Archive for May, 2016

A Tale of Two Citizens

May 30, 2016

The following letter, having been set aside some time ago– years, even,  before that damned old war between the states– was recently retrieved from a dusty old trunk that had been slumbering in some historic personage’s great great great grandmother’s attic. A few of the smudged words have been hyperthetically reconstructed by digital accumulations for the sake of clarification and in the interests of obfuscation forensically reconstrued; furthermore, the date, although specified herein below, is still unproven, indeterminable except within a two-centuries margin of error. Be that as it may, the letter reads thusly:

April  26, 1816ish

My Dear Kate:

It is my hope that in the best of times wisdom can prevail over foolishness; yet in these days, which I fear may actually approach being the worst of times, it is the other way around. I notice that the general willingness of human souls to profess a belief in God Almighty is on the decline, while widespread faithless cynicism runs rampant through our apoplectic citizenry.

Yeah, I say unto thee, in this season of darkness, when a black man, Walter Scott, is carelessly gunned down in the streets without  probable cause, many of the black community are fallen into despair. At the same time, the white citizens whose comfortable existence is not threatened by such illegal abuses are free to lollygag along their merry way with no care in the world, sauntering along on Calhoun boulevard just a whistling dixie as if there’s nothing really out of the ordinary happening around here in this day and time.

I mean, I noticed this, just sayin’, be that as it may. . .

Today as we strolled through Charleston we happened upon a sight quite impressive–four magnificent horses cast in stone, rendering a fountain sculpture that appears quite fluidic with artistic remonstrance and equine bravado unparalleled anywhere else on the streets of this fair city.

Horses4

Turns out we had stumbled upon the entrance to a most superlative hotel, which we promptly and without further ado entered, and found to be quite the bellisimo Belmondo accomodationo. Among several fascinating portraitures hung there in the sumptuous foyer upon a wall I snapped this one daguerrotype, which happens to be, for reasons I will heretofore explain a double image:

Pinckney

I refer to this j.ust p.lain g.ood image as CCPinckney numero uno,  and the other as CCPinckney numero duo, because both of these guys are called–although they sport quite different countenances–by the same name: Pinckney.

A little googling around soon brings to mind a few noteworthy  factoids about these two great South Carolinians, although each one lived about 200 years apart from the other. To whit:

~ Both were Senators in the South Carolina Legislature.

~ The elder, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, actually signed our US Constitution, along with all those other founding forefathers, on September 17, 1787–that Constitution which later secured and assured (in spite of the subsequent damned ole war between the States) the right of the younger. . .

~ Clementa Carlos Pinckney, to represent, and legislate on behalf of–not only the general citizenry of South Carolina– but also the descendants of both former slaves and  former slaveowners, to assure their rights and privileges as free citizens of the great state of South Carolina, and also, in the wider sense, the United States of America.

~ while one was a diplomat and a slaveowner back in the dawn of American independence, the other has served God’s people as a pastor in these modern times–worst of times and best of times– and, in the secular realm as a defender of the oppressed peoples of a somewhat dysfunctional democratic republic known otherwise as the land of the free and home of the brave.

~ while the elder, CCP numero uno, ran for president twice as the Federalist party nominee in 1804 and 1808, and lost both elections, the younger CCP numero duo didn’t run for Prez or anything except South Carolina House of Representatives and South Carolina state Senate, at which prospect he did succeed and went on to do a whoppin’ good job of it– representing his own soul brothas and sistahs as well as the broader  interests of the people of the great state of South Carolina.

~ CCPinckney numero uno had fought against the redcoats, to assure that an American flag (instead of the Brit one) could flap in the breeze over all our forthcoming institutions, while CCPinckney numero duo later strove and struggled to obtain  justice for oppressed people, kinda like the biblical Amos, to such an extent that he was lauded posthumously as a humbly bold, though effective, Christian leader, a skillfully compassionate legislator, and a highly respected human being whose untimely death–at the despicable hands of a racist asshole–evoked a resolution from the South Carolina legislature, the decree of which was the removal of that old confederate rag from the flagpole at the legislature and the state Capitol and God only knows how many other institutions in this here Palmetto State.

So I must conclude, my dear Kate, having communicated to you this tale of two citizens, that on this fair spring day there is much good to report concerning the gentle citizens of Charleston, with the exception of a few renegade rebels who insist on having their own way and dragging up old raggedy-ass grudges to be rudely displayed, instead of Old Glory, upon the local flag poles.

But I know in my heart that this too shall pass.

I hope this note finds you well and happy as a goose in heat. Be ye kind.

Yours truly, your Uncle

Sid

P.S. It’s looking like these upstart Democratic-Republicans will prevail in this year’s election and thus propel James Monroe into the Presidency. I hope they know what they’re doing.

Glass half-Full

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In Memoriam

May 29, 2016

GettysbAddrs

I have written a story in which, in the year 1937, a young man and an old man travel from Paris to a World War I battlefield cemetery in Belgium. In the scene, Philip poses this question to Mel:

“How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

       The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.”

       Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, they stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

       At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity . . .

The excerpt above is taken from chapter 27 of Smoke, the novel I published last year. I highlight the above passage as a memorial to the brave men and women who have died in wars while defending our United States of America and assuring the causes of human freedom throughout this tragic, precious world.

VietMem3

the Ole Firmer’s Almaniac

May 27, 2016

The ole firmer walked around the backside of the barn. His wearied eyes took a moment to focus on the horizon; dark clouds appeared to dominate that distant line; they’d been hanging there for quite a long while now. The immediate vicinity was clear, however, if BLS numbers are to be believed. Mixed signals here there and yon. The times they are a-changin’, thought he, and things ain’t ClasicBldgRuf
what they used to be.

The rules of the game have changed; the old computations are no longer working, with the ole firmer and his firm being blindsided by all the new manipulations, robo-washed sterile by robo-driven arbitragers as if someone behind the sprays and fluff were cleaning the clocks of commerce, wiping away the profits, constantly leveling the playing field and rendering the firmer high but not dry, now eyeless in nasdaq, then dumb in the dow, spooked by the S&P, then suddenly swept up again in a flood of liquidity, floating on Fed flotsam, pummeled by day trade dealers punting buyback fluff up and down the field. The firmer pondered all this while studying the broad side of his barn. Need to fix that roof-– the thought crossed his mind for the umpteenth time.

Then without warning, his step coincides with a pile of BLS. Oh shit, exclaimed he. Up on the rooftop, the ever-vigilant barnyard blackbirds squawked loudly, as if trumpeting their amusement at his misfortune.  Caw! Buyback! Caw! Quoth the raven: Evermore! Now and evermore! So shall your ascending P/E path be: driving under the influence of BLS, monitored by SEC, checked with OMB, hog-tied with Dodd-Frank, frothing high in P/E ratios, fearless Fannie and fawning Freddie sharpening pencils in the background, consuming FOMC reports, leaning on Fed puts, flummoxed at SEC stops, disgusted with IRS farts and bewildered by WTF surprises.

LOL . . . not.

The ole firmer’s labor participation rate was, and had been for awhile, after 89 months of zero-bound interest rates on the downward trajectory–headed south, as some folks say, although he  wasn’t comfortable with the phrase. And out there on what used to be the open prairie of Price discovery–that old crossroads of supply and demand– well, it has become well-nigh impossible to determine where, when, how and why, it seemed to the ole firmer.

This is what it felt like, he surmised, to be on Main Street in a Kmart world, then at Kmart in a Walmart world, now being disoriented in an Amazon jungle, no way out,  with the Fed ham-stringin all the supply lines so’s to simulate demand on a rising level. How this gmo steady-state staid new world of post-capital never-everland came about he’d never understand.

The old firmer would never understand. He felt like the onslaught of old-timers’ disease was gnawing away at his youthful entrepeneural sensibilities.

The obnoxious ravens on the roof calmed down, their screechy cawing now lapsing into a low zirping. Quoth the raven–Nevermore! There’s no real investment any more. No more frontier, no more exceptional expansion, no more manifest destiny, where do we go from here, caught between rocknroll and a hard face.

They say casinos are big now.

Where’s the high-flyin’ high-multiplyin’ authentic productivity? Inventories high, sales low. Slow go. What would Rockefeller do? Where’s JP Morgan when you need him? Carnegie’s steel has all been laid; Edison’s taking a nap  and Bell won’t answer the phone. No Ford nor Chevy on the horizon that I can see, thought he. Watson’s now a programmed response. Fairchild’s been implanted in a solid state econ. Gates is creaky; Jobs is gone– out there somewhere on that musky dark cloud horizon. What’s everybody doing?

Tappin’ on chinky glass, devolving in devices vices, sippin’ Singapore slings,  all sound and futility signifying no-growth, thought he, hobbling along on a programmed 2% inflation path. Old-timers like me can no longer hit the broad side of a barn with our antiquarian projections based on old-school free-market dynamics, rallies and hog bellies, bushels, widgets and gadgets, buy and sell orders ’til the bears come home, might as well lay bricks in mortars with all these start-up farters.

Out on the horizon, big dust-storm coming up. Bulls are at it again, trying to stampede their way out of the Everything’s OK corral, but Uncle Fed and Aunt Fannie shut ’em down every time.

Glass Chimera

The lesser of two evils

May 24, 2016

I would like to show you an example of how public speech gets blown up to sensationalize everything that happens and especially everything that has anything to do with politics. First, watch this:

 http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/bernie-sanders-american-people-hillary-clinton-lesser-evils/story?id=39280278

 In one of those split-screen talking heads interviews that you see on news TV nowadays, Bernie Sanders recently told ABC News’ George Stephanopolous,

“We need a campaign– an election, coming up–which does not have two candidates who are really very, very strongly disliked. I don’t wanta see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils.”

George Stephanopoulos, seeming a little surprised at Bernie’s use of this phrase, sought clarification; he asked,

“Is that how you would describe Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump–The lesser of two evils?”

 Bernie answered:

“Well, if you look– No, I wouldn’t describe it, but that’s what the American people are saying. . .”

This statement by Bernie is really no big deal. So he wants to be the Democratic candidate, instead of Hillary Clinton. He therefore wants to present himself as a choice that is better, more likable, and probably more honest than both presumptive nominees who presently dominate the party machinery of Presidential politics. And although his platform is too radical to earn my vote, he probably is more likable and more honest and probably even less evil than those other two contenders.

But here’s what happens in the media; and it shows how things get blown up into hyper-dramatic sensationalism instead of informative, constructive dialogue among the candidates:

The next day after this little televised exchange between Sanders and Stephanopolous, an online political news site, DCCaller, reported on their question/answer dialogue by displaying a headline which read:

“Bernie Calls Hillary Clinton Evil”

Gimme a break, will ya? Is this what really happened?

The headline does not accurately convey what the candidate was communicating. It is a deliberate attempt to sensationalize our contemporary political scenario by subtly distorting the intent of the speaker, in this case Bernie Sanders; this kind of distortion is otherwise known as putting words in his (the speaker’s) mouth.

Such a  headline might have reflected some accuracy if Bernie had flatly declared, “Hillary Clinton is evil.” But that is not what the man said.

The term he used, the “lesser of two evils,” is a figure of speech,  an admissible exaggeration,  commonly understood to mean something like

We have “two lousy choices” here.

People generally understand such exaggerations to be not literal, but figurative, which is to say, a figure of speech, which means. . .

I figure he’s saying we should have better choices than Hillary and Donald.

He doesn’t really mean that Hillary is evil, or Donald is evil, because as someone somewhere once said,

“We’re all bozos on this bus.”

Or, as the old Biblio states:

“We’re all sinners.”

And yeah, I say unto thee whenever we point a finger at the “evils” who strive to dominate us, whether they’re the lesser or the greater, there are three other fingers on that hand pointing back at us. We all fall short of perfection in some way or another.

Disclosure: I will not be voting for any of these three candidates–not Bernie, neither Hillary, nor Trump. I’m hoping to write-in for Romney. He may be dull, and he may be too slick and Establishment. He’s got some credible public administration experience. He’s probably reasonably honest; although he surely is, like me, a sinner damned, except for the grace of God.

And my prayer for him and for myself and for Bernie and Hillary and Donald and every other damned person on this planet includes the phrase: “Deliver us from evil.”

Whether they be lesser or greater.

Glass half-Full

The life song of J Alfred Bourgeois

May 11, 2016

We’ve worked hard for what we’ve got;

maybe we’re smart and maybe we’re not.

Thanks to the courage of long-dead soldiers,

we can grow and prosper and manage to get older.

We’ve read about .gov by the people, republics, and democracy;

we try to stay decent, clean, and free from hypocrisy.

And yes, we’ve heard of that Marx guy, and Lenin and whatnot.

but I’m here to say we aint no proletariat.

We don’t wanna change the world;

we like stars and stripes in the breeze unfurled.

Dinner on Sundays, work on Mondays, weekends for fun days;

this is what we like, and cultivate in predictable ways.

Jefferson said let’s do .gov by the peoples.

We say along with that came letting folks raise their steeples.

Marx, on the other hand said we need dictatorship of the proletariat,

but this home-making bourgeois boy giveth not a plug nickel for all that.

We’re happy to be plain ole boojwazee,

with a washer, dryer, car, and a home someday mortgage-free.

There are plenty out their who wanna die for the Cause;

we just like living in freedom under reasonable laws.

Floral

Glass half-Full

When the green buds are swellin’. . .

May 9, 2016

Spring rushes in; the world is turning;

every impulse sends forth new yearning.

Green sprigs sprout up fresh and tender;

passion’s pangs of love they render.

BudBlm1

Some folks find love and cultivate;

they come together and procreate.

Others yearn and burn and go to town;

instead of loving they just screw around.

For some love works out really well

the passion swells deeper than I can tell.

But some yearnings get nipped in the bud

when careless affairs turn to crud.

While spring is new, passions are old.

In the annals of song a sad love tale is told

of love that budded but ne’er did bloom.

Herein begins the ancient Barb’ry Allen tune:

” ‘T’was in the merry month of May

when the green buds they were swelling,

Sweet William on his death bed lay

all for the love of Barb’ry Allen . . . “

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqHJ4V893e0   

But despair not; some lovers pair faithfully.

Swelling with commitment, they grow up gracefully,

even through ordeals and terrible times;

true lovers do generate inspiring rhymes:

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lnJSW-OUyM

“This couple they got married,

so well did they agree.

This couple they got married;

so why not you and me?

Oh. . . so why not you and me?”

And this this works out well.

BudBlm2

Glass half-Full

Beneath the Folds

May 4, 2016

Many and many an eon ago,

the earth upon itself did flow.

Magma splattered; lava rolled,

laying earth in fold on fold.

LavaFlow

While peaks poked up in seismic lifts

valleys formed in with earthen rifts.

Mountains rose up to skyward dreams

valleys settled into watery streams.

MtnValley

When Man wandered out across this earth

his life came renewed in newborn birth;

our legacy rose up in times of old

beneath the covering of Woman’s fold.   

PleatFigr

Together, our human adventure we did form

through thick and thin, through calm and storm.

When man’s stony knob doth ascend

Hallelujah! woman’s cleavage doth transcend.

Glass half-Full