9.6.2022 – buy shirts for some men

buy shirts for some men
out of work as no work to
manufacture shirts

Adapted from the passage, “Within my lifetime in England money was (very properly) collected to buy shirts for some men who were out of work. The work they were out of was the manufacture of shirts.

Written by CS Lewis in the essay GOOD WORK AND GOOD WORKS published in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, 1960, Harcourt, Brace and Company

 

9.3.2022 – while I am I, and

while I am I, and
you are you, so long as the
world contains us both

Adapted from Life in a Love by Robert Browning.

Hard to forget that the first time I asked my future wife on a date she was at a loss for the many words and ways someone can say drop dead.

Well, in a nice way though.

Her lips couldn’t mouth the sounds but the words were there and her eyes said read my lips.

It is but to keep the nerves at strain,

Dried my eyes and laugh at a fall.

And, baffled, get up and begin again.

So the chase took up my life, that’s all.

Here is the complete poem from Mr. Browning.

Escape me?
Never –
Beloved!
While I am I, and you are you,
So long as the world contains us both,
Me the loving and you the loth,
While the one eludes, must the other pursue.
My life is a fault at last, I fear:
It seems too much like a fate, indeed!
Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.
But what if I fail of my purpose here?
It is but to keep the nerves at strain,
To dry one’s eyes and laugh at a fall,
And, baffled, get up and begin again,—
So the chase takes up one’s life, that’s all.
While, look but once from your farthest bound
At me so deep in the dust and dark,
No sooner the old hope goes to ground
Than a new one, straight to the self-same mark,
I shape me –
Ever
Removed!

9.1.2022 – ask smoking or non

ask smoking or non
but wait, where does that seat us
after forty years

I was thinking about my Mom this past week.

Hard to believe that it was 9 years ago at the end of August, 2013, that she died.

It is almost more difficult to believe that she had lived the last 25 years of her life without my Dad.

Difficult to believe because in my mind, my Mom and my Dad were a couple, a couple together in my memory.

My family was lucky enough to have had a summer place on Lake Michigan.

This place played a large part in our family.

Yet when my Dad died, my Mom was ready to sell it.

To her, she told me, that was her place to be with Dad and without Dad …

This place on Lake Michigan was a cottage, or so we called it, that had to be winterized as well and prepped for summer early in the springtime.

I started going along with my Dad to close it as well as open it up so I could take over these chores.

I learned where the well was and how to turn off the pump and drain the pipes in the fall as well as prime the pump and fill the water tank in the spring.

At some point, I started taking a week off in the spring and I would stay out at the lake by myself and get the water turned on, the furnace going and do any painting or other small repairs that might be needed.

What I really did was make a pot of coffee in the morning and sat either by the water or if too cold (this would have been Michigan in May), next to the big picture windows looking out over the water and read all day.

One year in the middle of week, my Mom and Dad drove out from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we lived to drop in on me.

There were also happy to have a cup of coffee and sit and look out over the water as we chatted about eveything and nothing.

Then my Dad suggested lunch.

I knew what that meant.

He wanted to go to local hamburg joint named Russ’.

It was bad English, but everyone called it ‘Russes’.

It had started in Holland, Michigan and we stopped there often when we were out that way and back in the 1980’s it was starting to expand and open locations in Grand Haven and Grand Rapids.

I knew my Dad wanted to order a hamburger they offered called the Big Dutchman.

Somewhere in Grand Haven there was a street sign near a school that said STOP – ALLOW CHILDREN TO CROSS.

Someone had taken a Russ’ bumper sticker and stuck it on the sign so that it read, STOP – ALLOW BIG DUTCHMAN TO CROSS.

My Dad would drive out of his way just to pass that sign and laugh and laugh.

It helps if you grew up Dutch and in West Michigan.

So off I went to Russes with my Mom and Dad.

And so the moment began.

Back in the 1980s, people smoked in public but it was popular if not required by law, that restaurants offer no smoking sections.

It didn’t matter if it was one big room, restaurants would say this side people can smoke and this side people can’t.

They all breathed the same air but there it was.

Russes tried to accommodate non smokers by building on new additions to their restaurants that would at least put smokers and non smokers in separated rooms.

My Mom liked non smoking.

My Dad liked service.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, my Mom mentioned that she would prefer to sit in the non smoking section.

My Dad said that he had no problem with non smokers but that the location of the no smoking section at this location was down, back and around the corner from the kitchen.

“I will not sit back there.” my Dad said.

“Might as well as sit in Death Valley. No waitress goes back there.”

My Mom said that maybe things had changed and the non smoking section might have been moved to the front.

My Dad turned off the car and got out and said, “I am not sitting in Death Valley.”

Russes was the place to have lunch in Grand Haven and it was packed.

We had to wait for a bit and then the hostess called our name.

“HOFFMAN?”

From the name we were in the Dutch Club.

We walked up and the hostess asks, “Smoking or non?”

“Non smoking, please” my Mom answered.

The hostess grabbed three menus and asked to follow her.

My Mom and I walked off but my Dad held back and watched.

We walked down a long aisle between tables to the back of the dining room and turned right to go around the kitchen back to the no smoking section.

“Lorraine!”

“Lorraine!” my Dad YELLED.

We stopped and the hostess looked back.

My Dad was now running up the aisle and waving.

“Lorraine,” he said, at one of those moments where the entire restaurant went silent.

“I am 65 years old and I do not have to sit where I don’t want to sit. I will not sit back there.”

My Mom looked at him and then asked, “Where do you want to sit then?”

My Dad pointed at the first empty booth, still with some dirty dishes, and said, “Right there.”

My Mom looked at the hostess who was quick to say sure we could sit and sat my Dad did.

My Mom and I slid in the other side of the booth and the hostess removed the dirty dishes and handed out the menus.

My Dad picked up the menu and held it up high so he could read it through his bifocals.

I heard he say something about Death Valley then he said, “I think I’ll order a Big Dutchman.”

I bit my tongue to keep from saying something about stopping to allow Big Dutchman to sit where they want.

My Mom looked at me and I looked at my Mom.

She caught my glance shrugged with her eyes and held back a laugh as well.

My Mom was known for her hospitality.

My Mom was known for her laugh.

My Mom was known for her smile.

Once in Church when the Pastor was preaching about spiritual gifts and the fact that some folks had certain gifts and said something along the lines of the gift to always be smiling and happy in the way that if you SAT next to that person, you began to smile and feel happy.

Then the Pastor paused and said if you want to know HOW to do this .. go sit next to Mrs. Hoffman … and FIND OUT HOW SHES DOES IT!

My Mom sat across from Dad at Russes.

“Oh Bob,” she said.

They had been married 40 years.

My parents and sister Lisa at the lake with a cup of tea

8.31.2022 – miss above all things

miss above all things
is the kindness of half a
century ago

Adapted from a passage in the book, Past imperfect by Julian Fellowes (2009) New York : St. Martin’s Press.

Mr. Fellowes wrote, again in 2009, that:

There’s danger in it, obviously, but I no longer fight the sad realisation that the setting for my growing years seems sweeter to me than the one I now inhabit. Today’s young, in righteous, understandable defence of their own time, generally reject our reminiscences about a golden age when the customer was always right, when AA men saluted the badge on your car and policemen touched their helmet in greeting. Thank heaven for the end of deference, they say, but deference is part of an ordered, certain world and, in retrospect at least, that can feel warming and even kind. I suppose what I miss above all things is the kindness of the England of half a century ago. But then again, is it the kindness I regret, or my own youth?

I suppose what I miss above all things is the kindness of half a century ago.

But then again, is it the kindness I regret, or my own youth?

I am not sure.

I don’t think the world was so scared, so edgy, so chip-on-the-shoulder.

Maybe that was deference.

Maybe it was respect.

Maybe it was courtesy.

Maybe it was caring.

Whatever it was, it doesn’t seem to be around today.

And I miss it.

My youth?

Truly I am kind of glad I was a kid back when I was a kid.

And I feel sorry for my kids and my grandkids.

They might have more technology but I bet I had more fun.

If you aren’t familiar with Julian Fellowes I am happy to tell you that you are.

Much I what I feel I know about the British Aristocracy is from TV shows like Downton Abby and Monarch of the Glen or movies like Gosford Park and books like Snobs.

Watch all and you get to know certain themes about the Brits that become part of your collective conscious and as many of those themes are repeated in different shows and movies and books that I just named, well then, they must be accurate.

Then you find out there were all written by the same guy, Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford.

8.29.2022 – hopelessness is the

hopelessness is the
enemy of justice – is
a constant struggle

I was born on July 17, 1960.

One month later, unknown to me and unrelated to this event, 11 kids went wading in the Atlantic Ocean at the public beach on Tybee Island on the east coast near Savannah, Georgia.

All 11 kids were arrested.

They were officially charged with Public Disrobing.

The real reason is that the public beaches in Georgia in 1960 were segregated.

And these 11 kids were not ‘allowed’ to use the public beach because they were not white.

1960.

Stars of the show, from left, Edna Jackson, Evalena Hoskins, and Mary Gray, who participated as high-school students in the historic 1960’s wade-ins. Ben Goggins / For Savannah Morning News

Three of these students, Edna Jackson, Evalena Hoskins, and Mary Gray, were there that day in 1960 and were back on the same beach, the same beach I have been with my children and grand children.

I now know about that day because the State of Georgia just dedicated a historical marker to remember that day and what those 11 kids did.

At the dedication ceremony, Tybee Island Historical Association Vice-President Allen Lewis said, “These students were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

These students were ordinary people.

Ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

They went for a swim on an August day at the beach.

Extraordinary things.

Mr. Lewis also said, “They put their beliefs to the test on Savannah Beach. That God has the divine power, and that the U.S. Constitution was on their side as they fought injustice and evil.”

Faced with racial terror, the students responded to hate with love. To violence, with forgiveness. We remember these students for their hope. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Their courage. Because peace requires bravery. Their persistence. Because justice is a constant struggle. And their faith.”

They went for a swim on an August day at the beach.

Arlo Guthrie once said something along the lines that in a world where everything is going great, you would have to do an awful lot of good to standout, but in a world that sucks, you don’t have to do much to accomplish something good.

They went for a swim on an August day at the beach.

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Respond to hate with love.

To violence, with forgiveness.

Because peace requires bravery.

Because justice is a constant struggle.

8.28.2022 – old enough – no more

old enough – no more
annoyance boredom pursuit
of a longer life

Somewhere in the canon of Jim Harrison, the one time sage of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wrote something along the lines of go ahead and eat the fat and take a walk afterward.

This is the same guy who advised taking a long walk before a meal to build up an a proper appetite.

How long is a long life?

Dr. Henry (Indiana) Jones said that it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

To write this out, I have to admit that I clicked on the article titled, “Fab abs, Nicole Kidman. But this frantic effort to look half your age is frankly demeaning” by Yvonne Roberts in the Guardian.

Ms. Roberts takes the point of the view that we should act and look and embrace our age.

As this is an opinion I espouse, I enjoyed the article very much.

Back in high school in a class called ‘Advanced Photo and Filmmaking’ (We practised black and white darkroom technique and used Kodak Super 8mm cameras – you know, cutting edge technology) we watched a documentary (16mm movie) on the life of photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“The photograph itself doesn’t interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.” Cartier-Bresson

Unlike Ansel Adams who felt exposing an image was just the start to what would happen in the darkroom, Mr. Cartier-Bresson felt that once you clicked that shutter, the decisive moment, your work was done. The rest was up to technicians.

In the film, Mr. Cartier-Bresson told the story of photographing a very old Grand-Dame of society for Vogue, who asked him to, please, not make her look old in his pictures.

The film then cycled slowly through several black and white images of a beautiful, dignified, evidently charming tho still, very old woman.

The narration had gone silent and then on the last image, the lady, white haired with stunning eyes and a beautiful smile entirely wreathed with wrinkles, Mr. Cartier-Bresson said something along the lines of ‘I think … when you get old, you get the face you deserve.’

That line has stayed with me and has pretty much summed up my thought on growing old and my role in it.

I gave Ms. Robert’s article a fast read but I really liked that last paragraph.

Relentless introspection (as opposed to the insurrection required to challenge life’s inequalities) and an obsession with what has been lost, instead of contemplating the gains that come with age, stops us feeling at ease with the process of becoming ourselves, however flawed and creased. In Natural Causes: Life, Death and the Illusion of Control, the author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich refreshingly writes: “Once I realised I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life.

I will go to the beach and I will sit in the sun and read.

If I feel like I may bring along a cigar.

I may or may not go for a walk.

I may or may not go for a swim (with the sharks.)

I will contemplate the gains that come with age.

I will be at at ease with the process of becoming myself, however flawed and creased.

I am old enough to die.

I am also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life.

8.27.2022 – what strikes you from space

what strikes you from space
is Earth is like no other
planet we have seen

Adapted from the line, “What strikes you from space is that Earth is like no other planet we’ve seen. Even from hundreds of thousands of miles away you just know: there is a planet teeming with life. Against that vast black backdrop, it’s so beautiful and fragile.”

From the article, “‘Look closely and there’s a tear in Armstrong’s eye’: the Apollo space missions as you’ve never seen them before.

Apollo 8, 24 December 1968 Earthrise, taken by William Anders on the first crewed mission to go ‘round the moon and back’, as Nasa put it. Photograph: Nasa/JSC/ASU/Andy Saunders

8.23.2022 – enjoy illusion

enjoy illusion
control over digital
life not unobserved

Feel bad about life during the on going covid news cycle?

Want to feel worse?

Read We’re About to Find Out What Happens When Privacy Is All but Gone by Alex Kingsbury, a member of the NYT’s editorial board.

If you don’t have access to the NYT (Hint Hint, when your free 3 day account from your local library expires, go back to the local library digital page and click where some nice webmaster has written ‘Go here to get another free 3 day account.’

If your local library digital page wasn’t written by a nice webmaster (there are some of us) then I apologize and here is the gist of what Mr. Kingsbury said.

Whenever I see one of those billboards that read: “Privacy. That’s iPhone,” I’m overcome by the urge to cast my own iPhone into a river. Of lava.

That’s not because the iPhone is any better or worse than other smartphones when it comes to digital privacy. (I’d take an iPhone over an Android phone in a second; I enjoy the illusion of control over my digital life as much as the next person.)

What’s infuriating is the idea that carrying around the most sophisticated tracking and monitoring device ever forged by the hand of man is consistent with any understanding of privacy. It’s not. At least not with any conception of privacy our species had pre-iPhone.

Protecting digital privacy is not in the interest of the government, and voters don’t seem to care much about privacy at all. Nor is it in the interest of tech companies, which sell user private data for a profit to advertisers. There are too many cameras, cell towers and inscrutable artificial intelligence engines in operation to live an unobserved life.

For years, privacy advocates, who foresaw the contours of the surveilled world we now live in, warned that privacy was a necessary prerequisite for democracy, human rights and a flourishing of the human spirit. We’re about to find out what happens when that privacy has all but vanished.

I think back when George Orwell wrote 1984, he only put cameras that could monitor citizens in a few strategic locations instead of having every citizen carry a monitoring device because he was striving for a level of disbelief that could be believed.

Had you painted the world of today for Mr. Orwell back in 1949 he would have said that no world could be that crazy.

Got to run, my iPhone is ringing.

8.21.2022 – sunset evening

sunset evening
tide star moving seems asleep
and after that the dark

As I watched a freight outbound on the Savannah River I thought of Savannah’s own, Conrad Aiken and the lines carved in a bench at his gravesite.

The lines read:

Cosmos Mariner:

Destination Unknown

Today’s haiku is adapted from the famous Crossing the Bar by Alfred Tennyson.

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

8.19.2022 – a simplistic

a simplistic
and egalitarian
expression … o
f hate

Thinking about wrongs in place of rights as in voters ‘rights’.

Seems like there should be a bill of wrongs.

A Bill of Rights of what you get through being a citizen of the United States.

A Bill of Wrongs of what you don’t get through being a citizen of the United States.

But I digress.

What I wanted to consider today was a chicken or egg discussion.

And I am going to the land of don’t go there and will ask, did Trump come first and his followers follow?

Or did a certain following find a their voice through Trump and got on his bandwagon by letting Trump get in front.

I came across this discussion about this question.

In fanning the flames of Make America Great Again, involving a profound sense of national conservative community, identity, and destiny, Trump had built upon quite the opposite of what most observers – even the Republican elite, on occasion – assumed.

The “belief that under Trump, the Republicans were, so to speak, subjected to total communicative and ideological brainwashing” by Trump and his right wing accomplices was simply not fact, the official historians concluded.

“The widespread view that systematic government propaganda kept the population ready and willing for action, or even created a unified ‘national’ feeling among them, ignores reality,” the historians pointed out.

“Identification with the nation could not be produced on command, and as a rule propaganda was convincing only to those already converted.”

Right wing radical nationalism, stretching back decades before Trump, was in truth “the precondition for propaganda being successful, not the other way around.”

Trump and the FOX news propaganda had succeeded so well, in other words, because it hinged upon “established nationalist beliefs.”

The “spreading of racist, xenophobic, or authoritarian stereotypes” worked so effectively because such propaganda was directed at “voters already predisposed to them.”

In a country like the United States, given the country’s history since its early times, Trump had understood as a Republican outsider that the very concept of democracy was foreign.

Republican right wing radical intellectuals had for years sneered at it – and had avoided practical politics.

With its rich history of constitutional warfare at the epicenter of America, and its distaste for thinking through or dealing with the necessary compromises involved in civilized society, Republican right wing radicals could therefore, in the wake of deep economic depression, be encouraged to focus on a supposedly egalitarian, simplistic expression of nationalist identity: one that, in order to cohere and remain strong, must see others – whether foreigners or non-whites – as enemies: enemies to be excluded, disrespected, defeated. And where deemed necessary, simply liquidated, without remorse or compunction.

Anyone who objected to the nationalistic program of the Republican right wing was “othered”.

Far from becoming a nation of warrior-serfs obeying a draconian Trump, in other words, nationalistic Republican right wing radicals had become loyal and obedient members of a community – proud and arrogant citizens of a revived country dedicated to MAGA.

Makes you think.

In order to cohere and remain strong, must see others – whether foreigners or non-whites – as enemies: enemies to be excluded, disrespected, defeated.

So here is the twist.

I DID indeed read this passage in a book the other day.

But it wasn’t a book about Trump.

In the book, Commander in chief : FDR’s battle with Churchill, 1943, (2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt : Boston), the author, Nigel Hamilton, was making a point about defeating Nazi Germany.

He wrote the above passage about Germany in 1943.

I swapped out Trump for Hitler and Republican Right Wing Radicals for Nazi’s and changes along that line.

The original passage reads thusly: “In fanning the flames of Volksgemeinschaft, involving a profound sense of national German community, identity, and destiny, Hitler had built upon quite the opposite of what most observers – even the Nazi elite, on occasion – assumed. The “belief that under National Socialism the Germans were, so to speak, subjected to total communicative and ideological brainwashing” by Hitler and his Nazi accomplices was simply not fact, the official historians concluded. “The widespread view that systematic government propaganda kept the population ready and willing for war, or even created a unified ‘national’ feeling among them, ignores reality,” the historians pointed out. “Identification with the nation could not be produced on command, and as a rule propaganda was convincing only to those already converted.” German nationalism, stretching back decades before Hitler, was in truth “the precondition for propaganda being successful, not the other way around.” Hitler and Goebbels’s propaganda had succeeded so well, in other words, because it hinged upon “established nationalist beliefs.” The “spreading of racist, xenophobic, or authoritarian stereotypes” had, as instanced in the conquest of Poland and huge swaths of the Soviet Union, worked so effectively because such propaganda was directed at “soldiers already predisposed to them.” In a country like Germany, given the country’s warring history since ancient times, Hitler had understood as an Austrian outsider that the very concept of democracy was foreign. German intellectuals had for centuries sneered at it – and had avoided practical politics, preferring philosophy, the arts, and science. With its rich history of land warfare at the epicenter of Europe, and its distaste for thinking through or dealing with the necessary compromises involved in civilized society, Germany’s people could therefore, in the wake of deep economic depression and defeat in World War I, be encouraged to focus on a supposedly egalitarian, simplistic expression of nationalist German identity: one that, in order to cohere and remain strong, must see others – whether foreigners or Jews, communists or non-Aryans – as enemies: enemies to be excluded, disrespected, defeated. And where deemed necessary, simply liquidated, without remorse or compunction. Anyone who objected to the nationalistic program in Germany was “othered,” while “in foreign affairs” the “seed was planted for the future offensive war of extermination,” the German official historians concluded. “War, established as a permanent component of German politics as an inheritance from the First World War, from then on became the natural means of achieving political ends both at home and abroad.” Far from becoming a nation of warrior-serfs obeying a draconian führer, in other words, nationalistic Germans had become loyal and obedient members of a community – proud and arrogant citizens of a revived empire: a third Reich, a Volksgemeinschaft, a “master race” of individuals each cognizant at some level and largely supportive of the genocide being directed against Jews in Germany as well as outside Germany on their behalf; supportive, too, of barbarous treatment of enemies such as Russian Untermenschen, since the denigration of “others” only increased and inflamed this powerful sense of national German identity.”

Easy to make many conclusions and easy to miss many conclusions.

For myself, I will let you readers come to your own conclusions.

I will say this.

Watch the news.

On one channel you will hear nothing but news about injustice.

On the other channel you will hear nothing but news about injustice.

But there does seem to be a lot more hate,

a lot more disrespect,

a lot more arrogance,

on one of those channels.

As the Bible says, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16)

And the Bible says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Draws a line in the sand there.