About Damn Time

Well, this is good news. The charge against Derek Chauvin has been bumped up from 3rd degree murder (which is basically manslaughter) to second degree, and the other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting.
Will it be enough to curb the protests? I don’t know. If they had done it a week ago, it probably would have. Maybe it still will. There’s a fatigue factor to demonstrating, and there’s only so long the public attention will remain riveted on one issue.
But, I don’t know if it will. The demonstrations/riots (depends on who you ask, and when, and where) have already grown to a point where they are no longer just about George Floyd. They are about all the other black people who’ve been murdered by police. They are about Ahmed Aubry and Filando Castile and Eric Garner and Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and John Crawford and so, so many more.
And they have spread to cities across the U.S. and abroad. Abroad. The U.S. is now the country that people are protesting against because of our repression of our own citizens. The U.S. is like South Africa under apartheid.
Will this new development ease tensions a bit, make a truce possible? I hope so.
One thing’s for sure, though. They wouldn’t have upped the charges without the demonstrations. So, this is a win.

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Morning Movie Review

Over the last two or three days, I have seen 5 dystopian science fiction movies. If I focus on news from the United States, instead of on the lovely green view outside my window in this serene, park like Prague neighborhood, it seems like picking up a few pointers on how to survive the apocalypse might come in handy. Anyway, for my blog this morning, here are some thoughts on those films.
Waterworld was actually a darned good film and all the jokes about it being a financial disaster have long ago faded into irrelevance. Also, since that particular apocalyptic vision is appearing more and more likely, perhaps Kevin Costner will someday be viewed as visionary.
Children of Men had some interesting characters (Michael Caine was awesome as the old hippie dude), but I was sort of confused as to why a lack of children led to that particularly insane kind of society, and how they had no theories at all as to what was causing it, nor any plausible reason why there was suddenly an exception. Nonetheless, an outrageous battle scene near the end, where all of the dispensable characters are killed, and a happy, hopeful ending. So, weak on the science, good on the action, and acting.
Venom was really a piece of garbage, but I found it quite enjoyable garbage and most of the people who had their heads bitten off really deserved to have their heads bitten off. I wouldn’t discourage anybody from watching it.
Mars Attacks, of course, was a great film. This is completely irrelevant but, similar to in Venom, the aliens’ weakness was a particular sound. That’s definitely a line of defense we need to try if the Earth is ever invaded. Also, Pierce Brosnan has never been funnier than he was as a disembodied head.
Elysium, with Matt Damon, was the most interesting to me. That’s not to say ‘the best’ because it was fairly standard future horror world, an overcrowded future like Soylent Green, where a job meant working in slave like conditions but still, anybody with a job was considered lucky. I liked it because, at the heart of this dystopian future, there was also a utopian vision. That was Elysium, a Stanford Torus space station where all the rich people lived with neatly manicured parks, swimming pools, and elegant white mansions with curving staircases, marble floors, and medical beds that could cure anything from a broken leg to leukemia.
Utopia is as possible, technologically, as dystopia. We could have it. We’re not heading in that direction, but we could.

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Poem of the Day

I just wrote a little poem, in a response to a comment on one of my poetry groups, and it’s a comment you see on these groups all the time, it’s as if we’ve run out of original things to say and keep saying the same things over and over again, spinning our wheels in the deep mud along that banks of that slow moving swamp we call the stream of consciousness.
It was all about how you see so little in-depth conversation, and a lot of real shallow commentary, on poetry sites.
Well, now, having written it, I realize it doesn’t just apply to poetry, but to the shallowness of social media in general.
Anyway, FWIW, here it is:

Though some of us
would like to have
a deeper conversation
We are here
on Facebook
and thus, the situation
is that anyone
at all can add
their own evaluation
which often is
quite shallow
by some others’ estimation
random sniping
petty shit
aggressive conversation
all make it
very difficult
for any communication
which would
enlighten us, or even
give us inspiration
it is true
that we could use
a bit of moderation
a way to block
the crap, a better
system of filtration
but censorship,
of course, is seen
as an abomination

so, where do we
draw the line, and how
that is my question

To answer,
simply hit reply
and leave me your suggestions

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Spacex

With all the rioting going on distracting from all the disease going on distracting from all the politics going on distracting from all the destruction being brought upon the environment, the first launch of human beings into space from Cape Canaveral in almost 10 years went pretty much unreported.
And when they do report it, they make it sound like a NASA launch. Well, I’m not denigrating NASA, and I guess they are partners in this. It is their launch facility. But, the planning, the engineering, the spacecraft itself, that’s all Spacex.
Elon Musk’s company. This is a private, capitalist venture. I’ve got mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, Hooray for Elon Musk! He’s a great genius and he is pushing the human race forward. If he can establish a colony on Mars, a mining operation in the asteroid belt, and an industrial empire stretching from here to the edge of the solar system, more power to him. If he becomes the world’s first trillionaire while doing it, well, I think his taxes should go up but kudos anyway, he will have earned it.
(surprising side note, I get a squiggly red line under the word ‘trillionaire.’ That’s not in the dictionary. Some day I’m sure it will be and this indicates a tremendous lack of foresight and imagination on the part of Merriam-Webster.)
On the other hand, I want the benefits of space to fall equally on all of the human race, and that is not likely to happen. We’ll get the trickle down benefits, like Teflon, Tang, and mobile phones.
Main thing is, though, despite my cynicism, the launch went perfectly, the two astronauts are nothing but brilliant and courageous, and I wish them success with the rest of the mission.

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A Weak Charge

3rd degree murder. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis Police Officer who murdered George Floyd, live on camera, by holding him down and pressing his knee into the victim’s neck, for 8 1/2 minutes, has been charged with 3rd degree murder.
3rd degree murder is bullshit. It’s basically a manslaughter charge. It’s the old “I didn’t mean to kill him, he just died on me” defense. There are three major bits of evidence against that. There’s the video itself, of course. Then there are all the eyewitnesses, who told him, repeatedly, ‘Hey, you’re killing that guy’ and ‘maybe you should let up a bit.’ He didn’t. He knew what he was doing, and he fully intended to do it. The third bit of evidence is his record. He had a habit of doing these sort of things.
He’s been charged with various being a bad cop charges, like 16 times I believe it was, sometimes for excessive violence, once or twice he shot somebody, but he was still on the force. Amy Klobuchar, back when she was the county prosecutor there, could have ended this guys’s career, but she didn’t. Not really a big Black Lives Matter person, that Amy Klobuchar.
And none of the other officers present have been charged with Jack Squat.

I think I see what’s happening here. The authorities think that maybe they can end the riots just by the announcement that Chauvin has been arrested, and they’ll say MURDER really loud and ‘3rd degree’ really soft, and most people will be placated. After all, what are people going to do?

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Minneapolis Burning

This time it’s different. There have been many black people killed by police in the last decade or two, hundreds. A lot of those have been captured on video, and aroused public indignation Which usually lasted a day or two, until something else happened in the news and everybody moved on. The case of George Floyd isn’t even that unique. His saying “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” is exactly the same as Eric Garner. But, the reaction is different this time. Maybe it’s the quality of the video. Maybe it’s because people have been cooped up a long time. I don’t know.
The fact that there’s rioting is not completely new. There were riots in St. Louis after police killed Michael Brown, and a couple years later after they killed Lamar Smith. It’s the reaction to the riots that’s different.
Of course, you see some commenters on Facebook saying “violence doesn’t change anything” and “they’re only destroying their own neighborhoods” but I’m also seeing a lot of comments saying “this time it’s justified” and “if this is the only way to force action, so be it.”
Myself, I’m certainly not going to object to the protests, whatever form they take. The police, the city of Minneapolis, and the state of Minnesota caused this problem and it is up to them to solve it.
They need to prosecute the police officer’s involved (which Amy Klobuchar, back when she was the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County, totally failed to do – Derek Chauvin had a whole streak of disciplinary problems before this), they need to fire their police chief, whoever it is, and they need to apologize like crazy to the friends, family and supporters of George Floyd.
That’s what it will take. The riots might not continue forever but the simmering resentment will, until there is real change.

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The Grotto at Grebovka

Grotto. There’s an interesting word. But, as I wrote the headline for this blog, I realized I didn’t know exactly what a grotto is, like what is the specific definition. So, I went to Wikipedia. It’s basically a cave, and they’ve been popular for millenia (of course, since the cave age), used as wine cellars, cold storage, and temples. There are natural grottoes, artificial grottoes, tidal grottoes, mountain grottoes, and garden grottoes. The grotto at Grebovka park is a garden grotto. The pavilion stretches in more than a half circle, around a courtyard, and between the grotto and the rest of the park is a fountain. There are vines growing up the columns, big, elephant ear leaves, heart shaped, and hauntingly beautifully lit from the bottom after it got dark. There’s a weird rock formation rising up behind it that looks like a series of giant termite mounds, and behind that, the trees rising from the hillside. One of which was covered with blossoms, which appeared white in the light of the grotto, but may have been pink. Above it all, the Big Dipper.
It was our first poetry reading of the summer, the first poetry reading since the start of the quarantine. There were a lot of people there, so social distancing was not happening, and nobody was wearing their masks, but I guess that’s what easing restrictions means.
It was a good night. A few songs, some very original ideas, met a few new people, and it felt very much as if we were carrying on the literary and dramatic tradition of ancient Athens. Because of the grotto.

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