Rintrah Roars

Cover of William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

I find myself coming back to it again and again. Ever since I was a student in college, I regarded William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” one of the greatest poems in the English language. Following is the opening of it, or “The Argument”—very appropriate as we wait for a rare thunderstorm to arrive around midnight.

The Argument

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Once meek, and in a perilous path,
The just man kept his course along
The vale of death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.

Then the perilous path was planted:
And a river and a spring
On every cliff and tomb;
And on the bleached bones
Red clay brought forth.

Till the villain left the paths of ease,
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility,
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam.

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

I love the second last stanza about the just man raging in the wilds. As I despondently view the condition of the Republic under Trump as his brigands, the following quote from the second part of the poem gives me hope:

Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.

From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.

Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

All we could do is grasp the hide of the Tiger that is History and try not to fall off.

 

Dégueulasse

I Don’t Recall Ever Being Satisfied by an Election

I remember being invited out to a homecooked French dinner at my friend Alain’s apartment. I fancied myself as as a proficient speaker of French, so when asked for my opinion of the scrumptious meal, I merely said it was dégueulasse. Oops! Apparently that means “repulsive” or “disgusting.” I was able to talk my way out of that mess, though I did get a few stony looks.

Well, I could say that my opinion of the Super Tuesday election results is a heartfelt dégueulasse. But then, I have never been satisfied when the voters finally speak. This goes back to my first election, in 1968, when rather than vote for Hubert Humphrey after the debacle at the Democratic convention in Chicago, I wrote in the name of Otto Schlumpf, a Franciscan priest who shared my then-Progressive political ideology.

Do I really like any of the four remaining contestants? Probably I like Elizabeth Warren the most, but she is not likely to get nominated. Biden’s problems with speech remind me of either the onset of Alzheimers or a pre-stroke condition known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). I got a TIA myself once when I suddenly found myself babbling incoherently to a co-worker. (I immediately asked the secretary to call an ambulance.) Curiously, Trump has the same problem; only, his supporters will forgive him anything short of raping and murdering an underage girl on the steps of the Capitol Building.

Although I like Bernie Sanders and find he has a sharp mind, I fear that the American voter is too conservative to select either him or Elizabeth Warren.

What is more, all four candidates are in their seventies. I myself am 75. If the final Democratic nominee does not pick a younger vice president, we are doomed to a gerontocracy.

 

 

No-News Booze Cruise

It’s That Time Again

I suspect that one of the reason so many Americans don’t vote is that politics as practiced in these United States is so divisive and utterly ugsome. With the many 24-hour news channels hammering into our brains and all the phone calls and TV ads, we all look forward wistfully to the day after the November elections—provided that we don’t have another 2016 debacle on our hands.

The above cartoon was in today’s Los Angeles Times in Wiley Miller’s underrated “Non Sequitur” comic strip. I laughed as I thought about the endless Democratic debates and the never-ending tweets of our orange-headed troll of a president. Treating our obsession with the news as an info-virus was a stroke of genius.

When I spent election day 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, I thought I was being smart. Instead, learning that Trump won, I seriously considered for a few minutes staying in South America, but I did return to the mess that greeted me when I returned to our borders.

In recent weeks, there are some of my friends with whom I refuse to discuss politics. I just mutter something about endlessly covering “Subject A” and hurriedly trying (not always successfully) to change the subject.

In Trump’s America

Make America Suck Again

After my day had a bad beginning, I was not surprised to read my horoscope in the L.A. Times: “Knowing you’re not in control can be frightening or frustrating, especially when the situation is one you would normally handle without a problem.”

I am continuing to have problems obtaining my prescriptions from Anthem Blue Cross. After being requested to call Anthem on a Saturday morning to check on the status of my order, I found that the phone number they gave me is open on weekdays only. When I called Anthem Customer Service, I was told that my prescriptions would not be ready on Monday—despite having been assured they would be. Every person seemed to have a different story.

Net result: I will be playing by Mexican Rules. I will attempt to get the drugs I need in Yucatán over the counter at a large pharmacy. Some drugs I will run out midway through the trip.

Once again, corporations rule. While we are being assured that everything will be jake with us, our benefits, our rights, and our protections are being whittled away to nothing. All this while Trump’s phony triumphalism continues unabated, and while ignorant hicks wear red hats to celebrate their loss of status. One can’t even talk to corporations any more:

AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: Please tell us what you are calling about.
ME: I need to speak to a human being.
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
ME: I NEED TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING.
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
ME: I NEED TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING!!!
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT: I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please try again.
*** And so on ***

Eventually I got through to a representative who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about my problems and who provided yet another face-saving lie.  (Incidentally, hitting the O for Operator didn’t work.)

 

 

Enough of Billionaires Already!

Scrooge McDuck Enjoying His Wealth

I cannot for the life of me imagine that being controlled by billionaires is somehow good for America and its people. Billionaires are essentially people who are interested only in looking after their own interests: If they can find profit in selling their grandmothers to be rendered at a glue factory, why then they will  be sorely tempted.

Why do voters admire billionaires? Do they honestly think that somehow their own financial situations will be magically improved? After all, they just as often job destroyers as job creators. You can see this in action when there is a corporate merger, followed by a round of lay-offs. Are coal miners from West Virginia or ranchers from Wyoming welcome at Mar-a-Lago? Yes, but only if they themselves are billionaires.

That is why I am not particularly excited about Michael Bloomberg becoming the Democratic candidate for President. He may have been a better mayor of New York City than Rudolph Giuliani, but I suspect he still thinks like a billionaire.

 

 

Garbage to Go

Styrofoam Food Container: Can It Be Recycled?

Anyone who cares about the environment is likely to be interested in recycling. I count Martine and me in this category. Recent developments, however, have thrown a monkey-wrench into the recycling debate. We used to send huge bales of newsprint and plastic to China and other Southeast Asian countries to rework into other products. This they did—to some of the so-called “recyclables,” but only if they were profitable. The rest usually found their way into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch , a monument to the failure of recycling.

At the same time we carefully sort our garbage between the dumpster and the blue recycling bins, it seems that everything (except, possibly, aluminum cans and certain plastics codes type 1 and 2) winds up in landfills.

According to LA Sanitation, the following plastics are recyclable:

Plastics

All plastics numbers 1 through 7

Empty plastic containers, wiped out if possible, including:

    • Soda bottles
    • Juice bottles
    • Detergent containers
    • Bleach containers
    • Shampoo bottles
    • Lotion bottles
    • Mouthwash bottles
    • Dishwashing liquid bottles
    • Milk jugs
    • Tubs for margarine and yogurt
    • Plastic planters
    • Food and blister packaging
    • Rigid clamshell packaging
    • All clean plastic bags (grocery bags, dry cleaner bags, and film plastics)
    • All clean polystyrene products (plates, cups, containers, egg cartons, block packaging, and packing materials)
    • Plastic hangers
    • Non-electric plastic toys
    • Plastic swimming pools
    • Plastic laundry baskets
    • Car seats (cloth removed)

If you wonder what the plastic recycling codes mean, click here. The easiest to recycle are plastic types 1 (PETE: Polythylene Terephthalate, such as soda bottles) and 2 (HDPE: High-Density Polyethylene, used for detergents, milk, bleach, shampoos, and motor oil). As you can see, Los Angeles collects types 1 through 7, but most are handled in landfills with all the other trash.

The pity of it is that something can be done, but the economic will to do so is lacking. In the meantime, the plastic manufacturing companies continue to churn out their products and pay lobbyists to fight ordinances to regulate them.

Coming Apart Like a Cheap Suit

In the End, Will His Main Legacy Be Gold Plumbing Fixtures?

I fear that, in our country’s history, the Trump administration will in the end be like a persistent skid mark on one’s underwear. The disintegration seems to be accelerating, as our President is being assailed on all sides—except by his die-hard fans in flyover country. The incompetence almost seems to be spreading, like the Nothing in the movie The Neverending Story (1984). In that film, the Nothing is described as “a manifestation of the loss of hopes and dreams.” That is a very good description of the way I feel as the 2020 election approaches.

Since his inauguration in January 2017, Trump has become the anti-President, whose main goal was the dismantling of the apparatus of government—especially those benefits that seemed to benefit voters in any way. His rule has benefited only those multi-millionaires, who, like him, are against paying any taxes at all.

The political parties gearing up for 2020 are like, to use a witticism by Jorge Luis Borges, two bald men fighting over a comb.