Acrid Smoke

 

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Nobody needs to know the truth about what happened here. They wouldn’t believe it even if we told them. Dead people were walking and talking and now they’re gone. That’s all we have to admit. Why they came back from the dead and what they were trying to accomplish is anybody’s guess. We don’t have to get all caught up in making sense of it, or explaining it to people who want to be argumentative. Lots of people get off on being contrary. That doesn’t mean we have a problem. It means they enjoy being difficult and pretending to be more intelligent than us. They aren’t.

The dead people smelled bad. It wasn’t that rotting flesh dead animal by the side of the road dumpster behind a fast food restaurant smell. It was an acrid, smoky odor that surrounded them even if the wind were blowing.

They also whined a lot. You found yourself just wanting to slap them, except you were afraid their head might fly off if you did, so you just tried to change the subject and hopefully they would forget their griping. They all seemed to want someone to fix them, to give them justice, to make them alive once more. Nobody could. They knew that, and knowing it just made them whine all the more.

A lot of us became unnerved by their sudden appearance. Now that they’re gone, we’re doing our best to get back to business as usual. Some people claim the smell hasn’t really vanished. On a humid day, you can still detect that acrid, smoky scent.

My brother is a scientist, and works at the nearby observatory the FBI closed last week. He says he can’t disclose what he knows, but insists that the dead being resurrected is somehow linked to solar flares. Beyond that he won’t say any more. He sold all his stocks and put the house on the market, even though he has no plans to move away. Even though he didn’t say so directly, I got the impression that no place is safe. Nowhere is better than here.

He’s not upset at all about the resurgence of the dead. He’s more worried about bubbles bursting, the stock market, housing prices, the value of the dollar itself. In fact, most people aren’t really that concerned about what happened. “Shit happens,” they say and move on with their lives. The thing most people found irritating was the condescending attitude the walking corpses had when they spoke to us.

It was like they were school teachers or snotty professors. Their leader was a very short woman, probably under four feet tall, who spoke as if we were all not very bright school children.

Around them we became dull and inattentive. In some ways they seemed to have more life in them than we had in us.

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While I’m still on the planet

Endure and thrive

I’m listening to Chopin nocturnes and wondering how someone who changed the world of music so completely came to be who he was, to achieve the level of mastery he did, and to persist creating something new despite few financial rewards. It just seems incredible that there was a world of music before Chopin that did not directly lead to his output. I’ve listened to others who pointed a bit in that direction, but he pretty much had the field all to himself. He invented the Nocturne and the Ballade. He sprang full-grown as a brilliant innovator. All over the world people are studying his music yet. Ten thousand Asian girls under the age of twelve are learning to play his compositions.

I am sixty-eight and I’m just about to launch into a Nocturne I’ve always admired but been reluctant to tackle because it’s either got four sharps or flats…

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If Present Conditions Allow

Endure and thrive

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We all know that we’re only here for a while. Just passing through. We might as well dig what can be dug and not bemoan not having what advertising and simple envy have told us we must have in order to be happy. We can be really happy right now once we decide to conclude that present conditions allow it.

If that feels like self-delusion or selling ourselves short, again blame advertising. Is the light coming through the window and falling onto the bed coming it at the right angle, or could it be improved? Is that wrinkle on the pillowcase perfect the way it is or is it all wrong? How about the chirping of the birds outside? Too loud, too strident?

It’s obvious that the inability to enjoy the present moment is something learned. These documentary films that heighten our expectations about natural beauty actually do a great…

View original post 26 more words

Down the Drain

Rothman-Are-Bosses-Dictators

 

What happens, happens. We can delude ourselves into thinking that we’re in control, but we’re not. Not even close. Things will work out the way they’re going to. We could assume, the way they’re supposed to, but that implies there’s somebody else in charge who knows what’s best.

Recent evidence suggests that’s probably not the case.

The catastrophic and sudden collapse of our government took everyone by surprise, even those who hastened its demise. Trump never expected to win, and when he did, it shocked everyone, even Trump. Well, that shock was nothing compared to the sudden realization that we had lost every bit of democracy and benevolent rule we once enjoyed. Thugs were now fully in charge, and they seemed to enjoy their thuggery.

It was like watching Clockwork Orange, only it was real, and instead of England, it was America. Now there were no longer simple hints of anti-intellectualism, but a full-blown assault on intelligence and reasoning. Truth was an outdated concept. There was only belief and submission to the state. What Mussolini had hinted at, Trump had accomplished.

People had to pretend to be stupid in order to escape being targeted. Suddenly we became a nation of good old boys, Stepford Wives, grinning hayseeds. Rumors of lynchings spread, but none were reported by Fox News. The official face of America, at least the one you could see on TV, looked like the Mormons were in charge. You simply couldn’t be too white.

Homosexuals, intellectuals, people of color, and immigrants all kept their heads down. Better to blend in than to attract attention. Maybe this was just a phase we were going through. Maybe this would soon blow over. Somebody pointed out that’s how the rich Jews felt when they didn’t abandon their homes in Poland, Belgium and France. When they didn’t get out while the going was good.

The startling fact was that no one was making this happen. This wasn’t a conspiracy, a plot by the Deep State, this was simply mob rule. The Madness of Crowds. When 330,000,000 people decide to swerve, it’s a change with momentum behind it. Maybe unstoppable momentum.

The fact that the friendly neighborhood policeman had been replaced by a hormone-hopped hulk dressed in camouflage and body armor hadn’t really caused alarm until now. Now there were unmarked buses with blacked out windows moving about, taking somebody somewhere. Rumors spread that the FEMA camps were filling.

Popular entertainment and broadcast journalism simply ignored the phenomena. Movies starring superheros continued to be made and distributed. Sometimes that’s all you could find at your local cinema. Nobody complained, at least not out loud. Studios and cinema owners were happy because audiences kept coming. Not just teenagers, even adults thronged to view empty spectacle.

The last symphony orchestras and dance companies folded quickly and quietly. Universities shut down programs that didn’t attract grant funding. Since most jobs had already been sent abroad, there wasn’t much for most young people to do. Almost half of the people under thirty were in drug treatment or prison.

And this was just the beginning.

It got worse.

It wasn’t just America that was in crisis. Europe was roiling with social unrest. Huge numbers of immigrants were no longer even the least bit welcome in their host countries, and yet they had nowhere to go. You can’t very well send someone back to Kenya or Nigeria who spent his life savings traveling across Niger and Libya to board a rubber raft to take his chances crossing the Mediterranean to get to Sicily and then up to France where he hoped to hop across the English channel and take his seat on a cardboard box next to the homeless in London. You can’t simply send them home. There are too many of them, and besides, they’d just return.

All of a sudden, any progress mankind seemed to have made or have been making disappeared. We were heading down, straight down, swirling down some sort of cosmic drain, and the process seemed to be accelerating. Some people offered solutions, but nothing stuck. Some people claimed to know who was at fault, but a strange lethargy took over, and no meaningful actions were taken.

Then the plague started. It moved with lightening speed, killing half the population of China in a week. India and Africa were next. No one was certain how many had died, because the scope and scale were unheard of. The first peaceful use of nuclear weapons was to incinerate huge mounds of bodies. Burial was unthinkable. Disposal at sea unacceptable.

With so many dead, the support structures of these countries collapsed as well, leading to waves of subsequent deaths to to famine and cholera. All borders were closed. Air travel ceased.

For some reason, only the United States and Western Europe seemed to have been spared, but then their turn came. Fatality rates of eighty percent. Much higher than Ebola.

By now the rich and powerful had long ago disappeared into hidden bunkers. Since they were hiding they weren’t communicating with anyone, so no one was sure they had survived.

Someone who still managed to reach an audience compared the collapse of civilization to a motor that had been allowed to fall into disrepair. At first it wobbled, groaned, screeched, and finally ground to a halt. No amount of kicking or prodding got it running again.

The collapse of the power grid, food distribution, water treatment, and transportation continued. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Capitalism still functioned to provide for people who could pay for goods and services, even though the prices were sky-high and selection severely limited.

By now, the only restaurants were owned a a conglomerate of Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Bayer, Pepsico, and Nestle. Their favorite locations were the food courts of shopping malls, where they could have ten or fifteen various outlets with different names and themes, but all basically serving the same food under different labels.

Most of it was pizza or bread of some kind holding a meat of dubious origin. The drinks were artificially sweetened and mildly radioactive. Each featured several large-screen televisions which also served as surveillance cameras.

Finally, Donald Trump surfaced. He or someone resembling him appeared on the only television channel still working, Fox and Friends. He blamed Obama and Hillary Clinton for what had happened, and claimed that if people had only trusted and respected him, we would by now have been enjoying the great future he had planned for us.

Then the picture went dark and food court patrons who had been watching continued to stare at the dark screen for a very long time because they had no where else to go.