Archive for December, 2017

Midnight Mass

The people want to be good. And life wants to be happy.

In Portsmouth was born a kitten blind and with an inoperable spinal condition that rendered his rear legs useless. But he was adopted from the shelter by a woman, and then students at a local school built him a wheelchair. Because people want to be good.

And the kitten, he doesn’t know that he’s hurt and sad and poor: he likes to run on the floors, listen to music, bat things around with his front paws, just like all the other kittens. Because life wants to be happy.

Someday all of the humans will devote all of the resources to all of the creatures. Including each other. Because people want to be good. And life wants to be happy.

That I may not live to see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not Real.

Because I have been to the mountaintop. And I have looked over.

Many Mansions

In my Father’s house are many mansions.

—John 14:2

Christmastime again is here, and so be Santa, and so be Jesus.

Some years ago, in contemplating Santa and Jesus, the two began to get confused in my mind. Santa Claus, for reasons that have never really been explained, devotes each year to overseeing minute laborers who fashion gifts which he annually delivers, in a single night, to all deserving children the world over. Jesus Christ, for reasons that have been variously explained, roamed for a short time across a relatively minute plot of land, uttering gnomic wisdoms, then was seized and subjected to excruciating suffering, so that all, deserving and undeserving alike, might be gifted with salvation.

When a sprout, I was taught that while Santa’s labors never end—a yearly, year-long grind—Jesus’ was a one-shot gig. Wander around Palestine, ascend the cross, into the tomb, three days later out again, brief appearances before various friends and lovers, then up to heaven for a well-deserved eternal rest.

I no longer believe that. I believe that, as is set forth here, “Jesus Christ suffers from now until the end. On the cross. He goes on suffering. Until the death of the last human being.” That is the mystic meaning of his tale: he suffers with all beings suffering in the exile of existence. And we are called upon to do the same—to grow to empathy, so that thy neighbor truly is thyself, and suffering everywhere, for everyone, may be eased. With this meaning there is no need for the resurrection. All of us are him, doing the same work; our work, his work, never ends.

For those who are wedded to the resurrection, the advances in science and philosophy in my lifetime, in the understanding of the multiple dimensions and multiple worlds about us, too mean that his work never ends. For the planets, it is now known, are innumerable, and so are the dimensional variations of this one. And if salvation is indeed his calling, he will forever be busy as twelve bastards, for there are those who will need saving, inhabiting every one.


March Of The 차려입 펭귄

People are strange.

It’s in all the reports.

Take the Koreans. For they, in these times, have Christmas in their country, for no reason that makes any sense at all.

Because Christmas is first of all about a martyred Jewish mystic, who was snapped up by Saul the Roman carny-barker and transformed into a weirdsmobile pagan sun-king, in which form he went luluing around Europe for the next 2000 years or so.

Later grafted onto the day was a Nordic fat man, who in one night flies supersonic reindeer round the globe, showering from a sleigh gifts to all and sundry, like some sort of holly-jolly communist.

None of this really says “Korea.”

And yet: there they are. Thinking it’s a good idea to dress up penguins like Santa Claus and reindeer, and then set them to marching in a parade, accompanied by a human Santa, who wildly throws fake snow in the air.

These festivities inaugurate the annual “Christmas Fantasy” winter festival at the Everland Amusement Park in Yangin. The penguins promenade down a street decorated with some 2 million lights, 80 Christmas trees, and showers of artificial snow. There is also a holiday-themed fireworks show—hopefully set off only once the penguins, borrowed from the city zoo, have been returned to their usual quarters. Beacuse fireworks are not something that anyone who is not a human really likes.

Everland, it is said, draws some 6 million visitors a year, and is the number-two most popular non-Disney theme park in the world.

“Everland” is presumably what you get when you knock the “N” off Neverland, and run Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys off the place. Also, Michael Jackson.


War On Christmas Going Very Badly

Santa’s best defense is that the North Pole is—spoiler—really cold. The US Navy doesn’t have any icebreakers, and the Coast Guard only has two, both of which are research vessels. And unlike the Russians and the Finns, the United States doesn’t have any ground units specifically trained to handle polar climates.

Nor is Santa himself a pushover. Some images of the old man depict him with a Kalashnikov. Elsewhere, he’s armed with a sword. Futurama‘s Robot Santa has some sort of laser blaster. In Scrooged, Santa is able to repel a terrorist attack with an M16A2; his elves carry M60 machine guns. Oh, and about those elves: according to, “There are an unlimited number of elves because it takes a lot of help to keep the north pole maintained and the presents made every year.” Even if an expeditionary force succeeds in taking the workshop, the elves’ sheer numbers make the possibility of a post-invasion insurgency likely. And then there’s Santa’s sidekick Krampus, a massive goat-demon who according to Germanic legend, captures his enemies in a bathtub, eats them, and transports them to hell.

“I cannot think of too many worse environments to infiltrate and then exfiltrate from than the North Pole,” says Andrew Exum, a former special adviser for Middle East policy at the Department of Defense who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I have no idea how many elves would remain loyal to Santa Claus, but given the open terrain, you would probably want to surround Santa’s workshop with at least a company of Army Rangers before sending in a team from one of our special missions units to capture or kill Santa himself. That’s 150 to 200 men right there that would have to make their way to one of the most remote locations on Earth, carry out a very difficult mission in low visibility and freezing temperatures, and then march back out. As much as I love and admire our special operations forces, that’s a huge ask.”


Everything Old Is New Again

Kalinin had a distinguished goatee, and, more important, was an organ grinder of secretary praise. In Kalinin‘s estimation, Stalin was “our best friend, our best teacher, the pathfinder of the ages, the genius of science, brighter than the sun, the greatest military strategist of all time.” Stalin tried to get Kalinin to please stop, no more, but he wouldn’t.

Martin Cruz Smith, on Stalin’s vice president, Mikhail Kalinin

Over nearly three minutes, Pence offered plaudit after plaudit after plaudit, praising Trump’s vision, his words, his strategy. By the end, Pence offered 14 separate commendations for Trump in less than three minutes—math that works out to one every 12.5 seconds. And each bit of praise was addressed directly to Trump, who was seated directly across the table.

Here’s the full list:

  1. “Thank you for seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that truly is restoring this country.”
  2. “You described it very well, Mr. President.”
  3. “You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage.”
  4. “You’ve signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history.”
  5. “You’ve unleashed American energy.”
  6. “You’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records.”
  7. “You promised the American people in that campaign a year ago that you would deliver historic tax cuts, and it would be a ‘middle-class miracle.’ And in just a short period of time, that promise will be fulfilled.”
  8. “I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.”
  9. “Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership in the Congress of the United States, you’re delivering on that middle-class miracle.”
  10. “You’ve actually got the Congress to do, as you said, what they couldn’t do with [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska] for 40 years.”
  11. “You got the Congress to do, with tax cuts for working families and American businesses, what they haven’t been able to do for 31 years.”
  12. “And you got Congress to do what they couldn’t do for seven years, in repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare.”
  13. “Mostly, Mr. President, I’ll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America.”
  14. “Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more. And we are making America great again.”

Aaron Blake, on Mongo’s vice president, Mommy

Getting The Tree

I decided not to get the
instead, I lay down on the
& nearly fell asleep
& then sat up
& then
the little tree
came to me

A. R. Ammons

Get Him Out Of There

Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged.

Five months before, Mr. Trump had dispatched federal officers to the nation’s airports to stop travelers from several Muslim countries from entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would deliver on his campaign promise to fortify the nation’s borders.

But so many foreigners had flooded into the country since January, he vented to his national security team, that it was making a mockery of his pledge. Friends were calling to say he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

“He’s always been fearful where other cultures are concerned and always had anxiety about food and safety when he travels,” said Michael D’Antonio, who interviewed him for the biography The Truth About Trump. “His objectification and demonization of people who are different has festered for decades.”

It was Mr. Trump who added an anti-immigrant screed to his Trump Tower campaign announcement in June 2015 in New York City without telling his aides. “When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity,” Mr. Trump ad-libbed. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems,” he continued. “They’re bringing drugs; they’re bringing crime; they’re rapists.”

During his campaign, he pushed a false story about Muslims celebrating in Jersey City as they watched the towers fall after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York. He said illegal immigrants were like “vomit” crossing the border.

“He’s basically saying, ‘You people of color coming to America seeking the American dream are a threat to the white people,’” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice.

“We’re so politically correct,” Trump complained to reporters in the cabinet room, “that we’re afraid to do anything.”

Sheets Cracks Peanuts Gang

In a stunning pre-dawn raid, armed agents of Mongo arrested and jailed “several high-ranking members of the so-called ‘Peanuts gang,’ com-smyp Negrofied extremists who have been terrorizing this nation for more than six decades,” Confederate General Jefferson Beauregard seSSions III, a.k.a “Sheets,” has announced.

Appearing before a small gaggle of reporters drawn exclusively from Fox, Breitbart, Stormfront, and Sputnik, Sheets played surveillance footage that seemed to show Charlie Brown, the ceaselessly morose round-headed child who dresses worse than even Bill Belichick, entering a Christmas-tree lot, there selecting a small tree, and then leaving the lot without paying for it.

“You see?” Sheets crowed. “He’s a thief! Open and shut.”

Sheets said that after Brown was arrested and booked, a DNA sample was extracted from the child, “which proves conclusively that—pursuant to the one-drop rule, which, came January 20, again became the law of this land, thanks be to Jesus—this wanton tree-thieving criminal is a Negro.”

“Of course,” Sheets continued, “we knew that as soon as we saw him steal the tree. Because those who Make America Great Again, they do not steal trees. That’s Negroid behavior.”

Sheets next rolled surveillance tape of “the Peanuts gang” ice-skating.

“You see that dog?” rumbled Sheets. “Nigras—I mean dogs—have no business on the ice. And his outrageous, unprovoked assault on those children? That animal needs to be put down!”

Sheets said that DNA testing had affirmed that the dog, known as Snoopy, is, like Brown, “of the Negroid persuasion.”

Peanuts gang” member Lucy Van Pelt was arrested on charges of practicing psychiatry without a license, Sheets said, while her brother, Linus, was charged with “flagrant homoism.”

“Homoism,” Sheets explained, “is well-known as a subset of Negritude.”

Sheets then produced surveillance footage of what he described as “a Negrified dance orgy.”

“A warrant is out for the arrest of that Negroist piano-player,” Sheets announced. “We are combing every hill and dale. We believe his name is Schroeder. We know that he had no proper permits for holding that Negroid jazz frenzy in such a cramped and confined space. The whole place could easily have gone up in flames, like in that Ghost Ship fire, that cooked all those queers and coloreds.”

Sheets said the child who is the bassist in the above “dance orgy” had been taken into protective custody. “He is known only as ‘Pigpen,'” Sheets explained. “His parents did not even give him a proper name. They allowed him to live in conditions of such squalor and filth that the State has taken possession of him, for his own safety and well-being.”

Sheets said “Pigpen” has been given a new name—Nathan Bedford Forrest—and added that “once the poor boy is cleaned up, he will be immediately enlisted in the Marines, so he can learn how to hunt Negroes, grease Muslims, and shoot Mexicans in the desert. He’s gonna be an American.”

Sheets next happily shared with those assembled some pictures of his slaves.

Asked why he persisted in referring to himself as “Confederate General,” rather than “Attorney General,” Sheets explained that “Mongo has changed the title from ‘Attorney General,’ to ‘Confederate General,’ in order to help heal the country’s divisions.”

Sheets then played for the reporters what he described as the “new anthem” of his department. Rendered, there, below.

There Are Always Spliffs At Christmas

There Are Always Winos At Christmas

There Are Always Uncles At Christmas

Christmas Lights

Don’t think that life is somewhere over the rainbow. What you’ve got right now, with your family, your friends, your house: this might be as good as life is ever going to be. Life is not happening on the other side of the rainbow. We are on the other side of the rainbow.

—rabbi Shaul Praver, upon Shabbat, for Noah Posner

I was leaving to go to work and she woke up before I left and I’ve actually been teaching her Portuguese and so our last conversation was in Portuguese. And she told me good morning and asked how I was doing. And I said that I was doing well. She said that she loved me and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door.

I’m not mad. Because I have my agency to make sure that I use this event to do what I can, to do whatever I can. I want to make sure that my family, my wife and my daughters, are taken care of, and that, if there is anything I can do to help anybody, at any time, anywhere, I’d be willing to do that.

Robbie Parker, father of Emilie Parker

All the guns are gone. They became gone when the Americans understood that they didn’t want to live in fear anymore. When they understood that fear is over. That it is no longer necessary. That it is a product of the lizard brain. That the brain is bigger Emilie Parkerthan that now. That the lizard brain peaked hundreds of millions of years ago. That its day: it is done.

The guns gone even from the police. When Jerry Brown was governor of California there the first time, sometimes Ken Kesey would wander down from Oregon, stop in at the state capitol, and there hold forth to whoever might be around. Once he held forth on how the police needed to “lay the gun down”; they would never be accepted as part of the community, he said, could never do their job, until they did. Brown himself at one point strolled in, listened a bit, then scoffed: “It’s not going to happen. The police are not going to lay down their guns. Let’s talk about something Real.” Kesey smiled, and then he said: “Oh, but it is Real.” And he was right. We are in that Real now.

There are no guns in the nation’s military. And the nation doesn’t have a military. America is at peace with its neighbors, Canada and Mexico. And so, no military is necessary.

There is one gun left among the Americans. It is in a museum. People come by, and they look at it, and they wonder: what were they thinking?

In the early reports out of Newtown, I was struck by this:

Connecticut is reaching out to other states to help with autopsies because they don’t have enough medical examiners.

There was no shortage of people with guns arriving on the scene. There never was. But for healers, Connecticut had to go out of state.

And I thought: that is precisely the opposite of the way it should be. Always, there should be a surfeit of healers, always on hand. But for guns, a call must go out, to bring them in, from far and far and far away—ten thousand leagues, beyond, the wide world’s end. Because the age of the warrior, it is over. We’re in the era of healers now.

All the guns were gone that day the children of Newtown died. Everyone knew it then. It just took some a while longer to accept it. Because children, they are like Christmas lights. Soft and warm and glowing; never to be broken. And they are like that all of their lives. Because there is no such thing as a grownup.

And I Must Say I Feel Pretty Goddam Good Right Now

After 113 years defiantly facing Union Avenue, the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest was pulled from its pedestal at exactly 9:01 p.m. on Wednesday night.

Secured with straps—let’s call them shackles, with Forrest finally on the receiving end—it swayed under trees for a delicate seven-minute journey to the back of a flatbed truck, whose company information had been covered in tape, a clandestine precaution. 

A little less than an hour later, covered by a blue hood and standing upright, Forrest made his last ride to parts unknown, down a street representing that which he once sought to destroy. Once again, Union had prevailed.

Chris Herrington

This happened because people mandated it and wanted it. Take ‘Em Down 901 is now Took ‘Em Down 901. Those two symbols of white supremacy stunk up Memphis’s parks for TOO LONG. And as of 9:01 last night, they were finally moved. My hometown has never looked better.

Tami Sawyer

It’s important to know why we’re here: The Forrest statue was placed in 1904, as Jim Crow segregation laws were enacted. The Davis statue was placed in 1964, as the Civil Rights Movement changed our country. The statues no longer represent who we are.

In the days after the August events in Charlottesville, we saw an avalanche of support come together behind our efforts. So it’s important that we not forget the sea change that made today a reality: Republicans and Democrats, a unanimous city and county government, Gov. Haslam, scores of diverse members of the clergy, prominent members of the business community, and citizen demonstrators came together to support the same cause.

In all of my life in Memphis, I’ve never seen such solidarity. To all who have joined the effort: THANK YOU.

Jim Strickland

Party To No Covenants

There were times when he was capable of rejoicing in himself as a singularity—a man without a story, secure from tribal delusion, able to see the many levels. But at other times he felt that he might give anything to be able to explain himself. To call himself Jew or Greek, Gentile or otherwise, the citizen of no mean city. But he had no recourse except to call himself an American and hence the slave of possibility. He was not always up for the necessary degree of self-invention, unprepared, occasionally, to assemble himself.

And sometimes the entire field of folk seemed alien and hostile, driven by rages he could not comprehend, drunk on hopes he could not imagine. So he could make his way only through questioning, forever inquiring of wild-eyed obsessives the nature of their dreams, their assessment of themselves and their enemies, listening agreeably while they poured scorn on his ignorance and explained the all too obvious. When he wrote, it was for some reader like himself, a bastard, party to no covenants, promised nothing except the certainty of silence overhead, darkness around. Sometimes he had to face the simple fact that he had nothing and no one and try to remember when that had seemed a source of strength and perverse pride. Sometimes it came back for him.

Robert Stone


The Truth About The Tubes

Let There Be Lights

The French are a people who, in the immortal words of National Lampoon, “fight with their feet and fuck with their faces.”

They are also good with light. We know this because the first successful photographer was a Frenchman. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. His first photo was of rooftops.

His second photo was of a nude woman. This, too, is French.

Mary was nude when she gave birth to Jesus. Which is not often mentioned in the Christmas stories. We also know, from the true-life non-fiction tome The Da Vinci Code, that after the crucifixion, which did not actually happen, Mary went with her son Jesus, and her daughter-in-law, also named Mary, up into France, where they all ate cheese and drank bordeaux and raised the children of Jesus. Of which I am a direct descendant.

Everything is connected.

Some people might think it might be a little cold for Mary to be nude when giving birth to Jesus, there on December 25. Except that Jesus wasn’t actually born on Christmas. The best guess is that he was, in truth, born in March. Which would make him a Pisces. And in March it wouldn’t be that cold, if you were nude and giving birth to Jesus. Especially if you were in the manger, and there receiving warmth from the kindly animals.

We know that the animals were kindly, and that they were in the manger, because that is why at midnight every Christmas morning all the animals all over the world are gifted for a bit with human speech, if they feel like speaking it. This is the animals’ annual reward for being kind and warm in the manger, when Mary was nude, and giving birth to Jesus.

We know this “Night The Animals Talk” is Real because my friend David cared for the rodents at the college Rat Lab, and one early Christmas morning he was there, and he Recorded the rats, when they talked in human speech, and then he transcribed their remarks, and I put them in a Newspaper, of which I was then the editor.

That newspaper is probably there somewhere down in the basement. But it would take a Miracle of Jesus to timely find it. So I am not going to try.


Saint Sinead

There Is No Such Thing As A Grownup

“In Vence,” said Herzog, “my parents left me under a crucifix. And I asked them, my parents, ‘What happened to him?’ I meant the man on the cross, the Christ figure. I was then ten years of age and had no idea what a crucifix was. We lived in Paris. After the liberation I was not yet fourteen. The prefect told me who I was. That I was a Jew. That my parents, my family, had been delivered to the Germans and murdered by them. And I felt—what can I say—a recognition.”

“But you couldn’t leave the Church?”

“Oh,” Herzog said with a little shrug, “I didn’t care much about the Church. The Church was men, people. Some good, some not.” He looked at the floor.

“Then why?”

“Because I was waiting,” said Herzog. “Waiting where I had been left. At the foot of the cross. Out of spite or devotion, I don’t know.” He laughed and put a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “Pascal says we understand nothing until we understand the principle from which it proceeds. Don’t you agree? So I understand very little.”

“We’re supposed to believe that Christ has gone on to reign in glory,” Lucas said.

“No,” said Herzog. “Jesus Christ suffers from now until the end. On the cross. He goes on suffering. Until the death of the last human being.”

“And that,” Lucas said, “brings you here?”

“Yes,” said Herzog. “To attend. To keep on waiting.”

From the steps of the church, the evening smelled of car exhaust and jasmine.

“I realize that in this kind of world,” Lucas said, “I have no business being so unhappy. I realize also that on a religious level I’ll always be a child. It’s absurd and I regret it.”

For the first time Herzog smiled.

“Don’t regret it, sir. Perhaps you know Malraux’s Anti-memoires? His priest tells us that people are much more unhappy than one might think.” He offered Lucas his hand. “And that there is no such thing as a grownup.”

Robert Stone

Mud People

My understanding of the human condition is something like this: there was this mud, this substance. It somehow came into existence. Over a period of millennia, it became conscious of itself. It stood up on legs and started walking around, and talking and thinking and having aspirations of one kind or another. Now this is a miracle, that the very mud of the earth could somehow come to consciousness. There is some kind of positive significance there. In what I write, I try to be aware of that, and that’s why I think I’m not pushing a message of despair, because I try to have everything happen in these books against the background of that miracle. That’s an unspoken positive dimension. We are just mud, finally, that has become conscious of itself. That’s a tough condition.

Robert Stone

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December 2017