My glasses! My glasses! I can't see without my glasses!

Category: General


I’m sure I’ve written something like this before, but I don’t much stock in celebrities. In this day and age, especially, most celebrities vault into the public consciousness without being particularly remarkable. And don’t get me started the hagiographies for those that die still in the public eye. So it is that I now find myself writing about my feelings on finding out that the eclectic MC MF Doom passed in October of 2020 (damn you 2020). I won’t say that “he changed my life” or that I owed him some sort of debt of gratitude or anything, but the man was clearly brilliant, and he was there walking beside me, voice in my ear for several years. My “cousin” and I bonded over him, as he was starting to get into DJing and vinyl, moving into circle I would never be part of. Doom’s music did that and kept us from drifting too far apart. That’s the power of music, for sure, but it’s also Doom’s lyrics, his grasp of the power of his own iconography. It held to Sudanese expatriate kids in NY who loved hip hop together.

What makes Doom so incredible, beyond his music, is his path. Many of my readers (ha!) will know that I’m a man of a certain age, on the cusp of being old, settling into the disappointments of middle age. MF Doom started as a young rapper in the early 90’s in the group KMD, but his trajectory was cut short, partly by his brother’s untimely death getting ht by a car. The issues they were having with the label at the same time soured him on the whole enterprise and he left the industry, to basically become a stay at home dad.

When he returned, he did so with face masked, letting the verse do the talking. The mask and the verses were the only things about him that were polished, in every other regard he was unpolished. Dressed casually, body bearing the marks of modern life carrying the burdens of fatherhood. I saw him at Coachella back in the “before times” and was struck by how … normal he looked. It wasn’t about any kind of image. As I confront my own vanity these days I wonder if there’s a lesson to be learned there. Whatever lesson there is to be learned, it doesn’t stop me feeling an inexplicable sadness at the news of his passing. As Questlove said on Twitter, there’s an irony that in 2020, a man has died who was practically defined by the wearing of a mask, and for him to die on Halloween of all days, at that!

I want to blame it all on 2020 which has found ways to strip away the thin veneer of hope that keeps us all operating as though things are naturally going to be ok. Today, finding out the news, I feel like 2020’s clammy hand is extending from the past like a horror movie monster getting one last scare in before the end of the movie.

The End of the Beginning

Like many people I have been holding my breath for the last 4 years, waiting for current occupant of the White House to hit bottom or leave. At first this was figurative, and of late, with the pandemic and everything, it became a literal holding of breath.

This week, I got to take a breath for the first time in a long time. America (barely) decided against hate, ignorance and incompetence. I am trying to take this as a positive step towards recovery, but I think we all know this is the end of the beginning. The work starts now.

Ashen Rain

It’s fire season here in California, where the description of any day sounds like “the opening pages of a Cormac McCarthy novel” (as a friend of a friend said). The sun is red on the horizon and ash falls from the sky as we huddle in our overheated homes, afraid of the air and the death it carries on it. As it does, my heart is doubly sad to think of the places we are losing for at least a generation, with the large redwood stand at Big Basin apparently severely damaged, perhaps never to be the same. That is added to the loss of life, property and livelihood that is happening on a massive scale in the affected areas.

As all this happens, I can’t help but think of the culpability of our “leaders”, who have, at best, ignored or, at worst, exacerbated the underlying issues that have lead us here. The pandemic – while always bringing death – has had an outsize impact, due to the willful ignorance of the current administration, and petty and malicious response to anyone else trying to do something. Climate change has been ignored, and any effort to ameliorate it has been hamstrung. All in the name of a freedom which is essentially the freedom to die more horribly, and live on our knees.

All we want is to breath freely, and hold our loved ones close. It seems that ever more impediments to these simple desires are being arising everyday.

The World As It Is

If you’re listening to the news or walking the streets or (God help you) listening to What Sucks This Week, you know what’s going on out there. The extrajudicial murders, the protests, the hidden conspiracies; it’s all enough to make a man give up on life. What’s left of our hope for the future, when all the signs point to disaster, and our fellows seem indifferent?

I didn’t mean for this to be as morose as it started. I had a story in my head, about what it means to be alive at this time, in my own time. I am not old, but too old to really throw myself into demonstrations, to the expressions of public rage that this situation warrants. It’s a young man’s game, I tell myself, which adds to the feeling that I am a coward. I am in some ways not different from the men (as they overwhelmingly are) who spit conspiracy theories, and gin up rage in the young foot soldiers of the right. Posting memes, tweeting and retweeting, but are they on the front lines? No, they (we?) let the young folks duke it out in the streets, as we sit on our couches.

But, I tell myself, I have a kid. Do I leave my wife with her while I gallavant around town? Do want to let someone else fight for my freedom? Or my kid’s, or my wife’s? Am I a coward?

Grinding My Teeth: Expert Opinions

(Disclaimer: This post came to me from a dream last night, but I think it might actually make some sense.)

I grind my teeth.

This is quite inconvenient, and has come up relatively recently in my life, increasing in incidence after I had a child. After all isn’t this what dad’s do? Worry to distraction and keep it all inside? After all it’s what my dad did.

That’s right! My own Dad grinds his teeth, and has for years. He’s mostly easy going, to the point of almost downright carelessness, so when I first noticed the tooth grinding it was a surprise to me. I remember it most clearly from my 20’s, when I would visit the family home from graduate school. Dad would be sitting and reading in his chair, jaw working away at some problem. In fact, as I think of it, I also recall it from my teens! I feel bad, now, for not asking to him about it, but then that is the lot of fathers I suppose.

I suspect that a lot of it came from work at the time. Dad was working in the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs during my teens, mostly after the coup which resulted in a military government, which ended up driven by a fundamentalist, kleptocratic Islamist party (go here for a little more info). This government differed from previous ones in that it initially sidelined all the career civil servants, and then began packing ministries with its own (unqualified and corrupt) operatives. In this environment my father stuck around and tried to do what any career civil servant would do: to serve the interests of the nation and it’s people as best he could. To that end he continued to file reports, advise and speak – but no one listened, and occasionally they would do the exact opposite, to the detriment of the Sudanese people. This Sisyphean task took its toll and, eventually, he left the service of his country. While life afterward was frustrating, it was not as bad as it had been, to some extent because he was not watching his colleagues being purged, and not being ignored.

I feel like this parallel well with the current state of affairs in the US response to the corona virus pandemic. Dr Fauci of NAID is emblematic of what many other civil servants and experts of various kinds are going through. They are being ignored at best, and being discredited at worst. Character assassination, if not actual threats of death, are being used to attempt to silence them and bury the inconvenient truths they are speaking. These people are civil servants or scientists who have, by and large, eschewed the material rewards of the private sector to do something for the common good. What’s most concerning about this is that it implies that many of their fellow citizens do not believe in this common good, or that anyone would work towards it. Or worse, they may not care about the common good at all, inasmuch as it might require them to do anything whatsoever. Paradoxically, these people equate not caring about the whole with being somehow patriotic or superior to everyone else. How does this track? While Americans in the 30’s and 40’s made their sacrifices for what the common good seemed to be at the time, Americans now seem to believe that only the most symbolic of gestures are sufficient – and even those should be done by “someone else” (cf. unnecessary flyovers by military craft to thank first responders who would have rather had access to better PPE, a coherent national strategy and, perhaps, that erstwhile patriots actually use masks and engage in social distancing).

Starting Over

I lost everything. So I am starting over. Here. With you. With this. At the worst stretch in the last hundred years for everything except starting a self-indulgent little blog about my life.

I should probably mention that the everything I lost was the old version of this blog (mkII, if you will). Other than that I’ve been pretty fortunate.