Saturday, November 17, 2018

California Fire and Life

(apologies to Don Winslow)

Over the past twenty years or so, California's fire season has expanded from a late-summer nuisance to a nine-month volley of increasingly more catastrophic firestorms. Typically it rains enough between late November and mid-March to keep fire threats down, but our fire season now occupies nearly the entire period of time in between.

Last year saw parts of Santa Rosa, by far the largest city between the San Francisco-Sacramento I-80 corridor and the Oregon border, burned right to the ground. Hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed, thousands of people displaced. The fires disrupted the real estate market for a year, in about a hundred-mile radius, because of the sudden scarcities in an already scarce inventory.

This year has been non-stop all over the state, but especially burdensome in the relatively sparse population areas of Northern California, the region commonly known these days as the State of Jefferson. The Carr Fire engulfed the Redding area for weeks, causing destruction that will take years to recover from. And now the rather poorly-named Camp Fire (named because it originated near Camp Creek Road, not because it was a campfire that got away from the campers) has claimed the entire town of Paradise, and is heading down Highway 99 toward Oroville. Somehow Chico has been spared. Fire crews from all over the country have pitched to help, and the fire is finally getting contained. It's supposed to rain this coming week, which should help finish off the damned thing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The King In Yellow

I barely regard him -- it -- as human anymore, using words like "monster" and "thing" to describe the creature that continues to defile the White House and corrode what's left of this country, day by rotting day. And at first there may have been a vein of schtick, trash talk, the proverbial smackdown, but that part rang hollow, that there might be any semblance of even grim humor to those specifically chosen words.

Because humans, even assholes, have common threads that identify them as such. We've gone over this many times before, but it can't be repeated enough:  humans have things and people that they like and appreciate for their own merits. Music, books, art, friends, family, pets, games, teevee shows, whatever. Something. Unconditional love.

Normal human beings enjoy these pleasant little features of life because collectively those little features are what make life worth living. It's hard to know what to make of someone who has never -- and that may very well be literally true, like never -- had an appreciative or complimentary thing to say about anybody or anything, except in the context of how its quality was a reflection of themselves.

Like, as a hypothetical, someone asking such a person how they felt about, I dunno, the Beatles' music, and the response being something like, Oh, Paul McCartney stayed at one of my hotels once. Big spender, Great guy. What's your favorite movie? You know, Madonna dropped $500k at the craps table at the Taj Mahal once when she was in town doing some post on Shanghai Surprise. How does anyone listen to that pathetic, weird old man for any length of time and not hear the festering insanity? How did such a person get into a position to gut the country so critically in just a couple of years?

We can all take a deep collective breath that the midterm election results at least show that we don't have to pull the plug on the old bird just yet. It's still on life support, but it's still life, and maybe even having a chance to breathe on its own a bit and start to recuperate.

But it will take more work, and lots of it. Because the results also showed that there are more horrible people than you'd hoped. I said after the 2016 election that those results raised the question of whether the country we thought we'd become with a black president had changed somehow, or maybe that election just revealed and confirmed what we really still had been the whole time -- a seething, teeming, bitter, vituperative mess.

There are a lot of assholes out there, and the thing has unleashed their energy; pure spite and id and moiling fury. Bad people can have good qualities, but if they're supporting something that inspires pipe bombers and synagogue spree-killers and yahoo border militias because they think it pwns libtards for them, well, they're still bad people in the end. Hitler loved his dog, yada yada.

The most dangerous thing about them is, if you really listen to them (not a suggestion, by the way) you find pretty quickly that since they neither know nor care what they're yammering about, there is nothing that will make them happy. Nothing. You could give them ten million dollars and they'd just waste it; you could kick out all the Meskins and they'd bitch that strawberries are now too expensive. You could shout Merry Christmas at them year-round and they'd wonder what happened to Blessed Memorial Day.

Nothing will make them happy because they don't want to be happy. The fight is all they have, because the fight is all it has. It campaigned on the notion that Obummer had turned Jebus' Nayshun into a flaming hellscape, and that worked on the addled and the butt-hurt. Complaining is all it's capable of, and so that's all they know anymore. More and more it is observed that the behavior is cult-like, and that's not an exaggeration -- nor, to them, is it a flaw. It's a feature.