Saturday, Feb 04th

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Dear Greece, Please Call Iceland.

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A love letter to Greece seems an improbable mission for me, so far away, never having met her, never having chatted over coffee on the somewhat-mandatory, U.S.-style, daylight date in an aboveboard, public place...

But I can't help it.  I've seen the travel posters.  I've seen documentaries.  I've read books.  I'm in love.  I can't help it.

And here I am, locked away in a nearly insane country run by mouth-foaming, pinstripe-suited financiers and fiscal charlatans of all stripes -- except the cartoony prison sort wearing the broad bands of old-fashioned, black-and-white-striped suits...

... and there they are, the Greeks, with their long crossroads of history, with their many legendary gods and goddesses, blessed with an astonishing number of starkly gorgeous islands and brilliant ocean inlets washed in the colors of sea and sky, and with their earnest and good-humored, quick-to-smile folk, alongside a diet of dining and drink to die for...

And, me, here, landlocked in a brown, paved land of The Unending Big Mac, of Queens of Dairy-things, and of Kings of Burgers -- or is it Dairy Kings and Burger Queens? -- hoping to offer this centuries-old culture of cuisine and class some well-meaning advice, there in the Aegean, a hop and a skip from the heel of Italy, a short stride and a half-step away from what may be the most important gateway country of the modern era, in Turkey, where modernity has long met Muslims in a mostly modest, humane way, offering us all some lessons on how to behave...


A Few Outbreaks of Sanity

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There are days when I imagine the main purpose of The News is to get our blood raging to check the strength of the vein walls, or to have us self-check the gnashing positions of our upper and lower jaws to test the limits of the bullets we're biting on, or maybe, to make us drag our funny bones out of storage to give them a random tickle and jolt, via a semi-vicious half Nelson.

These past couple days, checking the headlines, I think all of that is trying to happen at once.  No, it's OK -- I get it:  Life is simply trying to see how much Krazy it can stuff into the Klown Kars of Reality before everything goes Ka-Boom.

I dunno about you, but I always keep my leather bite tab handy.  See, mine doubles as the key fob on my set of keys that go to the Scream Room, the Isolation Tank, and the now-abandoned, 1950s-era, Anti-Armageddon Bunker.  (I closed off that last one a number of years ago.  It used to double as the Rumpus Room, but you just can't find high-quality Rumpus anymore -- about the same time Formica was no longer mined, and Naugas went extinct, and their hides got harder to find...)

Anyway:  If you were to put me under oath and ask how full the Klown Kar's getting, I'd be obliged to tell you we're gettin' purdy close to bein' all topped off and then some.

Before we have to go look around for roof racks, let's start off easy:


Behold, a Season of Be's

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Getting warmer out there, near 100 by week's end, so that means it's getting warmer in here, too [tilts head, taps temple, nods knowingly].

The hotter it gets outdoors, the more bees I seem to have in my head, if not in my actual bonnet, or my pants, or elsewise stuck in other uncomfortable, compromising places that are on, in, or around my own highly-personal person.

Behold:  The coming and going of the longest day of the year!  Behold, the season of easy living!  (Well, once the inexorable, excremental, weekly yard work -- and the semi-satisfying begriping about it -- is all done.)

It is an unbenighted time that is now upon us -- not to get too tangled up in double reverses and triple negatives.  It the time of year in which one can be easily lulled into a false sense of bright promise, by day-dreamy heat-wave brain-fogs, further precipitated by such beclement hammock weather and by the planted seed of an ice cold beer, calmly betaken and beswigged, once necessary labors have been temporarily clubbed into submission.  Again.

I am becalmed, bemused, and besprinkled with summer's besmiting pixie dust.  I am also as behumbled as I can be, and beguiled and bemarveled -- and even bespoke, in point of fact -- plus, as a bewelcomed bonus, I am utterly and deeply beholden for such fine days.


The Vanishing Art of Disappearing

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We are all time travelers.

I have come to this conclusion in a roundabout route, my usual method of making way from A to B, via a few scenic-tour handfuls of multi-cultural alphabets wrought from pen, paper press, and cuneiform tablet.

Art is the key. It is in art where most of us spend our free time, from soaking up opera to hand-tying flies for fishing, or whatever our fancy.  We are consumers of all things, now that we make almost nothing in this country, and art -- popular culture, if you'd prefer to call it -- is part of our voracious appetite.

(Even today's old-fashioned broadcast radio and television counts -- although, I am often unsure what it counts as -- buh-dum-dah.)

Art is where we go for relief from the routine world in which we find ourselves.  And, if we have any energy left over from just trying to survive, and have any interests to do so, we choose art as a platform on which we hope to stand, better understanding our world, ourselves, and trying to make some sense of this journey and this place -- maybe even other people, although we shouldn't get our hopes up too high.


Bring your own Unicorn

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House Democrats lead by Nancy Pelosi have nixed a key provision of Obama's free trade Bill effectively killing it for the time being. In reality it was the failure of Republicans to pass it as they control the House, so it's probably just their way of embarrassing Obama before doing their Corporate Masters' bidding next week. Republicans seem to keep forgetting that Obama isn't running for a third term, and this will give Democrats a stick to beat job exporting Republicans with before next year's election.


Job creation was a robust 280,000 for May and the March number was revised upward by 32,000 to 116,000. Hourly wages rose by 8 cents to $24.96, and over the past year wages rose 2.3 percent. Considering that the minimum wage should be $22/hour,these positive numbers are rather lackluster and simply reflect the 'success' of Reagan's war on the Middle Class.



All Freedom, All the Time

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Report from The Front:  We haven't been killed yet.

Frankly, I have no idea how to estimate the number of times the exact same phrase has been used throughout human history, or even American history by combatants -- and noncombatants -- during times of war.

America's wars have been fought almost exclusively overseas, except when Americans got excited for a while by the ability of Americans to actually own other human beings, and to further become agitated by the assorted economic truths surrounding that other embarrassing truth.  (Funny how that same one reared its head in the Constitution -- once steely-eyed and proudly, and nowadays stunned that it must be half-muttered, with eyes buried underground, requiring some winks and knowing glances to the knowing few.)

Well, the economic truths are all still in place, and still completely legal.  Only the crimes of banks and various corporations are allowed to become larger every year. These crimes now incorporate new entertainments; such as featherweight taps on the wrist and assorted penny-ante fines, to, you know, help us keep the lights burning in prosecutorial offices up and down the chain of our hamstrung governmental command and dissolving protections.  It's good PR, having those lights on, as it gives the impression someone's watching, and maybe even doing something.


I'll bet you a Yuan to a Baklava

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First Quarter US GDP came in at 0.2%, which is down from 2.2% in the Fourth Quarter. This isn't really a huge drop in US economic growth as you might think at first blush. When GDP is calculated, exports are added and imports are subtracted. The strong USD is making imports 'cheaper' and throttling exports to euro using countries that must pay much higher prices for US goods.


China of course is right there to sell the exact same things as the US at a more favorable exchange rate, as more countries are simply trading in the yuan instead of converting them to USD first. Not that the US is a big exporter anyway, but Europe does use the US as a 'cheap labor' factory floor. Overall the top US exports are gasoline, fuel oil and petrochemicals. Our chief 'manufactured' export to China remains recycled cardboard.



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