Concentration Camps

DSCN0544

Representative Alexandria Occasion-Cortez, of New York, recently called the U.S. detention camps for migrants “concentration camps.” She caused quite a stir by so saying. I have been saying the same thing for months. I feel that it is a complete moral outrage for the American government to detain these men, women, and children in these camps.

Now we are arguing over the terminology. In my view a thing ought to be called what it is. And these camps are clearly concentration camps. The meet the technical definition. Historian Andrea Pitzer has made the same assertion in her piece in Esquire magazine: “The United States has created a concentration system.” She argues that mass detention of civilians without a trail was what made these concentration camps.  The full text of AOC’s tweet reads as follows: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States, for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis.”

Strange bedfellows Liz Cheney and Bill Maher condemned the remarks as being emotionally laden with memories and connotations of the holocaust. Masha Gessen, writing in the New Yorker, says this is a failure of imagination. We don’t’ want or cannot imagine a world where we as a people would be evil enough to place human beings in the same predicament as the Nazis did in WWII. Well, I agree with Green and I disagree with Bill Maher. Maher every once in a while, strikes a sour note and sings out of tune. It is surprising coming from a fellow who wears his political incorrectness on his sleeve like a red badge of courage.

These camps meet the technical definition of concentration camps, and so what if it brings up images and memories of the holocaust? It doesn’t devalue it. Rather, it shrieks out a warning, do not go there! It should be a warning that this is what we are capable of, the same thing the Nazis did in WWII. This what Hannah Arendt describes as the banality of evil.

We have to have the moral imagination to realize what we are doing is wrong and can lead to greater evil. We need to make a course correction now!

 

 

A Quiet, Clean, Well-Lighted Place

 

sabrina’s3350918537899816322..jpg

It was late and everyone had left the café except for me. I was sitting at a sidewalk table in front of the window and could watch the passersby on their way home. A tree sat a few feet from me in a large round pot casting a shadow over the empty table sitting next to it. A slight breeze gently moved the leaves on the tree. There was enough light to read by. I liked to sit late at night in this café and read and drink my whiskey and soda in peace. It was quiet now that all the other customers had left. There only remained two waiters, one old like me and the other young. The younger one seemed impatient to go home. Probably had a wife to go home too. That was not the case for me or I suspect the other waiter.

Last week I attempted suicide.

Why, you may ask?

Loneliness, despair, I don’t know. Just couldn’t stand the pain of going on.

It wasn’t for lack of money. No, no, I have plenty. There just didn’t seem to be any point going on. I was saved at the last minute by my niece who cut me down. I’m not sure she did me any favors.

I noticed out in the street a soldier and a girl walking briskly by. They better get home soon, I thought, or they will be out past curfew and have to pay the price. Hope he gets what he wants.

I signaled the waiter for another drink.

The younger waiter sauntered over.

“What will you have?”

“Another whisky and soda.”

“You’ll be drunk.”

I just looked at him. He went away.

The two waiters were huddled together at a table near the door. They were whispering. Probably talking about me I thought. Probably want me to go. Well, I’m not ready to go.

The waiter went to the bar and poured a shot of Woodford into a tumbler of ice and spritzed it with soda water. He carried the drink outside to where I was sitting. He placed the drink in front of me and said, “You should have killed yourself last week.”

He probably thought I couldn’t hear what he was saying as I am practically deaf. But I hear well enough in a quiet environment.

The waiter went back into café and sat down with his work mate. They began whispering again. Probably think I’m drunk and need to leave, I thought. Oh, well, I’ll stay a little longer and have one more for the road. I had a wife once. She left me long ago.

I like this place. It is clean, well-lighted, and quiet.

I motioned to the waiters for another drink.

“Another whiskey and soda, amigo.”

“No,” the young waiter said. “You’re done. Time to go.”

“Another,” I insisted.

“We are closing now.” He began to wipe the table clean with his towel.

I slowly stood up, looked at the bill he had unceremoniously laid on the table.  I pulled my cash from my pocket and paid the bill, leaving a modest tip.

I walked down the street away from the café slowly, a bit unsteadily, but with as much dignity as I could muster. I could feel the eyes of the two waiters burning a hole in my back. I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I didn’t want to face my dark room and the empty bed. One more drink, I thought. There must be some place open tonight. Only thing was, they would unlikely be as clean and well-lighted or as nice as this last one was. I didn’t want any music. No, I really couldn’t stand to listen to any music. And it would be difficult to stand with dignity in front of a bar. What was it I wanted? Just a clean, quiet, well-lighted place. What was it I had? A whole lot of nothing. I faced a cold void, full of nothing. A darkness. Deliver us from nothingness.

I came to a bar that was open and stood at the counter.

“What will it be?” asked the counter man.

“Nothing. I’ll have a cup of nothing.”

“What, are you crazy, old man?”

I laughed.

“I’ll have shot of Tequila, then. Patron.”

“This is a very bright place you have here,” I said, “and it is very pleasant, but the bar needs cleaning.”

The counterman gave me a look, but did not speak. It was too late to talk.

“You want another shot?” he asked.

“No thanks,” I said and left.  I dislike bars and dirty cafes. A quiet, clean, well-lighted place is a different matter altogether.

Now, I will go home. I will lie in my bed and fall asleep just as the day is breaking. I am probably not the only one who has trouble sleeping, I thought to myself, as I walked the six blocks back to my apartment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art

Museum Exhibition

On a recent trip to Houston, Texas my step daughter Kim and I had occasion to visit the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. This is something I always do when in Houston as the museum here is world class and they always have great exhibitions. This time was no exception. On exhibit, much to our delight, were the paintings of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).

vincent van gogh1063231402590607221..jpg

Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait

This exhibit highlights the artist’s early years in the Netherlands; his luminous period in Paris; his search for light and color in the South of France; and his exploration of nature as a source of enduring inspiration in Saint-Rémy and Auvers.

windmills by vincent van gogh8948790566959620560..jpg

Street Scene in Montmartre Le Mpulin a Poivre, Feb.-March 1887

The exhibition showcases portraits, landscapes, and still lifes drawn primarily from the collections of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands.

in the cafe by vincent van gogh5096603125231083774..jpg

In the Cafe: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin, January-March 1887

basket of lemons and bottle  vincent van gogh3337883266501413925..jpg

Basket of Lemons and Bottle, May 1888

The color yellow held a particular fascination for Vincent van Gogh. Experiencing the intense sunlight of the South he once wrote his brother Theo, in Paris, “Sunshine, a light which, for want of a better word I can only call yellow – pale sulfur yellow, pale lemon, gold.”

20190408_2255318381990767779926618.jpg

Portrait of a Prostitute, December 1885

Van Gogh, who lived with a former prostitute for years in the Hague, was particularly sympathetic to these women cast out by society.

20190407_2317182310327502784376358.jpg

The Langlois Bridge at Arles, 1888

20190407_232026535279423080811825.jpg

Still Life with a Plate of Onions, January 1889

This picture was painted the day after Van Gogh was released from the hospital where he was being treated  for the self inflicted injury to his ear. The book in the painting is a handbook of homeopathic medicine and the envelope belongs to a letter he had received from  from his bother Theo.

20190417_0718573361293919708900404.jpg

Tarascon Stagecoach (La Diligence de Tarascon), October 1888

20190517_0810328602098506600017399.jpg

The Sheaf Binder (after Millet), September 1889

20190517_081347522295016535960162.jpg

Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet), September 1889

20190518_0837026821223016373155743.jpg

The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), May 1890

dscn09694583927250191742.jpg

Portrait of a Peasant Woman in a Straw Hat, June 1890

20190408_2249024744928784744617100.jpg

Women Crossing the Fields, 1890

Van Gogh had seen these women walking and described them in a letter to his brother Theo just a month before he died. It was in one of these Auvers wheat fields that he shot himself with a revolver on July 27, 1890.

20190518_0842404884366608971820314.jpg

Farmhouse with Two Figures, 1890

20190519_0914094758951936766115417.jpg

Irises, May 1980

20190408_224534-13237111709082994879.jpg

A Pair of Leather Clogs, autumn 1889

20190520_072239-13959632112078906514.jpg

Tree Trunks with Ivy, July 1889

Feeling to weak to live Van Gogh checked himself into The Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental hospital at St. Remy. in May 1889. He was allowed to paint out of doors, but was confined to the garden of the hospital where he painted several versions of this sous-bois of tree trunks and undergrowth.

20190408_224346-16568697279590641040.jpg

The Garden of the Asylum at Saint-Remy, May 1889

There is little doubt that Vincent was a talented genius and a tortured soul. These  magnificent master works are on display for all to see at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts through June 27.

 

The Sound and the Fury

Book Review

20190603_1509536147826496329215840.jpg

 

I must admit reading Faulkner is a bit of a challenge. I didn’t know how big of a challenge until I started reading The Sound and the Fury.

Reading challenging material has it rewards however, and I’m glad I did. Here are some of my thoughts about this strange and enchanting novel.

First, the title. It is from a quote by Shakespeare from his play, Macbeth: “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” Act 5, scene 5

The idiot in this case has a double meaning. Shakespeare is referring to man writ large but Faulkner is referring not only to all mankind but the first section of the novel is narrated (told) by Benjy, a mentally retarded (idiot) family member. It takes a while to figure this out. Faulkner brilliantly takes us inside the head of this mentally retard person and his tale is told in a sort of a primitive poetry.

The Sound and the Fury is divided into four parts. The first three parts are written from the points of view of the three Compson brothers. The fourth and final section is told by an omniscient narrator.

The time-line is a little confusing as each section is told out of joint, so to speak, as follows:

Part 1. April 7, 1928 (Holy Saturday) – Benjy

Part 2.  June 2, 1910 – Quentin

Part 3. April 6, 1928 (Good Friday) – Jason

Part 4. April 8, 1928 (Easter Sunday) – Omniscient Narrator

Faulkner wrote Quentin and Jason’s sections, he says, to clarify Benjy’s section. “I had already begun to tell it through the eyes of an idiot child (Benjy). I had to tell the same story through the eyes of another brother.”

According to Faulkner, in his introduction to the book, he set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. It began with the image of the little girl’s (Caddie) muddy drawers. “I was just trying to tell the story of Caddy, the little girl who had muddied up her drawers and was climbing up the pear tree to look in the window where her grandmother lay dead.”

Faulkner writes of the south which he describes as old, since dead as opposed to the north which is young, since alive. The Civil War killed the south. There is a thing called the new south, but it is not the south. Only southerners have taken horse whips and pistols to editors about the treatment or maltreatment of their manuscripts.

I was born in the south, but I have had the privilege of living all over the United Sates. The last twenty years of my life I lived in the northeast before returning to my roots in Kentucky. My friends in the north would ask me what was it I liked about the south? I like everything about the south, I would answer. But I could always tell they were deeply suspicious.

In Jean-Paul Sartre’s review he states that a critic’s task is to define the writer’s metaphysics. He says it is immediately obvious that Faulkner’s metaphysics is time. Man’s misfortune lies in his being time bound. “…man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you’d think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune.” This, then, is the real subject of the book: “…time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when time stops does time come to life.”

Faulkner frequently refers to the “branch” in his novel, and remarks that the branch was to “become the dark, harsh flowing of time.”

The best description of the book also comes from Sartre: “Faulkner’s vision of the world can be compared to that of a man sitting in an open car and looking backwards at every moment, formless shadows, flickering, faint tremblings and patches of light rise up on either side of him, and only afterwards, when he has a little perspective, do they become trees and men and cars.”

Faulkner does wonderful things with dialect and idiom. A couple of examples:

“I wuz huntin’ possums in dis country when dey was still drownin’ nits in yo pappy’s head wid coal oil, boy. Ketchin um, too.” Louis

“Dat’s de troof. Boll-weevil got tough time. Work ev’y dayin de week out in the hot sun, rain er shine. Aint got no front porch to set and watch the wattermilyuns grow and saty’dy don’t mean nothin a-tall to him.” Uncle Job

And finally, as finely wrought a piece of prose as I have ever read describing Dilsey:

“The gown fell gauntly from her shoulders, across her fallen breasts, then tightened upon her paunch and fell again, ballooning a little above the nether garments which she would remove later layer by layer as the spring accomplished and the warm days, in color regal and moribund. She had been a big woman once but now her skeleton rose, draped loosely in unpadded skin that tightened again upon a paunch almost dropsical, as though muscle and tissue had been courage and fortitude which the days or the years had consumed until only the indomitable skeleton was left rising like a ruin or a landmark above the somnolent and impervious guts, and above that the collapsed face that gave the impression of the bones themselves being outside the flesh, lifted into the driving day with an expression at once fatalistic and of a child’s astonished disappointment, until she turned and entered the house again and closed the door.”

The past takes on a super reality. The present moves along in the shadow, like an underground river. Everything is absurd. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle of Algiers

Movie Review

Battle of Algiers

 

The Battle of Algiers is an Italian film directed by Gillo Pontecorvco, which was produced in 1966. It depicts true events which occurred during the Algerian war of independence from France, which was fought from 1955 – 1962. The events depicted in the movie occurred during the Battle of Algiers which took place from 1954-1957.

This film has been ranked in the top 100 films ever made. It was banned in France for five years where it was finally released in 1974. The Battle of Algiers is an important commentary on guerrilla warfare.  Revolutionary guerrilla fighters holed up and grouped together in cells in the Casbah section of Algiers. French paratroopers attempted to wipe them out. The movie is about this struggle and the methods used by both sides.

The tactics of the National Liberation Front (FLN) guerrilla insurgency and the French counter-insurgency are shown in the film. The French colonial power committed atrocities against the civilian population of their Algerian colony and the colonized insurgents committed atrocities against the civilian population of their oppressors in a spiraling escalation of violence. The FLN engaged in acts of terrorism by placing bombs in public places such as restaurants, nightclubs, and airports, indiscriminately killing civilians in the European Quarter.  The French paratroopers tortured, intimidated, and murdered members of the FLN. The use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique is depicted.  Algeria eventually won its independence in 1962.

Some of the scenes that really struck me were the incidents of waterboarding by the French Paratroopers, the men of the FLN covering themselves in burqas like women to disguise themselves and escape detection,  FLN women dressing like European women and carrying bombs in baskets, and in the end the women ululating in victory when Algeria won its independence.

The Battle Algiers is as relevant today as it was in 1965.The film was screened by the Pentagon in August 2003 as a field guide to fighting terrorism. Former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brezezinski, said: “If you want to understand what is happening right now in Iraq, I recommend The Battle of Algiers.” This film was also used by the Black Panthers as a training film. I am sure there are other terrorists groups that have been influenced by the film as well. The Boson Bombing suspects come immediately to mind.

The film, shot in black and white, is a triumph of realistic production values and heavily influence by Italian Neorealism of the 1950’s. It was filmed on location in Algiers using the real locations in the European quarters and the Casbah. It was so realistic that Pontecorvo had to issue a disclaimer that not one foot of documentary or newsreel footage was used in his two hours of film. Everything was shot live.

The film was nominated  for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, Best Screen Play, and Best Director. It was the winner of the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMORIAL DAY

Remember the fallen

img_20190527_082351_0773532254642203031101.jpg

Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC

Field of Stone

The soldiers lie in a field of stone

Giving all for their country

Their day is done

Death is the great levlelator

He levels each playing field

One by one

All are equal when the day is done.

img_20190527_082421_828244163715689448818.jpg

img_20190527_082509_3524229678664674133128.jpg

That’s Treason!

Benidiict Arnold

Benedict Arnold

The word treason has been bandied about a lot lately. Both by Donald Trump describing his political enemies and his political enemies describing him. There are many who say they don’t know what they are talking about. No less a political pundit that Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s, The Last Word, says it’s impossible to at this time to commit treason, as there is no war declared by congress currently being waged. The last person who was convicted of treason was convicted for offences during WWII.

Words matter and it is important to know what they mean. There is more than one definition of treason. There is the technical legal definition as stated in the US Constitution and there is the more generic definition which can be found in any good dictionary.

The legal definition of treason is as follows: The crime of betraying one’s country, defined in Article III, section 3 of the US Constitution: Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.

The dictionary or more generic definition of treason is as follows: The crime of betraying one’s country, especially attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the country the government. Synonyms: treachery, disloyalty.

Another simpler definition: The act of betraying someone or something.

So, you see, everyone is right, and no one is wrong. Or are they?

Pretty sure Trump is conflating the two meanings. If he is talking about the legal term of treason then people like James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and FBI agent Peter Strzok would all be subject to the death penalty. A pretty serious charge and one that could only emanate from a deranged mind.

On the other hand, Trump has recently said, while he was on foreign soil, that he agreed with North Korea’s murderous dictator, Kim Jong Un, that Joe Biden was a low IQ fool. Pretty disloyal. And what about the fact that Trump sides with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies? This could certainly be grounds for disloyalty.

So, who is the treasonous party?

 

 

First Car

20190426_1158087810885865026477447.jpg

I am a great believer of synchronicity and love to connect the dots. My first car was a 1954 Buick Century with a Dyna-Flo transmission, which I purchased for $300 from a salesman by the name of Grundy Hayes in 1965 at Broadway Chevrolet, in Louisville, Kentucky when I was seventeen years old. I will never forget that day or that purchase. Grundy wore a pale green suit and a brown straw fedora hat. He had a smiling face and a gravelly voice.

20190426_1157383197282514935493081.jpg

Fast forward 50 years. I’m reading a book of short stories called Sad Stories of the Death  the Death of Kings. It is a book of vignettes written by Barry Gifford about a boy growing up in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s. I’m pretty sure the boy Roy is a stand in for the author himself.

In the story, “Roy’s First Car,” Barry details a 1955 Buick Century with a Dyna-Flo transmission which the boy Roy purchases for $300. Boom!

How’s that for a coincidence?  When I read that passage it about blew my mind! But wait, it gets weirder.

In 2015, I’m standing in a car dealership shooting the shit with a “lot boy” named Joe. Joe was actually was about 70 years old. He was an old colored gentleman with white cottony hair. I was a car salesman at the time. We were both standing there gazing out the show room windows surrounded by new cars. I was reminiscing about the past.

“Yep, my first car was a 1954 Buick. I bought it off a guy name of Grundy Hayes back in the 60s at Broadway Chevrolet.”

20190426_1157383197282514935493081.jpg

“Yeah, I know Grundy.” Says old Joe.

“What? Really? You do? Is Grundy still alive?”

“Yeah, I believe he is….”

As usual, fate took a hand.

Bad Motherfucker

2018-10-04_08-10-535692476120191192253.jpg

Winter: You are a bad motherfucker, Benn, unless I am totally mistaken.

my baby's crib in germantown9114817523072582721..jpg

Benn: Well, that’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a while…. Reach down in that bag and get my wallet would you?

Reach down in that bag and get my wallet will you?20180809_1234327137125244527381123.jpg

Winter: Which one is it?

hanging out in mt3725568953489631872..jpg

Benn: It’s the one that says: BAD MOTHER FUCKER

20190510_1406451861608303118809284.jpg