I didn’t go to Vietnam, but . . .

May 25, 2015

I was a kid of the ’60s which means now I’m in my own sixties.

While there was a lot going on back in the day, with all the world descending into war and chaos and so forth and so one, nevertheless there was a lot of good happening too.

Always has been, always will be, a lot of good and a lot of bad going on in the world at the same time,  and here we are trying to sort our way through it.

Makes me think of Take Your Place on the Great Mandela, a song sung by Peter, Paul and Mary.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-tBLqIz6wA

Now you remember, since I mention the ’60s, there was a war going on back then.

As there is a war going on today, somewhere. Most likely we are involved in it, directly or indirectly, we being the big kid on the block, policeman of the world, inheritor of the post WorldWarII reconstruction and defender of the free world.

I mean that: Defender of free world. It’s a job to be taken seriously.

Back in the day, when the war was in Vietnam, when Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and God only knows who else, along with thousands of American boys, were trying to make southeast Asia safe for democracy, I reached draft age at the same time that the US gov implemented a lottery for selecting draftees.

My draft # was 349. Literally the luck of the draw. So I never went to ‘Nam, never served in the military.

Now we don’t have a draft any more. Our soldiers are all professionals. And that, in my opinion, is the main difference between American strength then and America now. And please forgive me when I say, that’s the way it should be. It seems to me that that whole damn business of the anti-war movement during our Vietnam striving was an outcome of the draft. It was the draft, and my generation’s refusal to accept it, that doomed our effort, from the start, to successfully prosecute that unpopular war.

And for what its worth, Vietnam hasn’t turned out so bad. My daughter traveled there several years ago and gave a very favorable report of the place, including their fondness for Americans in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

But looking back on it, ff we had had no draft, everything we did in Vietnam might have turned out differently. We might have won.

But then we’ll never know, will we?, about such vain speculations as the one I have just made.

Nevertheless, that’s my opinion and I’m stickin’ to it. I’m an American, with a Constitutionally-protected right to express it, thanks to those whose valiant service has assured our freedoms.

And I believe that if another war comes along that truly requires a draft, such as World War II, then our Congress will affirm the need, and men and women will rise to the challenge.

Thanks to those who have fought to defend to our liberty. Thanks to their families, whose survival is saddened by the loss of their brave sons, daughters, relatives and friends who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, who deposited into the blood-drenched soils of Vietnam, Korea, Okinawa, France, Belgium, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, and many other places including our very own USA where President Lincoln commemorated their sacrifice at Gettysburg. . .the dear cost of freedom paid by those who contributed their “last full measure of devotion.”

Now you may be thinking that’s easy for me to say, as one who never served.

And you’re right. It is easy for me to say, or to write, but that’s just the way it is.

In a free country, citizens are free to serve in the armed forces, or not serve. For those who do accept military duty, whether for a season or for a career, we ought to provide a good living, and extraordinary opportunities for them to prosper, to live long and well, in our free nation after they have completed military service.

I mean it when I say: we owe a great debt to our men and women who defend the United States of America and our Allies by serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Because of my feelings about all this, I wrote a novel to express the way I see our war-torn world. It is the story of a young man who did not do military service, but who is, in the story, traveling through Britain and France during the year 1937. And he, Philip, has a destination, which is a battlefield in Belgium, a place called Flanders Field, where his father is buried.

His father had died in 1918 defending Belgium, France, and the free world.

My novel story is fictional, but it depicts some tragic truth about what goes on in this perilous world, a world that is often at war with itself. But it’s a world that occasionally catches some respite in between wars, as I did, and also as my character Philip did in the novel,

Smoke.

I wanna know what happen to Freddie Gray

May 23, 2015

Who was Freddie anyway?

 

Now I don’t know but I been told

that we Americans got a right that we hold:

from unreasonable searches and seizures we are free,

’cause the 4th Amendment say that the way it should be.

 

Now we don’t know what happen to Freddie Gray

but we know he didn’t survive that day

when three cops from Baltimore PD

hauled him in on some charge that no one did see.

 

They said he had a switchblade that’s illegal,

but State’s attorney said he had a pocket knife, legal.

Without probable cause those cops hauled Freddie in,

but he didn’t survive it; it seems like a sin.

 

Now I know its wrong that a riot later ensued

but that don’t change the fact that Freddie was abused.

So I think it appropriate that somehow, some way:

the people of America need to know what happen to Freddie that day.

 

It was a medical examiner, you see,

who examined Freddie’s fatal injury,

and called it not self-inflicted, but homicide.

So in a court of Law, the cops should be tried.

 

We need to know–it needs to be tried–

if Freddy’s death was justified.

We need to know what happen to Freddie that day;

this can’t be like Mike Brown’s case where they never would say.

 

Glass half-Full

That Southern thang and BB King

May 17, 2015

Oh but when I was growin up

in Jackson

Nigras was somethin different then.

Ole fellas black as coal said Mistuh and Miz

but they were humble like the kind of person

God would favor, if

He was here, which I don’t think he is here but maybe

he was at one time.

Whereas

those ole white fellas, really more pink than

white, or even red-faced, beneath them bald heads and glasses

with black frames, walkin ’round like

they own the place,

which I guess they did, yeah they did down there in

Miss’ippi at that time

but they a-feared, like deer in the headlights, when President

Kennedy

or maybe it was Johnson sent troops down hea’h

to teach Wallace a thing or two ’bout

integration,

and they said the whole damn thang go back to the War and

all that conflummucks when Sherman march to the sea

through Giawga

and such n such an’ so forth.

But what I remember was that delta, flat as

the day is long, and hot as blue blazes and

them shotgun shacks where the Nigras lived,

so different and dilapidated compared to, you know,

where us white folk lived.

Latah on I heard ’bout Medgar Evers and

the night he got shot in his own front yard

in Jackson cuz

he be tryin de git them Nigras registered

to vote, and his last spoken words were at

New Jerusalem Baptist Church,

like Moses or Jesus.

But hell, I was just a snotty-nose white kid out

on the edge of town.

I mean I had no clue ’bout what be goin’ on,

what groundswell of civil rights was buildin up and then

all them smart college kids from up Nawth come down

in ’63 or maybe it was ’64. But three of ’em never

got back home again,

leastwise not alive.

Now I say three, mighta been more.

Damn shame.

Meanwhile this man BB King

was doin his bluesy thang

out there in that hot delta, maybe sittin’ on

a bale of cotton or sump’n like dat.

But thinkin’ back on it now– he musta gone to Memphis

or maybe even Chicago by then.

And I say I say yesterday I heard him on the radio talkin’

to Terri,

even though he died two days ago, an’ he shonuf was a

well spoken Negro,

yes he was,

helluva lot better human specimen than Ross Barnett, that ole fart.

Now Ole BB could shonuf now sing de blues

‘nuf to make a white man cry,

and so I guess if somethin’ like BB King could come outa

the great state uh Miss’ippi, this southern thang

can’t be all bad,

what all happened then

back in the day.

But its all gone now,

witherin’ like a magnolia blossom

on the ground.

Still, yet what a sound

when ole BB King came around,

nuf to make a white man cry,

in the sweet by and bye.

No pain, no gain,

that’s what I say.

 

Glass half-Full

The Minotaur is dead; long live the Minimal

May 12, 2015

The surprise ending in this book is that Yanis Varoufakis, the presumed leftist former finance minister of Syriza Greece, says it has to be the United States to lead the way of fixing the world’s financial mess.

He’s been called a Marxist, but Mr. V is not calling for revolution; he’s not advocating, as Marx did, that the workers of the world expropriate the “means of production”, meaning the industrial infrastructure that makes the economic world go around.

He’s not looking to the European Union for truly effective financial leadership. He’s not even looking to China (the most likely candidate) to grab the baton of world demand-driven economic vitality and run with it.

He says, at the end of his book, The Global Minotaur, that it has to be the USA to repair the international financial disaster.

The United States was, after all, largely responsible for the post-WWII arrangement (which he calls the Global Minotaur) that propelled, then ultimately toppled in 2008, the economic stability of the world.

The US had accepted the reins of power for internationally reconstructive wealth-generation in the aftermath of World War II. At the 1944 financial summit in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the seeds were sown, through a meeting of Allied minds, for worldwide reconstruction and recovery from the devastation of war. This actually worked out quite well for about thirty years for most countries who were involved, until about 1971.

In that year, President Nixon, in an effort to arrest the US’s unraveling surplus, announced that our Treasury would no longer sell gold for dollars. Thus did the USA, the principle player and beneficiary of post-WWII world reconstructive prosperity, set in motion the demise of its own international hegemony.

The worldwide financial tailspin that resulted from America’s abandoning the gold standard set in motion a debilitating chain of destructive financial consequences, beginning in the 1970s.

The wizardry of world-conscious financial minds, however, had constructed a financial framework for “recycling” capital around the world. When those minds had conferred in 1944, much was agreed upon. But there was, at the Bretton Woods conference, a divergence of strategic proposals for effectively restructuring the world’s capitalism. The famous (or infamous, depending on your economic worldview) John Maynard Keynes proposed an international policy that would include automatic mechanisms for recycling surpluses between rich nations and poor nations.

Mr. Keynes, genius that he was, was not able to convince the assembled heads of State and their finance people to accept his plan. Instead, the Bretton Woods conferees devised their dollar-pegged arrangement according to a proposal  from an American, Harry Dexter White. This settlement positioned the United States pretty much in charge of things.

The demand-generating, growth-driven Bretton Woods agreement was humming right along until 1971 when Nixon’s announcement about the gold window amounted to throwing a monkey wrench in the works of world currency valuations.

As burgeoning trade deficit and fiscal deficit began to debilitate American purchasing power, our financial and political heavyweights were nevertheless still adept at reconfiguring the Global Plan for economic development in a way that sustained our yankee advantage. Some exploitive characteristics of the new deficit-driven (instead of surplus-driven) financial machination rendered the whole Bretton Woods arrangement as a beastly, power-obsessed system rigged for devouring foreign assets to enrich US corporations and  “Wall Street.”

Hence, the analogy of the Minotaur, a mythical flesh-eating creature of ancient Greek mythology, was chosen by Mr. Varoufakis as the central force of his narrative.

The imagery works adequately for the purposes of Mr. Varoufakis treatise, because there are some parallels between the mythical, terrible man-bull beast that feasted on young virgins, compared to the US-driven Global Plan for sucking up 60-80% of the world’s capital for a very long time.  With Mr. Harry Dexter White’s plan, tweaked and fortified along the rocky paths of the 1970’s, ’80’s and ’90’s by Mr. Volcker, Mr. Greenspan, and President Reagan, the recycling plan for surpluses morphed into a reversal of the Bretton Woods Agreement. So it still favored American interests with exorbitant privilege that arose from managing the world’s reserve currency. Thus was the good ole USA sitting’ on top of the world, even though our trade and fiscal deficits were expanding in leaps and bounds; the Minotaur was gorging on debt, and so were most Americans.

So after the stagflationary 1970’s, we were able to rig the game of international capital flows so that the lion’s share (the minotaur’s share) of world capital just kept coming back in yankee directions.

Which worked well until about, you know, 2008.

With all the world-friggin’ capital recycling that had been humming along through the ’80s, ’90s, 2000’s, the wizards of wall street managed to concoct up a handful of magical innovative financial instruments to keep themselves gainfully occupied and the stock markets thoroughly inebriated. Dubbed MBSs, CDOs, derivatives, and credit default swaps, these wonder working financial “innovations” kept the profits rolling along to the tune of billions. Until 2008.

By that time, the real industrial-based, home-building, retail-flourishing music of sound economy was screeching to a grinding halt; suddenly myriads of those fancy high-steppin’ financial dancers  found themselves with no musical chair to sit in, and no way to repay all those millions of $$$ they had borrowed to purchase all those perpetual motion money-machine MortgageBackedSecurities, CollateralizedDebtObligations, CreditDefaultSwap-protected HFT electronic and/or sometimes paper fragile financial instruments.

So the Wall Street guys came out of the 2008 financial meltdown with a tarnished reputation because what had been a fairly constant flow of world capital came to, like, a standstill.

At which time, according to Mr. V’s book, Mr. Summers, Mr. Geithner and a few of their cronies cooked up a plan to keep the whole perpetual motion money-making machine cranking along like nothing had really happened, which is what, in some ways, we’re still operating under, a little like smoke and mirrors as they used to say back in the day (the ’80’s-90s.)

Now looking back on it all, the international financial infrastructure for continuous capital and liquidity around the world actually worked reasonably well for one hell of a long time–even when, in the 1970’s the big sugar daddy US of A started to slide into major deficit territory (on both fronts: trade and fiscal).

It was only (in my opinion) at the end  of the big Capital flow run, in the dozen years 1998-2008, that the US-led machine became what might be called predatory. ‘Twas then I saw a long-bearded guy on the street in Seattle with a sign that said Send Banksters to Jail. 

Which is why–the predatory attribute– I suppose, Mr. Varoufakis, used the flesh-feasting Minotaur analogy for his treatise.

But the US-driven plan for world hegemony was no cannabilistic beast. That’s a little bit like overkill, Mr. V, isn’t it?

More like a couch potato with a credit card.

A very good read, though, Yanis–your treatise, The Global Minotaur.

Here’s the book excerpt that I found most interesting. (This pertains to President Reagan’s policies in the 1980’s)

From chapter 7:

“As for the actual ideals underpinning free market fundamentalism, their fate was identical to that of Marxism in Moscow:

they (the ideals of free market fundamentalism, –ed.) became the first victims of its political champions’ rise to power. Indeed, when, in 1981, Ronald Reagan entered the White House, he spoke the language of supply-side economics, balanced budgets, the withering of big government (ironically, an expression first coined by Marx), etc. However, after a few months of toying with such policies, and once unemployment skyrocketed  in 1981, Reagan performed an abrupt U-turn (just as Lenin had done by adopting his New Economic Policy the moment he discovered that socializing the factories did not work as well as planned). Instead of shrinking government and balancing the budget, the president put his foot on the accelerator. The twin deficits (trade and fiscal, –ed.) ballooned and, as a result of his unbridled Keynesian practices, unemployment shrank and the Global Minotaur was on its merry way.”

So, considering Mr. Varoufakis’ book conclusion that the US should lead the way out of our worldwide money Crisis, I’m wondering if he, (ironically) like so many libertarians  on the internet, is looking for another “Reagan”? to take the ball and run with it toward our new goalposts for some kind of demand-generating, surplus-recycling 21st-century game plan for the nations of the world.

Glass Chimera

the Minotaur metaphor from Yanis V.

May 10, 2015

The day after we arrived in Greece for a vacation, they SyrizaNws
held an election there.

The leftist Syriza party won, propelling Alexis Tsipras into the office of Prime Minister. With no delay, Mr. Tsipras appointed Yanis Varoufakis as the new Finance Minister for Greece.

Before that week was over, these two men were visiting national leaders all over Europe. They were abruptly leaping into the Continental fracas of unbalanced financial equilibrium between their bankrupting government and the Euro creditor overlords up north.

Messers T and V immediately let it be known that their negotiating strategy on behalf of the Greek people would be very different from that of their predecessors. Austerity was not working to solve the problem, and would no longer be tolerated by the poor people of Greece. And it was time to acknowledge that fact. Something had to change.

That was about 3 and a half months ago. Now, in May 2015, the then-newly-appointed finance minister Mr. Varoufakis has already been replaced; he is now moving on to other roles in the international order of things (if “order” is an appropriate word for whatever it is that holds our nations together.)

As I write this, on a Sunday morning in May, in the USA, I am 2/3 of the way through reading Mr. Varoufakis’ book The Global Minotaur;

http://www.amazon.com/The-Global-Minotaur-Financial-Controversies/dp/1780324502

I can tell you I am not surprised that his role as a negotiator was so brief. The man is a truth-teller. (of the leftist type; there are truth-tellers on both the “left” and the “right”.)

As a regular ole conservative-leaning working-stiff kind of guy, I’ve done quite a bit of reading on this financial Crisis that has engulfed us since the fall of ’08. Mr. V’s explanation of that 6-year devolving tsunami is the easiest to understand that I have seen.

Yanis’ strategy is centered on what we call these days a narrative. That is to say, a kind of story. He converts the whole unfolding circus of events into a story based upon the ancient Greek mythical tale of a terrible flesh-devouring beast, the Minotaur. If this sounds far-fetched, it is.

My conservative brethren these days disdain the narrative approach to elucidating current events; they prefer, as Sgt. Friday used to say back in the day. . . just the facts, ma’am.

As if such a thing–separating facts from fluffy hype–were possible in this day and time of cyber bewilderment. Even statistics, raw numbers, are near-nonsense nowadays; they’re almost useless for making sense of contemporary fiscal/financial conundrums.

One has to survive by intuition in the 21st century.

There’s “spin” imposed on everything! Consider the unemployment figures that the BLS cranks out every month. Talking heads await those stupid numbers on the first Friday of every month, so they can have something to talk about, forming projections and predictions about future events based on stuff that already happened last month. Looking for the “trend.”

To hell with the trend! What’s the truth?

Unemployment rate, or Labor participation rate?–you tell me which one really tells the tale.

It’s like the CPI, Consumer Price Index. They leave fuel and food costs out of the equation, when those two factors comprise the biggest impact on every “middle class” household budget. Go figure.

But I digress.

Here’s this lefty, Mr. Varoufakis, an economist. He writes a very interesting book, using the Minotaur analogy narrative, and helps me understand what the hell has been happening in the world of money, which is to say the real world.

And though he claims to be some kind of neo-Marxist, I don’t care. If some conservative can do a better job of explaining why the free market has been buried under a landfill of toxic assets and leveraged finance-babel, let him/her do so.

I’ve blown my wad here in ranting, which is something I hate to see in other blatherers online, so I’ll not weary you with more of this grievance;

I’ll not explain the Greek’s minotaurial metaphor. Except to say it involves  the global recycling of economic surpluses since the post-WWII Bretton Woods financial arrangement that slanted everything in the world toward American advantage.

But now, since 1971, when Nixon shut down the gold window, all of that US-favoring international baggage has been lost in an airport somewhere between Brussels and Beijing and so the great recycling flow of surpluses has reversed. So that now it morphs into recycling deficits instead of surpluses and the winners will someday be losers and vice versa and so austerity is for the birds and now Mr. V thinks the Bretton Woods potentates should have listened to Mr. Keynes in 1944 instead of Harry Dexter White.

Or something like that. More about this later, probably next week after I finish the book. I suppose I’ll have to jump over to Hayek or Schumpeter or Mr. Volcker for some right-leaning controlled financial disintegration explanations after this tragi-comedic death-toggle with Greek mythology.

 

Glass Chimera

the Irish I knew

May 9, 2015

AshWall

Born into this world seventeen days

before the crash of ’29,

he was a contender,

a fight’n man,

not a troublemaker, mind you, but

you knew what I mean;

life’s no bowl of cherries, and for a while

it was like him against the world,

even later on, after the War,

to keep his family fed and well-heeled.

He never kiss’d no blarney stone, him,

nor anybody’s arse.

It was a hard world he came into

a Jersey boy

hard work’n man

with a woman who loved him his whole

dam life, and the Church to

back him up, as he needed so much

grace and mercy

to balance out his rude legacy upon the world.

Oh, he was a well-built man, stronger than Ulysses

and pretty dam smart too, an engineer.

A man who built bridges,

although he might have burned a few too

if you know what I mean.

Hell, it was men like him who built

America.

So here we stood today in southern shade

gentle breeze blow’n from somewhere far away

eighty-six years after the fact

of his life, which has passed into eternity.

The nine+ souls gather’d round,

grown up now and left behind

to contend as he did with every dam thing that’s wrong

with this world.

Now here’s the dear friar waiting patiently,

in gentle character so different from the fierce Catholic whose ashes now

we set aside, to await the great awakening,

the communion of the saints,

a big host of them, raised up

by the nail-scarred hands of Him upon that cross

hung there upon the nearby wall.

 

All these living offspring, celebrants of their father’s recent

life,

hard workers,  nine of ’em.

They don’t make ’em like that any more–

all of ’em stay’n ahead of the game

keep’n up with the Joneses,

aint no potato famine go’n tie them down.

And the Franciscan here, like Francis himself,

so  different from

the Irishman I loved– rough around the edges he was–

when in those last days he’d alienate

his attendants at the nursing home with his

racist nuances that could never really despoil

his helpless heart of love.

He so needed the grace and mercy

of the One who went to the cross for him,

and who went for me too.

Now we’re standing here with St. Francis

with knots in his waist-rope

and I wonder what the knots signify

but it doesn’t matter compared to eternity

of which I’m reminded, as this gentle breeze with bird sing’n,

and it makes me think of the day his daughter my wife and me,

we went

to Assisi, over there in the old world

and now I’m think’n of this new pope and

how long its been since I was a Catholic.

But that’s okay. It’s all good. I’m saved by the blood of the Lamb

and he is too.

Here these ashes inside a brass box

AshBox
ashes hidden from me, not like those

smeared upon the heads of Irish on how-many Ash Wednesdays

since the day of Calvary.

We’ll be there with him, and with  his bride

by ‘n by, you and I.

 

Smoke

Blood runs through it

May 5, 2015

RobinNest

It not very often that a man can see

such a sight as this little nest in a tree

woven among branches, for free.

An ole fella showed it to me.

 

One of those rusty little robin mamas hath done this;

She been hoppin around on grass

pluckin up worms and strands and God only knows

what all she be extractin for these little critters to eat.

 

Why just a little while back

when I was achin for spring to pop out

she come hoppin around like she own the place.

Now look what she done.

 

As I look at this wonder in the tree

three little miracles do I see:

that tweeky yellow beak, fully formed it seems to me,

quite prickly in the midst of that soft bird infancy,

 

and a fat vessel where birdie’s red blood I see

in this miniscule critter balled up in sibling idiocy

as these clueless hatchlings await their turn

to grab from mama beak a big fat worm,

or two.

Who knew?

 

And number three wonder is the vigilant care

with which mama robin hath woven this nest so fair.

She must really love them little critters in there,

dispensing her care from out of thin air.

 

Now somewhere deep in my memory

someone said only God can make a tree;

now I’m amazed he grew this tree here for me

so I can view such new life from mama birdie.

 

Glass Chimera

I wanna know what happen to Freddie Gray

May 2, 2015

Now I don’t know but I been told

that we Americans got a right that we hold:

from unreasonable searches and seizures we are free,

’cause the 4th Amendment say that the way it should be.

 

Now we don’t know what happen to Freddie Gray

but we know he didn’t survive that day

when three cops from Baltimore PD

hauled him in on some charge that no one did see.

 

They said he had a switchblade that’s illegal,

but State’s attorney said he had a pocket knife, legal.

Without probable cause those cops hauled Freddie in,

but he didn’t survive it; it seems like a sin.

 

Now I know its wrong that a riot later ensued

but that don’t change the fact that Freddie was abused.

So I think it appropriate that somehow, some way:

the people of America need to know what happen to Freddie that day.

 

It was a medical examiner, you see,

who examined Freddie’s fatal injury,

and called it not self-inflicted, but homicide.

So in a court of Law, the cops should be tried.

 

We need to know–it needs to be tried–

if Freddy’s death was justified.

We need to know what happen to Freddie that day;

this can’t be like Mike Brown’s case where they never would say.

 

Glass half-Full

Be aware of Greeks bearing debts

April 25, 2015

Greece is, you see, the opposite of California, and I’ll tell you why.

The first thing is: Greece is very old. California is, on the other hand, very new.

The “West”–that is to say, California and all the rest of us New World types– actually started in Greece about three thousand years ago. Greece was the “West” because it was westward from what was, in ancient times, the Old Country, the region we now call the Middle East, or Levant, or Holy Land, depending on your point of view.

Long ago, after Alexander and his military legacy turned the Persians back at the battle of Marathon, long about 490 b.c.e., the people of the Greek city-states began joining together to form an historical entity that we now call Ancient Greece.

And since that time, the whole thing of Greek culture moved westward and northward over a couple of millennia  of time. The great thrust of Western thought, anchored in a mental discipline called philosophy and a political idea called Democracy,  inspired empires and nations from those ancient days until the present day.

We still dream about governing ourselves in this thing call a democracy, but it has never quite manifested in a way authentic to the original concept.

Probably never will, but it’s a nice thought.

A  couple hundred years after the Greek Golden Age, the Romans came along with their Republic and their empire. Much of their marvelously innovative empire-building was rooted in Greek thought and mathematics (Euclid and Pythagoras). A lot of what the Romans did was direct imitation of Greek stuff. A good example of this is their omnipresent use of Columns for holding buildings up.

You’ve heard of Doric columns, Ionic columns?

That’s Greek stuff. Except that–guess what!–the Doric and Ionic names originated across the Aegean sea from Greece, in a region called Asia (Minor), which is now Turkey. Go figure!

A couple hundred years after the Greek Golden Age, along came the Romans. What they ended up doing was much grander and more elaborate than what the Greeks did. They took Greek columns and turned them into a universal architectural art-form. Those two earlier Column designs–the Doric and the Ionian– were not fancy enough to suit the Roman sense of grandiosity. So the Romans decorated the capitals (tops) of their columns with new, leafy frou-frou carvings and castings  which came to be called Corinthian.

The Corinthian name, however, was not Roman, but Greek. Corinth was an important city in Greece.  So once again, go figure.

Figuring is important to the whole advance of Western civilization. Everywhere Greeks and their European progeny went, they were figuring stuff out.

Thus did Western Civilization expand over millenia of time. Along came the Germans, French, Spanish, British, all of them making ever grander plans,  striving to construct their own versions of civilization.

When the Greco-Roman enterprise got to the big Sea at the end of Europe–aka the End of the Earth–its expansion was delayed for a few hundred years. But then along came Cristoforo Columbo and Presto!, Western civilization took a grand leap across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now we Americans know about Boston, New Yawk, Philly, etc etc etc;  and we are intimately familiar with Paul Revere and Grampa George Washington. Why we even know about Charleston and Savannah and all that unreconstructed goings-on down south, but what’s important here is California!

Why?

Because Americans are adventurers. Our forefathers and foremothers hit the ground running after we got off the boat in Baltimore or Ellis Island or wherever it was.

Before you knew it, we were all the way over on the far other edge of the continent, in California, baby!

Or bust! That’s what the Okies said.

And that was, if you think about it, the very end of the Greek frontier. From Athens to Anaheim, westward ho all along the way. That’s all she wrote.

The westward expansion of Greek culture ended at California. It couldn’t go any farther. Why, even when they o’erleaped the wide Pacific, what did they find?

China!

It doesn’t get any older than that–China. No Westward expansion there, although the Brits made a few dents, and of course there was Marx and all that People’s trial and bloody error.

Now We Americans have a saying: as California goes, so goes the nation.

That means that, from the 1849 Gold Rush on, the great exploratory thrust of American ingenuity and creativity originates in place called California.

The land of fruits and nuts.

And broccoli, lettuce, grapes, wine, silicon, integrated circuit chips, beach boys, beach girls, computers, iPhones, movies and pop culture, etc etc etc.

So once all the migrant Europeans got themselves planted on the East Coast back in the 1800s, they built so many cities, and built them so quickly, that before you know it they got overcrowded and pulled up stakes to head West.

Go West, young man, wrote Horace Greeley, about a hundred and fifty years ago.

And very quickly. We developed America from raw earth,  from Schenectady to San Francisco in less than a hundred years, blazing a yankee trail all along the way.

And when we hit up against that great Pacific rim, the grand tide of our exuberance struck a sea wall and then it swayled back the other way: Disney in Paris, McDonald’s in Athens, Kennedy in Berlin!

But now–and my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars–our grand millenia-old Restatement of Greco-Roman expansionism strikes, back at its ancient nascence, an Athenian rampart.

So I see the next phase of history this way: As Greece goes, so goes the West. And this is what it looks like, according to a pic I recently snapped in Athens:

EarthBraceAgor2

Which is to say, a propped up portal. Where can we go from here?

Glass Chimera

Bird at my Window

April 19, 2015

Here’s a little bird by my window.

How he landed here I do not know.

I can’t understand why he paused from winging,

then a-lighted here upon my contemplative feeling

while I sip darjeeling.

Now as I don’t know why a caged bird would sing,

so do I not comprehend why some free bird should fling

himself against this glass invisible thing.

Bird at my Window

Now as I watch him here, while I am sitting,

and I do ponder on his fretful flitting,

I know not what fate my future life might bring

can’t foresee what stones some enemy might sling

nor anticipate what news some fateful bell will ring.

I don’t know what pesky thing

might attach itself  to me to cling

to bet against my errant dealing,

or abscond my precious, hard-earned bling.

For all I know, someday Life may send me reeling;

I might even bang my head upon the ceiling,

like my bird friend at this window reeling.

But after a while, being a human being,

I’d certainly seek some healing,

Surely I would pray, even kneeling,

to shed my stubborn sins and fears, like onion peeling.

Unto merciful God I’ll someday be appealing;

T’is then I’ll beat my head upon some heavenly window,

when to eternity’s grand dwelling I will go.

Like this wacky bird with such stubborn sass,

I’ll knock my head on heaven’s glass.

Let me in.

Let me in!

Bird at my Window

Glass half-Full


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