February 2, 2018
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Proto Surfer-Dude & Fellow Subversive
From 19th-Century American manly man and poet, Walt Whitman:
The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors; nor even in its newspapers or inventors … but always most in the common people … the air they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of their superiors… the terrible significance of their elections – the President’s taking off his hat to them them, not they to him…
February 27, 2017
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Native-American Flag (At the time meaning white Anglo-Saxons arriving from Europe w/in the past 100 years) ca. 1850
A few weeks ago I attended an art show opening of Oneness at the Irma Freeman Center in Pittsburgh. Among other work, the show featured Maranie Staab’s photographs of refugees from Jordan and Iraq. As our country debates whether and how to permit refugees from various lands to live and work in a nation founded by immigrants, it’s worthwhile to consider the great diaspora from another country. The Irish Potato Famine (An Gorta Mor) of 1845-1850 killed an estimated one to one-and-a-half million people and sent thousands fleeing from their native land.
When the Irish immigrants arrived in America, the response — including in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, where the Know-Nothing Party had a stronghold — included virulent fear and prejudice against what was perceived as an alien and subversive threat. How different are the stories and faces then from the stories and faces now of those arriving from Syria and Iraq, Mexico and South America?
If you’re Irish (and everyone is on Saint Patrick’s Day) celebrate the luck of your ancestors in not dying of typhus or starvation before making it to Columbia’s fabled shore in coffin ships. Meanwhile, I am continuing to record installments of James Joyce’s The Dead. Take a listen. Hopefully, I’ll finish in time to enjoy a green beer on March 17th. — CDL
February 9, 2017
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‘Next!’ (Cartoon by Udo J. Keppler, Puck Magazine)
Who is left to uphold [the law]? The lawyers? Some of the best lawyers in this country are hired, not to go to court to defend cases, but to advise corporations and business firms how they can get around the law without too great a risk of punishment. The judges? Too many of them so respect the laws that for some ‘error’ or quibble they restore to office and liberty men convicted on evidence overwhelmingly convincing to common sense. The churches? We know of one…which had to be compelled by… a health officer to put its tenements in sanitary condition. The colleges? They do not understand. There is no one left; none but all of us.
Editorial by Samuel McClure, McClure’s Magazine, January 1903 (the same issue that published Ida Tarbell’s article on Standard Oil and Ray Stannard Baker’s exposé of union practices) — DA
January 22, 2017
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Image courtesy Phil Stephensen-Payne, Galactic Central Publications
‘At first the ruling class — the bankers, the businessmen, and the lawyers – paid little attention to the members of the Farmers’ Alliance and the new Populist party.’
We prideful ones considered the Alliance candidates as the dregs of Butler County society; farmers who had lost their farms, Courthouse hangers-on… political scapegraces… demagogic rabble-rousing without any tie to reality… A child of the the governing classes, I was blinded by my birthright. ‘
Doris Kearns Goodwin quoting William Allen White, a child of privilege from Kansas who became a muckraking journalist at McClure’s Magazine during the Progressive era.
December 20, 2016
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Habits of Highly Successful Sociopaths
Charles Dickens, Thought Leader for Our Times
From Syria to to Russia to the U.K. and good ol’ U.S., it seems ’tis the season this year for giving free reign worldwide to human socio-pathology. Scrooge might feel right at home today in his unreformed state. Dickens himself had his shadow side, one that exists in all of us. Perhaps we should view A Christmas Carol less as propaganda illustrating a heartwarming epiphany and inviting smarmy, unrealistic expectations of human behavior, than perhaps a guide to contemporary life. We Americans love self-help books, DVDs and advice web sites. Herewith are suggested affirmations staying with the spirit of the times and finding your inner sociopath. Use them for making your own list and checking it twice, if you are so inclined. N.B.: This is a parody. If you don’t get the joke, ask for a sense of humor for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Saturnalia. If you celebrate Festivus, you presumably already have one. – DA
- Start the day with a plan
- Practice Vulcan mind control
- Make faces in a mirror like your favorite business executive or recently-elected political figure of your choice
- When tempted to give money or sympathize with the poor and homeless, hit your head with a hammer. Better yet, hit the poor and homeless with a hammer. It’s their fault for making you feel that way.
- If you must give, give worthless items to charity that can be written off for exorbitant amounts (e.g. – dysfunctional computer systems (e.g., ‘the cloud’), worthless real estate, obsolete airplanes, ). Do this in an ostentatious manner while humblebragging
- Update your Facebook page. Lie. Take every comment personally.
- Update your Ok (Stupid) Cupid profile. Lie.
- Stay up till four in the morning monitoring social media feeds and responding in an obsessively petty manner – despite the fact that you will soon be responsible for the safety of the free world and need your rest.
- Add or subtract four inches to or from a part of your anatomy of your choice. For women, this could be the bust size. For guys — you get the idea.
- Friendship is for losers, but it’s helpful to fake it. A few tips:
- People will put up with a lot to be able to say they have friends
- Everyone is lonely. It’s a fact of life
- Saying you have friends at work is pathetic and delusional or a lie
- Remember the sky’s the limit on what you can get away with.
- People’s capacity for wishful thinking and self-delusion is unlimited.
- Recent studies say there’s no free will. Everything we do is determined by genes and neurochemistry. Therefore —
- It only counts if you’re caught — and then you couldn’t help it
- If you insist on believing in God or some other Higher Power, you might check out predestination. Start with Martin Luther, world’s worst Catholic.
November 10, 2016
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If you are dismayed and wringing your hands over the recent demonstration of democracy in America on November 8th, it might be good to keep in mind a quote by Benjamin Franklin. When Franklin exited the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, a lady in a group of citizens asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin replied.
Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy , which BBC Radio broadcast in the late 1970s/80s, provides this additional helpful insight:
From Fit the Seventh:
Narrator: There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory mentioned, which states that this has already happened.
Adams’ advice in HGG is something that DeTocqueville and Franklin, themselves fellow travelers in this existential universe, might subscribe to: Don’t panic, and carry a towel.
November 8, 2016
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Because someone will win and someone will lose at the end of this election day:
Born Losers: A History of Failure in America by Carnegie Mellon University’s own Scott Sandage (who is gay).
What makes somebody a “Loser,” a person doomed to unfulfilled dreams and humiliation? Nobody is born to lose, and yet failure embodies our worst fears. The Loser is our national bogeyman, and his history over the past two hundred years reveals the dark side of success, how economic striving reshaped the self and soul of America. — Harvard University Press
Here’s a bit of traveling music for Hillary and The Donald and the rest of us who endured and persist in our hopes and dreams long after this year’s long dark night of the poll is over:
Just a small town girl
Livin’ in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere
Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere
…Payin’ anything to roll the dice
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on
From Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey, Copyright 1981
June 22, 2016
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Surprises of an artistic kind help get me out of bed in the morning and get me through another day. Traveling to and from the cube farm through the alley across from USX, I encountered Deanna and her friend Sandy Kessler Kaminksy hard at work on Deanna’s mural commissioned by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP). They persisted In the midst of heat, rain, the celebratory distractions of the Penguins’ parade and my annoying questions. To counter the rotten news coming from Orlando and the tedium of another work week ahead, they conjured creative serendipity on the cracked, worn pavement to feed the ‘Burgh’s parched pedestrian soul. Enjoy. I did. — CDL
December 31, 2015
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The Dead, James Joyce’s famous story, takes place between New Year’s Eve and the Feast of the Epiphany (Twelfth Night). It was probably written in 1904. Included as part of Dubliners, it is one of my favorite short stories. I often read it around the holidays.
2015 has been a particularly hard year. I offer the following impromptu reading from the opening page this New Year’s Eve as a way perhaps of seeking comfort and reassurance (or penance) for my own uncertainty.
In 1916 the Irish experienced a national uncertainty, with roots dating to Cromwell’s occupation. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising. The Dead, with its ghosts and melancholy, foreshadows this bloody event and the controversy over Irish independence. In Joyce’s story Molly Ivors calls Gabriel a ‘West Briton’ and asks why he doesn’t go cycling in Galway (where his wife, Greta, is from) instead of traveling to Europe:
“And why do you go to France and Belgium,” said Miss Ivors, “instead of visiting your own land?”
“Well,” said Gabriel, “it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.”
“And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with—Irish?” asked Miss Ivors.
John Huston directed a film adaptation written by Tony Huston and co-staring Anjelica in 1987.