Thanksgiving always makes me think of Freud, founder of psychoanalysis. My favorite philosopher, Alain de Botton, explains Freud's insights and our resistance to them. The takeaway here is that what is really wrong with us is that we can't deal with relationships and yet can't do without them. He's right, and the simple and amusing way Botton explains Freud's complex ideas somehow highlights them and makes them understandable. I say this as a person who has studied Freud's thoughts for most of my life but failed to realize that what he was talking about, mostly, was relationships.
Along this line of thinking: Joyce Carol Oates tweeted about an HBO series that I had heard nothing about, In Treatment , now available on Amazon streaming video (free, if you have Amazon Prime.) It's an Americanization of an Israeli TV series. I can see why she likes it. This is Joyce Carol Oates country for sure. A lot of it makes me squirm like a worm on a hook. I can't use lightness of mood and humor, my defense mechanisms, to maneuver my way around these really devastating playlets depicting therapy sessions. I've watched four episodes so far. It's not an easy entertainment. Already the analyst's patients are driving him back to his own analyst.
Why is it that we have so much trouble with relationships? Why can't we figure out what we are doing to ourselves and each other? No pat answers here, but I am actually learning things. These days, fresh minds are engaging with Freud, with new insights and using new media to popularize his work.
So tell me doctor: Why am I so in love with my ice machine?
I was up at 5:30 to do a little stargazing and also to prepare a couple of things for the Thanksgiving celebration at Cousin's house. Looking over Hilo, I saw the red glow of the Kilauea eruption. The forward front has stopped moving, and it has broken out about 3 1/2 miles above Pahoa Town. This is what the eruption looked like at 6:30 a.m. It's approximately 25 miles away. You can enlarge this.
Everyone was sure that by now Pahoa would be impacted and Highway 130, lower Puna's link to Hilo, would have been cut off. Emergency roads are in place, because this eruption could break out anywhere along its path to the ocean, and people must be prepared. Puna residents regard this as a reprieve, not as a sign that the community will be saved. Worrisome is the possibility that because of the changed topography due to lava mounding up and diverting the flow north, the flow could go down Makuu St., impacting Paradise Park.
The fact is that the current eruption will eventually cover everything down there. What is not to know is how long it will take. This is too much uncertainty for most to live with. Many have left. The real estate market has crashed, leaving renters glad they have rented and not bought.
The Tongan man who comes and picks our breadfruit every Thanksgiving says his place is right in the path of the flow, but he rents. His wife works at the Safeway Deli in town and makes a pretty good wage. But where will they live? From what I've heard from Day-Lum, the agency that manages our rental, rentals are getting hard to find in Hilo. As well, this is a college town, so Puna folks will be competing with students for places to live.
They [current events] have offered us a clear and chilly view of how power works: How it is communicated to the public and how it is carefully manipulated by those who have it. How the powerful manage to play the victim and turn power into a slippery force that slides right off of them and briefly appears to stick to the very bodies that grievously lack it. This month’s stories have made this transfer of power obvious. Mighty figures and institutions have been described as vulnerable, while those they have harmed are made to seem monstrously huge and threatening.
She's saying what I have been wanting to say about race and gender power relations, pulling things together. The young, who will have to live through years and years more of all this crap have my deepest sympathy. In my day (ahem) there were still ways out. In our personal case, we left the country for 15 years and missed the 70's hoo ha and had a wonderful time, instead, in pampered and protected West Germany and Switzerland. There's nowhere to go now. Maybe it's better that the new generations have no recourse but to turn and face the music.
So thanks to Traister I can bag the think piece on feminism I was planning to write, since she has said what I wanted to say but so much better, and get a few things done around here instead. And the piece I was going to write about state and local elections can wait, too. Thanksgiving looms, and the holiday season is upon us.
Just finished the last Wallender episode in the original Swedish version. No spoilers, but it's pretty sad.
On the lighter side, loved this vid by the Norwegian pop group Ylvis:
Why do I love the Scandanavians so? Is it really just their lean good looks and flair for interior design? But I do. My Facebook friend Rhea found this. She is one of those people I would love to hang out with in person, but she lives in Boston. Last call to breakfast. Talk to you later.
In case anyone thinks Hawaii is la-la land and we don't have to worry about crime and police and so on, the other day I saw a man sitting with his hands cuffed behind him on the sidewalk on Kilauea with four cops standing over him. Will it be possible to find out what that's about? Why do police think they need overwhelming numbers in order to subdue one person? Haven't been able to find out anything more about this yet.
On Ferguson, I'm being very discriminating about where I get the news. Takeaway: the cops protected the "white" side of town while allowing rioters to burn down mostly African-American businesses on the "black" side of town. No cops there, no fire dep't. I assume this was a deliberate strategy.
The police are media savvy and know that the specter of rioting blacks always works in their favor. The majority of white people remain racist and they are a cowardly bunch as well, more than ready to believe that young blacks are crazy and will someday boil out of their ghettos and commit all kinds of atrocities against the fair white race. Must be a real frenzy situation in those near-in suburban racially mixed areas. It's the old ooga-booga, as Roy Edroso calls it.To me, at my age, the tiresomeness of white attitudes toward blacks is beyond exasperating. It can't be said often enough that white on black discrimination is systemic and affects all of us negatively.
Here is today's Democracy Now, best on both national and international news plus on the ground coverage of Ferguson.
And a few good tweets:
Being Black in America is exhausting.Y'all want us to sing, dance, play football, run fast, be your target practice, and be quiet.
It could not be prettier here this a.m. Looking at the satellite map on Hawaii Weather Today, I'm seeing the so-called pineapple express, bringing warmer temperatures and rain to the northwest and causing the trades to die down. When the trades die down, Hilo gets the gas from the volcanoes. The usual pattern is for the emissions to to go to Kona, which is lucky for us.
The morning between sunrise and about 7:30 a.m. is when I get photos around the house and yard.
This is my most common orchid. I always seem to have at least one of these in bloom. My mother in law bought me a plant years ago for $10.00 at an orchid show and I have divided it repeatedly. Some of the plants stay in the orchid house. They are too big to move. It has a wonderful perfume that smells like green tea.
These are the lovely white flowers of garlic chives. This is the first time they have bloomed. The flowers have a nice perfume that does not smell at all like garlic.
I'm working on a piece for tomorrow about feminism. It is taking some thought. Ouch! Brain hurts. Must do word game to reset!
The seed money for this huge project was provided by the co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore. I think he lives on this island. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has contributed $200,000,000 to the project. UC Berkeley, which is my husband's alma mater and my father's and sister's too,* along with Caltech, is up to the gunwales in this project. Janet Napolitano, Chancellor of UC Berkeley, came to the dedication. Here she is with Mr. Moore himself. This is at a time when Berkeley is raising tuition into the stratosphere, as I just read in the New York Times. But Berkeley has always been that kind of place, really focused on prestige projects, certainly not on undergrads.
We went to a talk on Friday at the Imiloa Astronomy Center about the telescope by a professor from U.C. Irvine, an astronomer who seemed more like a PR man than a scientist (though he is both, of course.) He acknowledged the presence of protesting Native Hawaians and their allies at the dedication but was rather dismissive of them. And he is right, because the project is going right on ahead, no matter whether they like it or not.
Now there is nothing illegal about any of this, and it's probably a good thing, even. What it is not is democratic! A rich man decides that a telescope will be built, and he has the money to back up the project, get government officials' approval and bring in money and expertise from different countries. Locals may speak their mind and even protest, as long as it does not make any difference, kind of like letting a kid throw a tantrum to get things off his chest. Hey, and there are those janitorial jobs just waiting for takers!
* I flunked out rather spectacularly in 1959. Imagine throwing an opportunity like that away. It took me years to make up the deficit and spoiled my chances for a good career. Totally my fault. It wasn't until the early 90's that I got an M.A. Saying I was a late bloomer would be putting it kindly. But this setback has left me with a soft spot in my heart for young women who screw up.
How important was Caltech for you? I assume a lot, since you gave the school $600 million [the largest gift ever to an institution of higher education].
Very important. I was only there as a grad student. If I’d gone as an undergrad, I probably would’ve flunked out. I think Caltech fills a unique role, and it’s not a cheap one. Their small size allows them to do interdisciplinary work a lot more effectively than anyplace else I know. The bigger universities get cast into silos.
He gave Caltech $600,000,000. Do you think this has had any influence on the projects they take up? One thing for sure: no one seems to think there is anything wrong with doing this. It's not against the law. It could be regarded as benevolent. It's how the world works.
Ikea’s corporate structure is complicated, but the key point is that Ikea is a Netherlands-based “charity.” For many years, the vast majority of its outlets have been controlled by the Dutch company Ingka Holding, which in turn is owned by the not-for-profit Stichting Ingka Foundation, which was created in 1982 by the founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, for the purpose of ”furthering the advancement of architecture and interior design.” The Stichting Ingka Foundation is often listed as the wealthiest charitable foundation in the world, with assets in excess of $35 billion. As a result, Ikea pays a minuscule 3.5 percent nonprofit tax rate, far lower than its for-profit counterparts. In addition, recent revelations from LuxLeaks, an investigative project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, show the company has made deals with the government of Luxembourg in order to pay as little tax as possible to anyone, anywhere.
There is no IKEA here, but I always visit their Seattle store when I'm in town, and our condo is totally furnished with IKEA furniture. We have bookcases and cabinets and a bed that we bought at the first IKEA to open outside of Sweden, which was in 1972. Yes, we are still using bookcases we bought there that long ago. I could rationalize this. It really is amazing to find things so well designed at such low prices. Of course this means stiffing the producers and workers for the sake of middle class consumers, a practice which is universal now.
Observations about Target. Their labor practices are no better than WalMart's but they have a better image.They have cute ads. Their desired shopper is a married woman with children who is between ages 25 and 45. Visiting Target is an occasion for which one dresses nicely and buys things to enhance one's lifestyle. Some call it Tar-Jay, which sounds French and therefore cool.To be honest I shop at Target myself sometimes and am as a matter of fact at this moment wearing a nightshirt I bought there.
WalMart is where everyday people with no pretensions do their shopping. And when I am occupying my everyday persona and just need a cheap t-shirt or a pair of shorts, or reasonably priced eyeglasses, that's where I shop too. But I've heard you can get lenses and frames even cheaper online.
Then there is Home Depot for the manly set! Terry has been practically living there lately. He installed several recessed lamps he bought for the ceiling of the new guest room we are putting in in the basement. Impressive! I really thought Home Depot wasn't going to make it here, but it's thriving. Terry is on his way up there right now. He says that as this project develops he can just go there and get items as the need for them arises. This is before he and Jim and Jim's friend put in the drywall ceiling yesterday:
Oh, and Amazon. How could I live without Amazon? This is a corporation that is 100% dedicated to the American consumer, the most spoiled creature ever to walk the earth. And Amazon Prime is worth having. It means free shipping on the two big heavy art books I just bought myself for Christmas. I get a lot of freebies too. Amazon, under Bezo's tight direction, is turning the Washington Post into a news outlet that could wipe out print papers for good and all and probably the Huffington Post too (no loss on the latter). They fulfill my consumer dreams like no other corporation.
We got lost looking for a coffee shop on our way to Long Beach, Washington, on our last trip and stumbled on DuPont, home of a new Amazon Fulfillment Center (!) It was surrounded by bland developments that I infer were part of the boom and bust real estate debacle. Now I presume Amazon employees will buy or rent this housing, and DuPont will experience an economic revival. But that can only happen if the employees are well paid. We shall see.
I see one problem looming for Amazon, though: worker and supplier discontent and resistance in foreign markets. Microsoft is doing better in that regard, but Amazon is constrained by Bezo's consumer first philosophy. This is not a universal value. Protecting production and labor and having an equitable tax base mean more in some places, for instance, than satisfying consumer cravings.
The options for us as American consumers are so tempting that we really can't, or won't, resist. An anthropologist friend of mine refers to the U.S. as the big PX. The U.S. military pioneered the kind of everything store that has become the most popular form of retail. No matter how she complained about American greed, she said, she went nuts on shopping whenever she came back from foreign places. So did I, when I lived in Europe. And really, shopping in the U.S. is great!
If we didn't mind driving for a couple of hours to get there, we could shop at Costco and feel moral about that, the cost of gas aside, since they treat their employees well and are even allowing them to take the day off on Thanksgiving. But a downmarket warehouse-type store, Cost U Less, is right in town and carries many of the same brands as Costco, and it also has good labor practices.
One thing I will not do is buy food anywhere but at the locally owned supermarket, Cost U Less, health food stores and the Hilo Farmers' Market. So on that one matter, I remain pure. Food that I buy is not from China, and a fair amount of it is local. Everything else I buy is made in China or some other low wage country, no matter what the image of the store may be. We consumers did not invent this situation!
The Consumer in Chief has made some deals with China lately to cut down on carbon emissions. Let's see where that goes.
Coda: IKEA is an anomaly here, and really the ultimate in corporate hypocrisy, using the social state of Sweden as a cover for its dodgy tax practices.
We were offline here for several hours. I was planning to write about the forum on clean elections and campaign finance but will have to put that off for the time being. Maybe I can catch up on the weekend. In the meantime, here is a pic of a gecko helping itself to a madeline.
I always try to deliver product, even in my busiest times!!!
As an old person, I am trying to steer a course between niceness and grumpiness. I'm definitely not what you'd call a dear old thing, but I'm also not a bitch unless provoked beyond bearing. Maybe just a human being? Katha Pollitt is a role model for the person I would like to have been in my life, but it's too late for that! My ideal would to be, like her, "nice, but with an edge." Pollitt is sweet too; I can't manage that, alas. Once upon a time in the dark ages I was sweet but lost that quality somewhere along the way.
There is something important about seeing people in person that I have learned about from books and articles and other media. Something about interactions, however short. Paradoxically, Katha Pollitt is impressive in her very modest self presentation and approachability and openness. How she has managed without the kind of defenses I have had to put in place I will never know. Another person with these qualities is Bell Hooks, who has the gift of sizing people up in an instant and making wise and helpful comments. Years ago she told me I was on the right track in my life at a time when I was unsure about myself. That five minute interaction with her has stayed with me all this time. Such can be the influence of these special people.
Amy Goodman is unusual in that she gives exactly the same impression in person as she does on her program, Democracy Now. She is serious and focused at all times but very modest, too. Somewhat sad, I think, with a wintry smile. A little aloof, perhaps.
The lava has stalled above Pahoa town, but the atmosphere is anything but serene. We went to Paulo's Bistro down there the other night, and it was pretty quiet. Paulo says he's going to retire pretty soon. He had a bad run-in a few years ago with a dishonest person who backed out of a real estate deal and left him broke. Eventually, Pahoa will be wiped out. It could be tomorrow, or it could be years from now. The strain is too much.
It's rainy and cool this a.m., a good day for doing housework. I'm expecting a guest who will be participating in a forum here on environmental issues campaign finance and clean elections and is staying overnight here.
Anyway, enough of this! I'm starting to maunder, and I've got a busy day ahead.