Sunday, February 17, 2013

Changed My Mind (About Climate Change)

Since this is already a nation of eedjits on a crash course with the environment, I've decided to change my mind about it all. My position on the question is as follows: the current menu of human cultural and economic activities known generally as global capitalism has already accelerated the warming of the earth's climate past any hope of either arresting or stabilizing it, and to such a degree that the collapse of our recognizable ecosystems, global economies and entire cultures is inevitable sooner rather than later.

"It was that fart in the feedlot that finished them."

Given the long and careful attention of the world's scientific community to the question, given its well-documented consensus, such a claim, to be taken seriously, no longer needs documentation in a rational community (present company excepted), any more than a biologist's claim that conclusions in the biological sciences rest firmly on evolutionary biology, needs documentation. QED, as far as I'm concerned. When time has run out, bullshit doesn't deserve equal time.

I'm not exempting myself from my minuscule part in the responsibility for this impending collapse. After all, I'm a large primate with a utility bill and a monthly gasoline allowance, and I don't kid myself that riding around on my bicycle, as I like to do, is going to save the planet. My rides aren't all that "epic."

But unfortunately, while the realm of established and certain fact is not a democracy, such questions of critical policy require to be put to a vote by the paid industry hacks and suborned shills for corporate influence who represent our "interests" in Congress. The sanctimonious futility of our national response promises to be at least as suffocating as the disaster itself: Illinois Representative John Shimkus, a failed candidate to head the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in his House hearing for the post preferred to maunder on about his child-like theological views rather than engage in an adult discussion of cap and trade legislation and intelligent energy policy:


The journalist Chris Hedges apparently shares my dread of the impending forays of frenzied evangelicals into climate science, observing just a month ago that, "as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we like past societies in distress will retreat into what anthropologists call 'crisis cults' [which] will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist belief in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us."

 "Who's your Daddy?"

For my own part, I figure I may as well ride the wave of desertification and warmer winters into oblivion, floating down the River of EndTime on an inner tube with a parasol-decked cocktail in my oversized plastic cup holder. One thing I've learned - it's never too late to adjust your horizons, lie back and enjoy it. Even if you can't change climate change, you can always change your mind.

(With thanks and apologies to Reggie)

Nothing Says Spring Like Fellini

Having just emerged after a week in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, as I think I mentioned, I note that the sun is markedly higher off the horizon, the days are already lengthening, the squabbling and social bullying among the ration of small birds about the yard is growing more persistent. It appears that the entire neighborhood ecology is about to lose its moral compass once again and degenerate into another season of indiscriminate generation. Time to sequester the children until the natural realm has sated its lust.

"I'll close mine if you close yours."

The situation has deteriorated so badly here in the Great American West that the rabbit population around Denver International Airport (a world-class repository of phallic symbology) has taken to vandalizing cars. According to a recent news report, "The USDA wildlife service is removing at least a hundred bunnies every month" from the airport parking lot, where these miscreant leporids (stop me if you think I'm having too much fun) lie in wait for some sucker to leave his nice warm car and rush for a plane. It's no joking matter, airport authorities assure a sniggering public.

"Ask any rabbit what scrap dealers pay for copper wire."

In my neighborhood, the emblem of all this phylozooic commotion is the flicker, that most priapic of peckers. There's a male flicker perched in the upper branches of the box elder in front of the house right now, yammering away in an insistent and monotonous falsetto about his venereal intentions and his basest genetic aspirations. When he's done with the perch in the tree, he'll find the nearest metal chimney cover and have his way with that until the remotest heavens ring like a cargo of high-capacity ammo clips emptied into a 50-gallon drum at an NRA rally in Willacoochee.

Ohhh. . . . sorry, dude

Flickers are the avian incarnation of Fellini's Uncle Tio. In "Amarcord," his cinematic reminiscence of a post-war Italian adolescence, Uncle Tio appears as Fellini pere's deranged younger brother, whom the family would dutifully collect from the mental asylum each Sunday and take into the countryside for a family picnic. In a neglected moment on one such summer day, Tio wanders off from the picnic, clambers into a magnificent old oak well out of the reach of his keepers, and begins shouting from the uppermost branches the tragicomic lament, "I want a woman!" Which is basically what flickers do.

Watch Uncle Tio

Saturday, February 16, 2013

'A Paltry Thing'

An aged man is but a paltry thing,/ A tattered coat upon a stick . . . (W.B. Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium")

 I have just emerged blinking into the sunlight from a weeklong bout with a bronchial flu that very nearly dispatched me. Not to put too fine a point on it, until about yesterday I scarcely cared whether I lived or not. Illness brings with it an odd state of grace, berefting one of every appetite, desire, pleasure, fear, delusion of immortality or urge to sin. I'm still feeling slightly transparent, as though the sun might shine right through me and cast a grinning, skeletal shadow. In the grip of a grippe, I feel invisible.

Me, indisposed

For all practical considerations, these (mercifully infrequent) bouts of indisposition leave me feeling as though I'm coming up fast on a century, and so able to speak with some authority on the subject of senescent decrepitude. Even minor illnesses, after a certain age, are simulacra of the debt we all owe to nature. Being sick as an alley cat is one sure way of achieving a sage-like detachment.

I was reminded, in this foggy delirium, of the introit to Plato's Republic, when the elderly Cephalus converses with his son's pal, Socrates, on all the virtues attending old age. When he meets with his aged friends, Cephalus reports, "most of them lament, longing for the pleasures of youth and reminiscing about sex, drinking bouts and feasts, and all that goes with things of that sort." Cephalus himself doesn't share this nostalgia, recounting the poet Sophocles' answer to the question how his sexual endurance had stood up to his advance in years. "Silence, man," Sophocles scolded. "Most joyfully did I escape it, as though I had run away from a sort of frenzied and savage master."

What some little boys want

The point of the story, as the entire Republic then proceeds to argue, is that virtue is engagement in the actions that define good human beings, and not merely foreswearing vice out of caution, a maidenly prudence, sanctimony, plain weariness, evangelical conviction, fear of divine reprisal or the benign exhaustion of the elderly. So if there ever were such things as saints, it's probably misleading to paint them as hoary with age; if the elderly are benign, they may be so equally by temperament and habit of life, or merely out of an incapacity to continue as the stinkers they may have been in their prime. Loss of appetite over time masquerades as virtue, just as our aversion to repeated hard experience passes for wisdom.

None of this is to imply that I've just survived some epic adventure in delirium and returned from the other side - it was just generally crappy, garden-variety stuff, the sort of intense unpleasantness that can turn anyone into an existentialist and make us wonder why on earth we're still alive, how much worse life is about to get in the next hour or so, and whether we have the fortitude to manage much more of it. Turns out that I did not. I attribute my survival only to that reliable old Newtonian hobby-horse, inertia, combined with a dollop of malingering obstinacy. I hope that is not all I ever acquire of wisdom, but it will have to do for now.

Been here before