Thursday, August 31, 2017

Where Are The Transcendentalists When We Need Them

 I'm a big fan of the Transcendentalists:  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Amos Bronson Alcott, Walt Whitman and a whole bunch of other free thinkers who believed passionately in the power and worth of each individual.  The Transcendentalists also pretty much believed that society and its institutions -- particularly organized religion and political parties -- corrupted the purity of the individual.  They had faith that people were at their best when they were truly "self-reliant" and independent.  Only with those "real individuals" could a true community emerge.
So off I went to the Morgan Museum for the Thoreau exhibit which will close in a few days.  Thoreau was an interesting guy most famous for living in not quite isolation in a cabin on Walden Pond.  I say not quite because the cabin wasn't far from Concord, Massachusetts, and because Thoreau frequently entertained in his little cabin.  However, there is absolutely no doubt about whether or not Thoreau was eccentric.  He was about as eccentric as a person can become.  He spent most of his time on Walden Pond writing in his journals.  He loved to measure things.  And sometimes he drew in his journals.  Several open journals were on display as was his walking stick on which he notched inches for more accurate measuring.  Also on exhibit was a letter of recommendation for a teaching job written by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  The lock from the jail cell where Thoreau was confined for a particular act of civil disobedience is also part of the exhibit.  And the only things remaining from his cabin on Walden Pond were also exhibited - a bundle of nails. Thoreau was against slavery and for human dignity.  He has at times been called an anarchist. Thoreau wished not to abolish government but to improve it:  "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government."
We can probably all get on board with that wish.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

You Just Can't Have Too Many Guttenberg Bibles

John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. dominated American finance during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  For example, in 1892 he arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric to form a little company he called General Electric.  He was instrumental in the creation of the United States Steel Corporation, International Harvester and AT&T.  He is credited with directing the banking coalition that stopped the Panic of 1907.  He was the leading financier of the Progressive Era.  He's been called America's greatest banker.  And then he got tired of banking and started collecting 'stuff' and traveling.  In 1913 while visiting Rome he died at the age of 75 and left his entire fortune estimated at $80 million to his son J.P. Morgan (John Pierpont) Jr.  A lot of the 'stuff' he collected is exhibited at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.  Part of the museum is the Morgan house and the other part is his library and study.  He collected ancient artifacts and paintings and books and books and books.  He collected Bibles and Bibles and Bibles.  He had 3 Guttenberg Bibles.  One of those Bibles is in the display cabinet in the lower corner in the picture of his library.  I spent a good part of last Saturday wandering around the Morgan Library & Museum.  It was pretty amazing.  But you know what?  I didn't see one comfy chair in either his library or his study.  Perhaps he just wasn't that kind of a guy.

A time of retrograde events

     Mercury's orbit is smaller and faster than Earth's. When its orbit catches up to and passes Earth, it creates the illusion that Mercury is going backward.

By Tom Walker

August 28: Things running backward
In case you haven't noticed, Mercury is in retrograde. It all began August 12 and will end September 5.
I'm no expert on this kind of brainy stuff, but it might explain why our garage door repairman showed up this morning with a 16-foot-wide door to replace our 18-foot one. Came all the way from Phoenix just to turn around and go back for the right size -- or a garage-door stretcher, if he can find one of those.
Guy has a sense of humor, at least.
Meanwhile, back up all your important data, clear the air with feuding friends, and do your best to get all your paperwork filed. Mercury is in retrograde, and while I don't know exactly what that means, I'm sure it must be important.
Looking all important, President Trump dons his serious white USA cap, meets with his disaster relief team at Camp David and thinks extremely serious, presidential stuff about the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. As usual, his deep thoughts are expressed in 140-character tweets.
I’m not a follower of @realDonaldTrump, so I don’t know what he’s thinking.

August 29: Canards and other things

Yesterday I wrote about our garage door problems, blaming it on the phenomenon known as Mercury Retrograde. After further study, I have to confess that the concept of Mercury Retrograde causing problems on earth is a canard -- a rumor or unfounded story, like the ones our president tells just about every time he opens his mouth.

 Our garage door problems are completely true, though. Today another technician showed up with the right size door, only to discover that the framework around the garage door opening had been eaten away by termites. Why the first two technicians or our regular pest control guy hadn't noticed this is something, I guess, that we can blame on Mercury.

However, I did have an excellent report on a medical test today, so life is good. The new garage door is wonderful, whispery quiet as it moves up and down. President Trump and Melania are touring the Houston area, maybe even being compassionate and giving hope and comfort.  At least, Melania traded her heels for some sensible sneakers.
Thank you, Jesus, for all our blessings. 

And for the nice planetary fact that several times a year, Mercury seems to slow down, stop and reverse its orbit. It isn't a total eclipse of the sun, but it's no canard.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I missed out on all the fun last night. Sad

Trump at the Phoenix rally
By Tom Walker
Thanks for asking. But no, I didn’t attend the big Trump rally last night in Phoenix.
Even though the Phoenix Convention Center is only a couple hours from my house in Tucson, I didn’t drive up there for it. Wouldn’t have gone, even if it was being held at the Tucson Convention Center. Wouldn't have gone even if it was being held right next door.
 I’m starting to feel like something out of Dr. Seuss: I do not like that orange man. I do not like him here or there. I do not like that orange man anywhere. I do not like him, Sam-I-Am. Sad.
So no, I shunned the big doings in Phoenix. Doesn’t sound like I missed much.
In his introduction, Vice President Mike Pence said “President Trump believes with all his heart … that love for America requires love for all its people.”
And then Trump spent the next 75 minutes destroying the high ideals of Pence’s statement. According to Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post, it was “one angry rant after another,” attacks against the media and a defense of his back-and-forth response to the violent clashes in Charlottesville between white supremacists and neo-Nazis and the counter-protesters, that ended with the car-ramming murder of a woman.
Cathalena E. Burch, a former colleague at the Arizona Daily Star, summed up the event very nicely in her  Facebook post: “Really, 45 came all the way to Arizona to tell these couple thousand saps that the media sucks and then to lie what he said ON LIVE TV about equating Nazis with anti-Nazi protesters in Charottesville.”
And Trump also:
-- Threatened to shut down the government over funding for his Mexican border wall; 
-- Said he’ll probably scrap NAFTA;
-- Attacked Arizona’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, whom I didn’t much like but like much better now;
-- Hinted that he’ll pardon a notorious bigot and racial profiler, former Maricopa sheriff Joe Arpaio. Hey, who isn’t above the law?
“But as the night dragged on,” reported the Post's Jenna Johnson, “many in the crowd lost interest in what the president was saying.”
Many people left early, “while others plopped down on the ground, scrolled through their social media feeds or started up a conversation with their neighbors,” Johnson wrote. People had waited in triple-digit heat to get into the rally hall, only to have their bottles of water confiscated by security. They were tired and dehydrated and Trump couldn’t keep their attention.
“Trump has long been the master of reading the mood of a room,” Johnson wrote. But in this case, “his rage seemed to cloud his senses.”
Another Washington Post writer, Jennifer Rubin, says: “All in all, he appeared desperate, out of control and emotionally needy.”
Well, now I’m not at all sorry I missed that spectacle. Who needs an out-of-control and emotionally needy commander-in-chief?
Oh wait, that's what we've got.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Honoring the real patriots

Heather Heyer
By Tom Walker

Heather Heyer was a patriot who died defending her country against fascists and racists who wanted to bring it down. She deserves to have a statue memorializing her too-brief life. And I know just the place for it.
Heyer, 32, was killed on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va. That’s where a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr. plowed into a crowd of protesters opposing a rally of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other hate groups. Nineteen other people were injured.
Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man who reportedly was a Nazi fan, has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
The focal point of the protest was a big bronze statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee, sitting astride his horse, Traveller, in Emancipation Park. The city of Charlottesville wants to take it down. White supremacists scheduled their “Unite the Right” rally to protest that. And the counter-protesters — including Heather Heyer — were there to make their voice heard.
Lee's statue
There were all kinds of First and Second Amendment things going on. Nazi and confederate flags. Shields with Nazi symbols. Nazi chants like “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Tiki torches, banners. Assault rifles and handguns.
Fights broke out. The leftists knocked down the rightists’ shields. Tiki torches were wielded, to be met with baseball bats. It was turning into something like a “Game of Thrones” battle. And then Fields used his car as a battering ram sending bodies flying.
And Heather Heyer died.
Heather was a paralegal at a Charlottesville law firm, helping clients deal with bankruptcy. She had just celebrated her fifth anniversary with her firm. Her boss, Larry Miller, described her as precise, witty and like a member of the family.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised Heyer. "She was doing what she loved," he said. "She was fighting for democracy, (for) free speech, to stop hatred and bigotry."
That is in sharp contrast with Donald Trump’s description in his Aug. 15 press conference. After going back and forth for three days over who was to blame for the attack that killed Heather, Trump finally settled on an answer: Both sides were responsible.
“I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it," Trump said. “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent," he added.
Trump repeatedly emphasized that he believed many of the “Unite the Right” rally participants were not members of hate groups and were simply there to protest the pending removal of Lee’s statue.
“You had people in that group who were protesting the taking down of what to them is a very, very important statue,” Trump said, before suggesting that Lee and other Confederate-era generals, including Stonewall Jackson, are the victims of historical revisionism.
Speaking rhetorically, Trump asked whether George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slave owners, should suffer the same fate and have their statues removed. “You're changing history; you're changing culture,” he said.
And speaking of “changing history,” that “very, very important statue” of Lee was created in 1924. In asking for its removal, a petition said the statue was a symbol of “hate” and a “subliminal message of racism.” Washington and Jefferson, several writers have noted, helped form our nation, while Lee and Jackson tried to tear it down.
So here’s my proposal. Replace Robert E. Lee’s statue with one of Heather Heyer. She showed more courage than the Republican members of Congress and most of those on Trump's cabinet. And she's definitely shown more patriotism, more love of country than the guy who said "both sides" were to blame for her death.
  Someone already has placed a handmade sign in front of the statue.It says: "HEYER MEM. PARK." Not much, but it’s a start.