Such was the Northern Hemisphere Summer Solstice moment which has just passed us by.
I often try to mark the exact solstice moments, winter and summer, and occasionally the neglected siblings known as the equinoxes.
Summer Solstice this year happens to have been in the dark-of-night at the latitude/longitude where I am.
This is how it looked:
I also note that because the Summer Solstice moment fell close to midnight, the coveted title of “longest day of the year” must by all fairness be shared by both June 20 and June 21, the difference being (must be) minuscule and measurable in seconds. If the Solstice fell at midday or so, there would be a clear winner.
Here is the same view lightened up:
Photography is funny in that most of the time it fails to do its job, which is to capture an image. Take a picture and you do get an image, but it’s not really what you see.
(Good photographers are good at staging, or something, and create more pleasing images; the poor photographer can aim to capture the same scene as the good photographer and take a picture at the same time and from the same vantage but it somehow ends up feeling different. And neither of them have truly captured the image in the sense the human witness saw it.)
Everyone who has ever tried taking a picture of the Moon knows this problem well. The way my little “Moon at Summer Solstice night portrait” actually looked was roughly a combination of the sky/moon in the first and the ground and ambiance in the second, or maybe even more navigable still. It was a very hot day and warmly pleasant at late night.
The picture is timestamped 11:19pm, 13 minutes before the Solstice. It seemed the best shot I would get. The place I wanted to be, a few minutes walk away, had some people loafing around and it wouldn’t have done for me to stand around waiting for the moment. I had to improvise, which meant wander and hope for the best. When the clock struck the Solstice moment (11:32pm), I was near a stream. The Moon was bright in full view.
The good news is: days will stay long for a while.
The return of darkness at something like the 6pm hour is many months away.
I wonder how much of the “work at home” zombie army has lost touch with the phases of the Sun in their work lives. (More than our civilization already has, given easy artificial light, to say nothing of losing touch with temperatures and other weather conditions, given ubiquitous A/C and heating.)
In the pre-Zombie state (before March 2020), most of these people had 5pm or 6pm quitting times, and were therefore out of “work” and into “the world” at those times or thereabouts. In the months around the Summer Solstice this meant good daylight after work and usually accompanied by favorable weather. A great gift to the 9-to-5-er. But after the mass-conversion to Zombiedom, it was all disrupted.
Or is it? I know enough about the Zombie ideology to know many of the Zombies will defend their Zombiesm and how great Zombieism is, how much better the Zombie lifestyle is than the Human one.
If anyone reading this doesn’t understand my Zombie references, vis-a-vis 2020 and 2021, you’re on your own.
On the other hand, what I see is many do seem to be indulging in the long days and fair weather, by being out “late” more than they may have been in their pre-Zombie lives. I’ve heard others remark the same. I’d almost describe it like the 8pm and 9pm hours of May and June seem like turbocharged versions of former 6pm and 7pm hours or the same months, pre-Zombie. This has struck me, but I think it may be an artifact of the hold-over Zombie custom of outdoor dining, which of course makes people more visible.
I was again at an MLB baseball game yesterday, June 16.
The Washington Nationals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, at Washington. Neither team looked very good and but for a two-run home-run, the game was a toss-up.
They announced attendance as 16,800. Of 42,000 seats, giving a total ticket-sale figure of 40%. This in addition to what must be a few thousand staff, almost all of whom looked bored almost all the time (which I find an awkward part of the experience whenever I have been at baseball games here).
Thoughts follow on observations and some memories, the usual things I tend to drift into writing on these pages.
Bikeshare to stadium
I went to the game with my dad, who invited me. He has a friend who sells him tickets at discounted rates. He has been a baseball since youth, though seemed much more of a fan in the 2010s than I remember him being in the 1990s.
I persuaded my dad to go to the stadium by bikeshare after parking in North Arlington. In all there were four legs round-trip, and he did three by e-bike (free because I have so many credits) and I did them all by regular bike as usual (free always for members).
From looking at the stations around the stadium, I estimate something at least 150 people attended the game by this method, with probably an equal numbers using private (non-bikeshare) bikes. Armed guards watch over these private bikes during the game in a little cove on the east side of the stadium, which they call a “bike valet.” If my estimate is right, around 300 people of 16,800 attendees went by bike, 1.8%. Since many attendees were children, or elderly, or obese or otherwise disabled, this must mean up to 3% of able-bodied attended by bike.
One effect of the Virus Panic disruptions is the end of the bikeshare system’s “bike corrals,” four stations downtown manned in the mornings by small teams who would keep docks open, in other words, guaranteed parking. I used these. They did not return at all in 2020 and don’t look likely to return in 2021, though maybe by fall they might.
I think the bikeshare system also used to run these “corrals” at certain other places during major events, but I haven’t seen any in a few years. One was during baseball games. A small team would keep docks open — as the station got full, remove some bikes and keep them in a pile, allowing new arrivals to cruise in and park. This was a great system, but is now gone. We got there very early — 3pm — and the main station across from the main entrance was full by about 4:30pm, and most others in the area were also at or near full.
There are no real hills going to the stadium, which sits on the west bank of the Anacostia River not far above where it meets the Potomac, which makes bicycling there theoretically practical. In practice it’s still a little hard, which is a disincentive to people doing it. Make things like that easy or people won’t do it.
The good thing about rolling in early was walking around the empty stadium:
Reflections on stadium-anchored “gentrification” success, mid-2000s vs. early 2020s
I must say, the baseball stadium has been a success in anchoring the major gentrification of this area, which had sunk to some pathetic depths of crime by the 1970s, fading into the 2000s, something near a half-century lost. Optimists in the mid-2000s predicted the new stadium would turn things around decisively and they were right, or at least sis definitely right if we lean on Correlation and ignore that pesky bug in the ear called Causation.
In some pictures taken from the Nationals stadium, you’ll see large, new-looking apartment buildings near it. These are new-looking because they are new.
The river sits on a site adjacent to the Anacostia River. The very name “Anacostia” conjures up some unpleasant images, even today, to many. The general area was once an anchor of Washington’s years-long claim to being Murder Capital of North America. No Washington baseball team was national champion between 1934 and 2019, but quite a few years had Washington ranked Number One for crime, or at least homicides.
I remember assuming that crime would more likely persist. I was wrong in being skeptical that the plan would work, because the stadium today is surrounded by luxury apartments.
In my partial defense, the general area is still not exactly the kind of safe a good neighborhood in pre-1960s Washington would have been, and there is a modest siege mentality, of the kind that must be felt by residents of those Brazilian luxury apartments walled off from favelas but all the same directly adjacent to them (this is much more visceral in the development in Maryland just outside DC caleld “National Harbor”).
I had some dealings in one of these new apartment buildings in 2014, when I worked for a time for a Korean Phone English company. The agent for the company ran the business out of his home, I assume, and met me in the lobby. (Was that in a legal gray area?) The building was pleasant once scanned in, inside the security zone, but still subject to the unpleasantly high-security feeling. I expect that had faded somewhat by the end of the decade as things marched on.
Of course many other areas also improved. The 2010s were the lowest-crime since the 1950s (and early 1960s). Since the annus terribilis of lockdowns, artificial major recession, riots, and major breakthrough by anti-police rhetoric, a series of reverses starting in spring 2020, crime is back up around its long-term late-1960s-to-mid-2000s running average.
Since the lockdowns began there started to emerge unmistakable signs of major social blight in parts of Washington, things that seemed a thing of the past by 2019. The abandonment of downtown with the Virus Panic led directly to the mayor deciding to cede several downtown blocks to a protestor zone. For now fifteen months the mayor has also refused to allow police to clear homeless camps in public parks, originally citing the Virus (of course!), but now just through intertial inaction, I guess. This is to the bafflement of many. The tent citynear the Watergate Hotel has dozens of tents now, and I have seen some unpleasant scenes in it. But no sign of homeless tent-cities near the stadium yesterday.
If Washington’s sudden decline persists, the anchor of the stadium are will probably not feel its effects on game- or event-days.
The rollback of the Virus Panic
The capacity restrictions seem finally gone. I interpret this as another signal that our agenda-setters want to move on from the Virus Panic. Had they been responsible social stewards, they’d have moved to limit social/economic/psychological damage from the start, let people make their own decisions, and for God’s sake not deliberately fan Panic flames (which they did). I noticed clear signs of a sustained campaign to unravel the Panic starting in mid-May 2021. The tone shift seems to predate that. Maybe they were waiting for spring? Of course when flu season ends, flu viruses recede dramatically in our climates.
In the Washington baseball stadium case, the authorities lifted the stadium attendance capacity cap from 33% to 100% less than a week ago. For this game, the market bought 40% of the tickets. (It was a 4:00pm weekday game and I don’t know how many of those ever sell out, especially mid-season for a mediocre team; though the Nationals won the World Series in 2019, they don’t look like the same team now.)
The market figure and the arbitrary capacity restriction end up being similar figures — 33% vs. 40% — which means if the local government still demanded the 33% limit, three thousand who attended yesterday could not have done so, a simple deadweight loss to those people and to ticket and food/beverage revenue and whatever else they tossed their money into.
The other good news, from my perspective (as a pretty hard-line anti-VirusPanic person since late March 2020), is the absence of mask busybodies, those who demand people wear masks or adjust them properly, which became a strange feature of Virus Panic world since masks became mandatory by law by about May 2020.
(Looking back now, Mask-ism was a strange escalation by the Virus Panic regime, right when they should have moved decisively to slay the Panic beast and let people make their own decisions — which they finally did one year later, but for one year masks became a disturbing feature of lived reality, led by the decisions of Western political demagogues riding Virus Panic to popularity or power-grab, my interpretation of events.)
The fingerprints of the old regime are still all over:
With half of June gone, I see continual good news on this front. An event like a major-league baseball game, and what restrictions are imposed or not, and how people behave, these seem pretty significant indicators to me, especially in one of the Big Blue strongholds of what became a bizarre, reality-detached Flu Virus Cult. O understand much of Europe is still mired in this, and Australia is for some reason the worst off of all, being subject to disgraceful terror-panics when even one “positive case” comes out in a region.
There are still individual Panickers, of course. I still see people still riding a bicycle with masks on, something I will just never understand.
I was moving around the stadium for, it must have been fifteen minutes before I saw the first spectator with a mask. Later I saw a few others, some actively wearing and some with it hanging off their face or neck or whatever in some way — all looking ridiculous to me and I would hope looking ridiculous to the eyes of History. It’s hard to estimate, but maybe 5-15% of spectators had masks with them at all, and most of those were not actively wearing them at any given moment, which puts the total actively wearing at any given time well below 5%. Up from 0.00% in 2019 and all previous years.
This little estimate of mine applies to spectators. The staff is another matter. The staff mostly had conspicuous signs of masks — I assume they are still under a private mandate. My non-scientific estimate is least half actively wearing them at any given time, but not too high above that 50% line. Some conveniently took long or indefinite breaks from the mask in the afternoon heat and seemed no longer to be subject to mask-busybodies or supervisors. Their mask rate is much down from peak-Panic periods since the mandates started coming in in spring 2020.
This is all really good news, but as long as anyone has a mask to me means a sign of the social contagion (which I’ve called Virus Panic here) is still in circulation.
Miscellaneous baseball memories
I do not follow baseball, nor do I follow any sports with any regularity today. I did when I was a kid.
I played baseball up to around age 12, always prompted by my dad, whose own preferences and interests generally steered my activities at those ages partly to my low-level resentment. Not long ago I came across a team picture from 1996 of my our team and my dad kneeling alongside, as coach. I hardly remember him being coach. I think there were two coaches and the other one was absent on picture day.
I liked playing baseball, I think, and am glad I was able to do it and had a period of great interest in the sport (i.e., when I “followed” it), because in the end it’s the mark of one plank of our culture. Baseball has been with us about two centuries, though the lineage of the game may not be what the legends claims (invented by a young man named Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, about 1840 — later General Doubleday). People who don’t know the game expect American men to know it and be able to explain it.
I wouldn’t mind playing again, especially a lower-stakes version as with plastic bat and hollow plastic ball. My cousins in Connecticut called this “whiffle ball,” but I don’t know how common that name is.
(I played cricket once, in 2012, on an island off the west coast of Korea, with a mish-mash of vacationers including British coworkers, and did amazingly well to their surprise. Baseball skills are transferable, though the rules of the game are different. Cricket vs. baseball strikes me as a good analogy for how languages differ and how language families work.)
Baseball games, 1990s vs. 2010s/20s
I attended a few Baltimore Orioles games in the 1990s, the closest team to me at the time before the Nationals came in. I was at one one as late as July 2005, with my aunt N. and cousins B. W. and M. W.; the Orioles were playing Boston, which is B. and M.’s favorite team and, they being through the area at the time, decided to attend and for some reason invite me. (They are from near the Yankees-Red Sox fandom dividing line that runs through central Connecticut and decisively side with the latter.)
One thing I noticed in the 2010s, in the handful of times I attended games in various capacities and situations, and which I was reminded of very much yesterday, is the lower share of people actually interested in the game in any way than what I remember from the 1990s. (Reader beware, I was just a boy in the 1990s and everything impressed me. Even trying to adjust for that, I really think this is true.)
Many of the people attending are just at these games as a social event and spend the entire time chatting or hanging around in the rear area, and any of the game they witness if almost by chance. These are people there as a form of social signaling. This is true of many, perhaps most, of the women attending, and many of the men, too. A little sign of how so much of the world is oriented towards women, especially younger-end women in that consumption decisions are much more driven by women (per anyone with contact with lived-reality, but also spending studies).
It’s hard to untangle exact motivations in individual cases but the social dynamic of “attending = prestige” does seem to exist, like an umbrella under which individuals operate. In any case this is great news for the Nationals as a business, because if the stadium is a ‘prestige’ place to be, sales go up, attendance goes up, sales of merchandise goes up, prices can go up (or stay crazily high, $30+ t-shirts, whatever).
Airport-style security comes to stadium — Why?
I started this writing on the rapid retreat of masks as symbol of the retreat of the Virus Panic coalition, which is good news. I realize there was something else in yesterday’s experience that seems pretty bad news and which I want to put to paper here. It is: the hugely increased security at the front gate, and seemingly also inside the stadium.
They interrogate everyone entering now, often for several minutes, and subject them to airport-style security with the same level of rigor and tone that the benighted TSA does. The TSA, perhaps the USA’s most hated agency of all since its founding in late 2001. Is it actually a government agency? For practical purposes it seems to be, and after twenty years another government agency was born never to be reigned back in.
Most people have demonstrated their full willingness to go along with whatever, as long as whoever it is eventually waves them through. Last year taught us this willingness includes even month-after-month-after-month of endless, rolling shutdown orders, based even on the thinnest of justifications and apparently no cost-benefit calculations at all, throwing social and economic life into disarray. Compared to 2020, a little increase in stadium security looks minor.
Still, for some reason I was surprised and annoyed by the new security regime. I was in the stadium over four hours without but one or two brief sips of water from a drinking fountain. I would’ve had more but they made me throw out my water bottle at the security gate because it was already open. (What the heck?)
This is all dramatically different than what I remember. As recently as summer 2019, the last time I was at a game (which was with coworkers and worth a full post of its own if I get around to it), I remember sailing through security and taking more time scanning the ticket to get in. This time the ratio was reversed.
I remember airports in the 1990s. I think the baseball stadium security in June 2021 was in some ways at least as strict as airport security was in the 1990s and in some ways stricter. Absolutely no bags are allowed. All open water bottles must be inspected and dumped if opened. There were several other procedures. What is the meaning of this?
I don’t know who gave these silly orders for airport-style security at the baseball stadium gates. I also sense they may never get rolled back now. I’ve heard this called the “ratchet effect.“
Synchronicity. The very evening I published the Star Trek Voyager post, I randomly flipped to a channel, early in the 11pm hour. To a number on the channel list I feel certain was random. I wasn’t sure what number I was typing. By this set up you may already have guessed what I found. None other than Star Trek Voyager.
There it was. Very occasionally I’ll do a random flip to see what’s going on. The channel I’d stumbled onto was called “Heroes & Icons.” I’d never heard of this channel before. I had planned to turn off the TV and sleep. Tthere was the face of the character Tuvok, looking perplexed, with ominous music playing and dark lighting. A mystery assailant was attacking crew members and Tuvok was on the case.
People can mock the concept of Synchronicity if they want, but I can attest that I had never watched this channel ever before nor knew of its existence. I can attest I had not seen Voyager on TV in man years. What are the odds the very day I wrote/published about it that I’d encounter it at random? I couldn’t believe it.
Although that very morning I had written that Voyager was still airing, I confess I was saying so to puff up the importance of my subject. I hadn’t seen it, myself, on regular TV and had only heard of its syndication airing (an impressive fact for a show off the air twenty years. I assumed it would be on the Sci-Fi channel, which I think still airs it, too. Maybe others, I don’t know.)
Today, before proceeding with other matters I turned it on again to see what would come up. On came the television show Rawhide. This is an old Western show, originally conceived of in the late 1950s and which clearly draws influence from the old radio dramas which preceded it. In other words, I think the show could have worked on radio almost just as well as on TV.
Rawhide is a good show.
I am not sure I’d ever seen Rawhide before but it’s typical of the Western genre set in the late 19th century. I had heard the theme song, which became a well-known Country-Western music song in its own right.
Okay, now. Whoever reads this may not believe this but the purpose of this place is for me to record any thoughts or experiences, or etc., that I want. I already opened this post with a long tangent on Star Trek Voyager and Synchronicity. If you’re with me, get ready for another.
Yesterday afternoon, I had some business in downtown Washington. It is very hot this week, and from late morning to early evening the temperatures, sun glare, and maybe humidity are all enough to make it physically oppressive during those hours. As I had business to do and under such conditions, and especially as the business I had to attend to went badly and ended up somewhat humiliating — a small psychological blow in addition to the physical as described — my mind drifted to humming a song that seemed suited. You may have guessed from this set up, too, what I am getting at.
Many times yesterday afternoon, the simple tune and lyrics of “Rawhide,” the song, turned over in my mind. Let me say again I was familiar with the song, but had (1) never seen the show, (2) wasn’t sure the song was from the show, (3) wasn’t completely sure there was a show named Rawhide, (4) had never been on the channel aforementioned (Heroes & Icons) before the 11pm hour of the night before, (5) had no idea of the channel’s schedule, (6) had no plan to return to the channel but did by chance this morning.
It was a good show and something compelled me to watch it to the end. I didn’t realize I was watching Rawhide until some of the transitional and mood-setting music in certain scenes, recorded by an orchestra, used variations on the tune to the song.
This is the song:
I don’t think my mind had drifted into the “Rawhide” song in a very long time, and again here within less than a day I see the show for which it was the theme song, as far as I know the first time I’d ever seen the show.
I think I’d been familiar with the song since the mid- or late-2000s, probably first encountering it via a download from one of the Napster-successors of the day, especially one I was on called WinMX. (I assume most of the market for music-sharing on those networks was replaced by Youtube, which is a worrying development, a Youtube monopoly.)
I don’t know what to make of this double-synchronicity. I know well that the usual attitude of skeptics, there must be some explanation you are overlooking. I have had experiences like these before, more often when I was younger, and I have no explanation for them. Mysteries of the universe, including events that do not align chronologically like the two I’ve described, are best not sledgehammered away with ultra-skepticism.
I have never read Carl Jung in a serious way, but like any reasonably educated person I am familiar with many of his ideas. I believe Jung coined the term “synchronicity,” and two major and identifiable ones in a row like this is no small matter. What is the significance of this?
I have tagged this post ‘Religion’ as the closest of the existing categories I have to capture this discussion. But I don’t know how to proceed further with such thinking except to read Jung or his successors, but I don’t really want to.
The episode of Rawhide I saw was Season 3: Episode 6, first aired November 1960. Clint Eastwood is one of the protagonists in Rawhide, playing a cleaner-cut type of the character for which he later became emblematic in a long series of movies.
The plot: The group of cattle drivers encounters a former stagecoach robber who is on a mission to repay all his victims from ten years earlier, and then turn himself in. Because of the looseness of the law in the Old West, this is best done by tracking down victims and secretly dropping off the money and slipping away.
The group helps the reformed robber get to the final town he needs to get to, for it’s in the same direction they’re going. They repay $250 to the town’s bank. But it turns out someone in the town had framed him ten years earlier, had stolen the entire town’s savings of $11,000, and had shot dead the popular bank clerk.
The local sheriff and mayor are mixed up in this plot and kept it a secret for ten years. Agitated locals, led by the sheriff, form a posse and insinuate that may lynch the reformed robber, or at least fast-track his murder trial and hang him that way. Eastwood, a junior hand in the group, starts to figure out the frame-up, devises a plan to expose the plotters, and does.
Eastwood is the co-hero of this particular story, along with the head of the cattle driving group who agrees to help the reformed robber in the first place, putting himself at some risk.
What to say about Rawhide. Sixty years is not a short time (1960 to 2021), and the era depicted is about 90 years earlier still (ca. 1870), 150 years before our time.
The idea of linear progression is our civic religion. From a very-bad Distant Past, to a somewhat-bad Moderate Past, to a better-but-still-bad Near Past, to a still-bad-but-much-better Present, to a hopefully better Future, the last achieved through constant and unrelenting striving against The Bad People, who are of an identifiable demographic who “cling” to this and that (as someone famously said in 2008). This is what I see as our civic religion, and the dominant American historical-cultural narratives are now all based this premise, a form of worship of Progress. In other words, I have no doubt at all — zero — that any of the priests of our civic religion were to watch and analyze/interpret this episode of Rawhide, or any episode, they would get angry and produce a laundry-list of grievances against it, maybe even try to start a social-media mob to get it canceled for some inane reason. Such is not in the realm of parody but happens pretty regularly now. As such I’m always a little surprised when very-old TV shows or movies still air on TV. Even Star Trek Voyager of the 1995-2001 period, has plenty of episodes which would draw ire.
The funny thing about or civic religion is how there are so many heretics to the religion, people who basically disbelieve the central premise of the civic religion that the past is horrifyingly bad and one gets one’s moral worth through eternal striving against the past and against any supposed remnants of the past, an eternal political-cultural purge apparatus now seems built into our system. The wave of statue-topplings and name-changings goes on. The latest I hear is people are demanding bird names change because the people who named them one or two hundred years ago had some kind of impure political views as judged from the early 2020s. The America I know by now will have some people make noise, complain, about the ever-more-bizarre Jacobinism of our time, but the institutions with power over such things will fold.
Clint Eastwood himself stands out as against this tidal wave. I don’t know what his personal views are. I think he is a longtime Republican. I don’t know if he actively supported the Orange Man at any point, either the wild days of 2015, or through the Orange Man’s presidency. I don’t know what he may have thought during the disputed election drama going on a few months, except that he was too smart to say the wrong thing once things got heated and people started getting arrested by the hundreds.
Clint Eastwood the man is less important, anyway, than Clint Eastwood the artist (actor, director, movie producer), and the latter really stands out as a living tie to the days of a culture basically wholesome and optimistic, as I see it. May he live and continue working for years yet to come.
I’m going to write a little about a recent Eastwood movie I saw next, Richard Jewell (2019) but this post has already sailed well past a good length limit.
(The idea for this post was in my mind on May 23, 2021 and the actual writing is just filling in the details and the usual, limited tangent-hopping.)
May 23, 2021: The twenty-year anniversary of the original airing of the last episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
I worked for the Census in 2020 as a field agent, and it was really rewarding work but also usually physically exhausting. After finishing some days, I started watching episodes of this show again, not thinking much of it. But the foray began a re-ignition of interest, picked up from about where I left it off at age ten, maybe eleven, in the late 1990s.
I was eight years old when the show first aired in 1995. I remember excitement around it at the time. I had forgotten that it aired on UPN, which I do remember being a fan of in the late 1990s and 2000s. What I also didn’t know is the original episode of Star Trek: Voyager aired the opening night that UPN was on the air, as a new broadcast-tv channel. Voyager was, I learn, by fan UPN’s best-performing show, drawing over millions of established Star Trek fans to its new episodes and reruns. (I don’t know if UPN is still around in some form, but in the long run the attempt at a new broadcast television channel was clearly doomed.) I hear Star Trek: Voyager is still airing somewhere on TV in rerun form, even into the 2020s.
I got my views on such things as what kind of TV show to be interested in via a very limited window of perception. (About the same time, I was a subscriber to the print-magazine Nintendo Power, and the idea of a print magazine shipped to people’s homes to talk about video game stuff seems terrible anachronistic now.)
I feel certain I was influenced in being an early fan of Voyager by my half-brother, ten years my senior, and who was hanging around at the time. I think I remember watching the first episode, but don’t know for sure if it was on the original broadcast or on a rerun. The original episode straddled the line between movie and TV, for they took more month to produce it and it was double-length, two hours of TV time (minus commercials at 1h30m ore a little more). In the 1990s there were still only several channels on TV and cable existed but was not really mainstream. I remember perceiving cable as exotic, maybe decadent, and unnecessarily expensive, which is roughly how cell phones were perceived at the time. (I had access to neither a cell phone nor cable all through school days; I think I got a cell phone first in my last year of high school.)
The premier of a much-anticipated new series was a big deal. When I recently watched the first episode, a scene involving drinking water stands out; I know I had seen it before, but I was just a child. In 1995, and probably 1996 and 1997, I think I was a casual fan, but I don’t know how many episodes I ever really watched. I remember being intrigued when my half-brother wrote and submitted a script in either summer 1995 or summer 1996. Star Trek had an open submission policy. I remember some of the plot of his script, which leaned absurdist but any Star Trek could be characterized as absurdist, except the played it straight and waved away problems with the magic of future-scene (“technobabble”). He never heard back from them on his script, one of hundreds that never made it.
There is a lot to show about this show. I don’t want to go on too long here except to note the anniversary of the show’s ending. Children are sometimes Star Trek for very different reasons than adults. Both appreciate it. It’s been called modern mythology, or American mythology (but the series may be as popular outside America), an update of the legends of pantheons of gods of yester-millennia. It’s also basically utopian, a fantasy presented within a certain set of firm, reality-seeming bounds. People have written a lot about this over the years, back to the 1970s when they first started observing that Star Trek had attracted an unusually devout fan base, and in the early 2020s we are at roughly the fifty-year mark of the social phenomenon.
I have never counted myself a Star Trek fan. I occasionally watched the show in reruns, with The Next Generation (late 1980s to early 1990s) being more the standard-bearer than the Original Series (late 1960s).
A culturally literate American born between the 1950s to 1990s knows Star Trek references well, for they became well-embedded in popular culture by the 1990s and even those who never saw the show soon acquire by osmosis certain ideas or references.
The set of assumptions behind Star Trek is also profoundly set in most popular culture, going back many generations, the religion of Progress, unstoppable progress, which of course would put us zooming across the galaxy by the 2370s (when Voyager is set).
The 2020s is 350 years from the 2370s, the time-setting of Voyager. Reversing chronological course in the other direction, we get the 1670s. (By coincidence, the 1670s is an era I have for several year taken interest in for very different reasons, the subject of a long unpublished post on this blog related to Amerindians in the Potomac area, a project I abandoned but recently revived in Microsoft Word form and which I hope to bring to a form of completion.)
I am really writing this to note the anniversary of the end of Star Trek: Voyager, which probably formed a bigger part of my understanding of the world than I knew at the time, in my formative years. I have enjoyed watching the old shows, and for a while was even reading multi-thousand word reviews someone had written in 2017-18, but eventually grew tired of them because they were repetitive. (No one can write a cumulative hundreds of thousands of words on a television series without getting seriously repetitive.) In the past few weeks I’ve started listening to a podcast by two of the actors, The Delta Flyers. (Late in the series the ship developed a small vessel called the Delta Flyer for small “away missions.”) The two, who played two young-male officers on the show, do a good job with this podcast, and have such good connections with the other actors that they often get them on, too.
I had completely lost interest in Star Trek: Voyager by the time its final episode aired in May 2001, as is usual for people in the age range I was in at the time.
The show is underrated and worth watching again, for all kinds of reasons for insights into baseline of American/Western attitudes towards future, past, and present. In the quarter century since Star Trek: Voyager came on, I don’t know that I thought about it much before about summer 2020 when one day I sought it out again. I appreciate its role in my own life, as minor as it was, I remember being captivated and inspired by it.
Six German state governments have elections this year. Two others have local elections. That’s a total of eight states of sixteen having some kind of elections. Everyone in Germany has the all-important national Bundestag election in September 2021, eight months from this writing. They’re calling it a Superwahljar (Super-Election-Year). It’s really a Super-Election-HalfYear, because they all occur between mid-March and late-September, good weather months.
Recent news has brought my attention back to something big that happened in Germany in 2020, which I followed closely at the time and wrote about on these pages. It was the sudden breakthrough of the AfD party in forming a state government, in Thuringia. I wrote about the Thuringia shock and crisis (Post-383: High Drama in Erfurt) and then a series of long comments on the political crisis as it happened, and reactions to it, a kind of political journaling mixed with my own recollections and insights. Thuringia was a big deal, and remains a big deal as I look back, now, almost one year later.
But then the Virus Panic of 2020 happened and shifted political support levels significantly. In fact in such a dramatic way, in fact, that one understands why politicians have dragged on the irrational responses. The media succeeded in scaring people, who were then easy pickings for political demagogues.
In any case, this is the biggest year for German electoral politics in a while. Following are comments and observations.
What to “make” of the occupation of the U.S. federal Capitol grounds, in Washington, in the afternoon and into early evening, Jan. 6, 2021?
My immediate impression. This will be remembered as a major, historic, ‘landmark’ moment in history. A moment ranking with the most historic of my adult lifetime so far.
As a protest, and as protests go, it was a stunning success. The occupation of central government building by unarmed protestors? Wow.
Also a humiliation, if there ever was one, for the U.S. federal government.
The following was written about 48 hours after the event. Thoughts on context for this moment in history, how such as dramatic as this comes to happen, and then some notable scenes from the occupation.
(original: 2000 words) (updated, Jan. 9: now 3300 words.)
The sitting Mayor of Seoul committed suicide in July 2020.
Park Won-soon (elected mayor of Seoul, Oct. 2011; reelected, June 2014 and June 2018)’s suicide triggered an early mayoral election, now set for April 7, 2021. The early phase of the campaign is underway.
The leading candidates in the Seoul mayoral special election are:
Ahn Chul-Soo (also spelled Ahn Cheol-soo),
Park Young-Sun, and
The first of these, Ahn, is a former software developer, PhD, and professor who spent the 2010s bouncing around politics, and who by now qualifies as a “perennial political candidate,” popping up in races all over. I have a surprisingly long tradition on these pages of writing about him, and he appears as an important feature in Post-66, Post-71, Post-340, Post-342. This post will have the biggest treatment of Ahn Chul-soo yet, and I am writing today with a much more mature understanding (althought still lacking) understanding of Korean politics.
A recent political cartoon of Ahn’s late-December 2020 announcement that he was running for Seoul mayor has him as the champion of the “anti-Moon federation,” trying to see which way the winds are blowing:
Ahn’s competitors are both women: Park Young-sun is of the Establishment-Left (Moon’s) party; Na Kyung-won is of the Establishment-Right party.
This post started as a brief mention of the upcoming 2021 election but has since grown into something more meaningful, correspondingly longer, and more personal. I also meant to write about the 2018 election at the time but never got around to it; it’s good I’m finally getting it done now.
Recorded are thoughts, experiences, and other material on the 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2021 Seoul mayoral elections, during all of which I happen to have been in Korea. There is a mix of personal reminiscence and political analysis/commentary through personal reminiscence, especially on 2018, having dug through old photos, I am posting many of them here. (I’ve come to view the recording of personal reminiscence and thoughts as the purpose of my writing on these digital pages, and those who wish to take the time will find as much below.)
(Original, Jan. 4: 1600 words.) (Updated: Jan. 5 and Jan. 6; expanded significantly to 7700 words with many pictures and one video taken by me at the time.)
I start with the immediate past (2018), then circle back to the present (2021), jump back to memories of the more-distant past (2011 and 2014), and finish with thoughts on the future (2022, the next presidential election, of which this special Seoul mayoral election is an important stepping stone).
The Seoul Mayoral Campaign of 2018
I was in Korea at the time, in June 2018. In the peak-campaign period I was mainly in Seoul itself, and did soomething of an on-the-ground investigation, the results of which I had not compiled and published in disciplined written, until now.
On historical trends of our time. I wrote about the general concept yesterday that eras often do not align with their calendar-numbers, with one example arguably being “the 2000s” ending Sept. 2008 with the financial crisis. (Some also argued “The 1960s” really ends with either the Nixon resignation or the evacuation of Saigon, which by calendrical dating were already in the mid-1970s, and maybe it really began about 1964, so at least that’s still a ten-or-so-year decade.)
I want to put digital pen to paper on a related topic again: The thirty-year cycle we are still (?) in.
In February 2020, I read State Dept. figure William J. Burns’ memoir (his career was from 1980 to 2014 and he rose unusually quickly; my comments on his unexplained rapid rise fill the margins of the book). I began to suspect something that had not quite occurred to me before. It was this: The USA was in a long arc that began thirty years ago, specifically in 1990-91, traceable to two landmark events (Rodney King and the U.S. decision to fight Iraq) which do not have immediate precursors at the time. The rest of this post will be an update on this idea including events of the last ten-and-a-half months. I think “2020” validates the thesis, which I published in these pages about one month before the Corona-Panic began, in a big way.
The two events, the decision to invade Iraq and Rodney King, occurred from late July 1990 to early March 1991, only seven months’ space of time.
The two events were almost trivial in their time and are often not remembered, in and of themselves.
I myself am too young to remember either of them. In the 1990s during my own process of socialization I became aware of them as minor landmark events of the recent past.
[1.] The decision to intervene against Iraq and crush it as a regional power (apparently made by top U.S. officials in late July 1990, according to Burns who witnessed it) set up a long chain process of very-free-hand Mideast interventionism, in a way that the U.S. would absolutely not meddle or intervene or bomb or invade any place in its own hemisphere (anymore), which itself is strange to think about.
When I was in high school I believed the U.S. might invade Colombia, in response to the rebels trafficking drugs there causing trouble. Nothing like that ever happened at all. But meddling in the Midwest over much more abstruse reasons is the norm, is expected, and one hears muted criticism of it. It is a consensus position.
There became an ingrained cultural attitude that The Evil-Doers (to use what I vaguely recall as a George W. Bush phrasing) are out there, and are mainly in the Midwest, so we have to constantly meddle, and attack, and bomb, and use the map as a giant chessboard, or the Evil-Doers win. It puzzles me how this is uncontroversial.
Intervention predates George W. Bush, continued through Clinton, and began with George H. W. Bush, not that the nominal president at any given time was the decisive factor, because they’ve all done it, steadily so, and as I say, seemingly as if a Foreign Policy Prime Directive, beyond the point of possibility of dispute by good people (an enforced consensus). This was much less a story in 2020 than other years, but it never really went away. A much bigger story in 2020 was the second trend:
[2.] The decision (?) to turn to race-demagoguery with the Rodney King incident (traffic stop and arrest of a man high on cocaine) as some kind of regularized, semi-controlled, moral-hysteria process. This functions to unify the regime and its loyalists against the Bad People out there. This strategy was subtle at first but increasingly embraced by Good People, and largely as a matter of course by those born in the 1980s and beyond, especially the Good People therein. Soon the strategy was by the state itself, the state being run by Good People. It was manifestly certain that this was our reality by the 2010s.
The Los Angeles Riots followed the initial Rodney King incident a year later. The pattern was set, and would reach epidemic proportions in the 2010s, and then in May-June 2020. The latter was not the breakout of mass-psychosis that it may have appeared to be, to many, but follows a specific line back to Rodney King. The pattern was: Take a minor, local story of ambiguous nature etc., etc., inflate into national importance, garnish with lies of commission and omission as needed, and riots are okay in pursuit of The Goal (whatever the goal is — but you wouldn’t want to be on the side of the Bad People, would you?).
Even if there are distant ancestors of this strain of domestic politics (most notably, the mid-late 1960s riots), and even though the cultural energies may have been hanging around in the 1980s, they didn’t manifest until 1990-91, and they have been near-hegemonic in our discourse since then, framing our accepted reality (to use academic-esque language).
Later events were faded carbon-copies of the Rodney King case, and they kept getting trotted out, one after another, dominating domestic-news in bizarre ways, and even Orwellian ways.
This all became depressingly in-your-face by 2020, highly demoralizing given that nothing was done against them. (I should know; I witnessed some of these things at their peak, at close range. I showed up. No one knew, at first, that riots were going to happen, but people locked down for months and recently released were ready for some fun; it was the only way young people could gather, all other options disrupted or closed-off to them by the Panic-Lockdown regime(s). I saw open rioting/vandalism/fires, and looting, in front of me. I saw the police stand-down. The rumors were/are true.)
The younger half or so of the population, socialized after Rodney King, thinks it more-or-less normal that this bizarre game is effectively our Domestic Policy Prime Directive.
Some at the top have profound sympathies for their own reasons, with many of them, if not most, even talking themselves into it with the other moral-frenzy-ists.
Whatever the 2010s were, as a decade, and whatever their true beginning and end should be, they seem to me to follow a longer thread that began in 1990-91. I don’t know how much energy this thirty-year historical-cycle has left in it, the Virus-Lockdown-induced, Elite-approved riots of mid-2020, the seeming Apotheosis, and the sudden statue-toppling, all-placenames-are-to-be-replaced mania (always fight the Bad People, no matter what, and if you run out of them, just find more) notwithstanding.
I received a long, reflective email from an Australian friend living in Korea, sent to a large group of his contacts. It started:
Welcome to the 3rd decade of the 3rd millennium Anno Domini 2021.
I see that I first wrote about this exactly a year ago.
The idea, here, is the “third decade” of the century starts with Jan. 1, 2021, and not Jan. 1, 2020, because there is no “Year 0.”
In our counting system, “Jan. 1st of AD 1” was the first day of the first year of the era, approximately around the time of Jesus’ birth. Therefore Jan. 1st of AD 2021 would be the first year of the new decade.
I think this is too complicated and decades ought to be measured by the third digit for clarity and simplicity’s sake, and therefore we are now at Day 368 of “the 2020s” (Leap Year 2020 at 366 days, plus Jan. 1st and now Jan. 2nd = 368). Before you know it we will hit the 11% mark of the decade. And for how terrible a decade it’s been so far, one might hope it will get better.
There is another way or counting eras, only possible in retrospect, always subject to possible dispute. The (“Short”) 20th century was really Nov. 1918 to Nov. 1989. A clean seventy-one years, from the end of the Great War in Europe, which unleashed the era of competing ideologies, until the Fall of Communism process, a complicated process but symbolized by the peaceful Fall of the Berlin Wall, Nov. 1989.
In more recent times, “the 2000s” may have ended in Sept. 2008 when the financial crisis suddenly hit, or at least that’s when the panic in the news hit, preceded by the strange oil price spike of mid-year 2020. I remember it.
Economic disruptions affect almost everyone at least a little, and some a lot, often in ways they don’t recognize or appreciate. I was determined to go abroad in 2009 and did. The 2008-09 recession had a long, lingering effect. If my old job were still there, in Sept. 2010, when I showed back up, I would have taken it back. Instead, I did a lot of other things. The 2010s went in unexpected directions for me, but I never had a master-plan anyway, and maybe it was for the better. I did some interesting things in the (calendrical) 2010s.
Now the harder question: When did “The 2010s” begin and end? Or have they not ended yet? We’re too close to say. Check back on this in the 2030s.