Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#IWSG #ROW80 #A-TO-Z-CHALLENGE PRE-POST SOAPBOX “TO MY DEAR FRIEND, ****”


Well, now. What could all of this be about? And why am I addressing everyone in any writing group that I've ever participated (or hovered on the outskirts of) in? There's a simple reason for that and it has to do with MAGNIFICATION, which just means that I want the broadest audience possible for this post. Normally, I don't give a good goddamn who reads what, unless I think I've written something truly fine or more likely, hysterically funny, but there isn't a whole lot to laugh about these days, is there?

So, this is to my Dear Friend, ****. I'm not using any names, but there are plenty of you out there that I count as my dear friends and I care about you, and this post is mainly directed AT you and it is meant in as loving a way as I can possibly state. ARE YOU ALL FUCKING NUTS?

courtesy:thedailybeast.com        

No, I take that back, Dear Friend, ****, because surely your rationale for making the decision and choices that you are clearly making now, make some sense to you, although the rest of the world is scratching it's head over this. I am talking about the decision to back Donald Trump as our next Republican Presidential Candidate in the 2016 General Election.

You know what is odd about this? I see your point; I truly do. However, you, I, and the rest of the nation have been sold this bill of goods for so long, it's hard to know what is the truth anymore and what is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. So, let me see if I can clear it up for all of us, Dear Friend, ****. We've been fed a lot of guff for a long time, all of us and it's time we all put an end to the long con.

courtesy:content.time.com                                

You see, back in the days of true Conservative Republican-type politics, we had very good candidates like Barry Goldwater, who made a run for President in 1964, only to be undone by one Lyndon Baines Johnson, who while a terrific Senator and Speaker of the House was a truly shitty president, was already lying to the American public about the truth of things about the Tonkin Gulf. He could hardly help that however, since he was being lied to by Robert McNamara and later, General William Westmoreland, regarding body counts in Vietnam. However, it was the beginning of what would become a period of deceit in American Politics that would continue to haunt us until this day.

Goldwater would have made a good President, my Dear Friend, ****, but he made one statement that made him sound war-like and LBJ jumped on it in his campaigning (not that mud-slinging was anything new, but LBJ raised the bar on that) and so he buried Goldwater.

But, LBJ botched Vietnam, and decided at the 11th hour not to run in '68, leaving the door open for pacifist George McGovern as the Democratic Candidate, facing off against Richard Nixon, who won in a landslide, declaring “We want no wider war”, all the while bombing into Cambodia and creating one of the most horrific scenes of genocide by de-stabilizing that country.

And so it goes, Dear Friend, ****. America has invested in her share of Acts of Folly, up to and including the invasion of Iraq and the destabilization of the entire Middle East. Because, we think we know better than everyone else. Because we believe that our way is better and that we are going to ram democracy and freedom down the entire 3rd world's throats, if it kills 'em. Our hubris, arrogance and base stupidity know no bounds. As reference, I point again to Vietnam.

We built “hamlets” and moved all of the agrarian farmers from the outlying villages into them. What we never understood and what the Vietnamese revere more than anything is ancestor worship and by taking them forcefully from their homes and moving them to a new place forced them to leave behind generations of their dead, which they cherished highly. It was no way to win the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese and it only served to drive more and more of these villagers into the hands of the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, who was a Patriot first and a Communist, second. 




Ho Chi Minh

But, we NEVER could get that fine distinction into our thick heads and we STILL have a hide-bound government determined to follow the Truman Doctrine right straight to Hell. The Truman Doctrine, roughly paraphrased, means that by allowing one country to be “coerced” into becoming a Communist country, other countries in the region will fall to the same type of political and economical regime; a “Domino Effect” as it were.

My screed is going to take a different tack now, because there are other parallels in history that resemble what is going on now and they are quite simply, terrifying, Dear Friend, ****.

If we go back into the 20th century and look at post WW I Germany, and the Weimar Republic, we can see that this was a time that was fraught with great economic upheaval in the entire world, not just Germany. The Russian Revolution had been fought and won, and if Lenin had lived longer, the USSR would not have become this monolithic enigma that it turned into under Stalin. With good reason, the Soviets feared the West. They were invaded five times after the initial Revolution, by various countries and factions, but the Bolsheviks always won and were becoming suspicious and wary of the west.

To the west, a young Adolf Hitler was busily putting together some kind of rag-tag base of political ill-repute. A chicken farmer, (Rudolph Hess), a flying ace from WW I and some-time heroin addict (Hermann Goering) and the SA, the precursor to the SS. What Hitler did after he was arrested for the 1923 beer-hall putsch, was to sit himself down and write “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) which should be REQUIRED reading for anyone who wants to think critically. 

courtesy:furtherglory.wordpress.com                          

Once Hitler was out of jail, he began to get this thing published and distributed and went to Union Meetings, Town Halls and distributed the thing. It won him all of the disaffected Germans who were suffering; suffering loss of status, loss of income, loss of their own sense of self within what they “knew” to be true as “Germanic”, or as Hitler would feed them, the term “Aryan”. He started out by descrying the Treaty of Versailles, which was a punitive treaty, the Allies rammed down Germany's throat, at the end of WW I. We, as part of the Allies in WW II would not make that mistake again. But gradually, he talked about “Pan-Germanism”, anti-communism and only later, began to sneak in anti-semitism. His growing supporters lapped this up like pigs at a trough. At last! Someone who understands us! Someone who is for us!

Boy, howdy, Dear Friend, ****, did they buy into it. They began to rally around this little failure of a man and listen to his hours-long screeds, which consisted mainly at the time of the equivalent of “there, there, papa is here to make it all better”. As Hitler began to gain strength, he began his onslaught on the Reichstag, the legal government of Germany, being presided over by President von Hindenburg. He first was able to establish the NAZI (Nationalist-Socialist Party) from the defunct NSDAP party and gain a majority in the Reichstag. In 1934, the NAZIs successfully passed the “Enabling Act”, which began the process of turning Germany into a one-party dictatorship based on totalitarian and autocratic ideology of National Socialism.

Well, Dear Friend, ****, this is where we start seeing that the will of the people don't mean anything. Hitler had already been secretly rebuilding an army called the Wehrmacht, to augment and eventually replace the Reichswehr, which was but a rump of an army, in the event Germany had to defend herself.

While Hitler was gangbusters at drumming up war fever and babbling about lebensraum, easily interpreted as “what's yours is now mine” or is a type of colonialism mind-set left over from the 19th century, Hitler went at it with a fury. His first acquisition was Austria, which was practically German, because the Austrians spoke German. Then, came the Sudetenland, which was a rump state that had belonged to Germany, or Germans had walked across, or looked at.

courtesy:history.com

Winston Churchill. Neville has apparently evaporated from the internet (just kidding), but would you want to face this bulldog across a negotiating table, squabbling about the fate of the free world? Neither would I and I'm a BITCH!

Up until this point, Dear Friend ****, the west had rattled a couple of sticks, not even sabers, and had conceded everything that Der F├╝ehrer asked for. In Great Britain, The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, gave into every single demand, while a back-bencher, by the name of Winston Churchill sat and fumed. But appeasement NEVER pays off, as Herr Chamberlain would find out on September 1, 1939.

Ultimatums flew back and forth, and Hitler was certain that the West would not attack, but they did. Although ultimately victorious, the Allies took heavy, heavy losses. But, what of the Germans who had followed this nameless gorm so blindly into the cataclysm? Their 1000-year Reich lasted exactly 12 years and when the German Army was in retreat and after it was apparent they could not stand and hold, Hitler ordered them to “raze the countryside” because, “these people, these sheep I have led do not deserve to live”, or words to that effect.

Dear Friend, ****, Hitler's Arkitektminister, Albert Speer ran, drove, rode horses, all over the countryside, countermanding that order. He knew the war was lost, but he still cared enough about his country and his fellow Germans that he didn't want them to starve during the wintertime. War is a bitter, bitter thing. But even more bitter, is finding out that your leader doesn't give one good goddamned about you.

So, what have I just told you, Dear Friend, ****? I have just described a scenario we are currently in the midst of. Through no fault of yours or mine, we have become disenfranchised in a way. Big deal. I once had a fine house out in the country, then I tried to buy a house during the Banking Crisis and I fought off eviction for two years. I can no longer drive, due to the fact that I am legally blind. Big Deal.

What we have is a man who is trying to steam-roll his way into being President and he is preying on the likes of people who have the mindset that they have in fact, lost something. Yes, you have. I have. But, it's part of social change and electing a person like this who is also now got the GOP endorsing him and groveling at his feet and appeasing him, is very much like a scenario that existed back in Germany in the 30s. This does not make Trump eminently fit to become one of the most powerful men in the world. To put it bluntly, the guy is a schlemiel and one of the reasons Vladimir Putin loves him so much, is because Putin will eat him for breakfast.

There is so much more at stake here than just what's sitting in your driveway. Have a motorcycle? You're doing better than I am. Gotta a car? Good for you! I have to take public transportation and sit next to Drunky McStinkly. This does not give me cause to lose all reason and vote for a jackleg.

I will leave you with this, Dear Friend, ****. Whatever happens in this election, whomever wins, we are liable to see bloodshed in the streets and Donald Trump is responsible for this. He has whipped up hatred and fervor to a pitch not seen since the days of Reconstruction or the riots of the 60s. This used to be a country of beautiful ideals. We used to be able to engage in discourse and disagree on subjects without resorting to violence and this has gone the way of the sabre-toothed tiger. We used to be the “melting pot” not only of different cultures, faiths and people, but also ideas. We are so far off that path now, I wonder if we can get that back.


This is becoming more and more the norm. The organization is supposedly a religious one and is under the protection of a non-profit.


This was the original picture I wanted to use that I had found for another post. This more properly conveys, I think, the true nature of what a fascist regime represents, unlike the little ragtag, make-do pretend army of the previous picture. If you have never visited a country that exists under a Military or One-man Dictatorship, you should. Your eyes will be opened. Visiting Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R., and as much as I love the Russians, their way of life did nothing to enamor me of their governance; just because they were Communists at the time (and still REALLY are), means nothing. It's the flip side of the same coin.

I hear rhetoric now about doing away with certain parts of the Constitution and parts of some of the Amendments that don't sit well with some politicians. So be it. The Great American Experiment lasted about 240 years. The Ottoman Empire lasted longer. Maybe Khrushchev was right and we will be tossed onto the ash heap of history; a fitting place for the country I see around me right now. Good luck, my Dear Friend, ****. I will never forget you. I'll be the one on the OTHER side of the barricades, or like Leon Trotsky (sans Stalin), will be writing policy for a new world. For what it's worth, I vote Independent and vote the principle, NOT the platform!

Monday, March 21, 2016

#A-TO-Z CHALLENGE 2016 GENERAL - LIFE, HUMOR AND MUSIC NO THEME


This year I'm going without a theme. In years past, I've always gone to something like, “Music” or “Humor” and it wasn't entirely successful. This year, I'm just tossing the theme out the window and will write about some of the things that are still going on in da 'hood, and some music and humor. Just not in any particular order, or with any formal idea in mind.

Part of this is, I suspect, pure laziness, and part of it is that I've been trying to work with an idea for a “serialized novel” that seems to have some legs to it, so the focus is there for the time being.

I do however, always enjoy doing the A-to-Z Challenge and writing (I hope) short, and pithy little posts, so we'll see where we end up, shall we?

I may write about some of my fabulous bus trips in and around Tampa's 'hoods, which are every bit as horrifying as they sound. Last week, we had our “Safety First” kinda bus driver, which was a hoot, because this cat will NEVER make the bus kneel when I need to get off. Since I have very little depth perception, I've been lucky that I haven't bashed my teeth in on the pavement falling out of the bus. I have to REMIND him to make it kneel, although he can see I've got a cane and dark glasses. During our last encounter, there had been a messy accident at the intersection of MLK Blvd. and Nebraska Avenue.


It was just Alex's and my luck, too, that they parked this big, honkin' Fire Truck with it's butt sticking out across the two southbound lanes. They could have pulled up closer to the smashed up cars, but I'm guessing there was leaking gasoline. Thankfully, no one was injured. The police had a fine time directing traffic, though. There was a bit of dancing going on, 'cause Nebraska Avenue.

Five cop cars and a giant-ass Ladder Fire Truck showed up to block the south-bound lanes of Nebraska. We sat there while this idiot dithered about what to do; go left over the median, beside a semi, which just helpfully stopped, straddling both lanes of Nebraska, just north of the intersection and put out a bunch of hazard cones, 'cause Nebraska Avenue, which would have been totally okay, as the cops were directing traffic and would have let us through, or go up on the curb a little bit on the right-hand side of the semi, which would have been okay, because one other bus had already proven it could be done.

But, noooooo. This guy had to fuss and fume around like we were in some perilous situation that would end in a fiery death, if we moved so much as an inch. Some guy on the bus had driven big things in the Military and was trying to coerce the driver into (gasp!) taking a right turn, just before Nebraska and going around the Auto Parts Store, but the driver wasn't sure he could do that, without... tipping over the bus, I guess? On a normal 90° turn? So Military Guy was frustrated. The whole bus was. There were several women who were just coming off shift from the Hospital and I'm sure they were ready to get off their feet. I'd had a long day at Clinical Research and was tired; my essential tremor was misbehaving (stress and lack of sleep does that) and besides, “Mr. Safety First” was a misnomer and he was pissing me off.


A Hartline bus at the Marion Transit Center. When there are twenty buses coming and going all at once, it's like this giant bus ballet, with buses screeching and whooping, farting, speeding up, slowing down and stopping on a dime and it's really something to be a passenger. It could be a GREAT carnival ride.

So, the driver called the Bus Supervisor; some cat that drives around in a little official car, supervising buses, I guess. And he did so, because I think he figured he was about to lose control of the situation. I had already loudly suggested that one of us get off the bus, walk 50 feet to the cops and tell them we were either being kidnapped, or held for ransom. It got a laugh from everyone but the driver. So, the Supervisor showed up and “led” the bus, after talking to the driver and after giving a talking to Military Guy. The Supervisor led the bus to the same exact 90° right turn, that the bus driver could have turned down an hour previously, without the help of the Supervisor. The Supe then led us past a left-hand 90° turn, which would have put us out on MLK and closer to our destination. As we crept past this turn, I hollered out, “What!?! Is that turn too tight for ya?” I was really acting up. Shame on me. Not.

The bus came to a halt. The Supe got on the bus, and started chewing out Military Guy, again. I guess Mr. Safety First had tattled on the phone to the playground recess Teacher, like we were all in 3rd Grade, but he got the wrong miscreant. I 'fessed up, and said “I wouldn't be so irritated if this schlemiel would kneel the bus like he's supposed to, every single time I get off this damned bus!” The Supe looked daggers at the Mr. Safety First and just got off and got back in his little buggy car and led us off to our destination, home.


The Supe's car. It totally doesn't look street legal to me, but hey! What do I know; they're probably cutting corners, to save money.*

Sure enough, I had to ask Mr. Safety First to make the bus kneel, AGAIN, before I could get off of his stupid bus. Some people may think I'm making a big deal out of this, but it's truly hard to see other people with canes who have physical disabilities and then have to remind this guy to lower the bus for them. Certain disabilities tend to cause militant behavior in the person with the disability and for good reason. I can't always rely on people respecting the stick and the glasses. So, I'm wary.


Anyway, this is a big longish for an A-to-Z post, but it's a Not-Theme Reveal, so I thought I'd indulge myself. I am looking forward to the A-to-Z Challenge of 2016, whatever it is I write on; I'm going to do my best to make it fun!
_________
*Totally kidding. That was for (Believe it! Or not) "Bus Fest" a few years ago!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

#ROW80 – A SMALL DEATH IN TAMPA (NO APOLOGIES TO THOMAS MANN; THAT WOULD BE CREEPY)

One of my constant companions in the latter part of my adventurous life, gave up the ghost. Turned up his toes, went as far as he could and died in my arms last night. It was to be expected, because he had been ridden and ridden hard these last five-and-a-half years. He will certainly be missed, because there was such an intimacy between us and we shared so much together; laughter, misery, anger and fun.


 "What or whom could she be talking about?"
Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, played by the St. Petersburg Orchestra (once the Leningrad Symphony, conducted by one of my favorite people, EVER, Yuri Temirkanov*

To be honest, I'm surprised he lasted this long, with all the abuse and pounding and dropping and losing he forebore over the course of his (I think, I haven't checked his warranty) long life, but I do believe the average life-span is about two years and I, in my usual manner, not tending to coddle electronics, any more than I am myself – beyond routine maintenance care – have done more than my share of harm, although he has proven himself time and time again, that he is able to be resurrected from the dead. I am, after all a “Practitioner of the Dark Arts”. But my best and most clever fix-its from my bag of spel-er, tricks, turned out to be futile. Thus, an old friend must be laid to rest.

His partner lives on happily – Ms. Wireless Mouse, mainly because she has no moving parts – I can just hear my male readers “so like a woman”, but I do tend to anthropomorphize my computers and their peripherals and my viola. So, sue me. My viola is a male, and I did not choose the gender, nor his name. My 6-core AMD processor is not a female, although my dual-core is. I just know this, weird. The other “babies” in the house, are either trans-gender (because I run virtual machines of varying types), or haven't made enough of an impact on my life to regard them as anything other than, “them”. I just hope “they” don't rise up some day and take over the house.


Logitech Mouse. Plain and simple. I've seen these gaming mice that look like tanks, with 50 buttons on each side. Yikes!

Anyway, that was a huge and scary digression. My wireless keyboard died and no amount of changing batteries, cleaning, pairing, un-pairing would fix him. I'm really sorry to lose him, because he fit like a nicely well-worn glove. There are indentations in the keys from the millions of keystrokes I've bashed on each letter over the years, and an interesting thing; the keys on the left-hand side are more indented and beaten than those on the right, although I write with my right hand, I do nearly everything else with my left. My mom was left-handed, and confusion reigned when it came to using tools as simple as scissors in our house, because she was militantly left-handed. Her teachers tried to force her to use her right-hand and she quit talking for 3 weeks.

So, when they gave up on that and she resumed using her left-hand, and as an adult, she ordered every version of right-handed anything, in the left-handed version, and just threw it in with the rest of the utensils. It gave my Daddy fits, but I adjusted and am perfectly comfortable with either/or.

courtesy:www.lefthandedworld.com                                            

This pretty much just led to twice as much junk in the junk drawer, and if I were in a hurry, a box-cutter would usually do the trick. I think they work in both hands.

It doesn't matter which hand I write with now, anyway because with my essential tremor, either hand is illegible. I seldom hand-write anything but my name; it's that bad. But again, I'm running up a different alley, than from where I started.


You can see the indentations and how the letters have been rubbed off on some keys. I'm willing to bet there are many of you out there, who have keyboards that look at LEAST this bad!

My left hand is the hand that holds some power for playing the viola, and it's an odd kind of power. It has to be done delicately, with the fingers barely above the string. As you read the notes, the corresponding finger should just kiss the string in fast passage work, while you coordinate it with the bow-arm.

What non-string players don't understand is the bow-arm is the hardest thing to learn. There are times you have to exert raw power through the use of pronation – rotation of the wrist, the kind boxers use, to draw the sound from the string, but this all works in concert with the flexibility and balance of your fingers, the angle of your elbow, and the weight of your shoulder. If any one of these is not correct, you're not going to produce a very nice sound.


I figured since we're talking about violas, bows, left-hands and right-hands, you should see some. The viola is "Wolf" named by his luthier in Michigan, when he was appraised and insured. He was made by Guidantus Florenus and is an Italian Aristocrat, but a poor cousin of the Cremonese, as he is from Bologna. The bow is German and modern, a Grunke and weighs in at a hefty 74 grams, the heaviest viola bow available. It was made by an aircraft engineer, as many bows are, due to their wing-like structure. Built to be tough and durable, it is well-balanced and very responsive. The hands are mine. 

Same thing with the left hand. In slow passage work, this is when you want to lean into the string, and work up that nice vibrato, that can be increased or decreased at will to heighten or lessen the intensity of the passage you are playing. The “Vocalise” by Rachmaninoff is a wonderful exercise for this and for developing long, slow, robust bow movement, pressure and changes.

Anyway, enough yammering about playing Wolf. This is in homage to an old and dearly departed friend. Mr. keyboard. (I'm so ashamed I didn't name you... nah) You will be missed. I am keeping your husk around, much like a cryogenic-type thing, mebbe you'll just pop back into life. Or not. I guess I better take those fresh new batteries out of you and save them for a new, wireless keyboard, when I get the chance to buy one. In the meantime, I'll use this dumb, old corded one that has been lying around the house. I already hate it. Take care old friend. May your CTRL + ALT + DEL keys be ever useful wherever you are!
_____
* During a rehearsal break at Meadow Brook, MI, Maestro Temirkanov, who has very little English and I had a "conversation" in my horrible Russian. He insisted that I was Polish. I explained that I was 100% Scottish and had never set foot in Poland. I did tell him however, that what he was probably hearing was my botched-up Spanish accent overlaid in my Russian. We had a good laugh over that. He was amazing to work with!



GOALS: Have written another section of “Nebraska Creepers” and am creeping ever-onward.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

#IWSG – MARCH 2016 CHECK-IN


The last couple of months have been rather hairy; lots of wonderful things have happened and, some not so wonderful things have happened as well. I've been writing sporadically, but have been trying to keep up on deadlines; so far that has also been sporadic; #IWSG is easier at this time (for you #ROW80 folks who wonder what happened), but I've been practicing more and reading a lot for the language and tone.

Currently, I'm reading two different books that couldn't be more unalike in tone and gravity, but both are simply wonderful. I'm reading “11/22/63” by Stephen King, recommended by a dear friend.

courtesy:www.liljas-library.com      

11/22/63” is so much like the Stephen King of old. It is fraught with suspense and the atmosphere of the 60s is captured perfectly by King, and his language is again beautiful. His characterizations are sharp and he has lost the coyness that pissed me off in his later works. You cannot help but feel for Jake as he tries his damnedest to foil an assassination that will change the world completely. And as Al, Jake's mentor says, “With Kennedy alive, there would be no Viet Nam, no Watergate”, and that lends a desperate quality to Jake's actions, but he's always thinking and trying to stay one step ahead. But, not having finished it yet, I have no idea what the foiling of Oswald's plan will bring about in the present day.

courtesy:www.goodreads.com                                        

The Fourth Hand” by John Irving, is much like “A Son of the Circus” in tone, which I enjoyed immensely. Irving can take the most absurd situations and make them hilarious, even when they're really pretty tragic. This book involved Patrick Wallingford, or “the lion-guy” as everyone calls him, after he has his left hand bitten off, fought over and eaten by a pack of hungry circus lions in India, while on assignment. It doesn't get any better for Patrick, or "disaster man" when he takes an assignment in Japan and his clothes are “sent for a day to the Philippines, because that always happens”, according to his Japanese hosts. “They are only misplacing, they will be back.” says one of the hosts. They come back, but apparently, the Customs Agents used drug-sniffing dogs and they pissed all over his clothes, so Irving refers to Wallingford's clothes as “pissed on by Filipino dogs clothing” throughout the rest of this trip. Wallingford is used to all of this and just sort of goes along with anything that happens to him.

This is another book I haven't finished yet, but it is extremely enjoyable and Irving's writing is of the type that always makes me laugh. “A Son of the Circus” was just hilarious, even when it was tragic, again.

So, that's pretty much for it for last month. I wrote some on "The Nebraska Creepers" and now have my own special little episode to add. I want to keep the reader in the dark as much as possible as to who are really the good guys and who are the bad eggs. Working through that is a bit tough. I'm not that great at fiction and even worse when it comes to editing. 

The symphony managed to put on some nice concerts, and we are now in rehearsal for “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky, “The Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss (I forget which one) and Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto. It should be a good one!