Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Nurse the Hate: This Will Never End

I am fairly certain that the United States will never get out of this pandemic nightmare until some hard working scientists in a country like Germany find a vaccine.  The United States is now incapable of following even the most simple prevention measures, something we used to look down at in "Third World" countries like Brazil and India.  The photo above is from Kid Rock's bar in Nashville LAST WEEK.  Ah, another reason to dislike Kid Rock...  Do you think we are going to lead the way on getting out of the pandemic?  No way.  Not when there's chicken wings and Jason Aldean on the jukebox.  It's impossible.  How in the world can our nation discover and then deliver a vaccine to our citizens?  We can't even get a basic plan together on how to minimize the spread of the disease.

It is tantalizing to blame Trump and only Trump.  He is a perfect target.  He is utterly incompetent and that dangerous kind of fool that believes himself to be the smartest man in the room.  In fact, it is hard to come up with a scenario where Trump fucked it up more badly short of loading the virus onto crop dusters and spraying major population centers.  Yes, it is very bad that he thought inaction was action, and then focused on denying that this inaction was his fault, but is it really ALL his fault?  We knew he was stupid.  We knew he doesn't like believing in nasty facts like science that don't support him "winning" whatever monstrous plan he has cooked up.  That is on us.  We should have ignored him much earlier.  It's hard to believe but his assertion that leaving 50 states to go it alone might actually be better than having him directly in the mix.  It's better when he is concerned about what people said about how he walked down a plank like a fragile grandmother as opposed to trying to concentrate long enough to find empathy and come up with a plan for the common good.  He's a buffoonish reality TV star.  How the fuck could he handle this?  His forte is tweeting racist shit about the Grammy Awards.  He had no chance.

I think some blame should go to Fox News and their ilk.  In the odd chicken-and-egg world of Fox News, it's hard to say if they lovingly report on policy disasters from Trump and Co., or if they come up with the monstrous ideas that Trump and Co. embrace as their own.  I'm a guy that works in communications.  Take it from me.  If you have a bunch of Communications Majors setting policy for the nation, you're in Big Trouble.  The only reason we were all in Communications is because we failed math and science.  That's the reason so much of the coronavirus reporting is sketchy.  You have dumb shits like me trying to figure out how to convey complicated scientific ideas.  We don't know how science works.  Do you think Tucker Carlson knows anything about science?  Do you think Tucker Carlson knows anything about anything?  He's a rich kid from La Jolla CA that couldn't get into Yale so had to go to Trinity probably because his geometry grades were as bad as mine.  His brother's name is "Buckley" by the way.

 "Tucker?  Would you fetch Buckley from the pool?"  Tucker and Buckley aren't a couple of guys that I picture being focused on the needs of others.  "Tucker, like I was telling your mother, the problem with The Mexicans is they just refuse to work hard which is why we live in this villa by the seaside and they live wherever it is that they live.  Excuse me.  I need to go yell at that gardener!  After ten hours of digging up those cactus, you would think he'd be done by now!"  Cut to show young Tucker in bathing trunks watching his father scream at a tired Mexican gardener.  Here's a fun fact.  Tucker's father married an heiress after his mother left to pursue a more "bohemian lifestyle".  There might be some things in those boyhood years for Tucker to unpack on the psychiatrist's couch...

The problem with a TV channel focusing on covering up for a buffoon's bungling a public heath crisis is that TV is VERY persuasive.  It's why the cigarette companies aren't allowed to run TV ads.  It worked too well.  If you run enough TV content saying something crazy like, I don't know, "building a wall on the Mexican border will solve illegal immigration", people will start to believe it.  If you have the same people suggesting that the virus is some sort of nefarious hoax cooked up by The Villians and wearing a mask is a show of weakness, my guess is that those old folks and hillbillies you see at the grocery store won't wear masks or do anything to prevent the spread of this disease.  Are media outlets that are knowingly speading public health disinformation "evil"?  I think so but I know what they are doing and why, so I'm judgemental like that.

However, when you get down to it, the problem is really with "us".  The American People are shockingly stupid.  I have been fortunate to travel around a bit.  Let me tell you, that idea that we are "The Greatest Nation In The World" that keeps Wal Mart Nation puffed up with pride?  It's a myth.  Look around when you leave your bunker.  It's grim out here.  Hell, we might not even be the greatest nation in North America.  The USA is now on a short list of nations that includes Brazil and Russia (also with strong men virus denier leaders) that the EU is going to ban from being to enter because we can't get the virus under control.  We are fat and stupid and think we are exceptional.  We elected someone incompetent as leader because we liked that he sounded like us.  We reject science when it doesn't fit with our needs of convience.  We are never getting out of this pandemic.

I was reading about how Germany is re-opening.  They have 25% the number of people living there as the US has under much more dense living conditions.  They had 900 deaths.  We are at 125,000+.  How did they do it?  One of their leaders on the pandemic response team said "we took the information from the studies that were done in the United States and applied it."  That's all we had to do.  Follow our own science.  Not here.  We had hillbillies with guns declaring their "freedoms" were being violated.  We had 50 different governers executing 50 different plans all with different agendas.  We have scientists telling the South "don't open up yet" to then get ignored and have the virus spike up to the highest levels of the pandemic.  Meanwhile I still see hillbillies and Propaganda TV consumers continuing to ignore even the smallest precautions as I death defyingly enter Home Depot.  These people see themselves as tough guys or warriors to their cause.  They are 100% convinced that they are right despite all evidence to the contrary.  I see them as the reason I will be locked up in my house unable to do anything I like to do until 2022.

So to get out of this, all we need to do is not congregate in large groups and wear a mask.  Can anything be easier?  Yet there is still pushback.  The great example is something my associate Mr. Lanphier told me he had heard.  The virus is carried via droplets from our mouths.  Think of the virus as being piss.  If you come across another guy, neither of you are wearing pants and he just starts pissing all over the place, you get covered in piss.  If that scenario repeats and you are wearing pants, you'll still get some piss on you but not as much.  If he has pants on AND you have pants on, well then you don't get any piss on you, do you?  It's not that difficult. 

We'll never do it.

See you in 2022.


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Nurse the Hate: Thoughts On Cotes du Rhone

I was having a Cotes du Rhone blend this evening, a red from Southern France.  These are everyday wines in France and are often “field blends” of grenache, syrah, mouvedre, carignan, and who knows what else.  The idea of the field blend is if farmers planted a bunch of different grapes that ripen at different times in different conditions, it provides a hedge if the weather is dodgy.  The syrah is underripe?  Not a problem.  The grenache is perfect and when it’s blended, everything will taste fine.  It’s like making a Sunday morning omlette when the past peak tomatoes will get covered up by the green pepper and cheese, but it’s still nice to have that tomato in there so you toss it in the pan.  You take all of what you have and make it good together. 

The big mistake I made in my serene little world was to look at social media.  I think the pandemic and resulting social distancing have resulted in creating an angrier less tolerant nation.  This isn’t a major revelation as the rioting in multiple cities will attest, but I’m speaking more about hair trigger reactions to smaller slights.  Like most people, my social media feed reflects who I am.  I have an outsized voice coming from white suburban middle-aged guys with a very healthy match of liberal artistic musician voices.  The musician voices are saying the same thing as always.  “Trump sucks.  Look at this corruption.  Life is unfair.  Shop local.  My band is doing a Facetime Live.”  That keeps me busy clicking “like” even when I know goddamn well I am not going to go to a coffee shop across town or watch a poorly recorded webcast.  Meanwhile, the suburban dad voice has become edgier…

There appear to be two types of Suburban Dad conservatives coming out of their Great Rooms and Man Caves right now.  Type 1 is the “I love the military and police so much, all I want to do is shoot machine guns and bomb anyone that doesn’t have a flag tattooed on their ass”.  It’s odd because almost without exception these men have never been in the armed services, did everything they could do avoid being in the armed services, and derided the ex-strong safety bully from the high school football team that became a cop in their small town so he could continue to bully people.  Yet at some point these guys made a turn and started to identify with the people they used to villainize. 

I can’t tell you how many guys I used to know that were “let’s get crazy party guy” when they were in their twenties that now sound like one of those out of touch crew cut construction workers from black and white late 1960s news clips.  “Well, the police need to get those damn longhairs off the streets.  They should cut their hair and get a job!  If they don’t love America, they can leave it!  And if they won’t leave on their own, me and the boys here will make them leave!”  They fear what they don’t understand.  They have worked hard to get a 3500 square foot house, two enormous SUVs, 2.5 kids and a new set of golf clubs.  They are WINNERS godammit.  They’ve got a good thing going.  Don’t mess with it.  They are essentially harmless blowhards.

Type 2 is much scarier.  There is a group that has been quietly collecting guns, joining chat rooms, and collecting their news from fringe conspiracy sources.  They are frustrated, simmering privately.  A couple years ago they knew in their hearts that their ideas were fringe, something to keep private.  Suddenly Trump started to trot out racism as a policy and this flicked the green light as these ideas became normalized.  It’s like if you were shamefully fucking a sex doll, and one day the President said “Lots of people are fucking sex dolls.  Lots of GOOD people!”.  Hey, what I’m doing isn’t just OK.  It’s downright Patriotic!  The next thing you know, you pull into a Home Depot parking lot and four or five Ford F-150 pickups all have sex dolls riding shotgun.  The sex doll guys feel good about it and say “We ALL fuck sex dolls.  We’re just brave enough to be open about it!”  On the one hand, I suppose it’s good to know who is fucking the plastic doll, but on the other hand it’s unnerving to see how many people are into it.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last month I have seen these Type 2 guys talking about “helping out” the police, or “helping to keep order”.  One guy keeps talking about how he and his “well armed biker buddies” are going to go to so-and-so and “protect the country”.  In almost every case, these are men that have never been in a real altercation much less a gun fight.  It must be a steady diet of Hollywood vigilante movies that have them convinced that when a situation calls for it, only they are suited to dole out moral justice via their death dealing super weapons they purchased at Cabela’s.  It’s insane, but that is the head space of more people than I want to admit.  They are actively looking for something that they don’t really want any part of.  They don’t understand that if they show up somewhere firing a gun, THEY are the villain.  THEY have become the “bad guy”.  THEY are the kook locked up forever.  Will this guy ever act?  I don’t think so, but he sure as hell feels vindicated talking it through openly in a public space.  It’s not far from where they are now to that Texas clock tower.

In both cases, I don’t think there is an understand how history is going to look back at this awful period.  Just like we now condemn the 1960s hippie bashers, the Iraq war cheerleaders, the Communist Witch Hunters, the pro-fascist groups of the 40s, the anti-labor groups of the Industrial Revolution and on and on and on, these me or worse yet, their children, will be ashamed of these views. Unlike Germany in 1946 when people could burn their old uniforms and pretend they were cooks during the war, the internet never forgets.  It is the black and white news clip of fist shaking ignorance. 

It’s been a brutal period.  It’s tested everyone.  Hopefully we can get past our divisive national leadership and come together on a local level.  Washington is a reality TV show run amok which is hopefully in its final season.  I think for all of our own sanity we should ignore it, much like the State of Washington has chosen to do.  There is still a reason to hold out hope.  In Cleveland, the same million people that came downtown together joyfully to celebrate the Cavs championship are the same people divided today.  It didn’t seem incredible that there was no violence.  Why would it?  We’re all neighbors.  It’s sort of like a field blend in the Rhone.  Not everyone comes out perfectly, but when we are all blended together, it can be quite nice.

Let’s keep it together out there. 


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Nurse the Hate: A Fine Gigondas and Thoughts on 1968

When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the late 1960s.  Like everyone I knew, I had gotten into Zeppelin and then fell into a mission of discovery about all bands from the late 60s that “rocked”.  There is nothing like being 15 and being certain you are the first one to discover bands like the Rolling Stones put out albums from the late 60s that were somehow filled with songs that were not hits but incredibly great.  “Hold on?  Beggar’s Banquet has this on it too?”  One point leads to another.  This Hendrix fella seems important.  Wait…  He played at Woodstock?  Who else played there?  Wow.  A lot of those bands seem cool too.  Next thing you know you own Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” and are reading about San Francisco in the Summer of Love.  Then someone mentions this obscure band, you probably won’t like them, they’re heavy…  A bunch of radicals from Detroit that scared the shit out of everyone, The MC5.

I was hooked.  I read all about the MC5, the White Panther Party, the insane chaos of the counter culture protest movement, Hunter S Thompson, Abbie Hoffman, Malcom X, and on and on.  The late 60s was a time of great change, a time where any stray cinder could light the whole thing on fire, where one side of society had no grasp of the other side and vice versa.  Rumors flew around about radical groups planning to bomb government buildings.  Petty infighting between splinter groups.  Government informants, dope dealers, idealists and opportunists swirled around a confusing center of the Vietnam War but all had their own agendas.  Everything was important.  Everything was absurd.  The world was changing and only a fool couldn’t see it.  What a time to be alive and I missed it!

So now we find ourselves in our version of 1968.  Protest marches turn violent while old white men in suits point fingers at “outside agitators” to protect their economic interests.  The new Boogieman is “Antifa”!  The initial killing of George Floyd is just an excuse at this point.  The idealists create the marches.  The fringe elements jump on to stir up the shit for their own evil agendas of anarchy, destruction or triggering a race war.  The third layer are the opportunists, some protest tourists eager for Instagram moments to create social media cred, and others looking for a chance to knock out a window for a free TV.  They all get lumped together as “protesters” by the reporters for the Viewers that struggle to understand what is going on behind their various screens shielding them from real experiences.  Everyone is convinced they are right.  Everyone is wrong.  It’s all chaos.

It seems obvious now that a population that were in isolation for three months, a quarter of them losing their jobs, economic uncertainty, a pandemic with swirling moving facts, and a total lack of leadership wouldn’t need much to set it off.  Topping it off is a divisive national leadership that has been focused on an “US’ versus THEM” narrative.  The battle lines have been drawn.  These are the conditions for what historians refer to as “really bad shit happening”.  If 1968 has taught us anything, I’d keep your head on a swivel during the next heatwave.

One thing we didn’t have in 1968 was social media.  As the rhetoric has heated up, a genuine ugliness has crept up.  People with some views that a few years ago would have been labeled as perhaps “fringe” or more likely “racist” have nestled into comforting bubbles that allow these ideas to become at best “normalized” and at worst “patriotic”.  People I have worked with, gone to school with, and known as smiling faced acquaintances have allowed their previously guarded views of “those people” to flow freely as they now don’t have to worry about being “politically correct”.  We have discovered the enemy in America.  The enemy is us. 

I don’t know how things will shake out this summer.  My gut tells me it is going to be bad.  Very bad.  History repeats itself, but the wrapping paper changes.  We are in 1968 with a healthy sprinkling of 1936 in for flavor.  Our phones are the most powerful educational tool known to civilization.  Yet no one reads.  No one is looking at the bright light of the oncoming locomotive.  It’s cat videos, pornography and limp dicked protests like turning your Instagram screen black.  If I am you, I start to listen to some MC5.  Dope, guns and fucking in the streets.  It’s the Summer of 2020.  It’s the Summer of 1968.  Surf’s up.