Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Banality of Evil, Groundhog Day Edition

I'm sitting in Sola coffee shop in north Raleigh.  At a table near me are two semi-stylish business-casual white guys.

I catch a mention of church, this or that church with X thousand worshipers.  So I figure these guys are preachers or evangelists, church planters.

Then I hear a reference to crisis pregnancy centers. 

In other words, these are misogynist rat bastards.  Warlocks in shepherds' clothing.  Their business is to browbeat young women into not having abortions. 

It was probably about two years ago that I was sitting in Helios coffee shop, downtown, near the state capitol.  I was overhearing a group of suit-wearing types discussing lobbying strategy.  Eventually I realized they were out-of-state operatives who'd flown in on behalf of the charter school industry.  I.e. infiltrators, saboteurs, dedicated to destroying public education, to hollowing out the schools my children attend. 

Different flavors of poison in different parts of town.

Election 2016: The Hokey-Pokey

They caucused their asses off in Iowa yesterday.  Whatever that means -- bundling up and trudging out to the local VFW hall to play some amalgam of Red Rover and the Hokey-Pokey.  There's probably some arcane system of hand signals adapted from livestock auctions.  I don't quite understand it, but the pundits assure me, the Iowa Caucuses are essential to America's greatness and to our presidential politics being a true test of leadership.

For my job I've been moving to a new office the last few days, a.k.a. filling boxes with unsorted scraps of my notes, work-related and not.  Numerous blog posts that died a-borning.  I spied one yesterday in which I was expecting Hillary Clinton to have a smooth ride to the nomination.  This time around, unlike Hillary v. Barack in 2008, it would not be a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party.  (I guess I jotted these notes about the time Bernie Sanders announced for the presidential race.)

Whoops!  I guess the soul of the Dems is always up for grabs.  A new crop of youngsters has emerged to fill the leftier-than-thou wing where I used to sit.  It's Bernie Sanders or nothing for them.  Better Donald Trump should win the White House than let DINO Hillary take us back to the days when AOL was riding high and Bill Cosby was America's Dad.

It really never is easy where Hillary is concerned.  She's cursed.  Maybe not fatally cursed, to the extent of being unelectable in the general.  But eternally haunted. 

Listen, I like Bernie.  I expect I'll be voting for him when our state's primary comes around.  But the imperative is for the Democratic candidate to win in November, whoever that candidate is.  I figured a Bernie vote would be a message vote, intended to pull Hillary to the left.  Now, is it simply a Bernie vote?  I'm not sure what to root for in the primary; a number of bad scenarios present themselves. 

The shit on the Republican side is so crazy, I don't see how they get their act together by fall.  But I fear their knack for ignoring inconvenient realities, joined to their sharklike sense for blood in the water. 

So the forecast is for nine months of anxiety, distrusting the media, and distrusting my own instincts.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reviews I Read, Books I Want

Noted in last Sunday's paper: In conjunction with the Civil War sesquicentennial, our state Archives engaged a writer/cartographer to do a coffee-table book treatment of the Civil War in North Carolina.  It's here.  It's real and it's spectacular.

Here we have a confluence of three things that have become of distinct interest to me in recent years: (1) maps, (2) the Civil War, and (3) acquiring the major works of N.C. history and geography.  So I think I'd like to get my hands on this.  Being that it's $85, though, I think I need to remember to ask for Christmas or my birthday...

The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas
By Mark Anderson Moore with Jessica A. Bandel and Michael Hill
Office of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 190 pages, $85

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/books/article55479830.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie, 1947-2016

Well, today has been given over to feeling sad about the passing of David Bowie. 

Several friends are crying this morning.  My daughters are bummed out as well, whereas they are indifferent to a lot of classic rock era figures.  My sense is that LGBT kids and their allies still look to Bowie as a pioneer in crossing and blurring gender lines.

My late uncle Palmer was closer to a big brother to me than a father figure, being nine years younger than my mom, his sister. Palmer had a good album collection when I was a kid, and he used to give me listening advice.  When I was 10 or so, Palmer told me the king of rock music was David Bowie.  I took this as solid-gold gospel truth!  In later years Palmer’s advice was not always so good, but in 1974 or ’75, he was right on target.  His favorite Bowie album was Ziggy Stardust, and that remains the one I know best. 

Let’s Dance was featured in the soundtrack of my college days.  My friend Will and I saw Bowie in concert at the Scope, Norfolk, VA, on the Serious Moonlight tour in August 1983.  This was probably the most straightforward play-the-hits tour he ever did.  Serious fans would say that was not Bowie’s creative peak, but if you could only see him once in your life, that might have been a good time.  He and that band (I can hear Bowie bellowing the name CAHLOS ALOMAH) were utter pros. 

He had just released an album which by all accounts is very good.  I assumed he was in top form.  He really kept a lid on the news of his cancer, so everybody is shocked.  Actually, it’s more than that: He was so vital and so protean, it’s shocking to learn that he was mortal.

Not too long after I started working here at the seminary, folks in my office learned we would be entertaining a guest for several days -- a bishop from the Church of Norway.   (He was studying the likely fallout if the C of N was disestablished.)  In my mind's eye, a bishop of Norway was a stern creature, someone like Gandalf, tall, unsmiling, white haired and about a thousand years old.  When Harald turned up, he was this sprite of a guy, a little older than I, with modish long hair, a black denim jacket, and a hoop earring in each ear.  He was smart, funny, utterly charming, and made me feel about 200% cooler in his presence.  He was a delight, and the way I summed him up to people was: "He reminds me of David Bowie!"