “No, that can’t be. Life has been here on earth for millions of years, or at least 6,000, depending on who you ask.  No one could play a video game that long.” But then maybe that “millions of years” thing is just something implanted by those ET dudes to make you believe. Who knows, maybe we’re really only a couple of hours old.

So, dream on all you believers. But remember, Truth and Facts are for sissies. All the true believers know that lies and make-believe are where it’s at in today’s fairy tale land of Wink and Nod. Oh, and remember, QAnon is inaugurating Donald Trump as President today. So, get your ass down to Capitol Hill in DC. That’s where today’s action will commence.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

What is Art?

As this pandemic continues to consume us, I look back on the past year, and begin thinking about things I have missed.  One of those things is Art.  I took up photography, partly as a hobby and partly as an art form, although many would debate whether mine is an art form.   Just before leaving for India, on a trip that would finally consume four years, I was advised by my brother-in-law to buy a good camera, and then, after my arrival in India, to photograph everything. Initially, he said, everything would seem exotic, and so you must transform that exotica into 35 mm imagery.  He was not thinking about Art, more perhaps about recording a life experience.  And he was right, of course.  I was a poor kid from Brooklyn, who had hardly traveled at all, and certainly not to an exotic location like India. Everything was startlingly different. And so, I took him at his word and began transforming my life in India into the art form called photography.

Now, as I think back on it, photography was not everyone’s definition of “Art”.  I was not, of course, Ansel Adams. No, I was just an itinerant photographer from Brooklyn. Still, many people differentiate “Art” from “photography”.  Partly, I think it relates to the technical process whereby a final product is finally produced. In “Art”, a visual art that is, one begins with a blank canvas, and then takes up either water colors or oils, and paint brushes, and then one begins to fill the blank canvas with some imagery concocted from within the brain.  In photography, you point a camera at someone or something, and press a button. Then an image appears within the camera, an image which you ask someone to print, and then voila, you have “Art”.  Well, many would say, no, that is photography, not “Art”.  And therein lies my dilemma.

After I returned from India, having taken perhaps 2-3,000 photographic images on slides or negatives transferred to paper, I began fooling around more than I had in India. I acquired a darkroom and began transferring my images to a final paper product by myself. I also acquired an ability to print on larger pieces of paper.

Then, at some stage, my photography transferred from 35 mm into that form known as “Digital”. Yeah, I bought a digital camera, thereby eliminating that darkroom in favor of a computer. I had already bought a desktop computer—we were now in the 1980s—and some software to go along with it. So, I began fooling around.  I still, at that stage, did not think of myself as a “Digital Artist”, or what I was producing as “Art”.

Then time moves on. I gradually expanded my repertoire of digital production equipment, to include different and larger printers. And the technology changed over time, so that I could now print on rolls of paper, or even, rolls of “Canvas”. Yeah, that’s “Canvas”, as in the same kind of thing oil painters use to render their mental images into a final painted product on canvas.

And then, to confuse everything further, the village in which we now live, began sponsoring periodically, things called “Art Walks”.  Now what you might ask, is an “Art Walk”?  Well, it is an artsy event in our downtown, in which a number of commercial establishments on the main street allow artists to display their art work, generally indoors to avoid any weather, and people from the village wander with their families from one shoppe to another looking at and sometimes buying some of the art, after which they all go to dine at one of the local eateries.  And the shoppes range from actual art galleries to other commercial shoppes selling various products, and maybe even the dining establishments towards which the folks would eventually gather.  Each “Art Walk” would last for several hours, and it would provide an opportunity to both show off whatever you had produced, and to chat with the folks wandering by.  And what was the “Art” at these events? Well, there was the usual collection of oil painters, or water colorists, plus ceramicists, jewelers, woodworkers, even musicians.  The events were pleasant, sometimes even profitable for the “Artists”.

Now there was always a sort of competition between the oil/water colorists and the digital “Artists”.  See, one of the things I had acquired over the years was this thing called artistic digital software, Photoshop to be specific.  And with my software, I could produce final images, and then print them on canvas, which looked for all he world like they were oil paintings. That is, the game was no longer to produce digital art that was clearly photographs, but rather to muddy the waters enough so that folks could not easily tell the difference.  Now, my intent was not to confuse the buying public, but rather to produce artistic creations that pleased me, and hopefully the public.  That is, I would fool with an image on the computer until I had an image that I thought was pleasing, and then I would go ahead and print it on canvas.  Then I would frame it and voila, a whole new form of artistic imagery.

And one of the nicer features of these “Art Walks” was just conversing with the public wandering by.  Inevitably, if someone was struck by one of my pieces, they would inquire, “And how did you do that?”, a question never asked of a water colorist, or an oil painter.  And I would always reply to them, “Well,  I bring up the image on my computer screen, and then, using Photoshop, I begin to modify the image until . . .” And as often as not, before I had finished explaining my mental process of digital conversion, someone would respond, “Oh, you Photoshopped it” and then walk away.  See, I hadn’t really done anything. Photoshop had created the image.  So, finally, I began responding to the question differently. I would say, “Oh, I bought a device called the Adobe Magic Wand. And what I do is to bring an image onto my computer screen, wave the Magic Wand at the image and then sit back to await the final artistic creation. The Wand creates the final artistic image and then I just print it.”

And so my art work was transformed into the end product of a technical software process. See, there was no art involved at all.  I suppose you might call it “Fake Art”.

But then, what is “Art”?  I actually looked up the term on my computer, and wound up more confused than enlightened. Seems there is no useful definition of “Art”.  See, it’s pretty clear that the following image is called “Art” by almost everyone. Yeah, it’s that Van Gogh touch that gets them every time.


But then what of the following image? Is this “Art”?


No? Well, then Why Not?  Oh, because it was created on a computer.  So, computer-generated “Art” is not real art? Well, many would argue, “No, the second image is definitely “Art”. Whether you like it enough to buy it is an entirely different question.  Now to be fair, most of us would not buy the first artistic creation either, but that would be because we couldn’t afford to buy it.

That raises the question in my mind, what is “Good Art”?  That is, suppose the first image had not been created by Van Gogh, but by Jimmy Humbert, living in Manhattan, and attending the PS 82 school. And Jimmy, liked to dabble, and had produced that image last week.  Would folks look at it and say, “wow, that is a handsome piece of art”. Or would they say, “Nice job Jimmy, keep it up and you may actually turn into a real artist some time”.

See, I look at many pieces of art, and say, “wow, that is really awful”, or “wow, that is definitely mediocre”. Or maybe, “Hmmm, another landscape that doesn’t even come close to the quality of my landscapes”.  And yet, people, including the cognoscente, might well, look at one of my landscapes and one of the others produced by a local landscape artist, and love his or hers, but dismiss mine.  And because that actually happens, and folks go around proclaiming some artist’s wonderful landscapes, I am drawn back to this question, currently unanswered, which is, “what is good art?” And I think the answer actually has something to do with people’s perception of what it takes to produce “real art”. Photographic art, Ansel Adams aside, I think is simply not viewed through the same “Art” lens as oil paintings, or water colors. And it has something to do with peoples’ perception of the relative effort to produce each piece. I think photographs are seen as the work of the camera and maybe the software, whereas the water colors or oil paintings are the work of a brain, eye and hand coordination, and a more artistic sense by the artist of how to combine color and texture and scenery.  That is, “Effort”.

And now that the pandemic has ended things called “Art Walks” and I have ceased producing pieces of art with my Adobe Magic Wand, I will likely never really discover an answer to the questions, “What is good art”, or even just, “What is art?” I think I shall never see a satisfactory answer to that question, but I do finally understand that apparently my “art” is appreciated by only a few, but a precious few humans on this planet.  If anyone wishes to view what I consider some of my “best” works of art (or pseudo-art?) you might check them out at my artsy blog. Go to

  https://observedart.blogspot.com/2020/02/bestfavorites.html

Do have fun. And remember that old Adobe Magic Wand.