Elevated elsewhere

Last Sunday our church congregation honored two of its recent high school graduates as they prepared to embark this fall on their college careers.  As the worship service opened, one of the college-bound duo, along with her younger sister, performed a selection on piano.  Although I am by no means a connoisseur of classical music, I recognized the piece to be a Chopin composition.  The young woman performed it expertly.  The piece itself is quite beautiful and moving just to sit and listen to a recorded version, but I have to admit to being even more transported by the music upon hearing it performed live in the church sanctuary.  In addition to the undeniable beauty of the piece, something about the proximity of hearing the notes and chords struck and feeling the vibrations emanating from that wooden box elevated the experience considerably.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that as the notes filled the sanctuary, I could feel some part of myself lifted upward, taking its place among the sounds reverberating in the space.

I can’t speak for others in the congregation.  Their experience may have been quite different from mine.  However, the round of applause that followed the performance, a rarity at these gatherings, indicated that others were quite taken by the music as well. For much of the pandemic, these services were conducted via Zoom.  Trying to simulate a church service over the internet imposes a number of limitations.  People gather together to worship, pray, fellowship, make music and sing.  Much of that cannot be accomplished via a video/audio link with each person or family stuck inside their box, set apart from the whole.  The whole is important.  It is vital that individuals gather together to create the body that is offering worship, song and praise.  Anyone who has ever been to a large sporting event, and given their attention to cheering and supporting their team, has felt the energy or spirit that is generated by being among the body of supporters.  As fun as it is to watch a game on tv or gather with a group of people on the internet, none of it can approximate the experience of gathering together in the same physical location with the collective attention focused on a singular goal or purpose.       

Which is why It strikes me as something of a fool’s errand that these tech developers are working so earnestly at creating virtual spaces to simulate physical reality or provide a “better” alternative to it.  In the process of duplication, some part of what is being copied is always lost.  In the music example, a digital recording is always going to fail to capture the fullness and completeness of the sound.  No doubt they will try to simulate a concert experience where you or your avatar can be present at the performance of a famous band or a symphony orchestra.  Duplicating the immense complexity of that kind of live performance would be impossible.  Both the physics and the previously mentioned nonphysical qualities would preclude it.  But, of course, that is not the intention of the techsters.  Their aim is to get users to expect less, to be satisfied with a dumbed-down version of reality.  They reduce people to an avatar with a flag or a couple of symbols next to their name and then corral them into a virtual space lacking in richness and complexity, a realm they control where the outcomes are predictable.  Far from embracing human potential and possibility, the technobrats are engaged in a kind of reductionism.  I’ll stick with being elevated elsewhere.

The Death Kiss

Sometimes a kiss can kill.  Murder and suspense rock a Hollywood movie set as leading man Miles Brent is shot dead by a real bullet while filming the final scene for The Death Kiss.  As news spreads about the tragedy that has just unfolded, the producers and studio executives of Tonart Studios appear more worried about their investment and how to complete the picture than the death of one of their colleagues.   

Studio screenwriter Franklyn Drew puts his mystery crafting skills to work, first discovering that the shooting wasn’t an accident and eventually cracking the case.  During his investigation, he continually butts heads with the real detective assigned to the case. 

Between the jaded studio execs, the audacious screenwriter, a clownish security guard, a temperamental director and a flustered detective who always seems to be a step or two behind in the investigation, the film is full of humor and works satirically as an early send up of the Hollywood movie industry.

Bela Lugosi stars as a cool-headed studio manager assigned to resolve the complicated situation to everyone’s satisfaction.  It’s interesting to see him play a character other than a creepy ghoul, and he does so skillfully, even as the role doesn’t give him a whole lot to work with.  

Filmed in 1932 and clocking in at a little over an hour long, this pre-code mystery provides plenty of entertainment.  Something to love about these early pictures are the occasional strange shots and conspicuous cuts.  These movies were made at a time before filmmakers had developed what would come to be known as Hollywood’s ‘invisible style.’  

In the movies closing scenes, Drew attempts to discreetly explain to the detective how the murder went down.  But, in a somewhat awkward shot, a hot mic picks up their conversation and tips off the killer, spurring him to take drastic action.  Even if the sequence is initially a bit confusing, it’s quickly apparent what’s happening, and the meandering camerawork delivers a clever plot twist.  These seemingly strange shots call attention to the fact that you are watching a film, which in this instance adds yet another layer to the film about a murder that’s about a film about a murder.

Neighborhood man cool with kids walking across his lawn

It was one of those delightful summer Saturdays with cloudless blue skies, buckets of sunshine and comfortable warm temperatures.  Due to recent severe weather activity with accompanying high winds, many in the neighborhood were out gathering fallen branches and debris and stacking it out by the curb for the street department to pick up.  Traffic was scarce with the locals opting to walk or ride bikes.  Children played on the sidewalk and groups of aimless teenagers slunked around the neighborhood.  

As I worked in the yard, one such group of foot-draggers emerged from the alley next to my house.  Unused to performing ninety degree right turns, this cohort opted instead for a softer forty-five degree angle across my front lawn.  From my vantage point in the bushes where I was pulling weeds and gathering debris, I could have barked at them to “Get off my lawn!” and scared the living daylights out of them.  However, as tempting as that was, it’s just not my style and it just wasn’t one of those days.  

It was a day for taking it slow, for hearing laughter in the wind, for observing streaks of sunlight flickering through the trees, for unexpectedly intercepting the aroma of a distant backyard grill.  There is truly something surreal about days like these.  Time slows.  Space is deep-focused and static.  Noticeably absent is the relentless barrage of stimuli that mark most afternoons.  Even the temperamental teens had pocketed their phones and were just enjoying each other’s company.  It could have been 25 years ago.  It could have been 50 years ago.  Hell, if there weren’t a bunch of shiny metal boxes sitting in the street, it could have been over a hundred years ago.

However, somewhere beyond the tranquil scene lay an unseen realm.  If at that moment I could observe it, I’d probably notice unremitting algorithms passing over my head, demanding care and attention.  I would hear sniping voices, users getting ‘owned’ and people presuming the worst and often getting it from one another.  An illusory world casting a dark shadow over our psyches, while increasingly vomiting its madness into the real world.

Thankfully, I was far away from that chaotic place, and all I could think about was how remarkable and strange it is to be alive and standing beneath the sun and these trees in this perfect moment of stillness and peace, while a group of foot-dragging teenagers walked across my lawn.

Local man’s Summer of Rock dealt crushing blow

A local man is reeling today after discovering that several acts on his Summer of Rock itinerary have unexpectedly canceled their shows.

After kicking things off with a GBV show in May, Bill Stevens was all set to continue riding a tasty wave of nineties era rock into June with Helmet and Meat Puppets shows on his schedule.  However, after discovering Thursday morning that both bands had canceled their June dates with no advanced warning, Stevens was left scrambling to fill holes in his 2022 Summer of Rock calendar.  

“This really puts me in a bind,” said Stevens.  “The perfect rock and roll summer was just beginning to round into form.  Right now, I don’t know if I can recover from this.  I made a few calls, trying to see if the bands would reconsider.  But I guess one man’s dream of a perfect rock summer doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this world anymore.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Stevens had managed to pencil in a date with The Breeders for August, and he still has tentative plans for two dates of alt rock bliss in July, but salvaging June at this late date is going to be challenging.

“I’m looking into pursuing legal action,” Stevens said.  “I mean, I passed up Built to Spill because I thought I was going to be able to see these other bands and now they flake out on me.  It’s going to be difficult to find something last minute.  I think some compensation is in order for damaging what was otherwise going to be a totally righteous Summer of Rock.”

Strange scenes in the alley

While cable television, Netflix and YouTube are all very well and good, sometimes the most compelling drama plays itself out in the alley next to my house.  A very popular pedestrian throughway, it terminates a few blocks west of my property where it runs into a brick wall that is attached to a popular national pharmacy chain.  Among the procession of shoppers, there are recurring characters that frequently shuffle by, like a gentleman who puffs on a cigarette with his right hand while carrying a case of Busch beer in his left.  By my estimation, this gentleman regularly “heads for the mountains” every couple of days or so.  Undistracted by the activities of the neighborhood, his stare is always fixed at a point far in the distance, like he’s sizing up some far away summit.   

One day, from my kitchen window, I see a man in the back alley engaged in a heated exchange with a stop sign.  Struggling to keep his feet underneath his swaying torso, the man is pointing at the sign and threatening to violently disassemble it.  This particular stop sign normally minds its own business, so it is unclear why the man has such a beef with it.  I’m busy working on the dishes and allow my attention to wander away from the tense standoff for a brief moment.  When I again look up, it seems that in the interim the stop sign has performed some lightning-fast Karate move, leaving the belligerent fellow laying face down in a heap in the alley.  

One drawback to viewing this live drama is that you cannot pause and rewind, so I’ll never know how that sign bully was brought to his knees by this normally docile stop sign.  Anyway, the man lay there incapacitated and munching on gravel for quite some time.  Still, from that unflattering position, he continued to curse loudly and issue violent threats.  However, it appeared his arms had stopped working, because he was unable to push himself up off the ground and back onto his feet.  After the thrashing he had just taken, I began to wonder whether he was in need of medical attention.  

Just then, a police cruiser turned into the alley and slowly crept up on the scene.  By now, three cars had driven around the dude without diverting his attention from the finer details of the asphalt on which his face now rested, but let a police car creep into the vicinity and old boy was on his feet faster than you can say “lickety-split.”  The amount of time it took for this guy to go from crumpled heap to bolt upright could be measured in nanoseconds.

There must remain in modern man some primitive holdover operating independent of our five senses that can intuitively perceive a threat and generate an instantaneous physical reaction.  Where it once may have perceived wild animals or enemy tribesmen, it now seems to zero in on law enforcement or killer clowns.  Whatever fight or flight evolutionary forces got this guy on his feet, they were also now enabling the man, who until moments earlier was arguing with signs and lampposts, to communicate coherently enough with law enforcement that they allowed him to go on his merry way.

The officers grilled him for quite some time and undoubtedly concluded that he was drunk as hell.  But since he wasn’t driving and he seemed more or less capable of walking, if not in a straight line in the general direction of his home, and since whatever grievance he had with the stop sign seemed to have resolved itself, the officers let him totter out of the alley a free man.   

Much respect, “dude in the alley,’” you may never win an Oscar or even a Daytime Emmy, but, when it mattered, you gave the performance of a lifetime.

Sen. Mitch McConnell attempts to conceal lying with lack of lip movement

Ever mindful of the old expression, “You know when he’s lying because his lips are moving,” Mitch McConnell in recent years has taken to speaking without even the slightest disturbance of the area surrounding his mouth.  What remains unclear, though, is whether the Senator believes that by not contorting his lips in any discernible fashion, he can fool those around him into believing the voluminous flow of excrement issuing forth from his motionless sound hole.

Apparently he does because the frequency with which the untruths carelessly fly past his unmoving lips is accelerating like the expansion of the universe.  The latest whopper is his assertion that not approving Supreme Court Justices in an election year is “following a long standing tradition” in the Senate dating back to the 1880’s.  In the 1880’s McConnell was a junior staffer with the Kentucky Senate delegation, so he should know better than anyone that the tradition then was to approve election year nominations.  It is the case that one time since 1888 a nominee was not approved. One time does not a tradition make.

When John Dickerson challenged the Senator’s bullshit on Face the Nation, McConnell became quite defensive and shut down the questioning saying, “You’re not listening to me, John.  The history is just as I told you.” Dickerson seemed slightly taken aback, not only by McConnell’s admonition, but also by the appearance that the words did not seem to emanate from the Senator’s mouth.     

Aides close to the Senate Majority leader say he has been working closely with ventriloquists to perfect the art of speaking without appearing to say anything at all.  The training was undertaken in earnest back when he took over as Majority Leader during the Obama administration. At the time, he attributed an economic uptick with “the expectation of a new Republican Congress.”  The backlash over the absurdity of his comment caused him to explore ways to obscure the frequent untruth telling he was embarking upon. Realizing that every time his lips moved the lies seemed to gush forth like a dam breaking, he determined to take drastic action.      

Additional steps taken to mask the appearance of lying include lip reduction surgery. Many have opted to have fat cells injected into their lips to give them a fuller, fat tire appearance.  McConnell is thought to be the first subject to have their lips deflated to the point of riding on the rims.  The procedure was everything he’d hoped for and resulted in his present turtle like appearance.

Currently, the Senator is working on perfecting the art of “throwing his voice”.  Once this final piece of the puzzle is in place, he will have achieved complete plausible deniability. Imagine the power to lie at will and not have the untruths trace back to the source, but instead be able to stick them to others like hurling darts at a dart board.  It is said when McConnell first conceived the idea, he became almost perceptibly animated and let out a barely audible croak of delight.

Senator Ted Cruz on what to do if you’re in your home and find yourself murdered by police

In a television interview Sunday, Senator Ted Cruz offered the public some wise advice on how to react when you find yourself murdered in your home by police.  Speaking about the recent fatal shooting of a black man in Dallas, the Senator astutely pointed out, “obviously the individual was at home in his apartment and found himself murdered”. 

The murderer turned out to be the victim’s cop neighbor who had wandered into the wrong apartment.  However, Senator Cruz cautioned against focusing too narrowly on the murderer when it comes to placing blame and even offered some tips for how to avoid finding oneself murdered.   

“First off, one should avoid blaming the cop that just murdered you.  I don’t think it helps anything to jump to any conclusions,” the Senator stressed.  “Everybody wants to blame the murderer.  We all need to just stop, take a moment, examine the situation and see if there is any way we can pin this on the victim.”

“Secondly,” Cruz continued, “if you believe there is a likelihood that you might find yourself murdered in your apartment, you may want to go ahead and leave for a little while.  Try going bowling, or do what I do, go to the bingo hall.  But remember, knock on your door when you return.  It is very important that you do not startle the cop who may not realize it is in the wrong apartment.  Of course, there is no guarantee the cop won’t shoot you for knocking on the door.  So beware, it is just as frightened as you, only it has a gun and permission to use it regardless of the situation.”

“This leads in to my final point, what to do if you discover a lost cop inside your home and it won’t leave.  Avoid trying to shoo it away.  Do not make any large sudden movements and avoid eye contact.  This is a sure way to find yourself murdered in your home.  It’s often best just to leave the door open and wait for the lost cop to wander off.  Usually, in the morning around feeding time, they will strike out in search of coffee and pastry.”

Oh dear, they’ve gone and hurt Trump’s feelings again

Seems that some pretty important folks over at Google were privately talking behind Donald Trump’s back and saying very hurtful things about his election.  A video leaked by Breitbart shows Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin addressing co-workers, “Let’s face it, most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad because of the election…as a immigrant and refugee I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too.”  Reports have it Trump was so traumatized when the news reached him that he had to seek refuge in his safe space. 

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, responded by tweeting, “Google needs to explain why this isn’t a threat to the republic.”  Apparently, the alleged ghostwriter of many a Trump tweet was very outraged by these micro-targeted micro-aggressions.  The air on Mount Hypocrisy is pretty thin, but not so thin he can’t hold Google accountable as he defends a man who has dubbed the press in this country the enemy of the people.   

Of course all of this follows last week’s investigative tweet by Trump that Google rigs its search results.  “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD,” Trump said. “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal.”  Too bad Twitter limits the number of characters, otherwise I’m sure President Mr. Trump would have cited the federal criminal code to back up his “illegal” assertion.  To be fair though, Trump reportedly spent many months painstakingly researching this tweet, making sure he had all his facts straight before publishing.  

Trump went on to threaten Alphabet Inc, Facebook and Twitter saying they “better be careful” they “are treading on very, very troubled territory”.  Trump’s right of course.  Researching this post, I could scarcely find any mention of this Google bad news on Google. 

Finally, over on state run media, Trump’s Minister of Information, Sean Hannity, was experiencing yet another Foxturnal emission as he pored over a new batch of Strzok/Page anti-Trump texts.  Trigger warning for Sean Hannity:  as of Friday Paul Manafort has agreed to cooperate with Mueller.  Hannity looked pretty sad and disillusioned Friday night.  His red, puffy eyes betrayed a day long sob fest.    

In the true spirit of democratic capitalism, Trump and conservative lawmakers are again threatening to interfere and hold a private sector company to account for perceived political differences.  Funny how they don’t see it that way when it’s the Koch brothers throwing millions at conservative causes, or the Mercer’s attempting to subvert the democratic process.  Wasn’t it a famous conservative who once said “government is the problem?”  Not for this bunch, I guess. 

Why am I quoting Reagan?  Why am I defending Google?  You can’t even navigate your way to this blog through Google.  If anyone’s ended up here from a Google search result, please let me know.  Anyway it seems the magnetic field has shifted or we’ve slipped through a wormhole.  Republican lawmakers lecture FBI and Justice Department officials about conducting impartial investigations while they concoct an alternate reality based on partisan conspiratorial fabrications.  Their deep state narrative is like a forum submission to a political porno mag.  We won’t even mention QAnon.  Perhaps the deep state is our only hope.

Amazon to offer employees adult diapers at cost

In response to ongoing bad publicity showing Amazon fulfillment center employees urinating in trash cans to avoid bathroom breaks that hurt production numbers, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has offered employees adult diapers at cost.  The announcement came via a company press release earlier today:

“Our benevolent and exalted CEO, Jeff Bezos, has heard his employees complaints and has responded swiftly and decisively.  No longer will you have to relieve yourself in a trash can or make water in your water bottle.  By purchasing adult diapers at cost, you, our valued employees, can now pee without disruption to your productivity.  Of course, you’ll need to turn in the soiled diaper at the end of your shift for testing.  Indeed, it warms our dear leader’s cold and barren heart that you’ve foregone restroom breaks to maintain productivity.  That’s why our wise and compassionate father has done you one better.”

Behind the scenes, though, Bezos was reportedly fuming at the bad publicity.  One aide to the CEO floated the idea of offering the undergarments free of charge.  Bezos allegedly flew off the handle.  “Think about what you’re saying, you brainless twat.  Distribution employs 934,000.  Multiply that by 2 diapers per day minimum, times 261 days at $1.25 per diaper, that equals $609,435,000.  That’s a big fucking number,” the CEO raged.  “Why aren’t the robots ready yet?  Get me our AI division!  Jesus, I drink eight bottles of water a day and I never pee.  I sweat it out by working my ass off!”    

Rep. Devin Nunes rebuffed by UK deep state

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, traveled across the pond recently to speak with top officials of Britain’s intelligence services.  Perhaps Nunes should have called ahead because upon arrival he discovered no one willing to meet with him.

Reporters describe a dejected Nunes standing outside the headquarters of MI6, ringing the bell and receiving no response.  “Come on, guys, US government business, open up,” Nunes whined.  “Look, I know you’re in there.  I can see you through the blinds.”

Embarrassed and irritated at the rebuff, Nunes flipped off the surveillance camera and stomped away, panties clearly in a bunch.

According to sources, Nunes had a little better luck at MI5 as he was able to access the lobby only to be told by reception that there was no one available to meet with him. 

“I don’t think you understand.  I’m investigating a far reaching deep state conspiracy to take down the President of the United States and I demand to see Christopher Steele,” Nunes cried, beginning to grow hysterical.

“Mr. Steele doesn’t work here and I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the receptionist replied.

“I can see them all back there,” said Nunes pointing to a glass conference room.  “The whole deep state cabal plotting and scheming to take down my President.  Hey, stop that!  I command you in the name of his majesty President Donald Trump, Earl of Orange, Duke of Mar a Lago.”

Representative Nunes then delivered a statement outside MI5 headquarters.  “Clearly Mr. Steele and his group of cohorts have been back channeling us, penetrating us from behind, and trying to perform some kind of work around.  Well, I won’t be pushed away.  These English gentleman can’t just wave their tea bags in my face, offer me a crumpet, and send me on my merry way.”

According to press reports, that’s pretty much what they did.

Later Nunes was hosted at the home of Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea FC.  He and aides later attended  a Chelsea match, but Nunes complained bitterly the entire time that he thought he was going to a football game.