First notes…

227.8 lbs

… first day of following No S diet… weight loss… it’s one day… i will see if i can keep it up…

… last night, as i was lying in bed i wrote a note… “i am beginning to imagine the unimaginable”… that is, i am beginning to imagine the United States as a failed democracy… i have started to give up hope that the ship can be righted… i did this partly on the advice of Oliver Burkeman, author of Four Thousand Weeks, and partly out of real despair that the political stars are aligned against democracy right now…

… this morning i read Heather Cox Richardson’s posts from yesterday and today… hope flickered to life… the stage is set… a battle for the soul of the country will unfold in the coming weeks and months as the January 6 Commission makes its case to the public… and the Senate will try to amend the filibuster in order to protect voting rights… if enough people believe the findings of the J6 Commission, and the Senate passes voting rights legislation, all may not be lost…

… in the meantime, what i can do is help make sure the small levers of democracy where i live aren’t corrupted and make genuinely good information available to anyone who will read/listen… and, of course, i will vote like democracy depends on it…

… more broadly however, in the department of letting go of hope, i acknowledge that this democracy may well be reaching the end of its run… the cosmos, as Burkeman and so many before him have pointed out, really doesn’t care if democracy continues in the US or not… it simply unfolds and humanity responds in whatever way helps it survive… it may even be that the welling up of intelligence on the planet is pointed to an advancement that will have little to do with human freedom… i prefer to think not, but this is the trend of the “dominant culture”, for a few powerful elites to be in control and for the rest of us to be subsumed in effective slavery…

… i think to myself, nobody asks to live in a time when the social order turns itself upside down… i think to myself, i did not plan for my old age to be lived out in times of social order dismantling… i planned for it to run out in relative peace and quiet… i wonder if senior citizens overtaken by WW II felt this way?… looking forward to a little peace and quiet and not being challenged by the rigors of making a living and what happens?, a devastating war… as a white, middle class male, am i one of the few to have this blessing?… it did not feel that way as my life unfolded… there were certainly disappointments and challenges… but was i ever really challenged the way, say, a black man is challenged in our society?… we all have troubles… some of us from positions of relative advantage… even with that, there are troubles…

… i was thinking yesterday, why do people write?… originally, to express and communicate, to develop and record collective wisdom… i was thinking about this because i was thinking about how the dominant culture turns writing from expression and communication into a means for economic ends… we are made to believe that we must have an audience because we can’t monetize if we don’t have an audience… for this reason, we don’t accumulate wisdom and share it freely… we put a price tag on it… and because the ability to put a price tag on it means the work must be marketed, we start to see a world in which wisdom doesn’t prevail, only what is marketable prevails… words are useless if one can’t monetize them in this society… but really, reading and writing is about developing and communicating wisdom…

… we started watching Station 11 last night… central to the narrative is a graphic novel written by a young black woman… she writes and draws, but nobody has ever seen more than little bits and pieces of what she writes and draws… one day, she delivers a copy to her ex and says, “i finished it”… until that moment, she does it only for herself… this to me is the purest form of creation… work done entirely for its own sake… work done because we feel compelled to do it… that is what this blog, this Notes On Attention Paid is… something i do trying not to hope anyone will read it and doggedly pursuing it even though nobody reads it… i apply time out of my precious 4K weeks to doing it largely because i don’t seem to be able to not do it… it anchors me… it gives me something meaningful to do…

First thoughts…

… morning did not start well… very depressing post from Heather Cox Richardson, stopping just short of saying Democracy is dead in the United States… the urgency to protect Democracy that should be there, just isn’t… she quotes someone or writes that we need to imagine what actions are needed in a break the glass emergency… Democrats are faltering in a crucial moment… will they kill the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation?…

… and then there is this image from Representative Thomas Massie, ®KY:

… in what world, on what planet, is this an acceptable way to celebrate this Christmas Holiday?… i am not Christian, but i always thought this holiday was about peace and good will towards humankind?… no more…

… the best i have been able to do on break the glass planning is to consider how i might leave the country… immigrate just over the border to Canada, or something…

… i calmly think, ok, there is one voter in my life that i might have a chance to turn… how many of us turning one voter away from the authoritarian march would it take to halt the march?… not that many… so… i must try… but how to do it?… it largely consists in turning that person away from Fox News… i wonder if i can have a conversation with them that asks the question, what are you afraid of?…

What i read today…

  • Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, December 5, 2021… HCR sounding the alarm about failing democracy in this country in the most strident way to date…
    • The problem is this: “Democrats…need to win every single election from here to prevent the destruction of democracy, while Republicans only need to win one. And the American system is set up so that Republicans will win sooner or later, whether fairly or by cheating.” Atkins urges the American people to “start thinking about and planning for what ‘Break glass in case of emergency’ measures look like—because it’s more likely a matter of when, not if. It not only can happen here; it probably will happen here. Conservatives are guaranteed to make every attempt to turn America into the next Russia or Hungary. It will take coordinated, overlapping solidarity among both regular people and elites across various institutions to stop it.”1
  • The Plague Legends… Emily Urquhart writes about plague legends and the early days of the pandemic… she captures well the feelings so many of us had and the struggle to preserve sanity and well being…
  • Ron DeSantis and His State Guard Aren’t Happening in a Vacuum
    • Again: Political grandstanding is the most innocent possible explanation. But not the only possible explanation. DeSantis’s private force cannot reasonably be viewed in isolation from the other challenges Republican governors and legislatures have been raising—not only with their National Guards, but by probing every possible weak point in the Constitution when it comes to vaccines, voting, vote counting, and more.2
  • Winter Trees as a Portal to Aliveness, Maria Popova, The Marginalian
    • In winter, we are prone to regard our trees as cold, bare, and dreary; and we bid them wait until they are again clothed in verdure before we may accord to them comradeship. However, it is during this winter resting time that the tree stands revealed to the uttermost, ready to give its most intimate confidences to those who love it. It is indeed a superficial acquaintance that depends upon the garb worn for half the year; and to those who know them, the trees display even more individuality in the winter than in the summer. The summer is the tree’s period of reticence, when, behind its mysterious veil of green, it is so busy with its own life processes that it has no time for confidences, and may only now and then fling us a friendly greeting.3
  • Ursula K. Le Guin on Being a Man
    • That’s who I am. I am the generic he, as in, “If anybody needs an abortion he will have to go to another state,” or “A writer knows which side his bread is buttered on.” That’s me, the writer, him. I am a man. Not maybe a first-rate man. I’m perfectly willing to admit that I may be in fact a kind of second-rate or imitation man, a Pretend-a-Him. As a him, I am to a genuine male him as a microwaved fish stick is to a whole grilled Chinook salmon.4

First Thoughts

Recently, Salon columnist Chauncey DeVega conducted an interview with Miles Taylor, the chief of staff to Trump’s Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who published a New York Times op-ed in 2018 as “Anonymous” claiming that he was part of a resistance movement in the Trump White House. Taylor told DeVega that Republican congresspeople are worried they will be attacked if they cross Trump. “I’m talking about former Cabinet secretaries, sitting members of Congress and others who personally confessed to me, ‘I don’t think I can join you in rising up against this guy because I’ve got to worry about my family’s safety.’” Taylor said. “I didn’t anticipate how much I was going to hear that as a response. They would say to me, “Look, I’ve got kids and this is too crazy right now.”1

HCR meter turned decidedly downward… the only thing that matters right now is passing voting rights legislation which, as far as she and i can tell, is on the back burner… the day is rapidly approaching beyond which it will be too late… that the Democrats can’t get their shit together to do the one thing that will preserve democracy and make anything else they want to do possible is utterly tragic… Rome is burning and even they are fiddling…

… i keep thinking about M’s belief that the insurrection wasn’t an insurrection… it makes me so angry because i know how uninformed they are about what is going down in the country because i know they principally watch Fox news… i am in despair about it because i love them and because they are representative of the damage Fox news has done in this country…

… i also marvel at this country’s inability to hold anyone significant accountable for misdeeds… it is beyond comprehension that our system should be so weak as to be incapable in this regard… was it ever strong enough?… or did it depend on the good will of it’s citizens to keep the rails up… and now they are divided and unable to do so…

… signs of the growing threat of authoritarian/fascist rule… a patriotic and militaristic mural painted on the side of a county building to honor veterans on veterans day… this year’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony opened with the National Anthem and closed with God Bless America… neither of these things have happened before during the 15 years we have lived here… my perception is they are happening now because of the growing threat from the right…

… i really dislike starting the day with these thoughts and feelings churning around in my mind… i would prefer something more optimistic…


  1. Richardson, Heather Cox, Letters from an American, November 29, 2021 [return]

… the dogs wake up… i let them out of the bedroom… follow them downstairs… let them out… Chas seems particularly anxious to go out and is first, followed by a more lackluster Fiona… i wash some of last night’s dishes and wonder why i am not hearing whining at the door to come in… when i finish the dishes, i open the back door and Fiona strolls up the driveway, the stairs, and in… Chas is nowhere to be seen… i do a few more things around the kitchen then go back to check on Chas… he is waiting, but not whining… he walks in slowly, saunters into the dining room, then turns around and saunters into the kitchen… he is usually much more enthusiastic about the treats he gets in the morning… i offer him the aforementioned treats… he takes them but then spits them out… it appears he is not feeling well… refusing treats is extremely unlike him… we will have to keep an eye on him…

… today a new pair of flannel (or maybe fleece?) lined jeans will arrive… i have been looking for them all week, even though shipping information said firmly it would be today that they arrive… i chose the slow boat to save money… it amazes me how much we look forward to receiving the things we purchase online… it’s like little Christmases, birthdays and anniversaries all year long… ahh, the psychology of acquiring things!… i ordered these jeans to have a second pair to alternate wearing during the winter months…

… it strikes me that one of the reasons more people aren’t up in arms about the possibility of authoritarian rule is that things are largely behaving the way they normally do and “authoritarian rule” is an abstract concept… the majority won’t object strongly enough until it is too late…

… commentator on tv saying “if we get an authoritarian government in 2024”… how did we get to a place where we have to take that possibility seriously and plan accordingly?…

First Thoughts

… Republican Glen Yungkin won the Virginia governor race… Yungkin is widely viewed as a Trumpian Republican and many will view it as a warning sign that the far right is poised for gains in the Midterms and could win back the presidency in 2024… it is, of course, too early to know what it really means… a Republican win is consistent with history in Virginia where a gubernatorial candidate of the opposing party to the President of the United States is the common choice of voters… why this should be is not clear to me, but it is the history of the situation… it will be interesting to see what the turnout numbers are… that will be more indicative of whether there is energy on the Democratic side or not…

… the thought that is bugging me more has to do with the mess that the infrastructure negotiations have been in Washington… a theory that has currency with Authoritarian regimes around the world is that Authoritarianism is able to respond more quickly and effectively and consistently (when they want to) to changing events around the world and the fast pace of technological development… the Biden/Harris administration is trying to challenge that perception but the difficulty Democrats are having passing a broadly popular with the public infrastructure bill seems troubling in this regard… at least one commentator, Democrat Mark Warner from Virginia, suggested that failure to have passed an infrastructure bill of any kind hurt the chances of Terry McAuliffe in the race… given historical trends in Virginia mentioned above, maybe it would have made a difference, maybe not… but the broader theme of whether Democracies are too cumbersome for the present world environment is a legitimate question and the jury is out on that…

this mornings post from Heather Cox Richardson suggests that last night’s election results across the nation were a mixed bag with no clear indication of future national winning strategies for either party… in fact, it seems that voters voted in line with the degree to which their state is conservative or liberal than anything else…

… i had a productive day yesterday… worked right up to 6 PM… i made my first “In This Year” post in which i photograph an inscribed date i find on my walks (usually on a building, but sometimes scrawled in random patches of concrete) and then look up what happened in that year… i find it is an interesting exercise in grounding oneself during times that seem tumultuous… a somewhat reassuring find is that tumultuous years are common in history and that things often work themselves out without bringing down the present order… though not always… one will also find a record of eras that come to an end… what is always the case is that life goes on, sometimes in a better way for the general population, sometimes in a worse way… Steven Pinker author of Better Angels of our Nature1, argues that the overall trend is for the better and that Enlightenment Humanism is the foundation of that better trend… i loved the book, especially it’s grounding in Enlightenment Humanism philosophy… it is completely in line with my own philosophical stance in the world… however, those principles are under severe attack and one can imagine everything “going to hell in a hand basket” as that enlightenment order crumbles… hello new dark ages?… or is something else afoot?…

… it seems odd that Joe Biden, in some ways a relic of the past, is the standard bearer for Enlightenment and Humanist principles… a true believer in the “Better Angels of our Nature”… a last gasp?… the optics at present don’t seem good…

… i am feeling like Ken Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality would be an important book to read right now… an important concept that i want to review is that every next level of being subsumes and incorporates into itself the preceding levels of being and is dependent on those levels of being that came before it, yet none of the levels of being that came before it are dependent on it… that is… split out of this next level of being, preceding levels function perfectly well on their own… the thought that i have in reviewing current technological trends is that a way is being prepared for the appearance of a next higher level of being… a level of being composed of all that is now and a more comprehensive intelligence brought on by advances in data processing…


  1. This Wikipedia article has an extensive critique of Better Angels that is worth reading as is the book itself. [return]

In Defense of Democracy

this letter, written by Todd Gitlin, Jeffrey C. Isaac, and William Kristol was published simultaneously by The Bulwark and the New Republic on the 27th of October, 2021… it is extraordinary to be living in a time in the United States of America, when conservative and liberal thought leaders see the need to come together and speak out in defense of Democracy… it’s as if, and i don’t think this comparison is remotely overblown, we are living in the ramp up to Nazi Germany…

… it was clear that the defeat of 45 and his departure from the power of the presidency was not going to be the end of the story… this is the conservative white patriarchy’s last best chance to put themselves permanently in control, and they are not going to let it slip by without a Herculean effort to do so…

… the saddest part is the way ordinary people have become manipulated puppets, embracing every fear the radical right is offering… allowing themselves to be turned to hatred of their fellow man and woman…

… federal voting rights legislation is desperately needed at this point… nothing else will matter if it isn’t accomplished… there is no gain in infrastructure, soft or hard, that is worth the loss of Democracy… this is not being taken seriously enough by the Democrats on Capitol Hill… it is an all hands on deck emergency… will they wake up in time?… i grow more afraid by the day…

… i wonder where H and I will go, what we can do, if the country turns to authoritarianism?… we will certainly not be on the long end of that stick… i fear it will leave us impoverished and tossed away in what should be the prime of our old age…

First Thoughts

… a friend once said that his day got off to a good or bad start depending on what Heather Cox Richardson had to say… it is similar for me, and today it’s a bad start… she calls a spade a spade… radical conservatives are working hard to move the country in an Authoritarian direction, praising Victor Orban, president of Hungary, whipping up anti-immigrant frenzy, telling their constituents that immigrants are to blame for the current Delta variant crises and blaming it on lax immigration policies of the Biden/Harris administration… it isn’t true… all to preserve the white male patriarchy hold on power… i saw this coming years ago… it is reaching the decisive point… the next three and a third years will be the pivot point or not…

… critical to stopping the authoritarian move is to enact federal voting rights legislation of some kind…

… i am feeling anxious about the coming day… anxious that there are too many things i should do and not enough time to do them… i will have to triage…

… K comes to weed the garden today… it will be a novel concept to have a well weeded garden…

… J and i talked a bit after the family call yesterday… we agreed that with current trends, we don’t expect J to last beyond October… my mood about that is somber… we are going where we are going… the goal is to get there with as little suffering as possible… certainly for J, but also for all of us around J… of course, accepting the inevitability of J’s death is accepting the inevitability of our own deaths… this makes it hard to face…

… time to be a bit more optimistic about the day!… i will get what needs to be done, done…

First Thoughts

… Heather Cox Richardson is about Tucker Carlson, Hungary, Victor Orban, Christian authoritarianism, and how the United States is being pushed in the same direction… it saddens me that at present it is hard to perceive that this push will not succeed… i have no desire to live under Christian authoritarianism, or any other kind of authoritarianism… Democrats have been unwilling to do what is needed to reverse course… or at least a handful of Democrats…

… i once told someone that i have no interest in power, at least the kind of power that is power over… i loath people who have power and use it to shape the world to their personal vision of how things should be… i loath minorities that try to do the same… one size fits all is rarely a good solution… one size does not fit all… multicultural adjustability fits all…

… i started looking into Non-Fungible Token art yesterday… i find myself getting excited about making art in a way i haven’t been for a while… there is a way of making and distributing things i have been making but didn’t know what to do with… the flattened cans project, the video stills project… there are also the image poems, a short sequence of images played in video fashion… it seems to be opening up possibilities for exhibiting and selling… it seems to offer a chance to bypass the gate keepers… of course, there is no reason there will be any more interest in my work than there is now, just because the venue for sharing changes… there are issues with NFTs, especially environmental ones… they require a great deal of computing resources as individual object certificates (and the objects?) get distributed across many servers around the world… the redundancy is what protects the system from fraud…