Archive for the 'Art Culture Politics' Category

Pandemic Notes #3

Among the 21,138+ Covid-19 deaths in NYC are neighborhood men who ran a local pizza joint and a corner bodega.

There are now 96,662+ coronavirus deaths in U.S. under the vicious incompetence of Donald Trump and his grand-old-pary-of-death-enablers. (These are Saturday’s numbers and will be bigger when this is published.)

Because the Republican-fascists are waging a multi-pronged battle to both suppress the number of deaths (see Florida, Georgia) and/or to simply deny them (see Fox and the other conspiracy-vectors), it’s important to remember the names of their victims. Lots of local media have obituaries on-line. This morning the New York Times is dedicating its front page to 1% of the victims. (That piece-of-shit Trump went golfing Saturday.) There are also these sources:

Those We’ve Lost

Faces of Corvid

Naming the Lost

Here’s a good analysis of the life-and-death contrast between NY and CA. I gather some people are entertained by the Brothers Cuomo on TV, but the picture above of the Cuomo-De-Blasio freezer trucks are a better representation of their criminal irresponsibility. Cuomo’s and De Blasio’s actions only look good in comparison to the genocidal Trump. (I wrote about these body-storage trailers in my first pandemic commentary.)

I am surprised people are falling for Cuomo’s performance. His miserable history, his actual actions, as governor have been on display for years now. His plans for the future: austerity, disaster capitalism, corporate control of education. It’s a softer nightmare than Trump’s gargoyle-riot, but it’s still vile.

The pandemic should have ripped apart the facade of bullshit that coats this nation. The responses to this disease, forecast for months, reveals the savagery of the republic like nothing else: the contempt for the elderly; the war on the poor; the murderous racism; the domestic terrorism of misogyny; the way the brutes gather for putsches in state capitals. The monstrousness of selfishness against public health, the unmasked sociopaths ranting about their “liberty” when they’re nothing but canon-fodder for their plutocratic masters.

In The Plague, Camus writes of the “secreted humours” being purged from the earth itself, the “abscesses and pus-clots that had been forming in its entrails,” all spilling out. Quite the documentarian, Camus. The shit rises — perhaps it will boil off?

Yet through it all, we, and I still think we are the majority, prevail.

“There’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea that may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is — common decency.” ~ Camus

And now, because you need some beauty in, and of
our world.

Earth Day After

I was seven in April of 1970. I don’t recall hearing about the first Earth Day. We were living in Canada then. Our modest Toronto suburb was at the extremity of the city line. Two houses down, Bestview (!) Street dead-ended in what seemed like the beginning of the prairie. It’s been developed since, but according to the satellite pictures, there’s a park beyond the high-rises. Back then, there was a copse in that seemingly endless expanse of field. In the copse was a house. (I don’t recall ever seeing this house, so perhaps it was mythological.) And in the house lived a fifteen-year-old, who seemed unimaginably grown-up. He had a pet raccoon.

I wrote about the first Earth Day in 1970 for Jstor Daily.

And, for Fine Books & Collections, I wrote about collecting environmental books and ephemera. This article was in the magazine, but is available free all this month for non-subscribers.

Every warbler vent/underside of tail tells a tale, at least of identity. They’re all species-unique. Any guesses on this one?

Pandemic Notes II

This April has been cooler than March. More rain, too. Or so it seems. The cruelest month? “Breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land” wrote Eliot, ladling out more metaphor than botany from his chilly Modernist citadel.

The NYC death toll is now over 13,000. I can’t keep up with the tally. In addition to the documented increase, they’ve now added several thousand probable coronavirus-deaths because of the big spike in at-home deaths.

As Republicans/sociopaths continue to hound the parents of children murdered in schools with taunts that it didn’t happen, the GOP’s organs have piled on with the conspiracy garbage, claiming over-counts, denying deaths. TV “doctors” Oz and Phil, quacks performing as medical professionals, belittle a mere 2-3% fatality rate and suggest that swimming pool deaths are contagious.

Now, not all Republicans are these raving scumbags, but they all “approve this message” when they vote for their authoritarian paladins and corrupt hucksters. They’re the audience for this garbage, they’re the little foot soldiers for their plutocratic masters. And they are the rich vein of funding. Wonder where that Nixonite David Nunes comes from? The fascist outrage machine is highly lucrative. Sunbelt retirees are a kind of cattle to be endlessly milked and bilked.

I can’t tell you how many “oh, look! nature is returning!” things I’ve seen in the last month. Some are fraudulent, magnified by gullible/hopeful social media users. Some are more overtly political, like the reactionary Daily Mail’s article about vultures over NYC. The British old folks’ tabloid suggested a flock of Turkey Vultures (three in the picture) was ominous and foreboding, gathering because of COVID deaths. But as readers of this blog, you know vultures coast over the city throughout the year (and over the years).

Other of these nature-returns stories are manifestations of a birth or rebirth of people’s attention. Hear more birds outside? Less car noise: check. (Lesson: cars and motorcycles are poison.) Migration and breeding season: check. It’s people’s own attentiveness that they are marveling about. The birds have always been there, but quieter streets and more home-time mean people are noticing them more.

I do hope this attentiveness stays with people. You can hear the birds through the traffic, if you listen.

Pandemic Notes

We live on 6th Avenue in Brooklyn, at the top of the Harbor Hill moraine, and look down towards Upper New York Bay. The water begins a block from 1st Avenue. That’s where you’ll find the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal facility stretching north from 39th St. In the last couple of days, some three dozen gleaming white semi-trailers have appeared there.

Typically, there’s little activity at the SBMT, at least that’s what it looks from up here. A tiny security company vehicle crosses the wide parking lot. A couple of times a week, a short train moving junk from the recycling plant just to the north runs to the dock further south, across tracks that run through the terminal’s enormous parking lot and then down 1st Avenue. The unexpected train whistle in the early morning booms up the hill. There’s often a large puddle on the parking lot, too, that serves gulls and crows, hangers-on at the recycling plant, as a place for baths. Periodically, local politicians have a photo-op on the terminal grounds to promise jobs at the site. For the four and a half years we’re lived here, the most notable activity noted down there was the arrival of several vast white tubular structures, like pre-fab missile silos. They sat there for years before they were dissembled on site by blow-torches. It was all quite inexplicable. As the sparks flew, I wondered what it that was all about, and how much it cost us in “economic development.”

The white semi-trailers look like the freezer trucks that have been parked outside area hospitals to take the overflow of bodies. Officially, 5,789 have died from the pandemic in the five boroughs of NYC as of 9am April 12. I say officially because a concomitant spike in deaths at home weren’t initially being counted. Nobody was testing at-home deaths. There have been very many more of these at-home deaths than the usual 20-25 a day. Undoubtedly, a good number of these were, and continue to be, coronavirus-related. The leadership, locally by Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and state-wide by Governor Andrew Cuomo—while vastly better than the murderous disaster of Trump—has been terrible. We are led by mediocrities and/or monsters. More details on the alarms sounding for months while Trump golfed and shoveled garbage tweets to his cult members.

Hospitals, morgues, funeral homes, and crematoria in the city are all filled to capacity, overbooked like some hellish airline flight. After spotting these white semi-trailers, devoid of commercial branding, I found this article about the city ordering 45 refrigerator trucks.

Of course, in a city of eight million, life goes on. Yadda god-damned yadda. I look down on the street and see three bros yucking it up as they triangulate the sidewalk with their six-foot distancing. None are masked, so they essentially block the sidewalk for themselves.

There seems to be a good mapping of coronavirus skepticism and climate disruption skepticism. The flavors of American fascism—militant ignorance, deranging conspiracy thinking, anti-expert “populism,” plutocratic string-pulling—combined with fundamentalist End Times fantasies and religious fatalism result in a deadly brew indeed. A number of Republican governors, especially in the Deep South—a region with the worst health and infant mortality rates in the nation, states historically designed to kill African Americans—have refused social distancing measures and even countermanded local versions decreed by mayors. Sub-Trumps and satangelicals—a portmanteau of my own, as far as I known, combining Satan with evangelical, because what else is the evangelical-Trump connection but some species of devil worship?—these fuckers model the vicious racist theocracy they wish to impose on the rest of us.

Meanwhile, there’s no end in sight.
***

The New York Review of Books has an excellent series of dispatches from around the world on the pandemic.

Eristalis tenax

An early flying Common Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax). An introduced species. A bee mimic. Their flight season is long, from mid-March to mid-November, but this was the only one seen this day a week ago.
***

Spring’s solace is dependent upon the winter, the bright awakening from cold and dormancy, the “green fuse” lit amidst the snow and muddy melt. We hardly had winter. It’s an early spring this year. Spring will always be early from now on. Until one day, only those who think early is normal will be around, and then early springs won’t be “early” any more.

There is nothing like a pandemic to reveal the brute monstrosity of our savage republic. The right-wing effort to shrink government down to such a small thing you could flush it down the toilet has turned out to overflow the toilet after all. Solidarity, what Margaret Thatcher once disparaged as society, must be our response.

COVID-19 is killing the elderly and the immune-compromised, mostly — but not exclusively. In South Korea, where they are testing broadly (as opposed to Italy, say, where they are testing those with symptoms, or the USA, where testing is STILL extremely rare) it’s people in their twenties who are showing the most cases. But they’re asymptomatic. So, while the young and healthy mostly do not have too much to worry about themselves, they’re carriers who threaten others. NYC’s bars have been packed. The stupidity will have more consequences.

Cover Art

Yesterday’s witches’ broom sent me by memory to M. M. Graff’s Tree Trails in Central Park, published in 1970 by the Greensward Foundation. Possibly the first place where I first read about them… maybe in the late 1990s?

The Foundation was a precursor to the Central Park Conservancy, back in the bad old days of fiscal insolvancy, trying to get the city (citizens and government) to save the great heritage of the park. Here’s Graff’s Times obit.

My copy is rather bit foxed, but the cover, reproduced above, still packs a punch. The illustrations are by Jacques Hnizdovsky. This is very fine look at a beech, trees that are absolutely reeking with character, and I think he captured the vibrancy of the bark delightfully.
***

As much as I enjoy the absurdity of the authoritarians of the Grand Old Party of Death calling the Democratic Party, of all things, “far left,” it’s good to touch base with an actual leftist every once and a while. Mike Davis, who has written brilliantly on Los Angeles, is no stranger to the politics of pandemics in history.

Back to back tweets of Trump declaring that if you’re in charge you’re responsible AND then yesterday insisting that he’s not responsible at all for his disbanding of the pandemic response team. Nearly 63 million Americans voted for this piece-of-shit con man. 63 million assholes are a lot of assholes.

The Distance That Bounds the Ordinary Range of Vision

I note the presence of what I call #DailyRaptor on Twitter with as much frequency as I spot raptors out the windows, which is actually quite a lot. Tweets are usually off-the-cuff, and so recently I wrote that a Cooper’s “came into the ken,” followed by one of the local American Kestrel pair, who then proceeded to escort the much bigger hawk off stage.

Afterwards I’d wondered if I was using the word “ken” correctly. I remembered that I remembered it from Chapman’s Homer. Not Chapman’s actual translation of Homer, which I’m unfamiliar with, but Keat’s celebration of it. You may remember the potent lines:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken

Besides rhyming with “men” two lines down, why “ken”? A quick trip to the OED reveals that ken as a noun is based on the verb ken, which means to “make known, declare; impart the knowledge of.” The verb version is now only really used in Scotland, as far as I can tell. Ken the noun’s first definition is “the distance that bounds the range of ordinary vision, esp. at sea.” Other definitions include “the range of knowledge or mental perception.”
Moss up close.

The marine measure of ken, the OED continues, is about 20 miles or 32 kilometers. On a clear day you can not see forever, but you knew that. You can, however, still see a lot, especially from a good vantage, and/or an accustoming of your senses to different scales, different views.
Wee tiny fly on crocus petal.

For ten years now, I have been blogging here at Backyard and Beyond. I think my ken has expanded quite a bit since then.

In that time blogs have come and gone and maybe come back again. Here is my first post. Could that Painted Turtle I found on Nantucket still be around now, ten years on? I hope so. It’s possible. I mean, that’s a heron’s snack right there, and you’re kind of rooting for the heron, too.

Here’s a more elaborate explanation of my project at that time.
We are all lichens, now, apparently.

Today is “Super Tuesday.” Voting in fourteen states, and not just Democratic Presidential primaries; lots of down-ballot stuff, too. Special elections, primaries for state legislatures and Congressional races, these are all vital to the defense of democracy, especially when the Republicans are now the party of authoritarianism and voter suppression, alienation, and criminalization.

I guess it should be obvious who I support. Here’s historian Michael Kazin in the New Yorker talking about the FDR-revivalism/democratic socialism/left-wing populism of Bernie Sanders. We’ve moved so far to the right some people now consider him radical.


Share

Bookmark and Share

Join 620 other followers

Twitter

Nature Blog Network

Archives