Too bad Phillip K. Dick isn’t around anymore. What would his Man in the High Trump Castle look like in terms of a picture of the United States under President Trump? Of course there would be an enormous wall running all along the border with Mexico and the complexion of the electronics gadgets that people own would also be radically changed since they would be fewer and more expensive with protective tariffs making it impossible for Chinese or Japanese products to be sold in the US. Now you would pay double for your MacBook Air manufactured here in the States and of course double for your Honda, Toyotas and Subarus. But what a good thing this would be since there would be much more intensive share-a-ride programs which would also lessen traffic. As for cellphones and computers, Americans would become much more communal and in fact large kibbutzim would open up expressly to enable middle class families to stream their favorite Amazon series. While there wouldn’t necessarily be more rich people, the same old ones who were rich would continue to get richer in order to facilitate more supply side economics. In fact Donald Trump himself would become so rich that he could employ both Polish workers and Americans on all his jobs and keep everyone happy. This would be one of the most important consequences of trickle down economics. Now on to foreign policy. President Trump's treatment of captured terrorists would rival any of the excesses of the Inquisition. Tomas de Torquemada would be proud. For every beheading, in fact, another jihadist would be placed in the Large Hadron Collider and turned into a Boson. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth would be an important element of our justice system. There would be no more problems with Kim Jong-un as North Korea would be no more. Yes, the bad news would be that the population of the country would be annihilated, but the good news would be that there would be no need to worry about whether our sanctions were taking effect. Similarly, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda would all have virtually disappeared along with the territories in which they once operated. Oh, finally on the matter of health care. Naturally Obamacare would be successfully repealed and President Trump would be reassuring about the fact that everyone would be taken care of, though some would claim his assurances were as worthless as the paper on which some graduates claim their degrees from Trump University have been issued.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
|photograph of The Philosopher's Rock by Hallie Cohen|
You might want to visit the Philosopher's Rock next time you're in Austin. It’s located in Zilker Park and commemorates the regular meetings of the naturalist Ray Bedichek, the chronicler and folklorist ,J. Frank Dobie and the historian Walter Prescott Webb who gathered regularly in a kind of Socratic discussion to hash out the problems of the world. It’s the perfect complement to Austin’s famed capital dome which portentously captures your eye as you gaze down Congress Avenue, one of the city major thoroughfares. One of the side pleasures of visiting the Philosopher’s Rock is the proximity to Barton Springs Pool, a natural wonder resulting from underground streams that afford a respite from the city’s burning summer heat. When you first see Barton Springs you think you’re looking at a very large swimming pool, until you realize, the pool is natural and surpasses Olympic proportions. Like a lot of things in Texas, it’s larger than life. The Zilker Botanical Garden is another nearby attraction which amongst its many delights also includes a taste of Japanese horticulture in a Texas setting. Austin may be landlocked, but it’s not lacking in water sports. On a warm night you can join the crowds lined up against the fence of the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge (famous for harboring the largest urban bat colony in the North America) to watch the sculls racing up and down Lady Bird Lake, whose paths are always filled with joggers running with or against the tides. Wonder what the philosophers would have said? Is the world in a constant state of flux, as Heraclitus argued, or is it stoic and unchanging, the view of Eleatics, like Zeno, whose famous paradox, about the tortoise and Achilles might find a fertile testing ground in this famed legislative seat.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
|LBJ Presidential Library (photograph by Hallie Cohen)|
Monday, March 28, 2016
|photograph of Austin Food Trailer by Hallie Cohen|
Friday, March 25, 2016
In his l968 film Skammen (Shame) Ingmar Bergman tied the personal to the political in exploring the emotions of a couple who escape war torn Europe by living on an isolated Island. Bergman famously lived on the Island of Faro though that didn’t spare him the shame of pursuit by Sweden’s tax authorities and the humiliation of self-imposed exile to Berlin as a result of the scandal. Shame is a potent emotion in many Bergman films and it's certainly a universal. Shame was also the title of Steve McQueen's 2011 film in which Michael Fassbender played a sex addict. Remember those childhood dreams of being caught with your pants down and how they anticipated the humiliations of adulthood in which you lived in fear of having your foibles exposed? You may have acted like a coward when you wanted to be a fearless tough guy. You found yourself troubled by an attraction to someone of the same sex when, however enlightened you might have been sexually, you still gloated over being straight. At the end of the film Bergman’s protagonists Eva (Liv Ullmann) and Jan (Max Van Sydow) find themselves on a boat riding through a sea of bodies. In this crossing of a figurative Styx even their Charon has perished; their purgatory is to drift without direction to the underworld. “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” says Joyce’s Stephen Daedalus. But what is the eponymous shame that constitutes Eva and Jan’s literal and metaphoric hell and is it real? You are ashamed of being naked because there's nothing to cover up what you’ve become, what you are. Bergman made his film during the height of the Vietnam war and of course if you are responsible for the My Lai massacre you have something to be ashamed about. But the average human being suffers from a shame that’s an embarrassment at being. Even if they aren’t guilty of any crimes, no one wants to be known, no one wants to have their limitations exposed. “Like a dog,” he said. It was as if the shame of it would out live him,” are the last lines of Kafka’s The Trial.