A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 2

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2022/05/08/a-tempering-of-dreams-chapter-1/

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Chapter 2

A nearly imperceptible breeze of freshness carried the muted cacophony of city sounds past the Ginkgo foliage in the courtyard below, through his open window to caress him awake. Sergio found himself in his own bed. “So I guess I made it out of Joe’s sometime before dawn,” he thought to himself. Then he remembered, “Holy shit! I’ve got Chemistry!” So he briskly rolled himself out of bed, looked at his watch, quickened his pace and dressed, grabbed his books for the day and huffed down to the Burness Building’s big ancient steeply banked auditorium with the Chemistry lecture already underway, and found himself an empty wooden seat in the back row. He took out his notepad and ballpoint pen, and began trying to listen, and figure out where they were in the subject.

“Organic chemistry” said a velvety mezzo soprano voice next to him, “Chapter 8. We started it last time, remember?” Sergio turned, surprised, “Thanks, yeah,” he said nodding. She had a lovely oval face framed by long thick straight black hair that tumbled over her shoulders and down her back, dark eyes set in clear glistening whites and rimmed by long mascara-enhanced lashes, a delicately shaped nose, dark well-defined brows and a lush rosy button of a mouth. “Thanks again,” he said as class was breaking up, and she smiled back. Everyone left Burness and scattered to other classes. He saw her walking up Campus Green ahead of him, her black hair fallen over her purple long-sleeve pullover and down to her waist with the wispy ends waving across the top of the flare to the lower half of her fulsome hourglass figure, which was covered by loose-fitting dark blue jeans.

He climbed the stairs to his Spanish class in College Hall, settled in with notepad and pen ready, and then noticed that she was in this class too. They smiled their amusement at this coincidence, across the room to each other. After class they walked to meet and introduce themselves. She was Angela Celli, a psychology major. Since neither of them had a class for an hour, Sergio suggested they get coffee in The Underground, the snack bar in the basement of College Hall. That would be his lunchtime breakfast, with cream and sugar for added substance.

Angie was from Pittsburgh. As she told him about herself he looked into her beautiful face and down her long-chain brass necklace with its big round gleaming pendant resting on the deep purple stretch knit top covering the swell of her ample bosom, right over where its hidden deep valley would be. Angie offered Sergio a cigarette, and they both lit up, smoked and talked over their coffees.

“What’s that?” Angie noticed that Sergio had a separate journal book, obviously not for school.
“Oh, it my poetry book. I write poems.”
“Really!”
“Yes. I learned to do it watching my father. He wrote many romantic poems to my mother, and he loves to sing arias from zarzuelas.”
“Zarzuelas?”
“Spanish operettas. Gay ’90s stuff.”
“And you’re studying engineering?” They both laughed at that one.

“Where have you been!” They were startled to see Roger Solely right there booming his greeting. “Sergio! We have missed you, man, since last semester. What happened? You disappeared!”
Sergio introduced Angie to Roger, an upperclass man, telling her that he and Roger’s buddies had often gone to concerts downtown early last fall, before school had gotten too intense for him.
“Oh, we saw D’Oyly Carte’s ‘Penzance,’ ‘2001’ in Cinerama, ‘Madame Butterfly’ with the glorious Beverly…” Roger rattled off happily to answer Angie.
“Sills, for Beverly” Sergio interjected for Angie, then to Roger, “Look, Roger, engineering is hard, man, and I’ve really got to study all — the — time!”
“You’re such a good boy. Look, call me, we get together all the time, and I’m putting up some sketches at an Architecture show that’s coming up and I want everybody to come. And don’t be a stranger!” With that, Roger flipped his dangling silk Paisley scarf back over his shoulder and trotted off.

Angie looked into Sergio’s face with an inquisitive yet amused look. Sergio wondered if an anthropological observation of his psychological profile was now underway.
“You know, last semester when I got here, I met Roger and his pals, and would go out with them to the opera and movies, since I love classical music and they do too, and they knew the town, and always got tickets. Also, they had all kinds of booze in their apartments, and that was good for me. Anyway, just before Thanksgiving vacation, we were all in the room and kind of a fight broke out, and I saw that I was being seen as the prize in a ‘Boys in the Band’ kind of setup. Roger got kind of heated, and claimed I’d be spending Thanksgiving with him, not any of them. I’d already figured out that he wanted my thick lips around… well, you know. He was dreaming. They all have some quick wits, and they know a lot about artsy stuff, but they’re not my scene. I can go see the symphony by myself if I want to. So that’s where Roger’s coming from. I… ah… like people… like… you.”
“Girls?”
“Yeah, most definitely.”
“Are you seeing anyone?”
“Ah… no. You?”
“Not really.”
“Well, maybe WE can go out sometime.”
“I think that’d be fun.” She gave him the phone number to her shared suite in Hill Hall, and then they each took off to their late classes.

“Have you ever wondered what makes for a beautiful woman?” Joe asked Sergio walking back from College Hall after their Meal Plan dinners.
“Being between eighteen and twenty-one.”
“Nothing more?”
“Miniskirts and tight sweaters help a lot.”
“A lustily physical perspective, but perhaps too limited.”
“Well, they have to have some spirit, know stuff and not be ditzes, and just be nice to talk to. Why do you ask?”
“You seem in a much better mood than yesterday, and I don’t think it is only from hash afterglow.”
“I met a girl in class today, and she’s… interesting.”
“Indeed!”
“I got a phone number, maybe she’ll answer it someday.” So Sergio told Joe the outlines of that day’s story before they settled into rolling and smoking joints, and listening to ‘The Doors’ and ‘Strange Days’ to kick the ya-yas of the Draft and Colorado out of their minds. Next day Sergio bought Huxley’s ’The Doors of Perception’ at the Book Store. He decided to keep his grades up just in case he could evade the Draft and pursue his engineering dreams. A new image had now been added to that dream complex: Angie.

Angie did answer his phone call. They went out to see a screening of ‘Casablanca’ by the University Film Society in the College Hall theater, and then walked around on Campus Green smoking cigarettes and talking, before Sergio took her down to The Underground to buy them both Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches and coffee milkshakes. It all felt good for both. Angie had to get back to Hill Hall by 11 pm, because she knew the entry monitors didn’t get too upset about having to unlock the gates for latecomers till then. There was a call box on the outside of the fence.

They walked outside from College Hall through Campus Green into the shadows near the big trees far from the pathways, and embraced into a deep kiss. Wordlessly, they lay down on the grass and pressed their bodies into each other within their embrace, kissing deeply, gently, slowly. Her lush black hair brushed against his face as he looked down into her eyes and submerged himself into her gaze.

Time came to go, and he walked her back to Hill Hall. She asked him to call again soon so they could have a Spanish study night in her suite with the girls, who were all in less advanced Spanish classes and some struggling. Then, whistling in his mind, he walked back to his room through a sequence of shadows and street lamps alternately disappearing and then illuminating the granularity of the pathways to sharp relief. The air was cool, he was warm.

Days later he went to the Computer Center in the Electrical Engineering building to work on a Fortran IV programming project. He spent hours typing out his program onto a deck of IBM cards each punched by the typewriter with a hole array encoding one line of his program’s instructions, then feeding the deck into the card reader and waiting for his turn when the printer would clack out his calculated results on big sheets of folding paper connected by perforations. This occurred several times as he corrected errors after each run. Eventually he got it right and was able to carry out a printout with columns of numbers that would satisfy the needs of his assignment. It was getting near dinnertime. He walked across 40th Street to Hill Hall and had Angie called from the reception desk. She appeared, smiling, and led him through carpeted white hallways hung with framed pastel-colored prints of abstracts and landscapes, down to her suite. Five other girls were there. When Angie had invited him, she said he’d get dinner in exchange for his Spanish help. And indeed he did, Veal Parmesan, in Hill Hall’s large cafeteria with all seven of them. The apple pie and ice cream were good, too, and the coffee.

Now that they all knew each other a little bit better, it was back to the suite for study time. After about thirty minutes of pronunciation and grammar corrections, and translations, the talk really started, and the music. And these girls were into the music, they had a huge stack of discs. First it was Janis Joplin’s ‘Cheap Thrills,’ which was without a doubt the gospel music of Hill Hall in 1969. A hash pipe had been produced for that, and gaily passed around to mutual satisfaction. A thick towel had been rolled up and pushed against the bottom of the door, and a vent was blocked with a piece of cardboard, as precautions. After Janis it was Creedence Clearwater for a rollicking stone, and someone mentioned that a Woodstock Music Festival had been announced for August, where Creedence would appear and all kinds of top bands were now signing up for it, and maybe even Dylan and the Beatles would appear. Then Crosby, Stills and Nash was put on the player for the choral part of the service, and after that Judy Collins for the heartfelt poetry of later evening.

It was nearly time for lockdown and the other girls went off to their own rooms. “Do you want to stay?” Angie asked leadingly.
“Sure, but how?”
“Oh, it’s easy, Janet does it all the time. You just stay in here till after the gates open in the morning, we get breakfast, and I’ll take you to the door from there. They’ll never notice.”
“Who’s Janet?”
“My room mate. You don’t know Janet?”
“Won’t she come back? No, I don’t know who she is.”
“She’s the most popular girl in the Pig Book, a cheerleader. I get calls for her ALL the time. All the guys want to date her. Her boyfriend’s a football player and she’s out all the time, his place or cheerleading practice, and class. She probably won’t came back. But if she does, don’t worry, she does the same plenty of times.”

The suite had a small half-bath with toilet and sink, so that was convenient. Shower rooms were elsewhere down the hall. They kicked off their shoes, Angie turned out the lights, and they embraced on the bed into long kisses. He pressed his warm palms into her back and pushed her close as she melted herself into him. Rays of lamplight from 40th Street shone through the window to give the room a film noir atmosphere. Sergio pulled his head back so he could look into Angie’s shining eyes, and caressed the side of her face for a long moment, then slid his hand slowly down her neck to the rise of her breast. She accepted willingly because she loved the feel of his hands: all warmth and gentle pressure with no hurry, no grab.

“Can we get rid of the belt buckle?” she asked. So they each ditched the belts. When they embraced again, he slipped his hand under her blouse in back, and felt her skin. When next they surfaced for air, she unbuttoned his shirt front enough to slide her palm over his chest, she wanted to feel his skin, too. Wordlessly, he took off his shirt and undershirt, and she pulled off her blouse. Then it was so much better, warmth to warmth. As he moved his hand pressure over the contours of her back, he would pass his fingers over the backstrap of her bra, it had four hook-clamps. Heavy duty. He tested lightly to see if he could unhook it one-handed. “You’ll never do it. Here, let me,” and sitting up she undid it letting it fall away. In the half light he saw that her breasts were luxuriantly rounded masterpieces of femininity with large dark nipple moons. Skin to skin was a plush dual ecstasy. Sergio’s pants were getting much too tight, and both their legs were yearning for each other. So the jeans fell away, he had his cotton boxer shorts, she had her nylon panties, all else was skin.

Sergio slowly stroked her fulsome body along the length of it he could reach from within their tight embrace. He pulled back a bit to cup his hand around her breasts, and across them to then run his palm down the deep valley between, and down over her stomach. She put her hand against her waist in front and said “Not below here.”

“Yes,” the boundary was made clear, and he acknowledged that. Eventually his hand began edging past her waist in back and she made no resistance to that move, so soon he was gliding over the nylon caressing her large firm well rounded butt with his warm pressured touch. And she was pulling in on his with outstretched palms, with only a thin layer of cotton and and a thin layer of nylon separating the pulsating urges of their creative forces to merge. Time no longer existed, only an eternity of passionate immersion.

The door opened, light from the hallway flashed into the room and was then cut off as the door quickly closed. Sergio froze, Angie whispered “Janet” into his ear, and he was glad that at least they were under the covers. Janet scurried into the half-bath for a few minutes before emerging to drop herself into her bed on the opposite side of the room. Soon enough she was breathing slow, asleep. Angie whispered “Don’t worry, Janet is cool, it will be okay in the morning.” And they, too, soon fell asleep, warmed entwined in their embrace.

Sergio opened his eyes to see Angie sitting on Janet’s bed with both of them in full length bathrobes. The two girls looked at him as the new day dawned in his eyes.
“Um ah… good morning” he said.
“I’m sorry I came in so late. Hope I didn’t scare you.” Boy, she was bubbly.
“No, no, it was all part of a nice time.”
“Okay, look,” Janet said, “I’ll go up and bring back some coffees and bagels while you two get ready. Brad’s coming over soon for the two of us to go to the practice field,” and off she went. So they took turns for the water closet while the other got dressed. Janet returned with a cupholder tray for three paper-cupped coffees, and a bag of bagels with packets of sugar, creamer and cream cheese. Hill House treated its girls good. She went into the half-bath to dress and prepare herself for her day, while Angie and Sergio relaxed into their breakfast. Janet emerged in surprisingly short time, dressed in a short skirt cheerleader uniform, with her long blond hair swinging in a ponytail, and her delicate faintly freckled face shining with enthusiasm. She was a spectacularly vivacious petite, with a perfect lithe and lean gymnast’s body, and a completely disarming and engaging personality. And what a smile! But she was also an imp.

“Who’s Brad?”
“Quarterback of the JV team. Brad Jackson. He’s on a football scholarship.”
“Are you on a cheerleading scholarship?”
“Well, yeah, but I’m majoring in medical technology. Brad wants to be a pro.”
The phone rang, Brad was ready to be escorted in.
“Oh Angie!, can you go get him, please! I’ve gotta finish and pack my bag!”
Angie laughed as this was obviously routine and left to retrieve the Hulk. Janet hurriedly stuffed her big gym bag with extra clothes, schoolbooks, towel, makeup items, extra socks, a sweatshirt, pens, pads, sunglasses and a brimmed cloth hat. Then she got a bright idea.

“Oh my God! That big lunk thinks he’s so cool and’s got it over everybody. I wanna make him jealous! Let’s play a trick!” She tossed her bag by the door, jumped across the room, and threw herself over backwards to plop onto her bed, whose bedsprings bounced up and down a few times from the impact. She held out her arms and said “Jump on me!” This terrified Sergio.
“What’s he gonna think if he comes in and sees that!”
“EXACTLY! Come on! come on! come on! Before he gets here! It’ll be such a gag, he deserves it!”
Sergio did not move.
“Come ON! Jump on me!” with her arms outstretched wiggling her luscious little body, with a devilishly gleeful grin, just as the doorknob was being turned. Sergio thought to make a break for the half-bath, when Angie opened the door and walked in with Brad, who looked, unsmiling, at each of them, and Janet bubbled “Oh Brad! Aren’t you glad to see me?”

Brad was not happy, but the twelve feet between Sergio and Janet was somewhat reassuring, so he didn’t let himself loose his cool about it.
“Come on Jan, we’re gonna be late. Lets go!”
“Brad, this is Sergio, Angie’s boyfriend.”
The two men nodded at each other, then Janet grabbed her bag (Sergio noticed that Brad had not done so) and the football people left.

“You like Janet?” Angie asked with a very serious face.
“Well yes, she’s fun-loving. But hey, look, I’m not interested in Janet, I’m interested in you.”
“Everybody’s interested in Janet” she pouted, and Sergio then first detected the deep ocean of melancholy that Angie carried within her.
“I — am not interested — in Janet. I — am interested in you. In — you.”
“Guys have dated me because they knew I roomed with Janet, and wanted in”
“I did not know about Janet, I am not chasing after cheerleaders, I — like — you. Really.”
“What were you doing?”
“She wanted to make the Hulk jealous, and I wasn’t doing anything. Look, let me have a kiss, and I’ll write you a poem”
“You won’t get out of it that easily.”
“Well, how about two kisses and a poem?”
“Okay,” and she melted into his embrace to absorb his love.

Sergio walked into his Residence Hall thinking “Thank God I don’t have an early class today.” As he walked down the wing of the third floor hallways with his group of rooms, he saw all the doors open and the guys looking at him as he walked by. Joe, smiling broadly, was standing in the doorway of his room adjacent to Sergio’s. “The prodigal son returns” he said.
“What’s up, Joe?”
“Admiration, I believe”
“What?”
“I must confess that you were observed penetrating Hill Hall last night, and emerging this morning. So we are… curious.”
“Nothing happened, it was a just a Spanish study night.”
“Commendable modesty.”
“There’s nothing to be jealous about.”
“Yes, admiration is a more pleasant word.”
“Oh, you guys,” Sergio said, shaking his head as he closed the door of his room behind him. “Jealousy” he thought, “amazing!” Then he sat down at his desk to work out some calculus problems. Leaning back, he looked out his window at the beautiful bright day, and suddenly felt very very satisfied.

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A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 3
12 May 2022
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2022/05/12/a-tempering-of-dreams-chapter-3/

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A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1

A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.

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CHAPTER 1

“Oh man!, I’d give up every kind of drug if I could get a motorcycle.” Balmy spring sunshine fell through Bernie’s long brown wavy curls and onto his Italian Renaissance painting of a face, which gave its smooth light skin a soft glow while casting his slightly sunken cheeks into muted shadows. Joe had just told him of a classmate whose father was gifting his son with a new Honda 350, and Bernie just shook his head slowly and gave his reaction to the news in the typically soft calm laconic way in which he spoke, moved, and did everything.

The three of them were shambling across the ragged green lawn inside the Men’s Dormitory Quadrangle in the Spring of 1969, each thinking about something completely different from sitting inside stuffy college lecture halls taking notes on the droning instruction they would need to pass exams on to prove to their Draft Boards that they deserved to keep their student deferments from military service.

Joe was the guru of marijuana rituals in the freshman dorm where Sergio had met him in the Fall Semester of 1968, and been initiated into the smoking arts in Joe’s dorm room bubble of nighttime darkness suffused with Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” issuing from the little record player. Joe, Sergio and a few others on that third floor smoked grass at night as if ancient Hopi men enwombed below ground in a darkened kiva immersed in their merged meditations. As freshmen not from rich families, and shy, these guys had no chance of gaining any of the coeds’s attention at the mixers put on by the Resident Advisors of the men’s and women’s dorms, because there were always plenty of upperclass men with cars, money, grass and experience in attendance, to offer the freshman girls much better opportunities for fun, and better prospects for their husband hunting.

So Joe’s nightly hazy blue bubble of Dylan-infused darkness, with sporadic little orange flashes of flame pulsing out of matchheads and into joints being sucked on, was a refuge from a dangerous and unfriendly world for these boys fresh out of high school and precariously shielded from the Vietnam War by the uncertain promises of their 2-S student deferments.

Joe had a hooked nose set above thin lips always cast into a slight smile for a pleasant face rimmed by dark bushy hair that made him look like a bemused lanky overgrown cherubim. Joe was from Colorado and wanted to be a poet, but his rancher and coal business father insisted he major in economics and plan on joining his company. That is why Joe had made sure to get himself into the University in Philadelphia instead of going to college at Colorado State, and he was hoping to figure out a way of escaping from his preprogrammed fate before graduation in four years, or perhaps sooner if the draft came after him since his grades, except in English, kept sinking. Joe smoked dope all the time, both for his poetic art, and just to make the best use of time during the uncertain duration of his term of freedom.

As usual, Joe was dressed in his blue pajamas, red bathrobe and tawny corduroy bedroom slippers, whose soles were worn ragged by always being scrapped along the asperous surfaces of the sidewalks and streets of the campus and the city, by Joe’s shuffling gait. He was accompanying Bernie on his way to meet Bernie’s friend on the far side of the Quadrangle from whom Bernie got his psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. Bernie, who was Joe’s supplier of grass, had fallen under the spell of mushrooms and acid, and had introduced Joe to psilocybin who also fell in love with it. So Joe was going along with Bernie to buy some for himself. Sergio got his weed from Joe, who was sweet and hardly ever took any money for it, in this he was a missionary: “Everybody must get stoned.”

Sergio liked these two easygoing guys. Bernie was the stereotypical image of a tall lanky hippy. He was bare chested except for a loose and open rawhide vest with dangling strands of fringing that swayed as he walked, he had a rainbow of colors beaded necklace threaded by a rawhide shoelace that hung down to his breastbone, and a similar bracelet that hung loosely around his slender wrist. His unbelted bell-bottom blue jeans were faded, with the frayed stringy bottom edges of the overlong legs dragging along the ground and drooping over his big dusty bare feet. He was beautiful, Jesus never looked better. Bernie was a biology major, maybe. He wanted to walk through verdant landscapes under sunny skies catching glimpses of wildlife, and collecting mushrooms in the woods. Bernie Petrocelli’s people were Italian, his father ran a small produce market in a rural town.

Sergio had joined Bernie and Joe Willis on this languid trek because he wanted to see what the single occupancy dorm rooms for upperclass men looked like in the only corner of the Men’s Quad where they had them, because he’d applied for one for the following Fall Semester of his sophomore year. Sergio was an engineering major because he liked airplanes and submarines and motorcycles and sports cars, and dreamed about someday having his very own sports car manufacturing company like Enzo Ferrari. Sergio wanted to build his own slinky fast-moving motorized chariots. Like Joe, Sergio Romero was of average height unlike willowy Bernie who was noticeably taller, and Sergio dressed like the typical suburban New York kid that he was: with a soft-patterned button-down long-sleeve cotton shirt open at the collar, golden-colored brushed cotton bell bottom jeans cinched with a thin wide brown leather belt that was closed by being looped around through a big brass ring, and squarish suede shoes. Sergio was a Puerto Rican from New York. He had dark wavy hair that he’d let grow out over his ears and down his neck, a wide nose, brown eyes, and a moustache like that of the 1940s movie stars he liked, and that trailed off the upper corners of his thick-lipped mouth, and he had a coffee-and-cream colored skin tone.

The idea of that Honda 350 motorcycle made them all think, especially after hearing Bernie, the most committed pharmacologist of altered consciousness that both Joe and Sergio knew, admit so frankly at how fulfilling possession of such a transport mechanism could be in comparison to all his chemical forms of daring personal exploration. While Joe thought the idea very appealing, as Arlo Guthrie had expressed in song, he still believed some caution was warranted because his hero, Bob Dylan, had been laid up for quite some time the previous year after he’d fallen off his Triumph motorcycle on one of the byways of Woodstock, and Richard Fariña — “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me” — had fatally fallen off of his own motorcycle in Carmel, California three years earlier. And nobody believed Joe would ever give up grass for anything, because it formed his protective cloud of sanity.

Sergio had read the road test report on the Honda 350, “It’s got a twin cylinder overhead valve four-stroke engine,” he told them. He routinely read car and motorcycle magazines, and he hoped to save up his summer job earnings to be able to buy one in maybe two years. He figured that remote as the prospect of getting that bike was for him, it was still more likely than being able to get a girlfriend, and probably safer. Bernie and Joe would have wanted girlfriends too, but that seemed impossible for all of them under their present circumstances. So thank God for weed, and mushrooms, and car magazines, and Joe’s record player, and Draft Cards with 2-S printed on them. Maybe next year they’d each meet and win over some lovely freshman coeds.

They reached the far side of the Quad, with an archway shaped entrance to that 19th century pseudo Oxford-Cambridge architectural style brick-red masonry complex of sleeping quarters that was everywhere edged and trimmed with sandstone ornamentation that featured so prominently in the promotional photographs used by the University. Bernie and Joe entered and went off to the left to find their supplier, while Sergio went right to seek out the first floor room he’s been told he could inspect. It was narrow, the size of a small storage room, which is probably what it had been until the 1940s, and just big enough for a single bed and a desk, and a tight little closet. It had a small window high up at the far end above the desk. What else could he possibly need?, since he expected to just sleep there, and be studying math and physics and chemistry most of his time awake, and go out for meals and doing his laundry.

Sergio arrived at the main archway shaped entrance to the Quad from 38th Street, halfway back from his room inspection at the far side of the Quad, and went to the checkerboard of mailboxes under the archway. He unlocked the one for his room and took out a long envelope. It was a letter from his mother, and that was always nice. He walked happily past the line of stinking Ginkgo trees along the side of the building at the close end of the Quad, and into his Residence Hall, upstairs to his room, and sat on his bed opening his letter. A check made of light blue paper fell out, $100, he loved his mother. He pulled out a sealed letter from the envelope, it was from the Draft Board. That could not be good, his heart sank, his stomach tightened, and his asshole puckered.

A cover letter stated: “You have been reclassified as 1-A because of your academic failure to maintain the grades necessary to merit a Student Deferment.” A new Draft Card was enclosed, with “1-A, immediately available for military service” printed on it. A second letter began: “You have been selected for military service….” and went on to require Sergio to report to a Draft Reporting center in New York City by the end of the month.

Panicked, Sergio rushed to Kenn Lancaster’s suite on the first floor of his Residence Hall. Kenn was a graduate student writing a thesis in political science, and had the job of being the local Resident Advisor in this freshman residence hall. Kenn was a cleancut man from Shaker Heights, Ohio, with light straight thinning hair, a narrow face, and who dressed in the casual collegiate men’s style of the time of button-down shirts, slacks and penny loafers. Kenn’s suite was supplied with a telephone, and Sergio quickly explained his need for using it. Kenn nodded seriously, and walked off to let Sergio make his call.

“How can you say I failed academically? I made the Dean’s List, and I have the letter to prove it. How can you take away my student deferment, you’ve made a terrible mistake!”
The witch at the Draft Board answered in her nasally voice, “You have to come in and report, follow the instructions in the letter.”
“But you’re completely wrong!, you’ve made a mistake!”
“Your name is Sergio Romero, right?”
“Yes!”
“Well our records show that you flunked out of college, so you no longer deserve a student deferment.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve obviously confused me with someone else.”
“It doesn’t matter, once we start the process we just keep going.”

Sergio was thunderstruck. He put the phone down, standing still, his mind paralyzed. Kenn came out of his bedroom and up to him, and Sergio told him what had happened. Kenn took the Draft Notice out of Sergio’s hand and read it through. “You know,” he said, “at the bottom here in small print it says if you have any objections to this notice, you can write a letter to the Draft Board asking for a review hearing of your case and your reasons for wishing an excusal.”
“By when?”
“The end of the month. I’ll bet it would buy you some time.”
Sergio rushed back to his room and immediately typed out a letter to the Draft Board, requesting a review hearing, on the mechanical Olympia typewriter his father had given him as a High School graduation present. He threw on a corduroy jacket, left, took his letter straight to the Men’s Quad Post Office, behind where the mailbox array was, bought an envelope and stamp, sealed the letter and addressed it, and put it in the US Mail postbox.

Then he went out across 38th Street and down to College Hall, bypassing it since he had no appetite for eating a bland mushy Meal Plan dinner in the Dining Room, and across the Campus Green under the oaks and maples to 40th Street, and into Smokey Joe’s. He asked for a beer at the bar, which he knew he’d get since he dressed conservatively enough, and sported a moustache, which both made him appear like an over twenty-one-year-old man legally allowed to buy beer, instead of an underage 19-year-old college kid. He went over to the cigarette machine, popped in two quarters, and pulled the lever for a pack of Winston’s. He lit one up and sucked in that first sweet tobacco flavored hit of little death, sulking over his beer.

Three people walked into the darkly wood paneled cavern that was Smokey Joe’s, from the dusky light out on 40th Street, two men and a woman. The men were the usual sort of shaggy-haired loosely dressed college men, obviously not freshmen, maybe frat boys. The woman was stunning. She was tall, statuesque, with a full bosom like Sophia Loren, nicely rounded not overlarge butt discernible under her dark brown miniskirt sashed with a braided belt, and long lovely white legs extending below that brief enticing veil over velvety dreams. She wore a large brimmed dark brown floppy hat from which cascaded long glistening waves of lush dark wavy hair that framed her smooth almond shaped face with its bright dark eyes under unplucked brushy brows, a rounded nose and full lips beneath which white teeth flashed out through her animated smiles as she spoke with her male companions. She wore a short fake fur jacket opened in front, giving a fine view of the rolling hills carpeted in a stretched maroon turtleneck blouse.

“What’ll you have, Elena?” her trailing wolves inquired.
“Oh, just a Pepsi.” Which the men ordered along with with their beers and three slices of pizza. Sergio watched that fluttering vision of feminine loveliness eating her pizza and sipping her Pepsi, obviously amused and delighted by the eagerly hopeful attentions from the two guys whose simulations of knowledgeable maturity and cool were being projected with anticipation. Sergio took slow drags on his cigarette between sips of his beer, watching from across the room.

“A Pepsi,” so Elena was a freshman. That meant she lived just down 40th Street from Smokey Joe’s, at Hill House, the very modern Women’s Dormitory, which would definitely have a reliable heating system, and also housed its own fine quality Dining Hall. Hill House was a square smooth-face red brick colored three story building centered in its own green adjacent to grassy playing fields, and surrounded by an empty moat fenced on the outside with a tall black iron fence whose sturdy vertical railings were topped with deeply hooked outward and downward facing spikes. It was a fortress, and the only way in or out was across a causeway, gated at both ends, over the moat to the barred pair of heavy doors of the guarded entryway. The outer gate was opened at 8 am and closed at 10 pm, and the entrance was always guarded to prevent any but the resident girls from entry during visiting hours without permission from one of the girls, who could appear in person to escort her guest in from the reception lobby, but usually just called over to the entry desk from her room suite, which all had telephones. The Hill House girls lived in the modern 20th century of the 1960s, the Men’s Quad boys lived in the tattered remnants of the 19th.

Sergio felt a tap on his left shoulder. It was Joe, he’d not seen him come in. “I see you are observing the circling of Ruffed Grouse about an alluring hen,” he said with his usual smile.
“Yeah.”
“And I notice you are indulging in traditional libations and aromatics. You must be cogitating on deep matters.”
“Yeah Joe, they took away my 2-S”
“Oh, that is indeed deeply disturbing. Why?” and Sergio told him the story.
“Well, then we must await the correspondence in a week or two. Did you eat?”
“No.”
“Agreed. Why don’t I buy a pizza here, and we repair ourselves to my room, to nourish our bodies there, and our spirits with some grass? Tomorrow you can begin thinking of what might have to be done, tonight we can just be.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do it.” And Sergio finished his smoke and beer while Joe ordered the pizza and they waited for it. He then noticed that Elena and her suitors had left while he had been talking with Joe. Maybe she went to their frat house to smoke some joints and play pool, he could imagine her leaning over in her miniskirt to take a long shot across the pool table, or maybe she just went back to Hill House to study, but she looked too popular for that. Anyway, now he had a mission: “Get laid before I get killed in Vietnam.”

“Bernie gave me some hash,” said Joe, dropping a green pellet into a short squat onyx pipe. “Take a hit” he said solicitously, flicking his lighter onto the hash as Sergio sucked in the burning haze hard. His mind unglued and he expanded out into viscous sensation. He and Joe traded hits from the pipe consuming the hashish till they were each far gone deep into their own vast private inky stoned nothingness. Outside Joe’s window the night was black and still.

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A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 2
10 May 2022
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2022/05/10/a-tempering-of-dreams-chapter-2/

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Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911

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Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911

An insane person knows they are sane and the rest of the world is crazy, and that is why it should be feared. A truly sane person knows they are crazy and the rest of the world is sane, and that is why it should be feared. I have learned from experience that the best way for me to speak with other people is: not at all. I have learned from experience that everything that people tell me is correct, and I should never let on that I rarely if ever believe them. As far as everybody is concerned: you are right, I am crazy.

But now I’ve had a chilling life-and-death health scare, and it made me realize that before I die I should finally confess to the American People about being a secret controlled demolitions special operative for 911. Everything you have secretly believed, and could never let on about, is true. Here is my story.

In the 1980s I was working on the secret Orbiting Space Laser Weapons Platform (OSLWP) project for the US Government. Believe me, they’re up there now; they’re just not telling you, it is TOP SECRET. The HARP Project was just a low level test run experiment during the development of the OSLWP.

I had gotten a Physics Ph.D. from an Ivy League University, and was recruited into the Nuclear Weapons Program a few years earlier. I designed an electronic sensor that was able to measure the rate of fusion burn in the golfball-sized spark plug at the core of fissioning uranium and plutonium atom bombs. Only the U.S. has this, and I did it. Because of this, I was then double secretly posted into the OSLWP project, and my identity in the outside world was completely erased, until now.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, we were building OSLWP modules in the vast underground MX Missile Railway Complex, the expansion and completion of which with weapons manufacturing and assembly capabilities is another TOP SECRET. Those modules would be loaded into the cargo bays of the USAF robotic mini Space Shuttles (whose existence is no longer a secret) at AREA 51, which is linked by the MX Underground Railroad (MXUR). By the way, the steak restaurant in the MX Underground Weapons Manufacturing Complex (MXUWMC) is top notch, as is the bar (one dollar for top shelf doubles of martinis and 18-year scotch!, and yes I often got hammered on the US taxpayers’s nickel).

The OSLWP fleet was assembled piece by piece robotically in space, the engineers doing the work remotely from MXUWMC, by video link and joysticks. The huge underground supercomputer banks doing all the calculations and command and control generate so much heat that they have to be cooled by an underground river diverted from the Colorado River by a deep rock-cut tunnel.

By 2000, the OSLWP fleet had been up and running for a few years, and work down in the MXUWMC had dropped off very significantly, mainly just legacy maintenance and guarding classified data banks. Layoff after layoff happened, and I thought my high-paying high-tech career would suddenly come to a close, and I’d have to live off my savings from there on out. I would always be a designated security risk under surveillance by the CIA’s secret Homeland Monitoring Department in the FBI (yes, it exist, another secret they’re not telling you about), because of the Government’s fear that I might inadvertently “spill the beans” to coworkers if I was to get an outside job, which they did not want me to do.

So after I got my notice on July 4th, 2000, I just stayed home and drank my own martinis. I wasn’t much fun for the wife and kids, but then I had never been able to tell them anything anyway, while now at least I was home regularly at nights and available to take out the garbage cans once a week for the pickup. Dullsville 24/7, and staying off the telephone.

Then one day I got a visit from an old buddy of mine who was an Army Ranger and had been a guard at MXUWMC. Guards at MXUWMC had to have proven search-and-destroy capabilities, and my drinking buddy ‘Keith’ had lots of secret missions under his belt. He’d parachuted into Vietnam in late 1975 (after the US withdrawal and the official end of the war) to find and lead out a group of 86 people hiding in the jungle from the Communists: rich bankers and their families who were also hauling crates of gold bars. He and his squad (not all surviving) guided this group to an isolated spot on the Vietnamese coast and loaded them onto a waiting US submarine, for evacuation. In 1980 ‘Keith’ was secreted into Poland at night from a German S-100 Class Schnellboot (a WWII war trophy now used by the CIA’s Naval Branch), where he was to reconnoiter the Solidarity Movement and try to recruit in-country anticommunist spy assets, particularly for monitoring Soviet military movements. ‘Keith’ was the “muscle” of the small team which included a CIA political officer who was also a Polish language expert. ‘Keith’s’ souvenir from that trip was the beret of the Soviet Special Forces sentry he killed during the team’s extraction (I’ve seen this beret, it has a beautiful emblem in Cyrillic sown in). ‘Keith’s’ proven performance as a special op gave him lots of credibility with MXUWMC Security, so they recruited him for a Guard job in 1982, and that’s where we met and traded stories many nights at the MXUWMC bar: “Thor’s Cave.”

‘Keith’s’ kind of an ADHD sort of guy and he left MXUWMC after three years, but he didn’t leave the secret world we were both part of (okay, let’s call it the ‘Deep State’). He went out and made tons of money as a CIA approved and vetted assassin in the employ of the apartheid South African Government, from 1985 to 1990. While John Perkins made his splash with his book Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, dishing about his times as a national foreign economy disruptor secretly employed by the US Government, ‘Keith’ was the ultimate type of person-as-weapon employed by the US Deep State: a jackal, a man with a gun, a Swiss bank account, and any passport of his choosing anytime he wanted it. So I lost contact with ‘Keith’ during the years that he was dispatching African nationalist activists and union organizers in several African countries south of the Equator, for the South African Defence Forces (SADF), and burying his bounties in gold in the cellars of his various foreign retreats, and in Switzerland.

So I was really surprised to see ‘Keith’ on my doorstep in the autumn of 2000, when everybody was all hopped up about the election tussle between George W. Bush’s people and Al Gore’s. That was obviously going to be a no-brainer as the Supreme Court made blindingly clear. Deep State rules. ‘Keith’ had been tasked to bring me a very tasty offer for getting back into the Deep State fast action high tech world I had been so enthralled by. The project was being run by Dick Cheney, and its purpose was to reshape the World Order to secure another century of US control. How could I say no?, plus, the pay was astronomical (and thanks to the US taxpayers!).

And that is how I was recruited into the most complex US false flag operation in history: the secret controlled demolition of the World Trade Center: a cover for launching the Global War On Terror, which is really the War For Complete National Control and World Domination, though of course they never call it that or let any of that phraseology appear in any written memo or in any electronic file. Those of us who already had long histories of working deeply in dark government programs all knew the drill about “security.”

By the way, being drunk really messes up the readings of their polygraph tests on you, which is fun. But then they just keep you in the tank until you sober up, and you have to take it over and over again until they’re satisfied. Dreary. They respect your technical skill and prize that, but not your humanity. You’re just a tool.

Once I again had access to supercomputers, engineers and laboratory technicians, I set about calculating what arrays and minimum doses of charges could collapse tall buildings instantly. My experience as a young physicist working on nuclear bomb detonation tests, years before, came in very handy here. Now at MXUWMC, I had laboratory scale models built and tested in blast-wall confined cells. It was good to be back in MXUWMC, now refurbished for Cheney’s GWOT false flag kick-off project.

None of us had any moral qualms about this work because we all knew GWOT911 (yeah, another of our ’spoken only’ acronyms) was a necessary operation to insure the best for the continuation of the American Way Of Life. That phrase meant a lot to us, and we would refer to it affectionately amongst ourselves as AWOL — really, I’m not kidding. I guess we all believed the operation would be carried out at night on a long holiday weekend when the WTC buildings would be empty. But, hey, you know how it is, people always believe the best about themselves and about what they are doing. We were no different, at least for those of us below the level of the Inner Council of the Directorate, basically Cheney’s roundtable (which George W. Bush was escorted into a few times, or so I heard from ‘Keith’, as Security Guard scuttlebutt).

Anyway, my calculations and experiments worked out really great, and jibbed with the best results of the other controlled demolitions designers in the GWOT911 Physics Department. So from our pooled results, the technological component packages were blueprinted and built in the MXUWMC factory. When it came time to select Emplacement Teams (ETs), I was selected as the “physics lead” for Team 6, and I got Keith’ as the “muscle” leader for my team. My small platoon comprised of 20 people; the other 18 were a mix of demolition emplacement techs, electronics and circuitry interruption specialists, and security troopers like ‘Keith’. This was exciting adrenaline-pumping work.

In less than two weeks, staged as HVAC, plumbing, elevator, and electrical conduit repairmen working through the Labor Day weekend of 2001, all our teams got the WTC Twin Towers and Building 7 wired for demolition. Then we were sent home and scattered, without knowing the date of execution or even if the operation would actually be carried out.

It didn’t take long to find out. On 11 September 2001, the WTC buildings were blown, and those collapses were caught on many cameras for the world to see and be humbled into submission by the awesome yet cloaked power of the Deep State that controls us. I was as surprised as all of you to see this. I call it the American Fatima, because so many people watching the televised visions of 911 got a miraculously instant engineering and physics education that day.

That night, ‘Keith’ came and picked me up for a ride in an unmarked government limo. By then I had come to realize that he was my personal security monitor for GWOT911. Frankly, I thought I might be living out the last scene in The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, because of what ‘Keith’ was capable of. But it turned out to be much sweeter than that. The GWOT911 Directorate realized that they needed to ramp up and maintain a long-term undercover disinformation program to confuse the public and keep a lid on the real purpose of the 911 ‘Spectacle’ (that’s what we GWOT911 insiders call the events known to the public as “September 11”: “the Spectacle”), and ‘Keith’ had been sent to retrieve me for induction into that effort. I got a really nice seafood dinner in San Francisco that night — and of course martinis before dinner, and 18-year scotch after — for listening to that spiel and getting read into the program. Hey, more big chunks of change electronically dumped into my bank account for the next seven years of easy work. My cover was “retired physicist” (for the nuclear bomb work) who wrote amateur essays supporting the “official story” of the 911 events as being solely the work of Osama Bin Laden and his 19 Saudi henchmen (who were all expendables supplied to GWOT911, through Cheney, as part of the ‘Washington-Allied Oil Industry’s’ compliance with the plan).

The problem for the GWOT911 Directorate was that 300 million Americans, and billions of people worldwide, had seen the Twin Towers and Building 7 fall on TV, and they all just knew that these had to be controlled demolitions (I mean, you can see it, right? Who believes you need an engineering degree to think differently?). And besides, no one in America was believing that “Arabs in caves” could conceive of and then execute such a daring and devastating operation on American soil. So I was recruited to become one of many “internet influencers” tasked with thwarting the messaging that had started coming out of what soon became known as the ‘truther community.’ For me this was easy work at first, but it soon became boring. Like gravity, the truthers just never quit. It became clear to me that truther belief would live forever, and it was ultimately a waste of my time to continue opposing it. But the income from doing it was good, so I slogged on without any enthusiasm.

Between 2002 and 2008 many big engineering reports were issued detailing the technicalities of the official story, and a huge number of photographs were published of scattered airliner debris in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. I know how much of all that was real, but I’ll leave you to your own guesses about that (this story is already too long, and I’ve got to wrap it up).

However, I will give you one more little tidbit about Spectacle Day. Wiring up the Twin Towers took up 22 of the 24 ETs, so Building 7 was shortchanged on getting more than 2 Emplacement Teams, which then had to rush their work because they each had over twice as many floors to wire up. As a result, they slipped up a bit. Some of WTC7’s charges dudded, others misfired out of synch, and so the building stayed standing while highly damaged internally, and burning from fires ignited by burning WTC1 debris falling into it. The fires in WTC7 could not be extinguished because the water mains under the street had been cut by the collapse of WTC1, and all the fire suppression systems were rendered inoperative. Many hours later on that day, WTC7 finally collapsed.

By 2007, I had grown disillusioned that GWOT911 would really lead to a beneficial transformation of appropriately guided American democracy, and assured prosperity for the American people. You know how it is, we technical propeller-heads are not real good at political insight. And smart as I’d always thought I was, I finally came to fully realize this was so true of me, too. By then truther consciousness had become very subdued in American public discourse, thanks in no small part to people like me, so despite the fact that it would never really disappear altogether the Directorate now considered it innocuous, like the common cold, and deemed it ignorable.

So on 9 October 2008, Keith’ came to pay me one last visit. His message from the Directorate was simple and clear. We were both cut loose to live quietly on our savings from there on out, and never to break the security regulations of our lifetime Official Secrets contracts — we’d be watched. ‘Keith’ and I then went out and had a fabulous filet mignon plus shrimp scampi dinner at Scott’s Seafood at Jack London Square, with lots of Maker’s Mark and Woodford’s bourbon and sodas. ‘Keith’ is a straight bourbon man, I’m bi with either bourbon or vodkatinis, and ‘Keith’ was buying, spending from his saved up lavish SADF per diems. Soon after, ‘Keith’ flew off — I don’t know where — to one of his personal gold-bottomed dark sites situated in a beautiful resort setting where bevies of nubile and compliant pleasure angels were certain to be available for his company. ‘Keith’ is a simple straightforward guy when it comes to “the meaning of life.”

The coup de grâce of the Financial Crash of 2008 hit the next day — “another controlled demolition,” I thought to myself. The ensuing frenzy in the US government over that economic chaos made them forget about outcasts like me, and I never got any messages from the Deep State again. So I just puttered along in my life of birdwatching, and writing my little ‘political word doodles’ that I post occasionally on the internet. This was just a way for me to ward off boredom, by continuing with a writing habit I’d been habituated to from my days as a covert anti-truther influencer.

We physics people, especially in MXUWMC and GWOT911, all knew about global warming from way back, of course. But that was unmentionable on the outside, and the expendables the Oil Industry was tasked with supplying for Spectacle Day were part of the price the Deep State demanded as payment from the Oil Industry to keep global warming off the public radar screen (I’m sure you can guess who the Dark Lord was who mediated that arrangement). Believe me, all those high-end people are pure business, they don’t have friends, they only have “interests.”

I’m a conventional guy, I have kids, I want the best for them and I know where our future is headed, and I now had the freedom to write openly about climate change. Naïvely — and we propeller-heads are always naïve — I thought my warnings on climate change could arouse the public, and that it in turn would influence our government, and all governments, to really take action changing national infrastructure to transform our energy and food systems for a sustainable society and sustainable human civilization. And so I spent more than the last decade happily writing for that. But that revolution never came. I guess I’m just a dreamer, tech-savvy and socio-politically dumb.

Then this year I got a medical diagnosis, and my long view into the future collapsed (another controlled demolition) into a much shorter timeline. I’m not a praying kind of guy, I like to think of myself as a realist who is logical — and moral. So I came to the conviction to “spill the beans.” Why not, what can they do to me now? And who cares anyway? Nobody pays attention, nobody notices anything, nobody listens to anybody, and everyone is their own expert who does their own research: usually on the toilet with a smartphone.

So that’s my story. You can believe it or not as you like, I don’t care. I’m at peace for having told it, in fact I rather enjoyed myself doing so. I’ll just be birdwatching and word doodling all my happy days from here on out. All I can tell you beyond that is this: it’s your world now, folks, take care of it if you want it to last (but I don’t think you will).

Cheerio.

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’Stateless’, an Australian Television Drama about Refugee Detention

’The Trojan Women,’ a play by Euripides, was first performed in Athens 2,436 years ago at the height of the disastrous Peloponnesian War. It is considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter of its men and the enslavement of its women by the Athenians earlier that year, 415 BCE.

This play focuses on four women awaiting their fates after the fall of Troy (~1,200 BCE, in northwest Turkey near the Dardanelles): Hecuba (the wife of the slain king, Priam), Cassandra (the beautiful virginal daughter of Priam and Hecuba, who was blessed and then cursed by a lustful Apollo, with having a gift of prophesy none would listen to), Andromache (the wife of the great Trojan hero, Hector, who was slain by Achilles), and Helen (the Achaean queen and wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, who ran off with Paris to Troy, and which elopement was the purported cause for the Achaeans’s war against Troy).

The three Trojan women would all be made concubines and slaves by the Achaeans (mainland Greeks), and Helen returned to Menelaus. Because the Greeks wanted to ensure there would be no surviving male heir to the Trojan throne, they took Astyanax, the infant son of Hector and Andromache and the grandson of Priam and Hecuba, up to the high parapet of Troy and tossed him down to his death on the rocks below.

In 5th and 4th Century BCE Athens, the playwrights were known as poets and called teachers, and in ’The Trojan Woman’ Euripides was desperately and dramatically striving to teach the Athenians that the horrors of the Peloponnesian War were destroying the soul of their society, and that they should find ways of extricating their city-state from the war. His vehicle to convey that larger message to the Athenians was this dramatization of the final days in the death of the Trojan city-state eight centuries earlier (if in fact it was a single real historical event), as told in Greek myths recounted by legendary poets like Homer and his many forgotten colleagues.

’Stateless’, an Australian 6-part television series that was launched in 2020, is about a refugee and ‘illegal immigrant’ detention center, and strikes me as being similar to ‘The Trojan Woman’ as a societal teaching drama. It is both a searing depiction full of human and political insights about the current refugee crisis in Australia, as well as a close analogy for similar tragic realities along the US-Mexican border, in Libya and southern Italy, in Syria and the Greek Islands; and in other places where minorities and disfavored ‘others’ live precariously without stable statehood and are internally displaced or incarcerated, as in Syria, ‘Kurdistan’, Palestine, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The writers of ’Stateless’, Elise McCredie and Belinda Chayko have done a magnificent job. The directors, Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse have made an absorbing and compelling visual work (https://www.netflix.com/title/81206211).

How many refugees are there around the world? The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR (https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html) states that: “At least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. At [this] time 1 in every 95 people on earth has fled their home as a result of conflict or persecution.”

We must add that the deleterious effects of climate change — crop failures and lack of drinking water from extended droughts, and the loss of land, housing and employment due to violent weather and flooding — has also spurred refugee streams.

Those refugee streams flow out of the tropical and sub-tropical latitudes: from Africa northward across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, up from Central America and Mexico and across the Caribbean Sea to North America, southward from Eastern Asia to Australia, and from the arid interior of the Middle East westward toward the Mediterranean Sea and Europe.

Americans, Europeans and Australians see these refugee streams as incoming waves of impoverished humanity comprised of dark-skinned people with cultures, mind frames and languages vastly different from their own, and thus a threat to American, European and Australian prosperity, and their existing ethnic balances, if too large an influx. We must realize that these refugee streams course back up along the gradients of wealth leading from the Global South to the Global North (and Australia), propelled by the pent up pressure of economic disparity created by over half a millennium of conquest and imperialism with over three centuries of slavery, by the White people of the north: the Europeans and the descendants of their American and other colonists.

The Australian television series ’Stateless’ is composed of a weave of four sub-plots, each about a person caught up in and then piteously twisted to the breaking point by the day-to-day reality of escalating crisis in the asylum-seeker Braxton Detention Center. All these stories are based on actual case histories. Threatened men and women become refugees and are driven to acts of desperation, they are victimized, families are torn apart, some eventually find sanctuary while many others languish indefinitely or perish. Low-level workers in the host countries looking to hang onto paychecks are shoved by higher level bureaucrats and policy-makers to go in and do the dirty work of “keeping a lid on” and also “making it look good for the public.” And the sanctimonious of all stripes on the outside are more often than not “virtue signaling” for their own ego boosts, than having any useful empathy for all the individuals mired in the toxic tangle of “the system.”

One story in ‘Stateless’ is based on the real case of Cornelia Rau, an Australian woman citizen who was emotionally disturbed at the time and who was inadvertently — and unlawfully — incarcerated by the Australian government’s Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), and held for 10 months during 2004-2005 under the country’s mandatory detention policy for refugees, until Cornelia was traced to Braxton by a relative, and correctly identified and released to a hospital.

Another sub-plot focuses on an Afghani family fleeing the Taliban, being cheated and robbed by criminal human traffickers in Pakistan, being separated while attempting to make the perilous sea voyage to Australia in rickety boats, with the survivors eventually finding each other at Braxton. But the effort of the Afghani father to gain entry visas for his surviving family proves to be a very heartbreaking and essentially impossible effort. Despite some commendable humanitarian impulses by Australian workers tasked with maintaining the day-to-day operations of the center, and of some right-minded procedures embedded in the immigration policy, that policy is nevertheless largely fueled by a great deal of officially mandated bigotry and prejudice.

The conflict between offering a welcoming humanitarian response to the desperation of the trapped refugees terrified of being deported back to certain death, and the politically motivated mandates from the central government to maintain this bureaucratic structure for continuing exclusion, and without arousing public attention to it, is personified by the story of the woman appointed as the new director of the center. She is emotionally torn apart by the inherent cruelty of the job, and her political expendability to the remote higher-ups.

The last of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ centers on a local rural freelance mechanic who seeks to leave precarity behind and support his young family with a steady paycheck earned working as a ‘prison’ guard at the detention center — though he is instructed that it is a refugee center and not a prison since its residents, despite having no freedom of motion, have not been placed there for the commission of crimes. This individual is a good-hearted fellow who quickly comes under unrelenting strain because of his repulsion at the cruelty toward unruly refugees by a sadistic guard, and because of the numerous requirements for him to perform rough enforcement actions on people exhibiting outbursts of anger, fear and madness. Both the emotional and physical traumas sustained in doing his job while trying to thread the needle between the frayed edges of UNHCR compassionate supervision of a precarious population, and the barbed razor sharp edges of bureaucratically enforced nationalism, nearly deaden his heart and rip apart his family.

Each of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ is populated with many supporting characters who enrich the presentation, and the entire ensemble presents the full spectrum of human experiences that take place in the turbulent focal point of mixing-nonmixing between Australian society and Asian refugees at the Braxton Detention Center.

The ultimate solution to the world’s refugee crisis is so far out of view: ending all wars to establish a lasting world peace, and ensuring intelligent economic development up to decent standards everywhere so that people can remain in their countries with their families experiencing physical and economic security and good health down through the generations. Achieving these conditions would obviate the need for anyone to become a refugee and seek foreign asylum.

Yes, this is idealistic (naïvely so?, impossibly?), like wanting equitable worldwide cooperation to stop anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions so as to tamp down the acceleration of global warming. But neither of these ideals is intrinsically impossible to actualize, and that is why the continuation of the refugee and climate crises are such tragedies: they are fundamentally unnecessary sorrows, open and festering wounds on the body of humanity.

What we have today is a compounded system of exploitation through tiered victimhood, a system commanded by über capitalists and nationalistic warlords living luxuriant lives, and served by hierarchical cascades of lower level petty boss bureaucrats, their functionaries, and in turn their laborers and armed enforcers. This system is so abhorrent that Nature itself has abandoned us, and is trying to burn us off the land and wash us away into the seas and oceans we have thoughtlessly poisoned with our wastes. An added cruelty to this accelerating rejection of humanity by Nature is that those who are suffering now, and first, and will suffer the most from the increasing hostility of Earth’s climatic conditions to human life are the people of the Global South (the Third World), the regions from which today’s refugee streams emerge, the poorest of Earth’s people, those who lead the most precarious lives, and those who contributed the least to the creation of the global climate crisis.

Coda: a Meditation on ’Stateless’

Must I have a stone heart to preserve a sane mind in a world of pure suffering I am luckily insulated from — for now? How does one combat compassion fatigue and empathy burnout? Does one sink into survivor’s guilt for blamelessly being born lucky?; for living in a bubble of comfort, freedom and justice that is much rarer than one had previously imagined?; and that seems to be diminishing by national policy out of view of its lucky inhabitants confident in their unawareness? But of those lucky people who do become aware, how do they survive and stay human without deadening their souls? We have become a race of monomaniacal blind cyclopses raging about our freedoms because we cannot conceive of anything beyond our own frustrated infantile selfishness. Becoming aware of the sufferings of others is the first step in the very long journey of personal redemption. That journey has many perils, and no one completes it unscathed.

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Human Solidarity and Nature Conservation

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Gustav Jung [1]

Life is the actualization of potentialities embedded within the biochemical processes that form the mechanisms of genetics and evolution. Does life have a purpose, or is it entirely a statistically random fluke made possible by the astronomical number of possibilities available for the expression of molecular chemistry in the wide array of physical conditions interspersed throughout the vastness of space? To believe that life has a consciously intended purpose is to believe that life is an intentional creation by a conscious supernatural entity or entities. If so, what is that purpose?

We know that the most elementary organisms of proto-life, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus that infects people with the deadly COVID-19 disease, have no purpose beyond the mindless mechanical continuation of their genetic formats, by feeding their metabolisms through parasitism. But, what of more conscious organisms, like: plants, animals, us?

We humans pride ourselves as presumably having the most highly developed conscious minds of all life-forms on Planet Earth (though very deep ecologists and naturalists disagree with this presumptuousness). From this human-centric point of view, the various levels of consciousness of living organisms are all evolutionary adaptations enhancing the survivability of individuals, to thus enhance the likelihood of the propagation and continuation of their species as environmental conditions change.

For believers in the supernatural there is an imposed obligation, or supra-natural goal, or “higher purpose” to human consciousness, which can be most generally characterized as finding union with God. For non-believers, the fully conscious experience of being alive is the totality of that higher purpose. In either case, the realization of that purpose is to be had by the combination of human solidarity and nature conservation.

Homo sapiens are social animals, and their full development as individuals — their realization of purpose — requires social connection and connection with Nature.

TALES BY LIGHT

“Tales by Light” [2] is an Australian television series (in 3 seasons) about the use of photography and videography to tell stories visually so as to change society for the better: activism. Here, I am only writing about episodes from Season 3. By its very nature this series is visually “beautiful” — in terms of the technical perfection of the image composition, capture and presentation — even when abysmally grim and ugly situations are being shown in order to advance the complete story. This is about emotional punch delivered visually. And of course, incredibly happy bursts of emotion are delivered in the same way by the presentation of images of lushly colorful nature, and joyful and inspiring scenes of human warmth, kindness and sheer exuberance. The three stories (each given in two parts) that affected me were:

1, CHILDREN IN NEED: This story, by Simon Lister, is about the children of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who scrounge through the most disgusting, unsafe and unsanitary heaps of rubbish to find scraps of material that can be recycled locally — like plastic forks and containers — in the abysmal poverty of their society; or who do difficult work in unsafe and toxic conditions to support their families. There are millions of these kids in Bangladesh.

Many Bangladeshi kids work in primitive workshops with zero health and safety codes, procedures and equipment, for example to produce pans and bowls by hands pressing sheet metal against spinning mandrels, again with no protective shields from whirling machinery gears and belts right at hand; nor any proper ventilation and filtration to protect them from toxic metal dust, or fumes in workshops using solvents and chemicals.

The story of such child laborers in the poorest societies on Earth is being documented as part of a UNICEF program to bring world (rich world) attention to the problem of child labor, and to generate financial resources to then provide safe and sanitary spaces for such children to be able to get food, education, rest, shelter for the night off the streets, and the joyful companionship of other children. But, since the money these children gain from their difficult and hazardous work is always the lifeline for the support of their families, often of single mothers, such a labor force is considered “normal” in their societies, and lamentably economically essential for these individuals.

The ultimate “solution” for eliminating this heartbreaking situation would be a worldwide awakening to an actual commitment to species-wide human solidarity. That that idea becomes self-evident through the medium of photography testifies to its power as an art-form.

2, PARADISE IN PERIL: This story, by Shawn Heinrichs, is of the conservation of the ocean biodiversity and habitat of the Raja Ampat Islands. Here, the art of photography is being used to present the story of the value of an amazing tropical coral reef and mangrove forest environment in New Guinea (Indonesia).

That story is told in two directions, first “upscale” to the societies of the wealthy industrialized and developed economies, to generate financial resources needed to establish locally manned, maintained, patrolled, owned — and in selected zones sustainably fished — marine reserves, and to ensure their continued operation and ongoing scientific study.

That story is also told “downscale,” in video presentations in their own language to the actual people living in the environments that are being protected, so that new generations of conservationists grow out of the youth of that indigenous population, now fired up with a greater understanding of the positive impact their healthy local environment has on their own lives as well as on the global environment.

The emotional impetus to these conservation efforts, both locally and remotely, is sparked by the visual impact of the photos and videos of the stunning and vibrant beauty of life moving in that magical submerged translucent habitat. The Raja Ampat Islands is one of the few places on Earth where all measures of biodiversity and ecological health are improving right now, even despite advancing global climate change; and this is entirely because of cooperative human intentionality.

3, PRESERVING INDIGENOUS CULTURE: This story by Dylan River, an Australian filmmaker with an Aboriginal grandmother, is of the recording for posterity of Aboriginal ways and languages slowly being lost with the passing away of elders, of the stories behind some of their ancient rock art, of ways of living off the land and sea while being intimately connected to the natural environment, and of community as the essence of being.

On a visit to Arnhem Land, Dylan is immersed into a welcoming ritual by the Yoingu people, whose spokesman at the event states that though Dylan is from far away he is “part of the family” as is everybody in spirit. The entirety of this brief and simple greeting conveys a fundamental truth that is more clearly and wisely stated, and lived by the Yoingu, than with any of the fatuous self-satisfied pronouncements by our many supposedly powerful and always hypocritical political leaders, who collectively oversee and exacerbate the poisonous fractiousness and sociological cannibalism of our national and world societies.

The basic truth here is that every human being “is something Nature is doing” — as Alan Watts put it — and that Nature is integral, it is a harmoniously self-entangling network of life. And that is what healthy human community should be.

I recommend this series to you because of its many simultaneous dimensions of beauty.

To my mind, the financial investments made by the executives of Canon Incorporated, National Geographic (a subscription television network in Australia and New Zealand that features documentaries, and is owned by The Walt Disney Company), and Netflix, to produce and broadcast this series were very worthy, even as I know there would necessarily also have been a component of profit motive in those investment decisions.

What is needed in our world is ever the same: more human solidarity and nature conservation. The wider broadcast of these three stories from the series Tales By Light could help awaken more people to that realization, or at a minimum give some comfort to those who already know.

Acknowledgment: Gretchen Hennig perceptively brought Tales by Light to my attention.

Here is a musical ornamentation to all the above; about a child, really any child: “Chihiro.”
https://soundcloud.com/ellasolanagarcia/chihiro

Notes

[1] “Our age has shifted all emphasis to the here and now, and thus brought about a daemonization of man and his world. The phenomenon of dictators and all the misery they have wrought springs from the fact that man has been robbed of transcendence by the shortsightedness of the super-intellectuals. Like them, he has fallen a victim to unconsciousness. But man’s task is the exact opposite: to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. Neither should he persist in his unconsciousness, nor remain identical with the unconscious elements of his being, thus evading his destiny, which is to create more and more consciousness. As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.”

C. G. Jung (1875-1961), from the closing chapter of his autobiography “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” entitled “Life and Death,” written between 1957 and 1961. This excerpt is highlighted and discussed at
https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/03/13/memories-dreams-reflections/

[2] Tales by Light (on Netflix)
https://www.netflix.com/title/80133187

Tales by Light (official website)
https://www.canon.com.au/explore/tales-by-light

Tales by Light (series described)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_by_Light

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The Poetry of Disillusionment in “Gatsby” is Beyond the Movies

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The Poetry of Disillusionment in “Gatsby” is Beyond the Movies

The Great Gatsby is a marvelous novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald was at heart a poet of the 19th Century English Romantic type, for that was the literature that clearly inspired him, as he himself said about his only academic focus during his college education (he being Princeton University’s most accomplished and famous non-graduate).

I was not too impressed with the latest (2013) glitzy movie of the novel, by Baz Luhrmann. Gatsby is so much about the poetic and lyrical use of language to convey emotionally, rather than logically (like my good science reports), the psychological states of the characters of the Gatsby tale.

A plot is always necessary of course, but in literary art it can be a mere skeleton on which to hang the real pulsing flesh of the story. Movies present plot first and foremost. The most artistically refined ones can give a sense of the poetry of experience, but this is not typical. The Baz Luhrmann movie was total Hollywood: big, flashy, loud, bombastic, hyper-realistically unreal, and impatient to blast you with a sensation.

Fitzgerald is just the opposite. Sure, there are big flashy loud extravagant background scenes in the Gatsby story, but they are really like painted backdrop curtains to the stage of the imagination on which the compelling psychologically vibrant interplays and soliloquies that fill the foreground of the tale are spun out by Fitzgerald’s prose. So I think a Hollywood movie, especially one intentionally a “blockbuster,” of the Gatsby story is just far from any art of Fitzgerald’s league, even if it has mass appeal as safe-decadent entertainment.

I suppose it could be possible for someone of the caliber of Jean Renoir to make a Gatsby movie that is much closer to the spirit of what Fitzgerald was striving for with prose, but I don’t think such a film masterpiece would have much appeal to general audiences. So, it would never be made because who in the movie business would put up the money to make a supremely artistic, psychologically subtle, and lyrical sure-fire flop?

Every movie of a novel is always a set of excerpts strung together as the filmmaker’s interpretation, or rip-off, of the novel. Can’t be helped. Douglas Sirk (the German director who made iconic 1950s American melodrama pictures with Rock Hudson) said that it was easier to make a good movie from a defective or second-rate novel, because the moviemakers (director and screen writers) could patch and fill the given story as they thought best to arrive at an integrated product that worked well as a mass-market movie. Really good novels had everything about the characters’s make-up and plot factors all tightly wrapped up “perfectly,” so there was no room to adjust the story to make for a popular movie without also degrading the quality of that story. It’s the old “the movie is not like the book.”

Some novels are too good to make equally good movies of. Catcher In The Rye is one, and its author, J. D. Salinger, refused to sell the film rights to any of his novels because he could only see movie versions degrading what he had produced for readers. The ideal prose-to-movie process (for both good prose and a good movie) would be having a superb writer craft tales specifically intended for being made into movies, where that writer was also a superb moviemaker, and who would make the film.

Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame was such a writer-moviemaker. Serling had many beautiful turns of phrase flowing out of his commentary on his Twilight Zone episodes on TV, and mixed into the dialog of the characters in his stories. But Serling’s stories only spun on for 25 minutes (half hour shows) or 50 minutes (hour shows).

Fitzgerald’s novels have much longer and interwoven thematic arcs, and were meant to be absorbed by a reader over many, many hours, probably over the course of days, weeks. Fitzgerald really wrote for pre-TV even pre-movie 19th century hopeful young American minds (like his), but who had lived through the consciousness-shattering experiences and devastating losses of WWI, and were now making their way through the chaotically fragmenting 1920s, maybe sometimes crazy happy times but with many disappointments for most, since most were not rich and would never get to be.

So, I just don’t see how any movie can capture The Great Gatsby or Fitzgerald’s incredible, incredible second masterpiece Tender Is The Night. In my daydream of being a great screenwriter and movie director, I would do the impossible and make a lush compelling epic of Tender Is The Night, something with the cinematic scope of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, and the psychological clarity and depth of Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion.

Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for Baz Luhrmann’s movie (which I did watch attentively) is the reaction of a reader (instead of a non-reading movie fan) who was enchanted by the spell of Fitzgerald’s poetic and yet amazingly economical outpouring of prose that transmits the deep feeling of the Gatsby tale. I see little subtlety and glaring falsities in, and feel much bombast from the movie. You just fall so deeply into the story as told by Fitzgerald, especially with Nick Carraway as your guide into the lower psychological depths, but you are pushed back so hard and pocked with shrapnel by Luhrmann’s movie. It’s obvious that the brassy blare is what makes the movie “successful,” but that success is the exact opposite of what Fitzgerald gave us. (Yes, the movie would have to have been made by the Jean Renoir of La Grande Illusion and La Règle de Jeu.)

The Gatsby story is about the losses of optimistic illusions about American life and about romantic ideals, and then about attempted nobility failing at life while rich crass ignorance and bigotry triumph in the way parasites triumph by degrading the totality of the lives hosting them. Tom Buchanan is Trump, and Daisy Buchanan then as now is an airhead (not a shrewd careerist Melania), a simple pretty nonentity that has no intellectual depth but is pleasant to look and talk with, and on whom the love, longings and life ambitions of a driven man can be projected as movie myth is projected onto a silver screen and appear to shimmer with magical promise. That may be the most cinematic aspect of the novel, Daisy as a metaphor of the movies, magic by optical illusion and without any substance at all, which if believed in without reservation draws naïve optimistic romanticism to its actual doom.

Well, so much for my babble about Gatsby and movie attempts at Gatsby. As Peter Byrne has told me: “Never judge a book by its movie.”

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A History of Humanity’s Future

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A History of Humanity’s Future

Our variety of the human species, homo sapiens sapiens, emerged from out of bands of more primitive yet contemporaneous older variants of humanity well over 200,000 years ago and rapidly expanded in both their numbers and the range of their occupancy on our planet. The competitive pressure by this efflorescence of homo sapiens sapiens against the older variants of humanity reduced the numbers of the latter to the point of extinction over the course of 1600 centuries, leaving just our variety of the human species to range over the Earth for 40,000 years up to the beginning of the 21st century. The story of our species from then up to the present moment is the subject of this work.

Calendar Year 2032

During at least the decade prior to CY2032, Planet Earth had experienced a continuous sequence of weather event catastrophes spawned from an immense and increasingly powerful undercurrent of climate change. Trains of maximally energetic hurricanes scythed through Caribbean islands and into the southeastern coasts of the United States of America, and similarly destructive typhoons swept westward out of the Pacific Ocean to blast into the islands and eastern fringes of Southern Asia.

Wildfires that spanned the horizon burned for months across huge swathes of land desiccated by drought, whether scrub-desert, rolling grassland hills, seemingly limitless prairies and taiga, or logged-out withered jungles, and on every continent except Antarctica. The long droughts that parched Earth’s verdure to the point of tinder were sometimes punctuated by torrential rain, snow and hail storms fed by titanic aerial rivers of evaporated ocean water transported by climatically altered atmospheric currents, and resulted in rapid, deep, turbulent and scouring floods that could wipe away the surface of the land and whatever our human vanity had caused to be built upon it, with the force of an all-devouring tsunami.

The excess heat energy firing the greater wrath of Earth’s weather was stored in the oceans, landmass surface layers, and atmosphere, and had been accumulating for over a century because of the capture by carbon dioxide gas, primarily, of radiant heat emitted from the surface of the Earth as a cooling phenomenon, and thus preventing its escape into space. That carbon dioxide gas, along with methane, nitrous oxide and several similar heat-trapping molecular gases, had been exhausted into the atmosphere as waste products of energy production by the combustion of fossil fuels for humanity’s industrial, recreational and personal uses.

The entwined mutually resonant growth of human population and fossil-fueled energy production caused increasingly massive amounts of heat-trapping gases to be exhausted into the atmosphere every year, and thus an increasing rate of global warming. By CY2032, the average temperature of the surface of the Earth was over 2° Celsius above what it had been a century before, and there was no effort to stop or even attenuate this human-caused global warming. In fact, all human effort was bent on accelerating this trend because it was seen as the mechanism for generating immediate personal financial riches and political power.

Sea ice disappeared from the Arctic Ocean, decimating both seal and polar bear populations, and opening the way for an “Oil Rush” by Russian, Canadian and US oil and gas drilling companies. A few incidents of scuffles between these Oil Rush prospectors prompted the respective governments to send in naval forces to “protect their interests.” Oil extraction platforms were quickly erected along the shallow continental shelves rimming the Arctic Ocean, and the new petroleum output both boosted the profitability and stock market prices of the respective energy companies while also depressing the global price of oil. This proved especially hard for oil-rich countries, like Iran and Venezuela, under economic sanctions by the United States and its economic followers.

Calendar Year 2035

Methane had been bubbling up from the East Siberian Shelf for over 20 years because of ocean warming and tundra permafrost melt, but the rate of such emission increased significantly after CY2032. In CY2033 summer fires along the northern shore of Siberia ignited steady plumes of erupting methane, and the incidence of these “natural” gas flares spread out to sea over the East Siberian Shelf. In CY2034 an oil spill from a shallow water Russian oil well was touched off by offshore methane flares, and the conflagration was quickly spread about the area. Unfortunately there was loss of life, and an increase in the ignition of sea-based gas flares.

Local fires of high intensity were able to survive the winter, and they were the source of later and expanded burning during CY2035. In that year offshore methane flares erupted in the Chukchi and Beaufort Shelves, and caused the US and Canadian Coast Guards to rush counter-fire protective resources to their offshore oil extraction facilities. These efforts required emergency appropriations from the respective governments, which were offset by sudden reductions of social services budgets, along with corporate tax reductions as measures of “emergency relief.”

All of these activities greatly increased the presence of naval forces in the Arctic Ocean in efforts to protect the corporate economic assets associated with each of the Arctic Oil Rush nations, and to erect militarized cordon sanitaires to keep rival and “dirty” methane flare-initiating oil prospecting operations from “infecting” declared “exclusive economic zones.” All this raised international tensions among the nations rimming the Arctic Ocean.

Calendar Year 2036

The average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 473 parts-per-million (ppm), and an unprecedented melting and sudden calving of glaciers all along the southern coasts of Greenland occurred on April 15th of that year; sea level rose 1.7 meters, though it took till mid-October for that effect to become stabilized and uniform across the globe.

Catastrophic inundation occurred in Bangladesh with tremendous loss of life, and many of the smaller West Pacific islands were made uninhabitable. The Bangladeshi refugee crisis sparked conflict on the Indian subcontinent, and the Australian and Southeast Asian naval forces were all deployed to repel refugee make-shift flotillas. The United States, Europe, Japan, China and Korea each scrambled to build sea walls and other forms of dikes to protect their most economically valuable coastal installations (Dutch construction firms cognizant of the advanced and massive hydrological infrastructure protecting The Netherlands were suddenly avidly sought out and richly rewarded for their work). Again, monies for such construction was appropriated on an emergency basis at the cost of social welfare programs. One tragic loss to world culture was the inundation of the city of Venice.

The drought-fire-hurricane-flood cycles of violent weather had continued with increasing force in the equatorial latitudes during the advance of the preceding years, and by CY2036 huge refugee streams were fleeing north from famine, because of the collapse of subsistence agriculture, and fleeing drug-and-plantation warlord violence. Similar refugee streams attempted to flee north from Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, from sub-Saharan lands devastated by a combination of drought and overwhelming plagues of locusts. As in the Western Pacific, European and American navies were deployed to repel northward bound refugee flotillas. There were reports, impossible to substantiate, of a few incidents of the sinking of refugee ships by drone bombers.

Social unrest increased everywhere. Uniformly, the wealthiest strata of societies increased their efforts at personal enrichment and for government subsidies and tax reductions for their associated corporations, all at increasing costs to public concerns and especially social welfare programs and charitable institutions for the poor. The middle and wage-labor strata of societies increasingly acceded to increased militarization of their national economies, whether in rationalized “logical” beliefs or out of emotional fearful xenophobia-bigotry, to have their governments deploy expanded military forces offshore and along their national borders to repel refugee “invasions.”

Such sentiments quickly hardened with the sudden outbreaks of disease epidemics, feared to become pandemics spread by refugees. Indeed, epidemics were breaking out more often as the globe warmed and pathogens old and new (some unlocked from thawed tundras) expanded latitudinally. Also, tropical bacterial and parasitic pathogens were expanding their ranges northward with the increased warming.

The increasing fractional capture of GDP by military establishments because of all of this boosted the financial gains of war industries and wealthy investors. The fraction of American citizens now living entirely mobile lives in camper vans, trucks and trailers, or cars, or even on foot, now reached 1% of the population. Sentiments similar to the “us versus them” attitudes taken by national populations toward foreign refugees now began to spring up domestically by homeowners (colloquially called “the settled”) toward their fellow citizen transients (“the unsettled”), and many local police forces were morphing into militias manning internal cordon sanitaires ‘protecting’ wealthier areas.

Commendably, there were new and spontaneous popular charitable efforts of both mutual and unrestricted aid, but these occurred only at and among the lower economic strata of societies, and they were often fragile against dissolution by forces of social negativity, and occasionally of criminality.

Calendar Year 2039

This was a year of major disaster. The CO2 concentration reached 489 ppm, and the average global surface temperature was now 2.4° Celsius above the temperature of the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries. A sudden massive area-wide eruption of methane occurred from the continental shelves rimming the Arctic Ocean with a coincident gas-flame flaring expanding all around that ocean, which included the ignition of thawed and dried peat bogs, into a new “Ring of Fire.”

By the end of the year the CO2 concentration had leaped to 510 ppm. While the initial methane concentration in the atmosphere above the Arctic continental shelves had skyrocketed, the extensive and expanding flaring there burned a significant portion of that methane to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and at higher altitudes much slower paced oxidation also converted some methane to CO2 and CO.

In any case the total load of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had been vastly increased and the pace of global warming accelerated beyond all previous experience. By year end the global surface temperature had reached 2.6° Celsius above the early 20th century datum.

Calendar Year 2041

The average global temperature broke through 3° Celsius above the datum. The CO2 concentration reached 518 ppm.

For a decade now Australia had been experiencing wildfires that burned continuously throughout the year. Since the Methane Burp of CY2039 those fires had been expanding into horizon-to-horizon “flame deluges” that raced toward the coasts. The much expanded Australian Navy was frantically busy shuttling between open ocean refugee repulsion missions and amphibious coastal operations of wildfire victims evacuation. Despite strident outcry by Australian environmentalists and significant portions of the Australian public, against further Australian coal exportation to China, that economic activity expanded because it was one of Australia’s few remaining sources of revenue that helped pay for its mushrooming military and navel expenses, and firefighting costs, since much of the agricultural and livestock industries had been burned away. Also, there was some absorption of agricultural and animal husbandry unemployment into expanded coal industry labor employment.

Calendar Year 2042

Summer heat deaths in Europe expanded significantly, and many European governments established watering and relief stations throughout their cities in public parks, squares and plazas. Too many medical emergencies were now occurring of people collapsing in the streets and in public transit from heat stroke, to respond to them individually from just the traditional fire, ambulance and emergency services facilities of the past.

Ominously, in an increasing number of localities these stations were also water distribution sites for rationed water. Similar water rationing stations, of a much more haphazard nature and sparsely spaced, were to be found in the Middle East and throughout the globe in historically dry and desert lands. In the most primitive, impoverished and remote of such dry lands, militia level water wars were now common. India and Pakistan were dangerously close to resorting to war over Kashmir, and each had made explicit threats to the other about using nuclear weapons.

The drought-wildfire-hurricane-flooding cycles in the United States had also increased, and economic devastation of the agricultural and livestock industries of the vast center of the country was now severe with a doubling of food prices from just five years earlier. Again, economic benefits were increasingly restricted to a diminishing sliver of the American population at the uppermost rungs of the economic ladder, and economic costs of militarization and high-end wealth protection were increasingly shifted to the lowermost economic classes. None of this was hidden anymore.

The panic for wealth protection increased in desperation the higher one went up the economic ladder. The vast majority of the American public, in the rapidly shriveling “middle class,” were increasingly panicked about straightforward economic survival: even with many successful “socialist” minimum wage increase reforms, income increasingly lagged expenses since rent, food and loan costs ramped up relentlessly, and the number of decent-paying (usually corporate sponsored) jobs was shrinking. The lowest stratum of American society, the poor, were consumed with a panic for elementary physical survival.

Calendar Year 2043

This was a calamitous year. A virulent pathogen that had lain dormant in Arctic permafrost for millennia was now finally able to escape into the open air, and it spread widely and quickly, borne on windblown dust and water droplets, and attached to avian and insect bodies. It produced a pulmonary illness of high mortality. The causative virus was robust against the disinfecting actions of time, sunshine, oxygen and natural antiviral chemicals in plants, and unfortunately also in human immune systems. Hundreds of millions would die within the year.

Complicating the cure was the fact that the viral agent was quick to mutate into equally lethal forms, some of which caused fatal heart and liver infections. All the viral strains remained active. The pandemic emergency of this Arctic Flu caused real panics: naval operations to repel refugee flotillas now routinely and openly fired upon and sank them. Triage centers were set up by nearly all countries, and in the more impoverished ones mass burials by bulldozer were implemented.

The first instance of the intentional shoot-down of an inbound commercial airliner with infected passengers occurred. Internationally, protests to this outrage were muted because all nations were quietly steeling themselves to accept this practice if need be, “for protection.” The accelerating death toll everywhere from the Arctic Flu took some of the bellicose fervor out of the numerous chronic conflicts underway at that time, from Indonesia through Southeast and Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East from Pakistan to Syria, Israel and Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, and across much of Africa east to west and north to south.

Large populist socialist and anti-capitalist movements in both North and South America had been active for years now, some in Central and South America engaging in outright guerrilla warfare against their oligarchic and neoliberal governing regimes, while others as in the United States were agitating politically to gain increased political power through electoral victories. In all cases the governing political establishments, which were after all entirely subsidiaries of incorporated wealth, worked against all types of popular reforms by both legal and illegal means. The undermining of populist and socialist electoral campaigns was standard, as were election interference and tampering by establishment agencies, both private and governmental.

While insurrections were common throughout much of the more impoverished world, there now began to appear more instances of political violence against state and federal authority in the United States, though such incidents remained isolated. Some observers believed that popular frustrations that had traditionally sought relief through school and shopping mall mass shootings were now being refocused into anti-government violence.

The CO2 concentration reached 527 ppm; the global average temperature reached 3.9° Celsius above baseline; steady glacial melt over the last seven years had increased the sea level rise to 3 meters above the “normal level” of the 20th century.

Calendar Year 2045

By now large coastal areas everywhere were inundated to some degree, continental interiors were becoming unlivable, and internal social unrest and politically destabilizing pressures had reached levels that were between frightening to nearly overwhelming, depending of the degree of development of the society in question, and the extent of the firepower, militarized police forces and security infrastructure its government had available for social control.

The Arctic Flu was now reducing national populations at noticeable rates. For years already, wealthy individuals had been building underground bunker retreats both at home and abroad, intended to house them for long periods with stores of food, water and energy supplies, with air filtration and disinfection systems, and waste disposal systems. For the most well-heeled, such bunkers-redoubts would include stand-alone air and water generation, recycling and re-purification systems. The super wealthy would have a colony of such clustered shelters so as to maintain protective private militias around them as well. New Zealand did a brisk business of catering to this high-end real estate demand.

The CO2 concentration reached 535 ppm that year, average global surface temperature reached 4° Celsius above baseline. No reliable cure had yet been found for the Arctic Flu, and massive famines added to the death toll from the flu. Because of the shrinking area of previously habitable terrain, due to unbearable heat in dry continental interiors and inundation of coastal areas, human crowding was very uncomfortably increased and fueled social unrest and insurgencies, and this despite the population reductions by the Arctic Flu.

The ski industry everywhere collapsed due to year-round elevated temperatures and lack of winter snow. Marine life was rapidly dying out, and the seafood industry as well as subsistence fishing was in sharp decline. Severe earthquakes in California, Iran, Turkey, Japan, Missouri and Tennessee, and volcanic eruptions in the Philippines added to the chaos and misery in their respective countries. A rebellion broke out in Western China; Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran exchanged missile attacks for aerial bombardments in an uncoordinated manner. On August 9th of that year a nuclear bomb exploded in Pakistan.

After CY2045 global communications and air travel became more erratic and it became increasing difficult to acquire the data necessary to form a comprehensive picture of global events. The prospects for peaceful international cooperation in facing many of the current difficulties seemed exceedingly dim.

Calendar Year 2046

It was now clear that the world had lapsed into isolationist regionalism with severe social unrest or insurrections and wars within each region. The American government completed vast underground complexes from which to operate in future. Fatal pandemics continued. Attacks had been made against satellites and space platforms, and it seemed evident that weapons platforms had been put into Earth orbit, conceivably with nuclear tipped missiles. Nuclear explosions had occurred on the Eurasian landmass. Radioactivity levels in the atmosphere were rising. The average citizen came to realize he and she was going to be left out on their own, there wasn’t enough room “underground” for everybody.

Calendar Year 2049

We saw the night sky whiten then glow red for hours. Liquor stores and gun shops were looted with abandon. Electrical power and electronic communications failed here. What was happening elsewhere was unknown. People hunkered down with their families around here, or else fled in their cars if they had saved-up gasoline to use. I will report more later, given the opportunity.

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Climate Change at the Movies

Here are some movies and videos about climate change and human society, which I found interesting and recommend.

I think you all would enjoy the short movie, “Mazz Alone,” by Ken Avidor. This fictional story is about a man’s survival through an abrupt climate change of runaway heating. The style of presentation is a slideshow (a sequence of still images) each drawn and colored by the filmmaker, and with a running narration of the plot. It is a clever 23-and-a-half minute production that is both factually rich, entertaining, and thought-provoking. It is easy enough to image a big-budget Hollywood version of this movie, but Ken Avidor has already produced the essential work, so there’s really no need for wasting a big carbon footprint for a Hollywood extravaganza on this story.

Mazz Alone
[23:35]
https://vimeo.com/319602435

A movie I thought was really clever as regards the whole overpopulation/climate change conundrum was “Downsizing.” This film is the product of the fertile imaginations of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (and directed by Payne). “Downsizing” is a social satire with extravagant special effects, but as it was a very subtle and – by American standards – an intellectual movie, it lost money ($65+M invested, $58M take). The comic book mentality of sci-fi movie viewers did not appreciate the insufficiency of whiz-bang action, and the “boring” slide into explorations of human emotions and struggles with adaptation to extinction-avoidance. To my mind the last scene of this movie is a very powerful and poignant expression of what I think is the essential truth about personally dealing with extinction/climate change — and life in general — should be: be good to the ones you love, and expand on that as you are willing. I suspect any decent Hollywood movie these days has to be a failure.

Downsizing (2017) – Official Trailer – Paramount Pictures
[2:31]
https://youtu.be/UCrBICYM0yM

Here are a few more, but all of the following are documentaries, not fictional-plot entertainment as are “Mazz Alone” and “Downsizing.”

The Age of Stupid” is a marvelous and ahead-of-its-time (for a behind-the-times-and-unaware-of-reality mass consciousness) documentary from 2009 (made during 2005 to 2009, the years of the second G. W. Bush Administration). It presents itself as a “look back” from 2055 at the stupid lack of recognition and action by the people of 2005-2009 to the climate catastrophe that was soon to engulf them. A wonderfully factual and nicely paced film, deliciously critical of the NIMBY attitude toward wind-power and by extension green energy efforts generally, and British, so it has that patina of accessible sophistication that American audiences love about their imported PBS shows. Because of societal inertia “The Age of Stupid” has not aged (we’ve done nothing about climate change; just ask Greta), but even so a 10 year retrospective was produced by The Guardian newspaper, and it too is interesting.

The Age of Stupid
2009
[1:28:44]
https://youtu.be/awVbLg59tR8

The Age of Stupid revisited: what’s changed on climate change?
15 March 2019
[11:04]
https://youtu.be/GqHKYwxEIRA

A succinct and yet richly detailed summary of “where we are today” on climate change trends, and why COP25, like all such meetings, was a failure was very recently given by Dr. Peter Carter. This “movie” is really an interview that is nearly a monologue (which is a good thing). This has no plot and is not entertainment like a feature film, but it complements “The Age of Stupid” perfectly. This is one of those less-than-half-hour films that should be widely viewed and thought about, but, you know: sports fans and sci-fi fans couldn’t even begin to process it with its lack of comic book plot, explosions, and eye-popping CGI special effects. Human extinction is just boring.

Dr Peter Carter: summarising the lack of “climate emergency” at #COP25
[23:11]
10 December 2019
https://youtu.be/oa13KrOvE2s

For me, one of the most important videos I saw in 2019 was the presentation by Dr. Scott Wing on the scientific investigation of the global warming that occurred 56 million years ago, at the Paleocene-Eocene temporal boundary. I know this video would bore most people to tears — how unfortunately! — but it is the most wonderful and clear presentation of just exactly what happens on Earth when the global temperature (driven by massive CO2 injection) moves up 4°C, or 8°C, or more beyond today’s level. To make the information in this video more palatable to a wider audience, I made the effort to analyze this video in detail and “transcribe” its many detailed facts into my article “Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change,” which became my biggest “research paper” of the year. I think that if you are patient and watch Dr. Scott Wing’s entire presentation, you will be thoughtfully satisfied.

Global Warming 56 Million Years Ago, and What it Means For Us
30 January 2014
Dr. Scott Wing, Curator of Fossil Plants,
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Washington, DC
[1:44:12]
https://youtu.be/81Zb0pJa3Hg

Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
15 July 2019
[text to accompany the above video]
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/07/15/ye-cannot-swerve-me-moby-dick-and-climate-change/

Finally, a “fast food” or “quickie” complement to Dr. Scott Wing’s video-recorded presentation on the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is the following 11 minute video produced for PBS. Enjoy it, certainly, but don’t take it as an adequate substitute to the real thing, above.

The Last Time The Globe Warmed (PETM)
PBS Eons [10:53]
4 December 2017
https://youtu.be/ldLBoErAhz4

I have not included sci-fi disaster-action-drama movies like “The Day After Tomorrow” here, because I don’t see them offering any useful thoughts about actual climate change (and population growth). Their entertainment takes you away from thinking, not into it.

Maybe some filmmaker will succeed next year, or later, in producing a Hollywood-style climate change urgency/doom movie that combines the factually-rich and dramatic narrative punch for Ken Avidor’s art film “Mazz Alone,” with the screen-writing polish and high production values of “Downsizing.” But, this may be as likely as our governments actually addressing climate change as the monumental emergency it really is.

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I Learn About F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, with daughter Scottie

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I Learn About F. Scott Fitzgerald

After decades of resisting the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), thinking him and them as inconsequential and passé, I finally fell under their spell. He was a literary genius, a great romantic and perceptive and fundamentally tragic writer. His novel, The Great Gatsby, is shimmering, transcendental (beyond the powers of cinema to capture), and – from the perspective of our limited human lifetimes – eternal. A collection of his short stories compiled in 1960, Babylon Revisited, is fascinating, showing how inventive he was at devising characters and plots detailing the intertwining of the psychologies of those characters. And he would present it all with fluidly lyrical prose of amazing compactness. What has drawn me to his stories is his implicitly deep understanding of the human heart, which he conveys from behind the casual facade of both manic and faded Jazz Age settings. What I see from his own personal story is that every true artist must constantly struggle to be able to do the work that expresses their art and gives their life meaning, despite the enervating drag of the many demands heaped on one by the needs of economic survival, exhibiting sufficient conformity for social acceptance, and the emotional needs – and illusions – of close family. I think that is the great heroic epic of each artist’s personal life: somehow producing the work held deep in the heart and soul and mind, despite both the intentional and indifferent impediments placed before that artistic drive by life’s banalities. Some succeed better than others, and some are broken and fail in that they themselves are lost to life and their unknown art stillborn. With all that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, I think that we are only seeing fragments of his potential, even given that he was one of America’s supreme literary artists. I appreciate his decades of struggle to produce those gems. It can be very hard to be an ordinary, imperfect human being gifted to be an instinctive channel to a primordial artistic insight and creative drive. His gift to us is the wider awareness we may gain by reading his stories, and immersing ourselves in his enthralling lyricism. I’ve now embarked on Tender Is The Night, which he called “a confession of faith.” In the last year of his life, F. Scott Fitzgerald earned $13.13 in royalties. Since his death in 1940, more than 10 million copies of his books have been sold throughout the world.

Winter Dreams: F Scott Fitzgerald’s Life Remembered (PBS, 2001)
https://youtu.be/XnEO8yT_ApM

Sincerely, F. Scott Fitzgerald (BBC, 2013)
https://youtu.be/cCfUsaX5F10

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The Ultimate Great American Novel

“The Great American Novel” is an idea difficult to define yet clear in every American mind, or at least in the minds of some of America’s readers. It is that ideal book that captures some universal quality of American life and popular aspiration, and especially of quintessential patterns of American thought and speech at a particular time and place during the nation’s history. For a truly timeless work, it would give an insight into enduring universalities of Americanness as perceived through a compelling story cast in idiomatic and ephemeral particulars.

It is impossible for any one novel to achieve this ideal for any length of time, or even at all. But, a few do ascend artistically far above the accumulated mass of published and unpublished American novels. Here are eight that I think qualify as being contenders for the unattainable title of “The Great American Novel.”

First, they are listed by publication date:

Moby-Dick
(Herman Melville, 1851)
(1820s-1840s New England whalers at sea)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(Mark Twain, 1884)
(1830s-1840s, rafting down the Mississippi River)

The Great Gatsby
(F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925)
(1922, love longing, triangles and betrayal in wealthy suburban New York)

The Grapes of Wrath
(John Steinbeck, 1939)
(1930s homeless Oklahoma farmers on the road in California)

The Catcher In The Rye
(J. D. Salinger, 1951)
(1950, a prep school boy’s New York City)

To Kill A Mockingbird
(Harper Lee, 1960)
(1933-1935, in a rural Southern town)

Catch-22
(Joseph Heller, 1961)
(1942-1944, US Army Air Force men in Italy)

Slaughterhouse-Five
(Kurt Vonnegut, 1969)
(1944-1945, 1968, 1976, US Army survivor of the Dresden fire-bombing).

Secondly, they are listed by the time periods of their stories:

Moby-Dick
(1820s-1840s)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(1830s-1840s)

The Great Gatsby
(1922)

The Grapes of Wrath
(1930s)

To Kill A Mockingbird
(1933-1935)

Catch-22
(1942-1944)

Slaughterhouse-Five
(1944-1945, 1968, 1976)

The Catcher In The Rye
(1950).

Thirdly, they are listed in my rank order:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Moby-Dick

The Great Gatsby

The Grapes of Wrath

The Catcher In The Rye

Catch-22

Slaughterhouse-Five

To Kill A Mockingbird.

I would group the eight novels thematically as follows:

Moral defiance versus obedience to the avaricious and vengefully obsessed, before the Civil War:
– The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
– Moby-Dick

The soulful poets among the materialistic urban elite, as social failures by definition:
– The Great Gatsby
– The Catcher In The Rye

Prejudice against the wretched dispossessed in a time of economic depression:
– The Grapes of Wrath
– To Kill A Mockingbird

The sanity of being creatively insane to try surviving the random heartless cruelties of war, and of life:
– Catch-22
– Slaughterhouse-Five

So, perhaps an Ultimate Great American Novel would offer us the compelling attraction of seeing strong individual moral character successfully defy the social strictures that direct people into lives of soulless materialistic gain and obsessive and even vengeful ambition; and, by artful indirection rather than polemics, it would lead us to condemn those aspects of our society by which the most wretched and dispossessed are inflicted with the cruelest forms of exclusion, exploitation and persecution; and it would show us how to recognize those morally insightful and artistically apt observers of our unappealing and often denied social realities, despite the casting off of such poets by materialism’s powerful. Finally, such a novel would delight us with a realization of good triumphing over monolithic indifference, by showing how its good-hearted empathetic poet-observers and realists, who captivate our attention, escape monstrous injustices and random fatal cruelties by their own artful nonconformities. Seeing such escapes would give us a lightening hope: perhaps we could do it too.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) wrote that “a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience,” and Huckleberry Finn is “a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat.” Because of his innate good character and his beneficial friendship with Jim, an escaped slave, the adolescent Huckleberry Finn comes to see black slavery and its enabling racism as morally wrong despite their being treated as upright and legally essential to American society, by the white adults of his time. It is important to note that Jim, the runaway black slave, is the noblest adult in this story. This is the quintessential American novel, scintillating and funny, still fresh, still relevant, still controversial.

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Herman Melville (1819-1891) wrote “one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world” and “the greatest book of the sea ever written” (D. H. Lawrence). It tells of Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest, aboard the whaling ship Pequod, for revenge against the white whale, Moby-Dick, for having bitten off his leg at the knee on a previous voyage. Melville gives detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting, the extraction of whale oil, and life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew. Mixed into this narrative are explorations of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God.

The Great Gatsby

In 1923, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940) wanted to write “something new – something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” That effort produced his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. The story centers on the young and mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and his quixotic and obsessive passion for the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s main problem is Daisy’s oafish, wealthy husband, Tom Buchanan. Because of their inherited wealth, Tom and Daisy are spoiled and thus careless people, and that causes damage to others of humble origins who have their own great aspirations: the American Dream. The story is told by lyrical observer and incidental participant Nick Carraway. Fitzgerald’s artful, fluid prose conveys not only the interesting plot of the social drama, but a sense of the times, the nature of the characters, and – very subtly – his own judgments about each of these.

The Grapes of Wrath

While preparing this novel, John Steinbeck (1902-1968) wrote: “I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects],” he also said “I’ve done my damnedest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.” The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, changes in the agricultural industry, and bank foreclosure. Down and out and on the road during the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California along with thousands of other “Okies” in the hopes of finding jobs, land, dignity, and a future. Steinbeck’s sympathies for people like the Joads, and his accessible realist prose style, brought him a large following among the working class worldwide, and recognition with the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1962.

The Catcher In The Rye

Jerome David Salinger (1919-2010) matched Mark Twain’s achievement in Huckleberry Finn, of presenting the story of a rebellious and kind-hearted teenager, Holden Caulfield, in the very specific idiomatic speech of the protagonist, his peers, time and place. This novel presents an unparalleled view into the angst and alienation filling a perceptive teenage boy’s mind, trying to unravel the complexities of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection. James Joyce had said that he wanted his own book, Ulysses, to be so richly detailed in describing Dublin on 16 June 1904 that one could thereafter recreate the entire city of that time out of his novel. Salinger did just that, with The Catcher In The Rye, for the New York City of a prep school lad during Christmas week, 1950.

Catch-22

Joseph Heller (1923-1999) mined his experiences as a U.S. Army Air Corps B-25 bombardier, who flew 60 combat missions on the Italian Front during World War II, to write his best novel, Catch-22. This satiric novel unfolds in a non-chronological manner, and it centers on Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 (a twin engine, medium bomber) bombardier, who along with his companions attempts to maintain his sanity during his time at war, despite its continuous undercurrent of deep dread, which is punctuated by random instances of explosive terror. The great hope is to return home alive. There are many comical elements in this book, and Yossarian is a serious nonconformist, a wise ass, but all these laughs are forms of gallows humor to help these men trapped in war to momentarily release their tightly knotted tensions. This is an anti-war book. In the novel, the Catch-22 itself is a circularly constructed Air Corps rule that makes it impossible for an airman to arrive at a valid excuse – except being killed – for being relieved of combat duty. Milo Minderbinder, one of the characters in Catch-22, is the quintessential icon of a capitalist, a parody that is so exquisite because it is so realistically accurate.

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death

To write Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) drew on his experiences as an American prisoner of war, captured by the Germans in 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, who witnessed the destruction of the city of Dresden by an incredibly intense firestorm created by four British and American aerial bombing raids, dropping high explosive and incendiary devices, between 13-15 February 1945. At least 25,000 Germans, mainly civilians, died as a result of the indiscriminate area bombing of an ancient city with scant military installations. Slaughterhouse-Five is an overt anti-war novel published during the height of the Vietnam War. It presents the science fiction-infused story of Billy Pilgrim, an innocent Everyman-type who is a chaplain’s assistant in the U.S. Army and survives the firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner of war. This experience forms Billy into the not-so-usual individual he becomes by his maturity in present-day 1968 upstate New York, and the guru-seer he becomes thereafter, “unstuck in time” and in out-of-his-control contact with the Tralfamadorians, aliens from deep outer space. Vonnegut’s prose is almost child-like, and his science fiction episodes are whimsical, but the essence of this book and the drive behind it are very serious.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Nelle Harper Lee (1926-2016) reflected on her observations of her own father, a lawyer, to write this warm, Southern Gothic novel about the rape trial of a black man, Tom Robinson, by a white court and jury, in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression, in 1936. The rape victim-accuser is an unmarried white woman whose father is a rabid racist; Tom Robinson is a married man with children: a black family. This story unfolds as the observations of two young white children, primarily Jean Louise Finch (nicknamed Scout), and her older brother Jeremy (nicknamed Jem), who live with their widowed father Atticus Finch, a highly principled, anti-racist and quietly brave man. Atticus Finch is Tom Robinson’s defense attorney. About this novel, the critic J. Crespino wrote in 2000 that “In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.” To Kill A Mockingbird was Harper Lee’s only published book from 1960 until 2015 (seven months before her death), when her publisher, J. B. Lippincott & Co., issued Go Set A Watchman, an inferior novel based on an earlier draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. I suspect this was an act of pure exploitation by Lee’s publisher.

Are The Movies Any Good?

Nothing equals the experience of reading these books, and having their artistry unfold intimately in your own mind and at your own pace. Do yourself a favor and read each completely before you see any movie or even movie clip of it (actually, a movie of somebody’s interpretation or even misrepresentation of it).

Also, make sure to avoid all introductions, prefaces, essays about and critiques on any of these stories before actually reading the full texts that the authors labored to gift us with. Don’t allow the blather of others to pollute the purity of your own first impressions and – just as good as any critic’s and English teacher’s – your own analysis and artistic appreciation of what the authors have given us.

The nature of American society and the American cinematic industry makes it impossible to create accurate and meritorious movies of three of these novels: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher In The Rye. The barriers to making good movies of these three stories are, respectively: the inability to face Mark Twain’s searing frankness about 19th century American racism; the inability to produce a movie as elegant, layered, lyrical and subtle as Fitzgerald’s novel; and similarly with Salinger’s novel, which he anticipated by stipulating that movie rights to his stories never be sold.

There are good movies of Moby-Dick (in 1956, by John Huston and Ray Bradbury), The Grapes of Wrath (in 1940, by John Ford, Nunnally Johnson and Darryl F. Zanuck), Catch-22 (in 1970, by Mike Nichols and Buck Henry), Slaughterhouse-Five (in 1972, by George Roy Hill and Stephen Geller), and To Kill A Mockingbird (in 1962, by Robert Mulligan, Horton Foote and Alan J. Pakula). But read the books first!

Other Great American Novels

Obviously, there can be as many different nominees for inclusion in lists of “great American novels” as there are enthusiastic and opinionated readers of American literature. A listing of often cited works for inclusion among the “American greats” is given by Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_Novel).

Remember, readers come in two sexes (and varieties of sexual orientation), of all ages, and from the wide multi-cultural spectrum of the American people, and beyond. So, the type and period of American novel that would captivate any given reader, as a “great book,” can be quite different from the novels I have listed.

I’m not arguing, just gratefully enjoying and appreciatively learning from the sincere and varied literary artistry of the dedicated authors cited here. Enjoy!

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