Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas, 2016



    My daughters went to Idaho with husbands or lovers.
    My son went there too, to look, but came back.
    He urges me now
    To go too and be there,
    To live in the snow, never
    To return or go elsewhere,
    But he lives on a sliver,

    And I hesitate and wait
    For what happens next?  Never
    Having learned to decide quickly
    Whether I truly want something or
    Choose whatever I’m most obliged
    To, given the process and my place.
    He says to go off

    To his sisters, but in a day
    Or two he is out here
    For help with an unexpected
    Need.  Two hundred dollars is
    More than he has on hand.
    I’m not now too far away,
    But might be if I go.

    Susan loved such times of year.
    I’ve remained here with a headache,
    Dim lights, reading nothing
    Of significance.  I’ve wanted
    To fill in gaps in certain
    Theological sets, get a new
    Lens to capture a waning light,

    Keep out the night with
    A few lights, a laptop
    And desktop with the little
    They hold, and if with my headache
    I imagine myself unable perhaps
    Lastingly, it might be time to have
    The shades pulled back for good.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review of TV series OA

I watched this series on Netflix, one episode after the other for the eight episodes and then looked for a review – found one but wasn’t happy with it.  The reviewer didn’t like the series, didn’t think it worked.  I on the other hand did like it and did think it worked. 

The relationship of OA to the 1990 movie Flatliners bothered me a bit, but the NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) in OA weren’t the horror-filled experiences of Flatliners.  We only hear the details of OA’s flat-line experiences but have to assume that Homer was there before her and learned the first couple of dance movements. 

Perhaps the series stands or falls on Brit Marling’s performance and I thought she did okay.  She is also credited with co-creating the series along with Zal Batmanglij.  And perhaps the reviewer who didn’t like the series wanted a bigger ending, but the ending was okay, if not big.  The goal of the wise-woman in OA’s NDE experiences was to equip her with the dance steps that would accomplish something OA would learn later on.  For what purpose?  We learn that it takes five people dancing these steps together to generate the power needed to accomplish something (although it only took two to bring the Sheriff’s wife back to life).  In two cases these dances raise someone from the dead.  In the third case it stops a kid with an automatic weapon from massacring a huge number of kids in a cafeteria. 

Prairie, OA, is the one fatality of the attempted school shooting, but we learn earlier that she wanted to “pass over to the other side to be with her father” whom she is assured will be waiting for her.  One of the five (a boy who has been a bully) runs after the ambulance yelling “take me with you,” but the ambulance drives on and he is left behind.  Will one of the five become the leader?  Perhaps it will be French.  He is a persuasive kid as we see, especially in the last event where he initiated the dance that stopped the planned mass-murder.  Also, it creates one of the story’s twists to have him be the one who finds some books among OA’s belongings that cause him to think she made everything up – and yet he is the first one to start the dance to stop the shooting in the cafeteria.  Which suggests he doubted her intellectually but believed her at a more visceral level. 

What becomes of the mad doctor Hap (excellently played by Jason Isaac) who wanted the secret of the dance for himself?  We aren’t told.  He kept Homer with him planning to get Homer to do the dance with him in order to wield the power, but will Homer cooperate?  It seems doubtful, but Hap has throughout the series come up with clever blackmail to keep Prairie and the others in line.  Hap’s motives seemed benign at the beginning but toward the end he has become a murderer.  Perhaps his own flatline experience will be more like those in the 1990 movie.

What do the letters “OA” mean?  At some point near the end of the series we see Greek Letters being used: Omega/Alpha which is a reverse of the letter symbols used for God “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end,” so we may perhaps be permitted to guess that OA’s “endings” precede her “beginnings” because she is brought back to life after her NDEs.  Also, she is the one described as uniquely equipped to assemble a group of five in order to learn the dance steps.

It is a bit strange to see Phyllis Smith, who was 65 in 1916 doing these dance steps until one looks her up and learns that in her youth she was a ballet and jazz dancer until well into her 30s.  OA (whose name before her captivity was Prairie Johnson) puts out her request on the internet and readily accepts the five who show up. 

I watched the 8 episodes thinking OA was a mini-series and that 8 was all there would be, but I read just now that some people are at least discussing a second series.  I considered everything satisfactorily closed, but it is possible to see enough open for a second series.  Yes, we hear the sound of a machine indicating that Prairie has flatlined, but after all her NDE’s she could have another return to life – or French could get the rest of the five together, do the dance and restore Prairie to life.  And, to fill out a second series, perhaps the evil doctor Hap has forced Homer to do the dance with him in order to accomplish some interesting end.  

Will all these actors be up for a second season?  Alice Krige, who played Prairie’s (OA’s) mother was born in 1954.  Scott Wilson who played Prairie’s father was born in 1942.  These two actors wouldn’t be critical to a second series if one or both didn’t feel up to it.  But Phyllis Smith was born in 1951 and does seem critical.  Would she be up to a second season.  She doesn’t look in good health, but she did do a lot of dancing so maybe she’ll be okay.

If there is a second season, one would think that Prairie would need a love interest, but it can’t be any of the males on her team of five since they are too young.  There was already the allegation of pedophilia in this series.  It seemed improper for the late-twenties Prairie to have gathered a group that includes under-aged boys.  Homer is the likely candidate to be her love interest in a second series.  He is more her age and she is already in love with him.  Could a whole series be built around Prairie’s getting Homer away from the evil Dr. Hap?  Perhaps.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

States Rights and the Electoral College

If we were forming a new government today, would include the EC?  I believe so.  We are a nation composed of states.  States have always been important.  In the beginning there were only states; then there was an advantage to having a limited centralized government to deal with foreign governments, fight off pirates, Indians, Britain, France, Spain, etc.  But the rights of states were never to be infringed.  [see our Tenth Amendment: ]

The nature of our union at the beginning was a collection of states and that hasn't changed.  Implied in your argument is the idea that states are as anachronistic as the EC.  For if you invite us to form a new government to see if we would choose to have an Electoral college or not, you are putting us back to being individual, independent states, and if we went back to that we would very likely have several states saying that they don't trust the centralized government enough to form a union.  The big reason the states were willing to give up some of their powers in the formation of the United States is because of the threat of the invasion by England.  Some modern states might calculate and decide they can defend themselves against any foreseeable threat and prefer to remain independent.

It may not seem important to non-Americans, but States still have their separate identities and will not go willingly into oblivion.  Part of the deal was that despite not having as many people as the big states like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia, they would get a minimum number of electoral votes, just as they would get two senators, and an additional number based upon a formula derived from population.   The small states became part of the Union with the understanding that their rights would not be infringed and they were especially interested in their role in the national government. 

In the beginning electors voted for two people and the one with the most votes became president.  The one with the second most votes became vice president.  As it happened however the vice president always got as many votes as the president so a Constitutional Change was required.  The 12th amendment was created to deal with this matter.

The smaller states exude some sour grapes over this amendment because it lessened their power.  It was a big deal when they got to gather around with the big states' electors and decide who was going to be president and who vice president.   In fact that is how Jefferson became president and Burr vice president.  It was a close call.  There could have been a President Burr instead of a President Jefferson.  But after the 12th amendment that couldn't happen.  The various parties would decide that in advance.  This lessened the power of the electors and gave those wanting to ban them a bit of ammunition:  "since they aren't as important as they used to be let's get rid of them altogether."

The states are still jealous of their individual powers, whittled away though they have been by the Supreme Court and various central government administrations.   But thanks to the Founding Fathers the powers and individual rights of the states cannot all be swept away.  A state cannot seize to exist any more than it can leave the union without significant difficulties.  And, it should be known that the small states still resent the larger states telling them what to do.  And as our nation has developed so many cities with such huge concentrations of people, the small rural-type town as well as states especially resent being told what to do by people who live in big cities and big states.

What you are proposing is in effect telling small states that since they don't have as many people as larger states their previous guarantee of a certain number of electors is hereby revoked.  Popular vote henceforth will trump the guarantees given states under the constitution.  They will not have as big a voice in the selection of the chief executive as hitherto.

Here is what it would take to get rid of the electoral college:  (1) it requires a constitutional amendment.  (2) Any constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate and (3) the ratification of three-fourths (38) of the 50 states.  In some future (Democratic administration; since they (traditionally) own the big cities)  one can imagine the house and senate voting to end the EC, but what could induce the small states to vote away this power?   Can you imagine them saying, "Come on big cities and big states, you take all the power and rule over us.  We are an anachronism and shouldn't have as much power in the central government as we used to."

Our Founding Fathers, when they created the Constitution and Bill of Rights, strove to balance the powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government such that not only could no branch rule over the other branches but that the states and individual citizens should not have their rights infringed.  They did not build into the constitution the ability of the centralized government to infringe the rights of the individual states.  See our tenth amendment:

Our constitution did not specifically deny the right of a state to secede.  During our Civil War 16th states seceded.  The Supreme Court declared that each state by joining the union made their part in the Union unalterable except by a change in the constitution.  The various secessionist movements in the U.S. seem to concede that:  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Moving Musings

At some point while semi-confined with the in-heat Jessica I decided to make a virtue of necessity.  At first I chaffed over not being able to go hiking, but she wasn't entirely to blame for that -- there were the ever-present trolls to think about.  I found a routine for letting Jessica into the back yard sans diaper by herself and discovered that since none of my dogs can speak they weren't yelling at me to take them hiking.  They seemed surprisingly content to stay here at home.  They could chase each other up and down the stairs, around obstacles in my study or in the living room, or they could go out back and visit the neighborhood dogs through cracks in the fences.  I took the opportunity to do some challenging reading, the Library of America edition of Henry Adams, History of the United States 1801-09 for exampleIt has 1252 pages and I am on page 586.   My interest would have flagged and I would have switched to something else long before 586 if I were hiking regularly (which requires a day of rest after each hike -- my mind included).  Also, I realized in this process that if I move to Idaho which has a snow-season, I shall have periods when we can't go hiking every year.  I recalled what it felt like to be away from the weights and then when I went back to weight-lifting to discover I couldn't lift as much as before and when I tried to, strained something.  Would every year in Idaho be like this?  Oh yes there are the weights in the garage and they would fit in some equivalent location in a house in Idaho, and I can run up and down the stairs up there as well as I do here, and I can get a treadmill and put it into one of my many bedrooms, but that isn't the same as hiking and would that be good enough?  I do self-checks all the time: a new pain in one of my fingers?  Could that be caused by not hiking?  Wait a minute, I remember when Jessica rousted me out of my lounge chair and I relocated myself on the floor (she taking my place in the lounge chair) I scooted my hand across the carpet and felt a pain in the tip of my finger, sort of like a nerve-shock . . . but I never had that happen before; so could it be from not hiking? . . .  doubtful, but still . . .

I would have moved to Idaho scores of times if Larry had been up to it.  But I have this tendency to rethink everything.  Why do I really want to move to Idaho?  Better hiking?  It might not be better if the weather makes hiking unpleasant because of sloppy muddy trails.   Not having houses so close to me?  Yeah, that would be nice until I realize that the stores aren't close to me either and that I might have to drive for 30 minutes to get my groceries -- in the snow!   Whereas here, while my neighbors are close-by, they are all nice.  And while I don't have many needs that can't be taken care of by means of, there is the dog-groomer at Petco.  She knows Duffy by name and knows about Jessica and Ben as well.  I don't think they have a Petco in Idaho.  My daughter Caryn said vaguely that they do have dog groomers in Idaho.  Maybe so, but I'd need to find one, and then I'd need to find a handyman to replace Larry.  He plans to go up there from time to time but he would no longer be a phone-call away if my water-heater or septic tank exploded and I needed immediate help.
Then too I have been appreciating the effects of some of the things I've been doing to and in the house.  The wings inside my dryer came loose and I had to remove two of them; so I got a new dryer.  Why do this if I am going to move?  Well, I wouldn't feel right leaving the wingless dryer to the person who buys my house, but now that I have the new dryer, one of the little annoyances of living here has been eliminated: no more loose-wing rattle and no more extremely long drying times (not caused by the dryer I discovered later but by an overly long somewhat clogged vent which Larry circumvented when he installed the new dryer).  And a week ago I decided to bake a pizza and my oven didn't work.  Actually that happened a month earlier and Larry cleaned out the gas line and seemed to get it working.   After this time he said if it wasn't the gas line it was probably the electronics.  If it were him he would have someone do a check and if the stove could be fixed for under $200 he would have it fixed.  If it cost more than that he would buy a new one.  But I chose to skip the checking part and go directly to a new stove which will be delivered Dec 14.  The old one will be taken away and a new gas line installed.  It is a much better stove than the one I have, not top of the line, but a much better built than mine.  Also, mine is still a bit cruddy in the bottom from all the broiling I did while Susan was sick.  She needed a lot of protein so I broiled steaks for her in the oven.  I would eat steaks as well, but haven't had one since she died -- steaks aren't my favorite thing anyway.  I do like to bake salmon, but I do that on a pan and grease doesn't drip into the oven. 

One might think that getting rid of books is a simple affair, Larry certainly does, but I don't plan to stop reading once I move to Idaho, and if I don't move I certainly don't plan to give up reading as well as moving, but I've come around to finding a positive element in my library deprivations.  In the past I might have thought that if I might need a book in the future I'd better keep it, but now I think the opposite, if I can't think of a reason for needing it now I put it in a box destined for the Salvation Army.  If something changes in the future, I can buy a new copy from or ebay.  I must have thus far sent about 50 boxes of books to the Salvation Army and I'm not done, but I've been making a few book-purchases as well.

I discovered that I wasn't just getting rid of books, I was honing my library.  I've learned to appreciate The Library of America, for example, and have made some purchases just because the price of a used book was low and (for example) I had never heard of Dawn Powell and if the LOA thought she was worth publishing maybe I should read one or two of her novels -- on a rainy or snowy day in Idaho, or just any day here in San Jacinto where it doesn't snow.  Here are the first two paragraphs from the first novel, Dance Night, I looked at,
    "What Morry heard above the Lamptown night noises was a woman's high voice rocking on mandolin notes far far away.  This was like no music Morry had ever known, it was a song someone else remembered, perhaps his mother when he was only a sensation in her blood, a slight quickening when she met Charles Abbott, a mere wish for love racing through her veins.   

    "The song bewildered Morry reading Jules Verne by gaslight, it unspiralled somewhere high above the Bon Ton Hat Shop, above Bauer's Chop House, over the Casino, and over Bill Delaney's Saloon and Billiard Parlor.  It came from none of these places but from other worlds and then faded into a factory whistle, a fire engine bell, and a Salivation Army chorus down on Market Street."

The hair went up on the back of my neck.  This was as good a beginning as any I could recall -- made me think of The Return of the Native.

And then there were all those theological books.  I decided that what I wanted to keep were the most scholarly of the lot.  Susan liked devotional books, but that sort of thing always struck as being similar to the chanting, dancing, and singing around the campfire to the accompaniment of mantras.  Reading or chanting something over and over will reinforce something in your mind, or put you at peace, (chanting "OM" has a very good record, for example), but I'm not interested in that.  I do however like the literary research involved in making sense of difficult passages, finding out as much as possible of the true sense of the various texts of the Bible.  In going through my Anchor Bible set I discovered that Anchor Bible has been taken over by Yale:  I discovered as well that a new commentary on Revelation had been published and ordered it:  Hardcover of course purchased $73.00 from Wordery USA.    I also purchased Mark 8-16 for $59.00, and Hebrews for $40.00

I have almost all of the Anchor Bible and the "Word" set which is the set used at Westminster Seminary.  The International Critical Commentary has been one of the most prestigious sets existing over the years.  Their recent publications have been priced similarly to the pricing of the Anchor Bible, but I've balked at spending $100 just to fill in my collection.  I have an interest Revelation in the Anchor Bible Series, but would only buy the more expensive editions of the ICC if I were actually studying something at the time.  If the price for missing volumes drops below $20 at some future time I may decided to fill in my collection -- a bit. 

[When Susan and I had just started going together back in the mid 70s, she told me that her dream was to have a husband who would spend the rest of his life studying the Bible with her.  I told her, "I could do that."  And I could and did.  But there came a time when, due to her diseases, her ability to study tapered off.  Mine never did and I recall my first guilty pleasure at discovering copies of the ICC at a Christian Book Store near the McDonnell Douglas plant where I worked at the time.  The book store didn't realize what the ICC was, but once they did they lowered the prices of the books to get rid of them.  I bought all they had just as shortly after Susan and I were married I bought a library of Reformed books.  "Studying the Bible" didn't mean for Susan nor to many in the Reformed camp the studying of such matters as the ICC and Anchor Bible dealt with.  To be able to adhere completely to the Westminster Confession was for them a good thing.  I couldn't conceive of knowledge having been frozen in time in 1647.  Neither could many I spoke to from the Westminster Seminary, but I wasn't looking for arguments and so kept these matters to myself, studying one thing or another and appreciating having the best scholarship.  And while I haven't engaged in such studies since Susan needed so much attention, I can see myself wanting to study various matters in the future.  Having a better understanding of Revelation is high on my list.  I studied that in the past in the light of the three major views, Amillennial, Postmillennial, and Premillennial.  The scholar who wrote of the Anchor Bible Revelation probably isn't going to take a stand on these positions but he is going to provide the best scholarship pertaining to the literary tools available to the original author.]

If I stay in San Jacinto I will probably get more reading and writing done than if I move to Idaho, at least for a few years, and I hear tell that older people lose a bit of their capability in those regards as time goes on. 

I'm having Larry replace the tile in my two upstairs bathrooms.  It is worn and faded.  Larry has done this sort of thing before and knows what he has to do and how long it will take.  Yeah, it will enhance the desirability of my house a bit if I sell it, but I'm also interested in enhancing it if I don't.   And if I don't I expect to continue on with improvements.  The freezer I have in the garage develops frost much too quickly.  The seal is leaking a bit.  I saw a new freezer at Home Depot for $800.  I didn't buy it.  I don't need to do everything at once. 

I am presently leaning toward staying in San Jacinto, but if in a few months the housing market in my area improved and I could get a bit more for my house, my attitude could change