Category - Ruminations

Meta-Mysteries: Bill Cosby & The Real Atticus Finch

I have not read Go Set A Watchman. I plan to. In the meantime, I am enjoying the hype that is carpeting the media. I don’t think the publication of Harper Lee’s first complete effort as a novelist could have been better timed. Suddenly it all seems to come together: the boiling conversation on race relations, the meaning of Southern culture, and the role of illusion in art and life.

The question of hour is “Who is the real Atticus Finch?”. Serious people are engaged in ‘some really meta’ (self-referential) contortions to find the answer to this question in the hope of unlocking the greater mystery of who we Americans are.

I want to play too.

The publisher says there are two distinct versions of Atticus: the rough draft and the finished product. Story goes a first-time writer cobbles together a good story, but her editor suggests a considerable re-write. She obediently responds. And she knocks it out of the park. The author prepares a fine story mostly as the report of a child’s recollections. That was To Kill A Mockingbird. The point of view is that of a nine year old kid, but the teller of the tale is someone who reflecting on those memories as an adult. The memories and the reflections compose a beautiful story that is clearly drawn, lovingly rendered, and topical. The character of Atticus is one of principle, competence, integrity and compassion.

Once this child’s representation of Atticus was embraced and embedded in the popular mind, along comes the alternate version of Atticus—this one seen through the eyes of an adult—an adult who has been away from him for a while. This Atticus is also older and he has some warts the child might have overlooked.

Until I read the new book, I cannot say much about Atticus 2.0 apart from repeating the dire warnings in the press: Be Disappointed! Be Very Disappointed! He’s not your Daddy’s Atticus! (?)

Within the art world there is concern about whether Harper Lee is Jean Louise “Scout” Finch? If so, are these stories really about Harper Lee joined into a continuous tale about a woman distilling her Maycomb memories and coming to terms with her father’s true character? Are both books literary devices to present the South she knew and treated with a mixture of sadness and delight? Or are these books really about how anyone can awaken from the confusion caused by childhood recollection morphing into a rather different, hardened reality?

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Grecian Formula (20)16

The news says Greece has voted against Euro-Austerity. Forecasters are suggesting there will be a stern “it’s just business” reaction by the bankster community, so they will insist Greece get out of the EU, and then they shall recruit all lenders to apply every economic pressure upon Greece with ‘extreme prejudice’ . They hope to embarrass the Greek leadership while maximizing the misery of Greek citizens. Most American commentators I read say there will be almost no ripple effect felt by the American economy.

Today, in a comment by Lisa over at Ian Welsh’s blog, I read of a possible consequence that never crossed my mind: coup d’etat.

On the one hand, it does not make much sense. The governing party will be under tremendous pressure to ease the already awful economic pain Greece suffers and the odds in favor of succeeding are long. Unless the nation finds a way to sacrifice and rebuild on its own, the Greek people are very likely to boot their government out. Given the debt load, this might happen to one or more succeeding governments. With that in mind, agents who might otherwise contemplate a violent short-cut may be better off biding their time.

Lisa was one of the commenters who alluded to the history of regime change. While I have believed all along that Greece was going to vote “no” because of national or cultural pride, I had not considered that the 1% have their pride too— the pride of possession, nine-tenths of the law.
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Life 2.0

   
Like everyone, my life has seen multiple transitions from one stage to another. My recent experiences seem to have imparted a flavor somewhat different from previous changes, in that for the first time, the changes are physical rather than intellectual or emotional. It got me thinking back about what Willie Nelson called:
      Running through the changes
      Going through the stages
      Coming round the corners in my life.

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Connections and connections and connections

Wise Old Indian says:
(How come we don’t have sayings of old Drunk Uncle Billy Bearpaw?)
  A man must discover who he is.
  A man must discover where he comes from.
  A man must discover why he’s here.

   I’m still working on #1, have a growing understanding of #2 and have at least discovered #3.
I’m here to learn and appreciate.

   When I was growing up in rural Colorado, I didn’t feel much connection with my contemporaries. For the most part, they prided themselves on being anti-intellectual, clung tightly to their ignorance and bullied anyone the least bit different or smaller. I was quite small for my age until my high school ‘growth spurt’ & was the teacher’s pet, so I came in for a lot of nastiness. Eventually, I learned to look out for myself, becoming a good boxer and wrestler who could think and act faster than the assholes, so they learned to leave me alone. That did not suddenly open the door to socialization and while I’m not anti-social, I decidedly failed to develop the usual social skills of teenagers. Read More

Dreams….?

   I used to fly hang-gliders, last time probably 20-25 years ago. There are two sorts of rising air: ridge lift in which an incoming wind hits the side of a mountain and rises. This frequently has turbulence caused by that same wind tumbling over the mountsins on the other side of the valley and usable ridge lift depends very much on wind speed. Too strong: unflyable, too weak, not enough lift. The trick is to stay aloft long enough to pick up the second type of rising air: thermals. Once located, one can get powerful lift, Problem with that is thin air and it’s damn cold.
   In a few places, a coastal cliff faces the wind and there’s nothing upwind to create turbulance. Wind speeds of 60+ are flyable and one can fly back and forth for hours. The lift from a vertical launch can be 2500-feet/minute and it’s an awesome jolt to step off a 3000-foot cliff and be 5000 up in a few seconds. Read More

Viewing Life Differently

   For reasons of no particular interest here, a perfect storm of conditions recently caused my first-ever COPD flare-up and subsequent five-day hospital stay, the only time in 77 years I’ve been in for more than same-day surgery. The process left me somewhat chastened and realizing that using good genes as an excuse to ignore my health was probably not a viable long-term option. I will therefore have to take seriously the task of regaining and preserving as much as possible of my health going forward.

   The process also left me with some memorable experiences which I will chronicle here, in case anyone’s interested.
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It’s All In the Reflexes

One of the funny things about Big Trouble in Little China is Jack Burton’s (Kurt Russell) smug self-confidence about his superior reflexes. It parodies a certain American ideal, at least for me.  There is another line that sticks in my mind from the movies. I only saw the trailer, but Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach is some guy in a foreign land with his foreign friends staring across a body of water at a distant shore. They are thinking about swimming the distance and one of his friends estimates it must be 900 meters away, and he’s doubtful about all of them making it. DiCaprio’s character looks confidently into the horizon and says “How far in miles?….Americans think in miles..”  —or something like that.

I remember these two scenes whenever I observe how Americans measure themselves against a situation and rather quickly decide whatever the problem, it can be solved; if it’s a set-back, it can be overcome; if it’s ‘wrong’, it can be righted; and perhaps most importantly, if there is  sin, there is also redemption.

Americans believe in the American Reflex. We believe our response to any adversity will result in something that is technically possible, morally correct, and will ultimately prevail. That we may look like fools in the meantime is disregarded ( like swaggering Jack who waves his machine-pistol around menacingly all-the-while unaware of the lipstick he is wearing ). DiCaprio’s character–ever the optimist– only needs the challenge intimidating his mates to be re-framed in American terms. If he can understand it, he can rise to it.
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Diary

LRB, By Ben Lerner, June 18

In ninth grade English Mrs X required us to memorise and recite a poem and so I asked the Topeka High librarian to direct me to the shortest poem she knew and she suggested Marianne Moore’s ‘Poetry’, which, in the 1967 version, reads in its entirety:

I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect
contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.

I remember thinking my classmates were suckers for having mainly memorised Shakespeare’s 18th sonnet whereas I had only to recite 24 words. Never mind the fact that a set rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter make 14 of Shakespeare’s lines easier to memorise than Moore’s three, each one of which is interrupted by a conjunctive adverb – a parallelism of awkwardness that basically serves as its form. That plus the four instances of ‘it’ makes Moore sound like a priest grudgingly admitting that sex has its function while trying to avoid using the word, an effect amplified by the awkward enjambment of the second line and the third (‘in/it’). In fact, ‘Poetry’ is a very difficult poem to commit to memory, as I demonstrated by failing to get it right on any of the three chances I was given by Mrs X, who was looking down at the text, my classmates cracking up.

My contempt for the assignment was, after all, imperfect.
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