Category Archives: Uncategorized

The End

To all of the friends, colleagues, clients, allies, and definitely including online friends, thank you.

I won’t manage to write personally to all the many people who have touched my life in some positive way, but I appreciate each of you.

I perceived an end approaching, for me, more than six years ago. At no point since then can I recall really thinking “things are turning out better than I dreaded; I’m going to forget the entire idea of getting out.”

Many of you have only met me within this time period. Looking back, up until late 2019 I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Even amid stressful ups and downs, we had some times. The two and a half years since have still included some interest, certainly. But an extended negative trend within the ups and downs is undeniable now.

I have concluded that a lot of things were effectively beyond rescue—a lot of rescue efforts hopelessly ineffective and yet themselves firmly stuck within established concepts and forms and actions—years ago. Some day, the old culture may simply no longer be able to sustain itself. Perhaps a genuinely meaningful rebuilding will follow that. But I expect a long period of ruin and loss and futility between now and then.

I can’t keep doing this. My interest has left me, my heart is broken, and not all hurts can be healed.

I have spent years exploring this, testing out perspectives and alternatives and assertions of possibility. Of my conclusions I have written at length, elsewhere. But I have lived and had a good life, and now the good part seems to be past. I have decided to go.

I would like to be wrong. For my outlook to prove too pessimistic, too soon. I would like there to be a brighter future in which all of you will be safe and well. I wish with all my heart that this will be so. And I wish, in such event, you will think of me with a little kindness, a little forgiveness, if you have it in you.

Fare well.

Video message June 2022

Obviously I lean toward the written word, but, in this case…

Parting Thoughts

Deceit
I regret deceiving people as I have prepared to take my leave, even if mostly by omission. I apologize. In partial defense, how often do any of us give an entirely honest and complete answer to “how’s life,” these days? I believe that I have provided a thorough accounting, now, for whatever that’s worth.

Supportive People
I have in recent years been blessed with excellent people in my life, to whom I am very grateful. I want to emphasize this. If I (or anyone else) was minded to identify anyone as letting me down, I could make a long list but it would not include the good people around me. For many years the difficulties engulfing us have been mounting, and extensive corrosion has been normalized within groups and other institutions which are supposed to lead our defense. During several difficult years of recognizing and processing that, I have in contrast had some great people helping me nonetheless endure the journey this far. Thank you!

Physical Health
I seem to have no physical complaints beside aches and pains. Having over 20 years struggled with eventual success to get a handle on allergies, extended injury, tension, inflammatory bowel disease… the overall presence of physical ailments in my life seems neither elevated nor on an upward trend at present. It can be said that being dependent upon a prescription drug to treat Crohn’s disease is one more complicating factor, among those which have dampened whatever enthusiasm I might otherwise have felt for various “walk away from it all” adventures. Oh well. That’s alright.

Left Unfinished
I have a similar outlook on personally incomplete work, and curiosity about how various activities in the larger world play out. I feel some interest; it’s very limited set against the readiness to be done with all this. Yes I wonder about how the war in Ukraine turns out; I have imagined reviewing the notes I have taken, to look for patterns, turning points, good analysis and misconceptions, and writing something about it. But I have no expectation that a happy world will follow in which Russia replaces its oligarchy with progressive democratic governance. Likewise, as I spelled out in Nemesis, I perceive America as politically stuck even in the extremely unlikely event of “good” midterm elections for the feckless Democrats. (If the January 6 Committee hearings, or Department of Justice actions, turn 2022 politics completely upside down in a lasting way, let history record my skepticism as a stupendously wrong call.) I wonder how much Portuguese I would grasp if I finish the entire DuoLingo course. I would like to add a few items to my Sherlock Holmes collection and reach the 100th. I would like to see more of the world. But I have traveled, already; I have lived. A background of perma-crisis reduces my enthusiasm for lots more, of even life’s redeeming features.

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Sherlock Holmes collection count: 96

My Sherlock Holmes collection finishes with 96 items, for reasons addressed in another post. I haven’t quite doubled it to a round 100 items, since seven years ago, but it occurred to me recently to make some closing notes anyway; why not. This very occasional project has provided interest to me for 11 years, now, and in happier circumstances I would might continue it for decades.

Obviously, since getting to 50 took about four years, and the next 46 items took several years, I have slowed down collecting. A lot of things happened to the world and to me since the middle of 2015. But also, it is not a race, and as recent weeks have demonstrated to me, I have accumulated so much stuff.

Anyway, since I have a list of collection items (chronological since the first few entries), let’s see what I have added and make notes on what interests me.

Warlock Holmes did make me laugh, although I’m skeptical about it sustaining a series; who knows. Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, this is a collection highlight. One of the best anthologies. A good mix of excellent science fiction Holmes or Holmes-inspired adventures. (This is one of the books which, silly perhaps, but I set aside for now while packing up those around it.)

I have one of the Solar Pons books. It’s okay. I would certainly pick up others if I came across them. I have missed the public library’s book sales, since the pandemic halted them; some times I didn’t find much, but some times I would find three or four items for my collection all at once, for just a few dollars total, and it made me happy.

The Trial of Sherlock Holmes comic book series is a good story with okay art. Good for you, Leah Moore (and John Reppion). People born in 1978, represent.

Terror by Night is one of the Rathbone/Bruce films, and a satisfying amusing outing. Sherlock Holmes in New York, the Roger Moore film, is of similar quality; perhaps I wrote something about that one already?

Mycroft and Sherlock, splendid like all (three so far) of the Holmes novels by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse. A Study in Terror I wanted for years, I think I finally ordered this one in the Spring of 2020 because, you know, we thought the world was distressing then, so I bought myself a treat or two. It’s okay. Not the best Holmes/Ripper story, certainly not the worst. The structure is a mild novelty.

Sherlock Holmes in Modern Times, what a weird find. Maybe I already wrote about this one, too, but yeah just weird. Essentially short puzzle stories all interested in points of the law (the author’s profession), and not especially much of a Sherlock Holmes book, but well worth including in a collection of nearly 100 items just for the oddness.

Sherlock Holmes: The Beginning, an interesting choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel, and an adequate Holmes story.

The LIFE magazine special, the penultimate item in the collection, is worth highlighting just because I wanted this for years after seeing it at the supermarket and deciding it was too expensive, and hoping that I might score it cheaper somehow. I should have bought it, although in a way it worked out just as well. I ended up wishing for years that I might somehow obtain “the one that got away,” and at last to my surprise the publisher put a new printing into stores earlier this year. It was at least as expensive as ever, but I grabbed a copy. I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. In terms of editorial content, it’s nothing special; a stroll through the history of Sherlock Holmes the literary phenomenon (emphasizing the years during Doyle’s lifetime). Very competently written, but not a lot new for me. Yet it’s a wonderful artifact, lavishly designed, almost a soft-cover coffee table book. This too gave me a brief experience of happiness.

Item 96, Observations by Gaslight, I obtained only this month; an internet purchase, it arrived June 4. Having committed myself by early this year to some course of action which would involve departing without most (or all) of my possessions, I had not expected to add any more to the collection. But… without getting too far into another subject, I will just note that it’s hard at the end. Again, we thought late Spring 2020 was distressing, but wow how innocent that time seems now.

So I added one more item, a new one from Lindsay Faye. I have her two previous Holmes books as well. I think that The Whole Art of Detection is the best, and among the better class of Holmes pastiches in general. I would probably need to spend more time with the other two before deciding which is second-best, but Observations by Gaslight is good. I read it quickly and have no regrets about closing this 11-year project (among other things) with it.

As for the future, well, I wrote an entire book in some sense about how remarkable it was that one particular book collection has survived together and substantially intact almost four centuries after its founder’s demise. I indulge in some small hope that my brother, who has shown some interest in the character, might take the collection at least to browse. Probably it will end up in a secondhand shop, however, and sooner rather than later. It could just end up in a dump; I don’t know. You can’t take it with you, and it’s complicated to arrange new homes for things even without the additional complication of a reason which it’s taboo to mention. Oh well.

“Is not all life pathetic and futile? Is not his story a microcosm of the whole? We reach. We grasp. And what is left in our hands at the end? A shadow. Or worse than a shadow—misery.” (Sherlock Holmes, in “The Retired Colourman”)

Personal Archive

Call this a reflex of the archivist or historian, or an attempt to “show my work,” or mere vanity; I don’t know. But I append, here, several files documenting my life and times in some way.

Personal life

Activism

Chronicling news and events

Climate Wreckers

A little over 16 years ago, I started keeping a list of people and organizations to blame for the ruin of a favorable climate, and all the pain and misery which will accompany that.

This list is by no means remotely exhaustive, or even well organized (or formatted). But it is the product of 16 years, even if the labor involved was mostly just moments here or there. It seems worth posting.

These are some of the monsters who have sabotaged our world as well as the attempts to protect it.

The “Competitive Enterprise Institute” is arguably best known for its work disputing the science of climate change, and the corporations’ support comes at a time when the think tank has played an outsized role in the Trump administration. Funders include Google and Amazon
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/10/climate/nyt-climate-newsletter-cei.html

David Victor (Pete Buttigieg Climate Advisor) Is a Fossil-Fuel-Funded Witness for The Trump Administration Against Children’s Climate Lawsuit http://www.hillheat.com/articles/2019/11/18/pete-buttigieg-climate-advisor-is-a-fossil-fuel-funded-witness-for-the-trump-administration-against-childrens-climate-lawsuit

Exxon’s senators:

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Better field alone won’t be enough

I recently came across a printout from about three years ago. After the 2018 election, in which Ohio Democrats’ paltry success seemed unacceptable when even Kansas was electing a Democratic governor, I spent several months trying to organize some kind of response. Ultimately I got about 15 Cleveland-area activist leaders to co-sign a letter demanding answers from the state party, and finally badgered the executive director into a meeting with us.

Views were exchanged and not much resulted beyond that, which doesn’t at all surprise me, now. I have accepted that Americans and our culture take the very ordinary human tendency, to maintain the same approach come what may, to an extreme of hypernormalization. I’m still glad that I tried to do something more; I think it’s one thing to dismiss the system as garbage and to drop out, and another thing to step up first and engage others in an organized effort to test the system’s responsiveness.

Meanwhile, this seems worth entering into the record, here, not because the Ohio Democratic Party is singularly deserving of a kicking but, to the contrary, because so much of this seems applicable to the entire project of American liberal democracy.

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Regression

I grew up in a culture and era of “progress” as a near certainty, for both technological and social progress.

That certainty was always, to a great extent, naive and myopic. The evidence for greater skepticism was always there. But the 21st century has hammered this home.

One big example, which I have expressed before, is that in the 19th century America had the cultural technology to close down and replace a major political party; at some point since then we seem to have lost that technology.

Lately I keep thinking, as American government largely acts powerless to address large supply constraints challenging our economy, that this is another cultural retrogression. Recall the major wars of the 20th century, and how American leadership wrung its hands and frowned about price increases, but remarked solemnly that “the economy was running too hot” and it was simply up to the Federal Reserve to slow it down and lower demand? Hopefully the answer is no, because that is not what happened.

Much can be said about the difference, of course, including the fact that America does not have a remotely functional political system now. That’s a kind of retrogression, itself, but it’s even broader than that, in this learned helplessness toward economic challenges which this culture actively addressed, effectively, not that many generations ago.

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January 6 Committee Hearing

The January 6 Committee offers a vision to America:

America belongs to Republicans, but they ought (which is not to say that they must) govern according to orderly processes.

Reading between the lines of how independent observers summarized and commented on the Committee’s first prime time hearing, this is the prevailing conceptual framework whether or not most people realize it.

America is ailing badly from a rotten, toxic system. (Either extreme inequality, mass shootings, an appalling COVID response etc., etc., have been adequate to establish that context, or else just never mind any of this.) The January 6 Committee is, above all, a reaction to Donald Trump’s guidance for Republicans, to exploit people by encouraging the rottenness.

Rep. Liz Cheney calls on her party to reject Trump’s guidance, and instead exploit people by preserving the system. It’s an entirely logical entreaty: The system advantages Republicans, and Democrats are willing to help uphold it nonetheless. Even now, the system is furthering Republican policy, and it was and remains irrational for Republicans to risk that simply to prevent a non-Republican from getting Air Force One for a few years. Cheney and her colleagues ask Republicans to wise up, embrace the system and strategic victory, and accept relatively trivial tactical reverses.

Nowhere in any of this is reform, or liberalism, or even democracy. The narrative being generated by the Committee uses that last word a lot, certainly, but the word is very firmly betrayed by the story being told around it.

(I wrote a short version of this analysis a couple of days ago.)

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A Positive Agenda, 2012 to 2022

During Spring cleaning, I recently came across a surprising artifact from ten years ago: a 20-page letter-sized mailer from Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

This is interesting to me for a number of reasons. I save campaign literature for a reference file, in recent years, but this was before all that and I completely forgot about it. I must have shoved it into the end of a shelf, for whatever reason, shortly after I moved into this apartment. It is quite a campaign piece. Well designed, but just big! Again, 20 pages! Whatever small fortune they spent on creative, and even printing, mailing these things was a bundle.

I think this is also an interesting historic artifact, already, and maybe a useful centerpiece for the latest in my usual musings on an unworkable political system.

Shortly before stumbling upon this brochure, I was thinking about how every election is now pitched by both parties as an emergency scramble to defend our values, our rights, our basic safety from destruction. This is intolerable, but among the various reasons that it continues nonetheless, what positive vision is there, these days?

Despite its title, “The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security” feels like the product of a well-established tradition, perhaps even a peak of the tradition’s refinement just before decadence and rot.

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