Prediction–Snooty’s Death Will Soon Be a Conspiracy Theory


Here in Florida we are mourning the untimely death of Snooty, an unfortunate manatee who was born and kept in captivity for 69 years.  Sixty Nine Years!  Manatees in the wild swim thousands of miles in their lifetimes. They zip in and out of the ocean and lurk in warmer canals during winter months. They eat.  A lot!  But they don’t stay in one tiny spot of their own free will.   Snooty, alas, was a prisoner.

Everybody loved Snooty.  Just last week the museum in Bradenton where Snooty lived had a huge 69th birthday party for him.  Nobody ever asked how Snooty liked being confined to a small tank for all those long decades, instead of swimming free visiting springs and rivers and beaches and just roaming around eating seagrass.

Everybody just assumed that, since everybody loved Snooty, that somehow meant Snooty loved his life in confinement.  I doubt it.

Snooty drowned a day or two after the aforementioned 69th birthday party last week.  A grate over a tunnel leading to plumbing equipment somehow came loose. Snooty, probably trying to escape, got stuck in the tunnel and drowned.

It should be only a day or two before people start asking how a bolted grate came to be open.  Because this is South Florida, it shouldn’t be long after that until someone proposes that Snooty was the victim of a nefarious plot. That he was, in fact, murdered. Possibly he was lured into that tunnel with some ripe lettuce. The spectre of domestic terrorism will no doubt be run up the flagpole by a shameless media.

What people really should be talking about is the morality of keeping such a large, seafaring animal in a little concrete tank for decades.   So far all the news is about Snooty’s longevity in his aquatic prison.

That’s what shouldn’t happen again.

We still are all sad about Snooty.  One way or the other.

Chainsaw Phil


Once upon a time I lived on islands. Not always the same one, but always
islands. The first time I moved to one it was in the Caribbean and it was
supposed to be for a couple of months. I didn’t come back to the continent
for 12 years. And even then I lived on barrier islands. For awhile I lived on
two islands at once–one in the Caribbean the other a Florida barrier
island–and commuted.  On Fridays I’d walk to the dock, take a ferry to St.
Thomas, a surrey-bus to the seaplane terminal, then the Goose–a
seaplane–to St. Croix, then a surrey bus to Christiansted or Frederiksted, do
my work and return home the same way.

I met a lot of interesting people.

One of them was Chainsaw Phil–or, as people called him more or less
affectionately, Chainsaw–the most consistently pessimistic, skeptical, cranky person I ever met.

BTW, on this particular island there were three things one was never supposed to ask.  “Where are you from, what’s your last name, what do you do for a living?”

Chainsaw just kind of appeared on the Caribbean island at some point,
having migrated from the Pacific Northwest where he’d been a lumberjack.

He was, and probably still is, the second most profane human being I have
ever met. Because of his profession, and the fact that much of the bush to
be cleared was cassia, which is full of thorns, Chainsaw was always
scratched, cut, bleeding, and with a patchwork of other occupational wounds in
various states of healing/scabbing. His T-shirts suffered the same fate and were invariably torn in several places.

Chainsaw, however had hidden depths. Brilliant, literate, and with a
massive database of general liberal arts information, Chainsaw was quite a
conversationalist. He could riff on various obscure philosophers, contemporary fiction, history, you name it. We had a number of fascinating chats over the years.

I only ever saw him happy once. After a huge hurricane had pretty much
squashed the island, all the locals had to pitch in to clear the roads and get
the power back on. None of the airports were open so each island was pretty much on its own.

I came around a corner and there was Chainsaw, dangling above the debris strewn roadway from one of the few trees still standing, by one arm, the other swinging along with the chainsaw like a damn bullwhip, cutting the hanging branches dangling from also-dangling wires and trees, just a-whoopin’ and hollerin’ like a cowboy gettin’ some little dogies along on the dusty trail.  He sounded like Slim Pickens in the final scene of “Dr. Strangelove” (one of the greatest films ever made).

Chainsaw had this huge grin on his face.  I’d never seen him smile–normally even when he laughed he frowned.  I wasn’t even aware he could smile

*BTW for Goose flights they would have to take passenger weights to determine if the lumbering aircraft could safely get airborne and land.  Seems as though I recall that here’s an old VI Daily News photo somewhere of the Lt. Gov. or Gov. or head of the legislature, something political…wading in the shallows having been forced to abandon a Goose plane for reasons I can’t recall.  The seaplanes had a reputation for being rickety but there were a limited number of ways to get to St. Croix from St. Thomas, and the Goose was the quickest one.

Media Once Again Its Own Worst Enemy


The media, in its frenzy to nail Trump to the wall, seems to be misrepresenting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ possible involvement in Russian election meddling in 2016.  (And I am no Trump fan or hater.)  The media seems to be pushing the line that Sessions was, demonstrably, interacting with Russian official Sergey Kislyak regarding campaign issues.

But what is being referred to are supposed recordings of Kislyak telling his bosses that he’d had conversations with Trump about the campaign.  Yeah, why wouldn’t we all take Kislyak’s unsupported word for it?  Isn’t he a nice Russian spymaster (as opposed to, oh, say, Putin)?  Now in most of the media stories about this subject, way down near the end of the article it will say something about this information only being Kislyak’s unsupported assertions.

But lots of people don’t read to the end of an article, they just skim for general content.

This is exactly the kind of thing which makes people think all news is fake news.

What seems most disconcerting about the whole Russia election meddling issue is that the GOP appears to be no different from a commie fan club/cabal which, unfortunately in this case,  has managed to take over the USA’s government and is busily undermining the constitution and rule of law.

Why on earth would Trump, his supporters, or the GOP want to undermine an investigation into how extensive this Russian intrusion into our sovereign political process was during 2016?

Enquiring mind wants to know.

Apocalypse Wow–Riding Windsurfer Bill’s Honda 90 in a Caribbean Hurricane


Life in America is way too constrained.  There’s too much pressure to conform in oh so many ways, despite our unsupported belief that here in the USA we are wild, free and nonconformist.

So I happened to be thinking wistfully about the time Windsurfer Bill rode up to my place in the Caribbean, on his Honda 90, in the middle of a hurricane.  He burst in and said excitedly; “All the boats are draggin’ anchor in Chocolate Hole.  Wanna go get some champagne and watch expensive boats crash?”

It sounded like fun so I said sure.  Now, at the time, I was living up in Bethany on a dirt road which was steep, full of rocks, and would wash out during the infrequent rains. It was no simple thing for Bill to have gotten his underpowered little vehicle up that road in a damn hurricane either!  That boy had some onions.

Who wouldn’t jump at a chance for an adventure like that?  So I hopped on the back of Bill’s tiny motorbike, sans helmet of course, and we rode into town (Cruz Bay) and went to the deli/restaurant at Mongoose Junction to get some Dom Perignon.  (What else would you drink to watch an apocalypse?)

Tom, the owner, had just closed up.  After we explained why we needed a bottle of Dom he allowed as how he just happened to have one on ice in the back of his jeep that he’d be willing to part with in support of such a good cause.  “I always carry one” he said “in case I get lucky”.  Tom must have been a boy scout at some time to take preparedness to that level.

So we got the champagne and had a fairly harrowing ride up to Bill’s place, which was up a much steeper and rockier road than mine.  Since he lived right at the top of a big hill on the south side shoreline, it was blowin’ like snot up there.  Huge things were flying through the air and, in fact, millions of dollars worth of sailboats were already being pounded against the beach like cockroaches that accidentally wandered into a flamenco fiesta.

It was grand!  We hauled out a couple of chairs, plunked down on the deck and sipped the Dom until it ran out.  Then we switched to a more plebian Cold Duck, or something along those lines, and got fairly tipsy from the alcohol and the wildly dynamic scene playing out for our fun and amusement.  It was soooo fun!  It was like the end of the world but without pain–the wind was screaming, roofs were coming apart, the sea was smashing everything that was in its way, and the noise was deafening.   It was chaos incarnate, if a hurricane can be said to be an incarnation.

People don’t do stuff like that here.  Here they prepare seriously and take precautions. But that was the glory of St. John back in the day.  People did things with panache and free spirited attitudes.  (Once  a St. Johnian sank his new–and very expensive–boat, but stayed on board since part of it was still out of the water.  A friend of his had a case of champagne delivered to the stranded sailor via helicopter.  (No word on whether he thought to report the sunken boat–we’d all heard about it from another boatie.)

Recently I re-connected with an old friend/colleague from the St. John days. He wrote a novel about St. John at that time, in order to memorialize a golden moment when, as Sarah Palin wistfully noted once, people were free.  I asked if he remembered when I tried to shoot his dog, and he laughed that, yes, as a matter of fact, he did.  The name of the book is Back Time in Love City & it definitely, even definitively, captures the zeitgeist of that time and place.  I would recommend it to anyone who has ever dreamed of jumping their traces and taking off into an unknown place for adventure.

One time I rode my big race horse into that iconic Cruz Bay pub, the Back Yard.  She was huge, very high strung and prone to going into wild frenzies of hysteria where she would buck and kick and race around trying to chase any human who crossed her path.  So I rode her up to the packed bar and Dougie Sica didn’t blink an eye, just said, “What’ll ya have?”  Kamikazes seemed appropriate for that particular moment.  So I sat on my big horse and drank kamikazes at the bar, then rode her on out and went home.  Neither of us wore shoes.

Ya can’t do stuff like that in America anymore, except maybe out west or in Texas.  Nope, now and here, decorum is required and one must comport oneself in a manner that couldn’t possibly offend anyone.  Yeah, God forbid that anyone might have their delicate sensibilities offended.  I’m pretty sure there must be a clause in the Constitution about that.

So I sigh and plod on, bereft of any scintilla of spontaneity or free-spiritedness.  We don’t approve of such things in America anymore.  More’s the pity.  But at least I know what it means to have been free, wild and stupid enough to have adventures, to do stuff people wouldn’t approve of.  Sad to say I don’t think all that many Americans get to have that luxury anymore.

What would Jesus say?  “Did ya like my storm?”

Sigh.  I miss being free.

 

All Reality Is Not Virtual


As a committed post-modern dinosaur, I have never tweeted, been on
facebook, LinkdedIn, reddit, or any other social media site. There are no
apps, devices or any other means of “syncing” an information flow in my
world.  My laptop is the whole ball of wax, device-wise.  I know not of
interacting online with groups of people. I just don’t get it.  But, clearly,
time has passed me by and I am officially irrelevant.

Twitter wars and their prominence among “news” stories in the media seem
mystifying.  Reading or watching stories about this phenomenon also seem
pretty funny.  All these characters with their thumbs flying, being egged on
by “news” reports, conjure up an image of a bunch of weenies engaging in
what amounts to electronic slap fights.  Hunched over their tiny devices, do
those engaging in the exercise actually believe it is the equivalent of some
sort of gladiatorial warfare?  I think they do.

Forget it folks, you’re not Russell Crowe, you’re Arnold Stang.

Tip: your busy thumbs are not the full extent of your physical
capabilities. You can get up and walk, talk to live humans in person, see
“real” things with your “real” eyes, feel the sun and wind, experience “real”
life firsthand.  Yeah, it’s kind of uncomfortable, but, probably good for ya.

See, if you’re confining yourself to virtual reality, your non-virtual
musculature and body parts are withering from lack of use and exercise. Your
overly active imaginations, seeing yourselves as some sort of latter day
cultural warriors are a bit over the top.  Okay, delusional.  There is such a
thing as “real” reality y’know.

It all seems hilarious to me, but with a looming downside which is apt to
wind up affecting all of us, including the ones who don’t tweet or who have
thoughts which won’t fit into 140 characters. People seem overly focused
on what’s being said on Twitter. The lazy media, too slack to actually go
out and find real news to report–well except for Richard Engel, Ben Weideman, Ivan Watson, et. al.–can just open up their devices, have a donut
peck out a thin story about what other people are doing in 140 characters,
and think they’ve reported the news.

I actually saw one of the former Fox News blondes, in full raccoon-eye
makeup, say recently, with the most earnest look, that “When the President
tweets, we have to report on it.”  No. You don’t. “News” is not confined to
what comes out of Donald Trump’s thumbs or mouth. Stuff is
happening–important stuff–out in the “real” world. If you work for a news
media organization, you and your colleagues are supposed to be telling the
rest of us about it.

And the putative “news” cable channels are ridiculous. MSNBC runs
non-stop Lock-up programs on the weekends, presumably because “real”
news doesn’t actually happen on weekends. CNN similarly doesn’t do
much live reporting on the weekends.  Possibly it’s because the “reporters”
don’t work weekends. But if you want your media company to be considered a
news organization, then you actually have to report real “news”.  Trust me,
there’s lots going on in the real world on weekends, despite what cable
news channel programmers think.

MSNBC also hired a guy, Brian Williams, who was fired for lying, to do an alleged news show. Why? Somehow his presence on the roster is supposed to increase the network’s credibility as a news network!  How does that work?
Has Mr. Williams dropped his habit of lying?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.

CNN has a morning “news” anchor who’s just a Fox News re-tread yakking
it up five mornings a week. Sorry, I’m not interested in FoxNews’ sloppy
seconds. Don’t hire a media whore and trot her out as a serious journalist,
and expect me to forget what she did before.

The ancillary world of internet trolls is similarly mystifying. Aren’t they
just what we used to call busybodies? Perhaps we should more accurately refer to them as E-busybodies instead of trolls.

The whole notion of spending hours just looking for something to be pissed
off about seems pretty unhealthy. Long ago I decided, when being overly
critical of others, that I’ll try to hold off on that until I’ve perfected me.
There’s a ton of work to be done there, so I’m not holding my breath about
when I can get back to telling everyone else how they should live their lives
and what choices they should make.

Meanwhile, I see that our president is meeting with Vlad Putin this Friday.
What has Vlad been tweeting about lately? I’m all agog with curiosity.

I’m also wondering what future archaelogists will make of the skeleton remains of all the tweeters out there.  “There seems to have been a popular cult which flourished tens of thousands of years ago which focused on those with very large thumbs.  Perhaps that characteristic was considered as beauty.  At this point, we just don’t know but all indications are that genetic thumb mutations became a socially desirable physical attribute at some point in the past.  That culture disappeared and we can only conjecture what might have happened to wipe it out.”

 

National Candidates Should Have to Mud Wrestle for Their Positions


The riveting video of the leader of the free world wrestling with a CNN muck-up, uhhh mock-up, left me stunned and in awe.  That’s the answer to elections.  Americans love professional wrestling, they love politics, and they like to see people get dirty.  And they love people in wrestling costumes.

So there you have it.  Mud wrestling.  Winnah takes the election.

Thank you Donald Trump.  It was your stellar example of buffoonery, rolling around like a walrus on Vince McMahon with a CNN logo where his head should be which inspired me.  Mud wrestling for political posts.  You, sir,  are an inspiration.

Perhaps you could engage that nice man, Mr, Putin in similar hijinks when you meet with him this week at the G20 summit.  He likes to wrestle and is, I think, a judoka.  Yes, our president in a contest of manliness with Vladimir Putin, former head of the KGB would be a ratings smash hit.  Not to be unsupportive of our president, but, my money would have to be on Putin in that matchup.

I hear our side doesn’t have an agenda for the meeting with Vlad.  Ya might wanna think about getting one together before then fellas.  (I know, I know, no girls allowed.)

But, of course, you boys don’t need some bystander from the peanut gallery giving unsolicited advice.

 

 

 

More on Knee Jerk Reactions, Fighting Fire with Fire


Amazingly, Trump and his surrogates brag that he fights back, that if
someone punches him he punches back ten times as hard, that he “fights fire
with fire”.

How can they think that mimicking an opponent is a good thing?  It’s purely
reactive. With Trump all it takes is a bit of criticism and he’s off to the
races, tweeting away–and not doing his job.  According to Sun Tsu (and
Miyamoto Musashi) the warrior chooses the time, place and mode of battle.
Letting oneself be constantly baited into over the top overreaction just looks
weak.  Trump comes off like a patsie, not a strong leader.  People rattle his
cage, he goes nuts, they do it again, predictably, so does he.  That is just way too much psychodrama for most folks.

By continually being drawn into childish twitter fights he’s wasting a ton of time that he could be spending on, oh, say, infrastructure, crime, gun violence, Middle East peace talks, Russian hacking of our businesses, elections and who knows what else, and….

So I’m not nearly as thrilled with the, presumably-viewed-as-manly habit
our president has of going off the rails at every little provocation.

By reacting so predictably, it takes virtually nothing for anyone who does
not wish us well to distract our president into following someone else’s
agenda. But a master tactician doesn’t fight fire with fire, he uses unorthodox
and abstruse methods and implements.  Cuts off the oxygen, cools the
temperature, removes the fuel, whatever.

Here’s a perfect example of the foolishness and penalties of knee jerk reactions,

Remember, at the Battle of Hastings, where England became Norman in the
fall of 1066?  After hours of bitter fighting, the English (under half-Danish
Harald Godwineson, King Harald II of England) had held their position behind a
shieldwall which the Normans could not break.  When the Normans got spooked and fled at some point, the English broke formation and pursued them individually and pell mell.  The Normans, seeing the opportunity, wheeled their horses around and picked off the undisciplined English one by one.  Two more times the Normans used the same ploy–pretended retreat followed by counterattack–to induce the English to break formation.  This turned the battle in favor of the mounted Normans.

That’s what knee-jerk “fighting back” got the English.  Their king dead, his body and jeweled gonfannon in the hands of his usurper, the end of Anglo Saxon rule in England, their lands, assets, pride and titles taken and endless abuse at the hands of the Normans for decades to come.

Mindlessly fighting back may sound good but patient critical analysis, and
then fighting back if it’s warranted, is a more sound way to proceed.
Usually. There are always exceptions but, in general, think first.  Just popping off as our president does is not just embarrassing, it makes us look dumb in front of our enemies.  And that definitely is not a good idea.