Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thoughts on viewing the Democratic Convention

Ask me. Ask me if I am glad I watched every major speech tonight. Has there ever been a greater contrast between the hate and doom of last week and the sheer inspiration and vision of those who spoke tonight? With this sort of inspiration, intelligence, and compassion, Hillary will win as she deserves to win-- by a landslide. Of course the media are already busy with their idiotic narrative about how close the polls are. They focus on dissension just as Sanders claimed. When MSNBC singled out a disappointed Bernie supporter to show that some Bernie delegates remain Bernie or Bust, contrary to everything he said tonight, it became obvious how all the news networks want disharmony and fighting rather than unity. I'd go so far as to say one reason the two major parties are so at each other's throats is because of media exaggeration. I switched off the T.V. We need sane, honest news reporting that isn't based on ratings and profits. Accolades to Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, all of whom gave such beautiful, honest, moving speeches. Read them. Listen to them. They are among the best the country has produced.

Of course, it is easy and noble-sounding to support the positions of  Cornel West and Jill Stein. It reminds me of Ted Cruz: Vote your conscience. Those who have the luxury of being unaffected directly by a Trump presidency can fill themselves with self-congratulation and pride for holding to their high-minded principles. If they once liked Bernie Sanders, they now ignore his wisdom and his warnings. 

People who vote for candidates they know have no chance of winning are nihilists. Ecological destruction, no health care, the erasure of any minimum wage, tax breaks and no regulation for the oil companies, what do those things matter to people who already have well-funded incomes, paid healthcare, and a big following because they are so good at attacking what they call the status quo? Voting for the better candidate would not force them to cease criticism, or in any way diminish their message. They could work for Green Party candidates for the House or Senate, for Green officials at the state level. But that doesn't seem to move them. They would rather get on news programs and attack. Damn the consequences. Theirs is not about improving the country; their attacks are about bringing on the most horrible outcome imaginable. They share with the far right a hunger for the apocalypse. They share a kind of religious fervor that ignores the plight of millions and refuses to heed the intelligent reasons Sanders and Elizabeth Warren gave so eloquently for voting for Hillary Clinton. If they are not convinced now, they will never be. Stop lauding these stubborn nihilists and their willful attempt to take us back to the Bush years and worse. In my view, such people are far worse than the Trump fanatics who don't know better. Rip off their masks of progressive ideals and reveal the ideologues and self-righteous egos underneath.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

What a Mask tells Us

(from Wikipedia)

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

So said Oscar Wilde.

On the other hand, James Baldwin wrote,  "Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

Masks  conjure up Mardi Gras for me. The mask gives one anonymity, a sense of escaping from habit, routine and normal identity. We are free to be our Wilder selves, even if temporarily.

Detail, Picasso Lithograph

What Baldwin is recognizing is that normalcy and the routine self are themselves masks, invisible masks, perhaps, that hide our deeper selves, our true identity that society would reject or condemn. The great danger is that the mask may become fixed.

Both men were bisexual. Even more than those who identify as gay, bisexuals feel pressure to pretend to lean this way or that, and cover up half of themselves, especially if they marry. 

Wilde and Baldwin knew that in many situations bisexuals must live in pretense. For Baldwin, love required taking off the masks of social identity, of being naked, physically and spiritually with another. 

Wilde, being a man of the theater, realized how role playing might actually reveal real character. He knew the power of masks, the danger of masks. In a way his wit was his undoing. The trial court and opportunistic low-life witnesses ripped off his mask of respectability. We get not only the truth of the anonymous power of wearing a mask, but also the irony that the mask reveals the hidden identity underneath, an exposure that, in Victorian England, could be fatal.

Jack, July 2016

Friday, July 01, 2016

Journey to the Northwest

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”  --John Muir  

Mt. Rainier
(Photo I made from the trail)

Flight: Thanks to Lyft, we were able to get a ride to ATL for only $6. With a TSA pre-check we were able to go through security in less than 5 minutes. We had breakfast and our flight was on time. We arrived 5 hours later and  a young man with crystals on his dashboard drove us to the Foxglove for less than $20.

The view of Mt. Rainier from our flight.

Foxglove: The Foxglove Guest house was our comfortable, fragrant home while we were in Seattle--Perched on Capitol Hill in a neighborhood filled with lovely homes and gardens in abundance. Nearby 15th Ave offered us restaurants and grocery stores. Our host, John, welcomed us and showed us around the house, filled with Stickley-like furniture. Our room at the top had open skylights and open windows to let in the clean, cool Seattle breeze. The morning breakfast spread of fruit, cheeses, pastries, and granola; the classical music; the fire taking away the morning chill; the newspaper; the art of the Northwest; and the flowers were all a delight. It was a great room for sleep and for reading, Darryl reading aloud to me of some of the travel observations of Mark Twain.


Smith: Recommended by our host, John, Smith provided Darryl and me our first restaurant meal. I had the beet salad and Dar had carrot risotto. Naturally, we heard a song or two by The Smiths (listen). The sound system, the choice of music, and the open cafe to the Seattle breezes were refreshing.

    SMITH (click)

Wolfgang and Sebastian enjoy their Guinness

We also had our final meal there with Wolfgang and Sebastian. In fact, we had almost every dinner together, the four of us...

Bainbridge Is. Among the things we did in Seattle were a visit to the Pike Place Market and a boat ride to Bainbridge Island on a gorgeous sunny day.

We also hiked through the downtown area with its fine art and architecture.

Adam by Botero. Article (click)

For dinner, Darryl discovered Café Presse, a French Restaurant. We had Croque Monsieur of course, wine, and sirloin. From the corner of Madison and 12th we walked up Broadway, ready for Gay Pride with rainbow streets, music, and plans for a parade. 
I bought a rainbow bow tie. 

Wolfgang wore it to the Coffee Shop we stopped at for espresso.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the journey to the Northwest was

Mount  Rainier.

The Paradise Lodge was built in 1916. The craftsmanship from 100 years ago is evident in the architecture and the furnishings, including the lamps and fireplaces.

Trails lead from the lodge up to Mt. Rainier itself. We hiked a few. Others, in gear, headed farther up, possibly to the summit.

Trails also provided us with the trials of walking on snow. There is nothing like finding your footing on wet snow in 80 degree sunshine. Weather in both the National Park and in Seattle was ever-changing and a refreshing relief from the stagnant, humid heat of Atlanta.

If anything could make a Hell of this Heaven, recall Sartre who said "Hell is other people." There were too may spoiled brat children, too many cars, too many thoughtless adults from all over the world. The reactions they had on one trail upon seeing, then photographing,  a poor marmot,  reminded me of the news story I read of people taking selfies of themselves and a young dolphin somewhere. They killed it by holding it and keeping it out of the water, no doubt terrifying it. The noise from a crying baby next to our room drove me to ask for a room across the hall on our third night.

Fortunately, there were less people around on Monday when we hiked the Grove of the Patriarchs. Darryl and I had taken Mom there in the 1990s and she loved the forest and hugged the trees. The Douglas Firs, Hemlocks, and Red Cedars tower almost as high as Redwoods and are up to 1000 years old.

The food in the dining hall where we had a breakfast buffet with waffles made to order, and where we dined on Pacific Salmon at night, was expensive but worth it.

As I said above, we moved rooms which gave us spectacular views first, of Mt. Rainier and then, the Tatoosh Range 

Dawn, from my bed.

At night I was able to see from our window in our first room Mt. Rainier lit by the moonlight of a waning late night Moon. The Big Dipper hung to the left of the Mountain. At dawn, the sunlight on Rainier was dazzling. In the second room on the third night, I saw the Scorpion. The brilliant constellation of Scorpio floated over the Tatoosh Range, and the shimmering Milky-Way stretched all the way from Sagittarius  to Cassiopeia.


Chief Seattle
Pioneer Square

We returned to Seattle, a 3 hour drive, to our familiar Foxglove. John had allowed us to take our keys and we simply let ourselves back into our rooms around 1 P.M. Wolfgang and Sebastian went to the Space Needle and its glorious views on a fine, clear day. I walked to Volunteer Park with its stunning Noguchi sculpture through which I saw the Space Needle where my friends were. I took my time strolling the neighborhood with its elegant homes, each with a garden in full bloom.

Then I joined Darryl at Smith for a Negroni. We made reservations for our final dinner for four.

Our Flight Home was as easy as the flight to Seattle. Lyft took us effortlessly to the airport in no time for a low fare. Our TSA pre-check got us through security in under 5 minutes. We shared lunch and boarded the sold-out flight. To pass the four hours, we watched the entertaining film,  Deadpool, on the seat monitors, simultaneously. Lyft brought us home.

An Album of our Photographs Here. (click)

Music for viewing our photographs of Mt. Rainier:

Concluding thought:

So, what does a sojourn in the Pacific Northwest do for the psyche? Hiking the trails of Mt. Rainier, an overwhelming magnificence, made me aware that even a mountain, so monolithic, is alive, that it could erupt into an explosion of lava and ash that would devastate millions of lives. The progressive, accepting diversity of Seattle made me feel at home in it's garden neighborhoods, rainbow streets, and lush parks. The Mountain and the forests gave me a calm hard to imagine in crowded, bustling, road-rage prone Atlanta. It will take me a while to participate in many of the current events FB threads, and the tedious news stories that go on and on like a CNN loop of horror. The Northwest has given me serenity, ataraxia, to use a term from Epicurus, essential to my existence. Even as I return to the routines of life in Georgia, Mt. Rainier grounds me. The perspective from the city of Seattle and from the national park provides aesthetic distance, a vision that is nourishing. Our stay in the Northwest also made me appreciate the love and friendship I have. We all shared a sacred time of harmony and camaraderie.

Jack, Summer of '16

(Photo by Wolfgang)