Friday, December 31, 2021

The Necessary Loneliness of Love

Painting by Sally Trace
“Loving, too, is good — because love is hard. For one person to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult thing we are asked to do, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is mere preparation. 

“That is why young people, beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: they must learn it. With their whole being, with all their forces gathered round their lonely, frightened, upward-beating heart, they must learn how to love. The time of learning, though, is always long and isolated, and so love, for a long time and far into the life of one who loves, is —: solitude, a heightened and deepened state of being alone.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

How to Spot an American Fascist

Take decades of pure fascist propaganda spearheaded by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, add zero opposition from the cowed "legitimate" news media and shake well. 

Viola! You've made a very dry National Catastrophe Cocktail! Serve over climate change.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

"And Coming Up Next on Fox News: The Dunning-Kruger News Hour!"

Trying to get a Republican to understand the value of education is like trying to explain money to a dog.

Republicans always think that because they are ignorant of something, that makes it untrue.

“You can be wrong or ignorant," wrote Jef Rouner. "It will happen. Reality does not care about your feelings. Education does not exist to persecute you. The misinformed are not an ethnic minority being oppressed. What’s that? Planned Parenthood is chopping up dead babies and selling them for phat cash? No, that’s not what actually happened. No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong.”

Ignorance is the GOP's Most Important Product

"Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.“

— Oscar Wilde, but he had it wrong. Ignorance is stubbornly persistent.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Phantoms and Fog

Watch mist ghosts swirling

Above a brown pond at dawn.

Ethereal waltz!

Corporate News Media Bias Isn't 'Liberal'

Conservatives have a name for well-researched, indisputable facts they prefer not to hear. It is "liberal bias." For example, right wingers branded the few news organizations that questioned Bush's extravagant claims of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction as guilty of "liberal bias." 
The fact that Iraqi HAD NO WMD was an irrelevant incidental detail.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Chronicle of George Hilton Beagle

Feb. 22, 2010

Well, I just paid $41 at the pound to become the owner of a beagle. Toby or George? We’ll pick him up at the vet’s Thursday afternoon, after that little operation.

He was a stray, they said. He immediately stood up and licked my hand through the fence when I went to meet him, and I told him to hang on, that we would save him.


Feb. 25, 2010

Tomorrow, Larry and I pick up George, our new beagle, from the vet’s, as soon as I write them a $157 check. He’s named for our late friend historian George Hilton Jones and the dog in “Bringing Up Baby.” Maybe for Prof. George Falconer now, too, in the wonderful film “A Single Man” that Sally and I just saw. 

“One must always appreciate life’s little gifts.”


Nov. 12, 2010

I suspect George had a lonely, hard life at the beginning. Well, no more. 

He’s a plucky lad. He curls up on my lap routinely now when I’m at the computer, a warm little circle of sighing trust.


Nov. 25, 2011

I guess George is a seeing-eye dog now. He ate a pair of reading glasses.


Aug. 17, 2012

Tornado warnings started sounding throughout the area. My colleagues huddled downstairs in the hall as the Buzzard Building and campus alarms went off. I raced home under a weird, swirling sky to find George alone in a house that was completely dark at mid-afternoon, howling at the tornado siren that had started again. Boy, was he happy to see me. 

We curled up together on the sofa and I talked softly to him as we watched the weird weather lash at us.


June 23, 2013

Today, I’m going to take George for a ride to Mattoon to PetSmart for dog food. George loves car rides, and drags you right to the car as soon as you mention it.

I see George trotting jauntily ahead of me in harness, with his dish towel-sized ears bobbing, and think, “He’s just a little guy in a great big world.” 

That image symbolizes a kind of life-affirming bravery for me.


Jan. 10, 2014

This morning George stomped on my laptop in his eagerness to get a treat, locking up the program. I didn’t really yell at him, but he seemed to sense my displeasure and vanished to a bedroom to curl up by himself. 

Poor little fellow. He's remarkably thin-skinned for someone who barks so loudly.


June 20, 2014

I took George Hilton Beagle to Mattoon to buy dog food, and to the office to water Phil the Philodendron and his friends. George sized up the elevator, with its insidious sliding doors, as a trap.

The beagle is distressed to have the wet grass touching his paws. Call of the Wild, my ass.


July 5, 2014

The mist ghosts are waltzing on Blackford’s Pond this morning. George and I walked past them at dawn. They dance above a brown surface that shimmers with hints of green and blue.

When the beagle and I go walking, we see merely a suggestion of light in the east.  Nice to walk with the glow of the coming day growing in silence before you.


July 28, 2014

For the last week, George Hilton Beagle has been obsessing over and guarding his soft toy mustard pot, part of a set that my nephew Brian and his wife Alison got for him for Christmas. His devotion to these little toys is weird. He carries them around in his mouth for several days as if they were puppies, freaking out if anyone tries to touch them, and then “accidentally” splits them open. 

We named this little yellow fellow “Musty.”


June 19, 2015

So if I’m sitting in the middle of the sofa, George Hilton Beagle will now walk up to me and shove my laptop hard with his nose. That means I am to “raise the drawbridge” so he can stomp across me to the side of the sofa that is now suddenly more attractive to him.


Sept. 18, 2015

I made the mistake of saying the word “bark” to George again this morning, and he sprang up and ran to the window to look out. He always thinks I said “Bart,” his favorite visitor.


Nov. 10, 2015

George Hilton Beagle will not tolerate even the appearance of physical aggression in our household, not even in jest. He is like Gort.

Matt Mattingly interpreted for him, “I will reduce your sofa to a smoldering cinder. The choice is yours.”


Sept. 21, 2016

Yesterday, I took George for a stroll around the fairgrounds and he was fascinated by the horse trotting around the track, following it with his eyes. Perhaps the first horse he’d ever seen. I could tell he was thinking, “That's the biggest damned dog I've ever seen in my life.”


Oct. 28, 2016

George has gotten really used to having me around all the time since I got “Raunered” out of my university teaching position this year.

George Hilton Beagle is my perfect companion during the day. He listens attentively to whatever I have to say, and makes no reply.


Jan. 14, 2017

Everything is covered in a thin coat of immensely dangerous ice. I fell on the steps taking George out, but managed to do it gently.


Aug. 6, 2017

George Hilton Beagle and I took a Sunday drive out to Lincoln Log Cabin State Park, where we wandered about in the lightest little drizzle and looked at the sheep. 

“What in hell are those things?” George said.


Feb. 24, 2018

In a book by existentialist philosopher Albert Camus, I read, “These essays begin with a meditation on suicide: the question of living or not in a universe devoid of order or meaning.” 

Then the beagle straddled my lap, vigorously licked my face and waited to be petted. 

I’ve never seen a more eloquent refutation of Camus.


July 2, 2018

Every so often while I’m typing, George Hilton Beagle will stroll up to me and give me what I call “the Nose.” Peremptorily shoving aside my laptop with his muzzle, he’ll hop up on my lap in a move that means, “It’s time for my scritches, you!”


July 13, 2018

George and I drove to Mattoon to get him dog food and pill pockets. He looks happiest when we’re in the car moving, although he doesn’t like to stick his head out the window if we’re traveling 50 miles per hour or faster. Too much wind flapping his long ears. 

At stop lights or other delays, he whines a little. He wants to go.


Nov. 14, 2018

Waiting with George for an operation on his fatty growth today. He doesn’t understand why he hasn’t been able to eat or drink this morning, but he’s been pretty good about it, just watching me curiously.


Nov. 15, 2018

George is still seeping blood from time to time, and has a hard time lying down, so I have been sitting up with him, the poor little guy.

George barked twice in his sleep just now, loudly, something he rarely does. I suspect it’s a reaction to the trauma of his surgery experience.

All while the first real snow of the winter falls silently around the house.


Jan. 17, 2019

Every night, when Larry gives George Hilton Beagle the small rawhide treat we have so cleverly named the “boney bone,” George trots off to find me, drops it at my feet and growls softly. Then he barks.

This is his way of saying that this particular boney bone is HIS, and that I’d better not try to get it or there will be 




George seems to think that the treats we give him — so foolishly — are things we will immediately want back, once we regret the error of our ways.

Thus challenged, I naturally have to make a grab for it, but he snatches it up and dashes off to another room.

We run, we feint, we stop and stare at each other like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. 

“Drop it, bitch,” I tell him, and he drops the boney bone, tauntingly. 

At my slightest motion, he grabs it up again and dashes room to room to room.

“Tonight is the night I’m GETTING that boney bone!” I tell him, hot in pursuit. “Say goodbye to it!” 

I feel, strangely, a little like Wile E. Coyote.

Sometimes I hide behind a door, which worries him. A ridge of hair on his back rises like the spines of a stegosaurus, and he barks with mad, abandoned joy when I jump out from my hiding place. And we’re off again!

This kind of thing continues until I slow down and collapse on the sofa, muttering, “Okay, okay. Enough, enough.” 

Then George settles down happily to eat his boney bone, reassured that he is a streak of tri-colored lightning, much faster than any pokey old human.

George chews his treat with great satisfaction, knowing that I have once again been put in my place. And I rest gratefully until he finishes the boney bone, and it is time for us to go outside and pooty.


March 28, 2019

When I returned from shopping yesterday, I caught George staring at me, his eyes brimming with love. Then Paul told me that when I was in the driveway, George whined and moaned, missing me.


June 9, 2019

A clerk in Rural King said, “George, you’re perfect! You know that?” George Hilton Beagle seemed unsurprised.

It just occurred to me that I even love the word “beagle.” It has such a happy lilt built in.


Aug. 11, 2019

Paul had to pick up his mother at the St. Louis airport at 9 p.m., and didn’t get home until almost 1 a.m. George and I waited up for him.

George went to the door and windows and whined a little about 8 p.m. I think he was worried about why Paul hadn’t yet returned. I reassured him that Paul would be back, and he settled down to nap.


Jan. 10, 2020

Looks like it’s going to rain for 48 hours or so. Convenient for George, who likes to lick water off the deck steps. 

Deck water is like Perrier to him.


June 2, 2021

Now that George is getting older, I pick him up and carry him more. And when I do, I find myself resting my cheek against the warmth of his neck. 

He’s anxious to get where he’s going, but I want to keep him where he is.


June 30, 2021

George is sleeping deeply and peacefully on the floor right now, as he always does on spa days.

They didn’t give George his rabies shot because of his condition, but I authorized blood work on him. The vet thinks he has Cushing’s, an adrenal gland disorder.

Total cost today, $222, which is irrelevant because I’d do just about anything for my beagle.


July 1, 2021

Well, George has only six months to live. He doesn’t have Cushing’s, but some kind of liver disorder. We’ll treat it, but there’s a terminal point in sight. My beagle likely won’t see 2022.


July 28, 2021

Sometimes now when I have to leave the house for an errand, George whimpers with separation anxiety. He’s just old and he knows it and he’s afraid, just as I am sometimes. Two old dogs. It makes me feel even closer to the little guy, whom I now have to carry just about everywhere.

Carrying George outside to do his business, I hold him next to my head and whisper, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”


Dec. 22, 2021

However bad a shape he was in, I decided not to mourn George as long as he was still beside me.

And then, one day, he was not.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A Shadow in Snow

Sun behind the house

Outlining on the front lawn

A shadow in snow.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Spider-Man: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Paul, Bart and I are just back from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

You know, good superhero stories are larger-than-life, breathless romantic sagas about rescue, betrayal, good and evil, love and hate, self-sacrifice and the joy and freedom of effective action. Operatic, really, yet with wit and style.

These melodramas are about ethical choices, because that’s what immense power must always necessarily boil down to. Even the refusal to exercise power can have dire consequences for others.

And above all else, these stories should have heart. They should not be nihilistic, because if even superheroes can’t win, what chance is there for the rest of us?

And this film has all that. It’s the complete culmination of 20 years of Spider-Man movies, satisfying on every single level. The people who grew up with these films will be particularly entranced, I suspect.

Why Is Fox's Fascism Forgiven?

You can measure just how bad the latest exposure of Republican corruption is by observing the length of time it takes Fox News to come up with lies to justify it. Their extended silence always speaks volumes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

A Mensch in Space

“Compassion does not just happen. Pity does, but compassion is not pity. It's not a feeling. Compassion is a viewpoint, a way of life, a perspective, a habit that becomes a discipline — and more than anything else, compassion is a choice we make that love is more important than comfort or convenience.”

— Glennon Doyle Melton

Fox News Trips Over its Own Forked Tongue

For some odd reason, Fox News hosts pleaded with Trump to stop "tourists" from going to the White House.

Monday, December 13, 2021

How Banks Feast on American College Students

Because this nation cozies up to ignorance and no longer values education, college students have become nothing but a cash cow to be milked dry by our predatory financial sector.

Students do not deserve to be enslaved to Wall Street greed for life because they had the temerity to want an education. 

I graduated from state university in 1977 with a student loan debt of slightly less than $500. Of course, that was when we all agreed that it was useful — in fact, even imperative — for members of an advanced, civilized society to have easy access to higher education. That was before we decided to chuck all that and just let greedy banks make a lifelong meal out of American students. 

As for paying for loan forgiveness, take it all out of the Pentagon's worthless, obscene budget.

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Cowardly Lyin' of the 'Both Siders'

Say your candidate is caught lying relentlessly, and reversing and re-reversing his positions on every major issue. If you reply, with blithe, self-serving cynicism, that “both sides lie,” then you are A) giving the worst candidate a complete pass for his dishonesty and B ) awarding the office to the most accomplished con artist, thereby turning a vice into a virtue and deliberately establishing the practice of handing power over to the most corrupt candidate BECAUSE he is the most corrupt. You could hardly imagine a more effective recipe
for national disaster.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Elephant Is Hiding in the Tree

As Garry Kasparov wrote: "The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth."