Mario Villalobos

Commonplace

Molly Wood in the latest episode of Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly:

Facebook is cigarettes… It’s Big Tobacco… They know its product causes harm and they keep minimizing the harm to keep selling product. #FacebookisCigarettes

Agree 100%. And over 2 billion people are addicted.

Philip Roth, in his introduction to Saul Bellow’s novel Herzog:

The character of Moses Herzog, that labyrinth of contradiction and self-division—the wild man and the earnest person with a “Biblical sense of personal experience” and an innocence as phenomenal as his sophistication, intense yet passive, reflective yet impulsive, sane yet insane, emotional, complicated, an expert on pain vibrant with feeling and yet disarmingly simple, a clown in his vengeance and rage, a fool in whom hatred breeds comedy, a sage and knowing scholar in a treacherous world, yet still adrift in the great pool of childhood love, trust, and excitement in things (and hopelessly attached to this condition), an aging lover of enormous vanity and narcissism with a lovingly harsh attitude toward himself, whirling in the wash cycle of a rather generous self-awareness while at the same time aesthetically attracted to anyone vivid, overpoweringly drawn to bullies and bosses, to theatrical know-it-alls, lured by their seeming certainty and by the raw authority of their unambiguity, feeding on their intensity until he’s all but crushed by it—this Herzog is Bellow’s grandest creation, American literature’s Leopold Bloom, except with a difference: in Ulysses, the encyclopedic mind of the author is transmuted into the linguistic flesh of the novel, and Joyce never cedes to Bloom his own great erudition, intellect, and breadth of rhetoric, whereas in Herzog Bellow endows his hero with all of that, not only with a state of mind and a cast of mind but with a mind that is a mind.

Try saying all 244 words five times fast.

Viet Thanh Nguyen on page 267 of The Sympathizer:

You know how to tell if someone’s really dead? Press your finger on his eyeball. If he’s alive, he’ll move. If he’s dead, he won’t.

When I was an EMT, a paramedic told me of another way to tell if someone’s playing dead: rub the knuckles of your first two fingers hard against their chest. No one can pretend after that.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson should be required reading for everyone on the planet. The book is endlessly quotable, but this one jibes with my current life philosophy:

Even the longest lived of our species spends but a blink of time in the span of human history. How dare anyone cause harm to another soul, curtail their life or life’s potential, when our lives are so short to begin with?

Highly highly recommended.

I came across this beautiful quote by Seneca:

There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.

At the start of 2020, a friend tried setting me up with a friend of hers. But then lockdown happened. Maybe things will change in 2021…

Ewan McGregor in episode 7 of Long Way Round, after a couple of Russians killed a black bear, skinned it, and took its gallbladder:

It’s a wild animal living in its own habit, and no one’s got any right to shoot it with a gun. It’s disgusting.

Goddamn right. I love this man.

In On Photography, Susan Sontag wrote:

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday wrote:

Every culture has its own way of teaching the same lesson: Memento mori, the Romans would remind themselves. Remember you are mortal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about memento mori today, about how little time I have to waste away, how I want to make every moment count. My biggest enemy is myself. I wish I could get out of the way sometimes, to slow down and appreciate the beauty all around me, to actually let the world inside my walls.

“Fair Is On!!”

Fair

I went for a walk yesterday and found out Lake County will hold their annual fair this summer. A few days ago, Lake County reported its first death due to the coronavirus. He was a man in his 70s. Yesterday, Montana recorded over 200 new cases, a majority coming from young people. Last week, Dr. Fauci said that young people are propagating the pandemic because they don’t care if they get infected. “[I]t doesn’t end with you,” he said. “You get infected and have no symptoms. The chances are you’re going to infect someone else, who will then infect someone else."

School starts in a few weeks, and the voices of parents who are worried for their children are getting drowned out by those that are against wearing masks and want things to return to normal, at whatever the cost. Death has come to Lake County, kids don’t care if they get infected, and the adults are propagating ignorance and selfishness. I enter commercial buildings with signs up stating that masks are mandatory, but I continue to see people not wearing them. I’m reminded of Jonathan Hickman’s amazing East of West series. On the cover of each issue is this quote:

This is the world. It is not the one we were supposed to have, but it’s the one we made. We did this. We did it with open eyes and willing hands. We broke it, and there is no putting it back together.

As long as we can have our fair then who cares about everything else, right?

Osprey

One day in high school, a teacher of mine went around his class and asked my classmates what they would be if they weren’t human. “My dog,” someone said. “A camera,” said another. “A bird,” I said. He asked me why I wanted to be a bird, a tinge of disappointment in his voice. “Because I want to fly far away,” I said. That tinge of disappointment made me feel bad then, like I lacked the imagination those around me seemed to have. He didn’t press me any further, and I haven’t thought of that moment until now.

Last year I read Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing, and in it she describes her journey toward slowing down and noticing the things around her. “When I travel,” she says,

I no longer feel like I’ve arrived until I have “met” the local bioregion by walking around, observing what grows there, and learning something about the indigenous history of that place (which, in all too many places, is the last record of people engaging in any meaningful way with the bioregion). Interestingly, my experience suggests that while it initially takes effort to notice something new, over time a change happens that is irreversible. Redwoods, oaks, and blackberry shrubs will never be “a bunch of green.” A towhee will never simply be “a bird” to me again, even if I wanted it to be. And it follows that this place can no longer be any place.

I took this picture of an osprey flying around her nest near my school, and I’ve felt this connection to her and to the wildlife around me that I’ve never truly experienced before. When I was a firefighter, I felt this connection to the land that I mostly kept in my periphery. Like so many things in my life, it has stayed there while I focus on the trivialities that make modern life so mundane. Most everything I’ve ever experienced has stayed in my periphery, and what I want to do is to slow down and notice the things around me.

I went on Wikipedia and learned that ospreys are piscivores. Her nest is between the Ninepipes reservoir to the east and the Flathead River to the west, so she has food aplenty. I saw her chicks flying around the nest for a bit and then flying back, her gaze motherly and loving. I heard her sing as she flew around. She is no longer just “a bird” to me, but a mighty osprey.

What else is out there that I haven’t seen or paid attention to? How many different species of birds are within my radius? Of insects? Of living souls in general? We share this world with so many living beings, but how many of us ever truly connect with them?

Carson

On the latest episode of The Last Archive, Jill Lepore talks about Rachel Carson and her book, Silent Spring. That book helped ban DDT, saved countless birds, and started the modern environmental movement. Jill then asks whether a book like that can change the world today. Since 1970, three billion birds have died in North America. If that’s not heartbreaking, then I don’t know what is. Oh wait.

I read Silent Spring a few years ago, and what I remember most about it was this feeling that little had changed since the time she wrote it. I went back through my notes and found this passage talking about the effects of pesticides that remains heartbreaking:

Scientific observers at Sheldon described the symptoms of a meadowlark found near death: “Although it lacked muscular coordination and could not fly or stand, it continued to beat its wings and clutch with its toes while lying on its side. Its beak was held open and breathing was labored.” Even more pitiful was the mute testimony of the dead ground squirrels, which “exhibited a characteristic attitude in death. The back was bowed, and the forelegs with the toes of the feet tightly clenched were drawn close to the thorax…The head and neck were outstretched and the mouth often contained dirt, suggesting that the dying animal had been biting at the ground.” By acquiescing in an act that can cause such suffering to a living creature, who among us is not diminished as a human being?

COVID-19 has killed 137,000 Americans. Many of us think this virus is a hoax or a government conspiracy. Meanwhile, Americans will continue to die while we refuse to wear a fucking mask. “By acquiescing in an act that can cause such suffering to a living creature, who among us is not diminished as a human being?”

Page 2 of 2