Our Current Situation: Transition Time

I think I have the hyperventilation under control. My panic has subsided. The future still looks grim and uncertain, but I have a better grasp on Our Current Situation. At least, how things came to be this way. I’m still all out of solutions.

However, re-posting links has become tedious instead of educational, so I’m stopping.

For the next four months I’m turning my attention to writing. Here are the goals for this blog for this summer —

-A new story posted every full moon;

-A record of all the books I’m reading in 2017;

-Tracking the word count on the novel-in-progress (see Writing Project Progress in the right-hand column);

-Linking to author interviews, short stories, reviews, and stuff about the craft of writing;

-Regularly posting short-short stories, flash fiction, prose poetry, and other odds and ends I compose as exercises;

-Updates on my New Year’s Resolution of staying in tune with the moon;

-Posting whatever the hell else catches my attention or motivates me to write something.

Above all, this has to be a fun space for me or it’s not really worth the time. In a recent interview Stephen Graham Jones answers a question about how he manages to be so prolific.

“For me, if the novel’s real, then it’s always fast. If it’s slow, then that means I’m having to force it, that it’s not happening on its own, and, man, writing, it shouldn’t be work, should it? It’s playing with dragons. It’s not mowing the lawn. It’s hiding from the world. Let’s keep it fun, I say. Let’s make it an escape. I’ll build my fort, you build yours, and tomorrow we can trade.”

So. For the next few months I’m building forts, playing with words, and having fun.

Moonlight landscape with Hadleigh Church by John Constable after Rubens 1796
Oil on Canvas
(Private Collection)

Our Current Situation: Trump and the Moon

MOON MINING: I wouldn’t mind seeing a greater human presence on the moon. If I ran the zoo we’d be building an observatory on the far side of the moon right now. Or, we might be dropping remote-controlled robots that people on Earth could manipulate through the web. Could it be that our current administration might encourage NASA to initiate a moon mission sooner rather than later?

Motherboard reports that “the transition team asked for an update on NASA’s efforts to survey the Moon for valuable minerals and gases using resource-prospector drones.” NASA is amenable to the idea and responded with several projects it has in the works to accomplish more moon research.

“NASA envisions a future in which low Earth orbit is largely the domain of commercial activity while NASA leads its international and commercial partners in the human exploration of deep space,” the agency wrote in its response to the Trump teams’ inquiry.

Maybe the jobless coal miners can get jobs mining asteroids. The future!


MOON ORBITING: NASA also recently reported that it is interested in building a “crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit,” aka a Deep Space Gateway.

“This deep space gateway would have a power bus, a small habitat to extend crew time, docking capability, an airlock, and serviced by logistics modules to enable research. The propulsion system on the gateway mainly uses high power electric propulsion for station keeping and the ability to transfer among a family of orbits in the lunar vicinity.”

Kind of like the ISS, but orbiting the moon and allowing crew to prep before a lunar landing, or before venturing deeper into space to the asteroids or to Mars.


MOON TOURISM: SpaceX claims it will fly two tourists around the moon in 2018.

“We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the Moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a Moon mission.”


MOON HATING: Sam Kriss writes in The Atlantic “Why the Patriarchy Hates the Moon.” He uses the Cold War plans by the US and the USSR (independently) to nuke the moon as a launching pad to explore the moon as “as an object of fear, hate, and distrust.”

“In the early modern witch-hunts, an emerging capitalism’s great war against its women, the nexus of the witch’s unbearable powers was held to lie somewhere in the web of connections between the body, the menstrual cycle, and the moon above us. The Malleus Maleficarum, the great and hideous Catholic treatise against witchcraft, insists that demonic powers are “deeply affected by certain phases of the Moon.” And in most of Mediterranean traditions that congealed into the ideologies of the west, lunar deities tend to be female.”


MOON DESTROYING: Bob and David have the technology to blow up the moon.


EDITORIAL: When I was young we went to the moon. As a child I assumed this was the new normal. I imagined I would come of age in a world that progressively gained greater purchase in the void. To some degree that has happened. The International Space Station is so common-place it’s rarely newsworthy.

As I’ve grown I’ve lost much of my youthful idealism about NASA. I was taught that it was a benign entity, separate from the war machine, but of course, that’s not the case. I also have a deeper appreciation now of human misery and am more sympathetic to the arguments that spending money on healthcare maybe should be a higher priority than sending spaceships into the Oort cloud. I continue to argue for the value of pure research, but I understand the situation is more complicated than I once believed.

I have mixed feelings about a Trump administration success in near space. I’d love for moon trips to be a regular thing in years to come! That would be a signal that my childhood fantasies can come true. But, knowing how such a thing came to pass might forever ruin the taste of that victory. On the other hand, we’d have people living on the fucking moon!

Sunday Spectacle: Out of Obscurity

OBSCURE FLORIDA: Atlas Obscura has quite a Florida presence. They have the two-headed gator that’s in front of (one of) my favorite drinking establishments.

They have recent (and not so recent) posts about Jack Kerouac’s St. Petersburg house being for sale (to the right buyer), St. Augustine’s Treasury Street (built to foil thieves), our local Hindu temple (weirdly out-of-place in suburban neighborhood), the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, and lots of other Florida weirdness.

NOTE: The sculpture of the two-headed alligator was installed by Urban Art Attack.


FEARLESS BACKSTORY: Fearless Girl is a provocative symbol of women taking public space AND a cheesy PR campaign. Charging Bull is a symbol of Wall Street AND guerrilla art. Greg Fallis adds some history and context to the Fearless Girl/Charging Bull debate sparked by the bull’s creator, Arturo Di Modica.

“In effect, Fearless Girl has appropriated the strength and power of Charging Bull. Of course Di Modica is outraged by that. A global investment firm has used a global advertising firm to create a faux work of guerrilla art to subvert and change the meaning of his actual work of guerrilla art. That would piss off any artist.”


BIG EEL: I had no idea there was such a thing as illegal eel distribution. Apparently there are nefarious eel distribution rings at work in our nation. Fortunately, the Justice Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are on top of it.

“This plea was the result of “Operation Broken Glass,” a multi-jurisdiction U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigation into the illegal trafficking of American eels. To date, the investigation has resulted in guilty pleas for eleven individuals whose combined conduct resulted in the illegal trafficking of more than $2.75 million worth of elvers [juvenile eels].”


FREE WATER: Huh. A apparatus that pulls water right out of the air. And already a functioning prototype.

“…a water harvester that uses only ambient sunlight to pull liters of water out of the air each day in conditions as low as 20 percent humidity…”


WORK: I recently re-listened to ‘Broken English’. Don’t know why it’s been so long since I listened to it last. Here’s Marianne Faithfull covering ‘Working Class Hero’ by John Lennon.

Working Class Hero
John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There’s room at the top they’re telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Our Current Situation: Resist

SE HABLA ESPAÑOL: Guess who is moving south of the border? American business!

“After Donald Trump’s election, the flow of manufacturers setting up shop south of the border dwindled to a trickle. Ford Motor Co. and Carrier Corp., caught in Trump’s Twitter crosshairs, scrapped plans to move jobs to Mexico in two very public examples of the slowdown.

“But now the pace is picking back up.”


RESISTANCE SCHOOL: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on Resistance School and gives a shout-out to Tampa.

“Some faculty members also tuned in. Among them was Aaron D. Walker, an assistant professor of communication at Florida’s University of Tampa.

“Since the inauguration, Mr. Walker said he’d seen activism swell in the Tampa area, particularly among people who weren’t previously activists and therefore didn’t have a good grasp of best practices.”

If nothing else, the readings are worth reading or re-reading or re-re-reading.

Readings for Session One

Readings for Session Two

Session three and four readings have yet to be posted.

“[T]he school’s purpose is not just fighting Mr. Trump’s agenda, Ms. Seervai said. “Resistance School is about much more than one man,” she said. ‘What we’re doing is equipping people to think about their progressive values and take actions to defend them.'”

Check out the Resistance School.


GOOD JOB, TAMPA BAY TIMES!: Our local paper did some good reporting on the disparity between black people being shot by police and white people being shot by police. Spoiler Alert! Black people are shot a lot more often.

Why Cops Shoot

Unarmed. Not wearing a seatbelt. Running away. Police are more likely to shoot If you’re black (though, I am not a fan of the weird animation for moving through this story.)

CJR reports on the story.

“The Times’ graphic argument leads readers to back a custom database of the 827 police shootings that took place in the state between 2009 and 2014. Each shooting is summarized, mapped, and linked to shootings with which it shares characteristics—whether a victim was armed, or complied with officers, or fled.”

MORE LOCAL PAPER GOODNESS!: Congratulations to Laura Reiley, food critic at the Tampa Bay Times for her Pulitzer nomination! Her biggest hit last year was a story about the deceptions surround local food sourcing. From Farm to Fable.

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Criticism: Laura Reiley of Tampa Bay Times

For lively restaurant reviews, including a series that took on the false claims of the farm-to-table movement and prompted statewide investigations.


THE TRASH OF WAR: For reasons that in retrospect seem completely random I wondered earlier this week about what happens to the trash generated by the US military. Turns out there was an interesting story on this topic in the New Republic last November.

The Things They Burned

“Everything—all the trash of the war—was thrown in a burn pit, soaked with jet fuel, and torched. There were hundreds of open-air garbage dumps, spread out across Afghanistan and Iraq, right next to encampments where American soldiers lived and worked, ate and slept. The pits burned day and night, many of them around the clock, seven days a week. There were backyard-size pits lit by patrols of a few dozen men, and massive, industrial-size pits designed to incinerate the endless stream of waste produced by U.S. military bases. Camp Speicher, in Iraq, produced so much trash that it had to operate seven burn pits simultaneously. At the height of the surge, according to the Military Times, Joint Base Balad was churning out three times more garbage than Juneau, Alaska, which had a comparable population. Balad’s pit, situated in the northwest corner of the base, spanned ten acres and burned more than 200 tons of trash a day.”

And then, because we love our troops so much, we let them breathe in these noxious, toxic, cancerous fumes, let the ash cover them and everything they owned and the places they lived, and then rejected their claim for treatment. We. Are. The. Best!

“On its public health web page, the VA has posted a terse, official statement about burn pits. “At this time,” it reads, “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits.”

“This statement is untrue, in the way that official statements are often untrue: not because it contains an outright lie, but because it twists the meaning of everyday words like research and evidence.As the VA knows, there has, in fact, been significant research into burn pits by reputable scientists at established academic institutions, who have published their findings in major, peer-reviewed publications. And that research strongly suggests that long-term health problems among veterans may well have been caused by exposure to burn pits.”

Apparently, this was a big scandal in 2010, but I wasn’t paying attention. (And, poking around the Internet and various news sites, it’s been reported on continuously for more than a decade.)

The use of burn pits was limited in 2009, but the practice continues.


THE THINGS THEY POKED: Fortunately, the VA and DOD have found a solution. Stick pins in soldiers. Take that, cancer!

“But use of the technique [battlefield acupuncture], once practiced by fewer than a 100 military doctors across the services, is rapidly expanding through a vigorous training program supported by DOD and the VA.” – source

“Dr. Seuss monsters”: The quackery that is “battlefield acupuncture” continues to metastasize


MOONSHOT: Since my New Year’s Resolution was to get in tune with the moon I think I’ll do a special edition of Our Current Situation next week about Trump and the Moon.


The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Editorial Cartooning: Jen Sorensen, freelance cartoonist

Full Moon Story: The Thanatourists

(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)

It’s another full moon, which means it’s time for a new story.

Ghosts are real and science has discovered a method of revealing their presence. The tourism industry takes advantage of this new discovery and a young tour guide meets a ghost different than the rest. Back at home her mother is dealing with death in her own way.


The Thanatourists

Ghosts aren’t supposed to know other people’s names, but Ndidi knew mine. She said I “talked different” than the others, but she couldn’t explain how. After giving tours I would look for her on a little ledge overlooking a kelp forest not far from her shipwreck. She said it reminded her of sunset even though the sun didn’t sink this deep into the ocean. The company set up artificial lights so the tourists could see the wreck and the ghosts. Ndidi found a spot where the light source silhouetted the tall swaying cords of artificial kelp. It looked like a permanent underwater sunset wrapped in liquid sapphire.

I called her Dee-Dee, but that wasn’t really her name. I spent days trying to pronounce her name correctly, to learn how to speak with her with the translator off. Every time she’d laugh and say it again. It sounded to me like I was saying exactly the same thing, but she’d laugh and say it again.

I asked her about her life before she died and her life as a ghost. She asked me about the world since she died and wanted me to describe and explain everything. The first thing I had to explain was drones. She said at first it was weird to talk to a little metal animal, but not any weirder than being a ghost. The second thing I explained were ghosts.

She told me about her death.

Read the rest of “The Thanatourists” here.

Sunday Spectacle: Brain Music

BRAIN MUSIC: 51 years ago Alvin Lucier strapped some electrodes to his head and made music with his brain waves.

More recently, researchers at the University of Washington have created the encephalophone, a synthesizer you manipulate with brain waves.

“Other musicians and scientists have used EEG technology to make sound before, Deuel said, but only ‘passively generated sound’ based on brain activity. The encephalophone, he explained, is ‘an EEG-controlled musical instrument.'”

WRITING UPDATE: Haven’t moved forward much on the word count, but I’m editing and re-writing what I’ve already written. I’m not making as much progress as I hoped, but I’m still making progress. Some is better than none. When I planned out my writing schedule I forgot that my work schedule changes over the summer. Starting in May I’ll have 3-day weekends (and longer work days over a shorter work week). Starting in May I’ll make Friday a whole writing day. I believe that will help me get back on schedule.

LAST WEEK’S SPECTACLE: I probably should have said yes. Many people knocked on my door asking me if I wanted them to rake the leaves off my front lawn, and I consistently said “No. I’ll do it. I need the exercise.” Last Sunday I raked. This Sunday I’ll rake. The brief reprieve from yard care has ended. Spring has sprung and there is raking to be done. Soon the rains will start and the lawn will want mowing. Maybe I’ll plant a bunch of okra this year. Last Sunday was all yard, no blog. This Sunday I’m up early enough to do a little bit of each.

OUR CREEPY PRESENT: 3D print biological machines in your home! Now you can ‘build your own’ bio-bot.

“…researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been developing a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical and optical pulses. Now, Rashid Bashir’s research group is sharing the recipe for the current generation of bio-bots. Their how-to paper is the cover article in Nature Protocols.

“‘The protocol teaches every step of building a bio-bot, from 3D printing the skeleton to tissue engineering the skeletal muscle actuator, including manufacturers and part numbers for every single thing we use in the lab,’…”

Maybe I’ll soak my bio-bot in a self-propelling liquid.

RICH LAW POOR LAW: There’s literally one set of laws for the rich and a different set of laws for the poor in Georgia. An anomaly or a glimpse of the future?

If you publish Georgia’s state laws, you’ll get sued for copyright and lose

“Now, the case has concluded with US District Judge Richard Story having published an opinion (PDF) that sides with the state of Georgia. The judge disagreed with Malamud’s argument that the OCGA can’t be copyrighted and also said Malamud’s copying of the laws is not fair use.”

WORD OF THE DAY: Aubade — “A dawn song expressing the regret of parting lovers at daybreak.”


by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Our Current Situation: Off the Beaten Path

INTRO: This week I want to veer off into some rarely mentioned resources. I figure you already read Salon, or Slate, or Vice, or Vox, or whatever your news spin of choice, and don’t need me pointing to articles about filibusters or chemical warfare.

We are immersed in information. All answers are only a Google search away. They may not be the right answers, but they are answers. And, the human brain is greatly satisfied in locating any answer, regardless of accuracy. Our acceptability threshold is low.

This means that well-meaning professionals working diligently to provide high-quality information are ignored. News organizations don’t call upon them, and their results don’t rise to the top of the search results page.


TAX-FUNDED RESEARCH YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE: The Library of Congress runs a research service for members of Congress called (predictably enough) the Congressional Research Service. The CRS is not allowed by law to share its work with anyone other than the requesting member of Congress. The loophole here is that members of Congress can share the research reports with anyone they choose. The Federation of American Scientists regularly contacts members of Congress and asks for reports and posts them at Congressional Research Service [CRS] Reports.

Here’s a search tip. When you’re looking for a reasonably high-quality explanation of a current issue, search the keywords for the issue and add the term CRS. This helps bring Congressional Research Service reports to the top of the results list.

Example: A search for Chemical Weapons might bring up a Wikipedia page and a multitude of news sources, but a search for Chemical Weapons CRS should bring near the top of your results —

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress” (Sept. 30, 2013)

Chemical Weapons: A Summary Report of Characteristics and Effects” (Sept. 13, 2013)


Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges” (Brief Report) (Oct. 1, 2014)

These are a little dated, but it indicates how long Congress has been struggling with this issue.

In January 2017 the CRS prepared a report titled “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response.”

It’s a treasure trove of information. Highly recommended.


40 TOUGH JOBS: The Political Appointee Project published their “40 Toughest Management Jobs in Government.” This is a good guide to the jobs Trump should be filling first.

The Political Appointee Project is a project of the National Academy of Public Administration.

“The Academy is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan organization established to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. The Academy’s unique feature is its 800+ Fellows—including former cabinet officers, Members of Congress, governors, as well as prominent scholars, business executives, and public administrators. Our Fellows have a deep understanding of financial management, human resources, technology, and administrative functions at all levels of government, and direct most of Academy’s studies.”

Their work can be a little dry, and they’re as understaffed as anybody right now, but there’s a ton of great, practical advise here on running a government.

Compare this list with the Washington Post’s Appointee Tracker. The deputy positions are among the most challenging jobs in the federal government. Trump has not nominated a candidate for nearly every deputy position. This is willful sabotage.


NEOLOGICAL STUDIES: I don’t think neological is really a word, but it should be. Neology: The study of the new. (Oh, wait! It is a word, but with a different meaning: “the use of a new word or expression or of an established word in a new or different sense : the use of new expressions that are not sanctioned by conventional standard usage : the introduction of such expressions into a language.” Whatever. My definition is better.)

It’s a shame that our most forward-thinking government institution is DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). DARPA may be best known for giving us the internet (AP Style says you don’t have to capitalize it anymore), but its also been instrumental in human-computer interface research (moving prosthetics with your mind!, robot and drone technology, and onion routing.

There are very few organizations willing to think such far-out thoughts (experimental space planes, exoskeletons, and starships for interstellar travel). We’d be better off if the blueprint for our future was not in the hands of the military.


PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: Weird spike in mortality statistics.

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century

“This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.”

Maybe Trump voters are the last gasp of a dying breed.


VOTING DATA: Interesting set of voting data to dig into if you’re into that sort of thing.

Creating a National Precinct Map

“This map tells many particularly interesting stories on which I’ll elaborate in future posts, but suffice to say that most of the precinct swing can be explained by one variable: education level, perhaps augmented somewhat by race and ethnicity.”

We have an epidemic of willful ignorance and gross miseducation.



“It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.”

~Confucius (551-479BC)

I have zero idea if this is a legit quote (or legit accurately translated quote), but I endorse the sentiment.



(h/t Sean Bonner)

EDITORIAL: I think the 5 stages of grief template has been largely debunked, but I find myself in the we-are-eternally-fucked-and-wallowing-in-willful-ignorance-and-every-institution-is-failing-us-but-we-had-a-good-run-i’m-just-going-to-drink-this-bourbon-sit-on-the-beach-and-watch-the-sun-set-except-i-have-decades-before-i-can-retire-and-things-are-so-fucked-up-i’ll-probably-never-be-able-to-retire-I-should-just-say-fuck-it-but-I-don’t-want-to-be-poor-again-being-poor-sucks-so-I’m-going-to-keep-working-and-mourn-silently-but-I’m-still-drinking-this-bourbon stage. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s the stage I’m in.

If there are so many transgressions, and so many bad people, why are none of them ever punished? Good people work really hard and evil still flourishes. Things suck here and we have it GREAT. Subscribe to the Human Rights Watch weekly newsletter if you want a reminder of how much worse it could be.

So, I’ve been thinking lately about Neal Stephenson’s “Innovation Starvation.”

If you haven’t read it, it’s Stephenson’s lament that there are no more grand ideas in literature anymore. Specifically in science fiction. Let me concede immediately that there are huge problems with his essay, but, putting those issues aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about art as a template for new ways of understanding the world.

If the law won’t save us, and journalism won’t save us, and non-profits won’t save us, and protest won’t save us, it’s up to poets and comic book writers and science fiction writers and comedians. That’s where we’re going to get a new narrative for the future. (Really, it’s up to us all tapping into our human compassion and finding ways to let that drive flourish, but until then the poets and writers and singers of songs will have to carry the burden.)

And, right about the time I’m thinking this I come across this essay by Cory Doctorow about his new novel Walkaway where he writes:

“Stories of futures in which disaster strikes and we rise to the occasion are a vaccine against the virus of mistrust.”

And so, that’s where I’m turning my attention when I’m feeling bleak. Stories where humans rise to the occasion.


Excerpt from The People, Yes by Carl Sandburg.

The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
“I earn my living.
I make enough to get by
and it takes all my time.
If I had more time
I could do more for myself
and maybe for others.
I could read and study
and talk things over
and find out about things.
It takes time.
I wish I had the time.”

The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and hoodlum:
phantom and gorilla twisting to moan with a gargoyle mouth:
“They buy me and sell me…it’s a game…sometime I’ll
break loose…”

Once having marched
Over the margins of animal necessity,
Over the grim line of sheer subsistence
Then man came
To the deeper rituals of his bones,
To the lights lighter than any bones,
To the time for thinking things over,
To the dance, the song, the story,
Or the hours given over to dreaming,
Once having so marched.

Between the finite limitations of the five senses
and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond
the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and food
while reaching out when it comes their way
for lights beyond the prison of the five senses,
for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death.
This reaching is alive.
The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it.
Yet this reaching is alive yet
for lights and keepsakes.

The people know the salt of the sea
and the strength of the winds
lashing the corners of the earth.
The people take the earth
as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
They are in tune and step
with constellations of universal law.
The people is a polychrome,
a spectrum and a prism
held in a moving monolith,
a console organ of changing themes,
a clavilux of color poems
wherein the sea offers fog
and the fog moves off in rain
and the labrador sunset shortens
to a nocturne of clear stars
serene over the shot spray
of northern lights.

The steel mill sky is alive.
The fire breaks white and zigzag
shot on a gun-metal gloaming.
Man is a long time coming.
Man will yet win.
Brother may yet line up with brother:

This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can’t be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
“Where to? what next?”