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January Clouds

For Nancy Merrill’s Photo-a-week Challenge: Looking Up.

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A little less fire and fury, please?

I finally slogged through the book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, about the campaign and first months in office of the incumbent President of the USA.

To make things clearer to anyone who chooses to read this post: I believe that what is needed to improve the situation in the US is good parenting, and I do not use the name of someone who wants attention over every other goal unless attention is deserved.  This means, as many parents dealing with Difficult Toddlers know: give attention for okay behaviors, for unacceptable behaviors ignore them to the extent you are able, and if the situation is egregious give a time out. If the child runs into the street endangering himself and scaring the living daylights out of drivers, you can spank him.

Back to the topic: the book is not a page turner and part way through I felt like a patsy for buying it since it felt like the whole lawsuit-over-libel thing was made up to boost sales and increase readership so more people would see the Difficult Toddler as innocent. The theory that he wasn’t organized or intelligent enough to pull off collusion was repeated more than necessary. On the other hand I am understanding the articles in this week’s paper better. I have wondered a couple of times how many of the Op-Ed writers actually slogged through the whole book…

Several things bugged me about the book, but two stood out in making it hard for me to read: The book talks a lot about Steve Bannon, whom I dislike; and it was repetitive.

At first glance the book’s voice seems neutral, but it is often from the point of view of Mr. Bannon, by that I mean his worldview is presented as desirable. The whole “this is war” idea is ridiculous and didn’t need more respect than other, more rational, ideas going around at the same time. Bannon is, to put it extremely mildly, not my cup of tea, pun intended.

Aside to explain: I think the whole TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party is a bunch of selfish, illogical, uneducated, racist galoots. The one or two exceptions to this are taking advantage of the others, and I place Mr. Bannon among these. The Republican Party was having trouble with its numbers so it subsumed the TEA Party. It’s a pretty weird pairing, which is why the party is a schizophrenic mish-mash instead of a cohesive, at least semi-rational group. But that is a story for another day…or not.

Fire and Fury is very repetitive, to be expected from the news reports that come from the White House. In general I agree with those who say that the book didn’t really say anything that hadn’t come out other ways. The one thing the book did do, at least somewhat effectively, was to put those already known things in one place, allowing a pattern to emerge, instead of outrage for each individual incident taking center stage. The outrage itself is the key component of the pattern: A Difficult Toddler throwing temper tantrums for attention. Often prodded, or manipulated, into his tweet tantrums by all those trying to “handle” him, in order to distract the tax paying citizens from what they consider “real progress” (a.k.a, screwing us over to line their own pockets) or the last debacle.

I agree that the book isn’t Pulitzer prize level work, not surprising since little time was spent honing the prose in the race to publication. Mr. Wolff’s journalism, much maligned in the press the last couple of days, is what one expects from Breitbart/Fox “News” journalism, no better and probably not much, if any, worse. The attacks on it are disingenuous. If a similar book had been written about Hilary Clinton the administration would have said it was genius.

The real question is: how and why did this mess happen? and the book doesn’t help answer it. What causes people to suspend reason in the voting booth?

One clear example of this: In yesterday’s paper ( I still read them) there was an article about how farmers are concerned that the Difficult Toddler has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is trying to kill NAFTA, both of which are huge sources of income to farmers, who voted for him. He also has been trying to get rid of immigrant labor, which benefits farmers a whole lot. Why did they vote for someone who stated during the campaign that he was going to do these things? (the article was from the Washington Post if you want to look it up).

A second example: I personally know a couple who are immigrants. They have been for the 40 years that I’ve known them, bringing family members from the Philippines into the US by providing them with a job and green card. They were complaining how  difficult it is to get people here while Barack Obama was still in office. They are hard over Trump supporters, even though he is wanting to put the kibosh on this activity.

So what next? My suggestion would be to have all of the late night comedians ignore the Difficult Toddler, pretend he doesn’t exist, and have mainstream media not use use tweets as if they are real news. Call them rumors. “rumor has it that…” instead of “@RealDifficultToddler tweeted: “. Refrain from using the name unless behavior is reasonable. My prediction: No one is going to do this. And that is a big part of how we got to where we are, sensationalism and gossip are addictive. We may think we’re just venting, but we are really feeding the Fire and Fury.

 

Eddying Information

I get my news through a funnel; I suspect most of us do, one way or another. There are a semi-infinite number of things going on and somehow they have to get through the narrow spot created by what can be assimilated by a human brain. When a bunch of stuff tries to get down a small hole it creates an eddy, a small whirlpool.

In the stress (mechanical, strength of materials type of stress) world one test for cracks is the eddy current. It costs a bit more than dye, but can be accurately read in hard to reach locations.

I get my news from a few carefully chosen sources: the city newspaper (The Seattle Times) gives me a bit of the world, national and local news, the Economist gives a more global perspective (I use their Espresso app and the print edition), and blogs (A Lot From Lydia is an example of one that often addresses current events in the US, but I frequently become aware something has happened from others that come up on my reader). I don’t watch TV or listen to radio news. They give me a headache.

Beyond the WordPress blogs I follow, I have given up on social media for now, less from high minded principles than from the time it takes away from walking the dogs, cleaning my toilet, vacuuming up pet hair and other tasks I was neglecting in order to keep up with cute videos of pets, outraged Russian trolls, and other Facebook treasures.

The furor over the newly published book, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, was so great that I got it and have been working on reading it. I decided that I needed to read the book for myself and draw my own conclusions, instead of reading what others concluded.

If it had been a novel I would probably have finished it by now. Instead I’m, according to my kindle, at 42%. I keep having to stop and let the eddy of information and emotion subside.

So far what I have found most disturbing is the quotes of the president of the USA. Not made up, the things on the record.

I could do a better job of public speaking. I don’t claim to be especially bad, or good, at it, but someone whose job is, for the most part, communication, paid $400,000 base salary plus $100,000  “travel allowance” and $18,000 “entertainment”, and a couple of other biggish items that I’ve never had as part of a job, should be able to string two or three cogent sentences together that are appropriate for the audience…Or at least read them well after they are prepared by a competent speech writer. I don’t want to seem conceited, but I have given better (more cogent and uplifting to the people who contributed) speeches to the congregation about a church rummage sale than the Difficult Toddler gave to the CIA  on January 21, 2017*.

I realize that many people had already known about these speeches, but I find the Difficult Toddler so repulsive that if his picture is on the article I flip to the next page (if in print) or scroll to where I can’t see it on the computer. I figure enough gets through my funnel without having to endure the details.

I am trying to read the words, really. But I can only take in so much at a time.

 

*If the Difficult Toddler is looking for tips: I jot down a few key ideas in large print that I can read at a glance to keep myself on task. It is really important to stop when you have communicated your points. A little touch of class: I always wore a fascinator with a pheasant feather, along with the church apron, and never mentioned how tired my feet were, how many hours I had spent, or what I donated.

 Funnel

Twelve months of 2017-March

The end is in sight.

March had three distinct part for me.

At home

The month was mostly wet and dreary, I played with the macro setting on my camera some.

The Desert

I flew to Arizona to retrieve my father from his winter escape to Quartzsite Arizona.

This was a very rainy year and the greenest I have ever seen the desert landscape, in the 45 or so years I have been going there.

KSM-20170324-March-11

China

I flew to China a few days after we got back. I spent a day in Beijing. Beijing is way too big for one day, I went to two spots in the Dongcheng  north part of the city: the Lama Temple and Confucius Temple. Just now realizing that I never pulled together posts about those two most visit-able spots.

I was waiting for my son to join me before then we flew together to Chongqing for the start of our downstream Yangtze River Cruise. He was to meet me at the Confucius Temple and I was hanging out where I could see him arrive after he called me from the subway stop.

The background for this: My son stopped getting his hair cut when he left Seattle to study in Japan (where he turned 18) back in 2007. It took me a minute to realize who was coming through the gate, but I’m glad I had the presence of mind to recognize him…and snap a quick one to send to his father.

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We flew to Chongqing the next morning, where we embarked on a downstream Yangtze River Cruise through the Three Gorges, we only actually cruised through two of the gorges because of maintenance being performed on the dam. The cruise started on March 31 so the first few pictures belong to March and the rest to April.

If you are interested in the downstream journey check out some of the posts from my most recent trip: April in China or this series of posts specifically about the Yangtze Three Gorges Cruise, which I have done twice, once going upstream and once downstream, Three Gorges.

Summary

It was quite a month: a green desert and a shorn son. My heart must be okay or I might have died of shock.

2017 Favorites

My World-a blank slate

This last week most energy has been poured into clearing out my Grandmother’s apartment. I did the walk through and turned in the keys about midday today. Now what? It always feels a bit strange, a relief, yet a little sad, to come to a turning point such as this.

In response to Cee’s Share Your World Questions:

Would you prefer a reading nook or an art, craft, photography studio? Both, plus a cozy kitchen. I seem to spend most of my home reorganization energy trying to turn the whole place into a reading nook and place to work on sewing projects. Made perfect by the smell of fresh baked gingerbread.

Tell how you are feeling today in the form of a weather report. (For example, partly cloudy, sunny with a chance for showers, etc.) Overcast and rain, with occasional sun breaks.

If you could witness or physically attend any event past, present or future, what would it be? Pass on this one. Nothing springs to mind.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  We all came together as a family to work on getting the apartment cleared out, I really appreciated that. It was great to relax knowing that the job would get done. In the end the place was immaculate and I didn’t do more than my share.

For inspiration: we got a new world atlas. Our most recent before Friday dates from the early 1990’s and didn’t have Serbia in it (my son’s new girlfriend is Serbian and we discovered that we didn’t quite know where that was). There is something that inspires me in seeing the world. It reminds me of the quote “the world is so full of a number of things, and we should all be as happy as kings” by Robert Louis Stevenson. He also wrote one of my all time favorite poems:

Up into the cherry tree
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad on foreign lands.

I saw the next door garden lie,
Adorned with flowers, before my eye,
And many pleasant places more
That I had never seen before.

I saw the dimpling river pass
And be the sky’s blue looking-glass;
The dusty roads go up and down
With people tramping in to town.

If I could find a higher tree
Farther and farther I should see,
To where the grown-up river slips
Into the sea among the ships,

To where the roads on either hand
Lead onward into fairy land,
Where all the children dine at five,
And all the playthings come alive.

For me the atlas is a higher tree.

A Mushroom Memory

The summer of 2016 seems like forever ago. We took my grandmother on a sojourn to eastern Washington and one of the highlights of that trip was a lovely lunch I had featuring oyster mushrooms, which I had not tasted before. They really did have an oyster-ish flavor.

20160715-KSM-Mushrooms-01

On returning home, I was emboldened to get some mushrooms at the local farmer’s market and experiment with them, both in still life photographs (which I rarely do, in part because I don’t have any clutter-free areas in the house to use) and in cooking.

I hadn’t thought about that for a long time, maybe I need to hit the farmer’s market this Sunday…

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