Curtain Raiser

Don’t Let it Happen, Colltalers

Norma McCorvey never meant to be part of an American cultural landmark, the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. Then she switched sides and became a ‘pro-lifer’ activist. But in her deathbed she confessed that she did it for the money. The Evangelical money.
China thought the tragic COVID-19 diversion was perfect to crush Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Instead, it turned the world against it and fueled President Trump’s conspiracy claims blaming it for the virus and for all he hasn’t done about it. Also, Hongkongers won’t take it lying down.
Not to sound spoiled, but let’s face it, we’re not doing too well. With close to 5.5 million cases worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic is still expanding albeit at a slower rate in some places, and according to epidemiologists we’re still at least a year from a vaccine if one can be developed for this virus.
You’ve seen the numbers, with the U.S.’ unquestionable ‘leadership’ in cases and fatalities, and now Brazil in second place. Numbers may jump again in the coming weeks as U.S. states start to reopen for business and nations that have ‘flatten the curve’ of contagion set to fire up their economic engines.
The rhetoric for some governments to get it all going again, before any semblance of a coordinated global effort is in place, stands at odds with what most citizens think they should be doing instead. But the emergent authoritarianism currently dominant around the world has no place for dissent. Just now, the U.S. threatens to cut funds of the World Health Organization, the very entity that for 70 years has been dealing with this kind of global crisis.
As for Brazil, which seven years ago had the sixth-largest world economy and now is mired in political turmoil and subjugated by the coronavirus, its 360,000 cases may not include the devastation of Amazon indigenous communities. It’s also out of luck with Jair Bolsonaro who’s seen raging in a vulgarity-laced (in-person, mask optional) cabinet meeting viral video against governors, Continue reading

Sendoffs

Good Evening, I’m Chip
Fortuna. God’s Off Today

Legendary sportscaster and political commentator Chip Fortuna, who died 60 years ago today, belonged to the golden era of journalistic expression, one devoid of fears of embarrassing powers that be and unbound by the politically correct.
Controversial he was and would often emerge from his well-publicized brawls bruised and execrated by his own peers. Dopes, he’d mutter. A maverick, he could always come out with the perfect quip to ultimately vindicate his position.
A perfect fit for the expression larger than life, many a time he was described as a combo of Ernest Hemingway and James Cagney, and hard-boiled was another expression that was probably created to define his sheer manliness.
There was no half measure to Chip. He could be as viciously cruel, especially when drunk – his operating mode – and unabashed loyal, evidenced by the many potshots he took defending his friends.
Despite his large 6’3″ frame, he could be nimble at tango and a charmer with the ladies. He did well as a war correspondent, becoming fluent in six languages and learning to curse in seven others.
Not a bad banjo player either, according to contemporary Django Reinhardt. But since he detested boasting about anything, no list of celebrity friends will follow, lest not mistreat Chip any more than peacetime has already.
A wolf of another age, it’s easy to imagine his displeasure with the comforts of the modern era. Nonetheless, he would’ve been impressed by the many new ways people invented to justify not moving a muscle to change the world.
For at heart, he was an idealist who’d do no better alive today, than his outdated habit of calling woman dames, and Asians, Orientals; well

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Good evening, I’m Chip Fortuna,

* stepping in for god, who’s playing softball for charity at Rikers Island.
 * substituting for god, who got arrested last night. Cops hate the you-know-whom-you’re-talking-to routine.
* doing it for god, who’s in bed, with a migraine and some cough. Don’t worry, I gave him soup and some aspirin.
subbing out for god, who’s locked his keys inside the car. I told him he’s not having mine.
* standing in for god, who’s running a marathon, you know, for the kids.
replacing god, who’s refused to come out of his room today. He must apologize to Aunt Eve; she’s very hurt.
* filling in for god, who’s home nursing a shiner. He got into a fight with a guy claiming to be Jesus at the local soup kitchen.
stepping in for god, who’s taking the cat to the vet. Tough job because they hate each other’s guts.
* substituting god, who’s visiting grandma upstate. She’s doing time for armed robbery.
doing it for god, who’s at home all day waiting for the cable guy. The damned box never worked properly.
* subbing out for god, who’s banned on the air for as long as he keeps screaming his hair is blond. His pubic hair.
standing in for god, who simply can’t handle it today. You people…
* replacing god, who’s gone to the DMV. They’d taken his license away years ago for DWUI.
filling in for god, who got arrested again, last night, for exposing himself on the subway.
* stepping in for god, who’s having some memory issues. Last night, he couldn’t remember who he was.
substituting for god, who got caught partying at a motel with some teens. I need to pick him up downtown.
* doing it for god, who’s making some dough shooting pool at Billy’s.
subbing out for god, who was fired after some child porn was found stashed in his cabinet files.
* standing in for god, who’s skipped town and is on the lam. Watch out, he’s armed and may be dangerous.

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at least he’d never call them broads and once punched a guy in Chinatown for using a slur against a florist.
Chip took along with him the now obsolete concept of doing something nice for someone just for the kicks of it. In any case, he’d get quickly deranged by so many flukes and grandstanding phonies babbling around all the time.
A carnivore who suddenly became a vegan before the word was even invented, the reason he gave for the change put to shame many a Christian preacher: for the animals, he chuckled, unconcerned (more)
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Curtain Raiser

When Leaders Play With Matches, Colltalers

Daily acts of courage, altruism, and compassion by common people have been overwhelming on the Internet. But none has come from Trump, Xi, Putin, Bolsonaro, or others alike. Would it be fair to expect that the three billion-plus under their rule are ready to kick them out of office? Hardly.
The toll of having the coronavirus on the hunt; a continuous flow of lies and false promises; and the staggering pace of deaths of people of color, the elderly, and indigenous natives has caused yet another dark side of the crisis: depression. By the way, Antarctica’s biggest iceberg just broke off. Again.
There have been devastating times in our history before. But none had a combination of too many nuclear bombs, a terminal climate emergency, and the resurgence of lethal viruses to haunt us. As democratic institutions are attacked by many, even those benefitting from them, manipulated by leaders with a book of matches at hand, there comes to mind the acuity of a popular line in a comic book hero: ‘some men just want to watch the world burn.’
But whereas in fiction heroes catch the bad guys to exact revenge, in real life, flesh-and-bone heroes run to tend to the victims left behind from the explosion. They can’t wear capes; in fact, they chronically lack protective gear but still they go, for life wouldn’t be acceptable to them if they wouldn’t. While we’re busy mourning loved Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Killing of Native Sons, Colltalers

No matter the national event or moment: a virus killing thousands or a rogue government with no competence or decency: in America, racism is never far away from anything else. COVID-19 should be a glaring example, but there had to be a cold-blooded execution of a black man in the mix too.
‘Skyrocketed.’ That’s what happened to deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon between Jan. and April, according to a Greenpeace analysis. While President Bolsonaro got busy dismissing the coronavirus, the razing of indigenous lands increased by 59%, raising fears of fatal contamination and genocide.
But let’s start with the grim task of reporting the tragic, broad-daylight ‘lynching’ of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old stalked and shotgunned to death in February, while jogging outside Brunswick, Georgia. The father-son duo of murderers was known by local police but hadn’t been charged until now.
That’s because the video of the execution surfaced last week, and while the elder killer has been arrested, neither his son nor the friend who captured it on camera has been so far. The case reminded us of the late Trayvon Martin, another black youth murdered eight years ago, who’d also be 25 now.
Even as the killings of black young men by police or white supremacists, or a combination of both as in this case, is so terribly frequent, just as mass shootings of any kind, it never ceases to devastate us. Their brutality and banality of their killers’ obsession convulse our guts deep down to near exploding our hearts and minds over it. Why? Not why they do it and mostly get away with it, but why we accept living in a society that allows that?
As if the profoundly unfair toll of this pandemic hasn’t been enough to shock us all, for its crushing majority of casualties among people of color. A preliminary study by Amfar, an AIDS research group, found that despite one in five counties nationally is black, representing only 35% of Americans, they account for nearly half of COVID-19 cases and 58% of deaths. As of Sunday, there were 1.35 million U.S. cases with over 80 thousand deaths. Factors such as Continue reading

A Shot of Quarantine

What Are We All Doing
Behind Those Windows?

We’ve seen them all: the outstanding online performances, the eerily empty cities, the constant wailing of sirens. We saw the long food lines and the vigil of families outside hospitals. We didn’t have to but we watched it anyway when a couple broke social distancing and had outdoor sex on a dirty rooftop.
But let’s imagine some of the other things people do mostly behind windows and balconies. But not everything, for St. Fauci’s sake. Just simple queries, like, are they cleaning or having wild dreams? stuffing themselves or Pilate-ing? Gardening naked anyone? Feeling envious of people with nicer, safer masks?
To quarantine and be under lockdown may have now similar meaning but they used to be separate things. Yes, one could be always quarantined for virus exposure, but usually in a medical facility. Astronauts go through an isolated time upon returning from space. And animals still go through a hell of cold cages when plane traveling.
The lockdown is the prison-like part of that compounded meaning. But don’t compare it with the real thing, especially in the U.S., with its largest incarcerated population in the world. If anybody should be let out is them. Now, if someone still doesn’t get it, tell them about prison toilet etiquette. Or how to talk through one.
But either way, we’re in this predicament for an imperative: to stop the spreading that’s killing thousands every day. Humans, we want to get out and away from it all. Beaches? picnics in public parks? public performances? We love them. But to have them reopened now, would reset the high rates of contagion back to January.

TIME MEANT TO WASTE
There are now hundreds of sites with tips about what to do with your time. Play games, they say. Binge on movies and series (but not the news, apparently). Read. Meditate. Do Yoga. Cut your own hair. Mend a sock or ‘try yodeling through an open window’ as the Swiss Embassy in the U.K. just recommended in a list.
People are having wild dreams too and for that, there are already many articles explaining why. We can’t say anything bad about catching up on sleep, so it’s all good. Others are finding lost mementos while cleaning. And there are those who, of course, don’t want and don’t plan to do a damned thing right now. Or ever.
That’s good too. To hell with overachievers who only enjoy breaks if they can squeeze yet another hundred-page long accounting report. Then again, that should be a bother to no one but their mates. Which is another thing being reported often: who are these monsters living here and what did they do with my family?

LOCKING UP MR. HYDE
People do crack up and suddenly turn into beasts. Domestic violence is no fiction and it’s spreading out too. Compared to the evil that humans do to each other, some, er, peculiar habits, or little character flaws, which seem to fester in these times, can be mostly managed. Smoking for instance. Just don’t do it here.
Naturism can’t be considered disturbing anymore. Kudos to a kind of society that doesn’t place a premium on physical beauty even if it doesn’t attract any either. And let’s face, picturing the president naked in the White House is way more offensive. So if you have a garden, by all means, tend to it. Clothing optional.
As for masks, they’re now an essential accessory to go out. Some are even making their own, and it’s all peachy. Even if there’s a little, tiny, itsy bit of envy directed at those who can flaunt (more)
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* Downtime
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Curtain Raiser

Solidarity Is a Loaded Gun, Colltalers

How to measure a tragedy? by length? global reach? number of casualties? Heading to 70.000 deaths, the U.S. already passed the near 59 thousand American lives lost in Vietnam. The war that left America with PTSD ended 45 years ago last Thursday. Vietnam has reported no COVID-19 deaths.
Calamity also brings up strong feelings for those who’ve experienced it on a personal level. For instance, victims of mass shootings, a preventable social disease. Canada took a step in that direction by banning some assault weapons. Which are mostly purchased in the U.S. and may all return to it.
Let’s leave those heady words ending in Y behind for a moment and take a look at what else is news. Remember the glorious four-time World Cup U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, which had filed a suit against the federation for being paid less than the men’s team? Well, a federal judge dismissed their case.
The ruling found no Equal Pay Act violation, even though they were, in fact, paid less than their less brilliant male counterparts. Hero and all-around awesome person Megan Rapinoe scored another one of her defiant, beautiful goals when she tweeted, ‘We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY.’
Two traditional, community-building, utmost essential American institutions are under threat of being extinguished and that has little to do with the coronavirus crisis: the Postal Service, and restaurants in general. Yes, the tragedy has worsened everything but the former has had long-term foes, eager to privatize it and turn a civil right older than the Constitution into a for-profit cash cow. They’ve been trying for years and this time, they may get it.
Unlike false assumptions capitalized by the president and the Republican Party, the Post Office is not funded by taxpayers; it survives strictly on its own. And despite all bell and whistles advertised for the Internet, that in the future everyone would have access to it, the mail-carrying agency is often the only game in town for citizens to connect. It’d do much better if it could offer banking services too, but heaven forbid if the FDIC would allow it.
It allowed the end of the separation between commercial and investment banking, the root cause of the 2008 catastrophic financial collapse. That, in turn, cost Americans billions Continue reading

Life Inside

Odd Animals & the House
Cats Who Caught a Virus

Now for something completely different. An unknown number of unknown species go extinct every year but there are still plenty to go gaga about the natural world. A 150ft stringlike creature, likely the longest in the ocean? Check. A bug that smells like spring? Check. A ‘nano’ animal that can survive outer space? Check, again.
But I know what you’re thinking: not, ‘what’s with the siphonophore, the springtail, or the tardigrade. No siree, what you wanna know is what the hell is up with those cats? Indeed, many more odd-looking beings sit out there, either to be found or missed, but we’d go to war to keep our Internet Cats Home Improvement Goals.
‘I-ching,’ for short. You know, the science that studies how cats keep us all under their spell, refuse to do a single thing you ask and are known for always landing on their feet. Who would never be on those homecoming videos where humans play god and are welcomed by their slobberingly loving pets. You may’ve won the war but to your cat, it’s, so what?
Or in Cat World we’re all dogs: we sit mesmerized for hours, startled at times, very afraid in others, but ultimately ready to serve and do whatever may appease them. It rarely does. But even as cats seem brutally aware of our flaws and pointless lives, some humans do live to worship them. Just don’t call them ‘chingers.’
Which brings us to those stringlike, buggy, and piggish-looking creatures. There’s no cult dedicated to them nor they set the standard for coolness. But their very existence shows why humans love felines. Who are not above having dopes like Joe Exotic jumping on their bandwagon but let’s not get into all that crap just yet.

LONGER THAN A BLUE WHALE
The siphonophore lives in deep waters and its relatives have been snaking their way beneath waves for over half a billion years. The specimen captured on camera off Western Australia was a whopping 45m long, which yes, it’s longer (but not as relatable as) the majestic Big Blue. As it turns out, though, neither it needs to be.
For starters, it’s not one but a colony of predators among 175 species. It’s also luminescent and related to one of the oceans’ fiercest, the Portuguese man-of-war. It may look the part but similarities stop there. After all, it’s hard to beat the glamour of a carnivore with a notorious sting and a tentacle stretched back into the Discovery Age.

More U.F.O.-like than medusa, you may bet your goggles nevertheless that the Apulemia uvaria caught on video has its own charms. We just don’t know how do they work, and whether some of its (more)
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