We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, September 18. 2020
The story of Brave New World preceded 1984 and other dystopian totalitarian/collective novels. It also provides a counterpoint - the idea that there might be a way to accomplish the collective through positive interaction and genuine agreement. Huxley realized this was a seductive approach, but one fraught with problems, all of which eventually bubble up over time. Collectives require some form of force, or provision to derive agreement, to survive over longer periods of time. Widespread collective agreement, even on a small scale, can only be temporary. Huxley saw the value of propaganda, drugs, and psychological manipulation...as well as genetic engineering...to help achieve that "provision to derive agreement" and achieve a means to a presumed end.
There is, of course, no end that is always utopian and happy. That's the farce of our 'science-based' leaders and protesters out there - believing society can be, somehow, manipulated (or forced) into happiness and perfection. Huxley knew that. The critical flaw in Brave New World is the technological advancement and wealth this 'collective' creates. As we know, that is literally impossible. None has ever achieved it, none ever will. Despite that, Brave New World provides a cautionary tale on falling for seductive ideas that run against human nature. And, oddly enough, it aligns very well with the 'science' of the current covid political management...the willingness of people to fall in line to 'save' society.
Wednesday, September 16. 2020
Really two recommendations. Having completed Yellowstone, I'd recommend it if you have the time and inclination. I doubt some of the mafioso tactics employed actually take place, but in today's world, who knows? That said, if you enjoy westerns, the great outdoors, and some intrigue it's worth your time.
If you want a bit of nostalgia, mixed with some humor and good common sense, I'll toss Cobra Kai out there. Anyone who enjoyed The Karate Kid will get a kick out of this update. It makes fun of itself while teaching some worthwhile lessons about perspective and life. Johnny Lawrence, the antagonist in the original, is the star. His life hasn't quite gone the way he'd expected. So he returns to his roots, and once again Daniel LaRusso is his competition. An updated story, relying heavily on the original for perspective on how Johnny became who he was, and how Daniel seems to have dogged him the rest of his life.
Johnny provides good real-world advice to his new students in his dojo, a bit over the top for comic relief, but his students understand how he is lifting them up. It's a rough approach, not 'acceptable' commentary in modern society, but focuses not on how we want the world to be, but how it really is. Even Daniel, with his 'perfect' life, has to face some of his own failings.
At its heart, it is a comedic look at the original. It's got real world lessons in it, too. Some that would be worth having kids learn today.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 12:01 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, September 13. 2020
Dystopian science fiction writers must be laughing right now.
There is a reason political functionaries are being assholes about wearing masks - and it isn't about keeping you 'safe' (a common lie used to expand power).
Don't get me wrong, masks can play a role in reducing the likelihood of catching the virus, but it's just a delaying tactic. It's not preventive. There is a larger political play here...even if some of us are not capable of understanding it.
Most science fiction dystopias are based on reducing the individual into a collective hive. The Borg on Star Trek, Harrison Bergeron by Vonnegut, 1984 by Orwell - all of these (and many others) found ways to subjugate the individual to the will of the state or hive.
Humans differ from other animals in a few key ways, which in aggregate make us rather special. The opposable thumb, the ability to analyze situations and prepare plans, the sense of self and free will (self-actualization). Where animals that reject individualism have a level of success in groups or hives - what people who overemphasize these fail to note is that humans exceeded the limitations of groups by emphasizing the individual initiative.
Hives have their place, they can be useful even for humans. Collectives can work, temporarily and in small groupings, if they are VOLUNTARY. But the problem with modern people is they fail to recognize that capitalism and free markets allow for voluntary collectives to form, disband, and form again.
Think corporations are powerful? Name 10 that have lasted more than 100 years. The few that have managed to survive that long only did so one way - by playing political games, or gaining some form of monopoly power guaranteed by the state itself. Natural monopolies can exist over short periods of time, but fall apart without state protection. That is why socialism can only fail, over time. It is an unnatural state monopoly formation. Even fascism, which is a form of socialism, fails because it is still the state dictating the means of production. While competition can exist, it's limited and reduced, innovation is stifled and winners are chosen by political functionaries.
Individualism, in socialism and fascism, is reduced to whatever the state says is acceptable and limited.
Friday, September 11. 2020
My memory of 9/11 is pretty vivid. I won't go into details about what happened, we all have our personal views on how/why/what all occurred. These views are based on where we were, what we were doing, and what we choose to believe.
I don't believe the 'truthers' and their conspiracies. All you need for a good conspiracy is a couple of willing believers and some good memes that are logical fallacies. But I'm not going to share what I believe happened, either. We're all allowed to believe what we want, even if I don't agree with what someone else believes. That's called a marketplace of ideas. Sometimes there are lemons being sold in that marketplace. The nice part of the marketplace is this - I don't have to buy the lemons.
Getting past that, I have other memories. People coming together. People pulling together. Without any impetus from a 'leader'. Spontaneous organization and commitment to each other. Race differences disappeared. People cared about each other and making sure they were getting what they needed. I remember it as a "lockdown" of sorts. I didn't go back to work for 2 weeks, working remotely from home, just like the last 6 months. Of course, my office was by 14th Street, which had limited ability to cross. Our office felt it best to let the responders have as much space as possible. I saw similar behaviors in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, 2 years later. Spontaneous organization, not something we needed leaders for. People working together, finding solutions to issues we all faced.
Continue reading "A 9/11 Thought"
Saturday, August 15. 2020
It's coming and I don't personally agree that mail-in voting is an option. I can't get anything delivered on time, why should I expect the USPS to handle my vote any better? Not only that, but unless the government pays for the envelope, isn't a stamp a form of "poll tax"? Seems to me, mail-in voting is just make-work to keep a government jobs program (the failing USPS) viable.
There are ways, as Fauci (though he's been all over the map with his views) states, to allow in-person voting. One thing we can do is pay attention to South Korea over the next few weeks.
My personal opinion is that voting should be a three to five day long process and no early exit polls or counts should be publicly shared until polls are closed.
Not that I fear the virus, particularly. But some do - so set some voting guidelines, stick to them, and let's make this work.
Tuesday, August 11. 2020
Sat through a webinar (usually a walking tour) of 5 Points - quite enjoyable.
Learned of a relatively new resource - replications of Manhattan using computer tech.
$12 for an hour and a half by a 'licensed' (not sure why you need one) tour guide. Not that I'm a great tour guide, but I think I've done a passable job as an unlicensed one during our Urban Hikes.
Monday, July 13. 2020
I'd really like to take in a ballgame this summer. I know I won't be able to. Which is odd, because if this sport were played indoors, I think I MIGHT be able to understand why not having fans was a reasonable step to keeping people safe. But as I've watched the protests over the last several weeks - all far more crowded than the Sandy Hook beach I sat on during the July 4th weekend - and the crowded beaches themselves, I've noticed there has been no spike in NY/NJ of any meaningful nature.
But let's stick to baseball (or football, soon enough) and mull over the possibility of sitting in a crowd cheering. Is it safer, or less safe, than marching to protest Trump, or the US in general? I'm going to be a heretic and say it's just as safe. Oh I know some people will cry "condemning people to die" or some such nonsense. The reality has been quite the opposite, though. As testing has increased, new cases have (naturally) increased. Like a witch hunt, when you search for something, you tend to find more of it. This, of course, is particularly true of a natural spreading event like a virus. What must be driving the lockdown supporters nuts is the lack of increase in the mortality rate. Recent spikes in mortality were simply delayed reporting. (see chart below fold)
Continue reading "Just Wondering When..."
Tuesday, July 7. 2020
Wednesday, July 1. 2020
Webinars can be hit or miss. The New York Adventure Club, due to the obvious difficulties of getting out these days, have some on offer. I took in one on Five Points that was excellent, and there is one on July 21 about the Brooklyn Bridge that I have signed up for. $10 isn't too much, I guess, though I'd rather do tours on foot (boy I miss the Urban Hike and I hope we can pull one off in the Fall...I was thinking of focusing on movie locations this time).
If you're interested in spending an hour and learning about NYC's history, here's a great way to do it. Just click the link and see what they have to offer.
Sunday, June 21. 2020
I hope all our readers who are fathers enjoy this day with their families.
My father and mother divorced when I was 8, though he'd already left the house when I was 6. For a good portion of my life, my memories of him were of weekend visitations, driving around with 4 kids in Triumph TR5, (2 in the front, 2 in the 'back', which wasn't really a seat). There was a period of several years when he lived in Micronesia with his wife and my half-sister, so our direct contact was minimal. By the time I was 14, I was usually taking a bus to see him for weekends, once a month or so, or for a week in the summer. Eventually I spent three full summers with him while I worked at the Jersey Shore. I was in college, and it was a good place to spend my summer months.
Divorce is difficult on everyone involved. I remember spending time being angry at my father for leaving. I give my mother a lot of credit for knowing that it's important for children to have a father in their lives, encouraging and enabling us to take time to see him. Even scolding us when we spoke ill of him. Eventually, as I got older and more educated, my relationship with my father became much closer. I am lucky to still have him around, and I will be seeing him later today for the first time in 4 months (thanks to this lockdown).
In a way, I may have been lucky, as my mother remarried, and I wound up having a step-father (though he was not officially a step-father as I still had my father). A tough WWII vet, a good man who did his able best to raise 6 children, 4 of which were not his own. He passed 15 years ago. I was able to have conversations about the war, the Depression (which he grew up during) and learned about real estate (his profession). He was a do-it-yourself man, unfortunately not very skilled, but taught me how to do plumbing, auto, and minor electrical work. There were things he passed on to me that my father never could have.
Being a father has no template. We are certainly not perfect. Hopefully, our mistakes are good learning experiences, for both us and our children.
Today will be a good day to share some of the better stories, both good and bad, with our fathers or our children. Of course, we can do that any day, but it's nice to have a day to really focus. Enjoy your day with your family.
Saturday, June 20. 2020
Thursday, June 18. 2020
What has CHAZ (or is it CHOP? They grow up so fast!) done for us? CHAZ has done us a favor by highlighting some truths about the far left.
Monday, June 15. 2020
The larger French Revolution era extended all the way until the end of the Franco-Prussian War. This current situation, as I'd written about the other day, is much like the French Revolution.
The general approach of this crowd isn't too dissimilar to the Spanish Inquisition, either. If you're not in, you're out, and you're going to have to be punished. They claim their 'goal' is peace and freedom. They prefer to see people suffer. They have marketed themselves to their constituency well, shifting everyone's eyes away from historical precedent.
Thursday, June 11. 2020
Apparently, Seattle is now epicenter of the revolution which we have all waited breathlessly for. The NYTimes has headlines saying it's "Free Food, Free Speech and Free of Police", which I suppose is a start. We are expecting great things from these people. 'New ideas' we've never seen before. Lovely. Maybe the food is 'free', though nothing is ever free, and we certainly know the speech is only free if you agree with them. But I'm fairly certain the area is free of police. For now.
Remember a few years ago at Malheur, and those supposed 'right-wing extremist' loony birds were roundly misrepresented by the press? Yeah, me either. Didn't happen. The Feds didn't kill anyone there, either.
I'm sure this Seattle experiment will go really well. Just like Christiana did originally (cough, cough).
By the way, can I just also mention how proud I am of my alma mater's devotion to presenting fact-based opinions and respecting free speech? We're leading the way! Future donations on my part will not be part of the plan. I can show my point of view by withholding money.
Monday, June 8. 2020
Ghosts don't exist, except in history. These ghosts live in our minds, because we are aware of history and hope 'it can't happen here', or that lessons are learned. But some choose to not be aware of history, and make every effort to bring ghosts to life.
For several months, since listening to the French Revolution portion of the Revolutions podcast I mentioned here at Maggie's, I've told friends we're moving toward a new French Revolution. As Minneapolis moves to defund its police department, one can only wonder, will it be replaced with a Committee of Public Safety? In a perverse way, I hope they do create one.
The ghosts of Marat, Robespierre, Danton and countless others are alive again. I'm sure our modern day radicals will say "This time is different" or "It wasn't done right the last time" or some other excuse will be provided. I have to admit, though, it's fun to see these people turn on their own kind. It's also frightening. A friend of mine was sending me pictures today from Manhattan of the destroyed store fronts. It's pretty extensive, and the minimal news coverage of how bad it was provides a kind of rationale for the radical influence to keep pushing. There is no shame in destruction if it's not visible. But the destruction, too, is a ghost - not visible to many.
Jonathan Turley puts his own spin on it here. Being a modern-day Abbe Sieyes isn't something I thought I'd begin to aspire to, but it may be a worthwhile goal nonetheless.
Friday, June 5. 2020
One of the issues I've been grappling with during all the recent nonsense is the idea, somehow, the U.S. is 'flawed'. In this article, Dr. Benedict Beckeld discusses what is best described as 'self-hatred' or fear of the familiar, oikophobia, as it relates to the U.S.
Sure, of course our nation is flawed. Those flaws are, in a way, our best feature, because they require constant discussion. Our Constitution memorialized free speech to ensure that discussion takes place. A friend asked if we're racist. Answering 'Yes' would imply everyone is racist and all our institutions are racist. So the only answer is 'No'. What IS true is we're more open about the racism which still exists. We show it, we talk about it on the news, we deplore it even as we work our way through it. Our dirty laundry is regularly on display for the world. Other nations either suppress their discussions, or are heterogeneous enough that racism isn't an issue they need to deal with too much. That allows them to judge us, and their judgments reach people in the U.S. and resonates. There is a strange self-loathing which sometimes accompanies wealth and success.
If we, as a nation, have a detrimental flaw, it's the hatred of what we are and what we've accomplished, and engaging that self-loathing. To that end, I can never be a leftist, let alone a Democrat. I hear too much about hate from them. They hate Trump, they hate what the U.S. represents, they hate our history, they ignore our accomplishments, somehow assuming these accomplishments rationalize the errors of our past. Accomplishments don't rationalize anything, they're just accomplishments.
Some of our citizens just need to learn to stop hating themselves. They need to learn to love our history with all its mistakes, and by default, our nation again. We have fixed so many mistakes. Why focus only on errors? We build on our successes, we don't build by focusing on failures. We can use the failures to improve, if we approach them constructively.
P.S. - I was sharing thoughts with a friend about what binds us as a nation. It is the Constitution, from my perspective. I know most of the people I referred to in this post, if they hate the U.S. and what it stands for, then they hate the Constitution. But the Constitution is, still today, an astounding and outstanding achievement. It does not grant rights, it protects them. Its amendments attempts to enumerate some of these rights, but makes it clear those listed are not all there are. This is very different than almost every other nation's basis. From this point of view, we are very much a nation, since the right to oppose, or hate, the Constitution is enshrined in the Constitution itself.
Sunday, May 31. 2020
This morning, watching the news, I simply told my son "never join a mob." The police can't win in a situation like this. If they do nothing and people get hurt, businesses and homes are destroyed. If they do something, a video will call out the 'bad cops'.
There's nothing to be gained in a mob. You get to be part of a crowd, and sure that's 'fun'. You're in with the 'in crowd'. But when it all goes south, you stand a chance of getting arrested or worse.
I hope we can all agree what happened to George Floyd, and many others like him, was unnecessary and requires action. I hope we can all agree peaceful protests of this kind of thing are useful and necessary as part of our nation's traditions. I'm sure we can all agree riots and destruction are counterproductive and unnecessary. They do not represent a revolutionary movement.
I've seen many people making comparisons of the looting and riots to the Boston Tea Party. This is just nonsense. While it's true that John Hancock and Samuel Adams were happy to see the tea tossed because it kept prices on their smuggled tea high, many others opposed the Tea Party, with Washington and Franklin calling for restitution to the East India Company. So criticism of destruction also has a long history in our fine nation.
That said, the East India Company existed by mandate of the Crown, and was an arm of the government. While it was 'private' in construct, even Parliament recognized it was both a political and economic entity. Taxes were only part of the way the Crown benefited from the East India Company. So any attack on the tea was an attack on the government, by default. Burning or looting Target stores are not an attack on the US government or local governments. The looting had nothing to do with depriving the government of anything, nor is it a statement about government. It's just violence and destruction for the sake of violence and destruction.
Taking the comparison further, the Boston Tea Party was not an uncontrolled riot. It was, by most accounts, generally orderly. Armed British ships did not make a move to intervene. The participants went so far as to sweep the decks clean afterward. This was not mob behavior. This is the kind of protest one should feel comfortable joining.
After being cooped up for 2 and half months, any spark was likely to result in an overreaction. Criminal elements love a protest, particularly one they can turn into a riot. Protests require strong leaders, soft guidance, and respect for order. But none of this exists with the 'protesters' in our current situation. There is no Martin Luther King here.
George Floyd should not be dead. His murderers should be arrested. The reaction is still wrong and cannot be justified. Each is a separate crime in itself. The riots should not be linked to Floyd's death, they should be linked to violent thugs seeking to cause problems.
Don't join a mob.
Friday, May 22. 2020
Yesterday, a post by a fellow commentator addressed whether anyone would listen to epidemiologists again. This, in itself, is not a controversial question. There is a range of opinions, even among epidemiologists, on how to deal with viral outbreaks. That said, most posts are designed to create a discussion. None are likely to ever come to any complete answer, though hopefully some shared ground can be hammered out. It seems this did not occur and considerable animus was shared in the comments section.
I will begin by saying I have not lost anyone to Covid, but I can list about 15 people in my family who are at risk. They have all been isolating, as they should. They know isolation won't prevent them from getting ill, as we know there are many other problems with isolation. But it is a safety feature. There are no guarantees for any of us.
The questions which remain are whether we 'flattened the curve', actually 'saved lives', and even if we could do these things.
There is no way, literally none, to answer whether we 'flattened the curve' or 'saved lives'. Saying we did will only be based on what you presume may have happened otherwise. That's not science, that's an opinion. My opinion is we didn't and can't do either, but my opinion is no better informed than yours. I base my reasoning on logic. Isolation has happened, and people are still getting sick despite isolation. The virus spreads more easily in confined spaces, and shutting up a family with one asymptomatic member may well doom the entire family. Multi-generational homes in Italy, where that kind of living is more common than in the US, certainly played a role in the Italian situation.
Continue reading "The Personalization of Disease"
Monday, May 18. 2020
Ever since seeing A Clockwork Orange, Gene Kelly's work has taken on a whole new meaning. Along these lines, I will share this video, sent by a friend and created by a comedian, which has completely changed how I will view The Association's Windy from this day forward. I can't say I know how to describe my feelings as I viewed it, but I've settled on amused. Sorry I don't have an embed version, you need to click the link.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 10:15 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, May 14. 2020
One of my favorite people to listen to, or read, is Mike Rowe. Lots of good, common sense. I've not always agreed with him, but I'm sure plenty of people don't agree with me all the time. It's all fine, as long as we understand each other's point of view. I completely understand Mike's, and respect it even when I disagree.
Mike's podcast recently told the story of the Staplehurst Train Disaster, in which Charles Dickens played a prominent (and for a long time largely invisible) role. He spun from that to a discussion on safety, and covered his conceptualization of "Safety Third" as a means of managing risk.
On my earlier post today, someone commented safety should always be most important. Here, Mike explains why that's simply not true. There are always other considerations. Read the article or listen to the podcast. Both are excellent.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock provides a good review of the debate between what Sweden has done vs the rest of the world.
There are many reasons, all legitimately different from cultural and societal considerations, why Sweden would be successful with their approach. But that doesn't mean every culture is unable to utilize variations on it to make it work for them. He swung, and missed, on that point.
The primary discussion point is "what is a life worth?"
There is a cost, or a value, to every life. It will vary based on relationships, love, and commonality. However, productivity of each life must also be considered. Losing a farmer and his family, so a farm that feeds 10,000 people goes abandoned, is far more damaging to society than losing the same number of people in a nursing home. Losing 20 doctors treating the virus is more damaging than losing 20 people who build apps. These are just simple facts of life. It's hard to swallow, and it's not something we want to consider, but it is very true.
Nobody wants to see anyone die, and as a country we've directed resources to saving as many as we can through pharma and academic research. In addition, we've implemented social distancing, masks, and a variety of other methods to reduce or limit spread.
All of this adds up to one thing. Reopening is the only option. Nobody knows enough about the virus to categorically state when we will, or how we will, be 'safe'. But 'safety' is no longer the primary issue we should be considering. Whether we like it or not, we are far past that point. Now we're talking about simple long-term survival.
Wednesday, May 13. 2020
I am used to working from home. I have done it once a week for close to 6 years, sometimes twice a week, but rarely that often. I was much more productive working from home that often. It helps reset your mind, helps keep you out of office politics, is relaxing and allows you to concentrate.
That said, I've now been working from home for 2 months straight. I'm comfortable doing it, but I will admit the productivity question is an odd one, and I would like to know if others think they are more productive, about the same, or less so.
Here is how I view the situation. I'm about as productive as I was at the office, but I take more time doing the work because I have to. So, by that standard, I'm LESS productive. I find myself working earlier and later, with more breaks than I would have at the office. Most of my daily 'ad-hoc' work shows up at 5pm, as people realize things need to get finished or as the West Coast sends in requests prior to end of day. I don't like to leave my work undone for the day, I prefer an empty email when I shut down. However, this situation is such that I've found myself responding to emails at 11pm, even midnight.
Working from home reduces access to co-workers who may have answers or assist (it takes longer for them to respond), it reduces access to information (the rapidity at which we shifted limited how many files I was able to move to a shared drive), it reduces brainstorming opportunities, it reduces camaraderie (sorry, Zoom meetings 'for fun' are not fun in any way, shape or form).
So I'm curious - how has the lockdown affected those of you who are working from home? More, less or the same in terms of productivity?
Friday, May 1. 2020
I am a fan of John Constable's work. I will admit this is something I picked up from my father, and something I continued on with while studying in London in 1983. I did several papers on his work that semester, and spent a great deal of time in the National Gallery. I will, quite selfishly, say I was very happy to have my father join me and my class as we did presentations on various pieces. That day I did a little piece on Constable's "The Hay Wain" and having him there made me very nervous.
So, I was very pleased when Mrs. Bulldog told me about the Frick Gallery's "Cocktails with a Curator" which featured Constable's "The White Horse" today (May 1, 2020). It's part of their series during the idiotic isolation. But I HIGHLY recommend this. It may be one of a few good things that come out of this waste of time. Please, if you like art, and even if you believe Frick was a jerk (as I do), it's worth watching.
My relationship with Constable took an interesting turn in 2018. Mrs. Bulldog and I were lucky enough to travel to London for Wimbledon. We went for a week, and she planned a 'literary walk' not unlike Maggies' Urban Hikes. It started with a walk through Hampstead Heath (a favorite Constable locale), to Kenwood House to view the artwork, then to The Spaniards Inn for a drink, and through Hampstead to see the homes of various great literary figures. Orwell, Keats, Waugh, Ian Fleming, Bram Stoker, among many others. One stop, for Stoker, was an old church at the end of Church Row in Hampstead. He wrote a good portion of Dracula while sitting in the church courtyard. H.G. Wells had also lived on Church Row.
At this point, you're asking "What's this got to do with Constable?" Well, that's the interesting part. In the church courtyard is a list of everyone buried there. I was most excited to learn John Harrison, the 'discoverer' of longitude was buried out front. (At this point, Mrs. Bulldog is saying "What a nerd I married") But also included on this list was John Constable! Sheer luck had led us to some rather interesting historic locations, and I was totally wrapped up in the moment. I was further pampered by getting to spend several hours in the National Gallery yet again, revisiting many of my old friends.
If you like art, please check out this series on YouTube. I promise it's worth your time, and make sure you have a cocktail in hand.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 19:28 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, April 23. 2020
Losing someone you love, particularly a family member, is painful. I can't say I know, nobody in my closest circle of friends or family has died. My brother-in-law died 22 years ago, and while we were friendly I wouldn't say we were close. He was family and that was painful enough. For my in-laws it was much worse, but I was more observer and shoulder to cry on.
I received a message from a fraternity brother on Sunday night that my former roommate (also a fraternity brother) had lost his younger (real) brother in a tragic late night car accident on Saturday. I happen to be friendly with my former roommate's older (real) brother through work, and I was friendly with the deceased as well, though only from a distance. My wife knows my former roommate well, as we played beach volleyball for a summer the year she and I started dating, and we've gone to the Preakness every year as part of a large group.
Mrs. Bulldog, having gone through this experience of family loss, insisted I set up a call with all our fraternity brothers as soon as possible. I wasn't sure this was wise. She was adamant. So I checked with my roommate's older brother (who, obviously, was also hurting) to express my condolences and see if this was a good decision. We are all separated by many miles and the lockdown will prevent any of us traveling for a funeral. His reaction was rapid, emphatically positive, and it didn't take much insistence on my part to assure he join.
For 2 hours Tuesday night we videoconferenced with 8 old college buddies, 1 close friend, and 1 older brother. 10 people just sharing experiences. Mostly, however, my former roommate and his brother were expressing grief, sharing their fondest memories, how they will be there for their niece, and all the thoughts and feelings that pass through peoples' minds at moment like this. The rest of us listened, shared some smiles, casual observations, a joke or two where it was fitting, and it felt good to just soak in their memories and feelings. It may be hard for me to empathize, never having lost anyone very close. But I can sympathize and provide some consolation.
As skeptical as I was, I hoped it would be cathartic and meaningful. It seems to have done some good. The older brother sent me a note this morning of an old Jewish saying that grief shared is grief halved. He is a lay minister, and we began to share our thoughts on the nature of God. We concluded a videoconference may not be an optimal setting, yet the appearance of everybody on that call was evidence of God and God's love.
There is a line in The Big Chill: "a long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don't know anything about me. It was easy back then. No one had a cushier berth than we did. It's not surprising our friendship could survive that. It's only out there in the real world that it gets tough." As I contemplate this movie quote, I realized something. If it wasn't for technology, this quote may have described my relationship with these fellows perfectly. I doubt I would be as close with some of them as I have become. I reconnected with many as a result of the internet. The internet provides a source of communion.
We knew each other well for 2-4 years 37 years ago. Some of us fell off the map for many years. Others maintained relationships. In many cases we've had to renew old friendships. Even now, sometimes, we struggle to maintain these connections. Technology has helped us avoid the loss that comes from no longer living together with few responsibilities. It has, now, helped us lean on each other in times of need and sorrow. It has provided great benefit at a very unusual and difficult period in everybody's life.
The conference ended with an exchange that summed up how useful the videoconference was in restoring humor and good feeling.
Steve: "No, not like yesterday. Yesterday was a crappy day. We'll make it like the day before yesterday. That was a pretty good day."
Sunday, April 19. 2020
I'm not sure if it's unfortunate fallout or collateral damage, but I had a conversation with a friend who, like me, battled Covid. Their battle was much worse than mine as they were in an at-risk group. But they survived, as did other family members who eventually got milder cases. The net result is this person is now virulently anti-Trump, blaming him for a host of things that simply have no basis in reality. Previously, we'd shared a belief that Trump isn't our favorite president, he's badly flawed, and while I'd been more ambivalent, we basically weren't too far apart.
Yesterday, I realized his experience caused him to jump the shark and become a full-on Trump hater. I don't understand how you can blame Trump for a virus, or even the response to it. This is a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. H1N1 was, so far, more damaging than Covid worlwide, and it also cut a broad swathe across demographics. Covid has not finished its tour yet - but is clearly very specific in its opportunism. The primary difference that I have noticed in the nature and spread of H1N1 and Covid is that Covid erupted mightily in New York City (media capital) while H1N1 was more damaging to other regions of the US. There could be much to discuss here. What's clear is H1N1 will be seen as less damaging to the US because fewer people died (lower population in affected areas, more diffuse, etc.), while the media attention of Covid was heightened because our media elites felt threatened and made it the #1 story to scare people. Few people will remember Obama's slow (and ultimately meaningless) response to H1N1, nor will they remember that nobody blamed him for over 13,000 deaths. It was a virus.
A newly released study shows how widespread Covid likely is. I shared this with my friend, but was rebuffed entirely. No interest in viewing useful information.
Continue reading "Unfortunate Fallout"
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