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There is a Facebook initiative going on called The View from my Window. People from all over the world, in quarantine, are taking pictures out their windows and sharing their views.

I find it mesmerizing. I can’t stop scrolling. People in Iceland, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Hawaii, Norway, every thinkable country, are posting pictures. There is ice and snow, there is lush tropical vegetation, there is desert, there are oceans, lakes and lagoons, there are city streets, there are brick walls in courtyards in European cities. All at the same time. All people at home. Everyone around the world is sharing.

COVID-19 is a global disaster of almost unprecedented proportions. But it is also a unifying experience. I have always been a global citizen. I have traveled. I speak multiple languages. But I have never before felt the amount of global unity that I feel right now.

In the morning, I spend ten or twenty minutes scrolling through The View from my Window and see snippets of the lives of people I will never know, people, who are nevertheless just like me, people who I feel are my friends.

And I feel united. I rise beyond national interests. I leave the closed world of my home and I look out and enjoy The View from my Window.

 

Today at 6:53pm we had a significant earthquake. It was of 4.9 magnitude centered near Anza, California. That’s 60 miles from here.

We felt it strongly here in Escondido.

Our world, our country, our state, and our community has suffered enough damage already. Right now we do NOT NEED AN EARTHQUAKE.

This definitely shook me up.

One of my brothers lives in Germany. He is in his mid forties. He is recently posting diatribes on Facebook about not allowing himself to be ordered into quarantine by his government. He says that people have always died. There have been plagues before, there will be purges in the future. He thinks this is nature asserting itself. He should not be subjected to limitations of his freedom. He calls it his imprisonment.

So I made some comments back, stating that the death rate of this bug is way beyond anything we have seen in our lifetimes.

He responds people will always have to die.

I said, tell that to the 61 emergency room doctors who died in Italy just in the last couple of weeks.

He said that some people are just not in good physical shape. Some doctors were chain smokers.

He said that the average age of Germans who died of the virus is over 80.

I am not sure if that’s true, but even if it is, I am over 60, so I am definitely in the lower end of the death range.

Brother, if I had lived 150 years ago I would have died at age 22 on Good Friday in 1979 when my appendix was about to burst. I am still here, more than 40 years later, because the military surgeon at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona knew what he was doing. Just because people always have died does not mean they should die right now, just because some of us can’t handle simple human cooperation and go along with the other seven billion people in the world with common-sense measures.

Sorry, Brother, I don’t Intend to Die.

I am staying home.

 

Based on the non-fiction book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, the movie The Irishman shows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), an Irish-American who lives in Philadelphia, tell his life story. The Martin Scorsese movie is three and a half hours long. So make sure you have ample time before sitting down for this one, or split it into two nights.

The story starts when Frank Sheeran, a World War II veteran, is in a wheelchair in a nursing home, telling the story of how he started out as a truckdriver delivering meat, to becoming a hit man for the Bufalino crime family, led by Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and a friend and confidante of Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

The Irishman leads us through a few turbulent decades of American history and the mob’s involvement. Particularly the Kennedy Administration, how Kennedy got elected, Bobby Kennedy’s role, and eventually even Nixon are involved in the plot. Most of all, it gives deep insight into the thinking of the mob and the unions, and it’s not a pretty picture.

The acting is superb. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Ray Romano are at their very best. We have not one superstar actor in this film, but half a dozen of them, all doing an exemplary job.

The Irishman is shocking, exhausting to watch, long and drawn out, but hugely educational, and a history lesson.

I never knew much about Jimmy Hoffa, other than I knew that he was a union figure, and there was a movie about him (Hoffa, 1992, with Jack Nicholson). Now I know a lot more about Hoffa, and I’ll have to watch that movie too.

The Irishman is 209 minutes long, and 209 minutes worth watching.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

— Isaac Asimov, 1980

When the Black Plague ravaged the world in the 1600s, doctors adopted head to toe protective gear. They didn’t know how the plague was transmitted, but they thought is was from evil fumes. The beak had two small holes in the front and was filled with perfume, masking the smell. The costume was completed by the wide brimmed leather hat, a sign of the profession of doctor, and a full waxed gown, including leather leggings and gloves.

The doctors also carried a cane, which was used to keep people at a distance. They used the canes to remove clothing from sick people and even to check their pulse.

People were terrified of the costume since it often was associated with imminent death.

 

John Prine is one of my favorite singers and songwriters.

He is 72, and a lung cancer survivor. I so hope he makes it through!

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/29/entertainment/john-prine-coronavirus/index.html

Hello in There – it’s so very appropriate right now:

After posting this, I found Joan Baez sending well wishes to John Prine, using the same song:

A plane with five passengers on board — Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, the Pope and a 10-year-old schoolgirl — is about to crash and there are only 4 parachutes.

Trump says: “I need one. I’m the smartest man in the USA and I’m needed to solve the pandemic!” He takes one parachute and jumps.

Johnson says: “I’m needed to sort out the COVID-19 mess in Britain.” He takes one and jumps.

The Pope says: “The world’s Catholics depend on me for comfort in a time of fear.” He takes one and jumps.

“You can have the last parachute,” Merkel says to the 10-year-old. “I’ve lived my life. Yours is only just starting.”

The little girl replies: “Don’t worry, there are two parachutes left. The smartest man in the USA just took my school bag.”

The Two Popes is a dramatization of what happened in 2013, when Pope Benedict VI (Anthony Hopkins) was the first pope to resign in over 700 years. Benedict was a conservative and, in religious aspects, a hardliner. He was elected during a time when Catholicism was under immense internal pressure and change.

Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) would eventually become Pope Francis, Pope Benedict’s successor. But he didn’t know that in 2012, when he traveled to Rome to submit his request to retire. He was one of Pope Benedict’s harshest critics and an activist in the church.

The Two Popes tells the life story of Jorge Bergoglio through the framework of the conversations between the two men over two days in Rome. The unlikely pair of adversaries became friends, and the rest is history.

Joseph Ratzinger, who would eventually become Pope Benedict, taught at the University of Regensburg in Germany in 1969, about the same time I was a school boy learning Latin in Regensburg. During one of my visits there a decade ago, when he was pope, I went to find his house in Pentling, right outside of Regensburg and just a few kilometers from the university. It’s an unassuming place, mostly behind a tall and grown-over wall of ivy and green. I never knew about him when he was active in Regensburg and later Munich as bishop, of course, and only studied up on him when he became der Bayerische Papst (the Bavarian Pope).

I am not a Catholic, and I am not a Christian, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Two Popes. Other than the doctrine and the thinking of Pope Benedict, I didn’t learn much about him. But I learned the entire history of Pope Francis, and while I have criticized him for many of the decisions he has made and the atrocities of the church that he has allowed to continue, I have gathered renewed respect for him through this movie.

And I feel solidarity: If I were pope, I would shun the red shoes too.

Today I got a letter from Melania Trump, asking me for money:

Check this out:

In confronting and resolving the issues facing our nation, Donald has proven to be a true leader.

Here is the second page:

The red arrow is mine.

I cannot believe that the wife of Trump originally had a signature that is done with a marker and looks just like Trump’s signature.

 

First in the world! Today the United States surpassed China and Italy with the most people infected in the world.

I am getting seriously pissed off at the vapid drivel of some of our political right in the United States that still, to this day, calls this epidemic “blown out of proportion by the leftist media” to hurt Trump.

Tell that to the 46 emergency room doctors dead so far in Italy. Do we really think that people dying in Italy has one hoot to do with the political sentiment in the United States? This virus kills. Period.

Let’s put some numbers into perspective, shall we?

There are now 104,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. That has DOUBLED from three days ago. This means that there were as many cases confirmed since Tuesday in the U.S. as there were in all the months since January. DOUBLE in three days.

1,500 people in the U.S. have died from this so far. That means a mortality rate of 1.5%. And – let’s not forget – this is while the hospitals are still staffed, we still have enough beds and doctors and nurses. How many think will die when there won’t be any ventilators for the sick? Simple arithmetic tells us it will be a lot more, perhaps approaching three or four percent as we have seen in other countries.

I guess we won’t have to wait long. It’s still Friday, March 27th as I write this. Five days from now will be April 1st. If the rate of increase stays where it is now, we’ll have 250,000 sick by then, which is likely going to be above the capacity of the major city hospitals. That’s when the bodies will start piling up. Just five days from now.

The numbers do not lie and the rates of increase do not coincide with the wishes of our incompetent national leadership, and the truth will not set us free. Praying is not helping.

I can only do what makes sense to protect myself and those I come in contact with.

But I can say that I am very tired of people in leadership positions acting like this is a hoax or a hype. People are dying by the hundreds, and we’re just getting started.

There are two sections in Dylan’s It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) that ring true over 50 years after they have been penned:

From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

and

But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

 

Enjoy a listen and read along with the lyrics below.

 

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

As pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you’ve got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your eyes is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must bow down to authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone living in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To tell fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false goals (gods), I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only”

There is one man in the world who knows how to move air: James Dyson.

We have a vacuum cleaner with his name on it in our house.

He designed fans with no blades.

Now, in 15 days, he designed a ventilator that can be produced at scale and quickly.

These are the brains we need during times of war and crisis. These are the real heroes.

The Dyson Ventilator article at CNN.com.

DuPont is one of the world’s largest corporations, and apparently one of the world’s most brazen polluters.

Dark Waters starts when a farmer with a box of videos walks into a law firm asking for help. He has farmed his land all of his life, but when DuPont bought the land next to his farm and started a landfill, the water in his creek quickly became poisonous.  All the livestock on his farm is dying. He finds grotesque deformities and strange behavior.

This movie is inspired by this true story and sequence of events that takes us from the 1960s to the current time. Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is an attorney who works at a law firm in Columbus, Ohio defending DuPont. He eventually switches sides and takes on DuPont on behalf of the people in his home town in West Virginia. He is quickly ostracized by his peers, and even shunned by the townspeople. After all, DuPont is the main employer there, the company that puts bread on everyone’s table. They don’t want to know that the company also makes them all sick.

Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich or even Karen Silkwood’s true stories, Robert Bilott’s quest to get justice for his clients goes way beyond just a lawsuit.

We were shocked watching this movie, and we promptly, the next day, threw out our existing Teflon frying pans that we had been using for years and got new ones.

You just have to watch Dark Waters to find out why.

 

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