Monday, November 30, 2015

No Rioting So Far

Some people think my native city deserves some punishment:

"Chicago Deserves Riots Over The Laquan McDonald Shooting And Coverup"

So far, we haven't had riots. Why not? We've occasionally had riots here in the past. Well, there must be reasons. Here are some that occur to me:

1) Authorities charged the police officer with first degree murder.
2) The city gave the teenager's family 5 million dollars.
3) The teenager wasn't just minding his own business, he was apparently walking around with a knife, refusing orders to drop it.
4) It's cold here.
5) The police are letting the protesters "blow off steam" without too much hindrance.

Serious urban riots are big, complex, emotional events, which involve a lot of factors, including an explosion of frustration on the part of young men.

Serious urban riots tend to be disastrous for the neighborhoods in which they occur. They don't actually help anybody much.

People I talk to, black and white, are generally perplexed by the video of this cop shooting this kid. We just don't understand why he did it. The video raises so many questions that the mind boggles.

The cop has a lawyer, of course.

But I fear his defense
will not make much sense.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Saturday

Is that a real term - Thanksgiving Saturday?

Anyway, I ran a "turkey trot" 5k in the neighborhood, and then I did something unusual - I went to a football game in Soldier Field. It wasn't a Chicago Bears' game, it was a college game - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign vs. Northwestern University, both "Big Ten" teams.

It was a chilly day. Above freezing. But a chilly day. And the team we were rooting for, Illinois, was not looking spectacularly good.

When the wind comes off the lake
and your knees begin to shake,
and it isn't looking good for your own team,
you should jump and give a cheer,
or perhaps a scornful jeer,
just to percolate some warmth in your bloodstream.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Blare of the Trumpet

I'm not a fan of Trump's, I haven't seen him in the debates, and I haven't even watched him much at all on video, since I prefer reading my news. But I am amused by the way he is giving everybody the fits by just saying stuff. He gets "everyone" "outraged" at him, and yet keeps doing fine in the polls for the Republican primary. Somehow the "everyone" is a different set of people than his fan base. The media seems to want to take him down, jumps at each chance, and flubs its apparent chances.

And he gets free publicity every time. From the press.

I'm trying to figure out how he does this.

What is his secret technique?
You open your mouth and speak
And say whatever you feel,
And when challenged declare "I'm real!"

Thursday, November 26, 2015

You Can't Be Syria

From America's Finest (and totally satirical) News Source:

"Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria"

You know they need
the Rule of Law.
Send Congress now
to shock and awe!

Orders of Magnitude

I've decided that when someone tells me of an alleged micro-aggression, I'm going to reply that it's merely a nano-aggression.

There's no point being whiny
when your problems are so tiny.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Non-Self Killing

Buddhism has a rep in this country as being the REAL religion of peace. But a bit of historical study can disabuse you of the notion that devout Buddhists are always peaceful. Even today there are militant Buddhist monks who are given to attacking Hindus and Muslims. But the really big example is the role Zen Buddhism played in Japan, quite notably the role played during WWII, where all the leading Zen religious figures lined up to support Japan's imperial ambitions.

“During the Asia-Pacific War (1937-1945) all Japanese soldiers were indoctrinated with a program of Bushido-promoting “spiritual education” (seishin kyoiku) based on the metaphysical foundation of the unities of Zen and the sword, life and death. Once trained, they were dispatched to the battlefield where nearly three million of them died ‘selflessly’ even as they killed more than twenty million Chinese and other ‘selfless’ enemies in the process. The fact that even today, both in Japan and the West, this corrupted Zen understanding of ‘selflessness’ has, but with few exceptions, remained unchallenged cannot but be regarded as one of the world’s most successful religious deceptions.”

And that's a Zen monk talking, albeit an American one.

You see, if my non-self kills your non-self, and death and life are really one, then my killing you is not so morally significant!

The basic attitude is actually dramatized quite well in James Clavell's novel, Shogun.

Call me unenlightened,
Call me foolishly frightened,
But my non-self would rather not be gored
By anyone's samurai sword.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I saw a new play, Fulfillment, last night. It's doing an unusual thing where it's premiering in 2 cities in quick succession, New York and Chicago. Apparently with the same director - but different actors - for both shows.

I was just looking at the audition notice for the show. It contains this heads up:

"A Note on Nudity: FULFILLMENT is a play about power in contemporary America. The roles of MICHAEL, SARAH and SIMON require actors to participate in staged sexual encounters which will require them to perform select scenes nude. The production will have a professional choreographer who specializes in staging intimacy to create a safe and comfortable environment for these scenes, which are essential to the narrative and themes of the play."

I thought the actual effect, in person, was sort of anti-erotic. Maybe that's just my defensive detachment kicking in! Or maybe it was purposely staged to suggest that the characters' sexual relationships were tawdry - showy but emotionally flat. The Trib reviewer says the play's sex scenes are "laudably unerotic", so I guess we're on the same wavelength here.

Eros without feeling,
can end up unappealing.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Christmas Carol at Dream, 2015

Last night I went to see Dream Theatre Company's seasonal favorite, A Christmas Carol: An Evening of Dickensian Delights.

It's written and directed by my friend, Rachel Martindale, and I thought this was the best incarnation ever. It's the same 3 performers from last year, but with newly constructed accoutrements for the ghosts. You can see a ghostly skeletal hand below:

This is a very literary adaptation, using only Dickens's own words. Each time I attend I hear something new. He had the gift of the gab, that Dickens did. The acting is excellent, which is what you always expect at Dream. It's a tale of supernatural intervention, of course, but this is not a production loaded up with special effects. It's a production that expects you to listen to the words and imagine a lot of things yourself.

Scrooge is an interesting character, the fabulous miser, a type who has fascinated storytellers at least since Plautus wrote The Pot Of Gold. Scrooge mouths some slogans from the "dismal science" school of political economy, but he's not really an ideologue in his motivation.

When we visit Christmas Past, he and his (soon to be ex-) fiancee give the best indication of what has driven him.

He begins by making an accurate observation about the hypocrisy of social opinion:

Scrooge: “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”

But she replies with psychological insight:

Belle: “You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach.”

He fears the reproach of the world. He dreads being scorned for poverty. And so he lives practically as a pauper, sitting on a pile of money, spending almost nothing on himself, or friends, or family.

That's what makes misers funny.
They sit on a pot of money,
And moan that life is not sunny.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Head Stuck In A Can

In Maryland:

'In an episode reminiscent of "Winnie the Pooh," Maryland state wildlife workers used an electric hand saw to remove a milk can that was stuck on the head of a bear.'

Great photo if you click on the link.

Reportedly the bear was calm. But they did tranquilize it, just to be sure. Which seems like a good idea.

Endowed with awesome paws and claws and jaws,
Bears nonetheless exhibit certain flaws,
Including unconcern with human laws.


"Student Found Bound And Gagged At Law School Faked Her Own Kidnapping"

I hope your day is not as bad
as the one she evidently had.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


She is gone
but the hole
in my soul
lingers on.

"Squares or triangles?" I would ask,
when serving her grilled cheese.
This was guaranteed to please,
and she gladly tackled the task
of deciding the shape of her food
according to her current mood.

So often silly things, like these
become the fondest memories.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Miserabilists

They won't be happy,
till you're sad.
Your day is crappy?
Then they're glad.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Trail Run

Great, tough, hilly course. 
Made me wish I had a horse!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Purity in Kant

This is going around, in response to something Marco Rubio said suggesting that maybe more people should go into welding and fewer into philosophy:

Kant, who was hugely influential, is the very model of an armchair philosopher. I've never been a fan exactly, but he tackled big questions, with his "critical method."

As with so many things Kantian, it's hard to say exactly what the "critical method" was, but it recently occurred to me that there was a strong similarity of program in his ethics and his aesthetics, a similarity I hadn't thought about before.

In ethics he pushes hard on the idea that you can only be sure that you're really being moral when you do the right thing when it's against your own interest and desire. So if you hand money to a beggar, and you feel good about it, and it doesn't really inconvenience you, then you haven't done a verifiably good deed!

In aesthetics he pushes hard on the idea that you're only having a true aesthetic appreciation when you admire an artwork for its form alone, absent any natural admiration of the content. So if you like a nude statue partly because it arouses a hint of eros in your mind, you're on the wrong track, buddy!

You can see the push toward purity, of a kind. Purity from earthly considerations or motives.

Then today I was thinking there was something similar going on in his Critique of Pure Reason. There's that word "pure" right in the title. But I puzzled a bit because it's not desire that plays the role of a corrupting influence in his epistemology. Certainly it turns out that it's actually impossible to really know anything about reality - the underlying reality that's out there somewhere beyond the sensory manifold, unfiltered by our mental categories.

But it strikes me that the underlying push is still the same - it is to remove the holy grail of knowledge from our earthly grasp - away from the flesh - away from our puny mortal minds - and into rarefied imaginary territory.

I write all this without quotes.
No doubt I have simplified.
His castle is circled with moats,
And many have vanished inside.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Yoga Smoke

As I arrived at yoga tonight there was a young woman puffing on a cigarette just outside the door in the chilly air. You see this all the time at office buildings, but I'd never seen it at yoga before.

Now that I reflect on it, some sizable percentage of yoga-attenders must be at least occasional smokers, but they must not do it right around class.

This young woman, it turned out, was doing 3 yoga classes back to back, meaning she'd been doing maybe 3 hours already when I saw her.

For some reason I never liked the smell, but I do feel kind of bad for smokers nowadays. They have so few spots where their habit is acceptable.

When you need nicotine on a regular basis,
you end up puffing in inconvenient places.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Melissa Click Apologizes

I see where the U. of Missouri protesters weren't very nice to journalists yesterday:

'Video shot by student Mark Schierbecker shows Janna Basler, the university's assistant director of Greek life and leadership, telling photographer Tim Tai, a student working freelance for ESPN, to "leave these students alone" in their "personal space." Moments later, Melissa Click, an assistant professor in Missouri's communications department, is seen confronting Schierbecker and calling for "muscle" to help remove him from the protest area.'

Although students - most importantly the football team - were deeply involved, it almost sounds as if the overall effort was organized by members of the school's staff!

Anyway, after having won 2 high-level adminstration scalps, and having faced a media firestorm for trying to lock out the media, they're ready to make nice to the media again. Here's Melissa Click, the prof who was calling for 'muscle':

'"I regret the language and strategies I used, and sincerely apologize to the MU campus community, and journalists at large, for my behavior, and also for the way my actions have shifted attention away from the students' campaign for justice," she said in the statement.'

She wanted to muscle out the working press.
Did she overreach? The answer's yes.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

Not ready for Christmas yet?
Relax, this is only a set.

The name of the show is Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, and it's playing at the Royal George Theatre here in Chicago. It's one of these one-actor biography shows. Felder's good, the biography was interesting, and the songs were standards. I would say that nowadays the songs are much better known than the author of the songs, and so a lot of the show consists in explaining what was going on in Berlin's life and mind when he was writing these songs, such as White Christmas, God Bless America, Putting On The Ritz, and on and on.

I saw Felder before, some years ago, playing George Gershwin in a similar one-man show. That one was just called Gershwin Alone. It didn't have Felder's name the title.

But he's done lots more. The Wikipedia article, which kind of sounds like it was written by a publicist, has this:

"Combining the craft of acting and concert-level piano performance, George Gershwin Alone was followed by the creation of the role of Fryderyk Chopin, the Polish composer/pianist, the roles of Ludwig van Beethoven and Gerhard von Breuning in Beethoven, As I Knew Him, Leonard Bernstein in Maestro Bernstein, Franz Liszt in Musik, and Irving Berlin in Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin."

I guess he's doing all right,
playing every composer in sight!

Anatomy is Destiny

Wherever she goes
She follows her nose. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

50k Coming Up

I signed up for a 50k race, 8 days from now. That's 31 miles. I've done the distance 3 times before.

Basically, if you've done a marathon, it's just 4.8 more miles. Piece of cake.

I did have a physician, who never seemed to think there was anything odd about marathon running, react negatively to the notion of running a 50k. His opinion was that humans weren't meant to run farther than a marathon. I assured him that I would walk part of the way.

I had been thinking about doing a different 50k a week ago. But the forecast, which proved quite accurate, was for a day full of rain.

I woke up last week in time to make the race. I looked out the window and thought about running for hours and hours in the rain.

And then, instead,
I went back to bed.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Pyramid Hypotheses

Not that it seems particularly relevant to the job of being American Prez, but what is up with Ben Carson's opinion that the Egyptian pyramids were giant wheat silos?

'In the video, Carson says: "My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain." He was referring to the Old Testament story of Joseph predicting famine and advising the pharaoh to store surplus food.'

I have a far more scientific theory:

The pyramids were erected
by visitors from space,
to hide out undetected
in a subterranean place.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


We're all familiar, from mystery stories, with murders staged to look like suicides. But it happens the other way, too, and it happened in a spectacular way here in Illinois:

'Two months after Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was found dead, investigators call his death a "carefully staged suicide" to cover-up years of embezzlement.'

He fooled a lot of people. For a while. An expensive manhunt was conducted for his killers.

Had a big funeral where people praised him as a hero.
Now his reputation's dropped to zero.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

ACA vs. Costs

The Affordable Care Act seems to be bending the "cost curve" in the wrong direction. The cost of coverage seems to be going up, at the same time as the plans are covering less and less.

It's a mess.

The law always seemed to be an overly complicated machine, a wild combination of bureaucracy and market mechanisms, something that defied human understanding. Was this because it was constructed by an uber-genius? Or was this because it was constructed by committees of sub-geniuses.

Perhaps it doesn't matter
but I fear it was the latter.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Depressing News On The Day Of The Dead

The NY Times reports:

"Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling."

Well, that's not good. In the details, the people afflicted are those with a high school education or less, and the means by which death comes are three:


When I see that list, I think depression and despair. It probably isn't simply economics, because black people have reportedly suffered more economically in the aftermath of the financial crisis. I'm thinking spiritual issues, not material issues. I don't necessarily mean religious, although that could be part of it. I mean that sense of having something to believe in - the opposite of nihilism.

The data is a surprise.
My opinion's just a surmise.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

November One Run

I went for a run and saw some stuff.

First up, a dandelion seemed to think it was still Summer:

Next up, a maple tree that realized Autumn is here:

Departing from botany, and turning to zoology, here's a garter snake on the asphalt of a Chicago street. I assume they're around here on a regular basis, but they're so sneaky that I can go years without spotting one:

Finally, I want to mention that I found 4 pennies and a dime on my 12-mile run.

Never say running is not worthwhile.
I made somewhat more than a penny a mile!